Maenad rushed down the north corridor of the church building. His heart was pounding in his ears as he reached behind him and pulled out both of his sawed off shotguns. He spun the things around his hands and chambered two shells with a click. He pointed the guns in front of him and pulled the triggers simultaneously. Sparks lit up the darkness as the hinges exploded through the door and onto the other side. Maenad gritted his teeth as the harsh recoil from the weapons danced up is arms and rattled his bones. It was an unsettling feeling, but it was a feeling he had missed. He threw his right shoulder forward like a battering ram and threw the door across the room. The wooden structure smacked into the far wall and disintegrated into pieces.
Cold rain from the outside storm smacked into Maenads face as he turned to look at the gaping hole in the wall. He marveled at its size and shape. It looked as if someone had chucked a boulder through it. Had Hannah done this? And if she had… how?
“She went that way,” screamed The Prime Priestess as she pointed to the hole. She was laying against the wall and clutching the amulet under her white calico dress. She was breathing hard and acting hysterical. “By the Grace of our Lady, by the Grace of our Lady, she went that way. She was speaking blasphemes in the name of Scylla! She spoke of the end of the world and the rise of a dark prophet who would baptize the six territories in her name!” The old lady shrieked at the thought of the rise of a dark church. “She said that the prophet would deal with us later! By the Grace of our Lady, she was out of her mind!”
Maenad ignored The Prime Priestesses wailing and rushed to the opening. Cold rain pelted his face and flung the hat from his head as he looked out into the storm for the girl. The night sky was swirling and fulminating above. Lightning shot out across the dark clouds and lit up the backdrop of the city like an old photograph. Several airships could be seen pirouetting around in the giant maelstrom like leaves caught up in a dust-devil. The thunder from the lightning rumbled the ground as Maenad’s eyes finally spotted the lone silhouette of a girl standing in the street. Her wet hair danced wildly in the wind; her eyes slightly darkened from the shadows. Maenad knew instantly that it was Hannah. He also knew she was waiting for him.
“What is the cause of this madness?” said Maenad’s father as he rushed into the room. He spotted The Prime Priestess on the floor and came to her aid. He clutched her hand in his as he continued,. “Has the devil finally found us, Diana? Has she come looking for a fight?!” He turned to Maenad. “We have to go! It isn’t safe here anymore.”
Maenad didn’t turn around and look at his father. He kept his eyes on the movements of the girl in the street. She had turned her head slightly to the north where the Smash estate was at the edge of the city. In the distance could be heard the people of Wichita celebrating and cheering through the storm. The street lamps ignited at that moment and bathed the road in soft white light. It was through that light that Maenad detected a hint of a smile on Hannah’s face; one he had never seen cross her face before. Her thin lips were moving now but no sound was coming out. The air around her seemed to come to life and vibrate with what only could be describe of as heat waves.
Maenad knew what she was thinking.
“Don’t do it,” yelled Maenad to the cold wind.
“I’ll see you there, Cowboy!” yelled Hannah over the storm as she turned and sprinted down the road at full speed.
Maenad holstered his weapons quickly as he darted out into the cemetery of the church. His heavy boots squished through the thick grass as he neared the edge of the courtyard. He slid slightly as he planted his foot on a nearby headstone and pushed off of it with all his might. The joints in his knees cracked as he sailed through the air and over the fence of the church.
Maenad flipped forward and landed on his feet again. He stumbled slightly as he rushed down the street toward Hannah. His strides were longer and faster in comparison to the young outlaw. Maenad keeping his eye on her as he blinked away the water droplets. His head was spinning with questions after the day’s events. He hadn’t really been a believer in the word, but something back at his father’s office just wasn’t right. All this talk about goddesses had corrupted his thoughts over the years. Did he really think that he could kill a god? Did he really think the Lady of The Desert was talking to him in his dreams? It all seemed like nonsense to even consider… and yet, Maenad couldn’t shrug off the words that had come to his mind. The words to “leave it”. could he honestly take credit for their sudden appearance?
The gaping hole left in the side of the church building also flashed before his thoughts. Outlaws could do some pretty impressive things, but even they had their limits. Had Hannah really been overcome by the Goddess of The Night? Maenad hated himself for actually considering this being a theological issue. He felt foolish as he pushed this whole thing aside. If God, or whoever was controlling the universe, were real why would he let anything bad happen to anyone? Shouldn’t he step in and stop the suffering?
It was at that point that Maenad decided that Hannah’s actions were the result of their last conversation in the halls of the chapel. The young lady hadn’t been convinced about Maenad’s warnings to move beyond the hatred in her heart. She was acting out of anger and frustration; that’s all this was, and that’s all this would ever be. Hannah herself had confessed as much at the basin of vise only moments ago.
Maenad pulled out one of his sawed-off shotgun and loaded a one ounce burn-slug into the chamber. He aimed the thing at one of the fuel cells hanging off the back of a GB-7 hover stagecoach down the road and pulled the trigger. The thing erupted in green flames and threw the vehicle sideways into the street, directly in Hannah’s path. The girl screamed at the sudden explosion and slowed as the flaming debris from the previously parked stagecoach tumbled passed her. Maenad took advantage of her stifle and spun his shotgun around and clutched the barrel tightly. He aimed for the back of her right boot and threw the gun as hard as he could. The weapon spun rapidly through the air and straight for its target.
Maenad watched in amazement as Hannah jump forward and spun around, as if detecting the gun preeminently. Her hands were clutching her two pistols now as she maneuvered through the rain in midair. She blasted his shotgun to the side with two well placed bullets and then flipped backwards. Her boots smacked the cobblestones as her slender frame slid to a stop in a half kneeling position in the street. She was facing him now, both of her guns poised in each hand. Her black leather coat blowing in the wind.
Maenad had never taught her how to perform such a technical move. He slowed himself and gripped the handle of his spare shotgun, not wanting to take any chances should the young outlaw suddenly react. Hannah was always full of surprises; that much you could depend on. She had never really told Maenad just how she had defeated those two Pinkerton’s back at the city gates. Maenad’s eyes met hers. He loosened his grip on the gun slightly. It was at this point that he realized he had no intention of hurting Hannah. As a matter-of-fact, he felt a closeness to her that he just couldn’t shake.
Maenad yelled to her over the storm. “Hannah you can’t do this! I get how you’re feeling right now. Believe me, I have felt it before, but if we rush in there now it could potentially start a civil war between the territories.” Maenad indicated with his free hand. “This would mean millions of people could lose their lives, not just your father!”
“Well look who came back for me; my hero Maenad! I thought you said you wanted to do this all on your own now! I thought you were done with me,” yelled Hannah as cold water streamed down her face and dripped off her chin. There was sharp emotion in her words. “I thought you wanted to split up and talk to your father instead of keeping your promises, well I don’t need you anymore. I am not going to be another Jim in your life. Someone you can lie to and manipulate so that you feel good in the end. I am going to do what’s right for me and my family.” She pointed the gun behind her. “There is a tyrant living in this city that needs his comeuppances, and I’m the one that’s going to give it to him! In the morning it will read in the local newspapers how the daughter of Supreme Governor Whitecliff put a bullet through is thick head and burned down his estate!”
People were beginning to leave the buildings surrounding the street. They all started to gather and talk as sirens blared in the distance. The explosion from the hover stagecoach had blown out several windows and sent a shock-wave down the road. The people of Wichita City were all watching the scene unfold. Maenad wished they would just leave and get back to their yuppie lives. He wished he could do all this in private. He missed the long lonely plains of the Tarmac Desert.
“I don’t want to manipulate you,” yelled Maenad in frustration as he let go of his gun and showed Hannah his open palms. He genuinely wanted to help Hannah make things right. “I just don’t want you to make the same stupid mistakes I made.”
“Is that why you took me with you?” asked Hannah.
Maenad looked puzzled. “What?”
“Back at the prison yard,” said Hannah. “Is that why you took me with you?”
“I know you probably don’t want to hear this from me,” said Maenad as he finally grasped the question being asked. He was never any good about expressing complicated feelings into legible thought. Somehow he knew he was going to fall on his face with the words he spoke next, but he had to try. “But I see a lot of my younger self in you. I see a kid that is hurting inside because the world took something important from her.” Maenad felt overcome as images of his brother and mother flashed before his eyes, “I am here to say that it will never stop; it’s just the way things are. The world will keep taken from you until eventually it takes you.”
Hannah chuckled at this grim vision of the future Maenad was painting. “This is supposed to be comforting to me?”
Maenad felt stupid for saying it. He himself was still having problems accepting the way things were structured in the world. But he was glad to hear the young girl laugh; somehow her laughter meant he was getting through to her. Maenad continued. “Hannah bear with me here. I know I am not a man of very many words…”
Hannah cut him off. “You can say that again.”
Maenad cringed inside and tried to force a smile. He didn’t want to do this. Why was talking to this girl like pulling teeth? He continued. “What I am trying to say is that despite all the taking that the world does to us, we still have control over who we choose to be.” Maenad pointed in the direction of the smash estate behind her. “You’re heading in a direction that won’t heal anything. None of it brought peace for me.”
“You’re like a lyrebird that only learned to say one sentence,” said Hannah with a smile so big it showed the gap in her teeth. “You need to learn another song!”
Maenad noticed a strange darkness spill over the edge of her eyes and taint the whiteness. It looked as if someone had dropped an inkblot onto a plate of milk. The strange stuff then retreated again back behind the sockets. It happened so quickly Maenad thought it might have been a trick of the light. He breathed out a sigh. “More like a broken record than a lyrebird. This is the only damn song I know how to sing at the moment.”
Hannah chuckled at this. “What would your father think about all this talk of us choosing to be something even after the world has cheated us? What would he say?”
“My father had a lot to say on the subject back in the day,” said Maenad as he pointed back down the road toward the church. He straightened up a bit and heard the bones in his back pop. His body had borne the brunt of his mistakes and he was beginning to feel it. “Do you know what my father put in that letter I gave the Priestess back at the church? You know what advice he told me back when I was running around the Tarmac like a steaming fool?”
Hannah stood there silently as the rain fell on both of them. It was soaking them to the core. The heat waves around her frame seemed to get more intense as she heard the inevitable words of the Outlaw. She was studying him and she was pleased with where this was all going. There was something satisfying about seeing something so complicated fall into place.
Maenad continued, ignoring the crowed that was slowly getting bigger by the minute. Their voices breaking the silence with whispers of recognition of who they both were. “My father told me to stop running around and acting like a fool. He told me to let it all go and settle down with someone who could bring more substance to my life. I thought he was foolish at the time, until I met someone in the city; and I am not talking about Jessica!” Barked Maenad louder than he had anticipated. Feeling anger at the lies he had to sift through. “I am talking about someone who actually cared about me,” said Maenad as he smacked his chest in response. “Every day I wish I had taken that advice. I wish I had made a different choice!” He pointed at Hannah. “You can make a choice right here and let this all go!”
“Are you talking about Bonny?” asked Hannah as she lowered her guns and came to a standing position. That smile on her face became more of a knowing smirk. Maenad was saying all the right things now and it excited her. He was saying everything she had designed him to say from the beginning of their first encounter many years ago in the desert. All these words gave her confidence that the outlaw was holding the ‘God Killer’ in his coat. The very weapon she would use later as a final stroke in her painting of perfection. She was going to remake the world in her own image. Hannah spoke softly now and with emotion. “I don’t have someone like that in my life Maenad. I don’t have a love interest to wrap me up and tell me everything is going to be okay. I had my family and all that was taken from me by the greed and selfishness of one man! I am going to kill him tonight and anyone that gets in my way.”
“You have me,” said Maenad as he ignored her sentiments on revenge. He was truly speaking from his heart. “I know I am not the best example for you, but you have me kid. Back then, I had Bonny who was saying these exact things. I am saying them to you now because I care about you. Listen to this old lyrebird and don’t go through with this.”
Twenty metal men emerged from the crowd at that moment and started converging on Maenad and Hannah. There movements were synchronous and steady, as if somehow linked together by an invisible bond. Their green eyes were flashing rapidly with excitement, scanning the two figures in the street from all angles. Their voices sounding in unison like a loud speaker. “Maenad Miller, you are under arrest for the Destruction of Wichita Prison and The Kidnapping of Hannah Whitecliff.” Their metal hands pulled out their guns in unison.
Maenad kicked up his second sawed-off shotgun from the ground and gripped it in his hand tightly. He whipped out the next one from his back and exchanged the loading tubes on the weapons with the ones hanging at his sides. These tubes would be full of the magnesium- thermite burn slugs he had crafted back at the cave. The things could eat through 1 inch steel if need be. Maenad didn’t know if they would work, but he had to try.
Hannah’s soft hands gripped Maenads shoulders as her voice spoke up from behind. She was standing closer to him now. “Would you go back to her if you had the chance, Maenad? Would you settled down with her just like your father asked?”
Maenad looked back at Hannah, almost puzzled by the question being postulated. He hadn’t even heard the young girl come up from behind. Hannah looked like she was searching his face for any deviation. Maenad nodded his head to her in response. “I would go back to her in a heartbeat. If she would have me.”
Hannah smiled at this and turned to the metal men surrounding them in the street. She held up her hands and played the victim. She knew the only reason they here not filling the outlaw full of hole was because she was standing too close. “Throw away your guns or he’ll shoot me! Please do what he says. I don’t want to die!”
The metal men stopped converging on Maenad and looked over to Hannah; she was the hostage in this situation. Then they all looked over to one another at the same time and threw their guns behind them. The heavy weapons clattered on the street as the metal men focused on Maenad again. They were no longer moving forward. “Let the young lady go. This doesn’t have to get messy if you will cooperator and turn yourself in.”
“I figured I’d give you a little hand with this before I left you,” said Hannah as she backed away slowly from the outlaw, her familiar presence fading slowly. “Twenty unarmed metal men shouldn’t be a problem for the legendary Maenad.” She indicated to everyone watching on the sidelines. Most of them had only read about what outlaws could do when fully unleashed. Hannah continued. “Plus you wouldn’t want to disappoint all your fans. I’ll see you at the Smash’s estate when all this is said and done.”
Maenad turned on her. His voice was visceral. “What?!”
Hannah holstered her weapons and walked toward the crowd nonchalantly. The rain had stopped coming down and the wind was blowing slightly now. “All I needed from you cowboy was a distraction. Now Smash has nothing to fear for the given moment,” said Hannah as she disappeared into the multitude gathered around the street.
Maenad’s anger boiled over into a rage. He turned in time to see one of the metal men charge him head on. Maenad lunged forward and grabbed the thing by the chest cylinder and sent it flying over the crowd and into a vacant shop. He turned quickly on the other kettle heads and dispensed several rounds rapidly into their head cylinders. Their green eyes exploded in bright white light as they collapsed to the ground and buzzed loudly. Their voices begging to see the lady one last time. Maenad screamed Hannah’s name as gunshot blasts rang out over the city.
The crowd fled.