“Well, well, well,” barked Paco sarcastically as he kicked the dirt with his dark leather boots. He was resting his hand on his six-shooter and leaning to one side. “Look whose back from his little outing on the prairie. Did you pick enough daisies while out there?” He spat a nasty wad of mucus on the ground and folded his arms across his chest; He was trying to accentuate his muscle a little more. Paco was putting on some kind of tough guy show for the others in the group. He was still acting like a complete moron in Maenad’s eyes.
“Did you see anything out of the ordinary, outlaw?”
Maenad’s expression was flat and hard to read. “Nope, nothing seemed to have followed us this far in. It looks like we’ll be having a quiet night tonight.” He blew a large amount of tobacco smoke from his front teeth. His eyes shifted over Paco and studied the way the man held himself. It was obvious that the low-life had used a magnum before; the butt of the pistol was facing his twelve o’clock and his holster was sitting at a 39 degree angle from his hip. Only the most skilled shooters knew to hold their gun in this position, mainly because only the most skilled shooter where left handed. Paco had some wild cards up his sleeves that he wasn’t telling the rest of the group. He looked like the type that would stab you in the back if he had the chance to. He looked like the type that would sell his own mother into slavery for a pretty new Wichita penny. Maenad considered over and over in his mind if he could be the spy. It didn’t seem to fit; the guy was an idiot.
Paco grunted in his throat like a potbelly pig and let out a laugh into the dry air. He let his hands drop to his side to conceal his firearm he was carrying. “Well, it certainly seems that you will be out of a job on this little trip outlaw. What good are you to us if there is no one following us? I could have walked out there on my own and looked at the horizon and come back with that information. Why, heck, I bet–”
The idiot was cut short.
“Paco, if you don’t shut that annoying trap of yours…so help me” yelled Frank belligerently, “I’ll shoot a big whole straight through it and I won’t stop to think twice! I had to listen to that bloody thing on the way out here and I think it’s time to give it a rest. I am tired, I am hungry, and I just want to get this damn training out of the way so I can get some sleep! I swear Governor Smash doesn’t pay me enough to baby sit you fool’s.”
“Then go for it, old man.” Paco turned and glared at him contemptuously. “I’m not stopping you from giving the training.”
Frank waved Paco’s disapproving stare away, his butt was hurting way too much from the ride over and he just didn’t have the time to argue with a full-blown moron. It seemed that Smash had gotten careless when choosing his men for this particular trip. No one really seem to know what they were doing and yet here they all were, ready to die for nothing.
“Okay, now if you all will just come over here to the tarp I’ll introduce you to the horses you’ll be riding.” He pulled up his trousers as he walked over to the equipment. The company gathered around the big blue tarp that was concealing something massive. To Maenad it looked like Frank was hiding a bunch of boulders and sagebrush from the groups.
“This don’t look like horses Frank!” stated Bill incredulously. His forehead was turning bright red from the desert sun; he was beginning to look like a talking turnip. “Mr. Smash said you would be giving us horses.” He bit his bottom lip habitually; he often did this when he didn’t understand what was going on. He did it a lot.
“Don’t be a fool Bill!” barked Paco from his right side. “Do you honestly think that real, organic horses could catch a train moving at 300 miles per hour?” He chuckled at the ridiculous thought. “Heck, do you think that even our fastest stagecoaches can do that?”
The other two city slickers laughed their approval. Bill got quiet.
“I hate saying this, but Paco is right, Bill. They’re not horses,” said Frank as he got on one side of the blue tarp. He gripped a plastic end tightly and looked at the group as he slowly pulled it away. “I called them horses because they have a lot of horse power in them. We have been working on these babies for years now and I think we have pulled out all the bugs.” Frank pulled off the tarp completely to reveal what was hidden underneath.
The group stared in amazement.
“What are they?” ask Jim.
“They’re horses,” joked Paco.
“These machines cost more than all your lives combined,” stated Frank firmly. “And they are amazing beasts.” He walked up to one of them and pointed at the driver’s seat on the steel frame of the machine. It was padded and made out of some kind of thick leather. “Here is where the rider sits, and here is where he controls the direction of the machine.” Frank didn’t wait for the group to respond to this. He got down on his hands and knees and felt around the base of the machine. His face was dripping with sweat as he pointed to the hollow wheel-wells on ether ends of the steel horse. “These things right under here are made with a tough magnetic core called a wooing dome. Electromagnetic waves are shot out from the steel cathodes implanted in each wooing dome here and here,” he indicated with his hands at what appeared to be massive spark plugs, “and help to stabilize the horse as you go faster or slower on the land. It’s to ensure that you don’t flip over and grind the meat off your faces on the iron Tarmac.”
“So it’s kind of like the hover stagecoach?” said Jim.
Frank nodded his head. “Yes, they hover under the same principle… almost.”
“Is this technology the same technology that the Flying Bullet is made out off?” asked Bill. His voice was getting a little shaky.
“Yes, it is, Bill. It will use the iron sediment of the Tarmac to get you going well above 330 miles per hour just like the Flying Bullet.” Frank pulled out a white handkerchief and dabbed his face off. The sun was setting quickly but it still seemed that the heat was persisting. “Be careful when you use the bloody things. They have a radioactive core that is contended in their brute.” He got back up and pointed to a big round hump in-between the leather seat of the horse and the handlebars. It looked like a camels hump. “In the hump lays the key to the power of the magnets in your wheel-wells. If this bump is hit by a stray bullet your horse and you will implode to about the size of a sea pebble; most likely sucking in earth and anything else unlucky enough to get within range.” He bent down again to check on something.
“Implode?” asked Paco nervously.
“Yes, I said implode.” Frank got back up to his feet and brushed himself off. Dust and small rocks fell off his clothes. He was chafing everywhere from the heat. It was every man’s nightmare. “The reason why it implodes is to keep radiation from reaching the atmosphere and ruining the environment.” He cleared his throat and took a long drink of water from his canteen at his hip. The stuff tasted like warm pond water as it washed over his tongue. “It’s also to keep this technology from getting out to the general public of Balballing. The last thing we need is a lawsuit against governor Smash.”
“Will it kill us if it implodes?” asked Bill.
Frank laughed and coughed at the same time. “Yes, it will kill you.”
“Woo, woo, wee,” yelled Paco wildly. “Have these things been tested in a lab?”
“Nope,” said Frank. “You guys will be the first to try them.”
Someone from behind Paco spoke up. “Does it hurt to implode?”
Frank laughed again. “I don’t know… I have never imploded before. If it does happen to one of you guys tomorrow and you survive, you can tell us.”
The group was silent for five minutes.
“Well, I haven’t got all day.” Frank checked his pocket watch and wiped his forehead again. “In thirty minutes it’s going to get dark. I need a volunteer to test it out.” His eyes scanned the group for any volunteers
“I say we let the outlaw try it first.” Paco smirked.
Everyone turned and looked at Maenad. The man was finishing off his cigarette.
“Sure, I’ll try it,” said Maenad.
“Okay, get over here outlaw and sit on the horse.” Frank smiled devilishly. He had never seen an outlaw use technology like this before. Usually all the outlaws in their society stayed far enough away from the city and the lights. This was going to be a classic scene of primitive man verses modern day technology. “I’ll show you how to use the controls.”
Maenad walked over to the horse and swung his leg up over it with ease. The black leather seat felt like fire against his worn denim jeans, but he didn’t seem to mind it.
“Now, first off, what you want to remember is that this thing is not a toy. You want to treat it with respect and care. You want there to be a good distance between you and all living, organic, matter before you take off down the Desert Tarmac. The electromagnetic energy that is produced by one of these horses will fry all creation around you.” Frank pointed to Maenad’s boots. “Your feet will control your speed right here. Push hard on the bearings to go fast and light on them to go slow. Your handlebars up here control the beast and its direction.” Frank pointed to the handlebars in front of Maenad.
“Any questions, outlaw?” asked Frank.
“Yes, just one. Where’s the start button?”
Frank laughed at the fool’s confidence and pointed to the bump that housed the nuclear core. There was a little green light flashing on and off from its council. “The button is right there, cowboy. Push it when we all are far enough away. ”
Maenad nodded his head.
“Does everything make sense?”
“Yes,” he lied.
“Okay, outlaw.” Frank turned to the group and waved his hands franticly. He wanted the company to move back and stand on something safe. “Everyone back up and find a nice rock to stand on! This fools going to go for a test run.”
Once everyone was far enough away, Maenad pushed the button on the steel horse. The machine began to hum softly, then, after a minute, it gradually got louder and louder. Blue lightening shot out from the wheel-wells and gripped the iron sediment like a set of talons on a field mouse. The hover vehicle lurched five feet into the air and began to vibrate with electromagnetic power. Charged particles of all colors shot out from the nuclear core and danced in the air like fireflies over wheat grass. Maenad gripped the handle bars and smiled devilishly to himself; he had never experienced something like this before. He could feel a weird sensation taking place all over his sweat covered body. He couldn’t quite make out what it was. His clothes began to cling to him tightly as if someone had glued them to his flesh. The dark brown hairs on his arms stood up on end, and the moister in his mouth became dry. It felt like some of the energy from his body was being sucked out of him to fuel the horse.
Here we go, thought Maenad as he pressed all the way down on the steel bearings at his feet. The horses nuclear core pierced the air with a loud screamed as it tore off into the horizon burning bushes and tall grass in its weak.
To Maenad it felt like all time had stood still, as if the machine had launched him straight into the spirit world to meet his brother. The cold desert wind and sand pounded into His face like bullets shot from a high caliber gun; it was almost too much to bear. His thick outlaw blood pumped rapidly in his nicotine filled veins trying desperately to keep up with what was happening. His head felt clear and his mind felt free for the first time since his brother’s brutal murder. He turned the handlebars slightly and swung the horse into another direction; the momentum pulled on his body like a wave. Maenad continued to burn up the landscape as he went along. The horizon seemed too approached at breakneck speeds.
Suddenly, at that very moment, the ground fell away from the horse into a huge desert cavern. The iron Tarmac was full of formations like these ones. They were formed from years of chemical weathering. Rain would come from the great seas and burn a huge hole straight in the bloody landscape. Some were deep, while others where just plain wide, this one seemed to have the characteristics of both. Blue lightening shot out form the cathodes and licked the cavernous abyss bellow Maenads boots. The outlaws heart almost stopped as the gravity of the situation quickly encompassed him like a wild fire. He didn’t have enough time to think before the machine plummeted into a vat of darkness. Moisture spattered against his rough face as he pulled up hard on the handlebars. The horse lurched backwards suddenly and began to slow its decent to the ground. Maenad’s legs trembled from the torque of the machine. It felt like he was trying to lift a dead cow of a cattle guard.
“Come on,” he yelled.
The walls of the cavern echoed his cry as the horse smashed into the ground and came to a mind numbing halt. Maenad gritted his teeth as blue lightning lit up the black floor all around him. The intense heat began to melt the elements under his cathodes almost instantly. Small cave dwelling creatures tried to flee from the chaos but were vaporized almost instantly. Their little rodent voices screeched out in pain as electricity jumped into their bodies and ripped them apart molecule by molecule. Ash and smoke began to rise from their small, mutilated corpses. Maenad chocked on the stench as he tried to maneuver the heavy machine around the cave formations around him. He was hitting everything, and heating it up in the process.
One could easily be cooked alive in a cave this, thought Maenad.
It felt as if someone had suddenly thrown him on a frying pan. Sweat began to drip from his face as he tried to maintain control of the lurching horse. The horse began to get gradually more intense as the seconds passed. Pretty soon the whole floor of the cave was alive with glowing hot rocks. Huge amounts of energy where now springing from the machine and grabbing the walls. Maenad was going to flip the kill switch when the machine suddenly launched into the air in a stream of more blue lighting. He tensed his muscles to keep from slamming his head into the nuclear core. The walls of the rocky cave slipped way into a beautiful night sky. The stars twinkled brightly all around him as he soared high into the air above the desert landscape. The ground looked distant and colorless now.
Maenad smiled and breathed in the cool air. He had never felt so free before in his inter adult life. He thought of his brother and how he would have loved this thing. He thought of the girl he had left behind and how she would have hated the thing. Bonny never liked adventure, which was hard to believe… she was an outlaw just like him.
“I could get used to this.”His stomach rose into his throat as he began his decent; he pressed down on the bearings to stabilize his landing.