Okay I think. Shit’s about to get weird. I pull back the toxic goo and kick my feet into the largest puddle I could find. My legs crash right through it and I dive in, like jumping into a lake feet first, only its not cool water that invites me to its depths.
At the bottom I find his body, still connected to his mutated form, slowly dissolving into pulp. Oh no you don’t, I think as I swim over to him. You’re not worth anything to me like that. The mutation gives up on a solid form and slides down into nothing more than a murky green lake--with me trapped at the bottom.
I grab onto the tendrils that connect him to what used to be his body and rip them off. I pull him free and hold him in a fireman’s carry; as soon as the last piece disconnects the now-opaque blue-green blob descends like a wave. It floods the village floor and dissipates as soon as it hits the concrete like steam, hissing into the already humid air. If it weren’t for the wreckage of the town itself you couldn’t tell that he had been there at all.
I gasp as the blue liquid recedes from the both of us. I’m completely soaked and my dehydrated muscles shake from the exertion. I glance around the now deserted mountain town, shops destroyed and newly-open living rooms still smoke from the evaporated chunks. I hoist him higher around my shoulders and begin to make my way to the stone entry-way, cursing how stupid this day turned out to be.
“What a load of bullshit,” I tell him, not entirely sure if he’s just unconscious or actually dead. “You better fetch me a pretty price for making me go through all that trouble.” Despite my annoyance however, I’m excited. I just found the cash I needed to open the portal to Mars...
Lost in my own water-logged ideas I fail to realize that the vrrrrr of an engine isn’t as distant as I thought. I turn around and expect to see Thief, but instead my eyes explode with stars once more as my forehead becomes best friends with what I can only assume to be a hammer.
It knocks me on my ass--hard. I land on my head and arch my back like a fish on dry sand, trying to squeeze the pain out through my tears. I can feel a nice purple knot take form right between my brows. It blocks my firework eyes from clearly seeing a familiar hunter pick up my bounty and carry it away.
It’s that Xen guy, I think. The one with the wife...I wonder what happened to her...He hooks it around the front of my bike, then takes off down the dirt road that leads to the safety of the mountains--as well as the district’s water supply.
“OHHHH!” I scream in agony and fury, figuring out how to kill him in my head. I sit up and put my head in my hands. “What an UNBELIEVABLE ASSHOLE ----” I pause as a second motor races up beside me; this one much angrier than the first. A delicate hand offers itself and I allow it to help me up.
“Damn,” says Thief as I clamber onto the bike behind her. “That’s two KOs in one day, both head shots. You’re losing your touch--”
“Just SHUT UP and DRIVE you BLITHERING IDIOT!” I scream into her ear. She grinds the back wheel into the asphalt just to burn rubber for kicks, slams the bike into gear and takes off down the road. My stomach churns as the hot asphalt gives way to a bumpy dirt road.
We gain on them in no time, their weight far too much for my little motorcycle. Thief pulls up right behind him and taps the back of their cowl with her own metal grill. “That’s my bike Thief, if you cause a wreck I will infect you and sell you to Empress myself,” I threaten, but as always she just laughs.
“Why are you so attached to that pathetic piece of junk anyway?” She asks as she glances at me through the corner of her eye. She’s right, my bike is pretty sad, an old rusty standard that pales in performance to Thief’s bad-ass homemade dual-sport Ninja concoction. The only reason why I ever kept mine around was because, well, Eli helped me put it back together once....
The hunter shakes us off as he swings into a hard left to make his way down a second dirt road right to the town’s water source, a clear mountain lake connected to a water treatment plant I helped build myself. Thief rams the bike into a skid and immediately follows suit; I grab her sturdy-but-skinny frame with all my might to keep from falling off.
“Can’t this thing go any faster?” I ask as she pushes past 90.
“Not unless you lose some weight--” She barks back.
“What?! I’m not fat!!” I scream, my voice high pitched with aggravation.
“It’s a fucking joke!” She yells back as she knocks a bony elbow into my ribs.
“Eyes on the goddamn road,” I say and I push her head in toward the handle bars, catching pieces of her long ponytail in my mouth.
We make our way down the hill towards a brilliant lake surrounded by a large green mountain, aquamarine trees shade glowing streams that crash into the main body of water. Our target flies down the road as if they are ready to drown themselves--
“Why aren’t they stopping, or turning?” She muses as we press on, slowly closing up the space between our bikes.
“Look,” I say. Thief gasps and swings the bike to the side. She digs a trench in the ground with her leg, pulling it into a full stop with her boot alone. I swallow stomach acid as even my enhanced body struggles to contemplate the change from 90mph to 0.
“Dumbest motherfucking brake-move I’ve ever seen,” I say. “You’re lucky your foot’s still there, I don’t care how many procedures you’ve been through.”
“Shut up,” she grabs my chin and pulls my head over her shoulder, forcing me to watch the monster come back to life and devour the hunter still piloting my bike.
“Get me over there, NOW!” I yell. Thief grabs the handle bars and we take off full throttle, both eyes on the hunter struggling to shake the beast off of his shoulder.
To the side of us is a brick wall designed to keep foliage growing into the road. I wait until we are almost on top of them; they swerve all over the place and gash the dirt with my tires. He rips the monster’s teeth from his shoulder and re-centers the bike, trying to push the beast off with his elbow.
“Pull over to the wall!” I say. She swings the bike over to the sloped bottom where the bricks are supported by a slanted slab of concrete, then pulls off the sickest wall run I have ever seen. While I best both her and most of my own syndicate members in combat, she’s always had the upper hand when it comes to operating pretty much anything that runs on fuel.
I pull my feet beneath me while still in midair as Thief eats up the red bricks and slowly lines up our bike with theirs. I push off her shoulders and grind my body into the hunter/mutant combo. I wrap my arms around the both of them and crash my head into the gooey belly of the monster. The three of us rocket to the ground, a fall worthy of the most epic road rash, but somehow I manage to roll and get to my feet unharmed. I run to switch off my bike, momentarily forgetting our targets like the idiot I am.
The hunter writhes in pain from the wretched bite in his shoulder and the nice red dirt-laden skid mark up the side of his body, his black clothes ripped and soaked with blood. The beast stands, now half human, half exploding-green bubble man, and tears towards the water on all fours.
Fuck I think. Mutants are always thirsty, always attracted to wells. If anybody knows that it’s me. I look in horror as it makes its way to Jawbone’s sole source of clean water.
Thief pulls beside me and hops off her bike. We both pursue it on foot; neither of us want to waterboard our fastest method of getting home. I pull my knife out of my still-slimy pant leg and Thief unsheathes her crusty brown machete. “We can’t let it touch the water!” I say.
“I know!” she yells back. We approach the back of the beast as he pauses at the stony edge, green-blue tendrils thirstily reach for the clear water. I grab him from the back, knife in hand, and wrangle his form away from the lake. Before I can wrestle him to the ground however, a hand snatches the back of my shirt and wrenches me away.
“KING LOOK OUT!” Thief screams as she grabs me and tosses me to the side. A bullet hisses past my ear and pierces through the still hairy half-humanoid skull of the beast. Everything must have happened so fast that I didn’t recognize the loud POP of a gun behind us. I turn around to see the hunter sitting on his knees with one hand on his wound, the other on a still-smoking semi-automatic pistol.
The monster roars in excruciating agony and topples into the water; he creates waves of putrid foam as his body hits the surface. He quickly turns to mush and sinks through the clear blue depths, sending the infection straight through the pipes of all the houses in the surrounding mountain towns.
I push Thief off of me and stomp back to the hunter, absolutely furious. “You dumb motherfucker!” I exclaim, he just sits and shakes, then slowly lowers his gun. I smash my foot into his wound and kick him into the dirt, wrench the pistol from his hands, and send a bullet straight through his nose.