“You’ve reached Master Academy East. No one can come to the phone right now, but your call is important to us. Please leave a message after the beep.”
“Hey Boopsie, it’s Tripura. Sorry, Gecko. It’s Gecko.” I said over the telephone. “I really need some nanites right now. I’m in a little place called Ruby, Arizona. Little place, a bit on the dry side. I’m in a teensy bit of trouble, but you probably expected that. Please get down here and please, please, please bring the nanites. Absolutely essential.” I waited a moment, trying to think if I had anything else to say before adding, “Bye bye now.”
I hung up the phone and handed it back across the bar to the bartender. He didn’t seem to like the look of me. Fair enough. I thought his combover was shit.
I’d seen worse bars, though. Good lighting, so they meant for their clientele to be seen. A few lazily spinning fans on the ceiling to help fight off the heat. The bar itself was a big horseshoe shape in the middle of the room, with smaller metal tables, a few booths against the walls, and a pool table. A busy night would leave it pretty crowded. The floor was painted concrete, with dips to drains in a few places. It was a bigger place than I expected in a town this size.
I wandered into Ruby the night of the attack and laid low for a day. There were a lot of state troopers in the area the day afterward. They left, and I came out of hiding, desperate for something to drink. The bar was nice enough to let me make a phone call for free after I turned out not to have any cash on me.
“You sit tight, someone might buy you a drink,” said the bartender. He turned and checked his cellphone, texting or something.
I heard someone enter through the bat-wing doors that hung at the lobby. The door to the outside was normal, but they had a small antechamber after you entered where you had to pass through the old-fashioned saloon doors to get into the main area. Directly across the main bar area was a simple single door that I took to be a rear entrance. A man entered in a tan sheriff’s outfit, complete with cowboy hat with a star on the band. He moseyed on over to the bar and set the hat down. “Hey Bud. How ’bout a Bud?”
“Get a new joke,” The bartender grabbed a bottle, popped the top, and set it on the bar right in front of the sheriff, who thanked him. Then he turned to me, “Heya. Haven’t seen you around before.”
“Haven’t been around before,” I answered, smiling at him. I kept my injured hand below the bar. Still hurt, and I could feel the fingers I’d lost even though they were gone.
“New, huh? You have anything to do with that business down the road?” He pointed off in the direction of the buses despite us being several miles away and inside.
I shook my head. “No. Boyfriend trouble. Got tired of his shit and the abuse, took the shitbeater but didn’t have time to grab my purse on the way out. Just my luck, even the car broke. Why? What happened wherever?” I waved my good hand back in the same direction.
“Don’t entirely know. Some sort of attack… bombing, maybe. Didn’t find anyone alive. Sure would be nice to find anyone from that, find out what’s going on. Seen anyone like that around?”
I shook my head. “Couldn’t tell you, seeing as I got here just a little bit ago.”
“You drinking anything?” he asked.
I shook my head. “No money.”
“Not even water? Bud, get her something to take the taste of the desert out of her mouth,” he called to the bartender.
The bartender promptly got me water from the hose thing back there and set it down, only for me to raise the glass to the sheriff. “Even though I always save room for desert, it’s much appreciated.” I took a nice, tall drink and shut the fuck up.
“Young lady,” said the sheriff, who I just noticed had some grey at the sideburns. “Would you mind awfully coming by the station? I’d like to help you out while you’re in town and maybe you can answer some questions for me about your boyfriend who wronged you.”
I let out an “Ahh,” after finishing a good, long sip and looked at him. “I’d rather not. I’d much rather go and put more distance between me and him before he comes around claiming I’m crazy.” I put the bottoms up on my glass, managing to swallow the rest in one long take that felt like I was pouring it directly into my belly. It’s like I was ignoring my gag reflex on muscle memory. That explains the stuff I read about blowing North Korean generals for loyalty.
I put the glass down. “Thanks and all, but I better high-tail it.” I stood up and he grabbed for the jacket I wore over my dress, opening it enough to catch a glimpse of my hurt hand.
“Jeeeesus Christ, girl!” He looked at me. “What the hell happened to you?”
The jig was up. End of the line. I had no choice but to tell him the truth. So I looked him right in his soft hazel eyes and said, “I told you, he abused me. You think I want to be here when he rolls into town?” I pulled away and started to walk toward the door. Except I heard a lot of engines out there, and a bit of a ruckus. I think that’s the term. I had definitions, including like knowing when something’s a hullabaloo and when it’s a ruckus. And a side note that one of them also denotes a famous uncle.
Behind me, I heard a gun cock. I ignored it. Uncle Hullabaloo or not, I poked my head out and saw a lot of guys with guns, and a pickup truck with a light machine gun mounted in the bed. My HUD identified that as a “technical” and the insignia as a prominent anti-brown person militia called the One Percenters. It counted fourteen in total.
I turned and walked back in to where the sheriff stuff with revolver cocked, but pointed down at the floor. “You want to come with me to answer some questions,” he told me.
I shook my head. “No, we need to go because there’s a fuckload of people outside who shoot people with better tans than they have.”
“Aww shit, just what I need.” He walked over to check the door, then came back in. “What the hell are they-” He was interrupted by the blossoming of red on his chest like a spontaneous eruption of marinara.
Hey, that’s awesome, I remember marinara!
I was turning seemingly before I even registered the loud blast from the shotgun. I pounced on the bartender, who didn’t have time to swing the gun my way before I grabbed the barrel with my lower hands and clawed out his throat with an upper one. I pulled the gun out of his hand and just started beating his head in with the stock until he looked like… crap, I hoped another food would come to mind. Is it borscht? The name comes to mind, but I don’t remember what it looks like.
Regardless, I took the shotgun with me as I hopped the bar again to check on the sheriff. He was wheezing and looking up at me. I think I had some red on me, whatever that means. I leaned down to pat him on the head. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry you died for me. Nobody should die for me except my enemies.”
He wheezed loudly. Maybe he was speaking. I held his hand for a moment, at least until the door to the bar opened and a man with a skull bandanna stepped in. Suddenly, his head resembled more marinara. I don’t know from my own records how good, if any, I’m supposed to be with firearms, but it appears doorways make perfect chokepoints when wielding a shotgun. And I must know something about them, as I cocked it automatically to dispose of the used shell.
I looked down and saw the sheriff had breathed his last. So I grabbed his revolver, found a strip of leather with six extra bullets hanging through a loop, and stole his pepper spray while I was at it.
“Ok,” I said to myself, breathing in and out purposefully. “I need something to get my heart pumping.”
A guitar riff started up in my head, with a little title in the lower left of my vision popping up for a second with the words “Pumping (My Heart) – Patti Smith” in it.
“Alright you bastards,” I called out. “You came here for a woman, now I’m gonna show you nuts!”
They opened up on the front of the bar with absolutely everything they had. Shotguns, rifles, the machine gun. In response, it’s like my ears lowered the volume on everything. Cool. They all ended up stepping forward until they’d formed a line of lead-throwing luddites.
After they emptied their main weapons, they pulled out pistols and shot their load into the bar there, too.When those were done, still a few more pulled out back-up guns and fired a few last shots into the place, save for one of them whose gun looked especially plastic and jammed on him.
I tried to whistle like I’d seen people do but couldn’t, so instead I called out. “Oh boys?” They looked to see me pointing a shotgun at them with one pair of hands and the sheriff’s revolver with the other. Wind pushed a wad of newspaper through the street between us and the sun hung hot on at this, high noon. “Don’t y’all feel stupid right about now?”
The guy nearest to me went for his knife and took a .357 to his throat, the blood spilling down his Punisher skull t-shirt. The next one in line fell over too, a hole in his head matching up with the trajectory of his friend with the new tracheotomy. The one after them deepthroated shotgun pellets.
They scattered more after that, but were struggling to reload everything at once. Pop goes the weasels. I wasn’t a perfect shot by any means, but that didn’t matter with the shotgun. Made the revolver half-useless after a couple shots, though I was able to pop it out and reload it with some weird trick involving three rounds between my pointer and middle, then three more between the middle and ring finger. Those six went quick too, and I’d only managed to get like nine of them, maybe? People sometimes take more than one bullet to kill, looks like. The shotgun was used up after only four more shots, too.
One of them ran at me with a big serrated knife in hand, but I beat him in the head with the shotgun stock again. Another came up behind me with hi-power aimed at my head. I ducked and threw a free and up so the gun shot overhead. I whirled and caught him in the rips with the butt of the revolver, then poked his eye with the barrel, causing a bit of a sizzle as hot barrel met eye jelly.
The remaining four, including one big bald one with a leak where I got him earlier, grouped together and raised their own assorted rifled and handguns like an incontinent firing squad. That was when the deputies arrived in a trio of squad cars, taking up positions with the doors shielding them, shotguns in hand. “Everybody fucking freeze now or I’ll send you to the farm upstate to run with all my childhood pets!” screamed one skinny little fucker. “On the ground, all of you!”
The remaining One Percenters dropped the guns and laid down on their bellies.
I ahemed. “I just want it clear that I did not shoot the sheriff, but I did shoot the vigilantes.”
“Did I fucking stutter?!” screamed skinny fucker, almost foaming at the mouth. He fired a shot into the air, his hat falling off. “I am the ultimate badass! State of the badass art! You do NOT want to fuck with me. Unless you want a buckshot enema, get on the ground now!”
So I’m in jail now. Solid enough roof over my head, good walls. They’re still trying to figure out exactly what happened at the bar there, but it’ll take them some time. Hopefully time enough Venus gets here. The others they took into custody are locked up, too. Different cells, same hallway. Occasionally, one tries to taunt me by claiming they got friends coming for them. “Yeah, and let’s remember what I did to the last friends you had.” I told the last one to try that. Then I laughed. And, ya know, I’ve been feeling kinda bad about these Three Hares people… but not these assholes. Not one bit.
I don’t know if that’s a good sign or a bad one, but it’s the one that kept me alive enough to ponder that.