Bandits roar down the hillside, spew dust out behind, a yellow smog. Choke leans forward over the handlebars, grins around the stub of his stogie. The charm from the gypsy bangs against the brawn visible in the vee of his grimy shirt.
‘C’mawn get it, sum bitch,’ he mutters at the mad whirl of the black storm below.
They hit the desert floor, churn up their own insane storm. Set a straight line, a spear of movement toward the snarl of black dominating the sky. The two collide like colossus. Yellow tumult to angry darkness.
It swallows them whole. One chomp and they’re gone. The charms about five necks flare angry red light. Reach out tendrils into the storm; sweep a clear path, holding out the darkness. Black teeth snap, claws swipe, but the path gives off a massive flare of angry vermilion, deters them.
Dime raises a fist. ‘Fuckin’ yee-haw muthafuckah!’
They stamp feet down. Steam-drives draw moisture from the air, superheat it to throw pistons harder, faster and the bikes leap forward, devour the ground. Violate holds the back, watching the vagaries of the storm with a wary eye. She rises up on heels high enough to give man vertigo, yells out.
‘Trouble at tha left flank, dahlin!’
Choke turns to look. A long, savage curl of tooth-exposing grin slides across his face. Coming in fast through the bloated billows of raging sand, a vee of black figures, like giant crows. Nuns. Their habits rippling in the wind, they home in on the bandits, the bright blue curve of their blades trail liquid glass conflagrations.
Choke gives a howl of sheer delight, wedges the throttle open, grabs a pair of massive hand-cannons and starts shooting. The projectiles tear huge wounds in the black. Great ragged holes wide as screaming mouths.
Dime and Dagger holler and cat-call, ready the guns mounted on their bikes. The nuns separate, wheel like crows over carrion. A murder on the wing. They soar over the bandits, surround them. Choke keeps firing. Yells.
‘Don’ fuckin’ stop. When they git close I want y’all to put up a cover o’hard fire, crush them bitches fer cah’munyon wine. Violate, mah dahlin!’
He turns to grin at her. ‘If they’s on us then we’s awlmost at tha Peggy Dunne. Git yer crossbow ready, sugah.’
She blows him a kiss, caresses one slender hand over the huge, reinforced mechanism on her turbike, flicks back poison-black hair. ‘Ah’m awn it, baby, ah’m awn it.’
‘Then let’s go git us an Angel,’ Choke growls, fires off another round, whooping it up as the storm screams, snarls, fights to form and fails. Claws disintegrate to dust even as they reach. Teeth blunt under heavy fire and the storm rages at them, impotent.
Margo’s heels strike sparks off carpet as she slinks along, the sensuous movement of her arse hypnotic, a swaying cobra, twice as deadly. Mamma chuckles, leans across to Minnie, murmurs in her throaty raspberry ripple tones.
‘Ah do love me that girl, but she sho’ does scur’ tha livin’ tar outta me.’
Minnie giggles. ‘Don’t tell her, she might lick you.’
‘Again?’ Mamma quirks a brow. ‘She done already licked me twahce. When she ain’t grabbing up mah hair and rubbin’ it awl ovah her damn face.’
Minnie blinks. ‘Only twice? I’d’ve thought she’d have her tongue curled round you like you were a cherry lollipop.’
Margo stops. Turns. Walking backwards she lifts a finger to her lips and licks it. Her little red tongue twisting. The green of her eyes glows in the dim thaumic flicker. Then she puckers, finger poised before her lips and says.
She pivots, one liquid twist of movement. Speeds up. Sparks fizzle and crack on the air in her wake. Turns a corner, disappears from view and they hurry to catch up, near colliding with the back of her.
Ahead of them are the doors to the ballroom, slabs of brooding mahogany dressed in brass, sealed shut by magic they can all feel. Heavy. Sickly waves of it. Tainted with foulness so rich, so all pervading, it sneaks into every sense. Beyond the door they hear the ravening cry of Ravids at battle, the crunch of steel striking modified flesh, machine parts.
Blocking their way, a trio of huge, suited men in shades, bars of muscle to guard from entry. The Order’s henchmen. They stand at ease. Legs akimbo, vast arms relaxed behind their waists. Impassive, immovable, their vast bulk imposes, intimidates, serves as both barrier and deterrent.
A disparate group of dazed looking men and women, perhaps fifteen of them, are collected before them. Their skin sheens with silken sweat, greasy, feverish. Their eyes are glassy, too bright.
Margo surveys them with a jaundiced eye, looks over her shoulder at Mamma. ‘Well,’ she says, matter of fact, ‘looks like I got to play with the best of a bad bunch.’
Mamma lets out a great chuckle. ‘Oh shugah pie, you jus’ make mah heart warm as a slab o’ steer awn a griddle.’
Margo puckers plump, berry red lips, blows Mumma a big old smackeroo and turns back to face the doorway, to face the objects standing in the way. The middle of the three men nods his head at Margo. She inclines hers. Says.
‘Well, isn’t this nice? I do love a bit of rampant violence with my tea. But darling, I confess myself bewildered… are we not on the same side?’
A quirk touches the corner of middle man’s mouth. Not quite amusement, a distant cousin, twice removed. He purses his lips, lets loose a long, low whistle. Not your average, it begins in the lower ranges and ripples away to a silence they feel in their very bones. It binds their skin to their bodies, coils a thick shiver up the spine.
The three brute’s feverish companions jerk at the sound. Twitch. Gibber. Their limbs snap, contort, the sickening thock of bones cracking rises above the howl of Ravids and their bodies fold over forwards, to the floor. As their hands hit the carpet their skin splits to reveal thick, oily fur.
Margo sighs. ‘Well, really,’ she says to middle man, ‘that’s just rude. I’m afraid I’ll have to spank you when I’m done.’
This time the twitch is so damned close it’s almost family. But he contains it, whistles again. The pitch a touch higher. More of a trill. Fifteen faces morph out of skew, ripple, blur and split, bloodied muzzles push forth from bone, sticky fur sprouts, black as coal tar. Eyes bleed to spectre white, mad lights. Dead lights.
Serrated fangs crowd into jaws in vicious concert. Tongues loll. Drool spatters, hisses as it touches the wool of the carpet, sends curls of smoke rising. The whistle lilts out one final time. Muscles bunch, tense, curl, and the beasts leap, snarling, snapping their jaws.
Moe and Rolf crowd in close to the Angel’s back. Rolf’s whips snake out in constant movement. Sinuous. Elegant. Brutal. They slice through machinery, tear out gouts of flesh. Blood rains down. A torrent. Covers the tips of his whips in silken scarlet.
Moe wields two blades in seamless, graceful harmony. Beside him the Angel uses only his trigun, each bullet tearing through two and three Ravids at a time. His blue eyes sizzle at the carnage. He watches Mother Immortal constantly, yet each shot is unerring.
‘Can’t you use your power, do some magical shit?’ Moe yells at him. ‘We’re hardly making a dent here, these fuckers just won’t stay down!’
On the floor parts of Ravids slither back together, slide joints into sockets, click together disparate machine workings to form new bodies. Patchworks. Revenants made of remnants. The Angel, never taking his eyes from Mother Immortal, never ceasing his fire, sniffs, says.
‘Human, do you not think that if the rules allowed me to wield my power that I would not strike them down where they stand to nothing but dust and memory?’
Moe lashes out at a remade ravid. Slices a head built from a once beautiful young blonde and a rugged young man back into two. ‘Rules?’
‘Are for a reason,’ the Angel says, utterly calm. ‘My power would destroy this vessel. The only effort I make is the storm about the hull and that will discontinue shortly. There are bandits at our heels.’
Moe and Rolf exchange glances. Concerned chocolate to worried chips of blue ice. Moe shakes off the usual hot drag of attraction, it’s getting tiresome fighting it but he’s nothing if not stubborn.
‘Bandits?’ he asks.
The Angel finally turns away from his vigil on the Mother. He smiles. Serene, terrible, feral. ‘I have a surprise for them,’ he says. ‘A little bird I know is going to deliver them to our hands.’
‘Our hands?’ Rolf scoffs, lashing both whips to tear two Ravids apart at the waist. ‘Darling, there’s only more thing I want in my hands at this moment, and it’s not even close to being a pack of bandits, however filthy delicious they might be.’
‘You mistake my meaning,’ the Angel replies softly, turning back to fix his smouldering gaze on the mother. ‘They’ll be helping, whether they like it or not.’
‘Ah.’ Rolf beams. ‘In that case, bring them the hell on. I’m getting whip elbow and if I lose my wanking hand I’m going to expect assistance.’
Power throbs in hard surges as the Angel’s laugh rolls through the ballroom. The Ravids regroup, those still whole pressing ever forward, eager to do their Mother proud. The mingled parts spattered across the floor, remould themselves, rise into the ranks, red eyes livid with hunger, maws cracked for the taste of flesh.
Mother holds her cane to the floor, leans on it a little. The fresh well of power, the girl, is unlike anything she’s ever felt. So nubile, so gifted. The matrix floods power, a wealth, an abundance, an ocean, clear and filled with potential energy. She’s drunk on it; it fills her withered frame to bursting.
Mother smiles beneath her veil. Pleasure emanates from her in silken threads, cruel and sharp, they penetrate the weight of her power, slide amongst the ruin of parts. Force unwilling meldings. Souls cry out in sheer agony and it is all music to her.
Margo steps back. Elegant. Rapacious. Sweeps her blade into a gentle arc through the neck of the first beast to reach her. The effect is immediate. The blade does not sever. It unmakes. The connection between head and body simply disappears, the heavy torso, still tensed, slides past her in a raddled heap. She lifts the blade. Mouth agape.
‘Fuck me,’ she breathes, ‘I wish you were a dildo.’
An unnerving fire lights her pupils. She beams, full on sunrays of sheer brutality. The beasts falter, just for a second. The remaining shreds of humanity in them, though whispery and vague, recognise–and fear–a superior savage.
She chuckles. Races forward. Grabs a handful of thick fur and catapults up, slicing to one side and the other as she goes. Behind her two more beasts fall. One slides on a bed of its own innards, the other lands on stumps to scrabble fruitlessly against the carpet.
Margo lands in amongst a ravenous horde of jaws and claws. Green eyes beam delight. Delicate blue blade sputters, its fabric there and then not. Margo sucks in a delirious breath and begins to make a mess. Limbs hit the walls, wet splats. Heads separate. Torsos gape under grievous cuts. Viscera decorate the floor, such pretty patterns.
At Margo’s back, Minnie, Slimm and Mamma make beast fricassee of whatever gets past or fails to die immediately. Fifteen becomes three in a spit of time. The three circle. Hold back. Wary. Uneasy. Hackles raised to peaks. Growls rolling in waves, stances low to the ground. They weave back and forth, giving off waves of pungent odour. Tails low, tucked to their bellies.
Middle man’s mouth twitches. No smile about to break out. Irritation barely controlled. He whistles. A hard-edged rip. An order. Gives it again as they fail to respond. A third time. Higher, sharper, the edge vicious as a blade. And the beasts whine, tense and finally attack.
Margo leaps high as they come for her. She runs across their backs, jumps, lands. Towering red heels slam down right in front of the muscle-bound members of the order. Margo bats her eyelashes.
‘Knock knock, darlings,’ she says.
The nuns circle. Patient as vultures. Never coming close enough for Dime and Dagger’s bullets to reach, always dodging the impact of Choke’s cannon fire. He stops firing. Chew his stogie a moment, thoughtful.
‘They’s waitin’ on summit,’ he growls out to Carbine, ‘ah’m thankin’ they knows sumthin’.’
Carbine wheels his monstrous hybrid close. ‘Reckn’ yer raht, boss. Damned if’n I know whut t’is tho.’
Violate shrieks then. A mixture of fury and shock. She grabs at the charm rested in the valley of a generous cleavage. Yanks it up to take a close look. The light sputters like a guttering flame. Huge blue eyes rise to stare at Choke. Widen. She drops her charm. Points at his.
‘Uh… honeh,’ she says, calm, measured, lethal, ‘ah don’ mean ta cawse a fuss, but that gypsy bitch done ripped us the fuck off.’
Choke sniffs, cracks his neck, rough palm pulling hard against his chin. ‘Reckon that upsets me.’ He pulls his chin the opposite way, sends a crack loud as gunfire ricocheting into the storm. ‘Yup, that upsets me real good.’
Violate lets out a snarl. ‘I’m gunna tear her fuckin’ tits off. Ain’t nobody gunna upset mah baby!’
Choke lets out a husky chuckle. Hefts his cannons and drops her a wink. She drops one back, saucy, sexy, full on come hithering. Choke blows out. ‘Holee sheeit, boys,’ he says, grinning, ‘thank ah’m gettn lucky tahnaht.’
‘Hellfire boss, that woman fucks you seven ways till Sunday ever’ gawdahm day.’ Dime shouts. ‘T’aint but a thang. Y’all need to get yer mind outta her vag-een. We gots us a genuine sitchooayshun heah.’
Choke blinks. ‘Happen ah’m wise ta that, boy. Whut you want me ta do? I ain’t got no mo-jo. All’s ah got is these heah cannons and ah promise of a fahn ole cock polishin’ come battle’s end.’
Dime grows a smile wide as a stretch of long and lonesome road. ‘Man can do a lot wi’ thaht,’ he drawls, ‘yessir.’
Choke appears struck by the weight of that. He leans back, tips his hat up his forehead, spits. Nods his head. ‘Reckn’ yer raht, Dime.’ Choke rolls his shoulders, heavy muscle rippling beneath filthy cotton. ‘Reckn we gots us a cleah choice,’ he says, slow, even, calculating. ‘They’s seven bitches in black tween us’un one whole hell of a payday ahn we gots not one damn pissstreak uv a chaynce even with this fancy mo-jo sheeit. So I say fuck this mo-jo sheeit. Ah’ve always preferred me a bullet tah ah bru-jerio.’ He rips the charm from the thick bull breadth of his neck and swings both cannons to the fore. ‘Let’s lay us down a lil ole home-brewed Providence showdown.’
‘Nah thas whut ah’m tawkin about!’ yells Dime. He tears off his charm, Dagger follows, then Carbine, then Violate, who swirls hers around her head and sends it flying into the storm.
‘Eat thaht muthafuckah,’ she screams, pulls out those long brass pistols of hers and ploughs a hail of lead through raging dust. Beside her, Dime and Dagger howl and let loose a chattering barrage from mounted machine guns. Carbine lifts out the thunderbuss and sends round after round of explosion chasing the lead rain.
Seven swift figures dodge, weave and dip as the bullets tatter the storm about them to shreds. Watch with emotionless eyes as the red path stutters, fails, fades. Then swoop, all focus, force, ferocious purpose. And in their lead, Sparrow Plenty smiles, pure anticipation.
© Ren Warom 2011