Beamo’s Gold part 13
Beamo is stuck up an excrement creek without a paddle, surrounded by Mutant Angels and hostile, eerily intelligent ravens.
I moved up the dry wash quick, crouching with my big knife pointing behind me in my right hand. The battle music came on in my brain. It was a live performance of my favorite song in front of an enormous cheering audience: Amplified guitars open with drums then bluesy harmonica then more guitars and bass, the ancient Midnight Rambler.
I peeked up over the edge of the dry wash with my binnocs. The three MA were about a hundred yards off. There was a huge still and two of the biggest fuel tanks I ever saw sitting above ground. One tank was for wood alcohol and the other was for the gasoline that their choppers run on. A mile away was the tent barracks for a hundred or so MA. Farther away were the little dots of about three hundred thralls working on the highway, forty Mutant Angel freaks with their black R rifles guarding them.
Put my binnocs away and started back up the dry wash slower, step-by-step, crouching so far down I used my hands to push rocks aside. The cesspool stench grew stronger as the wash got narrower. Started a remembrance of my beginning year in the Crans County Militia. When I first went in at the quired age of fifteen-and-a-half, they gave me IQ and psych tests that put me into the Scouts. Captain Kaim was the lead Scout instructor back then. I was taught the Mutant Angel language and quiet assassination techniques using a blade. My Knife School instructor, Phama Nium, was a great warrior. His face was scarred up from numerous blade battles with MA and others. ‘Closer is better, closest is best’, he repeated.
Phama well taught me to ninj up alongside the enemies of Crans County and do ‘em in with ‘streme prejudice. It only happened once, but my first target when I graduated to solo at sixteen was an old backwoods dude from a hidden ranch across the big river a hundred and twenty miles northwest of Crans County. Esso Peco, a Big Man who ran one of our county’s munitions companies, accused this old dude of manufacturing .223 ammo for the Mutant Angels. I got my orders from Captain Kaim who sent me on a secret two-day journey by myself across the wild lands.
After I found his hidden ranch, I spent the long daylight spying at the edge of the woods, watching for my chance. At dusk I ninjed past his two sentries when they were feeding his ferocious-looking guard dogs. I surprised the pot-bellied old man in his workshop. Threw a handful of dirt into his rheumy eyes and started stabbing him. The old backwoods dude put up a fight, bobbing his head, his long, salt and pepper hair down to his shoulders. He snarled like a bear and cussed. I was too skinny and scared, made a mess of my first solo mission. His blood splattered all over his hundred thousand shell casings and the big bullet press and me. The rusty taste of it got thick in the air. After I caught my breath, I spilled out some kerosene lamps over his body and torched the place. Elated with battle ecstasy but somewhat shaky, I slipped out and got clean away as the ammo factory went up in a series of plosions.
Later, Esso, the munitions company Big Man, got caught operating his own .223 ammo business with the Mutant Angels up at Mo’s Island. Esso had been selling to both sides. He wanted his competition eliminated and I did it for him. Instead of a knife blade, they gave him a cushy stint in the ploosh Big Man prison. That was the only hit I ever had a second thought about. All of my other solo targets were Mutant Angels scouts along with a smattering of stringy-haired snatch-gang outlaws.
I was crawling on the side of the shi wash now. I listened with concentration as about ten choppers rolled up to get fueled. Two of the skull-faces came on down to the dry wash privy fifty yards away. I froze.
As the MA duo were doing their shi business, one of the ravens landed right in front of me. The crafty, three-feet-tall black bird looked at me with its head cocked. Did it think I was wounded? The ballsy raven proceeded to arrogantly walk right up to my face to try to pluck out my eyeballs. Had no consideration whatsoever for the delicate situation I was in.
The only thing I could think to do was spit at it. The black bird halted, shook its head and ruffled its glossy feathers. I wadded up a big loogy then spit again. The raven opened wide its curved spike of a bill, croaked out what sounded like a curse word, then flew off. By this time the two MA were pulling up their skins.
I started moving again after the two MA left. A rock fell next to my head. I looked around, figured an MA had flanked behind and wanted me to turn around so he could see the look on my face when he shot, but no one was there. I heard raspy voices cussing above me and then a good-sized rock hit my head, I rolled over and there were three of the ravens dive-bombing me. I rolled back over and covered my head then felt another rock hit my back.
When I looked up again, the one I spit at was flying straight at me with a sharp stick in its talons. An R rifle gunshot went off and feathers flew. The dead raven landed in front of me still clutching its little spear. The Mutant Angel standing on the edge of the wash looked away and started shooting at the other ravens but missed. I had no idea why he didn’t make me out. He turned and waved his black rifle at his buds to let them know he was just plinking at birds.
The MA pulled down his skins and squatted. He was one of the three fuel station guards. I knew I didn’t have much time. The song had never left and now the volume ramped up in my head, going into the fastest part. Ninety yards away the ten cycle engines started up.
The engines grew faint by the time I rounded the last bend in the wash. I came upon a mouse-eaten boot and saw it was attached to a skeleton. All around were at least a hundred bodies of thralls who had died during the winter more than six months ago. Their bones lay inside strips of tattered clothes, a few other pairs of mouse-eaten boots scattered in the dirt. Now I understood why the MA had seen but ignored me.
For all I knew one of the corpses could be my favorite cousin Nelay. He got snatched during the biggest MA attack in Crans County history. He was just seven years old, a year older than me when it happened. That same attack took my baby brother Macko. He was only two. My family lived on the edge of Payday Metro. MA sniper shot Macko out of my mother’s arms in front of our house at the beginning of the attack. Almost all Crans County citizens living outside Heights Bluff and its Security Wall had lost family to the Mutant Angels. I deeply hated them.
The first snap-pop went off. I reached out and grabbed a handful of loose sand with my left hand then stood to a crouch. The MA was just ten yards away now, his back to me. The dry wash was only two-and-a-half-feet deep there. The freak was shiing on a desiccated mummy of a skinned thrall, swatting at the flies. Despite the stench I did my series of quiet, deep breaths.
The second snap-pop went off and then one of the MAs over at the fueling station cried out. The MA I was focused on ceased wiping himself with the leaves in his left hand and stood up. He pulled up his skins then went to reach for his rifle but I was there. He spun around right before I got to him. I threw the sand in his eyes and the crowd at the concert in my head cheered. We collided and my Bowie knife went straight into his belly right below the chest. The impact shuddered his entire being. The crowd kept cheering and the pulse of the beat went faster. He spun me around in this weird death dance, was two inches taller and way stronger than me, had both his hands on my right arm to keep the wide blade from moving inside him. He was just in his late teens but very athletic. My flap-cap came off in the struggle. I saw in his squinting eyes he thought to let go to use both hands to try to break my neck and take me with him but it was too late, I had the knife down an inch and then another and then his guts were spilling out. Now he was clutching at me to hold him upright like I was his best friend or his brother. His shi-covered left hand smeared across my brow as he collapsed. The song peaked then finally came home to its conclusion and the audience roared its applause.
“Thanks for taking out that pesky, overgrown crow for me back there,” I said in between fast gasps for air.
The MA lay on his back as blood bubbled out of his lipless mouth. I scanned around and spotted Bonehead when he rose up from his sniper nest depression in the cactus-strewn ground. He looked like some campfire story wraith. I glanced back down and saw that the MA had expired, lipless mouth gaping open, that look of surprise again. Flies were already landing inside his mouth and on his exposed intestines.
Bonehead hurried over to each of his head-wounded targets. With a single precise thrust to the throat, he quickly dispatched the two MAs with his own Bowie. After he finished them off, he sidled all the way over to where I stood. I watched him working his way closer, the Demon Butte lording over the horizon behind him. He knew better than to rush up on a man who just took out a hard-fighting enemy in close-quarters combat.
When he got to my position, he took a long look at the disemboweled Mutant Angel. In one hand he gripped his Bowie and the other his air rifle. His posturing aside, Bonehead knew I was a serious character who could not be trifled with. He opened his mouth and gave a series of warbles and whistles, imitating a meadowlark singing. The Sawbird Gang now knew to start pushing their cycles across the shallow river to get up here to the MA fueling station.