Exodus from Steel Horse Crossing - The Diesel Jocks


The constant crack of gunfire ripping through rounds at a furious rate was the first sound that was made in the ensuing fight.    The whine of a motor coughing out the power to spin the cylinder emptying those rounds wasn’t far behind, but other guns had picked up where the first left off.  The tense calm that existed only moments before was shattered, and every last person that knew what those sounds brought with them leapt into action.

“Raiders, north side!  Prepare the spikes, man the guns!”

The voice called out, faceless in the dark, but the call echoed down the line of the massive compound.  The Diesel Jock clan within the walls didn’t hesitate, as each of them took up their post and began their assigned tasks.  More voices began to mark calls to some order or another, and eventually the air was thick with screams.  Screams of orders, screams of battle, and screams of death.

“Lights,” grumbled an older man from relative darkness.

It was all that needed to be said, and suddenly the compound was lit up like the sun was sitting just above the compound, its brilliant light shining outward.  The man issuing the order stood up, shifted his hefty frame around the small office at the back of the garage, and peered outside.  He nodded once in a matter of fact fashion, seemingly sated by the immediate results.  The tactic had made two very distinct points, which he saw had eluded the two other RPM members attending his immediate orders.

“You see,” he said almost wearily, gesturing at the lights facing outside the compound, “this is why we clear the area around the Boneyard.  They have to fight into the lights and be blind, and we get to see them coming clearly to make sure they don’t make it to the wall.  And if they do…”

The middle aged man in front of his elder took the cue, which was quite the initiative for him.  “If they do, we run them through with the traps and the wall spikes?”

Pleased, though he’d never have admitted it, the president of the RPM gave another simple nod at the fellow.  He deserved a bit of recognition when he was finally smart enough to figure things like that out.

“Right.  And if those fuckers think they’re getting the better of us, they missed the fact we’ve been here prepared for them for just about as long as there were raiders around these parts.”

The fighting had let up briefly as the raiders outside the walls regrouped.  The light had slowed them down, but it was a temporary situation as the charging, screaming bodies were replaced with rifle cracks and the occasional glass breaking.  The situation would turn again, but there were plenty of surprises left in store.

“Panhead,” a voice called from around the corner, “where do you want the artillery pointed?  Main forces?”

Dick Berken frowned for just a moment before he spun his girth around to face the new voice.  “Keep the shells dry and plant the big guns north.  Get some of the smaller ones ready for wherever they’re thinking of hitting us next.  Line ‘em up to hit a good thirty yards out.  Any closer, we may start losing our own shit.”

“Got it boss.  And by the way, Admiral just patched in to the radio.  Says he needs a word when you’re not buried in bullshit.”  The man at the door disappeared almost as fast as he showed up, leaving Dick and his two attendants alone again.

“Alright, Ogre guard the doors.  Anyone tries to come in, give ‘em one warning.  Then put ‘em out.  Not too hard, we can’t afford to start losing bodies at this point.  Led, grab Abe, I’m gonna need him working for once.”  Dick strode by, talking as he walked through the door.  As he passed them both, he turned back for only a moment.  “And get the probies running ammo.  If they’re not half asleep exhausted in the next few hours, they haven’t been working enough.”

Dick trudged through the Boneyard, looking up occasionally at the high walls and the spike sleds that pushed through them.  Each and every turret was full, with a backup body pulling rifle duty beside it just in case.  The provisions were being managed, meals being made, weapons being tended, and vehicles of all stripes being prepared.

“Well,” he suggested with all the mirth he could muster, “he sure as hell picks a great time to want to slackjaw on a radio.”

A few hours later, the core crew of The RPM crowded into one of the bike garages, tucked away from both battle and outside ears.  Dick stood at the center of the small crowd, facing each one in turn so he could gauge the fighting on their expressions.  He could tell it hadn’t gotten brutal yet, as they all looked pretty much in the moment.  He was worried when that would change, and how much it would change each of them.  Particularly if any of them would make it through.

“Alright you schlubs, here’s the deal,” he started, making sure they all quieted down while he took a moment to let his voice sink in.  “Admiral says the shelling is about as good as he can pull off right now, as these sludgebrains are pretty much right up the asshole of the naval docks.  Best chance we have is to hold out while he rallies help from down south.”

With so few people in the room, only a single word echoed in the room; “Great.”  He knew who it was, and his nephew would get an ear full of hot air and perhaps a good lump over the head later.  Now wasn’t the time.

“No, it isn’t ‘great’.  Not one of us thinks so.  But we’ve got plenty of food for the near term, and the mush-heads aren’t getting to the walls anytime soon.  We can start worrying when the ammo runs out.  More likely though it’s going to be the food.  And that’s what we’re focusing on, rationing and stringing out the bits we have on hand.”  Dick wasn’t one to let things hang in the air often, but it was a particular point of difficultly dealing with food when you didn’t have a means of food production within the walls.

The quartermaster reported that they’d have enough food to last a month and a half, and could get into the turn of the new year if they really stretched some things out.  He had even suggested adding some motor oil to the mix if things got too thin, but Dick had told him to keep that thought for later.  He hoped there wouldn’t be a later that called for it.

“We’re waiting for troops, or whoever else they throw together,” he glowered slightly, ensuring that no one decided to pop off with another smart remark.  “And when they get here, we’ll link up and help them push.  Until then, keep this to yourselves.  And one more thing – bring me Ogre.”

The door opened moments later, a hulking man of superior size ducked through the door to get into the garage proper.  He wasn’t just tall, but was filled out like a warship with shoulders to match one.  He lumbered forward, but stood a respectful distance from the RPM officers, waiting for them to speak first.

“Ogre,” Dick started, wasting no time diving into the problem.  “You’ve been good on the road.  Captains all say you can ride, and you can handle yourself with the best of ‘em.  I’ve got a test for you, which won’t be easy, but if you pull it off you’ll end up a Tail Gunner on the road.  Good with you so far?”

Ogre nodded, seemingly somewhat surprised, but managed to utter “Sure boss, whatchya need?” before he forgot who he was standing in front of.

“Kit yourself out.  Just after the turn of the year, if these shitheels outside aren’t gone, we’re sending you down the tunnel on a ride.  Need you to bring something to Mill City.  Two things to remember that are critical.  First, you bring my ride back.  Second, you don’t let anyone touch what I give you until you’re in the walls of Mill City.  One box, one key.  Got it?”

Ogre stood staring, the most puzzled look crossing his face as he processed why he’d be sent out during a fight that he’d be most useful standing around hitting things.  He didn’t quite piece it together, but shrugged his shoulders acquiescing to the fact that Dick and the officers knew best.

“Sure thing, boss.  Protect the ride, protect the box and key.  Got it.”  Ogre waited a few moments making sure it wasn’t a joke, or perhaps for some manner of divine inspiration to hit, but with neither becoming obvious, he turned to leave.

With the door closed behind him, Dick chose a door headed the opposite way, calling out over his shoulder, “Get to work, road rash, we have shit to do and raiders to kill!”

Quietly, two voices looked at the door Ogre just walked through only moments ago, and asked the pertinent question.

“Think he’ll make it?  To Mill City I mean.”

“It’d take a miracle…”

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