Max’s leg howled in protest as he pushed in the clutch and shifted. He focused on the pain, as he had done for days. The pain of his wounds helped take his mind off the pain of his memories. Memories of a woman full of life and a child full of innocence. Memories of roaring engines and violent deaths. Memories of a husband who failed to protect his family. Memories of a life forever gone.

Max had been roaming along the borders of the wasteland, searching for any marauding motorcycles gangs. Any bikers he found, he killed. The Interceptor and his weapons were only tools; Max was the one doing the killing. A biker gang had murdered his wife and family and left him alive. He could never kill enough of them.

Ahead, the road came to a crossroads. Max saw a white tow truck speeding through the intersection. The wrecker crews were like wolves following the scent of blood. Whenever there was a chase or a crash, the tow trucks raced to the scene. The first one to arrive got the rights to salvage any wrecks. They siphoned off as much precious gasoline as they could get away with. More importantly, they could over bill the insurance companies for all the gas they used going to and from the scene. Wrecker crews were ingenious in their methods for scamming gas. Huge extra fuel tanks, out of the way routes, and doctored ‘fuel expenditure’ forms all were common ways to steal gasoline. But that was all meaningless unless a crew got there first. They went to great lengths to make their trucks as fast as possible.

So Max knew the tow truck ahead was on its way to a pursuit or a crash, possibly involving a criminal. Max accelerated, following the wrecker.

Max could have listened to the police channels on the radio, if he hadn’t disposed of it. He had grown tired of listening to the dwindling MFP officers and ripped the radio off; throwing it out the window. As an afterthought, Max discarded all the MFP markings and threw the emergency light in the back seat. He wanted to distance himself from his former life. His badge he had left at Jess' grave. That part of him died with her.

Max drove through the sparsely wooded area, staying well behind the wrecker. Soon they came to a black muscle car halfway in the roadside ditch. The car’s front end was smashed and white steam billowed from the damaged radiator. A mangled motorcycle was pinned underneath the car.

Max observed the tow truck driver slam on the brakes and get out. He was very young, very scrawny, and very blonde. The driver nervously glanced into the wrecked car, then opened the gas cap. He moved haltingly in quick, jerky motions; like someone who had been electrically shocked. Max decided to call him Twitch.

Twitch grabbed a siphoning hose and two large orange gas cans; then proceeded to steal the muscle car’s fuel.

Max slowly drove up to the scene. The skinny tow truck driver looked with envy at the Interceptor’s powerful blower. He was so blonde he was almost albino. Max tightened the cloth straps that held the large wrench splinting his leg. He got out with his hand on his .38 revolver. Twitch called over in a voice cracking with puberty, “Y’ know whose ride this is?!? It’s Barrelhouse Bart’s! Ain’t youse guys been after him for a while?”

Max ignored him and looked around; surveying his surroundings.

The driver asked apprehensively, “You’re gonna put it in the report that I was here first, right?”

‘Twitch here thinks I’m still a cop,’ Max thought.

“Who did this?” Max demanded.

“I dunno. Some gang, I guess.” The kid watched Max nervously. It was dawning on him that something wasn’t right with the wounded, haunted man before him.

Max limped to the muscle car and looked inside. It was empty. He glanced at Twitch’s gas cans; then at Twitch, who was getting more nervous by the minute. The kid’s face grew even paler, if that was possible, from the disgusted look Max shot at him.

Max made his way to the low bushes at the roadside, still favoring his wounded leg. There he found the inevitable body, dragged from the totaled car and beaten to death. Flies swarmed around the pulp that was once the man’s face. The man had been huge in life. Now, with his head crushed and robbed of all but his t-shirt and underwear, he seemed pathetic and small.

Uncaring, Max turned to go back and ran into Twitch, who had ran up close behind. Twitch fell back, clearly afraid of Max. One of his legs tangled with Max’s and they both tumbled to the grass. They landed hard, and Max winced as his leg was twisted. Twitch knocked over one of the uncapped gas cans, and the precious juice sloshed onto the asphalt. Poetic justice. Some of the gas splashed onto Max’s leg. The fuel soaked into the leather and Max fumed inside; knowing of the pain to follow when the fuel hit his wound.

Twitch wailed “Aw, no!” in his increasingly annoying voice and he scrambled to save the gas.

Max angrily shoved him away, into the other gas can. It too fell over and more guzzloline leaked to the ground.

Twitch sat sprawled in the growing pool of fuel; too stunned and afraid to move. Max got up, reeking of gasoline, and staggered back to the Interceptor.

Now the stinging gas seeped into his wound. At least it was sterile. Max gritted his teeth, started the engine, and sped away.

The corpse at the wreck wasn’t more than an hour old, so the killers might be nearby. They hadn’t bothered to steal the car’s gas, so they were probably killing for sport. Max drove on, searching for any signs of a motorcycle gang.

He didn’t have to go far. About five miles down the road, a farm tractor was blocking the way. Max coasted to a stop and carefully surveyed the area. An ambusher couldn’t hide behind any of the scrawny bushes, but Max had learned the hard way and he stayed in the car. Some bushes and tree branches were torn up and the wind had blown them onto the road. Max eyed the tractor again. There was no body crumbled underneath it and certainly no other signs of life. Maybe the tractor driver had made a run for it. Max saw black smoke clouding the sky up ahead. He maneuvered around the tractor and drove on.

Looking up at the darkening sky, Max unknowingly drove through a small pile of leaves. He heard a familiar, unwelcome popping noise. The front left side of the Interceptor then sagged on a punctured tire.

Max instantly had his service .38 out and ready to fire. His foot was poised over the accelerator, ready to speed away; flat tire or not. But no attack came. After a moment, Max shut down the Interceptor and scrutinized the area. The column of smoke was growing, and Max was losing time. He got out, still ready to shoot, and went to the blown tire.

Someone had hidden a broken bottle underneath the leaves, a crude but effective booby trap. Max was furious that his vehicle was disabled so easily, and he forced himself to stay calm and not let his anger control him. On his good leg, Max swept away the glass and leaves, then he kicked through the rest of the rubbish on the road; finding more booby traps. He went to the trunk and opened it, removing the tools needed to change the tire.

Max worked quickly and efficiently to get the tire changed. The task was made harder by his splinted leg and his injured arm. Struggling to turn the cross wrench sent bolts of agony through his wounded elbow. Max fought through the pain and finished without incident. He then stored the tools and heaved the damaged tire into the trunk.

Max fell into the driver’s seat again and wiped the layer of sweat from his forehead. He looked up at the cloud of black, sooty smoke. Then he revved the Interceptor to life and raced down the road.

Soon a large plot of farmland came into view. The source of the smoke was the farmhouse, now in the dieing stages of fire. Max watched the burning house impassively. He had seen it many times before. He circled the house, driving over the sparse lawn. Motorcycle tracks ominously scarred the lawn in jagged lines. It didn’t take a genius to see what happened here. Max’s eyes narrowed, and he kept searching.

At the edge of his peripheral vision Max detected movement by the large, faded red barn. His head whipped in that direction.

There was a pack of wild dogs fighting next to a chicken coop. Max thought they might be fighting over a dead chicken, but he saw the shape of a man’s body half under the coop. Max stopped and got out to investigate.

As he awkwardly limped closer, Max saw the pack was in fact fighting over the body. Finding food had apparently gotten harder for everyone. Max wanted to get a closer look at the dead man, but the brawling, snarling dogs made him wary. He drew his billy club and hobbled over on his wounded leg.

For the first time, he saw the dogs up close. They were a varied assortment of mongrels and mutts. The pack was ripping and tearing at the body, then Max saw something that stunned him in amazement. A small dog, little more than a pup, was defending the dead man. Out of the twisting swarm of teeth and fur the small dog fought, trying to drive the pack away from the body. He was a young blue heeler, fighting with savage desperation. Already, the dog’s ears were ripped and his neck was bloody. He panted with exhaustion but valiantly fought on.

Max empathized with the small dog’s situation. It was always the many that terrorized the few.

A large black sheep dog rushed in, its mouth poised for the dog’s unprotected back. The small dog darted forward and clamped its jaws down on the sheep dog’s foreleg. The heeler bit hard and bones snapped. The sheep dog yelped and hobbled away. A collie and a dingo-Labrador mullato tried next, snapping and biting at the small blue heeler from opposite sides. The collie succeeded in getting its jaws around the heeler’s neck and it violently shook the smaller dog. The dingo-Labrador then began tearing at the heeler’s exposed belly. Unless Max acted quickly, the small dog would be killed.

Max shouted “Hey!” and booted the hindquarters of the nearest dog. The pack adjusted to the new threat and attacked. Max brought his club down on the back of another and then kicked the dingo-Labrador away from the heeler. The rest of the pack scattered, except the collie. The collie growled, still with the blue heeler clamped between its jaws. It warily backed away from Max as the heeler feebly struggled to free itself. It seemed that the collie was about to run away. Max crouched down to his hands and knees and crept closer to the growling dog. Max stretched his left hand to the collie, watching it closely. The dog paused, its eyes intensely fixed on Max’s hand. Then in one quick motion, the collie dropped the heeler and lunged at Max. Max snatched his left hand back and swung the club full force with his right arm. The billy club smacked hard on the collie’s skull, and the dog dropped dead to the ground.

Max stood and turned to the body. The small dog had limped back to its former master and stood poised to attack Max. The dog’s shredded ears were pressed flat against its head and its teeth were bared. The dog did not growl, it only stood ready to fight.

Max noted the small dog’s determination. Even against an armed human, the dog was unafraid.

Once again, Max painfully crouched to his hands and knees. Staring at the dog, Max reached out his hand. Max lowered his eyes and held his arm still.

The two were frozen in subconscious communication.

‘I’m no threat to you’, Max communicated with his actions. Max kept his eyes low and turned his head, exposing his neck.

The heeler stood with his overexerted lungs heaving for long minutes before slowly stretching his snout forward. The dog froze then, perhaps expecting an ambush for extending this tiny bit of trust. When Max still didn’t move, the dog cautiously sniffed Max’s fingers. After a moment of intense sniffing, whatever instinct that guided canines told the blue heeler that this man was no enemy. The dog nonchalantly licked Max’s hand once and turned to the nearest fallen mutt. The blue heeler sniffed around the dead dog and it’s equally dead companions.

The blue heeler sniffed each dog in turn, ensuring they were dead. The dog looked up at Max; summing up that he was still there, then trotted over to the dead man. By the corpse's side the dog sniffed close to the face and neck. He whined very shortly and softly. The dog nudged the man's hand with his nose, looking for any movement, then licked the man's face. The dog sat abruptly on his hindquarters. He slowly, almost reluctantly raised his head, filled his lungs with air, and let loose a loud piercing howl to the sky.

Even in his utterly cynical state of mind Max was touched. This creature's pain was pure and unmarred by all feelings but one: love; perhaps the greatest kind of love. The small dog had lost a friend, and he mourned that loss in the simple way that dogs do, with an anguished cry to the heavens.

Max stood, oddly feeling like a stranger at a funeral. The dog grew quiet and glanced at him again, as if to challenge Max to belittle his actions. He got to his feet and trotted around the dead dogs some more, then found a cool spot in the shade of the chicken coop. He lay down in the green grass there and watched Max.

Max got to his feet and walked to the dead man. He leaned close for a better look, still favoring his wounded leg. He heard a low growl from behind him. The dog had its torn, bleeding ears perked up and was intently watching Max, his body tensed to spring. Even after death the dog was loyal. He said, "It's alright, dog. I'm not going to hurt him."

The dog stopped growling but still warily watched Max.

Max turned back to the dead man. Like Barrelhouse Bart, the man appeared to have died from massive wounds to the head. He looked like he had been a simple farmer.

Max got up and looked around the empty, desolate farm. The farmhouse was burning down to cinders. He walked over to the remains; not close enough to look inside. Max did not want to see what happened to the rest of the family.

The dog had followed him over. He sniffed close to the dying fire, and moved in even closer. Some of the charred timbers were above the small dog; looking as if they might collapse at any moment. Max called out, "Get back from there, dog."

The dog looked unconcernedly at him and continued sniffing around.

"Dog, come.” Max ordered loudly.

Now the dog froze and looked at Max. He woofed softly.

"Dog, heel!” Max said sternly.

The dog hesitated for a moment, then trotted over to Max's side. He looked up at him, questioning 'Ok, you got me here, now what?'

Max eyed the dog and walked over the torn up grass to the large barn. The dog obediently stayed by his side.

The large barn doors were locked shut with a heavy chain. Max walked around the side to find the muddy imprints and dead grass signifying the parking spot of a vehicle. His trained eye could tell from the size and spacing of the ruts that it was some kind of truck. There was no sign of it now.

Max went back to the chains on the barn doors. They were not completely tight, and he was able to peer through the small opening into the barn. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he could see the outline of a red colored Falcon XA, a car very similar to the Interceptor. Max stepped back and examined the chains locking the door. They were much too thick for his bolt cutters, but the barn door handles...

Max slowly walked back to the Interceptor, with the dog still following. A faint, distant part of his mind noted that the car looked different with the replacement chrome wheel. He didn't spare the discrepancy a second glance. He simply did not care about such things.

Max opened the door and before he could react the dog jumped in, turned around and stood on the seat; wagging his tail happily as if he belonged there. Max swung the door all the way open and said, "Get out, dog."

The dog stood there; tail wagging.

Max considered grabbing the dog and throwing him out, then he smirked and sat down. He wasn't going far, so let the mutt enjoy a few second ride.

Max drove over to the barn and got out. The dog watched him, clearly disappointed at such a short ride. Max opened the trunk and got out his gas siphoning hose, two five gallon gas cans, and a crowbar. The dog, curious as to what he was doing, jumped out the window, his claws scratching the Interceptor's jet black paint. Again, Max did not care.

Max carried the jumble of equipment to the barn doors and tried to set everything down. His wounded arm slipped, and instead of trying to save anything he let it all crash to the ground. The dog was close by, and startled by the noise, he jumped back. The dog glanced at Max and sniffed the hose.

Max pushed a gas can aside and picked up the crowbar. He wedged it under one of the barn door handles; working it back and forth in the old wood. When he had the crowbar in far enough, he heaved on it. With a loud squeal, the rusty nails gave way and the handle fell off. Max pushed the large door open on its neglected hinges.

Once inside, Max got a closer look at the red Falcon. Someone surely took care of this hot rod. It was clean, though not polished and waxed. The car was also parked facing outwards; as if it was waiting to go.

Not any more, though. The Falcon’s owner would never drive it again, never feel the power of the vehicle, and never enjoy the speed it could provide. Max found himself feeling sorry for the orphaned car.

Max painfully knelt by the rear of the car, then crouched down. He reached under the frame and rapped his knuckles hard up and down the gas tank.

Behind Max, the dog was again watching him intently.

The Falcon had more than a half a tank of gas, which he certainly could use. The dead farmer sure didn't need it anymore.

Limping back to the doors, he gathered up his tools again. He went to the side of the Falcon and set his two gas cans down. Max then opened the car's fuel cap.

From nowhere, a raging ball of wild fur, biting teeth, and growling fury sped at Max's arm. He happened to reach for the gas cap with his left arm, still protected by his leather jacket. Max's reflexes failed him, and the dog's snapping jaws clamped down on his arm before he knew what was happening. Twisting his neck back and forth, furiously growling, the dog was trying to rip his arm off.

Max stumbled to his feet and backwards, trying to shake the crazed animal off. "Dog! Dog! Stop it! Dog!!!"

The dog managed to get his feet down and pulled with a particularly fierce bite. Max began to fall forward so he dropped to his knees, banging his left knee on the hard ground and his head against the side of the car.

The pain instantly made Max lose whatever patience he may have had for the dog. He grabbed the dog by the scruff of the neck and forced it to the ground. Max leaned in very close to the snarling dog, not blinking, staring right into the dog’s eyes. He could read the defiance and fury in those raging eyes. He stared the dog down, keeping him pinned to the dirty barn floor.

Still the dog fought to free himself. Max held him down even harder; then growled from deep within his throat.

The dog stopped struggling. He stared at Max, now with a measure of fear in his eyes. Max slowly let go of the dog’s neck, still with his face inches from the dog’s. If the dog wanted to snap at his throat, he probably could do so. Max knelt there for long moments, staring at the dog, daring it to try to attack him again.

It never occurred to Max to simply shoot the blue heeler. It was a simple animal doing its job, not a selfish, sadistic killer. This dog did not deserve to die.

Finally the dog blinked and looked away. A pecking order had been established, and the dog found Max worthy of being pack leader. Max slowly backed away from the blue heeler and the dog wearily got to his feet. The dog stood there, looking down with his tail between his legs, trembling; seemingly ashamed and defeated. Part of Max’s freshly broken heart cracked a little more. He called, “Come here” but the dog seemed not to hear him. Max moved closer and awkwardly pet the dog’s back. He felt wetness there. Looking at his hand, Max saw it was blood. The little dog was still bleeding from his fight with the wild pack. Max took a red handkerchief from his belt and wrapped it around the dog’s neck, knotting it tight to stop the bleeding. The dog seemed heartened by this attention. He tried to lick Max’s face.

Max gently pat the dog. Still eyeing the dog, he reached for the gas cap again. He opened it, and the dog gave a sharp whine, quickly growing silent when Max leaned in close. Max turned back to the car and unscrewed its gas cap. He glanced back at the dog, but the blue heeler only stood there and casually watched him now. Max positioned his gas cans and fed the hose into the tank. He squeezed the hose’s rubber hand pump, and guzzloline began pouring through the hose. Max filled the two cans and poured the precious juice into the Interceptor, followed by the dog, then went back for more. The Falcon yielded up almost ten more gallons of gas before it ran dry. Max added that to the Interceptor again, looking into the barn as he did so.

The owner had the usual assortment of rusty, used farm tools that could be any number of years old. But there were also a wide variety of automotive tools. Max took a set of sockets and some other wrenches he was missing. He saw a large, wide fan belt hanging from a hook. Taking it down, he was astonished to learn that it was the same kind that the Interceptor used. He put the items into the back seat of the Interceptor; dog still obediently ‘heeling’; then he went to see what else the barn could provide.

There was an old engine on a cherry picker, odd spare parts, and spare tires. Max looked closer at the tires. Two of the chrome wheels would fit the Interceptor, and they had top end racing tires on them. Max wheeled them to the trunk and rearranged the equipment there to make room for them. There was also a spare tire that could replace the flat one Max had, provided he had the opportunity to break down and re-inflate the tire. As this occurred to him, Max saw a large metal cylinder; the kind that was used to hold compressed gases. The yellow paint was flaking off the cylinder, but clearly written on it in black marker was ‘AIR’. A regulator was connected to some hose and a tire stem valve. The regulator was set to 65 psi, which is what a car tire might use. Max had found a very useful tool. He only had to screw the valve to a tire stem and open the cylinder. The compressed air would inflate the tire almost instantly. Max brought his find back to the Interceptor; still shadowed by the dog.

After storing everything Max stretched his aching back; looking at the landscape before him. The little dog trotted over to the spot where the truck had been parked and sniffed around the oily dirt there. The dog suddenly ran to the field behind the barn and stopped with his ears perked up. The dog was looking out into the field. Looking out back past the barn, Max’s keen eyes noticed something he had missed before. Towards the end of a muddy trail there were a fresh set of tire tracks leading away. Now looking intently, Max could see the faint impressions the tires made as they had driven from the parking space, over the grass, and to the muddy road. Walking closer now, he saw the dual tracks were flanked by single ones.

Someone had made it away from the farm.

Someone pursued by the motorcycle gang.

Max cursed to himself and hurried to the Interceptor. Some one was running for their life while he was stealing gas. The Interceptor roared to life, and Max sped off, following the tracks. He hardly noticed that the dog had joined him again and was smiling at the fun, fast ride as only dogs can do.

Kara sped down the dusty dirt road, her dark red hair blowing in the wind, pushing the old truck for all it was worth. She drove the atypical farmer's pickup, a beat up old blue Ford. Like the rest of the dying world, the truck had seen better days. It was marred by innumerable dents and scrapes, a testament to a lifetime of hard work. The wide bench seat and large steering wheel were unfamiliar to her. David usually let her drive his car, his ‘go-devil’ as he called it, whenever she had errands to run. He seemed to enjoy seeing her behind the wheel of his prized hot rod. She wished she had it now. She had seen David pace motorcycles on the open road, terrified of the speeds they moved along at while at the same time secretly hoping he would win. He could make that car work wonders, and surely some of his skill had rubbed off on her. Instead she had this clunky old truck with its rotting exhaust pipe and leaky oil pan. The truck roared along, sounding angry at being abused by her and annoyed by the motorcycles that seemed to run circles around it. But she had to push the truck and she had to fight for her life. David said so.

The roaring machines had come so quickly. She was sitting at the oak kitchen table her father had made for her wedding engagement, about to have dinner. She heard the motorcycles on the road; then heard them turn down their driveway. Just then David came crashing through the door. She was panicking, David was reacting. He told her to lock the doors and stay down. He had sprinted through the old farmhouse, his heavy work boots thumping on the hardwood floors, to their room where he kept his shotgun. How she hated that thing. Made to do one thing and that was kill people. That ugly, loud weapon was so alien to her; she couldn’t help but hate it. “For home defense,” David had said. But wasn’t that what the dog was for?

She remembered when David had taken her reluctantly back into the woods to show her how to use it. Most infuriating was that on her first impression of seeing the death-stick she had called it a rifle. How that drove David crazy. “It’s not a rifle, Kara, it’s a shotgun,” he had told her. “It’s called a shotgun because it fires shot. A rifle’s called a rifle because it’s rifled. Get it?”

She most certainly had not ‘gotten’ it. Of course it fires a shot, they all fire a shot. She didn’t know what ‘rifled’ meant, and she didn’t care enough to ask. But David insisted that she at least know how to use the gun. For some reason, he wouldn’t let her call it a ‘gun’ either. “Call it a shotgun, not a gun. Only tanks have guns.” Whatever.

He spent several minutes preaching about firearm safety and she spent several minutes waving away bugs and trying to pay attention. When he finally handed the thing to her she instinctively put her finger on the triggers. “STOP,” he had said. “What did I just say? Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you intend to fire.” After making her repeat that mantra several times, he pronounced her ready again. He didn’t seem to understand why he had to show her where to place her hands and hold it properly. After all that he made her hold it and break it open. Apparently, breaking it open was a very fun part of using the gun. Shotgun. Whatever.

Then a lecture on loading and discarding spent shells. Why were they called shells? She didn’t dare ask out of fear for another long winded explanation. When she was finally allowed to load a shell, she had difficulty clamping the damn thing back together. “Look, you’re not going to break it. Do it like you mean it;” whatever that meant. She put much more strength into it than she was comfortable with and the gun (shotgun) closed up on one fat little red and gold bullet (shell). At this point David stopped her and asked her what condition the weapon was in. What condition? What does that mean? Clean? ??? She had to express her ignorance and accept another lecture. This one was about knowing if it was loaded, what it was loaded with, and if the safety was on or not.

At this point Kara had been ready to simply pull the triggers and stomp back to the house in a huff, away from buzzing insects and loud bangey guns. (David would have told her to squeeze the trigger, not pull it) But she knew that this was somehow important to the man who would be her husband so she pressed on.

At long last she raised the shotgun and pressed it to her shoulder. “It’s got birdshot in it, so it won’t be very bad. Just try shooting a slug,” David had said and laughed. Why would she shoot a slug with birdshot? What was birdshot anyway? Why would she shoot at a slug at all? Men and their damn guns.

She aimed in the general direction of a tree, and with David’s comforting hand on her shoulder she pulled the trigger. She didn’t notice that it didn’t kick much. She did notice the flash of fire from out of the barrel and the VERY LOUD BANG. She almost dropped David’s precious shotgun.

“That is so loud! My ears are ringing! I’m going to have hearing damage!” Focusing on the ringing in her ears she turned away, with the double barrels aiming haphazardly everywhere. David grabbed her and held her still. “STOP. Give me that.” He took back the troublesome gun.

He was about to say more, perhaps continue her education, perhaps chasten her for her loss of control, when he looked at her stricken face and realized it would be pointless. He broke open the shotgun and said, “That’s enough for today. If someone breaks in… just…just sic the bloody dog on them.”

Thoroughly convinced that no one would ever break in, she took his hand and went home with her man.

David had stomped back to the front room brandishing the shotgun and stuffing shells into his pockets. He told Kara again to stay down and then fearlessly opened the door and stepped onto the porch. Kara could only guess what he was thinking. Maybe show them he wasn’t afraid and bluff them into leaving? Or shoot at them first to scare them away? She feared she might never know. Whatever her husband was thinking, he definitely yelled to the gang to get off his land.

Then the shooting started.

Windows shattered and engines roared. Kara pressed her hands to her ears and screamed; terrified and overwhelmed by the destruction of her ordinary life. David hurtled himself back inside and kicked the door shut. More gunshots rang out as the rounds cracked through the walls of their home. David hastily reloaded the shotgun as he crawled to a window. He sprung up and fired, then paused, aimed, and fired again. Kara was huddled on the floor, crying and unaware she was still screaming. Her husband reloaded again, then a crash shook the house. David’s head whipped up, looking to the rear of their home. A biker had crashed his motorcycle through the back door and stopped just inside the room. The biker saw the two, then fumbled at a holster on his waist. David raised the shotgun and fired, knocking the man to the floor. A brick crashed through a window, followed by another brick wrapped in burning cloth. More gunshots peppered the house. Kara could only stare helplessly at her man. David was franticly reloading and trying to watch everything at once. His eyes stopped on her shaking body. He ducked as more fire was thrown inside, still keeping his eyes on her. Glancing outside one last time, he set his jaw and called to her.

“We can’t stay here, Kara!” he yelled. He crawled to her and grabbed her shoulders. “Kara! You have to make it to the truck! Get to the truck!” he yelled to her face. He shook her now, making her hear him.

“You have to get to the truck, baby.” He pressed the keys into her trembling hands. “I’ll draw them away. You fight to live, you understand me? I’ll be ok.”

Kara nodded mutely as the flames grew around the two.

“Go on now! Go! I love you, baby!”

He pulled her to her feet and pushed her to the rear of the house. She stumbled forward on shaky legs, her body seemingly moving by itself. She looked back to see David at the front door, ready to spring out.

He smiled and nodded at her. Then he pointed and said one last time, “Go!”

David jumped outside and she didn’t look back. She ran in shock to the back door.

Kara ran around the upturned furniture and jumped over the growing fires. She heard more shooting at the front of the house as she peered around the shattered door frame. The motorcycles there were circling, and they suddenly roared away; to the front yard. In a daze, Kara sprinted to the barn; even with her long legs pumping away she felt like she was running through water. Her chest heaved as she rounded the barn and threw open the door to the truck. She hopped inside and slammed the door shut, then she looked down to her hands and saw she somehow still had the keys there. Picking out the square-headed Ford key, she stabbed it into the ignition and turned it. The engine turned over easily and came to life. She pulled the shifter into Drive and was about to take her foot off the brake when reality caught up with her. ‘Where are we going, girl?’ she asked herself. She looked back to the now burning house. Her man was nowhere to be seen. All she could remember was David telling her to go. Then, a bike wheeled around the house; coming for her.

She pressed the gas and the truck sped away, quickly followed by the biker. The roaring motorcycle pulled up next to her, watching her as she tried to flee. The leather clad biker reached down and drew out a large crescent wrench. Kara hopelessly tried outrunning the biker, the truck bouncing on the uneven dirt road. The biker swung the wrench at the window but only reached the rear door post. The wrench clanged off the metal, making Kara scream. The road cut into the trees surrounding their farm, and the biker had to stop as he couldn’t stay beside the truck. He stopped and looked back. One of his comrades came into view, and he quickly waved him over; pointing to their quarry. The second biker saw the fleeing truck and the cloud of dust raised by it. He turned to alert the rest of the gang.

Kara’s heart was thumping away like a V8 engine; she could feel her blood pulsing through her neck. Her situation was dawning on her.

‘They will try to kill me.’

She accelerated faster, heedless of the branches and bushes that whipped by the old Ford. She had taken many walks down these back roads and she felt she knew them fairly well. Still, her eyes franticly scanned the road ahead, terrified of coming to a dead end. Kara knew which turns to take to avoid the river and which way to get to the asphalt road. She measured the dirt road as the truck bounced along, looking for the turn to the concrete highway. She turned towards that road, too panicked to think of anything but escaping the fastest way she knew how.

Then a distant, little used part of her mind quietly spoke up; a small but vital portion of her consciousness. ‘This truck will not outrun motorcycles on an open road, Kara’, it stated with simple confidence.

And it was right. Kara’s heart thudded faster, thinking of how she wanted to live but how she was actually bringing herself closer to death. ‘Ok, we’ll just turn back, girl’, she answered. Then she saw the bikes in her mirrors.

They roared loudly; closing with the beat-up old truck faster than she thought possible. She drove faster and the truck rocked on its worn shocks as it hurtled down the trail. Still the bikers gained on her. They pulled up on either side of the speeding truck, intent on catching her.

In her panicked mind, Kara did not, could not, think of ramming them away. It absurdly seemed rude to her, like cutting off another car. She was a farmer’s wife, and farmer’s wives tried to avoid crashes, not cause them.

She heaved on the wheel with her knuckles gripping so hard they were white. She took a route taking her away from the road and back into the maze of dirt roads. The truck’s tires struggled for traction on the gravel, and she began to fishtail. Surprising even herself, Kara turned the wheel opposite the skid and neatly righted the truck. When she straightened out, Kara again floored the gas and the truck rumbled on.

The bikes were also bouncing roughly on the uneven dirt road, kicking up dust and gravel. One biker led the chase, outfitted in heavy black studded leathers and a mirrored full face helmet. He had a chrome pump action shotgun slung over one spiky shoulder, and he carefully grabbed and raised it; struggling to keep his bike on the rough road with only one hand on the handle bars. He had pulled up on the truck’s right side, and now he awkwardly aimed the shotgun with one hand. Kara did not see him at all.

The biker fired, just as he hit a particularly large bump in the road. The shot shattered the truck’s side view mirror, spraying glass and metal in all directions. Kara shrieked in surprise, than she looked and screamed as she saw the biker with the gun. The biker slowed, then let go of the handles to quickly pump the shotgun and chamber another shell.

In her fear, Kara blindly took the next turn, all coherent plans wiped clean from her mind. She pushed the truck heedless of her speed. The truck roared over the dusty road, its speed taking it through the underbrush and crashing through low hanging tree branches. One thick branch loomed closer and Kara crashed into it, spiderwebbing the left side of the truck’s windshield. Losing traction on the side of the road, she headed right for a tree. Too afraid to brake, Kara numbly tried to turn away. She sideswiped the tree, shearing off the right side mirror’s mangled mount and denting the entire right side of the truck in a jarring series of continuous thuds. The bikers behind her laughed at her fear. They knew she wouldn’t last long like this, and soon she would be theirs. They deftly swerved around or jumped over any obstacles in their way.

The road straightened out and Kara pushed the truck for all it was worth. The old, worn 460ci V8 responded and pushed the truck faster, faster. Her ride over the broken ground had ripped off the truck’s muffler, and the engine roared; the sound enveloping Kara’s ears.

The straight road also benefited the bikers, and they closed with the blue truck again. The lead biker was aiming his shotgun again, hesitating with the jarring ride, waiting for a perfect shot. The road narrowed, and he had to fall back. Then the dirt road opened up, at least twenty feet wide, and the bikers swarmed the truck. The biker was aiming his shogun again…

Kara crouched low over the wheel, the gas pedal to the floor. Through teary eyes she recognized the wide open road, and with dismay she knew where she was. Here the traitorous road led to the river, some six feet wide and at least two feet deep. She could never make it through that river, even low as it was this time of year. Kara knew her time had come.

Her mind seemed to freeze, and her thoughts somehow drifted back to a horse her family had owned. Just a filly, the horse had bumped against a rusty nail and the wound became infected. By the time her father had seen the injury it was too late; the infection had spread deep into the horse’s body. They had to put the filly down. They tried to throw ropes around the filly and reel her in, but the horse seemed to know what was happening. The horse fought to be free, galloping in circles around the fenced in corral. Men approached her, boxing her in, and almost had her stopped when the horse bolted straight for the sturdy wood fence. The filly crashed through that fence, gaining her freedom but also her death. In crashing through, the filly impaled herself on a thick stake of wood. The filly had made it, but paid the price for being free.

Kara would do the same. She would make them fight to get her, never making it any easier for her pursuers. She would die, but it would be her choice, on her terms.

Her foot kept the pedal mashed down, heading dead straight for the river. The truck splashed down heavily and Kara’s head slammed forward hard into the windshield. She was dazed, but in her rigid state of flight, she unconsciously kept the gas pedal down. The truck was rocked by the uneven riverbed, bouncing up and slamming down again; water splashing wildly everywhere. The truck slowed to a crawl, and then the front wheels crept up the opposite bank.

The rear tires ground for traction, and somehow they found it. Scrapping its underside on the riverbank, the truck hauled itself out of the water. The Ford’s high ground clearance had saved it.

Kara’s leg seemed to be paralyzed. The truck was gaining speed when she regained control of herself. She eased off the gas, and it dawned on her that she made it. She looked back in disbelief.

The lead biker stopped with his tires in the shallow water. He couldn’t believe the old truck had made it either. But if he couldn’t get the girl one way, he would get her another. He planted his feet, raised and aimed the shotgun, then fired.

The shot blasted through the rear driver’s side door post, where Kara was looking back at her incredible, short lived escape. The buckshot and shrapnel exploded into her face, and Kara knew no more.

Her body went limp. With a considerable amount of momentum behind it, the old, battered, blue Ford truck crashed into a nearby tree and stopped.

The bikers at the river’s edge watched the truck hit the tree. The lead biker drove out of the water and stood up from his bike. He removed his helmet to get a better view, revealing the sharp, angular features of his face. If one single word could describe him, the word was ‘serious.’ He watched the truck closely, searching for any signs of movement. There were none.

“Heh, got ‘er, Kline”, one of the bikers laughed. Another heavily bearded biker was shaking his head, saying “Stomp’s gonna be pissed, mate. You know he likes ‘em alive and kicking.”

“Uh huh” was Kline’s answer. His dislike of their monstrous pack leader, Stomp, was obvious.

Kline looked down either side of the river. There was no telling which way would lead to a bridge. “Back”, Kline ordered. The bikers knew and respected Kline as Stomp’s second in command. They followed him back the way they came.

In Kline’s opinion, it was well past the time for Stomp to be replaced. He was called Stomp for the heavy iron shod boots he wore, and for the fact that he liked to literally stomp people to death. The neanderthal was known to keep slamming those boots down on a man’s head until the poor bastard’s skull cracked open and Stomp was left with a bloody mess of grey matter on his beloved boots. At that point Stomp would slowly smile a crooked smile that only he could understand. Even the other thuggish bikers didn’t understand where their leader was coming from. Death was death, but what Stomp did was incomprehensible. Kline once actually voiced his dislike for Stomp’s actions, and was told to ‘shut his cock holster’. Not the way to talk to Kline. Kline had a dark, cunning intelligence, and though he did not answer the hulking Stomp, he remembered. And planned.

Kline found most of Stomp’s directions wasteful and pointless. Lately, the man had gotten worse. Catching Barrelhouse Bart was good for the gang’s morale, but the reasons were not. One of the older bikers; intuitively aware of Kline’s ambitions, later informed Kline that Bart was simply an old rival of Stomp’s. Once they ran Bart off the road, a simple pipe wrench to the back of his head had probably killed him. But off went Stomp, with even more that his usual gusto. He reminded Kline of a child playing in puddles, flailing about wildly and occasionally losing his balance. Barrelhouse Bart’s thick skull didn’t want to crack, no matter how hard Stomp sent his feet crashing down. He was forced to settle for kicking the corpse off the road. Then there was the cowboy attack on the farmhouse. The gang had to have used up half of their remaining ammo in that pointless display of testosterone. All that for two dead.

As the bikers returned, the house was totally aflame and the rest of the gang was watching Stomp.

Stomp was going to town on the farmer, too, for no apparent reason. Kline would have left the man alone in death. Kline’s grudging respect, rarely given out, was earned by the man. The farmer had died hard. Even while peppered with gunshot wounds, the man still reloaded his scattergun and blasted away. Five of their number were killed by the man before they got him. Five men wasted! For what? More of Stomp’s crazed swath of destruction across the earth? Because of that battle, they would be forced to let some of the women drive the fallen biker’s rides, rather than leave them behind. Women, cruising along with them as if they belonged there. Bloody Stomp. He had ordered the fallen stripped of their weapons and thrown in the fire. Kline wondered if the devil himself knew what Stomp’s reasons for that were. Yes, the man had to go, and soon. Wait and see his reaction to the killing of the girl, then decide if the time was upon them…

Stomp was kicking the body next to a chicken coop where the farmer made his last stand. A small dog was trying to bite at Stomp’s feet, and Stomp laughed as he tried to kick the animal. The dog was far too quick, but Stomp wouldn’t give up; lashing out like a stubborn child.

Stomp noticed them pull up, and he dejectedly kicked the body once more. Sweating and breathing hard, he clomped his way back. The dog barked once more at Stomp but didn’t pursue him.

“Well?” Stomp demanded. “Where is she?”

“Dead. Ya want her that way, right?” was Kline’s bold answer. He casually cradled his pump action shotgun in his lap. Kline slowly began reloading; sliding shells into the shotgun’s magazine.

Perhaps Stomp knew something was different about his lieutenant. Perhaps no one had ever disobeyed him before and he didn’t know how to handle it. Stomp’s gang had a standing order that all women were to be brought to him, alive. Whatever the case, Stomp paused at Kline’s words.

“You know we needed her alive, Kline. Or maybe you never liked that kind of fun? Is that it?”

Kline set his shotgun down and leaned against his bike. “What we need, Stomp, is food and ammo, which you just pissed away, you bloody yahoo.”

Stomp was slowly walking towards Kline, and he stopped and blinked, not quiet believing what he heard. A second passed where Stomp gauged the distance between Kline and his shotgun. Stomp carried no weapons but the ones he wore on his feet. Then, Stomp bellowed like a bull and charged at Kline.

Kline might have been able to grab his shotgun and bring it to bear in time. But that was never his plan. As Stomp reached him, Kline crouched low and kicked his leg out. Stomp went sprawling into Kline’s bike and then to the ground. Kline snatched up his shotgun in an instant. Two-handed, he swung the butt of the gun into the back of Stomp’s head. Stomp collapsed face first in the dirt.

Kline aimed the gun at his fallen leader and turned him over with his foot. Kline rested the barrel of the shotgun one handed on Stomp’s chin. “You dumb bastard” Kline stated. “How long would we survive with you? You waste every goddamn thing we come across, then play in your shitkicking boots with the rest.”

Stomp could only glare at Kline in rage. His nostrils flared in impotent fury.

The rest of the gang watched on impassively; engines idling. The strongest would always lead them.

“Get up” Kline ordered. Warily, Stomp got to his feet. “Now back” Kline kept the gun trained on the man, backing up to the burning house.

Stomp kept his hands up. The man wasn’t smart enough to disguise his actions, and it was clear he was waiting for an opportunity to grab the gun from Kline. Stomp’s eyes kept darting from the gun to Kline’s face.

Stomp felt the heat of the fire behind him and stopped backing up. It was now or never. Kline stopped too, barrel still aimed at the center of Stomp's wide chest. Kline paused and seemed to think twice about what he was doing. He shrugged. "But... we need every last one of us. Leave it at that." Kline paused, then lowered the shotgun and turned to walk away.

Stomp did not hesitate. His beefy arm reached up to grab Kline's shoulder...

Kline spun around brandishing the gun like a club. The butt of the shotgun smacked hard into Stomp's face. Then Kline swung the gun low like a golf club into his crotch. Stomp staggered backwards to the burning fire. Kline dropped his shotgun, then grabbed the collar of Stomp's leather jacket. With his other hand on his thick belt, Kline heaved Stomp into the flames. Stomp's body crashed down hard through the brittle floorboards and into the fiery pit that was the basement.

Then, Kline turned to face his new gang as the home continued to burn behind him.

“Anybody else want to burn?”

The gang had no answer for him.

“Good. I’m running this show now, and I say we’re through with this small time garbage. From now on, we only do what it takes to make us stronger. Bad times ahead, gents, and I will be a winner. We make for the road and supplies. Head out, Nomads.”

Kline kick started his bike and rode off down the dirt road again. To a man, the bikers followed him.

Max could easily ‘read’ the tire tracks before him as he cruised along in the Interceptor. One vehicle, probably a truck, judging by its wheelbase, was pursued by several bikers. Not a very skilled driver, as the tracks frequently crisscrossed the bumpy road and turned wildly on the curves. The tracks led right up to but barely missed a large tree. As Max neared, he slowed and saw the vehicle did actually hit the tree. There were blue scrapes left on the damaged wood. He was certain he was following a blue truck, probably driven by the farmer’s wife or possibly a boy or girl. So far they had eluded capture. Max unholstered his shotgun as he drove. If he turned a corner and came across anyone; he wanted to be ready. In the passenger side window, the dog was enjoying the breeze.

Abruptly, the trail came to a small river. It should have been large enough to stop any vehicle, but there was nothing in the water. They must have made it across. Max scanned the opposite side, and spotted a blue truck crashed into a tree. ‘What, they made it all that way and couldn’t avoid a tree? No…’ Max could see a figure slumped over the wheel. He could also see the damaged cab of the truck. A gunshot had finished the driver. Max did not think he could have hated bikers any more than he already did, but this gave him reason to do so. That tiny hope of a survivor, dashed away. Max closed his eyes in regret.

No tracks led off following the river. The gang must have backtracked down the road they had been on. Max wanted to pursue them as he had with so many others. But part of him was still a cop, and he knew he should investigate the truck. Max drove off parallel to the river, searching for a way across.

She felt herself awakening from a wretched dream, too surreal to be a nightmare. She was aware she must have slept in a very awkward position. Her neck was stiff and painful. Kara tried to open her eyes.

She was sitting in the driver’s seat of her (dead?) husband’s pickup; leaning against the hard steering wheel. The horror of the last few moments of her life came back to her. She gingerly pushed her aching body back against the seat. Her groggy eyes couldn’t seem to focus. She opened her eyes wider and the resulting pain told her that was not a good idea. What was wrong with her face? She raised an arm to her forehead, and felt pain there. Her hand came away red with blood. Now, she could feel it dripping down her face and onto her pale blue shirt. My face. What has happened to me? Then, Kara remembered looking back, seeing the biker, dressed as black as death, raising a silver shotgun, aiming at her. No. Dear God no. She had been shot.

But why am I still alive? She turned to look behind her, but her right eye didn’t seem to be working. Again, the hand to her face. Also again, the pain there. She gently probed her skin. It felt shredded. Her hand moved to her eye. Her eye…

It…wasn’t there. The normal, round ball she expected to feel was gone. Kara stared at her hands, one clean, the other coated in blood. Realization hit her. She slowly reached for the rear view mirror; willing her body to show her what she already knew. She aimed the mirror at herself. As she saw her own image coming into view, Kara had to look away. She could not bear to see herself like that. Her looks had never been terribly important to her, but this…

Kara forced her gaze to the mirror again. Her shock was numbing and absolute.

The skin covering her forehead and cheekbone was ripped and torn to shreds. The oozing blood could not hide where her face was cut to the pale yellow bone. Her eye, what was left of it, looked like raw, chopped meat. She would never see from that eye again, and no one would want to see her face again. She covered her head with her hands and hid herself from the damming mirror. Kara took a deep breath, about to sob. She found herself staring at the Ford’s key, still in the ignition. Glinting in the fading sunlight like a beacon. At that moment, the last purity and innocence in her wounded body died. If this is how it is, then this is how it is. Rage like she hadn’t known existed blossomed in her chest. She pulled herself back to the mirror, now examining the blood flowing from her mangled face. The pain and gore there only fueled her anger. She would have to stop the bleeding.

She kneeled on the wide bench seat, then turned and pulled the seat back forwards. She knew David kept a tool box behind there. There was also an old red and black flannel work shirt there. She tossed it on the dashboard, and then heaved the rusted toolbox out onto the seat and opened it. Amongst the assorted tools she took out a hammer and a curved electrician’s knife. She hefted the hammer, holding it for a moment and getting a feel for its weight. Satisfied, she wedged the hammer between the seat cushions. She set the knife on the seat and closed the toolbox; pushing it to the floorboards. Then she grabbed the flannel and held it up. Taking the knife, she roughly cut and hacked away the bottom part of the shirt. She wadded that part up and pressed it to her empty eye socket. She refused to cry out from the pain. She had men to kill now; pain would not stop her. She wrapped the arms of the shirt around her head to hold the makeshift bandage in place and tied it into a loose knot. The pain was growing now. Her raw flesh did not like the rough cloth pressed on it. As her wounds throbbed with each beat of her heart, Kara forcefully pulled the knot tight. For the second time today, unconsciousness enveloped her. Kara’s limp head fell to the steering wheel.

Max drove through the light underbrush; following the river. There was a faded trail here that shadowed the river, and he drove along it, hoping to find a way across. The Interceptor bounced along the uneven ground, and Max was force to keep the car at a much slower pace than he was used to. The light was fading, and Max’s intuition told him to hurry. He increased his speed.

Abruptly an old wooden bridge came into view. It was little more than two large planks with some ties holding it together. Max sized up the bridge, but did not hesitate. He quickly took the Interceptor across and followed the river back the way he came. Soon he came to the small clearing with the blue pickup truck. Max stopped the Interceptor a few dozen yards away and shut it down. The dog happily jumped out to inspect the new surroundings. Max exited the Interceptor warily, searching the clearing. He reached to the backseat and took an MFP issue double barreled shotgun out. Unlike the one he carried in his holster, this one was not modified at all.

Through a black haze of pain Kara heard a vehicle come closer and stop. She froze, then quickly came up with a plan. She glanced out to see a man dressed entirely in black leather coming for her. She listened closely and she reached for the knife, holding it close to her leg. She played dead and waited.

The dog trotted to the truck, and Max called it back. The dog obediently stayed by Max’s side. He eyed the damaged truck, still roughly idling loudly through its broken headers. Max circled around to the driver’s side, seeing the figure slumped over the wheel. One person, a woman, unless there was someone else lying on the seat. As he came closer, Max saw up close the shotgun blast that mangled the right side door post. That was what killed the driver. Max walked closer, and reached in to pull the woman’s head back from the wheel.

Kara lashed out with the knife, whipping it up and out the window at whoever was there. Without the need for thought, Max’s reflexes cut in and he dodged back, raising his long double barreled shotgun. The woman, with bloody rags tied around an apparently nasty head wound, had the door open and was rushing him. She swung wildly at his neck, shrieking furiously. Max opened his mouth to try to talk her down, but quickly gave up as he recognized the rage fueling her attack. The dog darted between the two of them; barking wildly. Max blocked a slash with the shotgun, and swatted away her flailing arm again and again. But the crazed woman kept coming. Max blocked another slash and was surprised as the woman changed tactics, kicking him in the crotch. He staggered in pain and the woman drew back her arm for a death blow. Max threw his body into hers and grabbed her arm. They fell to the ground where Max was able to pin her. Still she struggled like a wild animal; screaming incoherently. Her one functioning eye shot darts of murder at Max.

Max felt little pity for the woman’s wounds. That was to be expected and accepted in the white-lined nightmare this world had become. But she was innocent, and he would not kill her.

“Stop! Stop it! I didn’t do this to you!” His words had no effect on the thrashing woman. Max respected her fury. But he had to make her stop. One at a time, he forced her arms above her head and kneeled on them. He grabbed her chin and forced her to look at him. “I’m not one of them!”

The woman stopped struggling but still glared at Max. “Let me go,” she hissed. Max paused and got up, watching her closely. The woman snatched up the fallen knife and stood, defiantly facing Max. He warily picked up the shotgun. She saw the Interceptor, and then recognized her small dog at her feet. The dog seemed to sense the change in her. He turned and trotted back to Max; watching Kara warily. She stepped towards Max and her arm lanced out, pointing at him. “You were at my home.” It was an accusation.

“Yeah, I was… after.” Max answered.

The woman glanced at the Interceptor again, and seemed to place Max’s clothes. “You’re a cop?”

Max could only look at her, unsure how to answer.

“Where were you? We needed you… my husband…” Dangerous hope came to her. “Did you see him?”

“They killed him.” Max stated flatly.

The woman almost imperceptibly nodded her head. She had already known that in her heart.

“Who did this?” Max asked.

“A biker gang”, she answered. She thought for a moment. “Did you see where they went?” The question was almost a challenge to Max, as if daring him to stop her. Max understood the need for revenge all too well, and he would not get in her way. Not at all.

“They probably continued down the road. Where does it lead?”

“To town.” she said absently, and she seemed to think about that.

Max turned to go back to the Interceptor. “You’re going after them?” She asked.

Max stopped. “That’s right.”

“So am I. I’m going to kill them.”

Max summed her up. Very determined, but with little skill and few weapons. Max nodded at the knife she carried. “With that, you mean?”

Kara looked at the knife in her hand. She strode to the bed of the pickup and took out a shovel lying there. She wedged the head into the rear bumper and snapped it off, turning the handle into a crude spear. She planted it in the ground and boldly faced Max.

“You’ll get yourself killed,” he said, then realized that was a mistake to say. She had nothing to lose, just like him. Max had no business discouraging her.

“I don’t care. They killed my man.”

“Take this,” Max offered. He tossed her the shotgun.

Kara dropped the spear and the knife to neatly grab the gun out of the air. She shouldered it, then picked the up knife and tucked it in her belt. She then picked up the makeshift spear and faced Max again.

“Help me get them”, she plaintively offered.

Max gave the bloodied, determined woman a long, hard look. If she wanted vengeance on a biker gang, more power to her. With her challenging stance and furious attitude, she even seemed like she could do it. Uncaring of her wounds, the tall, fiery red-haired woman was intimidating and somehow beautiful in her primal state. Yes, she had been through hell, and she was ready to give some back. Max could relate.

“Lead us into the outskirts, then we can see what they’re up to”, Max ordered.

The woman nodded her head once. “OK”

Max followed the battered pickup over a few miles of dirt roads and finally to the black asphalt. The woman drove quickly and steadily. Max wondered what she might be thinking. She was too focused to be mourning the loss of so much that was dear to her. Her thoughts were probably deadened to all but revenge. That thought would be white-hot to her. She would now be an almost mindless engine of destruction. Max’s blood ran cold as he realized that his own thoughts mirrored hers. ‘Is that how others see me?’, Max asked himself.

When the town came in sight, the Ford pulled off the road, down yet another dirt trail, and stopped behind a copse of trees. The woman exited the Ford, and Max watched her; looking for any signs of weariness. She still seemed intent and focused. Good. That would keep her alive longer.

Max stopped and reached to the rear floorboards for his binoculars. With the dog in tow, he limped over to the woman, who was viewing the town. Max slowly sat down next to her and raised the binos.

The gang had set up shop outside a small market. Trash and broken glass littered the road, testament to the biker’s locust-like ravaging. Max viewed it all impassively. He had seen it all before. If there was anyone left in the town, they had either fled or hidden somewhere. Max counted seven bikers, cooking meat over a fire. ‘Just seven?’, Max thought. The rest must have went on.

Max scanned the area, then saw two more, secluded at the entrance to the town. An early-warning guard.

“There were more than that”, the woman stated, squinting to see. Max glanced at her, then handed her the binoculars. Suddenly he felt like giving her the binos, made for use with two eyes, might be seen by her as some kind of cruel joke. She took them without comment, raising them to her eye.

Max observed her awkwardly try to focus them using just her one eye. A twinge of pity hit him, ignored until now but brought on by the delicate act of her focusing the binos. Max shut his eyes and turned back to the town. So much loss.

“He’s not there, the one who sh…” The woman’s voice broke mid-sentence. She visibly steeled herself and continued. “Shot me. Where are the rest?”

“Where’s the pub in this place?” Max asked.

The woman snorted softly, as if she should have thought of that on her own. “The other side of town. Malarky’s”

“That’s where they are, then. Do you see the guards?”

The woman looked again. “Yes.” She looked a moment longer, then she set her clear, sky-blue eye on Max. “What is your name?”

‘Here it comes’, thought Max, ‘getting to know someone when we both may end up dead.’ Nothing to do but get on with it. “Max”, he answered.

“I’m Kara. Kara Rhodes”

“Kara, don’t worry about the guards.” Max looked up to the darkening sky. Night was falling, and it would be difficult to see soon. “Here’s what we’re gonna do.”

The biker gang at the market was not a happy bunch. They sat sprawled about on upturned barrels or comfortable chairs taken from nearby homes. They were either Stomp’s supporters or they had wronged Kline in some way. As such, they were left at the entrance to town supposedly as some kind of guard, while the rest of the gang headed for the bar they knew was somewhere close by. Marget was banished with them, and that was the only bright spot, except to her. Marget had been Stomp’s woman. She knew her position had since drastically changed. With her brown roots, ageing face, and drooping breasts, she had to make her place the best as she could. Wally, a hardened, veteran biker, had unceremoniously walked her behind the market counter, stripped her of most of her clothing, and forced himself upon her. Marget knew better than to resist. Take what she could get; that was all she had to do. After Wally, then another biker used and left her. Then another. Marget shut her eyes and endured. Take what she could get…

As the last of them finished with Stomp’s tramp, some of the bikers spoke of heading out on their own. Wally flatly stated that Kline would like nothing better then to run down deserters as the first order of business for his new gang. Just wait it out, and they would eventually be part of the gang once again, he cautioned. They grumbled about it, as of course they would, but they accepted their bad luck. At least they had their pick of the market’s steaks. The owner had run off at the first sign of them.

Then they heard the sound of an oncoming vehicle; jusr driving along. Strange, as the roads were largely deserted. The bikers stood warily, waiting to see what was coming before raising pursuit. It never occurred to them that the vehicle could be a threat of any sort. They were BIKERS, leather warriors on metal steeds. Kings of the road that had steamrolled over all in their way. Nothing would dare bother them.

Nothing, that is, except a wounded, crazed, red haired woman who had nothing left to lose. Kara drove normally, just as the cop had instructed her. Nothing to worry about here, just an unwary, soon-to-be victim. She drove through the last curve before town, passing the two guards. Just when it looked as if the truck had totally missed the bikers, Kara slammed her foot down on the high-beam switch and floored the gas. The headlights pinned the bikers like deer and the broken exhaust roared through the still night air. With a squeal of protesting tires, Kara swerved headlong at the parked motorcycles.

Caught half ready, the bikers belatedly scattered. Still, Kara caught one trying to dive away. She grimly rode him down, trying to hear every sound of the man’s body being crushed under the merciless wheels. Not out of bloodlust, though she was enjoying it. She wanted to be sure she could handle killing someone; that her prim and proper farmer’s wife mentality would not resurface. She was surprised how easy it was. But the bikers themselves were not her target.

Kara crashed through the bikes, conveniently lined up for her. One by one they stacked up in front of the pickup, crashing and grinding on one another, until they fell aside or under the pickup. Kara bounced in the seat as she drove over them. ‘Hit their bikes and keep them on foot’, Max had planned. ‘Then, get their attention’. That, Kara could do.

Once past the bikers, she eased off the gas, slammed on the brakes, and yanked hard on the wheel. The old Ford shuddered to a stop as Kara spun it about. Oh, she was madly, almost hysterically, enjoying herself. She never dreamed of the power, the freedom to be had behind the wheel of this roaring machine. She wanted to laugh, to cry at the heavens both in thanks and in defiance. The deep rooted survival instinct that had so rarely spoken to her before this damned day cautioned her once again. She must resist giving in to that terrible, primal laughter. Resist, or she might start laughing and not ever stop. Smiling, she kept one foot on the brake and revved the engine; her headlights aimed at the scrambling bikers. The pickup canted to the side with each press of the pedal. The Ford seemed to be as hungry as she was.

One of the bikers popped away at the truck with a small revolver. Oddly, a mere handgun held no fear for Kara. A shotgun blast to the face might do that to someone. The truck was out of range, however, and Kara continued to rev the roaring engine. The bikers quickly summed up that their motorcycles were inoperative, and they spread out, moving towards the poised pickup. The two forward guards had mounted their bikes and were rushing towards Kara. ‘Come on, Max, where are you?’

Not even Kara, who was facing in the right direction, saw the jet black Interceptor bearing down on the bikers. From behind them, Max suddenly turned on the Interceptor’s headlights. The two guards paused before splitting up, each one going in a different direction. Max charged at one, sideswiping him and sending him tumbling to the ground. Then Max continued on his course at the running bikers. He ran then down, twisting the wheel back and forth to hit them all. Max brought the Interceptor to a screeching stop among those still standing. He opened the door and stood up, brandishing his revolver. Four shots rang out, and four bikers dropped. The dog ran among the dead, sniffing and barking. Max turned to the biker who managed to ride off. He was out of range, but why wasn’t the girl going after him?

Kara watched with envy as the black car rammed one of the guards to the ground and then ran into the running bikers. SHE wanted revenge on them, and she was angry that she filled the role of a decoy. The one remaining guard was riding away. Now there was one Kara could get. She wrenched the shifter into Park and got out, bringing the shotgun up to her shoulder. She now understood implicitly what David meant by ‘doing it like she meant it’. The thought of her man focused her rage again. She aimed at the fleeing biker, (thinking she should close one eye for better aim, but she only had one eye, how about that?) and squeezed both triggers.

Kara welcomed the jarring recoil to her shoulder, but far more important to her was if she hit what she was aiming at. An instant later, she saw the biker fall to the road and tumble in a mangled heap. “Yeah!”, she yelled; almost growled. She never would have recognized that harsh voice as her own. Then Kara methodically broke the shotgun open, tossed away the spent shells, and loaded new ones; neatly snapping the barrels closed. Oh, she understood about doing it like she meant it, all right. She looked to Max; what would he do now? Interrogate any survivors? Kara hurried to the pickup for her spear.

Max walked around the fallen bikers, apathetically kicking them to make sure they were dead. The dog followed him, going from one to another, checking just like Max was. The dog’s ears perked up and he dashed forward to a biker who was feebly crawling away. The dog bit down hard on the biker’s jeans, growling and snarling at him. Max turned him over with one booted foot, revealing a terrified face. Cocking his head at the girl standing not far off with the deadly shotgun, Max said to him “You remember her?”

“Yeah, yeah I remember” the biker answered, panicked, hoping to please Max.

“Good.” Max shot him dead and moved another moaning biker. The dog momentarily followed.

Max didn’t bother talking to this one, just shooting the man in the back of the head. Kara came trotting up, makeshift spear in one hand and the shotgun in the other.

“We get ‘em all?”

Max nodded to the first guard, trying to push his motorcycle off his broken legs. “One more.” The dog, seeing Max’s motion as a command, ran to and began harrying the wounded biker.

The biker flailed at the dog, then saw Max and Kara and stopped struggling. He cursed at them, “Get it over with, you bastards!”

Max aimed point blank at the biker’s defiant face. ‘Click’ went the empty revolver.

“Mine’s empty”, Max stated. “Hers ain’t.”

Kara rested the double barrel on the biker’s chest. “How many more of you are there?”

“So ya lived after all. I ain’t tellin’ you nothin’. Go on and shoot me, ya bloody one eyed bitch!”

Kara smiled evilly. “Who said anything about shooting you?” With her other arm she plunged the spear wetly into the biker’s gut. He cried out and grabbed at the spear, but Kara leaned hard on it, skewering him.

“How many more?”, Kara demanded.

The biker cried and pleaded, gripping the spear, “Lots more, I don’t know, twenty! They’ll come for you, ya crazy bitch!”

“I hope so.” She aimed at his head and fired.

The dog whined softly and walked behind Max, keeping Max between him and Kara. The dog sensed what Max already knew. This was no longer a kind hearted young woman. There was a fine line between revenge and bloodlust, and Max feared the girl had crossed it. No, took a flying leap over it. Max could clearly see her teeth, smiling in the fading light. ‘What have I done to her?’, Max asked himself regretfully. A deep, dark thought occurred to him, a thought that Max didn’t want to acknowledge. He might have to stop her, and the only thing that would stop her was more death.

The dog sniffed the air and trotted over to the fire, where several steaks were cooking on an improvised grill. He leaned in to grab one, then darted back as the heat was too much. The dog whined in frustration and circled the grill, searching for cool a spot to snatch some food. But no matter how he tried, the heat kept him back. Max watched with bland amusement.

Finally the dog steeled himself and set his hind legs. He quickly set his paws on the hot grill and snatched a juicy steak away. He happily trotted over to Max; his banana-curve of a tail wagging in triumph. The dog hunkered down and began tearing into the steak. Max half-smiled at him. Not a bad idea. Max grabbed two steaks of his own and wrapped them in a discarded newspaper.

“We go for the rest of them now?”, Kara asked hopefully.

“No. They’re sure to hear all this, and now they’re ready. We rest, and start again tomorrow.”

The girl turned her head distractedly, summing up the situation. “Ok. Back into the trails. I know a good hiding spot.” She headed back to the Ford without waiting for Max’s answer.

Max looked down at the dog, who was looking back up at him. The dog cocked his head to the side questioningly. “Come”, Max said, and walked to the waiting Interceptor. The dog trotted contently beside him.

Marget, cowering behind the market countertop, made herself count to one hundred before she slowly raised her head to look. Whoever had attacked the gang was gone, as was the gang itself. She disliked most of them, but they were her security and her family. Now their sprawled bodies littered the ground like the rest of the trash being blown by the wind. Marget swallowed hard and crept out of the market, her wide eyes searching for anything alive. She ran down the street, to the center of town.