Episode 1 Scene 12

The Present

I’m sitting out front of the fuel depot; my bike’s rumbling between my legs. One of the mechanics has gun-turret duty. He’s clearly familiar with the gun-rig, but he doesn’t look happy—he’s too old. Slower reflexes and a conscience are a hindrance. No doubt the rig-rat’s inside saying good-bye to Papa, having a drink, maybe shedding a tear.

The outer door of the compound squeals open, and Mikey rides out. No evidence of tears. She originally wanted to ride two-up on the back of my beast. Not a good idea. Unless you’re gene coded into the bike’s system, you’ll get fried, slowly fried at that—my ride thinks this is funny. However, my ride, like me, doesn’t think what Mikey is riding is funny.

“What the hell do you call that?” I ask.

The machine she’s sitting on has four wheels and a sidecar. It’s a mechanical nightmare.

“What do I call what?” she says, folding her arms across her chest.

“I mean what the hell is it?”

“It’s an ATV with a sidecar, old-timer. Never seen one before?”

Good Christ. What a mess. The original machine looks like a standard four-wheel all-terrain vehicle with big multipurpose tires and a large, comfortable seat. But attached is a modified sidecar that someone’s torn from the side of a World War II–era motorcycle. The vehicle has­ five wheels. How the hell does it go around corners?

“Does it go? We’ve got a long ride.”

She twists the throttle. The ATV roars. Holy shit, that sounds good. I’m impressed. But I don’t tell her. She clambers off the bike and pulls back the sidecar’s tonneau cover. I get a magician’s sweep of the arm.

“Look at this.”

I peer into the sidecar: fuel, weapons, and food. That’s one nice set of priorities. Again, I’m impressed. Again, I don’t tell her. She pulls up the cover and climbs back on her ride. Now that I’ve seen her setup, I’m marginally happier.

“You say good-bye to Dwayne?”

She nods and says nothing.

“Let’s get going. Sooner we start, the sooner we finish,” I order.

She gives a sarcastic laugh. “Oh boy, that’s a gem of advice.”

Told you I was no good with kids. I could hear the guy in the gun turret laughing. This is just great.

“Put your helmet on. Let’s make tracks.”

“Wait,” she says. “What do I call you?”


“What do I call you?” she repeats. “I can’t call you Keeper all the time.”

I think about this. It’s a long ride to where we’re going. There are going to be problems along the way. And she’s only a teenager. Decision made. Easy.

“Keeper sounds just fine to me.”

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