Desert Rat

Before he could think of anything to say, she rolled out from under the transit, hoisted her tool box, hopped in her levicar and flew away. He fell back on the sand in a daze and stared at the undercarriage. He didn’t feel like moving at all. He wasn’t ready for the heat and the dust and the other people. He wanted the unearthly feeling to fade on its own. Unfortunately, Silo would not shut up.

“I suppose food is food, and people gotta eat. Not the worst bounty I ever caught. I once stole a box van. Got shot in the leg doing it. Almost died, and all that was in it was goat heads. Who the hell goes around carrying goat heads? Who the hell shoots someone else over goat heads? If I was stuck with a load of goat heads, I’d want somebody to steal ‘em from me.”

The kid crawled from the comfort of the shade into the scorching sun and looked into the cargo hold. Sure enough, it was stacked floor to ceiling with crates of rations. Silo was clambering around hoping to find some hidden contraband as Max studied the manifest on the cab wall.

“These people are legit,” he said. “They really are just carrying rations.” Max glanced up at him and paused for a moment with an odd look on his face. Then he smiled as if suddenly amused at something. It didn’t make sense to the kid. “Get your stuff together,” Max continued. “Let’s get out of here.”

He grabbed his tool box and walked toward the flatbed.

“The field drive is working again,” he said up to the cab as he passed by. “You can start her, but I disconnected your control panel. I thought if you tried to run, Mr. Grain Tower would have a reason to start shooting. It’ll only take me a minute to put it back right.”

“Thanks, Kid,” the lady said.

He tucked his tools away and waited next to the hole he put in the door. Silo descended from the hold first and yelled to his drivers to bring in their cars, but they couldn’t hear him from that distance, and they couldn’t see him clearly through the heat.

“Don’t tell me I gotta walk out there.” He cursed some more and began trudging over the scorched distance. “Get your butts over here!” he shouted, but they still could not hear.

Max came out with a single box. The kid was surprised he took any of it.

The lady looked down at him. “That’s all you want?”

“A deal’s a deal,” he replied. “I had to take something.”

Their radio crackled to life, and Dermot’s harried voice broke through the noise in a panic. Between the curses and the vulgar language, he managed to inform them of an armored police car flying in from the South.

“Gotta go now,” Max announced as he dropped the box onto the bed.

The kid sprinted toward the transport.

“Kid, we’ve got to go!” insisted Max.

“A deal’s a deal,” he shouted back. Then he yelled to the lady in the cab. “Close the cargo door while I get you hooked up.”