Thursday, August 28, 2014

Scrap (p.4)

(Part 1 is here)

A girl rushed into Sallie's, her eyes wide. She went behind the bar and whispered into Sallie's ear.

Sallie glanced at Johnny, nodding her head. After the girl was done, Sallie whispered something in her ear and put something in her hand. Sallie walked over to Johnny's stool.

Johnny's stomach dropped. Maybe he didn't have until morning.

"Seems Hal's not waiting until morning," Sallie said. She rummaged under the bar and started pulling out guns.

"Wait, Sallie, listen," Johnny said. "Just let me out the back and tell him I'm gone. I don't want to bring this trouble down on you and yours."

"This trouble was coming sooner or later. Hal don't want anything operating that ain't under his thumb." She looked at Johnny, her eyes keen. "But tell me, why's he want you so bad?"

Johnny hesitated, but Sallie was about to head off against the meanest most powerful man in the village, and it was his fault. He leaned in. "I found something in the Heap. Something big."

"How big?"

Johnny sighed. "It will change the world."

Her eyes widened. She shook her head and jumped onto the bar, standing over everyone.

The singer in the corner cut off her song.

Everyone looked at Sallie.

She stalked up and down her bar, resting her rifle on her shoulder like a soldier at ease. "There's going to be trouble here fast so I'd ask you all to head to the basement to wait this out. I apologize for the inconvenience. Girls, boys." She gestured to her workers to come to the bar.

Johnny found the girl who'd brought the warning and sent her off with a message.

Sallie let herself down off the bar. "What'd you tell her?"

"To get out of here before the shooting starts. You got a gun for me, Sal? Mine's empty."

She couldn't help smiling. "That girl took your bullets too, didn't she?" She handed over a heavy handgun. "Take care, she kicks."

Most of Sallie's customers were making their way to the trapdoor underneath the stairs. One of Sal's boys held it open.

Sallie addressed her workers. "Susie and Sharon, you get yourselves down in the basement too, I won't hear nothing else." The two youngest-looking girls left, the others looked determined. "Now, boys and girls I call you but you are men and women, able to do what you want. If you'll stay and protect this place, I'll appreciate it but I won't force you. The basement door is open if you want to take it."

Not one of her workers moved. They looked determined.

Sallie looked pleased. She started handing a variety of firearms out, rifles, shotguns and handguns. She sent her boys to keep watch in every direction.

The few customers who remained made their way to the bar, having talked with eachother and looking like they decided something.

"Sallie," one said, a grizzled man with a lengthy black beard. "You've been here long since I showed up, only real place of civilization left in this barbarian's wasteland of a planet and damnit, you better be here long after I'm gone. This place is neutral, always has been and if someone's messing with that, I want to help, we all do." The men and women with him nodded their heads in agreement. They looked withered and aged, but also rock hard. The village didn't have room for anyone soft.

Sallie nodded. "I appreciate it much, Gril, but you all know you will be going against Hal on this. I won't begrudge anyone stepping back and heading down to the basement."

Gril shrugged, glancing at the others. "We already figured as much."

Sallie handed out the last few weapons she had and spare ammo clips to go with them.

Johnny shook his head, lost in thought. He'd spent most of his life in the village, it's parts and people familiar, reassuring, the status quo never really changing. It'd been a safe place, for the most part, for a family to raise children, for a farmer to bring their crops, and most importantly for Johnny to scavenge in the Heap and bring back old-tech to sell off.

No more.

He swore, checking the clip in the gun before shoving it back in with a snap. "I didn't want this, any of this," he muttered.

"Hey," Sallie said, smacking him up side the head. "Get the hell over your self."

"Sallie," one of her boys said from the front.

A gunshot resounded and one of the front windows shattered.

Everyone ducked and clutched their weapons with white knuckles, waiting.

No more gunfire.

Sallie left her men watching the back and sides. The rest of them made their way to the front, taking positions by the many windows.

Ten men stood out front, each carrying a machine gun. One man stood out, pudgy and with a scar across his face. He was Theodore, Hal's second.

Johnny took a slow breath. If Ted was here, Hal wasn't playing around.

"Sal," one of her men hissed from the back. He held up five fingers and pointed outside.

Sal sent Johnny, Gril and another one of her patrons who'd stuck around to the back.

Johnny crouched by the bouncer, a broad-shouldered man with a shotgun.

"They're hiding but just wait and watch."

Johnny did so, making sure to keep out of clear view.

Men poked their head from behind two buildings. Another peeked from the roof of a third. Two more could be seen between gaps in a pile of wooden crates off to the side. They each were armed and seemed to be waiting for something.

"Sallie!" Theodore cried out. "We don't want trouble."

"Sure looks like you do," Sallie shouted back.

"We just want Johnny, that's all. Let him go and we'll leave in peace."

"What do you want him for?"

"Trespassing and theft on Hal's land, the Scrapheap. He's broken the law and he needs to pay."

"Ain't the law Sheriff's business?"

Theodore shrugged. "Seeing how Hal was the one offended against and the Sheriff is a two-bit coward, Hal's the one who will see to the issue."

"The Heap ain't Hal's to own. Never was and never will be."

"Now see, he would disagree with you."

"Seeing how he's breaking the laws of this here neutral ground, I don't much care what he thinks."

Theodore laughed. "We all knew this place was only neutral ground long as Hal let it be. C'mon now, Sal, you don't want to do thi-"

She leaned out of the window and fired.

Theodore took the round in the shoulder, spinning around and hitting the dirt.

The world filled with gunfire.

The men at the back made their appearance, whipping their guns up and peppering the back with bullets.

Windows shattered. Tables and chairs were hit, sending woodchips flying into the air. The bottles behind the bar broke and crashed to the floor.

Johnny peeked out when he could, found the closest man, creeping up the side of a house. Johnny held the gun with both hands and fired. The kick took him by surprise, making him step back.

The man bounced off the wall and hit the ground.

Johnny threw himself back from the window as gunfire followed him. He found Gril dead and the other patron dying from multiple gunshots.

The man didn't last long.

Sal's man raised up and fired, scattershot catching the man above and sending him tumbling from the roof.

Johnny glanced at the front.

One of Sal's men lay on his back, his hands to his gut as another of Sal's customers put pressure on the wound. Sal herself looked calm and collected, her mouth a thin line of concentration as she moved from window to window, shooting here and there.

Johnny moved to another window, a surprisingly intact one and smashed it with the butt of his handgun. He waited a moment, then looked out. He fired a couple times at the crates but missed.

The men behind the crates dashed out of sight beyond a house.

Johnny thought of the people living in that home, in all the homes around them, in the whole village itself, exposed to an avalanche of violence and death. He cursed Hal for this, he cursed the Sheriff for not being able to protect them as he promised to do. He cursed the world that reduced them to this. He leaned out the window, spotted another of Hal's men clambering over a nearby roof, and fired.

The round took the man's leg off. His scream cut off as he hit the dirt.

Johnny saw the window of a house break as a man's elbow went through it, followed by the barrel of a gun pointed in his direction. Johnny was slow to move and he knew it. A gunshot fired, impossible to catch amid the many others, but the man in the window stumbled back and fell.

Johnny looked at Sal's man with a thankful grin but he had a curious expression on his face.

"Who was that?" the man asked.

Johnny glanced out the window and his jaw dropped.

The woman with goggles and short hair stood just outside, reloading the handgun she'd taken from him, at a time that felt so long ago. "This sides clear," she said. "Get to the front, we don't have much time." She ran off around the corner of the building.

Johnny didn't bother asking questions and headed for the front. He didn't bother thinking too hard about what just happened because it wouldn't matter anyway. It didn't make sense. Trying to understand would just make his head hurt more, and the gunfire hadn't done much to help with his headache in the first place.

He found the battle dying down, Hal's men wounded or dead, Theodore having disappeared. He must have been wearing some fancy armor to survive Sal's shot. Sal's wounded man's eyes were closed and one of her women had taken a round in the throat, her eyes open and unblinking.

Sal looked mean, blood on her face and hands, her eyes hard as diamonds. "Whose that woman?" she asked, gesturing outside. "She might have just saved our asses."

Johnny watched as the woman with goggles walked around, finishing off the wounded, executioner-style. He sighed. "That would be the lady who robbed me."

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