Okay. Maybe 1200-1500. And the check’s in the mail. I swear.
They crested a very slight ridge of only about two dozen feet. The mix of trees spread out below them. Here and there Lily could see some buildings: homes or businesses, she didn’t know.
“Deserted?” She asked Orloff.
“Of course. There’s – ”
“Warning.” Fausta spoke clearly. “Three… no, four, internal combustion engines, small, burning CNG, closing on our position.”
“Time?” Orloff barked.
Orloff stopped the cart and without a word rudely shoved Lily off the right side into a mud puddle. She stood up, sputtering and mad.
“What the hell was that for you stupid old – !”
“Use both hands. Throw some onto me and Fausta, now!”
As much as she wanted to keep yelling, she had promised cousin Kyle of the Texas Ranger Division that she would follow Orloff’s orders. He was supposed to be the ‘expert’ about the Badlands… but still!
Lily randomly flung as many handful of the muddy and slightly smelly water up onto the cart. Their pony, Clyde, tossed his head in annoyance.
“Enough! Get back in; quickly!” The ruined man called.
Trying not to mutter things that would put her into a Confessional, Lily climbed back up onto her place on the cart’s bench. Orloff flicked the reins just as she sat.
“What was this for?!” She hissed.
“Wait and see.” They could now hear the whines that Fausta heard.
Around a slight bend of the road to the right came four motorcycles, two by two. Seeing the cart, they immediately slowed and stopped about one hundred yards ahead. Orloff kept the pony going for another ten paces, then allowed him to come to a halt.
“See the dirty uniforms?” Orloff asked, sotto voce. “Pine Bluff Arsenal is just a few miles north of here. They stored some rather unpleasant chemical munitions.”
He coughed once and continued.
“My guess is what’s left of the town in under control of whoever ended up controlling that military base.”
“Um.” Lily said, not really getting it.
“A local warlord.” Orloff sighed. “We can’t fight. So, we’re poor, helpless refugees, just passing through.”
“The mud…!” She began.
Their motors revved as the slowly closed.
“Miss Fausta, slump and shudder now and again: you’re sick and we don’t know why! Lily!” He glanced to her Oriental face and back to the oncoming motorbikes. “You only know a little English and are touched in the head!”
“’Touched….’” He’d lost her. “What does that mean?”
He grit his teeth and whispered as the four stopped just before their cart.
“You’re an idiot!”