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Roadrunner

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So they’re back again at the Citadel. They’d only been away two days before they’d found a Wasteland orphan. Brought him back with them, got him settled in okay. Apart from their overnight bolt for the hills to dispel a little tension, they’d both been stationary ever since.

But the difference now was…

Now they have a plan. Just a nascent, budding, invisible-to-the-naked-eye, little embryo of a plan. But one that would fly, with a little help.

They would find a new Green Place. One that they could call home.

It gave hope, it gave purpose. And what was more practically useful right then…it gave them a rock-solid excuse to be on the Road.

Up ‘til now, their determination to drive together had been entirely attributed to their determination to get into each other’s pants. Which was the case, obviously, but the nudging and the winking was getting tiresome. Besides, they did other things while they were away. They weren’t animals.

When she’d overheard Toots asking the girls what Dad Max and Mother Fury went away for when it was so nice here…and the embarrassed clearing of throats, and the ‘well…’ and the giggles... Tiresome.

But now…well, they were going away on a quest. For the greater good. The Citadel would be filled to capacity someday. They needed to find a sister place to carry the overspill.

*

So Max drew maps from the books in Giddy’s library. Furiosa asked subtle questions of traders and new arrivals. She wondered where the military compound was that Giddy spoke of. If they found it, would it still be guarded? Would they find useful information there?

So they searched and enquired, but came up with a blank. Lots of places they could try, but it would take five lifetimes, just the two of them. And they couldn’t afford to send out multiple search parties.

But then, one day…a family arrived. They’d travelled for weeks after the well in their settlement dried up. Emaciated, dehydrated, weak, they’d taken them in and brought them back to comparative health. A father and young daughter, about thirteen years old. There had been a mother and a little cousin, but they hadn’t made it. The man didn’t talk much, but Cheedo quickly made friends with the daughter. The girl’s gratitude for the care she and her father had been given prompted her to offer up her most cherished possession as payment. It was a book, Don Quixote. A man had given it to her when she was a child. She was teaching herself to read, she said. He had told her the story, but she wanted to read it herself. It was the only book she would ever need, because it was so long, it would take her whole life to read it. But she would gladly give it to the kind people who’d taken care of her and her Pa.

Her Pa hadn’t wanted to come, had said it wasn’t safe. People said the warlord was dead and things were different now, but he didn’t believe it. But they were dying, what did they have to lose?

But it was safe. They were alive. She was grateful for that. So when Cheedo refused to take her book, and offered to teach her to read, promised others, she swore to be her slave for life. They didn’t have slaves here, Cheedo protested, but she could help if she wanted to.

She could tell of her old home, what lay beyond. She told of the Librarian, who’d said there was water and dark earth out there. He was searching. He would come back for his book when he found it, would show them the way. He’d gone North after he left them.

*

So who was this Librarian? What did he know? They came from the West. He went North from their settlement. Max marked the information on his map.

*****

Two months later, there was an attempted raid on one of their sentry posts. Seven scavengers were rapidly quenched by a party of Citadel Boys led by Althea. A Vuvalini-trained sniper was pretty hot stuff, they knew by now, and there was a long queue of contestants vying for a place on her crew.

The scavengers were taken for questioning, as per Furiosa’s request. She interrogated them herself. Where did they come from? Where were they going, and why? She got very little out of them, not because they were particularly hard to crack, but because they appeared to have very little in the way of a plan. They’d come from the North-East, just minding their own business, and had been robbed, they lamented, by a couple of highwaymen.

Highwaymen? Furiosa telegraphed her question silently to Max, who shrugged.

“Names? Did they tell you who they were?” she asked.

The spokesman thought for a moment. “Dick Turpin and…Tom King, they said.”

A smile was beginning to appear at the corner of Max’s lips, and he coughed quietly.

“One of ‘em threw knives at us. Bloke was a giant” spoke up one of the scavengers. The spokesman rolled his eyes a little at this, and continued. “Madder than Morgan's mule, they were. Talkin' in riddles, about mountains, and a sacred river, and gardens.”

Max and Furiosa exchanged a glance.

“Zan-a-doo” piped up the exaggerator. “That’s what they said. I heard ‘em.”

“Yeah. Crazy bastards. Didn’t want to mess with them. Maybe catching.”

*

They gave them a bottle of water each and sent them on their way.

So the highwaymen knew something too? North-East.... Max marked it on the map.

*****

They decide it’s time to make a move. Figuring out the approximate times of these sightings, they estimate its worth heading East. They can question people along the way if the opportunity arises.

Their route takes them through Rock Rider territory. They’ve packed plenty of produce and water as a goodwill gift. The bikers are still pretty hacked off about getting their canyon blown up, although the overturned War Rig now serves as their stationary headquarters.

They stop and, once the formalities are past, they camp with them for the night. While Furiosa talks politics with their leader, Max is inveigled into conversation by a small kid who he thinks is a girl, but it’s hard to be sure. She’s been playing with a model of a bird on its hind legs, painted in black and white. It appears to be carved out of soapstone and instead of wings it has what look like flippers. She plays with it like it can’t decide if it wants to hop around or swim through the air. Seeing his interest, she proudly presents her toy to Max.

“S’nice” he nods approvingly. “Got a name?”

“Happyfeet.”

“Hmm. Good name.”

“The Fat Man gave it me.”

“Who’s that?”

“Wearin’ all red. Fuzzy white beard. Big round belly like he’s got the hookworm. Laughed a lot though, so prob’ly not.”

“Oh” is Max’s only response. After a few moments thought, he added “He ask you if you’d been good?”

She nodded.

“You said yes?”

She grinned and nodded. “An’ he had a little man with him. Crinklemouse. His hat jingled.”

This was too much. Had he been out in the sun too long?

“An’…if we were good, they’d come back an’ take us to the South Pole where it’s all green an’ happy.”

That brought Max back to the point. The Fat Man knows something.

*

“They’re all the same person, right?” Furiosa asked, looking up from a pile of bundles. Max made a noncommittal half-nod, half-head shake.

“I hope so anyway” she continued, packing up the car. “Else every man and his dog knows about the Green Place.”

Max smiled at her antiquated turn of phrase. She could still surprise him.

*****

They carry on, towards the East. Past Gas Town and onwards. It’s almost two weeks before they catch the scent of the man or men that Max has begun to laughingly refer to as ‘Roadrunner’. Laughingly, you heard right.

Furiosa’s seeing a whole new side to him. He’s enjoying himself. Enjoying the chase. And it is entertaining, for all that it’s like trying to catch an eel in a bucket.

Like when they actually came within a hairs-breadth of catching them... 

They’d arrived at the tail-end of an altercation between a gang of scavengers and the elusive band of amiable lunatics. It was an unusual sight. Scarred and menacing men, rolling in the dust, scratching at exposed skin like they’d dozed off on an anthill. Another stands next to a heavily-modded vehicle, spikes, skulls and sigils aplenty…standing confusedly staring at his firearm. Something was hanging suspended from the nozzle. It was a flag, yellow with the word ‘BANG!’ picked out in bright red letters.

And a battered VW camper van careered off in a cloud of dust. The only unscathed scavenger pulled the trigger of his handgun in the direction of the departing vehicle, only to be enveloped in a cloud of white powder. Seconds later, he’s scratching himself frantically like his companions.

The man with the beflagged gun looked up at them, mouth agape. He shook his head resignedly. “He said he was a wizard…”

*

The most sense they managed to get out of the traumatised road crew was this…

A small man with a bushy beard had driven into their camp and declared himself to be Thorin Oakenshield, last king of the dwarves. He was pretty short, right enough…

He introduced his friend. Gandalf the Grey, wizard. Also bearded, quite a bit taller, long flowing robe, staff with a knob on the end. They were looking for people to join their quest for a valuable treasure.

After having a laugh at the travelling madmen, who seemed to be unarmed, the would-be bandits produced weaponry from the back of their car and proceeded to rob their victims of their food and water. When they demanded the dwarf’s vehicle, the wizard refused, saying it was powered by spells and wouldn’t be any use to them anyway. He warned the scavengers that they’d regret their lack of hospitality and when their head-man offered to shoot the dwarf in the head, his gun malfunctioned in the spectacular way aforementioned. Looking askance at his still-itchy comrades, he felt he’d got off lightly.

What the hell is going on? Furiosa mouthed towards Max, who was trying not to laugh and failing.

Wizard…? She couldn’t shake the idea that this was important somehow. No, come on…no way. She shook her head.

But as they departed, it was on the tip of her tongue to give the scavengers some advice, namely…don’t drink the water. But she thought better of it. They looked like arseholes anyway.

*****

They continued in the direction the departed van had taken. So they had a wizard to deal with now…

“How’d you think they did it?” Max asked, still chuckling to himself as he drove.

“I could hazard a guess…” she replied, thoughtfully.

Three days later, they found the van. Abandoned. Wheels off and the axles resting on roughly-cut slabs of rock. The windscreen was a spiderweb of shattered glass, the paintwork covered in bullet-holes. No sign of life anywhere. What had happened to them? Had they been attacked and taken, or had they simply found themselves a better ride and moved on?

The trail had gone cold. Furiosa was disheartened, doubly so because of the suspicion (hope?) that she’d been trying to quell and couldn’t yet speak of. The state of the van gave her a sick chill, and the chances of finding their very own Elysium much diminished. But Max looked even more spurred on by this setback. Leaning on the car bonnet, intently arranging his maps (he had several now), he hummed under his breath with a makeshift pen between his teeth. Furiosa watched him curiously, a smile turning up one corner of her mouth. When he took the pen in his hand and began to whistle tunelessly, she sidled up and nudged him with her elbow.

“You’re having fun with this, aren’t you?” she asked, leaning on his shoulder to see what he’d been putting together. Planting a quick kiss behind his ear, of course.

“Yeah…kinda” he admitted sheepishly. Feels like the time had come for a confession. Wait for it…

“Tell me…” yep, here it comes “were you…are you a bounty hunter?” she asked.

“Worse than that...” he looked up at her with an expression of half-laughing alarm. “I was a cop. Highway patrol.”

“Oh. Oh.” Furiosa blinked in surprise, both at this news and at her own reaction to it. It wasn’t a reaction becoming of a daughter of the Vuvalini, who were not known for their high opinion of organised authority. But in that second, she saw Max in a badge and uniform (probably none too clean, it being Max), and she didn’t mind at all.

But she made an effort. A low whistle, a disapproving shake of the head. “Good job Keep didn’t know this. She’d never have let us give you her bike.”

“Get in a lot of trouble, did she?”

“Enough” Furiosa nodded. “She had plenty of stories about pigs, anyway” she raised an eyebrow. “Crowd control. Water cannons, tear gas, batons, stop and search. Something about Corpus…”

“Habeas corpus” Max sighed, his chin in his hands.

“That’s it”

“Bad times” Max murmured. “Riots. Looting. Gangs. People panicking. Cops panicking. All breaking…”

“You tried to hold it together…”

“Tried. For a long time. Then…couldn’t do it anymore. Never thought I’d end up being bad cop…” His eyes took on that look that Furiosa hadn’t seen since the War Rig. Like he was seeing things that weren’t there, at least not to anyone else’s vision.

“Hey…look at me” she lifted his head with her good hand. He tried to focus on her face. “I don’t know what rules there were in the City, but out here…you’re good cop. Okay?”

He nodded gratefully, and touched his forehead against hers like it was a protective talisman against the past.

*

They drove out of sight of the abandoned vehicle. It wasn’t safe to linger near such a target for the attention of scavengers. They camped up a short distance off, as evening set in. After food and a mug of Phyl’s special cheering-up tea (she never would say what was in it, but it lived up to its name…), Furiosa was feeling pretty comfortable, head resting against Max’s thigh.

Generations of cultural memory whispered to her that she was about to commit a terrible sin. A massive cliché. But what did originality or pride matter when there was an irresistible urge to follow?

Max had learned to read her unconscious movements, her mannerisms. She wanted to say something, wanted to badly, but couldn’t quite frame the sentence. He waited, slightly anxiously. Then it came out…

She looked up at him, trying to look arch and knowing, but only just managing ‘coy and mildly embarrassed’. “So, you going to arrest me or what?” she asked, raising one eyebrow. She sat up, and held both hands up. “I’ll come quietly, officer.”

A snort of laughter. A knowing smile. “Doubt it…” he returned, rummaging in the mess down the side of the driver’s seat.

She paused, confused. Then rolled her eyes. “Pup.” Furiosa had spent her teenage years as a War Boy and her double entendres were consequently quite specialised. She couldn’t hear the words sparkplug, flange or blowback without a dirty cackle. To which Max would look blankly, while Phyllis and Althea would shake their heads despairingly.  And their innuendoes would always take a few seconds to register with Furiosa, which they found hilarious…especially when she walked right into them, like in this case.

Max cleared his throat, brows lifted in mute enquiry. In his hands he held a length of lightweight chain. “No cuffs. This do?”

“You’re the professional” she returned, with hands on hips and a challenging look. Permission granted.

With speed that took Furiosa by surprise, Max had looped the chain into a lariat and secured her good hand, wrapping the longer loose end tightly round her prosthetic. She smiled knowingly to herself. It’d take her as little time to get out of that, but she was interested to see where this would end up.

“What are the charges, Mr Policeman? Being a Bad Girl?” she craned her neck to look at him half-defiantly.

“That’s Officer Rockatansky to you. No, ma’am…” he said in a low voice, right by her ear, which for some unaccountable reason gave her a pleasing shiver down her spine. “That, in itself, is not an offence. I’m arresting you for dangerous driving, incitement to cause a riot, carrying a concealed weapon with intent to injure, and…” he thought for a moment. “…being indecently dressed.”

She made an enquiring sound of surprise, which instantly became a gasp of outraged indignation as the buttons of her shirt flew in response to his quick tug. “Ohhh, you cheeky…” Unable to find words, she instead chose to use physical means to express herself. Distracting him with a neck-twisting kiss, she gripped his cock quite tightly with her good hand. They were the same height, and her hands were conveniently tied behind her. That got his attention. And after a moment’s consideration, she manoeuvred her prosthetic so that she could cup his balls.

After his initial startlement (because it’s alarming to find your scrotum in the grasp of a metal hand you’d previously seen crush bone), he breathed again and broke away from the kiss to mutter reproachfully, “Don’t you ever behave?” “Never” she replied, hoarsely, kissing him again.

Max felt the need to reassert himself. He was supposed to be in charge in this particular scenario but it certainly wasn’t panning out that way. He pulled at her open shirt, kissing her exposed shoulder, up her neck and the coup de grace, a nibble at the ear. Feeling her shiver under his mouth, he drifted his left hand towards her breast, still concealed by one of the bra-like items the women formerly known as the Milk Mothers now manufactured. Furiosa’s was a no-nonsense khaki that Max thought had more sex appeal on her than any of the more fanciful variations he’d ever seen. Though if she were to try anything more…fanciful…

In response to this private mental image, Max nibbled along her shoulder, provoking her to writhe against him with a groan and grip him hard. Encouraged, he ghosted his right hand down her ribs to her waistband. She nodded violently, so with one quick movement he unbuckled her belt and slipped his hand between her skin and the rough fabric of her trousers. They both pretty much fell to pieces from that point onwards.

Her foot resting on the car bumper to allow him greater access and in defiance of restricted movement, she worked her good arm into a passable rhythm. Though it was increasingly challenging…the positive feedback of every stroke rendered his fingers jerky and spasmodic, which in turn affected her own motor control. In short, it wasn’t a graceful climax for either of them. More enthusiasm than elegance, you might say.

When they slumped into the dust, Furiosa released a deep breath. “Well, I feel pretty pacified. Well done, Officer.”

Max stopped pulling at his trousers, now a warm sticky mess, and looked towards his erstwhile prisoner. She was reclining back, comfortably free of chains, with her head on her hands. She shrugged apologetically in response to his enquiring quirk of eyebrow. “Definitely need to get cuffs” he sighed, wondering how he could construct a set in the Citadel without anyone noticing. “They’d come in handy, y’know…generally.”

“Hmmm, that could be done…” Furiosa smiled, considering the many possibilities.

*

They'd gone a few hundred yards on their way before Furiosa slammed on the brakes. "Fuck...!" spluttered Max, who'd been engrossed in his maps, and had had to brace himself against the passenger door frame. 

"Sorry, sorry...! But...where's the van? It was back there, yesterday, wasn't it?." Max craned his neck to look back. There was nothing there but tyre marks. 

Furiosa looked at Max. He was grinning again. The chase was on.