He availed himself of the roadhouse showers every day at dawn, religiously, spraying himself under the skewer-thin nozzle of tank-set H2O, gone before any of the travelling vehicle sleepers so much as creaked with wakefulness.
Somehow everything and every day got worse for Weapon right after he’d finished his shower. Out on the road his radio more often than not blinkered than redlined, leaving him sightless in several spectrums. Never a good way to start a fuel burst. Else times a super bus caught him sloping up a long hill, forcing him onto the shoulder before blasting the very solar power out of the moped, which he then had to push towards the jumpstart.
Eighty five degrees and the sun’s not even up yet. The moisture on the campers’ lawn hisses into steam and then is gone. Guests stir, throats are cleared and the odd solar whistle bleats, signalling hydration machines and steroid-infused teas. Information passes between droids who circle the ablution blocks, patrolling the perimeter while their human masters shower, shit or shave.
Weapon came out of the shower block and the shadow of a departing drone would set his ears preparing for the first tock-tock of a sprinkler. He left the complex and the dust was still cool and soft beneath his bare feet. The diesel redolent driver’s seat cupped him well enough.
Weapon’s vehicle plumed down the old sprawl road towards Velo some thirty miles distant keeping the sun’s rays safely shielded, beyond it scrubby country, strings of pink galahs, a burgeoning steel day.
Hi-country echoes of last night’s fist fight scrambling his ears like the oft-recalled feedback of the head-sets he wore as a chopper pilot after the invasion. His units marched by the roadhouse’s white steps, on many occasions owing more to the enemy’s line of flight inland than established communication routes in and out of the sprawl itself, even its outlying satellites.
Oh stricken nation
our roadhouse is desolate
as an aftermath
Timpany unit they called themselves, the brass band chinooks. Thumpa-thump, thukkha! Thwook! Like the sword of a knight out of Ivanhoe, blades as sharp as diamonds, the customers screaming for finer and finer cuts.
Things went haywire for Weapon within seconds of losing his hearing. The spirit levels inside his head began to bubble and rock like seaworthiness demonstrations in glass tanks.
He had learnt to lip read and sign in the highly-pressurised atmosphere of a city at the seventh gate of its own evacuation, a gigantic multi-headed beast swinging electronic pulses wayward amidst random implosions. Impossible to carry on even a silhouetted conversation. Ordnance rolled by during dinner, a shoddy affair at best, served cold and sprinkled with mosquitoes in the victual tents.
Unexploded gossip bombs went off nevertheless in the caverns of each survivor, each remaindered. Remittances long ago having been given up on, some nevertheless managed to sail out on the final sprawl-moon run. Another lot chickened and called a plane down. Just enough of them survived to relay the impact of the event, cradling capsules and recorders into the fleeing cribs of babies, still shots of the city’s final sunset.
Atom bomb relays stretching the length of the rim, a chain of death signals piped down tubes and farmed out to evacuated locations far to the south. Soldiers swimming in the perimeter’s thermal springs felt the source of the lava-heated bubbles ache and then heave massively for an instant, sending bodies adrift up and over makeshift steps.
Something happened. Spaceport towers out in the harbour reaches suddenly shut down, closing all perimeter terminals and suspending normal station services. It was an event long expected and perhaps just slightly overdue. Things having sprawled along nicely now for oh, what – fifty, a hundred years?
Weapon glimpsed a flash of his own mortal fate when his moped finally climbed and mounted the top of the final hill leading in to the Palmerston-sprawl tollway, the precarious towers of Velo shimmering away along an axle road to the right there, unidentified agents guarding the entrance to the sky lanes dead ahead.
Weapon saw a blood red mosquito skip along his left arm, finally coming to a stop near a long red gash on his wrist, a memento of last night’s bust-up. With increasing horror, he watched as the mosquito, surely some two centimetres in wingspan, sank its sting into the miniature yet inviting centre of the wound, releasing as it did so a viral agent capable of rendering him digitally insane.
Which then occurred, Weapon’s moped slamming into the LCD road sign blinking:
Velo city – 2 kgs!
Warning – viral mosquitoes ahead!
His final thoughts of a roadhouse blow, struck like a fish hook under the chin of his opponent, blood drawn virally in the din of a bar room sprawl, some time back in the real world, when Cadillacs were cars and dope pushers were in it for the money.