Burroughs crawled his way to the yurt where he suspected Fuse was recovering, but the door was guarded by Playboy, who absently threw stones at the Brainer. Rebuffed, he returned to the Candycane, and received medical treatment from Doc Rot, who nearly tried on his violation glove. When it was returned to him, something about it seemed — off. Meanwhile, Winkle scurried out of the tavern, and Bunny followed him, only to find her van’s door ajar. Inside, she found a few critical tools absent, and telltale greasy smudges from Winkle’s gloves. Furious, she found his poorly-concealed tracks, and came upon him crouched by the abstract rock carvings northeast of the research lab. Winkle was working with some tools and Mindfood, but he whacked Bunny’s knuckles with a crowbar and disappeared.
Gutpunch, upset about the chaos caused in her tavern, persuaded Must to lend her a hand in cleaning up, so Need and Mimi were deployed to the Candycane. Need, in particular, was upset about the degradation of his position, but accepted his leader’s orders. Back at the lab, Feed the Cook made an appeal to Must to control the Family’s food supplies more fully, and took Must’s tacit agreement as full-throated approval. Burroughs approached Bunny, and in exchange for covering her living expenses, had her build him a monster pistol.
After a few days of recuperation, including the most brutally cold night yet, Must persuaded Bunny to drive her van to Fuse’s mouldfarm in an attempt to find a cure for the green disease, which seemed to be spreading among the Family. Highland was sent to fetch Gino Marie, and along the way, was accosted by Playboy and Millions, who told him that Fusetown (formerly Midland) would no longer tolerate that “rainbow fuck’s” preaching.
When Gino arrived, he insisted Must get Bunny working on a violation glove of his own. In a confrontation with Burroughs over the future of his training, he attempted to reach into Burroughs’ brain, but was repelled by the latter’s high-tech earplugs. His body shuddering, Gino soon succumbed to Stage 2 of the green disease, when fiery, jagged lines broke out in his eye sockets.
Eager to begin their journey to the mouldfarm, the crew was alarmed to find Bunny’s van wouldn’t start. She opened her mind to the machine, and found Winkle’s greasy handiwork. A tube was missing, and the engine block itself was frozen over. Rather than the gentle music she associates with mechanical things, her mind was greeted only by harsh, dissonant noise. Bunny concocted a plan to fix it, issuing orders, and everyone split up to follow her advice. Must got Feed the Cook to help her with pots, pans, and boiling water, before addressing her anxious followers in the dining hall. Mimi voiced concerns about the temperature and the futility of the tundra — Must put her foot down, though, and for the time being, quelled dissent. Burroughs, briefly lost in the snow, found his way to Fuse’s yurt, and inside, discovered some of the metal scraps that Winkle had stolen. He then made his way to the Candycane in search of Winkle, and, fed up with the Midland folks’ shit, levelled his new magnum at Playboy and Scab, in turn. Failing to convince Playboy to join him at the lab, Burroughs blew his chest open with a couple of slugs. Further gunfire ensued — Fleece, a Family member, was caught in the crossfire, and Millions, one of Fuse’s guys, took a bullet to the neck — and Burroughs escaped with the engine tube, Gutpunch’s furious curses following him out into the cold.
Bunny approached Scab, the closest thing to a tinkerer the frozen outpost of Midland had to offer, and found her to be as crusty and bitter as her name implied. After an insult-laden exchange, Bunny relented to Scab’s obstinance, and purchased the name of a buyer who might have the part she needed — Playboy, who was known to frequent the Mexican Candycane, just over the bridge.
Meanwhile, at that selfsame watering hole, Burroughs Sundown carefully observed the placid patrons, chattering in their cups. After ordering a triple-double of swill, he overheard Exit and his buddy Coors lamenting Fuse’s heavy-handed (and larcenous) tactics. Burroughs laid on the charm, and sure enough, the topic turned to exits and mud huts, before Burroughs laid his vio-glove on Exit’s exposed flesh. In an instant, Exit addressed the bar at large, speaking for his puppet master — if anyone there was sick of Fuse and his boys, the time had come to act. Exit watched his body behave of some alien volition, through an impenetrable haze before it was returned to him. Gutpunch, the aged proprietor of the Candycane, applauded Burroughs’ twisted courage, but some of Fuse’s guys ducked out of the bar to play tattletale.
Just then, Must arrived at the bar, and, opening her brain, got a vibe of mistrust towards Burroughs — arguably the creepiest of the local creeps — from the remaining patrons. She approached him, and discussed this new disease, and its relation to the climate and the Mindfood. She learned there might be a treatment, devised from a mold growing in a cave to the southeast — a cave worked by slaves belonging to Fuse. Burroughs was uncertain what use Fuse had for the mold, but knew the disease was only in stage 1. 2 and 3 were on the way. Must tried to get a sense of Burroughs’ motivations, and realized that if she and her Family helped him rid the town of Fuse his gang, he’d in turn help her find the mold. Must, though, suffered a psychic rebuff, and crumpled to the floor. Bunny arrived at the bar, seeking Playboy, to find her leader crumpled in a rainbow puddle.
Before a pact could be sealed between these unlikely allies, Fuse burst into the room, flanked by Rothschild, Tum-Tum, and a few other thugs. Tum-Tum broke Bunny’s nose with the butt of his shotgun, as Burroughs tossed a knife to Must to arm herself. She caught it the wrong way ’round, though, and suffered a nasty gash on her dominant hand. Burroughs managed to deflect the barrel of Rothschild’s pistol before the dreadlocked fuck could get a shot off, and Bunny took the opportunity to bury her bootknife in Tum-Tum’s side, though she took another blow herself in the doing.
Must tried to convince Fuse to leave, seeing as Tum-Tum was already dead, and more blood needn’t be spilled — alas, his rage proved too much. She and Burroughs hit the deck, and Gutpunch blew a hole through Rothschild’s shoulder, taking him out of the fight. Fuse, apoplectic, bore down on Burroughs with his machete, catching Must in the blade’s arc. Burroughs’ and Fuse’s blades each tasted the blood of the other, and together, they collapsed to the floor. In the melee, most of the patrons fled the bar, leaving Gutpunch to find Doc Rot, the only halfway-decent medic in the tundra. Must sends Mimi, the only unhurt Family member still present, to get Need and the rest.
Doc Rot was heard outside the bar, tending to Fuse’s wounds, until Need strong-armed her inside to see to Must. She wielded a boxy metal gun with a rusty needle, which Bunny promptly smashed — leaving Winkle to scoop up the broken pieces. Need gets Must’s consent to lead the forthcoming prayer meeting, as Doc Rot makes do with gauze, sutures, and duct tape. Burroughs, himself badly wounded, strikes out into the cold, an icy wind cutting through his robes to the angular bones within, and follows Fuse’s trail to a nearby yurt — leaving a prodigious blood trail of his own.
8 conch-shell pendant
originally a good-luck pendant from someone’s beau, sent from an overseas war
now a meaningless trinket, with sentimental value for some poor sucker, perhaps
you an blow into it as a whistle. smells like pine trees — not that any post-poc waster would know what those were
This pendant is a tiny but complete conch shell, shellacked with something like urethane. Its coral-and-peach shell is scuffed but intact. The conch dangles from a twine chain, and its pointy end is obscenely sharp — careful with those fleshy lips of yours, waster.