Hard Ridin’ – Part 2
Whoops, forgot about the More tag. 2nd Part of Grin’s adventures!
Grin’s clan, much like any other clan in this wasteland, was not all too well organized. His clan’s hideout was a collection of metal shacks, improvised tents, and machines turned into homes, scattered throughout a valley which was protected, at least on its sides, by massive junk mountains. This stopped most of the dust storms that were passing through. The two remaining exits had gates, built out of scrap and guarded by at least one pack at a time.
Despite the seeming chaos of this place, and the maddening nature of its inhabitants, there was some surprising genius to it all.
Different parts of the shanty town were responsible for different tasks. While most of the space was taken up by the blood-thirsty warriors and their machines a sufficient portion of the somewhat more peaceful hyenas were charged with growing very basic food and supplying everybody with water. It was no easy task, but the wasteland gave birth to some ingenious plants, all of which were now carefully harvested and grown.
While Food and Water was important to survive it was petrol that made travel through the wasteland possible, and of course to do battle. A clan without petrol, no matter how much food and water was about, would fall apart. It would be a cat without claws, a joke among other clans, and also an easy target to raid.
But Petrol did not grow out of the sand like a cactus, and could not be collected out of thin air. Among the clans there was simply the “Good Stuff”, drawn from the earth and distilled, and then the “Poor Stuff”, improvised fuel. What was the “Poor Stuff” made out of? Nobody knew exactly, because from one mechanic to another the method of preparing it was different. As long as it got a machine moving it was “Good ’nuff”.
But Grin did not come searching for food, water or even fuel. He came looking from help. While a clan worked together, most of the time, trying to ask another Hyena for help with getting out an intact machine was begging to get yourself stabbed in the back. The owner of the machine, the pack leader, was in charge. Who the pack leader would become often times depended on your own cunning and strength, and Grin knew he could not truly trust any of his Clan mates.
So he went to the only Hyena he knew of that could be trusted, because he was not of the clan, Mask. Mask arrived to the Clan years ago, as an exile from some other group. He quickly bullied and forced his way into a position of respect and power, but even though he could had easily ruled the Clan he chose not to. He was content with having the whole clan in his pocket, to get things done he himself did not want to. Whenever somebody wanted anything done they would go to Mask, and it was never a cheap affair.
The price of loyalty was very steep among the Hyena Clans.
Passing through the shanties and paths to Mask’s tent was simple, as many paths seemed to lead straight to it. It was mid-day and most of the Clanspeople were busy with their daily tasks, of fixing their machines, upgrading them, or tending to more mundane things. After all, when not fighting for scrap you had to do something to earn it. Magnificent ornaments, improvised weapons, packs for hire, scavengers and mad inventors. There was always a better chance that you would find somebody working on machines than any medical professional. Disease was rare, but limb loss and mauling came often.
Grin had the good fortune of not losing anything, just yet. Though as he came ever closer to Mask’s tent he could see more and more warriors loitering about, their battle scars proudly present. They did not pay much heed to Grin, though he did know some of them. There was a worrying scent of something in the air, but Grin could not tell what.
Finally arriving to Mask’s tent he was stopped at the entrance by a guard. A thuggish brute who certainly had better ideas than standing guard, and seeing Grin approach he himself grinned, hoping for an excuse to beat some yelp up.
“Oh this is gunna be good.” the guard growled out as Grin approached. The smaller mechanic had the few goods with him in his pack and having lived long enough in this Clan he knew that the only way forward was to not let off.
Grin stopped before the guard and took out one of the food cans and shoved it into the guard’s chest. A bit to Grin’s surprise he failed to even push the hyena back an inch, even though the metal edge of the can seemed to poke at the Guard’s ribs. He did not seem impressed at all.
The tall warrior growled, and this time it seemed that being aggressive was not the right way. But when he ripped the can out of Grin’s hand and looked at it his ears seemed to twitch a bit, and his eyes narrowed upon the words on the can, and the images upon it.
Some have never seen an as of yet unopened food can in their lives. The guard looked to Grin and as he headed inside of Mask’s tent he let out a simple command, “Stay”.
And Grin waited. He could not hear anything from within but his imagination did its work. He imagined an army of goons arming themselves with knives, or perhaps a harem waiting for him? It was either death or pleasure and he could not tell which.
It was neither, as the Guard left the tent, caught the poor Mechanic by the scruff of his neck and threw him inside, “Boss wants to see you!”. It was not a request, as one could imagine. As Grin landed face first into the cold wooden floor within the tent he did not yet know there was a dozen curious eyes staring at him.
Mask’s tent always had guests. His closest “friends”, associates and even enemies. As Grin shook his head and realised how many were staring right at him he almost forgot why he came here in the first place and wished to flee.
The only thing that stopped him was Mask’s voice,
“Where did you find this?”
In the far end of the tent sat Mask. As one could expect from his name he wore a metal mask over his maw, but not out of choice. Some say he was scarred when fighting an especially powerful clansman. Others that he miracously survived a freak accident where his machine exploded, making him the sole survivor. Whatever the case, the crude mask covered most of his face, and it always seemed like the Hyena was either sneering or angry.
Crawling up to his paws Grin considered his options. How much should he tell Mask? Should he tell him just enough? It was a battle between common sense and instinct. It was in a Hyena’s nature to be cunning, but lying to Mask could end with a loss of everything. Unnaturally for himself Grin spoke.
“In a metal box, underground.” he said, ears folded back and tail tucked between his legs. It already felt like giving away his life and soul to the devil.
“And you come to me why?” Mask leaned forward, scratching the bottom of his mask, still looking to the insecure hyena before him.
“In the box is a machine but I cannot get it out. I want to trade everything in that box to dig it out.”
Aside from Mask’s contemptuous stare Grin could feel the others present studying him, and his words. A metal box in the ground? With food and water? And a machine of all things? It seemed like a lie.
Mask, for whatever reason did not seem to think that.
“I will send somebody with you to see that box. If what you say is true and there is enough food and water to make this worthwhile I will agree to this trade.”
This seemed easy, suspiciously easy. Maybe this was all a ploy to get somebody to find the box and then kill him? He had to show at least a bit of spine.
“Cannot agree. In the box is enough food and water to make it worth your time. I will only show where it is if you help.”
The tent was awfully silent.
“Then let me tell you this. Something big will happen soon, and I need as many warriors and machines as I can. I will accept the food and water from the container, as well as anything else within. You keep your machine but from then on you work for me.”
“I would be your warrior?”
Mask simply nodded and rested back.
“Make your decision now.”
This all still appeared to be too simple, too easy. Mask was giving him exactly what he wanted, and working for him would only be a benefit. Was there something more to all of this than Mask let on? Perhaps, but now with Grins hand down on the table there were no option left. Accept and get exactly what he wished for, or fold. But denying Mask now would almost certainly bring about some negative consequences.
Yet that scent continued to tickle at Grin’s mind. Something was indeed happening. The clan grounds were not as abuzz as they usually were. Everybody he passed by could also sense it. There was something odd about that scent. Dark and ominous yet enticing. What was it however? Only Mask seemed to know.
Grin simply nodded and bowed to the masked hyena. He would have his machine, and he would work for Mask. What would happen next Grin would find out in time.