By Dwayne MacInnes
"So what brings you guys to Sturgis?" Wade inquired.
"The boy and I were put out of business working for the Reavers in Kansas when the scouts established the route to St. Louis," Scott replied as he sped the buggy down the old highway. Scott lashed Wade's bike to the back of the buggy. Sam sat in the small compartment between the seats and the roll bars that were perched in front of the rear mounted engine.
"Yeah, things aren't going to be the same. Scouts have been establishing routes all over the country. Soon it'll be like it was in the old days," Wade sighed. "There won't be any room for people like us anymore."
Scott just grunted noncommittally.
"You know, the old days weren't so bad. I miss watching TV or just having a Big Mac whenever I wanted," Wade continued to muse aloud.
"Do you know what I was before the Big Bang?"
Scott shook his head. The question was rhetorical for Wade soon provided the answer himself.
"I was freaking unemployed. Sure, I had the occasional odd job. But I never found something I really liked.
"Then one day the world explodes, it seems like everyone was dying off except for me. After the long winter and the initial chaos, I found my niche. I was good at surviving."
Wade suddenly broke into a long laugh, "Not like this is really surviving. I mean we are parasites living off the labors of the oppressed. But it is better than being one of the oppressed, right bro?"
Scott sat in silence for a couple of seconds as the rubble-strewn road passed under the buggy.
"Why don't you go to the other side?" Scott finally asked.
"I hear they put you in a work camp for a year somewhere on the coast before you can become a citizen. How is that better than being one of those slaves I was talking about?"
"You eventually get your freedom," Scott replied.
Wade nodded his head in silence.
"You know it is going to take more than rescuing me to get into the ranks of the Anarchists," Wade changed conversation tracks.
Scott stared out on the highway occasionally twisting the buggy around some large debris or rock that jutted from the surface of the crumbled concrete.
"Well, I guess I'll just have to present my references. I really haven't had time to get my resume in order."
Wade broke out in a genuine laugh that rocked his stocky frame. "Well, you can count me in for one of those references. Not that it'll do you any good. I have a tendency to spout my mouth off, voicing my opinions when I should keep my trap shut. You may have noticed that. I can't say I'm the most popular man in the group. But I'm still useful otherwise I'd have been a slave or dead long ago."
The sun was nearing its zenith when Scott noticed small-inhabited communities dotting amongst the hills. Men, women, and children worked in the fields wearing nothing more than rags and hacking at the ground with crude farm implements. Occasionally, a lone man with a rifle stood by overseeing the farming. As the buggy passed, everyone would momentarily stop and watch it as it sped down crumbled road.
Wade muttered under his breath. His face darkened as he looked upon the fields. "Still better than being one of those poor bastards," Scott barely heard Wade mutter over the hum of the engine.
"Up ahead is Fort Meade, just drive casually and don't get itchy. There'll send out a couple of escorts," Wade warned.
Soon a couple of motorcycles pulled up beside the buggy as they drove past the old Fort Meade Veterans Hospital. Wade quickly broke into a smile and waved at the men in hopes that they would decide not to open fire.
"You'd do well to let these men escort us to the gate. Sturgis should be only a few miles up the road," Wade offered.
The motorcyclists broke up their formation letting one lead in front of the buggy and the other trailing behind. Wade was good to his word for soon the small party approached a battered town. There were guards standing in front of a chain-linked gate that separated the town from the grasslands without.
The motorcyclists pulled behind the buggy as Scott brought the small vehicle to a stop in front of the gate. One of the guards dressed in a mishmash of clothing approached with an M-16 on his shoulder.
"Wade, good to see you," the guard said. "I see you brought some friends."
"Well, my bike broke down some ways back and these gents were kind enough to save me from some muties as well as give me a lift home."
"Where do you hail from?" the guard asked Scott.
"We used to belong to the Reavers down in Kansas until our operation was ended by those damned scouts. I heard there was some work for my type up here so I grabbed the boy and headed north."
"Hmmm," the guard nodded. "Not many Reavers survived that I hear. You're the first I've seen. But we have strict rules. I can't let you in. You'll have to work the fields for a time."
"Oh, come on Joe," Wade smiled, "the man's good. I swear by it. I've seen him take out five muties in rapid secession. We could really use him."
The guard stroked his stubbled chin. "I'm sorry Wade, you know the boss. I need more proof than his and your word."
Scott's stomach started to churn. Things could not get much worse he figured.
"If you need proof," Sam shot up from the back of the buggy. "How about this?"
The guard's jaw dropped and his eyes nearly popped out of his head. Wade muttered a small curse and Scott's stomach churned even worse as Sam presented in his outstretched hand, Scott's Scout badge to the guard. Scott was wrong -- things could get worse.