Tate didn’t have a strong tan, staying in the tank for all of his raids had seen to that. The tall, fit, late-teen blonde stood nearly eyelevel across from Gonzo. Tate’s opposition was a few years older, held a naturally deep tan, and had a black, spiky goatee that made him very jealous. When I grow face hair, bitches gonna be all, “Oh Tate, you’re so shway!” Tate giggled.
The rest of the Red Bones were gathered in front of the weathered, marble water fountain, the sun still near its peak. Darker skinned than Gonzo, easily taller than either man, Brody stepped out of the crowd. “Chief, Gonzo, we don’t have time for an election right now. Pina needs help!”
Neither men broke their staring match. Tate spoke first, “We ain’t got any raiders left.”
Gonzo added, “Priority is the safety of the village. If Pina’s not dead, she’s being tortured by the vamper bitch. Only one reason a vamper keeps food around, to find more food.”
Tate smirked and sniffed a laugh. Fuck. Good line.
Brody growled, “I’m sorry Tate, but I’m using a veto to go find Pina.”
Tate finally broke his stare to look up to Brody, “The fuck’s a veto?”
“Means I’m going, with or without your permission.”
Dammit Brody, I really like you. In an effort to show his dominance, Tate caught Brody in the face with a right hook. The large man had a large jaw, and Tate was feeling it. Brody glared at Tate like a whipped dog. Tate stared back and pointed, “You running in the election too?”
Brody looked back and forth between Tate and Gonzo. He frowned and shook his head, “No. I’m just voting for Gonzo.”
Gonzo let a small smirk cross his face. “One vote.”
“Think you can beat me in one round?” Tate glanced down to Gonzo’s left knee brace, “You didn’t do well last time.”
Gonzo didn’t lose his growing grin. He lowered his voice and leaned forward, “You kept your whole stash in the tank right? Looks like you ran out of your supply in the mansion. Why do you think I waited so long for this? Look at your hands bro.”
Tate already knew his phalanges were trembling. He had been sweating constantly for the last two days. There was barely any food he had managed to keep down, and his bones felt like they were ready to snap at any second. Clever bitch.
Gonzo straightened and raised his hands to the crowd. “On the grounds of our current loses, I am rerunning for chief. Brody stands with me for one vote. Y’all know I’ve been working hard to rebuild our proud people. Any more votes for me?”
Of the other nineteen villagers crowded around the fountain, the only two elders and a laborer and his two daughters moved behind Gonzo. Tate glared at Brody as he joined in the single-file line, three voters behind each of Gonzo’s shoulders. Tate felt his gut sink even lower as they stared back. Fuck, I could lose this time.
Gonzo turned back to Tate, “This time you have to knock me down six times.”
Tate turned to address the final dozen, among the crowd were four slaves that didn’t get a vote. “Ladies, men. My father and I lead us through some rough years. We helped everyone here get through it with some raw power, strategio and some kickass products. We don’t need the tank for our power. The Red Bones are already a force of mother fuckin’ nature!”
He was disappointed when the tribe didn’t shout any “hurrahs.” Tate scrambled to keep his momentum. He tapped his scalp, “I have my father’s brain for tactics. I have the experience of leadership.” Still no response. Tate’s arms fell to his sides, “We can regrow the stash!”
Gonzo shouted, “The tank and the trucks you lost were all the muscle we had in the sand! Not you, or Pete had any fuckin’ brains! You can’t dangle our slaves in front of the vamper caves at night and try to run them over with our vehicles and call that a strategy. In almost a week, you haven’t grown a single crop, much less a weed. You can’t even grow a mustache!”
“Not yet! But when I do, it will be glorious!” Tate thrusted his finger back at the crowd, “Remember how bad I beat Gonzo last time? For each of you that just stands there to watch, I will thrice the pain unto you!”
The nine eligible voters, including children, shuffled and quietly conversed. Come on bitches. Another laborer cradled her baby and pulled another child by the hand to Tate’s side. The last two laborers huddled with the final five orphans.
Tate called out, “I promise to keep you all safe.”
One of the undecided was around Tate’s age. He stepped in front of the huddle, “You killed their parents, and you threaten to beat them again?”
Before Tate could answer, his peer corralled the orphans to Gonzo. The final voter sheepishly followed. The line of thirteen curled out around Gonzo like massive wings. Fuck.
Gonzo raised his arms with the widest smile Tate had ever seen on the man. “Now you have to beat me down thirteen times. Still wanna do this?”
Tate turned around to the mother at his back, “Ling, you’re gonna be fuckin’ royalty after this.” She looked back with a mix of fear or worry, barely nodding in acknowledgement. Not the best cheerleader. Tate turned back to Gonzo, “You didn’t beat me once last time. Think you can manage thrice?”
Gonzo was echoed by Brody and others with shouts similar to, “The baby doesn’t count.”
Worth a shot. Tate sighed and started stretching. Gonzo seemed amused as he began stretching and cracking his knuckles. I’m younger, faster, stronger. Tate had a feeling Gonzo was actually stronger, but he wasn’t willing to admit it. Tate rolled his neck around and rolled his shoulders back, “Ready asshole?”
Tate held up both fists, with his left leg and arm further ahead. Gonzo had a similar stance, with his squeaky metal knee brace in the forefront. Can cut me pretty good with that.
Gonzo quickly sprinted forward a few steps with a decent left jab. Tate ducked right and hooked him twice in the side. Gonzo clasped Tate’s neck and left wrist. Tate slid free and shoved his foe away before Gonzo could land a kick.
Tate felt the world spin as he regained his balance. Shit. I need some red dust right now. Gonzo kept up the pressure, circling to Tate’s right as quickly as his good leg could push him. He knows I’m dizzy already.
Tate widened his feet past his shoulders for more balance, Gonzo was already swinging. Tate ducked lower than he had to, grabbed Gonzo’s pants and rammed the top of his head into Gonzo’s groin. He listened for the moan, felt the man buckle over, and whipped his head back as quickly as he could. The back of Tate’s head slammed into Gonzo’s face.
Both men were ready to fall backwards, but Tate adjusted his momentum first. The seventeen year old clasped both hands together and brought them down into Gonzo’s chest.
Tate barely resumed his stance in time to see Gonzo’s back land on the marble plaza. Tate laughed wildly when the impact sent a small shockwave of sand away. “How’s that feel old man?”
Gonzo slapped the solid white bricks and pushed himself up to his feet. “Fuck you!” Enraged, Gonzo ran forward faster than last time.
Shit. Tate stepped left of a left jab and tried to hit Gonzo with a right uppercut. The other man stepped back, wrapped both arms around Tate’s neck and right armpit. A solid knee with two metal prods connected with Tate’s abdomen several times. Simultaneously, Tate began to dry heave as Gonzo whipped him to the ground.
The world spun faster in a few seconds than Tate had ever seen in his life. He stopped spinning only because he rolled into the base of the fountain. Gonzo’s voice echoed over him, “Come on chief. One more to go.”
Tate knew he was safe until he was back on his feet. Think I’ll just lay here for a bit. Cool water slapped him in the face.
“Come on Tate! Let’s finish this!” Gonzo was leaning over the fountain, continuously splashing water over the edge.
Wasting our damn water!? Tate clasped Gonzo by the waist and pulled himself up.
Gonzo grabbed Tate by the jaw and wrenched him up further. Tate quickly pulled Gonzo tighter to ram his knee into the man’s crotch. Gonzo stopped the attack by latching both of his knees around Tate’s, and he followed up with a head-butt to Tate’s nose. A bolt from the brace scratched the back of Tate’s knee when he fell backwards.
Tate landed flat on his back, losing all the air from his lungs and coughing up blood from his nose. He gasped for air that didn’t come. His whole body convulsed from the pain as much as the shock. Shit fucker.
Gonzo was yelling something between cheers and kicking sand in Tate’s face. Still failing to catch his breath, Tate couldn’t focus on anything, much less what the new chief was saying. The last thing Tate remembered was Gonzo’s boot swinging at his face.
Tate groggily awoke on his back, the sun baking down on him. He tried to sit up, but his hands were over his head, tightly tied to something. Tilting his head back, Tate saw his wrists were tied to the back bumper of a jeep. Great.
A breeze of sand tickled Tate’s feet and toes. Tate furrowed his brows and picked his head off the ground. “Where’s my fuckin’ boots?”
He had been dragged over to the plaza’s garage, and there wasn’t enough rope to let Tate stand on his own. Tate rolled around until he could stand on his knees, his wrists were just above his belt. He coughed up a little sand and tried to spit out a few grains from his teeth.
Brody and another large laborer were hunched over in the jeep’s bed. The vehicle’s hood slammed shut, and Gonzo limped back from around the front. A wide smile plastered his face, “Just in time. I gave the jeep a little check, just to be doubly sure we’d make it out and back without any hitch.”
Tate glanced over his shoulder, the rest of the tribe watched from the fountain. “Exile, Gonzo? Even I didn’t kick you out of here for good.”
Gonzo leaned against the jeep frame, “No, you blindfolded me and drove me out five kilometers in the sand.”
“You made it back.”
“That’s why I’ll let you back in if you can make it.”
“After you drag me from the back of a moving vehicle.”
“At least you’ll know where you are.” Gonzo started to walk to the driver’s seat, but stopped to turn back, “Oh yeah, I’ll tell you where we’re going. Remember when I was watching the foreigners poke around the vamper nest?”
“The ones that stole my tank. I guess you missed both of them with your fancy rifle.”
“Before I wasted any bullets on them, I saw something interesting. One of the foreigners dragged a vamper out of the caves. A big boy. Hair down to his shoulders, a white beard. Sound familiar?”
Dad. Tate tried to keep a straight face, but knew he was failing.
Gonzo smiled wider, “Looks like we’re thinking of the same guy. Well, the vamper was pinned to a rock. The sun would’ve been at its hottest by then I imagine. So you know a vamper would already be in a good deal of pain, right? So what does the foreigner do next? He didn’t have a blade, he had some kind of metal club. This fucker walks behind the vamper, and just cracks the bastard over the back of his head until it splits open like a tin can! Melted that blood sucker in no time. How does that make you feel?”
Tate felt his breathing shift his whole diaphragm, his hands shook and his chin quivered. “I… am going to kill you.”