Zombies and Loathing Part 14: This Is Out of My Range
(See Table of Contents for previous installments)
It’s hour 83 with no sleep.
The manifestations of my nightmares claw at the very edges of my peripheral vision. Threatening to become reality if I so much as glance towards them. Every tortured face of every wasteland denizen I’ve left behind in the wake of my ceaseless, ill-advised pursuit of some God-forsaken notion of Truth. The lives I’ve ruined. The cries of the dead and the damned.
But I am alert. I have my senses. The ghosts of the past have no hold on me even as they advance towards me with venomous intent.
I know what is real and I know what I must do.
I imagine myself like the soldiers of a bygone era. These chemicals coursing through my veins. On a forced march for days on end. Long breaks between the hot flashes of killing. Miles underfoot towards the next grizzly explosion of violence. No sleep, never sleep. The stims in their system keeping them alert, singularly focused on the task at hand to the detriment of all other thoughts and impulses.
How long is it before they forget their friends and families? Do they even know what they used to do for fun? Is it only a matter of time before they forget their own names in this artificially enhanced state.
I may not be a military man, but life and death is at stake. I don’t know who I am, but I know what I am fighting for.
After my release from The Banker, I took up the task of seeking my Benefactor. I knew better than to think I would truly get an audience in person with him, the paranoia following the clumsy attempt on my life goes both ways.
It was hour 6.
Only 6 hours removed from my encounter with Pruitt and that fat little son of a bitch called the Banker. The rapping of bony fingers against the steel door of my hidey-hole pulled me from the stim induced trance that had me going over the minutiae of the ever evolving plan unfolding in my brain.
It was the Skeleton Man. Wordlessly he placed a briefcase in the entrance of my abode. The bogeyman come to life didn’t seem to need words. I knew precisely what he was saying:
“Don’t fuck this up St-Brigid.”
The briefcase, as expected, was filled with the water purification tablets I had promised The Banker in our barter. My in. My chance to finally infiltrate the inner workings of Conroy’s foul machine of corruption.
Victories are few and far between in my line of work, but the look on that weasly bastard Pruitt’s face when I returned the same fucking day was one of them. His boss gave me 48 hours, and here I was before nightfall with the goods. Fuck you Pruitt. You may be low on the rotten totem pole of Conroy’s organization, but the reality is that you’re in the streets, doing the dirty work. How many people have you killed, raped and exploited in the name of the so called “law” in New Bunker?
No matter, I can’t dwell on him. There are bigger, fatter fish to fry. Sid Pruitt will go down with the rest, I can’t allow myself to be distracted by his particular brand of shit. I need to inject myself into Conroy’s world and like a virus I will break down and corrode the inner workings that are so crucial to keeping this city functioning.
One by one the vital organs will fail, until the monster Conroy has created dies in agony.
It was hour 8.
Guarded as ever by the false lawmen of New Bunker I made my second trip to the ‘Bank’ of the day. If the fat man was surprised at my speedy return, he did a better job of hiding it than his rat faced associate. I flipped the briefcase onto his desk and clicked open the latches, spinning it towards The Banker and laying its contents bare.
“You work fast, junky. I like that. I hate wasting anything, time most of all.”
His fat fingers reached in and pulled out one of the dozens of pill bottles lining the briefcase, he brought it up to his eye critically and nodded to himself. He was apparently satisfied with his own eye test, foregoing the more conclusive (and expensive) test he had performed previously on the sample. He reached into his drawer and retrieved a clear plastic bag that was bulging with those tiny blue pills that were nearly as valuable as clean water. My teeth clenched involuntarily at the sight.
“Remember, these are for personal use. You don’t have the ahh… correct permits to deal this shit in New Bunker. We find you shilling this stuff on the streets and the Sheriff and his boys will have no problem busting your ass straight into the Pits.”
“I understand, boss.” I let my voice emphasize the word “boss” a little, a subtle hint that we’re not through with our business. This is a first step, not a conclusion. Let him register that I work for him now, that I’m an asset that has more than one use.
It evokes a slight snicker and a snort from The Banker and I consider the social tease a success. I slip the bag of pills into my pack and turn to make my exit. Two “officers” block my way and the smirk on Pruitt’s face turns my stomach. It looks like we’re not done with business today. I turn back to The Banker and wait for his next move. He’s had plenty of time to kill me if that was the play, I’m willing to bet he’s got something else planned for his latest asset.
The Banker has his pudgy fingers folded together, resting on his belly. I’d be lying if I said his smile didn’t concern me.
“You know what the difference is between what I do and the banks of old?”
I stay quiet, I know a rhetorical question when I hear one.
“Not a goddamned thing. The banks ran the show. They were above the law. They controlled every element of the economy to their own benefit. If they broke laws, they were exempt from ramifications. The government, the supposed ruling power, yielded to the banks. Nations would rise and fall at the whims of the men smart enough to control the resources. It didn’t matter how many families were bankrupt, turned out into streets as the banks foreclosed their homes. What mattered was that the rich got richer. And it’s the same now. I could give a fuck about the people of New Bunker. I could even give a fuck about Vincent Conroy. He’s not in charge. I am. And I’m going to make it official. And you’re going to help me. I control the stockpiles, enough resources to keep this city running long past my death. I control the police. I control the casinos. With Conroy gone it will be easy for me to just, ease my way into control of the whole fucking place.”
So this little piggy has delusions of grandeur? Ok, I’ll bite.
“I could care less about who runs this place, as long as you keep hooking me up. What do you need? I’m a resourceful motherfucker when I want to be.”
The Banker leaned forwards and I became keenly aware of his heavy mouth breathing.
“Oh that much I know. Even though we’ve clearly got different agendas, I think we’re both very much aligned with taking out Vincent Conroy. Who better to help me ascend to my rightful place as ruler of New Bunker than Conroy’s self-styled arch enemy, the great St-Brigid?”