The Vanguards of Darkwind
The life and times of the Vanguards, a gang struggling to survive in the wastelands of Evan, based on the game Darkwind by Psychic Software

The girl who crossed the Badlands

The Badlands of EvanThe Mercenary rolled up to the fortified wall of the Badlands Truckstop. As it weaved its way into the compound, he could hear the dull slapping of rubber against the dusty, rocky road.

A girl got out. No, he thought, a woman. She must have been in her mid-twenties. Not many live that long anymore. Fatigue shadowed her face and her dark hair was matted with sweat and dust. She pulled off a pair of stitched leather gloves and chucked them in the car, then cracked the knuckles of each finger one by one.

“Tough ride?” he called. The Merc’s armour was shattered. Holes riddled the rear and sides, and his practiced eye could make out the epicentre of rocket blasts. The decals – a red V over a medieval shield – were almost indecipherable, between the damage and the volcanic dust that covered everything that fought its way through the blasted wilderness.

She snorted. “No, it was a breeze.” She loosened the leather jacket she wore. Underneath it, a flash of red, a blouse perhaps, drew attention to the honey-hued skin at her throat. “Just like Howard said.” She mimicked a male voice, young, charming. “ ‘Charlie used to run the wilderness all the time. You’ll manage. Just put your foot down and nothing can touch you.’”

She turned and then kicked the nearest tyre. Shreds of rubber hung loose of the twisted, deformed rims. “Well, Charlie must have had better kit than this piece of garbage. Dune tyres, off road stuff.” She looked accusingly at him. “Those aren’t roads out there,” she said, pointing north. “They’re lava flows. Molten rock turned solid. Razorsharp.”

He stared to the North. “Yeah, it’s unforgiving place, alright. “ He turned back to look at her, but knew the answer before he asked the question. “This your first run?”

The girl looked at the point of exhaustion. “Yes,” she said, the anger draining from her as if he had pulled a plug. “But I can’t stop. These documents have to be in Firelight tomorrow.”

Stefano straightened and looked her in the eye. “You’ve no choice. The mechanic’s busy right now, and you’ll need a rest before you set out. Besides, it’ll be dark soon, and the Badlands are no place to travel at night.” He took her arm, and she seemed grateful for the support. “Come on in and have a bite to eat, something to drink. I’ll sort out the Merc for you, and you’ll be right as rain in the morning.”

“Thank you.” She ran her fingers through knotted hair, then self-consciously patted it into shape. “I don’t even know your name.” He knew she was hooked.

“Names? Names are just labels. But round here, most people call me Jet.”

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