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

Never look a gifthorse in the mouth

Windows rattled as the dust storm outside hurled fistfuls of pebbles at the streets of Somerset.

Howard Spicer pushed hair matted with dust away from his eyes. A smear of ochre marked where his hands had moved across his perspiring face

The Vanguards had fallen on hard times since their leader died in an Arachnid ambush. Jake had been well-liked and respected, but most of all he had fine instincts. He knew which missions to take and which would find pirates lying in wait. He knew when to scout and when the solar winds would flare up making a scout a suicide mission . He never ran into trouble on the road. 

Which made his death all the more shocking. 

Some of the Vanguards muttered that it was an inside job. That someone had betrayed him. Howard still hadn’t figured out if Jake had died through betrayal or sheer dumb luck, but he hated the distrust it engendered. The Vanguards were a fractured gang – his gang now, after his unexpected promotion to fulfil his brother’s role – and the whispers and rumours of a traitor in the crew were invidious and destructive.

To make things worse, the gang’s finances were in a parlous state. A couple of scouts gone wrong (the old hands muttering about how Jake would never have made such easy mistakes), and worst of all, the death of Carlos “Cojones” Henderson. Cojones was an old-timer. Twenty-eight years old in a career where living past twenty was an achievement, Carlos had accepted Howard as the leader, giving his authority a much needed boost. And then, on the most recent trip, his Chomper had been turned by a gang of pirates within sight of Somerset’s palisade fence. Cojones didn’t surrender. Hanging from his harness he pumped round after round into Satan’s Sisters, making two of the pirates turn tail and flee. He didn’t stop fighting until a lethal shard of shrapnel sliced through his brain. The Vanguards lost two cars that day, but most of all, they’d lost lynchpin of the gang. Howard worried that the gang may never recover.

The door burst open and Robert Hickey stormed in. He slammed the door against the raging winds. “Hey, boss.” Howard smiled. Robert had been the first to call him that, and had never stopped. It was good that someone thought he deserved the title. “I think I’ve found the solution to all your problems.” Howard became on guard. He knew the young mechanic was optimistic and open, but he also had delusions of grandeur for the Vanguards.”Go on.” he said cautiously.

“Holy Rollers are desperate. They’ve got a shipment of food to Gateway, and the penalty clause is a bitch. If they don’t deliver it in 48 hours, they get nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. And here’s the kicker.” Robert reached out to grab a chair. “Even if they don’t get paid, they’ve still got to deliver the goods.”

He swung the chair round and sat down, legs either side and arms folded on the wooden backrest. His boyish face broke into a round smile.

“And why this so good for us?”

“Don’t you see, boss. These guys are so dead keen to get this shipment there, the spondulicks will be enormous.” Robert rubbed an oil-encusted thumb and forefinger together. “I just came from Dexter’s. It’s over a hundred and thirty big ones.”

Howard sat back and exhaled. A hundred and thirty grand would make a big difference. Replace the losses. Get the gang back on the map. And pay for a headstone for Cojones. A proper one of granite, with an inscription. In Latin. He’d get the old priest to say a few words. It was the least Howard could do. He made a decision.

“Tell them we’ll do it.”

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