Joined: 13 Sep 2009
Location: Rising from the ashes
|Posted: Sat Jun 18, 2011 10:29 pm Post subject: HM v2 Chapter 2
On a Long Lonesome Highway
No stop signs, speed limits, nobody's going to slow me down. I'm on a highway to hell.
-ACDC, Highway To Hell
Walt flipped the choke lever on his console as he turned the key. After some coaxing, his rig chugged to what little life it had left and began puttering down a dirt road through the high desert.
Pushing a tape into the tape deck, the tune of Enter Sandman by Metallica blared through speakers that should have long since retired. Unlike most men his age, Walter’s tastes in music had grown harder through the years. Anything for what little adrenalin his aging body could muster. Anything to remind himself that he was still alive.
In contrast, his joints ached as the truck traversed pothole after rut in the desolate dust bowl. The road should have been re-graded years ago. Inclement weather was rare around these parts, but when rain did fall, it wreaked havoc on the roads, tearing deep gashes and leaving sinkholes as memorabilia. Walt oophed and umphed with each dip. Four 30 gallon aluminum drums shook and clanked against each other in the bed of the truck.
Once on the highway, old route 66, potholes were still common and deep cracks marred the pavement. Despite many fast rolling dips and weaves, travel here was much easier on the old man’s spine.
Walter’s phone chirped from his shirt pocket. Fumbling for it, he studied the buttons for a moment, grumbling about this “newfangled techno-crap,” ironic considering how highly technological his obsessive hobby had become.
Finally finding the correct button, he punched it in frustration. Holding the phone to his ear, he shouted, “Yeah, this is Walt.”
“I think I’ve got it!” hollered an excited voice on the other line. It was unmistakably that of a familiar young man.
“Yeah? You finally got one o’ them S T D’s huh?” Walter grumbled a reply.
“What? No… NO! I know how we’re gonna get the fuel!”
“Me too. I’m gonna see if I can get some from the Air Force base out in Vegas. I’ve got some connections still… I think. If they haven’t retired… That’s how we got most of our parts so why stop now I figure.”
“Yeah, yeah, things have changed and you’ve lost most of your connections now Walt. They’re just gonna pass you off as a crazy old man. You know that right?”
“Hell, Dave, I AM a crazy old man!” Walt retorted as he dodged a tumbleweed rolling across the road.
“Look, I know they’ve been talking about mummifying some of your old chums and putting them back to work so that might work, sure. But I know this guy.”
“Me too. I’m talkin’ to one now.”
“Hah hah. Very funny. Has anyone told you you’re gettin’ sour in your old age?”
“Yep. You an’ Betty tell me every day. So who’s this guy?”
“Well, I was in Vegas gambling last night,” Dave began.
“What’s new?” Walt interrupted.
“Uhmm… nothing I guess. Anyhow, I ran across an old girlfriend.”
“I thought this was about ‘this guy.’”
“Well, yeah, it is. But I mean, wow, she’s gotten even hotter since we broke up ya’ know?”
“Hmph…” Walt wished his assistant could get to the point. He was just thankful the sun wasn’t in his eyes as a biker passed by from around a blind corner.
“Anyhow, enough of her, right? She introduced me to this guy they call the ‘Bouncer’. Big, tall, black, built like a tank.”
“A tank full of jet fuel?”
“Huh? Oh… right. Ok, so I’m telling him about our project right,”
“Why? I thought we were trying to keep it on the ‘downlow’. So what made you bring it up to someone you don’t even know?”
“Chill out old man. It’s cool. He’s cool. Well… It was the strangest thing, right? He actually started talking about the X-prize. Like, out of the blue, like before I even said anything about it. It was almost like he knew about it already.”
“How? ‘Like’ who else have you been talking to that I don’t know about?” Walter might have appreciated Dave’s generation’s music, but their slang terms were another matter entirely.
Cacti and barren land passed by as Walt’s truck growled down the narrow highway.
“That’s just it… no one! I mean, I’ve only spoken of our bid for the X-prize with this Bouncer guy. And I didn’t even say that much about what we’re doing. He started talking about various projects other firms are working on like he was dropping hints that he knew what we were up to, you know? Then he started going on about how hard it would be for someone who wasn’t funded by like billions of dollars and such and how getting the fuel would be the hardest part and all and…”
”Damnit!” Walter exclaimed.
“You’re a damned fool, Dave!”
“Huh? What did I do wrong now?”
“Obviously this guy is connected to another firm, some competitor. Probably tryin’ ta sabotage our operation!”
“Um… I don’t know. I don’t think so Walt. If he was, why would he have suddenly said he knew how he could get some fuel if I knew someone who needed it?”
“He said that?”
“Well, probably because it’s bunk fuel. Crap that won’t light. A waste of resources, money and time I’d wager. I’m telling ya, kid, how else would he know what we’re up to? Why else? And what would he have to gain by helping us?”
“Uh, money, I guess. It’s not like he’s offering it for free. His price was pretty good though. Just enough to keep us within budget.”
“Like he knew how much we had to spend?”
“Yeah, sorta. I hadn’t really thought about that but…”
“Hmph. I don’t like it. It doesn’t feel right. But I guess it couldn’t hurt to look into it. Did he set something up with you?”
“Naw, nothin’ like that, old man. He works at Caesar’s Palace after noon. He also mentioned he’d be working today. You want me to meet ya there?”
“That’s about when I’ll get into town I s’pose. Couldn’t hurt to meet him. And I’d say I should now that you’ve gone flapping your lips. I feel compelled to feel this guy out. I’ll see you there.”
Walt nearly slammed on the breaks to avoid a rattlesnake crossing the road. Unfortunately, it was too close by the time he saw the serpent and he could only imagine how it must’ve been left behind him - like a squeezed tube of toothpaste across the asphalt.