Troy is on his way back to the bus. A group of teenagers are hanging out on some old pilings, idly tossing empty beer cans and bottles. One of them comes flying down and shatters near Troy’s feet…
Troy is walking along on a road near the outskirts of the colony, on his way to meet with some outsiders out in the woods to do a deal for a batch of drugs in exchange for a working fusion coil, when an empty bottle comes sailing past his head from behind, and shatters at his feet. He turns and looks, and it’s Tim, a local bully, and his toadies Tomas and Bulldog. Tim’s father owns one of the very few successful farms in the area, and Tim recently joined the local militia that serves as neighborhood watch. And he definitely has it in for Troy.
Tim asks Troy where he’s going, and he says he’s headed into the forest to collect mushrooms, indicating the styrofoam cooler he’s carrying, trying to play it off like it’s empty. He says they should escort him, as he’s going outside the perimeter. Troy can tell by the tone that Tim knows he’s full of shit, and has been waiting to catch Troy in the middle of something for an excuse to pummel him.
Troy decides to address this head on, and asks why they’re always busting his balls. Tim says he’s just doing his job. Troy shrugs, and says alright, and moves toward the woods. Tim and his goons follow. However, when they reach the edge of the lights, Tomas and Bulldog hesitate. Tim attempts to egg them on. Troy says screw this, and takes off into the woods. Tim gives chase, and Troy can hear that he’s the only one. He pours on the speed, and manages to lead Tim directly into the clearing where the gang is gathered waiting for him.
The leader, Cross (named for the pair of nasty scars on his face) raises his shotgun, turns on the flashlight, and greets Troy. When Tim comes skidding into the clearing after Troy, the rest of the gang raise their guns.
Troy introduces Tim, says he’s a newly minted member of the militia, and if he’s smart he might have a bright future. As Troy relieves Tim of his weapons, it becomes clear that Tim’s mind is completely blown. Troy realizes it will be easier than he thought to make sure Tim plays ball, all he has to do is not let the gang kill him.
Troy opens the cooler to reveal the drugs he’d cooked up. In return, Cross has one of his goons hand over the promised fusion coil. However, he warns that it has a hairline fracture, and he has no way of testing it to make sure it works.
Troy accepts it anyway, but with the stipulation that anything he might need in order to repair it, they’ll provide for free. Cross agrees, and asks if Troy has a wish list for the next deal, when they return in about a month. Troy rattles off some items, and the gang takes off.
Once they’re alone, Troy snaps Tim out of his fugue state and tells him to help him carry the fusion coil back to town. He says that they’re going to need to make their absence believable, so he tells Tim to hit him. Tim finally comes alive and rolls up on him, and slams him up against a tree. He raises a hand, and Troy braces for impact. But instead of hitting him, Tim awkwardly reaches out, and caresses Troy’s cheek.
And everything starts to make a whole lot more sense…
Samson and Maude are making their way through the Floating Market, heading north into the ruins of the city itself. Abruptly, Maude comes in very close, and tells Samson they’re going to split up, and he needs to keep his distance so they’re not seen together. He understands. She moves off, and he waits a few minutes before trailing along.
He proceeds to tail her through the Floating Market while keeping an eye out for anyone else who might decide to tail her. Before long, he spots Elvis’ guards as they spot Maude, just as she disappears into one of the few standing buildings. The guards see Samson, and abruptly change course, but he moves to intercept them. They come to a halt about 40 feet away from him, and over their shoulders, Samson can see the telltale red pinlights coming up from behind.
The guards move off of the sidewalk out to the middle of the street, and Samson follows suit, to continue to interpose himself between them and any escape route. Maude slowly advances, still unseen.
Samson is about 30 feet away when one of the guards brings up his SMG and takes a shot at him. Instead of attempting to take cover, he stands there and takes it like a champ, but it’s not enough to successfully intimidate them to give them pause, and the other guard retreats to cover and unlimbers his assault rifle. However, Maude moves in to intercept him. Someone starts screaming off in the distance as their night of leisure is ruined by the sounds of gunfire.
The guy with the SMG ducks into an abandoned storefront to take cover, and Samson gives chase. He brings up his SMG and they trade fire. Between cover and sheer luck, Samson manages to avoid getting hit again. His opponent is not so lucky. Samson can hear him cry out in pain and yell to his buddy to run, as he moves in to finish him off. Maude takes a shot at the guy with the assault rifle.
Samson gets to the doorway and picks up on a shadow that tells him the guy is waiting in ambush. He fires through the wall at the guy. The empty clip ejects from the gun. He switches to his knife and moves in cautiously to ensure the guy is dead. As he creeps around the remains of a store counter, he sees the guy just a moment too late, propped up on one elbow, as he brings up his gun and takes one last shot at Samson. It hurts like hell, but Samson’s able to bring his knife around and plunge it into the guy’s chest.
He attempts to assess how much usable meat the guy might provide, but it becomes clear to him that he’d have to drag the body off somewhere, likely the bus, to butcher it.
Outside, the noise has died down, and after a few minutes, the locals have gone back to their revels. Samson goes to find Maude.
He spots her across the street, facing away from him. He calls to her and says that he’ll stand there as long as she needs him to, but asks that she drag him back to the bus if he falls over. They confirm that both guards are dead, and Maude says they were some of Captain’s guys. Long range scouts. She didn’t see any radios on them, so she’s pretty sure they’ve managed to contain it. Samson asks about Elvis, but Maude says he was just a gig to them; harmless, if annoying.
When she sees how badly injured he is, she clears debris off of an old mattress inside the building, and tells him to stay put and she’ll go get help.
Samson sees pictures of people from the Day Before all over the walls. He speculates that he likely would have been very unremarkable if he lived back then, as all the people seem to share his physique, though the clothes they wear are brightly colored and impractical. For some reason, there seems to be a preponderance of capes, and the females appear to be wearing next to nothing at all.
Troy steps onto the bus to find it a bit emptier than when he left. Gremlin is keeping George company, but everyone else is gone. Gremlin asks if everything is alright, and Troy says he took care of it.
Maude returns alone, and explains what happened. She retrieves supplies from the Angel kit and Troy follows her back to where she stashed Samson. On the way, Troy says that he sent ADA a definitive message: a warning to back off, or he’ll start dismantling every last piece of it he finds.
They get back to Samson, and Troy goes to work. They manage to get him stabilized, and walk him back to the bus.
When they get there, Troy works on moving George to one of the benches, so Samson can sleep on the gurney. Troy wants to keep him in the sterile area to eliminate the risk of infection.
Maude stays on the bus with George as Gremlin heads to the RV to see if he can find Elvis, and Troy heads out for a night of self-destruction.
Troy has an easy time getting himself good and hammered, and before long finds himself in the Day After equivalent of the Red Light District. He breezes past a well-dressed gentleman who gives him a meaningful look, and settles on a tattooed thug with a shaved head and an overabundance of piercings, wearing a leather slave harness.
Gremlin heads to Elvis’ RV and knocks on the door. Elvis immediately answers, and invites him in. Gremlin politely declines to give Freedom Soda another try, though he accepts a bottle to bring back to George. Elvis introduces Kennedy, his pet armadillo. Gremlin has never seen one before, so he’s not sure what to make of it. He decides against asking if they’re good to eat.
Gremlin brings up the possibility of repairing the RV, and Elvis mentions the Almighty Dollar. A discussion ensues about money. Elvis is certain that a new currency will arise soon. Gremlin mentions that his Uncle Luther always carried a $2 bill in his pocket. Elvis shows him a suitcase stuffed full of roughly a million dollars in Day Before money. They come to an agreement regarding the engine, and Gremlin gets to work on it while Elvis keeps him company, rambling endlessly about all sorts of things. One thing becomes clear to Gremlin: Elvis has traveled all over, and has an extensive knowledge of what the landscape looks like in the Day After, which is something Gremlin can’t get from the atlas.
They get the RV engine running, and in payment Gremlin gets 1 Barter, but he also asks Elvis to take a look at his atlas and mark out a route to Las Vegas, that will take him through Texas. He asks about California, but Elvis says he’s never been anywhere west of the Rockies, and that the dust storms are worse in that direction. Gremlin thanks him and heads back to the bus.
When he gets back on the bus, he finds Maude sitting guard at the front, but notices that George is not where he left them. It turns out they’re sprawled on the floor, about halfway to the back of the bus. Gremlin wakes them up. They are able to wiggle their fingers and toes, but have no idea what happened. They say they were dreaming about surfing. Gremlin takes it all as a sign that George is getting better, and they both feel somewhat encouraged by this latest development. He brings them back to the bench and gets them situated while Maude goes to check on Samson, cleaning his wounds. Gremlin shows George and Maude the new annotations on his atlas, and George advises him to take a look at the tablet that Amy gave him, and try to get the map working on that. Maude asks Gremlin what his plans are for this place, and says she wants to spend at least one more day, to make sure there’s no more heat. He’s fine with that. He wants to take care of his delivery job, but other than that he’s not in any particular rush.
George asks Gremlin if he ever thought about what happens after people die, and Maude quickly takes that as her cue to excuse herself to go get drunk. Gremlin tells George about the church in Tallahassee, and the conflicts it caused between different folks in the community, such as his Uncle Eli (who was an atheist), and Uncle Fred (who was decidedly not). He tells them about how his parents stayed out of it, and he suspects it’s because they didn’t agree either, and it was easier to just not talk about it at all.
George asks Gremlin if he misses Paris, and Gremlin says it’s casual. He looks forward to seeing her again, but there’s not any special attachment.
Gremlin gets tired and excuses himself. George says they’re going to get some sleep as well, but Gremlin suspects they’re going to be up late attempting to get their extremities to wiggle some more.
In the morning, Troy feels like crap when he wakes up on a mattress in a closet. He emerges, and encounters a man with dreadlocks and a machete, who offers him a joint and asks him where Greaser is. Troy says that Greaser and his crew took off several days earlier, and he has no idea where he is. The man removes his boots to reveal visibly webbed feet, and introduces himself as Jebediah, son of Jacob, and says that Greaser owes him a reckoning.
[Jebediah hints at the possibility of using Troy or someone else as bait to draw Greaser out.]
Troy reiterates that he doesn’t know where Greaser is, and moves to leave. There’s a moment where Troy is not sure if the man will let him, but in the end he offers no resistance. Outside, Troy runs into Maude. They bring each other up to speed as they head back to the bus.
Gremlin awakes late morning. He cleans himself up and heads onto the bus, where he finds Troy, Maude, and even Samson awake. Sure enough, George is still asleep. Gremlin is happy to leave them be.
Gremlin shows Troy his atlas, with the new annotations.# ontheroad