Stolen Bullets (A Chuck Wendig Challenge)

Posted: June 11, 2015 in Fiction, Science Fiction
Tags: , , , , , , ,

This week’s challenge was a random title generated by picking from two lists. I ended up with STOLEN BULLETS. I opted to go ahead and set it in my BURNED LANDS setting. You don’t need any prior knowledge of it, other than that I refer to some of the characters from it.

“What good is a gun without any bullets?” Trips asked.

Shakes shook her head, her multicolored dreadlocks swishing around her head. “You didn’t say anything about bullets.”

The two of them crouched in the shadow provided by the wall circling Trade Town, a brief respite from the scorching sun baking the earth. Shakes held the gun in her hand, a cobbled together firearm she’d swiped from a dozing guard outside of Harrow’s.

Trips took the gun from Shakes, pointed the barrel at the ground, and ejected the clip. It dropped into his hand, and he scowled. Empty. “Pretty fucking useless, isn’t it?”

Shakes slumped against the wall and nodded her head in agreement. “I’ve heard some folk complaining that shipments from the settlements have been drying up. Maybe bullets are running low.”

Trips had heard a lot of the same stories. Word was the mutants were stepping up their raids, hitting the larger caravans. And if it wasn’t the mutants, then it was the biker gangs. Funny though, no one had heard a peep from Butcher Bird and his band of Scavenger Dogs for a good long time now. Maybe they’d ridden east and fallen into what was left of the sea.

Trips wrinkled his nose, pushed the clip back into place. “Yeah, no. I’m not buying it. We need bullets for the gun, Shakes. We do, if this is going to work at all. Understand?”

Shakes nodded, her bottom lip trembling. “So who do we know that’s got bullets?”

“Nails?”

Shakes chewed on her finger and shook her head. “Uh-uh. Yeah, she might, but I’m not going near her. She’s crazy. I mean, if we had something trade, maybe. But we don’t, do we?”

Trips frowned. “Just this,” he said, holding up the gun. “But bullets without a gun is even worse, isn’t it?”

They sat there as the shadows grew longer, staring down at the gun and the dirt.

“Maybe we could ask Nails?” Shakes voice betrayed her own doubt at that plan.

Trips squinted at her, paused long before answering. “No. I don’t like it. Nails always asks too much in return. Maybe if we had something to barter.” He paused, taking a long time to look Shakes over. He shook his head. “No. There’s got to be something else.”

“Like what?”

“I. Don’t. Know.” Trips hissed between clenched teeth. “Come on, let’s get inside before they close the gates, all right? I don’t think the mutants will get this close, but better safe than sorry, yeah?”

“Yeah.” Shakes shuffled along after him, feet kicking up the dusty earth. “I’m hungry, Trips.”

“Me too. Come on. Let’s check out the market.”

They followed the sounds of the main bazaar toward the middle of the makeshift city, dodging the other traders, scavengers, and hard cases. Few enough could be considered permanent residents. Here to go, as the saying went.

Trips and Shakes both knew enough to avoid notice, and thus trouble. Slipping into the bazaar, the saw a few merchants hawking the last of their goods, most of them securing their wares for the night. Trips deftly snaked a couple of kabobs of meat along with a gourd of water to share with Shakes. Shakes stood back and watched, huddled in on herself.

“Now what?” Shakes asked as they finished eating.

Trips took the gun out from his bag, stared at it again. A smile slowly spread across his face. Shakes knew that smile well. Anytime Trips started smiling like that, trouble wasn’t far behind.

“All right. You’ve got a plan. Want to tell me about it?”

“Follow my lead, okay?”

Shakes rolled her eyes, but trailed after Trips, keeping close on his heels. He slipped into the maze of tents and temporary structures that dominated Trade Town, careful to skip over the refuse, human and otherwise. After about fifteen minutes, Trips stopped outside a large pavilion tent. Someone had rolled a few strands of barbed wire around the perimeter, and a few guards stood lounging on the ground.

“This,” Shakes hissed, “is your big idea? Do you know who’s place this is?”

Trips nodded and winked. He sauntered up to the gate, Shakes trailing after him. “Hey there.” He grinned at the guard, his hands sitting in his pockets. “Got any deliveries to be made?”

Blinking through the smoked glass lenses of his gas mask, the guard shrugged before turning to his partner. “Hey Shank, you know of any deliveries?”

“What the fuck would I know of deliveries? Go on in, ask for Powder, okay? He’s there in the back, behind the crates. And don’t cause any trouble, all right?”

“Who us?” Trips asked, smiling. Trips led Shakes deeper into the tent, led on by the torches set in the ground outside the tent. Stacks of crates lay piled in rows, all carefully labelled. Not that either Shakes or Trips could read, but it wasn’t the crates they were interested in anyway.

The found a man sitting by himself, hunched over a table. Brass shells were carefully lined up, along with scoops, funnels, and pliers. He wasn’t wearing a mask, but a pair of glasses were carefully balanced on the bridge of his nose.

“Are you Powder?” Trips asked.

“Yeah.” He didn’t look up from the bullet he was reloading.

“Told to come see you about deliveries.” Trips eyes didn’t leave the table, and he kept his hands behind his back.

“Yeah?” Powder finished the bullet he was working on, set it along with the rest. He sat back and stretched, his joints creaking. “Picking up or dropping off?”

“Picking up. For Nails.”

Powder wrinkled his nose. “You’re serious? You bring a note?”

Trips shook his head. “No, didn’t bring a note. You think Nails trusted us with a note? Can’t read anyway.”

Powder leant over and spat in the dust. “Note’s not for you, bird brain. Note’s for folks as can read. Which you sure as fuck can’t. I reckon you’re some chickenshit little thief thinks he can walk in here, pretty as you please, say you’ve got a delivery to make for Nails, cause everyone knows Nails can pay, and walk right back out again. Figured that right, Powder did, right?”

Trips shrugged. “Maybe Nails forgot. Maybe while Nails is tanning my hide for not coming back with the delivery, I’ll tell her you were the reason why.”

Powder smiled, an evil thing revealing teeth the color of gunpowder. “Go ahead, you little shit.” He twisted his head, catching sight of Shakes moving over to the side. “Stay where I can see you.” He reached under the table and rested a shotgun on top. “Better yet, both of you go where I can’t see you at all.”

“Yeah sure, whatever. Just don’t come asking us next time you want something delivered, all right?”

“Go on! Git!”

Trips and Shakes ran from the tent, past the guards, Powder’s ugly, hyena laugh pursuing them into the night. They didn’t stop until they’d run a good five minutes, turning into the twisting maze of Trade Town.

Bent over, wheezing from laughter, Trips sat on the ground. “That was perfect!”

“Did you get them?” Shakes asked.

Trips held out his hand, a handful of brass gleaming in the scant light. “Couldn’t have done it without you.”

Shakes smiled. “So what now?”

“Give me the gun.”

Trips ejected the clip and spent the next five minutes trying to fit the bullets in place. Of the ten bullets he’d managed to swipe, seven fit. “Not bad, not bad,” he said.

“Now what?” Shakes asked.

“Come on.” A certain edge crept into his voice, an edge that sent a shiver down Shakes’ spine.

They stopped outside of a ragged tent. Trips held the gun down by his thigh, finger off of the trigger.

“You in there old man? Come on out!”

Someone inside the tent moved. There was the sound of coughing, then he came out. His eyes were red rimmed, the skin peeling around the edges. A bloody froth lingered on his lips, a sign of breathing tainted air for too long.

“That you boy?” The main squinted against the darkness. “You and your sister decided to come back? I told you what would happen if you wanted to stay. Told you what you she had to do, know that she’s old enough. You too change-”

The boom of the pistol echoing through the night cut the old man short, a bloom of red appearing on his chest. He sank to his knees, comprehension slowly dawning.

“You killed me?” He coughed blood, slumping over on to the ground.

“Come on Shakes, help me grab his legs, the body collectors’ll be by in the morning.”

Together, they dragged their father into the street before entering their tent.

Home. Safe. Together.

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Comments
  1. This reminded me of one of the Firefly episodes, so yeah, you write like Joss Whedon. Good story. Really enjoyed it.

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