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Backgammon
“He’s not dead, he’s gonna live, he’s not dead he’s gonna live!? yelled Trix with insistence, getting the other two’s attention. Dee and Ramone stopped yelling at each other to look at her angry face in surprise.

The high, piercing sun forced Trix to squint at she looked at them. “He’s not dead, he’s gonna live? she said again, more firmly. “He still breathing. He ain’t dead yet. He’s gonna live.?

Trix saw Ramone’s eyes pass over the man’s body, slumped in the back seat. He involuntarily grimaced as his eyes rested on the bloody hole in the man’s forehead. Trix met Dee’s eyes and meaningfully stared into her best friends blue eyes. Dee looked back at her with a helpless look. Ramone passed a hand into his greasy hair and then banged it on top of the car’s roof. He snorted derisively. “Are you fucking kidding me? Are you for real? Fucking shit! He’s got a FUCKING hole in his HEAD. Half his brain is fucking splattered in the car.? Dee started to interrupt her boyfriend, but he promptly told her to shut up. Before they really started yelling at each other again, Trix cut them both off again.

“He’s still fucking breathing, there’s still a chance? she said bitterly. Ramone made a high pitch laughing noise, but Dee backed Trix up. “Trix is right, medicine is real good when you got the money, we still got a chance? she said in her sweetly flowing Azzie accent.

Trix felt her stomach clench up at the satisfaction of Dee’s backing and seeing Ramone shake his head in bitter disbelief at the two chicks. Dee was Trix’s best friend. Trix was a tough girl. Her dirty blond hair was a messy tangle from which emerged two short ponytails. She wore makeup grossly, solid black eyeliner around her grey eyes, glossy red lipstick, cheek rouge with gold piercings sticking out of her lip and eyebrows. She was lean and muscular. A product of East L.A. street life. Dee was different. Trix thought she was the most beautiful girl she ever met, straight up. Dee was a slender Azzie elf girl. Her skin was always so smooth and clear, she barely wore any makeup. Her two long brown braids always shone down the length of her back. Dee favoured very short shorts and tube tops that showed off her beautiful bronzed midriff and toned legs. She had the biggest blue eyes Trix had ever seen. She was sure Dee could have been a simstar in L.A., but Dee just laughed at her when she talked about it.

Trix always looked out for Dee, but her friend was headstrong and had the habit of falling for the slimiest men. Ramone was no exception and Trix could barely stand the guy. The tall lanky grease ball thought he was the shit, but he was just a small time loser with delusions of grandeur. He treated Dee like shit and cheated on her behind her back, and the two were always fighting. “He’s not so bad, Trix, he really loves me?, but Dee would keep telling her.

For now, Trix closed her eyes and took a deep breath while Dee finished cajoling Ramone into a talkable mood. The dust from the baking hot, arid Mojave desert air grinded in her nostrils. She slid a hand across her forehead, moping sweat from her brow. She felt the dirt clinging to her moist skin. Her tank top looked like a radiator filter, brown dust collecting down the middle, in between her breasts, where her sweat trickled down. She had a headache. Not enough water, too much sun.

Ramone had calmed down. Trix eyed him warily. He looked like he was calculating. Dee standing next to him, with an expression on her face like he was the messiah. “Alright, alright, if we can get him to a doctor, he can make it. He’s fucked up, but all he needs to do is be alive. Johnson doesn’t need him to run a marathon, he just needs to be alive, that’s true. Maybe he’ll cut our money, but that’s a hell of a lot better than hanging us by our balls for coming back empty handed.? Trix kept eyeing Ramone, in his black leather duster. What kind of fucking grease ball wore a coat in the fucking desert?

“What the fuck you stating at, Trix?? asked Ramone. Trix hadn’t noticed she’d been staring, but she wasn’t about to miss a chance to trade some shots with Ramone.

“If you’re done fucking talking to yourself genius, can we get in the car and stop wasting time?? she retorted.

“Fucking bitch, if you’d just let me handle things we wouldn’t be in this mess!? he snapped back at her, jabbing a finger at her face.

Trix was caught off guard. Of all the fucking things, she couldn’t believe he’d just said that. She exploded. “Excuse me? ‘Handle things’? All you had to do was pay the fucking toll you fucking retard, they would have left us alone!? she screamed at him.

The scene replayed in her mind. The Anasazi tribals had encircled their car as they drove down the freeway from Barstow to L.A., having picked up their Azzie VIP there. The Anasazi had come out of nowhere, in their dune buggies, and forced them into a roadblock. Everyone knew the Anasazi only fucked with Pueblo or invaders, Angelinos just got tolled. Even the Azzie suit they had picked up looked fairly relaxed. But instead of paying up, Ramone shot the half naked Anasazi tribal demanding toll right in the chest. Maybe Trix had never seen someone get shot in the naked chest, but it seemed like the heavy pistol round just blew open the tribal, blood erupting out of tattooed skin. The Anasazi were initially just as shocked as Trix and Dee, as the body hit the pavement, nobody moving for a second. Ramone pressed the pedal to the metal and the car screeched. Gunfire from aged M16 rifles erupted all around them as the Anasazi opened up on them as they tore past the roadblock. After they had blown a few miles of side roads at reckless speed, with Dee in the front seat screaming at him to slow down, Ramone finally stopped. The Azzie suit had taken a hit. They were fucked.

And now, as he always did, Ramone was blaming someone else. The worst part is that he really believed what he said. “I don’t pay no toll, bitch. Those Anasazi are fucking wimps. If you had just fucking followed my lead and backed us up with you fucking gun we woulda fucked ‘em up and we woulda made if fine!? declared Ramone.

Trix twitched and made to jump at Ramone to rip his fucking throat out, but Dee caught her friend and implored her to calm down. “No, Trixie, no, you gotta calm down, he’s right, you gotta calm down girl.?

“Did you just say he was right Dee? How can you fucking side with him? He fucked everything up!?. Trix looked at her friend with hurt disbelief, but in reality, she wasn’t surprised. Dee always sided with Ramone. She always took his side. Dee just stared at her with imploring eyes. Trix pushed away from her smooth arms. “Whatever? she said, resigned.

Ramone shook his head in triumph at Trix and kissed Dee when she walked back to him, telling her she was right and she was the best. Disgusted, Trix got back into the backseat, next to the Azzie suit and checked his pulse again. Still alive.
Backgammon
It was night by the time they time they pulled into San Bernardino, having stuck to roads Ramone said the Anasazi didn’t patrol. Trix was pretty sure it was dumb luck that stopped the tribals from finding them, not any special knowledge on Ramone’s part.

San Bernardino is a tough town by any measure, but it is downright deadly at night. Not enough water, too many guns. Metas against humans, latinos against whites. Everyone had a reason to hate everyone. Violence was both business and a past time. Trix’s L.A. gang contacts didn’t make it to here, and despite all the bullshit he claimed about being in with everyone from the mafia to the Ancients, Trix was sure Ramone knew less than no one in San Bernardino. Only Dee had some Burning Angles ties that might make it all the way here, so that was the first order of business. The Azzie suit wasn’t gonna make it past San Bernardino without medical attention. It was a miracle he had made it through the desert drive at all. They had used up all their water keeping him hydrated and Trix had bandaged the wound best she could, but he needed a brain surgeon. All he’d get was a shady street doc, but at least that would probably keep him alive until they could contact Mr. J and arrange a pick up. That was a meeting Trix wasn’t particularly looking forward too, despite what Ramone thought. Trix could tell Dee was feeling the same way as her. Dee was Azzie; she had escaped from the oppressive regime when she was just a kid, with her mom. She didn’t talk about it, and would often just say she was too young to remember when asked, but she had confided a few bits and pieces to Trix. It wasn’t pretty. The streets of L.A., even El Infierno, often sounded better than being on the wrong side of the Aztlaner regime’s laws. But Trix, guiltily, felt a little happy inside that Dee confided in her, and no one else.

Trix sat in the car, in the dark, next to the Azzie suit. They had stopped in the oversized parking lot of a derelict looking Stuffer Shack. Ramone and Dee had wandered over to a public dataterm to make some calls. Trix was distractedly changing the Azzie suit’s bandages as she looked out the backseat window at her best friend and Ramone. Dee was talking on the dataterm, one hand absent-mindedly looping the ends of her braid with her finger. She was smiling and looked like she was talking about a trip to the mall or something instead of getting straight to the point, as Ramone paced impatiently behind her. Dee was probably speaking in Aztlaner so Ramone wouldn’t understand which would frustrate him to no end. Trix smiled. Dee was such a little lamb, that’s why she needed her, Trix thought. Dee needed a best friend like her to protect her from the world, and Trix would do anything for her. When Dee finally broke up with her slimy boyfriends, always after much convincing from Trix, the two girls would always have a break-up party. Dee would cry and eat ice cream, and Trix would hold her and tell her about her own love failures. Hanging with Dee was the only thing that made Trix happy.

A gurgle from the Aztlaner suit forced Trix to return her attention to what she was doing. The suit was breathing regular deep breath. That bullet in his head had probably fucked the suit up pretty bad for good, but Trix thought it was amazing how the human body could go on by itself. It was as if the Aztlaner’s bodily functions were on auto-pilot, waiting for the brain to come back and tell them what to do. While they waited, they faithfully performed their basic duties. Trix felt bad for the suit. He had seemed like a chill guy. She didn’t even know his name.

Dee came back towards the car. Trix opened the window. “What’s up?? she asked her.

“I talked to my cousin. She’s on her way to meet us, and she says there’s a pretty good street doc that’ll take us in, not far from here.? Dee told her, nodding. She looked back at her boyfriend, and Trix followed her gaze. “Ramone is talking to Mister Johnson.? That’s all she had to say about the subject. Trix could see Ramone, even talking to the Johnson over the phone, had his shoulders slumped in subjugation. Pathetic. “He’ll negotiate something, you’ll see? added Dee confidently.

“You have too much faith in the grease ball, honey?, Trix told her, sighing. Dee didn’t say anything. Ramone had hung up and was coming back towards the car as well.

“Ok, I smoothed it over it with mr. J. He’s not happy, but I told him we would wave our fee. I think you might need to make your own apologies when you see him though, Trix, since you were responsible for the fuck up. But I tried to put in a good word for you?. Trix stared at him with cold eyes. Dee smiled up at her boyfriend and nodded, while Ramone looked pleased with himself. Again, a bubble of burning hate rumbled inside Trix, right in-between her breast, next to her heart, but she let it go. Nothing to gain at this point. Little fucker.

“Dee, why don’t you go in the Stuffer’s and get us some water and snacks, then we’ll roll over to that street doc of yours.? Said Ramone, his spirits up. Dee acquiesced with an “okay baby? and strolled over to the Stuffer’s Shack. Trix eyed Ramone as he watched his girlfriend’s ass as she walked away. He chuckled and looked down at Trix with some sort of snub sense of superiority. “Why you gotta be such a hardass all the time, huh Trix? Why can’t you be more like Dee? I’m not a bad guy, you know, I’m doing my best.?

Trix looked away from him, shaking her head. “Listed, boy. Sooner or later, Dee is gonna dump your ass. You’ll be gone, I’ll still be here. I ain’t got nothing else to say to you?

Ramone’s face hardened and he looked like he wanted to hit Trix, but as she was inside the car and him outside, that would have been difficult. Besides, Trix didn’t think he’d have the gut to hit someone who might hit back. But just then, Trix heard a loud rumble, which turned out to many choppers heading their way. Trix tensed up, as a dozen large chrome motorcycles pulled up into the same Stuffer Shack parking lot they were in. Four of bikers parked their choppers in an orderly line, while the other rolled around the lot in circles. Some of the bikers had noticed the lone car in the corner of the lot, and were pointing or nodding at it. Trix looked up to Ramone, who looked rather rigid.

There was a scream from inside the Stuffer Shack. Trix’s eyes darted to the front door. Dee blew out, stumbling, immediately followed by the four bikers. One of the biker’s ears was bleeding all down the side of his neck. “Bitch bit me!? he bellowed, rage in his voice. Trix heard Ramone say a quiet “oh shit?. Dee screamed again. Trix looked up at Ramone again, but he looked petrified. Trix slid out of the car and started to run towards the scene, where all the bikers had now surrounded Dee. She heard Ramone say “hey… Wait!? as he snapped out of his petrifaction and started running after Trix.

As Trix reached the circle of bikers, some turned towards her. Trix could see they all had a hideous burn scar on their unshaved faces. The scar was a smooth white in the center with jagged pink flesh surrounding it, right below the eye. The disfiguration was shaped like a cross. To Trix’s horrific realisation, that meant these were Iron Cross bikers. Those scars were self-inflicting with red hot steel pokers. These guys hated metahumans in a violent psychopathic fashion. She could see in their eyes the hate for the little elf girl in front of them. The one with the bleeding ear was breathing heavily and stared at Dee, who was holding everyone at bay with her knife. She was crying, feral with fear.

Ramone joined up with Trix. “Shit, shit shit…? he said, putting up his hands, as the large biker men pulled out big calibre guns and grabbed chains from their bikes.

“Ohh, listen, listen everyone, let’s all calm down? started Ramone, trying rather pathetically to defuse the situation.

A biker, looking older than the others, who’s cross scar was burned high on his cheek, going up over his left eye, leaving it closed up and blind, spoke up. “You a fucking meta lover, boy??

Ramone, already hesitant, whimpered a vague denial. He looked back and forth between his girlfriend and the big biker.

“Grab her? commanded the grizzled biker, staring Ramone down.

Trix had thought Dee, crouched like an animal and holding up her blade, would have been able to hold the men at bay. But on their leader’s command, in a flash, one of the biker on her side effortlessly dodged a quick jab from her and knocked her very hard in the face. Trix yelled out, crying for her friend. Dee went down, her face dazed, but she was immediately picked up by the biker that punched her, along with another. They propped her up and pinned her against the Stuffer Shack wall.

The one with the bleeding ear stepped forward and grabbed Dee by the throat, speaking right into her face. “I’m gonna make you beg for me to kill you, and then when I’m done havin fun, I’m gonna tie you to my bike and drag you till you pretty skin peels off. How’s that sound??

Dee spit into his face. The biker’s face contorted with rage and he ripped her top off with one hand. Dee screamed and reflexively tried to cover her exposed breasts with her arms, but she was being pinned down by the other two bikers.

But then, there was a loud bang, and Dee was splattered with blood. The biker with the bloody ear jerked violently twice, then fell to his knees, then to the ground. The Iron Crosses all looked up around in confusion. They all looked to Ramone first, but he looked just as shocked as everyone else, and didn’t have a gun up. Then one of the biker men said “Over there!? and pointed, to another group of motorcycles bunched up the road from the parking lot. Trix looked up and saw a mean looking chica, sitting on her bike, with a scoped assault rifle. Trix had met her a few times and recognised her. It was Tawny, Dee’s cousin from the Burning Angels.

Chaos exploded. The Burning Angels charged the parking lot in their bike, while the Iron Crosses jumped on their own bikes or opened fire on the incoming gangers.

The leader of the Iron Crosses, though, looked pretty intent on finishing one thing at a time. He took out his gun and pointed it at Dee, as the two bikers holding her left to join in the battle. Trix reached in the back of her pants for her own gun, but realised with horror she had left it in the car. But to her great surprise, Ramone, next to her, actually pulled out his own gun and started shooting. Trix immediately dashed for Dee and grabbed her, pulling her down.

Ramone, it turned out, was not a good shot past point blank. He clipped the biker leader, but mostly missed. The biker leader, though, did not. Ramone took a shot from the big Iron Cross leader, quickly followed by several more from nearby gangers who directed their fire to defend their leader. Ramone fell to the ground a bloody mess, dead before he hit the pavement.

Roaring motorcycles, gunshots, blood and screams surrounded Trix and Dee as the battle closed between the Iron Cross and the Burning Angels. Trix grabbed her terrified friend and ran, running down the length of the Stuffer Shack wall, turning the corner, and then running down the length of that in a low crouch. She was pretty sure a couple of gunshots were directed her way, but she did not stop to look back.

The two girls reached the back of the Stuffer Shack and then kept running in that direction. They used a dumpster to jump the fence behind the Stuffer’s, then kept running, down back alleys, just running.

After a while, they both collapsed, adrenaline failing and out of breath, falling into a heap of trash in an alley. They had run so hard for so long they could not even hear the sounds of battle anymore. Trix had no idea where they were. All she cared was that they were both alive. Dee started crying, clutching herself. Trix shifted towards her, taking hold of her. She held her while she cried out her fear of her near rape and death, and the loss of her boyfriend (who Trix had to admit showed some decent courage at the end there). Trix held her and whispered quietly “Shhhhh? into her ear, until Dee finally cried herself out and fell into a half-sleep, depleted of all energy. Trix held her, listening to the night sounds around her. Dogs barking in the distance, the occasional car the drove by the entrance of their alley.

After a while, Dee spoke, her voice soft and hollow-sounding after all that crying. “We should go see if Tawny and the Angels won. See if the suit is still alive.?

Trix did not say anything right away, holding Dee and listening to the silence. “Yeah? she eventually said.

“Thanks, Trix?, murmured Dee. “You’re my best friend? she said softly, pressing her cheek affectionately against Trix’s arm holding her.

“I love you too? said Trix.
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