They had been driving for what felt like weeks. It had probably only been a few days since they had left the sad remnants of Dead Wood, South Dakota, and headed into the desert in search of the source of a pirate radio transmission. Unfortunately, it had become very clear very quickly that the desert seemed to go on forever; a large barren wasteland that they would never escape.
The girl, Rhi, was near defeat. Not even the rock music blaring from the El Camino convertible’s old radio was making her feel better, which was rare. After traveling halfway across the country in desperate search of a rebellion that she wasn’t sure even existed, things were starting to look very bleak indeed and the circumstances were taking their toll on the usually optimistic rebel.
“This sucks,” Al sighed, taking the words right out of Rhi’s mouth as sher stared miserably at the desert wasteland. “Remind me why we don’t just go join the Dracs again.”
Rhi shot her a warning look, but she simply laughed it off.
“You know nothing will send me to that sort of desperation,” she snickered. “I was really just wondering why we were STILL driving through desert after all this time.”
“We live in a nuclear wasteland,” Rhi dryly remarked. “What else is there?”
With a shrug, Al conceded the point.
For a while, they continued to drive in silence, Rhi beginning to get the sneaking suspicion that their coordinates had been wrong, and they really were lost.
“Where are we are we, again?” she inquired, glancing at the GPS in Al’s hands.
Al adjusted her glasses, glancing down at the small screen.
“It says here we are about 20 or so miles from where I picked up that transmission,” the navigator replied. “We’re just supposed to follow this road into Zone 6, apparently.”
“And we’re in Zone 5 right now,” Rhi clarified.
“Good. We’ll be Killjoys soon, Al.”
“Yeah. If you don’t fuck it up for us again.”
Wincing, Rhi looked apologetically at her best friend. They had been together through so much since the Art Wars, trying to find their place among the rebel gangs that inhabited the now barren wasteland that had once been America. It had been a long and trying journey, going from gang to gang, hoping to find something almost homelike. The Killjoys were their last hope, their only hope, and that hope was the only thing keeping Rhi’s foot planted firmly on the gas pedal.
Recalling their past brought Rhi a bit of pain. From first meeting Al during their time as Crash Queens, to their time as Rock N Rollers, to the brief few months they spent as Motorbabies, before…
Rhi’s brain seemed to stop in its tracks. What had gone on over the past year brought her physical pain at just the though of it. Thoughts of prison made her shiver as she recalled the awful conditions she and her companion had been living in for the past year. A year on Death Row in a BL/Ind prison was a worse fate than death itself, in her opinion.
Growling and shaking the thought from her mind, she reached for the pack of cigarettes in the ashtray.
“Hey!” Al yelled, slapping her hand. “We talked about this remember? No cigs unless it is-“
“Absolutely essential,” Rhi finished, reaching for the pack regardless. “Right now it is absolutely essential.”
“Were you thinking about…you know?”
“Yes. Now drop it.”
The words were a bit harsher than she had intended and she regretted it instantly when she saw her friend’s face go solemn.
“I’m sorry,” Rhi almost whispered. “It’s…”
“I know,” Al sighed. “I know. It’s hard. But things are gonna be better.”
A smile took Rhi’s face as Al handed her the lighter, squeezing her hand reassuringly as the object was passed
“It’s going to be fine,” Rhi agreed.
Al smiled, her focus returning to the road. Suddenly her eyes went wide and she sat bolt upright in shock.
“What the hell is that?” she shrieked, pointing at a figure in the distance.
Surprised, Rhi’s gaze shot up from her attempts to light the cigarette. It took her a moment to see what Al was pointing at. But sure enough, her quick witted friend had spotted potential danger. Maybe 50 yards ahead of them, a figure was leaning against the hood of a pick-up truck.
“Is it a Drac?” Al asked, grabbing her raygun from its holster.
“Can’t be,” Rhi muttered around the cig. “It’s got color on and no scary mask.”
She squinted against the desert sun, trying to figure out exactly what she was seeing. As they neared the strange figure, she could see that he was a tall, thin young man, wearing sunglasses and reading some sort of book. He looked strangely calm and almost vulnerably oblivious, which put Rhi a bit on edge. It could be a trap. However, she highly doubted he was an enemy, considering the bright yellow, striped tank top he was wearing.
Trap or not, she slowed the car to a halt in front of the man regardless and smiled pleasantly at him. He was rather consumed in his book and didn’t seem to notice them until Rhi cleared her throat.
His eyebrows furrowed at the sound and he looked up at them, scrutinizing them from behind his shades.
“Uh, hi,” he awkwardly greeted.
“Hi,” Al replied a bit hesitantly. “Whatcha reading?”
Looking a bit nervous, he glanced down at his comic book and then up at them.
“The Umbrella Academy,” he said, almost proudly. “It’s about superheroes…it’s really cool.”
For a moment he seemed to get lost in his imagination, then sniffed and awkwardly adjusted his sunglasses.
“Mind if I ask what you girls are doing out here?” he inquired after a moment, looking a bit uneasy.
“We’re looking for a gang,” Rhi honestly replied. “But it looks like you’re busy, so we won’t bother you.”
“Wait,” he insisted, his attention suddenly completely focused on them. “What gang?”
“The Killjoys,” Al smiled.
The man’s face lit up and he tried to hide his own smile.
“I’m a Killjoy,” he announced with a smirk, almost as if he were trying to look suave.
The girls exchanged a look, before staring a bit apprehensively at the man.
“Cool,” Al offered, though there was an apprehensiveness to her voice. “We’re looking for the source of a transmission we picked up earlier. Do you know where we could find Dr. Death Defying?”
Laughing a bit, he glanced over his shoulder at the pick up truck.
“Hey, Jet,” he called. “We got company.”
A head popped up in the back of the pick up, a mess of curly brown hair covering the man’s face momentarily.
“What?” the curly haired man yelled, clambering out of the truck. “Where did they come from?”
“South Dakota,” Al snickered under her breath, causing Rhi to laugh a bit as well.
“They’re looking for the Killjoys,” comic book boy explained. “They picked up one of Dr. D’s transmissions.”
“They picked up one of his transmissions?”
“That’s what they said.”
Al and Rhi exchanged glances, not sure what to think of their new acquaintances.
The curly haired man jumped out of the truck, shaking his giant afro-like mess of hair out of his face, and headed toward the El Camino.
“Can you just tell us how to get there?” Rhi sighed, sounding slightly annoyed despite attempts not to.
“We can lead you there,” the curly haired one offered. “We’re Killjoys. I’m Jet Star and this is Kobra Kid.”
“Nice to meet you,” Al pleasantly smiled. “I’m Bullet Hail and my friend is-“
“Radon Rhapsody,” Rhi interrupted. “Thanks for your help.”
Shifting uncomfortably, Rhi tried to bite back demands to make them hurry. Her short temper was getting the best of her under the hot desert sun and she had to make an effort to bite back her snide remarks. As Al had said earlier, they didn’t need her to fuck this chance up for them. It was their last hope.
“I’m going to go tell Poison that we’re heading back,” Kobra said, giving them a nod farewell before heading toward the pick up.
For a moment they three of them watched him jog back to the truck, comic book in hand. It made Rhi smile a bit as she thought of getting to know her new acquaintances better, seeing as they would, hopefully be in the same group. Though awkward, Kobra seemed very nice, as did Jet.
“So what were you guys doing out here?” Rhi asked, turning her attention to Jet.
“Not a lot,” Jet shrugged. “Mostly keeping look out. There has been a bunch of Drac activity lately and we were curious as to what they were up to. You know, normal scouting stuff.”
“So activity isn’t very common out here?”
“I wouldn’t call it uncommon. It’s just not usually like this.”
“Increased activity usually means they’re planning something,” Al added.
“That’s what we’re afraid of,” Jet nodded, turning his attention to the pick up. “Looks like Kobra’s ready to go. Follow us and we’ll get you to Dr. D”
With that he headed back to the truck, leaving Rhi smirking at Al.
“This is it,” she whispered, feeling butterflies build in her stomach.
The truck roared to life, Jet taking his place in the passenger seat and signaling for Kobra to go. A cloud of dust billowed behind them as the truck shot down the road. Biting her lip, Rhi threw the car into gear and took off after them.
It was time to become a Killjoy.