by David Kuijt

Crusher set the drum down for a moment and sat on it. He didn't really need to rest, although the full barrel of liquid weighed close to a thousand pounds. If anyone was watching him, though, resting was entirely believable, and it was a good way to look over his destination, half a block away.

The garage on 24th and Hollister was a converted corner gas station. The pumps had long since been chopped away, but the overhanging roof was still there. There were some clumps of trees at the corners of the station, and brush along one side where an alley ran. A link fence surrounded the place, probably pirated from a construction site long ago. It looked pretty ratty; rusted and overgrown. The growth was still green and leafy, though. In late December, that wasn't common. Crusher nodded to himself. Holly, most likely—lots of stickers and spines.

There were piled-up tires near the doors and exits. Convenient cover for getting out of the building under fire. The back had a bunch of stripped wrecks. There was also a number of plastic vats, a 55-gallon drum like the one he sat on with pipes coming out of it, set on a cinder-block frame with a firebox beneath it. A still, basically.

In front, under the broad overhang, were a half-dozen Zone bikes. Jury-rigged jobs, mismatched parts, mismatched paint, scrapes, rust. The working transport of a go-gang.

Smoke streamed out a stovepipe in the roof. The office itself had boards over the windows and old fencing over the boards. The main garage doors were closed because of the cold, but the lights were on. Even from his distance he could hear the chugging of a generator and air compressor, and some noises from the garage. Sounded like some bikes were getting work.

Crusher's breath steamed in front of him. No time like the present.

He stood and picked up the drum, swinging it easily to his shoulder. It was nearly full, which helped—less sloshing inside. It pinched slightly on his pistol, duct-taped high on his shoulder under his coat and the several levels of sodden blankets he wore. Likely the gang would search him; it was not part of his plan for them to find him armed. The pistol was back-up only, and they were unlikely to find it.

Crusher's feet were cold. A few blocks back, where he came out of the storm drain, he had made sure to slather his legs and forearms with muck. He had wrapped his limbs in crude coverings, originally the limbs off some fire-fighter's coats, cross-gaitered with rough wire. Same thing for his feet—he wasn't going to let his new boots get damaged. A couple of wool blankets cut into ponchos covered him; they were fairly warm even wet. And they were wet; he had dipped them in the icy water of the storm drain and wrung them out before he put them on. The final bit of his costume was the respirator he wore around his neck, jury-rigged straps because they didn't come in his size. The respirator was half-hidden low on his neck, mostly covered by the blanket he wore around his neck as a scarf, keeping his face visible and open. But he could pull the respirator up in a moment. And he expected to need to.

With muddy limbs, makeshift clothing, and his huge size, Crusher looked like a cross between the Swamp Thing and Toxic Avenger; an enormous street person carrying a 55-gallon drum. His pistol was under so many layers there was no way he could get to it quickly in a fight. As inaccessable as it was, it would lots of awkward scrabbling to get at it, but engaging in a firefight with these bozos wasn't part of his plan. He was armed, but he didn't expect them to see it. The triggers were in his pocket—a pair of Magnesium road flares, self-striking.

Crusher came up to the fence gate, swung wide open right now. What did they have to fear? He shifted the load on his shoulder again, grunted, and went towards the garage door. No guards were evident—not involved in any cross-gang feuds right now, Crusher guessed.

Crusher crossed the front, past the bikes, and thumped his fist on the closed garage door.

There was some noise inside and some indistinct words. After a moment a figure came up to the side door and looked at Crusher through a grimy section of plexiglass. He was wearing greasy overalls.

"Yeah? Wa'chu want?"

"Got a barrel here, delivery," Crusher said, tapping the barrel with the knuckles of his free hand and keeping his eyes down.

The figure looked at Crusher for a moment, then said "Hang a sec," and stepped back into the garage. Over the sound of tools, Crusher heard: "Fenster!!! Some big-ass'd dude got some shit fer you!"

A few moments later Fenster came over to the door. He was skinny and sorta tall, dressed in jeans and a greasy t-shirt. He looked through the plexiglass at Crusher and the barrel.

"Wha's that man? You got some 'jacked gas?" he asked in a pure New Yawk accent.

Crusher shrugged. "Dunno. Paid to carry it here, dat's all." He thumped the barrel again. "It's full, though." He paused. "Heavy."

"Christ! The Warriors been screwin' aroun' again?" Fenster leaned against the garage door and rapped the battered aluminum with his knuckles. "Tell ya what, bring it aroun' back, I'll meet ya there."

Crusher nodded, still keeping his eyes down, and started trudging around towards the back.

In the back was the still, some barrels, piles of parts, all with a backdrop of wrecked and stripped cars. A banged-up truck seemed to be still mobile and usable, a cobbled-together ethanol engine visible because the hood was missing. Weeds, tires, and some more bikes.

The back door banged open and Fenster walked out, wiping his hands on a rag. He looked around the yard and finally pointed over to a pile of drums.

"Stick it dere, chumma."

Crusher glanced around. They seemed to be alone. He shifted the barrel on his shoulder slightly.

"Hey man... how much gas be in dat, anyway?"

"It's full."

"Fawk! Chumma, youse one big effin mother! You wanna help wit some junk haulin?"

"Nope." His free hand snaked out, grabbing Fenster around the neck. He pulled him close and looked down into his eyes. "When I want money, I break people for it," Crusher smiled. "I lied. I ain't here because of the barrel, Fenster."

Fenster gurgled a bit and started to turn red, his eyes bugging out.

"I'm pissed off, Fenster. And I want some answers. You might have 'em, or maybe someone inside does. Let's go inside, neh?"

"Wha.. ack... who... hack....!"

The back door was metal, so Crusher kicked it in, then threw Fenster in after the shattered door. He followed him through into the garage, ducking deep because he was still carrying the barrel.

Inside was a typical garage with three bays and space around them; tables lining the walls piled with old parts, pans of oil and kerosene, scrapped engines, boxes of spark plugs, wires, distributor caps and so on. There are old tires along the walls, belts and cables, bike frames and so on. There was a car engine sitting in a lift and several bikes being serviced.

There were a few mechanics. The only ganger in evidence was one guy in leathers with a pistol. He looked really surprised by what was going on.

Crusher lifted the full barrel over his head, arms at full length, ten feet off the ground. "My name's Crusher," he rumbled clearly into the room. "an' I'm pissed off."

With a heave and a swing he threw the barrel down onto a bike in the middle of the garage. The bike was crushed; the barrel shattered, gushing ethanol in every direction. A spreading wave of it covered the floor. The ganger in leathers had been standing near the bike and was doused. The smell of alcohol engulfed the room.

The ganger had ducked as Crusher threw the barrel, and now he was dancing in a circle going ape-shit trying to get his soaked jacket off.

Crusher calmly took a magnesium flare out of his pocket. He snapped it open, and it flared to life immediately. The bright red flare cast strange, sharp shadows.

"Somebody here was expecting a punk named Payne to bring him a bag taken from me." Crusher looked straight at the ganger. "I wanna hear all about it, right now, or I'm going to blow this place to hell."

"Payne?" one of the mechanics asked in a wavering voice. "Uh... he got busted up earlier, ain't gonna be around."

Crusher smiled. "I know, I broke him."

Fenster seemed dazed on the ground. Another mechanic bent over to see if he was injured, although keeping his eyes warily on Crusher. "Hey chumma," the mechanic spoke quickly, "Payne was bragging about getting some bucks the other day, and the only guys spreading bucks around here is the Yak, so maybe you should go ask them?"

Crusher frowned. "Yak, eh?"

He reached out a long arm and grabbed the dancing ganger by his shirt, lifting him off the ground. Buttons popped, but the seams held. He spoke in a conversational tone, but the whole room could hear him. His eyes were on the ganger in front of him.

"Before I broke his arm, Payne said he was supposed to bring the bag _here_. He was looking very honest at the time. Now why would he say that?"

Crusher waved the magnesium flare a foot away from the ganger's alcohol-soaked leather pants.

'How da fuck should we know man?" the mechanic next to Fenster virtually screamed. "Do we fuckin' look like we know Payne's biz? Man, all sorta people come by here, we'z got the only big still aroun'"

"Da Yak, man, da Yak," the ganger sputtered, "I bet it was the Yak. Some of dem been axing around looking for muscle, y'know? The Yak been carvin' each other up right now."

Crusher frowned, but he moved the flare away from the ganger's pants. "Shidh." He looked around the garage. "I was hoping for a nice fight and to torch this place, and now I find you're all innocent bystanders." Crusher dropped the ganger, who staggered and fell into a puddle of ethanol.

"Sorry about the fuss, guys," Crusher waved the burning flare and smiled. "My mistake. No hard feelings, neh?"

"Hraccckkk..." the ganger coughed.

The two mechanics exchanged glances but kept quiet, helping a groaningFenster to sit up.

Crusher turned back at the door. "One more thing. You oughta be careful, letting your place be used as a drop point for the Yak and punks like Payne. Somebody might get the wrong idea, and bust up your place or something."

"Yeah, sure," one mechanic agreed, "we'll tell the Yak to shove off tomorrah."

Crusher shrugged. An open barrel stood outside the door, full of water. Crusher's fist shattered the thick ice.

"You nearly didn't make it to tomorrow, chummer," Crusher said, his voice as cold as the ice. He dropped the magnesium flare into the hole. It hit the water with a loud hiss and gush of steam, then sank, still burning. Bubbles rose, popping evilly.

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