May 2nd, 2034
Bagman Crowe returned from the Southern Sierras today looking a little long in the tooth and obviously taken aback by the unusually heavy Threak presence in the hills above the air base.
“We’ve got to get out of here,” he says, with more than a hint of concern in his voice, “there’s too many of them furry fellas running around these parts for my liking.”
“Yeah,” I laughed, “I suppose I really stirred them up this time. ”
“I had a feeling it was you.” He said, extending a hand and helping me to my feet. “Good to see you haven’t gone soft and given up the fight. So many others have, you know.”
“Well,” I said, trying to keep a straight face, “Mama didn’t raise no quitter.”
“Amen.” Bagman replied.
“And, besides,” I continued, “it’s the first job I’ve ever had that I actually like. Killing Threak may not pay well, and the hours, well, quite frankly – suck, but there is a certain satisfaction in a job well done, don’t you think?”
Bagman slapped his knee.
“You, Mr. Mason, are crazier than I am,” he said, drawing me in closer, “…and I’ve had a fifty year head start!”
We both got a good chuckle out of that one and as I caught my breath I remembered how good it felt to laugh.
Three hours later we were sitting back at his camp on the eastern slopes of Warm Springs Canyon drinking black coffee and swapping war stories. I told him of my various trips into No Mans Land and of the mysterious installation the Threak had constructed at LAX. I told him of the kids living in the wasteland and how, on an almost daily basis, they attack both the facility and the troopers and how I wished that more of us had their fighting spirit.
I went on to tell him of the northeast end of the base, and its ill-fitted construction, and of the eighteen inch hole I’d found under the fence, – and of how I slipped inside the base and swiped a blaster.
“And, you never went back?” He said.
“After I grabbed the blaster, I got spooked. I didn’t want to push it. I figure I can get in one more time, and when I do I have to make it count. Battleship, or bust.”
“Battleship, or bust.” He laughed. “I like it. Too bad you can’t get T-shirts made.” He howled and slapped his leg at that one. He always did get a big kick out of himself.
When I’d finished, he settled back against an old oak and told me what he knew of the Threak’s push into the Sierras and of the harvest ships currently stripping the Southern Sierras of its valuable lumber.
We talked long into the night and came to the conclusion that although the Threak had the upper hand, they weren’t as all-powerful as we’d initially thought. They could be defeated, we just had to keep up the pressure.