Saturday, August 24, 2013

Gone with the Sun



You stand on the frontier of vanished peoples, where ghostly children dance a spiral tarantella -- it calls to action the animals of the high desert...
To protect your homes in the folds and peaks of this sunburnt landscape, you are asked to do what the land has done before:
Be the frightened forms of both nature and humanity! The same terror that has forever guided the heroes of myth past dangers!
Their names be blessed words that people kneel before in times of need!


--El Generalisimo, speaking to the Army of Aztlan,
Battle of Salt Lake City
Second War of Recognition


Texian bomber-zeppelins resumed the hundred-year struggle to conquer their western neighbors. Airships dropped payloads of bombs onto cities built into the Cibolan mountain ranges. Plumes of explosions dotted the target-scopes of the bombardiers. It was a terrible carpet woven over enemies who could not fight back, and the bombardiers knew nothing about the destruction they sowed. Smaller escorting balloon-cruisers followed each bombing run and dropped a second payload, thousands of paper pamphlets. Each one bore the same message. And then the bombing runs continued, with the same infernal maelstroms woven into each and every wake.
The winding boulevards of the Seven Golden Cities, built during the Latin Invasions, were empty of most civilians. There were those who died alone, those who picked through the remains. One man openly walked in the wreckage. He stood nearby the remnants of a bombed-out tenement, only stopping to scoop a piece of paper off the ground. Hundreds like them littered the street, most singed by the blazing fires. The piece of paper in his hand was legible. The man read it quickly and tossed it to the ground. The light of burning buildings illuminated his face. His long red hair and green emerald eyes looked out of place. He turned up the collar of his Marat tweed jacket and escaped the ruined boulevards of the city, deep into the city’s underground labyrinths, alone except for the riff and raff of bloodied-but-unbowed Cibola. He saw one of their kind eventually, someone who interested him and made him feel less alone. The silhouette of a long, lanky shadow excited him. He approached, his finger still on the trigger of a colt in his pocket. With his last few steps, he could see better. She was a woman. The feminine form was right on. It was still hard to tell her age. It was still hard to tell if he had made a mistake.
The little bit of light reflected off the whites of her eyes. She looked terrified. Not of him. Another fear perhaps. It almost warned him, made him think twice of his decision. Her clothes were not just from the street, they came from the open road. Her leather-armor vest and denim ensemble could belong to those who were dressed to kill -- he did not know. She said nothing, then turned in a flash, and darted away. She wore a classicist red cape -- squire red. It was the last thing he saw of her.
She was the one, so he followed.
In the bowels and gloom and doom, all those attributes of the underground that a man of his character relished, he smelled car exhaust and heard engines rumble. He saw the woman’s cape, and he still followed. Until he made it. Neon glared, and other lights of the electric flashed off and on. Some stayed off. He read the shadows and saw the final clue. A legendary subterranean nostalgia-bar named “La Daytona” appeared out of the mist of ruins. Ethanium tanker-trucks idled around the exploded hull of a Texian airship. The drivers kept their lights off, while their engines were ablaze with petrol smog. Around them hovered a denser human fog. The people he sought. Gangs of rock-n-roll warriors.
He heard the clinks of cola-can armor, its wearers anxious for thrills.
The woman with the terrified gaze had monetarily gotten out of his sights, and nearly disappeared inside the nostalgia-bar. Not quite. He hustled, he followed. No one worked the door. This was democracy, he guessed, and inside was tech noir. He saw seating booths and a dance-floor, the air dark with rockin’ noise and the clash of wills, and he knew now, finally, what this land beheld. The rulers of the highways of antiquity were a rowdy bunch and had no equals. Rock-n-roll warriors in the traditional denim-n-leather plumage filled his minds with the sights and sounds of an exemplar lifestyle, a dream world magnum opus, sovereign only to the ego. Their last days would be in a blaze of glory -- and that even played on the juke box too!
The woman he stalked snuck up behind him, stabbed him hard in the ear. With her words. He could see the grime of the road caked onto her greasy hair. It was dark and luxurious, unlike her whispery breath.
“Wait here.”
It was not a suggestion. She walked past him, deep into the denim-n-leather crowds, from which she seemed to belong, perhaps even command. She would have completely blended into the mass of denim and leather, if not for the grace of her squire-red cape. It blew away her exceptional Americanism.
For the agony of long minutes, where each one felt like an hour, and each one of them separate from the next, the sonic energy inside the bar pressed on him. This was not his home field. Inexperience to nostalgia did not explain his anxiety. He had performed in electric honky-tonks and free-universities once before. But this place was different. An overdriven song distorted the PA system, and the demonic fury of warped speakers made him jump a bit. His eyes were also strained. Archival-footage of heroic images from the Reckoning was shaded onto the broken sets of graphic monitors. The strobe and glare of green-screened artifacts hurt his eyes. He looked away, blocked out the sounds, scanned the room -- and stopped.
Across the bar, he spied the greasy haired terror he had followed. Gaps in the standing-room-only allowed him to see her at a booth crowded with rockers. One by one they had begun to turn around and look across the bar. At him. Their stares bored into him, and from one of them in particular, a bronze-haired young brute. He hoped that was not her -- and he did hope it was her. Alone with her in a car…the legend.
The man with the fiery red hair sucked it up. For a few moments, or another hour perhaps, his attempt succeeded.
And then woman emerged out of the crowds. He had a better look at her. The frightened eyes looked more intense. Deep black. But her greasy brown hair reflected the circus around her. He realized a certain joy for ruin emanated from her. She could not have been more than two decades in age. So young...
“My captain will talk to you now about a ride.”
This time she slowed her pace enough so he could follow and lead him through the maze of juking-and-jiving rockers. He also noticed she walked with a slight limp, one leg almost crooked. But he also thought it was fear, the unknown -- this made time appear slow. With his mind apparently in a suspended state, he approached the booth, now vacated by all the rockers. Except for one. It was the bronze haired young brute with the hardest stare. She sat with her arms stretched along the back of the booth, an intense look just for him. They were the famous smiling Prussian eyes too, a trait of the oldest Neo-Cola Classicist families. And they glared at him, but said nothing, her bangs of hair halfway over each one. He also took value of her fashion. On her person was the studded booty and captive bling of the road. Diamonds and rust lay side by side. The items she had stolen made her nothing but a common thief. And a very young one at that. She barely looked out of the sturm und drang of adolescence.
The greasy haired rocker spoke again, her hands held out. As if he was to behold the mystery. Of this child queen...
“This is Hessia de la Transoxnia: man eatin momma, steam driven hammer, she sorts out the men from the boys. Takes no messin,’ all in wrestlin’ is one of her pride and joys.”
The sight of the warrior child with the smiling Prussian eyes and long bronze hair spoke for itself. Unlike her sister here, she belonged to the emancipated. Old families, old people. His mind lurked in a place of ideas, and for the briefest of seconds, he imagined that her voice would complement his own ideals about those who ruled the highways of antiquity. But ideas always failed him. Her voice did not come loud, but measured; boisterous, yet refined; witty and courageous, with equal parts marking the better of humanity. She instead sounded much younger than he had expected, and she was mostly drunk, the stank of the bar came on strong from her motorbreath.
“Chassia…”
The tough named Hessia motioned to the greasy haired woman who had brought him here, and she slurred her speech, as she continued.
“…Chassia, my wing-gal tells me you need to get out of here. I’m here to drink and kick ass....”
She burped as a princess would.
“...and I’m almost out of beer.”
He already felt the test of wills between her and himself. His own emerald-green eyes met her smiling Prussian eyes. So soon for an encounter of opposites that stretched back to the age of the moderns. Now or never then….
“Please, don’t stop ‘kissing ass’ on my account…”
He did not even try to hide his Texian accent. But he dashed freely with his words, there was no use to stop now. Words had always been his best weapon, and they were right now. So he continued.
“What a classy, flashy lassy, and imitation sapphire shine. Are you a two-face liar full of fire? Can I say the flame is mine?”
Hessia barely shifted in her seat.
“I didn’t say ‘kissing ass’-- I said ‘kicking ass.’”
Her voice baffled him. It was almost as if a thousand suns sat perched at the doomsday hour, ready to explode at any minute. It was a threat of action! If she had been a singer, then her screech should have been permission enough to crow. But he was a drummer by trade, so he knew nothing of the frontman’s province. He could only help a troupe’s tempos. Nothing more.
“Rocka rolla woman for a rocka rolla man! You can take her if you want to -- if you think you can!”
Once done, he laughed and smiled, loudly and largely, then finished his solo.
“Well, I sure as hell don’t anyone to kick anyone’s ass. Let me buy you another beer.”
Hessia, this tough, well she only seemed annoyed, seemingly impervious to his charms.
“Make that two...one for my wing-man.”
Chassia, the greasy haired killer who had brought him here, beamed at the attention of her title and slid into the booth next to Hessia. That left him with nothing else to do but turn around and order drinks from a passing bar-attendant. His mind was on the business at hand, a far cry from his frivolous past. His shattered shins not only ached in memory, they served as reminders. He smiled through the pain of flesh and mind, as he waited for the drinks to arrive. Hessia and Chassia just stared. When the drinks did come, the conversation should have resumed. But he had not sat down, nor had he said anything. He just remained at his station, silently measured by the rockers.
Hessia stuck out her armored breastworks and took care of the honors.
“Well, Mr. Rococo-n-Roll?”
Chassia broke into laughter at her captain’s humor, and Hessia smiled at her, a certain natural graciousness, a gift perhaps she was ignorant of, until her face resumed its stoniness and she resumed.
“What brings you to the Seven Cities?”
Conspiracy -- he felt it. So he let it dawn on his roguish face. He could not hold it back. Nor did he want to either.
“Kansas…”
He didn’t just answer, but drawled, the word sprang hot to trot from his guilty conscience. So be it. The rockers suddenly became more severe at the mention of the word. They shifted forward, nearly across the beer bottle-covered table. Hessia, even more so. She held a contemplative finger in the corner of her mouth now, a wicked gaze was just for him.
“There is no such place….”
But there was. He felt his green eyes grow heavy with intrigue, and he leaned over the booth, both of his hands on the table. He wanted to spring on them some of that Texian intrigue he had learned in the Waterloo-court. But he decided against it. Better to let it be his privy only. He could also meet them in the other privy, old lyndon-baines style, and hold a conference with them. Perhaps. But he did not know these rock-n-roll warriors very well. They would never believe him. Nor did they want to watch a grown man pee.
“You know what I mean. Of course they haven’t called it Kansas in a long time. But the past is coming back in style…and a Neo-Cola Classicist can always appreciate that.”
Perhaps this tough named Hessia did in fact know what he meant. Too late now. He actually meant a lot of things, and she seemed able to play him better than he had expected, almost as if she wanted him to explain things in greater detail. She looked out of the corner at her eye at Chassia, who also stared back at her. Both seemed aware of what was on the mind of the other. And he did not know. Yet he could not hold back now. So he continued to feed the intrigue. It was all he had. He needed to leave Cibola….
“I’m looking for transport to the Sea of Kansas. No questions asked. It’s a dangerous journey. I’m prepared to pay.”
Hessia laughed again. It sounded to him as if another round of young suns exploded in some far off corner of the universe, possibly creating new star systems with inhabitants that worshipped a bronze haired Amazonian like her as a god.
“You say it’s dangerous, eh? Are you prepared to pay -- with your life? Because we are going to jump in the fire.”
Hessia pushed her noble face closer to him.
“Most of what you pay must be up front. I’ll need a full cyclotron of ethanium, and all the petrol I can put in my tanks. I expect trouble on the way there; speed can only get us so far.”
That was it? He wanted to know more. His shins ached, and the road out of hell had been paved with a lot of dead friends. To do so he had exhausted all his best intentions. He needed to make it to Kansas. Better to die here, than die halfway.
“I’d come out to your place. But I’m afraid of your dad.”
Hessia and Chassia both blew up with laughter. But only the princess spoke.
“You’ve never heard of the ‘Bytch of Birmingham’? I’m not too worried about Incorporated Law. I don’t ride no motorbike either. I drive a ‘warbird,’ Mr. Rococo-n-Roll. If there’s a race, she’s qualified. My six point six gets a little too heavy, for any ‘Big Balls’ Ford or a 350 Chevy.”
He broke his first smile of the night, maybe the first smile he had made since being commanded to paint a picture of his murdered Black Jacobin friends. Texas is the reason, he thought to himself, with just one more question -
But Hessia broke in first.
“Oh, yes, Mr. Rococo-n-Roll? You might have noticed these silly, little pamphlets that Texas is dropping on our cities...”
She reached a hand under the table and produced a scrap of paper. She promptly tossed at him. It fell at his feet, a damaged article, burned in various places.
He knew very well what was written on the scrap of paper.
Hessia showed her teeth.
“Do you have any idea who this… ‘David’…is? You are from Texas, right, judging by your accent -- I just thought you’d know?”
The rockers drained their glasses of alcohol, in unison, shared some looks, and he could only watch. The joke played on. He felt the music of the nostalgia-bar hound him, as if there was some truth to the folklore about the Neo-Cola Classicists. The chorus of the distorted song stood out to him. But he could not understand the words. Hessia slammed down her empty glass, and like her voice, the sound of an empty shot glass sounded just as the rattle of sabers should.
“My pulse is racing, I'm hot to take -- Meet me in two hours in the 6th Parking Bay. This motor's revved up, fit to break.”


***
The Texian aerial-bombardment was over, but the night time horizon of the Seven Golden Cities continued to show the signs of suffering. Flames covered most of the city. The lack of mercy by a military power like the Lone Star Empire filled every Texian expatriate with shame, and perhaps it compelled them to finally consider, even for the first time, why they were here and what had made him come to this point in their lives.
Similar to the Seven Golden Cities’ struggle for survival, there was a direct line between one man’s life and those very same conflicts that raged above him now. For here, in ancient Cibola, controversy had decided to reside, and it had recently blown in from the lone star east. This controversy had a few names. Treason, a former life -- even the name called by since birth. But none of that mattered now.
Shiloh now trusted the emptiness of fate.
“You’ve done well making it this far by yourself -- but I found you, Mackenzie”
The speaker stepped out of the shadows, a tall man with a long dark mustache, dressed in a black cowboy hat and a matching suit. He clutched a book under his arm. The words that were inscribed on it said, “King Billy Bob Version.” That was just half the threat too. Two holstered phase-pistols were slung on the sides of this man’s waist, and he not only walked with an authority vested in the temporal powers that ruled the kingdoms of man, he also walked with a stick up his ass.
Jefferson Davis glowered at Shiloh and spoke again.
“You hear me? You're a lucky man. My patience may be gone, but at least I have my smokes.”
Shiloh looked at the man he knew from his recent past. The last time he had seen this man, his shins had been busted up with an iron rod. Not that Jeffrey had done the work. In memorial for that exact memory, Shiloh made sure that when he drawled with disgust, a thin line of spit formed on his lips.
“How long you been playing with yourself, watching me, behind that wall?”
Even with a cowboy hat and mustache, a man could chortle, as Shiloh watched Jeffrey do. He merely retrieved a cigarette case from the inside of his jacket. Engraved on its polished-silver lid was the emblem of the Sheriffs of the Commandments. Jesus the Christ of the Holy Handgun. Shiloh knew that too. After Jeffrey lit his cigarette, with the flames and smoke wreathed around his face, Shiloh watched this dickwad clutch try not to cough while he clutched his King Billy Bob version bible. Just like a shield. But Jeffrey’s arrogance was always his biggest trademark. And as Shiloh was forced to endure, Jeffrey began to spread his would-be authority with every exhale of his cigarette.
“Okay deviant, what's the word then? You got a ride? Don't think I won't - ”
“Put a banana cream pie in it, Herbie! ‘For the Tyrant is the capturer of humanity. The Tyrant is the conqueror of all’.”
Jeffrey slouched closer, joined him on the balcony. Cibola burned. It was like the old days. Cigarette smoke got in Shiloh’s eyes, and Jeffrey predictable babbled on.
“Want to trade lines? Because I got a Camaro, my little bro. ‘Your very life is held within my fingers…I snap them and you cower down in fear’…running off to Kansas -- what used to be Kansas, mind you -- without even telling us -”
“I’m going to be real, okay. Cause it’s hard to keep a cover when you're bad with your lines, so blatantly obvious, and a little sore, too. Sore that the Emperor turned your home into a sea? Really? Get over it!”
Shiloh finished, watched Jeffrey’s black mustache twitch. Inwardly he must have fumed at the mention of his former home. What was left of it. Shiloh was almost confident of this reaction -- he could always tell -- as he could also guarantee that Jeffrey, a religious autarch of middle America, probably felt he could stop the madness of Kansas, as most of the incorporated and chorus referred to the place and situation. And Jeffrey, a man with an arcane book, believed he was the man to correct all that angered him in the 3001-year era. Shiloh felt fine to let him begin. The show began.
“‘You spineless things who belly down to slither…To the end of the world you follow to be near’…”
Yea, yea. Shiloh watched tee-vee. So did Jeffrey. This was old news. But Shiloh made the news, so he wasted no time.
“Uh oh,  rap battle! ‘The Tyrant is the hideous destructor! The Tyrant will make every man fall!”
Jeffrey blew stinky smoke in his face.
“You’ve always been one of the reconstructed! Know this: ‘I listen not to sympathy, whilst ruler of this land. Withdraw your feeble aches and moans---or suffer smite from this my hand!’ We’ll see, you traitor, we’ll see who’s right. Go on your way, I’ll find you when the time is right. Give my love to the Empress.”
Shiloh looked at the infernoscape of Cibola. He thought about the threshold he would soon cross and it gave him an idea.
“Just let a dude do his job, sheriff. Are you ready to jump in the fire? Because it’s not you getting into that car....”


***
The nostalgia-bar La Daytona, and Hessia de la Transoxnia and Chassia Santa Cruz were deep into their drinks. Belches. Slaps on the back. Heinous laughter. Spacetruckers, and other hazards of the road, accompanied their senses into a steep descent into the fog of intoxication. The two rockers slouched on each other, until Chassia, the loyal wingman, passed out.
A song played on the PA system, and Hessia, someone who always said she was not nostalgic, realized she needed another word for it. The song she heard was not unknown, nor her immune to its tune. She had not heard it since her last night in the city of her birth, Cahokia, the last time one moon was over Mississippi. For thoughts like her’s were not unusual, for the moon had been full back then, and now her heart decided to call. She quietly mouthed the words out loud. But since it was a terrible song, she barely breathed the chorus.
“I’d pay the price again/Anytime/Watch Washington drown twice -- for you/I’d pay the price, again/Anytime.”
Someone belched.
“I knew you’d start getting your panties wet and start singing that shitty song.”
Chassia had been awake the entire time. Bitch.
Hessia laughed and played the good sport, if only for her love of Chassia. But Hessia’s thoughts, even when they drifted away from a ghost that had come again, still placed her back home. Cahokia, now gone. When she inhabited the present, she felt severe, so she chose a language of the dispossessed. It was all she could do to keep herself in that place most of her kind did not enjoy. The Now.
“As annoying as the Gods of America are, perhaps they do love us, Chas…do you know who that ‘Texian boy’ was?”
Chassia responded, her Old 'Bama accent tripped over some of the language.
“Way to change the subject, captain. I don’t keep up with Hegelian politics -”
“Don’t act like you’ve been reading some modern deth-dirge, because I know you -- the world has turned upside down too fast for any Bama girl!”
“But just to think, us, the Neo-Cola Classicists, anxious to serve a rebel empress - ”
“That bastard Old Pops is the Racing-Viceroy of the Imperium. So that’s your tv dinner. Eat ‘em up and smile.”
Hessia slunk in tighter to Chassia, her friend from their old racing days as teenage slaves. She agreed with her wingman too. Times had indeed flip-flopped. The Neo-Cola Classicists, fallen hard from grace, now watched their enemies serve the state.
“Irony sucks anyway...That rococo-n-roll ‘boy’ is just another example of why I hate tee-vee. I’ve seen him before on the Eye-NC; he makes all the crappy made-for-tee-vee movies about the Billy Bob kings. The empress has gotta know this dude. She’ll pay a good price, I bet, if we bring his head to her. Some good old gore is the price of admission to see an Empress!”
Chassia openly breathed heavy with anticipation, fanned herself in mock imitation of their old lords and masters.
“Omy, I do declare that the room is getting hot, and things are spinning. I must sit myself down, to rest….”
Ideas spun in Hessia head. The return of the Neo-Cola Classicist Guard-in-Exile to their former-times of greatness. It seemed possible to Hessia. And the pride in her ancestry to a former Von Strauven General from the Battle of Elvis Downs, that too swelled in her heart. Chassia stopped her mimicry and spoke in the language of a resist-to-exist people.
“But are you sure that ‘boy’ is someone the empress would really want, I mean, it’s one thing to paint pictures of Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders -”
“Believe me, Chas! The time for our revival is at hand -- Cahokia will be avenged! I want you to go ahead without me. Meet Excellsia and Ascensia at the Sea of Kansas.”
Chassia looked stunned by Hessia’s request, and it was just that, nothing more. Sure, the trip across to the Sea of Kansas was dangerous. Texian attack-zeppelins, 8Fold Antioch rocket-fighters...even with the advantages of Neo-Cola Classicist armor and speed.
“And leave you to make the trip by yourself? Forget it!”
Hessia put a hand on her loyal friend’s shoulder. She had always felt protective of Chassia. But Chassia owned a heart of indomitable fortitude. She had successfully risen to the rank of a Neo-Cola Classicist warbird-pilot. And like all neon knights before her, she had become her own master. She would be fine. And Hessia too.
“You got to make the run alone. It’s very important that our sisters know who I have the in my car. And they need to know as soon as possible. Speed is the Neo-Cola Classicist ally -- and so is surprise. Go now; don’t stop till you reach Kansas -- Heavy metal thunder!”
Chassia jumped out of her seat.
“Hell bent for leather!”
Her squire-red cape all a flash, a very loyal wingman dashed out of La Daytona. Hessia watched her best friend leave and finished more drinks, glad she had the time alone to think back to her lover boy, sing an awful song, and be unashamed.


***
An hour passed and Cibola still burned.
Every single one of Shiloh’s identities revolved around his expatriate status. He was fine to shuck off any claims of being a dissident artist who had fled away from his native Texas. He did not even care if no one knew he was no ordinary artist -- the royal court artist of the Waterloo-court of the Lone Star Empire. Dammit Janet! The royal court artist of Texas! It had a title for this position, too. The David.
Now Shiloh just wanted to live. He imagined he was already in a car, even a flivver, and he could look back over his shoulder and see life fall away. But this expatriate status was horse apples.
Cibola burned. He was responsible.
He could not just forget his former responsibilities. Even if they had once been simple, they made him complicit with the destruction of an entire people. Shiloh Jacinto Mackenzie III. Responsible for the glorification of the Waterloo Monarch. Illustrator of the propaganda of state-worship as directed by the Hegelian Ultras, the philosophe-ministers of the Godstate of Texas.
Add destroyer of ancient Cibola too.
Sure. He no longer answered to the name of “David” any more. And, yes, kids in tee-vee land, this was half the reason why he had illegally abandoned the Waterloo-capital and fled into the “uncivilized west.”
But that was his privilege.
Who cared that, at heart he had always thought of himself as a young man with talent to burn, more rock-n-roller than rococo state worshipper? It did not matter that the sight of the downward spiral of Mexican Tejas, his home for almost three decades, had been bad enough. His ability to protest and easily relinquished his position as “David” -- and even become a fugitive in the Seven Golden Cities -- those things belonged to privilege.
Cibola burned, but he was okay.


***
Hessia saw the mysterious Texican’t enter the underground garages on the far showroom end. She stood next to her antiquated automobile, a Firebird from late-Classic America, “Trans-American-class.” It was a crimson polish of fiery red, with a large white decal of a “Firebird” on the hood, a decor and ornament for a perfect piece of dream that lived in the gleam of a unsheathed machine. It was no unblemished shine though. Strap marks from fastened-on armor and mounted weapons had scuffed its sides, the only noticeable imperfections from the car’s former owner, a contestant in the Notable Family Games. This car no longer fought, nor did she. She was no one’s slave. Neither was this car.
“And which one’s your car, Your iron maidenness?”
When he said this, he was no further away from her warbird than her. Her outfit also should have helped the man. Dressed in a crimson-n-silver battle-flight suit, a flight-helmet clutched in one of her arms, a stiff-board navigation map in the other one -- it should have been obvious. She stood right next to the machine. So she turned her face towards the Texican’t and said:
“Information gladly given but safety requires avoiding unnecessary conversation.”
He seemed too peaceful for her tastes. She faintly heard air raid sirens outside, signs that Texas had resumed its attack upon blessed Cibola. Perhaps to him, the same rumble of explosions she heard was easy to ignore inside the fortified Garages. But not to her.
She imagined how happy the empress would look when she presented the head of this important man. The empress was a killer of Texas kings, anyways! A world of possibilities awaited. The Guard-in-Exile would no longer be separated from the Von Strauven court and throne! Hessia might even be the Captain of the Guard and lead the Horde to the very doorstep of Texas! She imagined his skull as a hood ornament during the attack. So long as his blood did not desecrate the Firebird decal. That was all. Fantasy allowed her to endure him.
“Well here we go, hell bent for leather…The road is a spine, and humanity -- a cold shiver.”
By now, he was barely perceptible to Hessia. Last looks at her map should have clued him in. But he failed to notice. He still talked, only because his head was still attached to his shoulders.
“Those lines...that was from my band...Black Jacobins...ever heard of them? You like ruins-core, right?”
She turned to look. Not at his dumb comment. Not even at him.
A noise.
On the far side of the Garages the main doors began to open and the noise of the aerial bombardment became louder and louder, until the sounds of exploding bombs and shrill sirens filled the Garages. Hessia saw the Texican’t look in the same direction. Perhaps he also wanted the interruption to go away, and take with it the din of war. But what she saw emerge in the opened garage doors, whether this dude knew it or not, was a far more immeditate threat than the Texian Air Fleet.
She dropped her navigation-map.
A man she had not seen since Cahokia stepped through the doorway, immediately followed, and then surrounded, by a posse of deputized-militiamen. In their Neo-Antebellum gray uniforms, she knew them too, but less intimately. Not like she knew this man. He had not worn a cowboy hat and black suit the last time she had seen him. Hells bells, he had lost most of his baby fat since those salad days. But even back then, he always came ready. Like his stooges. All had weapons ready, except him, for others always did his dirty deeds. And they did them cheap. Their rifles were now aimed directly at this Texican’t and her. Flashes of explosions in the garage doorway backlit them all, as did the flickering light of a burning city that was veiled intermittently by the smoke of ruined Cibola.
“Well, as the South has risen again -- I mean, wowee! Hessia fuckin’ Transoxnia! This...is too good...I should have known it!”
Jefferson Finis Davis LXVI AKA the Sixty-sixth. Fuck. This. Guy. And why did he look at the Texican’t? And why did the Texican’t...Hessia only knew her own stone-killer demeanor.
And that was all.
“Close the door, put out the light. Y’know they won’t be home tonight.”
The click of plasma-rifles could be heard over the sounds of bombs. Impossible. But true.
And the Texican’t. She heard him too.
“Is he...with you?”
Every fiber of muscle in Hessia’s body stiffened, and her once-smiling Prussian eyes narrowed, the intruders in the Garages marked by her disgust. Every single one. She never looked away and moved cautiously. To the Texican’t, she said:
“The snow falls hard, don’t ya know? The winds of Thor are blowin’ cold…Jefferson and I are tight bros from way back when...oh henry, my boy, get. the. fuck. in. the. van.”
If he could not figure out her meanings, she had only force to make him understand. Jefferson’s deputized-thugs were Carthage Grays. Nit-and-prophet killers. They had no scruples about shooting unarmed people. Hell bells, they had no scruples at all.
Most mortal men, and Hessia thought of the idea in jest, could never figure out how to get in her car. The door’s refusal to open always stopped them. But the Texican’t turned into a “Texican.” And there were none of those in her world. He slid into the passenger seat through the window. Whether the popular nostalgia-programs guided him, she had no idea. But it appeared, at least for the moment, that fortune smiled on the Texican’t. Fuck fortune. Fuck big budget special effects. And fuck you Jefferson Davis.
Hailed by their master, the Carthage Grays slithered closer to Hessia’s warbird, until they stood in front of the garage door. Hessia flexed -- while her old racing games partner tried.
“Get away from my car, Transoxnia.”
Jefferson commanded, while his Carthage Grays stood at the ready and awaited his orders. Like a bad Texas Ranger, his mouth kept come on.
“I want my car back. I swore I'd take it! You disgraced Sweet Home Alabama, and for that-”
Hessia didn’t move, her face was set in stone, but she could talk. And did.
“And for that the world’s on my shoulders. Thanks dickwad. Every religious maniac’s been after me.”
His smile, slick as snot, sickened her.
“De nada, chica.”
He face, outlined by the steely framing that some said gave her the appearance of past queens, barely moved. But she casually ran her hand slowly along her side, under her silver chain mail short-skirt. Her bark, a slow nova of anger, would distract him.
“Forget it. Wheels! A glint of steel and a flash of light! Screams! From a streak of fire as I strike!”
Jefferson spit on the floor and smiled, his teeth showed through his gummy lips.
“So be it, Transoxnia! I got a bitching Camaro, anyway.”
He turned to the Carthage Grays.
“Open fire boys!”
The Carthage Grays...They actually smiled and pushed the triggers on their maser-slug rifles. Hessia thought the muzzles even grinned. Then time slowed down. She could see the lawlessmen brace themselves for the recoil of superheated beams of energy. She even understood the technical information of the situation. Bands of humming red-n-blue phase fire began to shoot out the nitrogen-cooled barrels and leap across the Garages.
In this suspended state. It looked really cool, man.
Their shots were right on the mark, too, aimed directly at the body of Hessia.
Good shot, boys.
She was right on the mark as well.
With a smooth motion of effortless grace, she swung out the large broadsword hidden under chain mail short-skirt. Holding it briefly for a split second, she switched into fast-forward and commenced a series of well-executed counter-strikes. One by one, the maser-slugs deflected off her broadsword and ricocheted back towards their source. Jefferson Davis and his Carthage Grays desperately attempted to avoid the surprise return-fire before it hit them.
They failed.
The result was sprawling bodies, alit with flame, and the discharges of burning blood and guts, the posse of Carthage Grays going limp with death.
Only Jefferson Davis remained.
Hessia remained, ablaze with shining triumph of the Neo-Cola Classicist tradition for swordplay. She was an exemplar personality of that legacy. She shined with its power.
Jefferson Davis rolled away from the charred, burning bodies, the boiling blood and their once-beautiful Neo-Antebellum uniforms blackened with death, fearful that Hessia would claim his life with a final slash of her broadsword. He limped into the burning night without any hint that he would be back to fight another day.
Hessia crowed.
“Fools! Self destruct cannot take that crown! Dreams! Crash one by one to the ground!”
She moved in one quick motion, her crimson cloak flying and silver armor shining, and leapt into her Trans-Am Firebird. She started the engine instantly with one turn of the key. Petrol awoke the machine and it roared to life with a cloud of exhaust.
Heavy metal thunder, hellbent for leather.
Into the fury of Texian bombs and their rain of destruction they now would go. It would not get any easier. Hessia shifted the gears of her warbird, as the centrifuge cycled ethanium necessary for phaeton-speeds. Hessia bared her teeth. Battle on the highways of antiquity awaited them, and that before they were anywhere near the Sea of Kansas.
But when she looked at Shiloh her fierceness evaporated, she had no British steel.
She had not seen it, but he wore now an old style American football helmet with a single face bar. With long tufts of his red hair poking out of the helmet, he looked out of place. And it was then and there that Hessia had to ask a question she had been thinking about since meeting him.
But she waited for the road.


***
Shiloh dreamed of a valley of darkness. It surrounded his home of Mexican Tejas. He imagined himself back in the Waterloo-capital of the Godstate of Texas, deep inside the Imperial Records. Like a scroll of history he saw the time of the newly created Von Strauven Imperium, coming on the heels of the Limited Nuclear Exchange and the closing of the Great Partition.
His band the Black Jacobins rose from the dead. He hit the skins, kept the beat.
“Twenty-eight eighty-two/neo-American prints -- in my home too!”
Shiloh saw the rise of the Hegelian Ultras and their takeover of the ceremonial Kings of Tejas, the father figures of Hill Country, and their transformation into the autocratic William Robert Kings. These kings then became the absolutist heads of a Bonapartist-style religion of bureaucrats, royally designed to rule from the Gardens of Waterloo as emperors of empire. The Godstate of Texas replaced Mexican ‘Tejas’ and became the God’s throne.
The State became a symbol of worship.
It was a ritual of sacrificing the Individual to the State, and people were coerced into prostrating past the altars of Texas that the state had become. The Lone Star was manipulated into the symbol of the greatness inside the Texas masses and Hegelian propaganda authored the dream world of a ‘Spirit of the People.’
Pride bred vanity and a great people fell.
Military adventurism and national expansion were justifiable if it meant the spread of a superior society, with an empire as the goal, and ‘the Lone Star’ as its crown.
The ‘Near Abroad’ became the arrogant term the 300 Original Families called the sovereign nation-states adjacent to Texas, and were soon ruthlessly conquered as part of an empire.
The Hegelian national propaganda slogan was ‘Who Better to Rebuild America than a Texian!’ and the Southrons of the Old Confederacy were manipulated into an alliance with the Godstate of Texas.
The people of the splintered lands of the Americas were being led into a fateful mission to rebuild a one-and-true united America with all the trappings of greatness that had gone along with the Classical predecessor, universally known in legends as ‘The USA.’
All of this had created the nightmare of American Revivalism, a movement that planted its roots in gross distortions of history. It was blind nostalgia, surrounded in inaccuracies, stereotypical associations, and the dreaded ‘G’ word.
Golden Age America.
“Another neo-American print/I swear to the heavens, I’ll take a shit!”
The Black Jacobins sang the chorus. Their swan song -- and his homeland’s too.
Shiloh did not want to stay around Texas to see it rebuild a misconstrued version of Classic America.
He watched it on TV.


***
Hessia hated “eastern Arizona.” She hated the place because the name did not exist. The place on her maps, as drawn for millennia by her people, said “Native America.” She hated the misnomer that kings and their progeny had given the place. The futurity of things also bothered her, even while she looked forward, her smiling Prussian eyes on the road, her long bronze hair tucked underneath her flight-helmet.
All the while, she had heard her passenger mutter in his sleep.
She had doubts about this perilous journey to the Sea of Kansas, home of the Empress Kir-sten’ya, and whether this trip would be -- how did it go? -- the end of the beginning of the end.
The fight against evil was attached to a childish promise, and support for a cause was new to her too. Her spirits were once lifted by the promise that she still might live forever, if not in body then at least in spirit. The cause of the empress might achieve that strange dream. And the man next to her? He would as soon make her his muse than give her a choice in the matter.
Those were two different things.
She would not be anybody’s muse, not a face to set a thousand engines to wail. A man like this would attempt to paint a picture of her in the nude, just as all the great masters had done before. And he would do it while he laughed at her childhood fables. Even if she told him, even if the little girl she had once been warned, that those who did see a Neo-Cola Classicist in the nude were torn to bits by the hounds of hell. Men like him did not get it.
It did not matter that he was leaving behind the frolicking decadence of his royal upbringing, nor that he had good intentions to join the celebration in the Palace of Kir-sten’ya. He represented the nobility of Texas, aristocrats with powdered wigs having sex in the royal gardens of the Waterloo-capital, the same ones who were accountable for the Lone Star Empire’s destruction of her home, legendary Cahokia, the last symbol of Earth’s thousand-year golden age.


She decided then and there. When he woke up she would knock him out with her elbow, let his head hit the window even. Goodnight sweet Texican. Be everything that was gone now -- everything golden -- once touched by the sun. In his last hours of sleep, Hessia imagined how his head would look on her hood. She also took advantage of the time and hummed bad songs too. For a while she considered all the possibilities. It felt really lonely though, and for the first time in a long while she imagined another choice.


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