Dusty cache: Gathering of the Tribes, pt 4

IMG_4274Bastion didn’t talk much, and the trip across the desert and Rockies was dispatched in a day and a half. The caravan of six Benzers passed through the territories of a dozen desert warlords unmolested, and maintained a ferocious speed thereafter.  Holly had brought books, and she shared with Shiloh; Ivy was unused to traveling and not being behind the wheel so she was restless, and felt useless.  Fortunately there was some entertainment to be had watching Bastion command his rig.

Ivy understood why so many of her passengers over the years wanted to talk all the time.  She resisted the temptation, choosing instead to spend more time listening.  Over the course of the three-day trip to Tulsa she learned that the numbers on the cars’ flanks referred to their individual types, the model names given to them by Mercedes long before the Fall.  The Benzers used the numbers to identify the rigs.  There was also a second set of numbers that further differentiated them, as Ivy learned when asking about a “300D” traveling with them, that looked nothing like the much smaller “300D” that she remembered Spiker driving.  That, apparently, was a “W115 300D,” whereas the rig in the caravan was a “W124 300D.”  Ivy didn’t quite understand, but the Benzers didn’t elaborate.  Bastion’s rig was a “W126 560SEC,” a large, low vehicle with only two doors and a throbbing, roaring engine.

In Tulsa, they found passage to Detroit easily enough when the Benzer caravan dropped them off and disappeared.   Ivy was a familiar face among the scavs in this half of the continent, so there was plenty of rides to be traded for.  There were uncomfortable questions to be answered about why she didn’t have a rig any more, but they were offset by people’s joy in seeing that she’d been reunited with her twin sister.  The support and love melted Ivy’s despair over her lack of a vehicle; with Holly at her side (and Shiloh, Swan, Kroni…and Dilly, now) she’d find a new rig soon enough.

It took almost a week to get to Detroit, where Bastion’s instructions led them to a garage.  Ivy had no doubt that the car would be there; even if it had been three months, no one put in charge of a Benzer cache was going to violate it.  The enigmatic wanderers weren’t habitual troublemakers but had a well-founded reputation for fierce retribution if wronged.

The garage was appended to the home of a plain-faced woman with long, graying yellow hair and a disinterested air.  She seemed glad that the rig would be going away.  Spiker’s–well, Shiloh’s–car was there, as promised.  It had been parked with all of his gear aboard. The small structure that housed it had a small gap in the roof, so the brown-red dust that frequently blew over the city from the ironworks had gotten in and left a thin, opaque layer of grime on the rig.  Ivy went into the garage and walked around it, then lay on the ground to look underneath; Holly and Shiloh hung back to stay out of her way.

“I feel like I should congratulate you,” Holly said to Shiloh. “I am sorry for your loss, though.”

“Except I didn’t do anything.  I only knew him for two or three days.”

“Well…even Tony got cake.”

Shiloh favored her with a smile.  “So they say.  How is it?” she called.

“It’s lived a long time,” Ivy replied, opening the driver’s door.  “May I?”

“May you what?”

“Get inside.”

“Why are you asking me?”

“It’s your rig.”

Shiloh rolled her eyes.  “It might as well be yours, Ivy.  I can’t drive it.”

“I could show you how.”

She considered.  “No, that’s okay.  I like having you as travelmaster.”  Holly smiled.  Ivy was already behind the wheel.

Compared to many other Benzers’ cars, Spiker’s–Shiloh’s–300D was somewhat battered.  The body panels were free of rust and still had paint with some shine on them, but the fenders and roof were pale green while the four doors were white.  Scrapes and battle scars marked the fenders and bumpers, which had been protected with scraps of rubber.  The tall chrome grill was intact, and gave the well-worn car the look of a retired yet dignified statesman.  A large cargo rack had been added to the roof, and Ivy began going through the gear on it as soon as she finished looking around the rig’s interior.  Holly found a rag and began cleaning the car’s dust-covered windows, while Shiloh hung back and watched.  Ivy sniffed the contents of a metal fuel can, opened boxes and cabinets inside the car with casual efficiency.

“Seems rude,” she said quietly, “even though it’s mine.”

“It’s a strange feeling, holding something that belonged to someone who’s dead,” Holly said.  “I rather like the word they used, ‘caretaker.'”

Ivy quickly judged the car’s condition.  “Spiker didn’t take very good care of this rig,” Ivy said.

Shiloh felt oddly defensive.  “It’s nice.  What’s wrong with it?”

“Old belts, old tires, old springs.  We’re going to need gear to get back to Strip City, and I don’t know how much it’ll carry.” She gave the Benz’s roof rack a shake, and the car rocked on its springs.  “We can travel in about two days,” she said.  “A couple of the belts are bad, a fuel line is leaking and it’s still got an aircomp in it that I should take out, it’s just dead weight.  I can fix it.  Some of these things on the roof we can trade, if you don’t mind, Shiloh.”

She didn’t like having Ivy defer to her on Spiker’s things.  “Whatever you think is best. I just think we should keep the rig…”

“We will.”

Shiloh didn’t know why she was suddenly sentimental about it; looking at it, she remembered spending a few days bedding Spiker as they’d passed through the desert, but it hadn’t been anything particularly special.  The fact that she had been so memorable to him gave it a different feeling in hindsight, though.