The convoy set off in the darkness before dawn, and consisted of four unmarked trucks as well as the chuck wagon. Chick ran shotgun in the lead wagon,while ’Enery and Clarissa scouted ahead on Skimmer Bikes; Anwyn brought up the rear on another bike.
The projected journey was over 400km, and with the sometimes difficult desert terrain the Lead Driver estimated a trip of around eight hours, assuming no exceptional detours due to dune movement or dust storms. Besides a driver, each wagon also contained a backup, armed with a shotgun or machine pistol.
The convoy were four hours out of Victoria when Clarissa heard the low ticking over of an engine off to her left. Looking sideways she noticed two red painted skimmers , each containing armed men. Shouting a warning over the comms she and ‘Enery skidded their bikes to a halt, as the ambushers realised they’d been discovered.
Engines gunned in the dunes all around them, accompanied by the chatter of automatic weapons fire and a loud explosion which erupted from a buried mine, collapsing the walls of the gully and seperating the lead truck from the rest of the convoy. Hidden machine gunners opened up on the cab containing Chick, who thumbed his blasters and knocked open the roof hatch.
“Alright people! Let’s show them Burger Queen creeps the garbage pail!” came an amplified voice, and ahead of Clarissa another skimmer gunned out of a gully, with a painted clown standing in the back manning an articulated machine gun.
“Shit! It’s Ronald MacSaunders!” thought Clarissa. “Will these mean I can’t use my free cup of coffee coupons any more?”
Ronald grinned as he opened up on Clarissa, and then banged his fists in frustration as the guns jammed: no doubt the fine desert grit had been quietly doing its work. Clarissa and ’Enery ran for the cover of some rocks.
All around the convoy heads had popped up from the tops of dunes, and were spraying the trucks with automatic rifle fire, back up by a few heavy machine guns. A prerecorded message was blaring out from somewhere.
“Lower your weapons and stand down and you will not be harmed. If you do not, MacSaunders accepts no liability for any injury which may be caused in defending itself!”
Chick considered this as the driver was ripped apart by weapons fire, and his truck ploughed through the gulley towards the wall of a dune ahead. He grabbed on for dear life as it caught one of the skimmers head on, crushing it like a tin can, before burying its perforated cab into the gulley side.
‘Enery meanwhile had slightly more luck, his Heavy Blaster removing the head from one MacSaunders employee, with the same beam then cutting a tennis ball sized hole through Ronald’s torso. The Clown flew backwards off the skimmer, which skidded round in a circle. A tossed grenade from Clarissa landed in the cockpit of another, taking out all of the occupants.
Towards the rear of the convoy Moe had climbed out onto the roof of one of the trucks, and was then hurled off as it braked to avoid colliding into the collapsed gully wall and braking truck ahead. With the wind firmly knocked out of him, and dimly seen figures spaying the trucks with bullets, he decided that it might be best to play dead.
Anwyn caught up the stalled column with her bike, but then skidded it into a dune as the bike was hit by multiple bullets. Crawling to the cover of a truck she exchanged ineffectual fire with several of them, before taking one straight in the chest.
From the ruins of the truck cab Chick finally managed to blast one of the machine gunners, and started to disentangle himself to reach the safety of the rocks. ’Enery meanwhile had taken potshots at several of the attackers, and another grenade from Clarissa had taken out another of the skimmers.
With Ronald dead, the morale of the ambushers had started to crumble. First in ones and twos, and then en mass, they started to flee away into the dunes-though not before several more had fallen to the Strontium Dog’s fire.
As the shooting stopped the convoy took stock. The cab of the leading truck was a total write off, and another truck had taken engine damage. None had escaped undamaged. Anwyn’s bike also required fixing, though one enemy skimmer had been captured intact. Some of the surviving Burger Queen staff were complaining about chipped nail varnish or laddered fishnets.
Several of the Burger Queen staff were injured, and the lead driver was dead. As usual, Moe had managed to get badly injured. The effect of the Agent’s blaster weapons had been devastating, and none of the fallen attackers were going to survive.
“A pity” said Clarissa, “We could have done with interrogating one of them.”
“A’s alright Hen” said Chick, “Ah’ve a tyme Drogue in ma’ pocket, and we can wake one ’o these stiffers fer a wee talkie like”.
Clarissa searched through the corpses, until she found one that still had most of its parts attached. Young, early 20’s maybe. A hint of acne and a stupid cap. A typical employee perhaps. She beckoned Chick over, and he drew the Time Drogue out of his Sash pouch. Knowing what was coming, the other Strontium dogs stood well back, and motioned for the others to do the same.
As Chick pressed the switch there was a faint shimmering as the localised time field started to take effect. Miraculously, or so it seemed, the trickles of blood on the man’s mouth vanished, and the hole in his chest seemed to collapse inwards, as it seemingly repaired itself. The man sat up coughing, and then stared wide eyed into the face of Clarissa, who had grabbed his shoulders, and Chick’s blaster pointed directly at his head.
“Wh..What?! What happened? Please don’t kill me! I don’t mean any harm!” cried the spotty youth. Clarissa looked straight into his face with all three of her eyes.
“Look at me! Do as I say! Listen to my voice! Answer my questions and I won’t harm you! Do you understand?” soothed Clarissa.
“I….I…..Yes.” said the youth, seemingly fixed by Clarissa’s gaze.
“Why did you attack the convoy?” asked Clarissa.
The youth stammered out his tale. MacSaunders had been having problems with its new Meat Growing facility, which was constructed only last year to source local meat for the company on planet. Three months ago the machinery had broken down, and there had been serious delays in procuring replacement parts and engineers from offworld. With supplies limited the on world Manager had taken drastic measures: capturing Burger Queen supplies (just buying vat meat from Victoria would have made the Company policy a laughing stock), and supplementing these with captives obtained from a deal with Yobo’s gang. Clarissa wrinkled her nose in disgust.
“So let me get this straight? You resorted to cannibalism to keep the company balance sheet straight?” she asked pointedly.
“It’s high quality product! Carefully fattened and seasoned, and using only the choicest cuts. The new BBQ Pork Royale is a genuine success. The customers are really happy with it. Local sourced, quality meat product. There’s a finger lickin’ difference at MacSaunders you can enjoy.”
With hard eyes Clarissa drew out the location of the Unit, located to the mountains in the southwest, maybe 100 kliks away. She turned to Chick who shrugged. He switched the time drogue off and the boy’s chest exploded, as he died screaming, a second time. One of the watching Burger Queen drivers turned away shuddering, and spat.