Just what everyone needs: A war with Big Rock.
Another day in Tabernacle. Parson, the boss, holds court from the stage of the old theater. He’s got a lot to worry about. Food for the 130 or so people living in the compound is running short. An early start to the dry season has crippled the crops.
Roark the spokesman for the Tunnel People, asks for help. The Tunnel People, numbering about a hundred, have been living in one of the subway stations along the North tunnel for years. And they’ve been paying tribute to Tabernacle since before Parson became the boss man.
Now, there’s trouble, and Roark wants the protection his folk have been paying for. Over the course of the last couple of weeks, women and girls have been disappearing. At first, Roark assumed they’d run off to another settlement or compound. But now, another two have disappeared for a total of at least ten.
Parson consults with Norplant, the kookie psychic that lives in the old aquarium. She’s had visions of several things, including men putting sacks over sleeping bodies and hauling them away. She also warns Parson she suspects the leader of Tabernacle’s gang, Kite , may be planning to overthrown him.
Parson sends Fang the Gunlugger and thirty members of the Tabernacle’s gang to set up an ambush. Late that night, they kill one intruder and capture four. One of them, Drummer, asks for mercy, saying he and the other three with him are just mercenaries on a mission. He explains how they snuck in and used bags lined with a chemical to knock the victims out cold. He doesn’t hesitate to name Barnabas, the boss of Big Rock, as their employer.
Fang spares Drummer, and agrees to take them in, but first, Drummer has to take a message back to Barnabas. Tabernacle wants the women back and wants a meeting, in one week, in neutral Junk Town. To make sure Barnabas gets the point, Fang sends the dead man’s head back in one of the bags with Drummer. One of the other mercs, Lefty, goes with Drummer.
Four days later, Lefty shows up at Tabernacle with a bag containing Drummer’s head. The meeting is on; but Big Rock is sending an emissary.
Parson and Fang cook up a plan. Fang will help Kite set up an ambush with most of the Tabernacle gang, at a point between Junktown and Big Rock. Fang takes five gangers and heads out.
Fang arrives at Junktown, and picks a spot in the bazaar to wait. Armed Junktown enforcers appear on the walls. Kite radios in when the Big Rock party passes his position, and later that day, the chatter and buzz in the market suddenly stops when they enter.
A tall man with dreadlocks steps forward, staring at Fang. He introduces himself as Fuse, and when he confirms Fang is from Tabernacle, steps back at lets Shazza take over. A short, brash woman with as much confidence as attitude, she lays it out plain for everyone to hear.
For the disrespect shown to Big Rock, Barnabas demands a monthly tribute of fresh meat brought in by Tabernacle’s hunters. There will be no return of the tunnel women. As long as Tabernacle submits, there will be no further problem.
Shazza abruptly turns and leaves. Fuse shrugs and follows her out.
Fang and his boys follow discretely. A couple of hours later, as the Big Rock party approaches the ambush, gunfire erupts. The battle is fierce, and drags on until Fang finally gets close, and then the Big Rock party quickly collapses.
Fifteen of the Big Rock gang are dead. The wounded get put down as well. There are five wounded survivors, including Shazza. Fuse is nowhere to be seen. Shazza mouths off to Fang, and gets a fist to the mouth and a bag over her head.
Five of the Tabernacle gang is dead. The prisoners help the walking wounded carry the ten seriously wounded gang members back to Junk Town, where Fang trades all the guns and ammo they were able to round up for medical care.
Back in Tabernacle, Parson interrogates Shazza, who breaks and reveals that most of Big Rock’s women have died or run off. She describes the fortifications and defenses.