“I don’t think we should go to El Dorado anymore.” The merchant looks at his wares with a worried look in his eyes. “Why not?” “”Unless I have an entire guard protecting me, I’m gonna get jumped by them locals.”
“That’s ridiculous. That place is one of our best customers.”
“I don’t know Boss. With the number of thefts happenin’ there, the laws seems to protect the town folks more than us visitors.”
A large blockade covers most of the road leading into El Dorado, some of it consisting of small shacks, vehicles, and patchwork walls. Soldiers patrol it tirelessly into the night. On the horizon two headlamps on a vehicle move quickly up on the road towards them. The soldiers pause, guns at the ready, and suddenly hear a whistle noise coming from the vehicle. A mortar shell smashes into the makeshift wall, making a large gap in the barricade. The vehicle rapidly closes in as the soldiers start to shoot at it as it passes through the new opening. The Diesel Jock covered in war scars screams “It's good to be back!” at the soldiers, who keep firing regardless of the fact the bullets just keep bouncing of the armor of the fast-moving tank.
Several Mericans are sitting around a old watering hole. “I am really starting to hate these TVs”, says the first. “Did you hear the other day that Georgiana got killed by these little fuckers who were speaking backwards?”, says the second. “WHAT that is stupid”, retorts the first. Another speaks up, “No it is that new mercenary company out of Holywood - they sound like some foogly individuals”. The first responds with, “Well I hope they don’t come to my house this year or I will shoot them!”
“Dammit, Johnny-Sue, we talked about this!” Ricard grumbles, trying to cover himself with his blanket. “Turn that fuckin’ light off!”
“I can’t!” replies Johnny-Sue, his teeth chattering with terror. “I finally understand the horrors now! My eyes’re finally open!”
Ricard sighs, turning his head away. “No, you goddamned moron,” he retorts. “You always get like this when you’ve had too much Hero-J. We ain’t in a Toy Box. You ain’t seen through shit. Go to fuckin’ bed!”
Reluctantly, Johnny-Sue shuts off his light and curls up next to the other Merican. For warmth, he tells himself, only the night is only pleasantly cool. Maybe he’d come down from this like he usually does, or maybe this is real. He murmurs softly to himself…
“We’re always in the Toy Box. The times we think we’re sucked into the Toy Box, that’s when we’re finally out into the real world, but people keep sending us back. Someone’s gotta wait for the Spire to activate, then blow it the fuck up.”
“Ok, so’s I was sneaking up on the some soldier types, ones that I knew shouldn’t be there”, Ted began, talking to no one in particular. A few heads turned from their muddled hooch briefly, then turned back to somberly inspect the brew in their hands.
Undeterred, Ted kept going. “So there I was, and I says to myself, Ted ol’ boy, these people here, they shouldn’t be here. So maybe you should find out what they want, and pass it to folks that would want to know. Am I right?”
Ted nodded to himself, and kept talking. One or two people were paying attention now, as every now and then the stories the Merican told were amusing, and took the edge off the harsh reality of the world.
“So there I am, gettin’ close. And boy howdy was I close! I could hear the one fartin’ up a storm, smelled like he had some of Paco’s beans, if you know what I mean! And then, all of a sudden, this guy in black with this weird helmet showed up outta no where. He raised his hand, and the soldiers flew thru the air like he punched them with a Goliath!”
Ted paused, needing to take a deep breath to continue. “That’s not the best part!!! This guy in black, he pulls out some tiny weapon, it was like no bigger than a dagger, and then it lights up!”
“What do you mean, it lights up?”, asked a mildly curious Solestros. “Did he light it on fire? I’ve seen some people do that, but a high burning oil on a sword and light it. It looks cool, but it’s not effective. Likely to get the wielder burnt.”
“Naw, this sword, lit up. It was like the blade was made of light, and he cuts these soldier types in half! There was nothing but screaming going on, and I ran for it!”
“So a man in black clothing shows up, with a weird helmet. He waves his hands and people go flying through the air. Then he pulls some sort of “light saber”, and cuts people down in one blow. Does that sound about right?”
“Yes! Yes!”, yelled Ted in delight.
“Ted”, said the Solestros.
“Yeah?”, replied Ted.
“Shut the fuck up, and drink your hooch”, said the Solestros. “And Ted…don’t go out poking around again. It’s dangerous out there.”
“A Remnant, a Solestros, and an Iron Slave walk into a bar. The bartender says, ‘What is this, some sort of a joke?’ So, he buys the Iron Slave off the Solestros.” Carlisle looks around at the audience, silent as the grave. Nobody asks the question he’s hoping for, so he presses on. “You might be thinking, ‘What about the Remnant?’ to which I say, ‘What Remnant? There was a Remnant? Get it? Get it!?”
Groans break the silence; heavy, disgusted groans.
“What, is everyone a zed in here now?” Carlisle asks. “You’re all groaning like Full Deads! Speaking of, did you hear about the time when--”
“You suck!” comes a voice from the crowd.
“Yeah, you’re the worst!” comes another.
“I’m a Remnant and I own a thriving herb trade!” sounds a third.
Carlisle sighs and begins to exit the stage, but not quickly enough to avoid the peanuts, pretzels, and chicken wing bones chucked at him from the audience. He struggles to fight back tears, but one escapes and rolls down his cheek.
“I’ll get it right,” he mutters to himself as he hurries out. “And then, I’ll be famous, and they’ll all be sorry!”
He grits his teeth and runs out of the brewhouse before finally giving way to sobs. Only when he hears the ribald carnival music in the distance is he pulled from his reverie.