Earlier the previous evening, while the bears had been watching and waiting at the motel, the rogues had indeed headed north on the highway.
“Keep your eyes peeled for someplace to lay up.” Sebastian had ordered.
In the dusk, it had been easy to overlook potential hiding places, but finally Jack, riding to the rear, flashed his lights and pointed off the road. The others slowed and turned around, heading back to where Jack had stopped. He pointed to an overgrown, nearly invisible track that lead to a clearing and a shadowy structure. It looked from a distance like just the sort of place Sebastian had been hoping to find. They might be able to lie low here to let the heat die down from their last robbery. It was a barn, abandoned. It was set alone in the clearing miles from the nearest town. The gang rolled up to it and killed their motors. Each dismounted, kicked stands and stood looking at the structure.
“If we sneeze, that thing'll fall down.” Ron said.
“Yeah, no way I'm going in there,” Trey said, shifting a toothpick in his mouth.
“Well, I don't wanna sleep wet tonight an' it looks like rain.” Sebastian said. “Wheel the bikes round back. We don't want those guys seeing 'em if they drive by. Come on Rick, we'll check this puppy out.” Sebastian and Rick entered the old barn.
The air was thick with dust, the smell of rotting hay and mouse and bird droppings. Everything was covered with a thick layer of dust. Looking around, the two saw rusted and broken tools and farm implements, some rope and harnesses scattered about. It looked as if no one had been here in some time, months at least.
“Shit, this place stinks.” Sebastian moved around the interior, poking at things at random. Rick was more purposeful, looking for a place where blankets could be laid out on beds of straw.
Rick looked up, scanning the beams and roof shingles. “Sebastian, this part of the roof looks good and the support beams look sturdy, so I think this part of the structure is sound enough. It looks rickety from the outside, but it won't come down on us any time soon.”
Sebastian snorted, “Since when did you become an expert in construction?”
“I've picked up a few things here and there,” Rick said, with a touch of hurt in his voice. “There's enough room for all of us under here and the bikes, too, if we have to. These bales of hay aren't rotted. Actually, it's not bad... kinda nice really, compared to a lean-to at an abandoned rest stop.” Rick looked at Sebastian, instantly regretting his mild dig and hopeful it wouldn't set off another foul mood on Sebastian's part.
Sebastian wrinkled his nose but didn't rise to the bait. “Only you would call a place like this 'kinda nice'.” This time, Sebastian's voice didn't have the usual sarcastic edge and Rick relaxed a little. “Tell the others to get in here and get settled.” Rick went back out and in a few minutes and the others had piled inside, claiming spaces for themselves.
“I need a hot meal, man.” Trey said, rubbing his belly.
Tony idly lifted his shirt and scratched the thick line of hair rising from his belted crotch. “Yeah, I could go for that, too.”
“To hell with that!” Jack said. “I need a drink and not any of that malt liquor shit. Who's with me?” Ron and Kyle both nodded. “Count me in!” said Trey.
“I'm gettin' too well known 'round here, I'll stay put. You can go if you want, but no rough stuff. I don't want the cops throwin' your sorry asses in jail or followin' you back here.” Sebastian stretched out on a hay bale. “You stay, Rick.” It was plain what was on Sebastian's mind. He reached out and cupped Rick's package in his right hand, looking up into Ricks face with a wide grin, Rick gave a small happy growl. Sebastian continued, never taking his eyes off of Rick, “You guys goin' out for food, bring back eats and beer for the rest of us.”
Ron, Kyle, Trey and Jack left the rest and mounted their scoots and headed up the road to the next town on the map. Jason and Tony headed out, too, looking for a likely diner with orders from the others for grub to bring back. Outside, gathering clouds hastened the twilight as the thrum of exhausts faded on the highway.
Sebastian pulled Rick close and kissed him deeply and with more passion than he'd shown in awhile. Growling softly as he began to shift shape as he stripped, “I'm fuckin' horny as a goat with four balls! How 'bout you give your daddy some honey?”
Rick smiled and was glad that Sebastian was in a better mood, though he didn't quite understand why. Still, he wasn't going to argue. “You got it... all the honey you can eat, daddy.” Rick said as he too stripped. Sebastian had achieved near full werebear form. He was far less human than he usually was in this partial shift state and everything was bigger. Rick remained in human form, though. He loved to feel Sebastian's larger cock stretch his throat, and his daddy loved it, too. He completely sheathed Sebastian's rod and the blond bear gave a satisfied rumble, followed by a series of wuffles, huffs and growled noises. This close to full bear form, he was unable to use human words, but Rick understood that Sebastian wanted Rick to shift after the blowjob so he could be bred in full bear form.
Things were looking up for Rick tonight. His concern about the reason for Sebastian's rapid change of mood was lost in the anticipation of being fucked.
Meanwhile, Ron, Kyle, Trey and Jack pulled up to what looked to be the only bar in the tiny town of Floweree. The Oasis obviously served as both the watering hole and social center of Floweree. The place was a lot more crowded than the size of the town outside would indicate. The four seated themselves at the bar and ordered. The click of pool balls and cues competed unsuccessfully with Tammy Wynette urging the cowgirls of the world to 'stand by their men'.
Rolling his eyes, Jack irritably asked, “Fuck, ain't they got any new music in the shit hole?” Kyle turned his head and shushed Jack.
“Remember what Sebastian said: we ain't suppos'd to call attention to ourselves. Jus' keep it nice and easy. If you don't like what's on, you got a quarter, go feed it to the machine and play something else when it's done.”
Tammy had changed her tune and was now proudly declaring that her man loved her all the way. Jack rose and went to the juke box and looked over the selections. Eyes in the booths and at the pool table followed him. He looked at the listing, then returned to the bar in disgust.
“Nada, zilch. Hell, looks like this place ain't even heard of ZZTop.” He signaled for another beer.
“Well, just keep it quiet... everyone's watchin',” Trey hissed. Jack morosely stared into his beer. Eyes gradually returned to other targets, but returned in short order to the front of the bar, where the front door swung open and a rangy, scruffy man walked in. He looked worn out and worn down. It was obvious that he'd once had some bulk to him, but now he looked, if not half-starved, at least hungry.
Snake looked over the crowd in the bar. It was loud, smokey and properly dim. His eyes narrowed and then he spotted four big bikers sitting at the end of the bar, with an empty stool next to them. These must be the guys who rode the scoots outside and were the reason for his stopping at The Oasis. He ambled over and asked, “This taken?” The closest biker silently shook his head. Snake eased his tired body into the space and looked at the bar keep. “Coors... draft.” The four were obviously well ahead of him.
Snake did his best not to look it, but he was down to his last few dollars. Cut loose from the Army after Desert Storm, he'd come home to find his old job was gone, along with the company he'd worked for. The VA docs gave short shrift to the nightmares and panic attacks that haunted him, basically telling him to buck up and get a hold of himself and to just keep taking the pills. He'd come home with all four limbs and no visible scars, so what was the problem? Nothing seemed to fit anymore; not his friends, not his profession, none of it. It was like he didn't belong anywhere in regular society anymore. He'd stopped keeping the appointments, and an overstretched and underfunded system let him fall through the cracks.
When the benefits stopped, he'd bought a bike with the last of the mustering-out money and hit the road, like many a vet before him had. They, too, 'didn't belong anymore'. He had knocked around the country, doing odd jobs here and there, then moving on when he became uncomfortable. He never seemed to quite fit in like he used to and he knew damn well he didn't take to being ordered around. Of course, in the Army, that had been a problem. One of several.
He'd stuck with the last job, in Denver, for over two months. It was different situation in a way he couldn't quite define and it had held him there longer than the others, but like they say, 'last hired, first fired'; and that's what happened all right. The boss had said he was a hard worker and one of the best he'd seen when he'd given him the bad news. “Come and see me next spring, man. We always hire in the spring. Come and see me then.” Fat lot of good that did him now. He sold the last of his cd's and the walkman along with his daddy's retirement watch. The watch had been hard to part with, having carried it through his tours of duty; but he knew daddy would rather he survived than hold onto a watch and starve or freeze to death. He'd headed north with no clear plan in mind.
So here he was in Floweree, Montana, down to his last few dollars and his last tank of gas. He wasn't altogether sure about these guys at the bar. There was something a bit 'off' about them, just the tiniest little frisson of 'otherness' running down his backbone; but hey, they were bros and seemed friendly enough in a guarded way. He'd put it down to being jumpy. He hadn't been that jumpy before the Army. But since he'd joined up, he felt like most of his waking hours were spent looking over his shoulder. Too many asshole mud brick villages with Republican Guards around each corner, he guessed. Too many booby traps and ambushed, dead buddies. Too many close calls in the desert; and too many of another kind in the barracks and showers.
Still, he hoped that maybe these dudes would give him a bit of gas from each of their tanks, maybe let him know of any work they knew of. Besides, it had been weeks since he'd gotten laid and two of these guys were kinda cute. One in particular was eyeing him. He shifted his cock in his jeans to give the swelling organ more room. He set down his beer and turned to the one closest to him.
Idle conversation followed, then a round of pool. The older of the two cute ones had definitely kept eye contact longer than was strictly required, and more than once, too; though discreetly enough that none of the regulars seemed to notice. In backwater places like this it was always prudent to be discrete.
The oldest paid for the next round of beers and that was followed by the story of how Snake had earned his nickname in the Army and tales of liberation of Kuwait and the drive into Iraq. More stories followed, but eventually they adjourned to the parking lot. Shortly thereafter, Snake was gratefully siphoning a small amount of gas from each of the other's tanks.
“Thanks, guys. Much obliged.” There was a silence, born of Snake's deep distaste for the situation he found himself in. He cleared his throat and finally broke it, if quietly. “You guys mind if I ride with you for a bit? I... I ain't got nowhere to sleep tonight and I could use a decent meal.” He refused to hang his head, holding it up and staring each of them directly in the eye.
“Um, I guess it wouldn't hurt none, seeing as it's gonna rain,” Ron said, looking up at the dark clouded sky. “You think Sebastian would mind?” he said to Trey.
“Ah, fuck Sebastian,” Trey said, slightly slurring his words with excess beer. “This guy's a vet, fer Chrissakes. He needs a place to crash, an' we got a whole fuckin' barn. Fer Chrissakes. We'll grab some grub before we head back too, I'm pickin' yours up,” Trey said, patting Snake on the shoulder. Jack belched loudly.
“Much appreciated.” Snake said and held out his hand. Trey pulled him into a rough hug.
“Think nothin' of it. Yer a brother, in more 'an a couple of ways I'm guessin'” Trey said and winked.
There was dead silence.
“So, how long did ya know?” Snake asked, looking somewhat embarrassed.
Kyle looked at Trey and then, smiling, looked back at Snake. “Dude, it was pretty obvious that your eyes weren't on the women in that place.” Kyle said softly. “Don't worry, your secret is safe with us.”
They mounted up and Ron motioned for Snake and the others to follow him. Ron took the lead and rode a bit ahead in case they encountered trouble with the others they'd met with earlier. Snake didn't question the somewhat odd formation, accepting it as just something these guys did. Kyle stayed close to Snake. They stopped briefly at a hole in the wall burger joint that looked original to the 1950s and grabbed some food. Snake tried not to wolf down his burger, but when he was finished before the others could start their second ones and was eating the last of his fries, Kyle went back and got him two more.
Snake began to thank him again but Kyle raised his hand, “Like Trey said, you're a brother, remember? Trey nodded. Jack belched again.
Soon, they were headed out on the darkened road towards the edge of town and the state highway that lead past the barn.
The next morning, Sebastian did indeed mind when he found another occupant of the barn.
“Holy shit, man! Are you out of your fuckin' mind?” he nearly screamed at Trey. The angry sound stirred the others to wakefulness and Trey desperately pushed Sebastian out of the barn, attempting to explain about Snake.
He related all the information Snake had given them and assured Sebastian that no one had told him anything incriminating about themselves. “He don't know we're wanted and he don't know we're anything other than what we look like. We told him nada, 'cept we were staying in this barn. Besides,” Trey added, “he's Army, he's a vet. I couldn't just leave him! I had buddies that served in his outfit.”
Trey left out certain other details. He didn't want Sebastian to blow his top any further... just yet.
“Well, I don't care. It ain't safe to bring just anyone around, you know that. How do we know we can trust him not to head right back to town and turn us in for a reward, huh?” Sebastian glared at Trey.
“Aw, come on, man! All he wanted was a little gas for his tank and a place to sleep.” Trey was getting worried that Sebastian would blame him and when Sebastian lost his temper, there was just no telling what he'd do.
With a sudden change in mood that was becoming more and more common with him, Sebastian quieted down and looked thoughtful. “OK, OK. He knows we're here, he's seen us and the bikes. Maybe it would be best if we keep him with us for a bit, so we can be sure he doesn't head back to the police, keep an eye on him. We can decide what to do with him later.” He strode back inside. His eyes moved over the interior and settled on Kyle, who was quietly talking to Snake, rubbing his knee as they sat. “But tell Kyle to stop flirting with him... that's the last thing we need.”
“Right.” said Trey.
Rick had risen with Sebastian, warm and drained after having given a long and talented blow job to Sebastian and having received a somewhat less talented, shorter, but still satisfying one in return. Hearing Sebastian's angry voice, he felt it was best to busy himself elsewhere. He was looking around the barn, inspecting a sort of side alcove at the back of the structure, when his eye caught something on the floor. He bent down, brushing the dust and straw away with his hand. There was what looked like a recessed ring, nearly invisible in the dirt and bird droppings. A faint straight line not far from the ring was just visible, nearly covered by dust and one of the hay bales.
“Sebastian, come look at this.” Rick shoved the hay to one side as Sebastian arrived and lifted the ring and heaved on it, opening what turned out to be a trap door. The hinges on the underside of the door had obviously been well oiled. The trap door, though stiff and heavy, lifted silently.
“Well, fuck me! ... what we got here?” Sebastian said as he and Rick stared down the dark hole and at the stairs that descended. As Rick lifted the door higher, there was a soft click and the stairwell was flooded with light, momentarily dazzling both bears.
“What tha...” both exclaimed. Rick nearly dropped the door.
Sebastian reached out and helped push the door all the way back on its silent hinges.
Sebastian whispered, “Get the others. Tell them to bring guns. Bring a flashlight.” Rick hustled back to the main part of the barn and returned in a moment with the others. Each carried a gun and a flashlight. Snake had been given a flashlight but not a gun and stood close to Kyle.
“What is this place?” Trey asked.
“Dunno, but I say we find out,” Sebastian said quietly. One by one, the bears descended the stairs, stepping softly and carefully, alert for danger. Even Trey and Jack stopped their arguing.
At the base of the stairs was a large cement-floored room, perhaps forty feet square, with shelves against the walls and extending out into the room, making aisles. A wide space was clear on one side, with doors opening off it. The shelves were filled with boxes and cartons, some labeled, many not.
The bears quietly fanned out and inspected the corners of the room and the hall that extended off it. It soon became obvious that they were alone in the underground bunker. It was just them and the boxes.
Ron moved to inspect some of the boxes. “Looks like food. Cans in these ones here.” he said, opening two. “Looks like protein bars in these.” he said, opening some more.
“Bottled water over here,” Trey called out. Jason found more protein bars and what looked like MRE's. Kyle and Snake opened boxes filled with camp stoves and fuel. Sebastian busily inspected other boxes. “There's enough shit here to feed an army for weeks.”
“Look over here,” Rick called out. He had opened one of the doors that was set in the wall. “It's all medical stuff, equipment and such.” Boxes and bottles were marked with the names of various drugs and antibiotics. Bandages in sealed packets sat next to splints and elastic wraps. There was a pair of high intensity lights on stands and what looked like an examining table. “What do ya think this is... some Army supply dump?
“Nah... more like some survivalist hidy-hole.” Sebastian shined the flashlight around. Everywhere the beam landed there were shelves and supplies. Ventilation duct grills were set in the ceiling. The air, though cool and slightly damp, did not smell stale or funky. “Whoever they are, they've got a shit-load of money.” He looked at the fading lights overhead. “I bet these things are run on some sort of battery.”
“Here,” Ron said, from inside another room. “This looks like a generator and there's cans of oil and a valve of some sort and plumbing.” The others crowded into the room. Lanterns, various kinds of flashlights and batteries filled shelves along one wall.
“Wow. They've thought of everything. I'll bet that line connects to some sort of a tank somewheres outside, diesel probably. This valve controls it. The exhaust goes out that pipe up there,” Sebastian said, pointing to a large pipe that exited up through the roof of the room. What looked like an electrical panel was set into the wall, with thick conduit leading into it. Suddenly, the generator kicked in and settled into a regular purr. Everyone jumped, then looked sheepishly at each other.
“Timer?” asked Ron.
“That or some circuit that monitors the battery charge level.” said Jack.
“Still, we'd better check. Jason, you go up top and make sure we're still alone.” Jason nodded and slipped out and back up the stairs.
“Well, none of this is any good to us, 'cept maybe the medical stuff. We can't carry much.” Tony nudged a box of canned goods with his foot.
Suddenly Sebastian spoke. “Look for gold.” He motioned for the other bears to move and inspect the boxes on the floor.
“Huh?” Ron looked like Sebastian had just spoken Martian.
“Look... for... gold.” He repeated, drawing it out as if speaking to a child. “I read somewhere that survivalists don't stockpile money 'cause they think it won't be worth shit after whatever disaster they expect, but they're supposed to have stocks of gold. So look.”
The rest busied themselves moving cartons and looking behind things but after an hour of searching, they came up with nothing resembling gold. Books, cd's, vitamin and protein supplements, boxes of hand and power tools, batteries, but no gold. But Kyle did find something Sebastian found useful.
“Hey, guys, look at this! Ammo.” He held the door to what looked like a closet open while the other peered in. It quickly became apparent that 'ammo' didn't begin to describe the room's contents. Shelf after shelf of nearly every kind of explosive ordinance imaginable, short of ICBM's, filled the room, floor to ceiling. On another shelf, guns, rifles, automatic weapons all in their crates still packed away in their original packing grease.
Meanwhile, Jason returned. “No one up top but birds and rabbits.
Rick stood, looking at labels on boxes and cans he held. “You know, looking at the dates on some of this canned stuff, I'm guessing no one's restocked in a couple of years. I wonder if whoever set up this place got locked up? Some of those survivalists and militia men are pretty flaky.”
“Well, I don't care who left it or why. Right now, it's ours and we're gonna use whatever we can.” Sebastian said.
“Hey, what's this?” said Jack, holding up a brick of what looked like gray putty.
“Oh, geez, man, put that down! That's plastique.” Trey, who had been in the army for six years before being dishonorably discharged, had specialized in explosives.
“I thought that stuff needed a detonator to go off, pussy,” Jack said, tossing the brick to Trey with a harsh laugh. Trey glared at Jack and carefully replaced the brick on the shelf.
“Jackass,” he said, clearly bent on needling Jack. “Just stop screwing around, asswipe. You'll get us all killed. Some of this stuff gets unstable when it ages.”
Jack puffed up and looked as if he was about to lunge at Trey. Rick stepped between the two. “No,” he hissed. “Not here.”
Snake observed the interaction, liking the setup less and less.
Sebastian had gone quiet and was looking carefully at the shelves. Ignoring the brewing fight, he snapped, “OK, get what you need and can carry in the saddle bags. Don't forget ammo. Snake, you, too, since you're hangin'.”
“I thought we were going to lay low here for a bit, let those guys get ahead of us?” Rick looked at Sebastian.
“Nope.” Sebastian's eyes narrowed a bit. “I got an idea. Help me with this.” He began to move a heavy box.
Rick and Sebastian dragged the box along a bottom shelf, as Trey and Jack glared at each other over them. Rick looked up. “Get the ammo, like Sebastian said.”
Sebastian grunted as the box finally slid off the shelving and onto the floor. “Open this and we'll carry it up a bit at a time.” Sebastian grabbed two boxes of detonators, muttering to himself as he climbed the stairs.
Once up the stairs and in the barn, Sebastian paused and scratched the thicket of blond hair on his chest. “Trey, I want you to rig up something to give those guys a real surprise when they pay us a visit. A bang. A really big bang. I want to blow those fuckers into so many pieces they won't be able to find their assholes. Can you do that?”
Trey, eyes glittering evilly, nodded.
Snake, carrying up a box, caught that. He didn't like the sound of what might be brewing here. The sense of 'otherness', of something off kilter, had returned and was stronger now. Snake had never gotten on well with authority, and wasn't above defying it when and where possible; but he drew the line at murder. What was being planned now sounded very much like murder to Snake.
“Jack, you and Ron go with Trey and bring up anything he says will blow up. Stuff it in all these hay bales and along those beams. He looked around. “The rest of you, get some of this hay scattered around the wall. Snake, see if there's some way to lock those barn doors. Don't lock 'em yet.” When Snake didn't hop right to it he added, “ Well, c'mon, we ain't got all day.” The others moved to do Sebastian's bidding.
Snake muttered to himself, “If that fuckin' bastard gives me one more order...” He spat on the barn floor, then went outside to check the barn doors hardware to see if any of it was in operable condition. Most of it was serviceable, but there was no hasp for a lock or pin. He went back in to tell Sebastian.
“Well, what do you want me to do about it?” snapped Sebastian. “Look around, find something.”
“OK, that's it!” Snake glared at Sebastian. “Look, I'm sorry I bothered you guys. I don't know what you're up to and I really don't care. I appreciate what you guys did for me last night, but I don't take orders no more and especially from a guy who ain't old enough to fuckin' know shit. I'm outta here.” With that, he stomped out of the barn and headed for his bike.
“Eh, fuck you, too, ya bastard!” Sebastian muttered, intent on his plan. 'There'll be time enough to hunt him down later and teach him not to fuck with me,' he thought. Through the open barn door, he watched Snake wheel his bike off its stand, kick it into life and motor off. When Snake was out of earshot, he stepped outside to put the next part of his plan into action. He walked away from the barn and flipped open his cell. Only one bar glowed on the screen. 'Maybe closer to the highway,' he thought and moved off towards the road, watching the screen as he walked. Finally, just before reaching the concrete, he had four bars and he fished out the paper Boris had given him earlier. He punched in the numbers and waited. On the third ring, Boris picked up.
Making his voice a convincing mixture of sincerity and reluctance, Sebastian spoke into the phone. “Some of the guys have been talking and, well, they want to take you up on your offer. I think maybe they've got a point. It's too hot around here for us now anyway, so maybe we should clear out. Go somewhere with you guys and maybe start fresh. I know this won't be easy and that you don't trust us... why should you? But maybe we can just sit and talk, make some plans? I know I flew off the handle, back when...” The voice on the other end interrupted him. Then Sebastian continued.
“No, I was out of line. I get that way, sometimes and say things I don't mean. I'm... sorry.” There was another pause before Sebastian spoke again.
“No, we can't. Jason's had trouble with his brakes and took a fall, and Tony's chain's broke.” There was a pause. “Hey, listen,” Sebastian said, as if the idea had just struck him, “why don't you come here? There's an old barn here that's in decent shape, at least in the back it is. It looks like a big storm is kicking up, so riding's not the best idea, anyway. Maybe one of you could take Snake into town so he could get a replacement chain and some other parts and shit while we talk?” A question was obviously being asked on the other end.
“Oh, no... he's healing, but the chain's fucked,” Sebastian improvised. “No one around here's seen Snake, so that should be OK if he goes. Really? You will? Thanks. I guess... maybe... I guess you guys really are all right.” Another pause.
“What? Oh, yeah. Well, where are you?” Sebastian listened, a smile flickering at the corners of his mouth. “OK, well, you take the state highway north about five miles. There's an old falling down grain silo. Start looking on your right, you'll see an old road about 200 yards later. Turn on that and follow it, it leads to a clearing and the barn.” After another pause, Sebastian said, “OK, See you then. And....” Here, he lowered his voice and amped up the sincerity. “I'm sorry, I was wrong about you guys. I really owe you one.”
Sebastian flipped the phone closed with a snap of his wrist and shoved it back in his pocket with a short but wicked laugh. “And I'll pay off, too... in spades.” He set off for the barn at a trot.