"What are you making?"
"Tacos." The mixture in the pot sizzled.
"Where did you get the meat from?"
"I took it as payment in part for a job yesterday."
"Basil. You're only supposed to accept cash. Who was it?" Basil looked up from his taco mix. The look on his face betrayed his annoyance at being called by his full first name.
"No one here," he lied. It was actually Dirk, the guy with the big Road Hog. He had traded for some with a passer-by from the plains state of Cosmo. The other man just eyed Basil and walked out. Basil knew that Frankie, his boss, was always suspicious of him. They had never really gotten along. They flat out didn't like each other. But since they worked together, they managed to put it aside. Mostly.
Basil spooned the seasoned meat onto an oversized tortilla and topped it off with salsa poured fresh from the jar. He folded it up and took a bite, wincing in pain from the hot salsa. Another man, slightly older than Basil walked through the kitchen, watching him with a quizzical look.
"Bass, man, what are you eating?" he said, as he stopped, amazed.
"Tacos," Basil croaked out, in between mouthfuls of water.
"I can't believe you do that to yerself, man…" He left out the opposite side of the room.
Bass choked down the rest of his tacos with tears dripping from his cheeks. It was one of the few ways to ensure that no one would steal his food.
Bass had set out to make his fortune in the desert state of Havard, though there were times he missed the trees of East Celia. Some might say that college was wasted on a mechanic, but that's what Bass chose. It was his life, after all. And what better place to do that than the desert? So many more people rode out there than in the forest. The ride across the plains had been tense for Bass. Leaving one life to start another. Starting out on his own. After his arrival, he fell in with Frankie and Desert MC. It actually began when Bass couldn't pay his bill. Frankie made him work it off, but he did so well, that Frankie hired him on with obscenely low pay. Some of the clientele of Desert MC knew that and lent a hand, hidden from Frankie's view.
After lunch, Bass returned to the garage and the 250 he had been working on. Gilroy, the other mechanic was ankle-deep in the parts of a liter bike. Bass rolled the accelerator a few times, noting that it was a bit sticky. This bike hadn't been used in a while. Which might have something to do with the fact that it was misfiring. A shake of the tank, which was half detached, revealed that there was still some gas in it.
The owner had kept the bike in his back yard for years while his career sprang forward. Upon it's birth, this Maurizio Terra250 held a prestigious position in the motorcycling world. Even through the years of disuse this particular bike had suffered, it could still be restored to its former glory. Which is what the owner wanted.
Bass pushed the choke lever as far down as it could go and pushed the electric start button. It didn't even turn over. He pulled off the seat and saw the battery was connected.
That's probably dead, he thought.
The corrosion on the terminals wasn't very heartening, either. Bass pulled a new battery from the shelf and set it next to the bike. He cut the ends off of the battery wires and pulled the battery out. After crimping some new terminal connectors on to the wires, he placed the new battery in its cradle. This time, it responded. The engine turned over once. Bass hit the start button again, this time rolling the throttle. After a few minutes of trying, Bass got the engine to come to life, if that's what it could be called. The single cylinder sputtered and fired sporadically. Bass fed it more gas and the little engine backfired twice and went silent. If the garage had been enclosed, the sound might have been deafening. Gilroy looked up and poked a finger in his ear. Bass just grinned.
As an afterthought, he realized it might be a good idea to put some clean oil in. Bass gathered up some supplies and set to work. The oil change took a good fifteen minutes or so, but was worth it. The sludge that drained from the block could hardly be classified as oil. Bass thought it would be a good idea to have done the oil change first, if anyone asked. The engine was a little more willing after that, but still backfired. Bass replaced the spark plug next. It backfired and stalled out. Kneeling down, Bass watched the throttle body as he rolled the accelerator.
Hmm, he thought. The cable doesn't pull it all the way open.
Starter with the right hand, throttle body with the left, Bass fired the engine up again. He pushed the throttle as far as it would go and the engine alternately screamed and backfired until a huge metallic explosion rocked the bike and sent Bass sprawling on his back. Then there was silence, except for the bike falling over on its side.
Bass lay flat on his back staring up at the ceiling. He didn't want to look.
"What the hell was that?" Frankie shouted as he burst into the garage. Bass stood up to face Frankie with his ears still ringing. "What did you do?"
"It threw the cylinder." Bass could hardly hear what Frankie was saying, but he knew anyway.
Frankie lost it.
Bass knew it had been a real stupid idea, what he'd done, and he felt bad about it. But that wasn't on his mind at the moment. Neither was Frankie's anger.
"Dude, you ok? You been in there for a long time," said Gilroy, knocking on the bathroom door.
"Go away," Bass said from inside. The tacos were catching up to him.
"If that's what you want." Gilroy kept going.
"It is," Bass moaned. He was suffering just at much as the toilet. It seemed like forever he sat there until Gilroy came back.
"Uh, Bass? Could you come out here? It's kinda an emergency."
"My ASSHOLE is an emergency!" Bass screamed in response.
"Uh, uh, ok…" Bass heard Gilroy's footsteps quickly pounding down the hall. He wondered what was going on, but only briefly, as the ghosts of the tacos came back to haunt him.
Bass walked gingerly into the office, where he heard Frankie's and Gilroy's voices coming from. They didn't look too good. Frankie had bruises on his face.
"What the hell were you doing in there?" Frankie said, annoyance in his voice.
"Shitting blood," Bass retorted.
"Well you missed all the fun. We got robbed."
"What? What'd they take?"
"Don't worry. Your crummy FK1000 is still here." Bass sighed and scowled. Frankie glared at Bass. "Git out there and go find my bikes." Bass' jaw dropped open. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. "You want to keep your job after what you pulled earlier, go." Bass' mind kicked into gear.
Hmm. So I'm fired, huh? Unless I can get back the stolen bikes. So in order to keep working for Frankie, who I hate, I have to go out there and… rob some bandits?
Bass nodded thoughtfully. "You make a convincing argument. See you in hell," he said and turned to leave.
Frankie knocked the chair over as he stood up. Gilroy jumped back. "What! You ain't goin anywhere! You got a debt to me!" Bass wheeled around.
"I finished paying you off last month! You don't own me!" Frankie hesitated; he knew it was true. But…
"What about that 250? How you gonna pay Brennier for that?"
Bass froze like a deer in headlights.
"They didn't steal that?"
"No. You broke it."
Bass could only admit defeat. While he didn't like the job or Frankie, he felt bad for the customers whose bikes were stolen. He snarled at Frankie and stormed out of the garage.
Bass picked up the phone in the office and dialed. He scattered Frankie's papers while it rang. "Pick up Cliff!"
Cliff answered the phone. "Hello?"
"Cliff. I need a favor. Bring the car."
"Yep, three of 'em." Bass spotted the three bandits in the distance. He lowered the binoculars and shouted down through the open sunroof to Cliff. "They're just a bit to the left!" The flat desert offered few hiding spots. Even without the binoculars, Bass could see them in the distance. He sat back down in the passenger seat.
While the bikes were faster than the car, but they were road bikes and thus slowed by that. Cliff, being an expert car driver, was pushing the car as hard as it could go and they were gaining ground. It became a race once the bandits saw them. One of them dumped the custom cruiser they had taken. Bass could have cried and watched it tumble end over end as they zoomed past.
"Wow, that kinda sucks," Cliff observed.
"You don't even know."
Eventually, the robbers entered territory that the car couldn't go and Bass decided to continue pursuit on foot. They had led him to their hideout.
The bikes had to be around here somewhere. There was nowhere else to go but into that cave. But there were at least 2 robbers, too. Bass snuck around, hiding behind things as they were available. It looked like the cave was man made. There was random junk everywhere. Bass pushed aside some old cans of food. He heard voices from further in the cave. Slightly ahead of him were a pair of briefcases. With all the stealth he had, Bass creeped over to them. The latches were unlocked, so he lifted the tops to examine the contents. His eyes widened and heart beat quicker as he saw they were filled with wads of large-denomination bills.
It wasn't a conscious thought; more instinct. But if it had been conscious, his thoughts would have sounded something like, "Holy crap! I think this'll make up for those bikes! Time to get the heck outta here!"
Bass clicked the latches shut and with a balance of quiet and quick, left the cave and ran back to Cliff. He dropped one of the cases to open the door, then slid in and hugged both briefcases to his chest.
"Goooooooo!" he said through clenched teeth, urgency etched on his face.
"Just frickin' go!"
And with that, Cliff punched it and they were on their way home.
"What happened?" Cliff asked once they were underway.
"I robbed the robbers!"
"I got like a billion dollars here! Don't stop!" Bass looked over his shoulder. It didn't look like anyone was following.
"What are you going to do with it?"
"Well, I think I'm gonna pay for all those bikes first. Then go into hiding so those guys can't find me."
"What are they going to do? They probably stole it in the first place."
"I don't think they'd try to get it back by legal means."
"Where are they?" Frankie demanded upon their arrival.
"I got something better!" Bass dashed inside with the briefcases. Frankie and Cliff followed. He slammed them down on Frankie's desk and flipped the lids open. "This will cover the losses." Frankie's surprise was only betrayed by the fact that he showed no expression. He nodded thoughtfully after a moment.
"I can do that."
"I say we split the rest three ways. Well, four. We can give Gilroy some," Bass said. Frankie eyed him. "What?"
"Ok, but don't go blabbing about where this came from." Bass grinned from ear to ear. "How about I take a little extra out of your share for insurance against you blowin' up any more of my customers' bikes?"
"How about you don't and I get the hell out of your face?"
"What do you mean by that?" Frankie growled. Cliff took a step back.
"I'm going back to the forest," Bass said, defiantly.
"Deal." Bass knew Frankie would be just as happy to see him go.
They divided up the money and Bass left, just like he had arrived; with his possessions on the back of his FK1000. He'd keep in touch with Cliff when he could. There were never any guarantees.