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Ghost Rider and the Flaming Horse


Kevin B. Duxbury

Dedication:  To SGT Chun Ming Ng.  I miss you.
     To tell my story so you would understand, I guess I need to go back,
oh...about three hundred years.  I know that's long before I was born, but
everything had to happen just right for me to be where I am today.  My name
is Suzi Oldschool, and I live here, in Second Chance.

     It all started around the 27th century.  The land of the United States
had become so urbanized, so scared and polluted, that is was declared
"beyond repair".  But because of the strict guidelines of the United Nations
which clearly forbid the expansion of territory, the people of the U.S. had
no where to go, but up.  And so began the building of the platforms, the
islands in the sky. They were truly spectacular.  They rose over a thousand
feet high on long, slanted pillars a mile wide.  The platforms themselves
spanned for hundreds of miles and served as the building grounds for the new
cities.  Now not wanting to repeat the mistakes of history, the new cities
were built as environmentally friendly as possible.  Power for the majority
of the cities was solar generated, and everything that moved or operated
relied on electricity.  Most of the platforms supported the magnificent
cities, but many were covered with rich soil and served as farmlands, parks,
and wildlife preserves.  It would seem that Man had finally gotten it right,
and was now living with the environment in harmony.  Everything was perfect,
and that's when the madness began.

     The concept of perfection spread like a dieses, and corrupted the minds
of many.  The cities were clean, absolutely spotless.  Anything with the
slightest blemish was considered "imperfect", and had to be dealt with
properly.  If your car had a dent, if there were a scratch on your
television, if your clothes were worn, you either repaired it or disposed of
it, least you be looked down on by others.  Most would simply dispose of
such belongings, rather than face the embarrassment of being seen with them.
Refuse was separated into four categories: plastics, metals, electronics,
and compost.  The refuse was then loaded onto these building size
hovercrafts which would lower themselves to ground level and dump the
garbage.  Out of sight, out of mind.  "Perfect".  But the plage of
perfection did not stop at the surface.  Many felt that to live in the
perfect cities, you yourself had to be perfect.  There was a proper way to
look, to act, to carry yourself.  Morals and values became written laws,
like speed limits and taxes.  They were known as the Proper Laws, and
covered everything from profanity all the way up to pornography.  Violators
of any law, written or proper, were banished from the cities and sent to
ground level to fend for themselves with "the rest of the garbage".  And so
begins my story... 

The Trial

     The enormous courtroom stood cold and dark.  At opposite ends of the
room, illuminated by the blinding overhead spotlights, stood the accused,
wearing only their prison-blue uniforms.  Johnny Peacekeeper was a tall,
sturdy man.  His hair was neatly cut and tapered, but his side burns were
much longer than what was acceptable by society.  On the other end of the
courtroom stood his special friend, Suzi Oldschool.  She was a beautiful
woman, with fair light skin and taunting green eyes.  But her waist length
brown hair was far to long for this world.  She often wore it loose and
wild, which was also unacceptable.  To both of them, these details of their
appearances were minor, but to the perfect society, they were labeled as
     Johnny and Suzi looked upon each other with sorrow and dismay.  Between
them, in a softer light, stood their attorney, Dr. Ng.  He stood small,
wearing a dark suit and black wire framed glasses, his face rich with Asian
features.  He remained silent, and proper.  Before them all sat the judge,
high upon his twenty foot bench.  He leaned over and looked upon them
menacingly.  To the rear of the courtroom was the jury of fifty-one,
concealed behind a huge two-way mirror that reached from floor to ceiling.
The judge shifted in his chair and eyed the attorney.
     "Which of the accused do you represent, Dr. Ng?"  The judge bellowed.
     Dr. Ng adjusted his glasses, then spoke.  "I represent both, your
honor, as they have been jointly accused."
     The judge cleared his throat.  "Johnny Peacekeeper and Suzi Oldschool,"
he said, reaching for their files.  "You are both legally married to persons
other than each other.  You participated in a love relationship with each
other to include intimacy.  This is a clear violation of Proper Law 0901.02,
'Adultery'.  Dr. Ng, how do your clients plead?"
     "Your honor," Dr. Ng spoke.  "My clients plead 'Guilty', but are
requesting a pardon."
     "And have you prepared the Request of Pardon, Dr. Ng?"  The judge
     "I have," Dr. Ng answered.
     "Please present it to the court," the judge concluded.
     "Yes, your honor," he said.  His dialect was clear and well
annunciated.  "Your honor, both my clients have been married for ten years,
and both my clients, during those ten years, were subject to unspeakable
acts of mental cruelty and neglect.  They had experienced such dramatic
changes in their relationships with their spouses, that they felt
insignificant and abandoned."
     "Shortly after the Rise of Terror, both my clients answered the call to
serve and defend their country.  It was there, at their military unit, that
my clients met.  They fought together, side by side, throughout the entire
Two-year War, and served honorably.  During their time of service, their
spouses showed little support.  My clients turned to each other for comfort
and companionship.  There, on the battlefields of the wastelands, their two
lonely hearts became one, and they fell deeply in love.  Both my clients had
planned to legally separate from their spouses upon their return, but rumors
from the battlefield reached home.  Mr. Peacekeeper's spouse learned of the
affair, and reported them to the authorities.  My clients' arrests were
suspended however, with the understanding that at the completion of the war
and their service, they would surrender themselves to the proper
authorities.  They did."
     "Your honor, my clients are not criminals, they are victims.  They are
victims of our times, torn apart by war and burdened by neglect and
abandonment.  And yet they endured, serving their country for two full years
and assuring the security of our nation.  For this, we ask that they be
     The judge remained silent, stroking his chin and studying the files
before him.
     "According to this," he finally spoke.  "You, Johnny Peacekeeper, have
a fifteen-year-old daughter.  Tell me, how is it possible that you should
have a daughter, five years older than your marriage?"  The judges' tone
suggested disgust and appallment.
     "Your honor," Johnny spoke.  "My daughter is of another relationship
which I had prior to being married to my wife."
     "Oh, I see," the judge said sarcastically.  "And were you and
this...woman charged for having a child out of wedlock?"
     "She disappeared before the trial, your honor," Johnny explained.  "I
was charged, but pardoned so that I could raise my daughter."
     "So you have already been charged and pardon for a previous violation!"
The judge said loudly.  "Well it seems that the company you chose to keep is
appropriate for your loose ways.  Tell me, did you ever stop to think what
effects your little...fling would have on a child who has already bore so
much shame?"
     Johnny's eyes fell to the floor, and he let go a sad sigh.
     "Your honor," a soft voice spoke.  "May I speak?"
     The judge turned his head and smiled pleasantly.  "Please, my dear,
     The far corner of the courtroom began to glow brightly, illuminating a
young girl below.  She stood straight, dressed in an appropriate white
business suit and long coat.  Her long, golden hair was neatly pulled back,
and shined brilliantly under the bright light. She had such fare skin, that
her facial features were flushed by the intense light.  Johnny took one look
at her, and could not help but to smile.
     "Dyonis," he whispered to himself.
     "Your honor," she spoke elegantly, like an angel.  "My father is a
good, caring man and a wonderful father.  I know what he has done is wrong,
but I have lived in our home for ten years, and I have witnessed first hand
how my step-mother treats him.  It isn't right!  Further more, she has never
treated my like her daughter because I am not her own.  My father is all I
have, your honor.  I beseech you, please pardon him."
     The judge turned in his large chair and glared at the accused
     "Do you see what you have done to this young girl?"  He said in a low
growl.  "Do you see the torment you have brought into her life!"    
     Johnny and Suzi glanced upon each other, confused by the judges'
     "Your honor," Suzi spoke.  "We feel that she will only benefit from our
separations.  Although visitations will be limited, and adjusting will be
hard at first, she will finally see what a peaceful, happy household can be
     The judge eyed Suzi angrily.  "And do man, Suzi
Oldschool?"  He asked.
     Suzi smiled brightly and her eyes sparkled as she looked to her guy.
"With all my heart.  He's my bright shining star."
     "And do you, Johnny Peacekeeper," the judge asked, turning in his
chair.  "Also love this woman?"
     "I love her, I cherish her, I adore her," Johnny answered humbly.
"She's the love of my life, the best thing that's ever happened to me."
     The judge leaned back in his chair and stroked his chin.  He then
leaned forward, his face twisted with anger.
     "The laws of the court forbid me from expressing my personal opinion of
you two," he said in a low, angry growl.  "Jury," he shouted.  "The accused
stand before you, their charges and pleas presented.  Vote!"
     An unseen projector cast an image against the far wall, depicting
fifty-one white circles.  As the hidden jury cast their votes, the circles
began to change colors, some green, but many red.  As the jury completed
their votes, a tally appeared at the bottom of the projection.  "9 pardoned,
42 banished."
     The judge leaned back in his chair and smiled cunningly.  "The jury has
spoken," he said pleasantly.  "You are both hear by banned from the cities
for the rest of your natural lives.  You will be transported to Ground Level
immediately, where you can finish the remainder of your existence with the
rest of the garbage.  Bailiffs, take them away!"
     "No!"  Dyonis screamed.
     From the darkness, four guards emerged and took hold of the two, now
sentenced, criminals.  Johnny and Suzi pulled and struggled, desperately
trying to break the grasps of the bailiffs.
     "Johnny!"  Suzi screamed.  "Let me go!  Johnny, I love you!"
     Johnny looked frantically about the courtroom.  "Dyonis...Suzi!"  He
struggled against the guard.  "Suzi...I will find you!  Dyonis, I'll..."
     One of the guards covered Johnny's mouth.  He fought and struggled
against them, breaking his head free.
     "Dyonis, I'll come back to you!  I love you!"
     Dyonis watched helplessly as her father and Suzi were shoved through
separate doors at opposite ends of the courtroom.

Broken Hearts and Despair

     Johnny sat silently, his wrists and ankles firmly clasped to the
drop-seat of the hovercraft.  His stomach felt quiezie as the hovercraft
descended from the platform, but the turning of his stomach could not
compare to the pain and anguish he felt in his heart.  He thought of Dyonis,
and imagined her laughing.  He thought of Suzi, and how he longed to be with
her, to see her smile, to feel her touch.  He wondered to himself if he
would ever see any of his loved ones again.
     "The chair is spring-loaded," the guard said, breaking Johnny's trance.
"When the bottom hits the ground, your wrist and ankle cuffs will
automatically release."
     "Then what?"  Johnny asked with despair.
     "Then you're an your own," the guard said without emotion.
     "Do you know where my girl is, where they're taking her?"  He asked.
     The guard looked over his shoulder at the two pilots.  Both were
occupied with flying the craft.
     "She's being dropped about 200 miles east of here," he whispered.
"There are people down below who can help you find her, and see your
daughter.  Good luck, buddy."
     The guard pushed a button on the wall of the craft, the floor beneath
Johnny's feet opened, and the seat dropped out.
     Fear and panic raced through Johnny's mind.  The safety of the
hovercraft slowly rose and disappeared from sight.  500 feet below him, and
closing fast, was the barren desert floor.  For reasons unknown to him,
Johnny fought against his restraints in attempt to free himself.  A loud
popping noise emitted from the back of his seat, the parachute deployed, and
Johnny's body jerked violently as the speed of his decent was quickly
reduced.  All was quiet.
     Johnny looked about as he slowly descended toward the ground.  He
noticed various mountains of rubbish scattered about the desert.  Far to the
south he could see the city platforms that he once called his home.
Depression swelled in his heart as he thought of his Dyonis and how far he
was from her.  To his west he saw another platform with roads leading out
from beneath it.  Johnny had heard many tales of those who had been
banished, and how they came together and built new cities beneath the
platforms.  He had also heard the stories of the horrors that lurked below.
Of brutal gangs and savages who raided the Wastelands.  He strained his eyes
trying to make out two unfamiliar objects in the distance.  As he studied
them closer he realized that they were dust trails, then he froze.
Vehicles, and they were rapidly traveling towards him.
     "Damn," he muttered to himself, and again began struggling against his
restraints, but his efforts were to no avail.  Before he knew it, the ground
was beneath him.  He braced himself in preparation for impact.  The seat
slammed hard onto the desert floor, and as the guard had told Johnny, his
wrist and ankle cuffs opened.  The impact launched Johnny from his seat and
sent him smashing into the ground.  He laid still for a long moment, trying
desperately to catch his breath.  The ground beneath him began to vibrate.
Fighting through excruciating pain, Johnny slowly rose to his knees.  The
two vehicles slid to a halt, and waited.  Both were older model electric
cars from the cities, but these were extremely dirty and bore much body
damage.  They were heavily modified with larger, wider tiers, heavy
suspension, and dark tinted windows.  Johnn's soldier instincts quickly took
over.  He rose to his feet and clenched his fists in preparation to do
battle.  The doors of the vehicles opened, and four people stepped out.
They were all dressed warmly in blue jeans and heavy coats.  Each had their
faces covered with cravats and dust goggles, and three of the four were
armed with assault rifles.  The smallest of the four approached Johnny
cautiously, armed only with a small, semi-automatic pistol.
     "It's okay," a female voice said.  "Don't be afraid.  We're here to
help, but we don't have much time."
     "Who are you?"  Johnny growled.  "What's with all the guns?"
     "The guns are for our own protection, as well as yours," she answered.
"We know all about you, Johnny Peacekeeper.  We're Rescuers, and we're here
to take you back within the perimeter of our city, but we have to hurry.
There's bandits in the area, and we don't have much time."
     Johnny found himself caught off guard.  They knew his name, but he
didn't know how.
     "Johnny please," she continued.  If we were going to hurt you we'd have
done it by now.  We've got to go!"
     Johnny sensed the urgency in her voice, and also found logic in her
words.  He slowly limped towards her.  He hadn't realized how cold the
desert was, and he began to shiver.  The female returned her pistol to its
holster, then pulled a pair of handcuffs.  Johnny stopped suddenly.
     "It's just until we positively identify you," she said soothingly.
"It's okay."
     She placed the handcuffs loosely on his wrists in front of him, then
looked over her shoulder.  "Let's roll," she said.
     She quickly escorted Johnny to her vehicle and helped him into the back
seat.  The four rescuers then entered their own vehicles, turned back
towards their city, then sped off into the distance.

     Johnny stared aimlessly through the tinted window at the desert terrain
as it flashed by him.  His mind was overwhelmed with thoughts of Dyonis and
Suzi.  Anticipation flooded his very soul.  Not knowing of his fate and when
he would again see those that he loved so dearly made him feel numb inside,
and lost.
     The two cars veered slightly north, then merged onto an old, paved road
headed west.  The passenger in Johnny's car removed his goggles and cravat,
revealing his long red hair and goatee, both of which were considered
'inappropriate' on the platforms.
     "Where are you taking me," Johnny asked quietly.
     "Second Chance,"  the female answered.  She pulled the cravat down from
her face and removed her goggles.  "It's a small city built beneath one of
the platforms about a hundred miles from here.  By the way, my name is
Julia, and this is my bud, Jake."
     "How ya doin'?"  Jake said with a smile.
     "He'll be your sponsor and help you get through in-processing when we
get to the city," Julia continued.
     Johnny shook his head with confusion.  "How do you know who I am?"  He
asked.  "How did you know where to find me?"
     "Hackers," Jake answered.  "We tap into the court's system and monitor
the trials.  We know who's on trail, their charges, when and where they will
be's pretty simple really."
     "You have working computers?"  Johnny asked with awe.
     Julia smiled.  "I think you'll be pretty impressed when we get there."
     Johnny was silent for a long moment.  He so wanted to ask the question,
the biggest question, but hesitated for fear of the answer.  He swallowed
hard.  "The guard in the hovercraft said there were people down here who
could help me find my girl...see my daughter."
     Julia smiled again.  "The hackers can help, but it takes time.  It will
all be part of your in-processing when we get there.  Try to get some rest,
Johnny.  You've had a long day."
     For the first time since his whole ordeal started, Johnny felt a
splinter of hope within his heart.  He tried to get comfortable in the small
back seat, but he was just too tall.  He thought happy thoughts of Suzi, of
Dyonis, and drifted in and out of sleep.


     Johnny awoke as the older car rolled to a stop.  He looked about
confused.  It was just noon, but already dark.  Before him stretched a long
fence of barbed and razor wire.  An armed guard, dressed much like the
Rescuers, approached the vehicle.  Julia lowered her window and handed the
man a plastic identification card.
     "What's up?"  She asked casually.
     "Another day in Paradise," the guard responded with a smile.  He took
her I.D. and examined it briefly.  "You guys find one?"
     "We sure did," Julia answered.  "He's a nice guy too."
     The guard bent at the waist and looked into the car.  "Welcome to
Second Chance," he said.
     Johnny gave a false, subtle smile.
     "Go ahead," the guard finally said as he returned Julia's I.D. card.
     She maneuvered her car through the series of wire and barriers, then
followed the road into the city.  In the distance, Johnny could see the dim
lights of streets and buildings.
     "Where did the sun go?"  Johnny asked quietly.
     "We're about a mile underneath the platform," Julia explained.  "Due to
all the global warming and depletion of the Ozone, the summers in the desert
get extremely hot, so we build our cities in the shade.  The downfall is,
it's always dark, and a lot of precipitation gets trapped under the
platform, so we get a lot of rain.  But, it's the only way the cities can
     Julia watched Johnny in her mirror as they rolled into the city
streets.  Johnny's eyes lit up with amazement.  He felt as though he'd just
been teleported into a history book.  The city looked old, with traditional
red brick buildings, power lines, street lamps, everything an older, less
glamorous city would have.  The streets were clean, and well maintained.
     "Not quite what you expected?"  Julia asked with a smile.
     "No," he answered.  "I guess I was just expecting something more crude,
not so...peaceful."
     "Second Chance was established about 150 years ago, so it's been here a
while," Julia explained.  "Everyone here is a lesser offender, guilty of
breaking some stupid minor or proper law, so the atmosphere here is very
mellow.  Now some of the cities where the higher offenders go, those who
committed robberies, assaults, rape, stuff like that, those towns can get
pretty rough."
     "What are you here for?"  Johnny asked subtly.
     Julia just smiled.  "I was born here," she said proudly.  "I've never
seen the tops of the platforms."
     Their journey concluded at the front of an enormously wide, four-story
building, surrounded by a high brick wall and iron gates.  Again, Julia
lowered her window and showed her I.D. to an awaiting guard.
     "This is the in-processing center," Jake explained to Johnny.  "First
you'll go through an initial interview, then there's the medical screening,
clothing and credit issue, job placement, and housing.  Once all that is
complete, we'll see what we can do about locating your loved ones."
     Johnny's heart began to pound with excitement.  "So easy?"  He asked.
     "Pretty easy," Jake replied.  "The in-processing usually takes a couple
days.  Finding your girl could take a little longer though."
     Johnny fell back in his seat and let go a sigh.  The sadness and
despair in his heart was slowly being replaced with hope.  For the first
time since his charges were read to him, he finally felt like things would
work out, and that everything would be okay.

     Julia and Jake escorted Johnny up the front stairs of the building and
entered the large, double doors.  The foyer was decorated in a classic
theme, with dark wood, gold leaf wallpaper, and red carpet.  Before them was
a second set of double doors, and a small booth, shielded with plexiglass,
to their right.
     "Name?"  The man behind the window asked.
     "Johnny Peacekeeper," Jake answered.  He pulled a small notepad from
his pocket.  "Rescue number 090102."
     The man in the booth began tapping at his computer, then paused.
"Okay," he finally spoke.  "They're ready for you in room three."
     A buzzing sound was heard, and the large doors cracked open.  Before
them was a short hallway, with single doors on each side.  The door to the
to the left bore a sign which read 'male', while the one on the right read,
     "Well, Johnny," Julia said.  "This is where I say 'good-bye'.  Good
luck to you, and I hope you find your loved ones soon."
     Johnny was at awe with the suddenness of her departure.   "Thanks for
everything," he said quietly.
     "Anytime," she said, patting his arm.  Julia turned and left the room.
     As the large doors closed a second buzzing was heard, opening the door
to their left.
     "Security is tight here," Johnny commented.
     Jake smiled subtly, then escorted Johnny into the hall.  The hall was
long, with six doors on either side, and a single door at its far end.  Jake
escorted Johnny down the hall to room numbered 'three'.  He pushed the door
open and motioned for Johnny to enter.  The room was small, and modestly
decorated.  Before him were two large leather chairs, and a heavy oak desk
with a computer on it.  An older man wearing a lab coat faced him.
     "Come on in, Johnny," the man said pleasantly.  "Have a seat."
     Johnny entered hesitantly, then sat down in the large chair.
     "Johnny," the man spoke as he moved about his desk.  "My name is Dr.
Herring.  I will be conducting your interview, as well as a DNA-to-file
check to assure you are who you are on record as being."  He pulled a small
velcro band from his desk and wrapped it around Johnny's index finger.
Connecting the band to the computer was a long, black cord.  "Please place
your thumb on the black pad," he instructed, motioning to a small white box
on his desk.
     Johnny placed his thumb over the pad and pressed lightly.  The box
clicked, deploying a microscopic needle which extracted a single blood cell
from Johnny's thumb.  
     "That's fine," Dr. Herring said as he poked at his computer.  "Go ahead
and relax."
     Johnny sat quietly and studied the room.  Something about it seemed odd
and out of place.  The computer monitor was chipped, the desk was scratched,
and the chair in which he sat was worn and stained.  Things were not
perfect.  These things had been rejected from the platforms because they
were damaged, worn, and unwanted.
     "Just like me," Johnny thought to himself.
     "Okay," the doctor finally spoke.  "Your DNA file and your personal
file are a match.  Now I'm going to conduct your polygraph exam."
     "Polygraph?"  Johnny said with confusion.
     Jake observed silently from the corner of the room.
     "Now just relax," the doctor continued.  "State your name and tell me
about yourself."
     He took a deep breath.  "My name is Johnny Peacekeeper, and...well, I
don't know.  What do you want to hear?"
     Dr. Herring stroked his chin.  "Tell me about some of the more
important aspects of your life," he answered.  "Friends, family, the things
that are near and dear to your heart."
     "Well, back home I was a cop.  I took a leave of absence and joined the
military to do my part in the war."  He looked to the floor, and let his
heart flow.  "We saw a lot while we were there...things I wish I could
forget.  Johnny's expression lit slightly.  "I have a fifteen year old
daughter.  Her name is Dyonis, I call her my reason for living.  Now Suzi,
she's my girl.  We met during the training faze before the war, and we
really hit it off.  I don't really want to talk about our marriages.  Just
know that we were both hurting badly, and that in each other, we found hope
and support."  Johnny took in a deep breath and sighed.  "We fell hard for
each other, Doc.  I really love her."  He paused for a long moment, not
wanting to talk any more.  "That's about it," he concluded.
     "That will be fine, Johnny," Dr. Herring said with a slight smile, as
he tapped at his computer.  He leaned back in his chair and smiled broadly.
"Johnny, you have passed your interview with flying colors.  I am fully
convinced that you are who you say you are."
     Jake approached Johnny and began to remove his handcuffs.
     Dr. Herring extended his hand.  "Welcome to Second Chance."
     Johnny looked about with awe.  "What was this all about?"  He asked.
     "We've had infiltrator," Jake explained.  "Sometimes they were
officials from above just trying to snoop around.  But more often they have
been violent offenders looking for a softer spot to live.  We do the
interviews to assure people are who they claim to be, and to keep our city
     Johnny slowly rose to his feet.
     "Now," Jake continued.  "At the end of the hall there is a shower room.
Everything you need is there, soap, towels, robes, take whatever you need.
Throw all that prison crap away, clean yourself up, and we'll get on with
your in-processing."
     Johnny smiles subtly and left the room.
     "So, Doc," Jake inquired.  "He do pretty good?"
     "Take a look at this," the doctor replied, pointing to his monitor.  "I
think you'll be impressed."
     Jake studied the series of jagged lines.  "My God," he exclaimed.  "His
emotional lines went off the scale."
     "Yep," the doctor said.  "Right when he mentioned his daughter and his
     "So what does it all mean?"  Jake asked.
     "It means he genuinely cares for them, more than any machine can
measure," he explained.  "It also means he's in a lot of emotional pain.  I
imagine he's been hurting for a very long time."
     Jake stroked his chin in thought.
     "You've got to find these people, Jake," he said in a low tone.  "He
can't live without them, and I'm not being poetic here."
     "We'll find them," Jake said confidently.  He shook the doctor's hand,
then left the room.

     Johnny stood in the shower for a long while, allowing the warm water to
saturate his hair and run down his body.  Thoughts of Suzi and Dyonis
flooded his mind.  He reflected back on the special moments they had shared,
and how truly happy they made him feel.  He couldn't believe how much he
already missed them.  He shut off the water and dried himself with a soft
towel.  As he exited the stall, he noticed a set of shelves stocked with
boxer shorts, T-shirts, and blue robes.  He took one of each.  Across the
bathroom from where he had entered, Johnny noticed another door.  This one
bore a sign which read, 'exit here'.
     He pushed the door open and found himself in what looked like a
hospital corridor.  Everything was white and very clean, with various
medical staff moving busily about.  He spotted Jake flirting with a nurse.
     "Johnny," Jake called out.  "Come on in."
     Johnny approached him shyly, still amazed by his new surroundings.
     "This is our infirmary," Jake explained.  "Your medical screening will
take up the rest of your day, then we'll get you some dinner and a bed for
the night."  He looked over his shoulder at the nurse he was talking to.
"I'll call you later, babe," he whispered.
     She smiled back at him.
     Jake escorted Johnny to the right wall of the room where several small
cubicles stood.
     "Okay, Johnny," Jake spoke.  "Just hit each one of these stations right
down the row, and I'll be waiting for you at the end.  Don't worry," he
continued jokingly.  "It's pretty much painless."

     Johnny entered the first cubical and found himself standing before a
very young female nurse.  She sat at a small table with a laptop computer.
     "Hi," she said enthusiastically.  "Have a seat."
     Johnny did, and the nurse began typing on her computer.
     "Okay, you are Johnny Peacekeeper, right?"  She asked.
     "Yea, that's me," he answered.
     "Were you injured during your landing today?"  She asked.
     "Just a few scratches," he claimed.  "Nothing serious."
     She studied her screen for a moment.  "According to your military
records, you developed asthma during the war..."
     "You have my military records?"  Johnny asked surprisingly.
     "We sure do," she said with a smile.  "They were attached to your court
records."  She studied the computer screen a moment longer.  "Now according
to your last physical training record, you still had a very high score."
She said with awe.  "Damn!  You ran the two-mile event in eleven and a half
minutes.  Are you sure you have asthma?"
     Johnny smiled modestly.  "It's really not that bad," he explained.  "As
long as I use my inhaler before I run, I'm good to go."
     "Well getting you your inhalers will not be a problem," she said
pleasantly.  She tapped at her computer once more, then handed Johnny a
memory disk.  "You can pick them up at the pharmacy when you clear.  Have a
great day."

     Johnny spent the next few hours going from cubical to cubical, where he
was examined by various specialty doctors.  He felt as though he's answered
a thousand questions, given a pint of blood in samples, and he wondered if
the radiation from all those x-rays had deteriorated his bones yet.  But he
was not bitter.  The staff all gave Johnny the impression that they really
did care, and he knew that the exam was for is own well being.
     As he left the last cubical, Johnny noticed that the majority of the
medical staff had gone home.  But as promised, Jake was waiting for him.
     "How ya feeling, buddy?"  Jake asked.
     "Like a pin cushion," Johnny answered.
     Jake laughed.  "Well I'm afraid it's after five, and in-processing is
closed for the night.  Now I'm supposed to take you to the dinning facility,
then get you a bed for the night, but uh..." he looked over his shoulder,
then back to Johnny and whispered.  "I've got a better idea."

     The two slipped through a back door and into a small, nearly vacant
parking lot.  In the dim light sat Jake's personal vehicle, a small, beaten
compact.  It's red paint looked odd to Johnny, as all the vehicles on the
platform were required to be painted white.
     "It's not much," he whispered.  "But it get's me around.  I'm really
not supposed to take you from the building until your in processing is
finished, but what the hell, you look like you could use a drink."
     Jake opened the hatch of the small car and pulled a pair of jeans, an
old leather jacket, and a pair of work boots.
     "They might be a little big," he said, handing Johnny the clothes."
     Johnny slipped into the jeans, then slipped his feet into the old
boots.  He then replaced his robe with the leather jacket.  He tugged at the
collar, then held his arms out straight.
     "A little baggy," Jake said.  "But the length is good.  Let's roll."

     The two sat contently at a small table outside a burger joint, just a
few miles from the in-processing center.  Johnny was enjoying the cool night
air as he indulged himself with a fresh, juicy cheeseburger.
     "So, tell me about your girl," Jake said humbly.
     Johnny wiped some burger juice from his chin.  "What would you like to
know?"  He mumbled with his mouth half full.
     "Tell me what makes her so special," he asked.  "That all you've been
concerned about since you've been here is finding her...and your daughter."
     Johnny swallowed hard, and his eyes began to swell.
     "That's what I'm talking about," Jake said quietly.  "That's what I'm
looking for."
     He leaned forward and grasped Johnny's wrist, showing his emotional
     "Please, Johnny," he said.  "Tell me how it all started, how it all
happened, how it feels to love someone like that."
     Johnny set down his food and wiped a tear from his eye, then took a
deep breath.  "I used to think that 'love' and 'pain' were one in the same
until my daughter came along," he spoke quietly.   "There's nothing like the
love between a father and his daughter.  Prior to Dyonis being born, I had
served in the Army for a while, then got out and got my job as a cop.  A fey
years later the war started, and the military was requesting veterans to
enlist to help with personnel shortages.  I did, and was quickly assigned to
a combat unit.  That's where I met Suzi.  We hit it off really well.  We had
a lot of the same ideas, our leadership styles were very similar, and we
took care of our soldiers.  We were a great team.  We both were in pretty
good physical shape too.  We could both run the two-mile track in under
eleven-thirty, so we ran together a lot."  Johnny smiled.  "She swore she'd
beat me someday, but I always got her by just a couple of seconds.  Now Suzi
and I both had very unstable marriages, but it wasn't until the last six
months of the war, that they really came crashing down."  He sighed deeply.
"I don't like talking about that too much.  Suzi and I turned to each other
for compassion and support.  I'm not really sure when it all happened, but
we ended up falling hard for each other.  We spent a lot of time together,
as more than just friends."  He shook his head and laughed to himself.  "We
thought after the war, we'd go our separate ways and just be friends, but
that just wasn't going to happen.  Our feelings were far too strong.  We
decided that after the war, when the time was right, we would both legally
separate from our spouses, but mine found out, and she reported us.  Our
arrests were suspended until the end of the war."  Johnny looked to the
ground for a long moment.  "The feelings I have for her cannot be put into
words."  He wiped a tear from his eye.  "Suzi used to tell me that the
angels brought us together, and that all this was part of their master plan.
I thank them every day."
     Jake leaned back in his chair and looked upon Johnny with amazement.
"What's it like, Dude?"  He whispered.  "What does it feel like to care so
much for one person?"
     Johnny shook his head slowly.  "There are no words, Man."
     Jake took a deep breath and shook his head slightly.  "You're a lucky
man, Johnny."
     Johnny sat silently, his eyes looking to the ground.
     "Hey," Jake said quietly, sensing Johnny's pain.  "You hang in there.
We're going to find her, and you're going to see your daughter again real

     Johnny spent the remainder of the night at Jake's small apartment.
They sipped on some beers and laughed at T.V. shows which had long since
been banned on the platforms.  That night Johnny slept comfortably on Jake's
sofa.  In the morning they enjoyed a typical bachelor breakfast, consisting
of cold cereal and orange juice, then left Jake's apartment and headed back
for the in processing center.  Once there, Jake parked his car behind the
building and led Johnny to the rear door.  Jake knocked three times, then
     "My girlfriend knows we're coming," he said.  "She'll sneak us back
     Much to Jake's surprise, a much older woman opened the door and gave
them both a stern look.
     "Damn," Jake said under his breath.  "Uh...hi, Miss Vue."
     The nurse shook her head and laughed subtly.  "Get your ass' in here
before the boss sees you!"

     Jake escorted Johnny down a long hallway bearing many doors.  Behind
these doors were the temporary rooms where Johnny would have spent the
night, had Jake not snuck him out.  Johnny followed Jake down the hall and
out the far door, then found himself in a small, windowless room.  Before
him was a large set of double doors, and a man sitting behind a small desk.
     "Hey, Mark," Jake said.
     "Oh, hey Jake," the man said looking up from his news paper.
     Jake pushed open one of the large doors and escorted Johnny in.  Before
them was a huge warehouse, stocked full with racks of clothes and shoes.
Johnny's eyes lit up with amazement.
     "Okay, here's the deal," Jake began.  "You can take three full sets of
underclothes, three pairs of pants, three shirts, a jacket, and a pair of
shoes.  There are duffle bags and stuff like that to put your stuff in, over
there."  Jake began to snicker.  "You can put the clothes you're wearing
back on the racks.  This is where I got them from."
     Johnny roamed the isles, amazed at the variety of clothing.  Most of
the clothes were new, but had some minor defect or flaw which rendered them
'unsuitable' for the platforms.  Johnny selected all jeans, colored
t-shirts, an olive-drab field jacket, and a pair of comfortable boots.  From
the shelves of bags and suit cases, Johnny pulled an army-issue backpack,
and stowed his remaining clothes.  He threw the pack over his shoulder, and
smiled.  "This stuff is great," he said humbly.  "I feel like a new man.
Thank you."
     "We aim to please," Jake responded.  "And besides, we all deserve a
second chance."
     Jake walked Johnny down yet another long hall, with numerous doorways
that opened up into small, single-room offices.  Johnny peered into several
of them, noticing that each had only enough room for a desk, a computer, and
two chairs.  The social workers tapped busily at their computers, not really
noticing Jake and Johnny as they passed.
     "Johnny," Jake began.  "This is the boring part.  Today you will talk
to legal about your rights concerning your banishment.  You will also get
your initial money issued, employment, housing, and get a chance to shop the
warehouse for the basic things you'll need to furnish your apartment.  But
before we do any of that, I'm taking you to the Hackers."
     "The Hackers?"  Johnny asked.
     "Yea.  They're the ones who can find your girl," Jake explained.  "I
figure if we hit them up first, maybe they'll have something for us by the
end of the day."
     Though Johnny walked calmly and quietly, his heart was racing with
anticipation.  "Patience," he thought to himself.  "Good things come to
those who wait."
     Johnny followed Jake into the last office at the end of the hall.  In
the office there was nothing more than a table, two chairs, and a phone with
no buttons.  Jake and Johnny sat down.
     "The Hacker's cell his hidden somewhere in the city," Jake explained.
"Only the Hacker's know where it is, and this is the only way we will ever
talk with them.  Tell them everything you can about your girl, then let the
Hackers work their magic."
     Johnny took a deep breath, picked up the phone, and held it to his ear.
He heard a click, then a voice spoke to him.
     "Hacker's Cell, this is Operator Four.  How may I help you?"
     "Uh...hi," Johnny stuttered.  "I just got here yesterday and
I'm...looking for someone."

     Johnny spent over a half hour speaking with the Hackers, telling them
everything he could remember about Suzi, and the events that followed their
sentencing.  He stressed what the guard form the hovercraft had told him,
hoping it would help the Hackers narrow down their search.  Although the
operator assured him that they had plenty of information, Johnny still
wished he'd known more.
     After his interview with the Hacker's Cell, Jake took Johnny to the
last four offices he would need to visit to complete his in-processing.
Jake bid Johnny 'farewell', and assured him that he would return in a few
     As Jake had warned Johnny earlier, the day went extremely slow.  He
spent two hours talking to a legal representative, but much to his delight
he learned that he did have visitation rights to see his daughter.  The
lawyer assured Johnny that she would contact him later with times, dates,
and a location.  Employment found him a job as, of all things, a Rescuer,
feeling that his military and combat experience would be a great asset in
the Wastelands.  Housing set him up with a small apartment, while Finance
credited him with $1,500 to get him started.  His final station, Wal-Mart as
it was dubbed, consisted of a small room with a few computers.  The
computers were linked to the main warehouse, and allowed Johnny to purchase
the comfort items he would need for his new home.

     Johnny poked at the computer quietly, buying the basics he would need
to furnish his small apartment.  Thoughts of Dyonis and Suzi flooded his
mind, distracting him often.  Jake entered the room hesitantly, some papers
in hand, then sat beside Johnny.
     "How ya doin', Man?"  Jake asked, but in less than his usual upbeat
     "Pretty good," Johnny said.  "Legal is looking into visitation with my
daughter, and finance gave me $1,500.00.  I thought I was going to starve
this month, but I've noticed that things hear are really cheap."
     "Yea," Jake complied.  "The economy is a lot different here then up
above.  Look , Johnny," he continued, his eyes to the floor.  "I've got some
bad news for you."
     Johnny turned in his chair, concerned with Jake's tone.
     Jake took a deep breath.  "Johnny, we found your girl.  She was dropped
about 300 miles east from here.  She's fine, but I'm afraid there is a
problem with getting you two back together."
     Johnny's heart pounded with anticipation, his hands began to shake, and
his head felt light.  "What problem?"  He asked.
     Jake placed the papers on the table, one of which depicted a color map.
     "This is where we are," he explained, pointing out Second Chance.  "And
this is New Beginning, the city where your girl was rescued.  This road
connects our two cities, and this," he pointed out a large area, shaded in
red.  "Is bandit territory."
     "Damn," Johnny exclaimed.  "The majority of the road goes right through
     "212 miles of it, to be exact," Jake replied.  "Johnny," he continued
sympathetically.  "I know you would never ask us to risk ourselves to get
you over there, and we wouldn't be allowed to do it anyway.  The only other
way is by plane.  Now our city has a small Cessna, and every two months our
mayor flies over to New Beginning for a meeting.  Unfortunately, they just
had a meeting last week, so it will be almost two months before we can get
you over there, and that's only if there's an open seat."
     "Is there any way I can talk to her?"  Johnny asked.  "Telephone,
e-mail, anything like that?"
     "I'm afraid not," Jake explained.  "We don't have any satellite
communications because the Fed's up top keep jamming our signals.  We tried
running a hard line, but the bandits kept cutting the wires, and then would
ambush our repair crews."
     Johnny fell back in his chair, lost for words, and lost in despair.
     "Hey partner," Jake said.  "Don't give up.  This is just a delay, a
bump in the road.  We'll get you two together, it's just going to take a
little longer than we thought.  What say we go get a beer?"
     Johnny sat silently for a moment.  "It's not in me to give up," he
finally said.  "I'm a soldier."  He was silent again.  "I think I'd like to
have that beer with you.  Can you come get me in about an hour?"
     "Sure," Jake answered with a smile.  He gripped Johnny's shoulder
firmly, then stood and left the room.
     Johnny sat in thought for a long moment, stroking his chin and studying
the map.  He smiled cunningly, and nodded his head in approval.  He broke
form his trance, turned to the computer, and deleted everything he had

A Crazy Idea

     Jake returned to the in-processing center as promised, only to find
Johnny still staring intently at his computer screen.
     "Hey, Johnny," he said.  "You ready for that beer?"
     Johnny continued to study the screen, stroking his chin in deep
thought.  "Jake," he finally spoke.  "Am I free?"
     Jake raised an eyebrow.  "Well, yea," he answered.  "In-processing is
just to get you back on your feet, but for the most part, you're free to do
whatever you want."
     Johnny turned and faced Jake.  "So if I wanted to leave Second Chance
and go looking for Suzi on my own, I could?"
     "What are you up to?"  Jake asked with a smirk.
     Johnny motioned to his computer screen.  Jake looked over Johnny's
shoulder and studied the pictures and text.  The first depicted a very
slick, aerodynamic motorcycle. The description read: Laser 3000; motor and
electrics bad; needs work; $600.00.
     The second add showed that of a similar model, with bent forks and
badly damaged body panels.  The add read: Laser 3000; much damage; engine
and electrics good; great for parts; $500.00.
     "Johnny," Jake asked with concern.  "What are you thinking?"
     "The lawyer is making arrangements for me to see my daughter," Johnny
explained.  "That part of my life is locked in, but that's only half the
journey.  I need to be with the other love of my life."
     There was a pause while Jake looked to the ceiling, dreading what he
knew Johnny would say next.
     "I want to make the ride to New Beginning," Johnny finally said.  "And
go find my girl."
     "Aw shit, Johnny!"  He yelled flailing his arms.  "Do you know how far
it is to New Beginning from here?"
     "About 360 miles," Johnny answered calmly.
     "That's right!"  Jake said sarcastically.  "And over half of it is
Bandit territory!"
     "212 miles, to be exact," Johnny said with a smile.
     There was a long moment of silence.
     "I have a plan," Johnny finally said.
     Jake dropped his arms and let go a long sigh, then pulled up a chair in
front of Johnny.  He couldn't help but to smile and laugh to himself.  "Talk
to me," he said.
     Johnny slid the map to Jake and pointed out it's features.
     "It's 212 miles through Bandit territory.  I can build one good bike
out of these two wreckers.  The bike itself is fast, and with a few mods of
my own, it will be even faster," he explained.  "I'm thinking that with this
bike, I can get through the danger zone in just over and hour, and all the
way to New Beginning in less than two."
     "Johnny," Jake said.  "The Bandits modify their cars just like we do.
They're a lot faster than normal cars."
     "They'll never catch me on that thing," Johnny answered confidently.
     "Do you have enough experience for a bike like that?"  He asked.
     Johnny nodded.  "I used to race."
     Jake studied the screen a moment longer.  "If you buy this," he noted.
"You'll only have $400.00 left till the end of the month."
     "$200.00," Johnny informed him.  "I bought a helmet and leather jacket
     Jake sat silently for a long moment, then slowly shook his head and
laughed to himself.  "She means that much too you, eh Johnny?"
     "So much more," he said with a humble smile.
  "Well then," Jake said, rising from his chair.  "Let's get you to the
warehouse and pick up your stuff."

     Jake and Johnny walked the long, dimly lit hall which lead to the
warehouse.  Its' cold brick walls and dark grey paint gave it a cold, eerie
     "When would you like to leave?"  Jake asked.
     "Dawn, if possible," Johnny answered.  "I figure if I start just before
the sun comes up, the Bandits will still be sleeping."
     "Alright," Jake said.  "You'll need an official memorandum from the
mayor saying who you are, otherwise the guards at New Beginning won't let
you in.  I need to get that now before the mayor's office closes."
     "Thanks, buddy," Johnny said.
     They pushed open the large double doors at the end of the hall, and
entered the enormous warehouse.  The 30 foot high shelves seemed to stretch
for miles, and stocked every kind of household and luxury item imaginable.
A very young, very nervous boy approached them.
     "It's you!"  He said excitedly.  "You're the one!"
     "The one?"  Johnny repeated.
     "You bought the motorcycles," he said, his eyes bright.  "I already
pulled them.  They're right over there."
     The anxious boy led Johnny and Jake to a corner of the warehouse.
There, illuminated by a bright, warehouse light, the two motorcycles stood
silently.  The first bike was deceiving, looking as though it were new and
ready to run.  The second bike however, was a total wreck.  The forks were
twisted, the rims and handlebars were bent, ant the ferrings were cracked
and scraped.  Johnny smiled and nodded his head with approval.
     "Hey Johnny," Jake said, breaking his trance.  "I'm going to go get
that memo.  I'll be back soon."
     "Thanks, bro," Johnny replied.
     With that, Jake slapped Johnny on his back, then hurried out the
     "Hey kid,"Johnny asked.  "What's your name.
     "Uh, Max," the boy answered timidly.
     "Well Max," Johnny said.  "I have a lot of work to do and not much time
to do it.  Would you mind if I borrowed some tools and a piece of your floor
to work on?"
     "You want to work on the bike Here?"  Max asked.  "No.  No, not at
all," he said excitedly.  "You can work on them right here!  I've got some
top-of-the-line tools too!  I'll go get them.  Hey...can I help?"
     Though he did not show it, Johnny was cringing on the inside.  He had
spent over a month away from Suzi awaiting for their trial, and he knew that
the boy's inexperience hands would only slow him down.  But as he looked
upon Max's young, anxious face, Johnny's softer side kicked in.  The
opportunity to brighten a simple life was right in front of him, and what
was a few hours delay when compared to the rest of forever with his girl.
     "Sure," Johnny said.  "I could use the help."

     Johnny and Max worked for hours, moving components from the wrecked,
twisted frame and bolting them into the strait one.  The large electric
motor, the high-capacity battery cells, and each of its various control
boxes were carefully removed and re-installed with precision and care.
Johnny paid particular attention to a small control box labeled, 'Speed
Controller'.  He removed the cover, exposing the electronics inside, then
using a pair of needle-nosed pliers, Johnny cautiously removed a small
computer chip.
     "What's that?"  Max asked.
     Max never seemed to run out of questions, but Johnny was patient, and
answered them all.
     "This, my friend," he explained.  "Is the governor chip.  It regulates
the speed controller so the bike won't go over 100 miles per hour."  Johnny
then took a soldering iron and melted some solder into the gap, closing the
connection where the chip had once been.
     "So how fast will it go now?"  Max inquired.
     "Oh, about 200," Johnny said with a cunning smile.  "And at speeds like
that, we'll need some traction.  The tires on this bike don't look so good,
but the ones on the wrecker are fairly new.  We'll switch them as soon as
I'm done here."
     The doors of the warehouse swung open, and Jake strutted in with a
large bag under one arm, and an envelope in his free hand.
     "Got your ticket into New Beginning Johnny," he said proudly.  "The
mayor even advanced you two week vacation time, so you won't have to worry
about missing work."
     Jake sat on the floor, reached into the large bag, and began handing
out hamburgers and cold beer.
     "Thanks a lot, Jake," Johnny said.  "You've really done a lot for me
since I've been here."
     "Hey," Jake responded.  "What comes around, goes around."  He handed
Max a beer.
     Max eyed the bottle curiously.  "Uh, I'm not old enough to drink this."
     "You are here," Jake said, taking a drink from his own.
     "Wait a minute," Johnny said.  "You mean you weren't born here?"
     "No," Max answered.  "I was banished just after my eighteenth
     "What could you have possibly done to get banished?"  Johnny asked.
     "Well, my girl-friend wanted to give me a really special birthday
present," he explained.  "And her dad walked in on us.  Because she was only
seventeen, I was charged as a sex offender...and banished."  His voice began
to tremble.
     "My God," Johnny whispered.
     "Max was a special rescue," Jake added.  "When the Hackers showed us
his profile, we knew he was no criminal, and he definitely didn't belong in
the Violent Offenders sector.  Conveniently," he said sarcastically.  "Max
was dropped over 700 miles from here.  The only way we could get to him in
time was to borrow the Mayor's plane.  Max here, is the first air-craft
rescue in the history of Second Chance."
     "Saved my butt, is what they did," Max concluded.  "Quite literally.
Those guys would have violated me all kinds of ways!"
     Johnny choked, caught off guard by Max's unexpected comment.

     The three stood back and admired their handy work.  The completed
motorcycle was intimidating, and looked fast even at rest.
     "Not bad," Johnny said.  "Not bad at all."
     "How fast do you think it will go?"  Jake asked.
     "200 at least," Johnny said.  "Maybe even faster."
     "You know what would look cool?"  Max said enthusiastically.  "A nice
flame job."
     Jake smiled and looked at his watch.  "I don't think we have time for
that.  It's after two, and the sun rises at about six-thirty."  He gripped
Johnny's shoulder firmly.  "Why don't you crash at my place for a few hours
before you make that ride."
     "That's a good idea," Johnny said, his eyes heavy.  "The batteries need
a couple more hours to charge anyway.  Thanks for your help, Max."
     The boy smiled and gave a slight wave.
     Jake and Johnny exited the warehouse, leaving Max with only the
motorcycle for company.  He eyed the bike for a long moment, temptation
swelling in his veins.

The Ride

     The night was short, and the morning came quickly.  Jake and Johnny
entered the warehouse, only to find Max bent over the motorcycle with a hair
     "Max," Jake said.  "What are you doing?"
     Max turned suddenly, startled by their presence.  His hands and clothes
were spotted with paint.  "Oh...hi," he said nervously.  "I hope you don't
mind."  He stepped from in front of the motorcycle and reveled his work.
     Jake and Johnny were left speechless.  Before them stood the same bike,
now painted an oil-spill black, and artistically decorated with brilliant
red and yellow flames.  But it wasn't your typical 50's hot rod flame job.
These flames looked real, and the entire bike appeared as though it were on
     "Well," Max asked.  "What do you think?"
     "Max," Johnny said with amazement.  "You have a gift."
      "Yea," Max said, scratching his head.  "It wasn't of much use up top
though.  I think I'm better off down here."
     "Yea," Johnny agreed.  "This place really isn't so bad."  He strapped
his backpack to the bikes' rear fender, then dawned his leather jacket,
gloves, and a black full-faced helmet.  Johnny then threw his leg over the
bike, raised the kickstand, and switched the power to 'on'.  He twisted the
throttle and revved the engine.  The large electric motor buzzed nicely and
sent a vibration up Johnny's spine.  "Thanks again, Max," he said, his voice
muffled by his helmet.  "The bike looks awesome.  Hey, would you mind
getting rid of those spare parts for me?"
     Max looked over to the pile of junk that remained.  "Oh sure.  No
     Johnny nodded, then slowly rolled the bike out a side loading door,
with Jake following close behind.  Again, Max found himself alone, with only
the wrecked bike for company.  He looked over the dismantled remains,
smiled, then sat behind his computer.  The screen displayed an add from his
own warehouse.  'Laser 3000; transmission shot, rear shocks bad, needs seat
and paint; electrics and motor good; $700.00' 

     Jake and Johnny stood just beyond the edge of the platform, and admires
the sunrise.  Its' warm glow illuminated the desert floor and the clouds
above, making the whole world look a fiery orange.  Much to Johnny's
surprise, a small group had turned out to wish him well.  Word of his quest
for love quickly spread, and Johnny found himself a bit of a short time
     "Think it will rain?"  Jake asked, looking to the sky.
     "Probably not 'till later this afternoon," Johnny answered through his
helmet.  "I'll be fine."
     "You keep in touch," Jake said humbly.
     "I will."
     They hugged a strong, brotherly hug.
     Johnny flipped the bike's power switch to 'on', then lowered the visor
on his helmet.  He revved the engine twice, released the clutch, and in the
blink of an eye, he was gone.

     Suzi stared through her hospital room window into the darkness of the
city.  Far in the distance, she could see the fiery glow of the sunrise.
Her face twisted slightly with pain as her casted arm began to ache.  She
had fallen hard when her drop seat touched down, and smashed the bones in
her hand.  But it was no matter to her, for today was a special day.  Today
was the day she would be released form the hospital, and today was the day
she would begin her search for her special guy.  Soft raindrops began
spotting her window.  She returned to her bed and listened to the melody
playing on the radio.  It was the same song she and Johnny had once listened
to during the war.  She couldn't remember the name of the artist, the title
of the album, or even the title of the song.  She only knew it as 'number 4'
on the CD, but it still brought back so many wonderful memories.  She
thought of his smile, the sparkle in his eyes, and how he always made her
laugh, even in the worst of times.  A tear crept slowly down her cheek, and
she smiled.

     Johnny watched his trip-meter closely.  With only forty miles between
Second Chance and the danger zone, he would only have about twenty minutes
to get a good feel for the high performance motorcycle.  His speedometer
read '110 mph', confirming that the bypass of the governor chip had worked.
He drifted left and right, feeling the grip of the tires and the tension of
the shocks.  He twisted the throttle back, checking its' acceleration, then
pulled hard on the breaks, checking its' stopping power.  The well designed
machine performed flawlessly.  Johnny looked over his gauges.  The batteries
still showed a full charge, and the engine was running cool.  He laid low on
the bike, twisted the throttle a full turn, and launched himself into the
danger zone.

     The morning sun had risen above the clouds, but the heavy overcast
filtered its' light and warmth.  Johnny cruised comfortably at 160 miles per
hour, the broken yellow line of the highway flashing by his tires.  Around
him, all was a blur, a streak of colors formed by the roadside vegetation.
Johnny scanned the landscape for signs of trouble, but saw only the vast
desert and open road.  Checking his trip-meter, Johnny believed that he may
actually pass through the danger zone without incident, but his thoughts
were quickly dismissed.  
     Ahead and to the north, Johnny noticed three dust trails, heading for
the highway.  He studied the distance between himself and the approaching
vehicles, noting that he would not be able to beat them to their entry
point. He would have to pass them on the highway.  The vehicles turned onto
the road heading east, forming themselves into a wedge and blocking his
path.  In a heartbeat, Johnny was upon them.  He pulled hard on the front
break, holding tightly to his ride, and slowed to 85 miles per hour.  Johnny
wove from lane to lane, studying his opponents intently.  Each of the three
vehicles were hastily painted black, detailed with graphics of sculls and
flames.  The cars had been crudely modified with wide, high-speed tires,
spiked bumpers, and heavy gage metal screens where the windshields had once
been.  In the trunk space of the trail vehicle stood a bandit, wearing heavy
leather clothes, a hockey mask, and wielding a spiked baseball bat.  He
waved the menacing weapon, attempting to intimidate the lone biker.  Johnny
watched as the vehicles jerked and swerved.  Their crude modifications and
lack of maintenance made them unforgiving, and difficult to manipulate at
high speeds.  All Johnny needed was an opening, a small gap, and he could
blast through them.  The lead vehicle drifted to the right, and Johnny took
the chance.  The gap closed quickly though, and Johnny found himself
trapped.  He glanced to the car on his left, only to see the double barrels
of a sawed-off shotgun pointing at him.  Johnny locked up his front break,
smoking the tire and raising his rear wheel high off the highway.  The
shotgun discharged and riddled the second vehicle with led pellets.  Blood
sprayed from the driver's neck and head.  He lumped forward onto the
steering wheel, causing the vehicle to veer off the highway and tumble
uncontrollably.  Johnny's soldier instincts were now fully engaged.  He
accelerated aggressively and confronted the trail vehicle.  While the
passenger tried frantically to reload, the bandit standing in the trunk took
a wild swing at Johnny with his spiked bat.  Johnny quickly swerved,
avoiding the blow and causing the bat to become stuck in the car's door
panel.   Not anticipating to miss his target, the bandit lost his balance
and tumbled from the car's trunk.  He clung desperately to its' rear quarter
panel, struggling to pull himself back to safety.  Johnny pulled close to
the car, grabbed hold of the spiked bat, and tore it free.  The passenger
locked the shotgun closed and took aim.  Without hesitation, Johnny lunged
the bike forward and hurled the bat under the car's front wheel.  Both right
side tires ruptured and shredded, sending chunks of rubber into the air.
The car swerved and skidded uncontrollably.  Johnny watched in his mirror as
the vehicle veered off the road and into the open field.  The rough ride
launched the bandit from the trunk, his body disappearing in the cloud of
dust.  Rage and fury swelled through Johnny's veins.  He pulled aside the
remaining vehicle and gave the driver and passenger a piercing stare.  They
looked upon him, their eyes wide with fear.
     "We don't want no trouble," they both pleaded.  "Just go, man!  Just
     Johnny pulled hard on the throttle, raising his front wheel high into
the air, and left his enemy far in the distance.  He glanced at his
speedometer which read '210'.
     "Nice!"  He said to himself.

     Jake stood silently under the grey sky, wrapped loosely in his warm
coat.  Behind him stood the enormous platform that shaded his city.  It had
been over an hour since Johnny left, but still he stared down the long
highway.  Julia knelt beside him, frantically tapping at buttons and
adjusting the small dish of her satellite communicator.  Frustrated, she
threw down her hand-mic, looked to the platform, then flipped them 'the
     "What's up?"  Jake asked.
     "Well, I got through to New Beginning," she answered.  "And they know
he's coming, but those bastards up top jammed my signal before I could give
them his girl's name."
     Jake remained in his semi-trance.
     "Hey, buddy," she said.  "You in there?  You haven't been yourself ever
since you met that guy.  You in love with him or something?"
     "Naw," Jake said, laughing at her sarcasm.  "I just admire the guy,
that's all."
     Julia looked him up and down, and smiled.  "Hey there," she said,
taking his arm with hers.  "You wanna' get something to eat?"
     Jake looked down on Julia, and lost his breath.  For the first time
since he'd known her, he saw a warmth in her eyes, and the beauty in her
face which he'd never noticed before.
     "Yea," he said, stuttering slightly.  "Yea, I'd really like that."

The Search

     Far east of Second Chance, the perimeter guards of New Beginning
watched over the desert diligently.  Miles of twisted razor wire and steel
pickets surrounded its' borders, keeping the hardened criminals out, and
its' citizens safe.  Like their closest neighbor, New Beginning was a city
of lesser, non-violent offenders.  It was a clean, safe city, free of
violence and crime, and the guardians of its' borders intended to keep it
that way.  High up in a watch tower, a young female guard scanned her sector
through a pair of binoculars.  As she looked over the highway, she noticed a
small speck coming towards her.  She lowered the lenses and strained her
eyes, then returned them to her face.
     "It's him!"  She gasped.  "It's really him!"
     A guard at ground level looked to the tower.  "Are you sure?"  He
     The female glanced down at him from the tower with a sarcastic look.
"A guy on a motorcycle...alone.  Who else could it be?"  She looked through
her binoculars again.  "My God," she said in amazement.  "He's really
     "The guy's crazy, if you asked me," the male guard said.
     "He is not," the female replied in Johnny's defense.  "He's just in
love.  It's so romantic."
     He shook his head and smiled to himself.  "Are you ready up there,
     She let the binoculars hang from her neck, then pulled a long sniper
rifle from the floor of the tower.  She steadied the gun on the tower wall
and took careful aim.  "Ready," she said.
     Although they had received word of an approaching friendly, they were
taking no chances.

     The monstrous platform seemed to rise from the desert floor as Johnny
quickly approached it.  In the distance, he could see the long fence and
numerous towers which surrounded the hidden city below.  His heart began to
pound with anticipation.  Somewhere beneath the shadow of the platform was
the woman he adored.  Not wanting to startle the perimeter guards, Johnny
slowed to a mere 60 miles per hour.  Crossing the road was a massive steel
gate, obstructed by several staggered concrete barriers embedded with deadly
iron spikes.  He stopped just short of the first barrier, where he was
approached by a heavily armed guard.  He stood cautiously, wearing a desert
camouflage uniform and heavy body armor.
     "State your business," the guard shouted from a safe distance.
     "I'm Johnny Peacekeeper," he shouted back.  "I have papers to visit
your city."
     "Step off the bike and remove your helmet," the guard ordered.
     Johnny did as he was told.
     "Now unzip your jacket," the guard continued.  "Raise your arms, and
turn all the way around."
     Johnny did, confirming that he was unarmed and intended no harm.
     "Good," the guard said in a slightly lighter tone.  "Now let's see
those papers."
     Johnny removed the documents from his inside pocket and handed them to
the guard.  He studied them carefully, comparing the photo to Johnny's face.
     "We've been expecting you," he said with a smile.  "Glad to see you
made it okay.  Go ahead and ride up to the front gate."
     "Thanks," Johnny said.  "You guys can come out now," he continued with
a subtle smile.
     From behind the barricades, three hidden guards slowly rose, a look of
awe about their faces.
     "Damn," one of them said.  "He's good!"

     Johnny rode his bike cautiously, weaving his way around the barriers
and their jagged iron spears.  The large steel gate was open, but only
enough for him to ride through.  On the opposite side of the fence, he was
approached by a short, fat man in a fine grey suit.  He was an older man,
with thinning hair and a wrinkled smile.
     "Hello, Johnny," he said pleasantly.  "My name is Victor.  I work for
the records department here at New Beginning.  I'll be helping you with your
     "Pleased to meet you," Johnny replied, shaking the man's hand.
     "Now, I'm afraid we don't allow personally-owned vehicles here at New
Beginning," Victor explained.  "So you'll have to follow me to the garage.
Do you mind?"
     "Not at all," Johnny replied, anxious to begin his search.

     Johnny sat comfortably in Victor's luxurious car.  It was a long, peril
white four-door, with leather seats, a dash made of fine wood, and an audio
system that flooded the car with elegant, clear, classical music.  Johnny
felt as though he was in a palace.
     "I'm sorry we had to leave your motorcycle at the garage," Victor
explained.  "But we have a very strict rule about personal vehicles.  You
see, our city is about twice the size of Second Chance, but we have four
times the population.  We just didn't have room for all the cars.  So about
fifty years ago, a public transportation system was established, and we've
been using it ever since."
     Johnny quickly learned that Victor had the gift of talking.
     "Now you'll see the shuttle busses when we get into town.  They truly
are spectacular!  An entire fleet of them were left in the desert by the
people up top.  Apparently they had some minor manufacturing flaw, and were
left to rust.  But the mayor at the time saw a golden opportunity to solve
our transportation problem, and he quickly had them scooped up.  Our public
transportation is the most efficient in the world.  You'll never wait more
than five minutes for a shuttle here at New Beginning.  Now are mechanics
who maintain them, are highly regarded by all.  We consider them artists.
They keep those vintage shuttles looking new and running strong.  Without
them, our city wouldn't be."
     Johnny continued to admire the car he was in.  "This is a nice ride,"
he said finally.  "It's like new."
     "Oh yes," Victor replied.  "It's a government car, and was assemble
from the ground up using unused replacement parts."  He squinted his eyes
and looked into the darkness.  "Just up ahead there is the city."
     Johnny noticed a long line of bright lights in the distance.
     "Now we were talking to the folks at Second Chance about your friend,
but we were cut off and I only got a partial name, 'Susy Old'.  We ran a
search on the name and came up with a lot of hits, like Oldstreet, Oldhouse,
     "Oldschool," Johnny interrupted.
     "I'm sorry?"  Victor said.
     "Suzi Oldschool," Johnny replied.
     "Wonderful!"  Victor exclaimed.  He pulled a notebook form his pocket
and scribbled down her name.  "This should greatly narrow down our search."
     "You know," Johnny said hesitantly.  "I just can't thank you all enough
for all that you've done."
     "You're not used to kindness from strangers, are you, Johnny?"  Victor
     "No," he answered with a smile.  "I'm not."
     "Well, you'll find that things are a lot different here," Victor
explained.  "Here, it's all about taking care of each other, and not just
looking out for yourself like they do up top."
     "You seem like a good, honest man, Victor," Johnny said.  "If you don't
mind me asking, what are you doing down here?"
     Victor shook his head slightly and smiled.  "I, my friend," he
explained.  "Am living proof that the system is not perfect.  I was on
business, and I stopped at a little café for lunch.  I took off my coat and
hung it on one of the hooks by the door, then sat down at a table and had my
meal.  When I left, I put my coat on and went out to my car.  When I reached
into my pocket, I found a personal computer and a wallet that weren't mine.
I knew immediately that I had simply taken the wrong coat, but before I
could go back into the café to return it, the owner came running out with a
police officer.  He said that I had stolen his coat, and he demanded that I
be arrested.  I was, the jury found me 'guilty', and I was banished."
     Johnny was lost for words and shook his head in disgust.
     "Yes, Johnny," Victor continued.  "I felt the same way at first.  But
since I've been here, I've found that I like it better than the platforms.
Life here is really good."
     "I've been hearing that a lot since I've come down," Johnny said with a
slight smile.
     The windshield began to spot with droplets.
     "Looks like we're going to get some rain," Victor said.

     The long, elegant car drove smoothly and quietly down the busy city
streets of New Beginning.  The rain pored down heavily, washing the already
clean streets and sidewalks.  Johnny looked in awe at the tall buildings and
the abundant lights.  The shuttles which Victor had mentioned, moved busily
     "How long has this city been here?"  Johnny finally asked.
     "Just over a hundred years," Victor answered.  "But we are constantly
maintaining it to keep it looking clean and new."
     Victor slowed and turned the car into a small parking garage.  From
there, he lead Johnny to the front doors of a large, twenty-story building.
They scurried through the large, elegant double doors and into the awaiting
foyer.  Johnny stopped suddenly, and stared in amazement.  The massive foyer
was elegantly decorated with fine marble floors, elegant paintings, and an
enormous chandelier hanging from the thirty-foot-high ceiling.
     "My God," Johnny said in amazement.
     "It is wonderful, isn't it?"  Victor agreed.  "Wait until you see the
view from my office."
     They rode the elevator to the fifteenth floor, then followed the narrow
hall to Victor's office.
     "What do they do here?"  Johnny asked.
     "Well," Victor explained as he fumbled with his keys.  "All the
government functions which control New Beginning happen here.  This floor is
specifically dedicated to 'Records', which is why they assigned me to help
     He pushed the door open into his humble office.  The red carpet and
dark wood trim gave it an elegant feel, which complimented the rest of the
building.  Before them, was a large, floor-to-ceiling window which looked
out over the city.
     "I love the view from here," Victor said happily.  "Please, Johnny,
have a seat."
     Victor sat at his small desk and began poking at his computer.  Johnny
sat across from him, waiting patiently.
     "Okay Johnny," Victor said.  "Let's begin a search for 'Susy
Oldschool'."  Victor studies the screen as the computer beeped softly.
"According to this, she lives at 1414, 6th Avenue and 10th Street.  And here
she is!"  He turned the monitor so Johnny could see the picture.
     His heart sank.  Looking back at him was an older Asian woman, with
bright red lips and greying hair.  "She's lovely," Johnny said.  "But that's
not her."
     "It's not?"  Victor said in awe?
     Johnny studied the picture and the name beneath it.  "Oh, here's the
problem," Johnny noticed.  "It's Suzi, with a 'Z-I', not Susy with an
     "No problem," Victor said.  He turned the monitor back towards himself
and poked at the keys.   "According to this, she hasn't finished her
in-processing.  I just need to locate what station she's at and..."  The
computer beeped loudly.  "Oh no, don't do this," he said, tapping the keys
     "What is it?"  Johnny asked.
     "The system just went down," Victor answered.  He picked up his phone
and began dialing a number.  "Hello, this is Victor Chavez," he said into
the phone.  "I'm working on a very important case here, and the lines just
went down."  He listened for a moment.  "Mmhmm...and how long will they be
down?  Yes, I see.  Thank you."  He hung up the phone.  "Johnny, I'm sorry,
but apparently one of the junction boxes got wet.  The technicians are
locating it now, but the system won't be up until later tonight.  There is a
room reserved for you at the hotel across the street.  Why don't you go get
yourself something to eat and see the town a little.  I'd drive you myself,
but I have to drop my car off at maintenance.  I'll call you this evening
when the lines are up again."
     Johnny let go a sigh.  It was frustrating for him to finally be in the
city where Suzi was, but not know where to find her.  But he figured he had
waited this long and come so far, that there was no harm in waiting another
day.  "I understand, Victor," Johnny said.  "Think I will go get something
to eat, maybe see the town a bit."

     Johnny opened the large double doors of the government building,
finding that the rain had reduced itself to a drizzle.  Thoughts of Suzi
were flooding his mind.  He missed her so much, and his heart ached.  Johnny
figured a morning walk and some breakfast might clear his head.  He zipped
up his leather jacket and raised the collar, then merged into the morning
pedestrian traffic.  His journey turned out to be far less soothing then he
thought it would.  The streets were extremely crowded, and Johnny found
himself bumping shoulders with the locals often.  At the small diner, he
found himself waiting for a seat, then being elbow-to-elbow with other
customers while he ate.  But it wasn't the people that bothered Johnny.  The
citizens of New Beginning were cheerful, brightly dressed, and well groomed.
Johnny simply wasn't comfortable in crowds, and he needed his space.  He
made his way back to his hotel room, took a long shower, then laid on his
bed and fell asleep.

     A loud ringing awoke Johnny from his deep sleep.  The clock on the end
table read 7:35 p.m.  "Hello," Johnny groaned as he fumbled with the phone.
     "Johnny," a kind voice said.  "This is Victor.  I'm sorry to wake you,
but the system is back up.  Can you come into my office and we'll begin your
search again?"
     "Yea," Johnny said, shaking the sleep from his head.  "I'll be right

     Johnny quickly dressed himself, then hurried across the street to the
government building.  The elevator ride from the first to the fifteenth
floor seemed to take an eternity.  Once there, Johnny quickly walked down
the hall to Victor's office.  He found the door open, and Victor busily
tapping away at his computer.
     "Johnny," he said excitedly.  "Come in and sit down!"
     Johnny did.
     "You're not going to believe this," he continued.  "As I told you
before, your friend does not have an address yet because she hasn't finished
her in-processing.  So I got on-line with one of our local search stations
to try and find her.  The woman I'm presently chatting with just informed me
that there is a Suzi Oldschool in her lobby, requesting to find a Johnny
     "Oh my gosh," Johnny exclaimed. "That's her!"
     "I'm trying to tell them to keep her there so we can go meet her,"
Victor explained.  "But the system is really shaky right now.  Half my
messages aren't going through."  He continued tapping at his keyboard.  The
computer buzzed twice, then went silent.  "Oh, no," he said with despair.
"No, no, no!"
     "It didn't," Johnny said.
     "I'm afraid so," Victor replied.  "The system went down again.  Johnny,
I'm so sorry."
     Johnny looked to the floor in thought.  His heart was still pounding
having come so close to seeing his girl.  His expression lifted.  "Victor,
you said she was local.  Where is this..."
     "Search station?"  Victor answered.  He looked to the clock which read
7:48.  "It's about four miles from here, but the problem is, everything in
New Beginning closes at eight o'clock, and the shuttles head back to the
     Johnny continued to think.  "Well, do any of the shuttles pass the
search station on their way?"
     "Hmm," Victor thought.  "Yes, the one going north on Main would.  It's
last stop is on 10th Street, but that's about two miles form here."
     Johnny sat quietly for a long moment, deep in thought. He sat up
suddenly.  "I could run it," Johnny said.
     "Excuse me?"  Victor said in awe.
     "Two miles in twelve minutes," Johnny said as he stood and removed his
jacket.  "I can run that!"
     "Johnny," Victor protested.  "It's pouring down rain."
     "Thanks so much for all your help, Victor," Johnny said.  He dropped
his jacket across his chair, then quickly ran out of the office.
     "Johnny, wait!"  Victor called out and ran to the doorway.  He was too
late.  Johnny was already at the end of the hall.  Victor shook his head and
smiled.  "We should all know such love," he said to himself.

     The rain poured down on Johnny's shoulders, soaking through his T-shirt
and drenching his back.  Pedestrian traffic was light, and the streets were
empty.  He looked down the long, narrow street, took a deep breath, and
started running.

     He ran in the street, just off the sidewalk, at a strong pace.  Knowing
that his boots and soaked clothing would slow his time, Johnny pushed
slightly harder.  In a moments time, his body began to fall into a rhythm.
His heart beat fast, but strong, and his lungs took deep, air-filled
breaths, all within the rhythm of his feet.  Johnny was in his zone.  His
body functioned like a well oiled machine, and he felt as though he could
run forever.

     Time counted on, and kept counting.  Johnny ran through an
intersection, it's street sign read '6th Street' and 'Main'.
     "One mile down," he thought to himself.  "Only one mile to go."
     He looked at his watch and smiled.  His time was good, and he knew that
he would reach 10th Street with time to spare.  But the limits of his body
could not keep up with the determination of his heart.  The cool night air
and the chill of the evening rain sent a shiver through Johnny's torso.  His
chest suddenly felt tight, and his lungs began to wheeze.  The asthma was
attacking, restricting the air to his lungs and limiting the oxygen to his
body that it vitally needed.  His inhaler, the tool he so desperately needed
to keep the machine going, was still in his jacket pocket, over a mile away.
He pressed on.  Seconds felt like minutes, and the minutes like hours.  His
breathing became shallow, his wheezing became loud.  Johnny's mind and heart
wanted to press on, but his body refused.  His hands and feet began to
tingle, his joints ached, and he felt dizzy.  Johnny ran through the next
intersection, it's sign reading '8th Street' and 'Main'.  His heart filled
with despair.  He had only half a mile to go, but was running only a third
of the pace he had started.  The wheezing of his lungs was noticeable loud,
his chest burned, and his face grew pail.  Those on the sidewalk looked upon
Johnny with awe and concern.
     "Sir, are you okay?"
     "Sir, do you need help?"
     In the far distance, Johnny could make out the tail lights of the last
shuttle bus destine for the depot.
     "No," he whispered to himself.
     He continued running, fighting for every breath, and every step.  His
vision began to blur, and his lungs felt as though they were on fire.  The
streetlights turned off, with only every third light remaining on.  The city
was shutting down for the night.  Johnny continued on, praying that a
miracle would be waiting for him.  A bus, a taxi, his bike, anything.  Not
more than a hundred feet in front of him was the dimly lit intersection of
Main and 10th Street, but the tail lights of the last shuttle were no where
to be seen.  Johnny completed the last few painful steps of his journey,
then placed his hand on his knees, and struggled to breath.  All was quiet
except for the noise of the rain, and the pounding of Johnny's broken heart.
     The cool rain poured down over Johnny, running over his head and down
his face.  He cupped his hands, catching some of the water, and drank
deeply.  He paused and slowly raised his head.  Johnny shook his head and
blinked rapidly, trying to clear his vision.  Sitting on the curb across the
street was a young female.  She sat quietly, soaked from the rain, with her
face buried in her hands, and sobbed.
     "Suzi?"  Johnny whispered.  
     He shook his head again and strained his eyes.
     "Suzi!"  He cried.  But his scream came only as a whisper.  He coughed
hard, striping his throat.
     The woman on the curb quickly looked up, and her eyes began to sparkle.
     "Johnny!"  She cried, with a broad smile.
     She quickly rose from the curb and ran to him, throwing her arms around
his neck and squeezing him tight.
     "Oh my God," she cried.  "It's you.  It's really you!"
     Johnny smiled as he held her tight.  He let go a sigh, then collapsed
in her arms.
     "Johnny," she cried, struggling to keep him up.  "Oh my God.  It's your
     She helped him off the street and under the awning of a nearby store.
They sat there on the stairs for a long moment, holding each other tight,
and caught their breath.
     "I missed you so much," Suzi said soothingly.
     "I missed you to," Johnny whispered.
     "There's a hotel near here where we can spend the night," she said.
"Can you walk?"
     "I think so," he answered.
     Suzi placed Johnny's arm over her shoulders, wrapped her arms around
his waist, and helped him to his feet.  They held each other tight, and
walked down the rainy sidewalk, talking as though they'd never been apart.
     "You okay, buddy?"  She asked.
     "I'll be fine," Johnny answered.
     "I finally beat you," Suzi said.
     "I got to the intersection first.  It's two miles both ways.  I beat
     "I want a rematch!  You mind paying for the hotel?  I'm broke."
     "Didn't you get money when you got here?"
     "I spent it on a motorcycle.  It's a long story."
     "I love ya!"
     "I love you to, babe."

The Days That Followed

     Johnny And Suzi spent a long, romantic night together, holding each
other tight and making up for so much lost time.  They decided to stay in
the hotel an extra night, and took a day to see the city together.  But as
beautiful as New Beginning was, it just wasn't the place for Johnny and
Suzi.  They needed a little more space, and something not so bright.  They
decided that they would return to Second Chance together and share Johnny's
     Suzi, like Johnny, was a combat veteran and a warrior.  The journey
back to Second Chance did not intimidate her at all.  But rather than take
any unnecessary chances, they decided to make the ride under the cover of
darkness.  What they didn't know, was that Johnny had quickly become a
legend in the Wastelands.  Stories of a ghost riding a flaming horse, who
took out an entire gang single handedly, and was faster than the bats of
Hell, hunted the bandits and filled their hearts with fear.  Johnny and Suzi
completed their journey to Second Chance without incident.
     Suzi was registered as a resident of Second Chance, and was not only
given a job as a Rescuer, but was also assigned to the same team as her
special friend.  Johnny and Suzi adapted well to their new lives in Second
Chance.  Together, with each other for support, they could get through


     Friday rolled around again, and just as he'd done every week for the
last three months, Johnny waited patiently at the elevator station.
     "You have a good afternoon," Suzi said, hugging him warmly.
     "I will," he said with a smile.
     "I'm making chicken and green beans tonight," she said.
     "Are you cooking the green beans that special way that I like?"  Johnny
     Suzi rolled her eyes and smiled.  "I only burnt them that one time."
     A loud horn sounded, signaling that the elevator was arriving.  They
kissed softly.
     "See you later," Suzi said, with love in her eyes.
     The monstrous elevator dropped gracefully from the platform above,
settling to the ground with a deep 'thud'.  The large doors opened, allowing
the previous group to exit, while the awaiting group entered.  Johnny merged
into the crowd, and funneled into the elevator.  The cold metal box was
capable of holding up to seventy people, so long as they didn't want to be
comfortable.  The huge doors closed slowly, and the elevator began its'
climb.  Johnny's stomach fluttered with nerves.  Though he'd made this same
trip several times before, he still felt anxious.  The five-minute-trip
seemed like an eternity.  Finally, the elevator slowed to a stop.  The large
doors opened, flooding the small room with blinding sunlight.  The crowd
slowly walked forward, into the new world.  Johnny smiled broadly.  The sun
was bright and warm, the sky a brilliant blue.  The aroma of the trees and
fresh-cut grass overwhelmed his senses.  Before him, glowing like an angel
sent from Heaven, was his daughter.  She wore a brilliant white suit, with a
coat that hung to her knees.  Her golden hair shined brightly in the warm
sun.  She looked about the crowd nervously, then her face lit up.
     "Daddy!"  She cried.
     Johnny smiled strongly, pushing a tear from his eye.  Dyonis ran to her
father and embraced him tightly.
     "Daddy, it's so good to see you," she said happily.
     "You to, my dear," Johnny replied.  As he held her, he casually placed
a small disk in her pocket.
     "Are those more pictures from down below?"  She whispered in his ear.
     "Yep," he whispered back.
     The visitors' platform was a small sub-platform which rested half way
between the main platform and Ground Level.  It was built just for legal
visits between the banished, and their loved ones.  It was a small oasis,
covered with lush grass, tall shady trees, and a small pond stocked with
ducks.  They walked casually together through the park, admiring its'
beauty, and enjoying each others' company. 
     "Thanks for coming so far again, Dyonis," Johnny said.  "I know how it
cuts into your weekend."
     For Dyonis, visiting her father meant traveling by hovercraft from her
home platform, to the one which covered Second Chance.  It was a long trip
that she happily made every week.  "I wouldn't miss it!"  She said
     "So how is your step-mom," Johnny asked.
     "Wicked as ever," Dyonis said with a sarcastic smile.  "She's had a
couple gentlemen call on her, but she always dismisses them.  You know,
she's never happy unless she is miserable.  So...have you heard about these
     "You mean those maniacs that try to parachute off the platforms with
home made rigs?"  Johnny replied.  "Yea, I've heard of them.  We rescued two
this week.  A third one died on impact."
      "Wow," Dyonis said.  "What some people won't do for freedom."

     They spent their afternoon close together, walking the park and feeding
the ducks in the pond.  Dyonis was fascinated with the cities below, and
continued pummeling her father with questions.  They realized that their day
had again gone too fast as the loud horn sounded, signaling the banished
that their visiting time had expired.
     "You hang in there, my love," Johnny said with a reassuring smile.
"Suzi and I are still fighting our cases.  We'll be back on the platforms
someday, and you and I will be together again."
     Dyonis smiled back.  "No one has ever beaten the courts, Dad," she said
     "There's a first time for everything," he reminded her.
     Johnny and Dyonis kissed each others cheeks and hugged warmly.
     "See you next week," Johnny said as he stepped into the elevator.
     "Good-bye, Daddy," her voice trembled.  She tried not to cry, but could
not prevent a small tear from escaping.  "I love you!"
     The doors slowly closed, and Dyonis' father was gone for yet another

The Rescuers

     Yet another Friday rolled around.  Johnny and Suzy, along with the
other members of their team, waited patiently for their relief.  They sat
quietly in a small shack just beneath the edge of the massive platform, and
looked out across the barren desert.  The silence was broken by an urgent
radio call.
     "Rescue 5, Rescue 5, this is Tower 6.  Over," the radio transmitted.
     "Tower 6, this is Rescue 5,"  Johnny replied.
     "Rescue 5, this is Tower 6," the radio replied desperately.  "We've got
jumpers!  Looks like three.  Two shoots are coming straight down and
drifting to the north.  Third one caught a tailwind and is being pulled fast
to the east.  Over."
     The team began to move frantically to their vehicles, both of which
bore oil-slick black and true-flame paint jobs.
     "Rescue 7, this is Rescue 5," Johnny transmitted.  "Are you within
range to assist?"
     "Negative, Rescue 5," the radio crackled.  "Still about twenty miles
out with our last pick-up."
     "Forgive me, Dyonis.  I'm going to be a little late today," Johnny said
to himself.  "Suzi," he ordered.  "Take the rest of the team and get those
tow jumpers to the north.  I'll take off and secure the one to the east,
then you come and meet us at the landing sight."
     "You got it, Darlin'," Suzi replied.  "Be careful!"
     "You to, Baby," he said as he dawned his helmet.  Johnny mounted his
motorcycle and sped off into the distance.

     The small parachute blew swiftly over the desert, just parallel to the
narrow desert road which Johnny was riding.  He watched intently as the
parachute slowly lost altitude.  He knew that at such a fast speed, the
rider would surly be hurt when he landed.  Johnny continued to watch.  He no
longer feared the bandits of the Wastelands.  The legend of the ghost riders
and their flaming steeds had spread even farther, and the bandits new not to
come in within ten miles of the Rescuers' roads.  The parachute continued to
descend.  Johnny watched as its' rider extended his legs in preparation for
impact, but he was traveling far to fast.  He tumbled helplessly, entangling
himself within the parachute, then slid to a grinding halt.
     "Rescue 5, this is Rescue 5 Alpha," Johnny said into his helmet
microphone.  "Third jumper has touched down about ten miles east of the
platform, just off the main highway.  I'm going in for the rescue."
     "Roger, 5 Alpha," Suzi's voice responded.  "We've got ours' and are on
our way to assist."
     Johnny veered off the highway and cautiously crossed the unpaved desert
floor.  The parachutist was standing, desperately trying to untangle himself
and free his head.  Johnny slid his bike to a stop, then quickly dismounted
it.  He could hear a female voice coughing.
     "It's okay, Ma'am," Johnny said as he removed his helmet.  "I'm here to
     She continued to thrash about and whimpered in panic.
     "Easy, now," he said as he struggled with the tangled parachute.  "You
might be hurt."  He grabbed onto a large piece of fabric and lifted it from
her head.  Johnny froze.  Staring back at him, scared, dirty, and bleeding
slightly from her brow, was his daughter, Dyonis.

"Daddy!" She cried, as she threw her arms around his neck. He wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her up, hugging her tightly and spinning her in circles with joy. In our world, there are two kinds of laws which we obeyed by. There are the Common Laws, like stealing or murder, which are acts that are simply wrong within themselves. Then there are the Written Laws, like speed limits and taxes, which keep us safe and our governments functioning. These two types of laws are necessary, and keep us functioning as a society. But who
writes the Proper Laws? Who decides what is considered the proper way to
speak, to act, to dress? And how is it that a man who has obeyed every
Common and Written Law, can be labeled as an outcast, just because of his
clothes, his speech, his lifestyle? None of that really mattered anymore.
Let society cast its judgments. In the world of Johnny Peacekeeper, all was

The End

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