I was dropped at the town park and pointed in the direction of my motel, I had gone with the non VIP choice. My motel was called the Red Rock and it was just one of a handful of ancient motels all stuck in a motel ghetto. The difference between the Red Rock and the rest was it was still in operation. The others? No one who wasn't drunk would even want to climb through one of the kicked in windows or doors and seek shelter inside of them. I'm sure it was done and I'm sure it wasn't something you could do very many times and survive.
Just thinking about the odds of a scorpion bite made me shudder. I hated the evil little fuckers. They were the Wests version of the water moccasin. Always pissed off and ready to mess with you just because the could. Originally, when I first came out this way I thought it would be rattlesnakes. I went two years without seeing a rattlesnake. I shook a scorpion out my boot the second night I crossed into what was once Atlzan, once the American Southwest, and now a collection of half assed autonomous regions and American Indian Nations sprinkled with religious leader compounds, white only clans, and a lot of sun baked, half starved feral whatevers who were just one step up from wild dog packs.
The feds had pulled out of most of the American southwest after fighting a long ugly insurgency throughout most of the region that sputtered along even after PowerDown. For awhile after they gave up on that they had settled for protecting areas with resources and the related delivery infrastructure with mixed success. Lately they had been making noises about reunification of all the areas into one big, glorious, USA again. Too bad they had screwed that up so badly the first few times they had tried that. From what I heard they were having problems holding on to what they had.
There was another power bloc that was growing steadily and that was totally expansionist to the north. Even the Saints were looking over their shoulders and wondering about their borders. So far the Northerners had been content to raid to the east and expand into the heartland. They had a serious dislike of the feds and were beginning to push them hard. Real hard. I made myself stop thinking about them. Nothing good lay there for me and hadn't for a long time. I knew I was still welcome, hell, I was a legend, but I had left and never looked back.
Instead, I waged my own personal war against the feds. Eventually the fire inside me, that drove me, burned out. I found myself at a loss. Hunted by the feds I had taken refuge with the Saints. I made some money and made myself useful to them. They had left me alone and at times I even convinced myself that I was happy. They were good people and inside their boundaries I could almost forget the people I had known and all the blood that been spilled. Sometimes I wore no gear at all when I went out, nothing but a single holster, everything else hung on their hooks inside my bedroom closet.
I wasn't happy. If anything, once the fire had died I found more and more I was left with the blackness. I quit taking jobs and that didn't make a difference. I took jobs and that didn't make a difference either. The last one I did I had barely made it through to the end. Not because the people I was sent to talk to were any good. Rather, it was me. I just didn't care. It was the same old shit happening, with the same old people. and the results were always the same. The last job, I had, for a tiny bit of time, not drawn my weapons. Muscle memory took over just in time, it helped he wasn't as good as he thought he was, but for a blink I didn't care. Even I knew that was not a good sign.