The sky was thick with dust and blackened smoke, as it often was in the post meltdown world. The weather, constantly changing now, as the nuclear winter comes to an end and the true age of an apocalyptic life begins. Heavy winds carry fires to dumps and trash piles left behind by humanity. Rubber, plastics, tires, building materials. All of which burn ceaselessly and send toxic smoke into the atmosphere. These fires, if left unchecked, would kill the remaining inhabitants in a matter of years. The nomads cared not, as their lives were cheap, and dying was really an escape from a miserable existence, but those within the cities, who still had some of the creature comforts they once knew, wished to live. Just on the edge of a vast salt marsh, three men dressed in leather skins and crudely made armor held another to the ground. Ropes were tied to both his arms and connected to a simple pulley mechanism in which two enormous men held the ends. "You gonna had over the map, scum bag?" Barked a gruff voice over the sound of rope being pulled taunt. The 'Scum bag' who looked, haggard, but not bad considered the circumstances, had shoulder length, sun bleached brown hair and light hazel, eyes. He was of medium build and stood about 6 feet tall. "If I had the map, do think I'd really be walking through the Salt flats on my way to Chernobyl? You are far fucking dumber than you look!" The rope was given a vicious pull by the two oafs manning the ends. The Scumbag felt his shoulder cups dislocate for a split second, then a sound like beef jerky being ripped apart. He screamed with pain. "OK! ok, take it. It's in my pack." The idem in question, was a supposed map to a hidden forest that flourished with living plant life even in the days after the fall out. Weather or not it truly existed no one knows for sure, and those that claim to have seen it are questionable sources at best. "It's in my pack." The man said again, relaxing a little as the tension was taken off the rope. He could feel now that his shoulders were not dislocated. "Was that so hard? You hunters are all alike. No balls. Jacks, today is your lucky day, I'm gonna slit your throat before I cut out your heart" The man laughed, throwing his head back. He was part of the nomad tribe, Obstruxerat Sanctorum, a named meaning dammed saints in Latin, as the original founded of the tribe was a holy man and occultist. Now they were little more than a biker gang of the future. Most outside the tribe referred to them as "Rats". As soon as the Rats manning the ends of the rope heard him say it was in his pack they turned to empty it out, why they hadn't done that in the first place, who knows, but the hunter, Jacks, knew this was his only chance. The Rats hated him and always have. "Whoa, whoa, WHOA!" Jacks was always a good actor, and when it suited him, lier. "Unless you all wanna be blow to shit DO NOT touch that goddamn bag." Jacks was relying on their lack of intelligence. "There is a shrapnel bomb in that bag, do you think I'd have a map to Irpa unprotected?" The lead rat stared at Jacks, for a moment, Jacks read his face and saw understanding in it. Yes, he was buying it. "If you just untie me, I can defuse it. And you have to let me live, or no deal." "No, tell me how to do it. We'll set you loose after we get the map" "You think I'm fucking stupid? I know you've been itching to kill me. Only I can defuse it. My hands know the knots and which way the wires are crossed, yours don't. You can keep a knife on me the whole time." Jacks thanked a god he didn't believe in that the Rats didn't usually pack guns. The lead rat pulled out a long bowie knife and motioned for the other two to let Jacks free. After he was untied Jacks went to his pack. In side there was no map, there was no bomb, but there was a gun. A crudely made 50 cal pistol that worked on a four shot revolving barrel. Jacks was fishing through his pack, pretending to be defusing a bomb with the knife to the back of his neck and two brutish men on either side of him. He turned, his hand still in the pack then suddenly stood. The lead rat had a moment of fright, swinging his knife fruitlessly through the air before the top half of his head was covering his tribe mates face. Jacks, turned now and fired again, and again. Close range, two chest shots. Both the rats slumped over with grape fruit sized holes in their backs. Jacks took his sore arms and jumped on the bike, kicked it to life, and tore off to the west. There would no doubt be more Rats coming as these were the scouts. He knew if he could just make it out of the flats before night fall he might have a chance.