In the fall of 2062, in the southwest of what was left of the United States, a travelling troupe of autoduelists and entertainers had stopped just outside a hardhold, taking a much-needed chance to resupply and make repairs while en route to Austin. Waking to his vidscreen bringing the morning’s latest autoduel action, the troupe’s head mechanic named Capacitor (Cappy) sends his assistant/apprentice Sprocket to inform one of their marquee drivers, Marilyn, that her car’s bodywork is complete to her specifications. As Sprocket is leaving, however, one of the company’s workers named Rufe arrives and informs them that the word going around camp is that they will be packing up and leaving early, skipping their customary parade through the hardhold.
Most of the day, the camp prepares to take to the road. Soon it becomes known that the owner of the company, Mr. Pibb, has ordered that they will be changing course to head west down the infamous Old Higgins Road, known for its almost unpassable conditions and the harsh wasteland it goes through. Marilyn, concerned at the news, talks her way past Mr. Pibb’s personal bodyguard Kettle and is assured by the owner that he’s taking them towards an opportunity that will earn them a massive amount of money and exposure. Meanwhile Abe, the chief medic of the company, orders his assistants Shing and Max to prepare to leave, including his infirmiry (a converted bus) and his garden of peppers, which he uses to make hot sauce to sell. As Abe walks through the camp that day, he runs into the luxe-dressed Yeezy, who runs a trading station she calls “Bartermart” (by putting up a canopy and table outside the back of her 18-wheeler when the troupe stops for any length of time). Yeezy gives Abe one of her usual appraising looks as they discuss the situation and she tells him to stop by Bartermart anytime.
As the camp gathers in a common area for dinner that evening, Marilyn is indulging in an interview with Pierre, who heads the TV crew that travels with the company, documenting their exploits. Marilyn enjoys the spotlight and has patterned her look and attitude after the famous autoduelist known as Annette, who was known for being an ace driver, flamboyant and at times scandalous. She is also under the effects of the stims that are being supplied by a drug dealer named Rum, and delivered on her order by her young doting assistant Cobra. Unfortunately, the interview is interrupted by Peppering, who despite being only 17 is also a key driver in the company and apparently has no love for Marilyn. A fight breaks out, and Marilyn quickly grabs the upper hand. Abe arrives on the scene and breaks them up. Peppering, who has a crush on Abe, thanks him for his help and feigns injury in the hope of receiving his “healing touch.” Abe leads her back to the infirmary for examination. He helps with her bruises, but gives her a mixture to drink that gives her laryngitis.
Cappy by this time has heard where they’re headed, and fires up the special viewscreen he’s rigged to see through the psychic maelstrom into far off places. He sees the maelstrom’s connection to himself as floating, colored schematics and connects to the part that represents Old Higgins Road. To his eyes, the plans seem to have an unnecessary bend to them, and near one end a part seems to be missing. He touches that part on the screen and an image appears: an area in the wasteland where the earth has opened up into a wide gorge that has split the road. There is no bridge; there never has been.
The sound of gunfire reaches the camp from the direction of Old Higgins Road. Marilyn and Abe take off in her car (Rex, a tripped-out and armored sportscar of classic design) to see what’s going on. They find that Snake-Eyes, the leader of a band of mercenaries in well-armed dune buggies hired to protect the company, had been doing some advance scouting out there. They had been attacked by “bikers in black” which had left a dune buggy damaged and Snake-Eyes near death. They get him to the infirmary and Abe manages to save his life, but Cappy and Abe wind up having to rig a special bed with extra springs and cords to give him a chance to survive crossing the rough road ahead. Abe deals some smoke-stims to Yeezy in order to get the necessary cords from her.
Marilyn decides to do some night scouting down Old Higgins Road and challenges Peppering to come out with her. Peppering meets her on the road in her own car, the Iguana. Both have cameramen in their cars but Peppering had apparently managed to secure a promise from Pierre to come out in her car, so he’s with her. Marilyn takes the lead and boldly charges in with Rex into a possible ambush spot. Nothing is to be found at first on the other side, but as she swings Rex around what appears to be a scouting party of 3 bikers break out of hiding and try to make an escape. Rex locks horns with one biker, receiving machine gun fire before managing to ram and run over biker and bike. Marilyn heads back to camp, taunting Peppering for her cowardice in hanging back.
During the night, as Abe watches over him, Snake-Eyes manages to open his eyes for the first time since being injured. His eyes focus for a moment on Abe and he manages to whisper, “…the wolves…” before falling back into unconsciousness.