Monday, September 13, 2010

Part 4: Ira's Crusade

August 7th, 1865

Coyote Caverns, KS

The corners crumbled off the edge. Ira slipped as the path turned and fell into the deep. Wild Card jumped after him and just as Wild Card grabbed Ira, Kid Colt grabbed Wild Card. Peyton and Marshall helped Kid Colt pull them both back up; and they continued down the path after Steel Coat Kildare. Now deep into the Coyote Caverns, Kid Colt, along with the map that he had won in a game of blackjack on the Boathouse Casino Ferry, had led them all into a predictable trap. After riding for a night, the map had originally brought them into a room that explained the legend of three Mayan exiles. The brothers had engineered two coats invincible to any bullet. The bigger coat was similar to a coat of armor, a steel shell. The other coat was made of deep threaded layers of tightly woven cloth, and a much more smaller fit.

Steel Coat Kildare runs out and orders his men to wait at the next level of the mine as he escapes. They arrive at the lower level of the mines where Steel Coat's band of rebels are waiting. Ira and Peyton leap back into the tunnel as Marshall jumps behind a mining car. Kid Colt and Wild Card have a different reaction. Side by side, they draw together standing still. Three ready guns point at the rebels. Peyton tosses Marshall the Winchester rifle. The rebel bullets zing and crack past Wild Card's ear, as he shoots his revolver off with his left hand and continuously cocks it back with his right hand. Marshall lines up a shot, but it is too late. A bullet hits Kid Colt in the chest.

Their posse had explored the main room of the caverns when they first arrived, and collectively read the story of the Guardian Twincloakes: After the Mayan brothers had created the two invincible vests, they killed each other for them. Before the last brother was killed, he fled to America and buried the vests deep into the mountains, a mysterious place called Coyote Caverns. It was after they finished in the legend room that they were led to the treasure room. Kid Colt opened a stone chest to find a tightly woven clothe. He was the only one that it fit. And his map was what led them here. So it was unanimous, Kid Colt got to keep the treasure. Before they could test it out, a rumble shook the room. Opening the treasure chest door and turned a switch on in the room. The floor fell out and pinned to one corner. They all slid to a lower level of the caverns. There, Captain Kildare and his men were hiding.

Kid Colt tries to catch his breath on the floor while Wild Card and Quade cover him. Marshall pops up from behind the trail car and Ira swings his rifle out from the tunnel. Marshall puts his first two bullets into the soldier closest to him. He drops dead and Marshall shoots his next bullets down the line, in the heads of three rebels each. They all drop and he finishes off his loaded rifle rounds. The last bullet bounces off Kildare's Steel Coat as he escapes out the back. The only other one to hit him was Ira and his rifle. Ira covers Marshall as he reloads behind the car. Kid Colt gets back up as Peyton helps him. Wild Card, Marshall, and Ira rush the final soldiers out of the caverns. Kid Colt tears his shirt apart and finds the pulverized bullet shells. He pulls them out of his chest like stale stitches; carefully and painfully.

Earlier, while Kid Colt was fitting himself with the vest in the treasure room, Kildare and his rebels had blown their own tunnel using dynamite and found the second treasure room. Kildare was strapping the armored twincloake on as the rooms shifted and came together, and Kid Colt, Marshall, Peyton, Ira, and Wild Card slid down from an opening in the ceiling. Steel Coat Kildare ordered his men to retreat down deeper into the caverns. Ira rushes after them and as the path radically turns, the edge drops into a deep abyss. Completely caught off guard, his balance shifts, and Ira's momentum carries him. He topples towards the abyss.

Now alone, they chase Steel Coat Kildare out the back of the caverns. He escapes to a campsite where a man by the name of DuPont was waiting for him with two horses. That night they spent under the stars. A fire between them and an unknown future ahead of them. As Marshall, Colt, and Ira gathered firewood for the rest of the night; Peyton and Wild Card Cass stayed back at camp and watched the fire. Peyton stared deep into its flames. His heartbeat was one in the same as the fire's. His color was a blending of the different shades of fiery red. There was only one legend identified through fire. Peyton looked down at his charcoal revolver; the one that killed Johnny Stacks. Was he the devil? His panic was becoming unbearable. He could not bear this burden of paranoia any longer. Born from the sins of a nation, Blackheart Quade was a harbinger of death.

"You're still lost."

Wild Card spoke up across the fire. He continued talking, "But something has changed..." Wild Card Cass looked Peyton up and down. Peyton felt transparent as Wild Card examined him...

"What's changed is I realized I am the devil." Peyton crawled away from burning tears. He wanted to collapse in on himself and die. Wild Card Cass got up out of his seat, turning the fire towards Peyton. He looked down on him, "You're not the devil, kid..."
"...I've met the devil, and you ain't him."

Peyton laughed. He looked up at Wild Card Cass, "What do you know about the devil, old man?"

Wild Card Cass sat back down and stared into the fire, lighting his own eyes with the past, he waited to give his response to Peyton's query, "...My hair wasn't always this white..."

From the other side of the fire a dog jumps out of the brush. It is a shaggy white dog. The poor animal is so starved you can see all his ribs. Peyton tries to shoo it away but it just stares at Wild Card. Peyton looks between them as Wild Card appears to be breaking. As if a tremendous amount of pressure was being weighed down upon him. Kid Colt walks over with a pile of wood in his hands. "Nice dog, Cass. What'd ya call it?" Wild Card exhales. He looks around and the dog walks over to him, licking his face. "His name is Royal." Kid Colt sits next to them and pets Royal's head. The dog sniffs all around Colt and weeps gently. "He's been following me for over twenty years, and has not aged a day in that time." Marshall and Ira return with more firewood. Marshall puts his stack down beside the fire and sits next to Colt, petting the dog. Ira does the same but crouches before Royal, meeting him face to face.

"I remember you"


August, 1858

Rochester, NY

Ira walked out of his house. It was still morning. The rest of the family was at the festival. Ira fixed his collar and sleeve nervously. A bright, clear summer day. The sun was out, blessing the fields with its golden rays, shining over a shaggy white dog quietly sitting in the grass. The door smacks and his younger brother (only by a year), William walks out onto the porch and almost steps on his heel. Ira looks back out onto the field. The dog is gone. "What gun are you gonna use?"
Ira turned around and slammed him against the wall, "Did you kiss her last night?" he practically yelled.
"What? No. I mean...She kissed me," defended Will. Ira let him go and cooled down.
"Father gave me his Winchester last night," answered Ira as he revealed it from under its shining cloth. They hurried up the ridge to the festival. The main event was a shooting contest sponsored by the Union Army's new Sharpshooter division. Ira and Will got to the booth where there was a crowd around it already. A man in a Union-blue hat stood amongst them, announcing the rules, "...contestants have to place 10 shots in a 10-inch circle at 200 yards, firing any rifle from any position..."
"You can hit that, Ira," Will reinforced, "the back fence is longer than 200, and you've hit bottles off the end post in one shot." Ira looked around, Tim Rothens was competing. Kid couldn't shoot the broad side of a barn. Evan Wade was there too, his older brother's best friend. Evan prided himself on his new Evans rifle. A prize he was awarded at last year's annual gun show. The Evans rifle was much more powerful than a Winchester, and Wade was a good shot. The other two faces he saw, preparing their rifles, Ira nor Will recognized. Ira stared at them, still uncertain about joining the contest.
"One's from Buffalo, and the others' from a place called Nyack," informed a girl from behind Ira and Will. It was Emma Riley, a girl whose family owns the ranch neighboring theirs. She was also in Ira and Will's class at the schoolhouse. Emma was the smartest girl at the school, and only hung out with Ira and Will. An only child, Emma would call the two brothers her two closest friends. She hung on their shoulders, as Ira had suddenly changed his mind, and entered the contest. His rifle was registered and unloaded. They took his ammo and gave him ten bullets to shoot. Ira, accompanied by Will, and Emma, walked out to the field, along with the other competitors.

There was only one tree in the field. The other four contestants split themselves around it. Ira found his spot. He ran over to the giant oak tree, talking back to Emma and Will, "I'll post up on the tree and win this thing." When they got underneath the tree, the first contestant, Tim Rothens, was shooting his ten shots. Ira found a comfortable curve on the tree's slope and put one knee down. He nestled it in and balanced his left foot in front of him. From above he heard, "Does Dad know you have his gun?" It was Ira and Will's older brother, Daniel, sitting in the tree, eating an apple.
"How did you know we'd be here?" asked Will.
"I know how Ira's mind works." Ira kept himself from blushing and focused on his target, as Daniel jumped out of the tree. "Remember what I told you about the wind, anything after-"
"A hundred yards you gotta watch its direction, I know Dan."
"Good luck, buddy" Daniel patted Ira on the shoulder and backed away with Will and Emma. He grabbed Will's head and put him in a headlock as Emma giggled, messing up his kid brother's hair. The buffalo contestant was now shooting his ten shots.
Ira focused at his target. Buffalo's target was just beside it, taking some damage. Four, five, six, shots consecutively hitting the red target. Four more and he wins it. Ira looks back over to his target. It does not matter if the others make it or not, what matters is he has to make all ten. He starts taking deep breaths. The crowd collectively sighs, and Ira realizes the contestant from Buffalo missed his final shot. It was Ira's turn.

A shot rings off on the other side of the tree. It is Evan Wade. He has started his turn early. Suddenly, the man from Nyack starts shooting too. The crowd begins to cheer. Ira closed his left eye, holds the rifle up, and aims his sights down the barrel. Behind the targets, a flag atop the festival tent blows west. Ira smiles as he exhales, and pulls the trigger. The first bullet hits dead center, the one after that blows right through the same center hole. The third and fourth bullets hit both sides of the center, and the fifth through it again. Ira pauses to hear the crowd's reactions. They are in an uproar now, as Evan Wade and Nyack fire off their final rounds. Ira surges on his momentum and starts firing again. The sixth shot goes wide left, but just makes the ten inch target. Ira looks up. The flag has stopped. He slightly readjusts his aim and fires two more times. Seven and eight place dead center. Emma claps and chants for Ira. Will and Dan follow along. Ira fires his ninth bullet and the crowd goes wild. Nyack and Evan Wade both missed their final shots. It was now down to Ira. He closed his eyes. Ira recalled the first day he went hunting with his father. He opened his right eye and fired. Ira's tenth and final bullet blew cleanly through the bulls-eye hole his other nine bullets made. Ira had won the tournament. Everyone cheered for him, as his brothers carried him back in on their shoulders.

Ira was brought to the stage an awarded first place. The representative from the Union Army handed the trophy over to him. It was a golden man holding a rifle. "I'm Captain A. C. Gray, 108th N.Y. Volunteer Sharpshooter Division. We would like to recruit your talents..."
Ira looked back at Daniel, Emma, and Will, and answered the Captain.

"I'm in."


August 8th, 1865

Outside Wichita, KS

She was panting like there was no tomorrow. Those disgusting men were tearing at her clothes like coyotes. Their dirty fingers were holding her down as everything went dark. Men like that only have one thing on their mind. She had to get away, she pulled herself through the trees. They were all drunk. She waited until they went to take their pants off. With their pants around their ankles, all she needed to do was give'em a quick kick to the groin and jab to the face and she had escaped their grasps and into the bushes. As the torches got closer from behind, the trees seemed to tangle the path ahead. She barely slid through. Her boot got caught in the roots. She looked back, but could not see them. She feverishly tried to get it out. The poor girl got her leg loose and kept running; too afraid to stop. She ran into a road, not just a road, but one with five riders on it coming towards her. She looked at all of them. One was a dark brooding man. Next to him was a white brimmed kid, and next to him was a man with the city's shadow on his face. After him, was an old man, and lastly was a face she had long given up on but not forgotten. She thought him to be dead, and all the more utterly thankful to see.

"Emma!" Ira yelled. He jumped off his horse and caught her tired body in his embrace. Kid Colt rode past them and looked out into the forest. "Someone is coming"
"They're after me, I-"
"There will be time to explain," Marshall advised as he got off his horse along with Peyton and Cass. Ira dropped back with Emma, covering her torn up and ravaged body with his union coat. She nervously admired the patches on the shoulders, rubbing them and pulling the jacket together. Kid Colt rode his horse up ahead. The men with torches and knives came out of the treeline. There were five of them. Peyton, Marshall, and Wild Card Cass stood before them, their hands above their holsters.
"Give us the girl," one of them demanded. He went to raise his hand and Peyton shot it off. The thief fell to the floor, clutching his wounded arm. The other four pulled their guns. Marshall shot two in the chest right away and jumped for cover. Peyton put down one that Marshall shot and emptied his revolver into another one. With three bodies on the floor, two of which were dead, Wild Card Cass had his work cut out for him. He fired his gun at the remaining two thieves, back and forth, he pumped them full with four bullets each. They dropped to the ground and Wild Card finished off his rounds into the one-handed survivor as he screamed and begged, "PLEASE HAVE MERCY!"

Kid Colt returned on his horse. "The road is clear," he looked around, "Did I miss something?"
"They took William, Ira" announced Emma.
"Who's William?"
"My brother," answered Ira, "Her husband. This, Emma. Emma this is Marshall, Colt, Peyton, and-"
"Winfield dear" introduced Wild Card Cass as he lowered his hat and kissed her hand.
"Take it easy old man," scoffed Peyton.
"Who took him?" persisted Marshall.
"Bunch of injuns. Called themselves...Black Pawnee..."
Peyton's heart dropped. Marshall could not help but notice Peyton's reaction to the name. "Which way did they head?" he maintained.
"Back towards Wichita."
"Come," Ira put her on his horse, "We can make Wichita before sunset if we hurry."
The posse mounted their steeds and ran down the road, now with a new mission at hand.


April 13, 1861

Washington D.C.

Tensions were rising all over the country. America was on the brink of self-mutilation. President Lincoln was pushing abolition and the southern states were ready to secede. Meanwhile, Washington had been put on total lock-down. Ira's battalion was called from regular rotation in the army, and finally placed under special orders. Their orders were to guard the National Mall. To obtain a perimeter around the Capitol building and White House, both still under construction. Specifically, their orders were to keep all rebels and terrorists at bay; to maintain order and peace within the crux of the Union. Ira and his partner Addison Rey were posted at the South West vantage point.
Addison Rey was from the west. A small town in Kansas, he told Ira, one he had never heard of. Addison was as good a shot as Ira, but his means were unconventional. He did not like to use the scope on his military issued modified rifle. Right before he shot, Addison would close the eye in which he aims with. He did not believe in physical ability but would rant on and on about the unknown forces of nature. He would repeatedly refer to himself as just a tool of fate. Ira never worried much over this, for focus was always placed on their stances over slavery and secession. Addison Rey came from a plantation. His family owned many slaves. A truth he did not confide in anyone in the army until Ira.
"What are you going to do if the South secedes?"
"I don't know, but one thing's for sure...My loyalties do not lie with these suits in Washington."

His trigger twitched and there was a man rushing the wooden fences of the White House. "Addison...four o'clock on the fence!" Addison turns around and points his gun at the charging man, but does not see an enemy. He sees a gray coat, with confederate stitching. He cannot pull the trigger. Addison turns back towards Ira who is already aiming down his scope. "You can't."
"It's our orders."
"He's unarmed."
"You don't know that."
"Trust me, Ira."
Ira took one last look at his friend. He then looked down the scope and fired. The bullet struck the man running through his pack, knocking him off his feet. Addison and Ira rushed to the mark and recovered him. The shot was heard, but they subdued the terrorist without disturbing the peace. He was alive. When they turned him over, he was still unconscious. A marvelous amulet hung from his neck. Besides that, there was nothing else on him but a revolver with one bullet in it. Addison grabbed the revolver and Ira recovered the medallion. They brought the detainee to base. Both Addison and Ira covered up for the mindless confederate drone. Something was off about him; like he was under a spell. They never reported the gun or amulet. When their superiors asked their reason for detaining, Ira and Addison answered in their report, "Public Intoxication".
Being the two best shots in the division, and the only ones to fire a live round in active duty, Upon their completion of term they were awarded with choice of post. Addison opted for the western front, and Ira followed. Just days later, the civil war would break out in full force. People were choosing sides and killing fellow Americans before the sun could set. Addison never reached their destination in Nevada. Instead he went home, and joined his local confederate ranks.

Ira spent over a fortnight at the underground base before he realized, Addison was not coming for him. This was no place for a sharpshooter. But before he could meet with his general to request a transfer the base was attacked by Addison's militia. Ira and Addison fought their enemies decisively and efficiently, until they crossed paths with each other. Ira saw him across the trail leading up to the gate. They both lift their rifles up. Addison fires, directly followed by Ira. Addison hits Ira in the chest and Ira hits Addison in the shoulder. Ira is unharmed by the shot. The bullet ricochets off the amulet and activates it. It begins to shake and wakes Ira up off the floor. Addison clenches his shoulder and tries to crawl to his rifle as Ira gets up behind him.

The medallion is ringing and pulsating on Ira's chest. Before Addison can get the rifle Ira steps on his ankle, pinning him down. Addison screams and pulls his revolver, firing the one shot. The bullet curves away from Ira as if repelled by the glowing blue amulet. Ira lifts up his rifle, ready to kill Addison. But he cannot do it. As he releases his finger from the trigger a stick of dynamite blows up behind him. Ira flinches and grips the trigger. He fires a bullet straight into the same shoulder as his other shot. Addison's left arm now hangs on his body by a thread. Ira makes a run for it, Addison gets up, wraps his shoulder and arm in a tourniquet, slings his rifle over his right shoulder, picks up two bandoleers of revolvers, and pursues Ira.


August 8th, 1865

Wichita, KS

When they first arrived at Wichita, it was still busy. People were riding and walking all around town. Wichita was no one horse-town. It was a thriving metropolis of the West. On one hand, they would not be noticed or called out, on the other hand, it would be impossible to catch Will's abductors.
"Blackheart Quade!" yelled a man, "What're you doin' back here?"
"Just lookin' for someone, Rango. Don't want any trouble"
"Well then you came to the wrong place!" screamed the man as he pulled his gun on Peyton from behind. Before Peyton could draw, Kid Colt shot the coward through the heart.
"Thanks, kid" Peyton tipped his hat.
"We better get out of here" suggested Wild Card. The crowd around them was starting to stare after the short gunfight. "I know a bar." Peyton led them into the alleyways of the city. Where they came upon an underground saloon. They all dismounted and walked in one by one. Lastly, Ira entered hand in hand with Emma. They surveyed the place. Nothing but robbers, and cut-throats. "Looks like we came to the right place," whispered Marshall.

Ira and Emma sat in a booth, Wild Card Cass brought three mugs of beer over to the table for them. Kid Colt sat down at the poker table, and Marshall and Peyton took a spot on the bar. The bartender put a bottle of bourbon next to Peyton without saying a word. He brought two glasses over and filled them without asking for any money. Marshall picked up his shot, "Is this your place?"
"Used to be. Not anymore though...isn't that right Gallows?"
Marshall took his shot along with Peyton and looked over at the dreary bartender, "Why do you call him Gallows?"
"Because for drunk outlaws in Wichita, he's usually the last thing you see before you die."

Kid Colt lifted the corners of his two cards. Pocket aces. The dealer flipped the river card. It was the ace of spades. Kid Colt raised. The man sitting across from him was the only one still in. He met his raise and the Kid's stare. Kid Colt did not flinch, but analyzed all his features. He was not put together right. His hair was all the shades of red. His beard was ravaged and braided into three points. And yet his skin was tan like an injun's, riddled with white blotches and freckles. His hair almost completely covered his devious eyes. A man walks up beside him, "Savage," the man calls him, "Red Savage."
Kid Colt glanced at the man intruding on their game. It was the indian from the Boathouse, Ticonderoga. Kid Colt held the urge to jump up and kill him for what he did to those hostages. The dimwitted indian had not yet noticed the kid. He tried to signal for Marshall or Peyton over at the bar. The corner of Ira's eye was caught by Kid Colt. From the booth behind Ticonderoga, Ira got up and told Cass to remain here with Emma, "And if anything happens, get her out." Ira left and retrieved his hat and rifle.
Ticonderoga saw Quade at the bar with Marshall, and jumped back. Red Savage turned to have a look for himself. "Get'em to the hide-out!" ordered Savage. He turned back around and flipped the table on Kid Colt. Colt sprang to his feet behind the fallen table and drew his guns. With his back against the table he threw his gun bearing arms over the top to find Red Savage and Ticonderoga dragging a man with a bagged head out of the chaotic saloon. Kid Colt shot at them and launched the bar into an uproar. Peyton and Marshall were pushed up against the bar as men were firing their guns and fleeing every which way. Ira gets to the Kid and they follow Ticonderoga and Red Savage out of the underground saloon.

They run down the alleyway. Ira stands still and fires his rifle. A shot of thunder echoes in the cloudy night sky covering the sound of Ira's shot. The indian outlaws turn the corner on Ira. Kid Colt has vanished. Ira troops on. He gets around the corner and lightning flashes the scene. They are riding away on two horses. The sounds of thunder come after. But it is not thunder. It is the oncoming of a magnificent sight. Kid Colt rides in on his horse, along with Ira's horse and its reigns in his hand. Ira quickly hops on and they continue their pursuit just paces behind them.

Peyton and Marshall get out of the bar along with Wild Card Cass and Emma Riley. The streets are running with the shadows of the degenerate. "Stay close, darling" Wild Card warns.
"I think they went this way," calls out Peyton. Marshall looks down the street at him. He swings his head the other way and the lightning catches the city in a glimpse. Marshall's foundation falls out. The time has come. The clouds open. Marshall stumbles around backing towards Peyton, as if he is facing a monster. He gets back to his feet and screams as he runs towards them waving his hands, "RUN!" he hollers over and over at them. Wild Card gets Emma on their horse and Peyton stays back with Marshall to ask, "What is it?"
Marshall yells back but can't be heard under the thunder. The rain comes down and muffles around them. Marshall yells at him once again,"FreeLander!" The next sound Peyton hears is a bolt action rifle bullet blazing past his head from the distance. Peyton grabs Marshall running towards him and they get to their horses. Together, they kick the two horses as they mount them. The three horses run down Wichita City, through the pouring rain, away from the deadly bounty hunter. They quickly get to the outer limits. "Wait here," orders Marshall.
"Wait a second, who-" Cass gets cut off by Peyton saying, "He's still following us."
"And he won't quit until you're all dead, and I'm captured," confirmed Marshall, "That is why you must go now, as far away from me as possible." He leads Wild Card away with Emma on his horse. Peyton looks back at the city. He was free, all he had to do was run away again.
"You gotta go with them!" Marshall yells, "Now!"
"Marshall...tell me you're not considering this right now" regretfully asked Peyton, for he knew Marshall and already knew his answer...
"I'm not going back."
"Then you're gonna need my help."
Marshall was relieved. Never one to ask for it, help was what he needed most of all. Peyton takes a deep breath. For some reason he could not explain, he was going to risk everything. Maybe he just had a death wish. Peyton laughed to himself, he wasn't really sure if he could even die. But this was all nonsense to him. He kicks his horse and they head back into the Wichita.

Ira gets around another corner to see the horses ahead of them coming to a stop. But before he can see which building they went in, the rain starts pouring down on them. Kid Colt rides up behind him. "Looks like their holding up here," he screamed through the wicked rain. Ira followed him over. The horses were hitched before an old boarded up abandoned church. Ira gets off his horse and rams his shoulder into the front door. It budges. Kid Colt joins him and they try again together. The door cracks in and opens. They rush in with their guns drawn. Ira and Kid Colt look around. They lay their guns down on the floor and slowly back away from them with their hands above their heads.


September 13, 1862

Death Valley, CA

Ira got away trying to mask the amulet's bluish glare. He finally broke the shine. The relief was immeasurable. Ira pulled his arm over the ledge. He was atop the giant river ruin. His modified only had one bullet left. Addison would be along on his trail shortly. Ira took off his pack and tried to flatten his body out. There was no evidence of his climb. Addison Rey looked around when the trail went cold. He knew something was suspicious. He aimed his scope at several vantage points. Ira slowed his breath and closed his eyes. He imagined hiding on the other side of the moon. He focused in on the still air with its calm lonely tide. The rival sniper moved on. Just before nightfall, Addison Rey returned only to back track their original steps. Ira fell asleep on that natural desert monument. He awoke up in the morning alone with the dry earth and sand.

After looking around he found nothing but the sun. The sun panned the sky and revealed the shadowed dunes. There stood a four-legged beast out of place in the desert. It was what looked like a shaggy dog. Ira lowered himself down from the cliff. He could not help but follow the strange dog. It looked like it should be covered in dirt, but his mangy hair glowed pure white. Ira could not help but be intrigued. It led him deep into what would later be known all across America as Death Valley. When Ira soon dehydrated and grew feverish he grabbed onto the dog's fur. It refreshed him and cooled him as the dog itself bled into the atmosphere; slowly fading into desert sand and air.

Ira woke up. He was still walking. The dog was gone and the sun was just about over his head. The clouds were low and fast. Blowing by his face in a clap. They kicked up the sand and were evaporated by the hot desert sun. The tension from the storm twisted above Ira and pulled the amulet out from around his neck. The spinning sand fused the sun with the clouds, and Ira conducted its blast. The strike hit the center of the medallion. What he thought to be crystal was unfrozen water. The light funneled and filtered through the storm and sand, breaking through the blue crystal center of the medallion, into Ira's chest.

The blue beam surrounds Ira from the inside-out and covers his vision. The sensation crawls into his eyes and up to his mind. The light stops beating and Ira stops breathing. When he wakes up he is of another place entirely. The sand crushes under his foot but he is not in California. The light glowed under his shirts. Ira pulled them up, his heart was illuminated. A blue pulse emitted from his core. It began to hurt. The glow grew. The beat extended through his chest and it covered him again, launching him. The gravity shifted and Ira landed on a red surface. He could not breathe. His gasps were of long empty takes. His lungs shriveled and his body failed. They looked on with blue eyes and clogged nostrils, masks of industrial air over their mouths and tight goggles over their faces. Ira was about to die as they looked on mercilessly. Ira did not know what to think in his panic. The blue covers his wake and tracks his spine. It covers his body again and finishes around his outstretched, begging hand. Transforming him through space and time.

Ira wakes up, his lungs refreshed...sore. He gets up, but before he can speak he is looking down the line at Dodge: Marshall Troy, Peyton Quade, and himself staring right back at him. The blue shelled over him and Ira screamed. He was thrown back into the desert. This time when he got to his feet and to the top of the hill he was looking upon the ancient Egyptian Pyramids. He fell on a ridge, laying on his back, facing the sun dropping behind the pyramids. Ira was exhausted, and the blue still infected his chest. The sun set just under the pyramid and its last ray was caught by the point. It shot horizontally at Ira and triggered his medallion. The blue crystal turned pure white, as did the energy in his core. With the color change came a relief in pressure. Ira braced his chest. He was beginning to figure this out. He stood up and centered himself. Before the night fell, he pressed the crystal amulet against his chest and the blue glow emitted and immersed him; sending Ira through time at will. As long as he remained in the daylight, he would be able to jump again.

Ira jumped into the future. Marshall grabbed him and said, "Quickly, we don't have much time. Take these," he instructed as he handed over a bunch of papers, "If you don't do exactly what they say we are all dead!" Ira was confused beyond the capacity to react. Marshall punches Ira's amulet and then the same identical one around his own neck. The light pulled over both of them and Ira was sent back through time.


August 8th, 1865

Wichita, KS

Marshall and Peyton ride their horses down the same road they had just ran away on. FreeLander was gone. As if he had vanished out of thin wet air. The rain washed away his tracks. Peyton slowed his horse down and Marshall over shot him. To correct himself Marshall turned in and came across Ira and Kid Colt's horses hitched outside an abandoned church. "Quade!" he yelled around the corner. They rode over and tried to look inside. Most of the windows were boarded up by thick wooden planks. Some of the planks were put up by giant nails. Peyton spotted one on the top right corner of the wall big enough to catch with his lasso. He took the rope off his belt and threw it up. He missed the first time, but attracted Marshall's attention. The second time he caught it and tightened it. Peyton pulled himself up to the roof. Marshall watched the retired outlaw sneak up the rainy shadows of a dead church and followed after him.

When they got to the top, the windows were not boarded up, but dirty as hell. Peyton breathed onto his bandanna and wiped the foggy glass. Some of it cleared and Marshall could see Ira and Colt. They were on their knees, before the altar, surrounded by over thirty men. Three of which stood on the altar. Peyton got a better look, "...Slaughterhouse..." he mutters to himself.
"You know those men?" infers Marshall.
"I used to ride in this gang, Marshall"
"Then who is that at the head of the altar?" Marshall was referring to a red skinned man with six horizontal white stripes going down his two cheeks, and long black hair pulled back by a thick red band. "That's Tanner Crow, but he's also called, 10 Crows"
"...That's...10 Crows..."
"You've heard of him?"
"As a matter of fact..." Marshall began to tell Peyton about his past life. He told him about his father, his brother, his mother's death, and the burning of what he would later find out was his birthplace. He told Peyton about how his father was responsible for the endangerment and relocation of the native Wichita Indians. 10 Crows was one of the survivors of the Wichita Fires. Legend is, he saw ten crows the morning after the fires, and was told to take vengeance on all white man. Since then he has become the leader of the Black Pawnee. What Marshall thought to be the remainder of an endangered tribe was really a rag tag group of renegade indians. Over the years, under Crow's rule, they drifted away from their native Pawnee roots and have turned into the most infamous gang of outlaws and rebels in the west. Whatever Marshall thought he would find of his family here died with his mother and the Wichita Fires. All that was left now was 10 Crows. Marshall looked over at Peyton staring down through the window. He had known this the entire time, even at the Marshal's office on the ferry and never said a word.

"Throw them in with the other one, the rest should be here shortly," ordered 10 Crows. Ticonderoga and Red Savage carried Ira and Kid Colt away as Slaughterhouse Slater nodded his head at 10 Crows and followed behind them into another room. Marshall and Quade watched from the rooftop windows. Someone approached the altar while 10 Crows stood on it alone.
"I want it now!" he yelled.
"You will have it soon," comforted 10 Crows.
"Now, or I take my investment back."
"I'm afraid that money has already been spent."
"SPENT!" the man shouted at the top of his lungs, "I gave you five hundred thousand dollars!"
"And we spent it all," 10 Crows smiled as all his men laughed around them. The sour man stopped yelling and brooded around. "Dupont," 10 Crows advised, "if you are unhappy with our deal...well...there is nothing I can do...besides suggest that you keep your head before you lose it." His men laughed again. "Captain Kildare has informed me that they have your vest, and it is only a matter of time before we get it from them."

Marshall looked over at Peyton, "the Kid." They scurried along the rooftop and found one last window leading into the back room. Peyton cracked it open as Marshall looked in. Inside were several men including Slaughterhouse Slater, Red Savage, and Ticonderoga guarding Ira and Kid Colt who were both tied to chairs. Two more henchmen came in from around back carrying a skulking figure between them. It was Ira's brother, Will. His feet dragged the floor and he was thrown onto a seat next to Ira.
"Will!" he called, "It's me." But Will's eyes remained gilded, his process blind. Ira tried desperately to wake his brother. Kid Colt, pulled attention away from the brothers' bitter reunion, as he accosted the injuns known as Ticonderoga and Red Savage. Slaughterhouse Slater walks up to Colt and drives his right fist into his face. Kid Colt can feel a tooth in his mouth crack and blood gush into his mouth. He turned his face and spat, parts of the shattered tooth mixed with blood. This was not going to end well. This night sneaked up on the five heroes. Now they were all split up, and soon they would surely be bested.
Peyton slid into the windowsill and told Marshall to lower him down slowly. He tied the tip of the lasso around the back of his belt and knotted it tight. Peyton stretched out and evenly dispersed his weight. Marshall wrapped the rope around a chimney and wrapped two pieces of clothe around his hands to lower Peyton down.

Slaughterhouse Slater continued to lay punch after punch into Kid Colt's face until he hit him in the chest. "Wait a second," he paused as he tore open the Kid's over-vest and shirt. Underneath was the treasure they had found from Coyote Caverns. The invincible vest made out of woven layers of tight clothe. But before Slater could do anything, Peyton swings his feet around, now lowered enough to fight, and kicks Charlie Slaughterhouse Slater in the face, bringing him to the ground. Peyton lands and Marshall drops him the fully loaded Winchester rifle. Peyton puts round after round into the two henchman as Red Savage and Ticonderoga get to cover, looking to return to the main hall.
Marshall slid down the rope and unsheathed his buck knife. Holding the blade in his fingers, Marshall throws the knife into the back of Ira's seat. It caught his bounds. Ira rubbed his wrists up and down on the sharp side of the blade and broke free. He stayed low and swung around his chair. Ira pulled out Marshall's knife and went to release Kid Colt. Marshall joined Peyton as they shot at the two indians, keeping them pinned down.
A fuse was lit. Marshall joined Ira in freeing Will. Red Savage threw a smoking pouch towards them. Kid Colt and Peyton move to cover a path for the door. The bomb goes off and smoke fills the room. They rush out of the room before the enemies can attack them under the smoke. But this door led right back out to the main chamber of the church. There, 10 Crows stood before them on the altar, with his officers of the Black Pawnee sitting in the audience. From the other side of the church the doors open. It is Wild Card Cass along with Emma. Behind them walks their escort. Jebediah Freelander, a sullen and burdened looking man. He brings them up to the altar at gunpoint to join the rest. "Where's my vest!" DuPont screams. "The kid has it on," points out Red Savage as he and Ticonderoga follow up behind them. They were surrounded. There was no way out anymore.

Slaughterhouse Slater rubbed his head. He opened his eyes to find Peyton's lasso dangling above him and the room to be empty. After getting to his feet, Slater re-entered the main chamber. On the altar, seven prisoners were on their knees facing 10 Crows. Slaughterhouse walked up behind 10 Crows as he addressed everyone.

"And now the time has come," he went on to say, "to tell our enemies...from the US Government, that we will not be pushed around. Tonight, you will go back to your men and prepare them for what's to come. Tomorrow, in one unified attack, we will invade Dodge and officially begin our own war against the Union!" The crowd cheered for him. 10 Crows walked over to Quade. He got down next to Peyton and said privately, "You should never have come back." 10 Crows got back up towards the crowd and finished his speech, "Tonight...we send a message straight to the heart of Washington. To the bureaucrats who sent these mercenaries to kill us. And that message is...." 10 Crows takes a deep breath of disappointment, and draws his gun, as he walks before the prisoners, "...No mercy!" 10 Crows kills Kid Colt with his pistol. The bullet sears through Colt's head and he falls dead on the floor.


July 4th, 1863

Gettysburg, PA

Ira is running as fast he can. He has no idea what day it is. He at least knows where he is. Somewhere in the Arabian Desert. He pulls himself out of the temple ruin as the portal swirls around him like quicksand. It tries to swallow him but chokes. The desert is silenced. Ira is released. He looks around. The pilgrim sniper is not alone. The sand pebbles tremble around him. Something large is moving underneath him. It churns the dunes like a wave. Scaly skin catches the fleeting sun's reflection and re-submerges into the sandy sea. Ira pulls the lamp out of the sand and punches his amulet. A sand serpent, more than a mile long, leaps out of the desert floor and strikes at Ira. The blue pulse appears and starts encompassing him. The serpent's drooling venom fangs wait inside its giant mouth as its entire head is flying right at Ira. The amulet's glowing shadow covers him and the serpent bites down on him.

Ira lands somewhere in ancient Israel. He gets up and looks around. Nothing but dried up earth all around him. He remembers. This is the place. The place he had chosen to hide the artifact. He found the burnt bush and dug beside it. Ira pulled the black blood-stained spearhead from the dirt. When he wrapped his fingers around it a flash took over his sight. For a moment he saw an angel with this golden spear, banishing one of its own to hell. Frightened, Ira triggered his amulet, but when his sight returned he was still safely by the bush. Ira held on tight and was thrown thousands of years into the future. He awoke inside a small town. Ira got outside to find home. He held the artifact in his hand and had a choice before him. Go home, or continue on his mission. Ira sneaked into the blacksmith and went to work. The task took most of the day. He finished with a polish. It was an exact match. Ira went down to the Davis Ranch. He befriended a young kid who would later become his father. Ira gave him the Winchester Rifle he forged from the spearhead, and prayed, "Let's hope this works." As he leaves Ira takes out the crumpled up papers and wrote on the back of them. He threw the ones he no longer needed away and stuffed the rest in the Arabian lamp.

With a flash, he is in the Mexican deserts. He climbs through a newly built Mayan Temple and hides the lamp with the formula he put in it under a statue. He had finally completed his mission. He pushes the statue back in place and presses his amulet, activating it once again. Now all Ira had to do was wait. When the blue pulse flashes, Ira falls onto wet sand. He got up in fear of the possibilities of where he could be. In his travels through time and space it has felt to him like months and years; never spending more than a day in one single place. As he panned around, there was no water in sight. The spongy floor trembles. This doesn't look good. A riptide wall of ocean comes barreling in on him. A massive tidal will soon overtake him. He punches the amulet, but does not have enough time to jump.

The wave hits him and shorts out the blue energy process. Ira is knocked out and revives on a shore. It is nearly sun set and his amulet is still wet. He rubs it in the sand, trying to dry it, but the sand is still damp. Ira gets up and desperately runs through the treeline searching for dry land. Unfortunately, everything has been affected by the tidal wave. The sun retreats from the sky and its rays retract from over the jungle leaves. Ira is running out of time. He breaks free from the brush only to find the other side of the island and behind that endless seas. The sun sets and nothing happens. As it gets darker and darker, Ira can tell that a storm front has moved in. He lies back and stares up at the night sky. Was he destined to live out his life on this island? The clouds part and out comes the moon. Its lunar rays catch the center crystal of the medallion and the medallion lights up. The white glow shifts to a yellow glare. It leaks all over Ira erratically and transforms him.

All Ira can see is black. He cannot remember anything. He opens his eyes. He is in the middle of a battlefield. Lying down behind the scope of his modified rifle. He looks to his left. A man with a bloodstained, union-blue, army coat on fires his musket next to him.
"Where are we?" Ira screams at the top of his lungs.
The soldier looks too frantic to think twice about Ira's displacing question and answers mechanically, "Gettysburg!" Ira was back east in the states, the closest to home he had been since he could remember. All of a sudden, these familiar feelings came rushing over him. He missed his mother. He missed his family, and his brothers; most of all he missed Emma Riley. He pined for the chance to return home. Ira reached for his chest. He did not know why. All he knows is he felt the urge to travel home. The bullets crossed over his head and he remembered. He was once again a soldier in the war.
He looked up, a mad man was coming down on him with a complete charge of troops behind him. A desperate attempt at victory for the confederacy. Ira aims, breathes, and shoots. Killing the enemy officer. He gets to his knees, and up on his right foot, reloading. Another aim through the scope and he fires. Ira parts the charge right in half, scaring the cavalry away, and planting a solid ground against the infantry. Picket's Charge quickly dissolves before the union line. And Ira unknowingly saves the lives of all the wary union troops behind him. The battle was over. The North had won. Ira crawled through the broken hay and long grass to the shadow of a barn. He felt as if he was being hunted; hunted by his past. What had happened to him? How did he get here? What happened to the last two years of his life? Ira could remember nothing.


August 8th, 1865

Wichita, KS

Kid Colt lies dead on the floor. The crowd of rebel indians and psycho outlaws cheer from the bleachers. Marshall and Ira scream in shock, as the two of them writhe around trying to break free and get to the kid. 10 Crows holsters his gun and gives an order to Red Savage, "Get the vest off the body and hand it over to DuPont. No funny business." 10 Crows motioned Slaughterhouse Slater to follow him and they walked over to the backroom. Just before they entered it, 10 Crows gave one last order...

"Kill the rest of them."

Wild Card's dog came crashing through the last untouched pain-glass window in the rundown church. It was a mural of St. Michael cutting the neck of Satan with his golden spear. The dog landed on one of the officers in the benches. It tore at his neck with its bite and the rest of the rebel gang leaders shot at it. Peyton swings his feet around and knocks Ticonderoga to the floor. Wild Card Cass jumps up as he brings his bounded hands around in front of him, subduing the closest guard by the arm and gun, shooting another guard across the altar aiming at Ira. Marshall spins himself around and kicks Red Savage over as he is bent down sliding the vest off of Kid Colt's corpse. DuPont screams and draws a sword from his walking cane. The mad industrialist charges Marshall who is trying to get to the kid. After getting his beaten-up brother over with Emma, Ira tackles DuPont before he can come down on Marshall with his sword. Marshall hangs over Kid Colt, devastated. He defends the fallen boy with his embrace as if he were still alive. Peyton finds their gunbelts and tosses them out. He slings his own around his waist and buckles it, in one fluent motion he draws and fires.

Ira, Peyton, and Wild Card now stand on the altar against Ticonderoga and Red Savage trying to get to their feet, the remaining gang officers wildly shooting through their clips, and Jebediah FreeLander behind them all, lurking in the shadows. Peyton slings Kid Colt's double dragoon bandoleer over his shoulder. Marshall still saying good-bye to the kid, releases his grief and pulls it together along with his buck knife out from his belt and finishes what Red Savage started. He unbuttons the second and third buttons from the top of his shirt and slips the clothe over his heart. The safest place he knows. He buttons up and draws his sidearm. Marshall runs over to Peyton and Ira falls back with Will still barely conscious, and Emma presumably shocked mute, but responsive. Marshall yells for Ira amidst the gunfire and points at the backdoor 10 Crows and Slater went through. Peyton yells at Wild Card, "Take it!" he throws him Kid Colt's guns. After Marshall signals to Ira both him and Peyton make a run for the backdoor and bust it in.

Wild Card flips the kid's gunbelt around and spins it, slipping one out and flinging it to Ira. Ira catches the handle of the other gun holstered in the belt and draws it. They fire together, standing in front of Emma cradling her husband. Wild Card points his gun over at Red Savage taking cover behind a box and pulls the trigger. Before Red Savage can move, the shot flies into his abdomen, and out the other side. Ira fires both his and Colt's on Ticonderoga as DuPont runs out the front door with a torn up clothe from the Twincloake vest. Ira shoots the altar to shreds trying to kill Ticonderoga and gets clipped in the shoulder by a bullet from an officer. He falls to the floor and cringes as Emma cries in horror. But Ira is still awake. Wild Card covers him, and Ira sees something near the floor. The feet of Ticonderoga and Red Savage. Twelve shots. He fires six off lying down and gets back to his feet finishing the rest of his rounds. He guns are empty, and the two outlaw indians are dead. They are now fortified against one front of enemies in the benches. Wild Card concentrates his fire on the remaining officers. Jebediah FreeLander has vanished. Wild Card's dog comes out from the benches clean.

Marshall and Peyton bust into the back room to find it empty. In the cabinet are the two rifles, the Winchester, and Ira's modified. Peyton takes the Winchester, Marshall mans the modified. As Peyton steps back from the cabinet, he stumbles on a loose plank in the floor. They pull it out and investigate. Underneath the church is a tunnel leading out. Peyton goes to jump in, but Marshall stops him. "I'll go first," he says.
Peyton looks over and freezes. Marshall does not notice his partner's despair as he jumps for the hole in the floor, but he is grabbed by his collar and pulled back up viciously. Marshall is thrown to the other side of the room. Peyton goes to fire his rifle but after he flung Marshall, FreeLander grabs the barrel of Peyton's gun. He drops the rifle and draws his revolvers. As the Winchester drifts down through the air, Peyton kicks it into old FreeLander, scrambling his attack, and fires on him. The bullets coat his chest and the assassin falls to the ground. FreeLander tries to draw his gun, but Peyton puts two more bullets in his head, one right through his left eye. He twitches and falls limp. Marshall brushes the dust of himself as he gets up. Peyton stands before him, reloading his guns. Rubbing the back of his head, Marshall speaks quaintly, "I can't believe he's dead."


April 9th, 1865

Appomattox, VA

Ira polished the barrel on his modified rifle. It had been two years since the Battle of Gettysburg and he has yet to recall his memory after his time at Sniper training camp. At first, Ira tried writing his loved ones to help remember. It did not seem to work, but one lasting effect was the opening of a door that for a long time had been closed. Emma and Ira wrote each other almost every week. They rediscovered their relationship. She helped him through the war and his memory loss, and he gave her something she could not find anywhere else. Right now he had just finished writing her a letter, Talking of how it had been some time since his battalion has seen any action. In the past year Ira was promoted to Sargent. His sniper column had captured over fifty spies, and counter-intelligence responsible for turning the tide of the war in the North's favor. Ira had long since gone into early retirement. They were stationed in a courthouse in Appomattox, waiting for further orders. A runner came in and informed the commanding general that General Lee was on his way to surrender. They were assigned positions around the courthouse in high anticipation. They were to guard the official end of the Civil War.

He climbed up to his post. Suddenly, he began to receive flashes of memory. He could not figure out what he was seeing. He remembered a partner. a fellow sniper who helped him guard the capital. Just then a threat emerges. Ira targets the rebel through his scopes. He gets a good look. It is Addison Rey. Ira does not hesitate. He shoots right through Addison's head. Ira reloads and shows no remorse. He has no recollection of his fallen friend, nor the amulet that goes unseen around his neck. Rebel terrorists begin to bombard the town. Ira fires all around with his battalion along the rooftops. A convoy of carriages can be seen riding into the town. Ira fires shot after shot, keeping radical nationalists from tossing fire bottles at the convoy. Ira cannot believe that he is ending his time in the war, saving Robert E. Lee from his own men.

The carriage arrives safely at the courthouse. Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant meet and sign the treaty that will end fighting once and for all. The Southern States dissolve the Confederacy and rejoin the Union. The era of Reconstruction begins. Ira celebrated in the streets with the rest of the nation. It was not until the morning did he get her letter; the last letter he would ever get. Apparently, Emma had left out one crucial detail in all of her letters to Ira. Emma was still with Ira's brother Will. This last letter informed him that they were getting married. In fact, the exact words were, "'...By the time you are reading this, I'll have been married for more than two months..." Emma went on to ask him if what they had didn't have to change. Ira could not believe the audacity. Ira would never write her again. For all Emma Riley knew Ira could have died in the final days of the war. That night he spent at the camp, head in the clouds, mind filled with contemplation. The next few days Ira would spend trying to reenlist. His papers had already been pushed through and he was forced to discharge. Ira watched the remaining time of his military tenure pass slowly, wishing it would never end. He had nothing to go back to.


August 8th, 1865

Wichita, KS

Wild Card bursts in and sees them around the corpse of FreeLander. He panics and tells them that they need to go. He demands it. He herds them out, yelling, "We must get to the train!" The ground shakes and the church begins to break apart. Peyton looks back as Marshall skirts through the door in front of him. He looks for Wild Card, but what he sees is something entirely different. The red glows off of Peyton's face as Wild Card runs by him, pulling him out of the room. "DON'T LOOK DIRECTLY AT IT!" he forewarns them.
The two of them fire their guns at the scrambling Black Pawnee and settle with Marshall tending to Ira, Will, and Emma. "The bullet has gone through, Ira. If we patch it now you'll be okay." Peyton and Wild Card Cass lift up there guns and begin clearing out the rest of the gang members. Peyton cannot get over what he saw. He looks back as Marshall wraps Ira's shoulder. The door to the back room appears to be melting as the red glows brighter behind it. The door sweats and bulges, and Wild Card pleads with them, to get a move on.
The roof's cracks spread and collapse from the inside-out and the rest of the Black Pawnee retreat out the front doors. Marshall grabs Peyton by the shoulder and he is thrown back into reality. "Go!" barks Marshall's echo over the madness. Peyton looks at the front door of the church. The last untouched structure surrounding Royal, the dog, as he faces them. The dog escapes and Peyton runs by Marshall and helps Ira through the church, under the falling debris; as they catch up with Wild Card and Emma carrying Will out; all of which being led by Royal.

Marshall, the last one standing on the altar, kneels before Kid Colt on the ground. His lifeless body lay with the rest of the dead. He takes off the necklace Lady MacPherson gave to her son, and puts it in the kid's hand. Marshall looks up. The walls of the church were breached with open night sky. He could see the stars slowly being eaten by the storm clouds. Marshall begged for forgiveness. The death of the Kid was the personification of his guilt for all the mistakes in his life; culminating in poor Jimmy MacPherson's death. He was a brainless leader; a coward in hiding. And he got this kid killed.
The doors cracked behind him. He could feel the heat on the back of his neck. Marshall turned around as he got up. The door to the back had sweltered and stretched to capacity. It broke in an awful shatter into a hellish portal. The doors burst like a womb giving birth and fire pours out everywhere. The benches and the altar light up in flames and it quickly spreads to the walls. Marshall runs for the front doors, where Peyton and Ira are waiting for him outside with his horse. Marshall navigates through the fire and crumbling debris but cannot escape the urge to look back. And just before he is out, Marshall sees a body rise from the dead in the cursed fire. He cannot believe what he sees. His eyes burn and his pupils turn a pale red. The skin around his eyes swell up as if boiled and then settles and scars. Marshall's sight collapses under such an unbelievable sight. For there is no man he fears more, not even his father. And now he knew why.

Marshall falls and Wild Card catches him, turning around on his horse, and yelling, "GO!" Peyton leads them out and they head down the street. Emma rode on Kid Colt's horse, Wild Card took Marshall's reigns, and Ira had Will on his horse.

The posse fled Wichita in all haste for the Union RR base. Luckily, they did not run into any fleeing Black Pawnee. Wild Card fell back next to Marshall and asked him if he was okay. "I'm starting to get my vision back." Marshall responded. The swelling around Marshall's eyes was now gone, along with the red shade in his pupils. All that remained were the scars.

"...Good...good..." Wild Card gave phony relief before he continued, "Do me a favor, Slick..."
Marshall looked over at Wild Card Cass cooperatively. "...Don't tell the others what you saw..." Wild Card stared at Marshall who knew exactly what he was talking about, "...Not yet..."

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