Sunday, July 21, 2013

Gauntlet - Episode 2.



Episode 2 – Enter the Bull-Boys

“Come on, let’s hurry this thing along, I could use a drink,” Wynt declared as he impatiently entered the rail car. His ruffled hair was still speckled with windblown dust that lent him the look of a spooked critter fresh from its hole in the ground. Arriving just behind him was a well muscled man, obviously athletic with refined ripped arms that could easily be classified as cannons. “You always need one, you’re a drunk,” Briscole reminded harshly.

As the two thugs moved forward to take their positions a third gracefully appeared with practiced ease. He moved with the casual dignity of an experienced performer and bore the smiling mask of a manipulating master. Many a man had cursed that face, and even more women cooed at the promised charm. This could be none other than the bloody bachelor himself; Dyzon Naez.

With a cold calculating care Dyzon raised a small commlink with his right hand and keyed the transmitter. “We’ve landed Caess; you know the drill, make for the engine and ensure they don’t get any ideas.” Still parked behind the controls of their rolling ride the short slate-skinned Kry-Santhian signaled his understanding with a quick grunt. His sharp ruby eyes keenly kept their focus on maintaining the moving orbit alongside the loud locomotive. Caess had to concentrate on the tedious task not merely because of its potential peril, but for his own personal problems. He often found the distraction demanded by such devices too tempting for his curiosity, like most of his race he suffered from a certain obsessive compulsion with regards to gadgets and things technological. Coupled with the inevitable gawking glares of its passengers peering out to examine his ruby studded stone-like skin was almost more than he could handle. No matter how many times he had managed to meet the challenge it always tested him.

Dyzon watched on as his cunning cohort pulled ahead as instructed and then once satisfied proceeded with his plan. There was a certain familiar thrill that he always enjoyed that came with the experience. “Greetings boys and girls,” Dyzon began with a warm welcoming smile. “We’re the Bull-Boys; no doubt you’re familiar with our well-known exploits. So I’m not going to waste anyone’s time on the usual warnings, or the nasty business of making my point perfectly perceived. Just provide my associates with any valuables you happen to have and you’ll be around to swap stories at supper.”

Every eye seemed fixed on the dramatic figure as he spoke in a perfectly measured tone and moved forward like he was commanding a stage. Before him both Wynt and Briscole were already passing about as they picked over each passenger. They moved forward in a crude circuit that made sure not to miss a single seat or the potential pilfering therein. In short order they cleared each car before moving to the next and at each opportunity Dyzon gave the same little speech.

No one moved to stop the bandits nor did anyone refuse their right to rob the rail riders. In fact several young ladies and a few married ones begged to be taken along with their purses by the notorious bloody bachelor. By the time the bold bandits were about to enter Marshall’s car he found himself almost beyond restraint. Impulsively he reached beneath his jacket only to curse his carefulness. He had safely stored his weapons before boarding to avoid any unwanted attention while he traveled. While he had had no reason to expect any need for them or any reason to fear any official issues with carrying them he preferred to avoid the matter either way. Now he wished he hadn’t been so cautious, not to mention naïve enough to think the ride would be uneventful.

Without anything to hand Marshall looked around him at all the other passengers. If he attempted any form of action with only his bare hands it was all too likely that any one of them could pay the price. And that was something he refused to risk. He swallowed the unpleasant idea of allowing these predators to prey upon the passive passengers with a slight shiver and lowered his head.

“Keep your head down,” that is what the old-timer had told him to do. If Marshall couldn’t stand up and stop these thugs, he certainly wasn’t about to give them the satisfaction of another coward added to the crowd. Let them pick over the rest with a grin as they watched them take their treasures from them. He wasn’t about to reward them with another fear filled face.

“Hey, wake up you, didn’t you hear me,” Wynt probed with the pointed tip of his gun to poke at Marshall’s shoulder. “It looks like it’s your turn friend; cough up your coin empty ears.” Without any hurry Marshall slowly raised his head to look up at the demanding desperado. His brown eyes barely peeked out from beneath the brim of his hat to question the un-intimidating figure before him. “First of all, I am not your friend or the friend of anyone who is obviously as rude as yourself,” Marshall responded rapidly. “Secondly, as I understood your well-spoken superior’s speech you’re only interested in items of worth; which I for one am woefully without. So if you don’t mind I am going to return to my business and leave you to complete yours.”

While Wynt blinked in response to the brash bluff of bravado Briscole begged from behind for him to hurry himself up. “What is taking you so long booze brain,” the mountain sized man complained as he stuffed a fresh handful of things into a bag. “Oh be quiet you has-been heavyweight,” Wynt answered angrily. Disappointed and somewhat dazed by the unusual reaction Wynt decided to spit at this strangers feet before he leaned in to reply. “No worries mister, I am sure we will catch you around sooner or later and catch up,” he promised. As the looting lot all turned to exit Marshall welcomed the relief from the bandit’s bottle breath with wordless thanks. The strong stench alone was near enough to make him recoil but he had been determined not to be the first one to blink.

Again as Marshall looked on at the nefarious near-do-wells backs he longed to do something to stop them. But all three of them he easily enough noted were all armed and he sadly was not. Still stewing over the fact Marshall managed to catch Dyzon’s final flourish and the two locked eyes briefly. “Well it has been rewarding for us and hopefully entertaining for you as well,” the theatrical thief mused. “Until we meet once more let me simply say; safe travels to us all.”

Still smiling Dyzon bid his farewell with a tip of his hat towards Marshall and winked. “Always a pleasure to meet a man with spirit and steel, something tells me we shall see each other again.” Admittedly Marshall relished the idea of getting the opportunity to cross paths with these Bull-Boys under different conditions. “Who knows, it’s a big broad world out there,” he replied resolutely.

“Shepherds and Stalkers,” Dyzon suddenly stated squarely. “They both stick close to sheep stranger. And while this world may be massive, there are only so many sheep to be found. Yeah, I’d wager that we will meet again.” Before he could complete his exit a second speeding shape came into view in the distance racing towards the Titan Train.

As Marshall watched on out his window a single thought filled him. “Alright, now what,” he asked himself silently. Obviously routine was anything but what a trip by Titan Train was on Newport.