Saturday, August 10, 2013

Gauntlet - Episode 19.



Episode 19 – The Reaction of Redemption

“You know this goes a lot easier when you don’t have to worry about setting something off and an extra pair of eyes starring down at you over your shoulder.” Marshall could feel a bead of sweat as it trickled down from his temple to land on his collar. He was already feeling his frustration growing with every heartbeat. Was it a series or parallel circuit that you could interrupt by removing something from it? Why did have to go and jinx himself by saying something? Marshall thrice cursed his big mouth under his breath and wiped at the growing moisture upon his brow.

“Rook,” Marshall said as politely as he could manage, a slight edge present in his tone. “You could keep an eye on our frigid friend and make sure she hasn’t dazzled us by defrosting herself somehow. I really need to concentrate here.” The idea of accidentally choosing the wrong wire worried at him, he wanted nothing more than to simply rip every single one of those irritating things out all at once.

Deputy Rook made some subtle sound of agreement before returning to examine their cold-clad captive. The makeshift prison of improvised ice still seemed to have her held solidly enough, but a quickening drip heralded that was not promising to last much longer. “She appears to be thawing,” Rook relayed.”

“Well, looks like we are out of time for being careful, here goes nothing,” Marshall told himself. He grabbed a handful of wires with either hand and yanked at both with a desperate jerk. It took him a split second at first before he reminded himself to open his eyes and breathe – they were still there. “Come on, let’s get everybody out of here and fast!”

♦♦♦

By dawn the majority of the town had gathered together near the center of town, a common look of mixed confusion and fear present on their faces. Both Mayor Demure and Sheriff Arbiter stood poised on a small platform calling for quiet. “We all no doubt are aware by now of the unfortunate events that have happened,” Mayor Demure announced as the shuffling crowd grew silent.

“No one can say that living out here on the edge isn’t without its dangers. Mines collapse, fires can take our homes, and even wild beasts have to be contended with from time to time.” Demure carried herself with a casual grace as she spoke, careful to convey an image of concern and authority. She hadn’t secured her seat behind the Mayor’s desk without perfecting the performance that went along with the public’s expectations of the persona.

“But I think we can all agree that we have been doing fairly well all things considered for some time now. Redemption has managed to carve for itself and its citizens a relatively respectful place out here on the edge. We have learned to live with the occasional petty problems of bandits, and even manage to get by without the support of our so-called supportive government.

However, a new issue has arisen that threatens our town. Sundown Sanctuary was burned to the grown last night and the whereabouts of my own secretary have yet to be discovered. According to the reports that we have been able to piece together we have a vigilante on the loose who took it upon himself to interfere when the Sheriff should have been called. Now we have a treasured landmark and part of our town’s history lost to us because of a drifter. Obviously he must have thought he was helping somehow, but instead this ‘Gauntlet’ character’s actions directly resulted in a fiery explosion that could have spread to harm untold townsfolk.

The Sheriff has even informed me that this reckless renegade has been confirmed as engaging in gunfights on our streets. He has even gone so far as to gun down three individuals who as far as we know may have simply been involved in a vehicular accident at the bank. Can we honestly allow a man, a stranger to run about our town and violently take action as he pleases? Is not the job of maintaining law and order that of our Sheriff?”

A growing murmur rippled through the gathered crowd of townsfolk as they began to consider the Mayor’s questions. For some who had witnessed this Gauntlet, he had seemed like someone honestly trying to help protect them. To others he sounded like another fever-brained fool who was only going to cause more trouble. As the conversations continued the volume of the puzzled public grew.

“As the Sheriff of Redemption, I hereby call for a vote of its citizens on the grounds of public-safety,” Arbiter announced over the rising roar of debate. “We can either allow such outlaw justice to run wild through our town or we can declare here and now that it will not be tolerated and condemn anyone so engaged an enemy of the law.”

Once more the massed people of Redemption ceased their chatter. “I have sworn to keep the peace and I aim to do just that. So either way I will serve the will of the town. Which is it going to be? Do we allow this Gauntlet to keep doing as he pleases until he destroys more of Redemption, or do we brand him an outlaw and vigilante?”

Solemnly Mayor Demure lowered her head and pursed her lips before she called for the vote herself. “All those agreed that such reckless actions are more harm than good for our beloved town, please raise your hand.” Slowly a majority of those gathered began to raise their hands. Some shakily at first, others hesitated as they looked around them. A lengthening measure of moments soon confirmed that there weren’t enough hands left lowered to challenge the issue. The people of Redemption had spoken, and they had declared this Gauntlet an enemy of the public.

Marshall watched on as the people of Redemption condemned the one man who had dedicated himself to the cause of being their champion. Inside a part of him was pained by the turn of events. But as his eyes regarded the two figures at the heart of the gathered group his pain was paled by his determination. He would not rest until he removed both of them from office, and from town. They could blame him all they liked, but at least he knew the truth of who was a plague upon the town. And he would see it removed, no matter what.