Episode 29 – A Grim Gauntlet
With their booted feet drumming against the dirt Rook guided their way through town in a tireless run. At times Marshall noted that he was indeed thankful that he had made it a point to keep himself in shape. Even so, he couldn’t deny he was equally impressed with the pace his peer was setting for them.
They passed between buildings and cut through anywhere they could to follow the curious course Rook had established. Slung over his shoulder the weight of his rifle was reassuring as it reminded him of its presence, bouncing against his back. He kept a good grip with his left on the hilt of the makeshift blade that hung at his side, careful to keep it from swinging wildly about.
Another sharp turn around a corner and a quick dive to dart between a couple shacks delivered the duo even closer to the edge of town. Marshall began to notice fewer and fewer buildings now when he looked around. And of the ones he found even fewer looked to be in use – or what he would consider in any condition for use. The further out the two of them seemed to get, the more it became clear that out here everyone clung together – they needed each other.
“So, what is your plan this time around,” Rook asked, the question interrupting Marshall’s thoughts on the town. It took him a minute to collect himself, but as he considered the answer he couldn’t think of any way to put it that didn’t make him sound foolish. So he just decided to spit out.
“Nothing subtle, nothing covert; just going to walk in there and make sure I am the only one coming back out.” Hearing the words come out of his own mouth, Marshall admitted that they sounded ludicrous even to him. But the more the town seemed to disappear behind them, the more he began to realize he didn’t care. Good people had been living in fear for far too long, and they deserved better.
“Do you take special classes on strategy or do you just study lessons on the subject from lunatics,” Rook replied sharply. “You are going in outnumbered, into what might just be a lion’s den who may or may not be waiting for you to do just that. And your brilliant brainstorm is that you are going to just waltz in to wage war?”
“That about covers it, yeah,” Marshall admitted an obvious air of amusement in his voice. “Would you be expecting anything of the sort,” he asked playfully. The look on Rook’s face was one of absolute shock as it sunk in. It was like he just realized he was about to try to clip a live wire with a pair of steel scissors and someone had just pointed it out.
“You’re right,” he apologized after the stunned look slowly faded from view. “That may actually be a great plan after all. Or completely suicidal; I guess we’re about to find out which.”
Looming before the both them still stood what remained of an old Thunder Rail storage facility. An old out of use set of tracks had already began to rust outside it, and only crumbling crates still littering along its exterior. However, somewhat out of place a strong set of doors still stood complete with a quite capable looking lock. It wasn’t anything modern by any means, not even electronic in fact.
“Before you ask,” Marshall said quietly. “Yes I can bypass that lock but now is not the time for a lecture on mechanical systems – nor do I want to waste the time in doing so. There is a reason why I call my friend here ‘Hole Maker,’” Marshall declared as he drew the rifle hanging behind him and cocked its lever. “I’m going in the front; you circle around and find yourself another way in. While I have their attention held you see if you can cover me.”
Rook hesitantly started to obey, but paused for a second with a look of concern. “And what if you don’t draw everyone’s attention? Or if they take you out before I can get into position,” he openly objected. “What then?”
“Don’t worry; I am fairly certain that I can keep their eyes on me. Besides, if anything goes wrong I am sure you won’t be able to miss it. If that happens you just do your best to get clear, understood?” Marshall waited just long enough to be acknowledged with a brief nod before he turned back towards the door and casually approached them.
Moving like he was born from the shadows themselves, Deputy Rook slipped off into the twilight his side arm already in hand. Marshall took in a deep breath and held it for a long moment as he willed the thought of just how crazy what he was about to do really was. But with the conscious effort came so many old faces again. Faces of so many people that he had passed by looking for some heroic figure who he thought would have shown up to save them at any moment. But no champion ever came; it had only ever been him there, watching out for some fantastic figure instead of doing something.
This time, he was the hero, and he was going to take action. Marshall released the air from his lungs in a long slow exhale and let his mind clear. He seized upon his purpose with iron resolve and raised his Hole Maker. “Well, here goes,” he told the empty air around him and squeezed the trigger back in a single fluid pull.
Awaiting the release of his trigger finger, the weapons arc-igniter sparked to life and sent a pulse of electric current coursing into action. Resting at the rear of both barrels a pair of caseless projectiles exploded to life as their propellant ignited at the touch and vaporized into the promise of violent velocity. Each round ripped its way down the barrel before until they both blasted angrily against the waiting door.
As it shuddered against the sudden assault, another pair of rounds rotated into position and immediately was sent flying. The lever flicked forward in a flurry as Marshall let his bullets bust the door to pieces. Once satisfied the hole he had made was big enough he slipped a few shells into the guns cylinder and holstered it as he stepped inside.
“Who’s ready to run the Gauntlet tonight,” Marshall roared. “Come on out, knock-knock; its justice come calling. Anybody home,” he goaded, daring someone to try to stop him. If anything would get under there nerves, a blatantly bold move such as this had to be right at the top of the list. He wasn’t wrong.