Sunday, August 25, 2013

Gauntlet - Episode 30.

Episode 30 – Tarnished Badges

“This has to be some kind of nightmare, even for Newport,” Arbiter spat bitterly. The whole situation had spiraled out of control and looked to be rapidly rushing into the realm of absolute chaos. “How is it that of the two of you neither one could handle a single stranger?”

His question had almost the same impact as a braided leather whip as it stung both Eris and Dyzon’s wounded pride about as well. Already the unusual Uraor had been on edge ever since they had been contacted by her robbing rival, demanding they set up a meeting. Eris would have liked nothing more than to take out every frustration she felt in a furious frenzy directed his way. But even she could see the folly in such temperamental tactics.

As for the Bloody Bachelor himself, he consoled himself with the constant reminder that there was still a likely chance Eris could be caught at the unfortunate end of this Gauntlet guy’s guns. Taurus couldn’t possibly fault him for that one, if it just happened to occur. Could he? The Red Bull was notorious difficult to predict when it came to how he might respond to some things. Which was precisely why Dyzon desperately wanted to walk away from this whole ordeal as soon as possible, he could almost feel the breath of hounds hunting him at the nape of his neck. The thought made him shiver despite himself.

“Like you have done any better,” Eris was the first to snarl back in an avalanche of anger. “You’ve not managed to stop this dangerous drifter either,” she challenged. “And you’re the shiny shield who is supposed to keep things like this from even becoming a problem. Instead you let the man just walk off the Titan Train and into town without so much as bothering to even search him. Then all of a sudden we have a violent vigilante on the loose and the only authority in town’s great idea to handle the situation is a fancy speech. While we are dying in the streets at the hands of some campaigning crusader you are rallying sheep.”

“I don’t think I appreciate your tone much,” Arbiter automatically snapped in response. “Besides, while I have danced about to keep everything going smoothly all this time it wasn’t me who failed so miserably. Both of you two had him outnumbered and both of you came up on the short end if you recall.”

“Don’t you dare lump me in with her,” Dyzon chimed in, a growing agitation of his own building. “She only sent 3 piles of scrap to the heap; I had to send two flesh and blood men to the Digger Doll. The guy just got lucky is all, simple as that. However, if you had been bothered to warn us just how dangerous this man was it might have been different. For that matter it never should have happened in the first place if you’d simply done what you were paid to and arrested this fool.”

Arbiter opened his mouth to defend himself with another verbal volley, but a loud series of shattering sounds stopped him. “Dirty diamonds, what is that racket,” he cursed. The sinister Sheriff spun to face the fragmented frame of what was the warehouse’s doorway while suspicions were slung about behind him.

“This is some kind of trick,” Eris accused, using her finger to level a blow of blame towards the Bloody Bachelor. Simultaneously he snapped a slung shout her way as well. “You idiot, you have lead him straight to us!” Marshall’s bellowed bravado carried its way through the air to only further infuriate the battling bandits.

Arbiter immediately felt a surge of sadistic glee as he watched this hero walking through the doorway without a single weapon in hand. “You have a lot of guts, I’ll give you that Mister,” the Sheriff said with a smile. “But you have just reached the end of your rope; you just don’t know it yet.” Behind his back, he already had a gun in hand. This was going to be so easy, and so very enjoyable.

“Draw,” Arbiter roared, his voice resonating like a struck gong. He twisted with a jerk and swung his already drawn weapon before him to fire. In his excitement, he misjudged his aim – the Sheriff hadn’t had to engage in a gunfight in quite some time. Arbiter had allowed himself to become rather rusty, and now he regretted it.

In a fluid motion, Marshall pulled both pistols and took aim. He had been a hair faster on the draw than the Sheriff, but had opted for a well placed shot instead of a wild one. It was a decision he was delighted by the outcome when a blazing beam flew past him. Two hammer falls rang in response as he sent a pair of shots back. One slammed home into the Sheriff’s upper chest near his shoulder and sent him stumbling. The other burned its way into his gut sending a wave of sickness through him, and stealing his breath.

“Some friendly advice; doesn’t matter much if you can out draw another man and can’t hit what you aim for.” Marshall watched as the Sheriff let his gun fall to the floor, free from his grasp. Struggling fro breath his hands grabbed at his chest as blood already started to soak its way out. “You have brought disgrace to your duty, and dishonor to the badge,” Marshall explained with icy venom.

“Get him,” Dyzon and Eris cried in chorus as the charged past the fading form of Arbiter. Marshall snapped off another rapid fire staccato song of shots that thudded their way into his opponents. Several caught the Uraor with fearsome force only to be met by her body’s uncanny ability to recover from damage quickly. Already the wounds were beginning to close.

Another blast took Dyzon from behind and to the side as it dropped him to the ground to cut his rushed assault short. Scrambling, Marshall dropped his Tamel’s and grabbed for the hanging hilt of the sword at his side. The light caught and rippled along the edge of the shattered blade as he brought it to bear. Eris screamed with rage as she sent blow after blow his way, a crashing wave of close-range combat.

Marshall steadied himself as his hands took their grip along the heavy blades handle and rolled his body to maximize the momentum. The sharp stub sliced through flesh like rushing water through a valley and an arm fell to the floor. A howl of pain exploded in answer and Eris fell back a step to clutch at the ruined remnants of her lost limb. Fire still burned in her eyes, but with it came a clear understanding of what awaited her if she continued.

“Mercy,” she pleaded, feeling the inherent shame the words brought forth from insider her with them. She would recover, she knew, but to die so disgracefully; that she could never haunt her in the hereafter forever. It was better to live and reclaim her pride later than to be known as a weakling by those who told of her tale.