Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Gauntlet - Episode 32.

Episode 32 – Red Bull Rage

Sitting alone along a crudely crafted bench, Adrian Taurus’s bulky body radiated grave peril to anyone who dared to interrupt him. To the casual observer one might have found humor in the notion that such a notorious crime-boss could be caught in his spare time idly enjoying any manner of civilized entertainment. Nevertheless, there he sat; knee deep in thought playing a tactical game of tiles with only his self to provide both player and opponent.

The sound of rhythmic clattering footsteps approaching didn’t even merit a single flinch from his focus as he contemplated the next move to be made. But once the sound stopped and a female voice spoke a tensing of tendons flexed instantly in response. “We have some things to discuss, you and me,” Demure Devadonna began boldly.

Several steps ahead, Adrian already anticipated where this conversation was bound to lead and he didn’t like it at all. If it was good news, well, that would have been delivered with some manner of celebratory grace and expectations of reward. Even if there had been a slight stumbling; word would have been refrained from reaching him for a short time yet before he was informed through alternative channels. No, without a doubt if this dramatic damsel was the messenger then this information was sure to leave a terrible taste on his tongue.

“Spill it,” Taurus ordered impatiently. “Just get on with it and skip this play at skirting the subject before you no longer have the fortune of my attention.” Adrian’s eyes never left the board before him as he continued to systematically move and remove the various tiled pieces along either side. With each passing beat of her pulse, Demure found herself starting to tremble as she watched the plastic parts beginning to move slightly faster from the hex shaped game.

“I have just been informed that Arbiter and Dyzon are both dead, sir,” she shakily submitted. “Eris has been taken into custody and just prior to these events the wanted outlaw known as Gauntlet gunned down both Wynt and Briscole in the street.” A violent force detonated the table in front of Taurus, shock seizing Demure as she tried to rationalize what was happening before her. As she watched on, her mind recoiled from the savage display while Taurus tore everything about him to kindling.

The Red Bull’s rage was a legendary thing among the underworld; it was spoken of with nothing but complete terror by those who feared they might earn his wrath. And now here she sat as Adrian Taurus demolished anything within sight. Even the very bench he had been sitting on was flung through the air to explode in a shower of shrapnel against a stone wall.

“Incompetent, worthless sacks of wasted flesh,” Taurus growled between snorts and snarls. “One single man, one blind fool and not any of you could manage to deal with this disruptive drifter? Clearly I have over estimated the talents of the lot of you! I should have strangled you all myself instead of giving you a chance to be of use.”

Growling, Taurus turned his eye burning bright red as his frenzy overflowed. “I’ll have your hide for this, and then I’ll get this Gauntlet in my grip. His skull will shatter ever so sweetly for trying to topple me.” A scream swept straight from Demure’s mouth before a steady stream of frantic pleading followed.

“Please, I beg you, grant me the opportunity to regroup; I am sure I can repay this rogue for the both of us! He will hurt for all that he has done. I promise you, this Gauntlet will pay dearly – I owe him for Ashes, and as Mayor who else is left to keep control of your public interests? He can’t dare touch me! I can deliver him to you, I swear it, and he’ll be handed down here to you in a heartbeat.”

The fury faded, if only slightly from Taurus as he still shook from the avalanche of adrenaline. “Rook has taken up the mantle left by Arbiter, I am sure that he will blindly try to enforce the letter of the law. He’s probably already taking the vigilante into custody to send him down to The Graveyard.” Demure desperately continued to convince the undisputed overlord of the underworld of her remaining worth. She wasn’t sure that her argument was being altogether successful.  

Taurus allowed his anger to abate a little more as he enjoyed the elevated racing rate his pulse still thundered through him. His mind was already calculating various elements to the petite politician’s claims. The sidekick turned Sheriff just might make his first act one of arresting the only real outlaw left. And with the other known criminals dead or behind bars what need would there be for a gun slinging guardian? It definitely held merit, he had to admit.

“Alright,” Adrian breathed out the word with a harsh huff to punctuate his point. “But we will not again have such a conversation. Fail me once more and you will find yourself earning a deserved and deadly reward.” Crimson still colored his eyes as he grinned with a grim glee. “Go now, bring me this Gauntlet so that I might provide him with a likewise punishment he seems so fond of.”

Demure didn’t need to be told twice; on hearing the order to take her leave she did so in a shameless sprint. There was work to be done, and she still couldn’t believe how she had just avoided the Red Bull’s rage. Even if it was narrowly – second chances were almost unheard of from Taurus. The fear that she only had been given the illusion of mercy didn’t help alleviate her worries either. She could only hope that shortly this drifter would be safely deposited beneath the dirt, and this whole bleak business would be behind them. Surely placing this Gauntlet down into The Graveyard would put an end to everything, right?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Gauntlet - Episode 31.

Episode 31 – New Sheriff, New Plan

Without a single whispered word, Marshall set himself into recovering his beloved bullet-slingers. One by one he reloaded each empty cylinder slot with a quiet click as it turned. When finally he spoke, it was the somber voice of seriousness, his head still cast down at the gun in his hand.

“Where are the rest of them,” Marshall asked suddenly. “Tell me, right now – if you truly do wish for any manner of sympathy; where are the rest of your friends.” A twinge of concern shook Rook’s conscience awake as he began to worry where Marshall might be going with this. Even a criminal, once caught was subject to the right to face the law not be executed on the spot.

“Whoa, easy there ‘slinger,” Rook pleaded, his hands held before him. “Let’s simmer it down a notch a tick, alright?” Marshall made no move, his hat’s brim still cloaking his face in shadow. “If you’re asking about the other two; the Ursian and the Uraor – they split out the back as I was making my way inside. I think it is safe to say we don’t have to worry ourselves over them; we have the leaders of both gangs. One dead, the other in custody and we have removed a corrupt official from power. Isn’t that enough bloodshed for one night?”

Some distracting thought seemed to distance the grim drifter as he reached down to examine the crimson stained corpse of what only moments ago had been the Sheriff of Redemption. With his left hand he casually plucked up the blood slick badge that dangled from a scrap of cloth and held it up just enough to let the light catch it. The small shield had once been a symbol of authority, of the promise to protect. Now it was little more than a sullied trinket in his eyes.

“The town will be needing a new man for the job I should imagine,” Marshall mused, his tone still hollow and out of place. “I can’t think of anyone better for the job,” Rook admitted, a sincere smile joining the remark. But when Marshall looked up his eyes met the prismatic purple of Rook’s own and the Deputy knew full well that Marshall had never meant himself.

“Neither can I,” the deadly drifter declared and tossed the badge towards him. Rook easily caught it in his hand and regarded it, wiping clear some of the gore with his thumb. “I don’t know what to say,” he stammered shortly, working to find the words he wanted to say. “Not sure I even know how to do the job,” he confessed finally.

“You’ll do fine, trust me; I am great judge of character.” Rising once more, Marshall holstered his gun and looked from the stunned new Sheriff to the wounded warrior woman. “It is easier than you think; all you have to do is what you know is the right thing. Enforce the laws, keep your head and do your best. Just try not to forget two very simple things; justice may not always come from a judge and if you stray from the straight and narrow – you can find yourself facing a Gauntlet.”

The last comment, Rook couldn’t ignore, it made him curious and caused questions to come to mind. “What will you do now, where will you go?” Now with both of the rival bands of bandits no longer a threat to the town, there wasn’t really anything to keep Gauntlet here in Redemption. Could such a man as Marshall Lawson settle down though?

“There are others who are responsible for the problems here, those who think they are beyond punishment for the pain they cause. I think its time they discover how mistaken they truly are,” Marshall explained. “If you mean Adrian Taurus, I am sorry, but even you cannot reach him. Where he is, nobody ever comes back from; we’re talking as far down as you can go – the end of the line and just beyond. Taurus is a permanent resident of The Graveyard, he is practically already buried.”

“Well then,” Marshall announced with a chuckle. “Perhaps it is high time that I managed to get myself back into prison.” Rook had been certain that nothing else Marshall said could have surprised him by this point. After everything else they had been through, surly he was accustomed by now to the man’s madness. And then there was this; which he couldn’t honestly say which was more unbelievable – the fact he wanted to be sent down to The Graveyard or the fact that at some point he had already been on the opposite side of barred walls.

“You know, you really are a few shots shy of a full load,” Rook exclaimed. “If you get sent down there then there is no coming back, nobody to protect you. Do you understand that?” Marshall raised one eyebrow and a glowing gleam in his eye made the new Sheriff stop his speech suddenly.

“That is what makes it perfect,” Marshall countered. “There will be no one to get in my way, no one to protect him, and no where else for him to run. The man thinks himself safe in his castle, in the one place everybody believes has him kept from causing any more harm. He is hiding there, and enjoying complete absence from any manner of suspicion whatsoever. Its time for that to end I think.”

“If you ask me, you are only signing your death warrant,” Rook replied, echoing his reservations with the idea. “No worries in that regards, I know the perfect professional for the task should the need arise.” Marshall laughed once more at the mention of the macabre maiden, and Rook couldn’t refrain from enjoying the joke as well. “There is just no talking sense into you is there,” he had to ask. Still laughing Marshall easily answered with another whip of whit. “Nope and there is no beating sense into me either. Others have tried, and failed – thick hide and thicker skull I’m afraid.”

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.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Gauntlet - Episode 29.

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.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Gauntlet - Episode 28.

Episode 28 – The Deputy Delivers

Outside the Sheriff’s office a small boy was sitting, waiting for him as Deputy Rook approached. The small glimmer of what he could only guess was hope in the child’s eye was a warm and welcome sight. “May I be of service young man,” Rook dutifully offered, sounding every bit the dedicated Deputy.

“Is it true, sir,” the boy found his words stumbling as he tried to spit them out. He even fidgeted with his hands as he refused to meet Rook’s eyes. “I, um, I mean is what everyone saying correct; did this Gauntlet fellow really just run the Bloody Bachelor himself out of town?”

Rook had to admit there was more curiosity to the question then the usual accompanied fear he was used to hearing. But then again he couldn’t clearly recall the last time, well, anyone willingly came by the office to ask about anything official. Things in Redemption seemed to be changing; at least that much he couldn’t argue with.

“I think I can honestly say that it is true,” Rook confirmed and as he did saw a genuine grin spring to life at the news. “As a matter of fact, I just came from looking into the whole thing and my official report is that two members of the Bull-Boys will be in the dirt directly. I suppose this town might owe this Gauntlet character a debt of gratitude. That’s two gangs of late that he’s single handedly handicapped, and I’d wager if we give him a little more time he might just finish the job.”

There was an almost visible glow to the boy after that, he almost bursting with excitement. “Yeah,” he exclaimed with a sudden hop. “Gauntlet is so great, I bet the Red Bull himself is going to be scared of him!” And as fast as his little legs could carry him the boy took off, obviously eager to share the news.

Rook was still shaking his head and enjoying the kid’s excitement when he entered the office. But as he made it to his desk something nagged at him, a troubling tickle that he couldn’t quite place. A quick glance around the place didn’t really provide anything immediately out of order but the feeling remained. There was something wrong, but what?

The Sheriff had sent him off to check up on the reports of another incident in town while he himself looked into another matter. But apparently he had made it back before the Sheriff. An examination of Arbiter’s desk though told another tale; it spoke volumes that not only had the Sheriff returned but that he had left again in a hurry. Papers were ruffled and left in a mess, not to mention the fact that his keys were missing. And when he looked in the drawer he immediately noted the empty space where he usually kept his gun. Another was missing from the rack along the wall as well.

“What are you up to,” Rook asked aloud as he considered what possible course of action his boss might be up to. The only clue he could find was the hastily scribbled coordinates for a location just outside the edge of town. And there was only one reason he could figure for Arbiter to be interested in visiting such a place; he had to be going to meet with one or possibly both criminal crews.

“I’ve got to warn Marshall,” Rook decided and headed for the door. And the first place he knew to check was the General Good so he would start there. As he headed off to warn the wily warrior he had to appreciate the humor involved in his choice of residence. Even at a time like this it never did hurt to laugh a little.


A lone lit lamp greeted Marshall when he slipped inside the shop. Accompanying it was the familiar fresh scent of gun oil that lingered in the air. Patiently perched behind the counter was Grandma Grael herself, a steaming mug before her and a wiped down weapon laying well within reach. 

“You had yourself a visitor,” she offered quietly. As if the evening hadn’t already been interesting enough, Marshall reluctantly raised an eyebrow and decided to ask the question he was sure she was simply waiting for. “Now who would want to stop by and pay a visit to little old me, I wonder?”

Grandma Grael fixed him with a stare that made him catch his breath a moment and fall silent as a school boy. How did she do that, he started to wonder and then immediately cast the quandary aside. Something was different; her trademark friendly demeanor was strangely absent. And in its place was a somber seriousness that was altogether unsettling.

“Arbiter stopped by the shop and decided he would just try his luck throwing his weight around,” the little lady explained calmly. “The jury is still out on whether or not I was too easy on him, to be fair. But in the end he did turn tail and run for all he was worth.”

Another look at the shotgun atop the shop counter confirmed that she was deadly serious. “Before you settled here and started this shop…” Marshall found himself beginning to ask before he quickly changed his mind. “That was another time,” Grandma Grael answered anyway. “And needs not be brought up presently, but you mark my words; that boy will be up to something if he isn’t already.”

“I am afraid that she is right, unfortunately,” Rook added as he revealed himself from behind Marshall. “I didn’t know he had planned to come here looking for you to begin with but now he has disappeared while I was away from the office and it doesn’t look too good. All I have to go on is the fact that he left armed and some coordinates to a place just outside town. I am afraid he may be on his way to meet up with some of those folks who aren’t exactly fans of Gauntlet.”

Somehow, quite surprisingly without meaning to Marshall realized that he might just be watching events unfold according to his plan. Even if he hadn’t quite worked out how to have directed them that way himself, he welcomed any manner of good fortune in that regard. With all his enemies possibly gathering together now was the perfect opportunity to try and take advantage.

“Let me grab a few things and then you can point me in the direction of this meeting spot,” Marshall mentioned. He didn’t bother to wait for the Deputy to respond, or try to object on the matter before he headed for his room. There was no need to waste time debating what would suit his needs or be the best option for the task at hand. Marshall didn’t need a second thought; he went straight to his gear and grabbed exactly what he was looking for.

It only took a moment to confirm that his ‘Hole Maker’ and ‘Scavenger’s Shard’ were ready to be put to use. For good measure he snatched up a few extra handfuls of shells and strapped on a couple extra bits or gear – just in case. Within minutes he returned back downstairs and declared; “let’s get to work.” Without another word he and Rook tipped their hats to Grandma Grael before vanishing back out the door. And a little old lady raised her mug in salute before resting her other on the handle of her gun. It was about to be a long night, and she had no intention of missing a minute of it.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gauntlet - Episode 27.

Episode 27 – A Gun-Bunny Hops Again

Over the years Grandma Grael had picked up on a good many things. She had learned how to pick out the young ones who might cause trouble, those who struggled with temptation to take and could even predict those customers who promised to pay later and would. You didn’t run the only real resource for the necessities out here for very long without adapting to survive.

So when the sharp staccato sound of footsteps outside ended at her door she already knew that they carried someone bent on business other than what her shop provided. It was the driven drumbeat of purpose, the hallmark of impending interrogations. Unfortunately for them, Grandma Grael wasn’t in the mood for playing games.

“Here on official matters,” Sheriff Arbiter announced as he stepped over the threshold to stand just inside the doorway. “Afraid I am going to have to ask you to hand over the wanted outlaw known as Gauntlet. We both know he’s been staying here, and unless you comply I’ll have to charge you with obstruction.”

Arbiter stood with his head cocked to the side, an almost look of pride in his posture. His gun was still holstered at his side, one hand held near it as if to warn that he meant his threat. But all Grandma Grael saw was the same young bully she had watched grow up. The familiar friendly smile was nowhere to be seen upon her face as she fixed him with a stern stare.

“Now you listen to me, Pierce Arbiter, we both know a lot of things,” Grandma Grael countered. “We both know that you’re no real sheriff; you’re nothing more than a fancied up guard dog for Adrian Taurus. I’ve minded my own business for far too long about the matter. I’ve turned an eye and went on about my way. But you never have learned which critters to leave be.

You’re boss did take that lesson to heart long ago. Let me share that little pearl of wisdom with you; everyone has a past and it’s often best to listen to your elders when they warn you about those who came before you. Adrian’s father knew me well back when we settled Redemption; he often told him some of the stories about who I used to be. And if you’re curious what that has to do with your situation right now, well, let me clarify it for you.

Adrian would have told you before you ever even thought to set foot in my store making demands that it would be the biggest mistake you ever made.” Without any dramatic gesture or attempt to conceal the fact Grandma Grael let the barrel of a shotgun rest atop her counter pointed directly at the Sheriff’s chest. Her eyes had the look of cold steel as she dared him to call her bluff.

“For the record,” she continued to explain. “They used to call me Gun-Bunny Grael. My past wasn’t exactly a pleasant one, and I have tried to put it behind me. But I have watched you bend the law to suit your own corrupt and perverse needs once too many. So I am going to give you the only warning you’ll get from me – to show that I am a little more merciful than I was in my youth. This isn't a pea-shooter pup, unless you want some holes in you I suggest you run back to your big-headed boss and deliver this message; he crossed the line.”

While Pierce listened to every word his eyes found it difficult to remove their focus from where they remained fixed on Grandma Grael’s trigger finger hovered a hair from his own messy demise. He had heard a handful of stories, whispered conversation mostly from some of the older townsfolk after some drinking about some old wildcat woman. They had called her Gun-Bunny, he knew that much, but he had never heard anything more than the occasional old rumor. It was like frontier folk tales he figured were more exaggeration than anything, now his doubts were quickly dissipating.

“Alright, you win,” Arbiter admitted with his hands held high, careful to keep them clear from his side arm. “But one way or another something is going to happen to want-to-be hero. The Red-Bull will never tolerate even a single man to interfere with his interests. So my friendly advice to you is to steer clear of him. And as for this, well, I’ll try to forget we had this little unfortunate encounter. But I make no promises others might find you’re lack of respect disappointing.”

“Tuck your tail and get gone pup, this trigger is a might touchy,” Grandma Grael advised. Arbiter found the cold brush of fear tickling its way up his spine. He had no question that she meant it either, and he wasn’t about to risk finding out. So he slowly started to back his way out to the street while his pulse raced in response. The second his heels hit street he wasted no time in putting as much distance between him and the legendary lady. Let her see him run, live today, deal with her later.

As she watched the sorriest excuse for a Sheriff she had ever known sprinting off into the shadows, Grandma Grael allowed herself a chuckle. Pierce was still just a petty punk compared to the kinds of people she used to deal with, he even ran like a frightened critter. In the past he never would have made it past the door to insult her, and on the rare chance that he had never would have made a single step towards the street.

Considering that thought she wrestled to decide if that meant she was slipping, or simply a better person. In the end she shrugged it aside as something that didn’t matter. Something told her that shortly word would start to spread of how the infamous Gun-Bunny was hopping once more. It was more than enough to make her smile again while she laughed. Who’d have ever thought that would happen? For some folks, she supposed, old habits were just too stubborn to be rid of though.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Gauntlet - Episode 26.

Episode 26 – Flee You Flea

Dyzon Naez watched in shock as two members of his criminal crew fell before this deadly drifter. It had all happened so fast, one second he was enjoying the impending end to this silly stranger – and then suddenly shots rang out. How had he drawn on them so fast, let alone got any shots off before them? Who was this man that they were dealing with?

Realization ravaged his insides as a fear began to snake its way up from somewhere deep within him. This was indeed the self-proclaimed hero of Redemption, the man who called himself Gauntlet. On this side of those pointed pistols, Dyzon found himself understanding just how easily Eris could have been overcome by a single Samaritan.

The weight of his own weapon hanging loose in his hand felt ten times heavier than he knew it to be. It brought his attention back until his focus landed on the simple understanding that relics or not – two terrifying revolvers were trained on him. Any move he made now to attack would certainly be interrupted by impending death. There wouldn’t even be the need for this avenging angel to draw at all. A quick squeeze or two and he would be waking up as worm food.

“Caess,” Dyzon tried desperately to keep from showing how scared he was. No matter how dire the situation or how bad the hand he held was he refused to let this Gauntlet guy see him shake. “Now would be a good time for you to be doing something,” he confessed.

The keen minded Kry-Santhian had already been analyzing the situation as it unfolded, considering a complex array of options. His grip still on his deadly little device he immediately had assessed its state only to discover his concerns confirmed. The improvised invention had sucked far more power from its power supply than he had estimated. If only he had had more time to tinker on it, Caess considered. Perhaps it was the direct way he wired the circuit pathways, or maybe the resonating tank had failed to filter the frequency and… This wasn’t the time to troubleshoot his tinkered tech; Caess decided and reined in his train of thought immediately.

“I am doing something,” the stocky stone skinned scavenger admitted without any attempt to mask the urgency he was feeling. “The smart thing to do right now is try to make for a tactical retreat and hope to avoid getting shot in the back! I suggest you do the same, unless you feel obligated to find out if Wynt and Briscole are waiting for you before they shuffle along.”

Dyzon tried his best to study the man still standing in the same spot where he had shown up at. For all his effort he couldn’t read him at all, he had made no move towards him. This silent sentinel just stood there like a statue with his guns at the ready. Would he show mercy if they fled? Or did a bullet in the back await him as soon as he provided the opportunity?

The idea of running from anyone was tantamount to declaring himself a coward – or worse; Eris’s equal. Both things sickened Dyzon as they crossed his mind. And what of his reputation among the people of Redemption, what of the image everyone had come to expect from the Bloody Bachelor?

This was surely a sign of weakness if ever there was one. And after a similar showing from Dizcords Daemons, there was little to keep the town from turning against them. Even with Arbiter on their side or the Mayor to spin things this could easily spell the end to the way things had been for them.

Taurus would no doubt hold him personally responsible. That fact was inevitable and left him little option; he could either die here and now or take his chances running. If he ran he might live long enough to rectify the situation by finding a way to take out this Gauntlet character. And even then once the Red Bull received word he would be as good as anyone else occupying a grave. There would be no where to hide or any way to outrun his reach.

“Time to roll the dice,” Dyzon declared through gritted teeth. Caess had had enough good sense to slowly reposition himself behind the driver’s seat and await his peer’s move before he himself did anything. It would simply have been better odds to floor it and save his own hide if Dyzon had chosen to take his chances in a gunfight.

The Bloody Bachelor swallowed hard to push his wounded pride down and out of the way. It still turned in his stomach as he moved ever so delicately to grab at the roller’s rail cage doorway. Each second felt like forever as he listened intently for any sound that might foretell his fate. But nothing came right up to the moment his rear rested against the passenger’s seat.

“Flee you flea,” Dyzon demanded instantly. The words had barely formed and managed to make their way past his tongue when Caess had already slammed the accelerator as far down as it could go. The two disappeared in a trailing cloud of dust until the lingering twilight swallowed them up.

“Looks like we’re all going to be on the hook for this,” Dyzon said coldly. “Either we remove this thorny threat or we face the Red Bull’s wrath right alongside Eris and them.” Caess drove in silence as he considered just how desperate Dyzon would have to be to even consider joining forces with a female let alone someone he deemed a rival. “Make contact with Dizcords Daemons, I know you have some idea of how to reach them, and set up a meeting.”

Only the humming sound of the roller’s engine could be heard against the night as they drove on.  Neither man dared risk a glance behind them, nor would they talk further presently. They had just witnessed a man they thought to be little more than a joke gun down two of their crew in the blink of an eye only to allow them to run without so much as a warning shot. As frightening as fighting this Gauntlet again was, they both found themselves hoping they had time before news could travel to Adrian Taurus. Time enough for them to attempt to fix everything, or if they were lucky die trying.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Gauntlet - Episode 25.

Episode 25 – Beware a Burnt Backside

The sound of screeching steel assaulted the air as the Bull-Boys rushing roller skidded to a halt. Immediately both Wynt and Briscole jumped clear to take up positions along either side of the vehicle, weapons in hand. “Caess,” Dyzon shouted as he rose to step out himself, a gun in one hand and a megaphone in the other. “Get behind that toy of yours and kindly give these good folks a taste of our resolve. I want them to know we mean business and ensure that we have their undivided attention.”

Caess hesitated for a single breath before moving to obey the order, a look of concern clearly etched on his slate shaded brow. “Alright Dyzon, but I haven’t finished testing this thing out yet – no promises the power cells will hold it under prolonged use,” he explained. “Any particular preference in regards to targets or would you like me to provide them with a warning blast?”

 “Just pull the trigger and reduce something to rubble boulder brain,” Dyzon scolded. The Kry-Santhian slipped behind a swivel mounted device and pivoted in towards some nearby buildings and tediously squeezed its trigger. For a second his heart skipped a beat as he questioned whether it would even work only to find a roar of relief when it erupted. A bright steady stream of shimmering energy poured out to rip its way through everything it touched. With a jerk Caess pulled the pointed power to his left and watched the wrecking weapon’s blast obey. By the time he released the trigger he knew only seconds had past but before him he would have sworn a few minutes worth of a bullet barrage had occurred.

“It makes me no never mind if you want to hide in your homes or not, you can die just as well no matter where you are.” Dyzon’s announcement easily carried through the evening streets, audibly amplified by the megaphone held before him. As he began his sinister speech fearful faces slowly began to peek out from windows and rubble to regard him. “I am here for one thing and one thing only; the man who calls himself Gauntlet. Can you hear me, hero? I am calling you out, if you’ve got the guts to face a real man. And I can promise you, you’ll not find us the bunch of push-over’s you’re used to.”

Only silent shadows and trembling townsfolk answered Dyzon’s challenge as he looked around. “Alright, there may be no love lost between the people of Redemption and yourself Mr. Crusade, but I doubt you’ll turn a blind eye to their pain. Show your self or my friend here is going to start remodeling Redemption into ruins.” Along with the threat a lethal look reinforced his meaning as he gestured toward Caess.

The soft sound of soled boots padding over dirt ended with a crunch behind Dyzon, prompting a smile of satisfaction. “You can call off your dogs, friend, I’ll accept your challenge,” the mysterious man proclaimed. Awaiting Dyzon’s eyes when he turned around was a man with his own gaze downcast, his face obscured behind the brim of his hat. No weapon was visible in either hand nor was a single stitch of protective apparel anywhere to be seen. In fact, only a pair of antique looking revolvers holstered at his sides and some bizarre blades marked the man as being armed at all. And even so, the fool had ignorantly chosen to wear his weapons with the handles facing forward.

“Let me explain something, friend,” Dyzon began with a chuckle of amusement. “When you wear a weapon it’s wise to be able to get to it easily and quickly. And for your own health, it is never a noteworthy notion to step into our way when we’re looking for somebody.” A growing giggle began to grip Dyzon at the idea that this silly man seemed to think himself brave enough to walk right up to them and accept his challenge. “So why don’t you run along, we have business with this Gauntlet fellow, not some dimwit drifter.”

Marshall raised his head with measured effect, his hands still clear of his carried side arms. “I thought I made myself clear the last time we met; I am certainly no friend to you and your lot,” he countered. Upon seeing the familiar face fresh laughter found Dyzon as he enjoyed the irony of the situation.

“Well, well, well; look here boys – if it isn’t Mr. Titan Train himself! Don’t tell me you’re this Gauntlet character causing, or trying to anyways, all this trouble around here?” Marshall surveyed the position of his foes and made a mental note of their placement before answering. “The same,” he admitted careful to keep his best poker face on.

With a shake of his head Dyzon tried to clear his thoughts of the inherent humor in the claim and called for Wynt and Briscole. “Would you two remove this idiot and his bad taste in jokes, please,” he asked with a growing grown of displeasure. Perhaps afterwards the real hero might show himself, Dyzon hated to waste all night destroying the town looking for him.

Eagerly Wynt took aim relishing the chance to get back at the man who he’d promised to get even with on the Titan Train. “With pleasure,” he answered. A few steps away Briscole raised his own gun obediently as well. “Whatever you say, boss,” he agreed. Together the pair of thugs began to approach their target in tandem, ready to remove him.

Marshall allowed them three steps towards him as he sized them up and estimated their reactions. Neither one of them had moved their finger to the trigger just yet, nor did either seem intent to do so until they closed in on him. In fact, a staggered step marked Wynt as a man recently engaged in some heavy drinking. He was a sharp contrast to the sweaty tightly muscled man at his side that looked to be fresh from a workout.

Even sober and well rested, Marshall doubted either of them would have the speed to react on the draw fast enough. But right now, he was doubly sure he held the edge in this encounter. It was time to take the advantage and make the most of it, Marshall decided grimly.

Both his elbows dropped to point behind him, his wrists bent ever so slightly as his gun’s gripped seemed to reach for his embrace. A subtle whoosh of wind accompanied his weapons as they whipped out catching the bold bandits off guard by the offensive. Wide eyes stared in disbelief as a pair of pistols barked to life to send speeding shots their way. A violent volley pelted them with piercing projectiles that ended in grizzly gurgling.

Both criminals fell to the ground with a wet thud as Marshall adjusted his aim towards the other two terrorizing thieves. Perhaps now they might take him a touch more seriously. Either way he was ready to receive their reaction.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Swallowed by Shadows; A Shadowrun Returns Review.

Swallowed by Shadows; A Shadowrun Returns Review

Been awhile, ‘eh chummer? Well, hopefully that Johnson didn’t hold it against you personally how that job went sideways. I told you it’s never wise to take their word for it that it’ll be a milk run. Say, if your credstick is a little light I can float you some for a soycaf and some nutrisoy…

You good now? Slot yourself some attention chiphead and stay sharp; we got biz. Seems shadows all over the sprawl are swallowing up runners left and right. Gotta stay on your toes these days, omae, or become another deniable claim on a corp. report sheet. So if you’re up to make some quick nuyen, now’s the time to choose; in or out?

For your sake, and mine; I hope you’re in.

Shadowrun Returns hit the matrix… er, I mean it was released almost a month ago now. And to be honest in that short amount of time already has been turning heads and providing plenty of smiles. Now, if you haven’t ever played the original tabletop rpg, or the old sega/snes video games then don’t feel bad. Even if they are pretty awesome ways to kill some spare time. However, it is Returns though that proves (in my opinion) to be nothing less than a sinkhole that will swallow your spare time.

As soon as you jack yourself in… er, sorry; I am doing it again. Upon loading the game for the first time I have to admit that even as nostalgic as I was the experience didn’t disappoint at all. Even coming to the game without any past knowledge I think it is well presented enough to step you through making your first character and getting into things.

Your options are both varied and straightforward enough to enable you to craft a runner who is either as simple or as complex as you like. And to further strengthen things while you explore your way through the game it is so incredibly easy to advance your character in almost any way you would find appealing. Want to play a hulking troll who likes nothing more than to hack through security? No problem! Want to play a feisty little elf who loves to slice and dice anything in sight while calling themselves spanky? You can, although your friends may question your choice in names…

But the real powerhouse of pleasure to be found in Shadowrun Returns has got to be its storyline. The delicious content therein is nothing short of brilliant – honest. I could watch a movie play out or read such a tale over and over again. Actually, I have completed the main content ‘Dead Man’s Switch’ three times already and am on my fourth. In fact I think I am most of the way through it and once done will probably fire it up for a fifth play through. Yeah, it is that much fun.

The initial plot hook is more than compelling enough to snare your curiosity and when combined with a short flashback easily proves to be a great introduction sequence to start the game. During which you are given the option to show the help screen; a handy source of game play info (which is also just a click away at anytime in the game). I refuse to spoil the storyline by even mentioning part of it but if you are curious it is easily found via Google.

Another great source of personal reward, for me at least; is the replay value. Even if you have the whole story and think you’re satisfied I think you’ll be surprised how you may find yourself pondering other types of characters to try out. I have been having a blast replaying in different ways every time; from giving different answers to taking alternative tactics and even totally opposite play styles. There is no one ‘you must play this way to win.’ Don’t like the idea of a decker? Fine; in the matrix run mission scenes you can find an npc to handle it, you can piggy back with a retired pro, or simply choose another approach. In truth, it is fun to even find ways while playing to get around some fights and the like with a smile and a wink or even a flashed wad of funds.

There is more than enough variety to be a funfest for just about anyone. And if that isn’t enough for you it comes with an editor to create your own content – which others already have. Don’t let the graphics or its turn-based system fool you; this is a load of fun to be sure. I should know, I keep finding myself easily distracted by the temptation to simply finish one more scene before stopping.

So if you opt to take a run through the shadows; consider yourself warned. It’s all too easy to find yourself swallowed up by them chummer.

Shoot straight. Conserve ammo. And never, ever, cut a deal with a dragon.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Gauntlet - Episode 24.

Episode 24 – A Charging Bull is a Blind Bull

The sign over Terra’s shop was still visible enough to make out the original writing that marked it as ‘Decently Departed.’ Although a layer of graffiti overlaid it with various less respectful claims. One did catch Marshall’s eye that he had to admit was somewhat cute. It was just two words written in a crude scrawl; Digger Doll.

As for the shop itself, it was perhaps the most well ordered and professional looking establishment Marshall had ever seen. It was very warm and inviting, the whole decor had a friendly welcome feeling to it. There was not even a single hint of the morbid expectations most assumed to find inside a business devoted to dealing with the dead. In fact, Marshall felt a little embarrassed by his obvious nervous nature at first after entering the shop.

“Well, I believe I can handle everything from here,” Terra said softly. “I would like to thank you again for the help, I’m grateful. It’s quite refreshing to meet someone who isn’t too scared to talk to me.” A grin gingerly hinted at forming on Terra’s face, and was quickly answered in kind by Marshall. “You should probably start heading back, it’ll be getting dark before long and the dusk hounds can be dangerous this time of day.”

“Don’t worry about me, I think I’ve had my fill of warm welcome from the locals,” Marshall jokingly replied. “No matter how many legs they have; I’ll be careful.” Terra’s smile widened at the clever comment and she laughed once more. The sound was musical and full of wonder to him, like listening to a trickling stream in spring as it overcomes winters chill. “Much obliged for the advice though, ma’am,” he added with a bow and tip of his hat.

“I have every confidence that you’ll be hard pressed to find anything around these parts that will be able to dent that armored exterior you have. Even so, do take care; I will be looking forward to delivers with a friendly face behind them.” Marshall felt his cheeks flush a little as he took his leave, his step noticeably lighter as well. Miss Donovaen had been right though, he noticed as he looked up to the sky. The bright yellow orb above had already dropped low in the sky and shifted into a deepening shade of orange. Quickly it would barely be just a pink glow on the horizon as it vanished for the night.

He really should be getting back but his recent encounter had left him in higher spirits, and he’d rather enjoy the feeling for a few moments longer. There were things to consider, matters he still had yet to contemplate. What he really needed was to clear his head and be alone with his thoughts. Given the general disdain for this area and the time of day, Marshall had to admit there might not be a better chance to find some time to think.

His feet led him to the edge of town where Terra’s warning proved true enough to halt his wandering. A small pack of dusk hounds had managed to corner some unlucky beast along the town’s border. Normally Marshall might not have given the creatures much thought and written the whole thing off as squarely within the domain of the natural order of things.

As he watched the dusk hounds maneuvering into position he noticed how their dust-colored hides seemed to blur the difference between where they were and where sudden movement showed them to be. They really had earned their name fittingly enough; these hounds often appeared at dusk and often did so seemingly out of thin air. It didn’t really seem all that fair to their prey to him, natural or not. And presently Marshall decided he had had enough of bullies, even if they were mere beasts.

With both pistols to hand Marshall took aim and trained his first shot just to the side of the lead hound. A loud crack echoed out as his blast hit nothing but dirt, a clear miss. His eyes barely had time to notice any real detail in the dusk hound’s reaction, already the growing gloom protecting them from his perception. But engaging an enemy without the benefit of light wasn’t altogether unfamiliar to Marshall. He knew rather well that long before his eyes would discern any detail, they would detect motion instead.

Patiently he drew in a long breath and eased it back out; forcing himself to relax as he waited. Another blur of brown exploded at his left, and he answered it with an impulsive shot. Again only a thud of dirt marked his efforts, but one subtle fact became clear. With each avoided attack the lead hound dodged, the others moved likewise. A plan began to form behind his brown eyes, and a savage smirk soon joined it.

This time when something obscure alerted him he fired again in its direction and immediately followed it up with a second just opposite to the first. A primal yelp of pain rewarded his gambit as a wounded dusk hound stumbled just long enough to be greeted with a sharp staccato of shots. “That’s one,” Marshall remarked gravely as he watched a few fleeing shades vanish off into the distance.

“Guess they weren’t sure who to follow next,” he decided. With the final rays of sunlight fading from the sky Marshall reviewed each gun and reloaded the empty cylinders. Overhead he could already see a few drosswings beginning to circle the prospect of a fresh meal. The large carrion birds glided about on their foul smelling oily black wings, eager to feast on the fallen dusk hound below.

As the sky-born scavengers began to dive down for their dinner, Marshall watched as just as fast as they scattered as if spooked. But what could have startled these drosswings from a fresh feast? The distant sound of a rumbling roller soon answered that question well enough. It was racing rapidly towards Redemption, and as it got closer Marshall found the vehicle familiar. He had seen this one before, the day the Titan Train was robbed coming to town.

If this was the Bull-Boys heading into town it was anything but good news. In a hurry Marshall looked for a better position and when a rough chunk of stone presented itself he slid behind it. The rigid rock was a rough presence at his back as the roar of an engine grew louder. Cautiously he decided to risk a look around the side as a thick trail of thrown up dust flew in his face.

While he coughed up a cloud of his own the motor’s sound was already fading away. The Bull-Boys had just blown past him in a reckless rush that worried him about their reasons for coming to Redemption. Grandma Grael and Terra’s faces were the first things that came to mind and he found himself quite concerned. He would have to hurry to catch up to that roller and fate frown on them if he was too late this time.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Gauntlet - Episode 23.

Episode 23 – Spurred Bulls and Bullies

The reinforced safe house door rang with a resounding echo as someone used it effectively to announce their demand for attention with a series of loud knocks. Lost adrift a rather pleasant daydream, Dyzon’s feet fell from their perch as he was returned back to reality. Another round of rapped poundings came while he struggled to clear the fog of confusion that clung to his distracted mind.

“Someone is at the door,” Caess pointed out without bothering to look up from whatever tinkering project currently laid before him. “Thanks for the update,” Dyzon countered, not bothering to hide the agitated edge in his tone. “Don’t worry though Caess, I will get the door, I’d hate to tear you away from anything important.”

Oblivious to any intended insult Caess simply kept working, his attention completely lost on anything else. “Appreciated,” he added automatically. Dyzon grunted as he rose from his comfortable spot, resenting the interruption of what had become a fun dream and headed for the door. Before he could even answer the blasted thing a third pattern of pounds erupted.

“Yeah, yeah; keep your pants on,” Dyzon told the closed door. A keypad beside the door beeped in a steady rhythm as he punched in the access code that allowed it to open. He didn’t see any reason to bother checking who was outside; the only people who might even show up at this location were him and the Bull-Boys themselves or a handful of others loyal to Taurus himself.

“What is it,” Dyzon demanded before the door had barely finished opening with a hushed hiss. “What is so important that it has you beating on our door like your rear is ablaze?” Looking back at him was a frantic young face belonging to a boy barely old enough to have hair on his chin. Whether urgent or otherwise, Dyzon had no doubt to this kid the delivery of his message had to be the most important thing he had ever been asked to do. If he was lucky the boy would remember to breathe.

“I have word from the Red Bull himself,” the boy began and didn’t seem to be about to wait long enough for anyone to acknowledge his claim. “He says he wants the man calling himself Gauntlet eliminated immediately. Mr. Taurus says that he doesn’t want him causing any more trouble like he did for Eris at the bank. Crush him and anyone else who even considers standing against Mr. Taurus’s interests – his words.”

“Whoa, rein that horse in speedy,” Dyzon exclaimed as he rubbed at his forehead trying to let everything sink in. “Run that bit by me again about Eris and a bank; am I missing something or are you implying that she tried to rob the bank? And by the sound of it she managed to find herself running into some opposition? Details boy, fill in the blanks here.”

The young messenger’s eyes began to dart about as he was decidedly unprepared to have to provide more than just the recited message. “Uh, well – yeah, Dizcord’s Daemons tried to rob the bank,” he stumbled to explain. “Some drifter showed up and shot down all three of the Bot Brothers before running them off. They say the town has called the man an outlaw and an enemy of the public. He doesn’t sound like much, probably already skipped town anyway.”

“Run along then runt,” Dyzon ordered before clicking for the door to close. “Caess, where are the rest of the boys at, looks likes we get to make some trouble in town.” The ruby eyed Krysanthian barely paused before he relayed their location. “Wynt is having a drink as usual and Briscole is probably practicing his pummeling. They’re both off in the back somewhere; want me to get them in here for you?”

“Yeah, make it quick too,” Dyzon advised with a sadistic smile. “If old Eris is off licking her wounds with her tail tucked I want to make the most of the moment and show her you handle a troublemaker. It’s high time Taurus saw just how worthless that whole lot is and just how valuable we really are.”

“How you going to find this Gauntlet guy anyways,” Caess asked as he was about to leave the room. “If this fellow fancies himself the hero then we will just have to tear the town up a bit to draw him out. Why hunt him down when he’ll come to us all on his own?”

Caess considered the fact that this man had supposedly taken out three of Eris’s crew single-handedly. Even with Dyzon’s low estimation of the Daemons, he had to admit that perhaps a small measure of caution was in order. Although, whatever the fool was thinking to make him even remotely consider attacking a whole crew of robbers he couldn’t imagine. Well, perhaps the guy was dumb enough to make it easy on them. If not just maybe he was smart enough to already have cleared out of town. Either way a trip to town was a welcome thing; he could use some new parts for his tinkering.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Gauntlet - Episode 22.

Episode 22 – The Digger Doll

After the majority of Redemption’s residents had gathered together in town for a little song and dance courtesy of their selfless public servants, the store became a hub of commerce. Apparently everybody seemed to have the same idea; while they were already here in town anyways, why not do a little shopping. The whole situation did little to ease Marshall’s unsettled nerves at present. All these swarming shoppers who only a short while ago was deciding to denounce the actions of Gauntlet made him more than a little concerned.

In hindsight it might have been a little wiser to have concealed his identity, Marshall concluded. He hadn’t really thought about it before; everyone adored a champion of justice – at least in the stories anyways. Now all it would take was one person who recognized him from the bank or the bombed building and his goose was as good as cooked. At least in both those situations there was the distraction of danger that might have limited people’s attention from his face.

When Marshall next redirected his gaze from the crates of goods he was sorting in the back a startling sight awaited him. It was almost as if he had blinked and missed someone yelling a warning about a bomb. The General Good was suddenly devoid of patrons, save one lone lady. Standing just inside the doorway and looking quite oblivious to the absence of everyone who had just recently shared the space was the familiar form of Miss Donovaen.

Sharply dressed as always in a flattering three piece suit the mysterious maven silently stepped inside the shop and then greeted Grandma Grael. She removed her topper and bowed slightly. “Lovely weather we are having today isn’t it,” she offered politely. “Business, it seems, is on the rise so I just need to restock on a few things.”

“Certainly dear,” Grandma Grail replied as she accepted a neatly written note detailing everything needed. “My, this is quite a list then; isn’t it? Well, no worries – we’ll see to getting that filled and you back to your waiting workload. Let me just get my extra pair of hands; Marshall, come over here please.”

Marshall’s curiosity welcomed the request as he still found it puzzling how quickly everyone had vanished. He also admittedly wondered at just what exactly it was Miss Donovaen even did for a living. One look at her shopping list didn’t really seem to provide any answers either. It almost seemed like she was building something, but to look at this well-dressed woman he couldn’t begin to imagine her laboring over much of anything.

“Always a pleasure to be of assistance,” Marshall offered with a soft smile. “If it isn’t overly forward, do you mind if I ask what you’re working on? I might be able to lend a hand some if Grandma Grael can spare me on occasion.” Something in his words clearly amused both ladies as a ripple of muffled giggles erupted.

“What,” he asked somewhat embarrassed. “Care to let me in on the joke, ladies?” After a second round of laughter both ladies managed to regain their composure before addressing him with an answer. “Terra here is the town’s resident undertaker,” Grandma Grael explained. “Hence the immediate vacant vicinity that accompanies my presence,” Miss Donovaen added.

“Wait, you mean you’re…” Marshall found the idea strangely hard to swallow. “It’s your job to deal with the dead, but – well, no offense ma’am you’re a lady. Even taking your profession into consideration, how can anyone as charming as yourself be lacking with regards to social matters?”

Terra was hard pressed to resist a burgeoning blush that already started to show in her cheeks. “Would that more of the people of Redemption shared your thoughts on the matter,” Terra confessed. “Thank you for the kind words, but unfortunately those in my chosen career isn’t exactly the type to invoke a comfortable atmosphere. People accept that such a job is a necessary one but out here it is more visible and therefore less savory of a subject.

I imagine that by avoiding my presence in public they figure they might also keep my morbid occupation out of thought.” Marshall honestly couldn’t argue with that one, but he still couldn’t see anyone turning away from those amazing amethyst eyes. “Do you need a hand packing these items back to your shop,” he asked her still smiling. “If you’d prefer I can deliver them for you next time. Something tells me you’re going to be getting some steady work for a while yet.”

“Perhaps,” Terra agreed as she returned a brief grin herself. “However, I will do you the small kindness of excusing you from your offer to assist me. I will, though accept your help in escorting me back with these supplies.” Turning back towards Grandma Grael and nodded a friendly farewell. “You know you really are getting to be a full service shop here!” The comment prompted another chuckle from Grandma Grael as she admitted in reply; “we do aim to be of service.”