What is Buffalo Bill’s Mafia? Glad you asked. It’s a weekly fan-fiction series that transforms real-life events important to Bills Fans everywhere into a fun, action-packed mythology story - A legend for a Legendary Team.
Just scroll down to read Episode 04 for free now.
Our other Episodes live here.
Previously: A young farm boy called Josh of Allentown proves to the new commander of the Buffalo Bill’s that he can not only ride a bucking bronco, but that he shoots the sharpest shot in the frontier. He joins the friendly gang of gunslingers, heavies, trickster and lawyers, to become a Bill.
Plus their newest recruit, a Robot Marine named Four-Zero, arrives from the future with a dire warning about the dangers and corruption of Los Angeles...
Year 2049, Present Day
Once, in the Near Ages, the farm boy of the Old Wests traveled through time.
“Impossible,” said Josh of Allentown, catching a glimpse of something in the night between the skittering cars of another train - a fleet of trains - that ripped past his own racing Stampede.
Josh ran forward through the plush but dark Pullman, broken gas lamps being extinguished by Bills’. He opened the carriage door.
No, I’m not okay! He sprinted down the flowered carpets crunching with broken glass.
He opened the door with two jerks, plowing shards that jammed it. He ran through the next - crack! - crunch! - the blur of trains beside them still rocketed miles long. Smiley faces on each rusted nano-tech shell.
At the front car - finally - they passed the broken windows and the screaming noise of it broke.
“It’s — impossible!” Josh wasn’t breathing. Blood ran from his nostril.
What it was, was more than he could imagine.
Two centuries beyond the only time he’d ever known. Two centuries beyond steam locomotion and buggies, and worst of all, two hundred million people beyond the biggest hamlet Josh had ever experienced.
He started panting short breaths looking at the whole thing. A Megalopolis of high-density buildings as thick as coal in hopper car. Deep canyons cut through them, colored lights flickered in the smoke. How far below were the street beds? Some collapsed blocks were even terraced with heavy mining equipment driving through their upper floors. It’s a quarry, in their own buildings.
“…go…bills…” whispered Gardener Dawkins coming to a slow stop beside his gunslinger.
As the seemingly miniature silver Stampede train sailed forward to Los Angeles, it lifted onto a series of overland bridges.
Why travel above the ground?
Josh looked down at the shrinking vegetation. Then forward.
The tracks rose in order to clear the wall.
This whole gigacity was corralled by a wall as tall as a mountain holding back the swollen sea on oneside and a blazing forest fire on the other.
“That’s what 230 million people look like-,” said Four-Zero Miller-Class, walking forward on the fully-charged robotic exoskeleton he wore; his nose also bled but his metal voice was smooth. “Though, they are called ‘Refugees’ in this world.-”
“Are they in danger?” Asked Josh looking out at the city.
“Sure.- The Pacific and the Endless Fire are both still rising.- But the Refugees don’t care.- They keep moving here faster than any city in the era.- They are leaders in this world, and with copious Dignity. Plus the unstoppable RAMS force protects them and with the new laws, they are the ‘rulers’ of all the realms-.” Four-Zero wiped new blood from his nose again; the machine-skeleton of his RAM suit mirrored him. “Besides, Kroken Corp keeps everyone rather comfortable with their ‘Pacific’er Phones.’- Josh, that’s a small personal device each Refugee scrolls…”
“I know what a pacifier is, thank you,” growled Josh.
“Right.-” said Four-Zero, tilting his head to consider, “Yeah.-”
“Cancer’s what Doc Edmunds called it,” spoke up Dawkins in a locked-on daze. He watched a fleet of crafts drop waterfalls onto the blazing mountain range. Some ocean-water must have been fuel-rich because the climbed the water. “Oh-” Several explosions hardly glowed in the distant smog. A brutal place.
“We can’t let this ‘realm’s way’ expand to the Buffalo Nation. Or any other world,” Josh declared.
“Then buckle-up, Gunslinger.-” Four-Zero tossed Josh of Allentown an enclosed spacemen’s helmet, “We’ve got a mother load of Dignity in the space elevator and an unstoppable squadron defending it.-”
“Go- Go!-” Yelled Josh of Allentown, “On me!”
Exposed to the towering buildings. Ash and sewage made paste on his boots. His boots made footprints. The first footprints in a while, for a city of multitudes.
Go, go, next step. Here.
He slammed his back hard into cover behind a caged-up ramen bar. Made it.
“Made it,” said Josh.
Motor ran past him. Watch his blindspots. Watch his back. Good.
“Good.-” said Motor over the comms.
“Good.-” Josh said into comms.
“Great.-” Answered Bear Morse. “Push!-” And the Attack Team of dozens ran past Josh’s cover, then Motors. Ash-paste covered their spacesuits too. Then came the rumble of the heavy cargo truck past Josh. The team rolled forward.
Four-Zero’s RAM drone flew off his back far above the Attack Team, deep in the smog of city - and looked down. The tactical team was seen driving forward better than McDermott even drew up in the dirt. Dirt that still filled Four-Zero’s pockets.
His dirt now.
He watched the cowboys of a yesterday advance in the spacesuits and sonic weapons of tomorrow.
The lead-men ran, held forward positions, another would push past…on and on, undisturbed. All the while, farther back, as he pivoted the camera, the cargo truck followed, currently climbing a series of stairs cut into trash.
The Defense Team fanned out in a widening perimeter.
“On go Gunslinger.-”
Penetration of the Center. Easy enough maneuver. Establish and defend the ‘Go-Route’ between the Stampede and the cache in Sophon Space Elevator.
“You’ll know it because it’s the tallest structure ever made.-” joked Four-Zero, “Oh, and it’s overflowing with Dignity batteries.”
“Guys, this is too easy.-” Josh heard someone say in the comm. He didn’t know the men’s voices yet. He was two blocks further up leaping from a pipe and rolling to a kneel. He scanned all of the windows above him for snipers. For RAMS. For a threat - something.
How can this be so empty?
“Y’know Bucktail, there’s one thing missing from this gigacity,” said someone else. Was it Doc? Stop. Focus. Advance.
Josh ran over a neon billboard being used as a bridge to span three burned out police-crafts. ‘Victory Colonies,’ it flickered below him.
“230 million things missing.-”
“Go!-” Josh repeated loudly, worried this future comm. system in this stuffy helmet failed.
“Easy gunslinger, this is Bear. Attack Team is still a-go.- We ain’t even had to come to a full stop yet in matters of fact.- They’re just in idle chatter.-”
“No men, the Refugees are here.-” said Four-Zero, scanning the empty ‘Go-Route’ from the drone. “For every window you see there’s a dozen more rooms ‘building-locked,’ each with bunks and bunks of Refugees.-”
“Why aren’t they outside swimming?- Or riding?-”
“Because they have Pacifi’ers.- They scroll.-”
“Headsup Josh!- This is Utah.- Standing by.-”
Josh sweat in his fogging helmet to scan the abandoned mall super-structure he was in. It was like a coalmine in size and depth, if only the mineral veins were designer bags instead of anthracite. Josh dove down and almost fired on a holographic projection of a seven-story RAM leaping through the multi-floor atrium. This recording of a ‘One-Zero’ fired a weapon as Royal Bengal Imperials pulled him down. Speakers described the story of the Winter War.
It was a spectacle to see, but only Josh was there, on his elbows.
And the hologram changed.
Now it’s was someone he knew.
“Four-Zero,” Josh whispered.
The super RAM hologram annihilated an Imperial Sniper, snapping his rifle. The fallen soldier was a gunslinger, he looked like Josh.
Next in the show, Four-Zero was at Kroken Colonial Resort saying, “We ain’t going nowhere Los Angeles!” The giant projection looked directly at Josh, who turned away. It’s probably nothing.
“Just leaving Rodeo Mall.-” Josh said, sonic-shooting a window open and jumping past some animatronic mannequins into the night.
“It’s pronounced Ro-déo, kid.-” Four-Zero said.
“Oh, really? So in LA Rodeo is — …whoa.-” Josh slowed in the middle of the road, exposed to windows, exposed to cameras, exposed to anything. He lost focus for a second, as would anyone who had never seen the scale of the Sophon Space Elevator before.
What he saw was a distant support pillar, titanic, crushing the skyscrapers around it. And based on it’s angle knew where the other one would be, miles away. Which means the third pillar was…
It’s an uncanny feeling when you realize you’ve been under a building’s elevated platform the entire time. Those three pillars pushed into a central trunk that the farm-boy from a one-room homestead of wood & pitch could now see up. There was no smog in the interior. It was an endless tunnel to space.
“Wake up!- Am I clear!?” It was Utah Davis. How long was I out?
Josh scanned the once-elegant Sofi canopy and water-plaza before him. This old relic was large and important once, now had a second life as a Dignity cache.
“Yes Utah! All clear.-”
The distant figure of Utah Davis ran under Josh’s protection from cover for the motherload. Josh used his scope to see the McKenzie Slim running behind - already celebrating.
“Clear. Clear. Clear!” Davis yelled. “It’s endless here boys! And kind of pretty.”
Joyful screams on the comm.!
Josh watched from his position as the truck launched out of the Rodeo Mall he cleared direct to Sofi. The dancing crew, even Dawkins, loaded it full with battery tanks of Dignity.
No resistance. Josh marveled. The unstoppable force letting flies eat their dinner?
Maybe it wasn’t ‘probably nothing.’
“Four-Zero, we still good?-” Josh commed.
“Still clear, kid.- Celebrate.-” Four-Zero replied, serious.
“Hawkeye, we good from your lookout too?-” Josh asked.
“Hey Gunslinger, I came down to ground, Four-Zero said he had it covered.-” Hawkeye responded.
“Josh you coming in!?- You won’t believe what they did with some of this Dignity!-” cried Dawkins, laughing. “Utah’s pulling the coverings off the piles.-”
“No, I’m going to go check on something.-” Josh replied.
“Well, your loss. After Motor hauls this truckload out of here, you’ll never see this much Dignity in one place again!-” said Dawkins.
As Josh was focused on something else as he jogged back through the open pit of the mall. He was watched and lit by Four-Zero’s head and jewels in hologram, winking, in a loop.
“McDermott for Bear.-” it was the Lieutenant General on the comms.
“This is Bear.-” Morse still had laughter in his voice.
“Good work. No sign of resistance?”
“None sir.-” That was Four-Zero who cut in again. Josh was certain now and jumped on a vehicle marked: iAuto. He tripped but it was close enough to a saddle and it did the rest after he told it where he wanted to go. With a swirl of ash he flew over the Victory Colony bridge.
“Good,” continued McDermott on comms, “Save Motor for combat drivin’. If it be this quiet full-route, I’ve sent Cookie with a Hover-Cargo he got runnin’. Return him with the full truck and load up the Hoverer he brings.”
“Thank you, Bear.-”
“Lieutenant General.-” the other voice again.
“Go ahead, Four-Zero.-”
“If it’s just finders-keepers out here,- want me to convert some of my nearby Defense Team to the cargo-train?-”
“No.” It was Josh. And not on the comms.
Four-Zero turned around.
The Gunslinger had come right to him. At the perimeter edge.
On the lip of danger, the Gunslinger and Four-Zero stood atop the glass cube that enclosed an old sign reading, ‘Hollywood.’
Orange flame glowed bright in the haze beyond the firewall, making both men look as bright as campfire coals.
“You shouldn’t be this far out Gunslinger.”
“Because it’s Perimeter Edge! I can’t protect you out of bounds!”
“Or are you afraid of what I might find, RAM!?”
“The RAM Squadron is unstoppable, they change laws that are unchangeable. That’s all I’ve heard. And yet a dozen western showmen wander in to steal it all with not so much as a dirty look? We have a new cook driving Dignity out of the city fortress. Not to pick on the new guy, gee, what am I sayin’!? I’m new at all this and didn’t even see a real person yet!”
“Yeah. You are the new guy, Gunslinger. And you’re used to doing everything yourself. But you’re on a squad now,”
“Same thing!” barked Four-Zero.
“Is it to you!?”
“And on a squad, kid, if you get wounded or worse, it puts everyone else in danger fill-in’ your shoes and movin’ your body.”
“I know, ‘The best ability is availability.’” Quoted Josh.
“Yeah, just like mammy always said on the farm,” mocked Four-Zero. “So get off my perimeter line, boy. And get off my back.” He turned, definitively.
“What is an LA trap!?” Challenged Josh.
The silence grew pregnant.
The two stood on the glass case. Above them a hologram of movie-stars, as tall as these hills pantomimed in front of a bigger ‘Digital Hollywood’ sign in the sky, ‘Follow Your Dreams to Kroken Corp’s DIGITAL HOLLYWOOD!’ Ash rained through the projection as it switched from a detective in Chinatown to two cowboys as one said to the other, “This town ain’t big enough for the both of us.”
“Four-Zero!” yelled Josh as a fire-fleet droned overhead.
Four-Zero stopped but didn’t turn. Fire-lit ocean water rained on them.
“I wanted to trust you…But I cannot leave here until you answer me honest - Where are the RAM Squadrons!?”
Four-Zero lurched around, already charging Josh and twice-his size.
Josh drew for his sidearm, eyes tracking the weak points.
Gone! Nothing but smooth plastic.
Josh’s stomach dropped. Spacesuites don’t have sidearms. He has the whole team in these!
Four-Zero jumped and the robot augmented armor jumped him higher over Josh.
The Gunslinger could only brace - but the plastic would shatter.
Four-Zero’s RAM suit collided overhead with something. Another RAM suit - pure-white.
“Nine!” Yelled Four-Zero - it was their Gunner!
Rockets activated in Four-Zero’s shoulders and he drove the RAM into the glass roof Josh lay on, piercing it into a sharp spiderweb.
“Traitor!” Yelled Nine, wrestling his machine over Four-Zero’s.
“Disengage!” Four-Zero said, flipping away with rocket legs torching the glass, melting glued joints. “Bills!- Bills!-” Four-Zero said into his comm. mic, “Enemy breach!- North!- Griffith District!- Ah!-” Nine fired sonic shots and another, One-Zero, body-checked Miller-Class with his back.
Two troop carrier drones ripped overhead, Four-Zero, engaged hand-to-hand, could only watch and yell, “Phillips!- Oliver!- Incoming-!”
Weapon, weapon, where is my weapon? Scrambled Josh, seeing it skittering down the roof over the old Hollywood sign. The hologram actors above flipped from a musical trio singing, “Good Mornin’, Good Mornin’!” in front of the fight and flaming firewall, to a body-builder, “I’ll be back!”
Just then a hulking RAM suit tank tumbled from an air-drop and a rocket-blast broke it’s fall.
“The Terminator!- In battle!-” Four-Zero yelled as he kicked RAM One-Zero off his leg with a rocket and dove forward onto Nine. Their impact crashed them through the glass and inside the cube enclosure of the old Hollywood sign. They battled.
Josh could hardly see for the fog in his helmet, but knew he’d be crushed by The Terminator and leapt for his sonic gun. Got it! Josh spun, and aimed where a man should be. But he had to aim higher and this was a fully-plated robot suit. The Terminator took sonic-shots like beestings as he ran the glass at Josh.
Above and inside the Hollywood cube the two Bills engaged three, now four ‘unstoppable’ RAMS.
Screams came over the comms. It was Cookie.
“Help!- What do I do!?- They are climbing aboard!-”
Then another voice, McKenzie Slim:
“Poyer?- Mister Hyde!- Where are you!?-”
“Archives Slim- And we’re not alone!-”
“I’ve lost control.-! Retreat.-!” said Cookie, ashamed.
No-no-no thought Josh, then his sonic gun was punched away, No!
Josh ran for it, his only chance, but his legs were knocked out with a Terminator rocket and his plastic suit landed hard on the last remaining glass panels over ‘HOLLYWOOD.’ Nine-Nine had got him down.
Josh saw Four-Zero twist below to break free from Nine, One-Zero and Five. An incredible fighter. But then, rather than re-engage, he used his earned space to look up…and turn on Josh.
Four-Zero ran and stopped below Josh’s panel.
“This is a machine’s world, little one! You and your showmen are creatures!” He rocket-lept and punched at Josh’s face, splitting the glass with his alloy-knuckles.
So Morse was right. I was right. The RAM is a RAM in a RAM.
“Rodeo, Rodeo!- Anyone!-” came back McKenzie’s scene on the comms. for anyone listening. “I have the Hoverer Half-Load in the Rodeo pits- Evasive maneuvers- But too Many!-”
Josh imagined him flying a Refugee vehicle against RAM military-craft in the deep bowels and holograms of the abandoned Rodéo Mall. He’d be exposed. He’d be roped off like a calf.
“Nano-gloves- Slipping!-” Slim got out one more word, “Hijacked!-”
Just like Cookie.
“Idiot!” yelled Josh to himself. The spit from the word flew an inch into his own face-shield. Through it stink, The Terminator Nine-Nine, leapt with rockets over Josh’s plastic chest-plate. So many of him, in each spit-drop. Josh looked below him, Four-Zero, crouched to load a rocket-jump that would shatter the glass.
So this is how it ends? My hope to help the Buffalo Nation. To be a part of something bigger than myself. A Mafia.
He didn’t think it would come this early, now in a plastic costume, two centuries away from the ranch and Filly’s grave.
They hijacked every scrap of Dignity we captured.
Mentally, Josh threw away hope.
He took what would be his last breath for time to slow. Above him, Nine-Nine’s shoulder rockets glowed and and bust orange and blue fire to push him down.
Four-Zero was already flying up. He drove a fist, the machine drove a larger, more metal fist.
Josh lay defenseless between both RAMs.
The timing would be nearly perfect, the backdrop certainly was: the crumbling old Hollywood sign. Some tombstone.
The punch from Four-Zero hit first - creeaak-chip-chip - glass pulverized - Josh fell lower - already decending back as the deathblow from The Terminator hit his chest into…nothing - there was no backstop anymore - there was no squash.
“Shield! Shield!” Josh heard Four-Zero was yelling from his daze.
“Shield?” Josh asked, “Shield! I have a shield.”
As they all now fell the height of the glass structure, heading for the floor, Josh drew out not a sidearm but the Shield Armor McDermott gave him and Dawkins.
With an…’intended’ flick of the wrist it burst in hexagons four times its size as Four-Zero shot the glass floor not below but next to them. One panel away from their own. It weakened it into that increasingly-common spider-web.
The duo landed in an ungraceful pile and but the shield stayed on top like a parisole.
Four-Zero immediately used all his strength and RAM-suit to reinforce it rather than Josh’s ‘creature’ body - so that when - CRAAAAAAASH! - The Terminator tank-body landed on it it didn’t crush but deflected the car-accident into the weakened glass.
Nine-Nine, Five, One-Zero and Nine all scrambled for a foothold in the collapsing-half of the structure as the glass became glass-pieces and the RAM-front tumbled away into the haze.
Back under the shield, blood and sweat and glass fell from Four-Zero. He stood up and easily lifted a shocked Josh of Allentown to his feet.
After all that - he wasn’t dead? I’m not dead!
“Do you trust me now?” Asked Four-Zero.
“Well, I’d say, that part where you — y’know fought the three robots and saved my life from the tank-man…well, it goes a long way,” calculated Josh with a smile.
They had lost any progress they gained, but they weren’t so damaged either, the report was to get back to the fortified Stampede. But it sounded like McDermott wasn’t ready to go home just yet.
Josh looked down for signs of the fallen RAMS. They had escaped too. This wasn’t over.
Josh turned to leap his way up and out of this hanging glass case. “Now, before you leave this spot,” Four-Zero asked in a mocking tone, “Do you have any more declarations to make kid?”
Josh laughed, then said, “Yeah. Why did you punch the glass right under my face?”
“Oh, that? It looked like the best spot,”
The Robot Man and the Gunslinger climbed away from the Hollywood signs, old and new.
“The best spot? Is the glass weaker there or something? I’d think it would be at a joint, but no, you aimed right where your fist would hit my faceplate.”
“Mind the gaping hole,” Four-Zero joked, pushing Josh toward the edge of safety with his human hand and catching him as he fell with his robot hand.
“Don’t count it over,” paced Lieutenant General McDermott in the Stampede looking at his Buffalo Bill’s units in plastic spacesuits.
“The RAM Squad was recording for the Dignity statue unveilings,” confessed Four-Zero, “I knew they would be at the Kroken Ministry of Culture for the broadcast tonight.”
“How?” Challenged Morse.
“He’s okay,” said Josh back.
“Because I was formally invited,” said Four-Zero. He looked around the train carriage for other suspicions. Around them, a grid of automated delivery trains and elevators pumped perpendicular to each other moving billions of commodities in and trillions of wreaking trash pieces out. LAX-XL.
“I hope you don’t mind Four-Zero - I accidentally pulled the banner off of your super statue when we were in the Sofi cache,” admitted Utah Davis to a scowl from Four-Zero, “It looked good!”
“Yes,” many others chimed in.
“Overflowing with Dignity you was. Lit’rally. Flowin’ from your eyes.”
“You’re over-selling it,” whispered Slim.
“Sorry,” said Morse.
McDermott stepped in, “It doesn’t matter where they were or why we had it easy - ‘cause they be here now and both our cargos - that’s ten scores of Dignity - be unloaded already back in the Dignity cache.”
“So we try again,” said Josh.
“With what!?” Asked Four-Zero, “You seen what they can do. Your plastic suits won’t protect you if they engage, and now they are.”
“Not to mention, they have our transports, kid,” added Morse.
“What if we carry the Dignity batteries on our backs?” Asked Dawkins. “One heavy and two escorts. Make it convert-like.”
“Covert,” corrected Davis. “Covert.”
“The Gunslinger is right, the Weakening is but half-passed. We must try,” said the Lieutenant, “We will. Four-Zero, we appreciate the gear and transport convoy you smuggled. I see ’tis the way in this space-time and how ’tis suited to Robot Augmented Marines. But look at ‘cha rough riders! In plastic costumes!”
McDermott stalked over to Davis and ripped at his helmet, twisting it this way and that.
“You want it off sir?” Asked Davis with his head beans.
“I’m makin’ a dramatic point!” The helmet cracked and popped off revealing a sweating, red-in-the-face gentleman with an 1800’s Hulihee-beard. McDermott threw that helmet out the broken window and it collided with a passing trash-train full-speed.
McDermott opened a polished mahogany panel, then carefully opened the wooden steamer trunk marked, ‘Utah Davis, Extraordinaire’ and lifted up a beaver felt Stetson ‘Boss of the Plains’ hat and crowned it on his head.
“This is the key.”
“You want us to wear less armor?” Asked Four-Zero.
“An enemy without armor wears more confidence,” said McDermott, “More confidence means bigger ideas! And big ideas change the tide of a war…remember, you are not robots executing drills and responding to a corporation. You are the maverick gunslingers, the tricksters and rough riders of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West!”
The men cheered.
Helmets and chipped plastic came off.
“We beat the RAMS by being Bill’s.”
“So, we are to carry it?” Asked Dawkins.
“You’ll carry somethin’. Bucktail Jackson intercepted some intelligence.”
A beeping droid bobbed it’s head.
It tilted it with imitation-curiosity and moved closer to a trash-heap of last year’s Pacifi’ers. There was music coming from them. Or behind them. Or one of them. It bobbed it’s head again, beeping. This wore a Kroken 9 and was the delicate Recon Trol from Gunner Nine’s RAM suit.
It detected the music was not in the current Pacifi’er 10-second loop database, which was all music, and began scanning for an antiquated match.
Whatever dong it was it kept getting a little bit louder.
The droid pawed a little sharp skewer at the Pacifi’ers, some still autoscrolling advertisements as they slid down the pile.
The music was a little bit louder now.
“A little bit louder now. A little bit louder now. A little bit louder now. A little bit louder now.”
“What kind of song is this?” Asked RAM Nine to himself watching the droid screen from across the city.
“A LITTLE BIT LOUDER NOW…”
Then the droid heard nothing.
The pile exploded in two hundred directions.
“Oh, look,” laughed Boom Boom Milano. “Ciao.”
The 9 droid was all that remained from the hill of trash.
It bobbed it’s head to scan their position.
Monsieur Rousseau stormed from the ash-dust and flattened the spy-droid.
Somehow all of the colossal holograms over the city, which were of Ten-Zero and Nine and erotic advertisements flicked and became the black and white Isley Brothers. They danced, bopped and belted Shout! everywhere.
One projection of Ronald Isley did the splits in the canyon of Century Boulevard - his legs stretching the entire length of their ‘Go-Route’ and, seemingly, from his back shoe ran Josh, Motor and Bear Morse - and Utah Davis and Slim - and Gardener Dawkins carrying a huge spool of cable strapped to his back. All of them in the Western Gear fitting of a Buffalo Bill show.
The RAMs and their droid immediately closed in. The secure perimeter was not blocks but only yards away now from the spool of cable and Morse’s counterpoint. Four-Zero lead the Defensive Team and gun crew in funding battle and blocks.
From inside the explosions and screams Dawkins shouted, (because - no more comms.) “What are we doing exactly!?”
“Go- Go!” Said Josh.
“It’s like the Miami job,” Morse helped Dawkins shoulder the heavy coil over a sewage trench as Josh handed the cable-head, a ‘plug’ apparently, to Motor. He ran off into the haze and the cable un-wound until it stopped. Are you hurt?
Motor gave a perfectly timed, ‘Shout!’
He was at the Ramen shop.
“Aye, I remember, no trucks there either, but that Dignity was water,” said Dawkins, “Heave!”
The heavy’s hauled it forward again. The entire perimeter could shift around the Ramen shop.
Explosions from the front got closer. They were getting cornered already.
“Victory Colonies Bridge is overrun!” Reported Hawkeye Johnson, skidding in from the ash-cloud, “We’re stuck.”
Josh heard the Shout song booming in the Gigacity of Los Angeles.
“Give it to me then.”
Josh got to Motor’s cover, took the plug and ran, leaving the spool and his guardsmen behind him in the haze. There’s the bridge!
Suddenly RAM broke through a window and charged at him - he’d cut the angle. His alloy would break Josh’s arm, be it plastic armor or this cotton.
“No, Josh!” Yelled Four-Zero from a pin-down on Nine. “Avail-ability! Shield yourself!”
My shield! Josh remembered. Perfect!
Josh drew out the future shield armor from his holster and snapped it open in a flash. He could have defended his ribs by holding it flat and surrendering - but instead he shoved it laterally, like the heel of a boot, into the robot’s neck. The RAM flew off axis and into the ground jamming underneath the burned-out police-crafts supporting the bridge. Ammo rockets spilled everywhere.
Josh’s silhouette ran-stepped up the neon bridge and shouted loud!
His cowboy hat pointed high. Victory Colonies had another meaning.
Motor was there in an instant, “I’m using’ that!”
…leads to big ideas.
“They are bolting down the spool,” said Motor, “The cable will reach from here to the cache if we can sting it!”
Motor took the shield and plug-head into the haze, Josh watched his back and the black and white holograms above, then into the windows. The only lights inside were…images of himself. Images of himself that just happened - ramming the shield into the shining marine. I am on the Pacifi’er Scroll!?
Motor blocked his body with the shield and rammed into incoming RAMS, knocking them back. The cabled kept moving at Josh’s feet.
Josh snagged an ammo rocket and chased the snaking cable into and through the Rodeo Mall. Pronounced Ro-Dee-Oh tonight.
“Everybody shout now! Everybody shout now!” Sang the flickering holograms. Josh thought he could hear people, Mafiafolk? Refugees perhaps, yelling and cheering him on.
A wrangler whistle. Mckenzie Slim or Davis had infiltrated Sofi - at least one had achieved their role.
Josh came to a stop inside the last store of Rodeo, under the titanic Sophon Space Elevator. He had to crawl up to Motor hunkered behind the window frame and mannequins - now being pulverized. Josh could taste the marble-powered. Designer brand fragments showered them.
“We’d need an ironclad to cross the water-plaza!” said Motor, “And they got the only one around.”
Josh lifted a mirror shard to see a no-man’s land in the Sofi plaza and The Terminator tank cruising the water feature. He dropped it.
Beat them by being big idea Buffalo Bill’s Westerners.
“We won’t need to.” Josh pulled fringes off Motor’s leather jacket.
“Motor, we’re skilled showmen.”
“Yeah, and showmen need their fringes.”
Josh used them as ties to fasten the mysterious plug-head and cable to the ammo rocket.
“How are you going to fire a rocket without a gun-launcher? Not that the ammo would even fit now-”
Josh grabbed as many branded onesies around him as he could, ‘Los Angeles versus the Worlds,’ - they will work - and tied them to span the window frame - dodging fire.
“I hope you’re ready over there, Slim,” Josh said to himself, pulling his the stretchy clothes tight and placing the missile and plug in the middle. Motor helped shove racks to clear the way.
“Hey Josh,” said Motor. The homesteader boy calculated his aim at Sofi.
“What do you call a Gunslinger without a Gun?”
“Now!” Josh released the elastic bowstring and the rocket and plug and cable and slack all flung with a snap out of the window and arced toward Sofi.
“It’s a hose!”
Cheered Dawkins to Bear Morse as the power cable warmed and the counting ticker started to spin. “And it’s pumpin’ fast Bear!”
McKenzie Slim had plugged it into the Dignity stores.
“Don’t ask me what an electric current is, but Jackson’s intel claimed it was liquid. And we know from Miami, liquid don’t need cargo wagons - it needs hoses.”
“Then let’s get more hoses!” Said Josh of Allentown with Motor returning to the center point on the neon bridge. It lit them pink and teal and blue from their feet.
“They don’t know what hit them!” Said Four-Zero running into the same glow.
“Me either. A slingshot made out of undergarments!” Said Motor.
“A slingshot?” Said Four-Zero with confidence of his own…and the makings of an idea. “Ain’t you a crackshot long shooter?”
“Well, I don’t know about-”
“Then why are we wastin’ time running heavy cables!?”
Maybe it was a big idea.
“You need a gun. No a harpoon. If it can shoot a Raider-rope it can shoot a cable-hose!” said Four-Zero, a sparkle in his eye, “Less armor, bigger ideas…I’m on it.”
“We go bigger!”
The tide had turned for these Buffalo Bill’s.
Beau Boogie stole a cable-hose harpoon launcher (or the closest equivalent) from the RAM-controlled armory and used it to pummel Gunner Nine to the rooftop when he tried to block him on his exit.
This particular piece had been seized off of a Raiding Ship out of the radiation dead zone of Vegas.
Four-Zero proved to be a genius of a tinkerer and actually disassembled his RAM suit - “Wait, no!” “It will be useless anyway a few hours away from a Sophon Network.” - and rigged its mirroring technology to the Raider skyjack-made-cable-hose.
It couldn’t walk any more, it couldn’t protect anyone, but it didn’t need to, Miller Class walked himself and because the cannon could sit 50 yards from the Stampede tanker cars, plugged in, and fire a cable at any angle Josh chose to aim.
The Gunslinger drew a rusty rod from a storm drain and pointed it around the night haze. The harpoon cannon pivoted equally in real time.
“It works!” Said Josh.
“Of course it works!” Replied Four-Zero with a clap on his back.
McKenzie had plugged in, and managed to escape through Doc’s route, but Utah Davis was still working whatever tricks, persuasions or stealth he had to infiltrate himself.
The whistle came from the blocks of haze.
Josh closed his eyes to imagine where the echoes triangulated.
He aimed the old rod, the rod aimed the mounted harpoon.
“Fire,” Josh whispered.
With a futuristic KAH-Huuuh the shot was off and the wire coil spun into a blur.
Whistles came back. Some confusion, as the gun crew measured the cable left at the Stampede.
“Four yards short!”
Josh was running forward before anyone could stop him.
Under the titanic structure he slid to Davis’s cover as RAMs pushed in. Josh wasted no time, picking up the plug-head himself and charged over the wall and into the RAM blockade. With only will, shield armor and strength he knocked them off the stairs and broke into Sofi.
“Go! Go!” Cheered Davis! “What a creature!”
Josh of Allentown in the sanctity of the inside looked up at the stores of glowing Dignity batteries. Batteries within Batteries. Jewels within Jewels. Banners loosed only today. All of this Dignity glowed purple and shifted, liquid, as it powered the sophon network that powered the Pacifi’ers. In the center of the storage were five artful ‘guardian’ statues. Larger-than-life, the Super RAMs who had earned Kroken these spoils ’stood guard.’
Glass-likenesses of Nine, One-Zero, Nine-Nine, Four-Zero, and another Josh didn’t recognize from today’s battle, Three. Liquid Dignity filled them and poured from them in tasteful fountains like Gods. Josh plugged the cable into the foot of Nine-Nine, it snapped like a magnet, in the same way Slim had plugged into and drained One-Zero. Draining too some of this Dignity hoard from Kroken and dimming some Pacifi’ers perhaps.
Before the young gunslinger followed Doc’s escape route back to the Stampede, he gave a salute to the giant Four-Zero, “Glad you’re on our side.”
It was over.
The Stampede was being packed quickly when Josh got back, climbing the ladder of the cargo tanks to see for himself it flowing and secure. 14 scores of Dignity pumped already. The RAMs still fired long missiles - the Weakening was still open - but they damaged only LAX-XL and their own deliveries.
Bigfoot and Four-Zero had dragged the harpoon back toward the Stampede so Boom Boom could detonate the weapon behind them when a -
- whistle came from the haze.
“That’s an infiltrator whistle,” said Hawkeye immediately turning toward the Space Elevator.
“Whose still back there?” Josh asked. He looked around at the Western crew. Davis. Slim. Knox. Motor.
Whoever it is, they have an opening.
Josh leapt off the tanks and - “Does that harpoon have a cable-hose on it still!?” “Yes!” - scrambled for the rod.
“Where is it? Where is it?”
Dawkins pulled a curtain rod straight out of the fancy Pullman and tossed it down. Josh didn’t even take off the red, white and blue drapes as he spun it 360 degrees into position. The giant RAM-cannon spun loud below him.
Flying through the canyon of buildings we sailed up with the spinning harpoon.
Through holograms, explosions and seawater drops. We arc at apex and down as the space elevator fills the night sky.
He fell through the elevator from space - through searchlights - he held a blue and red flare in each hand.
We flew. He flew. The Harpoon.
All meet in the air high above Sofi.
Magnets pulled the harpoon’s arc down to him, and us.
Straight down now, with him, instead of over.
The spy fired six rounds into the glass roof of Sofi.
A crumbling spiderweb.
And his back broke through the rest.
Now it was just the Dignity-rich statues and surface of the planet that moved fast toward him. Us. No parachute.
It would be a spectacular, instant death.
Instead, the harpoon cable stiffened, and stretched against the hole in the roof above him. Somewhere, far away, a modified RAM-suit cannon lurched, then anchored this free fall.
A spectacular spectacle.
The spy still moved fast enough that he could drive the harpoon plug into the head of the statue below him.
Glass, Dignity; it split and shattered all the way down.
The spy still landed hard on his back - but unharmed - even in a tuxedo.
Perhaps there was something about less armor…more confidence man?
The mysterious spy sprung up as the RAM statue of Four-Zero came down.
Who was this?
“Hey-ey-ey-ey!” The spaceman screamed, smashing his head, dripping in Dignity and overflowing with adrenaline!
The spy made it back to the Stampede as 7 scores of Dignity filled up another tanker car.
“Who is this guy! And where was he!?” Josh yelled.
Utah Davis and Slim jumped on him.
“Call! Me! Hollywood Diggs Baby!” The man in the tux, exhausted, started throwing his souvenirs into the open Stampede windows. “I’ve been setting up the shots, Gunslinger. Hollywood, Hollywood. Pan-Am Films! We just made us a movie! Broadcast the whole attack to more people than you could imagine. Nah, not just Hollywood. That Elevator’s got a Sophon Antennae - it uses the sun! All the realms seen what we Buffalo Bill’s got done here tonight!”
Cheers and noise went up from the gang, maybe even some confused muffles.
“Deep Ops. Months, I’ve been setting the stage. You like that ‘Shout’ song!? Blizzard Dancer!? You like it!? It was me!”
“Blizzard Dancer ain’t here,” said Dawkins serious, grabbing this Hollywood and bringing the conversation down to just between the two of them. “You made all of this into a movie?”
“I just made all of you famous!” He yelled over the gardener’s face. “Even that drama on the old sign. Muah! Cinematic drama there, Gunslinger!”
“And you gave yourself the big closing stunt-piece?” Growled Dawkins low.
“You know it, Shnowman the Showman!” And then Hollywood dropped the smile and matched Dawkins’s low volume, suddenly serious. “Or did you forget about me with the future man?”
Dawkins laughed at the joke, “No, brother! Welcome back.”
“No, forget you!? The Top Spy in the Public Eye? You’re best in the west and that’s with everyone knowing what you do and where you are!” Diggs still didn’t break, so Dawkins sobered up, “You serious? You upset?”
Hollywood Diggs just laughed.
And laughed and laughed.
And laughed some more.
As the Stampede got out of Los Angeles...
...gaining speed on the skybridge tracks, Nine and Ten-Zero, gave a final air pursuit and announced by loudspeakers that McDermott was thereby subpoenaed with documented evidence of high-theft and countless felony infractions to the new unchangeable laws.
They were ‘bringing the whole outfit down.’
J.B.L. Poyer, Esquire took great pleasure in intercepting their last desperate move and, set out a fine folding stool for himself on the caboose. What for? May you ask.
Josh did, looking back.
So: …that when J.B.L. Poyer, Esquire put on his spectacles and opened his leather briefcase he could do so on his lap, rather than the caboose railing, which, as thin as it was, might allow for the newly drafted, (and ever so devastating), lawsuit against Kroken Parent Corporation to fall. Then he and Mister Hyde would only be left with carbon copies. But thus seated on the folding chair, under the Pullman’s Pintsch gas lamp, it did not.
Nine and One-Zero did not stay for it all but were rather discouraged when they understood that, as of tonight, Kroken Parent Corporation no longer were majority owners of the family of minerals known as Dignity and; that by, their own lawyer’s account, had specified Los Angeles’s Municipal jurisdiction as the governing legislative body over the terms of surrender, rather than, say a broader, wider jurisdiction like, even, Los Angeles county for example - the very jurisdiction that the Stampede and all of this Dignity was currently traveling through…so really, unfortunately, any damage or so-called ‘enforcement’ of municipal authority outside of the municipal borders would be a breach of their own laws…unless, of course, they would like to amend them.
“Didn’t figure so,” called Poyer, waving, “We’ll see you in the High Court!”
Back in the sweet-smelling Western Winds of New Fort York and over a dozen bowls of wings from each establishment, the Buffalo Bills watched the film.
Literally, they watched the IMAX-XL film of the battle Hollywood Diggs had captured and broadcasts to all the realms in the Near Ages with motion picture technology. The sound, and color, and frame rate didn’t fare so well in the Weakening time collapse between worlds - but the stiff-armed shield-to-the-face from their Gunslinger into a RAM when things were still pretty dicy, looked just as good as a black and white silent film. The men yelled their bravado and accumulated fears out of their system.
McDermott, a man of hidden talents, puffed his pipe and played a playful soundtrack on the piano. The Bill’s laughed and sang marching mafia tunes.
“You do realize, Diggs,” said Tiny Bear Morse getting the clean-faced spy in a headlock, “That while, you, yes-you, have shown all the realms we took a powerful first victory…Ye’ve also placed a target the size of Wyoming on our backs!”
“And I won’t let a target so small stop us!”
Just then, outside of the noise and laughter of the Ellicott Square Dance and Motion Picture Hall; in the cool shadow of the water-tower, a lone stranger rode in on a burro with a guitar roped to his back.
Little Cade saw him first.
Next Little Cade interrupted the piano, wings and fun from the back of the picture show. All the heads of the Bills, so happy, but gripping for bad news, looked at him.
“Go ahead Cade,” said Josh, seeing the boy tremble.
“There’s a stranger out here I ain’t seen before on any corner of the Pony Express. He’s lookin’ for you Josh of Allentown. He said you - full name specific.”
“What color hat’s he wearin’?” Asked the Gunslinger.