05: Titans in the Sky

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.



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Previously: A young Gunslinger called Josh of Allentown lead the powerful gang of Buffalo Bill’s to out-smart and out-fight the robot marines of Los Angeles. A Los Angeles of a time-jumping world called the Near Ages which Josh is still learning to understand. But Dignity is important, a precious resource as important as water in a once drought-plagued frontier like the Buffalo Nation. It is here, in their 1800's, that the Bill's return to trouble…






Once, in the Near Ages, the gunslinger Josh of Allentown stood up very slowly in a shadowy motion picture hall.

He calculated. Behind him jerky black-and-white frames projected silent scenes of future Los Angeles, holograms and cowboys routing their robot marines. Heroes celebrated in grainy close-ups. And the same faces - still ruddy from the laughter of before - now sat noiseless and tense around Josh.

He walked through the dark toward the light.

Though the tunnel of victorian craftsmanship toward the shine.

His boot-heels knocked on planks.

His hand, sweet with wing-sauce, swung the batwing doors.

He was home.






The mountain range of clouds in the skies glowed lavender, mango and vanilla-almond.

A quarry in those mountains would mine iced cream and pie. The four-block street of romantic facades seemed painted by the same artist and seasoned by the same baker of the sunset. The highest mark in town was the Buffalo Nation flag, bolts & stars, swaying atop the copper watchtowers of New Fort York.

But floating above it this evening was a sphere of shimmering canvas, rope, ribbon-flags and hydrogen. A tethered hot air balloon wafted higher than the campfire smoke, the banner it draped read, “A Good Year for Mafia Folks!” People waved.

Home.

But the twilight and sweet ‘cheerio’ smells of Main Street were not the reason the laughing party halted.

Nor was it the reason the beef-carvers, the chefs, the pinto-riding mafiafolk of the great migration now circled in a quiet crowd below the water tower.

It was him.




“Howdy Stranger, Go Bills,”

said Josh as the mass of the crowd split an opening for him. “A friend said you was lookin’ for me.”

The dark figure with the dark hat and guitar didn’t move from his burro, both drooped as listless as corpses. Blood dripped from his nose.

Josh kept walking. Mafiafolk moved broken tables aside, drew children closer. A baby cried.

“Where ‘bouts you from?” Josh asked sharp in the silent crowd of thousands.

After the stranger didn’t move or speak a Medicine Woman with holy face paints whispered behind Josh, “Take care Gunslinger, he wears a sickness of Tadodaho.”

Behind the shadow man, behind the mafiafolk, the big sun set. Evening clouds stretched higher making a pretty peach tower with filament edges. On the first breeze Josh caught the man’s sump smell. He wore only a loose black mantle - the heavy drapes royalty wore in portraits - but these furs had endured more rain and blisters than a beggar’s blanket.

Then, the deep voice spoke with no motion.

“Monsieur, ...’vhat year c’est la?”

Josh could hardly understand the question inside the French accent.

“1871.” It was gardener Dawkins by Josh’s side, in the circle of people and street wagons, “The Fore-Years is past and one since the new era reset.”

“Et ‘es a good year!” The figure lurched back his head, a finger pointed up too, cloud-facing, balloon-facing...it took a deep smell.

This disquieted the crowd.

“Easy… Easy…” whispered Doc to Bucktail Jackson as he grabbed his holster. Bucktail had intercepted an important communiqué in Los Angeles and was eager to interrupt any more trouble.

“Ze’ sky-“ The stranger mused, then lowered his face from the twilight pinks and pastels until his brim eclipsed half his eyes, “It is a God year.” Where Josh wore XVII tattooed on his cheek to remember the 17 years of the drought, the outlander wore a bold cross inking. From his bleeding nose, pierced like a bull, hung a gold cross, matching his necklace.

“Can I offer you some water, Missionary?” Josh asked. He looked parched and surely his people, wherever they stood, were parched too. I remember the delusions of thirst-making. Josh pointed to young coachman about his age with a cargo wagon of tables and the native zubaz-fur lining his leather jacket, “Friend, what’s your name?”

“R. G. Wheeler.”

Josh pitched Wheeler his canteen, “R. G., go to the Fort and fill up your wagon with as much of the freshest-transformed Dignity Water it can hold.”

“Of course, sir.” R. G. maneuvered his mule team around the crowd which Josh could now see packed the entire street to the fort with flags, smokers, wagons and totems for the first Buffalo Dance of this Weakening Season. In more than one mafiafolk eye he read fear and suspicion.

“Don’t trust him!“ It was Bucktail Jackson speaking up from the painted people and began to circle the missionary from behind. He still wore the uniform of the Union’s Thirteenth Pennsylvanian Reserves who had to display a bucktail as proof they could shoot. He fashoined 30. “I know this burro. I tracked it long in a bitter storm. Hawkeye?”

Josh looked.

“Full of pain, that memory,” nodded Hawkeye. Behind him a mafia elder moved to put her own bison furs over Hawkeye. Comfort for those in pain. Josh remembered the mafia’s own charity to him, and Filly. At the thought of her innocent death, under his charge, and the mafia generosity…his throat clenched with emotion.

“Well it is not our way.”





“Seven scores of water, sir.”

Josh walked R. G.’s mule-team to the missionary, careful not to indicate disgust at the sulfuric smell. He wiped his canteen lip and offered it.

“For you. And these seven scores more for your mission, Friend.”

This caused a stirring in the crowd.

The man in the mantle of star-trios and black-mold looked at the canteen and up to Josh. He grabbed the jug hard, elbowing Josh back as he drew it in and took a suck.

“Ah, I taste…ram-blood,” he smiled showing wet, bone-white teeth, with a gold cap. “Z’ey claim you are a savior, no? Is z’is what you tell z’em?”

“No, it is not.” And he was serious when he said, “I’m just Josh.”

Jush,” mocked the frenchmen at the apparently silly sound.

Josh still didn’t take the bait. “What’s your name, Missionary?”

“On-Ree,” he said with a playful flourish, then whispered fast, “I-am-a-king.”

The man in black threw his head back and sucked at the canteen - gulp-gulp-grulp - until it was dry and dripping off his chin.

The hanging cups and kettle’s at Wegman’s General Store began to tap-taptap-clink-tap in a breeze. It caught Josh’s ear and then eyes. He looked over his shoulder to check the Buffalo Nation flag, now blowing quite earnestly.

“Stop! Josh.” Lieutenant General McDermott interrupted off the side of the theater. Josh had already had the thought.

“No, no, I have it,” Josh responded.

“What is it?” Asked Hollywood Diggs, open to anything.

The frenchman had started to whistle a tune.

Josh took three steps toward the pretty clouds of the storm system moving in, and looked back at the flag. Just then a gust of wind clawed after his white hat.

Diggs grabbed it easily from mid-air and handed it back, spotless.

On-Ree, the missionary, handed back Josh’s canteen so he might spin down the guitar from his back.

“What is it Josh!?” Asked Morse, hands cupped on his bearded mouth. He was still back with the crowd in the wide circle that surrounded the pair. The frenchman sang softly to himself, pleased,


I’ll sing ‘ze a true song from long, long ago,

So ancient ‘ze verse, only lives v’one who knows…


“That wind!” He pointed to the ripping flag, “It’s blowing toward the - “ Josh’s mouth slackened when he turned West again.

Storm!” Cried Diggs!


And he travels the land, so z’at through him may sing,

‘Ze true song of Hen-ry, Hen-ry our king.


Ba-bong! Baba-ba-Bong! Wind pulled and held the schoolhouse bell at it’s hammer angle. Wind pulled dust to the sky. Wind threw about the mane and mantel of the statuesque burro and rider. Mister Hyde, the first to react (at least as large as he did) raced to he and Poyer’s terra-cotta office. The missionary strummed and hummed louder,


For ages ‘ze boy-men round up z’eir herds,

Those cattle, those bison, z’eir gooses, z’eir birds…


Bills moved forward from the darkening crowd to reveal for themselves the stunning phenomenon from behind the schoolhouse. The clouds, already mountains in scale, bloated before-their-eyes into the rotating grey orb of a Supercell. Like an upside-down volcano with it’s volatile summit only two stories above the earth it rotated toward them. A demon made of smoke, black in front of a calm peach sky.

Taught electricity charged Josh’s arm hairs. The gravity of the wind increased two-fold again. So did the rider’s voice,

Challenged by no beast, z’ese riders with flames,

But forgotten z’ey have, t’was from Prometheus it came.”


A wind-surge batted the balloon and the prairie schooner and ox it was tethered to were lifted above the rooftops. The ox howled in apex for a weightless moment until it hurtled forward toward crowd. Bear Morse took the three steps he could to the porch it would hit and made sure his body - not the mafiafolk - took the full weight.

“Ahh!” He grunted as axles and porch posts split. The ox rolled.

“Bear!” Josh cried after him.

Diggs ran up an ice wagon and dove over the crowd - he snagged the wild balloon tether from mid-air and began climbing the soaring rope.

“Get these people to shelter!” Yelled Lieutenant General McDermott barely audible!

A trio of ‘Buffalo Belles’ in red, white, and blue hoop-skirts knew immediately the safest place and waved for Josh to see in the crowd, pointing up to -

“The Fort! The Fort!” Screamed Josh as loud as he could - it was a freight train of noise - pointing with his canteen in their direction. The wind knocked it out of his hands and out of instinct he chased it on the ground until realizing…one of the Belle’s white fabric and crinoline cage flew past him. She was 50-yards away!

She was flying!

Dawkins grabbed her gloved hand and both were pulled back hard into Josh. This time his hat sailed away with no Diggs to save it.

There is no doubt, Josh swung his whipping hair until he saw - ”It’s a Tornado!”

Thousands scrambled. Their cries and the crushing wind became deafening.

“How do we stop it!?” Asked Josh, lifting children toward the Fort.

“It’s weather!” McDermott looked at Morse wounded, and others in white being dragged into Doc’s house by his wife and kids, “Just stay alive!” He ran to tie down another erratic wagon.

Only one figure in the melee didn’t move at all. He sat on a motionless burro. As the storm watched from above, this black rock in the chaos sang to them!


Yippie-ki-yay!

Yippie-yi-yo!

Titans in the sky!”


Confusion and frenzy in each building, overstuffed, two Bills in each improvising a plan. Hail began to pound shingles and sheep and kids outdoors.

“The tables are takin’ up too much room!?” Coordinated Proprietor Duff from the stairs of her jammed saloon.

“Smash them!” Called Boom Boom Milano, “Break them all!”

Brave Mafiafolk knew the extra families they could protect if they answered this solemn call of duty.

In Duff’s, in the Anchor Bar, in the Merchants & Trader’s bank - everywhere - everyday women and men of the mafia dove into crashing tables and pulled in more people from the doorways.

Outside, across town, Josh watched the funnel cloud snake towards him and New Fort York from the mothership cloud. The tornado surged with other forces of nature as the minstrel commanded.


Z’ey blaze and z’ey flood and with miracles z’ey freeze,

Z’ese Titans z’ey round up z’e boy-man disease…”


“It’s him,” said Josh, “Obviously it’s him!”

Ice chunks began to land the size of wagons outside of town. Lightning would strike, thunder crash, and ice fell. Josh was at the fort and tornado, the burro opposite at the water tower.

I have to stop his song!


But z’ey made one immortal so with’m he’d bring,

A song to release z’em, a song I now sing.”




Josh charged forward but was held by the wind against him.

Doc and Four-Zero were up there shielding people.

“Doc! Forty! Stop the song!” Josh could hardly hear the words in his own head.

But Doc noticed his flailing and yelled a question back.

Sure enough, as Josh squinted at it in the wind, not a sound.

The flat ice sheets lifted in the wind and began to smash off the buildings. Boom Boom Milano dove out a window and started chucking dynamite twigs at the thickest ones to break them up. He saved lives, but added explosions to the noise.

But if Josh was closer…


Yippie-ki-yay!”


Josh ran hard and long, breaking from the grip of the tornado tower behind him. Doc was running toward him too, pointing to his overpowered ears. Lighting struck twice into the muddy road.


Yippie-yi-yo!”


Two ice sheets bounced into the lightning craters and immediately caught the wind - flying right at Josh! He let one chip off his right arm and had to jump. Again. Is this my thing!? He leapt as high as a horse’s back to fly shoulder-first over the sharp ice and rolled to a muddy stop - shouting, “Stop the song!”

It was far enough.

Doc nodded and bent his sprint-path to line up not Josh, but the dark statue.

Titans in the -!”


Doc clobbered him. The guitar collapsed. The mantle smeared manure like a slug, slowing the man’s rolling body. Doc, Bigfoot Phillips and Four-Zero dragged the missionary through the mayhem toward the Fort. But he didn’t stop moving and kicking his bare feet or his bare legs in the mud. He sang on.

“Quiet!”


Mister Hyde had thrown law books about in the library,

most unlike him, when J. L. B. Poyer, Esquire, climbed to their attic office. Perfectly symmetrical it was, two circular windows centered over two orderly desks and mirroring bookcases. Mister Hyde covered every law book, encyclopedia volume and client list from “A - M” and J. L. B. Poyer, Esquire’s side handled “N - Z.” They even cut their Dictionary in half.

“Is the individual still in address!?”

“Yes, verses now about various dynasties- empires ‘he’s’ punished who became too powerful. Icarus, Atlantis, Rome, ecetera,” said Poyer.

Hyde was on the floor, low enough - and engrossed enough - that when a stray flaming lava rock smashed one of their windows and out the back wall he didn’t even notice.

“What did you find?” Asked Poyer, looking at the spine, “In the Bible?”

“Not just any Bible.”

Poyer looked again, The K.H.V.






Josh didn’t block a set of hailstones that flew from the supercell and into the missionary’s exposed body.

Beau Boogie and Dodson recovered him and held still. As still as one can beside an active tornado. Josh stepped into his face. Cross and 17-year drought tattoo shadowing.

“What is your name!?”

“Ah but we ‘ave met maverick boy.”

“I think I would have remembered.”

“In ‘ze blizzard. A season précédent. You slipped.”

“You were in that storm?”

“Ah, oi, et’was very dangereuse. Perhaps your frost bite led to your weakness at Arrowhead Rock, no? Your dead horse?”

Josh punched the solid logs on both sides of the minstrel’s bloody face. The Buffalo Nation flag tore into the sky.

“My weakness!?” He then grabbed him by the black mantel himself, pulling him from the grip of the heavies.

“No Josh.”

“I got him — Where were you in that storm!?”

Loose from the wall the black fur mantle of royalty flew about.

“No, no, no, angry maverick boy - I was ze strom.”

The mantle became a sail. The leverage twisted Josh’s grip and pulled the men away from shelter into the debris of the the muddy street.

“Let me go, boy!”

“No!”


“The King Henry Version!? From the -”

“Middle Ages,” said Mister Hyde.

“Is that man out there?”

“Yes.”

“There were dozens of King Henry’s…”

Poyer could see an encyclopedia open to ‘King Henry’s’ of Byzantium, the Holy Roman Empire, Bavaria, Portugal…

“57. At least,” said Mister Hyde, “From England, Scotland & France, to Spain, and even China.”

“‘Titans made one immortal…to release them.’ The reincarnated king? Which one is he?” Asked Poyer.

“All of them.”

A huge lava rock broke though the window and collided with Mister Hyde’s neck.




Wind threw the human pretzel of King Henry and Josh of Allentown outside of town.

Josh could let go to disconnect from the sail - but didn’t want to release the threat. Not this year. Hawkeye was right. A painful memory indeed. Their bodies collided into a puddle of mud.

Josh’s hand was twisted in the mantel, he was caught like a sleeve on a bucking broncho. If wind lifted the again it would break Josh’s wrist.

“Your arrogance will destroy you too!”

Josh was trapped under the minstrel, far from the water tower.

“Just like ze’ legends who build z’ese sad blocks.”

“No, this time will be different!”

“Different z’an last October? Z’e Titans ruled half z’e realms of z’e Near Ages!”

“Yes, Friend. Different.”

“Watch it. You too will start again what z’ey did: Hope. Failure. Drought.”

King Henry lay his weight on Josh’s lungs and whispered next to his head, half-submerged in a shaking puddle, the final verse.


Some hear of my verses, my curses z’ey doubt,

But in old Music City I started a drought,

It was sixteen seconds and an era ago,

Z’at miracle I made to destroy your soul.”


“Get off of him!” Came the first distant voice. It was Doc this time, calling after him.

Josh could see diagonally, the shapes of running Bill’s. It was Bucktail and Doc to the rescue.

Titans caused the drought?” Josh squeezed out with what little wind he could draw in his lungs. So much swirling around him, and none in his voice-box. “A miracle curse?”

Yippie-ki-yay,” King Henry whisper-sang his answer.

Josh felt the fury of a childhood in drought, of digging wells in rock-hard clay night-after-night, of putting down herds of innocent stock who couldn’t be watered, of his grandparents’s tears apologizing to his parents for moving to the Wests of New Fort York. Ashamed. They died knowing nothing different than that feeling.

“You started it?”

“Started it, oui. But it t’was your people who created it, no?”

“Why would we create — ?“

If his hands were free, he wondered if he could restrain himself.

- “Incoming!”

— “I got him!”

Josh heard their two voices at once. Doc and Bucktail Jackson.

Bam-Crack!

He felt their collision at once.

“Oh no. Oh no! No, no, no!”

That was just Doc. Only Doc was speaking. But there were two Bill’s on the pile.

King Henry’s mantle was free, he kicked the limp body of Bucktail making it roll. Josh charged up like a Buffalo and rammed him with his skull. Josh shoved and forced him back.

“Get out of here!” He glanced over his shoulder to see the critical posture of the body. Doc already working with great focus to fix what he’d done.

“Help! Help!” Josh waved to the fort! Giving King Henry another push as he’d tried to flank him, still signaling help. “Help!”

Bills, the Bills who were left, ran out with Doc’s kit, splints, the best wagon they had and Mrs. Edmund’s whole family. Behind them, a rotating supercell blocked heaven. Two tornados roared out of it, one lightning, one fire, like the arms of a gorilla posturing on the frontier.

Yippie-yi-yo…” sang the king low, glaring at body beneath the rim of his hat. Josh charged at him again, this time he backed off and out of the way in the open prairies. Grass and dust lashed around them.

“Sing your song!” Warned Josh of Allentown, “Make it your worst…And then you run like hell, Missionary!”

The Titan King took his biggest sniffing breath of those tornado’s wind and mortal’s blood,


Titans in the Sky!”




The school bell tolled.

Mafiafolk said nothing.

The wagon with Bucktail Jackson and Doc was carried in by every able-body member of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and Congress of Rough Riders of the World, Generals McDermott and Beane also. At the water tower, Little Cade joined in.

Rain and hail began to fall again.

The eye of the storm passed over.

The school bell tolled.








Ten fast riders of Buffalo Bill’s gang charged out of town.

Cheers in every window and from every roof!

The speed and power of the horses legs over the plains is captivating. The roar of hooves. The clinks of the saddles, save the Bill’s who rode their painted and feathered Appaloosas bareback.

Galloping horses make their own thunder, Josh thought.

Like the winds of earlier - these riders flew toward the storms.

“Spread out! Draw the fight to the open frontier where the people are safe!” Screamed Josh from a pinto he borrowed from a man called Ron.


It took very little time for the cowboys, so used to herding cattle to split and divert these Titans from their supercell. They charged in with lassos, tricks and bold diversions.

Elemental storm-bodies of Ice, Fire, Rock, Tornado and Lightning chased a rider a different direction. A different land marker of The Wests of New Fort York.

The Buffalo Nation was rich with stunning features that sprung from the frontier wherever generous Dignity was returned. You bloom where you are planted, thought Josh, of his family motto. As he rode through the hail of a lightning storm he wondered if other realms might have such beauty - like the flashing silhouettes of the Letchworth Buttes around him - a marvelous sight - if they didn’t convert their earned Dignity into sophon chips or treasures. So far, The Way of the Nation proved that the more they gave away the richer they became.

The Titan of ice broke toward the Niagara Canyon and froze it solid above the falls.

“Me, I will go!” Said Boom Boom Milano with a satchel full of gunpowder.

The Swirling titan of wind twisted to Monument Escarpment drawing out Dignity spice from the sands.

“Yup,” said the mountain man Bowie Knox.

McKenzie Slim, Jamison and Kumero spread the other Titans of Fire, Lighting, and Rock toward the Grand Gorge, Erie Basin and Sea Scorpion Cavern.


Josh slung a gun to his back and climbed Silo Rock, besides Seneca’s Tower, it was the tallest isolated rock formation.

It was also the most central to the distant landmarks, each glowing or snowing under different titanic forces of nature.

Only steps behind, Gardener Dawkins summited, “Wouldn’t miss it. Besides, Four-Zero wants you to use these bullets, something- something about ions and charges might reverse polarity and actually - “

“Release charges holding water in the Titans.”

“Yeah, so he told you?”

“Twice already.”

“Hey, he had the super power. Maybe they will make me smarter when we get them.” Said Dawkins with a wink.





McKenzie Slim was the first to place a whistler, a wind-up whistle that clamps to anything.

Josh could see the firestorm lighting up the Grand Gorge like McKenzie held a candle in a hallway. Josh dialed in the shot requested, moving the rifle-stand. He couldn’t even know what the whistlers were attached to, if it truly was the best spot - like his days as Boy Maverick, doing it all himself - but he had to trust these spies. This was their skill to master.

Crack! (crackcrack…)

The gunshot echoed.

“…three, four - there!” The whistler stopped. I got it! “A four-second flight Gunslinger!” Cheered Dawkins!

There’s one, King Henry, thought Josh.

The Boy Maverick-turned-Gunslinger went on to prove his mettle - soon dancing in the rain, hail and fire sparks - after hitting the Mountain Man’s whister on the Rock Titan, then a huge a four-second volley-shot to Kumero in the Basin. Then, there was Diggs…now that was fun!





Across the thundering night Boom Boom Milano rode the Niagara riverbed.

The once mighty flow was only puddles splashing under his Shetland’s hooves. When Milano reached the massive ice damn it was illuminated from behind by lightning. He realized just how wonderful an ice dam must be to block such a wonder.

“Aye-yi-yi - it won’t do!” The miniature man threw his gunpowder.

The wonderment didn’t really last all too long.

But, luckily, neither did his flummoxed rant, pacing to himself and talking to his pit pony, both miniature below the dam.

“Eureka!” He actually said it when he picked the idea out of the sky.

Boom Boom took off his new era miner’s cap and ripped off two panels. Two would do. With chewing gum, pony hair and two pairs of wing bones (all flats, two spicy, a BBQ and a dry rub) he made a kite the size of a hand.

“Plenty large enough to burst your loganberries,” he said, smacking the wet ice.

He sailed the mini-kite on the currents of the skies, unspooling his fuse wire turn-by-turn until the arrogance of that shapeless, thoughtless lightning storm swallowed it like a gnat and coughed back 300 million volts of electricty. For that very reason, the ice dam holding back about 50,000 pounds of Niagara per square foot, split wide-open. As gorgeous and impossibly rare as this crystal fortress wall was, it broke like a piecrust.

As a singed Boom Boom Milano tumbled to a stop 43-yards from the original flashpoint he picked he said to his walking pony, “Who needs Blizzard Dancer!?”


“Blizzard Dancer! Blizzard Dancer!”

Yelled Diggs to the tipi camp below.

“Not now. I’m sleeping,” came a voice from inside the only one glowing, the rest would be at the Buffalo Dance.

“I need your help!”

“Not now. I’m in a deep, undisruptable slumber.”

“Blizz you are talkin’ to me!” Reminded Diggs.

“Not anymore, or you’ll know I’m just lying to get rid of you and - “ Blizzard Dancer threw open the hide…

He looked around the flat plains in the dark. No one. Some distant lava god being destroyed which read as normal heat lightning to Blizzard Dancer.

Then a hot air balloon the size of a tipi crashed into the center of the camp. Clattering, water-spilling, skins ruffling.

Diggs popped out.

“Diggs!”

“Blizzard Dancer! Go bills, how’s the leg?”

“Getting bett-“

“Okay, this, as you can see, is a hot air balloon. It’s workin’ great. I saved some nice people with kittens who were in the basket - there was a tornado in town - had to toss them on a big table - and - I’ve been piloting this thing inside a supercell storm,” Diggs paused for the appropriate reaction. Even though he didn’t get it, he still said, “I know right!? And Josh has been shooting these huge hailstones I’m tagging from inside the supercell.”

“You said that.”

“Well I’m adding more details - it really is impossible stuff.”

“Okay.”

“Well, so I’m wondering if we can use one of those to make one of these.” Hollywood Diggs pointed at the beautiful, hand-sewn canvases of the striped zubaz hides and then to the more plain looking, smaller hot air balloon pile.

“Is that one broken?” Asked Blizzard Dancer.

“No, but that one could be so much bigger!”

“And flashier?”

“So, so, so, much flashier!” Cried Diggs, jumping with excitement!

“I thought so.”

Then Blizzard Dancer added, as he turned for the new canvas, “You realize no one can even see you in a storm cloud at night?”

“Except the Gods.”




When it was done,

it was fair to say the new ‘U.S.S. Good Year for Mafia Folks’ airship was so, so, so, so much flashier than it’s predecessor.

All stretched zubaz hide of reds, whites and blue stripes, banners, parachute-sails and more ribbons, flags & feathers than they should have probably used. All with a silverbark canoe roped below it for the pilot. Digg’s finished off, in quick cursive paint, a long series of words before hopping in.

“It’s a beaut, Digger! I’ll be up there with you soon!” Said Blizzard Dancer, using his hatchet to cut free the sailing balloon.

“I can’t thank you enough - I left you my necklaces and beads.”

“Yeah, I put them back. You know The Way,” said Blizzard Dancer, waving from the community below, “Pay it forward.”

Diggs savored that epic close to the conversation and wanted to leave it there. Very-thematic and all, but had to lean over the side finally and looked way, way down.

“Blizz!”

“I’m sleeping!”

“I left one of the mafia kittens for you! Don’t forget to feed and water her!” Diggs still floated up. ‘Feed and water her,’ didn’t seem quite as epic enough last words…

“And, always, Blizz. Pay it for-“

“-Got it.”





“Yaaaaaaahoooo!”

Cheered Diggs flipping the Sailer upside-down at full speed in the supercell.

This was not your grandpa’s Zeppelin.

It was nimble, flippable, and handfuls of small parachutes could be thrown from one’s hands to hammer into a current.

Diggs did just that in the dark, flashing lightning. The beautiful zubaz, shining in the wetness, surfed a curling updraft and then corkscrewed through a hailstone pathway placing a whistler.

Crack! Digg’s heard the Gunslinger peg it as he bounced the canoe through water-spray mists of Dignity trapped inside the storm. He came out the cell’s anvil, hung for a moment and roped back the flaps to dive in again.

“Yaaaaah!” Cheered Diggs, tossing six whistlers in the heart of the biggest waterpoket as he dove through. It was like plunging through a waterfall that was stuck in a fishnet of clouds.

A full five-count later, longer than five - the whistling targets exploded with charged bullets -

“Now that is a long shot gunslinger!” Yelled Diggs as he dove down with the waterfall which truly fell. He wouldn’t admit it but whatever ions, electrons, sophons that future man pitched, it did break the metaphorical fishnets.

Dignity and Diggs poured.

Then a cowboy flew past him!

Yes - inside the supercell.

“Ye-haw!” It said.

“Beau Basham!? Is that you!?” Yelled Diggs looking over both of his shoulders, which would be up since he was plunging down, if anyone’s keeping track. Beau Basham Boogie did tumble in a barrel above him.

“What in the Realms!? That better be padded!”

Diggs was thrilled, but a tiny bit irritated someone was literally able to steal his thunder, but the Titans did provide enough thunder to go around. Even Cookie the cook could be made out down below collecting experience driving a coachteam in battle conditions. Apparently someone in the fort had decided to rollout the old catapult. Did they know they were supposed to launch rocks, not Beau Basham in a barrel?

Oh well, they hadn’t used it in ages.





“Hey-ey-ey-ey!”

Diggs yelled triumphant when he finally cleared the draining Titan cell.

“HEY-EY-EY-EY!” Josh and Gardener Dawkins cried as he touched down on Silo Rock to pick them up. They were done for the day, and early.

“What a shot Gunslinger!”

“What a ride!” Said Josh, hopping into the canoe. “Was this thing like trapped inside the storm and you, sort of, saved it?”

“No, he built.”

It was Dawkins stepping heavy between the countless ropes and drapes and flags into the canoe. “You can tell because there are these subtle hints of…way too much.”

“I don’t know,” shrugged Hollywood, “Could just be your taste-making.”

“Yeah, or - Diggs, you tied ribbons onto ribbons!”

Diggs did try to ignore the ribbons blowing in his eyes as he gave the new airship some lift.

“Hey! You found my hat!” Josh realized below his bench.

“Well, someone appreciates my talents,” smiled Diggs, “That hat though, that actually was trapped inside the storm.”

“Very cool.”

Very cool.”

They took off diving down the cliff-face.

“Wooooweee!” Yelled Diggs and Josh together.

Dawkins used two fists to hold the back of each of their collars, “Aren’t balloons supposed to float!?”





As the sky cleared the blimp sailed over the Gorges, Riverbeds, Buttes and Basins all wet with spoils of rainwater and melting hail.

At each Cavern and Canyon that they touched down they collected a teammate and let Cookie and Casey round up the grazing horses.

They followed the Dignity water to the lamplights of the Fort Village, sitting like a single jar of fireflies from this distance.

“You hear what they are starting to call the settlement?” Asked Dawkins from his bench up to Josh’s. Diggs added some pops of fire to give them more lift in the quiet night.

“New…York? What’s wrong with the Buffalo Nation?”

“It will always be Buffalo Nation,” said Hollywood Diggs.

“Yeah, but the town’s going to need a name if it’s going to be on the map,” said McKenzie Slim.

“Who needs maps?” Asked Bowie Knox.

“We vanquished two of the greatest threats in the Near Ages. The Buffalo are on everyone’s map.”

“Allentown,” said Boom Boom.


“What is that?”

“Has another Weak opened already?”

“Not this soon. Impossible.”

“What’s it then? The God year!?” Mafiafolk speculated at mysterious thing in the air.

Hawkeye Johnson was the first who could read the cursive on the side of the air-ship’s hanging canoe, he did so with a smile, “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World.”

“Hey-ey-ey-ey!” Some small voice called up.

“HEY-EY-EY-EY!” Everyone in the blimp boomed back.

It was J.B.L. Poyer from the Fort as he diverted the last of the flash floods into the series of deflection channels below the blimp in the farmland. Doc, Hyde and Poyer himself had drawn up those plans for irrigating and it was already paying off. It also had control in their Law Offices, so day or night, they had a chance to water the back fields which didn’t often see as many scores of runoff.

But in the Buffalo Nation during this Second Weakening —

As a listless King rode a black burro out…

— when it rains, it pours!






Josh of Allentown lit a candle with a match.

No lightning or lava or gunslinging required. He put it on the porch step of the Edmunds’s house next to the white bucktail that had been recovered from the trail. Then he lit another, and placed it beside Mister Hydes’s chipped spectacles.

Two of their comrades had been coached to the Medicine Woman in the fertile valley. Josh had spoken to her just that evening, the best in their Age, he was told.

Two gone for emergency, and yet, as he looked through the single panes of Doc’s house, every lamp was lit.

He had no song to sing, but sat on that porchstep, his feet in the dirt, and offered for Bucktail Jackson, Bear Morse, Utah Davis, Bigfoot Phillips, Boom Boom Milano, Rawhide Oliver, Blizzard Dancer and Mister Hyde…a cowboy’s prayer.

--




Tune in Next Week for a thrilling New Chapter of Buffalo Bill’s Mafia!




…find more great entertainment at PanAmericanFilms.com





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