02: Prologue Part Two: New Fort York


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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. It was a dry frontier, plagued with the longest drought in the ‘many worlds’ of the Near Ages - which the commander overcame - bringing rain and plenty...




Nine Months Ago

Buffalo Nation



“Help! Help!” bellowed Dawkins far outside New Fort York.

White wolves howled. It was a fever dream.

Hawkeye Johnson would be on lookout. He could do it.

“Help!” Screamed Dawkins, clenching his teeth and heaving the load of bison fur on his shoulders.

He’d hear. He’d run the icy stockade planks toward the Western shouts. Toward him.

Dawkins pushed forward again. Raging himself. It had been more than a day and night of hours.

Johnson wou-

YIP-YIP-YIP!

The three-sharp-alert-whistles chirped.

“Yes- Thank ye!” Dawkins exhaled.

Bates would stand guard. Morse would storm out. Doc would wake. McDermott would know what to do. Help was on the -

Dawkins collapsed.

His face in the snow. Ice-cold water from Little Niagara Creek flowed against his own furs and sweat and blood. Relieving and painfully cold.

He pushed with the last of his strength against the bison-wrapped load on his back. It crunched to the frozen rocks. Dawkins couldn’t speak, for lack of breath, but pulled back the fur.

The bloodied head. Battered. Swollen beyond feature. No breath. “No, no!” Dawkins shook it with his frostbit fist. Angry, “Stay!” he yelled.

A cough.

Alive.

Josh of Allentown.


“—My!” Josh breathed three times, but his jaw was broken.

“What?” Asked Dawkins, freezing beside him. He hadn’t spoken since the border.

“Filly! …-goback!”

“Ahh,” Dawkins let out a groan like he’d been jabbed physically. “Brother…”

“Horse! -Goback!” Came again the gravel left as Josh’s voice.

“I know Filly’s your horse, brother.”

She was his sole companion for the Fore-Years and before. Adventure, isolation, the landmarks of the frontier and one’s coming-of-age. And she truly saved his life on myriad occasions - as he had rescued her from as many terrors.

“I’m…-goin’!” His eyes meant it. His neck moved to break free of either bounds or body, whichever came first.

“No, Josh. Easy-easy-dammit. Ya see, I’m tryin’ to tell ye’ something.” Dawkins got his numb fist on Josh’s wounded shoulder. “She’s died, Josh. You lost her. And I’m mighty sorry!”

“-No.”

“Yes, Josh.”

Josh jerked his broken face toward the snowfall. Painful tears ran down the mud and blood to his ears.

Blackness.


An ugly cast of faces looked down at him.

“Who is he? A scout?”

“Spy?”

“Fur-Trapper prolly.”

Their scowls and scars and tired eyes were wet with snow and mud. Cowboy hats, wild hair, and pajamas with overcoats marked the rag-tag crew.

“I found him like this in the Disputed Lands.” Said Dawkins. “No weapon. And…no horse.”

The gang clamored all at once. Arguments. Accusations. Confusions. And Sarcasm. Then it stopped with two words.

“Lieutenant General!”

But there was one voice who couldn’t stop in time, so the last words heard were, again, “-ed who is he!?”

An Irish voice spoke in the silence. A voice Josh recognized.

“This here is Josh of Allentown. Josh is a long-range gunslinger, and it seems one hard-to-kill ‘maverick.’”

“That’s not the ‘boy maverick?’” Asked some well-read voice.

“What?” Tiny Bear Morse, a giant, stepped forward, spit on his hand, and wiped blood off the man’s left cheek. He startled back.

“I’ll be -“ said someone astonished.

The XVII tattoo.

17.

There, inked on his cheek forever.

“It’s true.”

Talkers had been telling of a maverick gunslinger walking the Wests beyond New For York.

As brave or as boyishly foolish he was, marked was he, with a tattoo for each year he and his suffered in The Great Drought.

17 years.

XVII. For this crew in the lamplight, a story had come to life.

“I’ve asked after Gardener Dawkins to keep an eye out for him since, since really, before I even met the kid.” Said McDermott. “He had no tales about him then in the sands. No pretty certificates in the Ivy Library. Just skeptics.”

The Irish glean faded from the Lieutenant General’s eye as he got to business, “Doc Edmunds, see to it he recovers.”

“Yes sir.”

“Bills, see to it he learns the way of the Mafia. He is one of us.”

Many boomed as one, “Yes, sir!”

Not clowns then? Thought Josh.

“I’m going to set the bone now, kid,” said Doc.

“Sorry, what?” asked Josh.

SNAP!





Before we be closing up this story before the story, it’s sentimental to know that shortly after our Josh woke up - and, well, before he could fully walk - he snuck from the nurse-bed and into a blizzard without waking Doc Edmunds or his family.

In slow weeks’ time he found his Filly, the only and greatest steed of the Fore-Years.

Josh threw a burning powder-horn to scatter the coyotes and challenged the rest with a knife until they surrendered.

He buried her in the dark days and frozen dirt of the Disputed Lands. He thanked the spirits for her and tied a braid of her mane to his hip to allow her orenda to strengthen him.

The mounted gunslinger with no horse and no gun walked the frontier that spring and summer, just a man.

He walked in the shadows of the chimney rock. In Grand Gorge. In the Buffalo herd. In the rain. What could he have done different? What could he do now? Start again from nothing? The end of the drought didn’t end pain.

He grieved the loss with this pain, then anger and, finally, peace. For grief too, was a process.


“Look who decided to show up.”

Josh turned around in the pine forest, away from the distant fort and village-noise, to see a cowboy behind him, an elusive one at that. “Go Bills,” offered Josh in peace.

The handsome man smiled broad, “Yes, Go Bills.” As he rode across the Niagara Creek in custom-tailored-uniform, the afternoon sun behind him glared off the splashes and a pair of chromium six-shooters: a cowboy in shining armor-plated pistols.

This man was a gunslinger.

“Captain Taylor, mounted infantry, Buffalo Bills.”

Josh took his hand. “It’s an honor to meet you, sir.” Tyrod Taylor: the fastest draw from the holster and race line.

Letting go of his hand in the long silence Taylor said, “Say your name now. I know it, but you’re s’pposed to say it.”

“Oh, Tyrod, I’m sor- er- Captain Taylor. …I’m real sorry.” Josh shook his hand again to make up for it.

The Captain still waited, “See all you did was say my name.”

“Josh of Allentown, sir. Real sorry.”

“Josh Allen.”

“…of allentown,” Josh whispered to himself.

“It’s a lot more detailed up close,” said the Captain, pointing quick to the wooden fort and train station in the middle of the endless frontier.

“Ah, no sir, I can walk sir. I’m-“ Josh turned away to muster the strength to speechify the truth, ”Well- I’ll say it: I’m still mighty sad about my horse- and decided decidedly I won’t ever ride again.”

Captain Taylor had already left, “I didn’t offer no ride, C’mon!”


Josh caught up with a few bounds and found himself striding up Buffalo Hill for the first time and, some pumpkins, somebody was growing pumpkins, fall already even in the heat -and! -And!

“What is that smell!?”

“Cheerios, kid, Cheerios. Mrs. Baker roasts them fresh everyday.”

“Wow!”

“Country boy, you’re about to experience the so-phist-ication of a real town! New Fort York has somewhere between 75 and 100 permanent residents, that’s the most citified center in the entire realm, and not a one of them folks is a farmer. Though, I suppose they do all keep Buffalo Gardens and chickens.” Taylor looked back-and-forth for eavesdroppers, then whispered, “…for their wings.”

They came up past the Niagara Creek Water Mill with a great wheel spinning in emerald waters, dripping and splashing along the millrace.

“The Mill can be fitted for any industry from grain to textile zubaz. But there’s always the most demand for tables.”

“Tables?”

“Yeah’p.”

They crossed the creek, hooves clunking on the wooden bowstring truss bridge. Josh stared up at the twin watchtowers of New Fort York. Enormous. Save for the copper-plated tower roofs the whole structure and stockade walls were made from interlinked logs. Rippling above it all was the stars and bolts of the Buffalo Flag.

“Go Bills.”

“Go Bills.”

“Go Bills.”

The duo passed under the open gate exchanging smiles and greetings. The gate-guard recesses had been substituted or at least shared by a big cook, Gabriel (according to the hanging sign.) Delicious smoke and spices perfumed the gate. Must be where they all get their wings, thought Josh, exchanging with Gabriel a, “Go Bills.”

Inside the spiked elmwood walls and catwalks stood a whole village of small buildings, tents, and a barracks. All of them connected by wooden aqueducts, like gold-rush flumes, linking the waterwheel, reservoir tanks, buildings, three-sister’s roof gardens and cascades. The irrigation system glittered in the sunlight. No more drought.

“The best man-made cascade is in the train station yonder.” Josh turned.

“Is that?”

“I wondered if you’d recognize it.”

Along the plain but crafted train platform (which featured two whole sets of tracks and the fore-mentioned cascade-chimney - water down, smoke up) sat the train. All protected by the walls of the fort, stationed at rest, the graceful Stampede Locomotive.

Mafia Engineers washed its chromium silver steam engine and its carriages of royal blue, red, and silver horizons. Hand-painted on the side read: “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World.”

“It didn’t look like that in the Great Drought times,” exclaimed Josh, though he’d heard tall tales about what it had become.

“No,” said Captain Taylor, “The Stampede has come a long way since our stint in vaudeville. Now, that Pullman is a palace on wheels, and formidable in battle.”

“Battle?” asked Josh.

“It does say, ‘wild,’ west don’t it?”

Captain Taylor didn’t say anything but did keep looking at Josh until he was forced to ask.

“…is that rhetorical?”

“Yes,” said the mounted captain, “What else have we got here you should know now? Outpost Command, Calvary Stables, Milano’s Explosives Armory, a terribly large hornets’ nest nobody messes with, and, well, of course, The Silos.”

Josh spun to see each locale in the Fort, but had to let Taylor’s stallion step aside to really focus on the white-rock silos.

“What’s in them?”

“Dignity,” said Captain Taylor. “Our Dignity. You’ll learn about that another time.”

“Some precious resource? Seems like you have a lot of it.” Josh could tell by the chalk marks on the outside, and the smiles on the working mafia men and women hoisting crates high. What does one call a Dignity Worker then? Josh thought, Dignitaries perhaps? It was all new to him.

“One can never have enough Dignity,” said Taylor as he took a handful of the flakes from a woven basket and released them into the waters of the raceway. “The nature of man, being what it is.”

“The nature of your man, perhaps,” said a friendly architect, native to the Buffalo Nation. “Our people have long-lived in harmony with the resources of this world. We do not value a man for what he takes and keeps for himself, but by what he gives away.”

“You are right, my friend, you are right,” said Captain Taylor respectfully. “And we must continue to remind our enemies of that.”

“This too is true. Trust the Process,” the architect said in farewell.

“Go Bills.”

“Go Bills,” Josh added, waving.

The two gunslingers turned toward the open gate, “You will find, the great people of the Buffalo Nation, from their townhouses, tipis, tents, or tailgates share the same heart. They are exceedingly generous, loyal, and genuine. It is a culture that is rare in the Near Ages. Out of all the thirty-some worlds I’ve seen, it’s here. Small. But an overlooked pocket of goodness.”

“I’ve seen it. Comin’ raised on a homestead.”

“Sure, son, your family had it no doubt, and some of the sons-of-guns you met in the Fore-Years likely did too. But you are yet to meet the rest of this land’s Mafia. Best to sit or their kind of love’ll knock you over. And that there.” Captain Taylor finished, looking from the townsfolk direct to Josh’s eyes, “That is worth protecting.”

“That’s what you do?” Asked Josh, a young man who could also be described as generous, loyal, and genuine.

“In a word. And a word is enough for now. We’ll miss sundown.” Taylor led them out the smokey, delicious Gabriel Gate to have a look at the wide-dirt street that made up the entirety of the town. Some four big blocks that soon just ended where the road became prairie-trail. And farther still the trail became the orchard, the Grand Gorge, Erie Basin, and Monument Escarpment.

It felt harmonious for this street to be capped by the designs of mother nature, the first tenant of the Buffalo Nation. And nature was a world Josh knew well - but this - this -

A saloon pianola played ‘Shout…’

“Main Street, boy.”

Ox carts pulled. Horses trotted. Shop bells chimed, and Mafia folks bustled. Suits, dresses, feathers, and top-hats all with blue and red accents.

“It’s unbelievable.”

Lined shoulder-to-shoulder, every shop and specialty one could ever need in a high society like this: The Anchor Bar, Duff’s Saloon, Elmo’s Public House, Bar Bill, 911 Tavern, Gene McCarthy’s Inn…All of them three-story structures with a front porch, hitching post, and chicken wings, with rooms to rent.

“And stay out!” yelled a Proprietor with her hair up and an apron on. A few cowboy hats and parasols turned, a porch-sweeper stopped, all to see a drunk tumble into the mud. “He asked for ranch!”

The townsfolk scoffed and turned away from him.

“Sober up rancher,” said Captain Taylor, pulling him to his feet, “You’re too roostered if you ain’t callin’ for blue cheese.”

“Yessir, g’ bills.”

“Go Bills.”

“You remember Doc Edmund’s house yonder, then that building’s town hall. The Generals split time there.”

It had an artful-decorative look to it.

“Do all the Bills live here, in town?”

“You eager to meet them proper?”

“Meet them!? Could I?”

The Captain laughed.

“We live all over the Buffalo Nation,” he began, “Some are on defense of the fort, even though there ain’t never been an attack off-season. Some do live in town, lookin’ to wake snakes. But most of us prefer to live under the stars on the open range. Campfires, cricket-bugs, and scenery as mighty-ful as God.”

“I see,” Josh heard it all but was still marveling at each unique building they passed.

This bank had a type of domed roof! That schoolhouse had a bell tower with carved wooden gargoyles! Omnipresent the tinny, plunking player piano kept hammering ‘Shout’ with patrons in every window singing along. Folks of all type: clothes, color and class chanting together, red-in-the-face, “Hey-ey-ey-ey!”

“HEY-EY-EY-EY!”

“Pa wouldn’t even believe me.”

“Hey Cap’n!?” It was a pony express kid with buck-teeth.

“Yes, little Cade?”

“Is that Josh of Allentown with you?”

“Go on and ask him,” said Taylor, tussling his brown hair.

“Mister,” the kid turned but didn’t look him in the eye, “I seen your mark on your cheek a’ seventeen, and I am wondering if that makes you Boy Maverick- or- sorry.” He finally glanced up at him, but then lost all his nerves and silenced into a groan.

“Josh of Allentown, my friend.”

Captain Taylor gave Josh a nod.

“Cade,” said the boy handing up an envelope aged by months of hard travel in the saddlebags.

“Gobills!” Cade ran off to the terra cotta pony express office with ’Telegraphs & Guarantees Too’ lettered in the glass. The circular upper windows read, ‘Poyer & Hyde, Attourneys-at-Law.’

As Allen glanced at the envelope, he simply pocketed it for later when Taylor started talking about the two esquires.

“The best in the Near Ages, they are. Brilliant, decorated veterans of the Water War to end the drought.”

“So are you, Captain.”

“Proud to have been a part of it.”

“To be a part! I’ve heard the campfire tales,” exclaimed Josh.

“Then, this here’s the Buffalo Theater,” said the Captain, changing the subject. Sharing the alleyway was a cat hunting a mouse and Broadway’s General Store. The last on either side, besides the water tower, their stop, was the old library and the new barn painted ‘Ellicott’s Square Dance Hall & Moving Picture Show.’

“What kind of wings you want?” Asked the Captain.


The duo sat atop the water tower platform.

They watched the sun set pink and purple and orange and navy over the mountain horizon. They filled tin cups from the tap and ripped rich, juicy chicken meat off the bones.

“You know you’ve got the name for it?” said Taylor.

A show at Buffalo Theater was starting to draw a crowd from the range, a bluegrass band played ‘Iris’ for the lovers in the dancehall. A ‘V’ of geese flew between cloud castles.

“For greatness.”

“What?”

“All the great gunslingers have two first names. Jim Kelly, Tom Brady, Josh Allen.”

“Tyrod Taylor.”

“Ha!” Laughed the Captain.

“You’re the twin-pistoled mounted-gunslinger who ended the longest drought in the Near Ages. It reset the era.” The Captain didn’t say anything, just looked at his dangling boots and back at the sunset.

Josh didn’t notice that there was something to notice and grabbed two more flats. “Besides, those guys have storybook names because they aren’t real, they’re just legends.”

Captain Taylor pointed far away as he spotted the flicker of a campfire being lit, little more than a lightning bug from here. Josh spotted it too.

“What though?” Asked Taylor, finally processing, “Machine-gun Kelly and The Immortal aren’t real?”

“No!” Josh looked at him with a look of don’t be ridiculous. Captain Taylor didn’t smile though, so he specified, “…Well, they are real characters from the legends. Tall tales. But they are just bedtime stories to warn kids about The Patriots.”

“You still are a kid,” joked Captain Taylor when suddenly a sonic boom shattered the twilight into pieces! Taylor reflexively covered his head - then lunged to his chest to reach for the tumbling Josh - five stories above his death.

Josh screamed as his hair became the only thing holding him up. His eyes saw an alien craft - like a flying train engine - rocket through the sky. Conical clouds detonated into concussions. Bullets of wind smashed planks from the buildings, a horse to the ground.

Normal sounds were made silent and only between cloud bursts did their volume rise again for a moment.

Without asking, Captain Taylor lift-tossed Josh for just a moment by the head so that when he let go - which he did, by the way - “No! No!” - Josh could throw his hand onto Tyrod’s forearm!

“Yeah! Got it!” Yelled Josh.

“I know!” Yelled Tyrod.

The bullet-craft ripped back around with an explosive sound.

Both gunslingers turned to watch and snapped again as it flew past. The town and fort were circled by a spiraling scratch of clouds.

Taylor swung Josh toward the wooden ladder nailed to the frame - his impact pulled six nails straight out - they didn’t land - but flew on the next concussion toward the Fort.

YIP-YIP-YIP

The alert whistle blew from the lookout tower, thank you!, as if anyone had missed the sound of a mountain falling on the town.

The craft skipped off the hill near the buffalo-trail, exploding mud and worms.

Josh and Tyrod swung down the structure.

Johnny and the other Goo Goo Dolls ran out of the barn with a few fleeing couples as others ran in. One screaming man dove onto a flaming wooden table.

Poyer and Hyde, Esquires, sprinted up the street and removed their spectacles. Doc Edmunds came out of the Buffalo Theatre. Tiny Bear Morse, still giant, ripped doors off a stagecoach to use as shields.

The craft shook the earth as it plowed its way to the foot of Main Street.

“Defensive positions!” Doc shouted.

Taylor drew his glaring pistols in a flash, his stallion charged past and he effortlessly jumped on.

The pulsing-grounded engines were still roaring too loud to speak.

“It broke the sound barrier six times!” Yelled Mister Hyde.

“Yet its shell withstood this full-speed collision!” added Poyer, “What could be that strong!?”

“Whatever it is - I don’t like it!” Boomed Bear Morse.

The engines began to scream down.

Tyrod rode his stallion back to the center and halted fast.

“What should we do, Captain?” Asked Josh, no horse, no weapon.

Taylor replied, “We’re all Captains.”

Just then a robotic man sprung higher than the water tower and blue-flames landed him hard to the Western Main Street. Metal and screens flashed. A distorted voice spoke through speakers.

“I come - in Peace -“

A metallic breath.

“I am - Four - Zero - Miller - Class -“

The rocket spaceship silenced. As did the entire frontier town.

“I come from - the Future -!“



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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