The Ashlanders - Chapter 6: The Blind Man's Last Gambit (Closed, Started)

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Viola could see that McGregor was trying to struggle underneath the choke hold he was in, but that was she put a little more pressure onto him. A large gentleman briefly stepped out, and came back in a moment later with the grey haired lad who had run away earlier, and shoved him towards Viola.

"Ah, just the man I've been looking for; I'll need to have a word with you about this little incident here. But first... barkeep, two more of what I was having earlier please. One for myself and one for the gentleman here." Viola said and the barkeep brought out two bottles of beer and put them on the counter. It was then that a rough mustachioed gentleman dressed in what looked like a fine suit with a tin star on the right lapel wandered in. The patrons in the bar looked at him with suspense. It was none other than Sheriff Patrick "Pat" Garrett.

"Alright, alright, settle down here folks. Now then what seems to be the problem?" Garrett asked as he tried to calm the people down.

"This gentleman be the problem Sheriff Garrett." Viola said as she stood up with McGregor in front of her and still in a hold.

"Ah, Miss Greaves, a long time it's been since we last met. I seem to recall it was the Cullen brothers that our paths last crossed. That was what, two, three years ago?"

"It was two sir, but that's besides the point. Mr. McGregor here was going to be making a rather explosive scene, with those components in that bag." Viola gestured towards the sack on the floor. Garrett took a moment to examine the sack and its contents, before walking towards McGregor.

"Ahhh sweet holy hell McGregor, I thought after that last stunt you pulled, it would be the last time I would see you behind bars; but I guess somethings don't change. Alright then, I'll take him off your hands Miss Viola; he'll be heading up to the Marshall's office in the morning." Garrett said as he put handcuffs on McGregor.

"How exactly did he get these components Miss Greaves?"

While the rest of the crew had found there ways onto the train, Smiles and Ricky had gotten into position on their car, the soldiers being more interested in the crawler that was shooting at them, not noticing theirs until they'd already gotten off of it. Putting his bag over his shoulder, he looked around the cargo car, nothing really worth taking from what he saw, but then again, almost everything was in some kind of crate or steel box. With a sigh, he pulled the mask off his face and wiped his brow. Beginning to whistle a merry little tune that he really had no idea where it'd come from, he put his mask into the bag and pulled out five fist-sized bombs, they'd work well enough for detaching the cars, plus give the bandits a bit of leverage if any of the passengers decided they'd...see some of the bandits dead.

After making sure the remotes worked, through a clicking of the button and seeing that the little light he'd put on them blinked once, he attached them to the explosives. Putting his mask back on, he went back out and stuck two of them to the sides of the car that held it to the next, those two should be enough to make anyone in the train know the sudden loss of weight and the tremor it'd cause.

Still having three prepped and ready to go, he put them back into his pack, making sure to switch their frequencies off. The last thing he wanted was to have them blow up and send bits of himself into his own ass.

"Redy Smiles,"He said,not really waiting for an answer before a wide grin of glee spread across his face, pushing Smiles down behind a steel box and setting off the explosion. With a great WHOOSH, small ball of flame, and a sudden face-hitting-hard-object syndrome, the train and cargo cars were now two separate entities. Not realizing it until slightly too late, he thought about if one of the crew were in the middle of some kind of fight? Nah, they seemed like they could take care of these nobles, not like they had soldiers or something on this train right?

"I'm fine... but not as fine as you."

Lilith shook her head, a smile on her face. "Christ, you are so bad at this."

Casino fell in behind Florian, her revolver held low, so as to limit any intimidation, she scanned the carriage. A lot of people to keep an eye on in here, she thought, best we takeover quickly, 'fore they start getting any ideas.

Florian was going through his little speech, when a rather plump gentlemen chimed in.

"I have a question. Do you take us for fools, that we will be pacified by the empty promises of a false priest, while your brothers-in-arms cower behind you? A dog in a white collar is still an animal, I do declare it sir!"

Lilith glanced over the man, he was all talk, he wouldn't do a thing. That's when her glanced rested on the man sitting beside him. He's too calm, something isn't right here....

Her attention was drawn away, when a noble woman got to her feet, just another pampered cow, ready for milking. She seemed to be staring at something, Lilith followed the woman's gaze as it appeared to be resting on Sprout.

It was then that she heard a noise behind her, moments before the door crashed open, 2 armoured guards came through. Before she had time to think, one of the guards brought up his rifle to aim at her, she quickly raised her own weapon, shooting the guard in the knee. The guard stumbled in pain going down onto his uninjured knee, it was during this moment that Lilith quickly closed the gap, pulling a combat knife from her belt, she kicked the weapon out of the man's hands, and then proceeded to knock him onto his back. Casino then raised the knife and brought it stabbing down, pinning the guard's right hand into the floor of the carriage. The man cried out sharply, as Lilith placed her booted foot tightly on the man's neck.

During this scuffle, Sprout has managed to get himself pinned, the second guard's weapon aimed squarely between the boy's eyes.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you." Lilith said solemnly, her revolver aimed at the second guard's head. From this angle she could see Sprout's face, the boy was terrified.

"Axel, look at me." She used the boy's name, her pale blue eyes unmoving from his, a gaze that very few men would ever see. After a few moments, her expression softened, and the corner of her mouth curled. The last thing she wanted was the boy to panic and do something stupid.

"Put your guns to the ground, or I swear, I will kill this crook!" The Guard shouted, "All three of you are under arrest!"

Lilith raised an eyebrow. "Don't you have to be in a position of strength to arrest us?" She asked, tightening her foothold on the guard beneath her. "The way I see it, I could have killed this man, but I didn't come here today to hurt anyone, so why don't you get off the boy, put your gun to the ground, and calm the bloody hell down?"

The guard paused, as if in thought, for a passing moment, he seemed to loosen the grip on the trigger of his gun. Lilith saw her chance and shot the man in the back of the knee, he called out in surprised pain, Lilith took a step towards him, hooking her arm around his neck and burying the barrel of her gun into his unarmoured lower back.

"Drop your gun." She said quietly, a very threatening edge to her voice. "I don't want to kill you or your pal there, so please, don't give me a reason to." After what seemed like an eternity, the guard dropped him gun, grunting with defeat.

"Get up kid." She told Sprout, "Grab the rope from my belt and tie up this gentlemen's ankles" The boy obliged.

"Good, now grab both those guns and throw them in there." She nodded at the weapon in front of the guard she was holding, and the weapon she had kicked away from the first guard, then nodded at the room behind them.

As Sprout quickly obeyed, Lilith kicked the feet from under the guard she was holding, putting him onto his stomach and using a portion of rope to tie the guard's hands behind him. She then stood over the first guard, "Are you going to give me any trouble?" She asked, the guard shook his head and whimpered in pain. She then proceeded to remove the knife, but not before binding his ankles. She then binded his arms and rolled him next to the second guard, resting him on his stomach.

She then silently stood beside the Padre, removing her blunted cigarette, she let it fall to the floor and proceed to put it out with the heel of her boot. In the confusion, the Padre had been forced to bring out his own pistol to overwatch the carriage.

His life flashed before his eyes in the short time it took Casino to neutralize the guard. He'd fucked up bad, but she managed to clean up his mess. Sprout sighed to himself and silently obeyed Casino's orders. As he was bringing the rifles to the backroom the train was suddenly hit by a massive shockwave. He stumbled forward, dropping the rifles and falling flat on his face in the process. After struggling to get back to his feet he looked back into the cabin, "What d'ah hell was that?"

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"If I don't make it back, you get full custody of the baby..."

Pixie grinned a devil's grin, "Don' you dare leave a young woman like myself to care fer such a beautiful child all by her lonesum'!" She and Aesop watched Ruffles do his thing. For an engineer he wasn't half-bad at the whole bandit thing.

"... three, two, one... black-tion!"

Though it was hard to see through the miniature ash storm being created by the train, Pixie managed to make out Ruffles' silhouette as he moved into the engine room. Still mounted against the windshield, she kept her eyes focused on where Ruffles had entered when a shadow suddenly crossed over it. Before the man atop the train could aim up on her his brains blew out the back of his skull and he went tumbling over the side.

That was weird. That fell'r wasn' dressed like a soldier...

"--zzttt--About half a kilo; musta just been refueled. I'll grab it when I shut off the engine, but for now I'll slow her down so's Ricky can detach the other carts.--zzztt--"

Good man. Pixie grabbed the radio and barked into it, "Good job Ruffles! I'll check in with Ricky and give you an ETA!" Before she could change the frequency strange noises started coming in through the radio. Grunts, rustling, groans. Ruffles kept his radio near his chest... something was going on in there, "Hey, Ruffles! Ruffles?! Ruffles, you copy!?" After a moment of silence she threw the radio against the dashboard. "SHIT!"

She nudged Aesop aside and commandeered the wheel, "Ruffles' is in deep shit! I need you in that train!"

Darkness was creeping in on the edges of Ruffles' vision. He was half aware of chattering in his earpiece. He managed to slug the man in the gut but with his disorientation and the fact they were squished together anyway, the body blow had no power. On top of that, the man was wearing kevlar. His other arm flapped around wildly, looking for something; anything. His fingers touched the cold metal of his wrench handle, and he managed to tease it a little closer. Grabbing it, he nearly dropped it. His fingers were getting thick and clumsy. Squeezing tight, he brought it around in a flailing swing that hit his assailant in the temple with a dull thunk. The man's hands were jarred away, and Ruffles swung again. Crack. This time, the man slipped off him, landing on his side and Ruffles kicked away from him, taking deep, gasping breaths. The man was still awake. He noticed his shotgun strap had broken in the fight, too. Shit, shit shit!

Glancing around, he noticed one of the pistols the guards had used. His muscles were screaming from oxygen starvation, and it was hellish effort, dragging himself slowly across the floor. Behind him, he could hear the guard moving, and swearing. Finally, Ruffles' hand closed around the Glock and he flipped himself onto his back, shakily raising the gun in an arm like lead, but too late. The guard was sat against the wall, blood running thickly down one side of his head, pointing Ruffles' own shotgun at him. "Lights out, you criminal fuck," spat the man.

Hannibal panicked as the sheriff and bounty hunter talked about the explosive parts and McGregor. "How exactly did he get these components Miss Greaves?"

Oh God, oh God I'm screwed I'm screwed.
==============================================
Aesop's eyes darted constantly between the ash in front of them he was driving on, Ruffles, and the soldier from before. Ruffles hit the mark dead on, cracking the smoke bomb right in the face of the meddlesome guard as the engine was enveloped in smoke. Aesop laughed and howled. "Good fucking work Ruff!" he yelled as he swooped in closer to the train, the guard firing blindly at the ashcrawler.

"three, two, one... black-tion!" he heard Ruffles say with excitement as he leaped onto the train. Aesop grinned widely and kept his eye on the 'road' ahead. Ruffles and Pixie talked over the radio as the plan seemed to be going according to plan. However suddenly there were sounds of a struggle, grumbling and grunting.

"Hey, Ruffles! Ruffles?! Ruffles, you copy!?" Said Pixed down the radio. Silence. "SHIT!"

She nudged Aesop aside and commandeered the wheel, to which he co-operated. "Ruffles' is in deep shit! I need you in that train!"

"I'm on it ma'am!" Edging over to the back seat of the crawler, he could hear Ruffles clearly in some sort of fight. He stood up as Pixie got him closer to the train. With no flair or grace, no need to try and act cool Aesop flung himself onto the train car. Pulling out his twin revolvers he shoulder barged into the door and quickly fired off two shots the second he saw the situation; a guard with Ruffles's own shotgun pointed at him. The shot hit the man in the shoulders making the shotgun move but he still pulled the trigger. "Ruffles!" yelled Aesop, however the blast had hit the engine and the man was in to much pain from the gunshots to ready up anther shot as Aesop unloaded two more shots into his face. The situation... somewhat clear, Aesop helped up Ruffles. "You alright man- wait the engine!"

Ruffles sat up, coughing. "You gotta get me over to the engine. If the carbon in there's on anything more than a slow burn, it'll blow, and it's..." he doubled over coughing, again. "it's a delicate job to make sure nothing sparks in there."

With Aesop roughly supporting him, Ruffles made his way to the engine and crouched down by the opening he'd made before being interrupted. Rifling through his duffle, he removed a complex, metal plated set of engineer's goggles and pulled them on, following up with a pair of scuffed leather gloves. Finding his screwdriver, he leaned into the rapidly heating engine, using his wrench to remove a section of piping, then unscrewing a grate, unveiling a harsh orange glow and releasing currents of blistering heat. Reaching in, he swiftly pulled out a knobby glowing orange mass of carbon and drew it away from the engine, being careful not to strike it against any metal. Heated as it was, it was extremely spark vulnerable.

When it was safely deposited on the floor, he flapped his hands wildly to dispel the intense heat from his gloves, then pulled out a flask of engine coolant from his duffle, pouring it into the rock. The harsh steam went harmlessly over his jumpsuit and goggles, but Aesop had to step back to avoid being scalded. When the huge chunk of carbon, about the size of a man's head, was no longer glowing, he stowed it in the duffle, and got shakily to his feet.

"We're safe. Well... we're only quasi-endangered, instead of riding the shit-your-pants line to Hell. Still everything else to worry about." As he said that, the carriage rocked in tandem with a distant boom.

"Maybe I spoke too soon. The hell was that?"

The Gentleman smiled inwardly as Casino's gaze lingered on him for a few moments, suspicion written on her face.

"She recognizes me, she just hasn't put the pieces together yet. Casino was always one of the cleverer ones."

When the fight broke out, even The Gentleman couldn't help but be a little surprised. Perhaps the crew of the Iron Maiden hadn't expected the train to be so heavily guarded, and that was why they hadn't properly dealt with any resistance. Not like them, to make such a miscalculation. Still he remained seated, casually sipping his wine as the two guards were disarmed. Sprout was the weak link. That had been clear from the start, and it was all he needed.

In this time, Giles had wasted no time in cowering back down when the fighting had started, and he now sat silent, somewhat paler than he had been before, in their compartment. As the shock wave from an explosion further down the train reach their carriage, he spluttered in response.

"God blazes! What in the name of-"

The second was halfway between a cough and a gag; and now, in the space of a few short minutes, Giles' face would have gone from red, to white, to blue. As he wheezed more, realizing that his reaction was not connected to the explosion, Giles Dufraine's eyes found the empty glass of wine, still in his hand. They bulged, the penny finally dropping inside his head, and he looked across to the man he had known as Harris Rosby, his face stricken with horror.

That man's face, while the features were unchanged, now seemed to look entirely different somehow, as he leaned across the table, as if to check Giles was alright, and whispered quietly.

"So dreadfully sorry old chap, but I needed a distraction. Foreman Hansen sends his regards."

Giles was now foaming at the mouth, and beginning to convulse violently. When The Gentleman spoke next, his voice was loud and quavering.

"My God! My associate here is choking!" he cried, looking towards the bandit team, the priest in particular. "Somebody help him!"

"How exactly did he get these components Miss Greaves?" Asked Garrett as he started to leave the Silver Dollar with McGregor in tow.

Viola took a few deep breaths before letting out a sigh.

"It was the work of this gentleman here Sheriff Garrett. He was bringing in the parts to McGregor, for what reason I don't know; but it was probably related to making a profit. Some of the components look to be of high quality."

"I see, in that case I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to come with me as well son; there'll be some questions I need to ask, and you'll be staying in the cells until I decided what to do with you." Sheriff Garrett then turned his head so it was facing the saloon doors.

"OLINGER! BELL! Get your sorry asses in here!" In an instant, the Sheriff's two deputies entered the saloon. Olinger was quiet a broad shouldered gentleman with a mean look on his face, and an even meaner looking double barreled shotgun; I mean he cradled the damn thing like it was a baby. Bell on the other hand was a rather tall looking man, who looked more professional than his fellow deputy, with his attire looking more cared for.

"I want you to take McGregor here and put him in a cell. Meanwhile, I'll be having words with this gentleman here in my office."

"I'd like to have words with him as well Sheriff, I'm curious to find out why he was working with McGregor. And here, let him have this, after what has happened, he's probably quiet shaken up." Viola said as she handed a bottle of beer over to the man in question.

"Why of course you can question him Miss Greaves, but after I'm done with him. You can wait outside till I'm finished."

"Thank you. Also you may want to put these two in separate cells, there is a bit of bad chemistry between them. And, have your deputies on patrol, as the Gunderson's might come looking for their explosives."

"I see. Well Miss Greaves, I'll take that into consideration. Alright you two, let's take these gentleman back." Spoke Garrett as he led his deputies with the prisoners in tow.

Ruffles sat up coughing. "You gotta get me over to the engine. If the carbon in there's on anything more than a slow burn, it'll blow, and it's..." he doubled over coughing, again. "it's a delicate job to make sure nothing sparks in there." Aesop helped him up and supported him over to the engine as he worked his magic. He jumped back at one point to make sure his face didn't get scorched off. Aesop kept alert for any guards wanting to creep on them and before he knew it Ruffles was done. "We're safe. Well... we're only quasi-endangered, instead of riding the shit-your-pants line to Hell. Still everything else to worry about." As he said that, the carriage rocked in tandem with a distant boom.

"Maybe I spoke too soon. The hell was that?"

Aesop sighed as he reloaded his revolvers, "Who do ya think?" Aesop got on the radio to Ricky Ticky. "Ricky was that you back there? The engine had to get pulled out earlier than we wanted those soldiers are gonna still be a problem, can you and smiles take care of it or do I need to save your asses?"

"My God! My associate here is choking! ... Somebody help him!"

Between the firefight, the explosion and the choking fat man, Elizabeth had no idea what to do. Strangely however, she did not panic. She just stood there watching it all unfold like some kind of great drama. What would happen next.

She turned to Josephine to gauge her reaction to the scene, "What should we do milady?!"

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Pixie drove alongside the engine car trying to get an idea as to what the hell was going on in there. She heard gunshots upon Aesop's entry, but nothing after that. A few moments later an explosion echoed through the ashlands and shook the train side-to-side. Pixie gritted her teeth. This was bad. Communication was shit at the moment and the blast wasn't coordinated at all. She still had no clue what was going on in there, "Ruffles, I repeat, do you copy? What's your status!?"

Before she could continue a bullet whizzed by her and severed the wire connecting the radio to the console, "Uh oh." Pixie flipped on the cruise control and turned to face the train, resting her right arm atop the steering wheel. Not an ideal way to drive, but when a girl's got to multitask...

"You gone'n done broke my radio! Now you fucked up!" Pixie shouted over the wind and ash. Three men were crouched above the engine car, rifles in hand, raining down a hail of bullets on Pixie. She returned fire. Mr. Monroe howled it's monstrous war cry as hollow point rounds shot out from its barrel and into the soft, weak flesh of Pixie's enemies. After a brief exchange the three men's limp bodies toppled off the train in different directions. The crawler had been dinged up pretty badly, but Pixie had survived with only a few scrapes.

Anticipating further resistance she quickly turned back towards the "road", supporting the wheel with her knees as she reloaded her rifle. That was when the crawler suddenly lurched backwards followed by a loud "thud". Instinctively, Pixie dropped the unloaded rifle and drew her sidearm. Just as she'd brought it to bare the pistol was slapped out of her hand by an unknown assailant (obviously someone insane enough to jump from a moving train). The attacker brought its own pistol up to Pixie's head, but was disarmed before the trigger was pulled. The two of them struggled in a grapple, as the crawler--now without someone to control it--veered away from the tracks and flew straight over a hill.

The crawler came crashing down on the other side, ejecting Pixie across the dirt and ash. After a few rolls Pixie's momentum finally slowed, leaving her in a heap a few yards from the crawler.

Fuckn'... ouch, God damn...

After a few moments Pixie had summoned the strength to lift herself off of the ground. She was still disoriented, but she was alive at least. She inhaled deeply to spit blood on the ground, readjusted her mask and slapped herself on the side of the head to regain her composure. She got to her feet, drew her backup-backup pistol and began scanning the area for her assailant.

She turned, pointing her pistol at the crawler when she heard a loud metallic noise echoing from the site of the crash. Her attacker was staggering out of the wreckage. As the twin suns shone their blistering bright light across the surface of the attacker's body, she could finally make out who he and his buddies were.

Banditos...

Or more formally, the Santiago bandit family. Rivals of course, though they were probably here for her bounty rather than for revenge of any kind. It would definitely explain why they would go to so much length to take her out specifically. Pixie kept her pistol trained on him. Her body was beaten and bruised from the crash, but she wouldn't let him know that. She had enough bravado in her to account for every bandit on this rock, "What's yer name, amigo?"

The man, with a shaved head and dressed in a now tarnished poncho, said nothing. His hand sat over a revolver strapped to his side, "By the time you draw yer gun yer'gonna have a helluva hole in between yer eyeballs. Plus, ya know mine's got fifteen shots'n yers has six. Not all that fair, huh?"

She reached into her jacket and produced an enormous bowey knife, almost comically large when compared to her wiry build. The light of the suns glistened off the blade as she tipped it in his direction. If there was one thing a Bandito couldn't resist, it was a knife fight. The man smiled and unbuckled his belt, dropping it in a heap on the ground. Just as soon as he did, Pixie pulled the hammer back on her pistol offering a smirk as she did.

The man went white realizing what he had done. He had let his pride get the best of him. Pixie laughed, "Wow, yer a fuckn' dummy. Didn' they tell ya I ain't got no honor!?" The man scowled like a rabid animal starring down the barrel of a gun. "Relax, hombre. If I was gonna shoot ya I wouldn'a bothered talkn' all this time. You lucked out this time. I'm actually in the mood for a little tussle!"

The man, unsure of what to think, drew his blade in anticipation after seeing Pixie drop her pistol on the ground. The pair began circling each other, both looking for an opening to gut the other. Pixie's heart was racing. A primal blood-lust, hijacking all other thought processes. The bandito made the first move...

"Yeah, I shoulda figured," replied Ruffles, shrugging. "I didn't think he'd blow his load this soon, though."

Sticking the pistol into the belt on his jumpsuit, Ruffles picked up his shotgun, and slowly stood. He gave a cough, and then said, "alright. Ready as I'll ever be. It isn't safe to fire up that engine again, and I doubt a train like this has a backup so when the momentum puts out, that'll be as far as we go. Gotta hope it's enough. Nothing for us to do here, buddy. Let's join up with the others."

Shouldering his duffle bag, he moved to the door, thumbing his radio. "Captain? Caaaaptain? Pix, ya there?" Looking back at Aesop he scowled. "Pixie's gone off the radar." Opening the carriage door, he swore, "fuck! Her Crawler's up and vanished!"

Resolving to find the others, Ruffles gingerly began moving, heading down the walkway along the side of the train's cart, and then hopping onto the back of the next carriage, and opened the backdoor.

Hannibal was almost completely tuned out of the conversation as he was taken into the Sheriff's office. He was sat down in a chair in front of the man's desk as he sat opposite him. The desk was covered in papers and various bits and pieces, Garret seemed to be rather proficient at whittling as little figurines were spread across the edges of the desk.

"Alright boy, how come you had enough explosives there to put a damn hole in the world?" asked the sheriff. Hannibal was silent for a few moments. His mouth wouldn't allow him to speak out of fear. "Boy?" Hannibal's attention was snapped to the sheriff. "At least tell me your name kid."

"Um... H-Hannibal. My n-name's Hannibal." he stuttered.

"Hannibal, alright Hannibal, why were you carrying, and I assume smuggling explosives for McGregor?"

"I can't say..." he said fearfully.

"Why cos of the Gunderson's?" Hannibal nodded in response. "Ah kid they ain't no threat, we done ran them outta town a bunch of times you got nothing to worry about."

Hannibal's hands began shaking. "You're wrong, oh man you have no idea what they've been doing. They've been expanding out west and up north. Fuck man they've been getting bigger and bigger and bigger-" Hannibal rambled on and had to be interrupted by the sheriff.

"Woah woah calm down boy, are we talking about the same Gundersons here?"

"I'm sure we are."

"From Feroxi?"

"Yes."

"Vandals who terrorise towns?"

"They have gone far beyond that."

The sheriff sighed and began writing all that was said down. "Okay okay but we still haven't gotten as to why you had explosives."

There was a silence before Hannibal spoke. "...They hired me. I don't know why but they paid me some good carbon to smuggle some explosives to McGregor and they said he'd take it from there."

The sheriff audibly sighed. "Well sorry kid but with smuggling I gotta put you in." Hannibal sighed in response and went to the cell without struggle. He was put 3 cells away from Mcgregor, who thankfully didn't know he was so close by. Hannibal sat down on the cot in the cell. He looked down at the floor and sighed. This was actually his first time in a cell. He wondered how long he'd be here.

The rapid onset of violence that followed was short but sweet as Lilith went about dismanteling their attackers with bloody efficency. And she had to do it alone. Much like Axel, Florian froze, caught between the desire to act and the restraint that had kept his body count down to zero since he joined the crew. It was all over so fast but every instinct in him was screaming out to place a bullet between the guard's eyes as he held the rifle to Axel's head. Apparently even his old self liked the boy enough to want to see him safe, maybe it saw something like a kindred spirit in him. Luckily Lilith had everything under control. The two guards were left crippled in a pool of blood on the floor... and Florian the priest was left back behind the steering wheel.

This was exactly what he was hoping to avoid. They didn't leave us any choice. He repeated that to himself until he believed it. That was when he looked down and saw he's drawn his gun. Florian didn't even remember doing it. Oh God... He'd never even let the others see he had one before! This was bad, he's seriously slipped up here. Calm down, they can't be that suprised, look at where we are, it's stranger not to have one...

Florian scanned the weapon over the carriage, half heartedly, so as to look like he was keeping the passangers under control. Lilith and Axel were quickly finished binding the guards and getting things back under control. No one had died, that had to count for something. He gave a firm nod to Lilith as she took her position beside him. Florian did his best to look like he was in control. Things seemed to be calming down and he put his pistol back in it's holster with grim resolve. Aaaaand then the train threw them all around like ragdolls.

This is not the smooth run I was hoping for! The force almost threw Florian and Lilith to the ground, it would have left them in a tangled mess if the two of them hadn't managed to grab ahold of the tightly packed seats and steady themselves.

"My God! My associate here is choking! ... Somebody help him!" Came the call from the back of the carrige.

Florian rolled his eyes and gritted his teeth, trying to remain calm but even his fuse had it's limits. "I'm on it." He grunted to the others and paced over to the man in need. It was the fat fellow from earlier. The one that called me a dog. Florian's trigger finger itched. The fellow wasn't looking good though, that was plain. Florian tucked his bible back into his jacket and leant over trying to get a better look.

Ruffles shrugged as he realised Ricky had gotten a little too excited with his bombs. Getting his shit together he coughed and said "alright. Ready as I'll ever be. It isn't safe to fire up that engine again, and I doubt a train like this has a backup so when the momentum puts out, that'll be as far as we go. Gotta hope it's enough. Nothing for us to do here, buddy. Let's join up with the others." Aesop sighed and nodded, but just as they were about to leave the carriage Ruffles tried to contact Pixie. "Captain? Caaaaptain? Pix, ya there?" Looking back at Aesop he scowled. Aesop was worried and pulled out his revolvers again. "Pixie's gone off the radar." Opening the carriage door, he swore, "fuck! Her Crawler's up and vanished!" Aesop panicked and looked around, leaning over the edge and peering around for her. He saw a few dead guards, obviously taken care of by pixie, but she was nowhere in sight. What the fuck were they gonna do without her? He noticed Ruffles had began moving on ahead down the side of the train's cart, and then hopping onto the back of the next carriage, and opened the backdoor. Aesop swiftly caught up with him.

"Let me take point man you're all banged up." Aesop walked in front of Ruffles, guns at the ready through the train cart. No guards yet, they must me... "Fuck! They're going to the noble cart!" Aesop charged through the cart and booted the door in, and sure enough there was a contingent of guards making there way to the first class. Some still had their backs to him, to which Aesop unloaded three bullets each into the backs of four guards. They went down like flies but there were... a bit more than anticipated. Aesop jumped back into the cart he was just in for cover as a flurry of bullets went their way. "Hit the deck!" he yelled as Ruffles took cover. Aesop reloaded his revolvers before switching over to his pistols. More bullets is always better. "Um... you got a plan? They seem really really angry."

"Um... you got a plan? They seem really really angry."

"You're asking me!? I'm an engineer, dude!" Ruffles answered. Then despite his consternation, he leaned out and loosed a a blast from his shotgun. One man went down clutching his throat, and others dived for cover, lightly wounded by the cloud of buckshot in the enclosed space. Bullets whizzed past his head as he took cover once more. "Extended firefight, I guess."

There were only two of them, and about a half dozen of the others, all aiming their guns at the door waiting for the two of them to break cover. This was going to be tricky.

Viola had been sitting outside Pat Garrett's office whilst the sheriff was busy questioning the grey haired lad, who she found out was named Hannibal; finding that out actually came as some sort relief, as it meant she didn't need to ask that question herself. Eventually Garrett opened the door and lead Hannibal down a corridor towards the cells, and as he returned, Viola stood up waiting.

"Well then Sheriff, did your questioning prove fruitful?"

"That it did Miss Greaves. According to the boy, the Gundersons have been expanding quiet rapidly recently, which just doesn't add up; I mean for awhile the Gundersons used to pray on small frontier towns, and would occasionally go for something bigger if they had either the balls or the supplies. How they are able to pull off bigger jobs is beyond me. But I took your idea into consideration, and have had my deputies patrolling the town, and honestly, I think its having a positive effect on the townsfolk."

"Well, that is something at least. Anyway, mind if I have a word with him now?"

"Sure, just be careful not to wake up McGregor, I think that punch to the jaw you gave knocked him out. Take your time."

And with that, Viola walked down the corridor, passing the deputy's office and the supply room, until she eventually found the cells. In passing she noticed McGregor was spread out on the cot, his arms and legs hanging over the sides. A little bit later, she found Hannibal, who was staring up at the ceiling. Viola took a chair opposite the cell, and sat in it with the back facing the cell.

"Hello Hannibal. It's me, Miss Greaves, I came here because I wanted to have a word with you, to get your side of the story." Viola said in a polite and calm voice, not wanting to scare the man, nor coming across as antagonistic.

Hannibal was staring down at the floor when he heard someone talk on the other side of the bars.
"Hello Hannibal. It's me, Miss Greaves, I came here because I wanted to have a word with you, to get your side of the story." She spoke in a oddly calm manner, against what she was when she was kicking McGregor's ass. She seemed pretty reasonable.

"Did he tell you my name?" he asked nervously, still seated in his cot.
------------------------------------------------
"You're asking me!? I'm an engineer, dude!" Ruffles responded before firing a buckshot at their opponents. He certainly took at least one out as Aesop heard his throat gurgle blood. "Extended firefight, I guess."

"Well for an engineer you got handle on that recoil." Bullets were tearing through the open doorway. "But I meant do you have any other things you took from Ricky. This train's fucked enough as it is and I don't think another explosive here would make much difference." Aesop fired a couple of times blindly and had his gun shot out of his hand and it flew past Ruffles head. "Well that's fucked" he exclaimed as he saw the wrecked gun.

"Did he tell you my name?" Hannibal asked nervously. Viola took off her hat, allowing her ash white hair to be more noticeable against the faded yellow colour of the wall behind her.

"I uh, overheard whilst he was talking to you, and since I was waiting to have a chat, figured I'd wait outside his office." Viola said as she scratched the back of her head for a moment, before taking a sip of the beer that she opened by using the metal framework of the cell as a makeshift bottle opener.

"So how and for what purpose did you associate yourself with McGregor; that you'd risk getting caught over?"

"I uh, overheard whilst he was talking to you, and since I was waiting to have a chat, figured I'd wait outside his office." This woman seemed extremely calm as took off her hat and even used the bars as a makeshift bottle opener. "So how and for what purpose did you associate yourself with McGregor; that you'd risk getting caught over?" she continued.

Hannibal sighed and groaned. "I just wanted to get some carbon. I did a couple of jobs for a friend of Wiley Gunderson and he said he'd pay for me to take some bits and pieces to a guy named McGregor. They weren't telling me anything in case I fucked up but they said about F-... actually um... I'm probably gonna be way more dead than I already am if I say anymore..."

Ruffles crouched and snatched the gun, sticking it into his duffle. "I'll salvage any intact parts back at the Maiden," he offered by way of explanation. "Anyway, I don't have anything in my duffle besides tools. I do have an idea how we can lose these guys, though."

Ruffles jerked his thumb back, and the two stepped away. Then Ruffles slammed the big iron carriage door. Then, crouching down, he pulled down his goggles and removed a small blowtorch from his duffle. "Don't look at this," he warned and began melting the door to its frame. It only took about thirty seconds, and then he was climbing up the emergency ladder to the roof. With the train beginning to lose speed, it wasn't hard to keep balance. Stopping halfway, he blowtorched the emergency hatch on the carriage roof, then climbed down and did the same to the door on the opposite side. Then rapping hard on the door, he called, "good luck getting outta there, bitches!"

Only the engine carriage had a walkway, as its door was on the side, and their only way out would be the windows. And the train was still moving fast enough that they would regret throwing themselves from the side of the train. When Aesop had come down on his side, Ruffles stowed the blowtorch and hefted his shotgun. "Done and dusted."

What then came was the funniest thing Aesop had ever seen Ruffles do. Following his advice he looked away when he melted the door shut and then proceeded to do the same to every door and lock the soldiers inside the train carriage. "Good luck getting outta there, bitches!" said Ruffles as he rapped hard on the door while they escaped. Aesop dropped down beside his mechanic buddy. "Done and dusted."

Chuckling hard Aesop patted him on the back. "If I drank I'd buy you a beer, how's an orange juice sound?" Aesop pulled out his revolvers again, his pistol thoroughly fucked and made his way towards first class.

"I just wanted to get some carbon. I did a couple of jobs for a friend of Wiley Gunderson and he said he'd pay for me to take some bits and pieces to a guy named McGregor. They weren't telling me anything in case I fucked up but they said about F-... actually um... I'm probably gonna be way more dead than I already am if I say anymore..." Hannibal said with a heavy sigh, but he also sounded rather scared about what might happen if he talked anymore, and this piqued Viola's sense of intrigue. She took a long sip of her beer, and wiped the froth that was left on her top lip.

"How much more dead exactly are we talking about here? And what did they say? Listen, Hannibal, I might be able to help your situation, but you've got to give me something to go on. It's no use keeping it all bottled up." Viola said, taking another swig of beer.

Viola took a long sip of his beer as Hannibal was resigned to keep silent out of fear. "How much more dead exactly are we talking about here? And what did they say? Listen, Hannibal, I might be able to help your situation, but you've got to give me something to go on. It's no use keeping it all bottled up."

Hannibal pursed his lips before biting them. Would they kill him for fucking up? What if he could get the parts back? Ah fuck that wouldn't work, these cops would kill him. And the bounty hunter would destroy him. Maybe if he could slip out? Nah these bars are well made-fuck. He could co-operate. If he as dead already what harm would it do? With so many thoughts running through his mind he was silent for several moments, and just before Viola had to speak again to bring his attention to her he said "Feroxi. I um... I think they're gonna use them somewhere in Feroxi but I don't know. Something about a noble. His name was Sharp... or Strand or... something like that I dunno. Oh wait one other thing, they said about a buyer and a mark so he could be either. There was a lot more they didn't tell me in case I got caught so... yeah..."

"Feroxi. I um... I think they're gonna use them somewhere in Feroxi but I don't know. Something about a noble. His name was Sharp... or Strand or... something like that I dunno. Oh wait one other thing, they said about a buyer and a mark so he could be either. There was a lot more they didn't tell me in case I got caught so... yeah..." The mention of the information made Viola smile, which she continued after drinking some more.

"Interesting. I'll be sure to inform Sheriff Garrett of that on my way out once I'm done here, he'll likely find it useful." Viola then looked at the bottle, admiring the detailing of the pattern with a small smirk. She then offered the bottle to Hannibal.

"You wanna swig, I'm a bit of a slow drinker myself, plus it might help calm you down. No doubt after everything that has happened, your a bit shaken up no?"

Oddly enough, the Gunslinger passed him her bottle through the bars. He stared at it and slowly took it from her hands taking a few swigs. Hannibal had never tasted alcohol before. He did not like it. His head shook at the taste and he handed it back to her. "Thank you ma'am but I really don't like the taste. Um... I don't suppose there's any chance of me getting out early?"

Viola giggled to herself as Hannibal shook his head after tasting some of the beer she had been drinking, obviously he wasn't much of a drinker. She smiled after receiving the bottle back from behind the bars. "Thank you ma'am but I really don't like the taste. Um... I don't suppose there's any chance of me getting out early?" Hannibal asked.

"Oh well, Darkfall Mountain Beer can be an acquired taste for some. As for how long you'll be staying; well chances are you'll have to stay at least the night, but, after I've had a word with the Sheriff, passing on the information you've provided, he might consider releasing you, but that is for him to decide. How does that sound?"

Hannibal blushed, sighed, then chuckled at the same time. He was embarassed about not being able to hold his alocohol, and while a cell wasn't pleasant at all, at least it was a free night to sleep. "Thank you that sounds good. Miss Greaves was it?"

Lady Josephine kept her composure as the gunfire echoed through the train like booming thunder. The sudden convulsions of a large man and another screaming that he was choking was something she couldn't quite gauge. Another came to his aid, but she wasn't seeing anything being pulled out of his throat. If it wasn't food that was causing the spasms...

Marry! It couldn't be...! Her thoughts raced to fifteen years ago.

A stallion gone wild.

A young man in his prime cut short.

Her brother. Frederick.

A tragic riding accident in the eyes of her family. But in her eyes...murder.

"What should we do milady?!"

She directed her attention back to Lady Maribel. "Keep your wits about you. He has been poisoned," she whispered. She then turned to her other companion, now armed. "What say you, Kitty?"

The urge to shoot everything was unbelievably strong. The fact he wasn't was why they weren't getting shot at, which made this so fucking boring. But, he was told to protect the little pyro, he'd do it for now. So long as he could kill something by the end of the day, he'd be fine...

They got off, silently and sneakily, at a cargo car. Ricky began his work while Smiles looked around for things to kill. He switched out his weapons, taking out his sword. Silent-ish for now, then the bullet hailstorm when shit hit the fan. Ricky set up his explosives quickly and efficiently, and the two moved on.

"Ready Smiles?"

"Su-" Smiles suddenly felt himself land on his ass. Then explosions. Then blind, simple rage. The grin plastered on his partner's face really looked like it could use a few less teeth, and he almost obliged. But, he'd need an alive demolitions expert for now. Then he'd follow up on the eye for an eye thing, blind worlds be damned.

He picked himself up and then picked up the kid, in a fireman's carry. He hopped outside, getting inside another crawler. Next part: violence. His grin was shark like, and thankfully hidden beneath his mask as they sped to the next car. Warren put his sword away, and went back to his gun.

The crawlers surrounded the car quickly, Warren's in the lead. They seemed to be a bit distracted, but they were at least making the attempt to slow down Smile's crew. He tried to drive closer, enough for Warren to hop out onto the ugly iron frame. Unfortunately, the soldiers wouldn't stop fucking shooting out the windows. Warren grunted looking at Ricky. He'd need to blow a hole open for them to get in there.

"Got anything?"

Seeing as everyone else seemed to be busy with their own fight scene, Kitty crept towards where Lady Jo was hunched over a prone man.

Seeing that none of the bandits were advancing on her at the moment, she turned to her... traveling companions for lack of a better word.

Keep your wits about you, he has been poisoned," Lady Jo said, once again demonstrating her uncharacteristic (for your typical noble anyway) concern for her fellow human being, "What say you, Kitty?"

Just 'Kitty' now, huh? Either the severity of the situation is sinking in to her at last, or she's already pegged me for no noblewoman. Heh. Shows what she knows, I guess.

"Let me take a look," she said, kneeling next to the man, "I need to see..."

The bounty hunter pressed two fingers to the man's throat. Still a pulse, good. Then, she forced the man's mouth open as gently as she could afford, trying not to cringe at the foam coating her fingers, and looked at his tongue... it was turning black.

"If we were anywhere near a hospital, he might have a chance, milady," Kitty said, turning to face Lady Jo, "But as it is... its either we make him drink two ounces of rubbing alcohol, and he... expels everything he's eaten for the past week, or he dies. But I have to stress that my 'cure' will be just about as dangerous as the entropic he's been fed already. Too much, and it kills him... but more quickly. Too little, and we might not get enough of the poison out of him. So... know where we might find some of the stuff? You can try forcing his gag reflex... but if I'm right, the poison has already rotted the back of his throat as well, making that method useless. Whatever we do, has to be fast though. At most, I'd say he has two minutes to live without treatment."

"Thank you that sounds good. Miss Greaves was it?" Hannibal asked after blushing for some reason that escaped Viola.

"That it was Hannibal. Miss Greaves when acting in a more professional courtesy, 'The Gunslinger' for people who know me by deed and not name, and Viola for those who I consider friends or who at least know me enough. Hmm, for you I'm not entirely sure, choose whichever one feels appropriate for the occasion." Viola said as she finished off the remainder of her beer, looking at the bottle again. Looking at the clock at the far end of the jail cell corridor, Viola realised that she needed to get going.

"Well Hannibal, looks like I have to go now, things to do and all. Hope Sheriff Garrett sees sense in letting you leave after I've given him that information. I hope our paths cross again soon." Viola said with a wink as she got up from her chair, and left the cell corridor. She then arrived at Patrick's office, and knocked on the door.

"Damn it! Enter." Patrick said after a brief grunt of pain. Opening the door, Viola found the sheriff nursing an injury on his thumb, and a slightly bloodied whittling knife on his desk.

"Sorry sir, didn't know you'd be carving out another one of your figurines. You know, if you decide to retire from this career in law, you could always start selling these."

"Perhaps I will Miss Greaves. Anyway, what did you want to talk about?" Patrick asked with a small laugh at the start.

"Well sir, I just had a word with Hannibal, and I've found out some useful information."

"Go on?" Patrick asked, the subject piquing his interest.

"Turns out that the Gundersons are or were planning to use the bombs somewhere in Feroxi. Hannibal also made mention of a noble by the name of Sharp, Strand, something sounding similar to either of those, and that he could either be a buyer for the bombs, or possibly a mark; Hannibal wasn't entirely sure, he said that there wasn't a lot the Gunderson's were going to tell him, in case he screwed up somehow."

"Fascinating! But how come he never told me this earlier?"

"I have no idea sir. Perhaps the seriousness of the situation, and the fact that he mentioned that the Gunderson's might come after him made him rather scared."

"I see. Well then Miss Greaves, this is certainly a step in the right direction. Thank you for bringing this to my attention."

"Don't thank me; thank the boy you got locked up in the cells. You don't think you'd be able to let him out early because of this recent development?"

"My answer at the moment is I don't know, though this may have convinced me. He'll have to wait till morning for my decision."

"Fair enough, I thought that is what you'd say. Well, be seeing you Patrick." Viola said as she left the office.

"And you too Miss Greaves."

As she arrived outside of the Sheriff's Office, Viola had no idea of where to go now, but decided that her first step would be to get some rest; so she headed to a room she hired before coming to the Silver Dollar.

When Florian broke formation to attend to Giles, The Gentleman knew he had them. As the priest reached their table, Giles' arms flailed wildly as the dying man began uncontrollable convulsions. Wine glasses, steel utensils and plates of food flew in all directions, and one of Giles' meaty fists caught Florian full in the face. The Gentleman moved, swift and silent as a wraith even with all the padding he wore as part of his disguise. He danced nimbly through the chaos, and bounded straight for Sprout.

"I'd say he has two minutes to live without treatment."

"One and a quarter to be more precise." The Gentleman answered, this time in his true voice. Amid the ruckus, their attentions had all been drawn away from him, and now they turned back to see him have one arm around Sprout's neck, his pistol in the other, pointing at them all, and with no-one at his back. "It was a commendable estimate. However, I'm afraid it's all for naught in the end."

Almost lazily, The Gentleman aimed his pistol at the still-thrashing Giles, and fired. Two angry coughs came from the suppressed barrel, and a neat group of two shots struck Giles in the heart. Before he'd even had time to crumple, The Gentleman had put another between his eyes. The chances of anyone being able to reverse the effects of the poison had been remote. Still, it would have been remiss of The Gentleman, under the circumstances not to make certain the job was finished. His eyes met Lilith's, and he smiled. She may not have known his disguise, but she knew his voice, and his gun.

"All your weapons on the ground, and kicked towards me if you would be so kind." He told Lilith and Florian, tuning his own pistol on them. "You as well," he added, pointing next at the other who had revealed herself for a fighter, although in truth The Gentleman had had her pegged as such the moment she'd sat down across the aisle from them. "and anyone else who may have a firearm, blade, or any such lethal device kept concealed. I give you fair warning, if you hesitate, I will not. I would feel so truly dreadful about breaking the poor boy's neck, not to mention killing you all. I'm sure we can avoid any of that unpleasantness though, provided we all work together."

"Got anything?"

"Hmm?,"Ricky asked, still lost in the bliss of the explosion,"Oh, right, guns and stuff. Course I got stuff," Grabbing the remaining explosives ready to go, he turned them both on and chucked them out the side of the crawler and into the train car.

"And move away from the train now!,"He said, taking ahold of the wheel and jerking to to the side, putting a bit of space between the two before once again rummaging around in his bag.

"And with clicky-click here, and a clicky-click there, BOOM GOES THE TRAIN!"

And although the car did in fact blow up in a grandiose ball of flame, wrecked metal, and ownerless body parts, a second explosion destroyed the tracks as one of the soldier inside had thrown one of the prepared bombs out the badk. As one might expect, Ricky screeched at such a waste of precious materials.

"Dammit! They broke it! It was going to be such a much better show! But no! They had to go and get rid of it! I didn't miss!"

Distracted by the sight of a dying man, Sprout was preoccupied when The Gentleman moved in. Moments later he felt the cold barrel of a pistol against his temple. He froze. Terror was all that he knew.

"... I'm sure we can avoid any of that unpleasantness though, provided we all work together."

Sprout tried to get a good look at the man holding him, but couldn't see much from his vantage point. Who the hell was this guy? What was going on here?! Sprout whimpered, "U-uh, take it easy Mister. I-I'm sure we can all work something out... right? W-who... who are you?"

Before she knew it Elizabeth had stepped out into the aisle to address the assassin. Whether her courage was driven by her balls of steel or naivety was anyone's guess, "Sir, what may I ask do you intend to do with that boy? Hasn't there been enough violence here already?!"

Sprout's jaw dropped as she spoke.

She does realize we was just robbn' her a minute ago, right?"

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