From the depths of space they came. An ancient race, who having exhausted their own resources, lay waste to other species in order to survive. Eventually, this hunger brings them to us. Their method of annihilation is unique; as a race that has perfected the art of time travel they set up a base in our solar system and the attack us where we are most vulnerable. Our past.
They then simply take what they want. It makes sense. Why waste time and energy waging a full scale war when they can cut our legs from under us in one fell swoop?
They are intelligent.
They are deadly.
They are the Timesplitters.
But, as this particular ancient species is about to find out, the human race will never go quietly into the darkness. As soon as we discovered an alien race in our solar system we sent a welcome vessel. They blew it out of the stars. There then followed a four month tactical battle, in which we tried to prevent the Splitters from completing their cursed time machine. Simply blowing up their base was not an option. With the power source required for time travel, the Time Crystals on board, the resulting black hole created by the explosion would swallow up our planet within a fortnight. Now, both sides have been decimated. We launch a last ditch effort: We send in a pair of commandos. Their mission: Go in retrieve the Time Crystals and then blow the base to kingdom come.
But intelligence suggests that the Splitters now have their creation online. Ironically, we are running out of time.
Tonight, one side will die.
The commandos, Sgt. Cortez and Corp. Hart gain access to the hub of the Splitter base with minimal difficulty. Sadly, that's only as long as their luck holds. Although caught off guard, the Splitters act quickly; after seizing the Crystals they leap randomly and separately into the time portal, ready to wreak havoc and mayhem on wherever and whenever they find themselves, wherever there is conflict or human evil to be manipulated. Cortez has no choice but to follow. The machine is automatic: It will home in on each of the separated Crystals one at a time. Hart offers to stay behind and guard the hub.
But Cortez will have to be quick, for the Splitters in the rest of the base have been alerted to their presence, and the airlocks to the hub won't last long…
Time travel is an interesting concept; it does not work in the traditional sense. Cortez cannot simply 'go back' himself. Being human, he has to inhabit a body temporarily. Unfortunately, this means he does not have full control. He can offer his host his battle tactics, fighting skills and resourcefulness, but when it comes to purpose and drive, the host is on his or her own. Luckily, the machine selects the host for the specific time period based on the closest possible match for Cortez. All together, Cortez will inhabit nine hosts spread across six centuries.
These are the Heroes of Time.
These are our only hope.
This is one of their stories.
The dark skinned cowboy stepped into the outskirts of the town slowly, as though expecting trouble. He was wearing brown spurred leather boots, denim trousers and a tan duster style trench coat over a white waistcoat and black tie. A white Stetson sat proudly on top of his head, pulled down low to shade his eyes. Just hidden from view by the duster was his holstered Garret revolver. He removed a cigar from his dry lips and tasted the air of the town. His stern unforgiving face creased at the flavour. Elijah surveyed the dusty street carefully. It was quiet, the only sounds that could be heard was the faint rustling of paper blowing in the wind, and the squeaking of a nearby tin windmill. Elijah never thought he'd come back to this scum hole again.
He chewed thoughtfully on his cigar and ejected a mouthful of brown sputum onto the street. Word over the Pecos was that this little town had been taken over by some low down varmint known as The Colonel. He sighed inwardly. He'd never really felt comfortable up and skipping town leaving only Ramona in charge. He never should have left.
Word was, Elijah Jones had gone yeller.
Suddenly a sharp gust of wind slammed a wooden shutter against its frame. Elijah's hand was on his gun before his head had even started to turn in the direction of the noise. He froze for a few moments, all his attention focussed on the shutter. Just the wind. He lingered on the shutter for a few moments more before he once again relaxed. His hand left the gun.
Now Ramona had been kidnapped by the colonel's boys, and the town had fallen to gun slinging, drunken scoundrels and debauchery. Elijah frowned. He needed Ramona's help on this one.
Elijah continued his march into Little Prospect. The restless wind blew a piece of scrap paper down the dusty street. Elijah trapped it's progress under the sole of a spurred boot. Bending down, he retrieved it. He straightened it out. He found himself staring at an ugly looking dude. He had narrowed eyes, skin like leather, and grey wiry hair all over his face. A grey confederacy cap lurked on top of his head. His mouth was curled in a grotesque grimace. He looked…evil. Elijah raised an eyebrow. His eyes moved down the page.
"Dead or alive, huh?" He murmured to himself. That settled it. He spat his cigar onto the street, drew his Garret, and moseyed on into town.
The dust continued to swirl around the lone cowboy as he strolled under the baking midday sun. A random tumbleweed blew past his path; he ignored it, focusing instead on the saloon a few doors down. If Ramona was in town, someone in the bar might have information. He grimaced in its direction. He'd begun to remember why he'd left this town. He was hard pushed to think of a sleazier place. He paced onto the wooden sidewalk under the shelter of the building's canopy above, and defiantly pushed the wooden saloon doors open. His spurs clacked on the hardwood as he entered the bar. He looked around. It was almost empty. This wasn't normal, where were all the low-down regulars? Elijah was beginning to get an uneasy feeling I the pit of his stomach. As it was, there were two figures in the bar. The first, rather obviously, was the bar tender, whose eyes widened at the sight of Elijah. He put the glass he was cleaning down and stepped back. The sorry son of a bitch had let the town be taken over with an indifferent attitude. Elijah scowled in his direction. He spun his garret and slid into his hip holster like it never left home. He could tell who the figure slumped over the bar was without even looking. A body never forgot the stench made by Hector Barbosa.
"Whisky." Elijah growled dangerously at the bartender. The dude turned white and nodded as quickly as his head would nod. He reached under the bar and slammed a glass on the bar top. Elijah shook his head.
The bartender frantically nodded again, slammed a bottle down, and then slinked away to a dark corner of the bar. Elijah picked up the bottle by the neck, and roughly tapped Hector on the shoulder with his other hand. Hector drunkenly raised his head from the bar top and swirled round in Elijah's direction. His eyes widened.
Elijah needed no more provocation. Has fast as he could, which was pretty God damn fast for an experienced gunslinger; he smashed the whisky bottle over Hector's head. Hector's face was instantly turned brown by the fiery liquid, and a darker fluid wept openly from a large gash that had appeared on his forehead. With a groan Hector crumpled to the floor against the bar. Elijah kicked the barstool away, then bent down and hoisted Hector back up from the floor by his filthy collar. Hector slumped, once again, over the bar top. Elijah reached for his shoulder to turn him face up, but with surprising speed for a man as portly as he, Hector spun round with a knife he'd concealed in his waistcoat and slashed at the tanned cowboy. Unfazed, Elijah dodged the first swipe by leaning backwards, then, ignoring the knife completely, simply planted a punch square in Hector's face. Hector reeled, but managed to stay upright. Elijah followed with a left punch, which was sufficient enough to send Hector to the floor a second time. The knife fell from his hand and clattered along the floor.
"You've fallen." Elijah said simply, reaching to the floor to pick up Hector for a second time. While he was there he retrieved the knife that had scuttled a short way from the scuffle. For the second time he slammed Hector to the bar. Hector groaned, and raised his eyes to Elijah. Elijah scowled, and raised the knife above his head.
"No!" Hector screamed, as Elijah grabbed him by the shirt and forcefully stabbed the knife down.
Hector winced, and froze. He stayed like that for a few seconds before he realised that he wasn't in any pain. He opened his eyes. The knife had gone through his shirt and into the bar, just inches from his bare, sweaty flesh. He pulled at it but he was well truly pinned down.
"I want to talk to you." Elijah drawled at Hector. By way of reply, Hector simply ejected a large wad of brown spit on to the toe of Elijah's tan leather boots. Elijah smiled warmly, then grabbed Hector by his tangled mess of greasy black hair and smashed his face into the wood he was pinned to. Hector screamed, reeling from what was quite obviously a broken nose.
"Where's Ramona?" Elijah drawled.
"I'm a dead man if I speak to you!" Hector wailed, his speech impaired slightly by the blood spouting merrily from his nostrils. His feet skidded on the alcohol soaked floor; the only thing that was keeping him upright was the knife that was pinning him to the bar.
"You're dead if you don't." Elijah said simply. He withdrew a fresh cigar from his breast pocket and struck a match, very obviously so that Hector could see. Hector blinked, before the dawning realisation set in and he became aware that he was saturated in extremely flammable whisky. Elijah let the match burn.
"Last I heard she was in the jailhouse! I swear! The jailhouse!" Hector spat as quickly as he could.
"The jailhouse?" Elijah asked with a raised eyebrow, still not bothering to extinguish his match.
"Yeah, the jailhouse!" Hector wailed. Elijah looked away. It was a pathetic sight. He waved the match in the air to put it out. He reached for the knife and yanked it free from the bar, bringing it dangerously close to Hector's face as he did so.
"I want you out of town." Elijah growled. Hector whimpered like a spooked prairie dog and nodded as quickly as his fat sweaty hairy head would allow. Elijah turned to leave, slinging
At the bartender as he did so. What little colour remained in the varmints face drained away. Elijah slipped one thumb through his belt, straightened his hat, returned the cigar to his pocket, and paced out of the bar, spurs clacking all the way.
As he reached the main-street, Elijah once again checked his iron. The Colonel's boys were all over the town, and Elijah could bet his bottom dollar that he'd be recognised in an instant. The Jailhouse was a short walk from the saloon, so Elijah checked the surroundings, before steadily walking up the street, hand still hovering over his six shooter. As Elijah reached the Jailhouse he immediately noticed that the door was left open, swinging lazily in the breeze. Elijah frowned. This didn't look good. His trigger finger was getting itchy, so he pulled the steel weapon from its holster a second time and held it by his side, ready to shoot from the hip at the slightest provocation. He moved slowly, stealthily towards the open door, anxious to get off the street, but afeared of what he might find in the abandoned jail. After a few agonising seconds, he reached the open door.
He walked in. The desk was bare, and the white rickety wooden chair was turned over. Faded wanted posters fluttered in the hot breeze. Elijah paused for a second before wandering past the desk and through the connecting corridor to the cells at the back. There were only three cells, so if Ramona wasn't in one of them Elijah figured he'd have to simply beat her whereabouts out of the Colonel. Elijah walked past the first cell. It was empty, nothing but a shaft of light cast onto the floor from the barred window. There was a simple bench style bed fixed to the wall, but nothing else. Elijah grunted in annoyance, and proceeded onto the second cell.
Ramona was lying back miserably on the hard bench that was the cell's only extravagance. She flicked a strand of dark hair out of her eyes with a tut of irritation. She attempted to stretch, with limited success. She was tall, and the confines of the cell were starting to get unbearable. She rose from the bed and leaned next to the barred window, staring at the dust being blown around outside. She was Asian, her parents having come to America in search of their fortunes. Ramona shook her head sadly. She was quietly beautiful, high cheekbones, jet black hair, and a truly athletic figure. She sighed. Never before in her life had she felt so helpless. The fact that she was still wearing her blue sheriff's uniform and white gloves was an irony not lost on her. She was close to tears, as much from sheer boredom as much as anything else, the only relief from the tedium of her day was when one of the colonel's boys came with her daily jug of water and stale loaf of bread. Not that they always remembered.
Presently she heard the familiar click-click-click of spurred boots on hardwood floor. Ramona didn't bother to turn around, and at the back of her mind she wondered what kind of hairy smelly varmint had come to deliver her rations for the day. The footsteps stopped outside her cell. Still she didn't turn around, and waited for the inevitable cackle of hysterical laughter. What she got instead was a warm, friendly voice.
"Well hey there little lady."
Ramona spun round like she'd been bitten by a sidewinder. Elijah couldn't help but smile at the sight of his former partner. He'd been expecting the worst, but there wasn't anything wrong with the cowgirl that Elijah could see that couldn't be solved by some fresh air and a quick dip in the local swimming hole.
"Elijah!" Ramona cried with infinite joy and relief. Ramona rushed to the bars and rammed her arms through the gaps to hug Elijah as best she could.
"Elijah, god I've missed you," Ramona cried, looking up to the seasoned cowboy. "This whole town's gone to shit."
"I know, sugar," Elijah said softly. "But I'm here now."
Ramona smiled and pulled Elijah even harder into the bars of the jail cell. For a few moments they both stayed silent.
"Where's the colonel?" Elijah asked suddenly. "His boys never said where they were going did they?"
"Huh," Ramona replied, "those varmints could hardy keep their mouths shut. They're at the old town mine."
"The mine?" Elijah replied thoughtfully. "Why would that rattlesnake hide out there?"
"Hell if I know," Ramona stated, "but I heard one of the boys sayin' that they've started up the mine agin. Word is they're diggin' for somethin' that 'aint quite natural."
Elijah raised a single eyebrow in reply.
"Well, natural or no, I'm here to clean up the town now."
A smile cracked across Ramona's face.
"Elijah, you just gotta bust me outta here," Ramona cried. "I can help you out!"
Elijah narrowed his eyes, then gave a quick nod.
"How'd I do that?" Elijah asked.
"There's a dynamite store out back," Ramona answered, gesturing behind her. "There's a guard, but I'm sure you can handle him." Elijah nodded again.
"See ya soon," He called over his shoulder with a smile.
He pushed through the jailhouse front door back onto the street. The afternoon sun beat mercilessly down upon him once more. A bead of sweat ran down Elijah's collar. He snorted gruffly, and turned and walked the fifteen feet to the gap in the buildings that led to the rear of the jailhouse. In front of him there was an elaborate drinking fountain. Elijah let his gaze fall on it for a few seconds in longing. He walked the length of the jail house and peered around the corner. He narrowed his eyes. No guard. Somethin' not quite right was goin…
Suddenly Elijah's hat was blasted from the top of his head by an amazing force. Elijah snapped to the right. He saw a bell tower and the sniper who was perched at the top. It looked like he was lining up another shot…
Elijah drew his gun in the blink of an eye, and shooting from the hip, squeezed off three rounds. The first two slammed into the cowboy's chest and from their position probably obliterated his heart. The third pierced his shoulder. The varmint looked confused for a few seconds, then slowly, almost gracefully, fell to God's green earth with a wet crunch. Lucky for him, he was dead long before he hit the ground.
"Boy," Elijah muttered, "you couldn't hit a whale's belly if you wuz Jonah himself."
Elijah tutted sadly and re-holstered his weapon. He strolled around the wall and was met with the blank white wall of the back of the jail to his left. In front of him was a cart, stocked full of what appeared to be dynamite. Elijah smiled. Sometimes even the most childish indulgences of his soul couldn't be denied. And he liked to blow shit up.
He ran his hand over the surface of the outer wall. It was compressed mudstone, not particularly strong. One bundle should do the trick. He lifted the tarpaulin cover on the cart and levered open one of the boxed. For a few moments he beamed at the contents. He shook his head, snapping himself out of it. He grouped several sticks together and twisted the fuses together. Then he stopped. He thought for a moment. He had no source of ignition. He'd used his last match to threaten Hector with earlier. Mentally he cursed himself. He cursed himself for two whole seconds before he noticed the barrel of gunpowder. Excellent. Another grin. Elijah hoisted the barrel onto his shoulder and grabbed the dynamite bundle with his spare hand. Counting the cell windows silently, he located Ramona's, third one along. Nonchalantly he strolled up to the window. Ramona was already there clutching the iron bars. Elijah smiled at her.
"Get to the front of the cell," Elijah said. "Curl yo'self up like prairie dog."
Ramona nodded quickly and darted to the front of the cell, crouching down between the bars of the cell door and the foot of the bed. Elijah nodded, satisfied.
He dropped the dynamite bundle at his feet and pushed it up to the wall with his boot. He then pulled the cork on the gunpowder barrel and poured a generous amount over the fuses of the bundle and then, without bothering to stop pouring the barrel, slowly paced backwards to a safe distance. Now came the fun part. Elijah eyed the trail of gunpowder he'd created with the air of a young boy who'd just lined up a row of dominos. Still smiling he drew his Garret, took careful aim, and squeezed off a shot at his end of the gunpowder trail. The round from the revolver was enough to create a spark that hungrily sped towards the dynamite bundle. The explosion was over in less than a second, but to Elijah it seemed to last for an eternity. He could swear he actually saw the sticks swell and the paper around them rip before the explosion shook the very ground that he stood on. When the dust cleared he strolled over to the gaping hole in the wall. So powerful, in fact, was the blast that when he returned to the wall he saw that he'd actually blown the inner walls to both adjacent cells to Ramona's. He stepped over the pile of rubble at the hole's entrance and peered inside. With the sunlight now filling the cell he could see all the dust that had been thrown up in the explosion but no Ramona.
"Ramona?" He said softly to the seemingly empty cell. Then suddenly a white object in the corner moved.
"Yee-Haw!" Ramona cried traditionally as she leapt to her feet. She brushed some of the white dust off herself that now covered her entire body. Elijah sighed with relief.
"Ramona." He breathed simply.
"Thanks Cowboy!" Ramona shouted as she launched herself at Elijah in a bear hug, actually lifting him off the ground for a moment.
"Th-that's fine, little lady…" Elijah tried to say a Ramona squeezed the life out of him.
"Elijah, you gotta find me a iron! I'm gonna help you, just like the old days!" Ramona squealed, dropping Elijah suddenly.
"Ramona…" Elijah started. He didn't want to bring the plucky cowgirl into this, he'd rather she just lay low for a while…
"Now don't brush me aside Jones!" Ramona said sternly, sensing what Elijah was going to say from the tone of his voice. "You need someone watchin' your back, or you aint never gonna walk out that mine alive."
"'Sides," she added, "The colonel done made it personal when he locked me up in my own jail."
Elijah frowned. He didn't like it, but he knew Ramona, and he knew that she'd follow him to the mine whether he wanted her to or not. Shoot, that woman would probably follow him to the gates of hell whether he asked her to or not.
"Okay," Elijah sighed, defeated. "I think I know where we can find you a gun."
He turned sharply, kicking up yellow dust from the ground as he did so with his spurs. He focused his eyes on the fallen body of the guard he'd shot earlier. With any luck, the gun he'd been using would have fallen with him. As he sauntered up to the corpse Elijah caught the white shine of metal just under the body. Elijah smiled despite the stinging in his eyes. He reached the fallen guard and unceremoniously booted the cowboy aside so that he rolled onto his back. From here he could see the gaping ragged wound in the man's chest. A fly buzzed loudly around Elijah's head. With a steely expression, he shifted his gaze from the guard to his weapon. It was a rifle, hunting style, with one barrel mounted underneath the other. It also had something else mounted on top, like a thin brass tube. Elijah picked up the gun and pointed it at the ground, checking the sight. It was then that he realised what the tube was. It was one of them thar newfangled telescopic devices. Elijah looked through it. Made things look twice as close, roughly.
"High tech, huh?" He muttered.
"Wha'd you say, Elijah?" Ramona hollered from back at the jail cell.
"There's a gun for you here," he hollered back, without bothering to turn around. Instead he once again focused on the corpse. This time he reached inside the body's leather waistcoat and felt around in the pockets. Shortly he withdrew his hand to reveal a handful of shells for Ramona's gun. He then stood, and returned to Ramona.
"Here you go deputy," Elijah said as he tossed Ramona the shooter. Ramona caught it by the middle of the barrel.
"Elijah," She said, drawing out his name in her adopted western drawl. "This sure is a fancy iron!"
"Sure is, darlin'," Elijah said with a smile. Ramona returned it with a glance. Elijah tossed her the shells and she loaded the one empty barrel.
The next part happened so quickly Elijah never actually saw what happened, he was just able to work it out later. The first thing that happened was that two cowboys rounded the corner.
"Whut in tarnation…?!" Was cried. Elijah never did find out which one said it. As soon as he heard the cry he let his hand drop to his holster. As his fingers touched the pearl handle, the first cowboy dropped to the floor, deader'n a rattlesnake on a mongoose farm. When drew his pistol and had just started to think about taking a shot, the second dude dropped. Elijah snapped his head to the right, looking directly at Ramona. She stood with the rifle stock tight against her shoulder, still looking down the level sight. A faint wisp of smoke drifted slowly out of the gun barrel.
"Mother of God," Elijah said softly.
Ramona lowered the gun, her gaze not shifting from the bodies that were staining the ground red.
"Bastards who locked me up." Ramona said simply. Elijah smiled sadly. He wasn't surprised, he would've put them down himself if Ramona hadn't, what surprised him was that Ramona had certainly improved her shooting skills of late.
"Lets go." Elijah said, carefully removing the empties from his revolver and replacing them with new bullets from his waistcoat pocket.
The mine was on the other side of a small mountain that the town was erected next to, so to get there the ex-Sheriff and reunited deputy would have to travel through a short mineshaft to reach it. Elijah reasoned as they were walking, that that was probably the reason why the colonel set up there. The mining area was at the base of a small waterfall and was surrounded by mountains on all sides. The shaft was the only way in or out. The entrance to the shaft was at the back of the town so that meant another mosey down main street.
The pair strode out onto the street, Elijah's tan trench coat pulled back so his gun was clearly on display, Ramona's newly acquired rifle slung over her shoulder. They paused to offer each other reassuring glances before they proceeded. The street was clear, but it bent round in a square S shape, so the pair couldn't see the end. Elijah figured that the explosion that had freed Ramona was heard all over the town, he just prayed that the colonel didn't miss the two dudes that Ramona had offed anytime soon. They reached the first corner, to the left, and that was clear. It stretched for maybe twenty-five feet before it turned to the right. There was a stable at the far end, but it looked empty. They reached the turn to the right, just before the entrance to the stable, and the pair stood for a moment. The sun was moving lower in the western sky, and it was shining brightly in the pair's eyes. From what he could see, the street appeared to be clear. He frowned and bared his teeth slightly, squinting against the glare of the sun. Something just didn't feel right about the scene. The colonel's boys should've greeted them by now. Ramona made to stride forward, but Elijah caught her arm before she made it two steps.
"Hold on there darlin'," He said quietly, still focusing on the end of the street, about a hundred meters away.
"Whut is it?" Ramona asked, focusing her own gaze at the end of the street and leaning in to Elijah so he could hear her soft voice.
"Dunno." Elijah murmured. "I think…"
As Elijah spoke he saw a tiny glint of metal from behind some water barrels. In the same instant, a massive cloud of dust kicked itself up from the street in front of the pair, accompanied by a loud crack. Elijah spun to his left, drawing his garret as he did so, momentarily turning his back on his attackers. His trench coat billowed out behind him as several more shots rang out. One actually ripped through the cape of his coat and rushed past his leg. Simultaneously, Ramona dived and rolled into the relative cover of the canopy of the general store. From there she sidestepped to behind the store, back into the short street they had just walked. The pair were now trapped on opposite sides of the street, but they were both in cover. Shots continued to slam into the street and into the wooden side of the building that was adjacent to the stable. Ramona silently prayed that it was empty.
She looked over at Elijah, burning holes in his leather jacket, willing him silently to look at her. After what seemed like an ice age, he dusted himself off and glanced in her direction.
'How many?' Ramona silently mouthed at the cowboy. Elijah shrugged by way of a reply. Then he held up three gloved fingers accompanied by a gesture of uncertainty. Ramona nodded, cracked open her rifle, slotted two shells into it, and snapped it shut. Elijah got the message. He once again held up three fingers, but this time in a countdown. After three horrendously long seconds, the pair dived out from their respective hiding places. Ramona rolled along the ground and finished kneeling in the middle of the street, rifle perfectly trained on the wooden general store at the end of the road. Elijah sidestepped from the barn and lay out two shots of covering fire into the water barrels. Given the barrels size, and the range which he was firing from, he doubted that the bullets would penetrate them, but at least it gave Ramona some time to aim. Elijah stopped firing, and for a brief moment silence reigned. Then, suddenly, and as Elijah had hoped, a figure popped up from behind the water barrels, leaning over the top, arm outstretched clutching a revolver. The varmint was wearing a tan leather waistcoat and blue check shirt and his head was a bright crop of blonde hair. Elijah knew that face. He made to raise his gun once more and squeeze off a round, but, just as she had done earlier, Ramona managed to beat him to it. The crack of the Rifle echoed around the wooden shacks, and the cowboy fell out of sight, as abruptly as he'd appeared. An instant later a second dude appeared from behind the building at the left hand turn at the end of the road, a mirror image of where Ramona had narrowly avoided a swift trip to a pine casket moments earlier. Weapon already raised, Elijah turned the whole of his upper body a few degrees and fired two shots at the figure. He didn't have time to take in his appearance much, but what he did see- the brown mangy hair and beady little black eyes- also felt familiar. Both his shots ploughed into the building corner mere feet from the varmint. Elijah silently cursed, and once again took aim- before there was a second loud crack, and the dude fell dead. A wispy trail of smoke drifted from the barrel of Ramona's gun.
"Thanks Pardner," Elijah breathed.
"Warn't nuthin'," Ramona replied. "Where's the thir-"
But Ramona never got to finish her question, for at that moment a shot slammed into the street just inches from Ramona's boots, kicking up an enormous cloud of dust. Needing no further provocation, both Elijah and Ramona both leapt back into their respective hiding places, back where they started.
"Where in hell did that come from?" Ramona shouted over to Elijah.
"Top floor window, second building on the left," Elijah said, carefully reloading his Garret. "I saw the flash. Recon our third gunman's got hisself a gun like yours, Ramona."
"Swell." Ramona answered sarcastically.
Just then there was a crash followed by a piercing scream. Ramona and Elijah exchanged looks of confusion.
"Sounded like it came from your side of the street," Elijah called over to Ramona. "I'll take a look."
The cowgirl nodded silently as Elijah edged his way to the corner of the stable and carefully peered around it. He could see most of Ramona's side of the street from his vantage point, and slap in the middle of it was a large cattle barn. He could see that there was a saloon girl trapped on the tiny balcony of the hayloft, maybe a metre square, with no side. She was standing rigidly, one hand franticly gripping the opening of the hay door, the other held outstretched for balance. Behind her was a fiery glow, almost as if…
The truth dawned on Elijah.
"Help! Help!" The girl shrieked desperately.
"No good sons of bitches…" Elijah muttered darkly.
"What?" Ramona cried.
"They've set the hayloft of the barn on fire." Elijah shouted to Ramona. "There's a girl trapped up there. Ramona- you gotta cover me!"
Ramona nodded and cracked open her weapon once more, slipped in two cartridges, and snapped it shut. It only took her two seconds. Elijah nodded, then shouted:
Both of the pair dove from their cover, but while Ramona kneeled to make herself a smaller target and carefully aimed at the window, Elijah took off running like jackrabbit in rattlesnake country.
He was two-hundred feet from the entrance to the barn. He'd barely made ten before he heard a crack and the shattering of glass. He knew without looking that it had been Ramona's shot, he silently prayed that that she'd taken out the sniper. He heard another crack, this time followed by a dull thud. No such luck, Elijah cursed, and from the sound of that last shot Ramona had hit the window frame. Elijah was now a hundred feet from the barn and still running flat out. Ramona had to reload now, and that afforded Elijah's would-be killer with precious few seconds, perhaps to get of a shot or two. Elijah quickened his pace, just as a shot slammed into the earth mere centimetres from his boots, Elijah felt the shot as much as saw it. He flailed madly, lunging forward, perhaps out of shock, and for one agonising moment he thought he was going to fall. He accelerated until his lungs burnt, and somehow through sheer willpower managed to get his legs under his body, by all accounts where they ought to be. The burst of speed that he gained from his frantic arm and leg flailing had more than halved the distance between him and the barn, twenty feet to go, maybe less, but the cowboy knew only too well that another shot was being aimed at him. Suddenly his hat was gone. His white Stetson was blown clear of his head. The shot echoed around the street. Elijah instinctively felt for where his hat had moments before been, his hand running through his short thick black hair. No sooner had he done this than he heard yet another shot, followed almost instantly by a dull thud. Ramona was once again covering him. Relieved, Elijah darted inside the massive red barn, which mercifully had its gaping doors left open. Elijah carried on running towards the back of the barn, to the two ramps at the back that led to the hayloft. Unfortunately, before he hit the ramp an outlaw emerged from the shadows behind it, revolver drawn. He was wearing a red check shirt, blue pants covered by leather protector and tan spurred boots. He looked very much like a cattle rustler. That probably explained what had happened to the cows that should be in this barn. They'd all probably been slaughtered now. It had previously occurred to Elijah that someone must have set fire to the hayloft, and that it wasn't likely to have been the scum sucker who was taking pot shots at him from across the street. Elijah grimaced. He simply didn't have time for this. Much longer and the poor lass upstairs would have to choose between jumping and burning to death. His resolve was clear. Elijah was banking on taking advantage of his speedy entrance. Accordingly, he didn't bother to stop, or even slow down from his full pelt run. Instead he charged the cowboy, who for a brief moment looked terrified. Elijah grabbed the dudes gun hand and pointed it away, and with his right free hand planted a mighty punch that had all of his speed behind it into the dude's face. The unlucky varmint crumpled instantly like a sack of potatoes, and Elijah was left holding his black Colt Peacemaker that he's surrendered with a minimum of fuss. Elijah allowed himself a second of pride looking down at the comatose cowboy with blood trickling from his nose. Then, with a scream of distress coming from the hayloft, Elijah instantly remembered why he was there.
"Hold on Ma'am!" Elijah bellowed as he bound up the ramp, across the flat hardwood that ran across the back wall of the barn and up the final ramp to the hayloft. He skidded to a halt and almost fell face first into the raging fire. He raised his arms to protect himself from the heat. He squinted at the sudden bright light, and his sinuses were stung by the acrid smoke.
"Shit," He commented. The cowboy on the floor of the barn had certainly made a blaze of things, probably using moonshine. Elijah made a mental note to shoot the bastard before he left. Elijah could just see the outline of the girl through the flames.
"It's getting' awfully hot in here, Mister!" Her shrill voice echoed over the roar of the fire.
"Hold on darlin'!" Elijah shouted back. He looked around in mild panic. There was no way the girl could sidestep or even leap through the flames, and if she leapt from the loft it was a bone crunching certainty. He needed a way to put out the fire. But the nearest trough was minutes away, and that was time that he simply didn't have. He scanned the room frantically. On his second pass he saw the barrels. Suspended from the ceiling by the rafters were two large barrels. The flames were just beginning to lick their bases. Elijah guessed that it was rainwater being stored for the cattle, but if it was liquor… Well then they were both doomed. Elijah shot the black Colt from the hip, using his left hand to snap the hammer back each time to speed up his shooting. Three bullets pierced the barrel on the left, and left behind three bullet holes that merrily pumped water onto the flames below. The fire hissed a spitted angrily. With a large grin he emptied the other three colt bullets into the barrel on the right. This time he hit it just right, and managed to snap on of the metal rings so that the barrel exploded into a shower of water and wood. It rained down and the fire was extinguished almost instantly. The Cowboy let out a short laugh of relief. The Saloon girl sheepishly emerged from behind the sodden pile of blackened hay, and carefully navigated past it to avoid the fire weakened floor joists. She was wearing a purple corset with a matching ra-ra skirt, with fishnet tights and a large purple feather protruding from her long auburn hair completing the ensemble. She slinked over to Elijah and wrapped herself around him. Her barely concealed breasts heaved into Elijah's chest. Elijah uncertainly gently placed his hands on the girl's lower back. Tenderly she planted a kiss on his tan lips.
"Thank you," She purred. "You're my hero."
"Well, see now, it warn't nuthin, Ma'am…" Elijah stumbled. She silenced him with another kiss.
"Well, if there's ever anything I can do for a big brave Cowboy like you…" She said, drawing little circles on Elijah's chest with her finger, "…you only have to ask."
"Well…" Elijah choked out, suddenly flushing "Thank you kindly Ma'am, I'll.."
He tailed off. There was a pause before the silence was broken by a shrill cry from outside.
"E-LI-JAH! LITTLE HELP?!"
God damn it, the sniper! Briefly ran through Jones's mind before he separated himself from the girl, and darted to the edge of the sodden hay pile. From here he had a perfect view over the hay, out of the hayloft door and through the top floor window of the house on the other side of the street. There he could see some filthy varmint taking aim at his partner up the street through the partially open window. Rage flared up inside of him, and, acting on instinct alone, drew his Garret from his holster, levelled it at the shooter and fired off two shots, using his other hand to snap back the hammer each time. He then spun the revolver into a blur and slammed it back into its holster like it never left. Across the street the varmint coughed up blood and collapsed to the floor. The Cowboy scowled and spat into the street. Nobody fucked with Elijah Jones' friends.
He spun on his heel, gouging a cruel tattoo into the floor of the hayloft with his spurs, and bowed slightly to the saloon girl.
"Looks like I've got to be headin' off now Ma'am."
"Oh please," She said toying with a strand of her hair. "Call me Sally."
Elijah smiled at her.
"It might do to stay indoors for the rest of the day, Miss Sally."
"Don't you worry none about that Sir," She replied. "I'm going straight home."
"Miss Sally," He said, smiling politely, before bounding down the ramp and out into the street. Sally's gaze followed him until he was out of sight.
Elijah bounded back into the heat of the sun that was still beating down on little prospect. Ramona moseyed over to him, looking decidedly dusty and with her rifle slung casually over her shoulder.
"Sorry I took so long," Elijah said sheepishly. "Got held up."
"Uh huh." Ramona answered, spitting on the ground. "No kiddin'."
She stared silently behind Elijah at the massive entrance to the barn. Elijah sensed she was looking at something and glanced over his shoulder. The saloon girl was carefully picking her way from the barn down the street so as to not get too dusty. Flirtatiously, she blew Elijah a kiss as she passed. Elijah rocked on his heels before turning back to Ramona.
"Erm, well listen now little…"
"Save it," Ramona cut him off. "We got us a job to do, remember?"
Elijah shook his head slightly, regaining his focus.
"'Course." He nodded. "Sorry."
Ramona strode over to Elijah's fallen hat and stooped over to pick it up. She picked it up and handed it to its owner. Elijah rolled his eyes in annoyance as he fingered the hole in the brim before returning it to his head. Ramona grinned at him and led the way past the barn and to the corner that led to the next street. Remembering what had happened last time, she pressed herself flat against the wooden building and cautiously peered around the corner. Behind her, Elijah carefully reloaded the Colt he'd acquired and then drew his Garret as well.
"Where'd you get that?" Ramona questioned, glancing over her shoulder.
"Stole it of a varmint in the barn." Elijah replied.
"Ah." Ramona grunted, resuming her spying on the next street. "Fair enough."
"All clear?" Elijah queried, both revolvers still drawn. Ramona didn't answer for some time.
"Yeah…" she said slowly. "I think so, anyways."
"Better stay on guard."
"Oh yeah." Ramona drawled, reloading her rifle.
Carefully, tensed like sidewinders so they could jump back into cover if they had to, the pair of gunslingers stepped out into the middle of the new street. From here the sun was directly overhead and was in their eyes. Elijah pulled his Stetson lower to shade his eyes while Ramona shielded herself with her arms. Elijah scanned the street. He certainly couldn't see anyone. No shadows or the glint of guns, but then, you couldn't be too careful. He began to walk down the street, slowly and steadily, with Ramona right behind him. He still had both revolvers drawn and cocked, ready to shoot at the slightest hint of movement. Although he couldn't see her, Elijah had the distinct impression that Ramona was doing the same with her gun. The sun cast long black shadows behind the pair. Before long they reached the end of the street. From here there was a short walk under a wooden canopy between buildings to get to the back of the town. Elijah and Ramona did this and stepped into the small area that constituted the entrance to the mine. The area was fenced off, so the only ways in or out of this area was the way they'd just come, or the mine. There were only two buildings here, on opposite sides of the street, maybe ten feet in front of the law enforcers and twenty feet apart, which gives you an idea of the size of the area. The first building, on the right, was a small two story pump house that had fallen into disrepair. The building on the left was little more than a shack and was presumably being used for storage. Between the two buildings and directly in front of the lawmen was the black entrance to the mine.
"Yee haw," Ramona muttered, before striding forward. Elijah caught her arm before she could get too far.
"What is it?" She whispered.
"I…don't know…" Elijah spoke softly, raising his head as though he were smelling the air. "Something's just not right."
Elijah stayed still for a few moments. Suddenly his eyes widened and he brought guns up, striding past Ramona as he did so, his white duster billowing. He then let off a volley of fire from both guns at a frightening pace, his thumbs cocking and re-cocking each pistol with ease. He managed to get off twelve shots in a little under thirty seconds, and every single one of those shots found their mark on the wooden shack. Ramona just stared. For a few brief moments, all was calm in the town. Elijah hadn't moved, both empty guns were still raised. The wind took the smoke from his pistols and blew back his trench coat. Then, suddenly, Ramona heard movement from in the shack, now riddled with bullet holes. Ramona trained her rifle in alarm. Elijah stared grimly on. The door to the shack slammed open and Ramona gasped as a portly man fell out, six shooter in hand. He looked Mexican, as he was wearing a poncho and a broad sombrero. He had a thick grey and black beard, and he had obviously been shot in the chest at least six times.
Elijah calmly strode over to the man and kicked the gun from his lifeless fingers. Not that he had to. The guy wasn't getting up anytime soon. Ramona lowered her weapon and let out a deep breath. Elijah routed around in the man's pockets and came up with a few loose bullets. He also found a box of matches. Shrugging, he pocketed them.
"You're good, Jones." She breathed. Elijah nodded, not looking at her, instead scouting for any more of the colonels boys.
"You're so good it's scary." Ramona said under her breath. "How did you know he wus' an outlaw?" She shouted over the wind.
"Whut?" Elijah replied, facing her.
"I said, how did you know he wus' an outlaw? Hell, Elijah, anyone coulda bin in there."
"I dunno, Ramona. Something inside told me… I just knew."
"You aint' normal, Jones." Ramona said quietly.
"Whut?" Elijah said again.
"Never mind. Anyways, there's the entrance to the mine."
She was right. Just behind Elijah was the dark square entrance to the mineshaft that went clean through the mountain side and through to the valley. It was only a couple of hundred meters long, and luckily, it was just one tunnel, with the odd hole overhead for air.
"Let's go." Elijah said simply.
The pair strode into the tunnel together, Ramona with her rifle slung over her shoulder, Elijah reloading his revolvers as he went. He figured that it being such a short tunnel, with no hiding places or cover, there wouldn't be any varmints hiding therein. Besides, he had Ramona to keep him covered. The pair fought to keep from shivering as they entered the chilly mine, Ramona only just succeeding. It was gloomy inside, and Elijah found that he had to be careful that he didn't trip on the tracks that ran underfoot. As he was walking, Elijah began to ponder the best way to enter the valley. They had the element of surprise on their side, but the numbers were very much against them. He reckoned it would be best if Ramona waited in the mouth of the mine and picked off potential murdurin' gunmen while Elijah ran in and looked for the colonel. Still, he'd feel safer if there were some kind of diversion for him to slip in with. The answer to this little conundrum awaited them half-way through the tunnel.
"Whut in the name of sam-hill is this?" Ramona cursed, almost walking into the mine cart. It's contents was covered with a canvas sheet.
"Aint rightly sure," Elijah said, shortly before pulling off the sheet. What was under was enough to bring a small gasp to Ramona's lips. The cart was filled to the brim with explosives. There were two gunpowder barrels, a box and a half of dynamite, and five bottles of nitro. There were also some fuses and matches. Elijah emitted a low whistle.
"We can use this…" Elijah murmured.
"Say what?" Ramona replied.
"We can light this whole lot up," Elijah said "and push it right on out into the valley."
Ramona's face broke into a smile.
"Sure would make one hell of a bang, sheriff."
"Well now, we can't be disappointin' the Colonel, now can we, deputy?"
"Let's get it movin'."
Elijah moved behind the cart, and with Ramona's help, heaved it forwards along the track. They ducked down low for better grip, their boots digging deep into the dust between the railway sleepers. After a few minutes pushing, they arrived at the glaring light of the valley. They poised the cart just on the edge of the shadows cast by the afternoon sun. Elijah scanned the valley. He correctly guessed that in the sun, the tunnel was too dark to see into. They could stay where they were undetected for a few minutes. The extent to which the colonel had been blasting was breathtaking. He had carved the valley meters deeper than it used to be. There were now layers directly in front of the mine opening that represented each new level of digging and resembled giant steps. At the bottom of these steps a small lake had formed, presumably from the waterfall that ran from the top of the northern mountain. There was only one properly constructed building in the whole valley, and that was a small pump house that was towards the back of the valley, to the left of the mind. The earth on which it had stood had since been blasted away, so it now stood on tall support stilts. There was, however, access to it from the ground, as there was a ramp of land that ran up to the back of it adjacent o the steps. This remained the only land in the valley that hadn't been mined. The only other building was a jerry rigged worker style shack on the lowest tier of land, just next to the lake and waterfall. The waterfall was in place because it powered a wooden water-wheel, the purpose of which Elijah wasn't sure. A drill maybe, or perhaps it provided motion for certain mine carts. There were all kinds of scaffold around the lake, most of which Elijah could see were supporting a miniature network of walkways that ran across the lake and linked the shack with the foundations of the pump house. They and the track stood where the land had been originally, now they towered thirty feet above the level of the water in the lake, and a good ten feet over the first step. Elijah silently wondered what they were doing with all the earth they removed. The track which Elijah and Ramona were standing on ran clear across the valley, little more than rails and sleepers, supported at regular intervals by thick wooden support beams. It ended in the side of the mountain opposite the tunnel, with a boarded up second mine. The air was filled with smoke and dust and the sounds of construction and people shouting instructions; the scene made the midday sun seem all the hotter.
"What did you say this varmint wus diggin' for?" Elijah muttered out of the corner of his mouth to Ramona.
"All's I heard wus that he wus minin' for something not natural. Something that's supposed to summon spooks and demons fer him to do his bidding, somethin' like that."
Elijah raised an eyebrow.
"I heard." Ramona restated.
"Well whutever." Elijah said. "Don't really matter, seein' as how I'm takin him in now. I need you to keep me covered while I find him."
"Gonna use these explosives to git him in the open."
He took a single stick of dynamite from the cart and struck a match.
"Be careful little lady." He said, as the match burned.
Elijah nodded grimly, lit the fuse on the dynamite, tossed it in to the cart, and the pair of them heaved it as hard as they could out onto the tracks. Elijah knew that their combined strength was pretty formidable, so he expected the cart to travel out into the middle of the tracks, sit there ominously for a few moments before spectacularly exploding in a shower of wood and dust. What he didn't know was that the tracks were set at a slight incline in their favour. So he didn't expect the cart to keep moving. Neither, did he expect for it to make it all the way to the other side of the mountain, and he certainly didn't expect for it to break right through the barrier on the mine at the end of the tracks. The explosion shook the whole valley, and probably the whole of little prospect too. The law enforcers had to fight to keep their footing. Then, slowly, lazily, like it had just been woken up (which in a way, it had) a landslide of soil and rocks from the mountain above cascaded down and obliterated the scaffold and walkway that the colonel had had built over the lake. The earth and wreckage plunged into the deep blue pool, instantly turning the water a muddy brown. The pair stared on in utter bemusement as faint curses and cries of distress filled the air. A faint smile was painted on each of their lips. They both took a few moments to appreciate one of life's happy accidents. Elijah nodded at Ramona, and, hooking one of his thumbs in his jeans, he walked around the giant steps in the direction of the pump house. His free hand was never too far away from his holstered Garret. Having no holster for the colt, Elijah had merely tucked it into the back of his trousers.
"Colonel!" Elijah bellowed, his harsh voice echoing around the valley. "Ah'm takin' you in!"
For a few moments all was quiet, all except the few cracks from Ramona's rifle as she picked off the few miners and ne'er do wells that had mustered up the mental strength to go for a gun amid the confusion. Suddenly, a second voice rang out in the air. This voice was a slow Texan drawl, and was filled with hate.
"Yew kin try it law man," The Colonel said stepping into view, "But you'll never take me alive."
Elijah kept on walking. He stopped when he was about twenty paces away from the ex-confederate. For a few moments all was silent.
"Draw!" Elijah shouted.
The colonel was fast. On the 'D' of 'draw' his hand dropped to his holstered Walker with puma speed. Elijah guessed that he'd have drawn whether he'd shouted or not. At the first twitch of the Colonel's movement Elijah's hand shot to his Garret, but the Colonel still had the first shot. The bullet grazed the flesh of his left arm, turning the sleeve of his tan trench coat red. Grimacing against the pain, Elijah took aim and fired his shot. He knew if missed now, it was all over. His gun flared, and the Colonel was slammed backwards as his shoulder exploded into a red mist. Elijah reeled for a few agonising seconds before he was able to act on his advantage. As quickly as he could he pulled back on the hammer of his Garret and drew the Peacemaker from the back of his trousers. He fired both guns, one of the bullets finding its mark in the Colonel's chest. Elijah pressed his advantage and continued to fire. The Colonel's body was rocked this way and that as he was shot, the air around him was thick with earth and dust that had been kicked up from the movement of his body and Elijah's stray bullets and his blood. Elijah didn't let up for a second, and he kept on firing until his hammers fell upon empty chambers.
Elijah stood, guns still raised, the smoke trailing into the hot afternoon air. His blood trickled warmly down his arm. The Colonel stood in amazement for a few seconds before falling lifelessly flat on his back. Elijah finally lowered his pistols.
Re-holstering his guns, he turned on his heel, coat billowing, to re-join Ramona. It seemed that those of the Colonel's cronies who weren't preoccupied with the landslide or who had just plain ran had been put off by Ramona. Elijah pulled a cigar from his breast pocket and fished around inside his coat for a match. That done, he struck it, lit up and breathed in the rich warm smoke. Nothin' like a job well done. His spurs jingled as he sauntered back to Ramona.
"My God, you're hit!" Ramona cried at him when he was about ten feet away.
"Now don't you worry bout that none, sugar. Just a scratch, nothin' a bandage and some whiskey won't solve."
"You hurtin'?" Ramona said, inspecting his wound. Elijah shrunk away from her touch.
"Ah, a little honey, but I'll be fine."
They stood and stared intently for a few moments.
"Well," Ramona said casually "You did it, Cowboy."
"Yup, reckon I did." He mumbled, removing his cigar for a moment.
"I'll git a letter out to the nearest town, get their sheriff down here so's you can git you're ree-ward."
"Well that'd be mighty kind o'you little lady."
"What're you gonna do now then Sheriff?" Ramona grinned.
"Reckon I'll… Have a snooze for a few hours."
"Well now, Little Prospect sure don't need their newly instated Sheriff bein' sleepy on the job."
Ramona broke out in smiles and fairly pounced on Elijah. He hugged her tight with his good arm and smiled, looking around the area. The pool at the bottom of the valley was being churned into a muddy frenzy. The chimney on the pump house was smoking gently. Elijah supposed that he should investigate it, find out exactly what the Colonel was doing up here and why, but all in good time. His eyes drifted to the train tracks that ran across the valley, which by some miracle hadn't been obliterated by the mine cart exploding. He followed the tracks up with his gaze to the entrance to the mine. He frowned. There was some kind of green glow coming from inside.
"Whut the hell…?"
"What?" Ramona said looking up from Elijah's shoulder. Elijah nodded in the direction of the mine.
"Whut the hell…?" Ramona repeated. Elijah threw her a sideways glance.
"I'm gonna take a look." He said.
He made to walk towards the tracks, as it was the only way to the mine, when Ramona caught him by the arm.
"Be careful 'Lijah. Remember- ain't natural."
Elijah pulled out his Garrett and spun the cylinder.
He paces to the edge of the highest step and the tracks, carefully reloading as he did so. Spooks or no, he wanted to be prepared. Having done that, he re-holstered the iron. He'd be needing both hands free for balance walking across the track sleepers, and besides, no point in taking the risk that he'd drop it. His wound had now become a tolerable dull throb, so he could just about use both arms. Carefully he picked his way across, the wood creaking ominously under his boots as he did so. When he was about halfway over he hazarded a quick look down. It seemed that part of the wooden jetty hadn't been destroyed by the explosion. There was a ten by ten foot pier directly below him, right next to the lowest step of the valley, where it looked like they were gradually mining into the step. Elijah frowned. What the hell needed this much frantic activity?
He shrugged slightly, and refocused his eyes on the green glow. From here he had a better view of it. It was like nothing he'd ever seen, almost like flame through a bottle, but much more intense.
It didn't take Elijah very long to finish his trek across the tracks to the mouth of the mine. He paused at the entrance, and held his hand up to the light. It stained his glove (and for that matter his whole body) a bright emerald green. Elijah looked nervously over his shoulder. In the distance he saw Ramona give him a reassuring nod. He nodded himself, set his jaw, and forced his body into the mine. The air was stuffy and warm, for a moment Elijah felt a though he was breathing the green glow. The tracks continued inside the mountain for about ten metres before they ran out. There he could see where the mine cart had blown a hole in the back wall of the mine. A few charred bits of splintered wood were all that was left of it. The hole was obviously the source of the glow. He drew his gun once more, strode up the hole, and poked at the rubble with the barrel of his gun. After a few moments prodding, the cause of the green light was revealed. Elijah's gasp caught in his throat. At the end of his gun was the brightest, greenest, biggest jewel he'd ever seen. Elijah had head tell of certain jewels or emeralds or something that came all the way from China or someplace, and when the light hit them just right they were about the prettiest things in world. He'd heard about them, but never about nothin' that glowed in the dark. Carefully he picked the jewel up. It was surprisingly light, and warm to the touch, even through Elijah's gloves. Not quite natural, eh? Natural or not, the Colonel could make enough money to buy half America offa something like this.
Elijah was weighing it in his hand when he heard an ungodly noise behind him. It was a noise that crackled with electricity, a noise of the very air being torn. A flash like lightning illuminated the mine for a second. Elijah spun on his heel, gun instinctively raised. The sight that met him chilled his body and froze his blood. It was about the size of a man, but it had spindly legs and arms that seemed to end in points. It was a pale fish belly white, and it was constantly phasing from the visible to the invisible. The most disturbing thing about the… the demon, was its face. If you could even call it a face. It's head was eyeless, earless, noseless, in fact where the face should have been there was nothing but a wide open maw, with several tube-like tongues hanging limply from it. Between these moist tubes the odd fang-like tooth poked through. Elijah for a second wondered if he hadn't gone insane. Then Ramona's words ran through his mind. He stared in wide eyed shock and disgust. The creature raised its spindly white arms and roared a roar that came up from the depths of hell itself. The creature brought its limbs down a trail of blue electricity flew from the pointed tips of its arms and over Elijah's shoulder just inches from his head. It travelled a short distance into the alcove where he'd found the jewel and exploded, showering Elijah with dust and rubble and shaking the mountain for a second time. This kick-started Elijah into action. He dropped the jewel; It clattered to the floor, but the sound was drowned out as he'd already started to fire the revolver. His now free hand retrieved the Peacemaker from his back, and his left hand joined in the shooting. Black, bloodless holes opened up in the creatures chest, face and arms, but all the same it screamed and writhed in agony, kicking up dust from the mine floor. Elijah kept on shooting, and he stayed shooting for at least five seconds after both guns had clicked empty. Even then he kept both guns raised, pointed at the abomination that lay writhing on the floor in front of him. He stared at it in a mixture of disbelief and a kind of sickened hatred that even he couldn't explain. He just instantly recognised the creature as the enemy.
He was torn from his fevered thoughts by more sounds of tearing air. Bright blue flashes lit up the tunnel. Elijah was empty and he had no time to reload. He grimaced, paused only long enough to scoop up the jewel from the mine floor and ram it into his inside jacket pocket and ran. He brushed past two of the demons at the mouth of the mine, their bodies feeling ice cold, even through Elijah's clothes. He launched himself out into the sunlight, and ran temporarily blinded out over the tracks, silently praying that he didn't loose his footing. Somewhere in the distance he could hear Ramona shouting something. In a heave of white light his vision returned, and he realized that he'd made it halfway over the track bridge. Below him he could see the little section of jetty he'd noticed earlier, only now it had some kind of whirlpool thing hanging in mid-air over it. Elijah lost what little remained of his calm at this point. Not that it mattered.
"Whut the h-"
Suddenly heat and light propelled Elijah forward in a shower of splinters. He fought to keep his balance but gravity won the short battle, and he plunged off the edge of the rails towards the whirlpool thing. Half a ton of wooden support and track plunged down with him, and it fell into the pool, and Elijah fell through the whirlpool and hit the wooden deck hard. His last sight before everything went blissfully black was a cascade of water raining down upon him.
Cortez emerged from the time portal a mere few minutes (at least as far as Hart was concerned) after he jumped through.
"You get it?" Hart asked urgently.
"Uh… Yeah… I got it." Cortez replied groggily. He glanced at his hand where he clutched the bright emerald green Time Crystal. He tossed it to Hart who caught it out of the air with her non-robotic hand. She placed it in the digital field next to her portable computer where it twitched for a moment, before floating into the air and rotating in a small circle. Cortez wiped the sweat from his bald head with a black gloved hand. His re-worked infa-red eyes were shifty even for him. At six foot one tall he was a fine chiselled specimen of a marine, but over the course of this mission his face had become pale and drawn. He seemed to sag in his combat gear, and even at a glance Hart wondered if he wasn't beginning to buckle under the pressure. An unholy scream followed by a series of bangs focused Cortez's attention on the hub airlock.
"How long have we got?"
"Maybe half an hour?" Hart offered. "Perhaps a little less."
"Better get moving then." Cortez sighed.
A kind of liquid whoosh noise behind him signalled that the time portal had been stabilised. He sighed, turning around.
"Right." Cortez said tonelessly. He paused for a moment, slinging what could very well be his last look at his team-mate. Her Red hair was the only colourful thing in the room, and though fear had robbed her face of it's usual intensity she still looked radiant. The only noise in cavernous hub was the minute click and whirring that her robotic battle arm made. Her face was set in determination. Cortez thanked some higher being that she was the one backing him up on this one. He shook rogue thoughts clear of his mind, steeled himself, and leapt through the time portal.
Elijah could hear someone calling him in the distance. Over and over again. He couldn't see where from though, the night was pitch black. Suddenly his head snapped to the right. It hurt. The person was still calling out his name with increasing urgency. Then his head snapped to the left. Then he woke up in an explosion of light.
"Elijah!" Ramona screamed as she prepared to slap him again.
"W-woah, there, darlin, give me a second…"
"Elijah!" Ramona cried in relief as he hugged the cowboy tight. She'd been straddling him by his chest, so she hardly had to move.
"What the hell happened?" Ramona gasped suddenly.
"I aint rightly sure." Elijah said. "You couldn't git off me for a second, could yeh, Ramona?"
Ramona looked puzzled for a second, then scrabbled to get off her fallen friend.
"Much obliged to yeh there darlin'." He said, pulling himself to his feet and dusting himself off.
"Elijah, what the hell were those white demons?" Ramona asked when Elijah was on his feet.
"They were out here too?" Elijah questioned urgently, suddenly remembering the monsters. "Where'd they go?"
"Ah don't know Elijah, they all jus' vanished bout the time you fell off the bridge."
"Went back to hell, maybe…" Elijah muttered.
"I don't know." Elijah said. "Ahm thinkin' that maybe they were after the jewel the Colonel was after."
"Yeah," Elijah said, reaching into his jacket pocket. "I found it in the mine…"
"What?" Ramona asked as Elijah frantically searched all his pockets.
"It's gone! Goddamn it! Where'n the hell is it?"
"Maybe you lost it when you fell."
"I… I don't know… There was this whirlpool thing…"
"Whirlpool thing?" Ramona repeated. "I think we should git you to a bed, Elijah."
"I swear!" Elijah swore. "Honestly, Ramona, I…"
His voice trailed off. He was defeated, at least for now. He leant on Ramona for support, and let her escort him into the setting sun.
In the weeks that followed, Elijah Jones established himself as the Sheriff of Little Prospect. Thanks to his efforts, it became one of safest town in the US of A. Within a year, he married his deputy, Ramona Sosa. A year after that, he produced a son, Jesse Jones. He never saw the white Demons again, and although now he had an amazing tale to tell his son and eventually his grandchildren, he would never know the debt that the world owed him.
T H E E N D
If you liked this, let me know and maybe I'll write the other levels. Have a good one, y'all.