Chapter 2: Into the Town of Dirt
Dawn came after a restless night of sleep. The sun's golden rays spread across the desert, igniting the light of day and the heat of misery. Rattlesnake Jake slithered out of the crevice that he had found solace in the night. He flicked his tongue to pick up scents, smelling the last of the evaporating night. He slithered over to where he had picked up on Dezi's scent, but the pocket mouse had already gone on her way, her scent fading with the night.
The rattler looked in the direction to Dirt, the path he had come from the day before. There was no way he would be able to catch sight of her from this distance, but all he saw was flat, barren land with the usual desert flora. He could start to see the ripples of heat rise from the ground like an oven.
It was an uncertainty that the little mouse would be able to make it all the way to Dirt without getting killed on her own. Jake was about to let it go, and head out on his own path that he had been following alone when something caught his eye. Roadrunners running over the ridge just south of him, heading towards Dirt. He could make out Jet in the lead, with more of his rat gang with him. They must have picked up Dezi's trail and were going after her again.
It wasn't Jake's place to get involved. He shouldn't care about what happens to Dezi or the town of Dirt anyway. He turned the opposite direction and started slithering down the ridge to get back on the path. He had made it halfway down the ridge before the guilt finally hit him. Growling in annoyance, Jake knew he was going to have to act on his these stupid feelings and head back.
The rattlesnake picked up his speed, completely turning around and heading straight for Dirt with the intention of killing a pack of rats.
The more he thought about it, the more he wondered exactly what Black Jack was seeking of Dezi and her father. His long time rival and enemy was ruthless, known to be the spawn of evil and darkness itself. He had an army of mercenaries and gunslingers at his disposal, being known as the lord of bandits. Whatever it was that Dezi's father knew, it now fell on Dezi to pay the price of Black Jack's wrath. A wrath that has never seen any survivors.
Dezi kept walking, even though the heat suffocated her, and the sun felt as though it was sucking the life right out of her body. She had left before dawn encroached to get a good start to the town of Dirt. She had been lucky on her travel so far, with no hawks or owls to swoop above her, or bandits to stop her. She wondered for a moment if she had swayed off path and became lost. Or maybe Rattlesnake Jake had lied about Dirt. She knew the town existed, having heard of it and visited a few times, but it was when she was a baby and hardly remembered it.
Still, she continued on, hoping to come across something soon or she would have to collapse under the sun and waste away. She was trying to save the very little water that was left in her father's canteen. Her paw stayed close to her father's gun, just in case trouble came out of nowhere.
Just as she was coming over a ridge, she got a good view of the valley. The intense heat came off in waves from the ground, making the distance look like a boiling mirage. But the little mouse could make it out. The town of Dirt was there, she could make it!
With renewed strength, Dezi started down the ridge with great dexterity. Her round ears were burning under the sun, not protected by the hat she wore over her head. She moved by towering saguaros that cast a river of a shadow over her tiny body. She could feel a massive difference in temperature protected by the shade. She took the time to rest for a moment and finish the water in her canteen. There wasn't much shadow left under the tall cactus, considering the sun was climbing higher and higher into the sky.
Dezi didn't stay long, and started for Dirt again. She was relieved the town was in sight now. Her tail was up and slightly curled, no longer dragging the ground with her revived sense of confidence. Just as she knew she was home free, she heard whistling erupt in the distance behind her. She could feel the vibrations in the ground with her keen senses, and spun around. She saw a pack of rats riding on roadrunners heading straight for her direction, coming right over the ridge she had just climbed down. Jet had come back for her. She wasn't surprised. She knew Black Jack would kill the rat if he returned without her.
Panicking, Dezi spun and took off running on all fours for more speed. She headed straight for Dirt, which seemed so close, yet was still far. The roadrunners were catching up to her fast. The rats whooped and howled, and Dezi knew that she wouldn't make it. A lariat snagged around her tail and jerked her from the ground. She crashed and rolled as a single roadrunner skidded to a halt, trilling loudly. Jet had a hold of the lariat and while laughing, the black rat pulled her up by the rope.
"I have to admit it. For a mouse, you got spunk, girly. Now how about you come with me to see Black Jack? You know what he wants."
"Let me go!" Dezi yelled. "I'm not telling that devil anything! Daddy wasn't going to and I sure as hell ain't goin' to!"
"I don't think you have a choice, mousy!" Another rat cackled, yellow incisors gleaming a sinister smile.
"I'd like to see a mouse take on a whole pack of rats," another laughed.
"Shoot, just one rat would be enough! Mice are so weak and small!"
Dezi took her chance; she flung her body forward, biting down hard on Jet's nose. The black rat yelped, letting go of her. Dezi was quick to free her tail from the lariat and jump from the roadrunner. She took off running for the town again, desperately trying to reach the town's limits.
"Get her!" Jet yelled, nose bleeding.
The rats were after her again, and Dezi knew she still wasn't going to make it. It was then she saw the flock of roadrunners creating a barricade to the city. They were rats that were riding them, but citizens of Dirt. This caused Jet and his gang to quickly stop their birds, and let Dezi slip through into the protection.
"Well, well, well, if it ain't the redneck losers of poor 'ol Dirt. I see you guys are still rebuilding many of the buildings. Must be a shame," Jet sneered, baring yellow teeth.
"Jet, it sure has been awhile since we've seen your ugly face," a female desert iguana stated hotly on her roadrunner. She wore an old, faded blue dress while having a shotgun ready on the pack of lizards. Dezi was hiding behind her bird, catching her breath.
"Now, I'm still kinda new 'round her, but I saw how you were chasing that poor kid across the valley, and I don't appreciate it," said another lizard, a type that Dezi didn't recognize in the desert, but he was green with a curly tail and strange eyes. He looked to be the sheriff of the town.
"Which means turn around and go back the way you came or prepare for some trouble, dirt bag," an older, rough looking, bobcat hissed.
"And you don't want the trouble, trust me," an old, gray haired mouse added with scorn.
Jet growled lowly, ears pinning in anger. He seemed to consider staying and fighting for a moment, but then his sly, intelligent brain came up with a new plan. He snorted at the townsfolk, whiskers twitching in his smirk.
"Fine, we'll scram. But don't be surprised if we come back for the girl."
Jet retreated with his gang back the other way, the roadrunners leaving a trail of dust in their wake. The townsfolk of Dirt who had defended Dezi watched them go, before getting off of their birds to come over to Dezi.
"You poor thing, are you alright?" the female desert iguana asked, bending down to check on the pocket mouse.
"I'm fine!" Dezi replied with a bit more tart in her tone than she wanted. She then sighed, feeling defeated. "I mean…thank you so much."
"Beans, do you think we should let the Doc look over her just in case?" the sheriff asked.
Beans nodded, standing up. "Yeah, we should. What's your name?"
Beans smiled softly. "Well, I'm Beans. This here is Rango."
The strange green lizard tipped his hat down at her and had a genuine smile. "Good to meet ya, darling. I'm sure you have quite the story behind those rats' rat race to you."
Dezi smiled softly at his funny words, slowly nodding. "Yes, sir."
"Don't call me sir, that's too formal! Rango will do just fine, little lady."
Beans walked over to the mouse and bobcat that had helped scare the rat pack away. "Spoons, Elgin, could you two please go to Wounded Bird and get some food and water for this poor girl."
They nodded at her, getting on their roadrunners and heading into town. Beans let Dezi get up on her bird, and then they trotted the roadrunners into town. Dezi looked behind them in the distance, knowing Jet would be back.
Dezi was stuffing her cheeks until she looked like a chipmunk. She was starving, and she couldn't believe how much water there was in Dirt. There was plenty to go around for everyone. Rango and Beans stayed with her, and through mouthfuls Dezi told them her story.
"And then Rattlesnake Jake came out of nowhere and saved me."
Beans' eyes widened. "He…saved you?"
"Yeah, I was surprised too. Well, we both have a common enemy…Black Jack. I don't know what his reasons were, but Jake told me where to find Dirt. He said you guys would take me in!"
"Black Jack? Who's that?" Rango inquired.
Beans looked to the chameleon. Rango and Beans had explained their stories to Dezi before hers to get her to understand who Rango was and how the town had so much water and life now. Dezi knew she could trust them, and many of the other townsfolk. Beans was the mayor of Dirt, and Rango was the sheriff. She knew they cared about everyone.
"He's a rattlesnake much like Jake. But he's black…he's an Arizona Black Rattlesnake. He's usually accompanied by Sidewinder Silus. The three of them are the only known gunslinger rattlesnakes that have gatling guns on their tails. But unlike Jake who works alone mostly, or acts as a hired killer, Jack and Silus are leaders of a huge bandit gang," Beans explained. She then shook her head, looking worried. "What does Black Jack want with you?"
Dezi's eyes fell. She played with her food for a moment longer then stuffed some more in her mouth. She waited until she swallowed before she answered them quietly. "It's…complicated."
She looked outside the window, seeing that it was dark outside now. The stars were glittering up above, and Dezi suddenly felt her appetite disappear as she remembered her father. It was all her fault that he died. Beans seemed to catch on to the mouse's behavior, and so decided not to push her.
It wasn't as though they were going to get much more time anyways. Priscilla burst into the sheriff's station, her big yellow eyes wide. "Rats coming up fast on roadrunners! They got guns and torches!"
"Dammit!" Beans cursed. "Get the others ready! Go! C'mon Rango!"
Rango gulped, reluctantly following after her. Beans peeked her head back inside the sheriff's station. Dezi was up and ready, getting her gun and coming for the door.
"No! Stay here and keep low!" Beans ordered, and slammed the door shut.
Dezi glared at the door. There was no way she was going to hide while everyone else risked their lives for her. The rats were here because of her. She was going to fight. She checked her gun and ammo, and then headed to the back of the sheriff's station to go through the back exit.
Jake slid to a halt atop of the rocky ridge, his scales scratching along the rough terrain as he looked down into the town of Dirt. The moon was high and bright as the stars, but he could see fire burning in the town. He could hear the gunfire and yells. Jet and his gang were ripping the town apart to try and get the mouse back.
The rattlesnake knew that he had to get down there fast. He pushed his serpentine body forward, sliding down the ridge with great speed and energy. He knew he wasn't going to stop until every rat that had stepped foot into the town dropped dead by his tail-gun. His fangs bared as he got closer and closer to the town, venom dripping as he hissed in anger.
A/N: So sorry for the short chapter, this meant to be longer, but I decided to split the chapter for the action that is coming up! Hope you all enjoyed regardless, and I promise that next chapter will be much longer and full of action lol! Thanks for reading and reviewing! :)