When last we left our heroes, they had rescued Nicola Tesla from the clutches of a gang Russian spies. Having secured the brilliant and eccentric scientist, Marshals Jack Lightning, Octavius Wilhem and Wendel Kane were charged with delivering Tesla to a small settlement named Ascension, in the state of Arizona. Upon arriving at their destination they found Ascension to have been built under the shadows of several flatbed plateaus and one giant pistol pointed at the heavens. The name of the gun was the Colt Apollo and it would win America the moon!
Naturally such a sight and such a statement begat several questions, not just of the gun and the marshal’s purpose in being assigned here, but of the sanity of such a device. Wendel Kane, while maybe not the first to think it, was certainly the one to voice ‘How do they get back?’. Sheriff Benson, who had met the three Marshals and Tesla and was conveying them, their luggage, their beasts of burden and Tesla and Octavius’s many crates of equipment, insisted on saving all questions until the next morning whereupon they would meet the persons behind the Space-Gun project. In the meantime, the marshals were introduced to the town of Ascension.
Situated half a day’s ride from the Colt Apollo, Ascension boasted two bars, a hotel, a whorehouse, a general store, a blacksmith and a cog wrangler’s workshop, as well as many other places where supplies could be purchased, as well as a good time. Lightning, Wilhem and Kane were delivered to their temporary residence– rooms at the Ignit-Inn, which was doing a roaring trade.
The Ignit-Inn was a wood, steel and brass fashioned establishment, cylindrical in design with three floors stacked in conical fashion. The ground floor served as the saloon and the tables were full of people drinking, whoring and gambling. The three were introduced to the owner of the Ignit-Inn, a burly gent named Buchannen ‘Buck’ Coalstorm who, upon hearing that the famous Lightning Jack would be staying at his hotel, bought a round for the Marshals. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Kane ordered a bucket of whiskey for himself and a bucket of whiskey for his trusty companion, Smokey, the bear now housed in the stables under instructions to ‘Don’t eat no one’. Meals also came in a bucket and if the thought of a bear made people wary about going into the stables, then a bear that’d ate a bucket of chilli made sure that Smokey wasn’t bothered for the night.
Something that had bothered the Marshals though was the profanities shouted as one of the patrons stood up from a gambling table and proclaimed the player across him ‘A cheatin’ sonnuvabitch!’ Everything stopped as such words quickly lead to gunfire and in this time, gunfire could take on all manner of destruction. Both Jack Lightning and Octavius Wilhem studied the accused and Wilhem spotted some sort of device tucked within the man’s sleeve. Suspecting the man’s accusation to be accurate but not wanting to deal with bloodshed upon arrival, Jack Lightning ‘suggested’ the accused return his winnings and buy a round before ‘vacatin’ as quick as he came’. Whether the gambler had sense enough to agree, or if he decided to pack in while he was ahead, the gambler agreed and left the saloon, and the game broke up.
Having been provided a table, the marshal’s sat down, ate and took stock of their surroundings. The people all bore the dirt, dust and grime of engineers, coal workers or labourers, and judging how much money was being thrown about, it was payday. Curious to know more, the Marshal’s finished up and took in town with an evening stroll.
Upon walking the streets it could be seen that while everyone was in high spirits, there were two distinct camps of people who just didn’t get along. Seeking an unbiased opinion, Jack Lightning steered the others into a less ostentatious watering hole where drinks were drunk, cards were dealt and talking was scarce. The patrons were either migrant workers, veteran engineers or married men, all of whom were not interested in blowin their money away. The bartender, when asked about the factions of workers, replied that each belonged either to Colt or their rivals; Ithaca Gun Company.
‘Two gunsmiths?’ Wilhem asked. Each one developing the gun that would fire people to the moon. Ithaca’s gun was located in a gulch some half a day in the opposite direction and wa housed over a natural gas vent. The rivalry between camps was bitter and refined but, so long as they were in Ascension, things were kept, at most, cordial.
Ascension also played host to workers from an iron mine some two days from the town, where ore would be transported and purchased by either camp. Ascension was neutral ground in a race to the heavens and it became clear to the Marshals what they had signed up for.
Kane and Jack turned in while Wilhem made way to Etheric Delight’s bed and breakfast and, upon rising the next morning, Sheriff Benson took them out to the Colt Apollo staging ground.
Throught their conversations with the Sheriff, the Marshals deduced the lawman’s loyalties lay with Colt. Determined to remain as neutral as Ascension itself, the Marshals resolved to visit Ithaca’s grounds later that day. Colt’s location had a luxurious manor house and it was there that they met with the person behind the Colt Apollo, the elderly and infirmed Samuel Colt.
Samuel Colt was cold and direct. He wanted the Apollo to succeed and he was willing to do what it took to get that to happen. Lightning Jack was equally cold and direct and informed him that they wouldn’t interfere unless Colt broke the peace. Jack then asked the purpose of such a weapon whereupon Colt’s temper rose. He proclaimed that he was done having his name be synonymous with death and that he would see it attached to something that would further the human race like nothing before. Satisfied, for the moment, with Colt’s behaviour, the Marshal’s bypassed Ascension so they could make Ithaca’s camp by nightful. A journey that Sheriff Benson was not eager to take and instead decided to return to town so as to see to packing. Benson was retiring and leaving the law in the three Marshals’ hands.
The reception at Ithaca was downright rude, having been challenged by five men brandishing rifles that Ithaca was famous for. Kane was ready to ride Smokey through them and Jack, eager to put the loudmouth guards in their places, instead responded with his deadly reputation. Leaving stunned guards in their wake, the three made the acquaintence of engineer Leroy Smith, and business William Henry Baker. Smith was distant and only engaged with Wilhem when they discussed the amazing armor the marshal wore. Baker was only interested in money and price, being obstinant and rude. Baker challenged the Marshal’s overtures at neutrality by pointing out they had visited Colt first until Kane, with all the finality the man-mountain could bring, said they’d visited the camps alphabetically. Closing the door on that conversation, the topic turned to an iron shipment that had been running late, and the lack of response by the men Ithaca had sent out to investigate. Resolving to check it out for themselves, the Marshals quickly left Ithaca’s company and returned to Ascension.
Sheriff Benson had packed up and, upon questioning, confessed that he and Ithaca had not had successful dealings. Ithaca was about buying the law, evident by the number of deputies that were now employed in their camp. Benson was clearly worried about Ithaca but said that Colt was ‘a fair shake’ provided you didn’t interfere with their schedule. He also pointed that that most problems started with Ithaca and while the Elder Colt was unwilling to be distracted, his workers were more than ready to take up the fight. Finally, he warned the Marshals that, with both guns nearing completion, now would be the time that things would get nasty. Not just from both camps but also foreign powers worried about the weaponising potential that both space-guns could bring. A daunting task weighed heavily on each Marshal’s mind as they slept.
The next day commenced with the Marshal’s making ready to ride out in search of the iron shipment. After a discussion as to who would see to the law with all three marshals out and the Sheriff having retired, the decision was made that most workers would be at their camps and the law could wait; although Kane offered to deputise Smokey with the instructions of ‘dont’ eat anyone innocent’. Leaving their mounts behind, the Marshals used Wilhem’s iron tank to convey them quickly down the road where Kane spotted tracks. The wagon had been ambused and pulled off the road over a hill. Looking down, the lawmen spied the wagon, berift of its cargo as well as any signs of life. The men’s blood used to carve a circle around the devestation with ungodly symbols laced the circumfrence. It was the work of Injuns…