As the Indian tribe made ready to journey to a new and safer land Jack, by way of Wilhem’s translation, was directed to where the stores of iron were hidden. If the iron ore was recovered, it would go a long way to restoring some measure of peace and would hopefully prevent vengeful posses from hunting scalps.
But such a goal, nigh impossible already, leapt to greater heights as the captured Indian brave told Wilhem that three of their strongest warriors had journeyed to Ascension and the camps of Colt and Ithaca to repay the white man for the slaughter.
With a considerable lead by the warriors, Marshals Kane and Wilhem loaded the crates of iron onto Wilhem’s mechanical mount in record time and the furnace was stoaked to galactic temperatures as the truck surged forward and thundered over the dunes toward the town.
With three targets to choose from, the marshals agreed to make tracks for Camp Ithaca, not only to deliver the ore, but owing to their responsibility in the Indian camp’s destruction, would be most likely under attack. And indeed it was. The workers at Camp Ithaca were worked up to frothing frenzied panic. Everyone was armed with the considerable stores of rifles Ithaca had on site and hunting those responsible for the grusome murder of five people just today. The latest victim had been slashed to death and his corpse strung up from the barrel of Ithaca space gun as dread warning to those who saw it that they were next.
The Marshals instructed the workers to busy themselves unloading the ore while they ventured into the network of mining tunnels under the camp to hunt the Redskin killer. Ithaca, relying a natural gas vein to fire their gun, not only had copious tunnels, rooms and caverns that were both natural as well as hewn, but the amounts of flammable gas meant that one spark from the Marshals’ weapons could do the work of the Indian brave in a deafening column of fire. With the lamp shielded behind glass, Kane tried to pick up the trail.
Following a path left by a ghost, the marshals moved from tunnel to tunnel, watching carefully for traps or ambush. Finally the trail ended at a narrow crook that Jack and Kane were barely able to squeeze through. Wilhem, not willing to remove his armour, deployed himself at the narrow opening to intercept the Indian should he escape the other two lawmen. Shuffling past the slim rocky apeture, Kane and Jack discovered, to their disgust, that the trail had led to another cave which seemed, for intents and purposes, to serve as a dumping place for kitchen scraps. It would also serve as a way for the Indian warrior to sneak in and out of the camp unnoticed. Just as the two marshals were contemplating crawling through the waste to continue the hunt, there was an echoing whistle of something fast. And the gaslamp shattered.
Thanks only to the providence of Ithacan engineering, who had been able to cap many of the gas veins to direct them away from the camp, did the adventures of Jack Lightning and Wendel Kane continued. But the two marshals shared the small and deathly black cavern with their quarry. Yelling out a war whoop whose echoes bounced about the cavern, the Indian struck out at Kane. Fortunately the marshal of the mountain was both quick enough and hardy enough to turn aside the deadly tomahawk and then the cavern was lit with to flashes of electric bolts. Jack’s first shot had been to locate her target; her second took advantage of the millisecond burst to catch the Indian before he could press the attack. Sparks leapt from his body as he collapsed, though still breathing as Kane and Jack dragged his unconcious form back to Wilhem. But the marshals’ problems weren’t over yet.
There had been only one warrior and it was likely that the remaining two were going to strike, if they hadn’t already, with the same murderous tactics at Ascension and Camp Colt. Further, there were hundreds of workers who would be more than eager to torture and kill the brave without any regard for any civilised law. With time growing short, Wilhem came to the grave decision that sentence would have to pass here, deep underground and away from the workers. The only solace that could be found was that the brave hadn’t felt anything as a single bullet dispensed what the marshals hoped was justice.
Even so, the workers wanted some kind of retribution – not satisified that the Marshals had killed the brave while fighting for their lives – and it was only Jack’s reputation and solemn expression that allowed the lawmen to return to Wilhem’s vehicle with the corpse intact. Freed of the weight of the iron shipment, the truck made best speed toward Ascension as the Marshals debated the ‘justice’ that could be found if the other two Indians had killed more white folk.
It was a debate that ended quickly as the truck pulled up alongside a body abandoned on the road. Ex-Sheriff Benson had had his retirement cut short.
TO BE CONTINUED IN COLT APOLLO: FIFTH SALVO