Both day and night had been long and there had been death at either end. An iron supply wagon, its guards and drivers, a posse and five or so other workers at Ithaca Rifle Company. All in recompense for God knew how many Indians who had unknowingly set their camp up over a bullseye.
Death tires that which it don’t kill and the three marshals making hell for leather toward Camp Colt were weary indeed.
Taking the chance to get some shut-eye, after forbidding Wendel Kane to try out Octavius Wilhem’s steam-tank mounted air horn, Jack was woken when Octavius spied two riders headed their way on horseback. A third horse came galloping behind, a sure sign that they were riding somewhere fast.
“What’s your business?” Jack asked as the riders pulled up alongside. The truck hadn’t slowed but its speed over short distances meant the horses didn’t have to be run into an early grave.
“Some damned savage got hisself holed up in the lab with Mr Colt, Marshal!” the rider hollered over the grinding and pounding noise of the engine.
“That’s where I get off, fellas,” Jack said and, flinging open the door, threw herself out onto the saddle of the third horse. The other two rode off after leaving Wilhem and Kane to catch up.
“Fixin hersself up an early grave, she keep riding inta trouble,” Kane grumbled.
“Zhere’s alvays another Lightning to take up ze cause,” Wilhem replied. The Lightning clan stretched across the Midwest and each of them a spark of trouble. Or, put by Wilhem, “Zey breed like rabbits but zey die like flies”.
Eating up the dusty miles, Jack Lightning got briefed on what had happened over at the camp. The story went that the savage had snuck into the mansion itself, getting into Tesla’s lab and taking the Prussian scientist hostage. But the elderly Samuel Colt still had whiskey for blood and fire for air and bulldozed in, shooting up the place enough that Tesla was able to escape. Unfortunately Colt was still inside and so was the Indian. At least this one spoke some english and had made it clear that some gas that would blow the place up to kingdom come had got loose in the shootout.
Jack took it all in stride as the mansion grew nearer. Never one to pause to make plans, she rode through the crowd of engineers and workers gathered around the mansion, aimed for the window where the lab was located and fired a bolt from her lightning coil guns. Electricity, while plenty effective against most folk, didn’t have the same impact on windows but it was enough that when she leaped off the horse and through the window, she didn’t do herself too much injury.
To the applause of glass shattering against the floor, Jack went from horizontal to vertical like her heels were on hinges. The laboratory was a mess with tables upened, tools strewn about and lots of alien equipment making for a lot of expensive debris. With no lights and in unfamiliar territory, it was only Jack’s reflexes that saw her duck out of the path of a spinning tomahawk that sunk into the wall beside her.
“That you, Lightning?” came the croak of Samuel Colt behind a heavy oaken bench. The engineer was still in pyjamas and dressing robe but had his walking stick, topped with the butt trigger and six chambers of the pistol he was famous for, readied to shoot.
“Y’all right, Colt?” Jack replied, taking cover.
“I’m fine! Bastard’s wiley but I got him!”
From behind another bench, near a hissing cloud of gas, there came another voice.
“I warned you! I’ll make this place go boom!”
The Indian’s feet could be spied under the workbench, heels resting in a puddle of blood. It might be enough for a shot but one spark would kill them all.
“Colt had nothin’ to do with you!” Jack called out while casting her eyes about for something she could throw.
“His weapon would shoot down the sky gods!” the Indian accused.
“It’s not a weapon, dammit!” Colt wheezed.
“Colt didn’t do this to you. Surrender and you can go back to your family.” Jack said.
“My family is dead!” came the choking reply, blood stealing away any more of his words.
“But your tribe ain’t! And they’re gonna need ya when they get to their new camp!”
There was a pause before the Indian gurgled a reply.
“My wife and son cannot hunt the buffalo until they’ve been avenged.”
Colt had had enough and yelled “Is there anyone else around here, marshal?”
“Then get ready to move, I’m ending this now!”
Jack could see Colt thumbing back the hammer and knew what he meant. The Indian, still under the red root’s berserk fury, picked himself up to throw a knife at Colt. She couldn’t stop them both and made ready to make peace with her maker.
There was another crescendo of crashing glass and Wendel Kane burst into the lab. The mountain marshal’s entrance was enough to distract the Indian and allow Jack to dive, tackle Samuel Colt and roll out of the lab. The Indian took his flint knife and, seeing his chance for revenge fading fast, drew it across one of the bronze lab equipment, creating a trail of sparks.
“Get out!” Jack called from the tangle of legs, arms and bedclothes as she and Colt rolled further for dear life down the hallway and past Octavius Wilhem who had gone into the mansion through the front door. Smelling the gas and seeing the reaction, the Iron Marshal slammed down his helmet and crouched, braced for the immenent explosion.
Kane dived back out the window and was picked up by the unfurling fiery cloud that rolled out the laboratory window and with thunderous boom. Hurled through the air and slammed into the ground, Kane’s legendary fortitude was such that he picked himself up and dusted himself off as part of the mansion was in flames.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 4