After the fire died Gage took ash onto his fingers and marked each boy’s forehead in turn. To symbolize the ashes of the old world and the world that would rise from it.
He took the various guns he collected from the patrons of the whorehouse who no longer needed them and handed them out like the sacraments at a mass. The boys eyeing them with wondrous curiosity as they splayed out on a tray Gage found in back.
They each took a revolver and Gage made them all take an oath to the new world. A mighty bone shaking oath that shook them to their core and moved them in ways they never thought possible.
*Note to the reader, the oath spoke of is never mentioned in the following text nor referred to again. And any remant of it has several variations none of which can be said to be cannon.
They were the warriors of the new world who’s only purpose would be to save the future of the human race from alien control. They would be the first droplets in a mighty tide of revolution to wipe clean this land and then this earth.
They swore before god and on the words of the bible that they would lay their lives down in service of their people. And cut down any that would stand in their way.
They spent the next few days in the remote brothel fixing it up and making it livable. Converting it into something of a clubhouse. Although there only being four bedrooms would mean two of the boys had to bunk up. Which lead to incessant consternation and ribbing between them. Although most of the time Gage preferred not to use a bed and just sleep on the porch on the rocking chair with his gun on his lap.
The boys took the time, familiarised themselves with the guns long and short until they could say they were as adept as anyone could have been. Considering only government officials and cut throats would even handle such a thing. They got comfortable enough to use them without blowing their own toes off. Learning for instance to keep one chamber empty to rest the hammer on so as not to misfire down the back of their trousers.
A few days past, it was around sundown when Clarke rushed back to the brothel, his rifle tucked under his saddle so it wasn’t visible to any passersby. He was out hunting rabbits and had come back empty handed but was very excited none the less. The sun was coming down and the boys were inside rather hungry with nothing to eat but stale bread and crackers from the whorehouses stores. Clarke had proven himself calm and capable with the long gun, a steady shot and a good tracker, so he’d taken it upon himself to scout around for food.
He rushed into the whorehouse coughing and sputtering with youthful excitement. Although this was unusual for him, as he’d displayed himself to be an even tempered young lad who rarely spoke when it was uneccessary. And could even be considered taciturn and moody in some respects. But he was excited by something.
“I- found- something!” He exhalted.
“Not rabbits ey” O’Shaugnessy bellyached.
“Let him breathe lads” Jameson said as the other three crowded around him.
Gage listened pretending to be asleep on the porch with a hat pulled down over his face.
“What did ya find Billy?” Mcdonald asked.
“A- trading post- about five or six miles east of here” He sputtered trying to steady his breathing.
“They have anything worth trading fer, like rabbits?” O’Shaugnesy added.
“Would ya shut yer mouth Shaun and let the man speak” Jameson said.
“I dunno, I didn’t go inside, I just looked in the window, got all kinds of stuff, guns, ammo, food, coats and furs and the ugliest damn wife and kids I ever seen”. He smirked.
“A whole bunch, look like that fella we hung the other day cept uglier.”
“Oh yeah, as you and I, must’ve taken one of them things as his wife for some goddamn reason.”
Jameson and the other lads made a face of confused disgust at the thought of a human mating with a lug. Shocked to think it was even possible and encountering the demonic children such a coupling would create.
“So you didn’t talk to him at all, he didn’t see you?” Jameson asked.
“No, I was the only one doing the seeing.” Clarke smirked. “I overheard him bellyaching with some traveller said he was pissed at the Cyclon for some reason. Wished someone would take’em out. I couldn’t rightly understand what it was he was saying, the fella didn’t seem too interested hisself neither.”
McDonald who was the largest but most soft spoken of the group with whispy mousey brown hair trying to escape his head. And muton chops framing a rough potmarked scotch-irish mug scratched his chin. “Could be he knows if there’s a town nearby, mightn’t be a good place to start.”
Jameson breathed in a little puffing out his chest and stomping across the wood floor of the brothel out the saloon door.
“Morning” Gage said as he rose from his rocking chair letting his shotgun fall loose at his side. “We ride out first thing tomorrow.” He said low.
Jameson nodded and smiled trying to hold in his excitement.
“Yes sir” He said.
The next morning they got up at the crack of dawn all four of them but Gage was nowhere to be found. He left a note outside Jameson’s door telling him to take his horse and he’d meet them there.
They saddled up and went about discreetly pocketing their weapons just in case. Jameson liked the schofield and he kept it in the small of his back, he was a good shot and could get to it pretty fast if he needed to.
Clarke had his rifle rolled up in a horse blanket under his saddle and a smaller pistol tucked into his boot he could get to in a pinch.
McDonald preferred his fists over a gun. His fingers were fatter and not as lithe as the others. But he could pack a whallop hard enough to knock a man dead with the set of brass knuckles he slipped in his pocket.
O’Shaugnesy was more of a talker. The Irishman coming in the shortest of around five foot five couldn’t seem to distinguish himself in any one form of combat. But made up for it with his unbridled enthusiasm in spades. He packed a derringer tucked up under his hat and a knife under his belt where no one could see it.
The ride took them over the horizon and before long they were high on a bluff overlooking the ramshackle place. It was single storied by wide the storefront making up a sizeable portion but allowing for living space in the back.
“How many half breeds did you say they had?” Jameson asked.
“Lug bitches can have litters in double digits” McDonald said.
“Ay they breed like rats” O’Shaugnesy added.
Jameson clicked his teeth together thinking on it for a minute and then dug his spurs in. They followed him down the small bluff at a quick clip, slowing to a friendly canter before dismounting and hitching up.
The front of the store had a little sign out front that said ‘Berman general’ with two crossed long rifles or muskets. There were actually some old looking rifles in the window on displays with some knives and horns and hunting trophies layed out on coon skin. It was illegal to sell these items to civilians but not to display them.
They went up the wooden steps and Jameson turned to O’Shaughnesy and said “Laugh like I said something really funny”.
“What now- oh I see- hahahahaha!” O’Shaugnesy burst into some ridiculously fake laughing. It was so bad it started the others off laughing at his terrible acting as they made their way into the store one after the other a bell ringing over the door. They casually dispersed amongt stalls and boxes topped with furs and hats and coats as well some dry goods. The store was laid out simply with just rows of shelves along the walls with products varying from food and clothes to tools. Nails and hammers and axes and the like.
The owner was smiling open mouthed hearing their jovial laughter had done the trick to put him at ease. Happy people rarely scalped folks or they were idiots and that was even better for business.
“What can I do for you fine folk on this nice day?” The man said. He was a short rotund sort with hairy forearms and hair so flat and greasy it looked painted on. A tiny squaire mustache under his nose and large round glasses that gave him the countenance of an insect. They assumed this was Berman.
“Ah hello der, Shaun O’Shaughnesy’s the name, how are you sir?” Shaun said taking a a little poke around with his eyes while he was talking in his fast fire manner before Berman could even respond. “We’re just, how do you say, browsing? We’ll take whatever we can get, isn’t that right lads?”
They grunted in agreement.
“I was just err, curious about dem guns in d window there.”
“Yes” Berman asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Well I wouldn’t suppose you had anything, I dunno, maybe from this century.” He smiled.
Berman grinned and said slimily keeping the grin. “Well sir you are aware that owning a fire arm in this system is considered shy of legal? If I was found selling you such a thing I could face fines or imprisonment up or around fifteen years breaking rocks and then who would feed my family?”
“Aye it’s good to have a family, that’s to be sure, how many of the little bliters ya got to feed?”
“My wife Eugenia is working on our seventh now”
“Whoo, Mr Berman, I didn’t know you had it in ya.” Shaun laughed as he slapped the plump man on the shoulder and back hard enough to move the glasses on his head. But the man took it as a friendly gesture and laughed after re-arranging his glasses. Although he looked a little wary now noticing the other boys weren’t smiling or laughing anymore but eyeing the corners of the room cautiously.
“You’ll meet a few my boys if you stay around long enough” He said.
“I’d be happy to soon as you sell me some of them guns of yours, ammo too.”
“Now that would be illegal, the guns in the window are just a display, they’re not for sale. As I said that would be illegal” He smirked and pushed his glasses up on his head.
Shaun smiled and tutted. “Well a little birdie told me you just might bend those rules for folks who were friendly, now aint we just the friendliest chaps you ever met?”
“A little birdie?”
“Aye, there’s a whorehouse not far from here, put a few drinks in those lads and they’ll sing to you about their mothers preference for undergarments, ya get me?” He winked. “In fact I think some of their mothers worked there” He laughed.
“Oh well why didn’t you say so?” The bugman smiled through gritted teeth. “Those Cyclon bastards sure do make business hard but we find a way” he laughed. “Follow me” He started to turn but then stopped and said “Your friends mind waiting here?”
They were ready to follow but then stopped in their tracks.
Shaun was caught off guard and his jovial smile dropped a millimetre before popping up again “Oh sure, they don’t mind, do ya lads?”
They grunted again.
The old bugman smiled and then turned his head to let out a deafening whistle. As if materializing out of the floor the most grotesque half breed came in through an adjacent door behind the counter.
He was tall and stood straighter than the one they hung and he walked with his hands crossed in front of him like an indian. He had a more awake look in his eye, a spark of something more than the full blood lugger. A certain shrewdness as if an animal might look at you in terms of your meat but also a human searching glance to decipher your intentions.
The half breeds were uncommon but it was something the Cyclon were not hesitant to promote as it would only benefit them in the long run. For one having a smarter and more capable slave and bodyguard appealed to them. But two fold their lower intelligient mixed with the humans would bring our intellegience down. It would be ideal for them to rule over a race of mixed humans and luggers who were just smart enough to work the cogs without questioning the machine. That was their goal. Like a pig that was trained to fix the bacon slicer.
To this end their fiction and media was littered with steamy stories of interbreeding between the two races. As well praise that was heaped on the pairings of aliens and men. Despite that it wasn’t as common as they would have liked must have been all those teeth and claws and fur. Nevertheless the pairing of Cyclon and human was still frowned upon.
“Eli would you mind watching the store while I show this young man our cache?”
“No problem pa” The halfbreed uttered in a guteral interpretation of human speech. With a slight pull as if there was a speech impediment created by the teeth. Undoubtedly it spoke better than the pure breed luggers. It was still remarkably dog-like but with a more simian aspect. It’s fur was spottier and pinkish skin showed up in patches on it’s hands and face. It was a little smaller than a full grown lugger might have been but stood straighter and had a more expressive and smaller face. It’s snout was less pronounced and it was more pink closer to the mouth. Its eyes were still a solid black and it’s hair was dark and matted but much softer than usual lugs. Moreover it carried itself as a man, the way it moved, and the way it looked. But there was still that beastial aspect, although it’s claws were shorter and it had not shown it’s teeth.
Jameson kept his eyes on it as did the others and it eyed them with a vicious narrowing.
“Come along, your friends’ll be here when you come out.”
“Ah sure” Shaun said as he followed the bugman into the back.
The other boys watched him go, frozen, feeling uncertain and powerless as they looked at one of six out of Berman’s vicious kin. The others of which could be waiting around every corner.
They waited for what seemed like hours or the longest ten minutes they could remember. Then there was a slight popping sound almost like the sound of bubble bursting and then the sounds of scuffling and shoes on wood floors. Stomping and then an ear piercing scream.
Eli’s dog like ears went up instantly and his teeth came out as he yelled “Pa?”
Jameson swallowed as he watched hair raise on the back of the things neck. Then it turned it’s attention on them and it could see it in their eyes and they knew they were made.
It growled and bent forward losing almost every aspect of humanity it had draped over itself. Falling almost onto all fours barring savage and shiney teeth as it groped closer to them.
Jameson swallowed again and before he could even think. Fear put the schofield in his fist and he was fanning the hammer back with the gun at waist high. He emptied all six shells of the seven chamber gun into the chest of the beast. Knocking it back against the thin partition wall of the store front.
It snarled still holding itself up on it’s hind legs. A dark red blood seething from it’s lips between its teeth and it breathed a hot steam from it’s mouth before sliding down awkwardly onto the wood floor.
Jameson stood with the gun smoking at his hip breathing steadily, his eyes wide and terrified, Clarke and Mcdonald staring at the back of his head.
They began to slow their breathing and relax slightly. But then there was a scratching noise coming from the back and then a thud and a moan and they all tensed up again. Jameson quickly and nervously unloaded the spent shells from the schofield and fumbled bullets into the gun. His fingers feeling like fat sausages as he dropped one of the bullets and cursed as he watched it roll away from him.
Clarke licked his lips and got low reaching into his boot for his colt and McDonald put his hand in his pocket feeling for his revolver.
They listened to the noise as it got closer, a scraping thudding noise and then appearing in the doorway was an aggrieved looking Berman. His hand to his eye, blood seeping through his fingers. “Fucking pikers” He spat before collapsing on the floor.
They breathed out again lowering their guns and then Shaun unceremoniously burst into the room. His hat off looking sweaty with blood on his shirt and face, his hair a dishevelled mess.
They all sighed again and Jameson shouted. “Goddammit Shaun, I almost shot you!”
“What the hell happened back there?” McDonald inquired
Shaun stopped to look at the dead halfbreed on the floor.
Shaun turned his head back “Oh, oh yeah.” He smiled at the blood on him and said “It’s not me’ blood, err, it was an accident. I just went to scratch my head and tipped my hat back and forgot about the derringer I stached there and it fell on the floor, that was the bang ya heard.” He smiled scratching his head again. “Well it all sort of went tits up from there.”
“Goddamit Shaun” Jameson said as he pointed the schofield at the floor.
“What now?” Clarke said.
“We get what we came for” Jameson said as slid the schofield into his belt and hitched up his pants.
“What if more of dem tings come back, the old man said they were just out hunting rabbits, wid der bare hands no less.” Shaun said as he wiped the blood off his knife onto his boot and put it back in his belt.
Jameson looked down at the dead beast who was called ‘Eli’ and clicked his teeth together as he thought about it, drumming his fingers on his gun.
“Well now?” McDonald moaned.
“We’re gonna wait right here” He said finally.
“Now why would we do a thing like that fer?” Shaun said.
“We’re gonna wait right here for them and take them on here.” Jameson said looking to Clarke for approval.
“An ambush?” McDonald asked turning his head to look at Clarke.
Clarke made a face, pursing his lips and raising his shoulders. “I’m game” He smiled.
“What about his wife?” Shaun asked. ”I think we’d be better off waiting fer Gage don’t you?”
“His wife?” McDonald replied.
“Were you not listening to our little chat?” Shaun raised an eyebrow and said “You think his misses is out hunting with the rest of her cubs?”
“Could be” Clarke said.
“Ay but I’d sooner check m’self wouldn’t you?” Shaun said.
“He’s right, let’s take a look in back.”
Jameson walked slowly towards the door Shaun just came out of and McDonald stepped in front of him “I’ll go first, you cover me with the schofield”.
Shaun stood aside from the door and said “Be my guest” He smiled. “Watch you duck and don’t bang yer head on the doorframe.”
McDonald crossed under and the others followed him back into the room that made up their living area. The door led into a small kitchen with just a simple log burning stove which was encrusted with filth. There was a store cupboard tucked off to the side with a trail of blood leading away from it.
“Ay that’s where I stuck him”. Shaun said as he saw them noticing the blood. “I’d say he didn’t see it coming but, well you know” He laughed.
The others cringed into a little morbid laughter as they looked about the kitchen. There was a door that led off from the kitchen they assumed was the bedroom. They opened it up and it was one large rectangular room with a series of unkempt beds. Some torn and tattered but the room was empty but for a foul smell of animal inequity. They held their breath as they poked around through the musty chamber finding no hint of a female beast.
“Here” They heard Clarke say in the kitchen.
They bled into the kitchen cautiously to find Clarke on one knee by a small patchwork rug.
“A fan of knitwork are ya Billy? Ya learn something new everyday” Shaun smirked.
Clarke narrowed his eyes as he flipped the rug over revealing a small trap door. He stepped away from it and walked out of the room at a quick clip.
Everyone looked at Shaun for a second.
“I was just joking around” He said innocently. “I didn’t mean to hurt his fe-“
Clarke came bounding in with this rifle by his side and the boys were taken aback. He strode into the room and without a second of hesitation and not a word of warning he bust open the padlock on the trapdoor with the butt of the rifle.
They all held their breathes and stared hard at him and he looked back at them puzzled and said “What?” He got no answer so smiled and passed his rifle to his other hand as he opened the mysterious trap door. “I’ll go first” He said happily tossing himself onto the steps below with a creaking cracking of old wood.
Jameson followed after grabbing an oil lamp he spotted on the kitchen table, he lit it and followed down into the cellar. Shaun nodded at McDonald who went after him and then Shaun followed him.
Jameson walked slowly “Billy?” He pushed the light forward and could see shelves with some elicit material on it. Weapons and ammo but also dirty pictures and stories about human and alien coupling, with crudely drawn illustrations. There was lots of bootleg booze and a weird white powder he’d never seen before, it looked like flour but it wasn’t all that interesting to him. “Billy where’d you go, how can you see down here anyhow?” He hung the lamp on a hook on one of the beams so he could get a better look at some of the stuff hidden down there. The guns were quite well kept, and there was quite a lot of them. He must have set up quite a smuggling operation moving guns from south of the border up here. And whatever else he could get his hands on to sell to the low lives here.
“Over here” Clarke whispered
Jameson unhooked the lamp, McDonald and O’Shaugnesy waited in the light of the steps.
“There you are” Jameson said as he came upon Clarke squatting over something like a fur rug.
“Mrs Berman I’m guessing.”
Jameson brought the light over and he could see the thing, it was a female lug for sure but badly beaten and starved with a bowl of dirty water by it’s head. It was chained to a bang knocked into the wall.
“Jesus.” Jameson said as he covered his nose from the smell of her.
“Must have been sore with her” Clarke said.
“Her kids locked her down here?”
“The old man too”
“How could they do that to their own mother”
“What now?” Jameson said sadly.
Clarke sighed and took out a knife and slit the poor things throat. It was a strange feeling, sympathy and regret for the tired thing but also revulsion. The cruelty they showed their own and in general was shocking. Looking upon these inhuman creatures that shouldn’t be sharing the world of men.
“Pssst oi” Shaun whispered from the stairs.
Clarke and Jameson turned to see him shushing and pointing up at the trapdoor.
“They’re coming back” He whispered.
McDonald cautiously closed the trapdoor.
“What ya do that fer?” Shaun whispered. “Now we’re trapped down here, ya idjit!”
“I just, I thought”
The two boys came away from the steps as they heard the bells above the door chiming. And then the creaking of the floor boards and the scratching of clawed feet on the wood. A muffled gruff talking and a whispering.
The boys huddled together and Jameson turned out the lamp so they were standing down there in complete darkness. The only light coming from the cracks in the floor board. They watched as they heaved under the weight of the monsters and their low talking and the dust falling down.
They heard them moving around and angry howling and scratching around.
Jameson looked around the small room in the dark and could see the trapdoor was the only way in or out. “If they come down those steps we’re done, we’re trapped down here, we’ll have to shoot our way out.”
Clarke was already ahead of him and was crouched low listening to the creaking of the floorboards. His Winchester rifle held low following the noises trying to match the creaks and the scratches to the voices. Tracing them across the floor.
McDonald too drew his pistol and drummed his fingers against the grip as he looked up trying to do the same.
Jameson did the same. O’Shaunesy opened his knife and watched the stairs as the footsteps came closer into the store, moving closer to the trapdoor.