Spoils Go To The Victors
Thomas Calabrese– The first CPRR locomotive crossed the California-Nevada border on December 13, 1867. The Central Pacific continued building track eastward to meet the Union Pacific Railroad at Promontory, Utah on May 10, 1869, forming the 1780 mile long Pacific Railroad linking California with the East by rail.
In 1877 Southern California, Rake Meacham and his men were scouting various routes for railroad spurs off the mainline. There were still a lot of outlaws and marauding Indians bands that liked to prey on unarmed railroad workers and loot the camps. An attack outside the small hamlet of Temecula killed eleven workers and wounded seven more and a payroll was stolen. Rake and his men were pulled off their regular duties and ordered to bring the murderers back, dead or alive.
Percy Swann cut a wide swath of terror and bloodshed through California, Nevada and Arizona and when a posse was dogging his trail, he scampered back to father’s ranch, the Bar S where he knew he would be protected from the long arm of the law. Colonel Luther Swann was a former confederate officer who headed west to Southern California with a wagon of stolen gold that the Confederacy never had the chance to use before the Civil War ended. He also brought a few dozen of his most trusted men from his cavalry unit with him and under his leadership he built his own kingdom and ruled it with an iron fist. He also profited greatly from allowing outlaws to use his town as a sanctuary in return for a percentage of their booty. Luther Swann was well aware of his son’s failings and deficiencies and if he was anybody else, he would have taken him behind the barn and put a bullet in his head to put him out of his misery. Unfortunately Percy was his flesh and blood and a burr in his britches that just kept rubbing him raw. There was always a sense of relief whenever his son was away and a feeling of foreboding every time he returned. On this particular occasion Percy returned to Resolution with several wagons filled with stolen loot and stopped in front of the town saloon as a voice called out, “Percy’s back!”
Luther Swann was inside playing poker and cursed under his breath when he heard the impromptu announcement. He laid his cards down exposing a full house, queens over tens. Luther picked up his winnings then walked over and dropped the money on the bar, “Drinks on me.” When he got outside, Ernie Collins, one of his son’s men walked up, “Good morning Mr. Swann.”
Luther walked past Ernie and over to his son, “Where you been?”
Percy laughed, “Out collecting donations.”
Luther grabbed his son by the collar, “I asked you a straight question and I expect a straight answer.”
“The San Luis Rey Valley,” Percy meekly responded.
Luther looked in the back of one of the wagons and saw bags with the writing, Pacific Railroad on them, “Damnit! How many times have I told you to stay away from the railroads?”
“It’s easy pickings,” Percy replied, “We just ride in, take what we want and ride off. No muss, no fuss.”
“I often wonder how any son of my mine can be this stupid. Did your mother drop you on your head when you were a baby and not tell me?”
Percy lashed back at his father, “Nuthin’ I ever do is going to be good enough for you!”
“That’s a conversation for another day. Let me explain this so that even you will understand; the railroad doesn’t pay its workers to fight, they pay professionals to do that and they’ve got a lot of money to hire the best.
“I can handle anything that the railroad sends my way,” Percy boasted.
“Once again your ignorance of the situation is only exceeded by your inflated opinion of your capabilities. You have all these small ranches and towns to pick from and you have to wake the sleeping bear.” Luther shook his head in disgust and walked down the street to Sheriff Josh Taggart’s office.
“Hey Luther, I heard that Percy is back,” Sheriff Taggart leaned back in his chair and took a long drag from his hand rolled cigarette.
“I got a feeling that trouble is coming our way,” Luther sighed.
“How do you want to handle it?”
“Get a hold of Black Knife and tell him to put his braves on the trails.”
“And if they find anybody, what do you want him to do?” Sheriff Taggart asked.
“Same as always, if they look like the law then kill ‘em,” Luther ordered.
As Rake Meacham and his men rode down the trail, they noticed unusual objects flying around in the sky high above them. Broken Nose Dawson rode up, “What the hell are those?”
“I don’t know, ain’t never seen nothing like it before,” Rake answered.
Billy Chato was half Mexican and half Apache Indian and was one of the best trackers in the west. He stepped down from the horse and examined the wagon tracks, “Two days old and moving slow.”
The flying objects flew lower and it was easy to distinguish their circular shape as their whining sounds spooked the horses. Broken Nose Dawson commented, “It isn’t as if we don’t have enough to worry about, but we’re getting close to Resolution land.”
“That fact has not escaped my attention,” Rake squinted against the sun.
Two hours down the trail, Billy Chato raised his hand for the column to stop. Rake rode up from his position, “What do you have?”
Billy pointed to a group of boulders, “Ambush.”
“The same group that’s been following us?” Rake asked.
“That’s my bet,” Billy replied.
Broken Nose Dawson joined, “The other side of that ridge is Resolution. It’s still not too late to turn back.”
“It’s not too late for you to turn back,” Rake replied.
“We’ve ridden this far together, I reckon I’ll ride a little further,” Broken Nose Dawson sighed.
“I appreciate that, I’ve gotten used to your company.”
Rake and his men rode to the left to avoid the trap and saw flying objects circling over the rocky area. They heard weird noises and muffled screams and when they rode back to the area, they saw ten Indian braves lying dead in the dirt. It wasn’t just that they were dead, but their stomachs had been cut open from throat to crotch and their vital organs had been removed; heart, lungs kidneys, liver, everything was gone.
Rake and his men stared at the dead bodies for several seconds, “What kind of animal does this,” Walt Groggins spit his chewing tobacco on the head of one of the bodies.”
Suddenly a creature that had the body of a gigantic green bear and the face of a big eyed insect appeared from behind a rock and fired a light beam that hit Walt Groggins. It paralyzed him in place for several seconds then he fell over dead. Rake and the other men instinctively dived for cover and returned fire as light beams hit all around them. When he returned fire, Rake’s bullets from his Winchester rifle had no effect as they bounced off the creature’s chest. Two more of his men were hit and killed and two more creatures appeared next to the first one and also began firing at Rake and his men. The light beams were hitting all around them.
Maybe it was out of desperation or just a hunch, but Rake took aim at the creature’s head and when his bullet hit this time, the head split open like an over-ripe tomato. Rake turned to Billy and Broken Nose, “Aim for the head!” and crawled off.
A couple of minutes later, Rake came up behind six of the creatures that were standing next to their aircrafts, pulled out both of his revolvers and shot them all in the head in rapid succession. He signaled to Broken Nose and Billy to come forward and when they arrived, they saw worms crawling in the dirt where the creatures’ head used to be and they eventually died.
Broken Nose commented, “What the hell are we dealing with?”
Billy walked over to the aircrafts and took out his large hunting knife and scraped off a piece of metal, looked at it. He walked over to Rake and Broken Nose and held it out, “What does this look like to you?”
Rake took it and closely examined it, “Gold?”
“Their machines are made of it,” Billy smiled.
Broken Nose went over to take a closer look and came to the same conclusion, “It’s gold alright, there must be thousands of pounds of it.”
Off in the distance, the three men saw the light beams bouncing across the sky, “Looks like they made it to Resolution ahead of us. The smart thing for us to do would be to take as much of the gold as we can put in our saddlebags, then get us a few wagons and some tools and come back and bust up these machines,” Broken Nose Dawson suggested.
“And the foolish thing to do would be to go into Resolution where we’ll have two enemies waiting to kill us,” Rake countered.
Billy Chato started riding toward town, “You coming?”
“Didn’t you listen to a word I said?” Broken Nose Dawson asked.
Rake got behind Billy Chato and Broken Nose Dawson reluctantly followed.
The town of Resolution was under siege as the creatures moved through town with no resistance since the townspeople had no idea about the one weakness of the creatures. When Rake and his companions arrived, they pulled out their rifles and shot a dozen creatures through the head. They dismounted and moved through town, killing the alien intruders along the way.
Luther, Percy, Sheriff Taggart and six other men were held up in the Sheriff’s office and were about to be overrun when Rake, Billy and Broken Nose Dawson shot their way in.
“Aim for the head,” Rake advised then noticed Percy Swann, “You fit the description of the man that I’m looking for.”
Luther saw a creature moving down the dirt street, took careful aim and shot him through the head, killing it instantly, “Thanks for the advice.”
Percy pulled his gun on Rake, “Nobody is taking me in!”
Luther slapped the gun out of his son’s hand, “We got bigger problems right now,” then turned to Rake, “Want to join forces until this is over.”
“Reckon so,” Rake reloaded and so did everybody else and they went out the back door of the jail. The men that weren’t good enough marksmen were quickly killed and before long most of the men in Resolution had been killed. Rake, Billy Chato, Broken Nose Dawson, Luther, Percy and Sheriff Taggart were the only people still left alive. They moved as a group and when they saw a cluster of creatures next to the livery stable removing the organs of dead townspeople, they opened fire and killed them all.
Percy was too much of a coward to fight back so he cowered behind his father, but he panicked when he saw a creature point his light energy weapon at him and ran into the open. Luther yelled at his son, “Get back here!”
Rake raced after him and shot two creatures along the way then shot another just as he was ready to rip Percy’s organs out. Right about this time, a woman raced into town on horseback shooting as she went. It was obvious that she had experience with these creatures because all of her bullets hit above the shoulders. When she saw Rake and the others, she quickly dismounted, did a forward roll to avoid a light beam and rushed over to them. Just as a creature got ready to fire at her, the woman spun around and shot him three times in the head, “I’m Ella Cardine, I’ve been following these varmints’ ever since they destroyed my town and killed my family last month.”
“How did you know where to find them?” Rake asked.
“I kept looking up and eventually they led me here,” Ella responded.
Percy glared amorously at the young attractive woman and she responded angrily, “What are you looking at?”
“Just the prettiest girl I’ve seen around here in a long time,” Percy grinned.
“I guess you know about the headshots?” Ella said.
“We do,” Rake answered.
“If you miss, you’re dead, I guess you know that too.”
“We figured that out the hard way,” Billy Chato interjected.
“Any idea where they came from?” Sheriff Taggart asked.
“Nope, hell maybe,” Ella answered.
As Rake looked down the street, he saw a group of the huge creatures smashing one wooden building after another with their powerful fists and bodies and methodically working their way toward their position while searching for more food sources to feed their voracious appetites, “We need a place to hide in a hurry.”
“Follow me,” Luther led the group to a root cellar under the Swann General Store.” We should be safe here.”
“For a while,” Ella said, “These animals are damn good trackers and if we stay down here too long, they’ll eventually find us.”
Percy sneered, “What makes you so sure?”
“A bunch of people from my town hid under the church and they found them. You can guess what happened after that,” Ella answered.
“Then we should make a run for it,” Percy suggested.
“That was tried as well, you won’t get a mile before they’re feasting on your innards,” Ella warned.
“If you know so much then how come you’re stuck down here with us?” Percy grumbled.
“I’m not stuck, I’m just here to kill as many as I can before they kill me,” Ella said calmly. “I’m here for retribution and revenge.”
“That’s just what I wanted to hear from a crazy girl with a suicide wish. This is great, just great. Can things get any better?”
Luther rubbed his chin and commented, “Do us all a favor and shut the hell up.”
“You know about the headshot, but did you know that they don’t like to fight at night and don’t see very well after sunset,” Ella said.
“How do you know that?” Rake inquired.
“I was the only survivor left from my town. It was around midnight and I had been hiding for eight hours under a stack of firewood. Wood ants were biting me so badly that I had to get out and take my chances. I turned a corner and there were a few dozens of those creatures sitting in the middle of the street. I couldn’t have been more than a few feet away from any of them and not one saw me. If I had a gun and enough ammunition, I could have killed them all.”
Billy Chato began singing, “Thank the Lord for the night. Thank him for the dark.”
The group waited until nine pm before exiting their underground sanctuary. They stayed in a tight group until they saw the creatures sitting in middle the street by the freight office. Ella saw the hesitancy in her male companions so she walked over to within five feet of their enemy and waved her hands. There was no reaction so she walked back to the men, “See what I mean, they didn’t see a thing.”
“We’ve got until sunrise to get this done. Let’s get those gun barrels smoking, hombres,” Rake suggested.
They moved through the darkness and one by one they killed the creatures with accurate headshots and when the sun came up over the destroyed town of Resolution, there was still one battle left to fight. Luther turned to Rake as they stepped over the fallen creatures in the early morning light, “If you and your men ever decide to leave the railroad, I got a place for you.”
“You know that I still need to bring your son back with me,” Rake said calmly.
“I can’t let that happen,” Luther knew that Percy would be hanged for multiple murders if he was taken back for trial.”
“The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy,” Rake assessed the situation.
“That’s true, in another time and place we might have been friends,” Luther pondered the possibility.
“Maybe for a little while, but eventually one of us would get the itch and we’d have to face each other,” Rake said.
Rake Meacham, Billy and Broken Nose were standing on the south end of the street and Luther, Percy and Sheriff Taggart were twenty five feet away on the north side. Ella was standing off to the side and equally distance between the two groups where they both had a clear view of her. Percy was clearly stricken with fear; he was perspiring heavily and trembling. Luther chastised him, “You’re about to find out that there’s a big difference between facing someone in a fair fight and shooting them in the back. You’ve been a disgrace most of your life, so at least try to do one thing that I’m proud of.”
Ella raised her right hand that held a white cloth, “When I drop this, commence to shooting. One, two, but before she could reach the number three and drop the white cloth. Percy panicked and reached for his pistol and guns began firing and three men went down.
The creatures were from Proxima Centauri, the closest inhabitable planet to earth and much like Percy who preyed upon the citizens throughout the west; these marauding aliens had done the same for centuries. Surprisingly and fortunately for humanity they were both brought to justice at the same time. The most available metal on the home planet of the Centurions was gold and their spaceships were made of it and while they provided an inexhaustible supply of wealth, they also weighed thousands of pounds and were too heavy to move. This left Rake, Ella, Big Nose Dawson and Billy Chato no other choice but to rebuild Resolution around their heavily fortified gold reserves. In the process they became the four wealthiest individuals in America.
Like Rake Meacham quipped at the end of his marriage ceremony to Ella Cardine on the beach of Oceanside, “The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy, but the spoils go to the victors,” and passionately kissed his bride. The End
NOTE: Aspiring Writers Join us on the 3rd Saturday of each month between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm Veterans Writing Group of North County (non veterans are welcome) 1617 Mission Avenue , Oceanside,CA. 92054
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