Night of the Seven
Crossover with Wild Wild West
The morning dawned like any other morning and for once Ezra welcomed the dawn as he watched the sun rise from the hotel balcony. He hadnt slept much and what sleep he had gotten had been filled with nightmares. Loveless demonstration had brought back too many memories of the war; of battlefields filled with dying men, too many dying men. Young men and boys with bodies torn apart by the explosions caused by the ceaseless bombing of the artillery cannons; cannons that he had manned when he had first joined the Confederates as a youth of fifteen. He had stayed till the end, gaining one field commission after another as officers died around him. Too many horrors had plagued his sleep for years afterwards. The nights could still hold terror for him and he slept his best in the light of day, or with his six friends watching his back. Ezra smiled at that thought, six friends who had changed his way of life, from comman to lawman.
Vin joined him on the balcony and handed him a mug of coffee then asked him.
Together they watched the sun rise in silence till Vin remarked "I could eat."
"Ahll keep you company," Ezra replied.
The pair enjoyed the hotel restaurants breakfast. Both ate hearty as neither had felt like eating after returning from Loveless demonstration.
"Damn Ez, the boys arent going to believe ya getting up with the sun and eating breakfast."
"Then dont tell them, after this is all over Ah plan to go back to ma natural habits. Ahm a nocturnal creature at heart, all this sunlight cant be good for me."
"Yeah youre getting a little color in your face. Nathan will be surprised and suspicious," Vin told him.
"Mr. Jackson is always suspicious when it comes me Vincent."
Their morning repast was interrupted by activity out on the street. Wagons and people filled the main avenue of town. Settlers and cowpokes seemed to be in a barely controlled panic hurrying about. Spotting the sheriff Ezra and Vin walked over to find out what was causing all the commotion.
"Sheriff, what distresses your fair community at this early hour?" Ezra asked him.
"The United States Army, thats what. Got word that the cavalry out of Fort Freedom was coming this way. Sent a few telegrams off of my own and the answers I got back says they will be here today sometime around noon and they want to declare marshal law. Got to get these people somewhere safe. The war is over but some people forget that when they think they can get away with it. You fellows are friends with Doctor Loveless. I need to send someone out there to tell him whats going on and to get out if he needs to."
"You can rely on us to carry out that mission for you Sheriff," Ezra told him.
They rode out and got to Loveless before noon, riding up to the front door. Not waiting to be announced they walked straight into the living room. Doctor Loveless looked up from his coffee and seeing their haste asked them.
"Gentlemen whats wrong?"
"You are about to be taken into custody by the United States Cavalry if you dont get out of here before noon today. The sheriff is trying to get the settlers out of the way of the troops. We came out to warn you," Ezra told him after dropping into a chair by his side.
"Who told you the cavalry was coming?" asked Loveless
"The sheriff and a Mr. Gordon of the Secret Service."
"Why would Gordon tell you anything about his plans for me?" demanded Loveless his voice becoming hard.
"Because we are lawmen out of Four Corners. We were asked to find out why there was a build up a people in Sweet Water and if they would be a danger to the area."
"So everything you told me was a lie. Youve been working for the government all along. Waiting to betray me to the Secret Service." Loveless spat out.
"No, we are not working for the government. The territorial Judge over at Four Corners asked us to look in to what was going on out here. Neither of us had ever heard of you before coming here." Ezra said
"Then why are you warning me? Whats in it for you? What is it that you want?"
"Its what we dont want to happen that matters more," Vin told him, "The cavalry will tear this town apart if they think ya are anywhere in the area. While we dont think your plans for the territory are right, ya havent committed a crime that we know of."
Loveless looked at Vin as if he couldnt believe what he was hearing. This man was not only giving him the benefit of the doubt, but was putting the welfare of the town over the glory of taking him in. A very unusual man, but then they both were.
"Anything else would be outside our jurisdiction," Ezra took up their explanation, "We cant hold a man because hes more intelligent than the average person, or that he wants to build a factory to manufacture explosives. Having people show up to work in that factory isnt a crime that we know of. Also if you arent here when the cavalry gets here they wont have a reason to stay."
"Youll need to hold the cavalry off till the sheriff can get the settlers to the far side of town. Their camp is right in the way of the cavalry, as theyll come through town on the way here. I dont suppose you two would like to come with me?" the doctor asked.
"If you had asked me that three years ago the answer would had been yes. But how Ahve make a life Ah dont want to leave." Ezra told him and Vin said the same.
"All right then I will gather up my people and make our escape." The Doctor started to go when Ezra asked him.
"Doctor do you have any more of those exploding disks that we could have?"
"Of course, you never know when they will come in handy. In the closet you find a carpetbag filled with then. Use them in your endeavors gentlemen and good luck." With that Loveless left.
"Ez, ya got a plan? Vin asked him
"We could use these to stampede the cattle into the Cavalry take them hours to get back together." The grandfather clock in the hall sounded the time; it was eleven thirty. "We dont have much time, and its a ways on horseback."
Vin smiled and Ezra got nervous, he always got nervous when he saw that smile on Vins face. He knew that Vin was about to suggest something dangerous and that he was going to end up doing it because Vin would make it sound doable.
"Ez we dont have to take the horses, we can fly." Seeing Ezra was going to refuse he hurried on "Ya said theres not much time and this way the sight and sound of the air machine will help scare the horses as well as the cattle. Helen showed me how to fly it and I know I can do it. Besides with the doctor gone this will be the last time I get to experience what its like to be a bird in flight. Please Ez."
"Aw hell, lets go." Ezra giving in to the inevitable.
+ + + + + + +
The five lawmen from Four Corners and one government agent who had promised not to hinder them, rode hard taking time only to rest their horses when needed to make it to Sweet Water by noon. They stopped on a rise overlooking the road to Sweet Water and saw the cavalry heading toward them.
"Looks like you would had wasted your time going back." Buck told West. "The Cavalry is already here."
"Hell" said Chris pointing to a few wagons that were still trying to get out of the way of the troops before their paths crossed. The only other living things in the area were a herd of cattle being watered and rested after their long walk out of Texas. But the herd was restless and soon so were the mounts of the six lawmen.
"Whats getting into the horses?" asked JD.
His question was answered by the loud noise coming from the direction behind the cattle.
"What the hell is that?" asked Nathan as the air machine came in to view. It flew low to the ground coming up behind the cattle. Suddenly there were explosions on the ground behind the herd causing them to start running toward the incoming cavalry. Dust filled the air around the cattle and upward toward the air machine. Jim West pulled out his binoculars to get a better look and was heard remarking.
"He actually build one, the mad little genius built his flying machine."
"You know what that thing is?" asked Buck
"One of Loveless inventions," Jim answered him
Chris hadnt said anything since the machine came into view. He had a bad feeling he knew who was riding that contraption. Jim handed him the binoculars; Chris stared at the two figures on the machine as it chased the cattle dropping its explosives. Chris started to curse he was going to kill them as soon as he got his hands on then. The cattle were stampeding now; the cavalry was not able to stay together. For good measure the aircraft dropped a few of its explosives between the troops and the way to town. The United States Cavalry was in complete chaos. The stampeding cattle made its way through the troops with their cowboys chasing after them. Few of the cavalrymen had managed to keep their seats as their horses bucked in fear from the noise and confusion. Chris was still cursing as he watched the machine start to fly off, when it started to make a new noise; a start and stop sound. One minute the engine made a noise the next it didnt, Chris didnt need to be told the machine was in trouble. He watched the aircraft go down over a grove of trees, it didnt clear the last few. Still cursing, Chris rode off towards where he saw the machine go down.
"Gee I didnt know that there were that many profanities. Chris sure knows a lot of then." JD said
"That he does, that he does. We best get going before he catches up with those two and kills them." Buck started after his oldest friend.
"How can he be sure it was Vin and Ezra in that thing?" asked JD.
"Chaos and confusion everywhere you look, who else could it be but our two wayward brothers." Josiah laughed as he and Nathan rode after the others, JD hurried to catch up. Jim West sat on his horse and watched them go. He had a partner to find and hopefully hed find Loveless in custody somehow though he doubted it. But hed settle for finding out what the hell had been going on in the little town of Sweet Water.
+ + + + + + +
Buck followed Chris down the hill into the dust filled air surrounding what was left of the cavalry. Few of the soldiers were still on horseback; those that were still mounted were trying to round up the horses that had bucked off their riders. Most of the other soldiers were on foot, trying to calm down their mounts enough to let them get close to them. Chris and Buck rode through the chaos as if it wasnt there. An officer called out to them but was ignored in Chris haste to reach the trees. The grove was made up of old-growth trees, fed by water from the underground springs that gave Sweet Water its name. The five men pushed their way through the under brush until they found what they were looking for. Parts of the air machine were scattered about but there was no sign of their friends.
"Damn, damn, damn," Chris kept mumbling under his breath.
Buck tried to reassure him, "Take it easy pard, well find them and Im sure they had their usual luck and it carried them through this little adventure unhurt." Leaves fell from overhead.
Chris shook his head, "Buck I cant keep doing this, I swore when I lost Sarah and Adam I wouldnt let anyone get close to me again. I wouldnt let myself hurt like that again. So what am I doing worrying myself over those two hard headed fools who make a habit of getting into trouble?"
"Chris your letting yourself be human again thats all. Youre healing and by letting others in youre admitting to yourself that its alright to care." More leaves fell from overhead.
"But damn it, Buck those two go out of their way to get in trouble."
"And youre there to get them out of it. Like the good " there Buck paused he was going to say father figure but thought better of it Chris wasnt that old and he didnt feel like getting shot today so he used Josiahs expression instead. "Like a good brother would." Buck told him
"When did you get to be so smart?" Chris asked him.
"Always have been, you just been too dumb to notice."
More leaves fell from the canopy over their heads, this time the two looked up. Overhead, caught between branches from two intertwined trees, were Vin and Ezra. Their seat had caught between a fork in the branches and they were held fast to the seat by a safety harness; held safely upside down ten feet off the ground.
"Hey! Chris " yelled Vin "Did ya see us flying?" Vin asked with a smile as he made what he thought were flying motions with his hands causing more leaves to fall and their branches to swing.
"Stop doing that," hissed Ezra
"Dont worry Ez we got this far without getting hurt too much and its only about ten feet more down to the ground."
"You can still break your neck within those ten feet."
"No you cant, ya break you neck when you hit the ground."
"Shut up Vincent."
"Vin not Vincent, the boys are here so I can go back to being me."
Chris and others watched in amusement as the two missing members of their family fussed at each other; glad to see them alive but not sure how they were going to get them down.
"How bad are the two of you hurt?" Asked Nathan wishing he could see them better.
"Cuts and scrapes, nothing to worry about." Ezra replied
The rest of them breathed a sighed of relief as long as the pair werent proclaiming themselves to be just fine then they werent badly hurt.
Buck and Josiah maneuvered their horses under the two men. Sitting on their horses, the two tallest members of the group were able to reach the two flyers. Using a knife, Josiah cut Vin out of his harness and together he and Buck controlled Vins fall to the ground. Next came Ezra and a repeat performance, both fell into waiting hands that helped them regain their feet. Both were unstable, but managed with a little help from their friends. Nathan made sure they werent seriously hurt; outside of a few deep cuts hed clean once they were back in town he proclaimed them just battered and bruised.
+ + + + + + +
Jim West and Artemus Gordon searched Loveless home finding neither the man nor his explosive. Returning to town they did find the five peacekeepers in the hotels bathhouse keeping watch over the other two as the pair removed the dirt of todays adventure. Nathan would treat their assorted cuts and scrapes after the bath, but told them they were on their own about the soreness.
Ezra threw his wash cloth in the water of his tub as West and Gordon entered the room.
"Gentleman, do you mind? Bathing is not a spectator sport and this is not a peep show." Ezra hadnt even tried to keep his friends out knowing it wouldnt work. He knew they wanted to reassure themselves over Vin and his welfare. But having two strangers come in to where they were bathing was too much. Vin sank lower into the hot bath water trying not to be seen.
"We just have a few questions about Loveless schemes. Then well leave you alone." Jim told them as the sheriff joined them as well.
"Anyone else going to be joining us? Is there someone outside selling tickets?" Ezra asked sarcastically.
Vin wanted to sink under the warm soapy water and hide but he couldnt hold his breath long enough to wait them out. He sank till only his nose and eyes were above the water line. He let Ezra do all the talking.
"Do you have any idea where Loveless might had gone when he left here? Asked West
"Where did you learn to operate that flying air machine?"
"If you had met the lovely Miss St.Clair you wouldnt be asking that."
Artemus spoke up, "A beautiful houseguest of Loveless."
"Also the reason for that craft being built and the one to show us how to fly it." Ezra told them. "Whats going to happen to whats left of the air machine?" At their questioning looks he added, "It was an unique experience."
"The United States government will be taking possession." Artemus told him.
"Good." Said Chris, not wanting the two fliers trying to put it back together again.
"Why did you warn Loveless that the cavalry was coming?"
"They didnt, I had him warned." The sheriff spoke up, "I sent men out to tell him what was going on and to get out if he needed to." The sheriff felt he owed Ezra and Vin for delaying the cavalry.
"Sheriff why did you to that? Loveless is a wanted man." West asked him.
"Not here hes not, I have no writs or wanted posters on Doctor Loveless and he hadnt committed any crimes in his stay here in Sweet Water. In fact he was a leading citizen here, planing to build a factory. That would have meant jobs for a lot of people, jobs that arent there any more, thanks to you and Mr. Gordon. With the Cavalry scaring all those settlers they wont be staying here either. If I was going to arrest anyone it would be you two and the U.S. Cavalry." Having said his piece, he thanked Ezra and Vin for their help in protecting his town. Before he left Ezra asked him a question.
"Sheriff, do you know what the settlers will do now?"
"Yeah, they have decided to go south, way south, to a colony in Brazil. Seems that right after the war a group of Confederate soldiers went down there and set up there own Confederate homesteads. Must have got the place up and running by now. This group is going to join them. Good night gentlemen." The sheriff left them to deal with the secret service agents.
"Mr. Standish, I wish you had trusted us enough to tell us earlier about Loveless plans, we really arent the bad guys here." Jim West told him
"Trust is a two-way street sir, would you have trusted us sooner if we had wore the blue instead of the gray?"
"A good question Mr. Standish, one for which I do not have an answer," Jim said.
By the time the sheriff left the water had gotten cold. Ezra didnt want to get out of the tub with the secret service still men there and he knew Vin wouldnt.
"Mr. West, Mr. Gordon, do you want anything else?" asked Ezra.
"No, they dont," this came from Chris. "Weve got a long ride ahead of us tomorrow and I intend to get an early start."
Artemus asked, "If it isnt to much trouble could Mr. Standish write us a report on the events of the last few days?"
Before Ezra could answer, Buck dumped a bucket of water over Ezras head rinsing him of soap. Sputtering, Ezra yelled at him "That was uncalled for Mr. Wilmington." Grabbing the towel JD tossed to him, he wrapped it around himself as he got out of the tub. "Mr. Gordon in the interests of future good relations with the United States Government, Ah will be happy to write you a report. Particularly if it means being able to get dressed in something akin to privacy, Just leave an address at the hotel as to where to sent the article to."
Being the smart agents that they were, they knew when to leave.
Chris reached over and pushed Vins head under water.
Coming up he yelled, "What ya do that for?" As he started to climb out Buck dropped a bucket of clean warm water over him as well.
"Damn it Buck stop that, Im as clean as Im gonna get." He muttered to himself as he climbed out. "Had more baths in the last couple of days than all of last month." Shaking the water out of his long hair he managed to get his tormenters wet, at least the ones who didnt get out of the way in time.
"Hey! Stop that, you aint no dog," Buck growled at him. Chris dried himself and handed the towel to Buck.
"We should have seen that one coming."
Vin dried himself off and started to get dressed in the clean clothes that JD had brought over from the hotel when Nathan stopped him.
"Vin I want to treat those cuts first."
Vin started to protest but stopped when he saw Ezra shake his head. Better and easier to let Nathan win this time, with the others backing Nathan he wouldnt win anyway.
The rest of the day went quietly and in the morning Chris turned down Jim and Artemus offer of a train ride back to Four Corners. He had had enough of mechanical travel for a while. The seven men headed back to their lives in Four Corners on horseback.
+ + + + + + +
The church was warm and peaceful; sunlight flooded the pews by the windows. Ezra and Vin were sprawled comfortably in two of those pews. Somewhere they had obtained pillows to pad the hard wooden seats. They were deep into their reading when the doors opened. Both reacted with guns at ready only to go back to their reading when they saw who it was. Both made the mistake of dismissing their friends as a threat.
A shadow blocked the light Vin was using to read by. He moved to be able to see, the shadow moved with him. A hand reached out and took his book away from him.
"Hey!" Vin sat up and reached for his book only to have his hand slapped away. Vin checked on Ezra to find him bookless as well. It was Ezra who voiced the question.
"Pray tell gentleman what grievance have we committed that requires you to commandeer out reading material?
Chris didnt answer as he thumbed his way through Vins book. The little vein on his forehead moved faster as he read parts of the volume. He shook his head and put the book into his pocket.
"You arent reading this," was all he said.
"I dont think so either," said Josiah as he checked the title of the book he had taken from Ezra.
"Now wait a dog gone minute here. There aint nothing wrong with what were reading, Mr. Verne writes a good story." Vin tried to justify their choices in reading material.
Chris glared at the two men, it had only been two months since the pair had gone up in a flying machine and crashed it into a grove of trees. All of which happened after the pair read about men traveling by a balloon ship. He wasnt going to take a chance on them being inspired into another fool stunt by that damn French writer.
"Mr. Larabee this is outrageous, you cannot censor our choices in literature. We are grown men and the last time Ah checked it was still a free country." Josiah covered Ezras mouth with his hand. Ezra wanted very badly to bite it but resisted the urge.
"Around the World in 80 Days, whats wrong with that," asked JD.
"The hero does it because of a bet, he is told it couldnt be done." Josiah explains. "The hero bets he can."
JD then looked to Chris who handed him Vins book. Vin jumped into the conversation.
"I dont do things just because I read about then I aint no child. I know better then believe everything I read in a book can be done."
JD had been looking Vins book; his eyes grew wide when he saw the title. "Do they actually do what the title says?
"Not going to find out." Growled Chris as he pulled Vin to his feet and propelled him toward the door. Josiah had Ezra in hand as he followed Chris out into the street. All their protests fell on deaf ears as Vin and Ezra found themselves behind bars in the towns jail. Knowing both men could pick the lock on the cells door Chris had the towns blacksmith bend an iron rod around the bars of the cell and the door. Thats where he left them as he went to get a drink.
"How long are you going to leave them there?" Asked Nathan.
"For as long as it takes to get over any fool ideas they could have gotten from those books. Chris
"But throwing them in jail seems a little extreme isnt it?"
"JD, give Nathan that book."
JD handed over the volume. Nathan took in the title and skimmed over the pages. "You dont think they would really try doing something like this do you?" he said putting the book down on the table.
"Not going to take the chance," he replied; tapping the cover of book entitled From the Earth to the Moon.
Comments to: FHS70@aol.com
Authors Note: Although the Wright Brothers were credited with the first successful powered flight in 1903, there were several other credible but unsubstantiated earlier claims to that achievement. They were men with a vision; Doctor Loveless was a genius. He did show Jim West a model of an airplane in one of the episodes of the original series. Mr. Vernes books were published: Five Weeks in a Balloon 1863, Journey to the Center of the Earth 1864, From the Earth to the Moon 1865, Around the World in 80 Days 1873, all written within the time frame of the Mag7 series.