The Fifth Horseman
A Magnficent 7 - Highlander - Wild Wild West Crossover
by Terrance K. Harrington
Part IX: Storm’s End (continued)
Shots rang out from several locations, as the indicated soldiers fell where they stood.
The gambler smiled broader, "Did I forget to mention that some friends accompanied me?"
Vlad glowered down at the man who, more than any other, he hated with a passion even the Ottomans could not stir within his breast.
"It will take no time for others to arm themselves. Even without such weapons, you few cannot hope to take all these warriors."
"That would ordinarily be true. However, thanks to your lovely... and resourceful...Miss McFadden..."
Drakeson turned a dark expression on Loveless.
"...we know where your weapons stores are. We also know a few hundred people who would love an opportunity to test those weapons on you and your troops."
Loveless caught it immediately, turning to Vlad: "The mines! The slave labor!" The timing could not have been better as angry voices began growing to the rear of the compound. When Loveless ran to the top and looked out, he could see than Standish was not bluffing. The freed slaves were coming, and they were heavily armed.
Ezra continued as Vlad’s troops looked uncertainly at one another, "Dr. Loveless has created a bunch of pretty toys for you, Prince Vlad, but a damn lot of good they do you when they’re on the far side of your camp! And, now that my good friend Mr. Gordon has had a chance to tinker with them..." A huge explosion shook the arena, as the experimental weapons’ depot was wiped from the face of the earth, "let’s just say they might not be very useful, at any rate, if they were closer."
Drakeson didn’t need to hear any more. He ran to the back of the arena, and jumped off. Standish and Gordon had bested him again, but it was foolish for him to stay and fight. He had another army in training in the Baltics... he would simply return and fetch them, coming back one day in the future to deal with his mortal antagonists. It even gave him some perverse pleasure to imagine returning when the two were old and frail, while he were still vital, and he choked the remaining life out of each. If it took that long, he swore they would die at his hands...
Drakeson’s men, without his command, hesitated, but sensing a rout in
the making, rushed as hard as possible for their rifles, which were stacked
outside the arena. Unfortunately for them, the ex-slaves were upon them, led
by a large and angry man named Zachariah Bakersfield...
Ezra turned back to the four men, and said, "I wish we had time for pleasantries, but we need make haste. We are not out of danger, yet..." He handed each man a pistol, and belt. JD and Nathan were doing their best to pick off armed men as they approached, but they would be engulfed swiftly, if action were not taken. Ezra motioned for the two to join he and the four others at the front gate...
Vin fought side by side with Bakersfield. It felt good to give back something for all those who suffered and died at the hands of the Riders, and he showed no remorse as he gunned down murderer after murderer. Artemus met up with Buck, West, Nathan, JD, Josiah and Ezra, and the group joined in with the ex-slaves, as they overwhelmed the remainder of Vlad’s men. It was only as the fighting settled down that West thought to ask: "Where’s Loveless?"
The object of Jim’s concern used the confusion to slip away. In moments, the sides of a breakaway structure collapsed, revealing a small dirigible, which filled quickly and began floating away from the fighting. Miguelito Loveless would, like Vlad Tsepish, live to fight another day...
Except, Vlad Tsepish had a problem. Between him and the airships stood Duncan McLeod, who held his katana by his side. "Are you ready for heads, today, Impaler?..."
Loveless was well over the forest when he heard the noise, but, before he could turn, he was sprayed with a fine mist. Almost immediately, his senses turned to mush, and he barely understood what was happening. A woman sat in a chair next to him: Sarah McFadden.
"Hello, Mr. Pascal," she said. "Nice day for a little ride."
Loveless lolled his head in her direction.
"It’s a real pity that you can barely understand me, with that great
intellect of yours dampened so severely. Nonetheless, you’ll understand
enough. I watched you over the last few years, you know. I got to know your
tendencies. I thought to myself, where would that little bastard go if everything
went wrong? Then, it occurred to me. You always have escape plans, always practice
them, as if your life depended on it. Did you forget that I helped you practice
them, at the compound? All I had to do was hide in the closest one to your current
location. You’d come right to me." She kissed Miguelito on the forehead.
"Despite everything you made me do, I want to thank you for the training,
Little Man. It’s what makes my justice possible." She placed a device,
one of Loveless’ timebombs, on the seat by him, with a gallon of highly
flammable fuel. She flipped the switch, and stood. "Goodbye, Miguelito.
Say hello to the Devil for me, when you arrive." She walked to the hatch,
opened it, and grabbed the pair of fixed-wings that she purloined for the act.
Without looking back, she leapt into the clear blue air...
McLeod could have easily taken Vlad’s head, without so much as protest from anyone else, had they known. There was no law among his kind prohibiting the slaying of an unarmed Immortal. However, Duncan was raised with a sense of honor, and he would never slay an unarmed man intentionally. He provided Vlad with his weapon, and the two dueled.
Duncan had a disadvantage, in that Vlad had centuries of practice on him; however,
Vlad had wasted much of his time, raising armies to do his fighting. The two
sparred evenly for several minutes...
Ezra and Gordon rounded up the others, including the former slaves.
"We must make haste and depart this vacinity! We shall die here, if we do not," Standish exclaimed. The men gathered as many of their families as still survived, and fled on foot, by wagon, or any other means as possible.
"What’s the meaning of this, Ezra?" Chris demanded.
Standish was silent for a moment, considering the things Sarah had told him. "Chris, there are many volatile substances used here. In a very short time, there shall be a rather sizable explosion, which shall likely kill anything within a mile of here. I suggest we not discuss the physics of it any longer than necessary."
"I’ll be damned..." Chris swore.
"What’s the problem?" Standish asked.
"It must be serious. You called me ‘Chris’, not ‘Mr. Larabee’..."
Buck whooped, "Then let’s get the hell out of here, boys!"
Loveless, despite his stupor, tried to reach the bomb. However, his will was not sufficient to the task. For the first, and last, time in his life, he was without answers. In honesty, Sarah needn’t have compounded her revenge with the fuel... it was overkill. Loveless had mastered the use of acid and electricity in water to split oxygen and hydrogen long before it became commonplace. All his airships used hydrogen to get their lift, and few things are more dangerous than mixing oxygen and hydrogen with a sufficient heat source present. An explosive device would be more than sufficient to get the desired effect.
As Sarah floated to earth, she watched the sky fill with fire...
Duncan disarmed Vlad, and swept his legs, seemingly leaving the tyrant defenseless against a killing blow. However, as Duncan prepared for his cruelest cut, Tsepish sprayed some of Loveless’ concoction in Duncan’s face. The potion did not as severely affect Immortals as mortals, but they were still slowed by it. Vlad laughed mirthlessly, reaching for his sword. "Ah, Highlander. It really is a shame that we cannot both depart this field. Alas, there can be only one."
He turned to behead Duncan, but was run through, to the hilt, with Duncan’s katana. Vlad, in shock, dropped his weapon once more.
"Sarah suspected you might try that. She found an antidote, and gave me some beforehand." He twisted the katana, causing more damage, yanked the sword free, and cocked it above and behind his head for the final slice. "As you said, madman, there can be only one..."
He swept the blade in its terrible arc.
The Quickening was fierce, as lightning blasted the area. Vlad Tsepish was
a powerful Immortal, and this only added to the force. Ezra Standish and Artemus
Gordon had wanted everyone out of the area for this reason... when lightning
hit the airships, the world turned to fire, and the remaining ammo and fuel
sheds nearby added their essences to the blaze...
Artemus Gordon, Ezra Standish, Sarah McFadden and Vin Tanner sat in the otherwise empty saloon. The others had long since gone to bed... their own, or in Buck’s case, someone else’s. James West thanked each man, and Sarah, for each one’s role in stopping Drakeson’s threat to the country, and thanked Sarah, quietly, for dealing with an old foe. "I only wish I could’ve seen his face!" West smirked. Despite Loveless’ contention, there would still be plenty to keep James West busy for years to come.
Sarah and Vin stared at the newly made tattoos on their right wrists, not quite sure what to make of everything that had happened. Vin was the first to speak up.
"You know, Ezra, I’ve only seen your sleeves rolled up one time. When I noticed that marking you have, you told me you lost a bet..."
Standish only laughed, "In a way, that was the truth."
Artemus also laughed softly, "But not the whole truth."
Ezra poured another drink, the screams finally silenced at last... Duncan McLeod was seen leaving the site of the destruction, and would never have done so with Vlad still alive. Ezra wasn’t sure, but was fairly certain he’d not seen the last of the man.
"A man named Adam Morningstar approached each of us, separately, after the War Between the States..." Ezra began.
"Civil War," Gordon prodded.
"A rose by any other name... still has thorns," Ezra downed his drink. He continued, "He had found out about Drakeson, and informed us of the truth."
Sarah stated, "About Immortals."
"Yes. We would not have believed Mr. Morningstar, but he carried us to Europe, and, discretely showed us our old adversary. It wasn’t a hard choice to make after that."
"My Secret Service job allowed me the freedom of movement to pursue my newer purpose..." Gordon claimed.
"While I needed an entirely new occupation in order to continue mine. I’ve always wanted a casino, so gambling seemed an ideal place to start."
Vin nodded, "I always wondered why a fancy-pants gambler like you would come to an out-of-the-way place like Four Corners."
Ezra nodded. "I knew Drakeson, Vlad Tsepish, would want a piece of my hide, if he could find me. I came to a place where few would get hurt if he did, and then made sure he knew I was here. He moved his little band of merry men...and women... into the valley southwest of here, preparing for the day he would make a move on the world."
Sarah quipped: "I bet McLeod being here was no coincidence, either."
Gordon smiled at that. "No. A timely word to a friend in the Army placed Mr. McLeod in the right place at the right time."
"Why didn’t you just take Drakeson, yourselves?" Vin asked the obvious question.
Gordon and Standish looked at one another. Standish said, "We have to walk a fine line, Mr. Tanner. We observe... we report... we do not interfere."
Sarah was confused, "But what you did with Drakeson..."
Gordon fielded that question, "He became a threat that could not be ignored. We had to let another Immortal take him, but we couldn’t sit by idly as he raised another army. Especially not with Loveless at his side."
"Then, you knew about Loveless," Sarah said.
"That’s why I got West involved, Miss McFadden." Ezra sighed. "Nothing churned the hearts of those two like each other."
"Well, I’m off to bed, myself," Gordon said. "I trust you’ll finish discussing our responsibilities with our newest recruits?"
"Of course, Mr. Gordon. Till tomorrow, then?"
Gordon smiled, "Till tomorrow..."
Vin shook Gordon’s hand, tipped his hat and the lady, and smiled at Ezra. Then, he left, rubbing the Watcher’s symbol etched into his arm.
"Well, Miss McFadden, what shall we do, now?"
She leaned across the table, "I was hoping we could play some poker."
"By all means. What are the stakes?" Ezra grinned, pulling a deck out of his pocket.
"I have no money," she said.
"A pity," he replied.
"Of course, there are assets other than money," she said coyly.
"And you were educated in a nunnery?" Ezra chuckled. "I shall have to visit one more often."
Sarah proved to be a most capable student...
And, naturally, JD came bursting through the front door a half-hour later, when Ezra and Sarah were sharing the same chair.
"Ezra, come quick! There’s trouble... uh... oops..." he stammered.
Standish just rolled his eyes, as Sarah fought to keep from laughing.
Ezra merely said, "Mr. Dunne, we must speak soon about your sense of timing..."
Send Terry a wire!
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