The Fifth Horseman
A Magnficent 7 - Highlander - Wild Wild West Crossover

by Terrance K. Harrington

Part VI: Lightning Strikes

Vin Tanner had been on his way back to Four Corners, when he noticed the troop movement. A veteran tracker, he saw the dust raising in the distance, and curiosity finally got the best of him. They were going back in the direction he had come from, so he wasn’t eager to follow. Yet, there was a part of him that demanded answers, and he would not be happy until he had them, thus, he tagged along, remaining out of sight.

Unfortunately for the troops, Vin wasn’t the only one to take interest. He saw the lookouts fairly easily, but could not warn the advancing unit without giving away his own position. Nonetheless, it was a very large column, and Vin couldn’t think of anything... or anyone... that could threaten such a force.

Still, Vin decided to ease ahead of the Army, to scout out the enemy. That was when he saw the guns. Or, at least, when he saw where the guns were concealed.

Camouflage had been used in espionage and warfare, before, especially during the Civil War, when balloons were used to spot enemy positions. But, this was far more extensive than anything else used to date. A set of hidden sentries used flag signals to warn the concealed position, then a series of signals passed back and forth between the sentries and the location Vin now watched with interest. A group of people was jotting down information on chalkboards as the signals were translated. In moments, the netting was removed, and some of the largest cannons Vin had ever seen came into full view.

Each cannon was fitted with an elaborate system of ropes, pulleys and levers. Using the markings on the chalkboards, men and women proceeded to manipulate switches and levers, stopping at certain times to recheck the markings. Another group appeared to be attaching objects to the shells to be used. When finished, each group threw what appeared to be the main control on each unit, and the cannons were automatically swung into position. Vin was now quite alarmed and began thinking about how he could warn the oncoming troops. Before he could make a decision, however, the firing commenced. Vin watched in agony as the troops were massacred, unable to return fire at all. However, that is not to say he had no options at all...

There was nothing Tanner could have done to stop the cannons once they began firing, but he noticed that several shells went unused and were in plain view.

In plain, unobstructed view of everyone in the area.

Vin was no fool, and knew an opportunity when it presented itself. There was no way to bring back the dead, but Vin could repay in kind. He shouldered his rifle, and found a likely target. It was going to take a hell of a shot at this distance, but Vin had made such shots before...

Sarah McFadden finally reached Four Corners. She remembered that the best place to find help, according to Mr. Pascal, was not the Sheriff’s Office, but at the Saloon. She was not the sort to enter such a place, ordinarily, but these were not ordinary times.

A group of men were seated at one of the tables when she entered, and Chris Larabee turned in surprise to see her.

"I glad to see you got away, Miss," he said, smiling cordially. "Did you happen to see the friends I was with on your way in?"

Sarah breathlessly conveyed her ride, about how she encountered Duncan McLeod, but how he bade her to move on. She had no idea where Vin was, but assumed the two men should be on their way. If they were half as resourceful as Mr. Larabee, that is.

Chris smiled ruefully, "I’m afraid I’m not all that resourceful, Miss..."

"Sarah, please."

"Sarah, then. They shot me with something... something that dulls the senses. Makes it hard for a man to make up from down."

She became excited. "Yes! They have some sort of potion that they use on folks, to make them docile. They’ve captured a great many people that way."

Jim West broke in at that moment, "Just how many people have they taken, and what’s become of them?"

Sarah turned to West, her breath catching for a moment... like Buck, the trim, dapper, yet intense West tended to have that effect on women... but she recovered quickly enough.

"I have no idea exactly how many, sir. Most are being used as slave labor, I’m told. I came here looking for help, however."

Artemus Gordon spoke up, "That’s why we’re here, Miss."

She locked her gaze onto Gordon, but her expression was very different from the one she gave West. Buck would say later that it was the way a person looked at the dead.

"You are Artemus Gordon." She said, without a hint of passion in her voice.

If Artie was shocked by this revelation, he failed to show it. "Why yes, Miss. I am."

"Then, I take it that..." she mentioned another name, "is nearby?"

"No, I’m afraid that my partner is Mr. West, here," Artie nodded at James.

Sarah scanned around, and her gaze rested on Ezra. She frowned, as if trying to remember something. She repeated the name she just mentioned. Ezra stood gracefully and bowed to her.

"I fear I know nothing about the gentleman you seek, my dear lady. However, I am Ezra Standish, and I’d be delighted to be of service to you, if I may."

She seemed lost, momentarily. "Mr.... Standish. I thought..."

"I have been confused for others of the common rabble before, sweet lady, and I admit that associating with such rabble..."

Buck laughed, "Hey, now!"

"...on a daily basis does nothing to improve my reputation or good name. I assure you, however, that Ezra Standish is a man of integrity and honor."

JD sputtered with barely concealed laughter.

Ezra turned a cold eye on the younger man, but the warmth and humor in his voice betrayed his true feelings, "Perhaps it is my charitable nature that compels me to try to civilize such ruffians as these."

It was Josiah’s turn to comment, "Oh yes! Charity is Mr. Standish’s middle name."

Throughout the banter, Sarah remained locked onto Ezra, who appeared oblivious to the attention. Her jaw worked as she looked at him, as if she wished to say something, but was held from doing so. Her hand carressed a spot on her belly, under her shirt and above her riding pants. She received no comfort from the hard object hidden there, but it was not yet time to bring it into play.

Ezra clasped a hand on JD’s shoulder, and led him aside. "A word with you, Mr. Dunne, about your manners, if you don’t mind..."

Sarah started to follow, but West called her.

"Sarah, might I ask another question or two of you?"

With some difficulty, she broke free of whatever spell she were under long enough to turn back to Jim.

"I’ll answer, if I know it, Mr. West," she said.

Duncan McLeod hated being caged. It had happened to him several times in his life, but it never ceased to irritate him. Vlad Tsepish told him he sought no heads, but that did not mean he would be allowed to roam freely... at least, not until the Devil’s Son had finished what he had started this day. Duncan was not alone, however.

Outside the cage was a table with some strange device on it. McLeod would have no idea what the thing was for, but every now and then, an individual talked with the machine, and it always answered back. Marconi would receive credit, years later, for it’s invention, but the crude radio upon the table worked well enough. The man currently at the console spoke with Prince Vlad (Duncan would never mistake that accent, no matter how poor the sound quality was), and relayed the report that the field test of their "mobile artillery pieces" was successful. After Vlad expressed his pleasure at the news, the device was cut off, and the man at the table continued upon whatever tasks he was assigned.

Cheering and clapping resounded around the area, but Duncan couldn’t see much, due to the netting. He had heard the big guns go off, and he could only imagine the target. He was working the lock on the cage when a more familiar sound occurred... the ping of a rifle shell hitting metal. All cheering stopped, and the crack of the shot came a split second later. Duncan realized immediately that the shooter was at some distance away. Only a few rifles could fire at such a distance, but the man called Vin Tanner had one such weapon. Duncan wondered if Tanner was out there, and what he was up to...

The first shot went wide by an inch, but Vin adjusted his aim, and squeezed the trigger. This round was right on target, and a rather satisfying explosion resulted. In fact, several satisfying explosions resulted. Vin, seething inside, kept his anger in his aim, as he collected another, then another target, firing again and again. Vin reloaded as fast as possible, and did not stop until all motion stopped below. His attack was not as economical or elegant as the artillery barrage has been, but the results were about the same. Wrecked equipment, fire, and scattered bodies told the tale through his spyglass. Only the footsteps coming quickly behind him broke his concentration. Drawing swiftly, he spun and gunned down the three guards that came to take him. A shot nearby rang off the rocks below him, but the shooter was too far to be a threat. Vin stood where he was, found his sniper in a tree, and casually knocked him out with one shot of his baby. When he saw no other movement, he made his way cautiously, toward the encampment, looking for answers...

McLeod never heard the second shot. The explosives were too close to his location. When the rounds went off, the force knocked his cage over. He felt the pressure of the shockwave, and searing pain as shrapnel cut his flesh. He knew he was dying. Of course, he knew just as well, that he’d be back...

At the Four Corners Saloon, the men were planning the evacuation of the town, and were planning the message to be sent by telegram, to Washington, and to the nearest Army outpost. It seemed no one paid attention to Sarah McFadden, who had quietly edged closer to the group. Slowly, she pulled a derringer out of a band around her waist, cocked it, then leveled the weapon, aiming at the back of Ezra’s head. She squeezed the trigger...

Part 7

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