Fill Your Hands!
In which Dodger proves his worth and finds an inner voice.
The train heaved and lurched as it shifted to the left, pitching everything and everyone not pinned down as far right as Newton’s various laws would allow. The professor wailed with a banshee cry, the sudden turn either taking him by genuine surprise or overpowering his weaker constitution. Dodger’s body formed a wide arc as he pressed his feet to the floor and clung to the doorframe’s edge with every ounce of power he possessed. Just as suddenly as the jolt came, it passed. The moment the train showed signs of stability, Dodger gathered himself and drew his weapons.
And in that moment of making ready, it all came flooding back to him.
Every ounce of doubt melted into a cool, collected series of thoughts. His skills, both trained and intrinsic, consumed him whole. This eagerness seemed to take on its own voice, whispering in his mind, reassuring him that what he was doing was indeed the right thing.
We can do this, no problem. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Calm and steady, son. Wait ‘til they draw close enough to be sure of your aim. Steady and calm. Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
Dodger watched through the helm window as the train approached the men. The horses kicked and bucked as the riders pulled their reigns to a stop, unsure what to make of the oncoming cab.
Good, this is very good. Stay still and let us draw our mark. Aim for the heart, my friend, and make it quick. Show no quarter. Take no prisoners. They will show you no mercy if you let them gain purchase on the cab. They will not cease unless you stop them.
Dodger pulled back the hammer on the right-handed gun and drew his recommended deep breath. When the cab began to pass the men, he shifted his attention to that side, following their trajectory as he readied his aim. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as his targets came into view, into the line of the revolver’s sights.
Here they come … and here we go.
Dodger had often heard that a weapon ‘kicked like a mule.’ He had also been on the receiving end of just such an actual kick more than once in his life due to Mrs. Bolton’s ill-tempered ass. But this was the first time in all of his thirty plus years that he could honestly put the two together.
Boon’s hand cannons recoiled with the ferocity of a kicking mule.
The pistol jumped to life in his palm, unleashing the power of three simultaneously fired bullets, and shunting the surplus of kinetic energy into the grip and right up Dodger’s arm. Something cracked in his wrist as the whole works snapped back hard against his tense forearm. His resulting shot went too far and too wide, missing all four targets and in turn alerting them to his plan with an ear-splitting report that all but drowned the chuffing of the train.
The riders reacted at once, wildly firing their guns and howling like mad dogs. Once the train passed them completely, they turned and gave chase. Dodger cradled his injured hand, cursing the sight of his swelling wrist.
Calm down, son. No good getting worked up over a little knock. You’ve still got the left hand. Put her to use, before those men put you down.
“The recoil is too much,” Dodger said to himself.
Then loosen your grip a bit and pull the kick inside and across your chest. It will leave you sore for certain, but tis better than a pair of broken wrists.
That sounded like a fine idea. One that just might work.
And, eerily enough, an idea that didn’t feel like his own.
“Almost time!” Ched shouted over Dodger’s pondering. “Best grab onto something!”
Dodger holstered the gun and tried his best to hold onto the platform edge with just his left hand. He knew it would be useless to try to holster the right-sided weapon. His hand was too swollen now to do anything more than just hang onto the thing.
“Turn!” Ched shouted. Following his cry, the cab shifted hard again to the left.
The professor hollered in high-pitched surprise with the turn.
Dodger held fast, his stomach dropping to his knees until the cab straightened out once more. When a moderate stability was reached, he shifted to the opposite side of the platform, drew his left-handed revolver and watched through the helm window. The men slowed their steeds and looked to one another as they pointed to the oncoming cab, the first real signs of confusion upon them. The cab drew nearer, then began to pass the men, and in their brief moment of bewilderment, Dodger took his shot.
This time he was better prepared for the rebound, though it still kicked harder than he would have liked. He assumed that Boon must’ve been built like a brick shithouse to deal with this kind of recoil on a regular basis. Hell, maybe it’s what killed the man.
His second shot was truer than the first, knocking the far left rider from his horse to the ground. The man rolled into the cloud of dust kicked up by the train before coming to what Dodger had to assume was a dead stop, in every sense of the word.
Good shot! You’ve got some talent.
Dodger ignored his subconscious compliment, as well as the pain flashing up his right arm, as he reset the hammer on the left gun and fired again. The weapon flared to life, releasing its payload in less than a heartbeat, and blowing an arm clean off the next rider in line. He too fell from his steed, performing a midair spin, a little gunshot-induced pirouette, before disappearing into the cloud of dust and jumble of hooves below.
“Turn!” Ched cried.
Caught up in the moment, Dodger was attempting a third shot instead of preparing when the call came. He used his position as best he could, hooking his elbow in the platform frame and bracing his other hand against the doorframe behind him, gun and all. This worked well enough to keep him on his feet, though his right hand bitched the whole while.
Hang on, lad! Almost done!
On the next straightaway, the riders remained still, aiming there weapons at the oncoming cab.
Won’t be long before they guess our game. Best to drop them quick, before they get any ideas.
“I was just thinking the same thing,” Dodger said, unsure of just who he was talking to. He returned to the left side of the platform once more readied his gun, waiting for his chance to act.
A third shot opened a hole big enough in the next rider’s chest for Dodger to see the scenery behind him. The rider swayed in place, then tipped off one side of his saddle and rolled into the path of the train’s tracks. With a jolting wallop that threatened to toss Dodger from his feet, they put the poor fellow out of his misery.
Without taking his eyes off of his last target, Dodger holstered the spent weapon and shifted the remaining gun from his swollen right hand into his left. He lifted this partially loaded pistol and set it, but the sight that awaited him held his fire.
The fourth rider, close enough to identify as Dan of the red mask, finally figured out what was happening to those around him. As Dodger switched shooting hands, Dan drew up tight on his reigns with both hands to turn his horse about. In the process, he fumbled his weapon, dropping it to the ground, but he didn’t seem to care. He was more concerned about getting away than retrieving his gun. By the time Dodger was ready to fire again, Dan was already beating a hasty retreat, spurring his horse and heading for the horizon as fast as the poor beast’s hooves would allow.
“Enough, Ched!” Dodger yelled. “We got ‘em on the run.”
The cab groaned and whined as the driver slowed her to a stop.
Dodger made note of the direction Dan was headed before backing away from the platform ledge. When they returned to town, he would alert the authorities and let them deal with the man. Dodger was done dealing with the maniac.
But apparently his inner voice wasn’t.
What are you doing? Kill him! Shoot him now before he can escape!
“No,” Dodger whispered.
But he will bring more men! He will lead others to us!
“No!” Dodger yelled. “I won’t shoot an unarmed man in the back!”
This inner voice went quiet for a moment, as if mulling things over, then said something very softly, in a whisper almost inaudible after the deafening reports of Boon’s special guns.
Neither would I have, son. Neither would I.
Before Dodger could question the meaning of his own words, a heavy hand landed on his shoulder.