“I can’t believe this thing! McCreedy, you sure are somethin’!”
Roland tumbled and brought up his arm for another shot. “FFZZZZAPCHHH,” the weapon glowed in his hand and fired of a blast of charged energy. The shot landed right on target, as it tore through the center of a skittering void spider. After the creature slumped to the ground, energy passed between it and the spiders surrounding it, sending them to the grave as well.
Roland had made short work of the creatures thanks to his new Plasma Arc, a mysterious weapon forged in the other world of the Targa Plateau. Courderoy picked it up for him while the posse was last in a frontier town settlement. While at an outpost Courderoy met a traveling merchant that had somehow picked up the artifact on his travels, and he was selling it at a great price. In the effort to help the group as a whole Courderoy dropped all of his cash on the item.
So far, the investment certainly paid off. While Roland wasn’t hitting as hard as he had before with is trusty six-shooter, he certainly was hitting more enemies more often. So far the posse had cleared out nearly ten chambers in the mine found on Mr. Montague’s property. They’d been in the mine for a better part of the night. The job was simple enough: find out how deep the mine goes and clear out any dangers within it. The posse had been through twists and turns almost nonstop since they first entered the mine, but lately it would seem they were on a singular path.
The room they’d just entered was a giant chamber, complete with a mine shaft elevator. The room was infested with void spiders, and the walls were covered in thick webbing. Roland had dispatched the final group of spiders with little effort.
“Dammit, Roland! You ain’t savin’ any kills for me!”
Lynette shot him a look of disappointment as she ran into the room, hunting rifle in hand. She slung the rifle across her back and crossed her arms. The rest of the gang arrived, bringing up the rear.
“Hey, take it easy lady! So long as we all get back safe, why should it matter who kills what? Plus, I just can’t get enough of this new toy McCreedy so graciously procured for me.”
Roland swung the futuristic pistol around and holstered it, flicking the rim of his hat at Courderoy. The U.S. Marshall nodded back at Roland and shrugged.
He took a survey of the room and saw something underneath the webbing. “Hey…,” he said as he walked over to the far end of the room where the lift was stalled.
Pulling at the webs, Courderoy was stunned at what he saw: dynamite. Boxes upon boxes of dynamite and gunpowder were sitting right before the posse, ripe for the taking.
“You guys won’t believe this,” Courderoy began, “but there’s a ton of boomsticks locked up all nice and neat under all this webbing.”
Now his internal moral compass told him it was wrong to think about taking any of the dynamite for themselves, but Courderoy thought back to the posse’s last encounter in the mines. They barely made it out by the skin of their teeth. The Marshall knows all too well what lurks in the mines running under old Brimstone, even those on the outskirts of the frontier towns. These Dark Stone deposits have the potential to unearth some pretty terrifying things. In fact, Courderoy still couldn’t get the nightmares of the green creature to stop wrecking his brain at night. In this instant his survival instinct took over.
“Now I’m sure Mr. Montague won’t mind too much if we ‘borrow’ some of these sticks of dynamite in case things get a little tangled up down here, right?”
The rest of the posse nodded in response.
“Alright then, everyone grab two sticks and let’s keep moving.”
Courderoy put two sticks of dynamite in his side bag and the rest of the group followed suit. He lifted the lantern up high and saw that this room led out through one single passage. After a quick glance back at the posse he headed forward into the doorway.
The single exit out of the broken lift room opened up into a wide hallway that split off into a t-junction. The right path led to a dead end, so the only option was to turn and head left. The posse grouped together with Lynette sweeping the hall with her large hunting rifle. Red stuck tightly to Roland, who had his right hand ready to pull that new pistol from his hip in an instant.
After a few steps down this new hallway the posse entered a large cavern that looked to have several exits. What they learned, however, was that each exit was blocked off by fallen rubble. The group entered the center of the room and took a look around.
“Well, it looks like this may be the end of the road,” said Red, still locked in arm with Roland.
“It would appear so, ma’am,” Courderoy responded.
Just then, Lynette swung around 180-degrees and dropped low, her rifle pointed at the southern blocked exit. “Something moved,” she said in a low voice.
Courderoy held the lantern up and out as far as he could.
“I don’t see anythi-,” Roland muttered, but was cut off by Courderoy. “Keep quiet!”
Courderoy strained his eyes. He noticed a rock falling amidst the rubble of the southern exit. And then, at first real faint, he heard the sound of scuttling. It started off in the direction he was facing, and within a moment the sound enveloped the room.
Courderoy was able to call out the warning just as the group became surrounded with dozens of little creatures about the size of coyotes. These beasts were not entirely of this world, though they took on the appearance of spiders – they all had eight legs and crawled around like insects. The difference, though, came on the creature’s underbelly. Instead of having any sort of carapace underneath, these void spiders had a single giant mouth that spread from end to end with a frightening row of sharp teeth on the top and bottom of where its jaws would be. The Marshall was able to drop the lantern to his side and pick up his shotgun before the things attacked the posse at once. Before he knew it they were swarmed.
Lynette picked a few off with her well-placed shots before they advanced too far, while Red was able to get off two pot-shots on a couple of the creatures, bringing them into the dirt. Courderoy unloaded two slugs, taking the legs off of three of the creatures nearly instantaneously. Even with this amount of firepower sinking into the group of spiders, it seemed little damage was done. As soon as one was felled three more would take its place.
Courderoy ducked down to reload his gun and shouted out, “Roland, now would be a great time for you to put that present I got you to work!”
“I’m working on it, boss,” answered Roland as he struggled to pull the Arc from its holster. After a couple of tugs the weapon was freed and without the bat of an eye Roland started sending energy beams flying. Plasma energy blasted one spider, then another, then two more, then four, and before the group could think the threat was being minimalized.
With Roland handling the heavy work, the rest of the posse was able to reload and take their shots carefully. The spiders were being picked off one by one, and the tide seemed to take a turn in the group’s favor. That’s when Courderoy saw them.
At that moment, bursting through the rubble came three Night Terrors – giant ape-like creatures with huge golden eyes and extremely sharp claws. Dark colored like the midnight sky, Night Terrors were known to haunt frontier towns, striking fear into any they encountered.
As they approached, the Terrors swatted spiders out of the way. Lynette was able to put a round in the front-most Terror’s shoulder, but it only seemed to piss it off. The monster tore at the rancher with its claws, but the girl was limber enough to dive out of the way just before it connected.
Roland was still busy blowing holes in the remaining void spiders to make a move, so Red pushed him towards the room’s exit as the Terrors approached. At the last second Roland spotted a Terror coming from his right and he turned to blast it in the stomach. The energy hit the monster hard, but it did little to impede its advance.
The group remained tight, huddling together in the face of the enemies surrounding them. The void spiders slowed their advance, but they did not all together stop.
Courderoy pushed against the group, sliding them ever so slightly back the way they came. He slipped backwards, falling onto his rear. He hit the ground hard, and felt his side bag hit him in the thigh.
“Wait a minute… That’s it,” thought the Marshall. In a flash he was back on his feet.
“Let’s move back to the lift room,” Courderoy commanded. “We won’t last holed up in here!”
The posse looked to Courderoy and nodded in agreement. They steadily retreated back into the hall passage.
Lynette did her best to pick off as many critters as she could, but having to reload was slowing her down. Roland focused his shots on the Terrors, which were nearly upon the group. Energy blasts bounced between them, doing damage but not enough to stop the onslaught.
“Come on you sons of bitches,” Roland shouted as he slipped backwards.
Courderoy moved beside Roland. “Alright everyone, turn tail and hike it back to the lift room. Make sure you get to the northern exit and hold a line there!”
The girls turned on their heels and made a run down the hallway. In a second they disappeared into the darkness. Courderoy loaded a shell into his shotgun and brought it down in front of him. Before he could make sense of what was going on, his vision was clouded by a swirl of midnight blue. One of the Night Terrors had charged the duo, slamming right into Roland’s side. The crash sent the gunslinger backwards into the hallway behind them. Courderoy spun quick and brought the muzzle of his shotgun to the chest of the Terror and fired. The resulting blast was enough to blow the both of them away, himself in the direction of his comrade. A flash took over Courderoy’s senses as he hit the ground hard, dropping his gun in the process.
Roland ducked down and grabbed the Marshall by his shoulders, lifting him to his feet. “You better watch yourself, you crazy idiot. You’ll get yourself killed!”
Courderoy could barely make out what Roland was saying as he stood to his feet. He shook his head and picked up his gun. With a hand on Roland’s shoulder, he said, “We have got to get back to that lift room. I have a plan.”
The void spiders crawled between both their fallen brethren and the Terrors. They skittered and clacked and advanced without relent. The remaining Terrors began to break into a run, furious with losing one of their own to a well-placed buckshot round.
Roland and Courderoy turned tail and made way down the hallway back to the lift room. When they arrived they saw Red and Lynette at the northern exit. “Stay put,” Courderoy ordered. “If you see anything coming from the hallway behind us you start shooting.”
“Aye,” Lynette responded, and she brought her rifle up to her nose. Red pulled her holdout pistol and put a hand on Lynette’s shoulder. The two girls nodded to each other.
Courderoy reached into his side bag and pulled out his two sticks of dynamite. “Give me one of yours,” he said, looking up at Roland. The gunslinger did so, pulling one of his dynamite sticks from the pockets inside his duster coat.
“What do you think you’re gonna do?”
Courderoy bent down and put the three sticks together in a bundle and began to wrap some leather string around them he pulled from his side bag. “Well I figure,” he began, “if this room is already prepped to blow, why not make the most of it while we’ve got all of our limbs?”
Rolan smiled. “You know, if Montolo was here right you you’d make him blush.”
“Hell, he’d probably ask me out on a date,” said Courderoy.
The Marshall finished his bundle as he heard gunshots break his train of thought. The girls were opening fire as void spiders began to fill the room. “Roland, I want you to run to the girls and prep your dynamite. Light it and throw it right at the hallway exit to this room. Do it as quick as you can, then grab the girls and run like hell straight out of here.”
“But,” Roland began, “what the hell do you plan to do in the meantime?”
“Something very stupid,” answered Courderoy, and he took off towards the wrecked lift. Roland headed for the girls with a sigh as he lit his last stick of dynamite. He counted to three, and then threw it at the enemies pouring into the room just as the remaining Terrors made their way into view. As soon as the stick left his hand Roland pulled at the girls and ran back through the entrance tunnel towards the mouth of the mine.
By this time the room was filling with void spiders as they made their way towards the last piece of flesh sitting in the room. They skittered across the webbed floors and walls with ease. Courderoy felt his body tense. He put his bundle of dynamite right under the wrecked lift and packed gunpowder around it. Looking back at the Terrors moving toward him, he counted.
As soon as he reached three he lit the fuse on the dynamite bundle.
And then, he ran.