"Blackfire & Gunsmoke Chapter 10"
By Susan-chan

Rated PG-13 (language and violence)

Out of the Blue
        “What are you doing! Get down! NOW!”

        Then a smooth voice spoke, raising the hair on the back of her neck. “Good afternoon ladies.” A soft chuckle devoid of any amusement was heard before the voice said, “Your friend belongs to me now.” Rinnah felt a chill go through her as she recognized it!

        Looking up she saw Milly’s face go slack with a blank expression.


        The black-haired hybrid pushed herself up on the seat to find the strangest sight she had ever seen. On the sidewalk under the hotel’s overhang was what she could only describe as a living mummy, a blue-haired man very much alive but swaddled from neck to toe in his own portable coffin belts and buckles holding him in place. He smiled as her face registered obvious shock. Rinnah tried to say something but was struck speechless with dazed astonishment.

        A large freak of a man stood towering over him, one hand on a handle. For all of his height, he had a squat toad-like look to him with his bowed legs and stubby arms and flat face, what she could see of it anyway. He was the one who smelled bad. Wearing straps across his face Rinnah fleetingly wondered how he could function with them crisscrossing his head like that.

        Unlike the rest of his body, the head of the mummy-like man was free of any confining straps. But blue bangs fell across half of his face to obscure one eye while a yellow one gleamed at her like a raptor waiting for the prey to realize that death was on the wing and drawing near.

        Rinnah also noticed the silence. The shots had stopped in their vicinity although she could still hear them in the distance leading away from where they were.

        The living mummy looked up and not losing his empty grin, “Good. Everything is going according to plan.”

        She knew that voice! That was the voice she had heard in the Rusty Bucket eons ago!

        “Who are you and what do you want?” Rinnah asked as it never hurt to be certain.

        He graced her with the beautiful smile of a marble statue, so free of anything even remotely suggestive of warmth. She suppressed the desire to shudder.

        “Legato Bluesummers.“ He supplied graciously, then, “You. Her.”

        This is what comes of having a sparking personality and witty banter. “Sorry, we don’t date freaks.”

        When Milly had told her about Legato she had not seen fit to mention what he looked like. A glaring error on her part but then Rinnah doubted mere words could do the sight justice. She couldn’t stop herself from staring at him wondering how long he had been that way and what had happened to him. It didn’t look like he was this way for too long; his limbs weren’t atrophied or wasted looking.

        He didn‘t let up on the smile that had nothing to do with the words that came through it, “Your limbs should have been paralyzed for longer than this.” He studied her with a dispassionate eye.

        Taking in his bandages and lack of useful appendages with a doubtful look she pointed out, “You don’t have a lot to work with there bandage boy, and I’m a little indisposed at the moment.”

        “Ah dear lady,” The way he caressed each word made her skin crawl, “You do not have to worry about the mode of travel. We came well prepared. My Master requires the two of you to be brought before him.”

        Rinnah had a bad feeling about the way that the conversation was headed.

        “My Master has plans for the two of you.” He added.

        Oh joy.

        Then she saw his flunky approaching the car. With a blindingly swift movement her gun filled a hand that still tingled. She wiggled slightly numb fingers hoping for strength and feeling to return as it was hard getting a good enough grip to keep from dropping the gun. That would be a dead giveaway right there that she wasn‘t in full control yet. Rinnah hoped he wasn‘t experienced enough to tell that she had, at best, a feeble grasp on her revolver. He halted when the tip of her gun was a few scant inches from his face. Woo. Rinnah blinked, eyes watered at the sweaty odor wafting off the man in her direction.

        The blue-haired man said softly and congenially, and that caught her attention even quicker than if he had spoken in a harsh threatening voice, “If you value your friend’s life, you will drop that toy and be more cooperative.”

        Milly screamed, clutched her head and dropped to her knees in agony.

        “Okay! Okay! I get the message you bastard! Just leave her alone.” Rinnah dropped her ancestor’s gun over the side of the car and heard the thud as it landed on the ground.

        Milly went back to the blank-eyed look and stood to her feet.

        “There is no negotiation on this. Master wants you both.”

        Knives you are so dead when I get a hold of you! Fumed Rinnah. Then remembering her present situation, well, as soon as I get back to normal.

        The strange, partially masked human reached in and picked up Rinnah as if she weighed nothing. He carried her back to the swaddled man in his contraption holding him upright and stopped beside him so that she could be looked over more closely. Resisting the urge to stick her tongue out at him, she crossed her arms in front of her and glared back.

        “Drinking and driving finally caught up with you eh?” Observed the hybrid, anger not diminished in the slightest.

        A momentary confusion crossed his face.

        “How are you going to handle this Imhotep, seeing as how your mummy pusher is occupied?”

        The glow of his yellow eye dulled slightly, he didn’t answer but with another frightening smile, he gave a little lift of his chin. With growing horror, Rinnah watched as Milly shambled up behind the portable person carrier, grabbing hold of the handles and stood there ready to start pushing.

        “Such a lovely assistant. I just may keep her.” He tilted his head looking out the corner of his eye at the obsidian-haired wench and waited for a reaction he knew would come. She struck him as possessing a volatile temper.

        As he suspected, Rinnah’s temper flared. “You are a...” She started but her comment died in her mouth when she saw pain registering across Milly’s face only to let up as she stopped talking. The hybrid lowered her head in defeat but also so he couldn’t read her face. She didn’t hear any commands from the yellow-eyed man but he must have given some form of a signal as the toad-man began walking ahead of his master so she could be kept in plain sight.

        That did it. Rinnah growled deep in her throat. She was fed up with him and was going to burn his britches. She reached for her power only to be disturbingly and unpleasantly surprised. It was gone, empty, there wasn‘t anything there for her to work with. All of Rinnah’s physical activity, pushing herself, a system running amok while hosting a chemical and hormonal slug fest of the ages, the recent mental healing, and then the ambush resulting with being partially numb, had left her with this, nothing. She felt sick and absolutely furious with herself. When Milly needed her she was unable to help.

        Something skittered across the top of mind again and again. Rinnah couldn’t suppress a shudder at the creepy feeling knowing that Legato was trying to delve to a deeper level. There was no reason to enlighten him. Let him figure it out for himself.

        Finally he commented on the peculiarity, “I cannot access your mind.” His voice was puzzled. “This is most unusual. I will let the Master know that you are unique for a human.”

        You only know the half of it, buddy.

        He fell silent and she guessed he was communing with his god.

        Near the end of the alley he spoke again, “You are only a worthless human but the Master sees fit to deal with you himself. You should feel honored.”

        “Oh stop with the flattery already or you’ll turn my head!”

        The foursome headed for the ally between the hotel and the building next to it. It was a narrow one but they were walking pretty much in a single file to begin with. Immediately the toasting effect of the bright sun was eliminated as they entered the shade the alleyway provided. One small silver-lining, thought Rinnah as her eyes stung with tears of frustration.

Being Had and Having Enough

        The legendary gunman and priest charged down several streets chasing after the large group still firing back at them. Following them like avenging angels in hot pursuit of their fallen brethren, Wolfwood and Vash herded the attackers away from the car and the girls, pleasing Wolfwood to no end. Those few left behind were among the worse shots he had ever seen and he was confident Milly could drive them off or wing them. If they got close enough for her to hit them that is.

        Vash was in the lead the whole way, of course. The plant could run faster than a thomas if he had a mind to. Legs pounding and gasping for breath, Wolfwood panted out a quick, “Wait!” as they came to a stop several stores down from the head of the ally the men had dashed into.

        With dawning suspicion, Wolfwood realized that the men were giving up too easily now that priest and gunman had arrived in the center of the town. There was an eerie quiet settling around them like an oppressive weight that couldn’t be ignored.

        Wolfwood looked up and down the street. Not a car nor a pedestrian to be seen anywhere. To him it looked like Knive’s doing when Vash commented, “Knives must have emptied out the town or knocked everyone unconscious. I must be slipping,” He mused, “I didn’t notice anything unusual. Too caught up in that warning feeling I was getting that I didn’t see the desert for the dunes.”

        They found some crates stacked by a shop to position themselves behind and Wolfwood took that opportunity to catch his breath while Vash took the opportunity to reload. He exchanged the spent rounds and let them drop to the ground at his feet before pulling out a cartridge quick-loader. Once finished, he snapped his gun shut with a quick flick of his wrist, and pointed the tip up as he looked around.

        Wolfwood voiced a thought that had just occurred to him, “You know... Even on our street there wasn’t much traffic when we arrived... Except for some trucks...” The priest and gunman looked at each other, a thought striking them both at the same time. A street in front of a hotel with no traffic? How stupid were they not to have seen the obvious? Vash burned with an inner anger from deep within. Wolfwood slapped the heel of his palm to his forehead with a grimace. Nothing was going right today. He looked up in time to see a flash of red cross Vash’s eyes. Doing a double take he started to open his mouth to inquire when he decided that it was just a figment of his imagination. He forgot about when his attention was redirected elsewhere by the sudden commotion in the street.

        Wolfwood looked over in disbelief. Their attackers burst from the cover of the alley in a frantic rush, dashing out into the middle of the street. They stopped for a moment to stare at Vash and Wolfwood while Vash and Wolfwood stared back at them, caught off guard by their apparently senseless suicidal maneuver.

        Vash regained his composure first as Wolfwood muttered, “Crazy, idiots, or amateurs. The world is full of them and we seem to have stumbled on the mother lode.” He watched the group as it split into two. One group, the smaller one, rapidly retreated down the sidewalk to the end of the street and turned to disappear down the intersecting street. The larger group took off down an ally several buildings away from them.

        “Well that explains that. What do you...” a bullet sliced through the priest’s sleeve inches away from his cross cufflink. Furious at the near loss of his cufflink and also being caught unawares, he started to turn. Before he could finish his movement, Vash had already whirled, knees slightly bent, gun up and shooting in a smooth motion too fast for the eye to catch.

        A shot rang out and a gunman on the roof behind them fell over dead, shot through the forehead. Before the echo of the first shot faded away, Vash also shot the second gunman through the forehead like his comrade and his body fell to land next to the first man.

        Dropping his gaze from the roof to Vash, Wolfwood commented, “Yep. You’ve changed alright.” Not expecting an answer he laid some scattered warning shots down near the place where a few men poking their noses out from a corner. They must not have been with either group as there were only a couple of them. Mouth turning down in displeasure, he noticed that his gun was off by a few centimeters. Compensating for the drift, he kept up an erratic covering fire.

        Vash gestured, waited for the priest’s nod and they then ran over to the ally the men had disappeared down. Before following, he took a quick look down it and not spying any movement cast a glance at the priest as if to ask, ‘Ready?’ Wolfwood nodded.

        Alert and motionless, the only part of them moving were narrowed eyes rapidly scrutinized the long passage. Deciding it was safe, the two gunmen walked into the ally, scanning for any sign of a trap. Which didn’t seem likely with these less-than-bright ambushers.

        The only thing either man could hear was his own ragged breathing although Vash didn’t seem to be as winded which the priest thought most unfair. But then, it wasn’t easy to hare off after bad guys while carrying an extremely large and heavy cross filled with ammunition, even for him and he was used to hauling it around.

        Vash spoke up, startling Wolfwood who looked at him briefly out of the corner of his eye before returning to sweep the ally with sharp eyes.

        Vash, answering his comment from earlier, said, “Think of it as finally coming to an understanding.”

        They were near the head of the other end of the ally and paused, listening, but weren’t surprised when they didn‘t hear any noise, such steps running away from them. Wolfwood leaned against the wall, grateful for the respite while Vash took point near the corner, searching for any movement in the street.

        “Which is?” Wolfwood asked, curious.

        “I understand that if we don’t kill them, they will kill us.”

        Wolfwood grunted. His philosophy from the very start. Hadn’t he said before that luck and persistence wouldn’t last forever? No one ever listened to him.

        The priest took a moment to study the outlaw. He had known there were changes as he had been in the eye of the storm a few times himself and had come perilously close to being killed. This time though he was seeing it with new eyes. He clearly saw the changes over the past that brought Vash to this point. A killer had been formed in Vash. Knives would probably be surprised and pleased, at first. Wolfwood’s opinion was that Knives was clueless as to what he had unintentionally awakened in Vash. A devourer that would turn and devour the very one cheering it on.

        In the life before, Vash’s philosophy was ‘where there’s life, there’s always hope for change‘. Vash had lost whole chunks of himself along with many of his long-held beliefs and so quickly too. A pang of pity flashed through the priest, an emotion he rarely felt where Vash was concerned. Vash felt the stare and looked up with calloused eyes, a flat aqua dulled in color in a face hard as stone. Wolfwood was not one to judge, he was well aware of that. He accepted the change whether he liked it or not but did feel a ache of regret for the gentle Vash he used to know.

        Vash watched the dark gray eyes studying him and knew that Wolfwood would not be one to turn from him in judgment or disgust. More than ever they were brothers of the gun bound by bullet and blood. He nodded an understanding at the priest’s unspoken acceptance and his own return acceptance of the priest. They had come a long way together. There wasn’t anyone he would rather have fight at his side than Wolfwood. Wolfwood nodded back. Nothing needed to be said.

        Vash waved Wolfwood to follow him and stepped out from the ally way.

        Wolfwood narrowed his eyes. “I don’t like this. They’re not trying very hard to kill us... I‘m almost insulted.” He threw a quick glance up and down the street and rooftops. “We’re being lured into a trap.”

        “No, we are being lured away rather than being lured to... The question is why?”

        Wolfwood jerked his chin toward an ally several buildings down. “They went that way. And they’re hiding there waiting for us.” Vash didn’t ask how Wolfwood knew that. Sometimes the priest was just uncanny in his ability to recognize when danger was threatening.

        “If we take one of them alive we might get some answers. Then we wouldn’t have to keep chasing them around, which sounds like a whole lot less work to me and I‘m all for that.” He stopped as he saw the darkening expression on Vash’s face and exhaled sharply. Maybe not. Vash wasn’t in a forgiving mood at the moment.

        “I don’t think we need....” And stopped, eyes going wide and breath expelled from his lungs. A feral blue glow began filling his eye sockets. “Knives! He’s here!” His face contorted with a consuming rage and burning hatred transforming him into something and someone unrecognizable.

        “Damn! We didn’t need this!” Then realizing something, “Hey, how’d you know? I thought you were cut off from your family.”

        “I am, but Rinnah’s not.”

        “Which means, what, to me a non-plant person?”

        Vash hesitated then explained, “She connected us that night in the desert and never broke the link. I don’t think she realizes,.... no, I know she doesn’t realize that.”

        Wolfwood tried to think of what the implications of that piece of information could be and came up blank. “So, again I ask, which means, what exactly?”

        “We need to get back to the car.”

        “Dammit Vash!” The priest exploded, “Why didn’t you just say so in the first place?!” Wolfwood spun and ran back down the ally the way they had come only to find the group they decided not to follow blocking the end of the ally. This was just making him feel oh so special. He growled.

        “That’s why.” Vash said and waited for Wolfwood as he slowly and cautiously made his way back, all the while keeping his eyes on the group.

        “How do you want to handle this? Because I already know what I am going to do if you don’t.” Wolfwood said through gritted teeth. He wasn’t worried about being overrun. Both of them could easily take this many on and come out unscathed.

        “Knives! What are you up to now?” Vash asked softly as he waited for the first move from the group milling around opposite them.

        “Forget your crazy brother, this is not the time! We got other problems right now!” Snarled Wolfwood.

The Pleasure of Your Presence
        Rinnah squinted at the bright stab of sunlight piercing her eyes as they came out of the gloom of the ally. Eyes squinting in protest to the sudden glare of the suns, she blinked waiting for her eyes to adjust to the brightness. When she was able to look around she saw they were now behind the hotel in a large area used for deliveries. Attached to the hotel along the backside was a loading dock and area for the garbage bins. There were several large doors, Rinnah sniffed, one obviously for the kitchen, then laundry services and one for supplies.

        She wondered where everyone was. This being a pretty-good size hotel there should have been some kind of activity, people moving around taking care of errands and chores. It felt like a ghost town, definitely creepy. Not a sound of activity of people bustling about their daily business. When she replayed the afternoon back in her mind, she realized there was a notable absence of people out on the sidewalks and streets for a good while now. In fact, sometime shortly before the attack. This is what she got for not paying attention to the lack of normal activity. How had she missed it? Of course she had been a little preoccupied with being paralyzed. That could be used as an excuse. But still, where was everyone? Did they just up and leave town because they knew something like this was going to happen? That didn’t seem sensible. Most people will leave a shoot out at a high rate of speed, but to empty out the streets in either direction? Highly unlikely.

        Remembering her friend, she craned her neck trying to get a glimpse of Milly. A burning anger flared again as she observed the same blank expression on her friend’s face. She was going to try one more time to find power, anything to tip the odds in their favor. Rinnah could feel anger drilling away at her brain and making her blood rush through her veins in a frenzy. Then she felt it, just a flicker really, but hope stirred and as it did, the spark faded. Puzzled, she wondered what that meant.

        The hybrid glanced again at Milly’s face. It was so blank, so devoid of anything that was “milly-ness“, reminding Rinnah of all the old scary stories she used to read about zombies and pawns of creatures of the night. To come up against it in reality, that was a horse of... er thomas of a different color and it was really ticking her off, in fact it made her so mad that.... there it was again, that faint flicker. This time she refused to let herself feel anything positive and concentrated on the anger. Could she get it to build, and if so, how? She started to close her eyes and sink into an awareness of her ‘pathic self to try and discover if this was an inherited trait she was heretofore unaware of when the handler carrying her jostled her.

        “No, dear lady.” The vertical mummy spoke, voice smooth and cold again as polished marble cutting through and breaking her concentration.

        Eyes flashing she whipped her head to stare at him. He only smiled at her expression of wrath.

        “I do not know what you are trying to do but be advised that such an attempt would not be healthy... for some people.” Rinnah saw his eyes come to rest on Milly in implied threat.

        “Okay. You got me, you warped piece of furniture! For now.” Her eyes grim and narrowed as her lips compressed tightly in a thin line. For a brief instant Legato thought he witnessed her eyes light up in a recognizable blue glow but it disappeared so quickly he wasn’t sure if he saw it or imagined it. He would have to watch this one closely. Something told him that she could be dangerous to the Master‘s plans.

        At the other end of the large compound, a truck was parked. The back of it was facing them with the door rolled up. As they came to a halt at the back Rinnah observed with horror filling her eyes, two gurneys with bottles and IV’s hanging at their heads. In the back of the truck with the gurneys were two waiting medical personnel, one male, and one female. Without a word they hopped down from the back and stood waiting for instructions.

        Rinnah sucked in a breath that caught in her throat in mounting terror. For her this was a nightmare come to life. She hated medical equipment of any kind, hospitals filled with sharp, clean instruments, the carts full of trays wheeled down the long corridors in the small hours of the night accompanied with the squeaking of shoes of a night shift nurse. She could almost sense the smell of attempted antiseptic cleanliness trying to mask the smell of wounds, bleeding, and death as memories flooded past barriers of forced forgetfulness. Bottles, tubes, needles, and sharp instruments together with that particular hospital odor haunted Rinnah in her worst nightmares. It was one time when she and her twin had been kidnapped as children. She was totally intent on spending the rest of her life trying to forget the whole horrible incident.

        Outside of that occasion she rarely allowed a medical person to touch her and when she did it was her friend and doctor, Rachel who had Rinnah’s best interests at heart. Rinnah’s breathing sped up, sweat broke out on her forehead and her heart began pounding painfully in her chest. She would kill someone or herself before she allowed herself to be put in that truck or on the gurney with lines hanging down from bottles like spider web strands waiting for a victim.

        The medics were facing Legato and hadn’t moved or twitched a muscle as they waited on his instructions. No expression of any kind crossed his face but, once again, must have silently communicated his wishes to them as Milly walked out from behind him and headed for the truck. The medics, or whatever they were, took her by the elbows, not roughly or gently, but so coldly profession it spoke of an evil more frightening for all it’s impersonal quality than if they had grabbed and violently thrown her around.

        In anguish Rinnah called out, “Milly!” And turned hate-filled eyes promising dire retribution to the living mummy that there would be a time when she would be released of captivity and immediately would be free to deal with him in such a manner as she deemed necessary. “Damn you Imotep! You.” She stopped to catch and hold his attention. “Are a dead man.” She hissed the rest through tightly clamped teeth.

        “I already am dear lady.”

        She cocked her head at him and took a moment to study him. He had a point. A half-dead man already wrapped up for burial. What could she possibly threaten him with?

        Turning her eyes away she whispered loud enough for him to hear, “Why are you doing this?”

        “It is my Master’s wish. I live only to serve him.”

        She rolled her eyes. Fanatics. “Of course! So, when do I get to meet Ramses, eh bandage boy?” The insistent smart-ass alter ego was never far out of reach. Someday it was going to get her into trouble, but then, when wasn’t she in some kind of trouble or another?

        “You certainly are full of the fire of life. You will do well.”

        “I already do well enough, thank you very much. So, why doesn’t he just have us killed and be done with it?”

        What would have been a beatific, worshipping smile on the face of an angel while gazing into the Light of the Holy Face, on him was a empty mask empty covering the insane fires of Hades that smoldered in his eyes. Rinnah shuddered; he was easily the creepiest person she had ever met, if not the strangest.

        “Dear lady...”

        “And stop calling me that!”

        “No. I do not believe I will.” He said so softly she could have missed it in her anger if she hadn’t already been so focused on his face. Clenching fists Rinnah desperately wished for the hundredth time that her legs were working. A groan escaped her lips as she closed her eyes in bitter regret. The legs were tingling, that was something, but not quickly enough to suit her.

        “Dear lady, you will be a part of a holy purpose. Your miserable, wretched life will be filled with glory and purpose.”

        With eyes still closed she muttered back at him, “I like my life just the way it is. I worked hard and long to get to it this miserable and wretched! I don‘t need anyone screwing up all my hard won efforts now!”

        Rinnah Blackfire had rarely had the opportunity to be so enraged while physically inactive at the same time. When angry, she usually acted upon it. Seething in her helplessness, she almost missed it. Someone was approaching from behind her and they were heralding their arrival with a powerful and overwhelming aroma.

        She may have not caught it while they were a good distance away but it was a quite distinctive. Plant. It smelled so much like Vash she wondered for a brief second if it could be him before she identified a different personality signature at the base that was definitely unlike Vash’s scent. It had it’s own distinct and individual aroma at the root.

        Rinnah’s attention was wrenched away as she watched the medical attendants move around the gurney with Milly stretched out on it still in her trance-like state. They had rolled up the sleeve of her coat and shirt before strapping her down. The hybrid leaned forward wanting desperately to be able to help her friend and worried about what they were doing to her. They began hooking up needles to the tubes and Rinnah winced as one was inserted under Milly’s pale skin. It made her queasy to watch. She looked down to the ground and tried to take calming breaths. And just why isn’t this smelly freak of nature getting tired of holding me? I may not be fat but I am not a lightweight twig either.

        Slowly she became aware of a presence standing next to her side, along with a smell that was overpowering, raw and sensual. Defiantly, Rinnah kept her eyes on the ground. I don’t need to know, don’t want to know, wish I didn’t know, refuse to know.

        Seeing the woman ignore his glorious master, the living mummy commanded his servant to turn and ordered, “Greet my Lord and Master Knives, as he deserves.”

        Rinnah looked up and gave him the finger.

        The first genuine expression crossed Legato’s face and in that moment of time he was merely another human being. Scowling he rebuked her, “Insolent human dirt! You will be punished....”

        Knives held up a hand and his servant fell silent and bowed his head in submission.

        Ordinarily Knives would have been enraged at the female’s reaction but he was in too good of a humor. His plan was coming together splendidly. In fact, It couldn’t be going better. The two potential breeders were in his safekeeping and even now the trap was closing in on Vash.

        Curious, he slowly walked around his servant’s handler studying the woman. Her raged-filled eyes amused him immensely as they followed his progress. He allowed a small upturn of the lips to grace his handsome features.

        Coming to a halt in front of her and without turning to look at his servant he spoke out loud for the woman’s benefit, wanting her to know what was being said, “Is the tall one my brother’s whore?”

        “No Master, she belongs to Chapel.”

        Chapel? Knives smiled chillingly. This was an unexpected and pleasant surprise that could be made to work in his favor. He knew the tall woman was Meryl’s friend, but didn’t know that she belonged to Chapel.

        He cocked his head at Rinnah, contemplating, “This one is...?”

        In a contrite voice he said, “I do not know Master.” Clearly surprised Knives turned his head to Legato but refrained from speaking as he waited for his most loyal servant to explain.

        “I cannot access her mind.” Knives whipped his head back to stare at the woman with the impossibly blue eyes, his own widening in astonishment and disbelief. Legato began accessing the mind of the one known as Milly to get the answer to his Master’s question. Strange, there seemed to be some odd discrepancies here that.... His Master was speaking! Quickly he pulled himself out of the woman’s mind.

        “I don’t believe I recall running into a situation quite like this before. Most unusual. I wonder how you are able to do that?” Knives mused to himself, not expecting an answer as he intently studied woman’s face, but giving her the chance to respond.

        Rinnah scowled at him.

        “I see you are not going to cooperate and answer that, are you?” One eyebrow raised in amusement as he contemplated the female.

        “Swallow sand plant boy!”

        A hiss from Legato as he glared at the woman, the naked desire for her immediate death contorting his face.

        Knives spared him a glance that silenced his servant before turning his attention back to Rinnah.

        “How did you come by that information? Did Vash tell you?”

        “Feh. Vash. You. Imhotep over there. This toad who isn’t getting tired of holding my weight... This is the weirdest planet...” She stopped realizing what she had just about let slip.

        He narrowed his eyes at her, catching the slip.

        “Yes, you were about to say?” He spoke softly and came to stand next to her and leaning in so close that she could herself mirrored in the black of his pupils. Reaching up, he took her chin in his hand. When she went to push his hand away his other hand caught it and circled it with his long fingers. He squeezed his hand on her chin but although she frowned she didn’t cry out.

        He increasingly tightened the grip on her wrist and still, she didn’t make a sound. An eyebrow quirked up. The female should have been crying out in pain, if she were human. Pieces were starting to come together and he was beginning to form a theory. How could he have thought that a mere human could have entered the plant mind link without getting caught the first time? He wanted to get this one back to his medical people and have them run some tests. If what he was beginning to surmise was true, then a gift had dropped into his lap and the implications of it were staggering.

        “You stink.”

        Both eyebrows raised. That was... odd. Looking at her snapping eyes it was obvious that she wasn’t going to be cooperative by enlightening him. Indeed, he would be surprised if she decided to be agreeable and share any information at all.

        Curious, his eyes traveled over her features, probing and scrutinizing. A female plant angel walking about freely. That was what he was guessing from the pieces he was putting together. Yet, not one of his family. Unheard of. He glanced up at her hair; the obsidian black of it though, now that was puzzling. Were her powers drained? If so, how was she able to survive? If he knew her secret then he could apply to himself and Vash. But whether her powers were drained or not, it didn’t matter. Black hair meant she should be dead but she wasn’t. There had to be an answer for this, and he desperately wanted to know what it was. A mocking corner of his mouth lifted ever so slightly. He wondered if his idiot of a brother even realized what had been under his nose.

        “Ringing Cry.” The smile that touched his lips but didn’t reach his cold eyes which glittered in a way that made her feel very nervous. Still she made sure her face only conveyed anger.

        “What is your name?” He whispered, his breath softly tickling against the skin of her face.

        “That is my name, in Hebrew.” She let go of his wrists and tried to push herself and the holder back from him but his grip on her wrist and chin was too tight and unyielding. That wasn’t bothering her half as much as the fact that his face was just too damn close for comfort. He leaned in even more and his lips were brushing hers as he spoke. He was vastly amused with her futile attempts to pull away or push him away.

        Legato supplied, “Her name is Rinnah, Master.”

        The plant’s eyes searched her face, “Why the alias I wonder?” He took a step back and let his eye slowly travel over her neck, chest, waist and legs. “Healthy, strong, and certain abilities that humans don’t have so if what I am suspecting is true, the right species too. You’ll do, you will more than do.”

        Not liking where this seemed to be going, she diverted, anxious to change the subject, “Do? I will do nothing for you! I’m not a trained seal! Besides I‘m allergic to emotionally void, withered beings with empty souls, so if you could just back up a few steps I, for one, would be most happy.”

        With a smirk his frost-blue eyes came up to catch and hold fiery blue ones. “I’m sure you would... but I don’t think I will.” Continuing in a soft whisper that sent a shiver up her spine. “And so interesting that you should bring up an extinct animal and language from Old Earth. How did you know about either of them?“

        Damn. Somebody just take a big stick and beat me with it! Rinnah let slip more information in her nervousness and anger. What was wrong with her and why was she letting him get to her like this? No Antressla male had ever intimidated her like this before. No, just bring me the big stick and I’ll beat myself with it! What a surprise to find that he could make her feel this rising anxiety and nervousness. If it weren’t for the fact that Milly was still here and hooked up to some medication she was ready to crawl away as fast as she could not caring how undignified that would be, phobias don‘t give a whit about dignity, especially hers. But Milly needed her and she would stay with her, fear or no fear. There had to be a way of this situation and she was going to find it and get them both of it, even if she had to play nice in the sandbox for a while. And by her standards, she was being very nice.

        All contemplation evaporated as astonishment froze her when Knives leaned in that last breath of space left between them, and firmly covered her mouth possessively with his. She struggled for a moment before realizing that she was only amusing him further. It was only a brief period of time but an eternity too long for Rinnah when he finally broke the kiss. He chuckled as he beheld the outraged fury in hers and the rising color of rage in her cheeks. What the hell is it with these plant boys!

        “Plant, eh? You just thought ‘plant’ at me with a great deal of emotion behind it. I would like to know how and what you know about plants? It should be most amusing to find out now that you belong to me along with any power or abilities you have whether human or plant.”

        “NOT plant, you twitchy psychotic sorry snot-nosed excuse of a subhuman control freak!”

        Rinnah’s head snapped back and slammed into the toad’s chest as a striking hand slapped her hard across the face. Since when had she become such an easy target for people in a slap-happy mood? Yet she could barely hide the grin that wanted to rise to her mouth. She had found the trigger word. Everyone had one and his just happened to be the word ‘human’. How very interesting. He may be a perceptive observer but now she knew one of his weak spots. Knowing she wasn’t good at covering her thoughts as they too often showed up in her face, she chose an action to conceal her thoughts .

        It was awkward, given the position she was in still, Rinnah tried to swing back at him anyway. It was a worthless attempt but it would serve her purpose of distraction. He easily and effortlessly caught and held her fist immobile. He held it long enough while giving it a tight squeeze at the same time to show her that she was easily outmatched in strength. A slow smile spread across his face and he began to laugh.

        His shoulders were shaking with real mirth. “I see now why Vash keeps you around. You are most amusing. What do you do when you have been more than just kissed? Should I ask Vash or should I find out for myself?” He laughed outright at the expression on her face. It was priceless. It would be entertaining to keep tormenting her now that he knew what her vulnerable spot was, but he had other business that required his attention. Too bad. He hadn’t this much fun in ages.

        To her enormous relief Knives released her hand and stepped away.

        She was so angry she was ready to spit. Some plants just beg to be pruned! Instead she reached down inside of herself, without closing her eyes this time, and touched the well of ‘pathic power. She concentrated by focusing on the horizon of the sky. This was a personal first for her and she was somewhat surprised to be able to accomplish it. Hmmmm, something was there, a little tiny bit of something but she even as she reached for it, it kept slipping out of her mental grasp.

        She kept an eye on Knives as he faced Legato, obviously a soundless communication was going. Legato bowed his head and Knives turned away, without taking notice of any of them, which was fine by her.

        Rinnah watched Knives walk away. She could tell he had a lot on his mind. Hopefully that would work in her favor and keep him from noticing what she was going to attempt to do. Her eyes lingered on where he had turned the corner before slowly counting to twenty. Even as she was counting she eyed the opening of the truck as the attendant carrying her approached the back end. The last three counts were rushed together as the panicky hysteria came to the surface ready to erupt with force.

        Just when she felt the man carrying her start to lift her up towards back of the truck she reached down to the place of power within. Playtime was over.

        Cold sweat broke out all over her body as a ripping fear was unleashed along with the power and roared up from her hind brain past any restraints she had been using wrestling and winning control.

        The medical attendants reached for her with the same detached air of professionalism they used on Milly and the fear escalated beyond anything she was familiar with. It was frightening in its own strength. A barely discernable thought winged through, Great; I now have a phobia of fear! before a roaring fury accompanied the eruption and fear transformed into anger and power. The tidal wave of emotion washed through her breaking every immobilizing thought and body control placed upon her.

        As soon as she felt hands grip her arms she exploded up and out to land on her feet lightening quick and graceful sure as any cat. The carrier stood with arms outstretched and cupped as if he were still holding her, a vague expression of puzzlement crossing his half-wrapped face.

        Without hesitation Rinnah leaped straight up into the air and kicked out with both feet. Two medics went down in boneless heaps. Landing lightly on the balls of her feet, she threw out punch that knocked her previous mode of transportation into the same unconscious state. All of this happened in a blink of the eye. Stepping back to view at the results of her handiwork, she gave a small nod of satisfaction.

        Turning her attention to Legato she narrowed her eyes at him flaring blue even in the bright light of day. Seeing the blank look on his face she didn‘t need to read minds to know that he was transmitting a message to his Master.

        So upset by the attack and the fact that the female was inexplicably able to move around, he spoke as well as send his mental message. “Master, the female is loose!”

        The blank look faded as he returned to the moment with a glaring yellow eye containing venomous hatred for the ebony-haired female. Rinnah could feel him gathering for an attack. She moved, knowing he couldn’t hurt her but it was a most unpleasant sensation which she likened to the scratching of dung beetles skittering across the surface of her mind.

        She came up to him, put a hand on his chest and hesitated for just a moment she he could clearly read the intent in her face. When Rinnah could tell by the widening of his eye that he understood what she was going to do, she smiled sweetly at him.

        “Not wise dear lady.”

        “Never claimed to be.” she gave him a wry grin, and pushed. The bandaged man strapped into his vertical coffin went over backward landing with a loud and very rewarding thud on the ground.

        Rinnah leaped into the back of the truck and paused to study the IV in Milly’s arm before carefully and gently removing it. Snatching up a bandage, she smoothed it over where the needle had left a pinprick mark. She wrinkled her nose at whiff of something medicine-y. What was in this stuff anyway? Trying her best to ignore all the medical paraphernalia hanging on sides and shelves, she ripped the straps from Milly’s arms and legs. Bending to scoop Milly up, she became aware of a shadow blocking the light at the end of the truck accompanied by a low growling sound.

        Knives had been ready to turn another corner when he heard Legato’s mental cry and stopped cold in his tracks. This was impossible. How could the female have broken the mental bonds keeping her physical body in bondage? She shouldn’t have been able to move. Yet from the flash of images being sent to him by his servant he saw her leap and attack with a speed unrivaled by any human. His mouth set in a flat line of annoyance as he sprinted back to the truck. The amazement he felt was overshadowed by the irritation and anger he was beginning to associate with this particular female, instead, a deepening frown etched his forehead.

        The plant arrived at the back of the truck to find the freed woman moving about without difficulty and not showing any effects of having been incapacitated prior to this. A low sound of irritation rose in his throat.

        In the same instant that she looked up from freeing her friend, Knives leaped up effortlessly into the back of the truck bed. These days he never engaged in fighting with humans. That was what a whole army of minions of human cannon fodder was for. The odious woman, a canker sore in his well-constructed plans, obviously needed his personal attention and he wasn’t pleased with her at all that he would have to dirty his hands to deal with her.

        First he launched a mental attack and followed through in a rush towards her with the intent on knocking her unconscious.

        Just as determined in her own intentions not to be taken captive again, Rinnah knew she had the ever so slight advantage with the element of surprise. Right away she saw by the way he was leaving himself wide open he believed her to be human even if he had his doubts. A few clues here and there while speculating still, all the puzzle pieces weren’t connected yet. Regretting that her reaction to his attack would only confirm his already spot-on guesses, she countered his fist mid-air, lifting it up and away so it slid past her head harmlessly. The look of shock on his face was so gratifying to her that she wished she was able to take the time to savor and delight in the glow of pleasure it gave her. But now she knew something else about him and that was that plant boy wasn’t used to fighting in hand to hand combat. He was stronger than she was but Rinnah was confident that she could beat him in a fair fight as she was going to do right now.

        Knives was surprised at the speed at which she moved, speed he believed only he and his brother possessed. However, he couldn’t contain the sneer at the blocking maneuver. Such an unsophisticated move. A twisted smile took shape as he moved in closer. He would simply...

        The world turned black as his gut and head exploded with pain. She had launched a blow to both at plant speed. She was plant! That could only be the answer! Losing all coherent thought he heard her mental message, “*NOT plant you pathetic soulless star striker!*” Pain worse than he had ever experienced raced up and down his nerves, radiating throughout his body. In response he instinctively bent and folded his arms protectively over his midriff before falling to his knees retching and gasping. Slumping against the wall, he fought unconsciousness as well as against the nausea that threatened.

        Rinnah was disappointed. She had packed power in those two punches thinking they would put him down and out for a while, or puking up his lunch. That was the plan at any rate, but he was still conscious even if incapacitated for the moment. Deciding not to take the time to knock him out, she turned and bent to scoop Milly if as if she were a child‘s weight rather than a full grown very tall woman.

        Breathing in gasping pants, it was not lost on Knives how little effort it took for the black-haired snake to lift her friend and leap out the back to land lightly on her feet before her running footsteps faded into the distance at an inhuman speed.

        The plant slowly became aware of Legato’s frantic mental voice calling out to him. With churning resentment and something that was painful but he couldn‘t identify, wait,... Was this humiliation? Struggling to stand though his sides were still heaving and the taste of bile in the back of his throat, the plant felt his day spinning out of control.

        With a mental thrust in Legato‘s direction he commanded the human to stop his incessant mind shouts. The crippled human had no idea how close he was to losing his life. The only thing that saved Legato from a quick death was the fact he was flat on his back and visibly missed witnessing the attack.

        Legato heard of course but could only assume what the noises had meant. He could tell that the despicable female had hurt the Master but what had she done to him!? Heart beating with apprehension and near panic he tried to calm himself. Legato was having a mini-crisis in his faith. How could this happen to the perfect superior being that was his lord and master? Who and what was this unholy abomination?

        Suddenly the courtyard was filling up with men. Legato’s urgent call having gone out earlier and the ones who were the closest were arriving.

        By this time, Knives was able to stand, even if shoulders were somewhat hunched over, but to his men, it only looked like he was too tall to fit in the truck standing upright. No one noticed the pallor of his face, merely that it was twisted with rage. Not trusting his voice, Knives started giving mental commands to Legato to pass on to others. If the woman was able to avoid his men converging on this place that meant she had followed the only avenue left open to her. The back alley led to the cliffs above the Sea of Burning Sand.

        His men scattered, eager to carry out his orders. His eyes, usually so aloof and cold were burning hot as blue coals as they took in the scene around him. Someone had righted Legato so that he was vertical once again. The medical attendants were moved to the shade and made comfortable.

        Knives slowly eased himself down from the truck. The hellish creature could hit hard. He could still feel where her blow landed, indeed, his teeth felt loose on one side of his jaw and he didn’t think he would be able to eat for many hours yet. It helped being a quick healer, but he would make sure she paid for her transgression.

        Legato had his eyes lowered in deference to his master. “What are your wishes Master? Do you wish me to have her killed?”

        “No.” The word was heavy, weighted with intermingled pain and rage. “I want her alive, understand?”

        “Yes Master, as you will. I cannot follow her mind but I can follow the other one. They are headed for the cliff.”

        Knives allowed a smirk to show. As he had thought.

* * * * * * *

        For a very good reason the town was named Last Chance. It was built with it’s back against the cliff overlooking the Sea of Burning Sand, the spawning and nursery ground of the great worms. The adult worms were very aggressive in defending their territory. No one traveled those sands unless they were looking for a messy and painful way to die, eaten and digested in a worm‘s stomach. In past years everyone who tried to explore the desert in that direction never returned. After a while it became known as the Route to Hell, or the Path to Nowhere. No matter what name people placed upon it, it was soon known as an area to be avoided.

        At certain times of the year hundreds, maybe thousands of great worms could be seen burrowing through the dunes, leaping up from the ground only to dive back into the sand much like the mythical dolphins on lost Earth. At those times the sands were seen churning and writhing, looking much like the worms themselves as the ground was disturbed by the migration of these mammoth sand dwellers. Great plumes of sand could be witnessed erupting into the air from iles away. This would go on for weeks until suddenly, one day, the desert was quiet once again as the worms departed back to wherever it was they had come from.

On the Wings of a Prayer
       Rinnah was sitting against a wall next to a barrel, panting. She had found the last house on the outskirts of town. From there the town just stopped. She had found the edge of town but to her consternation and shock it dropped off the edge of a cliff beyond a large clear area. Great. Looking up at the sky she whispered, “Hey! Is this your day off or something? I could use a little inspiration here and if not that, then some divine freaking intervention wouldn‘t hurt!!”

        At the moment Milly was lying down along the wall beside her. It wouldn’t have fooled anyone intent on a careful search of the area, but maybe it would mislead the casual glance in their direction. She snorted. In Rinnah’s experience, she didn’t have that kind of luck, but it was better than nothing. She scooted closer to the building. The main objective was to get Milly conscious and fear was she wouldn’t be given the time to wait for the taller woman to wake up. Star chips down on the stellar cloud mark that Knives was furious and out for blood, specifically, her blood.

        “Milly. Milly.” Rinnah tried again and was rewarded to see Milly flicker her eyes open for a second before closing them again. “Five more minutes big big brother.” Then rolled over onto her side. Rinnah wondered again what was in the stuff they had been pumping into her. Thankfully the IV wasn’t in that long. Hoping it was a sedative but what could she do about it if it wasn’t? Absolutely nothing.

        She tried again. “Milly. Come on Milly, we’re in a bit of pickle here so it would be nice if you woke up and joined the party.”

        Milly reached up to bat away the hand shaking her shoulder. She didn’t want to get up; she didn’t care if she was late for school again. Then her eyes popped open. She sat up quickly and then regretted it as she grabbed her aching temples. Her mouth was dry and her head felt too heavy for her neck. Had she been in an accident? Slowly she became aware of someone talking to her in an urgent tone. She identified the voice and focused her bleary eyes on Rinnah, recognition slow in coming.

        The tall woman gazed around taking stock of her surrounding. She was sitting on the ground with her back to the wall and Rinnah was supporting her so she didn’t fall over sideways. What had happened? Why were they here? Where was here? And why did her head hurt so bad?

        She moved her head to look at Rinnah who was staring back at her with evident worry in every line of her face.

        Milly was confused. The last thing she remembered she was squatting by the vehicle returning fire and had heard a voice in her head.... And that was it.

        She took in the cliff and knew they were still in Last Chance but obviously no where near the hotel.



        “Why are we here?”

        “Making a getaway that done got away without us.”

        Processing that, Milly laid a finger on her cheek. It sounded like they were in trouble again and trying hard to get out of it. Some things never change. Just another day in her life like any other day since joining up with one Vash the Stampede. Okay. Next question.

        “How did we get here?”

        “I got here by running away and you got here by me carrying you while I as running away.”

        Feeling sluggish as if from waking up from a long nap, she asked, “Who are we running away from?”

        ‘Knives and Legato.”

        “Oh dear!” Good reason, no TWO good reasons to run away. She realized Rinnah was speaking and focused on what she was saying.

        “.... I thought that if we could get far enough away from them to the outskirts of town, then we could circle back around behind them. I didn’t know we would be running into a stinking cliff!”

        “The only way back is the way we came or the alley five houses over. But it looks like both lead to that courtyard we were in... And why am I telling you this when you won’t even remember being there! Anyway, we are sort of stuck. I apologize Milly, I think I was herded in this direction and I fell for it.” She ended up on a bitter note, making a face at her own stupidity.

        “Yep,” She went on, “The only way into town is back the way we came and I am pretty sure there is bound to be one pissed-off plant-boy blocking the way.”

        Milly closed her eyes for a second. As Nicholas would say, “This is bad.” Yet, since she was not one to give into despair without a fight, she opened her eyes with a grim determination to find a way out of the mess they were in.

        Rinnah had her eyes shut testing the boundaries of her strength. That burst of earlier was still there. She had no idea where it had come from if not from the fear, but was grateful for what was there. On top of that she was beginning to get an idea. She looked at the cliff then back at Milly, back to the cliff thinking wild thoughts of freedom. She was not one to look a gift thomas in the mouth.

        Motioning with a finger across the empty expanse to the cliff and beyond, she asked, “What’s down there?”

        Milly had been gaining her strength and color had returned into her face.

        “Oh no. Oh no.” Her face drained of the newly acquired color. She had a sneaky suspicion that Rinnah was planning suggesting they scale down the cliff. Maybe they could with her unique abilities but that still meant facing the worms of the desert. “We can’t climb down the cliff if that is what you are thinking. It’s too steep. Even if we could the worms would be waiting for us. We wouldn’t stand a chance down there.” A wave of dizziness washed over her, “Oh my.” She lowered her forehead onto her knees taking in slow breaths.

        “Come on.” Rinnah said as she stood to her and stretched out a hand to help Milly to hers. “I gotta see this.” Reluctantly Milly let herself be helped to her feet. She was not eager to see at all.

        It took them longer to get to the edge as it was quite a ways from the last house due to the optical illusion of it seeming to be closer than it actually was. When Rinnah got closer to the cliff’s edge she lowered to all fours and crawled the rest of the way to peer over the side. She wasn’t looking to stir up her fear of heights but she did need to know how far down the desert floor was.

        Even as she stuck her head over and estimated the distance a wave of vertigo slammed into her making her head spin with dizziness. She scrambled back from the edge in a hurry, yet pleased to note that it was a very long way down to the ground.

        “Rinnah, you don’t look so good. Maybe we should back away even further.”

        “Good idea. Sound thinking and excellent presentation. Committee is convinced. All in favor say ‘aye’, motion carries.” Even as she as speaking Rinnah continued to crawl backwards a few more paces before trusting herself to stand. Even then her knees felt shaky and weak. This time it was Milly helping Rinnah to stand.

        “You know, I’m getting sick of this town, not to mention it’s just too flipping high in the air! Why didn’t someone tell me the edge of town drops off into nowhere?”

        “Gee Rinnah, we only came for supplies and everyone knows why the town is called Last Chance.”

        “Were you NOT at the campfire when I told my life story? NOT from around here, remember?” She said with just a trace of leftover panic in her voice.

        “Oh.” Milly considered and then smiled. “That’s right, I keep forgetting now that I have gotten used to you.” Rinnah rolled her eyes.

        “Okay, well let’s see if we can get...” She trailed off as from out of the two alleys came a horde of men. They gathered in a loose semi-circle making escape by either alley impossibility.

        “I hate that plant boy!” Muttered Rinnah darkly.

        Still, they backed up again with Rinnah keeping a cautious and watchful eye as they drew closer to the edge.

        To Milly the choice was as obvious as it was simple, plant or worm. Some choice. It really sucked. She was fervently wishing she had her large revolver and also, with deep regret, one last kiss from Nicholas. She sent up a quick and heartfelt prayer for his safety wherever he was.

        Rinnah looked over her shoulder at the edge of the cliff nipping at her heels. Another wave of stomach wrenching vertigo washed over her. She took a few deep breaths. Then, glancing around at the slowly advancing group Rinnah knew their back was against the wall, or in this case, the cliff. Starting to feel sweat tingle in her armpits and across her brow, she knew what her decision would be, she only had to get up the nerve now to carry it out.

        Milly slid her hand into the pocket that had a hidden slit within it. She kept a small knife stashed there. Frowning, her eyes roamed across the mob. There would be a fight, one she knew they wouldn’t win but she had no intention of giving up easily. Her hand curled around the knife handle. The sheath was sewn into the hidden opening and a loop of string held it in place. Gearing herself up, muscles tense, she....

        ... Was being poked in the shoulder. Blinking she turned wondering eyes to Rinnah who was looking a little on edge. Oh look, I made a funny! And giggled even as Rinnah waited impatiently for her full attention.

        “Hello?! Are you even on the same planet? For a minute there it looked like you had your head stuck in a repeating energy loop coil.” Snapped out the hybrid who was wound pretty tightly herself at the moment.

        Milly’s eyes glazed over while she tried to figure that remark out. Understanding the gist of it she decided it was safe to nod, which seemed to satisfy Rinnah.

        “Okay Milly. I need to ask you something.”

        “Yes?” And seeing movement to the side Milly turned wary eyes to notice the crowd of men move a little closer.

        “Milly, look at me.” Rinnah insisted. “I really need you to look at me.”

        Milly turned back to look into eyes an incandescent blue and felt the hair rising on the back of her neck. The blue of Rinnah’s eyes was getting brighter; in fact, a blue glow was forming making her irises seem larger and larger and brighter and brighter with each passing second. Milly felt her mouth drop open. There was an electric intensity building in their vicinity crackling and snapping in the air around them.

        “Milly, do you trust me?”

        “Milly would have laughed at that but was too tightly wound up in the tension of the situation. She spared a glance again at the ring closing in.

        “Uh Rinnah, this really isn’t a good time to talk about this, but you know I trust you.”

        “Good, that’s all I need to...”

        Just then they heard the murmur go through the men around them and looked up in time to watch as it parted to let Knives through.

        He stopped close enough that he didn’t have to raise his voice to be heard. With mouth crooked up in obvious amusement at their dilemma he asked, cocking an eyebrow, “Won’t you ladies reconsider and surrender?” Really these humans with their melodramatic deeds. He knew that their basic instinct for survival would make them hesitate. If he played this just right, they would be able to talk the women away from the edge and then his men would rush them.

        His eyes had been on the tall one as he knew she had a hand on a hidden weapon, most likely a knife. She wasn’t the type to use it right away, she would wait until she felt there was no other option or choice left to her. He crossed his arms over his chest and turned his gaze to the black-haired female and started in surprise at what he saw.

        Her eyes were glowing blue. He stood stock-still, unable to even twitch a muscle.

        Rinnah looked at him for a second wondering what it was that had his mouth hanging open like that. Dismissing it as unimportant, she turned back to Milly.

        “Are you ready?”

        “Sure....” Replied Milly, then with eyebrows puckered in confusion she asked, “For what?”

        “You’re going to get your wish Milly.”

        “I am?”

        “You are.”

        “What did I wish for?”

        Ignoring the question Rinnah went on, “I’m about to do something reckless.” Really, must Milly feel the need to smile like that? ....”But I want you to know that we’re going to be okay.”


        Rinnah was mildly surprised. She was expecting a whole lot more skepticism than she was getting.

        Out of the corner of her eye she noticed Knives was recovered from whatever had caused him to freeze up earlier, enough even to the point of taking a step towards them with an odd look on his face.

        “Showtime Milly.”

        “Huh?...” Milly didn’t have time to say anything else as Rinnah grabbed her in a tight grip.

        Milly responded with a shriek that quickly escalated into a high pitched scream. Rinnah had indeed thrown them both backwards to fall over the side.

        Rinnah didn’t have to worry about Milly not hanging on. Yes, the tall girl was hanging on real good, in fact, Milly’s panicked clutch was making it hard to breathe. Plummeting to a certain death has that effect on some people.

        “Some trust!” Shouted Rinnah. As they fell toward the desert floor, the sides of the cliff went rushing past them at an ever-increasing speed. Milly was too busy to answer. She was reliving her life and saying a mental goodbye to everyone. Her greatest regret was that she and Mr. Priest hadn’t had a chance to get married and settle down to raise a big family. Mr. Priest! Her heart constricted and she closed her eyes. Clearly the day couldn't get much worse than this.

Blackfire & Gunsmoke: Chapter 11
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