Chapter 1: Spring in Summer
The sky was alive with the light of millions of stars. It would take years to mark each stars location and name them. The small camp of three with their small fire seemed lost amongst such grandiose imaginings. But the camp is much closer to the relevant story than the titans floating and shining in the sky.
The three campers sat around the small fire huddled to it for warmth and to hide its inconvenient light. The fire was a much needed necessity. It provided heat in the in-between time known as spring. Its days could feel like summer’s own rays but its nights had every bit of bitterness as the winter could muster.
One of the campers, the smallest, fidgeted restlessly as he stared into the fire. Like the others he wore a heavy long coat made of some canvas like material along with pieces of brown leather. The group looked rag tag. They could be mistaken for hopeless wanderers if it weren’t for their strong builds and defined muscles. Each wore a hat, a wide brimmed western sort of hat. Each hat was tilted low to hide the wearers’ eyes. This was more from habit than necessity. This was no bar room filled with curious eyes. This was a field, in the middle of no-man’s land, the land to far from a town to protect. This made it fair game for entrepreneurs to claim it or for vagrants to over run it. In either case the occupant squatting here would be subject to the lawless land. They would either join in the depravity of man without order or they would fall victim to it.
“Tank?” spoke the fidgeting camper.
“What?” asked the largest of the three. He was hunkered over towards the fire in a simian like pose. He was built much like a gorilla but with a strong jaw and intelligent eyes that were clearly human. He was clean shaven. No nicks marked his face. His steady hand and mechanical precision prevented any defacement. His eyes shifted to look not at Charlie, the questioner, but instead towards the other member of their group.
Knowing that he had Tank’s attention, regardless of where his eyes would wonder, he continued, “Why is the world like this?”
“Not again with this bullshit.” Spewed Danko as he shifted to his feet and walked away from the fire. “I’m going to make a quick sweep of the field while you tell the kid a bed time story.” He spat as he walked away. He had no patience and had been antsy since the camp had been put together and the waiting began.
Charlie was numbed to Danko’s reproach; a forty minute tongue lashing had cured him of that. He no longer took everything the man said entirely serious. This was just how Danko was. He was gruff and wouldn’t let anyone or anything forget that he was the coarsest thing in the room or under the sky as it were.
Tank let out a long held breath and shifted slightly to look in Charlie’s direction, “Well I suppose you never really had much of an education, well not about history and such.” A sympathetic smile hugged his face as he considered everything that needed to be said, everything that he had the time to say. Anything else could be held back for another time.
“I guess it stems from humanities need to possess. We want and we want but we don’t always deserve or earn what we get. In the early years they introduced a thing called credit. It basically means that people could buy something and pay for it later. People began living far beyond their means. They bought and spent with money they didn’t have. Eventually when it came time to pay for what they purchased, they couldn’t.” a branch snapped off in the direction Danko had left by. Tank put his narration on hold as he slipped to his feet and backed away from the fire. Charlie began his ascent to his feet but a subtle gesture from Tank sat him back in place.
Charlie sat there, staring into the fire. Two figures approached from the direction the branch had snapped. Charlie watched them as they walk toward him. His stomach felt empty. He was the bait to lure these two in. They might have seen Tank retreat into the brush and cover of darkness but Danko was surely still out there and alerted to their presence. That is what Charlie hoped anyway.
The two stepped into the ring of light cast by the pitiful fire. It could barely have been seen from a mile away at best. It was luck that had brought these two close enough to come within eye shot of the fire.
“Well what do we have here?” asked the larger of the two, he was Danko’s size. The other was smaller than even Charlie.
The other didn’t so much as acknowledge the question, he just scanned the small camp site. He wore a bandana over his face and his hat rode low. Only his eyes were exposed to the night.
Seeing that his partner wasn’t going to help play with the kid he continued on, “So, from the looks of things you aren’t traveling alone.” Charlie didn’t shift his gaze; he knew that the packs of his companions were a dead giveaway. Not only that but the horses tethered not ten yards away behind him were another clue that couldn’t be overlooked or lied away.
“C’mon out with it, we don’t have all night to beat this information out of you.” Exclaims the man as he steps forward. The man has his gun drawn and leveled at Charlie as he steps around the fire. With his other hand he swats at Charlie’s hat, knocking it free to tumble to the ground. Charlies head is exposed, he hair marking him for what he is.
“A Mohawk!” declares the man. “Well, where are your friends?” he asks as he begins to holster his weapon. As the gun slides home a large form tackles the man away from the Charlie and the fire. Judging from the leap alone it could have been a cougar. It was Danko.
A much larger form sidled up next to the silent man as he was distracted by the impromptu fight on the other side of the camp.
“Well, if it isn’t Dover and my good friend Jon stopped by to enjoy our fire and tell ghost stories,” said Tank as he pulled Dover into a familiar embrace. She pulled the bandana from her face to reveal a bright smile that had been showing in her bright blue star like eyes. Charlie wondered how he could have missed those feminine eyes before. He guessed that he had been paying far more attention to the man advancing at him with gun drawn.
Tank turned from Dover to survey the damage to the camp. The fire still sputtered on and the packs were all intact if not shaken up. All in all nothing had been disturbed more than Charlie. He looked fit to wet himself then and there. Tank smiled, a rookie could get quite worked up in the field. Field land was wild and it was dangerous. To most folks it was equated to the boogey man. Don’t get caught out there past dark. Never go there alone. Never go unarmed. All wise advice. But sometimes it was necessary to travel the broad stretches of land left unguarded by the failed government of old and surrounding townships.
Danko and Jon were pulling themselves apart. Their hats had been knocked off during their scuffle. Their heads were bare to the eyes of the night. The stars shone down their light upon two mohawked heads. They make quick work of slapping their hats back into place. Danko offered a punch to Jon’s shoulder as a sign of respect for Jon’s strength. Jon returned the sentiment and then settled into a sitting position to the left of Charlie. Danko started out into the darkness again.
At last Charlie found his voice, “I take it y’all know each other?” he asked with a strong yet shaken voice. He sat ridged upright but tilted a slight amount away from the new arrival. He reminded Tank of a dog that was gun shy.
“That’s right,” answered Jon as he pulled out a small book and a pen and began scribbling into it. He lost focus with the rest of the proceedings as he journaled, losing time to save memories of it.
“Well, that would be enough excitement for a night,” said Tank as he stepped away from Dover and their private conversation. “We need to make good time tomorrow; we have about half a day’s travel from here to get back to Summer. Dover tells me that we have a pretty big job to take care of when we get back.” He adjusted his hat and continued on, “The Jackson’s farm got hit.” Charlie started, in disbelief, to get to his feet. Jon threw a hand onto Charlie’s shoulder and applied weight to keep him on his seat.
“There were a couple of injured and two abductions. We are heading back to town to restock and then we head out to whatever town turns up a good lead. We will be working with other town militias and the Mohawks of other areas to get those girls back.” Tank allowed his features to lighten a bit as he went on, “There is good news. We caught one of the raiders alive. He is waiting for Danko’s practiced hand to pull some information from his lips.”
Charlie could contain himself no more, “No we need to go now! We can’t wait for tomorrow!” Jon lightly backhanded Charlie across the mouth as he made shushing noises.
“Thanks Jon but I can handle this,” chuckled Tank.
“No problem Tank,” said Jon as he went back to his writing.
Tank shook his head, “Well, we can wait till morning.” Charlie started to protest again, he even threw a protective arm up to prevent another slap to the face. Tank gestured for him to quiet and went on, “We are waiting, we need rest and we are going to get it. We will find no rest in Summer. As soon as we ride into town we will get pulled into the investigation. We need keen minds and strong bodies for the work ahead. Danko is already on route back to town if you hadn’t noticed.” Charlie turned to look but couldn’t make out anything in the darkness beyond the camp.
“Danko will have the information we need when we arrive. He does the best with little rest so it won’t be so bad,” explained Tank as he flopped onto his back. “Tomorrow we ride. Tomorrow we will see what can be done… and we will do it.”