So this week in Chuck Wendig’s Challenge, we had to to play Dr. Frankenstein and create a hybrid of two genres. My two randomly assigned genres were:
I must confess I found it difficult to reconcile the confined spaces and crowded feel of the interbellum imagery with the more open spaces and the promise of freedom of the old west.
How did I do?
Robbing the Agua Fria Express
Clint looked at the map on his lap. He adjusted his hat to protect his eyes from the blinding sun and looked outside the tiny cockpit of the buzzing airplane. He recognized several features from around him: the Runner flowed lazily beneath them to the southwest; in the north, the charred Devil’s Peak stood ominously above a white cloud; the east was framed by the barely visible Rockies’. Clint turned backwards, lowering the bandana that covered his mouth. “We are in the right the place. Do you see anything?” he said to the short man at the controls of the airplane. “I can’ see squa’ in this smoke” replied the short man. Clint turned around and started methodically scanning the horizon. They weren’t too late, and they weren’t too soon either. It had to be here somewhere. Suddenly, a shout stood out from the loud noise of the engines. Clint instinctively followed it. On another airplane, Luke, the “Preacher”, was pointing to the horizon. Clint followed Luke’s hand, squinting along the way. There it was. Right now, it was just a glinting speck of dust suspended in the air, but not for long. Clint signaled his companions and, like a well choreographed band of ducks, all five airplanes turned and began to march as one. The glinting speck of dust began to grow. At first only the enormous balloons filled with helium were visible. Then, the giant nacelles hiding the engine’s blades. Lastly, the string of darkened steel carriages became visible. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Agua Fria Express” thought Clint as his plane approached the train. The express was a monster of a vehicle. Twenty four steel carriages suspended by four times as many balloons. Clint readied his faithful revolver with one hand, using the other hand to signal his pilot. They had worked together for so long, they no longer needed to say any words.
The airplane jerked irregularly from side to side. The whole structure bended and twisted to frightening angles. Here and there, loud cracking noises momentarily drowned the gargling of the engine. Most people wouldn’t set foot in such a machine. Clint wasn’t like most people. He and ‘Old Bessy’ had a special relation. She complained. She complained a lot. But she never let him down. No matter how much oil she lost, no matter how many airfoils were stuck, no matter how battered her wings became, she always did her job. This time it was no different. In spite of the painful cries of warping metal, Old Bessy’s erratic trajectory managed to avoid the few scattered shots coming from the train, and the plane found the top of one of the forward balloons. Clint released his seat belt and jumped on the fluffy sea of silver below. The cover was slippery. No doubt grease to keep the heat of lightning bolts from damaging the balloon. He tried to get up, only to slide down towards the edge of the balloon. The grease was making Clint pick up speed in his descent towards the abyss beneath. He instinctively stretched his arms trying to grasp a service rope, but his hands didn’t find any. With an effort, Clint tensed his neck and raised his head. The edge of the balloon was getting closer and closer, but not two meters to his left was a thick support rope. Not as good as the meshed net of a service rope, but Clint wasn’t in any position to be picky. Using his hands and feet, he steered his descent towards the rope, and wrapped his limbs around it. At one point, he even bit thick cable. It worked. Clint slowed to a standstill.
With a still burning hand, Clint adjusted his hat’s brim and surveyed his surroundings. He could hear the occasional shot coming from the train below, a sure sign his companions hadn’t reached the prize yet. To his left stood the imposing nacelle, a wooden cylinder, coated in silvery paint, big enough to fit a mule riding a horse. Inside, an invisible blade repeatedly sliced the air. Clint climbed the support rope to a point where it crossed a service rope. With his revolver in hand, he followed the service rope towards the nacelle. Despite the deafening sound from the nacelle, Clint carefully managed each step to minimize any noise. The nacelle’s service deck awaited for him at the end of the service rope. A man in uniform with a carbine was kneeling on it, searching the skies for the bandits. Clint cocked his ivory revolver. The man reacted to the intimidating sound by turning around. Just in time to hear Clint say “Mind that first step”. Bang! The impact of the bullet projected the corpse out of the service deck, into the void below. “It’s steep” concluded Clint with a half smile. Clint looked around, and quickly found what he was looking for. He headed towards the coupler and, remembering an unpleasant experience, made sure he was standing between the coupler and the balloon. He pulled the safety pin, and with a bit of effort, opened the claw of the coupler. The nacelle promptly sped past the balloon, only to spiral downwards shortly afterwards. It was done. Even with the other nacelle, the train could not move forward, only in circles. They now had all the time in the world. Or at least until the rangers start wondering why the train is late. But that shouldn’t happen for another day or two.
Clint climbed the service rope further down, to the top of the steel carriages. The Preacher was already waiting for him. “I thought you were the fastest man this side of the Colorado” teased the Preacher while adjusting his impeccably white collar. A pool of red blood connected his right boot to a nearby corpse. “You shouldn’t believe everything you hear, Luke” replied Clint while his eyes locked on the golden crucifix suspended on the Preacher’s chest. The Preacher threw his head back in a loud laugh “aren’t you feisty today?”. “You lovers can cuddle when we get back” interrupted One-eyed Bill as he climbed the carriage. “The way to the armoured car is clear. No thanks to any of you” his good eye fixed on Luke, while his glass eye, in an eerie coincidence, stared blankly at Clint. “Go deal with that, I’m going to deal with the engineer.” ordered Bill as he marched in heavy steps on the steel ceilings, his shoulders aggressively bumping into Clint’s. Both men stared at the figure until it disappeared at the end of the carriage. “The man has got a point. Time to get back to work” said the Preacher. Clint nodded and with a subtle motion of his hand invited Luke to climb down the ladder. “Ah, the ever gentleman” said the preacher as he accepted the invitation.
One-eyed Bill wasn’t kidding. The way was clear. There were bodies everywhere. Pieces that used to be held together by bones and skin littered the carriage’s floor. Clint suspected the red glint of the windows was also a recent addition. No-one had been spared. Men, women, children, elderly. No-one. Clint noticed some of them had severed fingers. And none had anything even remotely resembling jewelry. He might only have one eye, but he knew what he liked, and where to get it. Clint adjusted the brim of his hat in a futile attempt to reduce his field of vision. At his side, the Preacher’s bony hands were crossed and pressed to his chest while a smile, from which a tongue curled up, ripped his face. It didn’t take long for them to find the armoured car. The heavy steel door was a dead giveaway. “Do your thing” Clint said as he turned his back to the massive door. The Preacher didn’t waste any time. He caressed the door with one hand, while intonating some words in a long forgotten language. Soon after, a huge explosion blasted the door from its hinges. The inside was filled with stacks upon stacks of bills. As expected by the gang, the train carried the wages of all the miners in Agua Fria. Clint looked at the piles of money. He looked at his companion. His eyes fixed on the money again, only to look back at the pale man next to him. “Not yet. Soon” thought Clint, as he began to put the bills in bags.