Six helps Blake retrieve stolen gold with her usual tact and politeness.
I land a boot on Cur Johnson's muzzle. He spins away, howling.
The rest of the Pine City Gang close on me, razor grins gleaming.
Last time I do the lawbat a favor.
My boots crunch gravel. I spring into the air, twirling cork-screw fashion. My Colts flash like silver lightning in my paws. Dirt explodes below me, driving back the fistful of highwaymen. Two bounces later, I'm standing atop the stolen Wells Fargo stagecoach. The team of ponies neigh, all a-fluster, ready to bolt. Can't say as I blame them.
A masked bandito trains his rifle on me.
Sheriff Jordan Blake swoops down like the cloak of night, snatching the rifle from the flabbergasted pine marten. He tosses the iron my way.
Flipping one pistol back into a holster, I catch it-- Winchester '73, and not well cared for. Pity I don't have time to steal the bullets.
"Good thing ya asked 'em to surrender, sugarwings." I wallop a rat with the stock for climbing up toward me. "Working out right well."
The lawbat dives behind the stage as Cur Johnson's men set the air boiling with gunfire. "Hardly the time --huh!-- for your irreverence, Six!" His back's to the varnished wood of the coach.
The weight of an echo pulls my guns down. I drop, bullets screaming by my ears. They nick one of those and this bunny'll introduce them to all manner of unpleasantness.
My pistols hum again with echo. I fire, without looking, around the front of the wagon.
Splinters shower my paw. I shake them from my fur, checking for blood. Must have hit part of--
The stagecoach rumbles under me. Shit. I look up to see the team of ponies racing off with the splintered half of a hitch. I look behind me, down the hill. "Blake..."
"Still not the time, Six!" He's reloading that little Schofield pistol, blind to the fact his cover's leaving.
The gunfire hangs. Powder smoke hangs in the air, making my nose twitch.
Cur Johnson and his men watch, slack-muzzled, as their stolen stagecoach departs.
I could, by rights, plug them all right now, but they didn't kill the coach crew. What's more, I got thirty yards before I run outta mesa.
Blake snaps the cylinder back down into his gun and turns, coming eye to eye with the Pine City Pine Martens. They share a silent moment as I rumble away, rolling fast under the weight of the few dozen gold bars in its belly.
"Stop the coach!" Cur Johnson barks at his gang then unloads at Blake, who's scrambling behind a rock pile.
As one, the pine martens give chase after my stage. I'm lying on my belly, reaching for the brake. Whenever I get close, of course, Cur shoots at me again. Gritting back the bunny urge to freeze, I holler: "You figure killin' me's gonna stop this thing?!" I get the trigger-happy varmint in my sights, but the coach jolts on a stone and my shot goes wild. "Damnation!"
The shot spooks him good, though. He dives for cover, letting Blake scamper out from his own and take to wing after me. Dandy-- he'll have a bat's eye view to my plummet.
The cliff's mighty close now. Dust swirls up from the sheer drop off. Arizona heat fingers through my fur.
I coil back to jump into the clot of bandits. It'll be a nasty tussle, but--
A bullet cracks past my ear.
I tremble, bunny instinct freezing me a moment. Turns out to be a moment I don't have.
A stab of plummet, then a crash. My hat slips free of my ears, twisting on the wind.
The back wheels spin on empty air. I scramble for purchase. The belly of the stage grinds against the cliff edge, pitching backward. As the front end pitches skyward, I glimpse Blake's wing beating over the heads of the banditos, a desperate glint in his gold-flecked eyes.
My hat settles on the cliffside, all peaceable.
I tumble through air, falling with the wagon. The rifle floats up past me. Shame the last thing I'll ever see'll be that rusted Winchester. Always figured if I died looking at a gun, a fella'd be holding it, though.
My gut and the horizon do flips. Ground's coming at me in a hurry. I close my eyes and breathe: "Jordan, I love you."
A painful grip crushes on my boot.
I'm jerked upward.
"What in all hell?!" I open tear-stung eyes to see my leg dangling in the lawbat's hind paws. "Jordan, you sonovabitch!"
"You're welcome." He flaps like a poster in a cyclone. The stagecoach crashes against the cliff face.
My guts jockey for position. My ears dangle into the nothing. "Ahh!" I curl upward, grabbing at his ankles. "Don't go droppin' me!"
"I won't." The fruit bat's steel grasp tightens. He eases into a glide, sailing us around the corner of the mesa. "You're madder than the March hare, you know that?"
"That's a trifle unfair, lawbat." Chasing my breath, I cough half a desert's worth of dust. "It bein' June an' all." I glance back at the cliff, catching little glimmers down its side. My tail twitches. "So that reward's for them pretty gold bars, right?"
Well, folks, Sixes Wild is back! It's been a long time comin', but keep in mind I wrote the ENTIRE NOVEL since I last posted in this series. Sixes Wild: Manifest Destiny premieres at AnthroCon 2011-- I'll be there signing copies. : ) For those not going to AC, it will be available online on the Sofawolf Press catalog immediately following the con.
I can't say enough about the fantastic artwork yuki-chi did for this piece. I mean it when I say it came out better than I could have envisioned. He's truly amazing and you should go check out his art! :D