Evan’s City was turning into a firestorm as the flames from the collapsing church licked at adjacent structures, as fires from Molotov cocktails burned out of control, and as a crazed pyromaniac ran from building to building with a torch, determined to go out in a blaze of his own glory.
Johnson and his two deputies immediately dashed towards the burning church, determined to save his crewmate, while Worth turned his sites on the would-be arsonist who was frantically charging across the road, waving his burning torch back and forth.
Meanwhile, the armored bus reversed out of the bashed-in façade of the police blockhouse as a pair of Boxers scrambled inside. As Worth brought his rifle around to bear on the running convict, he shouted, “We need to stop that bus! Anyone got any explosives?”
Worth fired a burst at the moving target and missed, but the deputy on the roof next to him made a clean hit that barely caused the pyromaniac to stagger. The wounded con kept running, disappearing under the ramada that covered the walkway in front of the trade station.
Flipping on his thermal scope, Worth leaned over the roof and fired a shot through the entwined branches of the ramada, striking the con, and across the road another rooftop-stationed deputy shot the arsonist through the back, finishing him off. The con flopped back out into the street, his torch finally extinguished.
Johnson and his posse approached the back door of the church, which was already belching smoke, and suddenly a soot-covered convict shot through the open door. Taking in the three armed men, the con immediately backpedaled and tried to high tail it out of the line of fire, but YJ aimed his pistol and snapped off a poison dart at the fleeing man, catching him putting him down in the dirt for good.
There were more crashing sounds inside the church as flaming timbers began to give way, but YJ holstered his pistol and, taking a deep breath, ran straight into the smoke-darkened recesses of the place of worship. “Tulsa!” he shouted between racking coughs. The only light came from the flames that were consuming the nave and from burning bits of wood dropping from the groaning ceiling that threatened to collapse at any moment.
Fumbling around in the semi-darkness, Johnson thought he saw the Doc and the Shepherd lying down on the church floor, but instead was horrified to find the corpses of four convicts, torn apart by buckshot at close range. Slipping in the steaming gore, Johnson then saw another pair of bodies collapsed nearby.
He half-dragged, half-carried the unconscious Doc towards the rear entrance of the church, just ahead of a number of collapsing timbers, then suddenly was gulping down breaths of fresh air as he made it outside. He left the Doc in the care of the two deputies and turned back to the church, unsure of whether to risk death again.
Then he thought he saw movement in the smoky shadows, and plunged back inside to help the Shepherd, who was vainly trying to get off his hands and knees. Johnson pulled the Shepherd to his feet just as he heard a tremendous crash from above, and with all his strength jumped out of the way. At the last second he felt the Shepherd come to life, and the two of them together rolled out of harm’s way just as the roof of the church came plummeting down. Rushing out the back door just ahead of a fireball, they collapsed in the dirt.
The two deputies were already administering first aid to the Doc, and suddenly Johnson’s communicator crackled again. “How’s it coming with those explosives?” Worth’s voice inquired. Fighting to clear his lungs of smoke, Johnson snapped back, “Sorry to keep you waiting, I’ll be right there!” Leaving the Doc and the Shepherd in the care of the deputies, Johnson ran towards Main Street, fumbling for the last grenade on his belt.
The armored bus was slow to accelerate as it made its way down Main Street. Most of the town’s defenders were unloading with everything they had on the machine, and bullets pelted like hail off the makeshift armor plating. The Boxers inside the bus were keeping their heads down and weren’t firing back.
Worth decided to shoulder his rifle and keep pace with the machine, from rooftop to rooftop if necessary. He turned to the deputy and said, “if I jump down there, don’t shoot me, dong ma?” Worth’s rooftop partner, emboldened by the lazy pace of the armored hover mule, was leaning over to line up a shot, when suddenly from between cracks in the armor plating a vicious tongue of fire flared skyward. The deputy was caught in the cone of the flamethrower’s destruction and began screaming horribly, falling back out of sight. Worth gulped. This wasn’t going to be as easy as he thought.
His mind working furiously, Johnson suddenly hatched a plan as he made it out into the street. There was no way he could catch up to the bus himself, but he had a good throwing arm, or so he thought. “Hey Worth, head’s up!” he shouted, grabbing the grenade and lobbing it towards his partners.
“Hope you didn’t pull the pin out first!” Worth shouted, and sprang into action. As the grenade flew lazily in the air between the two men, he jumped over the side of the rooftop, took two steps on the covered walkway and leapt out over the armored bus, catching the grenade and in a smooth motion yanking the pin out with his teeth even as his boots slammed down on the slapdash armor plating of the bus. Aiming for the jagged hole left by the Doc’s earlier grenade attack, Worth finger-rolled the explosive into the depths of the hover mule. He spun on his heel to jump to safety, but not before a convict appeared from the other side of the mule, armed with an Alliance stun rifle. At such close range, the rifle’s sonic blast knocked Worth head over heels off the bus and into the alley next to the trade station.
Seconds later, a terrible explosion erupted inside the hover mule as the grenade went off, overloading the power plant and sending hot jets of fire out every opening in the vehicle’s armor. The bus slewed sideways, and suddenly the armor plating was ripped off like a t-shirt at Mardi Gras, flying skyward and trailing smoke as the vehicle’s power plant went off. As the now unarmored bus settled into the middle of the street, the remaining deputies emptied their weapons down into the recesses of the vehicle, putting its now burning occupants out of their misery.
And just like that, it was over. As the echoes of the explosion faded away across town, a handful of convicts emerged from their hiding places, hands raised in surrender. Sheriff Dayton and his posse immediately began rounding them up, marching them back towards the police blockhouse. Dayton tipped his hat to the crew. “That was a good piece of work there.” Johnson called back, “Just remember to wipe our names from your data banks like you said.”
Worth got to his feet, dusted himself off, and walked with Johnson back to where the Doc and the Shepherd were recovering. Hearing about the carnage inside the church, Worth said to the Shepherd, “I thought you were supposed to be non-violent?” The Shepherd smiled and responded, “that depends on whether you favour the Old Testament or the New Testament, my son.”
Then McKittrick put a call through on Johnson’s multiband. “Great work boys. Now I believe we had some business to discuss, and it would be best for everyone if we did it before the Alliance shows up to clean up this mess.” Johnson hauled the Doc to his feet. “Careful, I’m running on amphetamines here,” the Doc mumbled. Johnson pretended not to hear, and the trio walked down Main Street like they owned the place, stepping inside McKittrick’s immaculate house.
As they did so, a pair of town defenders were pushing Li Shan down the stairs, intent on taking the leader of the Boxers back to his jail cell. Li Shan fixed the crew with a cold glare for a few seconds before being hauled away.
Sitting in his study, McKittrick, the town big shot, looked completely unruffled, as if there hadn’t been a terrible life or death firefight taking place outside only minutes before. “Well boys, a deal’s a deal. You flew in that Firefly before, what do you think of her? I could let her go for about 700 a month.” Haggling ensued, and McKittrick made another offer. “Well, that Firefly did some good work for me over the years, and even if I sell it to you there’s no good reason for the work to stop. How about, if ever I need a job done, you boys do it in lieu of a month’s payment?” That sounded good to the crew.
“Excellent,” McKittrick said, “because it just so happens that I’ve got a job for you…”