Cowboys and Aliens
Vic, Sasha, and Kevin had been riding for several hours without a single interesting thing happening when Sasha called for break.
Kevin and Vic both turned around, surprised, to see what she needed. It had been the first sound, other than the whooshing of wind and the clacking of hooves, in over an hour.
“I need to piss is what. That little alcove looks good to me.”
Kevin nodded, “Alright, you want a full break or just a pit stop?”
“No, no, we can keep riding, I’ll just be a minute.” Using muscle memory from high school gymnastics, she leaned into the pommel of her saddle and performed a sideways flip onto the ground. Vic smiled, then tried to hide it. She winked at him, then turned and walked towards the alcove a few meters southwest.
Kevin had already returned his attention to his map-book. “Vic, take a look at this.”
Vic turned his horse with practiced ease, and rode back to the where the doctor sat on his steed, turning pages and looking around as if searching for clues.
“Really, Vic, call me Kevin.”
“Okay. Look, this is what I have from today so far. Let me know if you see any glaring errors. It starts back 2 pages, here.”
“Yes, S-uhm Kevin. Well, no, this all looks… What’s this?”
“What? Oh, that’s a W for water. Remember the fresh spring we crossed coming out of that crack just after the 3rd turn?”
“Right. And this M1?”
“Moss 1. That moss growing on the wall everywhere. I’ve been taking samples and numbering them. They correlate to the map so I know where I got them from.”
“And this B1 where we are?”
“First good bathroom spot.”
Vic looked up from the map, smiled, “That’s a very detailed map, Kevin.”
Kevin laughed, “It’s the first, it has to be.”
Sasha walked back into view wiping here hands on her pants. She shouted at them, “You can mark that one for sure! The rocks form a nice seat over a little, stream of water. Hell, I might put a coin operated door on there!”
“That’s great Sasha, maybe you can build a house here someday, right now though, could you get on the horse?”
Sasha stopped walking and stared at him, “Don’t be such an ass. Try and enjoy the fact that you’re in unexplored territory on an alien planet. Huh?”
“It’s not technically an ‘alien’ planet. Mars is considered 1 of the 3 terrestrial type planets. Now, it is an unexplored planet which, your correct, is cool.”
Sasha shook her head, took 2 running steps, and leapt into a handstand atop he saddle. She continued to hold the position.
Kevin stared, befuddled, for a moment, “Uhm, what are you doing?”
“You asked me to get on the horse?”
“So that we could ride, you need to be sitting.”
“Technically, you didn’t say anything about sitting.” Vic’s guffaw echoed off the walls and clouds above. Sasha executed an incredibly graceful fall/collapse/tumble into the saddle. Her horse appeared unphazed.
“You realize we’re just getting started, you may wan-” His retort interrupted by a loud rumble reverberating throughout the canyons, Kevin and Sasha both reached into their saddle packs and drew out pistols in belt holsters which they quickly strapped on. Vic drew a sawed off shot gun, checked the ejection port to confirm it was fully loaded, and laid it on his right shoulder.
After continuing for several minutes, the noise stopped just as abruptly as it had begun.
“What the hell was that?” Sasha demanded of nobody in particular.
“You mean its’ not geo-thermal activities?” Vic opened his left palm to the sky and shrugged, looking as innocent as possible. And failing.
“Shhh.” Kevin quickly admonished both of them. His head cocked to the left, he leaned forward, as if adjusting his ears like an antennae.
“Kevin, honey, those echoes were bouncing off the walls from every direction. You’re not going to be able to figure out the source.” As if on cue, a new noise burst into the echo chamber. This one unmistakable.
Kevin drew his gun, “That was a gunshot.”
Sasha steadied her horse, “Martian Monsters with Guns?”
“That was a .45 or a .38, and it definitely came from behind us.” Vic turned his horse to head the opposite way, looking for the other 2 to follow. “Let’s go, geniuses. Run away from the fuckin’ gunshot? Yes?”
Kevin looked to Sasha, her eyes wide and just slightly damp, “Yes, lets get out of here.” As they turned to gallop off, a shadow crossed theirs from above. Kevin aimed and fired on the Kentauran as it crossed slightly in front of them, pivoted, and dove straight down, its mouth wide, emitting a screech no human could here.
The horses immediately lost their shit, kicked off their riders, and ran away. Kevin’s shots went wide as he fell onto his back and lost hold of the gun. Vic fell against the moss covered wall, cushioning the blow. Feigning unconsciousness, he slumped to the ground.
Sasha was able to roll into a backwards summersault off the horse’s rump and come up with her gun in her hand. The Kentauran flew in low between the horses, front claws fully extended, zeroed in on Kevin. Sasha only had a clear view of the top of its head, which she knew to be nearly impervious. She had decided to aim for the arm, hoping she would get a better 2nd shot, when another updraft swept through the canyon and dragged the Kentauran up by his wings. She planted 2 shots square in his chest.
The Kentauran stumbled back onto its feet. Red blood began to ooze out of its chest. It stutter stepped. A rock smacked it in the side of its head. Vic was standing with a second rock at the ready. The Kentauran grabbed its chest and flew off into the clouds.
He tried to keep pressure on the wound as he flew, but each up-beat of his wings pulled muscles across his back and chest. Each down-beat squeezed at the wounds, sending fresh stabs of pain across his body and more blood squirting out between his fingers. Herbie glided as much as possible until he saw Mike and the ATV below and then circled slowly down on the wind currents. Finally settling in a pile next to Sheriff Tomes on the sled. Less than a meter away Mike was digging a hole.
“What’s the matter with you, Red?” Mike leaned on the shovel and wiped sweat from his forehead with the sleeve of his left arm.
Herbie pushed himself into a sitting position with his wings, bracing himself on his left arm, while continuing to hold his chest with his right. “They shot me.” Even through the translator, the strain could be heard in his voice.
“What? Son of a bitch.” Mike threw down the shovel and jumped out of the hole. He ran over to the ATV and grabbed a med kit, then back to his partner. “Who the fuck shot you?” He opened the med kit on the ground.
“Those 3 humans. They are less than a kilometer away, by flight. They heard your ridiculous vehicle, and heard you kill the Sheriff. So I was going to remove them as potential witnesses. The female was particularly aggressive.”
“You got shot by a girl?”
“It doesn’t take a penis to squeeze a trigger.”
“Apparently not.” Mike held alcohol and bandages in his hand, then looked at the Kentauran, confused. “I don’t know, Red, I’ve never performed first aid on 1 a you before. If you were human you’d be dead from 2 shots to the chest like that. What do you need?”
“Our vital organs are elsewhere. Check my back, did the bullets go through?”
Mike leaned over the Kentauran’s shoulder, fascinated. He’d never actually been this close before. He could see ridges where the wing’s met the back that reminded him of shoulder blades, and he was fairly sure that was a spinal column. But was that an exoskeleton around the mid-section? “No, I don’t see any exit wound. You still got those bullets inside you.”
“Damn. Alright, I’m going to need you to do some surgery.”
“Oh no, no, no. That is not in my job description.” he stood and backed away from Herbie.
“So you going to return to the Czar without me?”
“Got yourself killed by Lady Indiana Jones, not my fault. It’s not like anyone retires from this line of work. As long as I get the job done, I’m good.”
“And how valuable will you be as an employee that can be a medic to Kentauran?”
Mike said nothing for a moment. Then he shrugged and walked over, “Okay, what do you need?”
“I need you to take your knife, cut into these wounds, use that tweezers and that flashlight to find and remove the bullets, all without doing more damage to my muscles, and then stitch me up.”
“Is that all? Oh well, why didn’t you say so? This should be easy.” Mike drew his knife and moved to cut into the Kentauran, with a bit too much relish. Herbie stopped him.
“First, please clean everything with that alcohol so I don’t die of infection later.”
“Picky, picky.” He took the rubbing alcohol from the kit and poured it over his blade, the tweezers, and the needle. “Now, let’s see here.” Herbie passed out almost immediately after he began cutting.
Holding the tweezers in his right hand and the flashlight in his left, he used the pinky finger of each hand to spread the wound open. It did little to help, as thick red Kentauran blood continued to bubble up out of his body. Finally Mike tossed the flashlight and just began prodding around with the tweezers until he felt the more familiar resistance of metal on metal. After a couple tugs he pulled out the flattened head of a .48 millimeter slug. The 2nd was easier to find and remove, but now both Mike and the ground were covered in blood. He poured some alcohol into the wounds to sterilize them, which caused Herbie to stir a bit, and then he prepared to stitch.
As an Army Medic on Earth, he had stitched up more than a few battle wounds. He’d expected the alien flesh to feel more, well, alien. It wasn’t quite the same as human flesh, but it wasn’t exactly different either. The blood, too, was disturbingly similar. A little thicker and darker, but easily confuse-able for human blood. The Kentauran were very secretive about their medical information. Mike couldn’t resist this opportunity to take a moment and check out the rest of its’ body.
He found pulse points in the usual spots. The eyes and ears appeared only cosmetically different. The lower torso was the really interesting area, other than the wings. There appeared to be a thick exoskeleton, which blended so well with the flesh it was only noticeable up close. It wrapped around the creature’s midsection like a bone corset. This had to be where the vital organs were hidden. For a moment he considered killing the Kentauran so that he could dissect him. Before he could decide, however, the sound of feet around the corner distracted him.
Vic was the first around the corner, followed closely by the other 2. Weapons aimed first at Mike then at the dead humans then back Mike again. Kevin spoke first, “Hands where we can see them! Stand up and face us!”
Mike stood, Kentaurn blood dripping from his knife, hands, and splattered all over his clothes. In the black overcoat, goggles atop his head, with the bloody and unconscious Kentauran to his left, and the pile of dead bodies and an open grave to his right, he presented a terrifying figure.
“Lower your weapons, and I will let you live.”
Vic guffawed, “There are 3 of us and 1 of you. Drop your weapon.”
“This?” Mike looked at the knife in his hand, “that’s not a weapon, that’s a tool.” He tossed the knife to the ground, reached for the holster at the small of his back and drew a silver plated Magnum .45, “Now this, on the other hand, is what I call a weapon.”
“Are you retarded? We’ve got you covered with 3 guns to your 1. Now drop the gun.”
Mike laughed, wiped the sweat from his brow leaving a long dark streak of alien blood, “What you don’t have is the will to use them. Look at you, you’re shaking in you boots.” The click of the stock and his laughs echoed around them as he cocked the gun.
Before his laughter had faded away, the cavern filled with the deep base of Vic’s shotgun blast as the force of hundreds of tiny projectiles tearing into Mike’s flesh knocked him across the body the unconscious, bleeding Herbie.
Sasha turned to Vic, shocked, “Why did you fire? We weren’t done negotiating yet.”
Vic didn’t even look at her as he approached his victim, weapon still on target, “Negotiate? Look at that pile of bodies over there. These people are murderers. He wasn’t going to let witnesses leave, he was just waiting for the right moment.” Standing over Mike’s body, he nudged him with his foot to be sure he was dead. Then he kneeled down, picked up the magnum from where it lay beside the body, inspected it, and dropped it into his pocket.
“You’re taking his gun?”
“That gun belonged to my cousin. He disappeared in here 6 months ago, among those attributed to the “Martian monsters”, I guess now I know what happened to him.”
Sasha sighed, “I’m sorry Vic.”
“Yeah, me too.”
Kevin leaned over the body of the Kentauran, “This guy’s still alive.” Sasha rushed over, joining in his inspection of the alien. Vic picked up the knife Mike had discarded. While the 2 scientists hovered over the body, searching for ways to repair it and save the life, Vic approached. He knelt down above its head, clasped his left hand under the jaw, tilted its skull back, and then jammed the blade into its throat. Kevin and Sasha stared at him dumbfounded as he twisted the blade and a fountain of dark red blood shot out across its body. Vic left the knife in its throat and stood.
“We should go before their friends arrive.”
“What about all of these bodies?”
“Vultures gotta eat too.”