Ty eyeballed Sheriff Braniff as the the half-buried flying ship appeared over the next rise. He was rewarded by a look of perplexity that the sheriff couldn’t hide behind his great big soup skimmer.
Governor Patterson dropped his jaw. “I didn’t believe you all.”
“Bends the mind, don’t it,” said Doc.
“Ty thinks we’ve found the long lost tribe of Israel,” said Will.
“That ain’t it,” said Ty. “That ain’t it at all.”
Will laughed and Braniff prodded his mount into a gallop. Ty hurried his horse to keep ahead of the governor’s entourage, sixteen or so of them. He’d cultivated some possessiveness for this big silver bullet, and he wasn’t going to be left out.
They assembled next to the vessel, and while the newbies gawked and rearranged their minds, Ty set to work unloading shovels and pulling out ropes to lash around the thing. Will dismounted to help.
“All right,” said Ty. “All of you get down and line up your horses on the side it’s leaning toward.” He led his own horse where he intended. “First line of work is to pull this behemoth out of the ground.”
One of the men, the one they called Cook, looked to the governor who nodded, then led the rest to do as Ty said. Ty suppressed a grin and bided his time. If he played his cards right, he could turn this into a billet from the state of Nevada and bring Will on with him.
Ty showboated his lasso skills and threw one over a round protuberance near the top, pulling it taut.
“Nice shot,” said the governor.
“Don’t encourage him,” said Doc. “He’s impossible enough already.”
Ty winked and handed out horseshoes. “Tie these to an end to throw over the top.” He made sure to give one to Cook. “A simple knot’s fine. Just have to get it over.” He pulled the attached rope off to the side. “Hey, Will. You want to play monkey, or should I?”
“I’ll do it.”
Ty winked at the governor. “This is the kind of thing the government should take special interest in.”
“You may be right,” said Governor Patterson.
Ty threw the first horseshoe. “We’ll need a special team to learn this thing. Probably best we keep it among us few.”
The governor nodded, his face still a bit pallid, sweat on his brow.
Several other horseshoes flew over the top, pulling their ropes with them.
“Sheriff Braniff’d be a right proper guard. Will is a top-notch problem resolver.” Ty whistled at the others. “That’s enough. Yer up, Will.”
Will took the lassoed rope from Ty and used it to climb up the side to the top, where he secured himself to a metal loop of some kind, setting his feet on the edges of square panels that stuck out a ways. With the help of the ground crew, he tied off each of the horseshoe ropes, securing a few more than a dozen lines. Will eased himself to the ground.
Ty nodded at Patterson and went back to his horse, securing the rope to his saddle horn and instructing the rest to do the same. “Doc, you mind working my ride?”
“I got her,” Doc said.
Cook chimed in. “Listen up, men. Let’s give her a tug and see how loose she is. Don’t strain your horses, just get them pulling, and we’ll see how it goes.”
Ty held back his frown and chimed in. “Good deliberation, Cook. Do as he says.”
Cook signaled them to go and the horses dug into the dirt and sand, encouraged by their owners. The ship made a thin whine, but only moved slightly.
Ty scooped up several shovels and handed some to a few spare men, kept one for himself, and saved the last one for Cook. “Let’s show them how it’s done.”
Ty hoped the gleam in Cook’s eyes was irritation, but the effect was anyways what he’d intended. The boss followed him to the base of the ship and they started breaking ground and heaving earth on the side the ship leaned away from. Ty kept a hard and steady rhythm, tacitly challenging Cook to keep up with him. They estimated the angle that the ship would lever out, and tried to maintain it as they went deeper.
The first few times they broke to try again with the horses, the movement increased very little. When it finally lurched significantly, they set the horses to full power. The metallic whine turned to an angry creak until the buried section broke lose and the ship teetered to the ground with an earth-shaking thud, spraying dirt and sand enough to elicit cries of pain from the men pulling the horses.
The buried section revealed an end that glowed greenish-blue, a beacon that would certainly be seen in broad daylight from miles around, yet didn’t hurt their eyes. Everyone stared quietly.
“Doc. You’re up,” said Ty.
Will untied ropes, and the others untethered their horses. Doc pulled out some bound paper and took notes with a pencil. He signaled some of the governor’s men to help him.
Ty rejoined Patterson. “Doc is a natural choice for leading the scientifical efforts. Mostly you just need a good lead man. I’m equal to that part, if you’d have me.”
The governor remained quiet.
“Whattaya think, governor? Government’s got a right part here, wouldn’t you say?”
“Absolutely,” said Patterson. “I’m sending for the federals.”
Ty cursed and spat. “Have ‘em come to me, would you, governor?”
The governor regarded him, the color finally returning to his face. He cracked a smile. “Of course, Ty. You’re my man here.”