Ty, Will, and Doc, galloped toward Greenstown, their black dusters flapping in the wind, the Men in Black spurred on by Mabel’s missive that said band of gray off-worlders scarified the town, taking over Cal’s tavern and demanding audience with their leaders.
Ty would have to deal with Will’s ‘told-ya-sos’ later. Will had been a bit skittish about antagonizing the off-worlders, but Ty’d reckoned on them attacking the underground hangars where the third brigade hunkered down for a surprise counter.
The town looked like any other, though they built it to support the hangars and all the federales inquisitioning the captive grays.
They road onto Main and dropped their horses at McGavin’s on the end.
“It’s a trap.” Will straightened his hat and adjusted the strap.
“Course it’s a trap,” said Ty. “Ain’t no gray gonna play fair.”
Doc pulled his rifle from his saddle. “What makes you think we can understand the first thing of what they think is fair?”
Ty shrugged and unhooked the lanyards on his holsters.
“They understand bullets.” Will checked his revolvers.
Ty appraised their circumstances. None of them were proper gunslingers, not even Will, but then neither were the off-worlders. They had all kinds of doodads for capturing and immobilizing a man, but they were always ill-prepared for any kind of battle.
They swaggered up to Cal’s tavern and stood in a row. The hotel down street from the tavern was quiet and the barber shop up street was locked up. On the other side, the general store’s door was open, George Harlan in the doorway, his shotgun in hand. Next to the water trough sat an empty manure wagon.
“Come on out!” Ty thumbed his duster back on each side and rested his hands on his guns.
The off-worlders flooded out the tavern door, a jostling mob of white and gray, fifteen strong. They all had the white protective cocoons on their bodies, but also on their heads, arms and legs. They looked like walking pussy willows. A metallic mesh clung to the side of each cocoon on their heads.
They stopped in the middle of the street, and the Men in Black positioned themselves in opposition to them, forty feet away. The tallest stood in the middle of them, two bumps on his neck making Ty wonder if it was the one of Will’s acquaintance.
“Time for y’all to leave,” said Will.
“Return our people and our ship to us.” The metallic mesh on the tall one jiggled as the words seemed to echo on the air, so Ty figured he was the talker.
“Ain’t no way,” said Will.
“They violated our law,” said Doc. “They’ll be tried and penalized.”
“We don’t understand law,” said the gray.
“Laws is the rule of the land,” said Will. “And we don’t take kindly to outsiders absconding with our people.”
“Nature is our law,” said the gray.
“Well, you better be respecting ours here,” said Ty.
“We will overwhelm you,” said the gray. “Return our people and our ship.”
Some of the townspeople trickled out brandishing guns and rifles and falling in behind the Men in Black.
“Get off the earth,” said Ty.
The gray chuffed and the ones around him huddled closer and dipped their heads to hide their faces. He brought up a yellow contraption the size of a summer squash, and a brilliant green line of light slashed through the air next to Ty.
Will lurched, his duster aflame and smoking.
Ty pulled both guns and shot at the off-worlders. Several of the townsfolk fired at them. It didn’t disturb the ones with their heads down, their cocoons absorbing every shot, but the tall one ducked behind them.
“Never seen that.” Will slapped the flames out and shot a few times with his free hand.
The tall one came up again along with two others holding green-fire pistols. Ty fired several times and Doc’s rifle went off. The gray’s face on the left splattered yellow and dropped. The other two went down.
A black tube appeared between two of the front off-worlders. Ty’d seen one of them before.
He dove backward to the ground. “Stunner!”
A big woosh passed over him, followed by a thump. He crawled away on his belly and forced himself into a stand, his muscles resisting, but working. He turned to see Will, Doc, and several townsfolk standing frozen, and the off-worlders advanced, shooting their green fire at those still moving. Jeffers, the barber, took a shot on his shoulder and went down, a bite of arm disappearing, smoke coming from the wound.
When the left gray pointed the yellow thing at him, Ty dove for the ground and rolled, catching the green light passing above him from the corner of his eye.
When he rose to his feet, Will and Doc stood between the off-worlders and him. Ty ran to the street side so the grays wouldn’t try to shoot past his friends to get him, then hid behind the manure wagon.
The off-worlders pressed forward, still huddled tightly, almost to Ty’s friends.
Ty gritted his teeth, holstered his guns, and picked up the wagon traces, pushing it toward the grays, digging in hard, and picking up speed. In their huddled group, the grays didn’t maneuver out of his path, and he rammed the wagon into them, knocking several down and scattering them. The wagon wheel rolled over one, and Ty tripped on him. He let loose of the traces and stumbled.
Ty stopped his fall with his hands, spun up into a stand and turned around to see the tall gray pull himself out of the pile of off-worlders. He looked at Ty, and they both went for their guns. Ty brought his up and fired, the green fire zapping by his ear. Yellow juice spurted from the tall gray’s eye. He shuddered and fell.
Ty grabbed the yellow contraptions from the other two before they recovered, then pulled the third off the dead gray’s body. Any that tried to get up, he pointed his gun at their faces at point blank range. They understood enough to lie back down. He threw the fire guns into a pile in front of Will and Doc, who both stirred with small lurches.
“Ye got ‘em,” croaked Doc.
“Yep.” Ty removed his hat and wiped his forehead. “They may have some mighty fine machinery, but earthmen still rule a good shootout.”