Chapter 8: Pirates and Cowboys
Location: The Old West
It was a bright day on the grassy plain, and two horses munched away in peace. That is, until the Steamhawke soared into view. The horses scattered before the sky ship as it dropped though the clouds.
"Wasn't that... copyright infringement?" asked Ivan Petrov.
"Not if it's a parody" explained Captain Daenelia Bradley.
After long weeks of sky travel the Steamhawke had finally reached the Old West, the frontier nation of cowboys and coal miners. The first task was to land the ship. It was too dangerous to approach the rich coastal cities - too many sky militia - so instead they had travelled a good distance inland. Judging by her maps and the experienced Westerners aboard the ship, the Captain had decided that they had reached Jefferson Territory, a fertile region with a handful of settlements to choose from.
One of those settlements was Harling Pass. Originally little more than a farming community, the township was starting to grow busier as the neighbouring territories became more industrialised. Travellers and traders were more common these days. It was still backwater, under no influence by the Western militia, and so the residents had learned to fend for themselves. This also made it the perfect spot for wandering outlaws like John Colton to hide from the law.
It was only the middle of the day, yet the man was already heading for the Iron Buffalo saloon in the centre of town. Colton was almost at the doors when he heard the dull rumble of a sky ship soaring nearby. He eyed the ship and drew suspiciously on his cigarette. The name "Steamhawke" was painted on the hull, but he didn't recognise the ship. It was firing its landing spikes into the ground, but from the angle it was descending at it didn't look like it was going to be a graceful landing.
Deciding that the sky ship wasn't full of bounty hunters, Colton pushed through the saloon doors. It looked no different to the other watering holes he'd seen recently, a rickety looking bar and bartender, gambling tables, and a rusty steam powered self-playing piano at the back. Plenty of patrons were propping up the bar already, and they looked at Colton with the same mistrust that he felt for them.
John Colton was a rugged slab of a man, with an slouched posture and a scowl that emphasized just how worn and torn he was. He looked like he was sculpted from a block of wood, but with too blunt an instrument.
"A bottle of your best coffin varnish" he called to the bartender, pulling up a stool. He needed to drink to remember, and he needed to drink to forget. Colton had been wandering for too long now, with no aim or purpose other than to keep one step ahead of the men who would capture or kill him. A convict like him ould never be a part of civilised society again. This was going to be his life from now on, moving from place to place giving his life meaning through simple pleasures.
Colton was on his third glass of rotgut when the saloon doors opened and a handful of people sauntered in. There was laughter, raised voices, and chatter. Whoever these strangers were, the saloon had just become a lot more lively.
One of those simple pleasures had just pushed through the crowds to reach the bar. She was facing away from him, and wearing a simple cotton blouse with rolled up sleeves. Her blonde curls were escaping from the green bandana that she wore around her head. Colton stared at the woman's derierre as he leaned against the bar and took a long, slow drag on a freshly lit cigarette.
He sidled towards the woman, blowing smoke through his mouth and nostrils. "Have you ever... licked a steam pipe in summer?" he asked, offering the woman a cigarette as she turned around to look at him.
"'Nelia!" he yelled in sight of Captain Bradley, recoiling in shock. His green eyes were bulging, and then Daenelia recognised him as well.
"Colton?" she shouted in amazement. "John Colton, is that really you?"
"Did she say 'Colton'?" came another voice. Daenelia and John span around. "That must be the lawbreaker! We found him!" A group of strangers were crossing the room, pushing through the crowd to get to Colton.
"Whoops!" uttered Daenelia.