The storm hit them sometime after dark, but the clouds had been gathering all day. Old Bobby 'Buckshot' Buchanan looked up at the darkening clouds from atop his horse and shook his head at the bleak clearness above the open parries.
"Gonna be a storm," he muttered. "Gonna spook the herd something fierce." Buckshot Buchanan was a wide-shouldered gray bearded man who wore a slick jacket of scaly skin and a bent top hat with a hat band of long curved teeth. He carried a long-barreled rifle across his back, a cartridge belt and two large pistols at his waist and had been riding with the Bluescale Outfit for some time.
"You reckon so, Old Timer?" Orville Nebbles asked. He was a young man, still with no beard to claim his own. This was his first drive, a trip along the Chisolm trail from the ranches in South Texas to Abeline, where the herd could be shipped off the Chicago for butchery and processing. It was a rough trip, but with fifteen men working, not including the cook for the chuckwagon, it could be completed and was very profitable for all involved.
"Goddamn right I do." Buckshot stroked his beard and angled his horse back to chuckwagon, slowly rolling along at the back of the large horde. "Storm always puts the fear of God into a herd, and the same fear into the boys unlucky enough to be wrangling them. We ought to stop and get a camp going"
Orville looked at the herd. As far as the eye could see, it stretched onwards, a great horde of scaly dinosaurs, frilled and horned. Educated folk would call one a triceratops, but out west, the dinopunchers that drove them to market just called them hornheads. A tall fellow could stand on tip-toe and be barely able to touch the top of one of their frills, and from nose to tale they were about as long as two horses riding in single file. These ones had the distinctive turquoise tinge of the bluescale's breed. Orville had grown up on a ranch, and he had seen the damage a hornhead could do. It made his stomach churn just thinking about it.
"You gonna go talk to the bosses, get them to stop, right, Buckshot?" Orville asked, nervousness creeping into his voice.
Buckshot nodded. "But don't count on nothing, son. This here's Lakota Territory, plus the rustlers. They'll want us to keep moving even if it kills us. Which it very well may." He bucked his horse onwards, making for the chuck wagon at the rear of the hornhead column. A pair of spike-thumbed iguanodons pulled the old covered wagon along, pots and pan strapped to the side clinking as it rumbled over uneven terrain.
Sure enough, the bosses did want to stop. The Bluescale Outfit continuing drive the hornheads forward, just as the first cracks of lightning split the darkening sky.
One of the hornheads let out a mournful resonant cry, a trumpeting noise that was soon taken up by all the others. Orville clapped his hands over his ears as rain began to splash on his broad-brimmed Stetson. Emmet Donovan, a veteran dinoboy, rode to Orville's side. Emmet was wearing an old peaked cap and had a thick moustache.
"Best to get to cover, son," he said. "Hornheads hear the storm, they're liable to stampede."
"They are? Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus." Orville urged his horse away from the herd, but then another lightning bolt struck down and the hornheads began to panic. It was impossible to tell where the stamped started, only that all of the beasts seemed to be bellowing at once and pounding in every direction. Orville steered his horse around a screeching triceratops as it lumbered past, but the youth failed to see another hornhead approaching his other side. The three horns slammed into the sides of his horse, causing the animal to scream and buck.
Orville was thrown free and fell to the ground. Massive clawed feet stamped the dirt around him as the hornheads gathered speed, and it was all the novice dino puncher could do to avoid being trampled. Emmet rode towards him, leaning low on his horse and holding out his hand. Orville reached up and was pulled to safety, flung across Emmet's horse like he was a bundle of cloth.
One of the hornheads started running towards Emmet, and Orville thought that Emmet's horse would be skewered just as his was. Instead, Emmet drew the large cannon-like single-barrel shotgun on his back, steadied it with both arms and fired. It was a dinosaur gun, an express rifle specifically designed for downing the large beasts, and it worked beautifully. The triceratops let out a screeching cry and fell to the ground, shot straight through its oversized skull.
"Pity," Emmet muttered. "That animal could have fetched a good price. Ah, well." He steered his horse away from the stampede, passing the chuck wagon as he abandoned the herd. The iguanodons were plodding away from the stampede as best they could, the cook's whip cracking over their heads, but they still weren't going fast enough. They rode on past it and into the hills.
Orville didn't remember much more of that night. Emmet Donavan and him rode away from the hornheads, stopping only when the stampeding beasts were far in the distance. They made camp near a large bluff. Emmet generously loaned Orville his bed roll and slept on a flat stretch of ground.
The next morning, Emmet had a small fire going which he was poking with a stick. Some tasty scents wafted into Orville's nose, and the youth awoke and crawled to the campfire. The horse was standing near the campfire, munching on some grass. Orville grinned as Emmet handed him a canteen a handful of dried jerky.
"It's gallimimus meat, so it ain't tasty, but it will hold you over until these eggs are done." Emmet gestured to a pair of large eggs, frying on a rock next to the fire. "Found them near the bluff and figured them for breakfast."
"Might nice of you," Orville said, gratefully accepted the canteen and jerky. "And saving my life last night. Mighty nice."
"Ah hell, Orville, it weren't nothing." Emmet chuckled. "Us dinopunchers gotta look out for each other. And besides, I was a greenhorn too, you know."
"Sure. Signed on with various outfits back in the '81, before I got myself a wife and a baby, and after I was through with the cavalry. I did some dumb things in my time. Hell, I still do."
Orville chuckled. "Well, shucks, Emmet, I can't imagine you making any foolish decisions."
A low throaty roar interrupted their conversation. Dust rose from the end of the bluff, and the sound of heavy footfalls made each go for his gun. They both grabbed their weapons and cocked them just as a large tyrannosaurus came stomping up the hillside. It was a huge specimen, its head held out low and its jaws snapping open and shut as it inspected the frying eggs.
"Damn it!" Emmet shouted. "I should have known those eggs belonged to someone!"
The large carnivore turned its attention to the horse, lunging forward and grabbing hold of the animal with its jaws. The horse screamed and bucked for a while before going slack as the life was torn from it. The T-Rex let its body fall to the ground and then turned its attention to Orville and Emmet.
"Shoot it down!" Emmet shouted. "Blow its goddamn head off!" The T-Rex let out a roar of purest rage and began charging the two dinoboys. Emmet fired, but his shot went wild and then the enraged carnivore swung his tail around and sent the veteran dinopuncher sprawling. Orville fired, the recoil of the high-caliber nearly knocking him over. The bullet struck the tyrannosaurus in the chest but it only seemed to make the monstrous creature madder.
The T-Rex turned on Orville, lowering its head and slowly walking forward. Orville struggled to reload his dinosaur gun, but he fumbled with the large shell and it fell to the ground. He was dimly aware of the dinosaur's stinking breath filling the air around him, before another gunshot sounded out and the tyrannosaur let out a roar loud enough to split the heavens. Its left eye had been blown apart.
Orville turned and saw Buckshot Buchanan standing on the bluff, two huge revolvers in his hands. Each pistol looked big enough to fire an artillery shell and they were belching out smoke and fire in tandem as Buckshot slowly walked towards the T-Rex. The large carnivore shrieked as its other eye was blown off and then a bullet tore through its throat. Thick red blood poured from the wound as the T-Rex slowly twisted and fell. Dust rose from the body.
"You lazy, stupid bastard!" Buckshot shouted, holstering his large revolvers. "I should have left you for the pterosaurs!"
Emmet came shakily to his feet. "That was some good shooting, old timer. Just wish you got here a mite sooner when we still had the horse." He dusted himself off and stared at Buckshot. "What the hell happened to your horse?"
Buckshot frowned. "Flock of stinking dactyls wanted him for a meal. I shot some, but the old nag wasn't worth all the bullets I was wasting on its account."
Emmet chuckled. "So you lost your horse to a pack of winged scavengers?"
"Goddamnit!" Buckshot snarled. "I'm old. What's your excuse? Now, come on, help cut some strips off of this big fellow. We got nothing but our legs to take us to Abeline, and I don't know when you idiots is gonna play out." He stared at the horizon. "We got a long way to go."
They walked for hours, the sun so hot that's its beating rays felt like physical blows. Orville's legs went numb and he thought he would collapse several times, but he somehow convinced himself to go a bit further. Between them they had a few canteens and a good deal of meat and with three rifles, some small caliber pistols and Buckshot's huge revolvers, they had enough firepower, so that wasn't a problem, but the distance and heat soon proved themselves formidable obstacles, not to mention the local wildlife.
Every time Orville chanced to look up, he spotted a large flock of pterosaurs wheeling overhead. Sometimes the dactyls would come shrieking down, hoping to tear off a piece of flesh and get away with it, but the leathery flyers always made slow predictable descents, and a quick gunshot could normally dissuade them.
More troublesome were the oviraptors. The inquisitive, bird-like saurian scavengers would walk by their side, chirping piteously before trying to pull some jerky out from the pockets of the weary dinopunchers. Emmet shot one and Buckshot Buchanan sliced one with his large dino bone-handled bowie knife, but the oviraptors did not lose heart. They scampered along, squeaking and chirping like chickens gone mad.
Whenever there was a need to, the three dinoboys talked. Emmet talked of his pretty wife and new baby and told war stories from his time in the cavalry. Orville didn't have much to talk about. He mentioned life on his family's small ranch, herding a scraggly head of stegosaurs and nearly getting killed by one of their swinging spiked tails.
But Buckshot told the best stories. He was an old fellow and had seen and done many things back when law was still an alien concept to the West. His first job had been hunting the great brontosaur herds that stretched like a scaly carpet across the plains. The Indians had lived on the dinos, eating them, making clothes and houses and weapons from their skins and teeth, and even worshipping some of them. When the government wanted the Indians cleared out, all they had to do was issue a bounty for any brontosaur skull brought in.
"Weren't it tough to kill them big critters?" Orville asked.
"Them's big, but they're stupid as all hell and there's plenty of places to shoot them in." Buckshot shook his head. "Some of these British fellows brought in one of them Congreve rockets and used those. Splattered gore and flesh all over the plains. But most folk preferred using simple long-barreled dinosaur rifles. Shot in the neck would kill them soon enough and they were so dumb, you could take all the time you wanted to draw a bead and line up your sights." Buckshot shook his head. "Not many of them left."
"And good riddance, I say." Emmet stamped his foot to echo his words. "Beasts were feeding the Indians, and those savage dirt worshippers had to go."
They continued walking until the sun slowly disappeared over the prairie's edge. Civilization was still nowhere in sight. They picked a spot of open ground in the fields of tall prairie grass and went about making camp. Buckshot created a fire while Emmet and Orville prepared a killed oviraptor for the evening meal. As they ate the tough, stringy meat of the desert scavenger, Orville looked up and saw another bright light somewhere behind them.
"Look at that!" he said. "Some others! Maybe from the Bluescale Outfit."
Buckshot casually looked at the distant fire, a small orange hue on the horizon. "Not likely. Supposing anyone survived that damn stampede, odds are the bastards wouldn't be anywhere near. Nope, more likely that's a Lakota fire."
Emmet bristled at Buckshots' words and touched the small caliber pistol at his waist. It didn't do much for larger dinosaurs, but it was perfect for killing humans. "Lakota," he hissed. "Savages. We ought to keep a guard for them tonight."
"We ought to keep a guard, but not for Lakota." Buckshot Buchanan looked around the desert. "Biggest danger in this country don't have no need to make a fire."
"What are you talking about?" Emmet asked. "Goddamn Lakota will scalp whoever they can get their hands on! Bastards shot my friends full of arrows during the wars. Nothing they respect but a bullet in the brain."
"Raptors." Buckshot shivered as he said the word. "Lakota have done some bad things, true. But they're a pack of Sunday School teachers compared to raptors. Beasts will slice your stomach open with their feet and pull your guts out in front of you. They're supposed to be just dumb animals, but I swear they're something more." Buckshot leaned back and wrapped himself in his thick coat. "Trust me, boys. Lakota ain't nothing."
Emmet sniffed but said nothing. They finished off the rest of the oviraptor meat and then established who was going to take the first, second, and third watch. Orville got third watch, giving him a chance to sleep. He fell asleep quickly, but his dreams were full of flashing teeth and flying barbed arrows. It was almost a relief when Emmet shook him awake.
"Your turn, son," Emmet said, handing Orville a dinosaur gun. Orville nodded sleepily as he came to his feet. He sat down on a pale crushed boulder and held the large-caliber rifle with both hands. Orville stared off into the endless darkness and wondered what he was doing here. He had done good in school and it was only on account of his family not having enough money to send him back east to college that he had to become a dinoboy. Maybe he could earn enough money to pay for the trip, though it would take some time.
He remembered his years in the one room schoolhouse his father would take him to whenever the chores on the ranch didn't need doing. The schoolmarm was a beautiful young woman, blonde and blue-eyed, and Orville had always wanted to impress her. He remembered her telling the class about the history of America. How the pilgrims had come ashore to find a land swarming with giant reptiles and savages. How hard it had been for them to adjust, domesticated some of the dinosaurs and killing others into extinction, along with the Indians. Washington had used the saurian beasts well, using them to pull cannons and supplies, but it wasn't until the War Between the States, of which Orville's father was a veteran, that dinosaur warfare had truly come of age. The Confederacy and the Union covered dinos with steel plating, cannons and crews, and sent them against each other in great battles of fire and steel. Orville's father had manned the back of the heavy gun strapped on a brachiosaurus. He had never talked about it much.
A rustling noise disturbed Orville. The youth came to his feet, brandishing his dinosaur gun. "W-who's there?" he demanded of the shadows. "I'll shoot! I swear I will!"
Something was in the brush, and Orville slowly walked towards it, his finger falling to the trigger of his rifle. As he got closer, he saw a human figure, then two more, stand up in the bush. The moonlight illuminated their bodies, naked except for scale loincloths and war paint. One of them wore a raptor's skull adorned with feathers as a helmet and carried a long bow made from a dino's leg bone. The Indian notched an arrow to his bow and pointed it towards Orville.
"Drop it, you damn heathen!" Orville shouted, gesturing with his rifle. "This will kill you dead!"
"Out of the way, white man," the Lakota muttered, in decent English. "A few steps to the left. Now!"
Not knowing what to do, Orville took a hesitant step to the left. The Lakota warrior fired his arrow. It sailed out, passed Orville, and struck something. The young dinoboy spun around and saw a raptor, tan with orange tiger stripes, writhing on the ground in death spasms, the Lakota shaft buried in his head. A second more, and the raptor would have pounced on the unsuspected Orville.
The three Lakota ran forward into the camp, one holding an inlaid and feathered rifle and the other wielding two tomahawks fashioned from long jagged teeth, while their leader still wielded his war bow. Orville spotted numerous other crouched forms in the darkness surrounding his sleeping friends, lurking raptors all. He stared in disbelief for a few seconds more, and then raised his dinosaur gun to his shoulder and opened fire.
The Battle was joined in seconds. The Indian warriors fell upon the raptors, one firing the rifle while the other hurled one of his tomahawks right between the eyes of a leaping raptor. Orville slammed another shell into his dinosaur gun and fired again. The high-caliber express rifle bucked in his hand and an incoming raptor's upper lower jaw was blown clean off. It shrieked and cried as it scraped the wound until Orville reloaded and fired again, this time killing it.
Emmet and Buckshot were on their feet in seconds. Buckshot slept with his two revolvers, and he fanned out one of the large pistols and slew six raptors in six seconds. Emmet stabbed one with his large bowie knife and then fired his own dinosaur gun. Emmet came to his feet and ran to where Orville was standing, fear in his eyes.
"Savages! Get down!" he shouted.
"No, they ain't no enemies! They saved all of our lives!" Orville cried. Emmet drew his pistol and pointed it at the Lakota chieftain, but before he could pull the trigger a surviving raptor leapt on him. The pistol fell from Emmet's hands and the raptor raised its clawed foot for a killing blow. Orville tried to put another round in his rifle, but he knew he would not be fast enough.
Then, another raptor leapt on the one atop Emmet. It was painted with handprints, sigils and other Lakota scribbling, and had feathers and a necklace of claws around its neck. The Lakota chieftain shouted something in his own tongue to the raptor and it reached down and tore the throat from its wild counterpart. Orville helped Emmet up.
Now the last raptors were gone and the dinoboys and Indians faced each other off. Emmet wasted no time in acquiring his fallen pistol and leveling it at the Lakota chieftain. "Piss off, damn savages!" he shouted. "You won't take our scalps!"
"If we wanted your scalps, they would be ours." The Lakota chieftain lowered his bow. "Trust me, white man, we come in peace. My name is Striking Lizard. These are my warriors. We are all that is left of the warriors of our tribe."
"A pity that, judging by the courageous stock that they produced." Buckshot praised the Indians with bowed head. "We owe you our lives. Those raptors would have certainly slaughtered us."
"That they would." Striking Lizard walked over to one of the raptors and drew a knife from his belt. He began hacking at the foot, and soon pulled out the lethal black sickle. He tied a piece of thread around it and attached it to the tip of his bone bow, where several more raptor claws dangled. "As always, the white man's incompetence knows no bounds."
"Better than stinking dirt worshippers!" Emmet said. He still had not lowered his weapon. "Buckshot, help me kill these bastards!"
"They saved our lives." Buckshot walked over to Emmet. "Look, sonny. I know you served in the cavalry, and you must have seen some terrible things. But even the worst savages ain't as bad as the white men. These brave warriors came upon us and risked their lives to save ours. They mean no harm." There was firmness in Buckshot's wizened voice, and slowly, Emmet lowered and holstered his revolver.
"Thank you, wise one." Striking Lizard walked over to Buckshot. "You know well the ways of the land."
"I'm old, brave warrior. I know too much of it. You been following us?"
"Yes, since the stampede. Many of your fellows died, but most escaped and made it to the cities. You have survived well, and for that, we chose to contact you. We chose the right time."
Orville gasped. The Lakota had been stealthier than a color-changing carnotaurus approaching prey. "What do you want us for?"
"We need someone who knows the white man's ways. Our tribe was attacked by a cruel group of scalphunters. We fought them bravely, but they brought weapons that killed us with ease. Even now they chase our people across the desert. They may already have fallen upon them."
"So, you want us to go and fight them?" Emmet asked. "Sounds like a load of triceratops dung to me. You have probably been raiding and killing, so a bunch of farmers got their rifles together and went after you to get just vengeance."
Striking Lizard notched an arrow to his bone bow and aimed it at Emmet. "I will kill you if you speak ill of my tribe again. No, these scalphunters have no honor. They are outlaws, murderers, crazed killers. They are led by a man with one eye, a cruel brutal warrior named-"
"Ishmael. One-Eyed Ishmael." Buckshot Buchanan finished Striking Lizard's sentence. "That son of a-" He cursed. "We'll go with you, brave warrior. One-Eyed Ishmael done caused me enough grief to kill a hundred men. I owe him back."
Emmet crossed his arms. "You go ahead, Old Timer. But me and Orville ain't our lives away on a damn heathen's dishonest words."
"Well, maybe we should go, Emmet." Orville nearly whispered his words. "They did save our lives. And if Buckshot hates this one-eyed fellow, then, well, he's probably a right bastard."
"You reckoned right." Buckshot spat on the ground. "I had me a woman once, an Apache. Just when she was got with child, One-Eyed Ishmael came with his posse of bastard scalphunters." He shivered. "I don't care if I have to fight every army on earth all by my lonesome. Ishmael's gonna die at my hands."
Striking Lizard turned and started walking, and Buckshot Buchanan and the other Lakota warriors followed him. Not knowing what else to do, Orville and Emmet grabbed what supplies they could and ran after them.
The Lakotas had several horses stashed behind a couple of rocks. Orville mounted up on the small, sleek Indian pony, letting his feet fall into the stirrups. They started riding, picking up speed as they pounded over the prairie, passing a few twisted rock formations and a large dino's rib cage glowing pale in the moonlight. The tame raptor ran with them, keeping pace with Striking Lizard's horse.
"That thing bite any?" Orville asked, pointing at the running raptor.
"Only when I command it. He hatched the day I was born, and we have been together ever since." Striking Lizard reached down and stroked the scaly back of the raptor. "I call him Dawn Star, after what was in the sky when he hatched."
"He looks right friendly," Buckshot said. "I knew a fellow in Leadville who taught a raptor to deal cards. It could play a mean piano, too. Cute little fellow, and polite-" Buckshot trailed off as he looked upwards at the horizon. Smoke was pouring from far away, rolling up from the ground like a pale curtain. The sun was rising and it illuminated the massacre before them. Screams and gunshots carried across the desert.
Striking Scorpion shouted something in Lakota and urged his horse onward. The other Indians joined him, and Buckshot mumbled something to himself as he drew his long rifle off of his back. "It's Ishmael, all right," he muttered. "I know his work."
As they approached the Lakota encampment, the work became evident. A couple dozen mangy looking desperadoes were running amongst the burning huts and shelters, most of them drunk, killing at will and doing unspeakable acts to the Indian women and children. Some were on horses, others on foot, but all had pistols, rifles and shotguns out and were blazing away at the Indians with them. Striking Lizard was right about him and his fellows being the last warriors. It was only women, children and old men that were being butchered.
After they were finished with an Indian, the scalphunters would draw a wicked serrated knife and press it against their forehead until the scalp came free in a small waterfall of dark red blood. Something the scalped one was dead, sometimes they were still screaming, the scalphunters didn't care one way or the other. Orville knew they could get five dollars for each Indian scalp in any city in the territories.
In the center of the camp was the reason why Ishmael's men had such success. A large iguanodon, a burly creature with rusty iron plates strapped to its sides, stood placidly. On the dinosaur's back was a large Gatling gun, mounted and ready to fire. One-Eyed Ishmael stood next to it, unmistakable. He was a huge unshaven man, one socket empty without the bother of an eye patch to cover it, and he wore a dino skin jacket and boots. He carried a large ornate dueling pistol in each hand, discharging them seemingly at random while letting our long ragged laughs.
"Oh God," Orville whispered, staring at the carnage. He felt his dinner rise inside of him. "Oh God. No dinosaur could ever do something terrible as this."
"I reckon so," Emmet agreed. "I thought I saw hell in the cavalry. But that weren't nothing to this."
Buckshot Buchanan aimed his rife and fired. A nearby scalphunter went down with a slug in the chest, blood spurting from the wound. Buckshot leapt off of his horse and walked forward slowly, firing off a round with each step.
"I'll kill each and every one of you! And with my own bare hands if I gotta!" he shouted, punctuating each word with a gun shot. The scalphunters quickly realized they were under attack and ran for shelter, but the bullets continued to rain down upon them. The Lakota warriors rushed down, screaming war whoops as they leapt to defend their tribe. The warrior with the tomahawks caught a spurt of fire from the Gatling gun and went down without finishing his war cry.
Emmet and Orville rode their horses into the village and started firing with their revolvers. Orville fired his pistol at a scalphunter, saw him stumble, and then fired at him again. It didn't feel any different than killing the vicious raptors. Emmet gripped his dinosaur gun with one hand, aimed at a drunken scalphunter and fired. The large caliber bullet tore the unfortunate man clean in two. Emmet slammed in another round and picked another target. The scalphunters were drunk off of whiskey and bloodlust, and few of them managed to return fire.
One-Eyed Ishmael turned on them, leveling his revolvers and sending out a stream of lead. The Lakota with the rifle caught a slug in the arm and sunk down, a second shot finding his heart. Striking Lizard let out a shout of rage and ran to Ishmael, sending out a shaft from his bow as he ran. The arrow sunk into Ishmael's chest, but the one-eyed giant ignored it. Dawn Star followed his master into battle.
"Have to do better than that, boy," Ishmael grunted, lowered his pistols at Striking Lizard and fired twice. Striking Lizard's body jerked backwards and then sunk slowly to the ground. Dawn Star let out a mournful cry when its master died. It leapt into the air and landed on One-Eyed Ishmael, scratching and clawing. Ishmael dropped one of his inlaid revolvers and fended off the raptor with one hand. He fastened his hand around its scaly throat and began to choke the life out of it, then stuck the revolver into its mouth and pulled the trigger. Ishmael hurled the twitching raptor to the floor and stomped its face with his boot.
"That all you got?" he asked. "That ain't nothing!"
Buckshot Buchanan fired the last shot from his rifle, blowing the hat off Ishmael's head. The one-eyed man was completely bald. He stared at Buckshot and grinned. "Buckshot! I knew you was behind this!"
"You've survived a lot, Ishmael. But you ain't gonna survive this."
"Bold words. Care to back them up?" Buckshot snapped his fingers and the iguanodon stepped forwards. Two of the surviving scalphunters clambered up on the dinosaur's back, quickly manning the Gatling gun. They pointed it at Buckshot.
"You gonna die, Buckshot. Just like your wife and baby. I'm gonna scalp you, get five dollars, and buy a nice whiskey." Ishmael grinned. "I can't die, old timer. And you ain't gonna make me."
Orville pulled the dinosaur gun from his back. He jumped off of his horse and went to his knees, aiming at the iguanodon. He had one shot. The young dinoboy sucked in his breath and took careful aim before squeezing the trigger.
For a second, he thought he had missed. But then the iguanodon wavered on its stocky legs and toppled over. There was a clean bullet hole in the center of its skull. The two riders and Gatling gun tried to scramble out of the way, but the iguanodon fell too fast. A sinister crunching sound was the only epitaph they got.
Ishmael opened his mouth. He looked at the fallen iguanodon and then stared around the camp, trying to find one of his surviving men to aid him. There were none left with breath in them. One-Eyed Ishmael cursed and squared his shoulders. One of his inlaid revolvers lay on the ground the other in his cartridge belt. His hand hovered above the pistol.
Buckshot Buchanan pulled his dino scale jacket back, revealing the two large revolvers on his belt. His hand touched the handle of one and he stared at Ishmael at waited. Time seemed to stand still as the two veterans of the ancient deserts faced each other. Orville could count his heartbeats. Ishmael's face twitched and his hand seemed to spasm. Buckshot narrowed his eyes.
Then, in a flurry of smoke and gunfire, it was over. Buckshot went for his large revolver but Ishmael beat him to the draw. He fired a shot, but One-Eyed Ishmael must have been full of nerves and the bullet only kicked up dust at Buckshot's boots. Buckshot fired with his own pistol and his bullet hit home. Ishmael let out a strangled cry as the high caliber bullet tore his gunhand clean off. He fell to his knees, crying and begging.
"I known you for years, Ishmael, and I you've never shown a hint of mercy." Buckshot took a step forward, cocked his revolver and took careful aim. "Beg all you want, you coward. You ain't gonna get nothing but pain." He fired again and again, each time blowing off a substantial chunk of Ishmael's body. Finally, the revolver was empty and Ishmael wasn't nothing but a pile of scraps that the oviraptors could fight over.
The survivors of the massacred did what they could for the dinoboys. They gave them horses and food for the journey home, and then went about preparing the dead for the journey to the world of their ancestors. Orville watched them lay Dawn Star and Striking Lizard together, side by side.
They set out for Abeline later that day, and arrived in it around sun down. The dinoboys of the Bluescale Outfit who had survived the stampede were already there. They had saved some of the herd and had sent them to Chicago on the train. Emmet, Buckshot, and Orville were greeted with amazement and cheers. They received their pay in full.
After drinking a lot of whiskey in several saloons and purchasing a raptorskin gun belt for his revolver, Orville Nebbins felt pretty good. In one of the saloons, a few dinoboys from the Greenplate Outfit, a stegosaur-raising ranch, were signing up volunteers for the next drive. It promised to be more of the same, and even though every bone in Orville's body told him to forget it all and go back to Texas and grow old and fat on his family's ranch, he did not hesitate in signing himself up.