Deus Ex Mechina

The very unpolished first chapters of a book about a man living in the western frontier, facing the law, strange magics that should not exist, and his own tarnation name. And a lot of generic tropes.

By Zach McClellan

2
16 min.
30
Chapter one: A Day in the Generic Life

A dark figure crashed through the window of the saloon into the dusty street, releasing a grunt of pain. Jeers called out after him as he scrambled away.

“Teach that slimeball a lesson, Sloan!”

“He’ll think twice about cheating!”

“Wow, he had to have flown a good ten yards. What a sport!”

Great. Not only had he antagonized a group of angry giants, but they had a bunch of annoying sidekicks. Why were there always sidekicks? It made work so much harder.

The three men he had been playing poker with slowly and dramatically pushed through the swinging doors and posed for the gunfight. Everything was perfect. The sunlight glittered off of their guns in their holsters and their spurs, the afternoon light perfectly accenting their jawbones, which they held slightly clenched. They looked off towards the distant horizon, an expression of righteous determination. There was just one problem. They were idiots.

As they slowly and dramatically whipped their long coats back, allowing for easier access of the gun in the case of a quick draw, he rolled behind some barrels. This was not ideal. Today was Just Day, when the government had finally decided to do something about bandits and took back Fort Justin. The street was desolate, everyone celebrating at home or at the local festival, reducing chances of getting some good crossfire up. And he was sitting behind barrels of all things. Barrels! Of all the generic things to hide behind, it had to be barrels! He would never live this down. And all for one 4 of spades.

He peeked above the barrel and saw them glowering in his general direction. He had just robbed them of a dramatic shootout they could’ve bragged about to their lackys for days. One of the men motioned the other to go inside. A few seconds later, out tramped the entire population of the saloon, and they began to fan out. This was getting worse and worse.

The barrels he had hid behind were just across the street of the saloon, so it would take them about two seconds to find him. He always had been terrible at hide’m and find’m when he was a kid.

One of the leaders, Gunpowder Jones (self dubbed), began to walk toward the barrels, a smile of triumph of his face, a gleam of bloodlust in his eye. Right inconvenient, that.

A swift kick to a barrel sent it rolling, tumbling the man. A elbow to the head of the mighty Gunpowder Jones left him stunned. When Jones regained his sense, he found himself propped up, a gun to his head.

“Back it up, nice and easy now folks. I’d hate to hurt this very kind gentleman, but I have a seizure in my trigger finger occasionally. That’s right, that’s right. Just keep backing- DID I TELL YOU TO DROP YOUR WEAPONS? Pick your gun back up! Yes you! Pick it up and back away.” Idiots. This was not supposed to be the solution. That would be way too anticlimactic.

He backed up into the nearest shop, a two story general store, dragging Jones.

The door bolted and barricaded, and Jones gagged and bound, he took better stock of his surroundings. The store was closed for the day, due to the holiday, so he would face no opposition. He would probably get a bit of time before they decided to attack despite Jones, so he could plan a bit. He squinted, the few brilliant shafts of light making it through small chinks in the wall illuminating the airborne dust, but nothing else. There was no shelving, just items piled around the edges of the small room. The organized items would be up top. He found a candle and lit it, and was momentarily blinded. Were those… gunpowder kegs? What luck! He grinned. It wasn’t every day you had an excuse to use them and actually possessed them at a convenient time. There were some piles of rope, one of which he tied to his belt, more pistols, a bottle of rum, and some baked beans. He took them all, then began to lug the powder keg up to the second story. He made it up about two steps, give or take two (but mainly take).

“Wow, that was [gasp] very [gasp] hard. I need to reevaluate,” he gasped (as you probably noticed.)

“You’re pretty pathetic. I would pull my act together if I were you.”

“You know what, Gunpowder Jones? Your name is stupid! So there, take that! How are you talking anyway, I thought I gagged you!”

“You used like a shoelace or something. What was that supposed to do? And it is too a cool name! And your the one weirdly wearing leather gloves”

“It’s definitely not a cool name, and they help with dramatic exits using rope. But quit trying to change the subject. Your name is stupid. End of story.”

“Don’t make me roll over there and bite your ankles! AGHHHHHH!” With that ferocious battle cry, Jones began to wriggle towards him at an alarming rate. In about a minute, the attacker made it nearly four feet.

After a few minutes, he had developed a pretty good system of moving the barrel up the stairs, consisting of heaving it up a single stair then resting for said few minutes. At this rate he’d only take a few hours. Peachy. The door shuddered suddenly, dust raining from the ceiling. Quintuple time! He heaved it up several more steps, then had to stop. Well, to tarnation with that, he would have to do this old school style. Old school as in boring like old people, not old school like cool.

He kicked the barrel down the stairs, then sprinted up to the second level and yanked the window open and fastened the rope to one of the shelves. There were a lot of men crowded by the door, cheering as others pounded against it with the butts of their rifles. Wow, this was getting down right exciting! He yanked off his ragged shirt and tore a bit off, then popped open the bottle of alcohol, pouring a bit on it then stuffing the cloth into the neck of the bottle. Hopefully this was how you made them, but he honestly didn’t know. Any minute now…

Any minute now…

Any minute now…

Any minute now…

Wow, they were really bad at pounding down doors. Maybe he should’ve bothered with that powder keg after all. Just as he was considering going back to get it in hopes that dropping it on them would make them work faster, he heard a tell tale crack, and they all rushed in. He touched the clothe to the candle and watched it woosh into flame, then grabbed the rope and hopped out the window, landing a few feet below the window, feet braced against the wall. He heard a shout below, then white wash beside his foot exploded. Tarnation heck.

His hand released the bottle, and was rewarded with a lovely whooshing exploding sound. As he grabbed the rope in a firmer two handed grip, his smile could be contained no longer. This was downright invigorating. Then several explosions rippled against the white wash and pain blossomed in his right shoulder. He almost let go of the rope. He was still being shot at. Right. Grimacing, he kicked off the wall, letting the rope slide excruciatingly against his hands. Despite the gloves, the heat still burned. He heard the men shouting in the building.

The momentum of the fall sent him rolling behind the barrels he had hid behind previously. He stumbled up. Who had been shooting him? He noticed a black rifle barrel poke up from below the ledge of the saloon window, and began to sprint. Hopefully no one was just standing on the road ready to shoot him if he abandoned his cover. He saw the man's head pop up, then his eyes widen in fear as he noticed his target was about twenty feet away and his rifle was probably not loaded. He stared in disbelief as the cheater, the random man passing through town, ran toward him, without even pulling out his weapon. As he hurtled through the window and caught his head. His disbelief probably didn’t continue far past that though, because people typically struggle to do that once they are knocked unconscious.

The stranger took his cover and looked at the destruction he had caused. Smoke was billowing out the the store, the entrance completely encased in flame. He no longer heard shouting from that direction, so they had probably found a way out. But then where was everyone?

Grunting, he tugged the can of beans from his belt (it was wedged very tight), and tossed it out into the road. It exploded, and small dust clouds popped up all around it, gunshots echoing through the street. Wow. There were a LOT of people.

He heard Sloan, another one of the man he had played with, shout, “I recommend you come out. We know where you are, and you’ve got a pretty big debt to settle. It behooves you to come out before we settle it for you.”

“Did you seriously just say behooves? What is this, the royal palace?”

Silence. The first thing he had learned when playing with them was that they had very little sense of humor. They began to file out, standing in a line in the center of the street, facing the saloon where he hid. Very, very dramatic.

“Let’s get‘m, boys!”

Fire suddenly blossomed from the store behind them, the eruption tossing many some distance, shrapnel taking down others. Powder kegs. Always a lovely addition to any event.

Some screamed, and some just lied there. And a few raced toward the saloon.

The traveler reached for one of the pistols he had grabbed from the store. Gone. he must’ve dropped it somewhere during the escape from the window. Perhaps when he had been shot. That thought caused him to gasp in pain. He’d forgotten about the wound, and it did not appreciate being ignored. There was no time to bandage it now, though. He whipped out the only gun not lost, his gun, a custom made seven-shooter. He grimaced from the pain the motion caused to his shoulder, but the familiar weight soothed him. Armed and ready, he vaulted over the bar and waited.

He didn’t have to wait long. The men burst in, light streaming into the room, still full of smoke from their previous habitation of it. The door swung shut.

“He can’t of went far. He’s outgunned and desperate. Don’t hesitate, men.”

Hurrah. Who needed judges and juries anyways?

The room was large, tables spanning the entirety, with the counter he hid behind in the very back. The lamps barely penetrated the gloom, as did the light streaming through the broken window. They began to make their way through the tables, looking under them, but it was clear they were making their way back to his position. He’d have been an idiot not to hide there, and they knew it. Well, fortune favors the bold, he thought.

He jumped up and fired three shots, catching one enemy in the arm, and one in the thigh and foot. The others whipped around and let loose, forcing him to duck down and shattering bottles in the region his head had recently occupied. They knew his position, and he was pinned. Luckily, they hadn’t accounted for his epic skills.

He picked up a bottle and tossed in into the air. The crack of guns and and exploded bottle sounded in return. Immediately they stopped shooting, realising they had been deceived. And he struck. A shot struck a man’s shoulder, the only part of him visible behind the cover, and he yanked back the hammer once again, and blasted a man through a thin table he had propped up as shelter, then he jerked it back once more, hitting a man’s arm as he tried to shoot back from behind the cover. All this took place in about one second.

He was already crouched below the cover when they finally registered they had been hit and let out their cries.

“That was your sixth bullet. You’re out. Better to come now submissively, maybe the sentence won’t be too harsh. You don’t come, this ugly place may be your last sight. Come on out, you gave a hell of a fight.”

It’s amazing how often this strategy of counting bullets does not work. In fact, it fails spectacularly quite often. There was always that guy who had managed not to drop his extra guns, or reloaded his pistol, or something equally unsporting. This was one of those times.

The hunted stood up, his hands in the air, one loosely held the “unloaded” pistol. His young face, framed by wildly arranged short black hair, held an uncanny smile. It was quite enjoyable to be unnerving, in his humble opinion.

“Co- come out in the open. Nice and easy now.” The poor fool. A simple smile set his voice shaking.

BAM!

It was almost funny, the way literally every single man instantly dropped at the noise. He hadn’t aimed at anyone, of course. Shooting an unsuspecting person from point blank was just messed up. But this was enough of an advantage. He dove and rolled towards the man who had called for him to come out, coming out of the roll on one knee, and slamming the man’s head into the ground in one smooth motion. One out cold. Approximately six to go.

A swift kick snapped a table leg off. A well placed throw smacked one of the enemies attempting to sneak out from behind his barricade. A lung and slide, a slight thump, and one more was down.

The rest of the men followed suit, finding pool cues or removing table legs. Sure, they would attack a man four on one, but they weren’t complete strangers to honor. They wouldn’t fight pistol on club. The four men regrouped near the entrance as he stood up, dusting off his coat and wincing when he noticed his shoulder. Being shot was not fun. Well, he’d have time to complain when he was dead.

They ran at once, makeshift bludgeoning weapons held high. It was a terrifying sight. Up until he kicked a table at them, which caused one man to double over, clutching his stomach, and the rest to scatter. The three others approached more cautiously, the fourth lagging behind them. They tried to strike at the same time from three sides, but he threw his club at the one coming towards him face on, forcing him to jump out of the way. He caught the club at his left, tugging the man to the other side, in line with the swing to the other’s club, then kicked their legs from beneath them. He finished them by dropping, slamming his elbows into their stomachs. They wouldn’t be getting up for sometime.

A club slammed his shoulder as jumped up. His injured shoulder. His vision grew red a fuzzy. His entire existence seemed to become pure pain for that moment, excruciating bolts shooting throughout his body. The club caught him again, this time on the head, but he barely felt that in comparison. He struck his fist out blindly, catching the man’s knee. This sent him reeling back, and gave the visitor enough time to compose himself.

Two men only. He could do this. He charged toward the man who had clubbed his shoulder, slamming his jaw upward with his right fist, then kneeing him in the stomach, then caught the man's head as he doubled over. He slammed the head against his knee, and let the man drop. One more to go.

He looked around and made eye contact with the last one remaining. Fear. Carnal and wild. This man knew he had lost. He began to fumble his pistol out. Too late. The stranger had sprinted, rising onto the table in one smooth stride, and flung himself off, an outstretched foot catching the man’s head, flinging him back ward.

The man groaned, then coughed. “Who [cough] are you?” he groaned. “Where in Hell do they breed monsters like you?”

“I’m known through these parts as... Jackson Swiftfire.”

“That’s [cough] a really [cough] lame name.”

“You’re right. I actually made that up on the spot, but that doesn’t excuse it. That sounded really stupid, and I am really sorry.”

And with that, Stacy, the only criminal on this whole side of the continent with a girls name, walked out of the saloon and into the street.

Stacy whistled as he walked down a smaller road a few streets away from the fight. Yes, his shoulder hurt like tarnation, but he’d been through far worse.He passed an empty watering barrel, and heard a meowing issue from it. He veered his course, allowing him to peer in.

It was a splotchy orange and black, fat and sleek. Probably never seen a hard day in it’s petty life, but now trapped and helpless. It was trapped, alone. Helpless. He spat at it and kicked the barrel, then began to walk away and resume his whistling when he heard a gasping behind him.

He whipped around and saw a young child. Fear and sadness in his eyes, betrayal, even loathing. And a single tear leaked from his eye. He couldn’t have been over six. Stacy had just crushed this poor child’s dreams.

Stacy knelt down. “Kid, let me tell you something. There’s a lotta good things in this world. Cats ain’t one of them. Get yourself a dog or something.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a bag of coins, tossing it to the child, who flinched, then sniffled and let out a little smile, then scampered away to what was presumably his house.

Stacy resumed his whistling and began to turn around when he heard the distinctive click of a pistol being cocked.

“You, my good sir, are under arrest.”

He heard many more clicks. Peachy. Well, just another typical day in the generic life.

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About Zach McClellan

I'm a 15 year old who loves to write but rarely get's past half a chapter without giving up on the project. I mainly write fantasy, though I like to cross over between multiple genres somewhat. I hope you enjoy!