bornuntotrouble: (Default)
Let me know how I'm doing. Comments are screened, anon is enabled.
bornuntotrouble: (listening intently)
No place is safe, anymore.

That's the one thing John is sure of.

The forest is shrouded in an impenetrable mist, and everywhere he looks he swears he can see that...that thing.

(His eyes turn trees into eldritch monstrosities, he's got a cough that won't go away, and every time he sleeps he has nightmares that make him wake up screaming.)

The Bar is crowded, too crowded - he can feel the walls pressing in on him, forcing him out, back into the forest amidst the tinkle of glass, conversation, and laughter.

He walks along a narrow path, the crunch of bark and grass underneath his boots breaking the silence. One hand is on his Colt, and every so often he stops and looks around.



He thumbs back the hammer to half-cock with a click.

Just in case.
bornuntotrouble: (Satisfied smirk)
In retrospect, John really hadn’t known what he was getting himself into when he’d agreed to help Miss MacFarlane take the herd out to pasture.

Not that the landscape wasn’t something to behold (it was – scrub brush and trees dotted the plains under a clear blue sky) or that Miss MacFarlane was anything less than a pleasure to work with (she was – even if she was a bit insistent on being called ‘Bonnie’)…

…but by God the cows were difficult.

It’d taken over an hour in the mid-July sun for him, Miss MacFarlane, and the ranch hands to herd them out to the pasture out by the old oak tree, and John was sure that they’d yet to invent a word for just how foul he must have smelled. Beneath him, Kipper, the Cleveland Bay Miss MacFarlane had loaned him, whickered, swiping at the flies buzzing around his backside with his tail.

“Mister Marston.”

John looked up. Bonnie was sauntering over on her own horse. He tipped his hat.

“Miss MacFarlane.”

She groaned. “How many times do I have to say ‘call me Bonnie’ ‘fore it sticks, y’damn fool?”

He smiled. “Honestly, Miss MacFarlane, more times than you’ve got the patience for.”

She shook her head. “I don’t doubt it. How’s Kipper treatin’ you?”

John shrugged, leaning forward in the saddle to give him a scratch behind the ears. “Well, so far. He’s a fine animal, Miss MacFarlane.”

She nodded. “Raised him myself. He was a mean colt, but he’s calmed down some.”

“That he has, Miss MacFarlane, that he has.”

She nodded.


“So, how’s it going?”

He quirked an eyebrow. “How’s what going?”

“Whatever it is you’re doing here.”

John leaned forward in the saddle. “Well, I think it’s going well. We got the herd out to pasture-”

“Not that. Williamson.”

Oh.


“I’m at a bit of an – impasse – on that.”

She nodded. “You think about goin’ to the Marshal?”

“The Marshal? Where?”

Now it was her turn to cock a brow. “In Armadillo. Leigh Johnson. You mean you didn’t see him?”

“To be honest, Miss MacFarlane, I was a little preoccupied.”

She shook her head, smiling. “Some eagle-eyed cowboy you are. Well, listen, why don’t you try going to him for help? I’ve heard he’s rather proficient at shootin’ folk. Maybe he could lend you a hand, you ever decide to try bein’ a hero again.”

He chuckled, tipped his hat. “I’ll bear that in mind, Miss MacFarlane.”

“Bonnie. B-O-N-N-I-E.”
bornuntotrouble: (On horseback)
(After this.)

The road to Armadillo is well-worn and dusty, and the reins are familiar in his hands as he spurs the horses on. The early morning air is frigid, the sun not quite having warmed the earth yet, but the dawn light playing through the oak trees turns the leaves every shade of gold he can think of.

It’s times like this he can almost forget what he was sent out here for.



“You're looking much better. Considering you were almost buzzard food a couple days ago.”

“I have you to thank for that, miss,” he says, spurring the horses on.

“So do tell me, have you needlessly risked your life since we last spoke?”

He chuckles, and it leaks over into his words. “No, miss, I have not.”

“Well, that's a relief. Perhaps there's hope for you yet.”

That four-letter word again.

“I wouldn't bet on it.”

“Oh, there's always hope, Mister Marston. You can't be a rancher in this kind of country if you don't believe that.”

“An admirable attitude, miss.”

“I suppose so. I can't think of any other way to stay sane, to be frank.”

She looks at him, her head cocked to one side. “What about you? Have you ever given up hope altogether?”

He shrugs as they wind down a canyon road. “Hope hasn't really entered into it. It's not really something I think about.”

“A peculiar outlook. I can't really say I understand you.”

“I can't always say I do either.”

“Oh, don't be so deliberately enigmatic!”

“I'm not, miss!”

“Yes you are! You are being deliberately obscure as a substitute for having a personality!”

“I just know there are two theories to arguin' with women. And neither one works.”

“I'm not even going to dignify that gibberish with a response.”



The road to Armadillo passes by miles of scrub brush and cacti and dry, arid land.

On the way in he spots a patch a days-old blood and a pile of spent rifle cartridges by some chaparral.

He’s not the only one out here killing – as if he needed to be reminded.



“I think it's funny I found you dying on the side of the road and now you're driving me into town.”

“You have a strange sense of humor.”

“Well, you must admit…it's an unusual start to a friendship.”

“I didn't realize we were friends, Miss MacFarlane?”

She guffaws. “Oh, please. Now who's being funny?”

There’s a pause. She flicks some stray bangs out of her eyes.

“I know that business with Williamson is your business, but…”

He looks at her, an eyebrow quirked.

“I don't know. You've been good to us, and…I don't think you're a bad man.”

She smiles. “A little stupid, perhaps, but not rotten.”

He laughs at that. He can’t help it.

“I just worry about you gallivanting around these parts like you're some kind of deranged bounty hunter,” she says, her lips taking on a funny twitch. “Like Pa always said, don't go waking snakes.”

“I appreciate your concern for us lesser mortals, Miss MacFarlane, I really do. And if there was any other way out, I'd take it. I can assure you of that.”

And he means it.
bornuntotrouble: (Satisfied smirk)
(After this.)

The sun is peeking over the hills and scrub brush, turning the sky blue-purple-red-orange and warming the dry frigid air.

A crow hopping around the bridge over Gabbin’s Gulch looks up and caws.

And then squawks in protest and flies off because a man on a horse comes thundering over it, horseshoes clomping on the hickory.

Seconds pass.

And then a woman on another horse follows, cursing under her breath and blinking the trail dust out of her eyes and gripping the reins with white knuckles.

It turns out Mister Marston can ride.



“How’re you doin’ back there?”

Try as she might, she can’t come up with a good comeback.

So she puts her head down, mumbles a curse or four (Pappy wouldn’t approve, but dammit, this is her ranch, her land, her race), and spurs her mount on.



Nobody’s ever cleared Sidewinder Pass before her. And nobody’s ever, ever cleared it in less than a minute.

He does. And he does it in fifty seconds.

It’s times like these that she hates his guts.



“Jingle those spurs, Miss MacFarlane!”

“If you know what’s good for you, Mister Marston, you’ll stop talkin’ and start racin’!




He doesn’t say another word.

But by the time she’s crossed the finish line, he’s already got his horse in the stable and his saddle and brindle off and he’s leaning against the white picket fence and he’s smiling.

A bit of stray bangs fall in front of her face, and she blows them away, glaring at him as he walks up, tips his hat, and offers her his hand, never losing that smirk.

“Miss MacFarlane.”

It’s the little things that really, really aggravate her.
bornuntotrouble: (Default)
First off, let's get some of the major characters out of the way, just so y'all know who you're dealing with here.

Of course, if you want, you can skip straight to the missions. Ain't like I can stop you.

Missions with strikethroughs have already been played out, say sorry.

Dramatis personæ:

Bonnie MacFarlane )

Leigh Johnson )

Jonah )

Eli )

Nigel West Dickens )

Seth Briars )

Irish )

Now on to the missions.

Bonnie MacFarlane missions:

Obstacles in Our Path )

This is Armadillo, USA )

Women and Cattle )

Wild Horses, Tamed Passions )

A Tempest Looms )

The Burning )

Leigh Johnson missions:

Political Realities in Armadillo )

Justice in Pike's Basin )

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Bandit )

Hanging Bonnie MacFarlane )

The Assault on Fort Mercer )

Nigel West Dickens missions:

Old Swindler Blues )

You Shall Not Give False Testimony, Except for Profit )

Liars, Cheats, and Other Proud Americans )

Can a Swindler Change His Spots? )

The Sport of Kings, and Liars )

Seth Briars missions:

Exhuming and Other Fine Hobbies )

A Gentle Drive with Friends )

Let the Dead Bury Their Dead )

Irish missions:

A Frenchman, A Welshman, and an Irishman )

Man is Born Unto Trouble )

On Shaky's Ground )

We Shall Be Together in Paradise )

Stranger missions )

And if you're not in the mood for all this artsy-fartsy "plot" bullshit, well then, there's plenty of gang hideouts that need clearing! No exposition required, just you, John, a redshirt NPC, and a whole lot of bad guys that need killing.

And there's also plenty of dynamic in-world events that happen, but they're not meaty enough to make an OOM out of just by themselves.

So who wants what? Comment away!
bornuntotrouble: (Default)
The light came first, an early afternoon brightness that stirred him from his slumber.

The pain came second, a dull ache in his side as he returned to consciousness and took a look at his surroundings. He was lying on a bed in a modest shack – a cowskin was mounted on the wall and a rope by the door, and various bottles and medical instruments rested on a nightstand next to the bed.

Oh, right. He’d been shot.

Funny, the tricks an unconscious mind could play on you.

The door creaked open, and a woman peeked inside.

“Well, you’re alive,” she said.

John flexed his hands, held them up to the light. “So it would seem.”

She was in the room now, leaning against the open door. “So, how do you feel?”

“I don’t know the polite word for it.”

“I do. ‘Stupid’ is the word we use around here. What were you doing?”

“I was –” he started to sit up and bit back a grunt as his right side flared up “– I was doin’ somethin’ stupid,” he finished, swinging his legs out over the side of the bed.

A smirk played at the corners of her mouth. “Well, you’ll be okay. Once you didn’t die the doctor said you’d be fine. He got the bullets out a couple days ago.”

“Good.”

“It cost us fifteen dollars.”


Ah, shit.


“I’m sorry, madam. You should’ve left me there to die.”

“Did you wanna die? I mean, was that it? Was that why you went straight out to Fort Mercer and picked a fight with the worst bandit in the county? To die, Mister, uh…”

“Mister Marston. John Marston.”

She smiled, stepping toward the bed. “Bonnie MacFarlane. Miss Bonnie MacFarlane.”


“Well, you may be right, Miss MacFarlane. I don’t know.”

“Huh."


“So what were you doin’?” she asked.


“I was tryin’ to give Mister Williamson a chance. For old time’s sake.”

“You know Bill Williamson?” Her squint leaked into the question.

“Knew him. Long time ago.”


“Well, what was he like?”

He stood up slowly, hands on his knees. “Dumb.”

“Just like you.”

Damn she was good.

“Thank you, miss,” he said, reaching for the brim of his hat but feeling air.

“Seen my hat?”

“I have,” she said, pointing to the corner of the room it rested in. He walked over, picked it up, and donned it, the lining familiar and comfortable.

“So, ah…what will you do now?” she asked.

“Now I’m gonna – take my time and go after him the less kind way.”

“Well, that sounds very fun, Mister Marston. Quite heroic, just like in those penny dreadfuls my brother used to read. Meanwhile, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a ranch to run,” she said, turning and walking out the door.

“Of course,” she said, stopping halfway and turning back to him, “if you’re feeling better, why not take a ride with me later and help me patrol the perimeter? You can earn back some of that money we wasted on doctor’s bills.”

“Of course,” he said, picking his gunbelt up. “And thank you. For saving my life, I mean.”

She cocked her head and smiled. “Next time, Mister Marston, I strongly recommend you don’t try to lose it quite so earnestly.” She turned and walked off.


“I’ll bear that in mind.”
bornuntotrouble: (Default)
The town is small and dusty, but by all appearances self-sufficient. That's enough, in these parts.

John steps off the train and adjusts his hat as he walks into the train station - a glorified telegraph office, really. "Supposed to meet a man named Jake in the saloon. Didn't get a description, so we might have to play it by ear."

bornuntotrouble: (Default)
The train has seen better days. So has the landscape it's passing through. Inside, the windows are smudged, cracked in places, and rattle with every turn, the seats are rickety and feel like a small step up from lying on concrete, and the lamps, unlit in the humid West Elizabeth afternoon, are saturated with wax and oil residue. Outside, what were once vibrant evergreen forests line the tracks and eventually give way to the scrub brush deserts of New Austin.

Both will see worse before this is over.

Persuading Ross to let John take Jim and Kate to Armadillo had been easy enough - Ross didn't offer up any resistance besides some smart remark about how he was surprised John had friends at all and that he was going to have to telegraph Marshal Johnson for two more horses, but more guns were more guns were more guns, and more guns meant a better chance of getting Williamson. There was an elegant, almost naive element of simplicity to the logic.

John stares out a window, arms draped over his seat, legs crossed. Something tells him that things are going to become very illogical very fast. If they haven't already.
bornuntotrouble: (Default)
John couldn’t remember the last time he’d been in Blackwater.

But he was pretty sure it had been in daylight. He was also pretty sure it had not been under armed guard. And he was definitely sure he had not gone at gunpoint.

At the end of it, he was sitting here, in front of a desk in an overdecorated office, under the watch of two men in bowler hats, both armed, both silent. He’d been sitting here for the past hour, and the only answers to his questions had been stony glares from the pair.

The door behind him opened up, and John turned in his seat to see a grey-haired, ruddy-faced man enter and shut it behind him.

“Mister Marston. It’s been a while.” The man strode behind the desk and sat in the overstuffed chair behind it. “I can’t honestly say the pleasure is mine, but your presence suits our purposes.”

John crossed his arms. “And who’re you?”

The man reached into a suit pocket, withdrawing a badge. “Edgar Ross, Bureau of Investigation. I’ll be blunt with you, Mister Marston. We know you ran with a gang a few years back. We know they left you for dead during a botched robbery. After that, they disbanded and scattered. Ordinarily, we’d leave it at that and let the local lawmen take care of them, so long as they didn’t do anything especially noteworthy.”

Ross leaned forward and clasped his hands. “As you might or might not have guessed, this is not an ordinary situation. One of your erstwhile friends, Bill Williamson, has a gang of his own, and they’ve proven to be quite the thorn in our collective sides. To be frank, we’re getting tired of dealing with their antics. That’s where you come in, Mister Marston. We want you to find Williamson and capture him. Or kill him, whichever.”

“Why can’t you find him yourselves?”

“We could. But why bother committing the resources when we can just coerce you into doing it?”

John snorted. “I’m glad to see our hardworking civil servants are so dedicated to their cause.”

“Your sarcasm is noted, Mister Marston. It is also unappreciated. Find Williamson, or else –”

“Or else what? What on Earth make you think I’d help a stuck-up, flannel-mouthed government man like you?”

Ross smirked. “Oh, that’s simple, Mister Marston. We have your family.”

“You –” John couldn’t have stood up faster if a spike had shot up out of his chair. The two men in bowlers reached inside their coats, but stopped as Ross held up a hand.

“Now, Mister Marston, I’d advise against doing anything foolish –”

“Where are they.”

“At an undisclosed location. Sit down.”

John reached for his holster. “You son of a –”

“Mister Marston, there are two armed Bureau agents behind me, two more outside that door, and a squad outside the building. Touch that holster and you’ll leave this room in pieces. Now sit.

John paused, then lowered himself back onto the chair. “I’ll get you for this, Ross.”

Ross sighed. “Could you dispense with your delusions of righteousness for once? We had other options, believe me. We could’ve confiscated that worthless ranch of yours. We could’ve hung you for any number of murders. We could’ve put you in prison for the rest of your life. But then we’d have to waste manpower finding a fugitive you’re already quite familiar with. This way, everyone wins.”

John gripped the arms of the chair until his knuckles turned white. “You call this ’winning’?

“I don’t see how you could call it ‘losing’. Besides, Mister Marston, you have a stake in this, too. Bring Mister Williamson to justice and I’ll see to it that you receive a full pardon. And that your wife and son are returned to you.”

“And if I refuse to go along with this?”

“Then we’ll try you, hang you and your family, and auction off your ranch.” Ross dug a box of cigars and a cutter out of his desk. “It’s a simple choice.”

“Choosing between betrayal and death ain’t much of a choice,” John spat.

Ross smirked. “I said it was a simple choice, Mister Marston. I said nothing about it being an easy one.” He cut the cigar, stuck it in his mouth, and lit it. Outside the door, a clock ticked.




“Fine,” John said. “I’ll do it.”

Ross twirled the cigar around in his fingers, blowing the smoke out his nose. “Excellent. Your train leaves for Armadillo tomorrow at nine in the morning. You’ll find there is a room on the second floor of the Blackwater Saloon already taken out in your name. Agent Archer and I will escort you to the train station at half past eight. I’ll telegraph Marshal Johnson in Armadillo and inform him of your arrival and need of a guide. In the meantime, my men will see to it that you are given adequate weaponry and provisions.”

John stood up, strode to the door, wrenched the doorknob –

“Oh, and Mister Marston?”

John turned.

“Don’t be late.”

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John Marston

October 2012

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