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Cowboy Bob and the Interdimensional Drive

by Dennis Humphreys 10 days ago in science fiction

Cowboy Bob and the Alien Main Course

by: Dennis R. Humphreys

The research firm of Tomorrow's Technologies had been around for ten years. Subsidized by private funding originally, some of the things developed, eventually caught the attention of the U.S. Government. It was commonplace to grant funding regularly for a hand in the development of things pertinent to national security and military advancement. One project caught the attention of power gurus. This unique project was a coordinated effort under the leadership of three men: Doctors Gordon Ripshaw, Issac Warner, and Phillip Askew. Their primary focus was in three different areas of expertise and interest. All their efforts were combined in these avenues both in time and funding.

Gordon Ripshaw's interest was in time travel; Issac Warner, in holographic applications; and Phillip Askew, in AI analysis and practical applications. Two of the subjects of interest eventually found themselves overlapping each other, with the possibilities of expanding the knowledge base for the advancement of humanity greater than ever before. To this end, Doctors Issac Warner and Gordon Ripshaw began working together for the last three years at the facility on a project destined for incredible advancement never seen before in science.

Dr. Gordon Ripshaw discovered, he was able to open a small, time warp into the past but it required a substantial amount of energy to do so. The largest rift he could accomplish with present funding was a three inch circular area. To double the size would require an exponential energy output of four times the present requirement. To quadruple the size would require sixteen times the amount of energy and that would be an opening of only twelve inches. It was impossible and impractical at the present to think of sending a full grown person through that portal. That leads us to the second problem of time travel...anything having a mass was completely disintegrated into it's molecular components as it went through the opening created. While the three inch opening was a great breakthrough, utilizing such a thing while technology caught up with the energy problem was a major stumbling block. Researchers in the lab were even able to stoop down and look through the three inch opening to view various time periods and witness what was transpiring at the time. Yet, you couldn't put anything past the magnetic frequency modulated opening without complete disintegration. So the possibility of pushing fiber optics to record visual information or microphones for audio into the hole was useless. Something without mass was needed and in the beginning the only thing imaginable was of a spiritual nature...scientifically impossible.

Dr. Issac Warner was aware of the problem as it unfolded and suggested the holographic nature of his research might provide an answer and eventually it did. He took Dr. Kenneth Askew's work in AI and expanded it into his work with holograms. He was able to create circuit boards and circuitry out of light. The doctor utilized the principles of proton tunneling using hydrogen atoms, removing their electrons. Holograms used glass to create their images but since glass contained mass, an alternative was required to pass through the portal unaffected to create the holograms circuitry for the AI device. His first accomplishments were rudimentary but with that initial success came a speed of development with his assistant, Bart Hafner, a brilliant but arrogant and intimidating graduate student in holograms. Warner often wondered if his negatives outweighed his positives but Hafner eventually proved otherwise.

The group needed an unlimited power source to maintain the holographic AI 'device'. Something self-sustaining something which the arrogant research assistant provided. A long time admirer of Nicolas Tesla and his efforts to provide unlimited energy from the void surrounding us was the answer. The technology was there but government and energy companies censored Tesla's work in an effort to control it. The facility's connections within the government, in relationship to the kind of work they were doing, was able to obtain the required information needed to duplicate Tesla's radiant energy findings. Bart duplicated the experiments and the device was replicated in holographic format. What the researchers now had was an AI entity that could evaluate, communicate, creatively think, pass through solid matter and for all intents was immortal. It was the closest thing to God one could imagine. Now they were ready to send their 'entity' through the portal where it could observe and gather information without interfering in history, as it was instructed. There were basic parameters assigned to it to keep it from interfering in the past. It had always been a question among scientists what would happen if a time traveler changed one factor in the past. What would it do to the future? It was bad enough you were changing the past unintentionally by even introducing something created in the future into the past. No one had any idea of what would happen.

The doctors developed coordinates to identify the time and location where the portal would open. The accuracy of the numbers was critical and they had to be able to duplicate the location of where the device was and to return to the exact spot to retrieve the device. These consisted of a sequence of eighty fours number that were a more accurately defined set of digits corresponding to longitude and latitude assigned after a baseline beginning was assigned and calibrated. Then there was an associated number of over a thousand numbers with a created baseline assigned number, to identify that moment in time the experimenter wanted to send the AI device to. No fail safes needed to be built into the system because if the AI device went through the portal and emerged on the other side in solid matter it could just pass through it. Therein lay the other problem if you could send a human being through a larger portal he might end up as some conglomerate in a granite rock.

This particular day was of extreme importance because today the effort to put the AI device through the portal would be attempted. Testing over the last two months of the device itself to make sure it did everything it was supposed to do was successful. It was the common consensus to run the experiment without the scrutiny of the military or anyone else outside of the facility. This was a very private test involving only those who had a hand in its eventual development. In order to track the AI which was mass-less and therefore invisible, the doctor created it so it emitted a light. Thus, its whereabouts was observable. Both Issac and Bart were used to seeing the small illuminated object move around the labs while they were there. When they weren't, the AI device was told to stay in a small mahogany box within a small Faraday cage in that box. While it was in there, it was undetectable but it could pass through the box itself illuminating the immediate area.

Dr. Issac Warner's personal favorite historical time was the wild west after the time of the Civil War when the country experienced great growth in terms of territorial expansion and industrial innovation. He liked the cowboy era and as a child wanted to grow up to be a cowboy but knowing that was impossible redirected his attention towards the sciences. Naturally with his disposition towards that era he selected that time to test the AI. The initial test would only last a minute. The AI was directed to pass through the portal and stay within the immediate area and report anything it recorded by coming back through the opening and into the lab. The next step would be a week's duration.

A group of five people were present including Missy Marx, the twenty-four year-old secretary who seemed a dumb redhead fixated on doing her nails and makeup constantly. What surprised anyone taking the time to speak with her was, there was a genius mentality with a masters in astrophysics in there. She could hold her own in a conversation with anyone in the lab about almost any subject. She just wasn't sure what she was going to do with her degree yet and answered Dr. Warner's ad for a secretary in this research facility when the group first started.

Outside there was quite a disturbance over the last several days by some socio-militant group claiming things about those in the facility and their research that were outright lies. They had no idea what the facility was about, to claim what they claimed, and based on the mentality of their spokespeople who enjoyed the limelight of the news media, wouldn't understand the explanation anyway, even if 'dumbed' down to a fourth-grade comprehension level.

After a brief introduction by Dr. Warner, he proceeded to have the AI do a few things following his direction. He sent it to another room to observe other scientists and record their activities. Everything it did was verifiable and correct. The AI device was able to record both sound and images for proof. Everyone in the room had it do various things to test the authenticity of information with which the device returned. Warner wanted to make sure no one suspected it was being manipulated.

“In a minute we're going to have the AI pass through the portal briefly, and bring back proof that it was dispatched from its present location,” said Dr. Warner, but suddenly there was a great bit of noise outside with loudspeakers from the demonstrators making it hard to be heard, even inside the lab, so the doctor waited a moment before continuing. “Sorry for the interruption It seems we have passionate social reformers out there that haven't the sense to try and understand with what they disagree. We'll go over the information it brings back after that information is downloaded to our systems. You might be surprised at the quantity of information it downloads even though it will be the result of just a minute. When we do send the AI back through the portal it will be for a week and I won't even begin to try to explain the volumes of intelligence we will obtain when it returns.”

“Dexter!... by the way I gave it the name Dexter in order to address it in some way. Dexter, the portal is open, and as you were instructed before, you will gather as much information of that era you are sent to as you can, remaining just on the other side of that portal. You will stay invisible to anyone on the other side. Is that understood?” the researcher asked the bright light that rested in front of him.

“I understand doctor,” everyone heard a voice respond.

“Isaac, it has a voice? I don't think anyone realized the extent...” Gordon Ripshaw began to say what everyone else was thinking. No one was aware of the verbalization capabilities.

Issac interrupted with a smile and had something interesting to share.

“Everyone, this is the unique thing about developing an entity like this with its capabilities. It doesn't speak...,” the doctor let that sink in for a moment confusing everyone that heard a voice. “It communicates telepathically and selects who will hear it and who will not.”

And by way of demonstration, he had the AI communicate the alphabet leaving out the letter he wrote on a piece of paper for it without showing anyone else. He wrote the names as well of the people it was to communicate with regarding it.

Everyone was enamored with the result for clearly half of the people there heard the missing letter and wrote it down while the others heard nothing. Everything was then confirmed and the AI went through the portal. The crowd outside was getting noisy again and it sounded like they were beating at the windows on the building.

“Missy, call the police. We don't have sufficient guards here to handle things with a crowd size like that should things accelerate more and it sounds like they are,” Warner told her. She left though you could see she didn't want to.

Bart Hafner held a stopwatch to give the object a minute and the AI came back through on its own. It immediately began downloading information on its return and the success was enormous. A preliminary look at the seven hundred some odd pages of information confirmed the era it was in... July 10, 1881. There was information all the way from conversations within the area among the inhabitants of the town of Cripple Creek to the weather, confirmed with holographic images and sound. It took over an hour to view a small portion of intelligence and not wanting to hold up the experiment any longer the good doctor told the entity to pass through the portal and once through the opening would close until one minute before its return to conserve energy. He reiterated that in exactly one hundred sixty eight hours it was to return to the exact coordinates of the open portal it passed through. The portal would be timed to open five minutes before its assigned return. Both the portal and the AI device were in synchronized time to avoid problems.

Meanwhile Missy reemerged into the room and took a seat as the light disappeared through the small opening to begin its adventure. Everyone looked at each other and slowly began applauding Dr. Warner. It almost seemed like a denouement.

“I'm sorry there wasn't more fanfare with this event but the evidence of what it accumulates will be the exciting portion of all this. We can send this AI device to any time and place to gather details about the past. Archaeologists won't have to investigate or unearth bones and pottery to gain an understanding of a culture or an ancient town. This AI will be able to go there firsthand and give us more information than we could ever hope to imagine,” Dr. Warner suggested.

The portal was shut down and the countdown begun to reopen it in seven days. The waiting would be extraordinarily difficult. The sound outside was creating a din of unimaginable proportions. People had begun throwing rocks and decorative bricks from the landscaping around the facility and chanting nonsensical things about the fraudulent superiority of the scientists and researchers thinking they were more intelligent or better than the average demonstrator causing the chaos being exhibited.

“Let's see anyone of them explain holograms or AI, most of them couldn't even spell AI,” said Dr. Kenneth Askew, who up until now said nothing. The man just didn't talk. Half the time he appeared as if he couldn't. He preferred standing out on the second-floor balcony puffing on his pipe he had since he was a teenager, having carved it himself from a piece of brier wood he bought at an exotic wood store. Dr. Askew was in his early fifties and was divorced for eight years because, according to his x-wife, he was non-communicative. He lived in his own world.

The group in the research facility was a diverse bunch with one thing in common...brain power which to the militants seemed to be an unfair racist condition rather than something either God-given or a natural evolutionary result, depending on your religious or non-religious beliefs.

“Don't these people outside have anything to do better with their time?” Dr. Ripshaw questioned the room in general as they were dispersing, having completed their intent.

“Don't they have jobs they should be at?” Dr. Warner questioned.

“That is their job. I've heard they get paid fairly well to do what they do. The new way of changing public opinion and to change legislation is using fear and threats. Strong arm tactics and paying people to carry them off is evidently cheaper than legal alternatives, faster with a better return,” Missy replied in her almost monotone voice tapping her ballpoint on her glasses.

'Well, OK then. I am going to...” Bart Hafner started saying but was interrupted by the loud sound of glass breaking and his attention diverted to the direction of the sound.

“Dear God, they've busted through the doors. You can hear them pouring into the building. Listen, everyone stay together here in this room don't go anywhere,” Dr. Askew told everyone not wanting anyone to be singled out by a hysterical crowd.

The sound of a crowd, their insane babble and footsteps, went through the building. A number of them were coming up the steps. Where were the police? It only takes a few minutes for madmen to do their business. They don't abide by the rules. The facility had never experienced anything like this but the political climate was descending into an illogical maelstrom of corruption and desire for power.

As everyone stayed together in the lab, the sounds came closer. Then those creating the havoc were visible as they piled into the lab breaking and smashing equipment. It was sheer mayhem and madness. Dr. Gordon Ripshaw tried to bring some order and logic to the event and stepped forward to say something but was beaten with a baseball bat, not once, but several times to stop his only sin of trying to communicate. Missy screamed and Dr. Askew went to his colleague's rescue to pull him away only to be beaten as well for his empathy. They both lay then in a pool of blood growing by the second. Dr. Ripshaw was dead but no one knew about Askew. At the very least, this brain among brains had sustained some serious cerebral damage. Perhaps this was the way to redistribute unequal brain power.

In horror the conscious portion of the group watched as the equipment of years of development, Intense work, and millions and millions of dollars, was destroyed. The time machine laid scattered in pieces across the room, while everything else wasn't in any better condition. You could smell smoke coming down the hall so someone had set fire in the place.

“Heaven help us. We have a powerful AI device trapped in the past with an unlimited power source,” Dr. Issac Warner mumbled as the crowd left as quickly as they came. The sound of a police siren in the distance sounded and was probably the reason for their dispersal.

“Let's evacuate this place,” said Dr. Warner. “There's nothing here now. With the fire and the materials in this building it's hazardous for anyone that stays here.

* * *

It was a hot evening in the middle of summer in the western town of Cripple Creek, Colorado, in 1881. But then July was always hot. Cowboys usually ended up in the most popular saloon in town Saturday evenings, 'The Lame Duck'. The week was finished and Sunday was a day off, so waking up to a bad hangover didn't effect their work or paycheck.

Bob Dupree could be counted on being at the saloon, along with his best friend Messy Galloway. It wasn't just that they enjoyed drinking there and the companionship of other cowboys that frequented the establishment, his girlfriend worked there. She lorded over three other barmaids and helped the bartender with stocking and ordering supplies. Daisy O'Rourke had been dating Bob Dupree for three long years and he had yet to act very serious about their relationship but then he didn't act too serious about anything. That was part of his charm...his boyhood charm. He was a twenty six year old man in a twelve year old body. His friend, Messy, wasn't much better, and between the two of them they found details at a funeral funny. Daisy had come to this country with her parents when she was two, from Ireland. When she was eighteen, she headed west because she was tired of Boston, Massachusetts and wasn't about to end up like her parents, one working in the coal mines and the other spending twelve hours a day taking in laundry to help make ends meet. After a long train trip, and her journey completed by stage coach, she ended up in Cripple Creek, not intentionally, but rather a random, gut decision.

Knowing how to sing and having a nice voice helped get the job at the saloon within three days of disembarking from the stage. Daisy traded one stage for another. She was a light colored blonde with beautiful green eyes that sparkled when she met you. Daisy was as little on the short side but she looked a lot bigger when she was upset with you and when she unleashed her Irish anger...she seemed seven feet tall. She had a small waist held together with a whalebone corset but her waist was small to begin with, the corset was unnecessary.

Tadpole Gillespie ran the bar for the owner, Martin Kimball. Tadpole was a character but most bartenders are. They have a tendency to make people comfortable around them so that conversations expand into hours of laughing and drinking. There are two people in a town like Cripple Creek that you go to to find something out...bartenders and barbers. Every secret in the world is either exposed there or ends up there as a clearing house for the townspeople's bibliographies. The bar got rough at times since cowboys frequented it and were use to a rough life. You worked hard you played hard. Roping, steering branding in conditions like they were in, were sometimes challenging. The market for beef in the east ballooned into something unforeseen. The government's buying and shipping of beef to the troops during the Civil War only wet the general appetite for the market after the end of the war. Tastes had changed and the requirements to get beef to the markets and the slaughter house had as well. Instead of driving a few beef a third of the way across country, large amounts of beef could be put on the new rail systems that crossed the country bringing it to market in just a few days. That gave cowboys like Messy and Bob a lot of work. For those liking outdoor life without letting moss grow under their feet, it was a great lifestyle. It represented true freedom.

“Hi Tadpole,” Bob nodded at the bartender. For the few years he had been coming here they enjoyed each others' company and their conversations.

“Hi Bob...Messy. How was your week?” he smiled at them broadly with a mouth that had a lot of silver work in it by some crafty dentist that manged to get him to free some of his money..

“Hi Tadpole,” Messy saluted. ”We had some trouble with a mountain lion up at the ranch this week. It scattered quite a bit of livestock in the High Gulch area and killed one cow. Sharpshooter Bob here caught up with it though. The bunkhouse has a nice new rug in front of the stove now.

“That's more excitement then we had around here all week,” he told them passing out a couple of beers, their usual.

“Thanks, Tadpole,” both cowboys uttered to Tadpole while a verbal argument was beginning on the other side of the room distracting conversations that were occurring.

“Hi fellas,” came the greeting from Daisy who walked in behind her boyfriend, Bob, and gave him a kiss which he returned.

“Hi darlin'” replied Bob happy to see her after not seeing her all week. Usually he would ride in mid week and just sit with her and talk while she worked for a short while.

“Hi Daisy.” said Messy in his normal gregarious manner but approved of his friend's choice of women.

“Messy, when are you goin' to stop livin' up to your name?” Daisy kidded, patting him on the side of the face.

'Now Daisy you know I don't have a pretty lady like you to spruce up for, like Bob here has,” Messy replied.

“Well you could just spruce up a little once in awhile for me,” she told him as she led them both over with her to sit at an empty table. Unfortunately it was closer to the two wranglers in a heated discussion.

“Davy was in yesterday and said you had cougar problems at the ranch this week,.” Daisy inquired.

“Not any more,” Bob told her.

“Ol' dead eye here nailed that cat on the run...dispatched 'im with one shot,' Messy said proudly as if he made the shot himself. Messy was getting annoyed because the two arguing were moving around a lot as well and kept bumping the back of his chair.

Bob tried to get one of the men's attention but couldn't. Daisy told him just to let it go. They were new to town and Daisy didn't remember seeing them before.

“ Yeah, the cat killed one of the steers up at the ranch so we tracked it up to the gulch. It wasn't hard to find,” Bob told her. Downing his beer and going to the bar to get more.

“It's a shame you had to kill it. They're such beautiful animals and all it's doing is trying to survive,” she reasoned with her boyfriend.

“Yeah, and so's the rancher. A critter like that can do a lot of damage to a herd specially if it's raisin' young ones,” the cowboy told the barmaid logically.

The two arguing were getting into shoving each other. They must have been drinking for awhile and so the bumping continued and was getting worse. Sitting next to them was making it difficult to hear.

“Hey boys, why don't you settle down a bit or take it outside. You're disturbin' everyone in here,” Daisy asked them nicely.

“Lady you'd be better off keepin' your nose out of what doesn't concern you,.” the one cowboy answered curtly.

“Hey you pokes, the lady works here, it does concern her, and she asked you nicely. I won't let her ask you again,” Bob informed them.

The one cowboy made a face to the other one and both laughed...he wouldn't leave it alone.

“You trying to score points with the woman there,” the one man asked. Bob was getting agitated fast and his body language was giving him away.

“He doesn't have to score points with me,” Daisy told him aggressively.

“Ohhhh, he's already puttin' a rustle in her bustle,” the man came back with his smart reply.

With that Bob jumped the man and they started to fight in the bar. The man's friend joined the scuffle and of course then Messy jumped in. People moved back to give those in the fight more room. The fight went back and forth with things being thrown. Bob was a slightly taller than average man but he was stocky and strong jawed. Most people stayed away from a hand fight with him because he just looked like a guy that could get the better of you even if you were a head taller. A table was busted and a couple of chairs as the fight went on for awhile. It was good entertainment for those that stayed in the bar.

Steady Daniels showed up then. He was the town's sheriff. He was older now but in his day he was a heck of a gunslinger. He grew up on cap and ball revolvers when a man carried two or three guns plus associated stuff that went with it. You could easily be pushing twenty extra pounds on you to defend yourself. Steady got his nickname because he never wavered in a fight. He was fearless and even today no one really wanted to push him. There was something in his manner that said don't mess with me. His habit was to cold cock people in a fight with the butt of his gun sending them to the floor, if not unconscious then in pain. He knew Bob and Messy would stand down if the other two were taken out of the equation and so he took them out in pain.

'Alright, the four of you are cooling off in jail tonight. I should put you all together to learn some sensibility. Everybody give me your guns. Bob, Messy, help with those two and get them over to the jail. We'll figure out damages and a fine before I let you men out tomorrow,” the sheriff I informed them.

“Great,” said Messy,” this is the third time in two months. We'll be wearin' Mr. Sterling's patience a little thin when he finds out about this, I just finished payin' what I owed him for the last time,” Messy complained as he lugged the one cowboy over to the jail with him.

“Stop complainin', there was a lot less damage this time. I'll get Daisy to front us and just borrow against our next wages to pay her back,” Bob told him figuring they might not have to mention the altercation to their employer.

“You know if you just married that woman we wouldn't have to pay her back,” Messy explained in a moment of enlightenment, figuring that solution would be most logical, after all they were in love and had been seeing each other for quite some time now. People were starting to talk about Bob's reluctance, saying Bob was too scared to get married.

It was always interesting laying on a cot in jail, looking up at the ceiling, watching some bug walk across it. Things were more interesting like that in jail then outside of it...laying there trying to figure the different sounds you heard throughout the night. An occasional voice would break the relative quiet of the night. Conversations and arguments between couples or arguments between a couple of cow hands disputing something stupid, not worth arguing when you were sober...yeah, they were all there as part of the sounds of the night.

Dawn came and so did breakfast from a lady in town that ran the boarding house. She always made extra beyond what her boarders ate and she would bring it to the jail for anyone locked up. She made a little extra money that way. Besides, you paid for it as part of the fine and restitution you had to pay before you got out. Her breakfasts were always good and it was better cooking than the restaurant that was always busy. As Messy and Bob were moping up the last of their ham gravy with a biscuit, Daisy came into the jail.

“I thought I'd come visit you two. At least you have breakfast and aren't wastin' away to nothin' in the pokey,” she told them sarcastically,” I wish you'd let me handle things like last night instead of jumpin' in there and startin' somethin'. You're going to get me fired one of these days.”

“Sorry,” both men said in unison looking forlorn and hung over.

The other two adversaries were still snoring in worse shape from their alcohol consumption.

“I don't know how you boys do it, gettin' drunk all the time and then gettin' up to function regularly,” Daisy voiced her thought. “I couldn't do it. I don't like gettin' drunk and see no need for it. Sheriff, what are the damages on these two?”

“Let's see the fine's ten dollars each...splittin' up the damages between the four of these ruffians is six dollars and fifty cents, so that comes out to sixteen dollars and fifty cents each. Thirty three dollars if you're footin' the bill for Bob and Messy,” the sheriff calculated without using his fingers. Messy was amazed.

“That sheriff is smart,” Messy pointed out to Daisy and Bob.

“I'll pay you back. I'll ask Mr. Sterling for an advance against wages and get you the money this week. Thanks Daisy, I can always depend on you,” Bob said kissing Daisy on the back of her neck.

“”I can always depend on you to cause a problem. If I weren't so dang crazy over you I'd let you sit in that jail,” Daisy said as she stormed off towards her hotel room.

“This is still Sunday. I'll ask Mr. Sterling about an advance for both of us, but you have to come with me tonight. I'm going to go over and spend the day with Daisy, try to mend things a bit,” Bob informed Messy as he took off after her to the hotel.

Messy always felt stranded at times like this standing there in the middle of the street watching his best friend walking off. They worked together and played together. They were an odd two to be friends. Bob was exceptionally strong and fearless, headstrong, and anything but serious most of the time. He was protective of his friends and very much so of Daisy. If he liked you, he would do anything for you. Messy on the other hand was tall and lanky, a little weak but lots of stamina. He wasn't fearless like Bob but was so when he was with his friend. He was easily swayed by opinion, and anything that happened was perceived as the end of the world. Messy was a pessimist.

* * *

“Mr. Sterling, can we have a word with you in your office,” asked Bob Dupree

.”Yeah, let me guess though, you need to borrow against your wages for a loan you have from Daisy,” the gray curly haired old rancher said, leading the men into his office and sitting down at his desk.

“That's incredible sir. You have the same abilities as one of those...those, fortune...ah, tellers...” Bob stuttered trying to find the right words.

“Oh cut the crap, Bob. If you two weren't such good hands I'd get rid of you in two shakes of a cow's tail,” the rancher warned, pulling a metal lock box out of his drawer and opening it up. What are the damages this time?”

“Thirty five dollars will cover it,” Bob told him figuring the few extra bucks would buy beer this Saturday evening.

“Listen, I want you to head back up to the gulch first thing in the morning. That cat had a lot of beef scattered up there and I think there's still some missing. Take Messy with you and check it out. Bring back whatever you find up there. I want an accurate count,” the rancher demanded, handing Bob the money he asked for.

“Where are you goin'?” Messy asked when they were back outside and Bob hopped back onto the back of his Appaloosa, the best pony he ever had, or so he boasted. Bob wasn't a real tall man but he was extremely powerful with a strong jawline. He was naturally muscular with broad hands and the kind of shape that intimidated a lot of people. He was opinionated and loyal to everyone near him and willing to prove it every time a battle brewed. He was like a big kid never taking anything too seriously and had an intensity about him that when he was deep in thought you just didn't want to disturb him. His association with Messy was an odd arrangement because Messy might have been considered the exact opposite. Messy didn't offer much of an opinion one way or the other and he never butted heads with anyone except when Bob was around. Most of the time Messy was a quiet loner. He had been friends with Bob since he came to the ranch a few years ago and normally, neither went anywhere without the other. Today was one of those days Messy would be a third wheel unwelcomed by Bob or Daisy.

* * *

“We're headed up to the gulch after we're done eatin',” Bob told Messy as he sat down on the bench next to him for breakfast. The benches and table were sawed out of three inch thick oak. It sat a total of twenty people, ten on each side. There were eight hands that worked the ranch with Evan Forester being the foreman, a man that was in his forties and been around some. He wore a big hat and a broad smile on his face all the time. A big scar ran the length of his face on the right side from a bad knife fight and he had a limp from a roping accident some years ago.

“The boss wants us to go up there?” Messy asked with food dropping from his mouth as he spoke. Here Messy lived up to his name too. He never quite was able to coordinate the two activities of talking and eating at the same time.

“Yeah. We should be back by early afternoon,” Bob told him getting up and putting a couple of biscuits into his pocket. They were always good to munch on when you got hungry with a couple of bites of jerky washed down with canteen water.

It was about a forty minute ride up there, and Messy played the harmonica, or at least that's what he thought he was doing, all the way there. Messy didn't play it enough to know how to play it even badly, but Bob hated to say anything because he liked his company being out and about during the day. When they got up there Bob thought they'd do better each circling opposite sides of the area and coming in to see what they found, so he sent Messy one way while he went the other.

It was a still day and getting hot. A couple of ground squirrels ran frantically from his Appaloosa as they wandered the area. Bob rode to a big rock outcrop in the side of one of the hills up there and noticed an opening he didn't remember seeing before. He traveled this area a dozen times before working the ranch for three years and just didn't remember coming across it before, but it looked like it could be a cave so he dismounted to take a closer look.

It was just wide enough to fit sideways but Bob didn't relish the idea of going inside. Places like these out where the ranch was, was a good spot for a rattlesnake den and he didn't like the idea of walking into something like that. What looked like a faint light coming from within the cave, stirred his curiosity.

“Hello! Is anyone in there?” Bob called expecting to hear something. The opening went deep into the hill which was large and long. The light wouldn't possibly be coming from the other side.

“Are you alright in there?” he yelled thinking he could attract whoever it was into coming out rather then having to go in, but someone could be hurt in there. They could have crawled in there out of the elements to recuperate from some accident. It was a lot cooler in the depths of that place than out here and while snakes could be a problem the place was a lot easier to defend against mountain lions or wolves.

“I'll come in to get you if you're hurt but let me know if you want help,” Bob tried again. Perhaps it was some old Indian that crawled in there to die. They did that when they knew their time was up to let nature have its way. About the time Bob was ready to go in, the light changed in the depths. It was moving because the light played on the walls differently, changing every couple of seconds. Then several feet down the initial straight portion when you first entered, the light became visible. It was small, only a couple of inches round and it was traveling about a foot off the ground slowly, towards the opening of the cave. Bob assumed it was coming towards him since he had been calling out to it.

It was fascinating and weird. Bob dropped to the ground on his knees to observe it closely. It stopped directly before him and just stayed there, waiting. Bob couldn't speak for a moment, he was so intrigued by it. The object was like nothing he had ever seen. It transfixed him like some religious experience which he could only imagine since he was not a religious person. The light was coming from inside it and was a relaxing blue-green color, soft, radiant and not intense. Bob looked around wondering if there was something odd about this whole scene that looking around might answer, but when he did he noticed animals and birds gathering around to watch, unconcerned about Bob himself. Odd, he thought why are they attracted to this light or is there something else about it I don't see? Or hear? It hasn't done anything but stay in the same position...it stopped, coming out of the cave.

“What are you?” was the only way Bob could begin or think to ask since that was the foremost question. He didn't really expect an answer because it wasn't human, and it didn't have a mouth to speak. He wasn't sure if it really even heard him calling to it.

“I am Dexter. Your name is Bob?” he heard it say and fell back off his knees in disbelief. Not only did it speak it knew his name.

“I don't understand. How do I hear you,” Bob asked.

“You don't. I communicate with you by connecting to your neural networks through a thin holographic connection. I basically make you dream what I need to relate to you. You hear me because I want you to hear me. If there was someone standing next to you and I didn't want to communicate information to them, I might not allow it, while I allow you my communication,” the cowboy found himself hearing.

“Where are you from?” Bob asked expecting an answer like 'from Mars'.

“I am from the future. I was sent here to gather information about this era. I was supposed to take a pathway I used to get here within a week to go back to my time but that time has passed and I'm still here. Something has gone wrong and I am here alone. I was directed to stay away from human sight while I was here and not interfere in history but I find myself alone, thus lonely, and I wished to communicate with something else besides plants and animals” the voice said in Bob's head.

“You can't interfere in history, such as?” Bob asked trying to find out what it meant. The idea had never come up before or crossed his mind, so the problem didn't seem a problem.

“It's immaterial anyway and the command seems illogical since I was sent back in time and history. The time of my creation has not occurred for me yet unless I'm not supposed to interfere with any events that have happened between when I got here and my creation. So I am disregarding that directive,” Dexter communicated.

“It's nice meeting you Dexter,” Bob cordially spoke.

''And you Bob. Please keep my existence to yourself though. I agree, that might be important but I decided since you were the first to call out to me and the one person I feel was actually concerned when you called to me, not knowing anything about me, I decided to open myself to you,” Dexter told him.

“That's good but what are you exactly...an animal, a spirit, what?” Bob asked.

“There are those religious, that might define me as spiritual since I am made of light and have no physical being. However, I was created in a lab by a Doctor Issac Warner, who hasn't even been born yet. I am an intelligent creation, I think, I conjecture, I can deal in difficult problems in math, science, religion, languages and a number of disciplines. I make logical decisions and can do many things I don't wish to bore you or myself with. I am a thinking, living synthesized creation without a soul but I'm working on that,” Dexter informed him.

Bob heard the sound of hoof beats and knew it was Messy riding in to see what he had found. Wouldn't he like to know?

“Remember, say nothing,” the phrase echoed again in Bob's mind.

“Take your choice,” Bob told Dexter, ”in a pocket, in my shirt,” he was suggesting when suddenly Dexter disappeared through his shirt, beneath his skin and into his chest.

“Thank you , Bob. This is the perfect place to hide since I am not a physical being and I communicate only with whom I desire,” he imparted gratefully to Bob.

“Excuse me but it seems strange,” Bob responded standing up to greet Messy. “I guess it's as good a place as any.”

“Hi Bob, did you find anythin'?” Messy asked him walking up on his swayback that served him well over the years but had seen better days. Messy had such an attachment to the animal he'd probably ride it into the grave.

“Nah, we might as well head back. There's nothin' up here so if there's some missin' like Mr. Sterling thinks, they're somewhere else. He'll probably make us take count.,” Bob told him.

“Now how the heck are we going to do that with over twenty five hundred steers wondering open range? The same one's 'll show up in three different places by the time we cover all the land around here,” Messy said.

“Use lime to mark them. That's the only way I know of. It'll stay on 'em for a few weeks, time enough to get a decent count,” Bob said.

“That's why you have round ups and trail drives. If we're going to go through all that, we can take 'em to market,” Messy suggested.

“Not the right time to do it. Prices 'll be up in the spring. Better to wait several months through winter,” Bob reminded him.

“If he wants to waste his time and money...” Messy grumbled.

About that time the inner voice made itself known to Bob telling him there were seventy three steers herded together a mile away, walled in a small canyon,” Bob couldn't believe what he heard but told Messy.

“Let's ride a little to the northeast of here to that little box canyon up there. You know that might be the place to look rather than here...just a feeling,” Bob told Messy. So they changed direction and went up there. Sure enough there were the missing steers that the boss felt were missing. It appeared someone had a hand in their disappearance. They were herded in the small canyon and they were roped in to keep them there. Rustlers put them there to come back later to get them. The animals had the ranch's brand on them so they were Mr. Sterling's property. The two cowboys rode down to get them.

A couple of hours later they herded them into the ranch. Mr. Sterling came out on the front porch to greet them.

“You found them. I knew there was missing cattle. Did you find them at the gulch?” he asked pleased with their day's work.

There wasn't anything up there. We went over to that small box canyon northwest of there and some rustlers had them hold up to get later. They had them roped in.

“Is that right? Tell everyone to keep their eyes peeled, that's not good. You probably just made enemies with someone in these parts taking the stolen beef back like that, so both of you watch your backs,” Mr. Sterling warned them.

“How exactly did you know about them cows anyway?” asked Messy.

“That ,sir, was just as hunch. They could have just as easily not been there,” Bob told him but quietly Bob said to himself, 'thanks Dexter'.

Both Messy and Bob put the steers out in the lower pasture to keep them around a few days where the grass would entice them to stay. When they were riding back to the ranch to do a few things Mr. Sterling came out to them.

“Boys I am pleased with what you've done today. You might as well call it early, the day's almost done anyway. I'm gonna give you a little something extra this week towards payin' off your debt as well. That was a lot of money there you saved me and it's greatly appreciated,” Mr. Sterling commended them.

“Sir, I can't take all the credit...” but he stopped when he heard Dexter say, 'don't'. “I mean Messy had a hand in it too. It took the two of us to find them for you.”

“That's why I'm givin' you both something. I get that. You men are a good team,” Mr. Sterling told them both while Messy just beamed in the starlight.

After dinner Bob went off by himself, sort of. He went out and carried on a conversation with Dexter After a few minutes though Bob had a request.

“Dexter when no one else is around would you please come out and talk to me, well at least be visible to me. That way I won't think I'm going crazy talkin' to myself,” he requested and Dexter obliged.

“Of course Bob. I think I understand,” Dexter responded.

“How did you know those steer were up where they were anyway?” Bob asked his passenger.

''It's hard to explain but everything is connected at the most seemingly insignificant level...everything. An intelligent construct like me operates at the same basic level everything operates at. There is something like a grid, something you're familiar with, telegraph wires that can communicate not just back and forth but along anywhere those grid patterns exist. Anything along any of those pathways is capable of sending or gathering information along those paths. I knew at a quantum level or at the most basic level those steer were there. I didn't know who they belonged to,” Dexter pointed out.

“I think , I understand,” Bob surrendered.

“Did you ever get a feeling something was about to happen and then it did?” Dexter asked further by way of explanation.

“Sure,” Bob told him.

“That's because that information was in that grid before it happened by someone that was going to make it happen. You were just in the right place at the right time to receive that information before it happened,” Dexter simplified it as much as possible.

“Yeah, I get it,” Bob responded and by his countenance he really did.

“You know you could be useful to have around,” Bob told him. ”There's a card game in town called Poker that I like to play once in awhile. I'll explain the rules to you but I would like to have more winnin' hands than I do. There's this lady, Daisy, I'd like to marry one day but with the money I make as a cow hand we'll be too old to start a family by the time I get enough saved to tie the knot.” Bob paved the way for Dexter.

“Tie the knot?” Dexter asked.

“Get married,” Bob explained. “When two people are in love they might want to stay together the rest of their lives, live together and start a family.”

“I know what married is, Bob” Dexter told him, ”I just didn't know what that phrase meant.”

“Tonight when you sleep, would you like me to run you through standard poker games to more familiarize yourself with things masters do when playing?” Dexter asked Bob.

“You can do that? Yes. And when we play you can let me know what cards the other players have in their hands,” Bob informed him.

“Is that alright to do, Bob?” the AI asked.

“Nothing wrong with it,” Bob told him.

The week was uneventful and it went slow. Bob couldn't wait to see Daisy. He wanted to tell her about Dexter but he promised the AI he wouldn't tell anyone. He also wanted to get into a poker game and see what he could do with Dexter guiding him. But as always in the life of a cowboy things changed for the better at the end of the week. Saturday came and all the hands from the ranch found themselves riding the road into town. Everyone had a favorite place to go to there and with four saloons in town there were plenty of places to get to, away from the people you worked with all week. Bob and Messy's favorite place was the 'Lame Duck' and it might have had something to do with Daisy working there.

“I'm going to play some poker tonight, Messy,” Bob informed his buddy.

“You told me the next time you had a hankerin' to do that to take your money away from you and not let you. You're the worst poker player I ever saw. Now give me your money,” Messy demanded.

“Here, hold on to half. I've got a feeling about tonight and I'm runnin' with it,” he alerted Messy.

* * *

“On no...are you doin' what I think you're doin',” Daisy asked when she came to the bar to greet Bob and Messy.

“I told him it was a bad idea, Daisy. He insists there's something different about tonight. You talk to the man,” Messy suggested not wanting to interfere any more.

“Let's just sit down and have a couple beers, talk and enjoy each others' company before I get into a game,” Bob suggested leading them over to a table next to a group in the middle of a card game.

It was the second beer that Messy said something to Bob about two men looking at Bob and saying something to each other. It was obvious to Messy they were talking about Bob.

“When you get a chance look at the two men in the back against the wall. They keep eyeballing you, maybe you know them,” Bob's partner suggested. Before Bob could look a small voice told him something, ' Those are the men responsible for taking those steers'.

Bob pretended to drop his wallet on the floor and bent to pick it up while glancing in their direction. Since they must have been aware he was the one to get the cattle back he wanted to know who he was dealing with.

“Those are the rustlers,” Bob told Messy. Daisy hadn't heard about them yet so she was puzzled and asked Bob what was going on.

“Oh Alibaba,” said Messy, ”there's going to be trouble for sure.”

“What's this about rustlers?” Daisy innocently asked but the two men heard her.

“Daisy, keep your voice down. The ranch was missing over seventy steer those men rustled and put in a box canyon. We found ' em and took 'em back,” Bob told her under his breath.

“They don't look none too happy, Bob,” whispered Messy. “We'll be looking over our shoulders tonight on the street.”

“Why didn't you say something to Steady?” Daisy suggested.

“We don't have any proof and the only thing we might do is make things worse. Let things play out as they are. I'll deal with it in time,” Bob told her.

“Oh that's just great. I don't want to be datin' a dead man,” she told him sarcastically to get him to understand where she was coming from.

“Tell you what,” Bob said loudly for the next table to hear, “let me have this last swallow and maybe I can find a poker game to get into.”

The next table of four men looked up, yelled and motioned to him to join their game, if he had a mind to, so Bob smiled at them and got up.

“Gentlemen, I'd be pleased to accept your invitation,” Bob smiled and sat down at their table.

“This is goin' to be one of those bad experiences tonight, Daisy. Between those two hoodlums back there and Bob's bad pokerin' we're goin' to be in a hole so deep we ain't ever goin' to climb out,” Messy told Daisy across the table. “I'm stayin' here with Bob though and watch those two back there. They know what we was talkin' about 'cause they heard you say 'rustler'. They perked up on that one,” the cowboy told her.

“I'm sorry I spilled the beans on that. I didn't realize what happened,” Daisy was worried about putting both men at risk now. A thief doesn't like getting the stuff he stole, stolen back by the ones who had the stuff stolen from to begin with because they already consider it rightfully theirs goin' through such an effort to steal it. The logic is there, warped as it is, even though all the brain functioning isn't on the thief's part.

Daisy and Messy sat there enjoying their conversation. After a couple more beers Messy was beginning to respect the poker game.

“Daisy, are you watching your cowboy there? He's winnin'. That's a first, and the darnest thing I've seen. He's got about a hundred bucks there in front of him. He'd better stop while he's ahead,” Messy told her, not sure what he was witnessing since it was the first time he ever saw his friend play well..

“You're not going to get him away from that game now so don't try,” she suggested because the one thing her cowboy was, was bull headed.

But time took care of itself. The men were all married and their wives knew where their men were so every one of them had curfews. Bob won most of their money anyway but it was now important to get home fast before the wife refused to cook Sunday dinner. Bob came back over to the table with Daisy then when things were wrapped up.

“Bob, I never saw you with that much money. I can't believe you won it all at poker,” Bob's friend exclaimed shaking his head incredulously.

“When did your luck change?” Daisy asked in disbelief herself.

“A lot of things are going to change around here. Messy take some of that money I got you to hold for me and stay in town tonight at the hotel. I'll be staying with Daisy. I have something I want to talk to her about anyway,” Bob told both of them excitedly.

“I think those two guys back there want to talk to you about something too,” his friend reminded Bob.

“Daisy, I need to talk with you right now, privately. Messy get us a couple of more beers and sit back here. We won't be gone long,” Bob said getting up and grabbing Daisy's hand to head for the storeroom. When they entered the room Bob closed the door.

“Dexter I need to tell her so she knows what's goin' on, especially if something happens to me. Daisy, I have to talk with you about what's happenin' so you know,” Bob was saying to thin air in front of Daisy.

Daisy looked at him strangely. The man hadn't been drinking enough beer to be acting like this so she had to ask.

“Who's Dexter?” his girlfriend asked. Then she heard a third voice with them when there were only her and her boyfriend in the room .

“It's alright, Bob. I like her. I know I can trust her too,” Daisy heard the voice say and with that the small ball of light emerged from her boyfriend's chest causing her a feeling of paralysis.

“That's Dexter,” Bob said matter-of-factually. “I'd like to introduce you to...”

“Hello Daisy, I know so much about you,” the light moved directly in front of Daisy's face mesmerizing her in the process as she tried to make sense of it.

“It's a fairy,” Daisy exclaimed. “Mother told me of such things in Ireland after we left there She saw many of them growing up there. They'd come to her door at night sometimes wanting to come in but you daren't invite them in...they can wreck havoc in your house because they are so mischievous.

“I am not a fairy, Daisy,” Dexter assured her.

Bob let Dexter explain, figuring it would put Daisy at ease coming from him. Then he informed her of finding Dexter in the cave and the events Dexter was involved in since they met, including Bob's odd winning streak at poker. The cowboy turned his attention back to Dexter and the event unfolding with the rustlers. He explained to Dexter they would most likely try to kill him for taking the stolen cattle back from them. They had guns and he had one too but he was not proficient with a gun and they, being bad guys, most likely were.

“Don't worry Bob, I won't let anything happen to you,” the light assured Bob and Daisy.

The couple rejoined Messy. Both men were still there looking mean as possible, attempting to instill fear into him so he might make a wrong move. He was uncertain how Dexter was going to help him but he needed to put his trust in him again.

“Let's go,” Bob told them getting up after he and Daisy just sat for a minute while Messy was eyeing the rustlers.

As the three of them got to the door, Bob saw the two thieves stand.

“Why don't you go get that room for tonight,” Bob recommended when they reached the door. There was hesitation in Messy's face. “I'll be fine.”

The two lovers walked towards the hotel as well but slower, taking their time to enjoy each other's company, talking. They both heard the saloon door's squeaky hinges sing out as someone emerged from the saloon behind them. They were being followed.

The two walked down the middle of the street, avoiding dark recesses and alleys but that didn't matter. The two behind them made their play on the street.

“Hey Dupree, we think you need...'to pray',” the talker laughed at his ingenuity, while the other one was saying 'I don't get it' to his fellow criminal.

Bob and Daisy turned around to one man holding his gun while they other just watched with a stupid grin.

“You interfered with our livelihood and we don't appreciate some no nothin' jerk like you puttin' his nose in our business, ”the man said with a smirk, figuring he had the upper hand.

“Alright, enough talk...” Bob said taking control. “Dexter if you're going to do something do it soon,” Bob said under his breath so only Daisy could hear him talking to himself.

“Did you say something, jerk, or was you prayin'?” the man asked him walking closer.

“I said, you'll be sorry,” Bob replied smiling giving the impression the men were not intimidating him. Both men looked at him like he was nuts.

About that time a high pitched tone rang out that only the rustlers were privy to hear. It was an ear drum shattering, head splitting tone that dropped them to the ground in pain. They were screaming and holding their hands over the ears pressing hard on the side of their heads attempting to stop the excruciating pain. Not hearing anything, Daisy and Bob just looked at each other and said at the same time, 'thank you Dexter'. Both ran to the two incapacitated men and easily disarmed them. Bob proceeded to club both of them randomly to weaken their spirits and their bodies so he could without trouble, get them to the jail.

Once Dexter subsided, the men stood up and being slightly bruised and beaten, were much more affable.

“Now boys, that's much better. We're going over to the sheriff's where you're going to turn yourselves in for attempted murder and cattle rustlin', ” Bob informed them of their new found honesty. It would be their attempt to rectify their criminal past.

“You're outta your fuckin' mind,” the leader scoffed at Bob.

“Gentlemen, there is no negotiation. Imagine a lifetime of what you just had and I can arrange that. Just a reminder...” Bob promised and no sooner having said so the tone sounded in their ears sending both men into pain to the ground.

“Alright, alright...” they both screamed wanting the pain to stop. A lifetime of that would be hell. An hour of that you could give the men a pistol and they would put it to their head to end it.

It was getting late but Sheriff Daniels would be there in his office. He was there twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. There was no schedule for criminals and the like. However, the sheriff lived in a small room in the back of the place with a cot and a coffee pot and pegs on the wall on which to hang all his clothes. What more do you need?

Still, Bob had to hammer at the door a few minutes to rouse Steady, he was a considerably heavy sleeper. He came to the door in his long underwear toting his six guns in his holster slung around his skinny waist.

“Open up there, Steady. It's Bob Dupree...I have some business for you,” Bob yelled.

The sheriff opened the door surprised to see Bob and Daisy standing there behind two trouble makers. The sheriff had complaints about these two before as suspects regarding missing cattle and horses but no proof. It was to the point a couple of the ranchers were going to just shoot 'em on site and let the coyotes take care of the rest.

“What do we have here?” the sheriff asked Bob as he stepped back and held the door open for the entourage that came into his jail.

“These men just tried to shoot me down in the street. I also screwed up their intent to rustle some of the Bar None Ranch's stock the other day,” Bob informed the sheriff succinctly. “They're here to confess and try to mend their ways.”

“Is that right?” Steady answered being taken completely off balance with Bob's proclamation. He looked from Bob to the alleged rustlers.

They didn't say a thing until Bob tapped his right ear with his index finger and then they couldn't talk fast enough or loud enough, each, over the other.

Walking back down the street towards the hotel was more pleasurable and more certain. Now Daisy and Bob didn't have to look over their shoulder.

“That Dexter is a good fairy to have around,” Daisy commented holding her boyfriend's arm.

“I am not a fairy, Daisy. I am an artificially intelligent holographic construct,” the inner voice corrected her but she didn't make a mistake she wanted to get a rise out of Dexter to see if he had a sense of humor..

“I was just joking with you, ”she clarified.

“I know. You can call me whatever you like, just call me,” he told her.

Both Bob and Daisy laughed. The intelligence had humor.

“There's something I wanted to ask you Daisy. I was going to do it at the hotel but here under this incredible sky and all the stars...with just the three of us, somehow it seems like the right time,” Bob commented, stopping in the middle of the street and turning Daisy towards him so he could look at her eye to eye. “Will you marry me.”

Daisy almost dropped to the ground like the two rustlers but it wasn't in pain. Bob, heard Dexter's voice in his ears telling him he measured an accelerated, heartbeat, circulation and increased blood pressure for Daisy. Bob's own heart was racing, waiting for the answer after knowing this woman for three years and loving her every minute during that time. Going on through life without her, whether they were good times or bad, was unimaginable. He felt bigger and stronger with her there. She made him more than he was...more confident. For some reason he even felt smarter and she was twice as smart as he was yet she never flaunted that. Somehow there was a invisible connection, like Dexter explained that first day, they both shared things...intelligence, life force, some inner freedom and confidence that two people in love share, becoming more than the sum of the two.

“I've been waiting thee years to utter that three letter word...yes,” Daisy replied throwing her arms around Bob's neck. Bob pulled her tightly against him and Dexter could feel their hearts pounding together as they touched lips and they deeply kissed for a long time. When they pulled away to breath they could only giggle with the care free attitude of two kids sharing a secret. He swung her around like a merry-go-round at a carnival and they laughed and then ran to the hotel room where they stayed behind locked doors all night, undisturbed.

It was Sunday morning when the two awoke with sunlight filtering through the sheer curtains in the hotel room. Daisy thought it was the best morning of her life and Bob was just hungry.

“Let's get Messy. He's in the room next to us. I can hear his snoring. We'll go get breakfast and maybe do a picnic lunch or somethin'. I want to tell him the news. Maybe he can be my best man,” Bob suggested.

“Get him to clean up then. I've been trying since I've known you two,” Daisy complained which she rarely did.

“I'll work on him,” Bob told her.

They grabbed Messy and headed to their favorite restaurant in town, “Sheilia's” but no one was there. In fact people said several people had disappeared in the last three days...eleven to be exact, without a trace. The town was starting to talk crazy about it as a town like this will do. They left and went to another place to eat. It was more crowded because of the one less establishment to feed at.

“What do you think happened to all those people?” Messy threw the question on the table after they sat down.

“I have no idea,” Bob told him dismissing his inquiry, ”Daisy and I have something to tell you.”

“I mean eleven people just don't get up one minute and leave their homes and businesses,” the cowboy went on.

“Messy. We have something we want to say,” Bob repeated more definitively.

“I mean, I find that really strange...” Messy continued focused on that situation.

“Messy! Shut up,” Bob and Daisy raised their voices in unison, attracting attention from a nearby table.

Bob's friend looked hurt at first and looked at both of them in disbelief.

“Daisy and I are gettin' married,” Bob told him while Daisy couldn't shine any brighter.

“Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle. That's great news. I was figurin' the time was getting' close with you wantin' to ask her somethin' and payin' for me to stay over. Congratulations you two,” Messy replied shaking Bob's hand and standing to give Daisy a small hug.

“And I want you to be my best man, Messy,” Dupree asked.

“Well, I really am a monkey's uncle! It would be a privilege and an honor to,” Messy committed smiling like he never smiled before, then he got serious. “I'll have to get new clothes and a proper haircut and all that other stuff then that goes with a weddin'.”

Daisy and Bob just looked at each other and smiled. Then they informed him they were going to have a picnic with just the three of them. They'd head out to that spot by the big pond. Messy liked to fish and the place was loaded with bass.

Bob rented a buggy from the stable and tied the Appaloosa to the back while his friend rode his swayback attempting to play the wedding march on his harmonica.

They collected fried chicken and potato salad, corn fritters and several other favorites to put in their basket. Daisy made a big jug of lemonade. The lady at the restaurant even threw in a pecan pie for desert. Messy never stopped eating when they got there. He was busy fishing and eating at the same time but wasn't having much luck fishing being preoccupied with his stomach.

“Are you getting' any nibbles over there buddy?” Bob called over at him.

“Not much. I just don't think they like the bait,” his friend determined when the original worm he put on the hook was still there after two hours.

“Why don't you try one of those corn fritters on there you like so much,” Bob jokingly suggested.

“You're funny Mr. Smarty Pants. They just haven't started yet, “ the cowboy surmised figuring he still had time to show Bob who the fisherman was.

“Watch this,” Bob told Daisy then as he stood up and walked over to Messy. “Let me see that worm you have on that hook.”

Bob took it and scrutinized it turning it over and back again, looking closer and finally looked at his friend to say something.

“Here's the problem...you have a male worm loaded on there. You can't do that 'cause they fight and bite the heck out of the fishes' mouth when they try to bite onto them. You have to use a female worm. They're more passive,” he told Messy, while behind him, Daisy was snickering.

“Well I never heard such a thing all the time I've been fishing. Where'd you hear that?” the cowboy asked his buddy.

“All it's in all the magazines,” Bob explained as he went through the bait can, ”Now here's a female, let me have that hook.” So Bob took the hook and discarded the used worm there and replaced it.

“Now just how do you tell the difference?” Messy asked Bob.

“I'll explain later. I want you to see the difference. It's tough to see at first but you have to look real close and once you figure it out you'll find it easy. Go ahead, give that a try,” Bob suggested and he went back to sit on the blanket with Daisy.

“You're bad. I know what you're going to do. Playing a joke like that on him,” she laughingly chastised him as Messy made an excellent cast into the water.

“Hey Dexter...can you help my friend over there catch a bunch of fish? I think he needs your help,” Dupree wanted to know.

“Surely. That's an easy matter,” the AI alerted Dupree

The hook wasn't in the water for more than a few seconds when a huge bass hit the line. Messy was excited getting something that large and he almost lost his line fighting with it. He was in his childhood again whooping and hollering, dancing all about having hooked a large bass.

“That's a nice fish you have there. You see?” Bob stuttered trying to keep his laughter inside.

“I still have half a worm here I'm throwing back in,” the fisherman announced and as soon as he hit the water with his hook he caught a second fish. He was amazed at the sudden turn around in his luck but he wasn't going to argue about it. No, that he surely wouldn't do. After taking his second catch off the hook he picked up his bait can and went to where the couple were sitting under the tree.

“Can you yank a female outta there for me and show me just how you tell the difference?” Messy asked for some direction here. This was something he had to know.

Bob slid out several worms from the can into his left hand and rummaged through them a bit. Finally he grabbed one and looked at it, saying he was wrong that one was a male. Finally satisfied he had a female, he put the rest into the can.

“You see Messy, it's more the way they act. Women squirm a lot more especially when you touch them just right. Now you look close and you soon see a slight color change when they blush a little. It might take you a while but you'll get the knack,” Bob told him giving him the worm to put on the hook.

“Female worms squirm a lot more? And they blush when you touch them?” Daisy laughed after Messy went back to fishing, repeating the line he told his friend. “You should really be ashamed.”

No sooner than the new worm hit the pond than a bass hit it and leaped out of the water, hooked.

Messy was beside himself and unable to contain his enthusiasm. Both Bob and Daisy were hysterical with laughter and enjoyed the show. By the time they were ready to leave, Messy had a string of five large bass destined for the table.

“I'll give these to Tadpole and he can cook 'em up for us tonight,” Messy said as he loaded them into the back of the buggy.

“After all you put down today?” exclaimed Daisy amazed how a skinny, lanky guy like Messy could eat so much.

“I tell you, Bob, Daisy...I hope I ain't comin' down with something because I'm not feelin' so good. I don't want to give it to you two,” Messy mumbled and he didn't look good either.

“It's probably everything you ate,” Daisy figured getting out of the buggy back in town. “Get over here and let me feel your head.”

“Yes 'em,” the cowboy obeyed.

“You do have a fever. Why don't you go up to your room and lie down. If you get to feelin' too bad I'll get the doc over to you,” Daisy suggested.

“Stay here tonight in town just in case. If you feel good in the morning you can head to the ranch. I'll tell Mr. Sterling you were sick and stayed over here, but you might be in a little later in the morning. I'll head back a little later before dark.

By the time Bob took the buggy to the stable, put the swayback up for the night, saddled the Appaloosa and caught up with Daisy at the hotel, Messy was pretty sick. Most of the volumes of what he ate that day didn't remain in his stomach any longer. He was feeling cold and shivering and burning with fever. When you're sick like that the thing is it knocks the stuffing out of you. Even if you get over what you have right away you feel like you did a week's work in one day.

Bob looked in on his friend and told him he'd let Mr. Sterling know he wouldn't be in to work. He walked to the saloon then with Daisy to sit and talk. He wanted to give Tadpole and the others their engagement news. He'd have to leave in about an hour so he wanted to spend that alone with Daisy. He had the fish for Tadpole but he didn't think his friend would be eating anymore today.

“Have a seat Bob. I'll get you some coffee,” Daisy offered her fiancée.

One of the other ranchers was leaving as Bob sat down. The man came over to him and patted him on the back.

“I hear you caught those damn rustlers last night. Hell, I heard they tried to kill you but you single handedly disarmed them. We all appreciate you doing that,” the man said taking Bob's hand and shaking it, slapping the back of it with his other hand in gratitude.

“Well, not exactly,” Dupree started but before he got any more words out the man left the saloon.

“What was that about...you tell him about us gettin' married?” Daisy asked sitting down sliding one cup of coffee in front of her fiancée and keeping the other for herself.

“Didn't have a chance. He was busy thanking me for catching the rustlers. But I'm going to take care of that right now,” Bob promised her and stood up to talk. He left out a big whistle that stopped everyone in the room.

With everyone's attention on their table, Bob made his announcement.

“Everyone here knows this pretty lady next to me, Daisy, and I have been seein' each other for three years now. I finally got up the nerve to ask her to make it permanent and put up with seeing me across the breakfast table every morning...” Bob was saying but Daisy aptly added the finishing touch.

“We're gettin' married!” she screamed at the top of her lungs ending with a big 'yahoo'.

Everyone shouted and clapped. Tadpole jumped up on the bar and proceeded to do an Irish jig or the closest thing he knew to one. A round of drinks ensued. Bob normally didn't drink on Sundays but this was a special day and he had to join the comradery of his fellow supporters at the bar.

One drink later and Bob stood up thanking everyone, telling them they were all invited as soon as they decided on a date.

“I've gotta get goin'. It'll be dark by the time I get to the ranch,” Bob told his fiancée as they walked out the door to the Appaloosa. Standing by the horse he grabbed her and gave her a big kiss.

“You be careful going to the ranch after dark,” she warned him.

“I've been that way a hundred times. I think I can find my way,” he smiled at her mounting the horse. He bent over from the back of his mount to give her one last goodnight kiss.

It was a good weekend, getting engaged, having a picnic, catching the rustlers. Mr. Sterling will be pleased. Maybe he'll give him another little extra in his pay this week. Bob thought about it and he wanted to go over to that other saloon in town, the 'Bet Me'. It was a casino with other things other than poker and more money went through that place with bigger spenders than the bar he and Messy went to all the time. With the help of Dexter he figured he might put more money away for Daisy and himself. Part way out of town he had to take a leak to get rid of the coffee he sucked down and then the drink on top of it. While he was inundating a desert beetle walking across his path with a heavy stream of pee he wondered if bugs had any kind of religion among themselves. 'Maybe they look up at us like gods', he thought. This bug may be running home to build an Ark to prepare for a big flood to destroy all the bad bugs around. Stupid thought, but as he was putting things away he caught sight of a light in the distance. The sun was dropping behind the mountains and it would be totally dark in a matter of minutes. It could be a fire and he thought he might need to go check on it. Fires out here could be disastrous. The sage, even green, went up like kindling. It was about a half mile away beyond a ridge, so light was the only thing you could see coming up from behind it.

Bob and his Appaloosa, Comet, headed towards the light, then he thought about Dexter. He was constantly forgetting about the parasite in his chest. The little fella seemed to be cued into the information of the universe so maybe he had a handle on this.

“Hey Dexter, what is the light up ahead I see about quarter of a mile?” Bob inquired not expecting the answer he got.

“Did your friend enjoy all the fish he caught?” Dexter asked seemingly getting his social skills in order.

“Yes, he did thank you,” Bob replied. “He got sick though and I left him in town.”

“You know I could have cured him of whatever he has. I could go inside just like I am here in you and rid him of whatever is making him sick,” Dexter enlightened his host.

“You can? I didn't even think of that,” Bob wished he had thought to ask.

“If you want I can go to him when he's asleep so no one sees my light and rectify that in less than a minute,” Dexter suggested.

“We'll do that, but the light up ahead? Any ideas?” he wished to know.

“It seems to be some kind of ship...” the AI surmised.

“A sailin' ship out here?” the cowboy questioned.

“No, no, no...there are more types of ships than those on the water. This is what is known in my time as a space ship...specifically a inter dimensional ship based on what's it designed for,” the AI revealed to its host.

“I don't understand..” Bob quizzed him, lost on what 'inter dimensional' even meant.

“In other words, the device is not from this world...your world. There are intelligent creatures on board, perhaps twenty of them, that are collecting humans from the area and imprisoning them on the ship against their will. Some of the people are ones I was aware of in your town. They have about four hundred of your people on there as we speak,” the device let Bob know.

“Why do they have them and who are these people?” Bob wanted to know.

“I have to get closer to them, they seem difficult to read but I have ascertained they are of reptilian blood,” the device further clarified but confused Bob more.

“You mean like lizards, horny toads?” Bob asked thinking Dexter's sense of humor was too much.

“There are intelligent beings on other planets, many which share their ancestry with different animals. Yours happen to be of the primate variety...monkeys. Theirs happen to come from a more reptilian ancestry... but intelligent nonetheless. They have their own speech and are intelligent enough to have created devices that can travel to places you can't imagine... I would stop here and dismount if I were you. You're too obvious on something this big that puts out so much heat,” Dexter told him.

“What's heat got to do with it?” Bob asked, not understanding.

“Coming from reptilian ancestry, most reptiles sense other lifeforms by sensing their body heat. They see as well but at night they don't have to see you to see you,” Dexter answered.

“I get it,” Bob said dismounting now with complete darkness surrounding him.

The cowboy moved quietly toward the ridge and when he got within thirty feet or so he laid flat to move the rest of the way. The light was pretty bright now as he got to the edge. When he got there, below him in a small hollow was an enormous cube shaped building or ship. It was metallic looking and of a size that made Bob feel diminutive. There were these creatures, which he could see clearly, walking around the outside while an occasional one would disappear inside, becoming unseen. The light around the area seemed to emanate from within the structure. Bob moved along the edge of the ridge careful not to be seen, to get a better vantage point. He saw people being herded like cattle on board the ship. A few of the people he recognized.

A voice from within spoke to him with a warning.

“Bob, there's a human form not far from you about fifty feet watching you. It would be to your right the way your body is positioned,” the AI device informed him.

Bob could see nothing. He figured he'd crawl towards the other person and say something loud enough just for them to hear. The person was a quiet observer so he'd probably stay still until Bob was close enough to expose himself. Bob thought he was within ten feet when he finally spoke.

“Hey, you out there. I know you're there. I don't want to be discovered here anymore than you do. Do you know anything about these creatures?” Bob questioned his fellow watcher and then waited for something...an answer or some acknowledgment. He waited, remaining still, not saying anything else.

Soon he heard movement approaching but it was so dark he couldn't really see anything. There was a large boulder close by where a figure appeared to have gone to hide. The light from the ship could barely shed some reflection, outlining someone behind it but the rock blocked the person from the intruders keeping them unseen, his body heat unrecognizable with the warm boulder. Someone had taken a seat there and waved him over. As Bob crawled to him, he noticed it was an Indian. Bob scooted next to him, facing the older gentleman who was in fringed buckskins and carried only a knife and a medicine bag around his waist.

“Hi Chief, my name's Bob Dupree. What do you know about what's going on?” the cowboy asked the Indian.

“How did you know I am a chief? Chief Tangwaci of the Utes,” he introduced himself.

“I didn't, but I'll just call you chief,” Bob responded.

“Good to meet you, Bob. That's fine. White men have a hard time pronouncing our words” said the Indian. “I don't know much. I do know they took most of my tribe. “There were sixty five of us now there are only only nine. They have taken white people too and I think they are still trying to get more or they would have left. Among the Indians when one tribe steals people from another tribe it is to make them slaves. They're taking them back to wherever they come from as slaves,” the Ute told him feeling completely correct in his evaluation based on his pleased look.

“Well, that sounds reasonable, but whatever their intent, we need to get those people back,” Bob told the Indian.

“With what?” the Indian answered putting his hand on his knife.

“Listen chief, I'm sure between the two of us we can figure something out,” Bob's mind was in the process of evaluating the situation.

“I've known a few white people in my days, most of them seemed crazy to me. You are no exception,” the chief said.

“Chief,” Bob laughed, ”I know a lot of white people that probably would agree with you. The Indian smiled. He liked this man already. You can tell a trustworthy man and this cowboy was one. Too many white people weren't. ”Don't you have anything with you besides your knife. I have my forty five revolver with about sixty cartridges, and a knife.”

The Indian patted his medicine pouch and identified it to Bob.

“I thought you said you were a chief?” Bob clarified.

“I am...and I'm a medicine man. Among the tribes the medicine man is many times a chief of his people. Being a medicine man is very important to my people. So many times a medicine man will also lead his people, physically and through his visions,” the Ute explained to the white man.

“What vision did you have about this?” Bob asked him pointedly.

“Like many visions they are hard to interpret but I saw a man riding a brown spotted horse with white markings. He carried within him a power of light that could save men from the power of the serpent,” the Indian revealed. It sent a chill up Bob's neck. The vision was too close to reality but then Dexter referred to this grid of communication, like the telegraph that some people could relate to and others couldn't.

“Chief most of what you have told me is true. Whatever you see tonight must keep it to yourself,” he advised the Indian but it didn't clarify anything to the Indian. “First off, those creatures that have your people and mine are reptilian, descended from reptiles...snakes. They're snake people,” but the Indian just looked at him without expression. Then he spoke.

“What do you propose we do, Bob Dupree?” he asked because he had no idea how to fight these 'people'. “There are ancient stories among the Utes and other tribes about the snake people. They are very strong and they make it a habit of making men disappear.”

“Dexter, it's time you make yourself known for several reasons. I don't want to get into whether you agree with me or not” Bob said to the air as the chief just watched wondering what was going on, knowing he was crazy. Just then a small ball of light emerged quickly from Bob's chest and floated in front of the proud face.

“I agree. I was waiting,” Dexter pointed out to him.

“He speaks the Ute language,” the chief pointed out surprised.

“Not really. Dexter doesn't speak at all but communicates through our heads. He can make himself understood to a dozen different people, speaking twelve different languages at the same time if he wants,” Bob explained to the Indian.

“He's a spirit. This is amazing. Perhaps he can help our people,” the chief pointed out to Bob but he was already thinking it.

“I hope so. First thing we need to do is disable that ship of theirs so they can't take off with anyone. Dexter can you go into their ship and shut it down so it can't take anybody anywhere? The cowboy asked his holographic friend.

“I'll see. I'll be back in a moment,” he no sooner said it but was back before Bob could say anything more. “The ship can still function but they are not taking humans to where they come from to create slaves...they are collecting them for food. Evidently they created the human race and others like you to eat. They prefer human flesh to even other primate flesh. They are now harvesting your kind to fill their stomachs. Being from another dimension and reality, I don't seem to be able to effect them. At a quantum and molecular level their reality is different than what I was constructed for here.”

Bob winced at the thought of any human being eaten. The medicine man looked on and spoke.

“I have heard of such things. There are stories among the Utes, of their kind and their doings. There are other tribes and other similar stories as well,” the chief said.

“I don't understand...quantum and molecular level. What do you mean?” the cowboy asked innocently.

“They are not from our reality so at the moment I can't effect change in their reality. In time I might,” the AI told Bob.

Suddenly the AI disappeared back into his host's chest as he spoke, 'someone's coming'. Bob only had enough time to turn around to see a reptilian figure emerge over the ridge staring at him and the Indian. He held something pointing at them which both men assumed was a weapon, though it didn't look like one. The reptilian said something to them, which Dexter translated for both of the men, making them aware he wanted them to come with him quietly.

So the snake man took them down the hill ahead of him. The alien was about six feet high with scaly looking skin...an iridescent deep blue color. There was no body hair, but there were ridges on top of it's head from the brow to the back directly in the middle. It's eyes were similar to a snakes eyes, completely black, eerie, and looking emotionless. It's hands were like humans but the fingers were longer and pointed. The arms were shorter. It's legs were long with a short torso and they wore long protective boots extending halfway between the knees and the hips.

“Why didn't you warn us,” Bob whispered to himself.

“What difference would it make? You intend to save these people being held, you need to get onto that ship. This makes it easier and doesn't look contrived,” the AI told both of them.

“Can't you just save them?” the cowboy whispered under his breath, but it looked like the snake man could hear him.

“I'm a hologram...made of light, there are limits as to what I can do,” the AI responded.

“Don't argue with a spirit,” the Indian chastised Bob looking displeased.

Their captor gruffly said something which Dextor translated as, 'shut up'.

Bob felt he still had the upper hand since their captor did not bother to take his weapon but wondered why. As they entered the ship Bob felt it was time to do something and perhaps free those held captive on board so he pulled his revolver and aimed it at the reptile that brought them on board. The creature stood there and appeared to laugh, so Bob pulled the trigger and sent a bullet at the reptile's chest, but the bullet did nothing but fall when it struck the scales. No wonder he wasn't concerned about the gun. A voice communicated with him from his chest.

“I told you,. Theirs is a different reality. Your weapon fails to have the same effect on them as it does in this reality,” Dexter reiterated to him.

Bob holstered his gun while Chief Tangwacki began chanting something unintelligible. His eyes rolled strangely to the back of his head and Bob was at a loss what to do next. They both were herded into a great room with several hundred people awaiting what appeared to be an execution. The cowboy looked around and recognized a few people that were missing from town. He and the Indian walked among them to see who was there. One person spoke to them.

“I see you have a gun. Did you try to use it? It isn't any use here. For some reason guns don't work here. A few of us have them and they didn't even bother to take them because they know they're useless,” a middle aged cowboy told Bob, who was sporting a pair of useless six guns. The chief continued his strange warbling and singing. His eyes would roll back and then he would look and begin some singing effort for whatever purpose.

Bob approached another captive and asked the person how long had been held here.

“Two weeks...I was one of the first people taken. You might as well sit and take it easy. We can't do anything. I guess they have a body count to reach before they leave here and it's anybody's guess as to what that is,” the old balding cowboy mentioned to both of them.

Bob sat down on the floor and the Indian joined him continuing to chant. The room was large and seemed to be lit internally from the walls. It was quiet here...it was the sound of helplessness amid superior captors unable to change the outcome. It was impossible to judge how many of the creatures were present or how effective their weapons might me.

“If our weapons don't work in their reality maybe theirs don't work in ours,” Bob said in an enlightened moment thinking he had stumbled on the answer. But the voice inside had other things to say.

“Not necessarily...they're advanced, their weapons probably do work in this reality especially if they've been coming here for some time. It would make sense to develop something to help them exact their cause here,” the voice instructed him

“What's with your friend here?” the older bald cowboy inquired as he watched the chief ranting continuously without stopping.

“The chief? I'm not sure what's he doing. I guess he's praying for our asses to be delivered. If I knew the right prayer I'd be saying it right now,” Bob told the old man.

“I got tired of praying for deliverance. I don't know how we're going to get out of this one,” the old man suffered an opinion, seeing no hope where weapons had no impact on a superior intelligence. Clearly something miraculous would have to happen.

The day was spent in that ship. An overall sense of hopelessness tainted everyone's awareness. It's bad when one or two people feel that sense of helplessness but far worse than several hundred people stuffed into one area reflect that same attitude. Desperation would be an improvement. There was an incredible attempt to avoid looking at anyone directly for fear of amplifying that feeling of solitude that reflects an awareness that all is lost.

Sometime the next day after being captured but not being able to determine when exactly, since there were no windows, a commotion sounded in a hall when the doors to the great room opened. The creatures were bringing more captives into the room destined for their dinner table. There were five people they were dragging into the area with the other captives. Three were familiar and two were not. Daisy was one of them

“Daisy!” Bob yelled, and Daisy no sooner turned to see her fiancée standing there than she ran to him. They stood grasping each other, Daisy completely lost. Frank Posey was there from the town of Cripple Creek, the mayor, and Bob's employer, Doug Sterling. Bob went to the other two and introduced himself...the first older gentleman was a prospector by the name of Sparky Lewis. The other man looked tougher than nails and even meaner...Curtains McCall.

“It's good to meet you. I've heard the name. You're a gunfighter for hire down Santa Fe way,” Bob mentioned his knowledge of the man. He had heard of the man taking out four hombres in a single fight. Over five years of notoriety he had killed eleven men in all...maybe more.

“Who are these jokers?” the gunman asked ready to draw his gun. Bob noticed his itchy trigger finger and suggested he not try anything...weapons didn't work.

“We have to figure something out soon. We're all destined for the dinner table and it's not as guests,” Bob informed them up front and honestly. At times like this you didn't need to mince words.

“You've been here all this time?” Daisy asked Bob. “I was worried about you just disappearing like that. Mr. Sterling thought it was unlike you too, so we went out together looking.”

“I hope you don't act that concerned if we get out of here and have the chance to marry. Just because I didn't show up to work the next day doesn't mean something happened to me,” Bob countered thinking Mr. Sterling and her were both worry warts.

“What do you mean, the next day...you've been gone for almost two weeks without a trace,” Daisy complained not understanding his sense of time.

“Two weeks?” Bob answered but then his inner voice explained. 'Bob, these aliens are from a different dimension...a different physical universe, the chances are their time is different then our time we presently experience. I know it's hard to understand, just believe me.”

Daisy looked at her fiancée's face and asked him quietly.

“Was that Dexter?” she asked.

“Yes. He said their time is measured differently than ours,” the cowboy explained. “I'm at a loss as to what to do. Since I can't relate to what's going on here I can only try to figure out a way to undo what's been done.”

Bob looked over at the Ute, still meditating but the chanting stopped. The chanting had been getting on his nerves. At least that stopped. A commotion started in the room and when the door opened there were things going on in the hall. At first Bob expected more captives to be brought into the room but that didn't happen. Two reptilian crewmen did enter the room and began barking nonsensical verbiage. The two sliding doors stayed open as they stood just inside the doorway in the great room.

“I can't just not try somethin',” McCall announced drawing his gun and pointing at the two reptilians creating a laughable reaction that even in this world maintained a comical note.

Curtains McCall fired at each of them but the lead fell to the floor just a few feet away. This created even more laughter among their captors. As they laughed, the chief stepped forward next to the gunman, reached into his pouch tied around his waist, and pulled out some dust to sprinkle on Curtains' gun.

“There try it now,” the medicine man stated to the gunslinger who just looked at him incredulously wondering how long he had been alone in the desert.

However, he had nothing to lose but attempt to repeat his action. Much to his surprise the gun fired and a bullet struck the first reptilian, sending him to the floor in a pool of purplish blood. Both the second reptilian and the gunslinger were taken off guard not expecting that outcome. However, as the second snake man turned to go out the door, McCall pulled the trigger again and ended the other dimensional life form on the spot.

“That's amazing, chief” Bob cried. The gunslinger was in awe as well as he was ready to fight.

“Sprinkle some of that on my gun too,” Bob demanded.

“And mine as well,” cried Sparky Lewis, the prospector, as well. “And make sure you ad some of that on these three sticks of dynamite I'm carryin' in my overalls. We might can us them.”

The chief did so, preparing everyone for battle. There were several others in the room with guns as well that had not been working. He sprinkled them with his magical powder to make them active. About that time the lights in the room dimmed and a number of people looked around wondering what was happening. The inner voice in Bob's chest piped up and informed his host it most likely meant the ship was getting ready to leave. He must act quickly before it was underway.

“The ship's getting ready to leave. We have to act now and with pure instinct. There is no room to plan,” he said quickly as he moved towards the open doors. Everyone with guns had to come as one armed unit. They needed to find where the pilot would be, stop him and stop the ship from leaving. A dozen of them entered the hall and instinctively, which is all they had, ran down the long hallway to the center of the craft. Partway down the hall a reptilian creature came through a side door into the hall and looked at the group of militants coming. Before the creature could react Bob shot him and let him lay motionless. As they passed, the Ute stooped and gathered some of the alien blood in a small clay bottle he carried in his pouch, placing it back into the medicine bag. Bob wondered what the chief was doing but thought better than to question it. So far what he's done was working.

They continued and the wise Indian stopped the group, pointing to the floor outside a door that looked like any other door they had come across in that ship.

“There are more marks in front of that door than any other we have seen...more activity,” Chief Tangwacky pointed out to them, although Bob couldn't see the difference.

“He's right,” the old prospector added. “That's probably where we need to be.”

So they headed for the door and it automatically opened, revealing several reptilians inside standing around ominous looking devices with flashing lights, omitting small sounds of an annoying nature. One creature stood in the middle of the room surrounded by the others. He was looking at some kind of window waving his hand at it. Bob assumed this was the pilot. A sound rising in intensity and volume seemed to be indicating something was happening. Was the ship preparing to shuttle its cargo off now? Bob quickly aimed his gun at the reptile while Curtains and three others fired their guns at their other adversaries. The reptilians were dumbfounded that their human weapons worked on them. Their surprise didn't last long as they fell to the floor. The pilot was not dead but Bob pulled him away from what appeared to be a control panel to keep him from doing anything.

“Go get the people out of here. Sparky can you take that dynamite you have and set the fuses where it can't be found? Give everyone a few minutes to get out and meet me near the exit. I plan on leavin' this fellow behind after we are all out of here. He can take this ship back with him and let it blow up wherever it's goin',” Bob flashed directions at the prospector.

“Sure thing. Start goin' and I'll set the sticks in here. I'll meet you in one minute and set them for four. Hopefully it's timed right,” Sparky alerted him.

Bob dragged the wounded reptilian down the hall to the door they had first entered the ship. There he waited and soon Sparky, remarkably spry for a man of his age, came running down the hall. Bob in turn pushed the alien away and yelled for him to go, motioning to him as well. The creature was unsure at first, then surprised, then elated they were setting him free and sped as lizards do down the hall. Bob and Sparky ran down the plank as the opening started closing. They leaped from it to the ground, where a couple of people, including Daisy ran to their aid, pulling them away from the craft quickly. A number of people had already left, going home, while others waited to see what might happen. The group of those staying behind, stood and watched the ship is it took off horizontally across a stretch of plain. As it entered, what appeared to be a ring of light and sound, there was a sudden explosion, a large one, that fell into itself and seemed to enter the ring and disappear. The later explosion must have been the result of Sparky's detonations.

“Mayor Posey,” Bob suggested to the town leader,” why don't you guide all these people back to town. I want to check things out and make sure there aren't any other surprises.”

'Bob,” Dexter started saying,” check out where the explosion occurred. There were changes at a molecular level at the sight of the explosion that may be of interest. I believe it has ended in the creation of something your world finds very desirable, called gold.

“Sparky, if you could come with me I'd like to go look at something where that ship disappeared,” Bob told the gold prospector.

“Sure, what are you lookin' for?” the old man asked.

“You'll know it when I see it,” Bob lightly informed him, puzzling Sparky.

Bob watched as the others walked away back to town. Daisy stayed behind, wishing to stay with Bob. The ship had traveled about quarter of a mile to the west when it sped away back to its dimension. The three of them walked that way towards an open area strewn with iron rock. As they got there, the iron rock had changed its structure at an atomic level. Whether it was the combination of the explosion and opening a portal into another physical dimension, different at a quantum level than this one, resulted in the change, who could guess. However, the iron had been converted throughout the area, into gold. It was a large area and worth a lot of money. When Bob and Sparky got there and the prospector saw it, he about fell over dead, after all these years of searching for the mother load. Bob was astounded and so was Daisy. Dexter reminded him the area covered about a thousand feet in diameter which also reflected a depth of about half that distance.

“Sparky, I think we need to go in and stake a claim here. A long term, rewarding partnership is about to begin,” Bob told the man.

“I'll get right on that,” the prospector told him. The old man had already wet his pants in the excitement.

* * *

It had been twelve years since Bob and Daisy were married. Messy Galloway was the best man at their wedding. It was large by Cripple Creek standards because Bob was a hero by local standards but the story itself was not well known because most found it hard to swallow, so it was passed off as one of those western tall tales. Bob and his partner, Sparky, became quite wealthy and eventually Bob became the mayor of Cripple Creek. Sparky on the other hand, at the ripe age of sixty two became well known as a womanizer and eventually settled down to marry a twenty three year old lady, who he survived after being married for six years. Bob and Daisy had their first child after their first year of marriage naming her Missy. Dexter had nowhere to go so he stayed with Bob acting as an advisor in everything he did. The reptilian aliens never returned. It was assumed, via Dexter, that the explosion created by Sparky, not only created a molecular change in the area but it somehow sealed off the portal leading into the other dimension . The reptilian species were unable to return.

The area of gold created as a by product of the attempt to rid the west of the alien predators became the richest gold strike in history, much to the pride of Bob and his partner. Bob made sure much of the wealth of the strike was reinvested in the town. He also made sure that individuals like Curtains McCall were rewarded, who straightened out his ways and became a leading citizen of Cripple Creek. Instead of passing through, like he was doing the night of his alien abduction, he stayed and settled in town. Daisy introduced him to her cousin, Rose, and being smitten with each other, decided to tie the knot after just three weeks of meeting. I guess it doesn't really matter how long you know each other when you decide you're in love, it's that overwhelming feeling you just can't see spending the rest of your life without sharing the same air with the other person.

Cowboy Bob ended up owning a several thousand acre ranch, raising prime beef and Messy remained with him with the responsibility of running it, while Chief Tangwacky joined forces with Dr. Heath Barker, leading homeopathic doctor and snake oil salesman in a three state area. The chief had developed several well known medicinal recipes of his own that were quite successful but since no one would buy therapeutic remedies from an Indian, he had to combine his efforts with a white man. It was a good collaboration because they both became very successful in their own right and they multiplied their efforts by manufacturing several other wagons like the original, supplying their drivers with medicines, while taking a percentage off the top from all sales.

Bob and Daisy stayed happily married for forty one years and had three children. Dexter kept both of them healthy as best he could during that time until one day Daisy just wore out beyond his ability to fix her. Within several months of her death, Bob had given up the desire to live without her and he passed on. However, before he did he called his oldest, Missy, into the room where he lay, having reviewed his life with Daisy to the extent he could. He made her promise to keep something secret and not be afraid, it was something he had within him most of his adult life and it was a friend...something that would watch over her and her loved ones the rest of their lives and which he had kept secret from her until now.

Missy was wide eyed when she saw the small light emerge from her father's chest and hover momentarily in front of him as if to say goodbye to an old friend.

“He has much to tell you about aliens and all kinds of things. His name is Dexter and he is not prone to exaggeration or fabrication. Listen well my dear there is much of interest to learn,” Bob muttered as the light entered Missy's chest and introduced himself as Cowboy Bob closed his eyes forever.

science fiction

Dennis Humphreys

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Dennis Humphreys
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