Fantasy Fiction posted March 2, 2022


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A man from the old west in a peculiar situation.

Orbitus and Bugsy Malone

by Shirley McLain

A Fistful Of... Genre Contest Winner 

Standing in the orange powdery dirt of the only street left unpaved in Orbitus made Paladin wonder why he came to this world. He'd accepted the offer to be the lawman on this planet. He didn't know what had possessed him to leave his known world. I know I'm not gullible, but I must have been by letting Jackson, Morgan, and Sons talk me into coming to Orbitus to take the law job.

"Hey Paladin, who are you waiting for out in the hot sun?" Andrew asked.

"You young scoundrel, get away from here. It's none of your concern who I'm waiting on. Go home to your mama. I will talk to you later, and don't call me Paladin!"

"That’s your name.”

“Not to you, it isn’t. Now get yourself home. Don’t mention this to your ma. You hear me, Andrew.”

“Yes, Sir, I hear you, but I still want to know who you are waiting for,”

“Get out of here before you get a boot somewhere you don’t want it.”

Andrew ran around the corner, laughing as he called out as loud as possible, “Paladin and his gun are the best.”

Paladin’s face grimaced when he heard Andrew’s shout. That little fool doesn’t realize how wrong this gun is.
A strange sound came from behind the buildings on the far end of the street. It wasn’t a minute later that he saw Bugsy Malone walking upright toward him with a gun in each hand. He didn’t bother with a holster.

Bugsy was gutsy to be walking down the street in daylight. There was a $2000 bounty on his head, but he showed no fear. He ran roughshod over this town for so long he didn’t think anyone would be stupid enough to face him. He had his six guns, and no one was a faster shot.

Paladin knew who it was from the poster on his office bulletin board. He knew Bugsy was strange, but it didn’t hit him until he saw the thing walking down the street, just how strange it was.

Bugsy Malone was a ten-foot arthropod with big mandibles that looked as if they could easily crush a man. He looked as though he was wearing body armor.
***

The inhabitants of Orbitus said Bugsy showed up four months ago from some planet called Territin. He traveled alone, but he might as well have been an army as much damage as he did. Between the killings and the bullying, he intimidated everyone in the settlement. After a few months of this terror, they sent two men from Jackson, Morgan, and Sons to earth to find some help.

The inhabitants loved watching the activity on earth, especially in the west. They loved anything to do with horses and cowboys. They had to find a man who was fast with a gun and nerves of steel. The two men searched in many places for a candidate. It didn’t take long for discouragement to set it. No one appeared to display the characteristics they wanted.

Men would either provoke altercations, run from them, or die. Trying to find the perfect candidate appeared to be a lost cause to the two men. They decided a look around San Francisco would be their last attempt.
Sitting in the Long Horn Saloon, they heard talk of a hired killer. His gun was for hire, but he only took up just cases. He didn’t believe in indiscriminate killing. He shot anyone if they deserved it, and he got paid well. This man could be the one they were looking for. Discreetly they asked about this gunman. They found out his name was Paladin, and he stayed at the Hotel Frisco at the edge of town.

The two men left the saloon heading for the hotel. They decided to get rooms and thoroughly check out this hired killer, before offering him the job as Lawman in Orbitus.

Over the following two weeks, they found Paladin to be a gentleman investigator/gunfighter who traveled around the Old West working as a mercenary for people who hired him to solve their problems. Although Paladin charged steep fees to clients who could afford to hire him, typically $1000 per job, he provided his services free to poor people who needed his help.

The few times they saw him in the hotel, he dressed as a real dandy. One of those men who paid special attention to how they looked.

They asked the desk clerk for Mr. Paladin’s room number. “I’m sorry, but Paladin does not want anyone to go to his room. If you wait in the bar, I will send word you would like to talk to him.”

“Here is our card to give him, and please let him know it is about a job offer.”
 
When he was on the job, off went the dandy outfits. Dressed entirely in somber black, with a silver chess knight on his holster (the paladin itself), he set out to right matters. His black hat with a silver buckle on the band set back on his head. He was not just a mercenary-hired gun. Paladin's strict, knightly sense of honor guided his actions.

Paladin had a daring side, and the two men found out through their investigation. They had the opportunity to meet his best friend, a Calvary Colonel by the name of Douglas Randell. This guy was stinking drunk going on, and on how he just got off this awful assignment. He was happy to be done with it. Then he began telling a story about Paladin and The Great Mojave Chase.

“You have to understand Paladin is a horseman and a darn good one. The army decided that camels would be great transportation in the desert terrain in California instead of horses. Paladin decided to enter the Mojave Chase, but he would ride a camel instead of riding a horse. Camels don’t get as thirsty in the high heat as horses do. He was laughed and jeered at because of that camel. It didn’t matter to him because he intended to win the race. The horses and riders who also entered to win the $1000.00 prize started falling out because of the lack of water and heat. You know that camel and his big feet kept plugging on. You know Paladin, and that camel won the race and got the money. If you asked Paladin today about getting a camel, he’d say, “Who would want one of those smelly things?” Then he’d laugh and walk away.

The more the men from Orbitus heard about Paladin, the more they wanted him for their settlement. They waited a full hour in the bar for Paladin, and when this elegantly dressed man walked in, they knew he was the one they were waiting on.

Paladin was immaculately bathed and shaved, and dressed in a plain dark blue coat, perfectly brushed, perfectly fitted, showing much perfectly starched linen, all freshly laundered and composed with an elaborately knotted cravat. He wore cream-colored cashmere pants and leather boots to his knees, which had the perfect shine to them. He carried a black lacquered cane with a Paladin's head to accompany his outfit, which matched the Paladin on his holster.

The two men rose from their table and walked forward to introduce themselves. “Mr. Paladin, we are from Jackson, Morgan, and Sons. I’m Ted, and my partner is Evan. Please come and sit and let us buy you a drink.”

“That’s kind of you, gents, thank you.” Paladin sat down at the table across from the two men. “How can I assist you two?”

“Well, sir, we’d like to hire your gun for an undermined amount of time. You would get paid $1000 per day plus all your living expenses if you agree to come to Orbitus with us,” Ted said.

“How much did you say you are willing to pay me?” Paladin asked

 Ted repeated the offer as asked. “You may bring your family or let them stay behind until you return. If you should decide to stay, we will transport them without cost.”

“That is some offer. Where is Orbitus anyway? I’ve never heard of it. Just when would you need me there?” Paladin asked. He could see the money rolling in, and he wouldn’t have any more worries about caring for his family.

“There is one thing you need to know before you accept this job,” Evan said.

Looking Evan in his eyes, Paladin asked, “and that would be what?”

“Mr. Paladin,” Ted began to say.

“Just call me Paladin, no Mr. to it.”

“Paladin, this job is on the planet, Usher. In a settlement called Orbitus, being terrorized by Bugsy Malone.” The two men explained the entire situation.

Sitting silent, not believing what he heard, for what seemed like a full five minutes, Paladin asked, “How would I get there?”

We will come to your room and leave from there when you get ready to go. We can instantly transport you to our planet. It will be like you’re going to sleep. When you wake, you will be in Orbitus. What do you say, Paladin? Do you want the job?”

“Gentlemen, I will meet you tomorrow at noon. We can have lunch, and I will give you my answer.”
***
“You are a dead man,” Bugsy yelled. His body rigidity made his walking slow as he made his way up the street.
Paladin studied Bugsy as he walked forward. He saw the best spot to aim for and waited. His right hand lifted the leather string from around the gun hammer, shook his arm and hand twice. I don’t stand a chance against six guns. I will shoot as soon as he gets within shot range.

Bugsy was within range. Paladin watched Bugsy closely, and as soon as his bottom right arm twitched, Paladin drew and fired. Bugsy got off a shot before Paladin’s bullet struck him in the only unarmored spot he had, the throat. Bugsy went down, gurgling green slime. He twitched a few times, and it was over. Paladin saved Orbitus from the marauding insect.
 
 
 
 




 



A Fistful Of... Genre
Contest Winner


1685 words. Have Gun will Travel starring Richard Boone as Paladin was a television and radio show from 1957 to 1963. I don't think we missed an episode.
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