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Banditos Of The Bluffs

Lethal Six Gun: Banditos of the Bluffs
Vickie T. — 6 Nov 1998, 8:51 PM

I never expected Voyager City to serve as therapy, but I came home tonight still steaming about an e-mail I received from my boss this afternoon. What I really wanted to do tonight was send him a reply that began with "Are you out of you mind?," ended with "Oh, yeah, well I quit!," and was chock full of burning bridges in between. However, after careful consideration of both my mortgage and car payment, I decided to work on the next installment of Lethal Six-Gun instead. Besides, I still owe Eric that story I promised him! :-)

In case you've forgotten, this is a continuation of the Lethal Six-Gun story line that I started just before the new season began. If you're confused about what's going on, re-read that first story.

Line Cabin #2 was located at the southern tip of Delta Q property. It had received heavy use this summer because the spring rains had extended clear on up into June, meaning that the south range, which usually became too dry for grazing by mid-June, provided good grazing well into July. Tom and Chakotay had already spent one extra day at the camp, repairing the effects of long occupancy by men who, while they perhaps had not been raised in barns, had certainly had spent much of their lives in one.

Tom stood, holding a hammer and a bucket of nails, on the front porch of the cabin. "It's a good thing the Delta Q's hands are the best in the territory when it comes to stock tending, because they sure ain't worth a d@mn when it comes to cleaning and household chores."

Chakotay, hard at work with a broom inside the cabin, grumbled his agreement.

By supper time, Line Camp #2 was restored to its normal clean and functional, if somewhat rustic, state. Chakotay and Tom were seated in chairs on the front porch, enjoying a last cup of coffee while they watched the sun go down. Because they were both turned to face the west, they didn't notice the approaching rider until he called out to them.

"Evening gentlemen. Am I in time for supper?"

Tom and Chakotay looked up to discover that they had been joined by Marshal Marshall Tuvok.

"Howdy, Marshal. What brings you all the way out here?," asked Chakotay.

"Yeah," inquired Tom, "is this a social call or are you working?"

After Marshal Tuvok had staked out his horse with the others, Chakotay handed him a plate of ham, beans and corncakes. Between bites, Tuvok began to explain what he was doing so far from Voyager City.

"I received a telegram three days ago," Tuvok said, "from a Miss Gegen. It seems that her father, Dr. Dino Gegan, head of the Department of Native American Cultural Studies at Federation City College, is on a field expedition in this area with his assistant Vir."

"I remember him," Tom said. "He stopped by the Delta Q a couple of months ago to get permission to conduct some excavations along the Big Coffee River right at the southern tip of our property."

"Yes, that's right," added Chakotay. "Dr. Gegen and I had a fascinating discussion about the study of alien cultures."

Tuvok raised an eyebrow, then continued. "Yes, well, according to his daughter, Dr. Gegen and Vir should have returned to Federation City over 3 weeks ago. She has not heard from him in over a month and is growing concerned. She asked me to investigate. Kes informed me that the two of you should be in this area and I have come to request your assistance."

"Did you run in to Kes in town?" Tom asked.

"Indeed," replied Tuvok. "She and her husband, the florist-formerly-known-as-gunslinger Eric are working long hours in preparation for the grand opening of their new Flower Shop/Wedding Consultant business."

Lethal Six Gun: Banditos of the Bluffs Pt.2
Vickie T. — 8 Nov 1998, 8:15 PM

The next morning, the three men set out for the Big Coffee, which was less than a mile to the west of Line Cabin #2. Here, the ground was still flat, but just a short distance to the south, just across the border of Kazon country, the remnants of an eroded plateau formed steep bluffs along the river. A pre-Kazon Indian society once lived in caverns excavated into the face of the bluffs. Tuvok believed that Dr. Gegen and Vir might have been searching for artifacts in that area.

As they rode along in the bright morning sunshine, Chakotay voiced a thought that had occurrred to all three of them. "If Dr. Gegan and Vir wandered too far into Kazon territory, there may be nothing left for us to find. The Kazon don't take kindly strangers."

"True," responded Tuvok. "Particularly if Chief Odala's people find them. None of the Kazon welcome change or disruption of their daily life, but Chief Odala's people are violently opposed to any outsiders entering their hunting grounds."

The men reached the bank of the Big Coffee and turned south, following the river's edge toward the bluffs. Their conversation gradually diminished as their apprehension grew, until they rode along in complete silence, constantly scanning the horizon for any sign of Kazon activity. As they approached a dense thicket of cottonwooods, a flock of quail burst out of the underbrush, startling the men and their horses. After regaining control of their mounts, Tom, Chakotay and Tuvok looked sheepishly at one another and at the guns which had appeared in their hands, as if by magic, within a split second of the first flutter of quail wings.

When they reached the bluff area where Tuvok believed Dr. Gegen and Vir may have been working, the men dismounted, planning to make a quiet, hopefully unnoticed, approach on foot. They made their way carefully, moving forward one at a time in short dashes, along the edge of the river, staying, as much as possible, pressed against the rock wall of the overhanging bluff.

Tuvok stopped behind a large boulder and motioned Tom and Chakotay forward to his position. "I thought I heard something up ahead, but it's gone now." The three men strained forward, trying to hear any sounds which would indicate the presence of human activity. Abruptly, the wind shifted and the men became aware of the faint odor of coffee brewing and and the sound of...singing?

"Camptown ladies sing this song..."

Lethal Six Gun: Banditos of the Bluffs Pt. 3
Vickie T. — 13 Nov 1998, 7:01 PM

"Do Da, Do Da..."

Tuvok made his way cautiously toward the voices with Tom and Chakotay following closely behind. As he moved beyond on outcropping of rock which had blocked his view of the river, Tuvok came to an abrupt halt, Tom and Chakotay nearly crashing into him from behind.

"What?" Tom whispered. Tuvok looked back at him and Tom could see that Tuvok's eyebrows were even higher than they'd been that time he caught Cowgirl Vickie and Thomas Magnum...[author's note: umm, never mind]. Tom and Chakotay moved forward to take in the scene which had so elevated Marshal Tuvok's eyebrows.

"All the do da day!"

There, frolicking in the river before them were two women and a man, all wearing somewhat less than the Voyager City standards of good taste dictated.

As our heros stood, gaping, with mouths open (Tom and Chakotay) and eyebrows raised (Tuvok), they were approached by an older man, thankfully, fully dressed in boots, breeches and khaki shirt. He was holding a large tin coffee pot in his hand.

"Gentlemen, what a pleasant surprise. We don't often receive visitors this far off the beaten path." By this time, the three swimmers had noticed the arrival of guests and had made their way over to the group, the two ladies wrapping themselves in blankets as they walked.

The older man continued, "I am Dr. Dino Gegen, Professor of Native American Cultural Studies at Federation City College. This is my associate, Vir and these two ladies are our research assistants." The two ladies giggled, quite unlike the response one might expect from research assistants.

"Will you join us?" Dr. Gegen asked. "I've just brewed a fresh pot of coffee."

After the introductions were completed, everyone found a comfortable spot and enjoyed what turned out to be an excellent cup of coffee.

"Dr. Gegen," Tuvok explained, "we have come in response to a telegram from your daughter. She says you are somewhat overdue and is concerned for your safety."

"What?," Gegen responded with a shocked look on his face. "What is today?"

"It is Tuesday, September 14," Tuvok replied.

"Oh my, oh my, I had no idea, I completely lost track of time," said Dr. Gegen. "The pre-Kazon artifacts in these bluff caverns are amazing. They are perfectly preserved. I've never seen anything like them before in my entire career. I've been completely consumed with my cataloging." "Vir," he then inquired, shaking his head, "did you realize that it is already the middle of September?"

Vir blushed and looked at the ground between his feet. "Well, Dr., um, not exactly, I mean..." He looked sideways at the two women. "Well," he continued, "I guess I did know that it was getting late, but its just that we've been so busy with"

Tom and Chakotay looked at each other, rolled their eyes and laughed behind their coffee mugs.

"I am relieved to discover that you and your associates are well," said Tuvok. "I will relay that information to your daughter." He paused, "Unless you wish to return to Voyager City at this time. We would be pleased to have you accompany us back to town."

At that very instant, all he11 broke lose. Bullets rained down on the group from the bluffs above. One of the women began to shriek like a banshee. Coffee mugs flew in every direction, as did Tom, Chakotay, Tuvok, Dr. Gegen, Vir and the two ladies.

I promise to have this finished tomorrow. I can't seem to end it!

Banditos of the Bluffs, Part 4
Vickie T. — 26 Jun 1999, 8:21 PM

Today I received a brief message via carrier pigeon. It was a handwritten note on a tiny scrap of paper. It said, "For %$#@*& sake, just how long do you intend to leave us out here cowering behind this rock, dodging bullets and praying for the cavalry? Get us out of here. NOW! Respectfuly yours, Marshal Marshall Tuvok and Chakotay Torres"

OK, guys, OK! I'm workin' on it! Geez, it's summertime. I've had company. Beaches to lounge on, theme parks to visit, rivers to float down. Life's tough everywhere.

Here it is, the next installment of my ongoing Voyager City Tom and Chakotay buddy saga, "Lethal Six-Gun."

Dr. Gegen, Vir, Tuvok and Chakotay took shelter behind a large outcropping of rock close to the face of the bluff. Tom and the two women found safety inside one of the caverns. "How does he do that?" Chakotay whined plaintively.

The gunfire died down. "Hey! You down there," shouted a gruff voice, "throw out your guns and come out with your hands up. We won't hurt you."

"Who are you and what do you want?" shouted Marshal Tuvok.

"Who we are don't matter. You know what we want. Now come out of there or else," the man responded, punctuating his words with a brief spray of bullets.

Tuvok looked at the three men sharing his hiding place. "I do not believe it would be advisable to comply with their demands at this time," he said. The others agreed. Apparently Tom and the ladies shared their opinion, as there was no sign of any movement from the cavern.

Tuvok addressed Dr. Gegen and Vir. "Do you gentlemen have any idea who these people are or what they are after? They do seem to believe that you have what they want."

Dr. Gegen replied, "Obviously these ruffians are after this spectacular collection of pre-Kazon artifacts. Why, any museum in the country would be thrilled to add these to their collection."

Tuvok and Chakotay exchanged glances.

"Not to suggest that your artifacts aren't valuable, Doctor," said Chakotay, "but these hombres aren't likely to be after anything so...scholarly in nature."

"How about you, Mr. Vir?" asked Tuvok. "Do you have any ideas?"

Vir did not respond immediately, but eventually spoke. "Well, um, maybe, uh, perhaps..."

"Perhaps what, my boy?" questioned Dr. Gegen. "Spit it out."

At that moment, shots again began to rain down on the men from above.

"I suggest," said Chakotay, "that we make a break for that cavern behind us before those rifles find their mark."

"I concur," nodded Tuvok, and the four crouched low and ran a zig-zagging path toward the tunnel entrance, hoping that the men above weren't good shots.

Banditos of the Bluffs, The End, Pt. 1
Vickie T. — 24 Jul 1999, 9:56 PM

Chakotay, Tuvok, Dr. Gegen and Vir sat silently for a few moments in the safety of the cavern while they recovered from their mad dash across the open ground. Soon, however, Marshal Tuvok resumed his interrupted questioning of Vir and Gegen.

"Mr. Vir...I believe you were about to offer some suggestion about what these outlaws may be after?"

Vir remained silent so long that they were beginning to think he wasn't going to respond. Finally, he said, "Yes, well...we have been engaged, you know, in excavating these caverns. As Dr. Gegen said, the pre-Kazon artifacts here are simply spectacular. It turns out, though, that pre-Kazon artifacts are not the only treasure to be found within these caves."

"What do you mean?" asked Dr. Gegen excitedly. "Have you found the evidence I've been seeking? The proof that the Kazon and the porcupine actually share a common ancestor? I knew that the similarities in hair were too great to be coincidence!"

Chakotay had to turn away to hide his smile, but Tuvok, calling upon his many years in law enforcement and great mental discipline, was able to maintain his demeanor.

"No, Doctor," replied Vir, "I'm refering to something considerably less academic in nature." He stood and moved toward the back of the cavern, saying, as he picked up and lighted a torch, "Please follow me."

After threading their way through a maze of tunnels, the four men stepped out into a huge, high ceilinged room deep in the bluffs. Chakotay and Dr. Gegen gasped in amazement. No less than 7 large strongboxes were scattered, open, around the walls of the room. The gold bullion contained within the strongboxes glittered in the torchlight.

Banditos of the Bluffs, The End, Pt.2
Vickie T. — 25 Jul 1999, 8:19 PM

OK, this time, I'll make sure that none of my MS Word quotation marks are converted in the cutting and pasting process to the little curly kind. Hopefully it'll all work this time!


"Can you hear us?"

"Anybody there?"

"Where are you?"

The voices of Tom and the two women echoed from a nearby tunnel.

"In here," shouted Chakotay, who followed up with, "How did you get over here?" when the three made their way into the room.

Tom, eyes wide and mouth open at the sight of the gold couldn't respond. The ladies, though, had obviously seen the view previously, because they took little notice of the strongboxes while explaining how the many caverns in the bluffs were connected by a series of tunnels.

"Why didn't you tell me about this, Vir?" asked Gegen, with a puzzled look.

Vir, acutely embarrassed, refused to make eye contact with his mentor, but did respond in a voice so low it was almost a whisper.

"I, umm, I didn't tell you because, well, I hadn't exactly decided what to do about it.

"Ahh," said Dr. Gegen, looking sadly at the ground. "I understand."

At that moment, Allie, the thinner of the two women, spoke up. "Do you smell something burning?"

As they all turned back toward the tunnel through which they had entered the room, they could see fine tendrils of smoke wafting through the air.

Marshal Tuvok spoke, with his usual flair for understatement. "It appears that we may wish to consider moving toward an exit."

Tom replied, "I would say, in fact, that we may wish to get the he11 out of here. Now!"

It also appeared that the men outside were as well aware of the construction of the underground complex as were Dr. Gegen, Vir, Allie and Eleanor. Smoke seemed to be filling all of the connecting tunnels, making escape seem impossible.

The same voice that had earlier demanded they throw down their weapons and come out now reached them through the smoke.

"I told you to come out of there or else. Now you're going to find out just what 'or else' means," the bandit shouted with a laugh.

To be continued

My apologies to the writers of Basics for borrowing a bit of their storyline.

Banditos of the Bluffs, The End, Pt. 3 (Eric-Read)
Vickie T. — 25 Jul 1999, 8:26 PM

Eric, here is your payback for being made into a florist earlier in the story.

Chakotay looked at Vir and Gegen. "Are there any other ways out?" he asked.

"I do not believe so," said Dr. Gegen.

Vir agreed with Gegen, shaking his head no.

Chakotay walked slowly around the large chamber. Finally, he said, "The air in this room is much too fresh for the only avenue of ventilation to be through these tunnels. There must be some other openings to the outside."

"Even if there are," said Tom, "it's probably just some little air shafts. There's no way any of us would fit through. I say we cover our faces with our bandanas to block the smoke and head for the exit, guns drawn. If we don't make it we'll at least have gone down fighting."

Marshal Tuvok replied, "We have not yet ruled all other alternatives. To take such action now would be premature."

Tom's retort was on the tip of his tongue when the sounds of a furious gunbattle reached the cavern from outside. They all stood, silently, listening to the gunfire that seemed to continue forever. Then, it stopped.

The little group shifted uneasily and looked around with uncertainty. Before anyone could speak, they heard someone calling from outside.

"Heellooo! Heellooo! Anyone in there? Tom? Chakotay? Marshal?"

"Is that????" asked Chakotay incredulously.

"Yes," replied Marshal Tuvok, "I believe it is."

The smoke was already beginning to clear from one of the tunnels, so they made their way down the passageway. Standing just inside the mouth of the cave leading to the outside was...Gunslinger Eric, carrying two big honkin' guns!

"Eric!," said Tom, embracing his brother-in-law, "What are you doing here? How did you find us? How did you know we were in trouble? And hey, I thought you traded in your gunslinger outfit for florist's clothes!"

"First," said Eric, "let's get one thing straight. I ain't no florist. I was just helping Kes get her business started." "She rewards me very well," he continued, with a dreamy look crossing his face.

"And as for how I knew where to find you and that you needed some help, well, let's just say that your little sister is a woman of great and mysterious abilities. I don't ask questions anymore," Eric concluded.

Really and truely finally The End