Tales of High Adventure, Low Adventure, and Misadventure
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From medieval Europe to Reconstruction; from a post-apocalyptic future to an alien world's Dark Ages, the drums pound in adrenaline-charged unison. Strap yourself in for a wild escape from the mundane, into adventures that transcend space and time.
Allan of Barnsdale pledges loyalty to a doomed knight in exchange for inspiration to craft his tale of King Arthur...never imagining they are en route to an ambush by outlaws in Sherwood Forest.
Pick Garver returns to his hometown after the Civil War a hero to some, a turncoat to most, and less likely to be with his true love than when he left.
Three warriors from vastly different races must battle a sorcerer, an invading armada, and each other, while desperately seeking honor in a world where treachery is the norm.
Mechanic, armchair engineer and hot-dog pilot Rebble Rauser and his fellow citizens of the "Barbarian Nation" protect their sovereignty with blazing wing guns; but an old rival of Rebble's makes a surprise visit during a war in a chaotic American future.
Virtual Pulp # 1 brings you new pulp-flavored tales in different genres, combining intelligent storytelling with the imaginative adventure-lust of yesteryear.
Too bewildered to think about his burns and wrenched knee, Pick made his way back to Tanner's Grove on foot. The first lighted structure he came upon was Petiot's Inn. He staggered inside, rasping for help.
He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror behind the bar: a smoke-blackened, wild-eyed beast. There were nine patrons, all of whom ceased their conversations to turn and stare.
"Where's the sheriff?" Pick rasped, loudly.
"What do you want the sheriff for?" a hostile-looking man asked, over his mug.
"Killers," Pick stammered. "Kidnappers…they burned the church…with people inside."
"Burned?" Another man echoed, rising to his feet and flashing an ugly smile. "Is that why you're all black, traitor? Or did somebody wash the white paint off you to see what color you really are inside?"
Other men stood and faced Pick.
"Who got kidnapped?" Petiot asked, from behind the bar.
Pick turned to face him, hoping his words were an indication of genuine concern. "They took Huddy, and Josiah and Randy," Pick said. "They tried to kill the rest of us. I think maybe they'll try to do worse to them."
Petiot shook his head sadly. "Now see, if it was a horse that got stolen, or somebody's pig got shot, maybe that would be worth fetching the sheriff at this hour."
Just as Pick's mind was finally clearing to the awareness of danger, something hard crashed against the top of his head. He staggered, hand dropping instinctively to his pistol.
Another hand was already there, tearing open the flap. Somebody was trying to disarm him from behind. He jerked his hips while striking the wrist with his fist, then grabbed the gun butt himself. But a meaty forearm slipped under his chin; his neck was caught in a crushing vice. Somebody else tackled his feet.
With the air cut off to his lungs, it seemed like a gale-force wind rushed in his ears. Over the roar he heard them yelling. He could make out some of the phrases: They called him Yankee bastard and coon-lover and white pickaninny.
Strong hands clamped down on his wrists. He wriggled his finger down inside the trigger guard. He was blacking out, he couldn't see his assailants through the haze in his vision, and he couldn't even pull his pistol high enough for the barrel to clear leather, but he wasn't going down without a fight. He jerked the trigger and felt the percussion of the gunshot slam his eardrums.
The chokehold loosened a bit. He twisted his body as violently as he could, kicking free of the hold on his legs. His head slipped out of the sweaty arm-noose. He hit the ground rolling, a death-grip on his revolver.
Pick had two rounds left. He aimed at the murky shapes scrambling toward him, but a chair came down on his shoulder. Heavy blows landed all over his body, from all directions. His right side was so numb he couldn't tell if the gun was still in his hand or not. He rocked back and forth with the blows, trying to shield his head and body with his arms. He tried twice to regain his feet and was driven back down. How long the savage beating went on, he couldn't guess.
More shots rang out. His attackers stopped kicking him and grew quiet. He heard familiar voices.
"You all back away from him, right now!"
"What if we don't, Yankee boy?"
"We start killing. And you'll be first."
"This is a private establishment and you're trespassing." Petiot's voice.
"Fine. We'll just take our friend and be on our way. Unless you want to die while we wreck this place to the ground."
Boots clomped and scuffled as hot, angry flesh moved away from Pick. Then a huge, bull-like shape approached him. "You okay, Cap'n?"
"M-murderers…" Pick said.
"Hang on, Sir." Powerful but gentle hands hoisted Pick up, slinging him across a broad shoulder as if he were a prize deer. He was carried out of the place where he nearly met his demise. Angry eyes raked across Pick, but he suddenly felt the odds were in his favor now.
Pick's vision had cleared by the time Sharkey set him down on the rough planks of the walkway outside Osmond's Tavern. Studgart stood nearby reloading his empty cylinder. Cosworth kept watch up the street to see if anybody wanted to follow and continue the trouble.
"You saved my life, men," Pick said. "I have no doubt about it."
"Why'd you go in there?" Studgart asked.
"I wasn't thinking real well."
"Can you walk?" Cosworth asked. "I think we might be safer up in the room."
Pick nodded and they all went up.
Once the door was barred behind them, Cosworth relaxed a little and asked, "What happened to you? You look like you barely escaped the fires of hell."
Briefly, Pick summarized the events of the evening, now remembering to reload his own pistol. The men listened intently. When he was done, they sat there wordlessly for a long moment.
Studgart broke the silence by clearing his throat. "Sir, we been hearin' rumors about you all day. People here say you were raised with the darkies. Some say you like their company better than white folks. Some say you might as well be one."
"At the picnic today," Cosworth said, "I did get the impression you were mighty comfortable around them."
"It's true," Pick said, locking eyes with each of them. "I've never tried to hide it; but then I don't go around advertising it either. Huddy was my best friend growing up. Those masked killers have got him and I don't know what they'll do before they murder him."
"Is he still your best friend?" Starkey asked, a hard clinch to his jaw.
"The war has changed lots of things," Pick said. "But I don't intend to stand back and just let him die that way. There's at least a half dozen cutthroats out there, but I would guess there's at least twice that many. The odds are lousy if I go in alone."
"You're a dead man if you go after them," Studgart said.
"I know better than to ask Tilford or Townes," Pick said. "Going to the sheriff was a stupid idea, too. I hate to ask this, men, but I'm desperate: Will you ride with me?"
The room fell silent again. Cosworth was the first to speak this time. "Captain Garver, I just finished fightin' a war to save the coloreds. I ain't gonna risk my life for them again, even if this wasn't such a lunatic idea of yours. But it is."
Pick didn't argue; he just nodded. Cosworth was a good soldier, but he was under no obligations to Pick or anyone else since war's end.
Studgart pursed his lips, perhaps trying to form words diplomatically. None of these men had to so much as salute Pick now or even call him "sir." That they had continued to do so after the regiment disbanded meant they respected him. Pick supposed that respect might be stretched thin at the moment.
"I gotta tell you, Pick," Studgart said…
"I'll ride with you, Sir," Sharkey said.
Pick looked at the simple man without revealing the depth of his gratitude. He was overwhelmed with affection for his stalwart comrade. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends," the Good Book said. Sharkey had never let Pick down in combat and apparently, even without a war, a regiment of brothers-in-arms encompassing him, and government pay, he was willing to run at the guns again. Pick didn't know why. He only knew he would always count Sharkey a friend from this day on.
"I'll ride, too," Studgart said. "I suppose it's possible we could come through this alive. Crazier things have happened."