The desert was rarely cool. But it was a cool night when Bobby Lucas found his life changed forever.

Storms were brewing, layers upon layers of grey cloud that never quite broke. In the depth of the desert, the rains were but a promise that never came.

Now, Bobby Lucas owed Alex Parks some money, but it was hardly as if he was going to default on it. Bobby did, after all, have one of the better jobs in the town as the foreman of the Joneston Caves and they struck oil regularly. Granted, it wasn’t quite as much as Brad Johnson made at the streams beyond the pinewoods (there were indeed gold in them there hills, and Brad made it his business to own as much of the hill as he possibly could), but it wasn’t the few battered and bruised pennies that Alex and Brian Morris made in the saloon.

“I mean, the stench just clings to your nostrils.” said Brian, as Alex nodded in sad disagreement. “We get a brown envelope of coin, but what’s the use? After a day of mucking out, we spend half of it on watery beer in the saloon.”

“Sure does seem unfair, fellas,” said Brad. He had taken out his revolver, cleaning it with a dirty cloth soaked in silver polish. He aimed down the sight at the small cabin with smoke rising from it. “But are you goin’ to bitch about it? I thought that’s why we were here?”

Alex shifted uneasily. “I’m actually not too sure about this.”

“What? He lost the poker game. He stiffed us on the money.”

“He wasn’t out by much.” Alex muttered.

“Then I suppose,” Brad countered, “you’re okay with Ol’ Bobby Lucas just takin’ your money? What if he’d taken your missus? Or your horse?”

“Now, see here, Brad. I didn’t say that.”

“So what’s the plan, then?”

Alex sighed and unholstered his gun.


Bobby was setting the table when he saw his three friends approaching down the hill towards him, crouching in the shadows of the giant looming pines almost as if they didn’t want to be seen.

“What’s going on out there?” Sandy asked, struggling with the bib on Bobby Jr’s chest. A few lumps of carrot and parsnip were still smeared around the mouth of the baby as he gurgled and cooed contentedly.

Bobby smiled. “Ah, hun, it’s the boys playin’ some sort of prank. I might go along with it for a while.”

He headed to the backdoor, determined to sneak up on his friends. His hand was on the doorknob, then he paused.

“Oh, Sandy. Can you pass me that bag over there?”

A small cloth bag of coins lay on the wooden table next to the window.

Sandy smiled, shrewdly. “Poker again?”

Bobby grinned. “Well, at least I’m payin’ what I’m owed.”

He crept out of the back and waited for the knock.

But the knock never came.

What came instead were the gunshots, clattering down the side of the cabin as the wood paneling exploded.

And Bobby ran.

He ran deep into the desert, sprinting for his life underneath a beautiful sprawling sky of ice-white stars and nebulae.

He could hear the three men running after him and the gunshots that cracked in the air like pistol whips.

And then he reached the edge of the canyon. The darkness below loomed out at him as sand and shingle gently sprayed down into the abyss.

Bobby was about to turn around, but they’d already caught up with him.

The gunshots tore through his body, sending rippling spasms of pain through him. It felt as if he were being impaled on hot pokers.

Bobby raised his hands to his chest. When they came away bloodied, he stared at them dumbfounded.

He’d heard of Ol’ Whistler accidentally shooting himself in the head whilst cleaning his iron, but he didn’t expect getting shot to feel like this.

It wasn’t hard and fast. It was slow and excruciating. He was simply leaking to death.

He felt the cold muzzle against the side of his face.


The voice was choked with tears. Alex.

Bobby opened his mouth to respond, but an explosion near his left eardrum shut out everything.

It all just snapped into blackness.

And he could feel himself falling.

It seemed to go on for an age.

The wind whistled past him and he felt his body rag dolling against the rocky outcrops.

But he couldn’t feel pain. He seemed to have gone beyond it, as if his very nerve endings had cried out for so long that they’d grown hoarse.

And then he landed, roughly, at the bottom of the rocky canyon.

He heard a crack upon impact and noticed with disinterest that his ribs had broken. He felt something warm filling up his mouth and tasted tin.

After that, he didn’t remember anything.

Apart from a soft blue light that was floating somewhere far away, deep in the darkness of the canyon.

A spirit? He wondered if such things were possible as he drifted into unconsciousness.

As his body shut down, he noticed the blue light fading slightly.

And then he was gone.


When he woke, the dawn had breached the canyon, and the orange light filtered down to even the furtherest depths.

And the agony began.

Bobby Lucas spent the morning screaming. He lapsed in and out of consciousness as even the slightest movement caused jolts of pain to wrack his ruined cadaver.

He bled from everywhere. Everything was twisted the wrong way. The bullets still inside him stung like hornets.

And then he saw it again, a thin blue light.

It seemed to call to him, from the other side of the canyon.

He called out to it, but it didn’t respond.

He tried to throw pebbles and rocks towards it, but he couldn’t throw far enough.

Finally, in an act of desperation, he tried to move towards it.

The unbearable pain drove him back into unconsciousness.

When he woke up, it was late afternoon.

He felt weak. He felt hungry, thirsty, and wanted to get back home to—

And then he remembered.

Bobby started to cry. Thin and gruelling animal howls that seemed to come from deep within him.

The afternoon wore on as his sadness turned to pity turned to rage.

Because he could use that, he felt, if he wanted to survive.

And despite everything, he felt a thin and filmy layer of fear sweeping over him.

He did not want to die in a canyon.

Not alone.

Not in pain.

Not with those traitors still alive.

He dug a finger into his bullet wound and scraped around inside the exposed wound for the bullet.

With some difficulty, he extracted it, his fingers slipping on the cold and wet metal.

He flicked it away, where it landed with a plink on the rocky grit.

He crawled towards the blue light, but every movement was sheer torment. It felt as if he were filled with needles.

He lay down to rest.

And when he awoke again, there was no light.

He lay in the blackness. And he knew he was going to die.

And then he stretched out his arm, and he began to drag his body.

He stretched out his left.

He stretched out his right.

Right, left.

Right, left.

He crawled in the darkness, towards his memory of where the blue light had been.

After some time, the blue light rose up again and illuminated a cave.

A cave with something unimaginable lurking inside it.

The crashed ship was dotted with thousands of tiny windows that seemed to shine and move, reminding Bobby vaguely of that time when Jenkins, always a little soft in the head, had accidentally poured oil into Brian’s water barrel.

When he got closer, the pain still coursing through his body, he could reach out and touch it. It was hard, like glass, but somehow like a living membrane. The windows glowed under his fingertips, and suddenly, the beast hissed at him.

He flinched backwards from the jets of air spouting from the shuttle as a door emerged out of the perfectly smooth metal and swung open.

He clambered in, hearing a hiss as the door pulled back and trapped him in the vessel.

But he no longer cared.

The lights snapped on as the entire ship began to whir. Bobby tried to find the source of the whirring, but it seemed to be coming from deep within the very walls of the strange ship.

And then the temperature dropped, rapidly.

In a matter of seconds, Bobby was frozen.

And then the walls opened. Hundreds of mechanical arms and sockets leaped at him.

One sutured a wound whilst others compressed blunt force trauma.

A needle jabbed into his midriff, filled with a liquid that seemed to both freeze and boil at the same time.

The plinks and plonks echoed around the tiny shuttle as bullets littered the metal floor.

The arms kept working tirelessly through the night.

And they never stopped, for they were programmed not to.

And so Bobby Lucas was kept in stasis.

For a month.

It was a stalactite that broke off, worn away over the centuries that broke against one of the thousands of windows and broke into a rubble that scattered across the pane like a hundred neon raindrops.

And the maintenance pod powered down.

The door opened.

And Bobby Lucas walked out of the ship, feeling completely fine.

In fact, a little better than fine.

There had been a few pieces of clothing he’d thrown on after the ice chunks had melted away and he’d changed, shivering, into a pair of strange boots and odd trousers that seemed to ripple in perpetuity even in the still air of the cave. In the pockets was a strange device. He didn’t quite know what it was, but it clicked and whirred menacingly.

He also pulled on a white shirt that clung to his chest as if it were skintight.

The clear morning sky lit the dim cave and Bobby felt his heart soar, and then he heard a mutter beneath him, as if a locomotive were starting up.

The boots lit up and began to hum as Bobby felt himself lifted, as if by an updraft. His shoes were roaring at him as he soared up and up and—

The boots sputtered and died, puttering blue flames as Bobby managed to stretch out to grab the sheer edge of the canyon. His nails dug deep into the hardened dirt and he felt his fingernails crack as he gripped on for dear life.

And then he pulled himself up.

He stood, in the light of day, completely and totally free.

He stood for some time, watching the rolling clouds above.

And then he made his way back into town.


It was quiet as he stepped towards the saloon, with most folk out in the fields doing hard labour or otherwise still in bed and sleeping off the moonshine from the night before, and so nobody saw Bobby as he entered the double doors.

Alex Parks simply gawped from the barstool he was sitting on.

“You’s dead,” he stated.

“I was,” Bobby replied.

He stepped into the empty saloon as Alex stood up.

He looked different, somehow. A gold chain hung around his neck and the two bottles of whiskey on the table hadn’t yet been wrung dry.

And it was the expensive stuff, not the Benzene that Alex usually gulped down like a panting goldfish.

“Come into some money, have we?”

“It was Brad. He paid me.”

“What, to kill me?”

Alex stood, unsure, his stance changing. The eerie quietness of the bar hung like a mist, only broken by the rickety rattan ceiling fan that chopped uselessly at the air.

“Well maybe Bobby, you’s should have stayed dead.”

Alex grabbed his revolver, but Bobby was always faster on the draw.

In less than the blink of an eye, Bobby pulled out the gun from of his odd trousers and fired.

The gun itself was a strange weapon, covered in gleaming diodes, and fired what looked like a green jet of pure and linear fire.

Alex screamed as his body melted into the floor, his flesh and bones bubbling into an ashen mess that singed the wooden floor a blackish hue.

A crack rang out across the saloon as Bobby felt his hand sting and the gun wrested from his hand as if by an unseen force.

It clattered along the floor, spurting sparks.

Brian stomped on it, spraying glass from the diodes everywhere.

“Fancy lil’ thing you’s got there.”

Bobby dodged the second crack of the whip, leaping the bar. He heard the smash of bottles of the whip cracked a second, obliterating an entire shelf of booze.

The smell of cheap alcohol washed over Bobby as it drenched him. As Brian Morris clambered towards him, he grabbed a broken bottle.

In an instant, it was turned into shards.

“You’s forget ranch hands ain’t soft like Alex.”

He spat, and raised his whip for one final hit.

“You’s may have killed the barkeep, but you’s never kill me.”

Bobby lifted his feet.

There were buttons on the heels of each of his shoes.

They flared up, one final time, as the emergency mode snapped into life.

Brian screamed as the fire consumed him.

When the fire flared down and the boots disintegrated, Brian was nothing but a skeleton.

The only thing left on his charred body was a golden “Sheriff” badge, gleaming amongst the ash.

Bobby stepped over the body and headed across the saloon, back to the double doors.

He had a clue what was waiting for him outside.

From the dingy saloon, Bobby felt the glare of the sun immediately and his eyes took a minute to focus.

Twelve county deputies, all raising pistols towards Bobby as he stepped down the wooden steps.

Brad Johnson stepped forward.

Bobby Lucas met his gaze.

‘You ain’t never cared about that poker game.”

Brad smiled.

“Na. And you’s a smart cookie for noticin’. I like your little costume, by the way.”

“So why?”

Brad shrugged.

“I needed you out of the cave. I need all the men out of caves. Sure, folks need oil. But your operation gets in the way of mine.”

Brad cocked his gun as the rest of the deputies followed suit.

“And I can’t have that.”

Bobby cringed back as the pistols blasted. But as the bullets shot towards him, something extraordinary happened.

Every single shot pulled towards the centre of his skintight vest which, on impact, hardened to thick scales.

The bullets bounced directly back at the assailants. And all twelve deputies fell down, each with a bullet lodged in the centre of their skulls.

Brad simply gawped.

“The canyon.” he mumbled. “The canyon and the blue comet of ’32…”

Bobby wasted no time and threw a wild haymaker. It connected, and Brad fell to the ground.

Bobby threw punch after punch, his ruined clothes tearing as he continued beating the man who’d killed his family, betrayed his trust, and destroyed his life.

Finally, he straightened up.

Brad burbled, blood bubbling from his broken jaw.

He clambered to his feet and Bobby resisted the urge to belt him again.

“Backwater Ranch. 20 miles. Get walking, or the coyotes will get you before the sun sets.”

Brad nodded, tripping over his feet as he ran. There was something pathetic, Bobby felt, in the lope of a rich man running for his life.

Bobby saw Brad’s cowboy hat laying in the dust and picked it up. He donned it, checking out his reflection in the window of the convenience store. Old Man Heston was still cowering under the desk.

It was a good-looking hat.

Brad had almost loped past the town line as Bobby spied a metal revolver laying in the dirt.

He picked it up and felt the heft of it in his hand, different to the strange blasting device he’d shot his old friend with.

And it felt good. Good like fighting for your life when the going got tough and the tough got going.

Good like getting a second chance to do what’s right and stop the people that do wrong.

And it probably wasn’t very sportsmanlike, but he felt Brad didn’t deserve it.

Bobby smiled as he raised the revolver.