Nothing is True. Everything is Connected.
Sylum Advent 2020: December 19th

Sylum Advent 2020: December 19th


This Advent there is a series of Snippets or Timestamps from a variety of stories & characters. Some of these will become larger stories, some will be as is.

Title: Express Riders
Author: Bj Jones
Sylum Timeline: 2017
Summary: The Pony Express Riders race in an annual competition
Author’s Note: This story was inspired by Run Free from the Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron Score

Emmet Brown stepped down from the passenger side of the black Ram, and took in the sight.

For a moment he thought he was back in Hill Valley, and was needed at the blacksmith shop. There was a main street, with a saloon, sheriff’s office, general store, and even a livery stable at the far end. Men and women were dressed in period clothing, horses were tied to hitching posts. He blinked a few times, focused on those wearing modern jeans and t-shirts, gripped the door of the truck, but it was the sound of rap music, coming from somewhere, that was really giving him a sense of cognitive dissociation.

“Doc?” Marty glanced at his Mate, noticing a slight panic look. “You okay?”

“Just having a bit of deja vu.” He nodded towards the old west town, shrugging slightly.

Marty chuckled. “The one thing I love about my Starkphone, I can check the date.”

Emmet waited until his Mate walked past him, then checked his phone.

Hickok walked past them, heading for an older man, who looked like he stepped out of the Sheriff’s office. “Teaspoon! You old coot, who dragged you out of Mexico?”

“I thought I would check on my boys.” He pulled Jimmy into a hug, holding his boy tight. “Good to see you, son.”

“Same.” Hickok patted him on the shoulder, then pulled Buck into a quick hug. “Taking care of the old man.”

“I’ve been traveling. Left him with the crazy people.” He laughed lightly, then turned to grab Noah. “Warning, Buffalo Bill at …”

“Wild Bill Hickok!” Cody yanked the poor gunfighter into a tight embrace.

Jimmy couldn’t help the laughter at seeing his friend dressed in his finest leather fringed jacket. At least he didn’t have the buckskin pants and moccasins. The jeans were sturdy and well worn, along with the boots.

Marty, who was watching the whole reunion with a smile on his face, gave everyone a small wave. “Hey.”

“There’s our Bull Dog.” Cody pushed past everyone to give the kid a hug. “Who’s the old guy?”

“That would be Doc.” Most of the Riders hadn’t known why Marty and Doc had been separated, just accepted the situation, and was there for Marty during those twenty years. When Doc had returned home, the news spread quickly, but it wasn’t until now that he realized none of them had met Doc.

Cody gave him a critical look. “Since you’ve been home for a while, I won’t do anything threatening. But just remember, you hurt him, I let Hickok off his leash..”

“Oh, I already have a healthy fear of him, and it hasn’t dimmed in the past decade.” Emmett owed the man everything.

He remembered him when he first joined Sylum, and had written him off as a gunfighter. When he brought Marty to the Manor that fateful summer, the ‘gunfighter’ had been more of a family to Marty than his family. The day he saw him ride into Hill Valley, looking for Clint Eastwood, his respect was sealed. The man made his way from New Orleans, Louisiana to Hill Valley, California on a note sent by a scared kid – a kid he hadn’t technically met. “I’m well aware of his gunfighter abilities, and don’t want to test them.”

“Damn right!” Cody slapped Doc on the back of the shoulder, ignoring the wince. “So these guys tell you what we’re doing?”

“No, and I’m not sure I know who you are.” Doc gave him a side eye, before turning his attention to the older man, who was talking to Hickok. It was obvious they all knew Marty … he paused suddenly remembering the photograph he had found at his garage when he had returned. It had peaked his curiosity all those years ago, especially when he saw a similar one in their home. Marty had said they were friends, but hadn’t elaborated.

“I’m William F. Cody, the most famous of all of us. That’s Running Buck Cross, and the old cout is Teaspoon Hunter.” Cody gave him a bright dazzling smile. Doc could see how he sold a glimpse of the American West for a ticket price “I’m the handsome one of the group.”

Teaspoon rolled his eyes, along with everyone else. “Dr. Brown.” He held out his hand. “When you were away, we made sure to keep an eye on him. He’s a good kid, strong willed, stubborn, and a damn good Express Rider.”

Marty shook his head, though blushed slightly.

“We love Bull Dog.” Cody was now wrapped around Marty.

Marty shrugged him off, grabbed Doc’s hand and dragged him back to where the truck and horse trailer was located, sensing he was completely confused. “I’m sure you have a lot of questions.”

“Only a few dozen.” Doc smiled at his Mate, enjoying that he was learning something new. “How in all these years I didn’t know this of you? I mean, I know you were good at ridin’ and shootin’, you proved that as Clint Eastwood, but this … ” he waved his hand at his Mate, at the western type outfit. “Is something I didn’t know!”

“I didn’t talk about the Express Riders, because…” he rubbed the back of his neck for a moment, a sure sign of nervousness. “… well at first it was something that was mine. After a while I didn’t mention it, as you were still coming to terms with a modern world, after living in the old west for a couple of decades. Then we met Westen, and to be honest I didn’t think either of us wanted to discuss the ‘old west’.”

Doc glanced around, then reached out and pulled his Mate into a hug, his eyes closed as the two held each other. “There are moments I feel I’ve been back forever, then moments I just got back yesterday. You don’t have to tell me, unless you want to.”

“Doc you wouldn’t be here, if I didn’t want you to be. Dad over there would’ve left you behind.” Marty gave him a teasing grin, then discretely slapped his ass, chuckling at the yelp. “When this came up, I knew it was time to let you in on my Pony Express days.”

“Bull Dog, is it a nickname?” It fit his Mate perfectly, the ‘stubborn I’m not budging from this spot and you can’t make me’.

“Past life.” Marty shrugged, still not remembering much of that particular life. “I, he … knew Jimmy when he rode for the Pony Express. They all did, it’s how they know each other.”

“I have to admit, I only know the legends. I know Hickok isn’t that Hickok, but have no idea about his life.” He looked around, starting to see more trucks with horse trailers, moving into the area. He still had no clue where they were, or what they were doing. “I learned a lot living in Hill Valley, about not judging people by their reputations. Jimmy has been a very good friend to you, and I appreciate it. Even if he wants to smack me half the time.”

“Noah likes you.” Marty squeezed Doc’s hand. “This is an annual event, it’s a race of some sorts. Teams come together to run the mail. The team with the fastest run wins.”

“And what do they win?” Doc asked with curious excitement.

“Bragging rights, and a small cash prize.” Noah stepped up to the two. He had let them have a few moments, making sure Cody stayed away. “Marty, you need to check in. I’ll get Doc situated.”

“Wait, Marty races!?” He was dragged off by Noah, towards a spectator section. “Great Scott. I’m not sure I’m turned on or terrified.”

“Please don’t mention your sex life around me or Jimmy.” Noah chuckled, though could understand the sentiment. “Yes, Marty rides, he’s damn good at it. We’ve done this a few times, never won though.”

“Isn’t it cheating. I mean aren’t you all former Pony Express riders?” Doc asked with a child like curiosity. Now that he knew what was going on, he could see the teams setting up, and understood why the town was done up like it was the mid 1800’s.

Noah just smirked. “That’s half the fun!” He handed him a ticket, then pointed towards the viewing areas. “Settle in, you can check out some of the history of the Pony Express, get some food, and there’s some really good artisan booths that have amazing leatherwork and other handcrafted items. Relax. Enjoy.”

“Wait, where are we exactly?”

Noah glanced worriedly over at his Mate, who looked to be concentrating on talking to Teaspoon and not something going on to his left.

Doc reached out, touched his arm. “Is everything alright?”

Noah shook his head. “We’re actually home. This is Sweetwater. The town we drove through is the town all grown up. They built this historical replica about a decade ago, used in a lot of filming. This year they decided to hold the Pony Express Races.”

“So it really is cheating as you know this route.”

Noah gave him a small laugh. “It’s also hard, our friends are buried here. It’s never easy to go home…”

Doc nodded his head, he had no interest in setting foot in Hill Valley in the next few centuries, and he was pretty sure Marty felt the same way.

“Out of curiosity, is what you’re wearing similar to what you wore then?” He had noticed the change from a nice suit, to simple pants, shirt, vest and the whip hooked on his side.

“Not helping with the old memories.” Noah shook his head, hand resting on his whip. Seeing Jimmy dressed so similar to when they first met had brought back good memories, even with the gun trapped onto his thigh. He really wanted to yank his Mate into the livery stable and have his wicked way with him.

“So … ” he glanced over to see Jimmy talking with Marty, and Teaspoon ” … that is Wild Bill Hickok. I mean the name that started it all, not the one killed in Deadwood.”

Noah studied Doc for a few moments. “Why are you asking?”

“He’s comfortable with a gun strapped to his leg, he has no cares to anyone who will say something to him. I believe I owe him for installing some of that into Marty. Look, I know all of you, and with reason, had problems with how everything went down with Marty. But despite all of it, seeing the man before me is awe inspiring. I hate I missed it, but I know that I had to. But the one thing I hated dealing with, was Marty’s inability to let some dumbass insult go unnoticed. Whatever Jimmy taught him during that summer, finally paid out at ‘high’ noon on a street in Hill Valley.” Emmet took a deep breath. “I’m rambling because I’m nervous, feel as if I should go shoe some horses, and yet want popcorn and to learn something new about my Mate that I hate I don’t know, but look forward to finding out.”

He was used to Doc’s ramblings. “Jimmy got through to Marty, because he understood him. I wasn’t part of the Express when Jimmy got his name, but from what he’s told me and what I learned from others. He was a hot headed idiot who didn’t back down from a challenge – hence the name. It was Teaspoon who finally got through to him, then he was Turned, and we weren’t long Mated afterwards. He went from a scared kid to a Vampire Hunter in less than a year and a half.”

What he wasn’t going to tell him, was the moment he had faced his worst fear. Being called out, by his own father. Something changed in Jimmy that day, good and bad.

“When does the race start?” Doc realized it was a good idea to change the subject.

“We’re the last group to go, so it will be an all day affair. I’m sure you can find time to corner Marty into the livery barn, I know I’ll get Jimmy in there at least once.” As Noah walked away, he could hear Doc’s laughter.

***

Doc had enjoyed the BBQ, even more so as he had a nice picnic lunch with Marty. He told him about his time at the Express Ranch, and how he learned to grab the mail pouch in mid run. Promised to show pictures of previous runs, and how he had run a cash prize once for having the fastest run. Though he admitted to Emmet that he had just been along for the ride, the horse had spooked and headed for home. He had used the cash to tour Europe for the summer, just himself. It had been an eye opening experience, he learned a lot about himself during those weeks.

Emmet settled at one of the viewing booths, close to the finish line. The organizers had cameras on the route, to see parts of the race, with most of the footage coming from the handoffs. They had a few drones flying to follow the riders mid route, he discovered that was a new aspect to the races that had started only a few years ago.

The Express Riders, the name had made Doc chuckle, was the last team of the day.

Cody would be the one to start, from what he was hearing around ‘town’ was that wannabe Buffalo Bill was good at gaining ground from a dead stop. He would hand the pouch off to Buck, who was making his way through ‘Indian’ Territory, Doc may have rolled his eyes hard at that particular addition to the race. He bit back a few scathing remarks when heard other teams bitch that it wasn’t fair that the Express Riders had an ‘Injun’.

Seriously, people still use these terms? He checked his phone, and yep still said March 2017.

He just had enough and turned to lay in on the idiot when he was beaten to it, by a Native American, who asked the idiot if he wanted to play Cowboys and Indians? The guy went red – irony held no bounds – called him a filthy Indian and ran off.

“Really?” Doc tossed his hands in the air, looking heavenward wondering why people were stupid. “That’s the best he got, my mother was more viscous than that. And she was a darling woman who went to church on sundays.”

The laughter was contagious.

“Leon Myth Keeper Duruant.”

He was tall, about the same height as Emmet. His dark hair was long, worn in traditional braids. The jeans had seen better days, as had the dark shirt. The leather vest was filled with traditional hand beading, Doc admired the craftsmanship. He looked as if he could’ve blended into the Historic Sweetwater if it weren’t for the work boots, Stark Tablet, and dark sunglasses.

“That’s a unique mix of heritage.” He held out his hand. “Dr. Emmet Brown.”

“My father’s family is French Canadian, my mother Lakota. I was given my Indian name, when they realized I loved reading, history, and telling stories. I loved it so much I ended up teaching Native American Studies at the UCLA, and published my first novel last year.” He took the offered greeting, smiling brightly. “Sorry, I tend to ramble about what I love. You’re a doctor? As in medicine or another discipline?”

“Scientist.” He paused for a second, then took a deep breath. “My husband is on the team, Express Riders.”

“The Indian?” He questioned, wondering if that was why the older man was ready to defend the rider.

“No the tiny one.” Doc shook his head, trying not to smack himself. “He’s the one in the middle, goes by Bull Dog, he teaches history to high schoolers. Actually, you two would likely get along.”

“Mind if I sit with you, don’t want to deal with the looks.” Doc moved a few of his notebooks, that he had been writing out notes on new inventions. “I’m not even sure why I’m here. I was doing some research for my next book, saw the fliers and thought it would be fun. When I got here, I almost turned around, then saw your Express Riders. The only team with an Indian and a black man … I felt the need to stay after that.”

“I’ll introduce you to them.” They easily settled into a comfortable silence, waiting for the Expres Riders to start their run.

Marty’s section of the run was the easiest, a straight flat run. It was the one place to gain time with ease. He was riding Gladiator, Nico giving his blessing to borrow the powerful horse. It was the perfect section for Marty, he was the smallest of the group and it was the one section where speed was needed.

“Doc.” Teaspoon stepped up to the two men who were chatting like they were best friends. “Just wanted to make sure everything was alright. Had some idiot, complain at the sheriff’s office that he was being threatened by a Native American and some wild haired crazy person.”

“I’m sure Native American wasn’t the word used.”

“Nor wild haired crazy person.”

Teaspoon paused for a moment, taking in the young man before him. “I kicked him out of my office. Didn’t tolerate idiots then, less now.”

Leon gave him a look, but didn’t say anything. “Is there anything we can do for you Sheriff?”

“Name’s Teaspoon, I’m playing sheriff, but my boys are set to ride soon, so I left some poor deputy in charge, to come and watch.” He settled next to Doc, stealing his plate of nachos.

Marty will hand off the pouch to Noah, who had the hardest part of the route. It was more treacherous, not something anyone moved through fast. Noah was a skilled rider, and talented in the ability to move as one with his horse.

“So you’re their coach?” Leon asked, after introducing himself to the sheriff. He liked the guy instantly, despite being the embodiment of the saying ‘old coot’.

“Raised them from when they were pups.” Teaspoon grinned, remembering the first time he saw his boys, and girl, standing like lost souls looking for a future. “I’m proud of all of them.”

The announcer came over the loudspeaker, stating the last team was all set to go. The digital clock was set to the time they would have to beat, and a gunshot set off the run.

They watched on the screen as Cody set off at a neck breaking speed. He easily flew past the cameras, making his way across the Way Station out onto the prairie. The drones flashed images as he worked his way towards the first hand off.

Doc glanced at the clock to see they were running a head of the fastest time, by a few seconds.

The transfer to Buck was seamless.

“They made that look easy, as if they had done that a hundred times.” Leon was focused on Buck, watching as he maneuvered through ‘Indian Territory’. It actually had once been tribal lands, but was stolen just after the Civil War. Buck had eased through the area, as if he had done it million times. As he rode past the last hill, he lifted his hand and placed it over his heart then saluted towards the heavens, thanking the spirits for helping to navigate through the passage.

“Kiowa.” Teaspoon answered the unasked question. “Those were actually some of his ancestral lands.”

Doc denied the squeak that escaped when he watched Marty take the pouch, slip onto the saddle horn, then let the horse loose, putting on the speed to make up for the time loss in the last section. Marty was focused on what was in front of him, not paying attention to any of the cameras or drones moving overhead.

Emmet made a note to see if he can get someone to find him the footage or at least a few screenshots.

“Your husband is good.” Leon knocked his shoulder into Emmet.

“I had no idea! This is new for me.” Doc watched with rapt attention, sighing in relief when Marty passed the pouch onto Noah. “So how do they get back here?”

“There’s a truck that picks them and their horses up, they’ll likely arrive about the time Jimmy finishes the last section.” Teaspoon discretely took pictures of Doc as he watched the video, he figured Marty would enjoy them.

Noah made the difficult section look easy. The horse and him moved as one, avoiding obstacles, made by nature and man. Everyone had taken a collective gasp when horse and man sailed over the small swollen creek, instead of using the bridge that was five hundred yards down river.

Teaspoon hollowered, that at least added a few minutes onto their time. “That’s my boy. You show them how it’s done!”

Jimmy ignored the cameras and officials watching, to make sure there wasn’t any cheating. ‘Cause rocket packs were totally going to come out from behind his saddle, and the two of them would fly to the finish line.

He heard the whistle, and started to ease Buttercup forward letting her dance. The second one had him throwing his arm out, grabbing the satchel with ease. Without prodding Buttercup was moving, picking up speed as they raced across the open prairie. Their section was the simplest, yet trickiest part of the race, they had to run through the town, then make sure to hook the pouch onto the pole just outside the Post Office.

Jimmy always felt more at ease on a horse. There was something about man and beast working together. He tapped her shoulder, letting her know she can fly. He felt the stutter, under his body as she kicked into high gear.

It was the sound of hooves that caught his attention. At first he wondered if Noah followed, but a familiar sensation went down his back. He glanced to his left to see Kid on Katie. The laugh was easy going, as he gave Kid a nod and the two matched each other perfectly the last distance of the race.

Jimmy slid ahead, as Kid disappeared off to the distance.

With ease he flew past the spectator stands, through the town, held out the pouch – reaching outwards as he snagged it on the poll with less than a minute to spare. He heard the yelling and hollering, as he slowed Buttercup enough to turn her around.

As he slid off the horse he had an arm full of Cody, soon followed by the rest of the team. He looked up to see Kid and Lou grinning at the team. He tipped his hat, as they disappeared. Noah wrapped an arm around his waist discreetly, letting him know he understood.

“Marty!” Doc ran towards the group, grabbing his Mate and holding onto him tightly. “That was amazing! Great Scott, you’re a world class Express Rider!”

“Emmet.” He laughed, as they all crowded around. “That was totally heavy.” It made Doc laugh louder, then kissed him soundly, not caring what anyone thought.

“Hey! Hey!” Cody glared at the two of them. “Let us in on this action.”

“No.” Doc gave Buffalo Bill a look, getting everyone else to laugh. He glanced over to see Teaspoon talking softly to Jimmy, who was laughing and crying. Something had happened, but it wasn’t his place to ask. “Oh… Oh… Marty I want you to meet my new friend, Myth Keeper.”

He waved over Leon, who was standing not too far off, just watching the team with a bright smile. He had wanted to join in, but held back. He didn’t know these people, but in a way he did. Doc had talked about Marty, a bit about the others, but he still felt as if he knew that …

Hickok normally wore two guns.

Noah was deadly with that whip, it wasn’t just for show.

Cody was loud, but loyal.

Teaspoon was a proud papa bear.

But mostly, he knew Buck’s laugh.

Leon stepped up to the group, ready to introduce himself, when they all stopped and stared. Then Buck stepped back, Cody supporting him as he stared at Leon. “When you said you would come home, I never thought you met literally.”

Leon smiled, and instinctively signed.

Hello Buck. I’m home.

10 Comments

  1. najean1

    Please tell me this is going into a longer story! I loved it and I want to know who Leon is and why he signef to Buck that he was home.
    Wonderful wonderful snippet… I am hooked well and truly!
    —-Naj 😀 ❤❤❤❤

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