Kendall took in a big breath. This would be a big one. One to surely put him on the map. He felt the sun reflecting off the rocks in front of him, radiating heat into his shaded hiding place.
He felt them before he heard them. A rumble through the earth. A team of Carriage Engines pulling through the Istoki.
Kendall looked up to find Henry Karl peering down. Henry thumbed up to Kendall.
The plan was in motion.
The 11:30 Cielday coach was never late, but it was by far the hardest to crack. It had thick armored plating covering the entire carriage. Armored plating enclosing the coachman and his gunner. Armored engines pulling the carriage along, their wheels protected. Inside, they had slits where a gunner could fire from either the left or right side. However, if you were unlucky enough not to be able to keep up with the six, large engines pulling the coach along, the back pneumatic Gatling gun would punish you for your attempt. The engines ensured the carriage would never stop, and they never seemed to.
A straight shot from the small town of Beacon to White Haven. The small town had a fortress of a bank, and any of the surrounding mining towns had to bank there or risk losing it to bandits or pirates. The only safer place was White Haven, where the coach would bring the overflow of money to and from the city, out over the expanse of dunes.
This was the last point. The last rock ridge they would go pass before the dunes started. This ambush needed to happen here.
Kendall's gang had a few moments to prepare. Kendall pushed away from the rock he was leaning on. He double checked all his straps on his armor. He was wearing full, metal boots that were assembled over his normal boots. His legs were enclosed in metal as well. After checking all the straps on his large plate of iron for his front and back armor, he moved onto tightening his arm armor. Now they he could barely move, Kendall grabbed his double barreled, revolver shotgun. He checked they were all loaded and the safety was off. He pulled on too armored gauntlets and, after all was done, grabbed his helmet from a rock and put it on. It connected to a neck shield and screwed on.
Kendall could see out two eye holes in the helmet. However, he could barely see the world around him. He was still able to carefully reach down and lift the shotgun up. The shotgun's stock had been cut down to more easily rest against the armor.
With two, clunky steps, Kendall was ready to go. The engines were no longer just a rumble in the rocks, as their chugging and rumble could now be clearly heard. Kendall waited as the noise grew.
Henry gave a loud whistle. It rang out, clearly. Kendall was glad he could hear it, but was instantly annoyed, as it could've given away their plan.
With careful steps, Kendall clanked out of his shadow and right out into the road. When he expected to be about half way into the road, he turned to face the oncoming coach.
He could see the engines in front of the Paddock's Carriage first. The roared and kicked up dust, coal dust belching from their tiny smoke stacks. Kendall could hear a call from the coach as they bared down on him.
Gunfire erupted from the rock lines, pelting the carriage. The engines roared, and the carriage picked up speed.
A small explosion went off several meters ahead of Kendall and the road fell down into a pit. The engines flew into it a moment later, slammed into the wall of the bit, and broke through the dirt to fly out of the other side. The front engines were smashed, belching smoke, and bursting into flame. The back engines were moving forward uneasily.
When the carriage ducked down into the pit, it crashed even harder into the wall/makeshift ramp that had been beaten out of the dirt. Metal screeched and tore. When the carriage was pulled out of the dirt, the front axle was smashed and the large, metal wheel went flying as the other went lopsided trying to hold on to the carriage. The carriage smashed into the dirt road and dragged, slowly bringing the damaged engines to a halt right in front of the sweating Kendall.
The dust settled and the air was thick with silence. Kendall had a good view of the carriage and the armored coachmen seat from over the smoldering wreckage of on of the first engines. The coachmen's seat was enclosed in armor, like the rest of the carriage. Only a small slit of a window was open for the coachman and the gunner to see out. The long barrels of a double barreled shotgun hung out of one of the slits.
Kendall took a breath, preparing to do his normal call-out where he asked the crew to surrender.
Flames erupted from the shotgun. As if at the same time Kendall felt a force his him in the chest as if he was hit by a steam hammer. On reflex, Kendall squeezed a trigger in his left gauntlet. A protective shield fell into place over his open eye sockets in the helmet.
Not a second too soon as a second hit punched him right in the face, jerking the helmet backward and threatening to topple him over. Kendall had been braced for the second barrel's shot and only stagger in place.
Releasing the trigger, the eye sockets were opened again, and light rushed in. Kendall raised his own shotgun.
He heard what he thought was a curse coming from the compartment, and the rattling of two shotgun shells as they hit the metal floor.
He brought the rifle up to bear and squeezed the trigger halfway. The shotgun roared to life, and a single shot slammed into the armor plating below the slit. Kendall adjusted his aim and squeezed the trigger down completely, setting off the second barrel. Sparks scatter on either side of the slit, but there was few enough Kendall believed he had shot true enough.
Gunfire erupted from the carriage. Revolvers poked out of the slits on the back and began firing on Kendall's men off to the side of the road. Ricochets and sparks flew from their returned fire. A lever action rifle was barking out of the other side of the carriage.
Kendall's men began yelling and yipping. it was a tactic to confuse and fluster their enemy. If done right, it could make five men sound like twenty.
Kendell allowed the trigger to reset, with it the revolving cylinders spun to load fresh shells. Taking a step or two closer, Kendell pressed the trigger again, firing a third shot into the coachmen's seat. As quickly as he could ensure his aim was good, he fired off a fourth.
The mounted shotgun went limp, the barrel raising to the sky with a falling motion. Kendall reset his shotgun a second time and didn't lower his weapon, but he did take a few steps closer.
A steady, continuous putting of shots broke out. The crank gun in the bank of the carriage was firing. They must have spotted some of Kendall's men coming around the back to surround the carriage.
A whistle was heard and another man, Lorrey, leapt from his hiding place, firing off revolvers in both hands. A shot was returned by the lever action, but they couldn't get a good look at him while he fired. Lorrey slammed against the side of the carriage, breathing carefully.
Kendall whistled to him, "Around front!"
Lorrey kept flush to the carriage and ran around the front. Taking a step on one of the carriage steps, he reached up and shoved his revolver into the slit where the coachman could see. He rapidly emptied the revolver into the compartment wildly. When it was empty, he switch hands and held his other revolver firmly. Grabbing the slit, he pulled himself up and aimed the other revolver into the cabin. After waving it around, pausing on what Kendall assumed was two targets, he hopped down from his perch and nodded to Kendall.
"Clear, Ken," yelled Lorrey, who took the opportunity to bust open his revolvers and empty out the empty shells and begin reloading.
Kendall moved his shotgun sights to the side of the carriage, where the slits would be, and began clunkily walking over to the carriage. Gunfire was still raging on from Kendall's men, but gunshots seemed to have died down from the carriage itself. They could be reloading, Kendall had surmised.
One of the damaged engines was really burning, now, and one of the steam pipes was cracked and whistling steam. Kendall wanted to give that one a wide birth, but his eyes could barely see it as he walked further away.
"Get those engines unhooked and down the road," he yelled, "The whole carriage'll blow!"
"Move up" shouted Lorrey, "Boss says move up!"
"NO!" said Kendall, who blinked away some sweat from his eyes, "Dangit-all. Come here and listen."
He couldn't be heard through his large metal helmet. He turned and pointed to the engines. He felt the hard taps of a few bullets hitting his back when he did. He turned in time to see his team returning fire, pushing the shooter down more.
Kendall raised his shotgun and fired two shots into the slits. That must've given his team enough time as two figured descended onto the carriage, shoving they rifles into the slits and firing blindly as quickly as they could cock the lever.
Henry Karl was one of them, and he turned around, dropping his lever action rifle and holding out his hands.
Kendall handed him his shotgun, and Kendall lifted it to the slats, unloading the cylinders into the carriage quickly. The only other noise from the carriage were some screams and one last burst of gunfire from the crank gun in the back before the carriage fell silent.
Now they stood, sitting around the carriage, reloading weapons. Henry gave Kendall back the shotgun before retrieving his rifle and reloading it. The other man, Doyle, awkward held a pistol at the carriage as he tried to stick bullets into his other pistol. Kendall opened the shotgun, sending empty shells flying. He clumsily grabbed a speed loader from his hip, and struggled to get the new shells to line up with the cylinders. When he finally reloaded the shotgun, snapping it into place, he waited.
The desert had gone quiet. His team stood around, aiming at the carriage.
Doyle was the first to move. He approached the carriage and stood up on one of the steps to the door. Looking into the slits on the side, he looked around the interior.
"Clear, Nelly," he said.
"Lorrey, Thompson, Get those burning engines out of here," commanded Kendall, yelling as loud as he could handle in his metal helmet, "Henry, opener her up!"
As the men scrambled, he walked slowly and steady to the back of the carriage. Here he could see the cylinder of gun barrels that made up the rear crank gun, now sitting lazily on the side. Henry took out a large set of bolt cutters and got to work on the padlock to the back of the carriage.
When it finally cut off, Henry threw aside the cutters and readied his pistol. Doyle and the other men stepped to either side of the carriage, leaving only Kendall in firing range when the doors opened. With a skillful tug, Henry threw open one side of the door and pulled the other one with him. Kendall easily had his shotgun ready, aiming down into the carriage.
They were all dead. hats off. Guns laying on the ground, hunched over and unmoving. Three lawmen were dead in the back. A small layer of bled was already filling the bottom of the carriage. And in the middle of the carriage, three large chests. Like something out of the pirate stories his dad used to tell him.
Kendall lowered the shotgun. That was the sign for his crew to descend on the carriage. They began pulling the chests out the back. Henry picked up the large cutters again and opened one of the chests. Opening it, he revealed a ton of Ciam and Simo coins.
"This, this is four," said Henry, "Boss, this is double, no, triple what we expected."
Kendall, with difficulty, unscrewed his helmet and took it off. Even in the harsh Istoki sun he still felt the slight breeze as cool. He tried to wipe away the sweat on his brow.
"This must be a gamble," said Kendall, "We hit two of their late week ones already this year. They are staffing this one heavier and, possibly, waiting to send the majority of the money together on this one."
"Lawman," said one of his gang, who pulled a badge off one of the dead men, "They were the extra muscle on this run."
Kendall sighed, eyeing the money and then eyeing the badge in his man's outstretched hand.
"What now, boss," asked Henry, "They'll be coming for us."
"They were always coming for us," said Kendall, "I think I just earned myself a poster. Good thing this is four chests. Take what we can, ensure there are no witnesses, and let's go."
Kendall turned to walk away, needing to get back to the wagon so he could take the armor off. Henry was quickly at his shoulder, taking his shotgun away from his and putting the safety on.
"This isn't good."
"It's never good," said Kendall, "Be glad for the big payoff, we have to disappear. This place will be swarming with bounty hunters and lawmen soon enough."
"Where we going to go?" asked Henry.
"Away from here," said Kendall, "Pack the camp when we get back. Our only hope is to get some distance from this place."
Kendall blinked out more sweat from his eyes, "And get me out of this damn suit."