Characters: The Seven
Universe: ATF/In The Year crossover
"This is nice Chris, pretty country. Glad Travis told us about it." Buck Wilmington said as his gaze took in the desert vista laid out all around the six men as they rode along the dim desert trail.
Various shades of red, yellow, orange, brown, and some light green colors shone brightly under the endless blue sky. Rock formations took on deeper hues of their surroundings. The massive valley floor they rode across was lighter, the ground a combination of brown and red colors while the few bushes and trees were brown and gold in the cool late October day. The western setting sun painted every thing deeper colors as it set.
Vin Tanner all of a sudden appeared in the distance ahead of them; they saw his arm wave and spurred their horses into a faster gait to catch up with him. Chris Larabee smiled, hearing **got us a nice camp spot** in his head, and knew he could count on the sharpshooter to find somewhere interesting for them. Vin had been too antsy after several hours of riding slowly over the beautiful desert countryside and finally had headed off to scout around for a camping place for them.
Minutes later the men drew up with Vin who turned his palomino back the way he'd come. "Come on. Think ya'll will like what I found," he said with a smile, as he spurred his horse into a canter. The others lined out around him with Chris moving to his side.
Vin led them to the northwest for a couple of miles before turning towards a strange rock formation to the north. As they rode closer to the formation that looked like a crouched man leaning over something in the rocks in front of him, they could see a dark green area. A trail snaked through the grass and rocks in front of the strange formation, then sloped down. Vin unerringly led them down the trail, several minutes later pulling his horse to a halt beside a stream. It flowed across rocks and through a small valley with enough grass to keep the horses for a day. The end of the valley opened up about a quarter mile away into another huge valley that from their position seemed to go on forever.
A grin crossed Vin's face as he dismounted and looked at Ezra Standish, who raised an eyebrow at him.
"What? What's wrong?" Ezra asked as he dismounted.
"Found something you'll like back in the rocks. See that over there?" Vin pointed at some rocks that seemed wet and sweaty.
"What did you find?" Josiah Sanchez asked, leading his horse closer to them to run his fingers across the wetness.
"There's a natural hot tub over there," Vin's grin widened at the surprised looks from his teammates. "Hot springs. Water's there, it leaks out and goes underground again about 50 feet from the springs. Thought you all would like it."
"Mr. Tanner, you have chosen the perfect place for our last night in this godforsaken wilderness. I salute you." Ezra, with a smile, tipped the dark flat brimmed cowboy hat he was wearing at Vin.
A short time later, the horses had been tended and staked out in the grass and camp had been set up near the clear stream. All seven men stripped down, grabbed their towels, and headed for the hot springs. Vin and JD Dunne were laughing and shoving each other as they made their way into the rocks.
"Be careful where you step, don't want to have to treat broken bones or bug bites out here," Nathan Jackson said as he watched their youngest agent's antic's ahead of him.
"Don't be a worry-wart Nathan, they'll be fine. We're headed back tomorrow and our next camp will be in that nice cabin. Let them work off some steam now," Josiah counseled.
Silence dropped over the men when the youngsters disappeared around a corner, then they heard yells of delight and hurried on.
The men paused a moment in surprise. The 'tub' was almost a rectangle shape formed by rocks that surrounded the sandy area on three sides, and lost its shape on the fourth side where the water went over some rocks and disappeared some distance away. Hot water bubbled up from the sand across the whole expanse and steam rose to coat the rocks, making them wet and slippery. Vin and JD were in the water playfully splashing each other.
Chris stepped carefully along the sandy trail that led down to the water and dropped his towel on top of the others. Stepping into the heated water he smiled, it felt so good. Moving across the 'tub' he found an area of flat rocks to sit on and sank to his chin into the water. It took only seconds before the others joined him, Josiah groaning in appreciation. A bit later Vin and JD joined their teammates in the rocks, enjoying the heated water on their bodies.
It was almost dark when they made their way to camp, after a big water fight. Once dried and dressed in clean clothes, JD and Ezra set to work building a fire, while Josiah and Nathan started dinner. Buck, Chris, and Vin checked the horses and took them to water for a last drink before dark.
Relaxed and clean, the men made short work of dinner and after cleaning up, they sat on their bedrolls around the fire enjoying the quiet. It wasn't long before the ride and soak in the springs got to them and one by one they turned in.
An odd noise woke Chris and Vin. They came out of their bedrolls with guns in hand. In surprise they looked over the valley. Thick fog lay in layers across the area. In the eerie moonlight they could see only the lower parts of the horses. The fog engulfed the horses' backs and necks. They could see a raised head, but over the head was another layer of fog. Higher up they could barely see the rocks that surrounded them. They realized all of a sudden it was not moonlight, but the sky lightening for the day; the way the fog moved around things made everything seem distant or close or They weren't sure what it was, but a chill ran down their backs.
The two men walked towards the horses then paused. A strange roar echoed over the quiet land. The horses moved restlessly on their tethers as the sound came again.
**What the hell was that?**
**Don't know Cowboy, but I think it's time to head out of here.**
Chris looked at Vin who's gaze was still roving around them.
"Ever hear anything like that before?"
"Nope. No animal I know roars like that."
"Let's get the guys moving. We're still a least 12 miles from the resort and 8 from the cabin. Maybe someone there will know." Chris said as he dropped his hand that held his revolver.
"Maybe," Vin answered as he lowered his rifle. "Could be a mountain lion, fog distorts sound." Not believing his own words, Vin shook his head.
"Well, sun will be up shortly, we might as well head out." Chris replied as he turned towards their camp.
An hour later, the seven men were almost across the small stretch of land and headed towards the huge valley they had seen the day before. The fog didn't seem to want to leave as it swirled around the riders, sometimes all they could see was the heads and shoulders of each other; other times they could barely see the horse ahead, or beside them. When they passed through the opening into the big valley, Vin turned unerringly to the southeast, knowing that was the way back to civilization.
For several hours they rode through the fog. It was a yellowish grey in color sometimes and they figured the sun was out above them, but they could not see the sky, it could be grey for all they knew. Now and then it cleared enough that they could see around them for several minutes, but it was like looking through a long wide grey tunnel, the fog was still above them about 12 to 15 feet swirling in grey and yellow colors. Vin would quickly take his bearings and turn them slightly one way or the other. The last time it was more to the south, having spotted the landmark he was heading for. He knew from that landmark it was another four hours ride before they'd reach the cabin where they were spending the night. As the fog closed in on them once again, he sighed, he hoped there was nothing dangerous ahead of them, or on the ground since with the fog, they couldn't see much.
Something roared all of a sudden off to the right of them in the fog. As one, the men turned their horses to face
whatever it was, as their guns flashed into their hands. The sudden thunder of hooves coming from behind them had them whirling their horses to face the unseen. Several more roars rang out close to them, then gunshots and a strange short buzzing sounded. A flash of light cut through the fog then a man's yell of pain.
The seven men blinked their eyes in shock, as the fog seemed to form into a misty veil around them, and they could finally see figures through it. For a moment they gasp for a breath when the air surrounding them seemed to disappear for a couple of minutes as they gazed at the sight before them.
Several large shaggy looking horses thundered past them with more behind. On the horses foreheads were two horns, the lower one longer than the upper one. Both were set above the horse's eyes, both lethal looking, and two feet or more long. Riders on their backs were twisted around shooting guns, revolvers, rifles, and something that buzzed and gave off a flash of light when fired.
The riders passed them heading to the rocks a little distance away. The seven watched as they rode to the rocks and then saw some figures taking cover behind the rocks. They seemed to be watching for someone, their set up was a perfect ambush. Roars and grumbling sounded, as a rider gathered the horses and disappeared through an opening in the rocks.
The thunder of more hooves came to them as the fog seemed to cover the rocks and the ambushers. Silence settled over the seven in the fog as the grey mist swirled in front of them.
Once again, the thunder of hooves cut through the fog, and seven horses and riders suddenly appeared on the other side of the mist, guns in hand. They stopped their horned horses a short distance from the seven watchers.
A large black horse swung towards the watchers and stepped closer to the veil and them. The men gapped in surprise. The man was Vin, several years younger with longer hair, but it was him and he was staring right at his counterpart.
Vin urged his horse a few steps forward, his eyes locked on the younger Vin. "Can you see me?" he asked.
For a moment, the younger Vin stared through the misty veil, then urged the huge black forward until its hooves and horns were on the edge of the veil. Another large black horse headed in their direction, and stopped beside the first. The watchers blinked in surprise at the blond sitting easily on the horned horse. He was a younger Chris Larabee dressed in black.
Vin never took his eyes off the two men on their horned horses, but he felt Chris move his horse to his side. The looks, on each man's face, was a mirrored copy.
The younger Vin finally nodded and said, "We can see you. Who are you?" in a soft raspy voice.
"Vin Tanner, Chris Larabee, Buck " Vin quickly told the men on the other side of the veil their names as the other horned horse riders drew close.
"Damn," the young Chris said. "Where are you from? How did you get here?" He asked as he looked over the seven across the misty veil, and then said, "How'd you get our names?"
"We're on vacation from Denver Colorado. Camping trip. Those are our names."
"Chris, look at their horses. No horns, not as large," the young JD said.
"We noticed JD," the younger Buck replied as he gazed at their counterparts.
"Your horses are awesome! How can we get some like yours? I've never seen horned horses before, well just pictures of unicorns, and those are way different " JD blurted suddenly, then stopped when Buck smacked him on the shoulder. He looked at his teammate and added, "Sorry, but they are way cool."
The seven on the horned horses smiled, and their JD grinned sheepishly, he talked like that often.
"Can I ask what year it is?" younger Josiah said, his smooth deep voice cutting through the silence.
"October 2009. Halloween I think is today," Josiah answered, his light eyes catching the shock that went through the other seven. They all heard the "damn" that came from several.
"Your time?" Josiah asked before anyone else.
It was their turn to be shocked, six mouths gapped in surprise as Josiah shook his head. "I had a feeling," he said slowly.
"But how can this be?" Nathan asked dazed.
"Don't know," both Josiah's answered at the same time as they grinned at each other.
"Well this cosmos happening is mystifying, but there are still miscreants that need to be taken care of I believe," Ezra began.
"And we need to take care of them before they head back to their robbing and killing, then we can sit down and converse about what has happened to us all," the younger Ezra finished as he tipped his hat to Ezra.
"They're in the rocks, set up an ambush to get you," Chris said, as the younger men turned their heads and horses to face the rocks in the distance.
"I can show you where there is a way to get behind them." Vin said as he turned his horse.
"They went past us, they didn't 'see' us like you can," Chris said.
"Be careful Vin, we don't know if they can see you, or us, or if we can even move from this mist stuff," Buck said, uncomfortable that Vin was riding into the unknown.
"I know Buck, but I have to try."
"I'll go with Vin, Ezra come with us too. We'll see what happens," younger Vin said, as he urged his big black towards the misty veil. The horse moved to the edge of the mist then stopped, planting his feet, he swung his head back and forth as his grumble sounded. He turned quickly away from the mist, pawing the ground in unease.
"Guess we can't get through. See if you can go, and we'll try to follow. If it doesn't work, you'll have to tell us where they are." Young Vin said.
Vin turned the palomino towards the rocks he could dimly see through the mist. Young Vin and Ezra fell into step with him on the other side of the veil. He wished that he could get through the mist, it was disconcerting to be behind the mist, and unable to move from it. He wasn't sure who could see him or his teammates other than the other seven.
A bit later Vin pulled his horse to a walk, and the other two did likewise. They had circled around far enough that the men in the rocks hadn't seen them. As they came around an outcropping of rocks, they saw the other men's horses, several with their heads up watching them, so far none had given the alarm of strangers nearby.
Young Vin looked across to Vin, "Stay away from the horses, the horns are lethal and they will use them," he warned.
"Don't plan on getting close to them. Not sure they can see me though," Vin answered as he watched the twelve, or
so, horses as they circled past them. Vin felt frustrated that he couldn't get past the veil, every time he'd get close, his horse shied away from the painful tingle.
Young Vin and Ezra dismounted and looked at Vin. Not sure what would happen, Vin slid from his horse, and then tied it firmly to a dead tree. With a nod, young Vin headed into the rocks, then up. With a grin, Vin followed the two, relieved that he could move around even though the veil stayed between him and them, he could help. Following the others up into the rocks, he looked around for the best high ground, being careful where he put his feet. Within minutes they were spread out high in the rocks looking down on eight men hidden below, watching the valley.
From his vantage point, Vin could see the five men on the horned horses coming their way through the fog. He strained his eyes trying to see his teammates, but there was no sight of them anywhere. An eerie feeling swept over him and he sent out, **Chris are you all right?**
Instantly he heard in his head, **We're here. Watch your back Pard.** With a little sigh he settled down, and looked for the other two men. He spotted his counterpart above, and off to the right of his position, then saw Ezra off to his left, but about even with him. Glancing to the riders he wished the fog would lift so he could see his friends.
Suddenly the men below them began to fire at the oncoming riders who scattered and almost disappeared in the fog. Taking aim, he opened fire on the men below them. The guns sounded loud in the eerie fog and an odd buzzing came from Ezra's spot. Vin realized that Ezra was shooting something like a phaser, something like he'd seen in Star Wars movies. Short bursts of light lit where Ezra was, when he fired the weapon. He grinned as he fired, he'd have to get a look at that weapon when this was over.
They kept the gunfire up as several men moved, and start firing back at them. A quick glance at the riders showed Vin that they had scattered among the rocks, and were shooting at men he couldn't see. A flash in the fog let him know where his friends were, and that they were firing on someone too.
Vin ducked when something hit the rocks above and behind him, sending shards of broken rock down upon his back and shoulders as he returned fire. A man stepped from behind a large boulder, and fired as fast as he could pull the trigger on his guns. Bullets and blasts from the phaser struck all around Vin. He ducked again but wasn't fast enough as he felt something, burning hot, lance across his side just under his left armpit. He clamped his lips together to prevent a yell of pain, as he rolled to his side. Gritting his teeth, he started firing again.
From where he lay, Vin couldn't see anymore men below him. He heard a few more gunshots coming from young Vin's position, but couldn't see him. Breathing hard, he forced himself to move. Pain burned through his side and he staggered on the steep trail. A hand on his arm steadied him and he looked up to see Ezra beside him, his face pulled into a grimace from the veil that surrounded them.
"You're injured Mr. Tanner," Ezra commented.
"I'm fine Ezra. You're in pain for no reason. I'll make it to the horses. Thanks, but you better let me go, not sure what that veil will do to you."
"It's all right for a few minutes more. Once you are steady or on the ground I will step away. We are almost down; your men should be here shortly." Ezra grip tightened as Vin slid on some loose rocks but managed to keep on his feet.
In a couple of minutes they reached the gravely sand at the base of the rocks where they had left the horses. Vin could tell that Ezra was in considerable pain from helping him, and wearily pushed the shorter man away from him as he sank to the ground, his back against a rock. Ezra staggered several feet away, and dropped to sit in the sand, his head down, finally on the other side of the veil again.
"Ez you all right?" Vin asked.
"Ez-ra, Mr. Tanner," Ezra said instantly, then raised his head and looked at Vin. "You are as appalling as my friends; they tease me using Ez instead of Ezra. Does your Ezra have this dilemma?"
Vin laughed, then gripped his side. "Yeah, he does."
Noises above them brought their guns up instantly, then they lowered them as young Vin scrambled down to where they were sitting. Concern crossed his face as he looked at them. "Are you all right?"
"I am fine Mr. Tanner, but your counterpart seems to have been struck by a blaster bolt high on his left side."
"I'll be fine; Ezra helped me down the rocks. He's hurting from being in that misty veil. Need to help him."
"As I said, I am fine. It was just an unpleasant experience I do not wish to ever have to do again. Ah, here comes
Moments later five horned horses pulled to a stop nearby. Nathan was off his horse before the horse stopped, with saddlebags in hand. He rushed to Ezra's side, then turned towards Vin, and tried to come to him. The painful tingle knocked him back, and he stood on the other side of the veil in frustration, as he tried to see what was wrong with Vin.
"It's all right Nathan. My Nathan will be here shortly. I think they're coming now." Vin told the worried young black man. He could hear horses coming through the rocks. Vin noticed that young Vin had cocked his head, listening too. When he caught the bright blue eyes looking at him Vin smiled, they knew the others hadn't heard anything yet by the looks on their faces.
**I'm fine Chris.**
Minutes later, Vin's teammates rounded a corner and rode quickly to where Vin was sitting on the ground. The other seven had drawn a bit back from the veil as it had seemed to grow and vibrate more. Chris and Nathan were off their horses and beside Vin in a blink. They helped Vin out of his shirt, and Nathan looked at the ugly burn on his side that was still oozing blood.
Young Nathan called to Nathan, "Nathan I have some salve that will help that, if I could get over there I could close it with my laser, but since I can't well here, see if this will come through."
Nathan moved closer to the misty veil that seemed to be vibrating now, swirls moving faster than they had earlier. The other Nathan tossed a small container to him and he caught it. They smiled at each other a moment, before Nathan took the top off and moved back to Vin's side. Young Nathan gave Nathan some instructions about how to treat the burn that he quickly carried out. Shortly, he put the salve over the wound, and then covered it with a sterile bandage from the first aid kit in his saddlebags. Vin thanked the two Nathan's when the pain eased and finally left. Chris handed him a clean shirt, and gave him a hand up when he moved to stand.
"Are you all right?" Young Nathan asked from the other side of the misty veil.
"Don't know that that stuff is but it sure worked fast. I'll be fine thanks to you," Vin said, as he looked across at Nathan and the other men. "We need to talk; I'd like to find out more about y'all."
The younger Chris grinned, "We have a lot of questions too. We still can't believe that you came from 2009. But first we want to thank you for helping us against the Rodgers gang; they've been on a killing and robbing spree for several weeks now. We would have walked into this ambush without your warning or help. Thank you all."
"No problem. Since we almost ran into them. Didn't mind helping out," Josiah said.
"What's it like? Are there lots of people? Do you have cars and trucks? We only have a few that are running, but more in the big cities. What do you do for a living?" Young JD's enthusiastic voice cut through the men.
Ezra answered, "We are ATF, Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms agents out of Denver. Mr. Larabee is our leader "
All of a sudden, the misty veil swirled darker and darker. A strange sound came from it, and all the men slammed their hands against their ears as the noise rose to a high pitch. Horses neighed in fear as roars sounded from the horned horses; the men fell to their knees as they passed out from the intense pain in their heads. The mist swirled over all of them for several minutes then disappeared.
Seven men slowly woke and pushed themselves into upright positions, as they looked around, wondering what had happened to them so suddenly. Their eyes flew back and forth; they were alone except for their horned horses standing watch over them a few feet away.
Slowly they rose and moved through the rocks, finding the bodies of Rodger's men, but nothing of the seven men from the past, except for horse tracks in the sand where the horses had been. The bloody shirt and everything was gone. Confused, the men gathered their horses and mounting, headed out of the rocks, pushing the outlaw's horses ahead of them. They headed back towards Four Corners, wondering what had happened, and if they would ever know anything about the other seven. JD decided he'd try to learn about the ATF, and see if he could track down some information about it and the men they'd seen.
"What the hell?" Vin pushed himself up from the cold ground, and looked around the area in shock. Chris was sprawled beside him, and his teammates were lying several feet away. Horses were grazing in the grass a few yards to their left. Tall trees were swaying in the early evening breeze as their colorful leaves drifted on the wind to cover the grass, and swirl around the large cabin about 30 feet away.
Chris stirred, and slowly turned over, his green eyes looking at the tree tops above him. He frowned then rose, wondering what had happened to them. He moved to Vin's side, and they looked at each other for a moment, Chris's eyes took in Vin's pale face and remembered the odd encounter they had with the younger - them - was all he could think of. Vin cocked his head and nodded then looked over to where the other men were waking up. Buck jumped up and frantically looked around. When his eyes spotted Vin and Chris, then the others, he sighed in relief, and walked over to them.
"What the hell happened? We were talking to to us after helping them, next thing we are here. What happened?"
Slowly the others rose, brushed themselves off, and moved to where the three were standing. Once all of them were gathered, Chris looked them all over, then said, "Let's get the horses taken care of and check out the cabin, then we'll talk."
Forty five minutes later the men were in the cabin, their saddlebags were in various bedrooms where they had claimed a bed for the night. They all met in the large living room, and as night began to fall, they lit lanterns and a fire in the fireplace.
Everyone began to talk at once, and Chris whistled to get their attention and quiet them. "We don't know what happened, and I suspect we never will. Was it a dream we all had? No, Vin has that blaster wound on his side "
"And it still hurts," Vin grumbled.
"I'll check it shortly, Vin," Nathan said quickly. At the nod of Vin's head, he blinked, it must be bothering his friend if he didn't make a fuss.
"Okay, we know that we encountered someone from the future. Ourselves. How do we explain that? I have no idea. They were us in another time. Our brotherhood shows us that there is a future for us. But we can't explain it." Chris stopped, he wasn't sure this could be explained in any way or form, it would be like beating a dead horse, it was something beyond understanding. He stepped to the huge front window, and looked out, then stiffened in surprise as a little gasp passed his lips.
The others were beside him in an instant, Vin standing on one side of him, and Buck on the other, their shoulders touching as the others lined up beside them.
It was totally dark and the moon was full, the fog was there again swirling around at just about ground level. It weaved in and out of the trees and bushes that dotted the area, and between the legs of seven horned horses. Two were black the others included a flashy pinto, bays, and bright chestnuts. The men on their backs were staring at the house, not moving. Simultaneously they lifted their arms in salute as their horses reared, and they all faded into the fog.
The seven watchers shivered, and then turned away, it was something they would never explain.
"On this Halloween day, we have been blessed by seeing into the future that our brotherhood will live on forever. We have met our future selves and we know that with God's blessings we will survive and so will our world," Josiah said quietly.
As one, the seven turned, and their hands met in front of them, one on top of the other as they confirmed their brotherhood to each other. Over the clasped hands another seven appeared, barely touching theirs before disappearing.