Cast of Characters:
Alan Trehorn: Half-Apsalooke/Crow scout who might be taken for a greenhorn, but at your own risk.
Etienne DuMont: Texas Ranger. He used to be dead, but he got better.
Kenneth Lake: Professional poker player and reluctant participant in these events.
Dr. Frances Gray: Doctor and a strong believer in science and natural explanations.
Sister Elisabeth: A nun of maybe questionable past, but unquestionable faith.
Eliah Davis: Black cowboy who has seen some weird shit in his life. He spins this tale for you, somewhere at a camp fire on the prairie.
That night, nothing much happened. We all got some sleep and when it got light, Alan, Kenneth and me left to follow the tracks Alan had found. They led straight to the scientist's barn. No-one seemed to be around, so Kenneth climb through the window into the man's bedroom and opened the door to the main room. He ducked just in time to avoid having his head shot off his shoulders and he was kept down by something we took for a Gatling. Alan and me went around to the front of the barn, pulled open the door and looked down the barrel of another huge gun. Alan managed to hit the machine that fired the Gatling, so Kenneth could get out and we turned to run because the whole machinery inside looked like it was going to blow up any minute.
Which is exactly what it did, flattening the whole barn. And whatever that guy was working on, the stuff that had killed the miners, it was spreading in a cloud that drifted towards the village. We had just about enough time to warn everyone and to get our stuff. We took as many people as we could, I loaded a couple of kids on Sal with me and we got out of the village to high ground. The cloud was eating away everything in its path, leaving black and shrivelled grass and trees behind. The people who couldn't run fast enough took cover in the church and Sister Elisabeth stayed with them. The woman has guts, I give her that. Not a whole lotta brains, but guts. And a lot of trust in her god.
We watched from the top of a hill as the cloud spread over the village. I was pretty sure that we'd seen the last of the people in the church, but just in time, there was a rainstorm. And a mighty strange one, I've never seen one brew up so fast. And only over the village. I didn't know Sister Elisabeth could pray down rain, but I guess in such a situation you learn fast. It washed away the cloud of gas, leaving the village almost destroyed, the houses eaten away by the acid, trees crippled like they had tried to run away. A few people had been caught outside, there were only heaps of black ashes now.
The ground there won't be fertile for a long while now and the people knew it. They packed up their things and set out to find a new home. We didn't stay around either and continued westwards.