Quick Disclaimer: I do not own these characters or the world they inhabit. They were created by the fabulous people at Zombie Orpheus for their equally fabulous RPG, Masters of the Metaverse! Be sure to tune in to Twitch.TV/zombieorpheus every Monday at 6PM PST to see more!
Professor Richard Gatling pushed his hat back and wiped the sweat from his brow. It was Indian Summer, it had to be this far into Autumn. Sitting on a small hill overlooking the drilling grounds, the professor replaced his hat and gratefully accepted a mug of water from young Franklin. Franklin then returned to his papers as far below them the vanguard of King Teddy’s army, the Pyrite Column, was being put through their paces by a tall woman with a rifle. She had them line up behind her and watch as she fired off three shots from the rifle, each one striking the targets set up about 150 yards away. With an expert spin of the rifle, Miss Annie Oakley turned to the first solider in line and handed over the firearm.
Professor Gatling made a scratch in the dirt beside him. “That makes forty-two now” he said, “You must admit she is a fine marksman.”
Franklin looked up and nodded wordlessly. Turning back to the field, they watched as Annie patted one of the soldiers on the back and began walking down the line. She was lost from view for a moment as she suddenly toppled forward onto the ground but she jumped up again quickly, and the men she was training all politely pretended not to notice. On the hill, Franklin made a mark on the top of his paper.
“How many is that?” asked Professor Gatling.
“Seventeen.” came the reply.
“And what did she fall over this time, pray tell?”
“A rock. A twig. The forward rotation of the earth. It’s sort of hard to tell at this point.” Franklin adjusted his glasses and returned to his paperwork.
“How goes the training?”
Both men jumped at a new voice from over their shoulders. Unbeknownst to them, Miss Emily Dickinson had come up and sat down between them.
“Oh! Miss Emily. Please don’t sneak up on us like that!”
“My apologies Professor. The next time I intend to move in a ‘sneaky’ manner, I will be certain to announce myself first.”
“Thank you! Uh, the training is going well. This new drill sergeant, Miss Oakley, is very skilled in the use of firearms.”
“Walking in a straight line, not so much.” Franklin said without looking up.
“Hmmm, yes. Well that as may be, but her skills in combat are quite impressive. Hopefully she will be able to train the Pyrite Column to the king’s satisfaction.”
“And have we had any news from Wilbur Orville Wright?” asked Emily.
“I had word from him yesterday.” answered Franklin, “He is planning to start another scouting mission in the next few weeks. In the meantime he and his brother, Orville Wilbur Wright, have come up with something they call ‘inflight meals’. However, at this time they only serve Fau-cet.”
“Orville Wilbur Wright?”
“So they are OWW and WOW?” asked Emily.
“Well, it is fitting is it not?” said Professor Gatling.
Emily shrugged and leaned back onto her elbows. The trio watched in silence for a time until Johnny Appleseed came running up. He was sporting a very fine beard and his hair was growing out around the bowl, something that Franklin kept offering to trim for him. Johnny refused however, believing himself too old for a bowl cut.
“I’ve lost my pants! Have you seen ’em?” he asked, breathlessly.
The three all shook their heads in unison and Johnny ran off, nearly bumping into King Teddy. The king barely acknowledged the almost collision and stood with his back to the trio, hands on his hips. There was silence for a time, all except for the distant sounds of Johnny searching for pants.
“Well! They are a fine looking group of individuals! Just the sort of soldiers I need in my army! Just the sort to strike fear in the hearts of those who would rise against me! Yes, I do believe that this Miss Oakley has been a fine addition to our army. MISS OAKLEY!”
At this, Annie Oakley turned and faced the king. She quickly hurried up the hill, only tripping twice, and soon stood before him. She grinned widely at the group and pushed her hat back slightly.
“Well, how do you like ’em? I think that they are shaping up to be pretty darn formidable! ‘Course some of them still need to work on their aim and skill with a firearm, but I think before long we are going to have one hell of an army!”
“Bully! Well done Miss Oakley! Come, let us walk together and survey the troops!” cried King Teddy before striding down the hill, Annie skidding after him.
Johnny now reappeared, munching on an apple and wearing a lovely pair of pants. He flopped down on the ground and began humming.
“I tell you what those soldiers need” he said, “More apples. Yup. If they just ate one apple every day then they would all be much happier.”
“More regular as well.” said Professor Gatling.
Franklin looked up at this point and focused on Johnny.
“Where did you get those pants?” he asked.
“Oh these? I got them from the rucksack on Taft.”
Franklin jumped up, “Give those back! Those are King Teddy’s Thursday pants! Give them back now! Before you get apple on them!”
Johnny looked surprised, “Can’t I just wear ’em? The king won’t notice. It could be our secret.”
Franklin muttered something about it being more than his life was worth and opened his mouth to speak, when the king and Annie Oakley returned. The king looked pleased and sat down among the group, happily taking an apple from Johnny and biting into it.
“Miss Oakley send me your finest recruit!” he declared.
Annie nodded and hurried away, returning before long with a young man with who saluted smartly and stood at attention. The soldier’s dark hair was closely trimmed, as was his beard and mustache, and he looked deferentially off into the distance while speaking to the monarch.
“Well, my good man! And what is your name?” asked King Teddy.
“Christopher, your majesty.”
“Chris! A fine name! I believe one of my children is named Chris. Well, congratulations! Chris, you win! You have won basic training for the day! See Franklin about a commendation.”
Christopher looked slightly confused and sent a glance toward Franklin, who sighed heavily and beckoned the soldier to follow him. The two headed off, with Franklin grabbing Johnny’s arm on the way by and pulling him along with them.
The king now turned and smiled benevolently upon Emily and Professor Gatling. “Well, bully! A fine day of work I believe! Come! Let us have a contest of skill and courage! To the hunting grounds!”
He strode off with Annie Oakley hurrying behind him, loading her pistols as they went. Professor Gatling rose and turned to offer a hand up to Emily. She smiled and accepted the offer, dusting off her skirts as she did so.
“Shall we?’ the professor asked. “This is the perfect moment to try my latest invention! I have fitted the portable Gatling distillery and flame thrower with a new attachment! A net launcher! I believe a flaming net will be very handy in hunting ducks!”
“Doesn’t that seem a bit like overkill, Professor?”
“Not at all! The only thing meaner than ducks are mountain devils, and possibly geese.” said the Professor gravely.
Emily just stared as the professor began priming his machine. Far off in the distance they could hear gunshots and cries of “Bully!” as King Teddy and Annie Oakley attempted to shoot the eyebrows off a fly.