(Story copyright Eric N. Boyd )
Straddling his horse Peabody, Doc Strong removed his cowboy hat and wiped his brow with the baggy sleeve of his shirt. His somewhat wispy brown hair was now matted with sweat, something he'd become accustomed to since moving to Tombstone 20 years ago. His inquisitive brown eyes seemed to be set behind a stately nose which earned him the nickname of "Hawk" as a kid. He didn't mind that name at all but as he grew up and earned his PhD, he earned a title he felt he even more proud of; "Doc". Doc was silent, his lean yet muscular frame looking eerily similar to some of the cacti which dotted the desert. His wife Rulah couldn't help but notice such things as she rode behind her husband on her horse Nickel. They never did give their pack mule a proper name just called him "mule" but he was a valued commodity nonetheless. Rulah wondered if carrying the weight of the D.E.E.P.S. was going to be too much for him but they didn't have too terribly far to travel from their home on the outskirts of Tombstone to this particular abandoned silver mine. Rulah never questioned why she followed Doc and his investigations, assisted him in his experiments, or the other duties of a devoted wife to this man who was deemed peculiar by most people.
No, she knew him for what he was. An intelligent, kind, caring and thoughtful man who put the needs of others before his won, whose moral compass always seemed to point in the right direction. The type of man she'd longed for and was fortunate to find in the otherwise borderline lawless Arizona desert. Someone who could understand and be involved with conversations which were of interest and importance to her, someone who also cared deeply for her not just based on her looks but on her as a whole person.
She also took off her cowboy hat and wiped her brow. Her curly auburn hair flowed beneath her hat. Times she felt like having it trimmed off but she knew how strongly Doc would object. One of the physical attributes he admired most about her after her face was her long curly hair, so it was a concession she made just for him. She reached down to the saddle horn and picked up her canteen, drinking the now tepid water. Despite its warmth it was still water. Soon they'd be in far cooler temperatures when they reach the mine.
Irving Talon sent out a telepathic message, more of an "imprint" to his lava men. He instructed them to cease working and go back to their dwellings. Even he knew these creatures needed their rest but he still drove them hard and in the process had killed a few due to being overworked from exhaustion. He chalked it up to a lesson learned and kept closer tabs on what they were thinking and feeling. It didn't take much to realize they viewed him, a man they called the "Black Bat" as someone with power and one they feared. They knew he was a man, a being they long decided to stay away from, but since this Black Bat had found them, they were in his grip with his mutant mind control. Their simple ways and simple minds couldn't understand he was someone with a power, they thought he was more like them, a man who'd been shunned by his world. So Talon had imprinted upon their minds with his psychic prowess.
Talon emerged from his cave, a mine which should not be in operation but one he kept going. He emerged from the cool musty confines of the cave, took off his black cowboy hat, and wiped his brow. His tiny black eyes betrayed the power he held, eyes that seemed to be too close to one another. In fact he'd had trouble with his eyesight all his life, and wore glasses when needed. He kept a thin trimmed beard and mustache, his gaunt face seemed to be of someone who never ate enough food but in all reality he was well fed. His metabolism seemed to be far higher than a lot of people, but then again he already knew he was different from most people. He looked at the horizon, the afternoon sun blazing bright as it began to dip. He looked off to his East and saw some movement on a ridge. Initially he thought he saw coyotes but soon realized the figures were far too large to be the scavengers of the West. He looked hard and realized the figures he saw were humans, people riding on horses, making their way to one of his mines.
This was something he could not and would not allow.
To be continued.