This entry is part of the NaNo Excerpt Blog Chain 2013 at Absolute Write.

“…never even seen a Savage Figure Eight. How do you suppose Caleb Jung found one?” Deputy Marshal Hopkins was saying. “Nobody liked those even when cap-and-ball was state of the art!”

“Probably bought it off a peddler for $5,” Cunningham grunted in return. “Remember the Elgin cutlass pistol he brought last year? After he missed with his first shot, he ran up and stabbed the target?”

“One of the O’Clellan Gang had an Elgin as his backup boot pistol,” Hopkins said. “Wasn’t even good for roasting meat on a spit after we pulled it off his carcass.”

“…still got to work that into every conversation, don’t you?” Cunningham muttered. “So, who have we got here? Miss McNeill, I see!”

“That’s right, Deputy Marshalls,” Virginia said. “I’m here to do my parents proud.”

“I rode with your parents when I was just a rookie Ranger myself,” said Hopkins approvingly. “It’s a shame they were taken from us so soon. I could have used their guns against the O’Clellans.”

Cunningham audibly sighed, and Virginia responded: “I hope to do them justice. I was to wear my mother’s own duster and kit until there was a…washing mishap.”

“Yes, that would have been most fitting,” said Hopkins, glancing at Virginia’s ragged and somewhat tatterdemalion rig with a critical eye. “We’ll have you fitted out properly at the Rangers’ quartermaster if it comes to that.”

Cunningham looked at the revolvers laid out as part of Virginia’s kit. “Most of our candidates are using Peacemakers,” he said with a note of surprise in his voice, “but I see you favor the Model 1875.”

Virginia nodded eagerly, trying to remember the lines Adam had told her to recite at just such a statement. “Yeah. Mr. Remington can go to hell. My parents used a Colt as Prosperity Rangers and that’s what I’ll use now.”

Cunningham and Hopkins looked at one another with meaningful, skeptical glances. “I…see,” Cunningham said. “Recite for us the Prosperity Charter, Miss McNeill. Why, and for what principles, did our forefathers reject the inequity of the east and come to the lands of the Ide in peace and brotherhood?”

“Ah…” Virginia said, pursing her lips. She knew this, she’d learned it in school, Adam had yammered on and on about it while she had daydreamed about rags to riches stories…why hadn’t she paid more attention? Why hadn’t she tried to listen for Talbot’s answer so she could copy it?

“Come on, out with it,” said Hopkins. “As I said before facing down the O’Clellans: he who hesitates is lost.”

“…really?” Cunningham murmured. “Really?”

“Uh…everyone’s equal…ladies and gentlemen, it doesn’t matter,” Virginia said, bowdlerizing the concept as best she could.”

“Point the First: All shall be equal before the settlement of Prosperity Falls and before God, regardless of their sex, creed, or color!” barked Cunningham.

“Right, exactly, just like I said.” Virginia’s bullets weren’t all on the table; she was sweating them. “Er…Point the Second…disputes get solved peacefully…no war…no violence!”

“Point the Second: Real men solve their disputes peacefully, and there shall be no war and no recourse to violence save in direst need and then only in defense!” Hopkins cried. “Really, Miss McNeill, if this is a joke it is in exceptionally poor taste.”

Virginia bit her lip. Somehow, being called out for a lie—well, a bowdlerization—didn’t seem as easy to brush off as it had been for the eponymous hero of Alger’s Luke Larkin’s Luck weathering crooked Mr. Coleman. “Point the Third: Respect for the natives…settlers and Ide tribes trade and get along!”

“Point the Third: The Indians are the original posessors of the land and will be dealt with fairly and respectfully; trade and brotherly harmony shall be our watchwords!” corrected Cunningham. “As I said in the action at Slaughter Gulch, near isn’t nearly good enough.” The Deputy Marshal seemed slightly crushed when his witticism elicited no visible response.

“Point the Fourth: Self-sufficiency: Prosperity Falls makes everything it needs!” Virginia clenched her fists in anticipation of the brutal riposte Hopkins or Cunningham would respond with.

“That’s better,” said Hopkins. “Well recited, if only on that last point.”

Virginia sighed heavily.

“Gather up your kit and meet the others at the firing range,” Cunningham added. The pair then moved on to Jake, who flawlessly belted out the Prosperity Charter with a smug sidelong glance at Virginia.

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