”The Ranchero of Miracle Mesa” - The Magnificent Seven: Part Three
“You think I'm brave because I carry a gun? Well, your fathers are much braver, because they carry responsibility — for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers. And this responsibility is like a-a big rock that weighs a ton. It bends and it twists them until finally it buries them under the ground.”
-The Magnificent Seven
New York City, New York --- The Offices of Roman J. Solomano
The lobby wasn’t much like Vig had expected, but he didn’t suppose anyone would’ve expected a bunch of folks in suits sippin’ their Starbucks and tippity-tapping at their phones. It was maybe naive of him to expect a buncha bikers crushin’ beers and throwing knives at hostages on a giant dart board, but either way he couldn’t take these folks lightly.
He could sense an air of menace around the place. It weren’t nothing physical, no freaky architecture of skulls-on-pikes or anything overt like that, of course. No, it was a feeling in the back of his mind, almost like his head was underwater. Doctor Occult had told him once it was called psychic pressure. Most folk couldn’t feel it, but puttin’ it simply, Vigilante wasn’t most folk anymore. All things considered, his head was quiet for once. The Spirit should’ve been going hog wild here -- even he could sense the evil emanating from this place. But he supposed that the both of them knew that from the start, n’ he was just waiting for his chance to be useful.
Vigilante was all done up, his hair slicked back and his duds hidden under a peacoat that was a size too big. At The Kid’s insistence he’d stuffed his hat into the thick briefcase he carried and taken the spurs off of his boots. “Stealth mission,” he said, “try to get to the man upstairs without arousing suspicion,” he said. City slickin’ boy ain’t keen on no firefight ‘cause he don’t carry a gun for no damn…
The plan was shit simple, just like Vig liked it. Saunter up to the front in disguise and pretend to have a meeting with the boss man. They were expecting The Punisher, not some fast talkin’ southern businessman with some proposition or other. Least that was the way Stripsey figured it -- no one else had much better a plan than trying to wedge Frankenstein through the ventilation pipes, or just running in guns blazing.
Vig smoothed the wrinkles in his coat, mostly to feel the subtle press of the holsters hidden beneath. It was a kinda comfort, they were about to be knee deep in hostile territory. They hadn’t passed the metal detectors yet, but Frank’s friend Micro had sent ‘em a handy dandy little bug to circumvent that particular problem. Stripsey and The Kid were by his side, idling around the lobby. The Kid flipped through a magazine, but kept his eyes squarely on Vig. Stripsey, on the other hand, was trying his damnedest to figure out how the new-fangled auto-Barista machine worked. He’d be ready, when the time came. Probably.
”Scuse’ me ma’am.” Vigilante tapped on the desk twice. It was a long marble thing, dominating the center of the lobby. It was flanked by two gleaming elevators on either side, about a half dozen yards away. Her eyes came up to meet his, and the corners of her mouth turned up in a smile. Her eyes didn’t crinkle.
“Welcome to The Solomano Building! Home of Solomano Incorporated! How can I help you today, sir?” One hand came up to the monitor inlaid in the marble of the desk. The other drummed silently. Impatient.
”Well, I, uh, would like to see the Boss-man, if at all possible. Uh, Mr. Solomano, that is.” Vigilante swallowed. The woman nodded and tapped at a handful of buttons on her computer. Her other hand stopped drumming.
“Do you have an appointment, sir?” Her eyes came up to scan his face. They lingered at his scars. On his eyes. Her other hand drifted below the desk. Around the room, iffin’ you listened real closely, now, you could hear the subtle shift of fabric. Folk leaning against water coolers and casually putting their hands on their hips. Some scratching at an itch just under their shoulders. Vig could see The Star Spangled Kid tense up across the room. Stripsey straightened his coat and turned, eyes to the elevators. He fiddled with his watch.
“Well, no, but I was hoping I could arrange one, iffin’ it was at all possible…” Vigilante calmly placed his hand in his pocket and broke his gaze from her face, keeping and eye on her hands. One still typed at the computer. He could see the tendons in the other flex.
“Let me just pull up Mr. Solomano’s schedule…” Tap. Tap. Tap.
She was quick at pulling out her handgun, but not quick enough. Vigilante thrust his hand through the holes on the inside of his peacoat pocket and annihilated the fabric of his coat with the pump action shotgun slung across his chest.
”Action!” Vigilante hurled his briefcase across the room, popping the buttons off of his peacoat as his hand tore it open from the inside. He grabbed the stock of the gun and brought it around, waving it at the hostiles, givin’ ‘em something to think about while they tried to draw.
Stripsey snagged the briefcase out of the air and brought it down against the skull of a nearby goon. He carried the strike’s momentum through to the next, planting it inside the stomach of the nearest henchman. “Cover!?”
”Comin’ right up.” Vig swung the shotgun around and fired a buckshot into the mass of the crowd. Goons fell as guns clattered out of their hands, clutching at their injuries.
Across the room, The Star Spangled Kid flicked his wrist and seemed to snatch a length of steel pipe from thin air. A man pulled a gun as the pipe seemed to grow into a bowstaff; The Kid swung it around with a purpose and knocked over a row of the suits and then flung himself into cover.
The room erupted into gunfire as the city-slickers managed to wrench their guns out of their holsters. Vig fired his pump with one hand, sighting up on the biggest masses of ‘em, and with his other, unloaded his revolvers. Chunks of marble were shorn off in an instant as fire shredded Vig’s cover. He threw himself down on his back and plugged more rounds into his pump. The three of them more than had the element of surprise, but if things didn’t change soon, they’d get beat by sheer weight of fire. Luckily for the Soldiers, they still had an edge to call in.
The glass revolving doors of the Solomano building were reduced to twisted metal and glass fragments as a mottled mass of flesh hurtled through it, swinging as a sword as long as Vig was tall.
“Jesus!” Across the room, fire redirected to Frankenstein, but the big feller ate the bullets up for breakfast and pressed on, cracking skulls with the hilt of his blade. On Frankenstein’s back was the Crimson Avenger, all strapped up to the dead man like a backpack. He had what looked like a grenade launcher resting of Frank’s shoulder, dropping tubes of sleeping gas en masse.
While the two of them drew the bulk of fire, Stripsey had taken the time to unfold the suitcase into a great big shield, complete with gaudy SHIELD Eagle on the front. They’d felt a little sour for takin’ their equipment like that but… Desperate times, right? Stripsey threw over the one thing that the suitcase had actually held -- Vig snatched his hat out of the air.
He fired the pump’s last round as The Avenger finished his launcher and dropped off Frankenstein’s back, scurrying over to Vig’s piece of cover. Frankenstein continued to mow down the rest of the floor’s opposition, with occasional help form Stripsey and The Kid.
“Security Office is on the fifth floor!” Vig could scarcely hear him over the gunfire. “If you can get me up there I can send you right to the top!”
”Will do!” Vig pulled his second revolver and fired over cover. The crowd was starting to thin out, by now. First floor almost cleared.
Only forty-nine more to go.