[STARFALL] Swamp Patrol #23 "Deep in the Heart of Texas"

jamie.rosen at sunlife.com jamie.rosen at sunlife.com
Sat Feb 25 08:14:23 PST 2006

Low Budget Productions presents,
A Starfall Comics comic:

"Deep in the Heart of Texas"
	Continuity Breakdowns, part six

	      [COVER: A classic western village is
             menaced by a tyrannosaurus as a pteranodon
             flies overhead. Brontosauri, stegosauri,
             and even an ankylosaurus can be seen in
             the background, which is a bright jungle
             in marked contrast to the dusty town in
             the foreground. At the centre of the town,
             looking up at the dinosaurs in question,
             are eight human forms, dwarfed by the
             reptiles. The caption in the bottom right
             corner says, "EVERYTHING's bigger in

"You folks aren't from around here," the bartender asked as the seven
of them sat down at the bar.

Pete chuckled, looking from the locals' Old West-style garb to his
jeans shirt and slacks. "What was your first clue?"

The bartender grunted. "As long as your money's good, I don't care
where you're from," he said, polishing a glass. "Other folks may not
feel the same, but that's for them to deal with. Show me the colour."

"The colour?"

"The colour of your money," the bartender explained. "We get all kinds

Frank reached into his pocket but came up empty; the other six did

"Hm. Well, business has been good, and you're obviously in a fix. First
one's on the house." The bartender began pouring something brown and
fizzy into glasses. "After that, you'll have to work for them. One
thing we don't cotton to here in Pavillion is do-nothings."

Frank glanced at Ted. "Some of us aren't old--"

The bartender shook his head. "It's sarsaparilla," he said. "That's why
it's free. Good stuff, though." He leaned closer. "Helps ward off the
silent killers. Now," he continued, returning to his original position
and volume, "what brings you to Pavillion?"

"We're not sure," Frank said.

The bartender nodded. "Castaways."

"Of a sort."

"Came in on the Gilded Danish, no doubt?"

Frank nodded. "How did you know?"

"They're the ones that bring us the castaways, more often than not," he
explained. "Most everyone else thinks twice before picking up flotsam
in the Void."

A terrible howl ripped through the air outside the saloon, vibrating
the walls and making the glasses tremble in place on the shelves.

Pete drank some of his sarsaparilla and cleared his throat. "Any idea
how we can get back home?"

The bartender shrugged. "Depends on where it is," he said. "And how you
want to get there."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, pal, this is a saloon, not an information booth, so I'll make it
short." Another roar sent a glass toppling from the shelf, and the
bartender caught it before it hit the ground. "There are a lot of
places you could come from, a lot of places that border on the void.
And nobody who comes here is ever clear on how they did it." He
replaced the glass. "More to the point, anyone who gets out of here
can't make it back to tell us how. For all we know, it could be as
simple as going for a swim." He paused. "Or going out to drown. No way
for us to know. Now, will you be looking for work?"

"Doesn't seem like we have much of a choice."

The bartender chuckled. "Well, you could always try your luck back out
in the void." He shrugged. "You may wind up right back where you

Frank looked at the others. "I think we'll have to talk it over," he

"Fine by me. If you do decide to stay and work, let me know. Bartending
isn't glamourous, but it's a lot safer than working the ranches out

As if to punctuate his comment, there was another reptillian shriek,
this time followed by the screams of a man in torment.

The seven friends left the bar and grabbed an empty table near the back
of the room, where they could speak in private.

"Anyone else sick and tired of this?" Donna asked.

"Of what?" Frank replied.

"Everything. All of *this* -- " Her gesture seemed to encompass all of
time and space. "Mole men. Supervillains. Mutants. Pirates. Mental
institutions. Come on, I can't be the *only* one of us who wishes none
of this had ever happened. Or has no idea what's going on."

Everyone nodded or grunted in agreement.

"The thing is," Frank said, "there isn't really much that we can do
about any of it."

"And that's just it! We can't do anything about any of this. We're just
shuttled from one thing to another like we're stuck on a bullet train
whose doors won't open." She sighed. "I almost want to start working
here," she said, "just because then at least I'll have some semblance
of control over what's going on in my life. Until the next time the rug
gets pulled out from under me."

"And that's just it," Brill countered. "How long would that be? An
hour? A day? The rest of your life? Me, I can't live like that. I want
to get to the bottom of whatever it is that's behind this, and I have a
hunch that whatever it is, it's out there -- in the Void."

"I'm with Brill," Frank said. "This is the sort of mystery we got
together to solve, and--"

"No it's not."

Frank turned to his brother. "What do you mean, Ted?"

"I mean that this is definitely *not* the sort of mystery we got
together to solve. We got together to help out Inspector Carruthers
when his family was kidnapped by corrupt members of the city government
and police force, remember?"

"Right, and--"

"And then we had run-ins with that Black Cat girl, and the computer
guy, and then everything went to Hell in a handbasket. Redemption, and
that Michael character, and--"

"That's it!" Donna interrupted. "Redemption -- he had these illusion
powers, right? Michael said he shorted them out, but if something went
wrong -- if those powers slipped out of Redemption's control rather
than just shutting off, it's possible this is all a result of that."

"It is," Frank said.

"In which case, this is all in our heads. Not out there, but in
*here*." She tapped a finger on the side of her head for emphasis. "And
we need to figure out a way around that."

"This goes way beyond anything Redemption showed he could do," Ted

"But it's still something to consider," Frank said. "The way I see it,
we have numerous options in front of us right now. We'll have to decide
which one is the best to pursue."

"Why?" Janice muttered.

"Excuse me?" Frank said, turning to her.

"Why do we have to decide something like that? We're all individuals --
we can make up our minds as individuals. We haven't exactly been doing
a good job of things as a group lately."

"Well, what do you suggest?"

"I don't *suggest* anything. I'm going to decide for myself what I want
to do; you can all do what you want." She stood up from her chair and
walked over to the bar, where she conversed with the bartender in a low

"She's right," Shelly said, addressing the group. "I'm going to try to
get home, and I'd like help, but I won't hold it against you if you
decide to stay."

The four young men and one other young woman exchanged glances.

"I don't know," Ted said.

"I'm with you," Frank said to Shelly.

"Me too," added Brill.

"I'm staying with Ted," Donna said. "Whatever he decides." To his
questioning look, she said, "That's what best friends do, right?"

Frank looked at Pete. "What about you?"

Pete shrugged. "I'll figure something out."

At that point, the saloon doors swung inward and the sunlight outside
silhouetted a large man in the doorway.

"I'm looking for Omen," the silhouette drawled.

"Omen ain't here," the bartender retorted. "Ain't nobody here, except
these new kids."

"I didn't say I was looking for Nobody. I'm looking for Omen." The
silhouette entered the saloon proper, resolving into a man with a
tanned and pitted face covered in four days' growth, a cowboy hat
pulled low over his eyes, a dirty-looking cigarette hanging from his
mouth. "When I come looking for Nobody, I won't bother announcing
myself." He pulled up to the bar and leaned against it. "Now, where's

The bartender shrugged and filled a glass with whiskey. "Damned if I
know, Tex," he said, handing the newcomer the glass. "Man has a way of
turning up when he's needed, disappearing when he's not."

Tex scowled and downed his drink in one shot. He then turned his
attention to Janice, as her friends got up from the table and came over
to join her. "You're new," he said, half-question, half-answer.

She nodded. "Yes."

"You joining up at the ranch?"

She shrugged. "I'm thinking about it."

"You shouldn't, kid, not while you've got your looks. Those buggers'll
tear a hole in you the size of your fist and not even think to look at
ya while they're doing it."

"The ranchers?"

"The lizards! The God-damned lizards. The ranchers've got better things
to do, like try and stay alive more than a week."

"Don't listen to him," the bartender said, placing another glass on the
counter. "He's just bitter that they're bringing his business down."

Janice raised an eyebrow. "What do you do, Mr...?"

"Tex. Jedediah Tex," the man answered, then finished his glass in one
shot. "What do I do? It's real simple, lady -- I kill people." He
stared hard at her for a second, and the bartender burst out laughing.

"Never one to beat around the bush, eh, Tex?" he howled. "You'll scare
away all my new customers."

Tex spat noisily into a nearby spitoon. "I'm the only customer you
need," he said.

"If you ever paid your tab, sure. Another?"

"Yeah. I can still see seven of'em."

"There are seven."

"I know. I don't wanna see any of'em."

As the two men continued their exchange, Janice and the others returned
to their table.

"So much for that," Janice said as she sat down.

"What were you talking to him about?" Frank asked.

"Getting a job at the ranch. But if what this other guy says is

"You might want to take your chances with the rest of us?"

She grinned wryly. "Yeah."

"Well," Frank said, slapping the table, "we might as well go
exploring..." The gang stood up and headed for the door; just as they
passed Tex and the bartender, a small black cat came slinking under the
shutter doors and into the saloon. It passed in front of them and
hopped up onto the bar to curl up beside Tex.

"See?" the bartender remarked to Tex as the Swamp Patrol left. "He
shows up sooner or later."

	*               *                       *               *

As the seven of them stepped out into the brilliant light of day, they
could hear sounds other than the screams of reptiles in the distance.
It was the shouts of humans, the firing of pistols, and the charge of
horses in their direction. Before they could move to investigate, a
quintet of horsemen appeared from around a corner, headed straight for
them, shouting and firing their weapons. One of the bullets caught
Shelly in the temple.


Frank's cry was cut off as Tex emerged from the saloon just long enough
to pull the six of them inside.

"You get inside when Nobody's Fools comes to town!" Tex hissed at them.
"Don't you know anything?"

"We have to go back out there!" Frank shouted back. "Shelly's hurt, she

"Shelly's dead," Ted said flatly.


"He's right," Tex said. "You don't get shot like that and walk it off."
He unholstered one of his pistols. "Any of you know how to use one of

Brill held up his hand.

"That's it?"

"They can learn," Brill said. "Do you have enough?"

Jedediah Tex spat. "I always have enough," he replied. True to his
word, he managed to pull a half-dozen more revolvers from just the two
side-slung holsters he had, handing one to each of the remaining
Swampers, and the seventh to the bartender. "Now, Nobody and her men
don't usually come into town guns blazing unless they're real fired up
on steg liquor, so you want to aim for a kill shot right away if
possible -- they don't feel much pain in the state they're in. If it
makes it easier for you to kill, then think about your friend out there
-- but *only* if it'll help. You freeze up, you'll be joining her in
wherever it is you go when you buy it. Me? I'm in no rush -- you get me
killed, I'll be sure to haunt you til the day your sorry carcass has
been picked clean by the vultures."

Frank had a hard time not throwing up, and judging by the looks on
their faces most of the rest were having similar difficulties.

"So what do we do now?" Janice demanded. "Go out there and fight?"

"No," Tex said. "We stay here, and wait. You don't run out into the
middle of a mob unless you're tired of breathing through the holes God
gave you."

"We wait?!"

He shot her a cold stare. "You got a better idea, lady?" He didn't wait
for an answer. "Didn't think so. We wait, we get the drop on them when
they come through those doors -- and rest assured, they will. Now, if
you'll listen to me and ol' Bart over there -- " He nodded at the
bartender. "-- we'll get you set up in positions."

	*               *                       *               *

When Nobody's Fools burst in through the door, the eight of them were
ready, and bullets flew through the air like blackflies. They
outnumbered the marauders almost two to one, but were sorely outgunned
on the experience side, and it didn't take long for that to catch up
with them. Ted watched in horror as his friends fell all around him,
like a slow-motion action movie sequence brought terribly to life. In
the end even Jedediah Tex's skill and limitless supply of bullets
wasn't enough, as Nobody -- the woman at the head of the gang and the
only one remaining alive from her side -- shot him execution-style,
leaving only herself and Ted as survivors.

His gun long out of bullets, Ted dropped it to the floor. If only his
powers still worked -- if only he hadn't lost them in the aftermath of
his trouble with Redemption and his cult -- the others might still have
been alive. He might at least have had some chance of retribution, of
taking vengeance on the woman who had orchestrated all their deaths.

Behind the bandanna covering her mouth, Nobody smiled, and it made Ted
sick to his stomach.

"Ted," she said. "Ted Stockton."

"You know me?" The shock was almost enough to block out all that had

"Oh yes," she said. "I know you better than anyone. Better than your
mother -- that woman who disowned you for what you are. Better than
your brother, always trying to force you into what he thinks is best.
Better even than yourself -- your poor, confused, conflicted self. Oh
yes, I know you very well, Ted. Arsenal." She holstered her gun.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"My name," she said, removing the bandanna to reveal a familiar but
unplaceable face. "Is Jaime." She smiled, and her smile seemed to grow
and swell until it filled all of existence. "But you can call me God."

NEXT ISSUE: All is revealed and all is explained in the shocking
conclusion to the Continuity Breakdowns saga! Be sure not to miss this
issue, as it's "Not a Hoax, Not a Dream!"

*Swamp Patrol #23 contents Copyright 2005 Jamie Rosen.             *
*Swamp Patrol Copyright Ted Brock, other characters copyright 2005 *
*Jamie Rosen                                                       *

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