AD 33 (Three Years After the Founding of Wildbank)
Sheriff Turner Tower sipped his freshly brewed cup of coffee and looked out on to Main Street. It was your usual weekday morning – a few motors and bivans driven by out of town traders coming in for supplies, a few locals on their way to work, and children being taken to school by their parents. It had been around two years since he came to town, escaping the raging war that was taking place in the north between the Haven Republic and the Earthener with his wife and two children, and it was Ray Black and Tiberius Driver who took him into Wildbank like so many others before and after him. After the population started to increase rapidly, they assigned him as the new Sheriff and head of the Wildbank Police, a group consisting of four men tasked with keeping order within the town. That was just about a year ago – since then, his stature within the town had grown, earning the trust of both the two men in charge and the townsfolk.
Serving under him were Vern Harman, Chris Danube, and Storm Sol, all honest, good men who truly had the good of the town and its people at heart. Braxton Stone used to be the 5th member, but he was banished from Wildbank when he tried to use his newly given power for personal gain. Their leader, Sheriff Tower, was a family man with high morals and ethics, which was the primary reason why Black had given him the title. Ray Black had become something of a hero, his story spreading throughout Haven as protector of the weak and provider of the needy. He owned most of the land around the town, including all the farms he had set up. He had the two biggest companies in town, too – Ray Farms and Ray Fisheries.
Tiberius Driver was the local genius, and the glue that kept the town together. He had registered Driver Energy as his own, and had bought solar powered towers that gave electricity to the entire town and its surroundings. Not only that, but he had built two water mills that pumped water to the town as well, and although the piping that was laid out about a meter underground was primitive, it still got water to the houses and farms. Between them, Driver and Black employed almost all the town. There was the odd trader here and there, the biggest of which was the Homestead family, who owned livestock that consisted of earthen cows and chickens to the Haven indigenous animals like woodlets and grats. The rest were minor traders who made their currency the usual way – trade and barter.
Wildbank was not the only town that was growing and advancing, however. Almost all the towns that were once isolated from one another in the Great Barrens were now progressing. In Frontier, for example, the town “chief” Jim Benstrike had constructed a cement factory that was supplying to the entire region. Still, Wildbank was a success story, and the freedom and peace that the town afforded to its residents was not found anywhere else. Ray Black was initially skeptical of accepting people to live on his land, but he has since embraced his role as a freedom fighter who was giving the good people of Haven a second chance at a better life.
So far, the war that was going on in the north between the Haven Republic, which had amassed large amounts of weaponry rumored to have been manufactured in Janneh City itself, and the Eartheners had not started making its way south. It was primarily being fought on the coast, where large reservoirs of Tilkan gas were recently discovered, a resource both sides valued dearly. For what it was worth, Black had registered all of his land in accordance to the Haven Republic laws, and he even had a couple of visitors come in from Janneh City, but his loyalty did not lay with them. He was just delaying a conflict for as long as possible. For now, however, the Sheriff was on high alert – Black had informed him this morning that Benstrike had sent word that he had not forgotten the incident of three years ago and was time for him to come and “collect.”
“We’re almost there, boss. Just a few more minutes.”
Jim Benstrike nodded his head approvingly. It was a long trip from Frontier to this “bastion of freedom”, as he heard some of his townsfolk call it, and he was getting grumpy. The Great Barrens were a very hot place to be driving through in broad daylight, and it had taken them almost twelve hours at high speeds from his town to Wildbank.
The nerve of these people. Benstrike still had not forgotten what had happened three years ago, when some upstart cowboy called Ray Black shot and wounded a number of his men. He had come down to offer his services of protection, as he liked to call it, but the foolish cowboy and his friend, Tiberius Driver, had made the biggest mistake of their lives. That fool Tiberius used to operate the motel back in Frontier, and Benstrike had allowed him to work there and make a living for so many years. That ungrateful bastard thought he could just up and walk away and resettle just like that, well, he had another thing coming.
He had heard all about Wildbank’s “success”, how the people lived tax free, and how everything was so rosy, colourful, and peaceful. He had heard how Ray Black had established several companies based on some farms he had, and how his influence and name had spread way beyond the borders of Wildbank. He was almost like a mythical hero to the people of Haven and Benstrike just did not get it. What was so special about a nomadic cowboy who had stumbled onto a river and decided to call it home? Better yet, what made that shanty town Wildbank so special? A few vegetables and fruits? Because it was near the water? Frontier had a cement production facility that was the envy of the entire region, with people coming from as far as the Hebert region to buy the product. THAT was a success story.
Truth be told, Benstrike had gotten sick from hearing about Wildbank and how it is the “beacon of light” in this dark world. Frontier was less than a day’s drive away – after destroying Black and Driver, he was going to own the town. He had a few loyal goons he could trust to run his day to day affairs, and honestly speaking, he always wanted to live near the water.
“There it is, boss. Wildbank.”
Ray Black could see the motorcade through his binoculars, finally. They had appeared from the northeast as expected, and he could count around nine vehicles, probably all manned with weaponry and armor. Tiberius had been informed from his people in Frontier through satellite communication twelve hours ago, at the break of dawn, that Jim Benstrike and his little army had headed out of Frontier and were planning an attack on Wildbank. They had known about this for a while, but they did not know when it was going to happen. Today was the day, apparently. Black looked towards the setting sun; it would be atleast another hour before complete darkness. The battle would be over by then.
He climbed down from the post, and handed the binoculars to Tiberius Driver. The men were all in position; with any luck, the motorcade wouldn’t get close enough to Wildbank to cause any real damage. Driver was a genius with machinery, and lately he had developed missiles that would hit targets five miles away. They had a few of them all readied up, and the men were just waiting on instructions to fire them. If they failed, then it was going to be a real battle. Black had about thirty men ready to fight, all armed to the teeth with automatic shotguns and extra bullets, but they were still outnumbered.
Ray Black (talking to Tiberius): So everything is ready to go?
Tiberius Driver (nodding): They won’t get anywhere near your northern farms if we launch them right.
Ray Black: Alright…give the order.
Tiberius nodded, and started speaking on his communication device to each launcher. They both climbed to the top of the post to watch the action. Ray Black was worried; there was a lot of children and women in Wildbank, and there was no telling what Benstrike and his goons would do if they managed to break through the defenses. The countdown had begun, and in less than thirty seconds, six missiles will launch directly at the motorcade that was approaching the town. There were going to be casualties, of that there was no doubt, but they had no other option. They had to hit them before they got too close.
The missiles screeched from their launched and headed directly towards the motorcade. Watching from his binoculars, Ray Black saw the explosions, one after the other, followed by a sand cloud that covered where they used to be. No one was advancing towards Wildbank anymore; they were stopped dead in their tracks.
The men who had prepared themselves to defend their new home and families all looked completely shocked. They had no expected their weapons to deliver such a powerful punch, and as the fire blazed to the north of them, some were visibly shaken. Ray mentioned to Tiberius with his hands to form a group to head over to the motorcade, and Tiberius nodded. Few minutes later, they arrived the site.
Ray Black: Look for survivors. Take the wounded back to Wildbank and tend to them. Bury the dead.
Tiberius Driver (pointing towards a specific car): I recognize that one. That one is Benstrike’s personal vehicle.
Ray Black (nodding): Search it.
Sure enough, there was Jim Benstrike, bloodied and bruised from the explosions all around him, but still alive. Apparently, the missiles had not hit his vehicle directly, and his companions in the car were also alive, albeit in much more serious condition than he appeared to be.
Jim Benstrike (coughing): What…in the world was that? What the hell have you people been doing?
Ray Black: Making sure we can defend ourselves from people like you.
Jim Benstrike: You’re an animal, cowboy…
Ray Black: We’ll get fixed up, don’t worry. Once you’re strong enough, we’ll put you on a bivan and send you back to where you came from. Although I suspect you won’t be welcome in Frontier, anymore. Tiberius got this whole thing recorded and pretty soon, everyone in Frontier is going to see your little army getting blown to pieces.
Jim Benstrike: Frontier is mine!
Ray Black: Well, that’s for the people that live there to decide.
With that, Black mentioned to his men to start clearing up the mess and tending to the wounded. The dead would be buried the next day, after they were cleaned and bathed. As for Benstrike, as Ray promised, he was taken care of, then put on a bivan with some food and water and set off. As they watched him ride off into the sunset, Tiberius and Ray both knew this was the beginning of a dark period. War had gripped Haven, and it was only going to spread. They were able to protect themselves against a tiny militia, but what happens when a real army comes rolling in? Lawfully, they were part of the Haven Republic, but would the Republic’s army protect them if the Eartheners came? More had to be done. Much more.
Where Jim Benstrike and his men were struck down.
Some of Ray Black's farms.