Guns out and Boots on

Sally Jo was still smiling, but just barely.

What had started off as a reckless, devil-may-care grin had long since faded to the grim smile of knowing that, at least she was going down with her guns in her hands and her boots on her feet.

How long had it been? Hours, at least. When the reports of the grim situation had come through, Sally Jo had been given permissions to retrieve her pistols from the safekeeping locker where they usually rested. She'd dialed them up to full output and swung up on Silver with a whoop, rocketing forth to join the resistance against the alien onslaught that was pressing ever inwards.

It had soon become apparent, however, how formidable the foe truly was. True enough, Sally Jo could sear them with surgical accuracy. The squid walker things, however, recovered almost as fast as they were damaged, and then returned fire with devastating power. Silver had no problem dodging and weaving around the incoming fire, but the collateral damage was staggering, and the enemy just kept coming.

Sally Jo soon resorted to just keeping the bad guys busy. Blasting away at them with both barrels to draw their fire, and zooming just ahead of their blasts to keep them occupied with her as opposed to civilians or the other heroes that were trying to take the squids down. It was a good plan, but tiring.

Sally Jo was no weakling. Stronger and tougher than earth standards, she was nonetheless feeling the strain of the drawn out battle. Her shoulders and arms ached. Her guns were almost too hot to hold, despite the advanced self-cooling technology. She'd had several near-misses, and her purple hair was seared on the right side, revealing the pointed ear that it normally hid. There was also a conspicuous chunk missing from her hat, and her clothing was torn and burned away in several locations.

Silver's frequency transponder came to life and Sally Jo listened, chest heaving as she gulped air (not easy with the smog that the critters kept belching.) They were making a run on the mother ship.

"Well pardner," Sally told her robotic horse as they came around for a fresh pass. "Reckon this is the big'n. Either we send 'em to hell or wie die tryin'. Either way, ain't nobody gonna say we turned tail. C'mon hoss! Time to ride down the lightnin'! YEEEEEHAAAA!" She threw back her head and then leaned into Silver's neck as the metal steed fired his thrusters and brought them into the fray.

Sally was laughing and screaming and crying all at once. She fired without thinking, hitting targets by instinct and wheeling away to avoid the retribution fire. Her fatigue melted as she poured everything into the last assault, knowing that everything hinged on the success of the assault team she was supporting.

Somewhere, the tide changed. Sally Jo didn't know when it happened -- she'd lost sense of time -- but she noticed something: The squids were falling! They weren't regenerating! Something had happened! Somewhere, somehow, somebody had gotten through to these monsters! She screamed again, this time triumphantly, as she and Silver rode down upon an embattled walker and carved burning trenches into its fleshy carapace. "Eat plasma, you overgrown vermin!"

Though the tide had turned, the battle was still exhausting. When the smoke had cleared, Sally as slumped forward astride Silver, pistols hanging limply at her sides. Hair plastered with sweat to the back of her neck.

"C'mon boy," Sally Jo breathed. "I'm done. Take me home." The horse whinnied compliance when suddenly Sally Jo spotted something far below with her uncanny alien sight. "Whoa there. Think I see a friendly. Let's have a look-see."

Not far from where a battered, tired Grayson trudged away from the field of battle, the shining metallic steed touched down, retrorockets firing as it slowed descent. Sally Jo sat up in the saddle and tipped her frayed hat back.

"Hey there, handsome," she quipped. "Need a lift back to the corral? You're lookin' just a tad tuckered out there, partner."

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