By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 55

Angus and his family returned from El Paso early the next morning.  Before he left, Angus gave Cole work assignments for the cowboys for the next couple of days.  They were up and working by the time the Goodnight family returned.  Shane was working with Cole and several other cowboys separating some cows for inspection for possible parasites and diseases.  Angus tried to have Bill Birdsall transferred to the community hospital in their small town, but since it was a suicide attempt they were holding him under police authority.  The theocracy took a dim view of people attempting suicide and treated them like they were suspected criminals.  Like anti-abortions, it was another warped fundamentalist Christianist’s vision of life.  Sending thousands off to die in some phony, trumped up corporate-inflating war was okay.  Economic policies so stupid a fifth grader could come up with a better plan
caused millions to starve to death, but was considered healthy for the economy.  Death was stripped of its human component.  Language was skewed to remove the individual.  Instead of the singular word ‘soldier’ they began to use the word ‘troops.’  A soldier’s death is identifiable with an individual.  'Troops,' draws the attention of death away from the idea of personal loss.  Ultimately any death, soldier or civilian became part of the corporate game of unavoidable casualties.  Death was not counted in personal suffering but as unfortunate accidents of war, but the taking of life, as the lunatic fundamentalist fringe, Christo-nazi base defined it, whether it be by one’s own hand or a woman’s right to choose became a bozo-no-no.*

All this became the drumbeat and war cry of a small minority who pushed for a theocratic oligarchy under the guise of religion, which never was so much about lifesaving as it was about control of the masses.  Insidious and nefarious politicians saw the wingnut finge as the perfect vehicle to rise to power much like the Nazi party in Germany in the nineteen thirties.  Just wave several carrots of hate in front of them like homosexuality and abortion and the neo-cons rode them to power.  By the time the sleepy, lumbering giant of the majority of Americas, who were pretty much middle of the road politically, began to wake up and take notice they were losing their democracy along with their freedom, it was already too late.  Those who supposedly represented the Jesus freaks had won.  The irony of it was, with the passage of new slavery laws homosexuality as practiced among slave owners, masters and their slaves, became rampant.  It became the norm rather than the exception, and began to backfire on the religious right's sensibilities.  Furthermore, it made many slave owners reevaluate their attitudes toward homosexuality.  They became far more tolerent.  It was just considered part of being a successful slave owner.  They knew it went on all around them, but they just never talked much about it except unto themselves.

Because it was practiced and talked about among slave owners, male sexuality reached a new unspoken understanding and tolerance toward male/male bondings.  It became so strong and pervasive throughout society the wingnuts went crazy trying to shore up the leaking dam they so ardently tried to construct against personal sexual freedoms.   While they successfully reinstituted slavery, they never considered the secondary consequences.  As usual, the right wing was as terminally myopic about slavery as any of their many other failures.  Once the goblin was out of its sack, it was almost impossible to put him back.  They tried in vain to pass laws against slave owners practicing homosexuality with their slaves, but it was too big a business and too wealthy a lobby to successfully pass even minimal restrictions.  Naturally, it slowly caused a great rift between slave owners and the fundamentalist.  Why should the slave owners go to church, be yelled at and told they were sinners who would surely burn in a lake of fire for all eternity unless they stopped their wicked practices, then asked to donate a tithe from their profits to further the Christianist demented causes? 

Angus contacted Lazarus and Charlie to feel them out about Bill Birdsall.  He was secretly hoping to play on both men’s compassionate nature to intercede for Bill.  Lazarus was open but left the final decision with Charlie.  Charlie put his boot down and told Angus, Bill was too big a local celebrity and would bring too much attention to the Grange.  They would be taking too great a chance of arousing suspicions the Grange might be more than their store front window dressing belied.  If push came to shove and Bill was put away someplace, after things simmered down they might reconsider, but for the present Charlie suggested Angus wait and see how it was going to play out.  Charlie reminded him of Shane’s upcoming hearing, and he wanted to know what, if any, plans Angus was making for his brother’s transition to becoming a free man.

“I’m working on it.  Shane and I are booked into the lodge for tonight.  I’m gonna’ tell him how I plan to help him.”

“Tell him how you plan to help him?  What ever happened to working with someone to consider their interests?  For the love of God, Angus, he ain't jes' no ordinary slave, he's our baby brother.  Are you going to ask to hear any ideas or request he might have?” Charlie asked.

“What ideas?  He ain’t said a word about no plans.” Angus insisted.

“That’s because you ain't never talk with him, Angus.  You’re always yelling at him or ordering him around.  You never sit down with him and find out what he’s thinking.  After ten years of your domination, I doubt seriously he would be forthcoming with you for fear of offending you.  You’ve had months to slowly feel him out, but all I hear is you’re ignoring him and Bill Birdsall has been treating him like pariah.  And it ain’t from Shane I’m hearing this.  He don’t never talk about you.  If you just want a final roll in the hay with him as your slave that’s understandable I suppose, but for cries sake, Angus, his hearing is in two frick'n days and no one’s heard a damn thing about any plans you might have or any you’ve discussed with him.  You been too damn busy with Bill Birdsall.  You got chore' nose stuck up his butt when you should be seeing to your little brother's welfare."  Charlie was the only men who could get away with saying something like that to Angus.

“I know, I know, you're right, but I plan to take care of all that tonight.  We just need a chance for Shane and I to get off together, by ourselves, away from everything and talk.”

“I’m really disappointed with you brother.  If you need a third party, you know I’m available.  If you keep up your master/slave routine with him another day he’s not going to be honest with you, and there’s a very good chance he’ll walk away, reject anything you might try to offer and cut you out of his life forever.  Maybe that don’t mean nothing to you, but he means a hell of a lot to me and a very large number of other folks.  I personally know of thirty men, maybe more, who will stand up for that boy to guarantee his success, and I’m numbering myself as one of them.  Now there’s the extra added burden of this incident with Bill Birdsall.  I can understand a man taking his own life when his failures and the pressures of this world get to be too much, but when he does it in such a transparent and sordid manner to manipulate and garner sympathy, it makes me wanna' puke.  Shane don’t need that kind of pressure.  He needs you to protect him against that sort of crap from Birdsall.  He’s got enough on his plate as it is, but he’s in limbo right now and as his master, it’s your responsibility to see he comes through this transition with as little emotional trauma as possible.”

“I’ll talk with him tonight and get back to you tomorrow.  I told him I wouldn’t leave him high and dry.  I’ll make sure he has enough to get himself established.  You know I set up a fund for him the year he became my slave, and I’ve added to it each year.  All yours, Lazarus and others donations for his birthday and Christmas every year have gone into it.  I kept accurate records you’re welcome to audit.  It’s now a little over a hundred thousand dollars.  That should be a comfortable nest egg for him to get established.”
“All right, but don’t be surprised if there are some men who do an end run around you.  The whole community is up in arms about Bill Birdsall and how he’s treated Shane.  It just ain’t right, Angus, and you know it.  I don’t care if Birdsall is yore' right hand man, and you’re joined at the hip with him, you better consider separating yourself.  He’s bad news.  He has little credibility in this community anymore, and frankly we’re worried about him turning against the Grange.”

“All right, Charlie, all right!  I hear your concern, and I’ll get back to you.  We were with Bill, and I talked with him.  I can promise you he won’t say nothing about Grange activities.  I’m under a lot of pressure right now, but I’m devoting this afternoon and evening to Shane.  Gotta’ run, brother, talk to you tomorrow.”  Angus hung up on Charlie.  Charlie was not pleased.  He wanted to talk with Shane in the worst way, but since they came back from Venus, Angus kept Shane on a short leash.  Angus was pissed because the Banshee was delayed getting back to Mars.  He had a horseshoeing deal set up for him and Cole but when Shane didn’t get back on time he lost the contract and the customer went with another farrier.  Angus lost money.  It wasn’t a great deal of money, but any loss was a big deal to Angus.

Cole came into check with Angus and give him a progress report.  Angus appointed Cole that morning as lead cowboy.  Angus listened but only heard a few words Cole said.  He got the feeling everything was running smoothly and nodded his approval.

“When you go back out there send Shane to me.  Thanks, Cole.” he dismissed him.

Shane entered Angus’ office with his hat in his hand.  Angus motioned for him to sit down as he was right in the middle of something.  Shane set for about half an hour, and Angus hadn’t even acknowledged him.  He got up and whispered he would come back in a hour when Angus wasn't so busy.

“No, no, I’ll only be a minute.  Sit!”  he barked at Shane.  Angus’ phone rang.  He answered.

“Goodnight ranch, Angus speaking.” when he heard the voice on the other end, he smiled at Shane.

“Angus, this is Judge Potter.  How are you?” he heard the old judge say.

“I’m fine, considering.  How are you, Sir?”

“Good.  I’m sorry to hear about Mr. Birdsall.  Shane was good enough to call me last evening after he got home to give me the news.  I’m glad he did.  It’s an important development and could have some bearing on his case.  How is Shane holding up?”

“I ain’t had time to talk with him, yet.  He just got to my office a while ago.  He’s sitting right here, Judge.  You wanna’ speak with him?”

“No, that won’t be necessary.  He did another fine job for me yesterday, and once again, I appreciate you loaning him to me.  I need to know what long range plans you and Shane have decided.  At this late date I assume some plans have been made.”

“No, Sir.  I’ve been real busy with business and what with this thing with my foreman, running things alone, I’ve been swamped, but Shane and I are getting away this evening to talk and hammer something out.”

“Well that’s good, but you should have been working with him months ago.”

“I know, Judge, but I just ain’t had the time.”

“So, you’ll have something positive to present to me tomorrow?”

“I hope so, Judge.”

“Good.  I need to see you in my office tomorrow morning.  I need something in writing from you so I can complete his case.  I know this is cutting it short, but I sent you forms to complete six months ago and never received them back.”

“Oh, crap, I forgot all about them forms.  They’re still sitting in my ‘in’ basket.  You have to have those by tomorrow, Judge?”

“Yes, you’ve had six months, Angus.  I need those forms.  Now, since we’re good friends you be in my office tomorrow morning at nine o’clock, and I’ll help you with them.  Even if you completed them and sent them to me, I would’ve scheduled an appointment with you to discuss plans and go over last minute details of his hearing.”

“Tomorrow at nine?”

“Yes, I have a full day tomorrow so that’s the only time I can see you.  Don’t be late.  Look forward to seeing you, Angus.”

“Yes, Sir, you too, Judge.”

Angus looked green around the gills as he slowly hung up the phone.  He shuffled through some papers in the basket on his desk and found the forms.  He grimaced at them and threw them back into the basket.

“That was Judge Potter.  I have to go to his office tomorrow morning to discuss plans for your release.  We have to come up with something by tomorrow morning.  Have you given any thought to what you want to do, Son?”

“A little.  I’ve had some ideas, but don’t know how realistic they are without much support.”

“Why ain’t you said some'um?”

Shane just shrugged his shoulders and slumped in the chair.  He thought if he didn’t start having the courage to stand up for himself, how could he ever expect to lead for him and Cole?  “You’re always too busy.  Just like now.  You call for me and have me sit for an hour before you even acknowledge me.”

Shane saw Angus’ eyes flash.  He knew Angus too well.  He felt an Angus rant coming in which Shane was always the one at fault and how Angus was there for him to come to, anytime.

“I just assumed you’d want to stay here, work for me and be on the payroll until you finish your probation and get on your feet if you decide to move away.  You do realize you’re gonna’ be on probation for another five years?  It’s a tough world out there and the closer you are to people who know and love you the less likely you are to get into trouble.”

Shane’s thoughts raced through his head.  Sure, being on Angus’ payroll meant slave wages imposed by the corporate theocracy and never raised since the turn of the century.  After Friday, he might be a free man on paper, but under Angus’ stern authoritarian rule every single thing he did would be open for scrutiny.  At the least infraction, Angus would have him before the court to rescind his probation so he would be a slave for another five years, maybe more.  Shane heard it all before.  He felt doomed.  Maybe if he could get Angus off world where they were more equal he might just stand a chance.  Shane was loved and admired in all the colonies, and he was practically a god on Mars and Venus.  If he could get Angus in bed, and get him relaxed he knew he could probably get more from him in any discussions.  

“Does this mean you’re cancelling our trip for this afternoon and evening, Master?” Shane was looking at his hands with his head down.  It was a body message to Angus of anticipated rejection and despair.

“No, no, Son, that’s why I called you in here to see if you’re ready to go.”

“I’m traveling light.  I’m already packed, Sir.  I can be ready to go in ten minutes.”

“Okay, be back here in my office at two o’clock and we’ll take off.  Wear your good Western clothes ‘cause I’m taking you to supper at the ‘Jungle Room.’”

“Great.  I’m looking forward to it, Master.  I’ll be here.”

“By the way, how’s it working out for you staying in the bunkhouse?” Angus inquired.

“Quiet.” Shane grinned and shrugged his shoulders.  Angus laughed at his reference to Cole’s stoic cowboy silence.

“Since Bill Birdsall ain’t gonna’ be back for a while, you can move back in there if you like.”

“Thanks, but no thanks.  Too many bad memories haunt that place for me, and I’m more comfortable with ma’ slave brothers.”

“That’s understandable.  Okay, be back here at two.”

“I’ll be here.  Thanks, Master.” Shane turned and left.  

Angus picked up the forms and looked at them again.  They looked complicated and asked questions he hadn’t taken the time to consider.  He never liked paperwork and bureaucracies.  He liked Judge Potter because Angus grew up with his boy and the old Judge had done many favors for him over the years.  Loaning one of his slaves to Potter from time to time was the only thing Angus ever did for the old man.  Angus set and thought for a few minutes.  Why hadn’t he done something before now?  He wasn’t one to wait until the last minute to do anything.  He knew in his heart he wasn’t being honest with himself.  Subconsciously he was hoping if he did nothing, if there were no solid plans for his transition, Shane might be overwhelmed by the prospect, become frustrated and opt for five more years of slavery.  Now the wolf was at the door and unless he pulled a rabbit out of the hat pretty damn quick, Shane would be a free man in two more days.  Maybe if he could really shower Shane with love this evening, fuck him really good, he could talk him into staying as a hired hand on the ranch and Angus would still have control over him.  Ah, but the colonies and the threat of working for Lazarus Long or his brother was looming in the back of Angus’ mind.

* * * * * * *

Shane was about to leave the bunkhouse to meet Angus.  He told Cole about Judge Potter’s phone call to Angus, his reaction and how he had a meeting with the judge in his office at nine tomorrow morning.  Cole laughed.

“I knew the minute he ordered me to fill you up last night he was looking out for your best interest.  You done good to have him in your corner.  I think you might just come out of this smelling like a rose to match that sweet little hole of yore’n.” Cole grinned wickedly.

“I got the feeling he just may be our ace in the hole, just like your were mine last night.” Shane grinned back.  He was almost ready to leave for Angus’ office.

“I guess this is it, odd-job.” Cole said quietly.

“Can I get a hug for good luck?” Shane asked.

“I’ll give you more’n nat, boy.” Cole took him into his arms and kissed him passionately.  Shane could smell the clean masculine odors from Cole’s strong body; a hint of cheap aftershave; healthy sweat; new mown hay; saddle leather; horse sweat; and, a hint of cow dung.  All the fragrances of the hyper-masculine cowboy he loved so dearly.  (cue music: soft guitar playing Red River Valley)

“Thanks, Pa, I needed that.”

“Ain’t got no advice for you.  Don’t wanna’ pressure you no more’n you already are.  Just remember, even if you can’t take me with you in the deal, I want you to make damn sure your freedom is secure.  You come first, and no matter what’s decided, I’ll never stop loving you.”

“No pressure, huh?  Our whole future may damn well depend on this evening.”

“I know’d your brother for years, odd-job.  ‘Neath his facade of being the roughest, toughest, meanest, root’n, toot’n hombre West of the Pecos beats the heart of a sensitive and tender buckaroo.  He’ll do his dead-level best to ride you down hard ‘til he breaks you to his saddle.  Don’t get angry with him.  Stay strong and focused, but above all don’t let him buffalo you, boy.”

“I’ll try not to, Pa.”     

* * * * * * *

Shane arrived at Angus’ office at two on the dot.  Angus was nowhere around.  Shane knew it was a bad sign.  He sat and waited until it was almost three when Angus finally stomped into his office winded like he’d been running.  

“Sorry I’m a little late, Son.  I got hung up with something.  Ready?”

Shane had been ready for almost an hour, but he didn’t say anything.  He just picked up his backpack and slung it over his shoulder.  The men headed for the old barn.  Shane set the gate coordinates for the Bandersnatch and pounded his fist against the four by four next to it.  The gate sprang up and he and Angus stepped through onto the Bandersnatch.  They were met by Cable and his men.

“Welcome, Mr. Goodnight and Captain Shane.  Good to see you again.  I believe you’re here to pass through to Mars port.”

“That’s right, Cable.  Thank you.” said Angus.

“Good, right this way, Sirs.” Cable directed them.  They knew the way, but it was ship’s procedures anyone passing through major gates would be accompanied by members of the ship’s staff.  Cable saw them to the gate, instructed Kyron to open it, and they passed through to emerge at Mars port station.  They could have taken the tram but opted to walk to the lodge instead.  It wasn’t very far.  As they walked into the lobby the place was busy with android attendants, workers and visitors from the colonies who were vacationing or visiting at the lodge.  Everything stopped as Angus and Shane entered the doors of the big hotel.  Eight androids descended on them and a number of guests staying at the lodge saw their hero, Captain Shane Goodnight, unexpectedly walk through the doors.

“Captain Shane, welcome to Mars port lodge, Sir.  We’re so honored to have you stay with us.  We had no idea you were coming.  We have reservations for an A. Goodnight and guest.  Welcome, Sir.” the android manager gushed.  Another almost yanked his backpack away to carry it for him.  Another took Angus’ bag as an afterthought.  Fifteen adoring fans rushed up to Shane and asked for his autograph.  Angus was stunned.  After thirty minutes of welcoming and signing in at the front desk the manager spoke quietly to them.

“Forgive us, Captain Shane, we didn’t know you would be staying with us.  We’ve upgraded your accommodations to a suite which will be comped by the Venus co-op corporation headed by Mr. Darryl.  We hope you will find everything to your satisfaction.  If you need anything sir, we have a separate staff of androids on call to see to your needs.  We are honored and pleased to have you stay with us, Sir, and you, too, Mr. A. Goodnight.  Enjoy your stay.”

The bellhop androids took Angus and Shane to their suite.  Angus didn't say a word.  He was dumbfounded.  He didn’t know whether to laugh or be angry.  Who was this young man he called his slave?  He was no longer his baby brother.  He was a man of several worlds.  He was making his own way in the universe without so much as a howdy-do.  He knew Shane adopted much of the stoic, humble cowboy persona from working with Cole Jenkins year in and year out, but this was way beyond his imaginings.  The androids showed them where everything was and how to call for service.  They stressed everything for their stay was being comped including any meals at any restaurant in Mars port.  They said their farewells and left.  Angus stood and looked at the huge suite in awe.  As they were looking around a knock came at the door.

“Enter!” shouted Shane.  In marched five androids, each with a different arrangement of the most exotic and beautiful flowers.

“Compliments of the management, Captain Shane.  Enjoy your stay, Sir.” the main android said, and they left as quickly as they arrived.  Shane got a big grin on his face but turned away from Angus so he wouldn’t see.   

“How long have you been a Captain in Admiral Long’s fleet, Son?”

“A little over a year, Master.”

“I think we can cut out the ‘master’ crap here, boy.  We both know you ain’t my slave on this world.”

“That ain’t true, Master Angus.  I’m still your slave for two more days.  I’m just as surprised by all this as you, but if you remember I was one of the founders of this lodge.  You don’t know of my adventures on Venus and what we accomplished there.  I’m as much a hero there as here.  Just like you, I live two separate lives, but that’s how it has to be right now for all of us.”

“Then there’s very little chance you’re going to continue on at the ranch with me when there are many other options available to you.”

“Very little chance, Master, but we didn’t come here to talk about much of anything.  We came here so you could fuck your slave one last time before he becomes a free man.”

“Shane, don’t put it that way.” Angus set on the edge of the huge bed with his big hands together, his arms resting on his legs, bent forward with his head down in a defeated manner. “I brought you here to share love with you.” he raised his head to look Shane in the eyes.

“I’m open to that.  I’d really like to experience love with you once.” he replied without nuance.  It was a flat but subtle accusation.  Angus had no come back.  Shane nailed him to the barndoor.  He knew it was true.  Shane didn’t want this to turn into a fight.  He wanted to please his brother to get from him what he wanted.  He felt like a cheap prostitute.  No, that wasn’t strong enough.  He felt like a whore of biblical proportions (read: Judith) who planned to use his body (read: honey trap) to win the freedom of his people (read: surrogate dad/cowboy slave) from an infidel tyrant (read: Holofernes/Angus).  Shane smiled to himself and thought, ‘Judge Potter would appreciate the analogy.’  He remembered from Sunday school the story of how Judith got Holofernes drunk before she seduced him and cut off his head.  Shane grinned wickedly to himself as he asked seductively,

“May I fix you a drink, Master?  Our bar is fully stocked and everything is on the house.”

“Will you join me?”

“Naw, Sir.  I’m still a slave on Earth, and I ain’t allowed no liquor, but more importantly I’m a teetotaler.  You can’t be a captain of a spaceship and drink strong spirits.  It dulls the senses.” Shane said with considerable conviction.  Angus was impressed.

“Fix me a neat bourbon on the rocks, slave.” Shane moved to the bar to fix Angus a drink.  “You have your own ship?” Angus asked.

“Yes, Sir, the Bluebonnet.”

“Why ain’t chu’ never invited me aboard?”

“I didn’t want to mix my lives.  Besides, you’re always too busy with the ranch.  It’s funny though, you can find time a couple of times a month to get away through the gates to bring Master Waco’s slave here to fuck him.  I think that qualifies as a form of love.  He sees you as his hero, and you love him for worshiping you.  You both cultivated it from the time he was a young boy until it grew into a mature affection.  However you see it, I’m convinced you love him, and he loves you.” Shane handed him his drink.  Angus took a sip.

“You ain’t said nothing to nobody about that, have you, boy?"  Angus questioned him.

“You know better’n nat.  I would be giving away a lot more than your dalliance.  I would never compromise the Grange.  Besides, my cowboy brother loves you with all his heart.  I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize his happiness.  He thinks you hung the moon and set the stars out at night.” Shane grinned at him and continued, “And furthermore, I wouldn’t deny you the pleasure of his company.  I’m happy for the two of you.  You have something special with one another, and you have my humble blessings for what it’s worth.”

“And you, little brother, what do you think of me?” Angus challenged him.

“I ain’t chore’ little brother, Master, at least, for two more days.  That’s what you told me when I became your slave.  Until I’m a certifiably freeman I ain’t chore’ brother.  I learned years ago to never tell your master what you really think.  You tell him what he wants to hear.  Keeping that in mind, I think you’re one of the finest looking, ruggedly handsome cowboys I ever done laid eyes on.  You’re as generous as you are good looking, and I’m wildly sexually attracted to you.  I ain’t never had me no sex with nobody so good as you, Sir.  It will be my great privilege and honor to service you one last time.” Shane poured on the cowboy horse shit but in a sincere, convincing manner.

“That sort of rips it for the love part, don’t it, slave?” Angus asked accusingly, but chuckling to himself.

“That depends on you, Master.  I told you I’m open to receive love from you— in the bed or elsewhere.”

“Why do I get the feeling I’m being set up by forces beyond my comprehension?” Angus complained.  Shane could only wish.

“How so, Master?” Shane didn’t wait for Angus to answer, “Maybe we’re setting each other up.  You want something and I want something, but we have to satisfy each other first to get us to the place we each feel will make us more vulnerable to the others ideas of how our futures should play out.”

“You’ve never talked with me like this before, slave.” Angus accused.

“You never allowed me to, but now you’re desperate.  You have to listen to me.  That’s ostensibly why you brought me here, or did you lie to Judge Potter?  Ain’t a good thing to lie to a judge, Master, especially one with his power.  You’re gonna’ have to answer to him tomorrow.  You ain’t made no plans for me and left me to my own devices.  The same thing happened to me ten years ago.  I was a dumb kid and did a couple of stupid things.  Rather than be a strong father figure for me you insisted on treating me like a little brother and left me to my own devices.  I didn’t come up with that story, you did.  You told everybody who would listen that’s what happen.  You even went and told the old judge.  You were right, I didn’t need no older brother, I needed a dad.  I spent ten years paying for your mistake.  I got a dad all right, a fine one, but it took becoming a slave to get me one.” Shane was referring to Cole, but he knew Angus’ ego would think Shane meant him.

“It’s real easy to play the blame game, slave.  The truth is, you fucked up and ran afoul of the law.  You got sentenced ten to fifteen years slavery.  I could’ve turned my back on you, but I didn’t.  At the time, money was scarce for everyone, but my brothers and me went together and bought your ass to save you from being sold to an unscrupulous master who would’ve seen to it you were enslaved for life.  We done our part.  I spent ten years trying to straighten you out.”

“Make no mistake, I’m grateful to you and Master Charlie, but ten years have passed and according to the law, I’ve atoned for my sins, kept my nose clean, my mouth shut, and if I can only make it two more days I’ll be a freeman.  It seems mighty damn strange to me none of your kids every ran afoul of the law and suffered the same fate as me.  Blame game be damned!  I’m older now, but only a bit wiser.  Just wise enough, I won’t allow what happened to me then to happen again.  As I see it, we’re here for three reasons.  One, for you to fuck your slave; two, to have supper; and three, to tell me what you have planned for me.  Am I right, Master?  Do I have the order correct?”

“I guess that’s it in a nutshell.”

“Good, I’ve been looking forward to the first two parts.  The third, not so much.” Shane said.

“Well, good.  Two out a’ three ain’t bad.  Get chore’ cowboy butt in there and clean yore’self good.  At the very least, I’m gonna’ enjoy me one last piece of outstanding slave ass.”

“Now that’s the master I know and love.” Shane laughed and gathered his hygiene kit from his backpack. “Fuck the love part, Master Angus, you’re at your very best when you take what you want without regard to your slave.  I certainly wouldn’t want to break with tradition at this point.  Besides, I learned to love that part of you.  Still do.  Always will.  I got a little tip for you to remember: If’n we ever fuck again as free men or brothers, if you don’t fuck me like your slave, I won’t be satisfied.” was Shane’s parting shot as he walked away to the sumptuous bath facilities.  It was the only bathroom he’d ever seen which had wall to wall mirrors and even mirrors on the ceiling and floor, but they weren’t regular glass mirrors.  They seemed to be a highly polished metal that maintained an image fidelity far greater than silver-backed glass.  A thought shot through Shane’s brain. ‘I wonder if I can talk him into fucking me in here where I can see everything going on and in and out.’ he got an instant erection.  Better yet, if he could bring his beloved pa here and do the same with him.  Don’t jinx things by thinking on Cole, he told himself.  Keep him in your back pocket.  He’s your strength.  He’s your purpose.  Shane returned to find Angus poured himself another drink and was sitting nude in the hot tub.  Shane had to admit his brother was still a sexy man and the longshot made him look years younger.  He didn’t look too much older than Shane, but he was a little taller.  Shane was so developed he had an edge on his brother for size.  He realized he had grown to look so much like Angus it was like having sex with an alter ego of himself.  He watched as his brother finished his drink.  He reached down for Angus’ empty glass.

“Another, Master?” he smiled.  This was going better than he expected.

“One more, slave, then that’s it.  Thanks.” the other two drinks were kicking in.  Angus senses were just a bit dulled.  He was blissfully unaware of Shane’s plot.  Shane fixed his drink, four fingers instead of two, and returned it to him.  He sat on the edge of the tub.  

“Join me, Shane.” Angus offered.  Shane eased himself into the hot water.  It felt good.  It felt sensual.  Angus reached over and put his arm around him and pulled Shane closer.  “No more sparing, okay?  What do you wanna’ hear?  I fucked up with you?  You’re right, I did.  I thought I made that clear years ago, but I paid a price, too.  Somebody had to pick up the pieces no matter who was to blame and run with the ball.  Weren’t nobody who wanted to run in for the job of quarterback but me.  You think it was easy for me to put ma' little brother through slave training and treat him like a slave for ten gotdamn years?  There weren’t a day went by I didn’t have guilt pangs, but by God, I made up my mind, I was gonna’ see it through.  I was gonna’ see you through it, and I done it.  Give me a little credit, Shane.  I weren’t kidding the other day in my office when I told ju’ I love you.  I do love you.  Maybe it ain’t the kind of love you need, but I done tried my best under the circumstances.  That’s all any man can do.  I ain’t asking your forgiveness, Shane.  I don’t need it, because I finally forgave myself.  You’re gonna’ get chore’ freedom, but I hope one day you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”

“You couldn’t be more wrong, my good Master, I don’t hold no grudges.  I done forgive you years ago, but we’re here for a reason and some things need to be said or we ain’t gonna’ have no future as brothers; that is, if you still want me for your brother after ten years of being your slave.”

“Of course, I do.  I done told you I was proud of you for making it, and I am.”

They sat in the water on the balcony of the beautiful lodge until the light began to fade.  They could see large birds and an occasional flying pony sail across the sky.  It was a very romantic vista.  Shane began to massage Angus' tired shoulders and heard him sigh.  He knew this would start the ball rolling.  After rubbing Angus for about half an hour Shane got out of the tub and got a large towel to dry himself and one to dry his master.  He vigorously toweled Angus dry.  He retrieved his cowboy boots and set them before him.  He helped him on with one then the other.  Then Shane pulled his boots on.  He excused himself to go to the bathroom.  There, he lubed himself well and returned.  Angus was finishing his final drink of the evening.  Shane dropped before him and paid homage to his handsome boots.  Angus completed the ritual, and they ended in a passionate kiss.  When they broke apart Shane whispered.

“I have a confession to make, Master.”

“Will I have to turn you over my knee for it?” Angus asked with anticipated glee.

“If there’s a God you will.” Shane played along and Angus bellowed.

“What’s your confession, slave?”

“I’m gonna’ miss paying homage to your boots.  Ain’t never met me but one other cowboy who I would crawl naked on ma’ hands and knees, across broken glass through the badlands at high noon on a record hot day, to git me a taste of his boots like I would for yours, Master.”

“Sheeeit!  ‘At ain’t no whip’n confession, boy.  Who’s the other cowboy?”

“You know I don’t never kiss and tell, Master.” Shane teased.

“Now that’s a reason for a whupp’n, slave.” Angus bellowed again in laughter, then kissed Shane hard and even more passionately.  “God, I love you, boy.  Ain’t another like you.  You wanna’ know the God’s honest truth?  I don’t wanna’ let you go, slave.  I want you to stay jes’ like you is, but when I withdrew from you for several weeks, I realized I done the same damn thing to my kids when they was about to leave the nest.  I wanted the same for my boys and girls.  I never wanted them to grow up and move away.  Part of my world came to an end to watch them go, but I always had you, Shane.  I know I have to let you go, but gotdamn it’s hard, Son.  It’s so fuck'n hard.” Shane had never seen Angus breakdown, but he began to weep softly in Shane’s arms.  Shane was totally caught off guard.  He wondered what Judith would’ve done had Holofernes let his hair down and cried in her arms.  At that moment, Shane knew there would be no severing of heads that evening.
“Hesh up, cowboy!  We got us some hard ride’n to do before we strap on the old feed bag.  Now stick that big cowboy dick a’ yore'n up my butt and fuck me ‘til you hear my gut rumble from hunger, then you can feed me; take me to supper and make both ends happy.” Shane urged.

Angus wasted no time getting his big dick up Shane’s tight ass.  He fucked him every which way.  Shane stopped him after a while, took him by the hand and led him to the bathroom.  Angus hadn’t seen it yet.

“Holy fuck!” Angus exclaimed.

“That’s exactly what I had in mind, Master.” Shane lay on the cold floor on his back, threw his legs in the air, reached down with both hands and spread his ass cheeks to expose his hole.  He started winking it at Angus.  Angus bellowed with laugher as he climbed aboard and fucked Shane until his gut did begin to rumble.
“You ready for me to feed that hungry, hungry hole, slave?” Angus asked.

“Which one?” Shane laughed.  Angus collapsed on top of him laughing.

“The hole I been fuck’n, you twit!” Angus laughed harder.

“Yes, Sir but don’t cheat me none.  Promise me you’ll gimme’ all yore’ sweet cowboy cream.”

Angus promised him his all and fucked Shane with a vengeance, but did something he’d never done before.  He allowed Shane to come with him.  It was the first time in ten years of being his slave he ever allowed Shane to come.  Before, if Shane wanted to ejaculate afterward, he would have to do it on his own time.

* * * * * * *

They got cleaned up and went down to supper at the ‘Jungle Room.’  They had a good time and were both in a rare mood.  Again, the same thing happened.  Twenty people came up to Shane wanting his autograph.  Several had come through the gate just to see him.  Angus couldn’t believe his slave, his little brother was a celebrity.  They were given the finest table on the balcony.  It was dark and all the animals were retired for the evening but you could still see the outlines of some of the bigger beasts.  They ordered supper and Angus ordered a bottle of wine.  When the food came Angus insisted Shane share a glass of wine with him to celebrate his manumission on Friday.

Shane sipped his, and Angus finished the rest of the bottle.  He wasn't drunk, but he was mellow.  They talked about farrier jobs and many other things.  Shane shared with Angus the story of Judge Potter and his dessert making machine.  Of course, any good cowboy worth his salt is going to expand and enlarge a story until it’s painfully funny, and Shane learned from the very best.  Cowboy slaves became notorious for their fanciful stories they invented to entertain each other.  He had Angus in stitches and everyone else in the restaurant was laughing at Angus’ merriment.  He laughed until his sides hurt.  It seemed to break something inside Angus, he let down a lot of his defenses, and he opened up a little more to Shane.  Finally, Angus got around to talking about Friday and Shane’s hearing.

“When your birthday rolled around that first year you were my slave, people wanted to know about birthday, Christmas and Easter gifts for you.  I opened a savings account in your name and a handful of families and close friends gave cash gifts for you every year which I dutifully stuck away into your account.” Angus explained.

Shane spoke up, “I got two boxes of cards and letters from folks who sent greeting and how much they donated to the fund on my behalf.  I wrote notes and thanked them.”

“Lazarus has given more than anyone in the last five years.  Charlie has matched his donations dollar for dollar.  Your other brothers send token amounts, but Charlie and I give up on them about three years ago.  We hardly hear from 'em anymore.  I donated a thousand dollars on your birthday, Christmas and Easter every year.  Many of the Grange members have given to your ‘freedom’ fund as they call it, and it’s a little over a hundred thousand dollars.  A hundred thirteen and change to be exact.”  It’s sitting in the bank in Reason waiting for you.  All you gotta’ do is show your emancipation papers from the court, and it’s yours.

“I knew it was a lot, but I had no idea it was that much.” said Shane. “So you did make a plan for me.  Thank you, Sir.” Shane said softly.

“What more can I do for you, Son?”

“I only want three things from you, Master Angus.”

“What’s that?”

“A slave of my own, two ponies, and the old I. H.* truck with all the farrier tools.  I wanna’ start my own business.”

“Cole?  You want Cole?” Angus asked surprised.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Good choice.” Angus mused and nodded his head slightly, “Damn, you got good taste in slave meat, Son.  Aww, but Shane, he’s one of my finest slaves; probably the best... no, he is the best gotdamn slave I ever owned.” Angus groaned.

“I know.  Why do you think I want him?  We was work’n our asses off over to that ranch last Monday and I got me to thinking we worked hard for ten damn years together and their ain’t a cowboy slave I’d rather work with than Cole.”

“You men do damn good work.  The two of you could make a comfortable living as farriers, ain’t no doubt about it.  You won’t git rich, but it’s good, solid, honest work.”

“Them’s my thoughts, Sir.” Shane agreed.

“But I jes’ made him my top waddie.  He’s gonna’ have to sub and be a temporary foreman until Bill gits back.”

“No he don’t.” Shane argued gently, he didn’t want it to develop into a shouting match,  “You got big Phil Pie.  He’d do jes’ as good a job at lead cowboy as Cole would.  Besides, he’s got more seniority than Cole ”

“You’re right, he does.  I didn’t think about Phil.  Cole was the first cowboy I come upon this morning, and he got picked.  Wait a minute!  Is there something going on between you and Cole?” Angus challenged.  Shane looked surprised he’d even suggest such a thing.

“Oh, please!  The man’s twenty years older'n me.  He’s old enough to be my daddy, fer’ cries sake.” Shane snarled like it was a disgusting idea.

“Easy, boy.” Angus chuckled, “I’m old enough to be yore’ daddy.  I’m three years older than Cole Jenkins.” Angus scored a direct hit.  That was all right with Shane.  He was hit, but it wasn’t a flame-out.  He wouldn’t crash and burn.  Truth was, it was one of the main reasons he loved and respected Cole was for his maturity, but he certainly didn’t want Angus to know.  He saw a chance for a parry with a quick thrust.  He knew Angus was a sucker for flattery.

“Yeah, but have you looked in a mirror lately?  Because of the longshot you look ten years younger than Cole.  You certainly show it in the bedroom, cowboy.  You never used to fuck me so good as you done after the shot.” he saw Angus grin of self-appreciation.  Shane knew he’d scored a direct hit on the big cowboy’s ego, now to finish him off for this round, he continued, “When would Cole and I ever have time to knock boots?  Master Bill kept me on a short lease for years, and when he didn’t, you did.  If there’s anything going on between us I shore’ as hell don’t know about it, and you know damn well Cole would never say nothing.” they laughed at Cole’s stoicism.  Shane added, “I jes’ want me Cole because he keeps me on the straight and narrow.  He don’t say much, but when he does I know it’s important, and I listen.  I jes’ think he’s ma’ best chance to make it on my own.” he wished he hadn’t said that last sentence.  Did it make him appear weak or vulnerable?  Angus didn’t seem to be paying attention.

“I don’t know, Son.  Cole’s a lifer.  He’s a valuable slave.”

“He’s a lifer ‘cause he begged you to accept him as a lifetime slave.  Judge Potter done told me he tried to talk him out of it, but he went ahead and done it anyways.  You was gonna’ lose him because he was due for manumission and probation jes’ like I’m gonna’ be.  You didn’t pay nothing extra for him becoming a lifer but transfer fees and paperwork.”

“What do you plan to do, free him?” Angus challenged.

“Naw, Sir.  Why would I wanna’ go and do a stupid thing like that?  He’s too valuable to me jes’ like he is.  I wouldn’t even think on it until he’s much older.  If he works hard for me and makes me money, I might consider put’n him out to pasture when he gits too old to work.” Shane spread it on thick. “One thing I’ll never have to worry about is him talk’n back to me.” Shane laughed.  That got a grin out of Angus.  Shane could see the wheels turning in Angus’ head.   He knew he had him interested and about to take the bait, now if he could just set the hook.  “Think about it, Master.  You ain’t got no plans to help me other than the money.  I’ll sign a contract to do all your farrier work for your ranch for costs for two years; I’ll bill you for materials only.”

“Hell, the labor’s what costs?  Make it five years.” Angus countered.  If he was bidding, Shane knew he took the bait and would run with it.

“Three!” Shane exclaimed and Angus knew that was Shane’s final offer, but it was a good solid offer; it was a good deal for both of them.  Angus was impressed.

“Okay, but what about my initial investment for Cole?”

“How much was he?”

“I paid the same for him I paid for you, fifty thousand.”

“Yeah, but you got twice as many years out of him as you got out of me for the same price.  For ten years of work that’s five thou a year investment.  I earned you much more than your initial investment in me, Master Angus and you know it.  With Cole you got a freebe.  That man’s earned you five times what I done.  Furthermore, at forty-eight he’s a little long in the tooth to be considered prime cowboy slave meat.  He ain’t got but about ten more good years of hard work in him, and you ain’t taken care of his teeth.  His teeth need extensive repairs or his health is gonna’ start failing him.  You’re looking at several thousand dollars for dental work.”

“You ain’t fool’n me, boy.  With your pull with the Admiral, you’ll git him the longshot, knock fifteen to twenty years off’n his age and have him for a hell of a lot longer than that.” Angus challenged.

“We’re negotiating on an Earth bases here, not some science-fiction fantasy world.  Why ever’ body knows there ain’t no such things as no flying saucers and aliens.” Shane tried to sound like a red-necked hick, winked at Angus, and they laughed together.  Shane could swear Angus was enjoying the wrangling.  It was almost like he was pushing Shane to the limit, testing him, to see how committed he was to his idea.  He could also tell Angus was impressed with his raw natural business acumen.  He’d been around Angus too many years not to have some rub off on him.  The more Shane haggled the further away he led Angus from the real truth of his purpose, but it wasn’t dishonest.  After all, he did want Cole for his slave.  For how long was another matter.  Not even Cole needed to know that.  

“I’ll give you forty thousand for him.” Shane stated firmly.

“If I sell him to you, I want a personal contract with you he’ll remain a slave for thirty years after you take ownership.  If'n you make any attempt to free him before then, Cole becomes my slave.” Angus replied.

“What?  Thirty years?  You gotta’ be shit’n me.  That’s crazy talk.  Naa, no way!  I cry foul.  Why the hell would you want that?  You ain’t got no contract on no slave like that.  I know you, Master Angus, you wouldn’t buy a slave with a condition like that.  You’d laugh at the seller, and all he’d see is yore’ big backside as you walked out a’ the room.  That ain’t fair to me or Cole.  Once he’s my slave, he’s my personal property.  Ain’t no damn business of yours what I do with him less’n I ask your advice.  I already done told you, he’ll remain my slave until he gits older.  You got my word.”

“Yeah, you’re right about all them things, but this is business, Son, and I want something in writing to guarantee you ain’t gonna’ do some’um stupid.  The question is, how bad do you want him?” Angus leaned back in his seat and grinned at Shane like he had him on the ropes.  Shane rebounded quickly and went for the sucker punch.

“Not bad enough to buy into your control of him or me.  Even if I might consider a concession like that, it drops my bid to twenty thou, Master.”

“Twenty thousand?  You ain’t much of a horse trader, boy.  Don’t insult your seller.” Angus tried to appear hurt and disgusted, but Shane saw through him.  Shane reasoned Angus couldn’t be too hurt or disgusted if he kept grinning at him.  Shane came back with a strong right hook.

“No disrespect intended, Sir, but didn’t you just insult the buyer?  What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.  Six a' one, half a dozen of the other.  It’s simple, bottom line, the more strings and conditions the less valuable you make Cole as a property.  May I remind you, we ain’t haggling horse flesh here.  We’re talking about the body and soul of a human being; although, some might argue slaves ain’t human.” Shane conceded, then continued, “But I know that can’t be right, I never gave up my humanity.  I’ll agree to ten years at thirty thousand.” Shane’s voice told Angus not to push him an inch further, or he would walk away.

“Twenty years at thirty and you got chore’self a deal, boy!” Angus exclaimed pounding the flat of his hand on the table.  He smiled knowing he pushed Shane to his limit, but he was proud of his little brother for fighting hard and reasoning well for what he wanted.  It was at that moment Angus knew Shane would make it in the world.  He didn’t back down from him, and Shane fought Angus tooth and nail to get himself the best deal he could.  And he did get himself a bargain.

“Okay!” Shane agreed, but the contract has to read: In the event of your untimely demise the contract between us is null and void and not transferrable to any relative other than me.” Shane added as an extra rider.

“Agreed, boy!  You got chore’self a deal!” Angus grinned and stuck out his big hand.

“Done and done!” Shane took his hand and they shook on it.  

“So, it stands to reason why you’ll need the old truck.” Angus mused.

“Just ‘til I get on my feet and can afford a newer one and newer tools.  Since we’ll be taking care of your ponies you won’t need it for three years no ways.  I’ll make you a gentleman’s agreement: once I can afford it, or three years, whichever comes first, I’ll return the old truck and tools to you.”  They shook on that as well.

“I suppose the two ponies you want are yours and Cole’s?” Angus remembered.

“Yes, Sir.  They is.” Shane used the cowboy vernacular.

“Take ‘em.  Them worthless oat burners mean more to you and Cole than they’re worth to me.” he laughed. “Them two old nags’ll eat chu’ out a’ house and home, boy.” they shared a laugh together.

“Thanks, Master.  They will be appreciated and taken good care of.”

“I have no doubt.  You have the care and compassion and Cole has the know-how.  You thought about where you gonna’ live, Son?”

“I’ve made arrangements to stay with an old friend for a while.  I’ll be taking Cole with me.”

“When you leaving?”

“Friday afternoon after the court hearing.”

“That soon?”

“I think a clean break is for the best, Master.  Beside I don’t care to be around when Master Bill comes back.”

“Understandable.  Maybe you’re right.  Birds gotta’ fly.  You know you got a party at our brother’s ranch on Saturday and one at Parsons on Sunday.  Seems like the Grange is pulling out all the stops for Saturday and the colonies been planning for weeks for Sunday.  We’ll git all them papers and contracts together tomorrow morning and have them ready for the judge to look over.  We’ll go to the bank on Friday after yore’ hearing, and I’ll make sure you have access to your money.  You can have them cut me a check for Cole and you’re on your own.  I love you, boy, and I’m proud of you.”

“I love you, too, Master Angus.”

“Aww, fuck it!  Let’s drop the slave/master shit, Son.  Barring some tragedy, God forbid, I don’t see you not sailing through tomorrow and Friday.  Call me Angus or brother from now on.  You’ve earned the right.  It’s good to have my little brother back.” Angus teared up again.  Then he added, “Thank, God, we got us a plan.  Now can we go back to the ‘Captain Goodnight’ suite and seal this deal with another fuck.  Talk’n horse or slave trading turns me on some’um fierce.  Sometimes after winning a good bargain I got’s to find me a restroom with a private stall and jack-off.” Angus laughed.

“I shore’ could use me another big ole help'n of yore’ fine cowboy dick, brother.  That last one just warmed me up.  My guts been growling like an old hound dog hungry for his bone.” Shane poured on the cowboy bullshit.

“Let’s slap some leather, cowboy.  I can’t wait to git in yore’ saddle and ride off into the sunset; that is, if’n there was one on Mars.” They shared another laugh.

They fucked until almost midnight Earth time.  Shane set his travel alarm, they grabbed several hours sleep, and were up by four, had a hearty sunrise breakfast on the balcony, checked out and went back through the gates to the ranch.  On the way, Shane had to sign several more autographs and Angus noticed he signed them Captain Shane Goodnight.  They immediately went to Angus’ office and spent the morning gathering paperwork pertaining to their agreements.  Shane typed up their contracts and plan for Angus to present to Judge Potter.  By the time they finished Shane was tired, but it was a good tired; he had a light heart.  He hadn’t even been out to tell Cole yet.

“Angus, is it all right with you if I share our agreement with Cole?”

“Don’t see why not, Son.  S’far as I’m concerned it’s a done deal.  Tell him to start git’n his shit together and loading it into the old truck.  Tell him to git them ponies ready, and hitch up the small two stall trailer.  You can take your saddles, too.  You can bring the trailer back in a day or so.  H’it ain’t used much no how.  If’n I gits any calls for farrier work I’ll take their names and numbers and tell ‘em you’ll git back to ‘em in a few days.  You gonna’ give the Grange a deal like I done?”

“Oh, yeah, for sure.  They’ve become some of our best customers.  They’re also the nicest to work for.” Shane allowed.

They barely got all the papers together and in one folder for Angus to carry to Judge Potter.  He left about a quarter to eight and walked into the Judge’s office at five to nine.  He was right on time.  The old judge ushered him in, shook hands, greeted Angus warmly and set him down.  

“Talk to me, Son.  What’s going on?” the judge was short on time.

“Me and Shane got away yesterday and had a great afternoon and evening at a lodge I think he mentioned to you.  Says he promised to take you there soon.  I know you’ll enjoy it.  We talked and came up with what I think is a good plan.”

Angus told about the bank account for all the donations and his own contributions to Shane’s ‘freedom fund.’  He showed the judge his accounting of gifts for Shane and deposits to the bank.  They were all carefully entered and dated into a ledger and were accompanied with bank deposit receipts.  Angus went on to tell him about Shane’s plan to work as a farrier and what he wanted from Angus.  Angus seemed to get more excited and animated as he went on describing the hard bargain he held Shane to.

The old judge was laughing inside to find out everything he saw in his dream and what Shane told him was coming true.  He was thrilled for Shane and Cole, but he didn’t let on.  He was all business with Angus.  He wondered why Angus couldn’t have just given Cole to the boy, but somehow he knew Shane would want it this way so’s not to be beholden to Angus.  Actually, thirty thousand for a prize slave and a good man like Cole Jenkins was more than a fair price to Judge Potter.  He entertained the idea, Angus Goodnight, for all his bull of the woods bravado, was the one who came out on the short end of the deal.  Did he plan it that way?  Was Angus a wiser man than the old judge and Shane gave him credit for being?  Maybe it was Angus’ way of testing Shane to see if he could swim with the sharks?  To get them to gather you have to spread chum in the water to make it interesting for them.  Once Shane convinced Angus he could, indeed, swim in shark infested waters, maybe Angus gave him a break.

Potter complimented Angus and told him he did a good job.  He made his judgment about Shane, but so Angus wasn’t too surprised there would be a small change in his original decision.  He would announce it in court tomorrow, but he assured Angus it would be in the boy’s best interest.  He asked if Shane said where he would be staying?  Angus said he would be staying with an old friend.  The judge said they could get that information tomorrow at the hearing.  If Shane didn’t want Angus to know right away, Potter wasn’t about to tell him.  The judge took the folder from Angus, bid him farewell, watched him leave his office and shut the door.  The old man leaned back in his chair, smiled to himself, pulled out his small silver flask from his inside coat pocket, raised it the air and spoke,  “Here’s to you, young man, and your love for your adopted dad.  Good for you.  I’m proud of my new family.”  With that he threw back his head and indulged himself with the sweet, dark amber, fiery liquid.  He couldn’t wait until tomorrow afternoon for the last and best official act of his career, his retirement and the start of a new but final era of his life.

* * * * * * *

Shane walked slowly back to the bunkhouse.  He wondered why he didn’t run to the arms of his surrogate dad and lover.  He didn’t want to hurry.  He wanted to enjoy and savor the moment.  Shane thought he knew how the guy felt in that movie about that big boat what sunk, like he was the king of the world.  He found Cole sitting with Phil and several of the other, older, seasoned cowboys in the slave mess hall.  They were taking a break to sit down and have a cup of coffee together.  Shane sat down next to Cole.  Cole smiled at him.

“Welcome home, odd-job.” he said quietly, “How’d it go with your brother.”

“Better’n I thought it might.” Shane allowed.

“You know he appointed me lead cowboy early this morning.  He should be give’n the job to Phil.  He’s senior waddie around here.” Cole insisted.

“Don’t make me no never mind,” said Phil, “I don’t like responsibility no ways.”

“Well, congratulations, big Phil, Master Angus just told me to tell you, you’re the new top waddie as of this moment.” Shane told him.

“Really, why?  What’s going on?” Phil asked surprised.

“Cole will be leaving with me tomorrow afternoon.” Cole dropped his coffee cup.  Coffee went everywhere.

“What?  Are you josh’n me, odd-job?” Cole challenged.

“Think you could git used to calling me, Master odd-job, Pa?” Shane grinned.  The older cowboys were slapping Cole on his back and congratulating Shane.  They were happy for the two men.  They knew they were a winning combination.  Shane grabbed a towel and cleaned up Cole’s mess.

“I knew you had it in you.  I never had me no doubts.  I knew when you walked through that door you’d done it, you pulled it off.  God bless you, boy.  We’re gonna’ be just fine.” Cole said with more enthusiasm than Shane ever saw from him before.

“Ma’ brother, Angus, said for you to git chore’ shit together and throw it in the old truck.  We be taking it, too.  Hitch the two-horse trailer to the back so’s we can load Jax and Tilly Mae when we git ready to pull out.  Oh, yes, and throw in our saddles.”

“Damn that’s tomorrow.  Am I gonna’ git to go to court with you?” Cole asked.

“Don’t see why not.  I’ll ask Angus, but I 'on’t see no problem.  You may have to sit in the slave gallery, but at least you’ll be there with me.”

“Hell, I wish’t we could all be there, Son.” said big Phil as he grabbed Shane and gave him a big bear hug and kiss. “By the way, what the hell ju’ say to that baby slave in the shower the other night?  He gimme’ the best damn fuck I got from a baby slave since I fucked you ten years ago.  That little som'bitch had his purtty little butt all over my old dick.  I couldn’t feed it to him fast or hard enough.  He moaned and carried on and told me I was the best damn fuck he ever’ done had.  Thought I was gonna’ blow his head plumb clean off when I shot ma’ wad.” All the cowboys laughed at Phil.  He could be painfully descriptive.  

“I just give him the same advice you gimme’ ten years ago, Phil.  He said he didn’t like to git fucked, and he weren’t never gonna’ be broken.”

“Well, I think you jes’ might a’ changed his mind.  I’m first on his list for fuck’n tonight.” Everyone laughed. “Fuck, the old man should fire Master Bill and hire you on as his ramrod and slave trainer.  You’d make a better trainer than him.”

“I already done got me a job as a ramrod, Phil.  Me and Cole start next Monday on the Potter ranch over to Willow Creek.  Cole’s gonna’ be my first cowboy slave.  We’re gonna’ do our farrier work to keep us afloat, but we’ll see you men a lot.  Part of my contract with Master Angus is to do all the farrier work for this here ranch for three years for cost; he has to pay for materials.”

“Damn, that ain’t a bad deal, especially for the big boss man.  He don’t have to worry none about that part of his business no more.  You men will git all the business in the area.” allowed Eli Stone, big Phil's partner.

Cole and Shane retired to their room.  Cole held Shane and they kissed.

“Do I still get to kiss my young master after tomorrow?" Cole asked.

“You have a standing order to kiss him, slave.  My pa always has the right to kiss me.  It ain’t gonna’ be hard, Cole.  We got the rest of our lives to work hard and play harder, but we’ll be together.  I will take you places you can’t imagine when we ain’t working, and when the time comes, I will take you away from this world to live in another wonderful place.”

“If anyone could do it, I got a feeling you just might.  You lead, young master odd-job, and yore’ faithful slave will follow.” Cole assured him.

 * * * * * * *

Angus had to take three vehicles into town that afternoon for Shane’s hearing.  He allowed Shane to pick as many of the older, seasoned cowboy slaves who could fit into the back of his huge pickup and Cole drove them and Shane.  Angus and his family took two separate autos.  The ranch wagon was filled with relatives and the go-to-meet’n car was filled with immediate family.  When they arrived it took them some time to find parking.  There were people everywhere.  They had to set up chairs outside and had a huge television screen so people could follow the hearing.  Angus couldn’t believe when they walked into the courtroom the place was packed.  There was standing room only and people were packed together like sardines.  Cole gave Shane a hug and went with his cowboy slave brothers to the slave gallery.  They had the best seats in the house.  There was an area the sheriff’s deputies roped off for Shane’s family, but Angus and Shane were ushered to the front of the court to a table in front of the judge’s bench.  Shane looked around and smiled at all his friends.

The entire Grange was there.  Charlie, Waco, Shane’s two other brothers, Jessie and Dermont Goodnight and their families, Ramrod Long, and his family, all his cowboy brothers, Lucas, Indigo/Blue, Little Bear, JR, JR’s mom Ida Mae and Hank Morgan.  Lucas waved to him and showed him his crossed fingers for good luck.  The entire Steele family was there including the four gospels, their bat-shit crazy sister and her tranny husband.  The slave gallery was packed.  He could even see Waco’s big lummox, Ox, standing at the rear, head and shoulder above the men.  There were even a few alien faces among the crowd no one else would guess.  Captain Vinceeth and a number of his men were present, dressed in their best cowboy clothes.  The not so old looking Chief was there with several of his chiefs and wives in full headdress and costume.  Shane noticed Little Bear was dressed like his Indian family.  He made a small wave to them and the old Chief nodded his head in acknowledgment, smiled and gave him a thumbs up.  Shane almost got emotional but reached down and grabbed Angus’ hand.  Angus didn’t pull away.  He gently squeezed Shane's hand and held on.  He was as moved as his little brother.

“Hear ye!  Hear ye!  All rise for the Honorable Judge Clarence Potter.”

Judge Potter came from his chambers, climbed the steps to his bench, set in his chair, raised his gavel and slammed it to the block.

“Court is now in session.  Please be seated.”  Everyone sat down.  It sounded like a sea of bodies moving at once.  The old judge grinned as he looked around the room at all the well meaning faces.  For all the perversion the American government suffered, this was still the root of his country.  These were the people who shared his joys and bad times over the years, and he loved everyone of them.  “Amazing!” he said to no one in particular, “Of course you’ve all come here today to see me, right?” everyone laughed.  He looked directly at Shane and spoke.  “What do you think of this, young man?  These good people of your community have come out to wish you well and see this old man does right by you.  What say you, petitioner Goodnight?”

“I have no words to tell what’s in my heart, your honor.  I’m overwhelmed.” Shane choked out.

“Indeed.  So say you.  So say I.  I’m truly overwhelmed.  I can’t imagine a better gathering for such a fine young man who has turned his life around, served his time of indentured servitude and is looking forward to a bright future. 
I’m glad the entire town has turned out for this young man’s hearing.  It does this old man’s heart a world of good.  I will have more words to say about that later, but now we must get down to business.  The first order of business this afternoon is an announcement of a personal nature.  I’m hoping Shane won’t mind if I steal the spotlight from him for a moment.” The people laughed.  Shane smiled at the judge and shook his head.  He knew what was coming.  “I’m announcing my retirement from the bench effective immediately, at the close of this court session this afternoon.  Monday morning the court will be presided over by the Honorable William L. Anderson.  All the papers have been signed, filed and accepted by the federal government.  That’s why this particular session has such importance and poignancy for me.  Thank God, my last case to decide doesn’t have to be a murder trial or one where I must, by state or federal mandate, ruin some young man’s life for a minor offence by having to sentence him to a lifetime of slavery, or worse, to a corporate work camp.  I know we all wish Judge Anderson a long and successful tenure on this bench.

The second order of business before the court is the case of a slave petitioner who wishes to petition the court for his freedom.  Today completes ten years of slavery for Shane Goodnight, and as he was instructed when I sentenced him, if he behaved himself and had no marks against him he would be eligible to become a free man in ten years; however, he would be subject to probation for another five years.  He has come before this court this afternoon to petition for his freedom.  As is the custom of the court I must ask if there are any among you who will stand for this young man to help him in his adjustment period to free man status and help insure his success in his freedom, emotionally, spiritually and financially.  If so will you please rise.”

Angus rose standing next to Shane who remained seated.  At the same time, fifty other men in the community rose as one.  They looked around at each other and smiled.  A few chuckled.  The old judge just shook his head in amazement.  Shane turned to look and tears started rolling down his cheeks.

“That about says it all, young man.  I dare say I would shed a few tears too, to see so many fine men, all good citizens of our community, who had that much faith in me.  If you gentlemen will permit me,” the old judge rose from his seat, “so I may be counted among you as one who will stand for this young man.” the bailiff took a head count including the judge, “Now, that we are counted we may all sit down.  He set down and everyone joined him.

“Shane’s owner and master also happens to be his older brother, Angus Goodnight.  Usually the court frowns on relatives becoming the owners of members of their family, but in Shane’s case an exception was made.  Angus Goodnight and his partner Bill Birdsall are known to be two of the foremost slave trainers and owners in the state of Texas.  They are also known for their exemplary care and fair work ethics among slave owners.  They set the standard for good slave care and management.  Even at that, Angus Goodnight and his ramrod were under close scrutiny and observation to make certain Shane was not treated as family, but served his function as his sentence demanded as a slave.  Angus and his ramrod were subject to surprise onsite inspections any time of the day or night to make sure Shane was not being shown favoritism over other slaves.  You may rest assured the young man hasn’t had a cakewalk; Shane was treated like any other slave with all that implies.

Mr. Goodnight brought some papers by my office yesterday morning which have been noted by the court as certified legal documents.  Notable among them is Mr. Goodnight’s decision to sell one of his slaves, one Cole Jenkins, to his younger brother upon his manumission.  It is the order of this court that will all be taken care of immediately after this hearing.  Will the slave petitioner please rise.” Judge Potter indicated for Shane to stand.  Shane rose from his chair and Angus rose with him.  They were still holding hands.  Potter saw it and smiled to himself.  His question of Angus’ ‘wiseness’ had just been answered.  He knew Angus planned all along to see Shane got Cole, but he wanted Shane to think he did the work.

“Shane Goodnight, it is the opinion of this court you have served your time well as an indentured slave.  You have paid your debt for the damage you caused, also to the society at large and are therefore, in the eyes of this court, eligible for manumission with the condition you serve five more years probation; however, in rare cases the court has the option to rescind previous judgments that seemed appropriate at the time, but through selfless actions of the slave in question might be considered grounds for reconsideration.  I have another folder here on my desk,” the judge held up a four inch thick manilla folder, “in which I have received letter after letter from the people of this community, from the youngest to the oldest.  I have a couple in here from pre-school children who insisted their parents write me about their beloved Shane who helped them in some small way.  All these letters attest to the same thing.  This is a fine young man who deserves a break.

I didn’t believe anyone could be so good so I found out for myself last week.  I wanted to see what this man was all about.  I won’t keep you folks all afternoon by telling you of his kindness and consideration for others, but I will tell you something my father told me many years ago when I was a young man.  He said, “Son, watch how a man treats his animals and you will see how he treats his fellow man.”  I watched this young man go out of his way to bring comfort and healing to three older, suffering animals.  In his own words he told me he would do the same for any of God’s creatures who were suffering.  I believe him.  Therefore, young man, Mr. Shane Goodnight, it is my great pleasure to rescind my judgement of fifteen years, to ten.  There will be no probation for you.  So let it be entered into the record, from this day forth, Shane Goodnight is a free man with all the privileges afforded all free men.”  The old judge banged his gavel.  “This ends our court session.  Let me be the first to congratulate you, Shane, you are now a free man.” the old judge said.

A roar went up from the crowd and everyone rushed to get to Shane.  Judge Potter came down from his bench.  The crowed let him through.  He shook Shane’s hand, then hugged and kissed him in front of everyone.

“I’m no longer a judge.  I can do this.” he whispered to Shane. “Will I see you and Cole later this evening, Son?” he whispered to Shane.

“I think so, Judge.  My brother knows I want to get out of there immediately.  We agreed on it.  I’m gonna’ hold him to his word.” Shane said through his tears.  Cole Jenkins was standing in the slave gallery with tears streaming down his face.  All the cowboy slaves were weeping for Shane.  For an hour or more it was utter chaos, but he and Angus still had business to take care of.  Charlie made an announcement everyone was invited to a celebration party at his ranch tomorrow starting at ten o’clock in the morning.  

The banker held the bank open an hour longer for Angus and Shane to transfer funds and to establish Shane’s right to his money.  Everything was made legal.  Shane was given Cole’s papers and copies of all agreements and contracts.  The originals were held by the court.  Cole’s papers of ownership were given to Shane.  Everywhere he went people wanted to hug and kiss him to congratulate him.  All Shane wanted was to be with Cole as quickly as possible.  As the banker took information from Shane as to where to send his statements and further information Angus was with him.  Shane gave his address as, “Mr. Shane Goodnight, Foreman, Potter Ranch, Rural Route 4, Willow Creek, Texas.”  Angus got a huge grin on his face, slapped him on the back and broke up laughing.  He didn’t see that one coming.

“Good for you, little brother.  You’re casting your lot with the best.” he allowed.

The slaves waited for Shane and Angus to come out of the bank to give Shane a ride back to the Goodnight ranch.  When they came out of the bank the cowboy slaves watched Angus shake hands with his younger brother, hug and kiss him again, and walk away to drive his family back to the ranch.  Shane strolled over to the cowboy slaves with the exaggerated swagger and rolling gate of a cowboy surely full of himself with a big grin on his face as wide as Texas itself.  It was the first time in ten years he had money in his pocket.  Cole had a big smile on his face.  He dropped to his knees on the main street in front of everyone including his brothers and kissed each of Shane’s boots.  Shane was ready for him and went through the slave/master ritual.  They shared a kiss that got all the cowboys wet and hard and garnered a few lustful looks and erections from many so called straight cowboys around town.

“Is it official?  Am I your slave, now, Master odd-job?” asked Cole grinning.

“You are, indeed, my slave, Pa.  Let’s go back to the ranch, gather up our shit, and get out of there.” There went up another whoop and roar from their brothers.  They climbed into the truck and made the journey back to the Goodnight ranch.  Some of the cowboys who stayed behind already loaded their ponies into the trailer.  Shane and Cole had all their gear in the old truck before they went to court.  They said tearful goodbyes to everyone.  Angus’ family came out to say goodbye and wish Shane and Cole well.  Angus got Cole aside for a minute.  Cole dropped to his knees and went through the slave ritual with his owner of many years.  Angus kissed Cole with all that was in his heart, and Cole returned it in kind.

“Take care of him, Cole.  He’s ma’ baby brother.  For all the shit I done put him through, I love him like no other.  He’s special in ways you ain’t got no idea about, but he will tell you; he will share everything with you.”

“You know I’ll do my best by him, Master Angus, just like I done tried to do for you.  Thanks for having the wisdom and courage to sell me to Master Shane.” he said.

“If there was one man on this planet I’d want to be with my little brother it would be you, Cole.  I trust you that much, and the two of you ain’t fool’n me for a gotdamn minute.  You been in love with that boy since he come to this ranch as my slave.  He looks up to you like the dad he never had, and loves you with all his heart.  He done told me last night he had to become a slave to find hisself a dad, but I knew he weren’t talking about me.  You should be proud of him like he was your own son.  He fought me tooth and nail to git chu’ away from me, and he done a damn good job of it.” Angus grinned.  Cole didn’t answer.  He just got a big shit eating grin on his face, looked down at his old boots and shuffled them in the dirt.  Angus didn’t expect him to answer.  “You been the best slave I ever owned, Cole.  Don’t let me down.  Make me proud of you.”

“You can count on it, Master Angus.” the two big men shook hands, hugged, and Cole returned to Shane’s side.

Shane and Cole pulled out with everyone waving to them wishing them well.  Shane asked Cole to drive.  He didn’t think he could keep his mind on the road.  Shane had Cole pull over as they drove past the orchard.  He got out and grabbed a couple of ripe apples off a tree.  He jumped back in the old truck and Cole started up again.  

“For me?” Cole looked at the apples hungrily.

“Sorry, Pa, they’re for a couple of old friends at the Potter ranch.” he said, “They helped me get five years knocked off my sentence.  It’s the least I can do for them to say thanks.” he smiled.

“Shouldn’t you git one more.  The judge said three animals.” Cole asked.

“I think the third animal was himself, Cole.” Shane said humbly.

“Makes sense to me.” allowed Cole.

They made the drive to the Potter ranch in about twenty-five minutes.  They weren’t burning up the blacktop.  Cole was taking his good time.  About halfway there Cole reached over and took Shane’s hand and held it the rest of the way.

“We’re gonna’ make it.  We’ll be okay, Master odd-job.” he smile at Shane.  He had the most beautiful smile, but held his lips together to hide his bad teeth.  Shane would soon take care of that.  He would have Cable generate a whole new set for him.  They would be more perfect than those he grew for himself and would have the extra added advantage of never suffering from decay or rot.  As they drove up the gravel road to the Potter Ranch, Cole let out a low whistle.

“Damn, it’s a pretty place.”

“Y’ain’t seen nothing, yet, buckaroo.” said Shane.  

They caught sight of the old judge sitting on his front porch steps.  To his right, with their heads hanging over the fence were the two old ponies.  Shane sent them a message he was on his way and was very near.  He had treats for them.  They pulled the old tuck up under the shade of a big tree and parked.  The got out and Potter was there to greet and shake hands with Shane.  Cole fell to his knees in front of the old man.  Potter look to Shane for a signal.  Shane nodded his head to allow Cole to go through the ritual.  The judge did and responded well.  He gave Cole a kiss that would not deny his welcome.  

“Are you gentlemen hungry?” asked Judge Potter.

“We ain’t stopped long enough to eat since breakfast.” said Shane. “But before we can think about food, we need to get our ponies out of the back and settled in.  Right now, I need to thank three of my friends.” Shane smiled at Potter and started walking toward the fence. “Come, Cole, I want you to meet Race and Pete.” Shane handed Cole one of his apples as they were walking.  The judge fell in behind them.  Shane stopped and allowed him to catch up.  They got to the fence and Shane introduced them to Cole who fed Race his apple and Shane fed Pete his.  They were happy campers.  

“Thanks, guys.” was all Shane said to them, but the old judge and Cole knew why he was thanking them.  Shane turned to the judge and took him into his arms and gently kissed him.  “And most of all, thank you, Sir.” There were no other words necessary.  

Shane and Cole unloaded their ponies and put them in the pasture with the two older horses.  They seemed happy to have new blood around they could talk with.  They walked down to the barn and opened two more stalls, put fresh hay down, and fed them all.  Shane could tell the old man was thrilled to have them there.  It was shortly after mid afternoon and as they were walking back up to house, Shane turned to Judge Potter and spoke.

“Did Mrs. Huggins cook up a storm this morning for you, because you might have two hungry cowhands for supper this evening?”

“No, not on the days I’m going to be away.  She has a schedule.  She does certain chores on certain days.  She usually does light stuff on Friday and leaves early to get home to her family.  She only comes three times a week, but I’m lucky to have her.  I thought we might fix something.  I ain’t too good in the kitchen, but I’m learning.”

“A group effort in the kitchen sounds good to me.  Cole and I are pretty handy with a can opener.” Shane laughed. “Do we need to go to the store and get anything?” he asked.  

“No, I’ve got some steaks in the fridge, a couple a' cans a’ red beans, some taters, and some salad fixings.”

“Sounds like a good cowboy supper to me, Sir.” said Cole.

“After today’s emotional high it will be nice to spend the afternoon and a relaxed evening with family.” Shane said.

“Amen to that, Son.” agreed Potter.

Since it was still early afternoon, Shane wanted to get settled into the foreman’s house.  They unhitched the horse trailer and set it aside under some trees.  They would return it one day next week.  The men drove in the old truck up the road past the big house and pulled up in front of the foreman’s house.

“We gonna’ live here, Master?” Cole asked.

“It comes with the foreman’s job, Son.” Potter allowed.

“It’s like a palace.  Needs some loving care, but nothing we can’t handle with a couple a' days work.” Cole allowed.

Wait ‘til you see the inside, Pa.” Shane said.  Potter grinned at Shane calling Cole ‘pa.’  He thought it was a wonderful honorific cognomen.  Cole was even more impressed after Shane and Potter took him for a tour of the house.  They unload their things and began to take the covers off the furniture.  Everything they did was like a new adventure together, and Potter took great delight in seeing the men share each new discovery with one another.  As the sun was setting they decided to walk back to the big house to fix supper.  Between the three of them they fixed a wonderful meal.  Angus gave Shane a bag of slave chow in case they couldn’t get food right away.  He was grateful because it might come in handy when there was nothing else in the cupboards.  They talked about many things, and it was like Potter’s dream was coming true.  He never felt so relaxed with anyone and knew it had a lot to do with his retirement.  He never wanted to hold a position of power again.  It was just too difficult to juggle personal relationships with those who would be your friends to curry favors and gain political clout.  While they were not stupid men by any stretch of the imagination, Shane and Cole were about as basic as you could get.  Potter reveled in that comfort.  Shane and Cole cleaned up the kitchen and put everything away while still jawing with the old judge.
“You are coming with us to my brother’s ranch for the celebration?” Shane asked Potter.

“I don’t know if I should, Son.” he replied.

“Of course you should.  You’re no longer a judge and you’re very much a part of our new family with all that implies.”

“I agree with my young master, Sir.  If I belong to him and you, then ain’t it fair you should belong to us?” Cole reasoned.

“Ah, ha!” Potter pointed his finger at Shane.  “Now I know where you got your sound reasoning, boy.  You’ve been learning from your pa.” he laughed and Shane laughed with him.

“You know, Judge, he never said very much, but when he did I listened, because it was always important.”

“I guess it would do me good to get out and form new relationships with the people of our community.  I’ll go if you want.”

“Good.  It starts at ten, but we should be there early to see if we can lend a hand.  I noticed you got stuff for breakfast in the fridge.  We’ll get up early to come up and fix breakfast for you, and have coffee.”

“There’s enough in there for the three of us.  We can go shopping later.”  Potter was thinking out loud.

“They’ll be more food than you can imagine at my brother’s.  My brother always puts on a big spread.  Then all them women of the Grange bring the best damn dishes you can imagine.  I’ll ask his housekeeper, Mrs. Wallace, for a couple of containers of leftovers.  We’ll have something in the fridge if we get peckish.  But before we go, I need to prepare both of you.  Remember our conversation about telling you all after your retirement and me becoming a free man, Judge?”

“I remember, Son.” Potter agreed.  

“Actually, there’s gonna’ be two parties.  The one tomorrow is for the town folks and the Grange together.  There will be another party Sunday in another community close to my uncle’s ranch.  Nevertheless, you men just might see some unusual folks and animals tomorrow.  It’s a part of my life neither of you know about.” Shane explained.

“Is it part of your alternate reality you spoke of, Son?” Potter asked him.

“Yes, Sir.  Like Jack and Jill and more giant creatures like Waco’s lummox slave; huge warrior-like men, who are fierce looking but have gentle hearts; talking dogs; and beautiful pixie women and warriors what fly.  Beautifully colored crystal people what can talk and sing to you in your mind.” Shane watched the two men as they looked at him in a stunned silence.  They looked at each other and broke up laughing.  Cole remember the fantastic rumors he heard about Angus, Shane, and Bill Birdsall’s adventures away from the ranch.

“I don’t know, Master Potter, I done heard me some strange things about my young master.  I never gave them much truck, because you hear a lot of horse shit from cowboy slaves.”

“All I ask is you men keep an open mind, and I’ll try to explain anything you don’t understand.  I suppose I could show you some videos what might soften the shock.” Shane went on to explain how Lazarus Long arrived and told of his close involvement with him.  Shane spoke to Cole.  “Remember them old brooder houses what got struck by lightening and burned down on the ranch and you an me were suppose to clean up the charred mess?  You helped most of the day but got called away to do another job.” Shane jogged Cole’s memory. “While raking up I discovered a metal box.  I broke the lock off which had a book and some parchments in it.  I showed them to you, but we kept them a secret for years.  Well, the book was an historical record of Master Long’s family and how they come to be; plus, there were some weird looking scrolls written in a language we never saw before.”

“I remember.  You hid it and never said nothing about it after that.  I forgot about it.” recalled Cole.

“That’s right.  I done forgot about it until I first talked with Lazarus Long.  Them scrolls turned out to be the key what unlocked vast underground caverns on Mars where we’ve been storing animals and knowledge for the future, when the time comes to escape from Earth.”

“You mean you’ve been to Mars, Shane?” asked Potter incredulously.

“Many times.  I was there last night with my brother.  The lodge I told you about is on Mars, Judge Potter.” Shane told him.

“How could you get to Mars and back over night?  It just ain’t possible.” the old man challenged.

“It ain’t possible with the state of Earth’s technology, Sir.  I’m talk’n technology far beyond anything known on Earth.  We can travel the same way I got Jack and Jill here when I needed them, through gates.  Right this minute, as we speak, I got three robo-cams what watch over me and protect me.  They record ever’ thing I do.  It’s so’s my family can know where I am at any given moment and can contact me, or I can contact them.”

“Where are they, Master?  We can’t see ‘em.” challenged Cole.

“They’re phase shifted just out of our sight.  In other words, they’re invisible to us, but I can make them visible.  Robo-cam one, visible, Captain Shane Goodnight, access code 346-595 Alpha Tango Bravo.” Shane spoke and instantly there appeared a small silver orb in the room.  Shane got up to walk around, and it moved its position in relationship to his.  The two men were stunned.  “It’s capable of receiving scrambled video signals from my people and de-scrambling it to send a short signal to any T.V.  It’s capable of transporting people or things from one area to another, like Jack and Jill for instance.  It contains a highly concentrated laser cannon that can stun a man who might be holding a weapon on me.”

“Has Cole seen Jack and Jill?” Judge Potter asked.

“No.  Cole don’t know about all this.  I’ve kept it from him for his protection.”

“They were fantastic animals, Cole.  They had beautifully colored tails and were so gracious.  I remember Shane told me they were from another planet in a far off galaxy.  Is that right, Son?” Potter seemed like he was beginning to put things together.

“Yes, Sir.  With these devices I can contact my spaceship or Admiral Long’s ship the Bandersnatch.”

“You have your own spaceship, Master?” Cole asked.

“Yes, and that’s another thing.  You may hear some folks or critters call me Captain Shane tomorrow.  That’s why.”

“Where is your spaceship?” asked Judge Potter.

“Docked on board its mother ship, the Bandersnatch.”

“Can we see it?” asked Cole beginning to get excited.

“Sure.  Are you up for it, Judge?”

“I’ve always wondered if the rumors were true and who’s behind them.  Are they part of our government, Shane?”

“Naw, Sir.  This is altogether off world people who want to help us relocate when the end comes.  They’re busy collecting animal species, flora and fauna, and gathering the sum total of human knowledge.  They don’t have time to be political.”

“You mean it’s true.  There will be a great calamity.” Potter asked.

“Yes, Sir, in about five years, give or take, life on Earth will cease to exist as we know it.”

“My God, so soon.” he seemed devastated.

“Not to fear, Judge, you’re a part of my family now.  You will be chosen along with hundreds of thousands of others to be saved.  We’ve been gathering folks for five years.  Certainly I will take my slave with me, but he won’t always be a slave.  Like me and my brothers, he has to play a part even though I’ll introduce him to my greater family.  You will be expected to play your part as well, Judge.”

“What is my part, Shane?”

“Since you’re not political anymore, your job is to be a retired gentleman rancher.  That’s what you planned to be, ain’t it?  You’ll just be like me and Cole, part of a greater extended family.”

“Do you mean to tell me you had these cameras recording us when I... when we....?”  Cole couldn’t finish.  Judge Potter slapped his knee and laughed out loud.

“In glorious living color and holographic three dimensions, Pa.  Ever inch of yore’ fine cowboy dick filling my ass with its sweet goodness.  Wanna’ see?”  Shane rightly reckoned it would prove to the men he wasn’t blowing smoke up their butts.

“Fuck him!  I do!” said the old judge with enthusiam.  Shane and Cole laughed at his eagerness.

“Kyron are you hearing this?”

“I hear all, Captain Goodnight.  I record all.” Cole and Potter’s eyes got real big at the sound of Kyron’s deep booming voice coming from the robo-cams in surround stereo.  He sounded like the very voice of God almighty.  It was enough to make any man who was unprepared drop to his knees in fear.

“Turn on your T.V., Judge, and turn to channel 3.” Shane instructed him.  

The old man clicked on his new, enormously wide screen HDTV and changed its receiver to Channel 3.  There before them in wide screen on Master Bill’s bed was Shane’s handsome pa fucking his boy for all he was worth.  The old judge broke up laughing.  Cole blushed and shook his head.  He kept looking over at Shane and grinning real big.

“Leave it to cowboys to fuck with their boots on!” Potter slapped his knee and laughed.  The old man’s unmitigated delight got Shane’s big stoic cowboy slave laughing with him.

“Seemed like the right thing to do at the time.” Cole laughed, “I's jes’ carrying out yore’ orders, Judge.” Cole defended himself.

“And to my way a’ thinking, from the looks of it, you done a damn fine job, slave.” the judge laughed again.  Shane looked down at the old man’s crotch.  He was hard as a rock and drooling in his Wranglers.  Cole saw it, too, and grinned.  He was standing behind Potter and motioned if Shane wanted him to fellate the old man while he watched the video.  Shane took it from there.

“Sit on the couch, Judge.” Shane urged the old man, “Pa, be a good slave and help our partner out.”

The judge set down not taking his eyes off the screen.  He paid little attention to Cole as he knelt in front of him and removed his handsome cock from his Wranglers.  Cole was on him like a dog on a bone and sucked the old man until he couldn’t hold it any longer and yelled at the top of his voice.

“Sweet Jesus, boy, you never should a’ went and repaired my dessert making machine.  Take me, my handsome cowboy slave!”  he yelled to Cole.  He moaned and groaned as he climaxed into Cole’s well trained maw.  When he recovered a little and got his breath he spoke to them.

“That was wonderful.  Thanks, men.”

“It’s what family does for one another, Master Potter.” Shane told him.

Potter grabbed for the remote and clicked it off.  “I can’t watch no more of that right now.  You men will cause this old man to have a coronary.” he laughed. 

“Would you men like to see more videos of my other life?” Shane asked.

“I would, Master.” Cole said.

“I second that.” said the judge.

Shane showed them the micro communities or colonies on the Bandersnatch, the Buttercup and several other of the ships.  He explained that’s where the party on Sunday would be held among his alternate extended family.  He had a difficult time explaining microminiaturization to them but insisted they would understand it in time.  He told how the colonies were being populated with people ‘raptured’ by the Grange with people who were outcast, pariahs, and rejects from the theocracy now controlling the country.  He emphasized these were people the theocracy had thrown away and whom they rescued from sure death.  Shane stressed he and the Grange were not a political nor a paramilitary organization, but they definitely had the means to protect themselves if threatened.

Shane showed them videos of him naked on Mars running among the animals, being lifted gently onto the back of a huge mammoth bull to ride.  Shane showed them videos of him helping a baby Kentaurian and standing in a grove of mango trees surrounded by unicorns feeding them from his hand.  He showed them the videos of his cowboy brothers riding the great flying horses at the rodeo in Parsons on the Bandersnatch.  He showed them videos of the Evanescent children dissolving into thin air then reforming.  He showed them pictures of him sitting naked among many more Langerians like Jack and Jill.  The judge explained to Cole that’s what the critters looked like Shane brought to the ranch to help his old horses.

Shane showed them videos of the bladder whales of Venus, his conversation with Chuchulack and the cowboys singing with Brett Jones and the whales.  He showed them footage of him and his cowboy brothers mending the huge whales.  Potter and Cole were stunned by what they were seeing.  This was not fake video.  It was real.  Why would anyone go to such expense to fake something like this?  They were moved by the stories of this simple, humble man who traveled the universe and was telling them they were now a part of his family.  Shane went on and on to show them the nude Tao'Mac exercises of the Visallian warriors and they began to recognize men among them they knew including Shane.  He showed them videos of the singing pups and had them holding each other in laugher.  He showed them more and more videos of the animals and unusual critters he called his family.  It was midnight before Shane called a halt to the home movie machine.

“Now do you men understand some of the things I tell you about taking you places and showing you things you can only imagine?” Shane asked quietly.  They nodded silently, “And why we must continue with our double lives.” They nodded again like school children.  “We’ve been given a chance for a good life together as family for what time we have left on this world.  We must work hard to make each other proud of our accomplishments, and we must see to each others comfort and happiness until the time comes to leave.  We will also take among us, to work for us and support us, those who are worthy to be saved but have been cast out.  This is my dream I hope to share with you men.” Shane finished.

“Of course we’ll share it with you, Son.  It’s a wonderful dream, Shane.  I felt it in my dreams.  It felt so good, so right.  Where did my dreams come from?  Were they from you?”

“Naw, Sir.  They come from the Voices of the Wind’s of Consciousness and the Ancients.  They are not gods.  They are a highly developed and advanced specie that sort of act like watch dogs and shepherds for the universe.  The voices carry information and suggestions.  The Ancients guide and direct, but they believe in free will.  We are not controlled.  We have the power not listen to them and to ignore their warnings if we so choose, but it’s never best to do so.  There are a couple of men who hear the Ancients.  My nephew Waco is one and there is only one other.”

“And that would be you, Master?” Cole asked.

“Yes, Pa, it is.” Shane confirmed.

“I had my suspicions.  Remember I told you once there were two from the Goodnight breed I considered exceptional; one was your nephew Waco?  You were the other, Shane.  I only hope I live long enough to see it all come about.” the old man said quietly.

“Oh, ye of little faith.” Shane smiled at him, “Did I not tell you I would keep working on your dessert machine until you were in your late forties?” he laughed.  

“You told me that, and I love you for the thought.” Potter confessed.

“You also asked me what my family, the Grange, had to offer you?”

“I did.” the old judge knew Shane well enough by now to know somehow he could back up his claims.

“Well, now that you’re retired and I’m a free man, I can show you.” Shane said as he clicked the T.V. back on.

“Kyron, do you have some comparison pictures of several older men who have been administered the longshot?”

“I do, Captain Shane.  I’ll put them up for you one at a time.  When you’re ready for another just say, ‘next.’”

“Thanks, Kyron.”

The first picture to appear on the huge screen was that of the old Chief.  He was gray and his face looked like an old boot with lines and wrinkles.  He was missing many of his teeth.  Beside this picture was another of the same man about the age of forty-eight to fifty.  All the lines were gone.  His hair was dark and full, his eyes bright, his skin was clear and his teeth were perfect.

“Do you recognize Chief Ten Penny, Judge?  This is before and after an age regeneration serum developed by the scientist on board Admiral Long’s ship.  Next!”  Shane spoke and the pictures changed.  The next pictures were of Jack Hall.  Once again, Jack looked like the old oil field roughneck he was and the picture next to the older one looked twenty years younger with a full head of hair, perfect skin and teeth.

“Do you recognize this man, Judge.” Shane inquired.

“Yes, he’s Jack Hall, an oil field worker from Lubbock and Odessa.  He appeared in my court for his buddy who shot him in the back, Elam Stamper’s trial.  He’s a better man than I am.  He refused to testify against his friend, but Stamper was convicted anyway for attempted murder on the testimony of ten other witnesses.  He ultimately bought Stamper and gave him to his brother in Colorado, I believe, as a cowboy slave.  Damn, he looks so much younger.”

“He and his mate, who is an ex-temple guard for the Holy Prophet, run a beautiful hotel on Captain Waco’s ship called the Buttercup.  It’s a favorite vacations spot for the colonies.  Next.” said Shane.

The next picture was a before and after shot of Warren Steele.  The first picture of Warren he looked every day of his seventy-two years and beside it was another picture of a much younger man in his early fifties.  Judge Potter recognized Warren Steele immediately.  They went through school together as kids.  He couldn’t believe the change in Mr. Steele.   

The pics went on and on until Shane thanked Kyron again and shut off the T.V.

“Admiral Long, my brother’s ramrod is, himself, over two thousand years old.  I have it verified in his recorded histories.  It is a simple shot that will start your regeneration process immediately.  I’ve had the shot.  Why do you think I look so young?  I have the body of an eighteen year old man.  So has my brothers, Angus and Charlie, and their families got the shot.  Angus is in his late fifties yet he looks to be in his mid forties.  Charlie don’t look a day over thirty-five.  So has all my cowboy brothers and many members of the Grange had the shot.  As a free man, Judge, you must give your consent if you wish to receive it.  My pa?  He ain’t got no say in the matter.  He’s my slave, and he will have the shot.  Sorry, Pa, but I wanna’ make damn sure I don’t have to go on without you.”

“My God, it just dawned on me, what you said about twenty years being nothing.  I thought you were being factitious or maybe a bit daft, but now it makes perfect sense.  What’s twenty years when you’re looking at extending life ten fold.  Of course I want the shot.  What man my age wouldn’t?  The opportunity and promise of what you’ve shown us is too great to pass up.  I’m somewhat disgruntled and jaded with this world, but from what you’ve shown us, I see hope for a better world to come; a world much more fascinating than this one.”

“For what it’s worth, Master, I’d like to git the shot, too.” said Cole, “Master Potter’s right, it’s too great an opportunity to pass up.  Whither thou goest.” he added.

It was one o’clock in the morning before Shane and Cole left the big house after saying tearful goodbyes to the old man with many hugs and more kisses.  A full moon loomed large behind their new house; larger than either had ever seen before.  It must have been a visual illusion made possible by some freak atmospheric anomaly.  It completely dwarfed their house standing before it and just to the right of being dead center to the moon.  Shane took Cole’s hand in his like it was the most natural thing in the world to do as they walked along together.

“Oh, this ain’t fair.  This is so wrong.” Cole stopped in his tracks, took one long look at the scene before them and laughed, “Did you arrange for that moon, Master?” Cole grinned.

“No, but I got me a pert-damn good idea who did.” he laughed.

“You can’t miss the metaphor.” said Cole.

“Whatever happened to subtlety?  Whoever set it out tonight,— they’re being downright obvious.  Where’d ju’ learn about metaphors, Pa?” Shane smiled.

“I read a lot.  I know what a metaphor, an analogy and a simile is.”

“Good, maybe you can explain the last two to me.” Shane squeezed his hand and chuckled.

They fixed their bed earlier before they walked down to the big house for supper.  All they had to do was shower and go to bed.  They were so tired Shane even cancelled the shower, and they went to bed with the full essence of their bodies surrounding them.  They didn’t have sex, but they slept with erections all through the night.  Early the next morning, fifteen minutes before his alarm was about to go off, Shane took care of his pa.

End of Chapter 55 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2008 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com

* bozo: any right wing politician who has less integrity than a circus clown. 
* I. H. truck = International Harvester