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Bishop

The Marshal

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20 Questions

Brian sat alone in a small room on the 23rd floor of the Freedom City Federal Building. It was barely big enough for the table and chairs. It was an interview room, one not unlike the countless ones Brian had sat in before.

A man in a dark suit came in with a cardboard box. He placed the box on the table, sat down facing Brian and began removing objects from it. First was a recorder, then a paper file, then a comically large pistol that looked like a prop from a 1950's B movie about rocket ships and space aliens. He then turned the recorder on. "This is April 17th, 2012 at 2:17 p.m. I am agent Blovinski interviewing the subject, Brian Conners. Mr. Conners, do you understand this is being recorded and consent to the recording?"

Connors sat across from Blovinski in an odd combination of attire: a gray leotard, black boots, and a cowboy hat. A cowboy-looking pistol belt had an empty holster where the big ray gun had been, and a featureless gray box about the size of a pack of cigarettes was attached to the belt on the left. Brian smiled and tipped his hat back. "Yes sir, that's fine. I gotta admit, I'm used to sitting on the other side of tables like this, but I reckon I got it commin'. Go ahead, sir. Ask your questions."

Blovinski opened the file, placed a pad of paper next to it, and readied to take notes. "So, Mr. Conners, where are you from?"

"Texas, born and raised. Well, it was the Republic of Texas first, but joined the Union when I was about 10 or 12.

"We got that. No, I mean, where are you from recently?

"Oh, well, the territory of the Lor Republic. I've been living on its frontiers since... well... how long's it been?"

"It has been 53.47 Earth years," said a tinny voice, with as strong a Texas accent as Brian had.

Blovinski started with surprise. "Woah, what is that?"

"My name is Hudson," replied the voice.

"Go ahead, partner," Brian said, gesturing to the table. "Introduce yourself." The gray box on Brian's belt detached itself and floated up to the table. It slowly landed there, then transformed into what looked like a little toy plastic cowboy!

"Howdy! I'm Hudson! Brian's partner and chief assistant!" It said with a tip of it's plastic-looking hat. Blovinski scribbled notes.

"So... is this..."

"Artificial? Yes, sir. He's a smart machine built to assist me. Back me up, so to speak. Don't mind him, though. He's harmless. Mostly. Go ahead with your questions."

"Ah. Right. So, this morning, you walked into he US Marshal's office downstairs and introduced yourself. Why? What are you looking for?"

"Well, sir, it's like this. I wasn't expectin' them to welcome me back with open arms, exactly. Not after all this time. I know they had to figure me for dead. But... I ain't. And Marshalin' is what I do. I figured they'd let me back doing what I know."

"And what exactly is that?"

"Well, back when I was workin' regular for the Marshal service, I worked the frontier. New Mexico Territory. Kept the peace. I was good at it. Liked it. Well, the last hundred, hundred fifty years it's all I been doing -- livin' on the frontier. Keepin' the peace."

"You do understand there is no frontier here for you to work anymore, right?"

Brian chuckled. "Well, beggin' your pardon, sir, but this whole planet is 'frontier' from where I'm sittin'."

"I see. Brian, you were referred to us from the Marshal's office because you seem to be a metahuman and would fall more under our purview."

"Come again? I'm a what, now?"

Hudson spoke up: "Wayj-nol."

Brian nodded with understanding. "Ahh. So, you're thinkin' I got powers what make be better than human. Like a demigod or somethin'? No, sir. I'm just a regular man."

"Who came from space. That counts. Look, bottom line is that, to do what I think you want to do, it will be with us rather than the Marshal service."

"Well, alright, then."

"So, back to my questions. A point of concern of ours is what may have happened in the Civil War."

"The what war?"

"The War between the States? You were in Texas, which was in the Confederacy."

"Oh! Okay. Well, I tell you what. Wasn't much 'civil' 'bout it, I assure ya. Yep, that was an interestin' time. When I was born, we was the Republic of Texas. Then we was a State of the Union. Then we were a Confederate State. Then Union again, all in my lifetime. By the way... Texas is still a State?"

"Yes. Yes it is."

"Well, there's that then. Guess it's good they never saw need to secede again. Anyway, the Unplesantness never went as far as where I was, in the Southwest of the State. I was in the Texas Rangers, then. Had my hands full with Mexicans and Indians and Outlaws and whatnot, so I never went and did any fightin' with the Rebs. The war was just somethin' in the papers.

"But, things did change when it was over. For starters, the Yanks done disbanded the Rangers. Didn't want Texas to have its own fightin' men, seemed to be the reasonin'. So, I headed West to the territories and took work doing as close to what I'd been doin' as I could find: workin' for the Marshals. Yep. At war with 'em one week. Workin' for 'em the next. But, they seemed to let men be free, and that's all I asked for."

"So, how did you feel about slavery?"

"Look, wasn't nothin' right about it. Either all men are born free, or they ain't. And I believe they are. I gotta say, that's one good thing about the Yanks. They did end slavery. Just seems to me there'd be better ways of seein' to it than burnin' down cities, tearin' up railroads, and killin' lots o' folk is all."

"Things have also changed about the role of women since your time. We are somewhat concerned about your feelings on that issue, given that, if you work for this agency, you will be working with women, too. What are your feelings about women and their role?"

"I'm not so sure what your concern is. Is it that you're afeared I might act improper towards the ladies?"

"What if one were in command over you?"

Brian grinned widely. "Heh. You think I can't take direction from a lady? My Mama would set that straight right quick! Look, sir, this wouldn't be the first place I seen such things. Out there, in the galaxy, are plenty of womenfolk doin' things mostly done by men in my day. But, heck, even then, out on the frontier in Texas, work had to be done by whoever could do it. Never mattered much if man or woman. My Mama, for one, she was a strong woman and worked the ranch as well as any man. Her word out on the range carried the weight o' law, any cowpoke would tell ya."

Blovinsky sat thoughtfully for a while before continuing. "So, Brian, what would you say your personal strengths are?"

Brian grinned, "well, folks say I'm a pretty good singer."

"Seriously."

"Sorry. Don't mean no disrepect. But, strengths? Seems a bit immodest of me, but, okay. I am given to understand I'm very good at what I do. You see, folks on the frontier mostly want to be left alone. They don't want the Republic, or any gov'ment, nosin' in their business. I can relate to that. I'm one of 'em. But, a certain 'mount of gov'ment is a most unfortunate necessity. Gotta have peace, and gov'ments gotta step in a little to help keep it at times. So, I go in, see the problem, help fix it, and try not get in the way of folks too much."

"And weaknesses? What is your greatest weakness?"

"Well weaknesses, sure. Got plenty o' them," Brian replied with a chuckle. "Momma once told me I never met a vice I didn't like. Now, that said, I never let that get in the way of my work. But when I'm done workin', my time is my own. Then, I'll be looking for a good poker game and a good bottle of whiskey. I hadn't had either in a right long time."

"I see..." Blovinski scribbled some more notes.

"I reckon if you are lookin' for a choir boy, you best pass on me."

"Anything else?"

"Well, alright. There's the fact I'm not the brightest man, nor the most learned."

"That's very true!" piped up Hudson. Brian gave him an eye, and Hudson fell quiet again.

"There are many a thing, even after a hundred years of workin' with it, I can't make heads nor tails of. We got ships what fly through the ether faster than light can reach your eye. We got machines what move you from one place to the other in a blink. Heck, Hudson here, somebody built him and made him where he can think like a person!" Hudson looked up at Brian with a huge smile. "...almost." Hudson's smile dropped. "When I stop and think about how far away I am sometimes on the frontier, how mind-befuddlin'ly far away from anythin'... it puts a terror in me somethin' fierce. You can learn to live with it, though. Not understand it, mind you, just live with it... if you don't stop and think about it too much."

"Mr. Conners... just what is your motivation to be with us? That's what I'm really trying to understand."

Conners straightened up and took a somber tone. "Well, sir... you ever read the Declaration of Independence?"

Blovinski had a puzzled look. "Yes?"

"Well, I, for one, found it inspirin'. Right from the first time my Momma made me read it when I was eight. You know what it said to me? We all have the right, in us, to follow our callin', to breathe free, and ain't no king or emperor or gov'ment that can change that.

"Ain't never been done before. No, sir. Ain't never been a country put together around that basic way o' thinkin'. And I don't mean just on Earth, neither. I mean nowhere! Best out there is the Lor Republic. They ain't all that bad, but even they don't really get it.

"You see, I like bein' free. And I can't well say I got a right to be free if I don't think it's worth protectin' for others, too. Well, for a man to be free, truly free from the bonds o' other men, he's gotta respect the freedom of others. Gotta have Justice, then, and gotta have hard men what can make Justice happen. Ain't no two ways 'bout it. And..." He added as he adjusted his hat, "I'm one of those hard men."

Blovinski nooded approvingly and scribbled more notes. "Okay. So, have you had an opportunity to see the state of the world now? I am wondering what your opinion of it is."

"Well, I haven't been able to tell much. Haven't been back that long. But, what I've been told by the Lor seems to be accurate given what I seen so far. You seem to be behind in quarsh novi. Umm... Hudson?"

"Technology," Hudson offered.

"Right. Your 'technology' is way behind as far as I can tell. You folks can barely get yourselves off the planet! But, there is a concern about the amazin' number of wayj-nol ... um, 'metahumans,' that this world gives birth to. There ain't no other planet known to the Lor what pops 'em out like here and that plumb give 'em fits. Worries them somethin' awful, I tell ya. 'Course.. I don't see that as a bad thing," he said with a mischievous grin. "Not necessarily. Lor can stand to be a bit worried sometimes."

"And what do you see as your place in this world?"

"Well, you got your metahumans you worry 'bout. You got that in common with the Lor, that's for sure. I figure there might be a place for someone who can handle what metahumans dish out. Don't care how 'meta' they are, they're still human. That means they gotta follow the same rules we all do. If I'm the one what's gotta tell 'em that in no uncertain terms, then so be it."

"You seem to have a pretty close connection to the Lor. What are your loyalties to them?"

"Right now, I don't owe them nothin' but some gratitude and respect. I worked for them, but I never renounced my oath."

"Your oath?"

"To protect the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic and to faithfully execute the duties of my office. Didn't have much application that far from home. Way out of my jurisdiction," he said with a smile. "But it's what I lived by nonetheless. I promised them to help keep the peace. I wanted the tools I needed and to be pretty much left alone, otherwise.

"They knew there were things I would not do. They didn't really understand, but they respected me for it. They do understand honor, and that's for sure. They respected it was part of my honor and that was enough for them."

"How well would you say you get along with others?"

"Well, my Momma done raised me right, sir. I know how to treat people with right manners and all. Ain't many folks I can't get along with."

"Do you follow any religious tradition?"

"Well, my Momma was a religious woman. She did her best with me, but I'm afraid it didn't take. Wasn't much Sunday churchin' out in the territory. And, once I was out and about the galaxy, I began to question a great many things. One thing I noticed for sure: I saw a hundred Earths out there with folks on them for thousands a years, and wasn't a one of 'em inherited by the meek.

"I figure, though, that there might come a day when I die and I got to make accountin' for myself before the Almighty. I hope when that day comes, the Almighty won't be disappointed with me in how I treated my fellow Man. 'Fraid that's about as deep as my spiritual-ness goes, sir."

"Have you worked with a team?"

"Like a team of horses?"

"No, no, I mean working with a small group of other people towards a common goal. Specifically, 'keeping the peace,' as you put it."

"Well, sure! I'm always on a team, then, even if it's just the two of us, Hudson and me. But, usually, I join up with folks who have a problem, like local lawmen or settlers. I can't do everything by myself. Workin' with others, when it can be done, is always better."

"And would you want to be on a team in the future?"

"Of course! Ain't no better way to go about it, I'd reckon. If there are folks what would have me on their side, and they can saddle up, I'd form up a posse with 'em and ride out!"

Blovinski closed his file. "Thank you, Mr. Conners. That is all I have for now. This concludes the interview of Brian Connors. Time is now 3:04 p.m." He stopped the recorder.

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