"I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."

-J. Robert Oppenheimer, 1945

It was a hazy August day when John Marston died. The day was shaping up nicely. It was warm; a dry breeze disturbed the air and brought relief to a land suffering what could be argued to be the dust bowl of 1911.

The day was no different from any other in a broad sense.

If he knew anything of what was to happen on that day, perhaps he would have been better prepared. Perhaps he would have left the country; Ross couldn't hunt him in Mexico.

If he knew... he wouldn't be standing in the barn listening to the sound of a retreating horse.

John knew that Ross was hunting him; he couldn't care less about the other Marstons. If they never robbed banks or drew the blood of an innocent, they were of no concern to the man.

Now John thought to his hunting days; no, not the days he spent hunting his former brothers in arms, but days hunting deer, cougars, coyotes, and bears.

Even bears were no match for John Marston. He was known in Tall Trees as the man that offed a bear with his hunting knife and a boot upside its head.

What on Earth happened? A once proud hunter and less-than-proud gunslinger now reduced to this; a figure cowering in a barn.

Now he knew what was happening. Williamson, Escuella, and Van Der Linde were the scurrying field mice to his boot. Now, he was...


He was not. He was not some tiny field mouse to be sent scurrying by the army. While he knew his fate waited outside -inside the barrels of so many rifles- he also knew something else.

He was the wolf to Ross' guns. He spared a look at his holstered sidearm, and faked a smile.

The gun in the holster was the very same Ross gave him.

He wasn't going to beg, wasn't going to run, and he wasn't going to say a word. The wolf was going to fall, but he was going to take at least one man with him.

Gathering his wits, he peeked out the barn door. These men were going to kill him after he did as they asked. That made John angry. It made him very angry.

The last time somebody made John angry...

...it was best not to make him angry.

He sighed, and threw open the barn doors.

He had to give the men surrounding him credit. They didn't shoot at him the moment he opened the doors. Maybe they had orders to spare him had he come quietly... or maybe they wanted him to show fear.

But he showed no fear. His eyes ran over the men before him back and forth until he found Edgar Ross. A low growl escaped his throat.

With a speedy hand John pulled the pistol from the holster. He picked out Ross' lackey, Archer Fordham and several other faces which he could not match a name to.

With eight audible shots, four men fell. Archer was hit between the eyes once and in the heart once, but he didn't want to see the others. In the final second before the enemy returned fire, Marston saw Ross stumble back in suprise, his eyes widening as his partner fell just half a foot to his left. His mouth fell open for a moment and John smirked.

Then the bullets came. So many of the pieces of hot lead missed the mark; pattering the barn behind him. Several other bullets hit the mark, and John felt strong impacts all over his body, followed by burning sensations. He felt the cracking of his kneecap as a bullet collided with it, he felt liquid in his lungs and he felt short of breath- the sign that one lung had collapsed.

One bullet that could have granted him mercy buzzed past his head. He felt pressure growing on his heart; one bullet tore through his aorta.

He swayed back and forth while his brain tried to register what just happened. He started to cough like he had a bad old cold, and spit what could have been mucus on any other day.

He dropped his gun to the ground with a "thud", the weapon landing with its muzzle pointed toward Ross. He fell to his knees, a sharp pain shooting through his leg. He drew in long, raspy breaths and let out another few bloody coughs. Finally, he felt the "thump thump thump" in his chest halt, and the last thing he did before he died was try to bring up a middle finger.

Instead, the movement knocked him off balance, and he fell backward onto the ground behind him.

Ross would never admit to it. He would bring it with him to his grave.

He knew that if he did not stand behind a now dead soldier and had he not had Fordham on his left...

He'd be dead as well.

Yet, even with John dead, there was one thing that bothered him until the day he died three years later.

Ross came with intent to strike fear into John, but John died knowing he struck fear into Ross.

Al La Fin to the max

Inspired by: "Five Fingers"