RATING: PG... for some swearing 
CATEGORY: Challenge - PQL AU - this AU is open
DISCLAIMERS: This is fanfiction. No profit involved. This story is based on the television series "The Magnificent Seven". No infringement upon the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, TNN, Showtime Extreme, Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp. or any others involved with that production is intended.  Elements of this story also reflect the television series "Quantum Leap".  No infringements on their copyrights are intended either.
NOTE: This is in response to the January 2002 Magnificent 7 Challenge, offered by Setcheti: Write (or rather, *re*write) a movie or TV show as starring our favorite Seven guys. An existing AU cannot be used and the story can't be a Crossover either.  All Seven guys must be  used.
FEEDBACK: Yes please! comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated.
DATE: January 1, 2002 (ring in the New Year!), housekeeping done January 1, 2010

PQL: Rodeo Days
By NotTasha...who has finally ventured out of the safety of OW fic
Yes, it's a new AU -- it's mine.  It's based on Quantum Leap.  It’s not an easy show to describe in case you haven’t seen it.  Sam was the main character and was part of Project Quantum Leap (PQL).  He’d leap back in time (over the course of his own lifetime) and displace someone – taking over his/her place in time.  His mission was to fix something that once went wrong in time.  Al was his observer.  Al stayed in ‘the present’ and communicated to Sam (back in time) as a hologram that only Sam could hear and see.  That’s the short version.    There's probably a lot I'm leaving out.    Anyway, neither Al nor Sam will appear so don't worry about them.

Okay, so for my AU, there’s been changes: First off  -- Leaper and Observer switch places every time they leap.  It happened once on the TV show, but it’s a regular occurrence in this AU.   Next, since we got SEVEN guys to fill up a show that was about just TWO guys, I've decided that there are three sets of Leapers now to fill the ranks.  Vin and Ezra are one team, JD and Buck are another, Nathan and Josiah are the third.  They experience some 'swiss-cheesing' of their memories, but not to the extent of Sam Beckett.  All the Leapers can end up in the same location or all can end up in different places and times – which becomes a major headache for the leader of PQL-7, Chris Larabee.

This story will be a rather short introduction – so don’t expect too much plot. Depending on reaction to this story, I may continue this AU... gotta flesh it out a bit more.

Part 1:

First, there was blue light.  There was always blue light.  Next, he was aware of a loud roaring noise.  He couldn't immediately distinguish the cause.  He recognized the scent of sawdust, sweat and manure.  The sounds rolled about him, confusing him further.  His vision became clearer and he finally was about to discern his general whereabouts.  He was in the midst of some sort of stadium, staring at the sky and surrounded by hooting and hollering voices.  

What the hell, he thought.

He straightened one leg and tried to sit up.  Immediately hands grabbed him and dragged him upright.  He stumbled to his feet and tried to get his bearings as they pulled him.  Yes, some sort of stadium, filled with people.  Above him they jeered, cheered and stomped.  As he glanced about, he realized that the two men who pulled at him were – for reasons unknown – dressed as clowns.

A brown blur caught his eye and he snapped his head around in time to notice the bucking horse that was churning about, flailing its hooves in an obvious fury.  The crowd applauded raucously.   He couldn't tell for sure of they were applauding the animal or himself.  Maybe they cheered the clowns?

“Ya did good,” the shorter clown said as he was pulled through a doorway. “If you’d stayed up for another second you might ‘ave won somethin’ this time, Jimmy.”

‘Jimmy,’ he thought, his mind racing. ‘But my name isn’t Jimmy.’ He flinched slightly as the wood gate was slammed shut and the angry bronco calmed.  It began strutting around the open space until someone tried to catch it. It snorted and kicked and then he lost sight of it.

He concentrated, feeling a sense of déjà vu as he tried to figure out what his name really was.  Damn, it was hard.  It appeared that he'd been thrown from that animal, yet he didn't feel any of the pain or stiffness he'd have expected.  He felt only confusion.  Jimmy? He thought again.  I can't be 'Jimmy'.  From somewhere in the muddled mess he pulled – Vin.

“You okay, Jimmy?”  The taller clown asked as he was dumped into a chair.  He turned to his friend and asked, “Think we should get the Doc, Bill?  He looks like he got his bell rung.”

“M’fine,” Vin muttered and then nodded to the shorter clown, who looked skeptical.  “Bill, I’m fine.”  His mind was starting to straighten out a bit -- the holes were filling.

“Well, ya seem okay.  Still, someone should keep an eye on you for a bit,” Bill said.  “Gotta go.  Big Tom is up next.”

The taller clown nodded and handed Vin a dusty and somewhat battered hat before the two headed back in the direction they’d come.

Vin slouched in the metal folding-chair and ran his hand along the rim of the hat, noting its obvious western shape.  “Oh boy,” he muttered.  “I’m a cowboy.”

Part 2:

Vin was still twisting the hat in his hand when he heard the familiar sound of the Imaging Chamber door slam open.  Ezra stepped forth, tapping at the handlink to close the door behind him. He was dressed in a blue jacket, its color looked especially bright in the simple surroundings.

“Lovely,” the Observer muttered, brushing at his sleeves as he examined the scene. “At first glance I’d suspected you’d leapt into the ‘old west’.   This is rustic at best.   Mr. Tanner, couldn’t you choose the Grand Plaza for a change?”

“Sorry, Ez.  Not much choice in the matter,” Vin said under his breath as he got to his feet.  “And only you get that sort of luck.”  He was always glad to see Ezra – his appearance meant that an explanation might be forthcoming.

The hologram grinned and cocked his head.  “Yes, it seems that we’re given what we’re best suited for.  Perhaps next time I could find myself as a millionaire playboy, a corporate giant, an undercover agent in the ATF, or at least in an adequate casino.”

Vin nodded toward a private looking area, not wanting people to think he’d been concussed as he started speaking to someone who wasn’t there. A few of the cowboys reached out and gave him a friendly slap, watching him make his way to the area under the grandstands.

Ezra followed, sighing as one of the milling men stepped through him.  “I ask for so little,” he muttered.  “A little common courtesy is all.”

Vin smirked.  “They can’t see ya, Ez.  Can’t step out of the way for ya.”

“Common courtesy is all,” Ezra lamented.

Above them, the crowd cheered and hollered, stamping their feet and sending down a shower of dust and debris.  Ezra scowled as the dirt rained down on them, despite the fact that the fragments simply floated through his holographic image.

“So, what’s up?” Vin sighed.

Ezra still poked at the handlink.  “It seems that you are one James Herbert.  They year is 1991.  You fancy yourself a ‘bronc-buster’,” he said the word with a certain amount of distain. “When you are not busting said broncs, you work at a hardware store.  You're single, make little better than minimum wage and have once again lost your chance at winnin' a gold-plated belt buckle at the Paloose Regional Rodeo and Roundup."  He shook his head and tsked.  "Mr. Herbert was rather concerned about his time when he leaped into the Waiting Room.  I hate to be the one to deliver the bad news."

“Yeah, so why’m I here?”

"Still running some scenarios, gathering data." Ezra studied the readout on the link and then looked up suddenly.  “Interesting.  Whatever the reason, you’re going to have a little company on this one.  Apparently Mr. Sanchez has leaped in as well.  We should find him immediately.”  Another look and he added, “We’ll all be working today.  Mr. Wilmington is leaping in as we speak.”

“Gang’s all here,” Vin muttered.  “Where are they?”

Ezra poked aimlessly at the handlink.  He gave it a whack and then broke into a wide grin.  “Good God in heaven,” he uttered and then laughed.

Vin watched as holographic companion leaned against some unknown support – giving Vin the impression that Ezra was precariously balanced on nothing.   Standish laughed uproariously.  “What’s up?” Vin demanded.

The Observer was unable to speak immediately and then finally got out, "Retribution."

Ezra cocked his head, listening to the handlink.  He smiled at Vin and uttered a smart, “Yes, sir!” He saluted the handlink and looked up to Vin.  "Mr. Larabee wants me to cut the crap and gather the troops."  He turned to go and nodded over his shoulder.  “Come on then.  We’d best find them before all holy hell breaks loose.”

Vin sighed and settled the hat on his head before he followed his brightly dressed, but mostly unseen companion.  They’d almost made it out of the dim area when a woman’s scream cut the air.  Tanner froze.  It hadn’t come from above them, where the crowd was cheering the latest contender – it came from outside the grandstands, from somewhere near the concession stands.  Without a word Tanner lit out after the sound.

Ezra waited a moment longer, shaking his head and then set the coordinates on his handlink to zero him in on the sound.

Vin dodged around the supports of the bleachers, then ran past the crowd that sought out refreshments, and finally rounded a hot-dog shack to find a tall brunette stomping around in a tight circle, muttering angrily. A few people were glancing at her curiously, obviously drawn by the scream as well, but the woman seemed more frustrated than frightened. The throng dispersed with murmured confusion.

Ezra, having arrived before Tanner, stood near the food stand.  Beside Standish, ghostly and gray, was JD Dunne.  The two Observers were laughing and shaking their heads, talking to the woman who was obviously very upset.

“I don’t want to hear it, JD,” she said, glaring at the young Observer.  “And you just leave me alone, Ezra!”

“Buck,” Vin tried as he approached. She raised her head and glared at the cowboy. Vin instantly recognized her eyes – yeah, she was Buck. Tanner grinned.

“Great!” she threw up her hands, having recognized him as well.  “Wonderful!  You get to be a cowboy.”  She tugged at her apron. “This just ain’t fair!”  Buck seemed to notice that his apron read, “Biggest Wieners in the State.” He groaned in disbelief and let go of the apron as if it burned him.

“He doesn’t seem to be adjusting very well, does he?” the faded hologram of JD said to the substantial version of Ezra.  Dunne flickered in and out of Vin’s perception, his voice sometimes too soft to hear clearly – like a badly tuned channel on a rabbit-ear TV.

“He doesn’t seem to be doing well at all, Mr. Dunne,” Ezra confirmed.  Standish was closely linked to Vin and thus easily visible to the Leaper. Vin also shared connections with the other team members, but the link was never as strong as the one with his partner.  “You’d think he’d be happy with the current circumstances. He does appreciate a woman’s form.  Now he can get up close and personal.”

“Shut up, Ezra,” Buck snapped.  “You’re just gettin’ back at me for last time when you and JD leapt into that girl band.”

“Fair is fair,” Ezra replied.

"And you were an asshole then, Buck," JD added.

Wilmington shook his head sharply.  "Ah, you just think I didn't support your music career enough."

“I thought I was a better singer than Ezra.  I don’t know why they kept making me sing backup.”

“’Cause you ain’t got the pipes for singin’, boy,” Buck said, as he confronted the hologram.  “Me, I got …”

“Shhh!” Vin demanded with a startled gasp as a ten-year-old boy appeared beside the hot dog shack, looking at them curiously.

“Howdy!” The boy said brightly, tugging at his toy gun belt. He had the look of trouble about him and a mischievous smile.

“Now, son,” Buck said, smiling sweetly, trying to look as if he wasn’t just talking to thin air.  “What can I help you with?”

The boy laughed.  “Just tryin’ to figure out what all of us are doing here.” When the boy met his eyes, Vin recognized Josiah.

The flickering hologram of Nathan strode up beside him and nodded.  “The whole team in one place.  Must be something big.”

“Or perhaps it’s complex,” Ezra muttered as he fiddled with his handlink. He smiled smugly, as if his suspicions were confirmed. “Or maybe we don’t have much time.  Mr. Larabee wants to present the situation.”

Part 3:

Back in the control room, Chris Larabee watched the monitors. His three Observers all stood in their own Imaging Chambers, communicating with their Leapers.  He preferred it when two or more of his Leapers ended up in the same place -- it didn't happen often.  Chris suffered from the frustration of seeing his men left out on their own, with only their Observer for help.  It only showed how powerless he'd become in this circumstance.  At least now they had some physical back up.

Of course, he had no control over where they’d end up. It was all Fate, or God, or Time that decided where his men leaped.  He could only wait for the next situation to present itself, and do his best to support his men.

He watched as the Observers changed the stances, waiting for him to begin.  He felt his annoyance rising again, unable to see, hear or speak to  his Leapers, unable to help them in any way outside of providing information and direction to feed through the Observers.  He saw only his Observers in their stark chambers.  He’d learned to trust the Observers to take care of their Leapers.  There was no other way around this.

“The Clarion came up with a 95% probability.  Rita Blaylock is going to be murdered when the rodeo ends.   There were three suspects, but never a conviction.  Each of you is gonna observe one of them, follow them, figure out what they’re doing.  Stop the murder before it happens.”  He waited for Nathan to repeat what he'd said to the leapers.

JD held up a hand to still the conversation, obviously listening to his Leaper and then repeated the question that Buck had asked.  “Buck wants to know why don’t we keep an eye on Rita instead?  We could stop the murderer when he tries to strike.”

“Miss Moore, that’s a good suggestion,” Chris said with a smirk, imagining Buck’s irked expression.  “Miss Blaylock is the Rodeo Queen. The whole stadium is watching her.”

“Mr. Tanner asks, ‘how does it happen?’” Ezra said, turning his head toward the Chamber’s camera so that he was looking at Chris.

“She had defensive wounds, as if she was trying to escape.  And a gunshot wound in her back,” Larabee stated.  “All we know from eyewitnesses is that she got into a blue pickup with a man -- white, tall with dark brown hair.  Her body was found in a culvert nearby.  They suspect that the abductor had meant to rape her, but she got away from him.  He shot her to stop her from identifying him."

"We'll find him," Nathan pledged emphatically.  "We'll stop him."

"I'm counting on it," Larabee responded.  "There were three men at that rodeo who could have fit the description and had the right kind of truck.  I need each of you to keep an eye on your suspects until the end of this show.  Figure out who’s the killer and stop him before anyone gets hurt.”

Part 4:

“He does understand that I’m a child?” Josiah inquired with a sigh.

“I figure you can handle it,” Nathan responded as he consulted his handlink.  “We’ve been assigned to watch your uncle, or rather Rick Ferguson’s uncle -- Will.”

JD looked at his handlink.  “You get to watch your boss, Linda.”

Buck nodded.  “My boss is named Linda?”

“No,” JD laughed.  “You’re Linda.  You’re boss is Ben Oslow.”

“Great,” Buck muttered.

Vin looked to Ezra as he punched up the information. “We’ll be observing a Mr. Yancy Johnson.”

“What kind of name is Yancy?”  JD asked.

“It’s a hell of a lot better than Linda,” Buck growled.

“Linda’s a nice name,” JD defended, twiddling with the controls on his handlink. “There’s lots of nice girls with that name.”  He looked upset as he muttered, “It was my name when I was in Angel Girls…singing backup.”

“Yeah, but I'm NOT A GIRL!” was Buck’s response.

“Could have fooled me,” Vin commented.

Nathan chuckled.  "I was beginning to wonder when you'd get your turn.  It's not so bad once you get used to it."

"This just ain't right," Buck murmured.  "I wasn't meant to have breasts...of my own."

The group dispersed, chucking, with each team going in search of their intended targets.

Part 5:

Vin found his way back into the grandstands with Ezra following close behind. “Where do I find this Johnson fella?” he asked.

Ezra indicated the correct direction.  “He should be on the third riser in Section 5.”  They emerged onto the bleachers and Ezra pointed to a man.  “That would be him.  Apparently he’s an old buddy of Jimmy’s.  You go way back.”

“Yeah,” Vin said softly.  “So he’s a friend?  It should be easy to keep close.”  He made his way down the row.  “Yancy,” he greeted as he came up to Johnson and started to sit down.

He wasn’t prepared for the response.  Yancy stood, his eyes furious, and shouted, “You son of a bitch!  You think you can just sit here?”  The punch was thrown before Vin, in the process of sitting, had no chance to react.

Without thinking, Ezra sprung forward to catch his toppling partner, but holograms are little help in such situations and Vin fell right through him, and onto his backside.  The bleachers reverberated from the crash.

Someone nearby laughed and said, “Second time today, Jimmy. You’re gonna make it a habit of ending up on your ass every time you come here?”

Ezra threw Yancy a furious look and growled, “You Neanderthal! What right to you have to strike a man who’s simply…”

“Get the hell out of here, Jimmy,” Yancy shouted, heedless of the hologram’s words.

Vin held up his hands, open palmed.  “Didn’t mean no harm,” he tried.

“Harm?”  Yancy stepped toward Vin as he stumbled to his feet.  “You should've thought of that before you poisoned Marie against me.”

The nearby spectators had given them room, moving away from the impending fight as Vin finally made his way upright.  Ezra stood beside him, his fists clenched as if he was ready to join the brawl.

Vin threw his Observer a look and Ezra pulled the handlink from his pocket, punching in commands.  

“Sorry,” Vin said to his antagonist, not knowing what else to say as he backed away.  Yancy followed him with an angry gaze, but finally sat down as if Jimmy wasn’t worth his attention anymore.

“There’s a tray of nachos on your right,” Ezra said offhand as Vin continued to back down the bleacher.  “You wouldn’t want to fall on it.  I believe that ‘nacho cheez sauce’ is tricky to remove from leather.”

“Thanks,” Vin muttered as he gained the main aisle and turned briskly to find a new seat.  He rubbed his bruised chin dolefully.  “Could ‘ave told me about this Marie b’fore I went and made a fool of myself.”

“It wasn’t you who was the fool, Vin,” Ezra said as he glanced at the link.  “It seems that Mr. Johnson once considered himself the paramour of a Miss Marie Herbert.”

“Herbert?”  Vin searched his somewhat faulty memory. “I’m a Herbert,” he whispered, hoping that no one noted his one sided conversation. "She's my wife?"

“Marie is your sister, Jimmy’s sister.  Mr. Johnson and Marie have recently broken up.  It would appear from Mr. Johnson’s reaction that Jimmy was instrumental in that change of circumstance.”

“Great,” Vin said, sinking back.  “And I gotta keep an eye on a guy who hates me.  Maybe I can switch with Josiah.”

“You should be glad you didn’t leap into that adolescent.  I understand that he wets the bed still.”  Ezra looked disgusted.  “Who would want to sleep on that mattress?”

“It shouldn’t take that long to finish this one,” Vin said quietly, touching his chin again experientially.  "You said that we were short on time."  His chin didn't seem to be too bad.  Nothing broken at least.  “You find any connection with this Marie and the rodeo queen?”

Ezra said nothing as he resumed his communication with the handlink.  “Ah-ha,” he uttered finally, looking to Vin.  “Very good, Vin.  Marie was one of the contestants in the Paloose Regional Rodeo and Roundup Queen Beauty Contest.  Fortunately for Miss Herbert, she lost the prize, but thus saved her life.  Her talent is listed as juggling.  She performs this high art as she sings ‘You Light up my Life’.” Another grimace.  “That song was already passé in this era…”

“Ezra,”Vin muttered, giving the Observer a look that spoke volumes.

“Ah, yes. It seems that Miss Herbert and Miss Blaylock became good friends during the contest and went on a double date.”

“Lemmie guess, Marie brought Yancy and he got to know Rita?”

“So it seems.” Ezra nodded.  He frowned deeply.  “Marie had to drop out of the contest due to a broken arm.”

“Yancy?”Vin questioned urgently.

After more research, Ezra’s expression only grew darker.  “She gave no statement in the matter, but questions arose.  Her brother, you, got suspicious.”  He continued to work and brought up another fact.  "I found a restraining order against him in 1990 issued from another woman.  She claims that he hit her."

“Bastard.” Vin glared at Yancy.

"In the next few years, he'll garner himself a few more restraining orders. Eventually he'll go to court for…" Ezra paused, waiting for the handlink's screen to populate.  "…murdering a young woman in 1998."  Ezra gritted his teeth for a moment.  "He was acquitted for lack of substantial evidence, but the lawyer for the prosecution swore that they had the right man."

Vin watched the man in question for several minutes, feeling a new level of disgust for him.  Yancy moved nervously, his hands never still.  He looked constantly at the Rodeo Queen who sat on a ‘burnished’ throne at one end of the stadium.  There was a hunger in his glance.

The show was drawing to a close.  Awards were presented. Gold-plated belt buckles glinted in the sun as Miss Blaylock kissed the winners.  Yancy watched jealously, his hands clenching at his sides.  Finally, as the final good-byes were spoken, Yancy stood and started walking down the row, away from Vin and Ezra.

Ezra narrowed his gaze.  “You’d best keep close.  If something’s going to happen, it’ll be soon.”

Vin jumped to his feet as Yancy reached the exit, but everyone seemed to want to leave at once.  Vin was choked in the sudden crowd.

“Let me through,” Vin ordered as the mob of departing patrons formed a wall. But there was nowhere to go.  He glanced around frantically, losing site of Yancy as the crowd continued to shove their way into the aisles.  The rows above him cleared and he could sight an escape across the seats. He jumped up onto a riser and tried to make it to the next row.  As he turned sharply to avoid a gray-haired granny, he slipped in the abandoned tray of nachos that Ezra had so helpfully pointed out earlier.

His feet flew out from beneath him, and with a shower of soggy nacho chips, a splatter of cold cheez sauce, a dusting of jalapeno slices, and plenty of cursing from both himself and the granny, Jimmy Herbert fell for the third time that day.

"Ezra!" Vin shouted as he tried to disentangle himself from the gray-haired woman, who seemed determined to stay on top of him.

"I'll keep an eye on him," Ezra vowed.  With a quick punch of keys, he zeroed in on Yancy, hoping that Vin caught up quickly.

There was no telling where this would lead.

Part 6:

Ezra appeared beside Johnson as the man strode purposefully out of the stadium and into the parking lot.  He made a beeline toward a brown Ford Escort.   Looking up the license plate in his database confirmed Ezra’s suspicions.  It belonged to Rita Blaylock. “Come on, Vin,” he muttered as Johnson leaned against the car.

Pretty Rita Blaylock emerged from one of the side exits and headed toward her car. She wore a long flowing gown and her white sash still graced her torso.  She made her way easily through the departing crowd and smiled when she recognized Yancy. She never saw the hologram that was trying to divert her attention.

“Chris,” Ezra spoke into the handlink.  “Alert JD and Nathan.  Get them to bring Buck and Josiah to my location in the parking lot.  Vin’s coming, but he’s been delayed.  I need them here.  NOW!”

“I’m on it,” was Larabee’s terse reply.

“Hi, Yancy,” Rita greeted with a bright smile.

“Rita, you looked real pretty up on that throne,” Yancy drawled in return

She smiled and pulled at her sash that declared her regal title.  “Thanks, Yancy.”  She pushed out a pouty lip.  “I heard about you and Marie, that she doesn’t go with you now.  That’s too bad.  She was a sweet girl.”

“Yeah,” Yancy said, with a twitch of his lip. “Not seein’ her anymore though.”

“That’s sad. A nice man like you should have someone.  Me and Roger broke up last week.  Looks like we're just two lonely people.”

“Listen, Miss Blaylock, Rita,” Ezra said, positioning himself between the two speakers.  “Turn around.  Go back inside.   Don’t come near this man.  'Lonely' is better than what he has planned for you.”

“Maybe you’d like to take a ride with me,” Yancy said.  “We could talk about that nice dinner we had last week.  Won't mention Roger or Marie though.”

“NO!”  Ezra shouted.  The crowd continued to depart from the stadium and he looked frantically for his friends, for anyone who would help.

“That’d be nice.  I’m tired of bein’ Rodeo Queen.”  She started to pull off the sash.

“No, leave it on,” Yancy said, grabbing her by the wrist and stilling her motions.  “I like the idea of bein’ with royalty.”

She giggled nervously as she did nothing to resist his tight grip.

“Get away from her!”  Ezra ordered, in spite of the fact he knew he would go unheard.  “Rita, run for your life!”  He glanced around anxiously, searching for any of the others.  “Chris!” he called into the handlink.  “Where are they?”

“Coming!”  Larabee’s voice came back.  “Keep an eye on Johnson.”

Ezra groaned.  “As if I could do any good whatsoever.”

Yancy put his arm around Rita’s waist and started walking her toward his pickup.  “Let’s just go for a little ride.”

“VIN!”  Ezra shouted as he finally recognized the man that looked like Jimmy exiting the stadium.  Vin searched for a moment, and easily spotted the brightly dressed Observer.  His gaze next fell on Yancy Johnson and the frightened Miss Blaylock.

Vin rushed toward Yancy, who turned toward him with an angry look in his eye. “You stay out of this, Herbert,” he growled.

Globs of nacho cheez sauce were adhered to the cowboy and he was moving with an obvious limp from where granny had kicked him.  “Yancy,” Vin ordered.  “Let her go.”

“What I do, ain’t your business,” Yancy said, holding the girl tighter.  “Ain’t your sister this time.”

“Yancy,” Rita whimpered.  “You’re holding me too tight.”

He dragged her toward his pickup.  “Stay out of it,” he said in a low and dangerous voice as he glared at Tanner.

“Not gonna do that,” Vin proclaimed.  “You let her go.   Now!”

“Yancy,” her voice was growing frightened.  “Maybe I just want to go home.”

“Shut up!”  Yancy ordered, shoving the girl.  She slammed against the side of a pickup and fell on her rump.  The departing crowd gasped and glared, coming closer to witness the new show.

Yancy made a reach for Rita, but Vin grabbed him away from her.  “I said, leave her alone.”

Ezra’s handlink squawked.  “Vin!”  His eyes widened as he regarded the display.  “Vin, stand down!  Stand down now!” he ordered urgently.

“What?  Give me one good reason to let him go.”  Vin questioned, not caring that everyone around him heard his question to the hologram.

“He’s got that gun in his pocket,” Ezra replied, stabbing at his handlink and giving it another whack.  “The new history shows that Jimmy Herbert was shot by Yancy Johnson in the parking lot. You’ll be killed, Vin.” Ezra’s eyes were wide as he tried to put himself into the middle of the fracas.  “Stand down!”

Vin looked first to Rita who sat on the ground with her arms up over her face, crying, and then to Yancy who’s eyes had taken on a dangerous gleam, his hand shoved into his coat pocket.  The crowd in the parking lot was backing away, not wanting to get involved. The hell with it, Vin thought.  He wasn’t going to let this girl get hurt.

“Well hello, honey,” a strangely falsetto woman’s voice was suddenly heard. Vin looked up as Buck strutted toward them, swaying his hips about suggestively.  “Now, what have we here, darlin’?”  She still wore her ‘wiener’ apron and her hair was tied up in a hairnet. Linda Moore sashayed closer.

“You’d best run along now, missy,” Yancy said.  “This doesn’t concern you.  Ain’t no one’s bother but me and her.”  Rita sat on the ground with her hands over her head.  Yancy’s hand was still inside his coat.

Buck looked disappointed that her best ‘come-hither’ look had been a failure.

Vin watched as Josiah slowly approached from behind, wending his way through the crowd.  The boy had been unnoticed by nearly everyone.   The child grinned devilishly at Tanner as he came close.  Gawd, Josiah must have been a mischievous kid, Vin thought.  Josiah dropped down to his hands and knees, just behind Yancy.

“Now, honey-bunny,” Buck continued, distracting Yancy again.  “Is that the way to treat a lady? Maybe I'm the girl for you? We could go drivin'.  Just me and you.”

Yancy's attention was on Linda as she pursed her lips at him.  His expression was one of confusion, as if he didn't know whether to accept her invitation or not.  Vin took advantage of his perplexity, lunging forward, slamming against Yancy’s chest.  Johnson windmilled his one free arm.  He tried to take a step backward, but was met with the form of a 10-year-old boy.  Yancy fell over the back of the boy and landed hard on the pavement.

With an angry grunt, he pulled the gun free of his coat, but even as it appeared, Vin kicked it away.  The gun stuttered across the pavement and slid beneath a nearby car.  Rita watched with wide and frightened eyes.

Yancy struggled to get up, but the boy, woman and cowboy held him still.

"Now, honey," Buck crooned.  "You just sit still now."

"It would be for the best," Josiah added solemnly.

Vin could see JD and Nathan flickering nearby, looking satisfied as they plugged away at their handlinks.  Nathan was saying something to Josiah, but his transmission was too garbled to hear clearly.  Ezra stood beside him, smiling gratefully.

“Damn it!” Yancy shouted in frustration.  “Get off me!”

“Not on your life, sugar!”  Buck replied.

“Keep still, Yancy,” Vin declared, as the suspect writhed beneath them.

Johnson looked at him pleadingly.  “Come on, Jimmy,” he encouraged.  “We’re friends.  Let me up.”

Vin glanced again at Rita, whose face was still stiff with fright.  “Nope.  Can’t say we’re friends at all,” Vin replied truthfully.

Security guards from the rodeo were rushing toward them.  Vin recognized the clowns that had helped him earlier were coming along to see what was going on.  Yeah, let them take care of this one.  The three of them weren’t going to be sticking around for much longer.

Vin grinned at his Observer.  “How’s it end?” he asked quickly.  Already he could feel the Leap start to take effect.

“Prison time for Mr. Johnson.  Attempted murder, attempted abduction, carrying a concealed weapon.” Ezra waved his hand vaguely.  “The list goes on.” He poked at the handlink.  “Wait.” There was a grim look to his face as he added, “He later confessed to the murders of two other girls.  Lord, thank goodness we stopped him from committing any more.”

“Good,” Vin conceded.

“A job well done,” Buck declared.

“Looks like it’s three gold stars for us,” Josiah put in.

The blue light was coming.  Vin turned to Ezra.  “Your turn,” he said with a grin as the light became brighter until it was all he could see.

“Lovely, let’s pray for no more ‘girl bands’.” the Observer muttered as he was caught up in it, too.  It ended in blue light.  There was always blue light.

THE END - By NotTasha

I would love to hear your comments and suggestions. Do you like this AU?

Back to Index