Through the gates of the fort came a weary horse and rider. The old man, lean and tanned by the sun, sat hunched over, his hands gripping the saddle horn. The sides of the lathered bay he rode heaved, its breath coming out in heart rending rasps.

Moses Trey gave his brave Morgan mare a weary pat of gratitude, before sliding off her back. He turned an exhausted face to the trooper holding her reins. "Cool her out, then take Gypsy to the blacksmith. If anyone can save her, he can."

"Don't worry, Moses. We'll take good care of her." The soldier reassured him, as he lead away the near-dead mare.

The fort's top scout nodded his thanks to the man, then felt his knees start to give way. Colonel Drayden grabbed Moses by the arm, and helped him towards the headquarters building.

"Come on, man." The colonel grunted, supporting the scout's weight, "Let's get some whiskey into you. Then, you can tell me what this is all about."

" time, colonel." Moses gasped. "The supply wagons..."

"I already figured it was something like that, Moses. But, you'll be no good to me, dead from exhaustion. You need a rest. Even if it's a short one. It'll take at least a half hour to get the men ready to go out, anyway."

A short while later, Moses Trey's buckskin clad body was sprawled out in homemade cowhide and wood chair. His battered gray flat-brimmed Stetson was laying in his lap, the eagle feather attached to the hat band, fluttering in the breeze coming through the open window. He had a half-finished glass of whiskey in front of him. Moses was seated alongside the colonel's desk, telling the short, concise tale of what happened to the supply train. He wasn't a man to waste words. The scout said only what needed to be said, and left the story telling to the loafers at the sutler's store. Which was why the colonel valued Moses Trey's opinions so highly.

"They waited until we were crossing a dry wash, then came sweeping down on us, out of nowhere. There were only about twenty Sioux, near as I can figure. But, they were on both sides of the wash, shooting down at us. As you know perfectly well, colonel, half the men with that supply train were green troops. They simply didn't react fast enough. Some of them stayed right where they were, open targets for the Injun's. Others panicked, and tried to run every which way. Sergeant Morris was killed right off, and Lieutenant Grove wouldn't listen to me. I told him to dismount the troops, and have them take cover under the wagons. Instead, he called me a coward, and ordered them to attack. Right there in the open." Moses cursed softly, and shook his head in disgust. "It was a right mess, colonel. For the Sioux, it must've been like shootin' fish in a barrel."

"I see. Speaking strictly between you and me, Moses, I always suspected Grove would fold under pressure. Until now, he'd spent his entire career behind a desk in Washington. The man boasted to me only last week, that he could wipe out the entire Sioux nation with just a few hundred troops."The colonel sighed and said gravely, I suppose he's learned his lesson the hard way, by now."

"Yeah. At the cost of the lives of his men." Moses said, bitterly. "Pretty expensive lesson, colonel."

"Any survivors?" Drayden asked.

"About half a dozen, when I left for the fort." Moses nodded. "Lieutenant Grove got an arrow in the shoulder. I took over then, had the men unhitch the wagons. I decided to give the Injuns some horses to chase down. That gave us some breathing space to dig in, and get into a better defensive position. Still lost a couple of men, though. Would've lost my own. "Cept Private Orr saved my life. He saw a buck aiming for my back while I was draggin' one of the wounded under the wagon. Shot that Injun' plumb dead. But, in doing so, he got an arrow through his leg. I'd like to recommend him for a commendation, sir. He may be green, but he'll make a crackerjack soldier, one day."

Moses paused, and took another sip of whiskey. Running his hand through his greasy gray hair, he said, tiredly, "We have to get back there, Colonel Drayden. Right now. A half an hour is too long to wait. Every second counts. Even if they manage to hold off the Sioux, I doubt they'll survive more than a day or two without water, out there. We have to get back there."

"I have to get back there. You're staying here." Colonel Drayden said. He unrolled a map and laid it out on his desk. "Show me where that dry wash is."

"No, colonel. I promised the men I'd come back. And I always keep my promises." Moses said firmly.

"Trey, I'm giving you a direct order. I want you to stay here and rest. You're in no fit shape for the trip back out there."

"Meaning no disrespect, Colonel, I may get my pay from the army, but I'm not one of your troopers. I'm going back there." Moses said hoarsely, his eyes gleaming with determination, "Even if I have to quit my job right here and now, to do it."

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