| Fort Kearny, Nebraska
The War was different here at Fort Kearny. While Union and Confederate soldiers fought against each other in places like Maryland and Pennsylvania the Western troops fought against the Lakota and other tribes that had waged war against the United States.
Cody could understand their war. Leaders of the several tribes had signed a treaty with the Confederate States, and many of the members of their tribes fought on the Union Side rather than follow their leaders’ orders. Cody realized that a leader’s word was only as good as his people’s conscience, and many of their men had sided with the North.
Members of the Five Civilized Tribes now fought on both sides of the war, while other peoples waged a desperate war against the army in hopes of maintaining what remained of their homes.
He watched the Pawnee Scouts as they checked their horses, and tried to ditch their saddles without the officers noticing. He had to smile. It was an old fight. The Military order was to use saddles, but the scouts knew that a saddle would slow them down. These men were good at their job, and they wanted every edge they could get in their war against the Lakota.
He turned towards the ‘Volunteers’ as they too prepared for the day. The Volunteers had been known by many different names, but Cody preferred ‘Volunteers’ since it assigned no blame and gave no insult to its members. The volunteers were captured Confederate Soldiers who found a new life helping to defend the railroad and freight trails of the Western Frontier.
He scanned their ranks, unsure if he was hoping to find Kid there or if he was afraid to. He hated the idea of Kid being anyone’s prisoner, but these days it was almost a given.
The war had been hard for all of them, especially Lou. She’d written a little at first, telling him that Kid had gone back to Virginia for the war and that she missed all of them terribly. The seven other letters she’d sent were mostly about their ranch and missing Kid. Cody hadn’t heard from her in over three years.
He’d seen Jimmy a few times since coming to Kearny. It was good for both of them to have an old riding partner nearby, but they both worried about the others. Lou was alone running a ranch; Kid had joined the war effort in Virginia and they didn’t have the slightest idea where Buck was.
They promised each other that they would look for Kid and Buck and visit Lou at the ranch once the war was over, but it was a dream and they both knew it. Neither of them was good at keeping in touch.
They found out later that Buck had stayed in Rock Creek working as one of Teaspoon’s deputies. They hadn’t expected to see him, but one minute Jimmy and Billy were talking about old times, and the next Buck had shown up with a contingent of cavalry soldiers.
Buck smiled and admitted that he’d volunteer to act as guide and scout after hearing them mention Cody and Jimmy being at Fort Kearny.
Buck was happy to see both his friends when he arrived, but the presence of so many soldiers and the high stockade walls around the Fort did nothing to sooth his nerves.
Cody understood, and tried to be as supportive as he could. In the end it was the relief in Buck’s eyes that made Cody feel better when Buck headed back to Rock Creek. Buck didn’t belong in such a tightly closed area.
Once Buck left, Cody found himself thinking about Kid. He was one of them, one of the original riders at Sweetwater way back when the express started. He was their brother, and he was missing. Cody knew he had to do something about that.
A week after Buck’s visit and things had fallen back into routine. Cody slept when he was in the Fort and scouted when he wasn’t. Every morning he would watch the Pawnee Scouts as they prepared.
Then he would watch the ‘Volunteers’ looking for a familiar face. In four years, the only familiar faces he’d seen were Jimmy and Buck’s.
It was hard.
With a sigh he finished the last part of his morning ritual by walking to the stable and saddling up his horse. When he finished he mounted and rode out to the parade grounds to wait for his assignment.
He inspected his rifle as the gates opened, letting a messenger enter. The rider passed by without a word and headed for the commander’s office.
With his attention elsewhere, Cody missed the messenger’s surprised smile.
Cody turned a hint of a smile as he turned, recognizing Kid’s voice. He paused, surprised to see his friend in Union Blue. “Kid?”
Kid’s smile brightened his face. “I got some dispatches for North, you going to be here in an hour?”
Cody nodded slowly giving Kid a perplexed look. “Kid, not that I’m complaining or nothing but, I never expected you to be here, like this.”
Kid laughed. “I’m from Wheeling, Billy. The western portion of Virginia, all along the B&O Railroad is on the Union side.”
Cody stared at him a minute. “We thought you were on the other side. You had us worried, Kid don’t ever do that to us again.”
Kid winced slight. “Sorry Billy. I never thought to tell ya.” He paused, not wanting to leave Cody, but he had work to do. He nodded towards the office. “I won’t be long.”
Cody laughed. “You’ve been too long already, Kid.” He held his hand out. “It took you long enough to get here though. I’ll be waiting for you.”
Kid nodded and shook his hand before urging his horse forward. Cody was right. It had been too lon