Short Fiction

Border Planet Blues – Expansion

Bez

Author’s Note – Day Two of the May Challenge – Lost in a city.  This started in a mircofic challenge last year, I think it was. Just a snippet that I keep going back to. I’m posting what I originally wrote and the little follow up bit that occurred to me this morning as I was thinking about the challenge.

 

It wasn’t easy to work the border planets, but Bez couldn’t deny that the money was about the best you could make without joining up with the Federals. It was hard to believe that rustlers were still a problem what with gene stamping, but here she was, tracking the Temple Sibs again.

If she drew a bead on Ned Temple this time, she was going to kneecap him just to avoid seeing his face for a couple of months. Bastard couldn’t seem to get over the fact that his sister had a fling with a ranch cop. And Talulah just didn’t have the spine to bust up the gang. More’s the pity.

Bez squinted at a cloud of dust rising on the horizon. Yup, that was them.

She drew her revolver.

She was going to enjoy this.

0-0-0

What the hell? Bez groaned to herself. Not out loud. Her head hurt too damned much for that.

The mattress was lumpy beneath her, but other than the pounding headache and oil slick that was her stomach she didn’t feel too bad. So this wasn’t a bunk in a jail cell. Whore house, maybe?

She had been in a celebrating mood after she collected her fat wallet of Credits from Doc Jones.

He was real pleased she’d pinched Ned Temple when he showed up to make off with Doc’s best stud. That bull made cows with more meat on them than she could rightly explain. But then again, she wasn’t a rancher from a long line of geneticists from the Central Planets. She was just a ranch cop. And damned if she’d ever paid any attention in school.

Through the haze of what had to be the worst hangover she’d ever had, she rifled through her fuzzy memories of the take down at the Whispering Pines Ranch (which she couldn’t help but think sounded like a goddamned undertaker lived there, but it paid pretty well, so she could forgive it). She’d drawn down on Ned from a fair distance.

She’d hesitated for a second, she remembered. They were coming in hot and she wasn’t sure she could get a shot off without hitting Greyleigh, the pride of the Temple herd of non-mutated horses. At this point in her career she hated Ned Temple about as much as it was possible to hate someone who was too plain stupid to be any better than he was, but she bore no ill-will to the rest of the clan. Besides, she had a real soft spot for Talulah and if she could ever pry her off her brother’s side, the family ranch was the only means of support she’d have to go legit.

That second was all Ned had needed to shoot first. His ultra-modded electro-mag had it all over her own legal Winchester Pulse blaster for speed, recharging, and accuracy. He’d grazed her. But all that had done was piss her off. She liked that jacket a lot. It was real leather, which was damned hard to come by these days. Any concern for his horse was forgotten in the searing pain in her bicep and the stink of singed fifty year old cow hide.

She’d done exactly what she’d fantasized about and clipped him right in the knee, narrowly missing Greyleigh, but scaring the hell out of the steed anyway. She was glad she hadn’t hurt the horse, because for one thing she didn’t really like hurting animals, especially holdovers from the old days like the Temple’s raised. But even more, she decided she liked that silvery little fella personally when he tossed Ned unceremoniously in the dirt and took off.

Talulah had done the smart thing and kept her distance until she had Ned cuffed and Doc raised on her communicator to come collect the lousy little bastard. Doc had patched up her arm for her with some fancy new glue one of his researchers had recently invented so that was good as new before her jacket had stopped smoking. Unfortunately, there was nothing to be done for the leather. She decided to keep wearing it to remind herself what happened when you hesitated.

Doc had taken pity on Talulah and let her go with a pretty stern talking to and the confiscation of her equally fine Temple mare, Zeign. Then he’d called the Federals to come pick up Ned and check the fencing they’d sold him under high tariffs. If he was going to pay for shit to get shipped in from Central, it had damned well better work so he didn’t have to spend his hard earned Credits contracting with ranch cops, too.

Talulah had just about begged her to take her back into town with her and help her send a message to their folks. That was her default strategy when Ned did something breathtakingly dumb and got busted. She’d play the helpless little lady led astray by her domineering criminal brother and get let off the hook. Her parents usually bought it, too. And she’d always walk away from any bad situation richer than when she tumbled into it. Bez should have known better, but, speaking of tumbles, Talulah was an especially fine companion for one.

They hit the nearest saloon after raising one of the Temple servants for a little loan to get Miss T a transport home, gotten pretty loaded, danced an awful lot, then … gotten a room. Well, at least this isn’t a whore house. Sheets should be pretty clean for laying around in until I can shake this hangover.

Hell and damn, Bez grumbled (still not out loud). I should never drink with that woman. She’s got iron innards and more willpower than sense.

Finally she forced herself to open her eyes.

“Son of a bitch.”

It still wasn’t very loud, but the scene was definitely worth a little volume. Bitching in her head just wasn’t going to cut it.

This wasn’t the tavern crash pad she’d gone to sleep in in Little Duck (weird name for a town, but it was a cute little one, with dusty yellow roads that seemed to make it fit) . It was a very nice hotel room. Not a Little Duck place. This was a city joint.

Bez moved to get up. She paused. Stark-assed naked to boot.

She looked around. The only article of clothing she could see was her leather jacket with its freshly torn sleeve that she could have sworn she could smell across the room. No Winchester Pulse. No Credit wallet. Not even any god damned boots.

Cursing, much more loudly this time, she got up and stomped across the room to one of the windows and threw back the curtains. When she looked out of her ground floor room on the busy street, she swore again. Not only was she not in Little Duck, she wasn’t even in the nearby city of Albans. In fact, the twin suns blazing white overhead said she wasn’t even in the same system.

“I’m gonna kill her,” she growled. A passing fellow dressed much to well for the time of day for him to be anything other than a Fed, tipped her a wave and an appreciative wink. She returned the implied compliment with as rude a hand gesture as she could conjure up from her days at the Academy.

She turned and stomped over to her coat. If she zipped it up it would cover enough of her ass to go to the desk, get them to contact the Home Office, and at least get her some clothes and enough Credits to hit a transport back to her nearest safehouse. She picked it up off the chair and a note fluttered to the floor.

Bez, I’m sorry.

I had to spring him. We’ve got a big job coming. I swear I’ll make it up to you. Hope you don’t get too lost in the big city. Herodis is one of the most populated planets in the Central System. At least it shouldn’t be too hard for you to find some clothes. Although, to be honest, I prefer you without them. I’ll be in touch.

Lulu

P.S. Ned made me leave the jacket.

Bez sighed and pulled on her coat.

“I’m not just gonna kill her. But I am gonna gut Ned Temple like a fish.”

The door slammed so hard on her way out to find the desk and figure out where the hell she actually was, she heard the mirror fall off the wall and break.

 

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