The mood in Joey Rays was sober, unlike its occupants. An oppressive heat had filtered in through the doors, and seemed to hang in a thick sweat all around us. In the corner, Davey Shepherd played bluegrass in his usual sunken key. Joey Ray, himself was working a greasy table cloth around a set of glass mugs, irritably eyeing some younger folks loudly chattering in the side booths.
There was a whoosh of fresh heat as the pressurized doors yawned open. I peeled an elbow off the counter, turning to take a look. A man stood in the doorway. He was dressed in a confederate blue suit. Black spaghetti tie. Polished loafers. The ‘not from around here’ type. I turned back to my drink.
“I’m looking for Marshal Raynor.” The man announced loudly. The bar had gone silent. I winced.
“Who's asking?” Davey asked, looking up from his piano.
The man approached the old man, unfolding a data pad from his jacket and shoving this in his face. Holographic words sprawled over its display surfaces.
“Timothy Hann. Emissary of the Grand Magistrate to Mar Sara.”
Davey’s stool creaked as he leaned back in it. “Well partner, I’m afraid you're just going to have to come back later. Marshall Raynor ain’t available. Now, if you’d want to leave a message for the marshall, I’d be happy to pass this along.”
Mr. Hann smiled, running his finger along the piano, trailing dust. “Or…how about I just throw you into an extradition cell until you’re willing to tell me where he is.” He grabbed Davey by the collar, hoisting him off the stool and knocking his bowler hat from his head. “Lest you redneck bilge rats waste any more of my time.”
A shot rang out loudly through the bar and everyone froze. Gunsmoke oozed from the barrel of my revolver. Mr Hann looked at the brand new hole that just been drilled straight through his fizzling data pad, and then to me.
“Marshall Raynor…I presume.”
“Kindly put the musician down.” I inched the barrel to the left, the gunsight now over his head. “Lest I have to waste more than your time.”
“Marshall Raynor,” Hann smiled, “by official edict of the Colonial Magistrate your services are hereby requested and required. Mission critical details are contained in this…” He held up the now destroyed tablet, then frowned and tossed this to the floor. “There is a squad of marines. In the canyons several miles north of Backwater. We need you to find them.”
“Sidewinder’s Gulch.” I drained my glass. “Let me guess. Y’all lost radio contact as soon as they entered the deeper ravine.”
The emissaries’s lip tightened.
I reached for my hat. “Happens at least twice a year, some overly ambitious ranch hand or trucker gets himself lost in there. You know who always has too pull them out?” I flipped Joey a coin and then headed for the door. “Welst I reckon you did, else you wouldn’t have come here in the first place.”
“Wait,” Mr Hann called out.
I stopped at the door, “What?”
“I’m coming with you.”
“Like hell you are kid…”
“By order of…”
“Heard about a damn ‘nough of this…” I push open the door. The sun had risen high over Joey Rays, I pulled my hat a little lower. Outside were a line of hover bikes, my 2479 Vulture idling at the far end. Across from this, a Mazini Zephyr, with a bright red paint job, D10 fusion engines and swooping repulsor plates.
“That your ride?” I pointed at the Zephyr
“Yes.” Hann answered.
“Not a bad bike…” I said to myself. “You wanna tag along fine.” I settled into my Vulture and ignited the ion thrusters. “Just don’t slow me down.”
To be continued…
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