Sheralynn stared out the train window at open prairie rolling by. The XYY Ranch was nestled in the shelter of the New Carpathian Mountains…or so the online website said. She snapped her laptop shut; her battery was low and the circle of dark mountains would gobble up her wifi bars. She leaned against a stack of carry-on luggage not hers (her kit bag was stuffed under her seat), and closed her eyes.
Lula’s Full Moons 40 Saloon, nestled into the western-most corner Zeta-5’s Rest and Rehab Station, was half full of the usual hands, lounging in leathers and 10-gallon hats, or tipping back shots in titillating bustiers and full ruffled skirts. Or jeans and flip flops. Lula didn’t care, just so long as folks were respectful and they paid their bar bill.
There once was a settlement on Arizon’, 20 kliks from a ruined moonbase at the far edge of what the Space Cowboy Coalition called the 66th Quadrant. The planet to which Arizon’ had been attached is as long-gone and forgotten as its name. By all that’s natural and what we believe to be the laws of science, the tiny golden moon Arizon’ should have spun off and disappeared as well. But there she sits, spinning slowly, holding her place in the quadrant, wreathed in pearly-gray clouds.
A transformation is occurring…
Many, many years ago, when the red planet was untamed and sparsely populated–not like it is now, with its towering star scrapers and rumbling freewheelways—Schmitties roamed the plains, and the atmosphere was breathable.
A man could make a fine life for himself as a Schmittyboy. The pay wasn’t great, but the vistas couldn’t be beat.