By Robert Lynch
The door crashed open, and the gunslinger fell through it. Blood spurted from his thigh. He grabbed at a pouch on his belt, hands shaking from the loss of blood and the knowledge that he had only moments to live if he made a mistake. From the pouch, he pulled out a small, uncommonly well-polished object and stabbed it into the wound.
When he woke, three hours later, the bullet wound at his thigh was healed, and an ugly scar remained. He knew from past experience that it would take days to regain full strength. The healing device stopped death, but it came at a price. Weakly, he got up and went to the window. Pre-dawn. If he could get to a horse, he could get well away from here and make camp somewhere secluded.
He struggled to make it outside, his lethargic legs unable to sneak well. There were no horses on the street. In a town this big that seemed improbable, but perhaps the earlier commotion spooked them. With the dawn would come a lot of unwanted questions, he wasn’t sure how far he could make it on foot, but any distance away would be better than being here.
Down an alley and across a small field he found a small copse of trees that heralded the base of a small spring. Not enough to supply water long term for anyone, but enough to give him a drink now and to provide shelter for the coming day. He drank his fill then dug into the underbrush. He was too close to the town, but maybe it would work in his favour, perhaps the Law wouldn’t think of looking so close. It didn’t matter; he needed to hide while the suns were up.
For the next 18 hours, he listened as people came and went. He heard horses and carriages of the local folk going about their business as well as the distinct sound of the arrival of the constable and his retinue. They began a search, but no one thought to check the small hiding place the gunslinger had found. With stomach rumbling, the gunslinger moved out into the darkness once it arrived. Fear told him to flee, but instead, he headed back to town.
From an alley, he looked on to the street where the constable’s Zorin Mark 2 Cruiser hovered in the street. The ship was an older Corpa Corporation design, but sturdy and reliable. Only one man stood guard at the ship. The gunslinger found that to be troubling but enticing. They might have spent so many men on the search that they spared only one for guard duty at the command centre, or it could be a trap.
Pulling the laser pistol from his belt, the gunslinger checked his magazine. He only had four rounds left. He looked back out at the prairie, either he could hide out in the landscape, or head for higher ground. The constable’s ship could get him off-planet. He might even be able to flip the craft at a chop shop and end up with a small payday to keep him on the move.
He aimed the pistol from the darkness at the guard — time to get off this rock.