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A short story by

Kal-El Bogdanove

"This town needs the tourist trade."

Mayor Haskins whittled the tip off an expensive cigar as he said it. Rin Shearon nodded politely, but inside she thought, Lord, he says that like I've never heard it before.

Rin was tired and uncomfortable. The sweat that had collected in the small of her back during the pursuit through the hot sun was cooling in the over-air-conditioned office, and the heavy bag of black-market stims she'd taken off the perp was now causing her shiny marshal's star to dig two of its six points into her boob. A perfect storm of physical irritation.

The mayor was expanding on his opening theme, as if being the marshal in Quijadas for four years, and having been the marshal's daughter for twenty-five before that, hadn't already made Rin aware that the only reason offworlders ever bothered to visit a rocky little moon like Choss was for the opportunity to dive off its scenic cliffs and glide through its crisp high-desert air.

For glide enthusiasts, Choss was the crown and Quijadas was the jewel, home to storied canyons and breathtaking outcroppings unique in all the sector, left behind when some prehistoric ocean had steamed away.

Rin's main job was keeping anything that didn't fit the picture of the perfect resort town away from the eyes of the tourists. Sometimes that meant running down a black-market stim dealer and tackling him behind the Azlup's Pack 'n' Jet, like she had today.

Mostly it meant writing speeding tickets, booking drunk-and-disorderlies, and scaring off the teenagers who went up to the mineral springs to hit weak garage-brewed turk.

It was a good job, and Rin was good at it. She didn't know why she wasn't afraid to get her pointy cowgirl nose right up in the face of anyone who looked like he might start some shit, but she wasn't. Maybe it was genetic. Maybe five generations of town-taming granddads had just passed the trait down. Whatever—long as it worked.

The mayor was wrapping up now, and not too soon. Rin had been two bites into an egg salad sandwich when her dep had called in and said the dealer they were staking out was on the move. Egg salad was a favorite, even when it was karak and not chicken, but it didn't improve with time on the plate.

"Yes, sir, we're all glad this was taken care of with a minimum of fuss."

"No, sir, I don't think it's a sign of any sort of substantial drug trade reaching Quijadas."

"No, sir, I don't think anyone from the Gazette could have found out."

Balls.

The heat hit Rin like a fist as she stepped out of the cool dark of the mayor's office. She had driven her old rattletrap LAV to the scene and from the scene to lockup, but she'd switched to the cruiser before meeting the mayor because she knew he'd hate to see the LAV, with its mud-flecked doors and its ancient mounted guns, in the antiseptic downtown. Cruiser prob'ly wouldn't clear the first arroyo if I had to leave the grid, she thought wearily as she climbed in.

She made it two blocks, passing three ice cream parlors, a boutique full of handmade furniture, a place that sold artisanal cheeses, and a shop that offered "genuine protoss hummus" (which was hooey, Rin knew, because the protoss had no damn mouths). Then the call came in.

"Go ahead for Shearon," Rin said as she tapped the vidscreen. The amiable face of Rita, one of her two deputies, popped up.

"Hey, R. I got a weird call from Dolly Juarez up at North-Rim Rentals. Sounds like they've had some kind of accident. She's pretty upset."

Rin's guts did a flip-flop. It was ironic: the only things Rin really was afraid of were the goddamn cliffs the town was famous for.

Spend some cash, and you too could climb up, dive off, and glide your way into a tour of the prettiest canyons on Choss. Let them have it, thought Rin. Brr.

She stowed the little thrill of fear and U-turned. "Thanks, R. I'll head up. Can you imagine the fit Haskins is gonna throw if some rich bastard got himself killed, swooping around up there? I don't know if I can stomach the 'This town needs the tourist trade' speech twice today."

"Good luck, Marshal."

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