Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5

Captain Jim Kirk stepped out of the turbolift. He headed to his science officer’s station. "You called, Mister Spock. What have you found out?"

"I believe you will find this interesting Captain." Spock said as he touched a series of controls. The hooded screen lit up and Jim looked inside.

"What am I looking at Mister Spock?"

"Those are emission trails heading back towards the planet from the asteroid belt. If my calculations are correct they lead back to the O’tams’ second moon."

"Very good Mister Spock, let me know when we’ve arrived at that moon."

"Of course, Captain."

+ + + + + + +

The morning dawned bright and Vin was up to meet it. Vin had a cot in the back room of the hardware store. He used it when he worked for Virgil so he wouldn’t have to ride back out to Ms. Nettie’s each night. Virgil tried at first to get Vin to stay with him and the Mrs. when he was in town but Vin didn’t want to put Virgil out. In truth, Vin would rather camp out under the stars. But Virgil worried about the young man and wanted Vin somewhere it was warm and safe. It was Ms Nettie who came up with the compromise. A cot in the back room wouldn’t put Virgil out anything and Vin had the freedom to come and go as he pleased. More often then not Vin could be found sleeping up on the roof on those nights.

Virgil came in just after dawn and told Vin all about the high stakes poker game between Ziv and Josiah’s friend from Earth. That the saloon had a new owner didn’t surprise Vin any at all. He figured the red fox would out wit the weasel. Vin got Virgil to lie on the cot and get some sleep before Mrs. Watson came looking for him. She usually brought Vin his breakfast when he was in town working for them.

Vin was finishing up checking in a wagonload of merchandise when Virgil made his appearance. It was going on noon and Vin was beginning to think about lunch and wonder if Virgil was going to sleep all day.

Yawning, Virgil made his way to the back of the store and said good morning to Vin. Vin looked up at the sun and said.

"Yeah, ya still got a little morning left," then went back to checking in the merchandise.

Virgil laughed and stated, "Beth brought ya your lunch, it’s on the counter inside. She let me off the hook for being out all night when I filled her in on all the gossip about the game. Let me have that data pad and go eat." Virgil looked over what Vin had done and said. "Damn Vin, you’d make one hell of a Cracker Jack clerk. You ever want to quit ranching, I’d hire you on full time any time you want."

Vim just smiled and shook his head. Spending all day inside wasn’t for him. As to his work on the data pad he thanked Ms. Nettie for that. His first seventeen years of life hadn’t had much schooling in them. He could barely write his name when Ms. Nettie found him. She taught him along with Casey as she did her lessons. She had told both of them that not having a chance to learn was nothing to be ashamed of; unless, you didn’t take advantage when the opportunity came up to better yourself. Knowing the three R’s as she called them was just such an opportunity. So he had sat at the kitchen table and did the same lessons as Casey under Ms. Nettie’s patient teaching.

Vin was finishing his lunch when a troop of miners rode by. Noisy and drunk they looked like trouble, and they were heading toward Nathan’s clinic.

"Don’t like the looks of that and our sheriff is all but useless. " Virgil said as he walked over to the gun case and took out a rifle. Vin took it away from him and walked toward the door.

"Vin," Vin turned around and caught a box of bullets Virgil threw at him. "Be careful out there, you hear me?" Vin smiled and went out the door. Virgil liked Vin and didn’t want any harm to come to him. He also knew that Ms. Nettie would skin him alive if anything did happen to her boy.

+ + + + + + +

Chris and Buck rode in to town. They were heading for the livery to stable their horses. Their plan was to find the hotel and clean up before meeting Orin Travis, the territorial judge. They had an appointment with Travis this evening. He wasn’t due back in town till later that day so they weren’t in any hurry.

"I’ll toss ya for taking care of the horses or checking us in at the hotel. What do you say pard?" Buck asked Chris. After being on the trail he needed a bath. Needed it bad, but so did Chris.

Chris knew what Buck was up to and agreed to the toss, calling heads. Heads it was. Chris laughed as Buck’s face fell, he knew Buck wanted a bath but then so did he.

"I’ll leave you some hot water."

"You do that and clean out the tub after you’re through," grumbled an unhappy Buck as he took the reins for both horses. He walked into the darkened stable; the air was cooler there. After being out in the bright sun light his eyes were taking a few moments to adjust so he couldn’t see if anyone was in there with him.

"Hello" Buck called out and almost jumped out of his skin when a door opened beside him and a longhaired kid stepped out of an office. He hadn’t seen the door before the kid opened it letting light spill out.

"Hi, Yosemite isn’t in right now, he just left for lunch. If ya want you can leave your horses and he’ll take care of them when he gets back." The kid went back into the office.

Buck follow him after hitching the horses to one of the stalls. He wanted a little more assurance to the care of his transportation. He found the kid surrounded by parts of a computer. Buck wasn’t sure if he was fixing it or vandalizing the machine.

"Uh, kid?"

The kid looked up at Buck from his work on the computer. He pushed his long black hair out of his eyes to get a better look at this stranger interrupting his labor.

"I am not a kid, I’m of age." He told this tall stranger. There was more than a bit of irritation in his voice. JD Dunne had had this conversation on more than one occasion with people who didn’t know him.

"Hey don’t go getting your britches in a knot. I only wanted to know who I was talking to." Buck had been watching the kid put the parts of the computer back together even as they talked. The kid was good, good that’s if it worked. With a press of a button, the kid turned on the machine and it came to life. His hands flew across the control panel. He seemed happy at what came up.

"You’re good at that." Buck said and meant it. He had seen trained Starfleet personnel take longer putting one of those back together.

"Thanks, there wasn’t much wrong with it. The mice got into it and made a nest. Yosemite doesn’t use it much, only to keep records of his inventory. The mice damaged a few of the boards and I had to replace some of them," the kid told him as if it was all in a days work.

"How come you’re here in Four Corners and not in one of the big cities on this planet. With talent like that you could write your own ticket anywhere. By the way the name’s Buck Wilmington."

"JD Dunne." He shook Buck’s outreached hand "I was in a city back east. Boston is about as big as its gets on O’tam. Only San Francisco is bigger. I grew up in Boston and didn’t like it. Always wanted to go out west and experience life. So I came out here. I work on computers and the town’s communications devices to earn my keep. What I really want to do is be a lawman."

Buck stopped the laugh that wanted to come out. This wet-behind-the-ears kid, a lawman? Buck could tell by the look of determination in the kid’s eyes that he was serious. Buck hoped that the sheriff of this town was a patient man and gave the kid a chance to grow into the job. He hoped he could keep the kid out of trouble in the meantime too. Not his problem, Buck told himself.

JD had finished putting his tools back in their case. The big man hadn’t laughed at him like some of the others in this town had. Oh he was sure Buck wanted to, but something kept Buck from hurting his feelings like they did. That was nice for a change.

"Come on I’ll show you where you can stable your horses."

Between the two of then it didn’t take long to settle the horses in. Buck got to thinking that JD would do well at the Academy. A bright friendly kid, good with computers and with the right encouragement he could go far.

"You ever think about going off planet and seeing what’s out there?" asked Buck.

"Nope, why should I? This is my home and everything I want is here. Anyway I can always access information from the Federation if I want to find out about anything or anybody out there. But my interests are here and I am happy on O’tam. When you think about it, O’tam is an unexplored planet," his eyes looking upward, "Why go out there exploring when there’s so much here that has not been investigated?" JD picked up his hat from a hook on the wall and headed out. Buck gave his horse one more pat and followed him.

At the doors Buck got a good look at the hat the kid was wearing.

"What the hell do you have on your head?"

"It’s called a boller, it’s just like the one Bat Masterson the famous lawman and gunfighter wore."

"How many fights ya been in because of it?"

"Don’t matter, I like it." JD didn’t tell Buck it was the last gift his Mother gave him before she died.

Buck shook his head; the kid needed a keeper. As they started out into the street a group of riders nearly ran them over. JD jumped back to keep from getting hit and bumped into Buck, causing him to lose his footing, Buck caught him and kept him on his feet.

"Who the hell are they" asked Buck

"Some of the miners looking for crystals and metals in the mountains north of here. They ride in at least once a mouth like they own the place. Sheriff won’t do anything about them unless they start breaking things and then only if the storekeepers complain and drag him out of his office."

"Ms. Travis has been trying to get the sheriff fired, but the town’s council won’t until they can get someone experienced to replace him. So far they haven’t found anyone willing to do the job for what they want to pay, saying a bad sheriff is better than no sheriff." JD kicked the dirt with his boot. "The town only wants someone with experience."

Buck smiled. JD looked so young when he kicked at the dirt that Buck wanted to pat him on the back and tell him everything was going to be all right. But it wasn’t his place to care for the boy. JD had obviously been taking care of himself for a while now. So instead Buck asked.

"Can ya point me in the direction of the hotel?"

"Sure, I’m heading that way myself. Miss Kitty asked me to check her computer system and download the latest pleasure programs for her. I pass the hotel on the way there."

"Pleasure programs?" asked Buck, his curiosity sparked.

"Yeah, Miss Kitty runs the brothel on the other side of town. She’s an Orion. She settled here and opened the brothel when she gained her freedom."

Buck’s smile got bigger as he thought of the possibilities on his next day off. But he choked on what the kid said next.

"If your looking for work, Miss Kitty is always looking for new male employees to service the female ranchers and women ranch hands in the area. All ya need is a health certificate from Healer Jackson to get a job there."

"No, no I’ve got a job, but thanks for thinking me capable of doing that job."

Buck did a quick reality check. It looked like the Wild West but most of the attitudes were the twenty-third century. Prostitution was legal and there were as many men in the business as women.

Of course in the nineteenth century men did most of the ranching and they owned the land, not giving their women a voice in matters, not even in their own lives at times. The women folk were made to stay at home while the men catted around. Things had changed in the last four hundred years and as far as Buck was concerned all for the better.

+ + + + + + +

Chris Larabee checked himself and Buck into the hotel. After taking a bath he headed out to find the local restaurant. He figured as soon as Buck got here and cleaned up they’d get something to eat. He was standing on the boardwalk watching the town when a troop of riders passed by. They appeared to be drunk, barely staying in their saddles. In fact one of them was being held upright by two of the other riders. They stopped at a side street that intersected with the main road that ran through town; right in front of the town’s clinic.

The riders had dismounted, fallen off came closer to the mark, all the while yelling for the Healer. Nathan Jackson came out of his clinic with his medical bag in hand. He wasn’t about to let this group into his clinic again. The first time they came to him sick as dogs from drinking too much rot-gut whisky and threw up all over his waiting room. It took a month to get the smell out and on rainy days you could still get a whisp of it.

"Healer ya got to help Kenny, he’s in a bad way." A tall miner staggered over to Nathan and grabbed the front of his shirt. Nathan’s eyes started to water from the man’s breath.

"Jack Matsen haven’t I told you drinking that rot-gut is like drinking poison? How sick is he?" asked Nathan as he let the miner pull him over to the man lying on the ground. At least his face wasn’t in front of Nathan’s as they went over to the still form. Matsen dropped to the ground beside his friend.

"Ya got to fix him up Healer, he’s the best partner I ever had."

The words were slurred but Nathan under stood him. Once a month or when the miners got a little ahead, they spent it on whisky; drank themselves sick on the cheap stuff. They’d come into town the next day, often still drunk, demanding Nathan fix what was wrong with them. The only way Nathan could do that was to find the bastard who was making the stuff and have him thrown into jail. But once sober the miners refused to talk, not wanting their source of cheap whisky to dry up.

"You got to help Kenny, Healer, he won’t wake up," cried the drunken man as he sat on the ground cradling his friend in his arms. "Make him wake up Healer, please," the drunken miner begged.

Nathan knew even before he kneeled beside the still body that Kevin was beyond anyone’s help. Rigamortis had set in and gone. He must have passed out and died in his sleep some time yesterday. He laid his hand on Kenny’s cold neck to be sure, there was no pulse. Nathan ran his medical tricorder down the body, it showed no surprises. Death had been caused by acute alcohol poisoning.

"Sorry Jack, Kenny’s dead." Nathan told the men around him. Nathan was sorry the man was dead, but he had warned them. "It was that rot-gut you drink. Kenny died from alcohol poisoning."

"No" mourned Jack, "He can’t be." Jack shook the body. "Ya can’t be dead."

Jack got a wild look in his eye. "You killed Kenny!"

"You bastard!" said one of the other miners.

Jack looked at the other miners that rode in with him and yelled. "He killed Kenny! String him up. He’s got to pay for killing Kenny."

The other drunks surged forward and grabbed Nathan and sat him on a horse and put a rope around his neck. They had thrown the other end up and around second floor rail post on the building next to the clinic.

Chris had moseyed down the boardwalk and had been watching the show. It had been entertaining until the miners had wanted to hang the Healer. Chris caught sight of a young man with a rifle in his hands on the other side of the street. Making eye contact something seemed to pass between them. The other man nodded his head as if he read Chris’s mind and took up a position that would cover both the Healer and Chris. Before Chris could intervene a pretty blond woman walked in the middle of things waving a shotgun and demanding they let the Healer go.

Nathan had been trying to reason with the drunken miners. They weren’t listening to him. Ms. Travis’ intervention would have been a welcome sight if she had brought help with her. The sheriff was nowhere in sight as usual and a lone woman against these men wasn’t going to help. It came to head a when one of the miners took the gun from Mary Travis and knocked her to the ground. The miners didn’t stop to check if anyone one else was going to try to stop them. They were too drunk to be aware of the growing crowd or the dangerous looking man stepping off the boardwalk.

"That’s enough," said a tall dark clad stranger. "Let the Healer go."

+ + + + + + +

The man was dressed all in black, his presence was like a cold wind blowing through town. It sent a shiver down the backs of the men he was facing. Two of the miners dropped their weapons and moved to untie Nathan.

"NO! He killed Kenny." Jack Matsen moved to draw his gun. The stranger shot it out of his hand before it finished clearing leather.

The noise spooked the horse Nathan was setting on and it ran out from under him. Another shot rang out and the rope parted leaving Nathan on the ground shaken but alive.

The other miners dropped their guns and sat on the ground. They had had enough, the fight had gone out of them. People attracted by the shots came out of the buildings to see what was going on. Mary Travis untied Nathan and helped him to his feet. Vin stood in the background and kept watch over the miners. Buck and JD came up to join the crowd to see what was going on. Chris stood there with a dissatisfied look on his face as he put his gun back in its holster.

"I see you’ve been busy," said Buck as he walked over to where his friend was standing.

"Yeah, and the sheriff hasn’t made an appearance yet." Chris was going to have to work with the man if this Federal Marshal Program was going to get off the ground. If the sound of gun shots hadn’t brought him out to check on trouble in his town what would?

"Well my young friend here’s been telling me that Sheriff Burt Tate isn’t much of a sheriff." Waving JD up to join them he said, "Chris I’d like you to meet JD Dunne. He’s been introducing me to some of the town’s people." Before Buck could go on a man on horseback rode up and demanded.

"What’s going on here?"

Mary Travis looked up from where she had been untying Nathan and said.

"Why Sheriff Tate, how nice of you to make an appearance now that the shooting’s over. We nearly lost Healer Jackson and you’re only now leaving the jail to find out what the shooting was about? I’m sure it will make a great story for the paper."

Sheriff Tate’s laugher was an ugly sound. "You go right ahead Miss High and Mighty. You’ve been trying to get me fired ever since your husband died. Well you can take this job…" as he said this Tate took off his badge and tossed it to the ground at their feet. "and put it up your tight…"

Buck stepped forward and grabbed the reins to Tate’s horse, stopping Tate from finishing his sentence.

"That’s no way to talk in front of a lady."

"I’ll talk any…" But seeing the look in Buck’s eyes he thought better of continuing. "The hell with you and this town. I’ve got a new job and I quit." With that he jerked the reins out of Buck’s hand and rode off out of town.

Moans brought their attention back to the miners. The crowd started to depart as the miners started to throw up all the whisky they had drunk over the last twenty-four hours.

"Aw hell." Said Nathan as he grabbed his bag and pulled out a hypo spray and gave each of the regurgitating miners a shot to settle their stomachs, stopping at Jack Matsen to treat his hand.

Chris stared at Nathan fussing over the man who tried to hang him just minutes before.

"You’ve got a forgiving nature, Healer."

"These fools where out of their minds with bad whiskey and grief. They’re not normally this way. Besides I took an oath to help anyone who needed my services." Nathan looked up at Chris. "Thanks for saving my life."

Chris shook his head. "Wasn’t me that shot the rope in two, it was that long haired fellow over there." Chris pointed to the place where the young man had been standing only to find him gone.

+ + + + + + +

Nathan had taken the miners into his clinic. The crowd had dispersed, Chris and Buck went back to the hotel. Mary set off to put out her paper. Only one person was left standing in the street. JD bent down and picked up the badge Tate had tossed there. Whipping off the dirt he looked at the star for a long time before putting it into his shirt pocket.

+ + + + + + +

Later that afternoon Ezra Standish walked out of the First National Bank of Four Corners. He had set up an account for the saloon to use and a separate one for himself. He had time before his meeting with Judge Travis to stop by the saloon and take some pictures.

The saloon wasn’t the largest deal he had ever pulled off. Under Maude’s tutorage he had been taught how to tie up a deal tightly so there’d be no loopholes to slip through. It wasn’t even the largest pot from a poker game he had ever won. But it was the most satisfying. His Mother will be amused at Josiah’s participation in it as well, he thought. He would send her the pictures and a full story of what was going on here on O’tam.

Ezra went to the saloon expecting to find the place open but found a closed sign declaring the saloon was under new ownership and would reopen in a few days. Going inside he found Ms. Recillos going over the saloon’s ledger and piles of paper surrounding her on one of the tables. She smiled when she saw him.

"I was hoping that you’d come today. I wanted to go over the saloon’s books and get you familiarized with the operation here," said Inez.

Ezra took off his hat but didn’t sit down. He held the recording device in his hand, looking around for Ziv and Gin.

"Ah be delighted to after a tour of the place, that is if you don’t mind Ms. Recillos?"

"I would be delighted to if you call me Inez, Mr. Standish." Inez closed the ledger and gathered up the piles of paper.

"If Ah’m to be allowed the honor of an addressing you by your given name. You must in turn give me the same pleasure. Ma name is Ezra, Inez."

Inez smiled and said. "Ezra it is then. What would you like to see first?"

The pair inspected the downstairs and basement before moving up to the rooms upstairs. They were four small rooms with a bed, chair, small dresser and a small closet for hanging clothes.

"We don’t get much call to rent them except when the cattle drives go through. The few tourists that come through town want more of the creature comforts that the hotel offers. Can’t say that I blame them. There is only one bathroom on this floor for the four rooms."

"Does that include Ziv’s living area?" Ezra asked.

"Heavens no, his rooms have everything you can imagine for his comfort." Inez answered him.

Ezra had been taking pictures as they went along. One reason was to show his mother. The other was to have documentation of what was in the building in case any fundamental items went missing. They stood outside of Ziv’s door, the last rooms to be inspected.

"If you don’t mind Ezra I’d rather not go in there," Inez asked of Ezra.

"Of course not ma dear lady. Ah shall confront the horror in there maself," said Ezra giving time for Inez to depart before he opened the door and went in. Leaving the door open, Ezra walked in with the recorder running in his hand.

The owner’s apartment must have taken an unfair amount of the upstairs area to account for its size. By human standards it was appallingly decorated. It was tacky even for a Ferengi. The living room windows were covered with a heavy golden color metal fabric that kept out all light. The plush furniture was in different shades of pink and orange. The carpeting was gold and olive green, the same color as the paint on the walls. Ezra was glad Inez had declined to come in with him as he took in the paintings on the walls and objects of art around the room. Some of them embarrassed him let alone a lady like Miss Recillos.

Off in the corner was a small kitchen. A quick check of a closed door showed a small bedroom, most likely Gin’s since it was both neat and clean. The other door lead into a much larger bedroom. An unmade bed sat in the middle of the room. A mirror covered the ceiling and there were more articles of art like the ones in the living room. Clothes were tossed every where. The color scheme in here was the same as the rest of the apartment. Sounds came from a room near the back. Opening the door Ezra walked into an elaborate bathroom. In an enormous tub sat, Ziv sunk up to his lobes in a bubble bath. There was room in the ornate tub for three adult humans, let alone one Ferengi.

If nothing else came from this trip to O’tam, Ezra was taking that bathtub home with him. For the tub was huge. Ezra would be able to lay out to his full length and still have room to spare. Sophisticated workmanship and plumbing were obvious in the details of the tub. An unfortunate experience as a young teenager had left Ezra with a strong dislike of being dirty. Long soaks in hot water had become one of his favorite pastimes. Perhaps his time on this planet wouldn’t be so unpleasant after all with this tub for him to utilize.

Ziv had sunk into the bubbles up to his nose hairs. He had something in his ears to keep the water out that was also playing music. He was oblivious to Ezra’s presence in the room. Ezra took a few more pictures of the tub and as much of the plumbing as he could find in the bathroom. Making himself comfortable on the wide edge of the tub, he waited for Ziv to notice him.

Ziv was enjoying himself in the warm scented water in his handmade bather. It had cost him dearly to bring it to this world in the boondocks, but it had been worth every credit. A Ferengi must pamper the body and mind occasionally to think up new ways to make more profit. Ziv sighed and let his cares float away as he waited for inspiration to come. Damn, still no inspiration and he been in this tub for over an hour, he even reheated the water. What was wrong? Now he felt someone watching him.

"Go away Gin. I’ll speak to you later." He still felt eyes on him. Sitting upright he pulled out his ear pugs and looked up expecting to see his cousin Gin, not that appalling human Standish. With a yelp, Ziv dove to the bottom of the tub sending up a spray of water.

Ezra wiped the water off his jacket with one of the towels hanging by the tub. He waited for Ziv to resurface. While Ferenginar was a wet world, almost constantly raining, it’s citizens were not aquatic. Ziv would have to come up for air.

Ziv popped up gasping for air and trying to shake the water out of his ears. "Damn you Standish what the hell are you doing in my bathroom?"

"That’s ma bathroom, it goes with the building remember. I look forward to redecorating the entire place." Ezra said that just to rub it in. If Ziv had any of Gin’s finer qualities Ezra wouldn’t had been so rude. Inez had told him that it was Gin who kept Ziv distracted from the girls before she came to work in Four Corners. But Gin wasn’t the one in charge, he was just Ziv’s lackey. Ezra wasn’t one to let a bully off easily, especially one who frightens children.

"Ah just dropped in to inspect ma new property and see how your packing was coming," smiled Ezra. "Ah do believe Ah have enough pictures for now." Ezra showed Ziv his recorder to let him know he wouldn’t allow any part of the building to be damaged or go missing that was fundamental to the building or business.

"Ms Recillos has been showing me the stock down in the basement as well as in that little room off the stairs down there. Ah must say Ah wasn’t expecting the quality of some of that whisky Ah saw there." Ezra stood up and smirked. "It’s been an experience doing business with you Ziv, but Ah don’t want to keep you from your packing and Ms Recillos has invited me to dine with her. Ah do not wish to keep the lady waiting, it’s bad manners. Good night Ziv." Ezra left the sputtering Ferengi sitting in a tub of cold water.

+ + + + + + +

JD stood across the street from Judge Travis’ house. He knew something was going on. It involved his new friend Buck and his scary friend Chris Larabee. Boy was that man fast. He shot the gun right out of Jack Matsen’s hand this afternoon before he even cleared his holster.

Whatever was going on, it had Judge Travis’ blessing and JD figured it had to do with replacing Sheriff Tate. He had to find a way to get the Judge to let him be part of it.

+ + + + + + +

Buck watch JD from the window in the Judge’s study. The kid was obviously trying to get his courage up to come over and knock on the door. The question remained were they going to let him in? Buck looked over at Chris reading the report on one JD Dunne. His commanding officer and best friend looked comfortable sitting there. Why did it seem so natural to see Chris dressed in black western attire with a six-gun on his hip? They both had gotten use to the feel and the weight of the guns. Now they would feel undressed without them. Buck was brought back from his pondering by Chris asking him a question.

"You sure about the kid Buck?" Chris had learned long ago to rely on Buck’s instincts about people. He was rarely wrong unless he was in love and even then he kept his eyes open to the fact that no one was perfect. The big man seen to have a need to take care of people and Chris should know. Growing up with Buck, he had watched his friend bring home every lost or hurt animal he had found. Two legged as well as four, he took care of them till they could do so on their own, even him. After Adam died it was Buck who took care of Chris and made him get on with living.

"You know Buck, he’s not a lost puppy or a black kitten with a white sprit down its back."

"You’re not ever going to let me forget that are you?" accused Buck.

"I don’t want to take another tomato bath cause you don’t know the difference between a cat and a skunk," Chris told him trying to keep the humor out of his voice.

"I was only twelve years old and had never see a skunk before. If ya hadn’t yelled at the poor thing he wouldn’t have gotten scared. It was as much your fault as it was mine." He too was trying not to chuckle as he remembered Chris’ parents refusing to let them in to the house and making them take a cold bath in tomato juice out in the barn. Chris’ light blond hair was orange for a week after that.

"Anything of interest in that report?" asked Buck. The Judge had downloaded full information packets from the planet’s database on the men he wanted Chris and Buck to consider for their deputies.

Chris tossed the data pad to him. As Buck started to read it for himself Chris kept on talking.

"John D. Dunne is twenty-one years old, looks seventeen, which could be useful. Excels at electronics and everything computer related. That will definitely be useful. The kid’s clean: no record of any illegal activities. Came out to Four Corners after his Mother’s death six months ago, no father in the records. Wants to go into law enforcement. There are no schools on O’tam for that."

Buck looked up from his reading when Chris stopped, he waited for Chris to continue and get to the point he was going to make.

"O’tam has a policy to let people train for a job under a professional doing that job. An apprenticeship, so if you’re willing to take him on he’s yours." Chris told him.

"You make him sound like you’re giving me a lost kitten," Buck said.

"Just make sure he doesn’t turn into a polecat," Chris added.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah and Nathan had dinner together and had collected Ezra outside of the saloon where he was wishing Inez good night. They then made their way to the Travis’ home on the outskirts of town. There they found JD starting to cross the street. He paused when he saw them.

Josiah walked up behind JD and helped him to keep moving by placing his large hand on the boy’s back. He pushed him along with them till they came to the front door.

"It’s good to seen you little brother. I was hoping you be joining us tonight." Josiah told him.

Evie Travis opened the door before they could knock, smiling at the four men standing there on her front porch. "Gentlemen you’re right on time, Orin and the others are waiting for you in the study,’" she said, standing to the side for them to enter her home.

Ezra took off his hat and waited for Josiah to introduce him to the lady. When that didn’t work he cleared his throat. He wondered if he was going to have to resort to tugging on the big man’s sleeve when Josiah remembered his manners.

"Evie, this is my friend from Earth, Ezra P. Standish. Ezra this is Evie Travis, the Judge’s wife and co-owner of the Clarion Newspaper."

"Madam Ah’m charmed," Ezra smiled at her, letting his dimples show. Taking the offered hand Evie held out to him he kissed it. "Thank you for allowing us into your home tonight, dear lady."

Evie smiled back at him thinking this one was a charmer. Orin will have his hands full with him. "I’m pleased that you could make it Professor Standish. Josiah told us so much about you and of course I’ve read your books. I’m sure you’re going to do well here on O’tam." Turning to the others she said. "This way gentlemen," leading the way into the house.


Comments to: Nsscbs1978@aol.com