Bright Red Dot 7

Duran looked down at his IV again to make sure it was put in correctly.  The older man chuckled and Duran turned red in embarrassment.

“So what’s yours?”

“My what?”

“Your name.”

Duran swallowed.  They were at the edge of the frontier, but Duran didn’t know if it was possible to get far enough out that no one had heard of his name or the bounty on his head.

“Maybe these’ll jog your memory, son.”

Blackstone tossed a couple sheets of paper onto his lap.  They were made of polymer, so they were still as white as they day they’d been cooked and pressed, but the ink on them was faded.  He could still make out his own face on each one though.  Underneath his name was the bounty.  The number varied from the ridiculously to the obscenely high depending on the city.  These two were on the low end because they came from nearby cities on the extreme northern edge of the colonized zone, but they were still enough zeros to ensure everyone in this village could live comfortably for the rest of their natural lives.

Blackstone’s eyes were unreadable under his enormous eyebrows.  Duran’s whole body itched.  His instincts were on fire.  He was keenly aware that his sword was out of reach.

“These have been rotting in one of my drawers for the past few years.  I knew you looked familiar when they brought you in here.”

“So, what are you going to do?”

Blackstone reached over the bed and snatched the two bounty sheets back up.

“Well, these two are going back in my drawer.  I’ve lived too long to trust promises like that.  As soon as we sold you to one city, every other one in spitting distance would throw everything they had at us to try to get you first.  That wouldn’t stop some in town from trying though.  So we should keep your name between us.”

Duran nodded.

“If you can walk, I can give you the tour.  It’s a short one.”

Duran pulled on his clothes.  His coat was still filled with sand, even after he shook it out.  He felt it pouring down the arms and out of the cuffs as he tried to get the settings right.  That was one reason he hated taking it off.  The controls had a mind of their own.  Blackstone waited patiently while he got the sleeves the right length and the temperature just so.

The two of them stopped for a drink as they left the sick room.  They were obviously in Blackstone’s house.  There were topographic maps covering every inch of wall space and an odd collection of rocks used as paper weights.

The water filtration unit shuddered like a dying animal, but eventually spat out enough water to fill two glasses.  The cool liquid felt amazing as it slid down Duran’s throat.  The dust storm had dehydrated him.  The IV had helped, but it wasn’t quite the same.

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