Dillon Dvorak and his wife Skylar Hawkens Dvorak popped into existence inside the crude wooden room comprising Halcyon’s embarkation/disembarkation zone.
They smiled at a customs agent behind the desk, and quickly moved out of the way before Granny Wilcox and Trinadee Emerson popped in.
Granny said, “Whoopie! I always wanted to visit a Wild West planet! I didn’t get to see much last time I was here. Where are the cowboys?”
The customs official said, “Ah, well, we do have some ranches near the outlying towns, but I don’t think—”
“Never mind! I’ll find ’em when we take the choo-choo train out thar.”
Dillon said, “Did you just say ‘thar?’”
“When in Rome, Dillon! Y’all gots t’ tok lak th’ locals ’round here. Ain’t that rat, pardner?”
The customs agent frowned and said, “Okay, nobody talks like that here. We are a civilized planet.”
“Rat, rat. We’ll see ’bout that.”
The four made their way past the irritated agent out to the hall, then to the street without seeing anyone else.
Granny said, “Looky there!”
She pointed at a horse and carriage making its way toward them. The driver stared back just as intently. He pulled gently on the reins, making his horse slow to a stop when he came up even with them. He stared longest at Skylar and her softly glowing skin.
He said, “Y’all ain’t from around here, is you?”
Granny cackled and elbowed Trinadee in the ribs, making the younger girl yelp.
“See? I knew they talked like that!”
“We’re tourists,” Skylar said. “Which way is the train station?”
The wagon driver pointed in a general direction and the four walked down the street that way, trying to look everywhere at once.
At the station they learned the train would not be back until later tonight, but would leave for another run out to Wallisville tomorrow morning.
Then they decided to find Mama Sicily’s since Dillon, Skylar, and Granny had all enjoyed the place on their previous visit. They assured Trinadee she would like the food.
Two hours later, all four sat back in their chairs thoroughly stuffed.
Trinadee, who had subsisted on soy wafers and other bland fare most of her life, was particularly satiated.
She said, “That’s the best meal I’ve ever had in my life. Literally.”
The wait staff heard the compliment and beamed happily.
Granny sighed contentedly and pulled out a fresh cigar.
One of the waiters rushed over with a lighter.
She glared at him and said, “I don’t smoke ’em, sonny. That’s bad for your health.”
The following morning they ate breakfast at their hotel, then set out for the train station again. This time, the locomotive sat waiting, taking on people and cargo. They quickly paid for tickets to Wallisville, the end of the line, and climbed on board. They sat across from each other in facing seats inside an open car filled with other passengers.
When the train left the station, Granny acted giddy as a schoolgirl. She kept shaking Trinadee’s arm and pointing at things through the window.
“Lookit that! They’s plowin’ fields and such!”
People sitting nearby either smiled or frowned at her fake accent, depending on their personal temperament.
After the first couple of villages, though, the novelty wore off. Granny fell asleep hours later, lulled by the rhythm of the rails.
Dillon let out a long sigh. He said, “That took long enough.”
Skylar punched him in the shoulder.
She said, “Be nice.”
Trinadee smiled as the whistle blew from the steam engine.
Then she frowned as the whistle kept blowing. The train slowed.
Skylar said, “What’s going on?”
They heard brakes squealing as the train slowed even more.
Granny woke up.
A few passengers dared open windows to look out, risking temporary blindness from the smoke blowing back.
“Something’s on the tracks!” somebody said.
Granny said, “Oh, Lawdy! They’s somethin’ on th’ tracks, y’all!”
Everybody in the car was too distracted to be irritated with her, though, as the train slowly ground to a halt, metal wheels screeching on the tracks.
The gunshot echoed outside, and everyone watched six horsemen riding out of the woods, all of them aiming guns their way.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Dillon said. “A train robbery?”
“Land’s sakes! They’s gonna rob us! I gots the vapors!”
Skylar said, “Will you shut up? This is serious, Granny. Those men have guns.”
“Ya don’t say!”
Granny peeked out the window. The men had dismounted and one aimed a pistol up at the conductor. He stood in the engine with his hands up. The others headed for the passenger cars.
One of them climbed aboard their car. He wore a cowboy hat and his face was covered with a handkerchief.
He waved his gun at everybody and pulled out a big black sack.
“Alright! Put all your valuables in the bag and nobody gets hurt. All your credit tokens, jewelry, and anything else you got. You hear? Now get it in there.”
He walked down the aisle pointing his gun at the passengers in each seat. Everyone obliged and threw in tokens and other items.
“They really are serious,” Granny said with a note of incredulity.
The robber approached their seats and looked at them. All four stared back up at him.
He shook the bag, annoyed.
He said, “Let’s go, come on. I don’t got all day.”
Granny smiled and said, “Take him out, Skylar. Dibs on his gun. I want his horse, too.”
The bandit stared at her, surprised.
He said, “Now look . . .”
Skylar flicked out of sight. He aimed the gun at the seat where she used to be.
“What the . . .?”
She flicked in behind him and slugged him below the ear.
The gunshot sounded extraordinarily loud in the enclosed space. A hole appeared in the seat where Skylar had been, smoke drifting out of it.
Dillon jumped up and grabbed the gunman’s hand, aiming it up at the ceiling. Skylar pounded on his neck and ear. The man went down as Dillon pulled the pistol away from his fingers.
Skylar jumped and came down hard on his neck. Everyone heard a crack!
The bandit stopped moving.
Skylar looked at Dillon, then down at the gun he held.
She said, “Can I borrow that? It makes things so much easier.”
He nodded and handed it to her, butt first.
One of the other robbers stuck his head inside the car to investigate the gunshot.
“What’s goin’ on in here?”
Skylar flickered away again, then appeared behind him, poking the gun his back.
She said, “Hands up. Drop your weapon.”
Instead, he tried to turn.
She shot him in the head.
Moments later, all the bandits were dead or incapacitated. Granny cackled as she looked over six guns, choosing the best for herself.
“Oh, this one’s pretty.”
The horses were caught and loaded onto the stable car at the end of the train. Granny loudly proclaimed the horses belonged to the four of them, since they stopped the robbery.
“It’s the law of the Old West! Them horses is ours!”
Nobody argued with her.
Several passengers assisted in clearing debris from the tracks and in less than half an hour the steam engine started puffing. Its big iron wheels slowly turned and crept forward.
They were on their way again.
Trinadee smiled at Skylar and Dillon.
She said, “This is the best adventure ever, in my whole life. Literally!”