New Frontier Gunfighter: Three

Bonnie sighed, the beautiful redhead leaning forward from her place in the back seat as she asked the driver, "Can't this thing go any faster?"

The old carrier buggy, a left over from the colonial wars, bumped and shook as they went over the rough road away from town. "This is the best it'll do," Larry said, the bartender's rough black hair falling into his eyes.

"Do you think he got it?" Mayor Phillips asked with a frown.

"She," Bonnie corrected.

"Sorry," Phillips wiped at his balled spot as the shorter man added, "I guess I'm just used to thinking of her as a him."

"He's got a point," Larry said as he wrenched the wheel sideways to avoid a Havenite water-lizard, the large green skinned creature placidly grazing on the hardy local moss in the path of their buggy.

"Makes me wish I brought my rifle," the blonde haired Rei noted as she looked back at the lizard, "them's good eating."

"Rei," Phillips sighed, "you sound like such a savage."

"Thank you," Rei smiled.

Bonnie sighed as she looked her friends over and asked, "And why are you all coming along, exactly?"

"Well, the carrier buggy is town council property," Phillips noted.

Rei sniffed, "It's only fitting that council members supervise it's use."

"You needed a driver," Larry shrugged from behind the wheel. He grinned, "Besides, we had nothing better to do."

"Right," Bonnie fought back a smile, liking how her friends downplayed their presence. In fact they all had things to do, but had chosen to take the time to come out here to greet a returning friend.

The landing pad was just a fused, dense plane of rock, fused together back when the colony had been founded. Since then it had seen little use, the road out to the pad barely maintained as there were few sights to be seen on this outlying world. They came to a stop on the edge of the landing field and waited, looking up into the evening sky.

Beginning as a small spark of light against the blue sky the vessel slowly grew in size, the rumble of it's breaking the sound barrier reaching them in seconds. The vessel came descended in a howling displacement of air, steam pouring off of it's battered outer skin, the occasional long burn streak marking the surface, leftover of some battle. It was nearly thirty feet long, a blocky wedge with it's atmospheric wings deployed on either side. On the top and sides blocky shapes were mounted, looking oddly sinister on the small craft. The weapons units were each powerful enough to destroy their buggy with a single shot, yet were mere pea-shooters compared to that of a real warship.

"I still find it ironic that she's called the Sweet Charity," Phillips noted as he nodded towards the deadly craft.

"I think the previous owner had a odd sense of humor," Rei noted.

With a loud thump the Charity came to rest, steam pouring off of it's surface as the skin of the craft bled off the energy of atmospheric reentry. Once it was cool enough the hatch built into the side folded down into steps and a familiar lanky figure descended to meet them.

"Well, I wasn't expecting all of you," the slim woman said as she walked down to the group and took a tired look around , black hair that matched the shirt she wore. Jan Clark held out the bag marked with the universal medical insignia, "Got the vaccine."

"Thank god," Bonnie sighed happily as she rushed to the exhausted Jan's side.

"Thanks," Phillips took the package, "just in time, too."

Jan looked between her friend's faces, studying them a moment, then she asked soberly, "Who did we lose?"

Rei hesitated, then said sadly, "Heather Gallant succumbed to the fever the day after you left. Fortunately, the others are still holding on."

Jan winced, thinking of the kindly sheriff. "Then let's get the medicine back to town," she said firmly as they walked over to the old buggy.

An excerpt from the Encyclopedia Galactica, 2345 Edition:

One of the more unpleasant discoveries colonists made was the constant mutation and change of common and not so common diseases. A easily curable virus on one world could mutate slightly in the new conditions on another world, crippling or killing a colony. Only the rapid development of vaccines on more advanced worlds could save the colonies, and if a world lacked a jump drive equipped ship it could be doomed.

It took a few days before they could catch Jan up on what happened while she was off getting the medicine. Heather had supervised bringing in the sick from the homesteads, and despite her precautions had caught it as Jan was leaving. In the two week round trip to the nearest high tech world the fever had ravaged the woman, leading to her death only days ago.

Jan sighed as she listened to their story, nursing a synth-beer in the dance hall on the first floor of the brothel. All of them were tired, having spent the last few days getting the medicine to the homesteads as well as vaccinating everyone to make sure this disease never hit them again. "I should have been here faster," she said as she drank.

"You did everything you could," Bonnie said as she looked across the table at Jan, "and you know it."

"Hell," Angel leaned forward, the dancer and entertainer barely constrained by her slinky dress, "no one expected you back till next week. How did you get the medicine that fast?"

Jan looked a bit embarassed as she mumbled, "Called in a few favors. It wasn't much."

"I bet you did more than that," Bonnie said quietly, again astonished at how tender this seemingly tough gunfighter could be. In the months she had known her she saw how kind Jan was and how sweet she could be despite her hard exterior.

Phillip strode inside, the mayor looking visibly tired too. "The last of the families are heading back home," he reported, "it's finally over."

"Well, not completely over," Rei corrected as they young woman followed him into the dance hall, "we still have one problem."

"This isn't the time...," Bonnie started, knowing exactly where her friend was going and hoping to stop her.

Jan looked over at Bonnie then towards the newcomers as she warily asked, "What?"

"The now open sheriff's position," Phillip took the bull by the horns, so to speak.

"Huh?" It took Jan a moment to realize who they meant then her eyes narrowed in anger, "Are you insane?"

"No, actually it makes a lot of sense," Rei nswered as the terrified mayor ducked behind her. Calmly she noted, "You're well respected, you've kept the peace at the Place well enough, and you're involved with one of the pillars of the community."

Both Jan and Bonnie blushed, while Angel and several of their coworkers smirked. Sometime after the pair had become involved one of the girls had walked in on a romantic moment, so to speak, and faster than you can say 'rumor control' the word had spread all over town. Surprisingly the community took it pretty well, especially considering Jan's capability to kill anyone who insulted Bonnie.

"If I become the sheriff," Jan grimly noted, "you're going to have idiots coming out of the woodwork to challenge me. As it is, my working art the Place has resulted in a few guys who should have known better being shot."

"They haven't tried it in months," Phillip noted, "you've proven your rep."

Before Rei or Phillip could continue Bonnie said, "Give Jan some time to think about it, damn you. We're all exhausted and this is no time for decision making."

"You're right," Rei conceded, "but we'll be back to talk about this tomorrow."

"I'll be waiting," Jan answered, ner voice not exactly pleasant.

Bonnie sighed. "Angel," she looked at the young lady, "we're closing for the night. I doubt anyone has the energy to come here right now anyway."

"Right boss," Angel nodded, knowing her boss was in no mood to argue. "I'll close up."

"Come on," Bonnie took Jan by the hand and the two women headed to the stairs up to the room they now shared. The corner room had started out as Jan's alone, rented based on her bouncer duties then, when Bonnie moved in they made somne changes, including a larger bed, a wardrobe and a few other essentials.

"I need a bath," Jan sighed as she took off her shirt then undid her belt.

"Tomorrow," Bonnie said as she slid up behind her to kiss the back of her neck, "I like the way you smell."

"Hmm," Jan sighed. "You too," she turned to kiss Bonnie lingeringly, "I missed you."

Bonnie kissed her back, lingeringly. "You don't have to be sheriff," she noted as she undressed, her gown then underthings hitting the floor.

Jan sighed as she lay down, "Oh, I'll do it."

"Why were you fighting then?" Bonnie asked as she laid down beside her.

A sad smile, "Heather's barely in her grave, Bonnie. It wouldn'rt be right to just step into her boots like that. We need time."

"You're right of course," Bonnie said as she curled up to Jan's side. A pause, "Jan?"

"Yes?" Jan looked at her.

"How tired are you?" Bonnie batted her eyes.

Jan grinned as she pulled her close, "Not THAT tired."