The oncoming sunrise and still-visible moonset balanced each other on opposing edges of the horizon. The grassy slope on one side of the little airlot was just beginning to brighten. Two old friends crossed it towards each other.
Walking part of the way, the wiry, medium-height man crossed his arms, smiling. He angled his chin toward the healthy, muscled blonde throwing her arms open. “Gretz Manoukian, what brings you to Southerpart?” She gave him a tight squeeze and a pat on the back, which he endured with a stoic grin.
“Eyyy, same as you. Unloading government stock.” They stood a few feet apart, facing the changing sky. The breeze smelled of evaporating moisture, and color rose softly.
“How long you staying down here on Genoe?”
“Hey, until I feel restless. I’m paid. You?”
“Yup, I saw the credits hit the account, but I’ll keep moving on. Treat you to breakfast roast? Heard they’re grilling wild runner hens out behind the saloon.”
He turned to face her with a stretchy grin. “If that’s so, you just made my day.” They crossed the airlot together.
Wendel Harper called out as they approached the grillmaster. “Jay, it’s you doing these birds? Is that gunpowder again for the seasoning?”
“Yep. It’s been all head shots lately, but sometimes you miss the taste of scattershot in the body.” He set down his grill poker and caught Wendel in a hug. He and Gretz shared a nod.
“I’ll have one and he’ll have one. Gunpowder’s got all the vitamins and minerals we need.” Jay set to finishing two nearly done birds.
Gretz leaned against the wall. “What’s the news in Southerpart?”
“Well, you know about the livestock failure. They think it’s some rare pollen spread happening planetwide. None of the Aquarii wanted to hang around. Maybe they figured they’d be susceptible.” Jay watched the food cook. “Decent business for those of us who can hunt the planet birds and buzzers. Wouldn’t call it easy living, though.”
“Well anyway,” said Wendel, running a hand over her short hair, “these flocks have got a new fancy-tech innoculant. The bio-imm team sounded pretty confident, so let’s hope they know what they’re doing.”
“Yep. Glad you could bring ’em.” Jay picked up two sticks and offered one in each hand to both of them. “Least I can do is make you breakfast. Gratis.” He hissed a drawn-out S through his teeth. An old man and woman rounded the corner arm in arm, clearly following their noses. Jay smiled and turned the other birds on the grill. Wendel and Gretz raised their food in salute and turned to go.
The two sat on the grassy slope, each biting at the small elongated runnerbird on its skewer. Between them, an open infosheet lay on the grass. This paperweight cloth received Wendel Harper’s subscriptions daily, and bundled or crumpled nice and tight in any pocket she happened to stuff it into. She rustled it flat with a hand, and set it to the daily issue that covered the inhabited planets in the Leuko Galaxy.
“Genesee is coping with major geothermal disruptions. Elections this year for the Genoene Council.” She read headlines aloud when they struck her interest. Gretz Manoukian stared into the sky and ate his breakfast. “Princess Soleil is back from her Alisandrian tour. The hunt for Raev Sturlusson continues.” The sun had fully risen, shining directly into their eyes. She shook it by its corner and the sheet went blank. “I think that’s enough news for now.”
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