By Ingvar: The Sun was high in the sky, a small brilliant speck visible through the crystalline dome of Fort Corallium. Trigger walked down Main Street, gracefully lifting his wide-brimmed hat to the people greeting him. He’d been the local law for three years now, and Fort Corallium had seen a steep drop in crime under his service.
Up ahead was the Coffee Emporium, one of the more luxurious establishments in the dome. He quickly checked that his badge was displayed on his broad chest, and that he had indeed holstered his laser revolver. It did not do to offend Miss Hoyter, the owner of the Emporium. Stopping briefly just outside the door, he brushed some specks of dust off his right sleeve, then entered.
“Sheriff Snowflake! What a pleasant surprise. What would you like?” said Miss Hoyter.
“It being payday and all, Miss Hoyter, I think I will indulge in a cup of your finest Colombian coffee,” answered Trigger, “It’s been several weeks since the last. But, the bounty for Frayed John came in, and it’s coming to the end of the month, and I feel like luxury.”
“Very good, Sheriff. Would you like something to eat with your coffee, as well?”
“I think I would actually like to start with a glass of fruit juice and a grilled synthecheese sandwich, with the coffee to follow, maybe with a vanilla Danish, if they are fresh.”
“Ever so, Sheriff. We always make Danishes in the morning. They may no longer be warm from the oven, but they should still be delightfully crisp.”
Trigger walked to one of the booths and sat down, making sure he had room to draw his weapon and a good sight line to the door. It was unlikely he would need that, with everyone knowing that causing a ruckus at the Emporium would result in Miss Hoyter issuing a lifetime ban from the establishment and she was the only place in town that imported coffee all the way from Earth. The beans from the hydroponics factory were vastly inferior in taste and you might as well simply steep roasted dandelion roots, for all Trigger cared.
As he savoured the last bite of his grilled synthecheese, Miss Hoyter came over with a cup on a silver platter.
“Here, Sheriff, freshly ground Colombian filter coffee, no milk, one brown sugar on the side, as you like it. We had a single strawberry Danish left, so I thought that it would make a suitable gift for Fort Corallium’s handsomest lawman.”
Trigger smiled at the compliment. He’d been good for Fort Corallium and the settlement agreed with him. Mostly quiet, these days. The ice miners had quickly grasped that Trigger was no push-over and would not condone any fisticuffs out on the streets. The only place in town that fighting still occurred in public was at Slim’s Alco-Hole, an establishment serving intoxicating liquor, for consumption on the premises. But, as its clientele was mostly the rougher elements of the community, and the fights very seldom spilled out from the main room onto the street, it was really only necessary to ensure that the medics were alerted. Once every few weeks, one miner or another would go too far and Trigger would need to step in and enforce the peace.
Looking at his plates, Trigger decided that as delicious as the vanilla Danish was, he would alas have to leave the last bite uneaten, it simply would be too much. He grabbed his cup and savoured the last mouthful of deliciously bitter coffee, as it slid down his throat.
“Miss Hoyter, I thank you. The coffee was delicious, as always. Please give my compliments to your pastry chef, by the way the vanilla and strawberry were most excellent.”
“Thank you, Sheriff. I do in fact bake the Danishes myself.” Replied Miss Hoyter, blushing slightly. “I am delighted that you enjoyed your little break. Can I tempt you to stay a while longer? I have some Viennese pastries I have been experiencing with. The air mixture is not quite right, so I have had to –”
“Alas, Miss Hoyter, I have had as much leisure as I can allow myself. Maybe tomorrow?”
Miss Hoyter nodded in agreement, “See you tomorrow, then, Sheriff.”
Trigger folded the napkin and placed it beside his cup, before standing up. As he made his way back out onto Main Street, he quietly mused to himself that Miss Hoyter would make an excellent spouse for a lucky man, one of these days.
Trigger had reached the shuttle port end of Main Street and turned around, when his radio made a sudden noise. He unhooked the unit from his belt and pressed the transmit button. “Sheriff Snowflake, what’s up, over?”
“Sorry Boss, the silent alarm from Lilyberg’s Jewelry just went off. Thought you should know. They’ve been pretty good at not doing falsies and, well, maybe it’s nothing and maybe there’s a problem, over.”
“No worries, Deputy Canner, I will proceed apace, I am a mere two blocks from Lilyberg’s. Sheriff Snowflake, out.”
He picked up the pace, it would not do to slack when the possible safety of the dome’s jewelry street was in possible jeopardy. Why, if he ever decided that the slow and gentle flirtation with Miss Hoyter should give way to a more serious pursuit, Lilyberg’s is where he would purchase the diamond ring.
He looked through the wide-open entrance of Lilyberg’s Jewelry and saw that nefarious deeds were indeed in progress. A swarthy, heavy-set man, probably a newcomer, since Trigger did not recognise him, was threatening Joseph Lilyberg, the proprietor of the shop, with a long knife.
Trigger unholstered his laser revolver and spoke in his stentorian lawman voice, “Please surrender your weapon, you are under arrest for armed robbery and illegal threats.”
The swarthy man turned his head and saw Trigger. A slight flinch, bringing the point of the knife a fraction closer to Joseph Lilyberg’s trembling throat. “Ah, the Sheriff. One step closer and I will ram my knife through the spineless neck of the goldsmith. All I want is every necklace and bracelet under the counter then I will be out of here, nobody gets hurt. How about that, Sheriff?”
Trigger quickly calculated angles and risk. It would be safe, but not for a lesser shot than him. “As I said, surrender your weapon, you’re under arrest.’
Before the swarthy man could more than tense his arm, in preparation for plunging the wicked blade through Mr Lilyberg’s shaking throat, Trigger fired his revolver, hitting the large knife right on the ricasso, snapping the blade and the laser beam reflecting up into the face of the villain, temporarily blinding him. A few quick steps later, Trigger whipped out a pair of hand-cuffs and locked the swarthy man’s hands behind his back. Holding firmly on to the cuff chain, Trigger walked the man out, while he grabbed for his radio. “Deputy Canner, please open holding cell Two, I am bringing in a perp, fool tried to rob Lilyberg’s.”
The following morning, Trigger Snowflake woke from a night of restful sleep. Standing by the basin in front of his shaving mirror, he cast a quick, admiring glance at his reflection. He was a good-looking man, firm of muscle, but not so thick with it that he would be slowed down. Add to this, a chiseled chin, sharp cheekbones and slightly dark-blond curly hair, cropped close to his head. He finished his morning shave, then put the straight razor away. He much preferred the old-fashioned way, rather than simply slathering his face in depilatory cream. Using a straight razor took skill, discipline, and no small amount of confidence.
Once dressed, he walked across the street to the Sheriff’s office. The swarthy perp from yesterday was turning and tossing in Cell Two, obviously not having had a restful night, contemplating his wickedness. Trigger sat down in his chair, poured a glass of chilled fruit juice, then leaned back and placed his feet on the edge of the desk. Later in the day, the Circuit Judge would be arriving at the shuttleport, hopefully taking the perp away to one of the penal asteroids, there to spend the rest of his life refining minerals.
Trigger took another sip of juice, when the front door was flung open and a kid came running in.
“Sheriff! Sheriff! They’ve taken Miss Hoyter hostage! Sheriff! Please come at once!”
It was Ben, one of the few kids in town, most miners preferring to not bring their family and rather take short-term contracts. But Ben’s father, Ezekiel, was a widower and had rightly decided that a life without a good paternal figure would lead the young boy astray, into crime or possibly even sodomy. So, Ezekiel had brought Ben with him, even if taking family meant agreeing to a minimum two-year contract, as opposed to the normal six months.
“Ah, young Ben, what is this about a hostage situation?”
“It’s at the Emporium, Sheriff! Armed men came in, held Miss Hoyter at gun-point and now they’ve tied her up! Come, quick, Sheriff, you must save her, please?”
Trigger nodded, “Certainly, it is my duty as the local representative of The Law. It would just encourage scum like that to not do my very best.”
Expecting serious trouble, Trigger strapped his double-holster gun belt on. Two laser revolvers would make short work of these miscreants. He left the Sheriff’s Office and headed up Main Street towards the Coffee Emporium, to more and more increasing cheers as he got closer. Obviously people were aware of what was happening and looking forward to him sorting the whole thing out.
Not long before the doors to the Coffee Emporium, he stopped and double-checked that he had loaded both revolvers with fresh laser cartridges and had the holsters loosely strapped to his legs. Satisfied that everything was in order, he placed himself next to the door, back to the wall and shouted.
“This is Sheriff Trigger Snowflake. You are all under arrest. Drop your weapons on the ground and exit this establishment peacefully.”
A gruff voice was heard from the inside. “You are holding one of my men in your cells. I have three hostages, including the owner of the café. If you can guarantee us safe passage to the shuttle port, a fully fueled shuttle and the release of my man, I will let them live. If my demands have not been met in fifteen minutes, I will start to kill the hostages, one every fifteen minutes, until such a time as my demands have been met.”
Trigger risked a quick glance through the door. It would expose his head, but only for the fraction of a second required to get that crucial view of the room. He pulled his head back to safety, just as a laser blast went through where his forehead had just been. They were quick, maybe even a match for Trigger’s enhanced reflexes. Thanks to his photographic memory, he could analyse the scene. There were five scumbags, three armed with laser revolvers, one with a laser carbine and one with a knife very similar to the one yesterday’s scum had wielded. At a guess, the man with the carbine was the leader, he certainly was the largest and in the centre of the group. Sitting on the floor, expertly bound up, was Miss Hoyter, as well as Mr. and Mrs. George Elphinstone, Margaret by name. They were somewhat the line of fire, especially since the miscreants could not be trusted to hold their fire until their weapons were fully raised. Trigger had certainly heard of hostages being shot in exactly that way, over in Beryllium Valley, only a few months ago. That would not happen on his shift.
“I have a counter-proposal. Come out on Main Street, and we’ll have an honest duel, one by one. There are five of you, so you will get five chances to kill me. If you do get me, I can guarantee that the kind people of this town will let you depart in my own personal shuttle.”
It was not, strictly speaking, a lie. Standard procedure was to tempt hostage-takers into leaving the hostages safely behind, before engaging, if at all possible. They were unlikely to want to drag the bound people along, lazy criminals would never exert themselves needlessly.
“Tell me, Sheriff, what guarantees do we actually have that what you say is true?”
Trigger quickly checked his pockets. He did, thankfully, have the activation card for the sheriff shuttle in his back pocket.
“I will throw the activation card to my shuttle through the door. You can check it yourself. It’s a Chrysler Motors Potomac-class shuttle.”
He threw the card, being careful to not get it to land too close to the leader, since that might be a bit suspicious. He could hear quiet steps, then it was silent for almost a minute.
“OK, we’re coming out. Standard duelling code, revolvers only, draw only after a dropped handkerchief lands. One of us at a time, we decide on the order. Is that acceptable?”
“Fine by me. I will cross to the other side of the street and find someone to act as our officiator.”
Trigger nodded to Joseph Lilyberg, who had just stepped out of his store. “Mr Lilyberg, Joseph, a quick word, if I may?”
“Eh, yes, certainly Sheriff, what can I do for you?”
“Could you please take my handkerchief, here, and officiate in a series of duels? If I should happen to pass on, please allow any still-living criminal free passage to the shuttle port.”
Of course Trigger had no intention to play by the rules, that would only apply for an honourable duel and his challengers were all villainous scum, but the current stratagem would certainly work to lure them our onto the street.
Not long after, the five criminals exited the Coffee Emporium, discussing quietly among themselves who would be the first to face him. Trigger slowly walked to the centre of Main Street, continuously facing them.
“Who, then, will be the first of you facing me? I have secured an officiator, standing against the wall between us. I believe we are at the regulation 19 yards, but if you gentlemen prefer, we can have that established for sure.”
The leader shrugged, “This looks fine to me. Charlie will face you first, then Thor, Tony, Esbiorn and finally myself, should that be necessary. I don’t believe that to be the case, we are all skilled shots and quick to draw.”
Facing each other down the length of Main Street, Charlie and Trigger squared off, right hands gently hooked near he grips of their laser revolvers. After a few tense seconds, Mr Lilyberg dropped the handkerchief, both men paying very close attention to the falling piece of fabric. Just before it was about to touch the ground, Trigger drew not only his right-side revolver but also the one on his left and fired five rapid shots, each shot hitting solidly in the forehead of the five criminals.
“Sorry, my fellow Fort Corallium citizens. I had to give these scum an illusion of fairness, to avoid collateral damage. If someone could call the undertaker to bring the bodies to the shuttle port, I shall release the hostages.”
Later that evening, there was a knock on the door at the Sheriff’s Office. Trigger walked to the door and pulled it open.
“Ah, Miss Hoyter, how can I help you?”
“Well, dear Sheriff, it would be amiss of me not thanking you thoroughly for your remarkable assistance this morning. I have brought a pot of coffee, a few Danishes and some Viennese pastries. After that, I hope we shall both of us find ourselves in a better frame of mind.”
“By all means, Miss Hoyter, you are welcome into my office at any time and it would be a delight to share a cup with such a remarkable lady.”
Trigger’s thoughts went to the diamond ring in the top drawer, this would be the best possible moment to propose marriage and the custom was that once a proposal was accepted, no chaperone would be needed.
“Miss Hoyter, Coraline, I have tried to find the best moment to ask you this.” He kneeled in front of her, “Would you marry me?”