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Tally clomped through the swinging outer doors of Tangles into the dust-blown streets of Willoughbriar, one of the many towns dotting the landscape around the Willoughs-Goldsby Starport on Tantus IV, one of the many moons clustered around the gas giant Taran’tel’a and the only one with a breathable atmosphere.
Though a bit thin.
Tally paused a moment to let his lungs readjust after the hit of pure O2 he’d taken inside before running into . . . her. He exhaled violently, forcing himself to calm down. A fat, old mare waddling past gave him a fish-eyed look as she scooted around him on the wooden planking of the sidewalk.
He shook his beautiful mane from his eyes and took a few tentative steps along the sidewalk, wide-legged, hips swinging and tail swishing behind him, trying his best to keep from putting added pressure on his groin after that—that—
More passersby avoided him, shifting off the sidewalk, some even crossing to the far side of the narrow streets.
A dozen more steps and his stride evened out.
Tally hated this two-cow town. Had hated it since he’d been dumped there as a foal when his parents had abandoned him. In and out of foster homes and finally spending the majority of his later youth on the streets had soured his view of the place and its people. He never could understand the reason that old-timer Willoughs had built the place to look like it did—wooden sidewalks, wood slate buildings with wood tiles, swinging doors on places like Tangles. Sure, the planet was thick with forest and wood was it number one export, but why the town looked the way it did, Tally had no idea. Soon as he had the credits for a slip out of here, the better. He’d torch the place as he left the space port.
But first he wanted to put the kitty in her place.
He turned the corner at the grocers at Rigel and Thorn, then ducked into an alleyway heading to the small loft where he slept, just behind a tanners two blocks over. The place was in full swing today, the fumes making him gag as he clomped up the stairs. “Somebody gonna get a new suit today,” he sang, “a shiny new lizard suit, today.” He continued humming quietly as he felt around the lip of the door frame above his door for the key, retrieved it after a couple of faulty attempts, and unlocked the door.
Inside, the room was dark, dank, and hot. But it was home for now. The only place Tally felt safe from the loonies and idiots who lived in town.
He stepped over the threshold and fumbled around for the light switch. When the overheads flared to life, he found himself facing two weasels, one dressed in a one-piece, all-black spacer suit, dark shades wrapped around his head; the other wearing what appeared to be a pin-striped suit, flower in the lapel, and a narrow-brimmed hat pulled low over his eyes.
“Shut da’ door,” that one said in a low growl.
Tally brayed. Stomped the floor. These guys not quite came to his waist. “You all are funny,” Tally said between stomps. He slapped his thighs for emphasis. “You make Tally laugh hard enough he won’t road-kill you.”
The one with the hat pulled a pin from his lapel, stuck that in his mouth. The one with the wrap-arounds deftly slipped half a dozen pins from one sleeve and had them in the air before Tally could blink. The pins stuck deep in the wall near Tally’s head. Tally reacted as he normally would when faced with two midgets trying to muscle him: he brayed louder, threw his arms wide, and charged. The weasels dropped back two steps, the hat raised one hand . . . .
And a hundred eyes blinked at Tally from around the room, small and red, and angry. Very angry.