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Number Two in my series of microfiction stories inspired by Cowboy Bebop episode titles, this is Stray Dog Strut. Some influence comes from the same source as the poem I posted. It’s also set in the same universe as the other story in this series, Asteroid Blues, and my earlier piece, Trans-Planetary Express. Reading any of the other stories is non-critical to understanding, but you will see further references to them as time goes by.

Stray Dog Strut

My name is Dog. Well, it is now. It’s not a real name, I suppose, but it’s one that I go by out here. I’ve gone by a lot of names in my life, so Dog is as good as any.

I used to work for the Express back in the day. That was right after things really calmed down in the colonies on Deimos. With half of the other moon blown to hell, tourism dropped off big time. The layoffs hit everyone hard, but people in my line of work usually found something to do, whether it’s private security or public military service. But not me.

Things just never seemed to go my way after I lost my job with the Express. Without the cash for a ride home, I was stuck on Mars. They’d built the planet into an ecumenopolis after the terraforming, and they called the city Valentine, like it would have any connotation for the illiterate masses flooding in from Earth and Luna, or the few surviving Phobian refugees. I don’t like it here, but I don’t have a lot of options at the moment. I’m keeping my head up, though. I knew a guy who let it get to him. Last I heard, he was on Phobos at the time of the blast, and might’ve even been involved. No thanks. Not my bag, not anymore. I got out of that lifestyle years ago, and the Express hired me.

The new transports are faster and nicer than the Express was, even in her glory days, but they lack the sentimental quality she had. Now it’s all surgical steel, emotionless smooth bulkheads, spartan quarters. They’re more expensive and not as nice. The TPE, now she had everything. She was a spaceliner, though, built for affordable luxury travel from Earth to Mars. I’m sure that I could find work on one, if I really tried, but I need to get myself cleaned up before I try.

Out here, I’m what they call a stray, so going by this name is all the better for me to fit in until I feel like the time is right. Maybe I will get back to Earth eventually, but here, I’m a person who can accomplish things for the rest of the strays. Valentine’s beautiful, but not without its flaws. There are others out here who depend on guys like me. We look after each other. Besides, it’s Earth. From what I’ve head, it’s almost back down to 2023 in terms of population, so that’s a good indicator that things are looking up, despite the exodus to the colonies. They’re talking about building Io up into a global city too, so I’ve got no desire to move further outward again.

My great-great grandpa owned a little piece of land back home. Should still be family around somewhere. Maybe I’ll try my hand at farming. It’d do me good to get out of the cities for a while. Anyway, I should get on my way. I’ve still got to find a place to bed down for the night. Good luck to ya, son. Thanks for listening.

 

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