Another beautiful day in Bloomville.

Red light filtered dimply through the dome, which was every shade of filthy both inside and out. The plants in the arboretums—and, increasingly, the ruins—were doing their job and keeping oxygen flowing, but just about everything else had broken down.

Ashtar Quiria sucked greedily on her electronic cigarette, letting the faux-nicotine solution wash over her. Even the synthetic stuff was getting hard to find, as there hadn’t been a supply ship from Earth in months, years. But resorting to an actual cigarette was suicide—the halon fire suppression system still worked, and an open flame was a great way to die. Even if it failed, a single spark could start a conflagration that would make the thin Martian atmosphere look awfully inviting.

Another beeeautiful day in Bloomville.

“Hey there, friend!” A figure emerged from one of the buildings on what was once the Main Street of Dome B. It was an ordinary-looking man, very well-groomed, and sporting a big giant smile.

In Ashtar’s recent experience, there were only two people in the failed colony that smiled like that. Peddlers, and robbers. She put her hands behind her back, one hand wrapping instinctively around the taser pistol she kept in the small of her back.

“Hello,” she said calmly, evenly, coolly. “I’m looking for Dr. Sheran Quiria. Scientific administrator for Dome B. If you’ve seen him, then we have business. If not, you’d better just mosey on.”

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