Becky Elam was ready.

The hoverlimo eased up to the curb of Enla’s infamous Gut Shot saloon and the door opened. She stepped out, careful to keep her dress from riding up her legs, then turned to tell the limo driver he could go. Unnecessary. The limo and driver were already gone, the door still closing as it sped away. The Gut Shot was not a place to linger if you showed any kind of wealth you wanted to keep.

Becky smiled and entered the saloon. Even at 12:65 at night, it was raucous, loud, fun, and deadly. Mars’ worst outlaws came here when they drifted into Enla, the planet’s largest city. They brought with them the lawless attitude of the frontier. (Which, in the late 21st Century, constituted about 99% of Mars.) The Territorial Rangers didn’t dare enter the Gut Shot; there were too many who would do anything to kill them. The same applied to good women, except the word “kill” was replaced by another, more odious one.

Becky didn’t care. She sprayed tangerine scent on her neck. There was a man in the Gut Shot she needed to speak to. A man she wanted to proclaim her love to.

Blood Smear Perkins was at the bar, enjoying a mug of whiskey and the latest on the striptease holo behind the bar when a stunningly beautiful woman walked up to him. She pressed up against him, pulled the mug from his unresisting hand and took a huge swallow, staring boldly at him. Then she pressed her mouth against his and kissed him.

“You,” Becky sighed heavily, “are the most desirable man I’ve ever laid eyes on.”

To that point, Perkins’ romantic life had consisted chiefly of hourly room rates, vending machines, and Magic McDobbins’ One-Man Party Lotion. He’d killed thirty-two men, but had yet to conquer his first good woman. Now, with two dozen of his fellow outlaws staring slack-jawed at Perkins’ incredible – make that miraculous - fortune, his moment had arrived.

“Uhhhhhh….” he replied cleverly.

“C’mon, Blood,” Becky cooed. “We don’t need to waste time talking. Let’s go someplace private and express ourselves.”

Perkins, numbed by whiskey and beauty, had no choice but to nod. He dropped a Martian realm on the counter to pay for the whiskey and let himself be led toward the stairs leading to the rooms of “expression”.

“I can hardly wait,” Becky said breathlessly. “I love you! And I know our kids will love you, too! Once we settle down and…”

Perkins jerked back, breaking Becky’s hold on him.

“What are talking about? We ain’t got no kids! I don’t even know you, lady!”

“What does it matter?” Becky said, her eyes getting teary. “I love you, Blood! And I know you love me! Or will.” She smiled coyly. “And our not having kids can be fixed starting tonight when…. Blood! Come back!”

Blood Smear Perkins was ready for most things, but not this. He bolted out the front, a sobbing Becky running after him, proclaiming her love. Looks like Magic was getting another workout when he…

“Drop, Perkins!” came the sharp command. “Only warning!”

The Rangers! There were four of them in the street, guns drawn. They’d nailed him while he was distracted. Surrender was the only way to stay alive, unless… the girl! Perkins whirled around to seize her as a hostage, reaching for his gun .

Becky was right there. As was her three shot derringer, pointed between his eyes. Her teary eyes were now cold and clear. She was still beautiful. But now she looked like what she was, a Martian Territorial Ranger. He moved his hands out, and sank to his knees, then to the ground. The other Rangers rushed in to secure him.

“Not bad, Beck,” one said to her. “Any problems?”

“Just one,” Beck replied and made a sour face. “The whiskey wasn’t strong enough. I could still taste him.” She shuddered. “The things we do for love.”