Red Planet Rustler

Now was his chance. Jeb was all alone on the far side of the ranch. He gently ran his good hand over the back of one of the large heifers and made cooing sounds as it benignly chewed its cud. Then he threw his bionic arm under its ribs and lifted. The heifer was startled and it swung its forelimbs through the air, but it was too big to put up a fight. He was getting it over that fence.

Once the atmosphere and temperature on Mars had gotten to levels that were survivable for short periods, the cattle industry took off in earnest. Beef production on Earth had winnowed to a trickle due to regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. Grazing cattle are basically walking methane factories (and contrary to popular opinion, it comes out of their mouths). But that same quality made them valuable for continued terraforming operations on the Red Planet. The lower gravity made the beef extraordinarily tender. That, paired with the limited production on Earth and the significant distance between the two planets, made Martian beef worth more than gold, ounce for ounce.

Jeb would be a rich man if he could steal a heifer.

He’d lost his arm years ago as a ranch hand, back when the air was thinner and cooler; not like today when you could get by with a little O2 tank. Back then you needed a barrier—like a wetsuit—and the sleeve of his caught on the horns of a young bull that didn’t much want to be castrated. Jeb and the bull each lost something that day, but at least in Jeb’s case he got a bionic replacement. It was a vast improvement; even in the reduced gravity its extra strength was needed to get this heifer over the fence.

The beast tottered halfway over at the moment, and it looked damned uncomfortable. He’d have to push it from the rear. He got into position, and then a shot rang out and the damn thing kicked him in the chest.

Jeb lay there wheezing in the Martian pasture. He had a broken sternum and probably a few ribs, too. And then a silhouette towered over him.

“You stupid, two-timing, good-for-nothing, low life, Red Planet rustler bastard.” Billy’s voice, followed by the pump of a shotgun. This was going to be tough to explain.

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