Space Wrangler
eyes.”
    Rick’s brain was beginning to ache. “What about the second company? The one set up to find Trent?”
    â€œIt is limping along with no way of generating profit. She squandered most of the initial capital, partly because of the high salaries and sophisticated tech labs, but also by making lavish payments to the relatives of every person ever lost in the sinkhole. She called it salary replacement rather than death benefits for obvious reasons, but it was—and is—a drain on resources. And she didn’t dare sell more of her Sea-Mont interest for additional funding, so she went to the public for donations, assuming the role of a high-profile activist like her mother once was. But unlike her mother, she has only one cause.”
    Rick knew the rest. Alexia had basically heckled David Seaton for three full years, accusing him of mismanagement and of not caring about the loyal employees who had disappeared in the sinkhole. She called upon him, angrily and often, to find Trent Montoya—the company’s golden boy—so Sea-Mont could once again be worthy of the exclusive licenses it had been given by the United Nations to govern Destry and exploit its resources.
    â€œOkay.” Rick stood and stretched again. “Tell me why you think she’s here. She always said she’d never transit the sinkhole—”
    â€œI suspect she’s desperate. Every reputable scientist and mathematician on Earth has abandoned her, and her lay supporters grow weary. Donations are dwindling. And so I believe she will now turn to TJ Seaton, the only person on either side of the sinkhole who shared her affection for Trent. She will ask him to help her find her brother, but with any luck, he will help her find the truth instead, so she can grieve and move on.”
    Rick nodded. “That’s what she needs. And TJ seems to genuinely care about her, so maybe he can help.”
    â€œAnd?” Sensie’s tone grew tentative. “Did Alexia seem to care about TJ Seaton?”
    â€œYeah, she was all over him. Of course, she also wanted to strangle him. True love, right?” Rick chuckled. “Which begs the question, why the fuck am I having dinner with them?”
    â€œBecause she’s an amazing person and she asked you to come.”
    He nodded. “She’s a Montoya. That’s gotta count for something, right? Plus, she’s a babe. And if she marries TJ Seaton—”
    â€œShe will have the last laugh.”
    He grinned. “You’ve got a mean streak, Sensie. But yeah…she’d definitely get the last laugh.”

Chapter Four
    As Rick ambled across the platform toward Sea-Mont headquarters, he tried not to notice—or at least not to judge—the artificial nature of the place. The “air”, the “grass”, the “trees”. Did anyone really fall for this stuff? Even the monotonous breeze annoyed him. But of course, he was here for different reasons than the rest of the D-side residents. He intended to make it his home forever, while they couldn’t wait for the day they returned to Earth.
    He had visited headquarters more than once for contract negotiations in TJ’s fourth-floor office, and didn’t relish graduating to the guy’s personal residence. But when the lobby guard greeted him by name and activated a private elevator to take him to the penthouse, he decided to treat it like another, tamer D-side experience. And at least the guard hadn’t tried to confiscate his gun belt and pistols.
    Stepping off the elevator into an ornate entry hall with marble floors and a full-sized chandelier, he realized the crux of his problem with TJ. The guy hadn’t come here to experience a brave new world, but rather, to turn Destry into New York City. Whereas guys like Rick had intentionally left Earth behind, eager to find independence and frontier adventure, welcoming the isolation, the simplicity and the

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