When an empty building makes you wonder what’s inside…

 

Mason strolled confidently into the empty building which had once been the Sheriff’s station.  Gone were the couches, chairs and large vidscreen that had made up the foyer.  Gone too were the deputies who had stood watch over the entry.  Seeing the emptiness of the place brought home the reality of what Frank had told him.  It was true, he was the only law left on the crime ravaged station. 

 

X-ray, his ship’s AI had told been instructed to contact any marshal available to take over the duties left vacant by the absent sheriff.  Few men were willing to take on such a monumental task against those bent on corruption and degradation.  Criminals were just the type of scum a place like the station attracted.  Whoever became the next lawkeeper was sure to be a more violent man than Lecroix had the stomach to handle. 

 

Wandering the deserted hallways, Mason listened intently for any hint of scavengers that might be lurking around.  From the looks of the many offices, he didn’t think the deputies had left anything of value to be looted anyway.  Once busy desks now lay empty and quiet, devoid of anything but a stray flimsy sheet left behind.  More flimsy sheets littered the floors while half hung holo posters leaned alarmingly from worn brackets on the walls.  Flickering illum strips lit up the darkened expanses.  For only being deserted for a couple days, the place had fallen into disrepair rather quickly for his taste. 

 

It wasn’t the first time he’d been in such a dismal place, but still his heart thundered in his chest from the anxiety of not knowing what lay around the next corner.  On too, came the inevitable sweat and strained senses from being on constant alert for any signs of trouble.  Looters weren’t the only ones who’d seek to take advantage of an abandoned Sheriff’s station.  Outlaws from every walk of life would be scouring the place as well, searching for any record of their past that they could erase.  As the only lawman left, it was his duty to stop all such attempts, and to retrieve the records before they could be tampered with. 

 

Wiping the sweat from his brow, Mason cautiously approached Frank’s once immaculate office.  Even from a little ways down the hallway, he could tell someone had been there.  The door Frank always made sure was closed now stood wide open with jagged chunks of plastglass torn from the door’s single window.  Gone was the name he’d come to know so well, left in shattered pieces just inside the doorway.  It was the only room without an autodoor, just the way his friend had liked it. 

 

The echo of his boots on the hard tiled floor sounded louder than a pulse blast in the still silence of the station.  No matter how quiet he tried to be, it only served to make the echoes louder.  If anyone was in there, he was more than sure they knew where he was.  Reaching for his pistols, he walked closer to the open doorway.  Straining his ears with every step, he listened intently for any tell-tale signs that someone remained inside.       

 

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