Ima glanced to her right every so often as they cantered along. Georgia’s face grew more and more puzzled, especially after she checked her well-polished pocket watch. Sheriff Moric took no notice of their growing confusion even after he slowed their pace to a trot, unless the slow was his response. Georgia had a bit of trouble adjusting to the rougher, slower gait, though her mount had a lovely, smooth trot. Still Ima got to speak first.
“I know I am new to the area, but how are we riding into the sunset? I could have sworn West was that way.” Ima pointed to her right. “I’ve never heard of the sun setting in the south before. Even at the poles it would be south or north west, wouldn’t it?”
“Not only that, but why is the sun setting at all? This adventure may seem to have lasted an age and a half, but it is barely mid-afternoon. Sunset should not be for hours yet,” Georgia added.
Clint laughed. “You forgot to ask why we are riding off in this direction in the first place. Funtown is the other way.” Georgia and Ima exchanged sheepish glances. Ima was fairly new to the area and had other things to focus on besides direction on her ride out, but Georgia should definitely have noticed.
“I am the sheriff of a town in the desert,” Moric pointed out as if they might have forgotten. “We all know enough stories about the American West to realise how the heroes should act.” Sheriff Moric turned a wide wide grin towards his newer companions. The grin seemed even wider than his face as it echoed the curve of his hat brim.
When that did not seem to satisfy, but the Sheriff said no more, Clint volunteered to explain further. “One of the Sheriff’s old friends back home made us a sunset generator. That is most of what Alfred meant when he said everything was set up and why he’s not doing the hero ride with us. Usually, Moric and I take turns being the hero rider and the sunset operator, but Alfred volunteered. It is silly, but it makes people happy.” Clint shrugged with studied nonchalance.
“Plus it is fun,” Moric added, posting with a few of his mount’s strides more in keeping with an English riding style than Western so that he could bounce in his saddle without hurting the horse’s back.
A laugh escaped from Ima’s mouth at the admission. Georgia smiled. Clint bowed his head and rubbed his nose to hide his own chuckle. “Alfred will pack up the generator and should meet us at the train,” Clint informed the others. “The train doesn’t usually stop out here, but I called in a favor to get us a lift. Georgia has her caravan to get back to, it doesn’t do to leave the town this empty for long, and while the Sheriff is an excellent rider, he tends to run or travel by other, shorter ways. I thought he might have had enough of riding for awhile.”
“I know what you mean,” Ima said, thinking back to her own part of the adventure.
With little fuss and no bother, the sunset went out, revealing the star warming that planet in its usual place, well above the western horizon. Without the distracting color scheme blazing across the sky the train tracks ahead caught the eye. Of course, they were not immediately identifiable as train tracks to anyone expecting stripes of metal across the ground or on trestles. Two blue-white bars of bright light ran across the landscape, one above the other, well over the tallest point of Moric’s antlers as he rode.
“What are those?” Ima asked as the others pulled up a few feet short of the lines in the air that extended from one horizon to the other and beyond. Even as she spoke a bright amber light appeared on the horizon, growing and approaching at amazing speeds down the two beams towards them.
“The light rails, of course. We did say that we planned to take the train back to town,” Clint explained. “Usually you can only see them around the train or through special lenses, but the engineer added some color to the beams to make them easier to find.” Moric and Clint pulled up well short of the rails and slid to the ground. Ima quickly stopped with them, but Georgia was too focused on the rails and had to circle back.
“Like they do with cutting lasers?” Georgia asked. She watched Moric and Clint tying up reins and shortening stirrups for a moment or two before sliding to the ground.
“Yes, very like that if a bit more flexible and rather less dangerous. You could walk through the rails without any harm,” Clint said absently, staring down the line at the growing ember as it raced towards them.
Alfred, on Bill, rode up from the other side of the rails while most of the group stood watching the approaching train. He passed Clint something that resembled nothing so much as a shiny, green, metal lunchbox with a curved lid and handle. “How did it look? Hard to get an idea of the sky from the middle of the projection.”
“It was just fine you show some natural aptitude when it comes to sunset design,” Georgia assured the rabbit. He would have flushed with pleasure if he could. In fact, he very well might have done so, but under his fur, who could tell.
The light train shed sparks and rainbows as it decelerated toward the posse of heroes. As the engine drew nearer the heroes could see that the whole car had been formed from honey colored amber with lightning dancing in its depths. An impressive number of passenger and freight cars followed, grouped together by type. The cars seemed more opaque than the engine, but each glowed in jewel tones with occasional jagged flashes of lightning just under the surface. They ranged in color and type from the great, obsidian bin just behind the engine which should have been the coal car on a steam locomotive, to the mysterious, deep red of the garnet caboose.
“I don’t suppose there is a dining car on this train,” Ima asked, rubbing her middle unconsciously. “Breakfast was a long time ago.”
“Of course there is. This is a long distance line. You can get most anything tasteful that you could think of in the dining cars,” Clint assured the girl, almost offended that she had to ask.
The train slid to a halt with a passenger car formed of warm citrine with pale lemon chiffon curtains nearest the group. Part of the wall, including one of the windows, melted out from its place and flowed down to rest in the dust just short of Clint’s wide boots. Somehow the window curtains had stretched, thickened and roughened to form a carpet on the newly shaped stairs.
Hurriedly, the heroes surrendered their mounts back to Alfred and turned to explore the wonders of the Frog Line Light Train. Georgia, as first on the stairs, hesitated with one foot across the threshold when Alfred spoke.
“You should ask for chocolate covered ants and seared lizard steaks when you find the dining car,” the pale rabbit suggested with a grin.
The stairs flowed up to become window and wall again and the light train vanished from sight before the Funtown Posse stopped laughing.