She stopped spinning the metallic cup and watched as the liquid continued to swirl inside. She lifted her vision without lifting her head to the edges of the room. The barman stood in front of a mirrored glass serving wall, which she used to further scan the depth of the room. Lyn brushed back the single lock of blonde-streaked hair that hung in front of her face. Might be time to change it now that the job is over. Maybe red this time. It’ll match, she thought as she noted the drops of dried blood on her coat sleeve. Yes, the job was done. Each job came with its own highs and lows. This time had been especially low, but a job is a job… until the next one comes. At least she got herself a little personal bonus on the side. She wiped at the stain on her sleeve.
There were other patrons off to her right seated at the polished wood-trimmed metal bar. She wondered where the barman could have acquired so much glass and wood in this forsaken little system. Her mind took a brief stroll trying to estimate the sheer cost of it all. She knew her estimates were coming up short. Why would someone have put so much into a nameless hellhole like this? I guess it’s not nameless, she thought, remembering the image of the glowing sign above the door that read simply: Bar-04. She took a long swallow from her cup. She snickered out loud; both at the wasted extravagance, and the man moving toward her from her left side.
Lyn had already taken notice of him. His stance and coy attempts at stalking her without being seen had given her all the information she needed. She wondered why he couldn’t do the same? He only saw what he wanted, and paid no mind that she was clearly not there to talk to anyone - especially him. Well, might be fun to shatter a man-child’s dreams today.
He moved, oblivious to her subtle shift in posture. Lyn studied his reflection through the mirrored wall at the edge of her vision. He was coming in from her left, and it was obvious he failed to note that she was armed. A smart man would have looked her over completely. A smart man would have seen the sidearm on her lower hip, and the utilitarian way her hair was tied back. Most importantly, he would have noticed she had not spoken to a single other soul since she entered the backwater hole tucked into the space left between two backwater colony outbuildings.
She was the antithesis. For Lyn had already looked him over. The pilot’s jumpsuit with the top unzipped and tied about his waist revealing what he hoped was a desireable chest covered in an undershirt at least a size too small. She watched his stance, the way his eyes wandered the room without taking in its depth. She saw the smoothness of his hands, the cleanness of his hair, and the lack of wear on the jumpsuit. All betrayed the lie he was trying to sell of a well-worked and rugged male specimen. He was not that smart. Maybe, this would be entertaining. Her forehead lowered her eyebrows as her eyes narrowed. She smelled the residue of his perfumed soap. He was almost to her.
Lyn spun herself around, dropping off her stool with her feet slightly apart. She did not allow the startled reaction of her sudden movement to wane. She moved with rehearsed speed. Her left hand clutched the front of his undershirt, snapping his head backward as she jerked him forward into her. Her face moved alongside his. Cheek to cheek their skin almost touched.
“Hush. Say nothing,” She felt a smile grow on her lips. “Say nothing at all. I wanna make sure you hear every word.” She waited for him to nod before going on and saw the light of perverse hope in his eyes. “Go away from me. Do so quietly and I won’t embarrass you in front of all these nice people.”
He drew in a breath and she continued before his mouth could betray his body, “I’m not looking. I am not interested. You can’t handle me. So we share a mind - I would rather have a romp with a Clicker than even think about how you’re going to end up diddling yourself alone tonight. Hush.” She put a single finger up to his lips, and then patted his cheek as she pushed back. “Now, be a good boy and try to remember, I don’t know what patience is.”
Lyn began to turn as he stepped into her, his fingers curling around her wrist.
“Feisty one, aren’t ya?”
I told him, she thought. He’s just not a smart one. She rolled her arm up and around locking the same arm that he just attempted to control her with. She brought her other hand up, hard into the underside of his jaw. She heard the teeth slam together in his head and wondered how big the piece of tongue was that just detached from the rest. Her foot came down along the back of his knee and she made no effort to control his descent. His forehead struck the bar on the way to floor. She let him go.
“See? No patience.”
Lyn pantomimed brushing her hands off on her rust-colored dungarees and straightening the tan waistcoat she was wearing. A few people stopped with their eyes locked on her little scene. She picked up her drink, moved one stool over, sat back down, and took in one large gulp.
She began cataloging the two men at the end of the bar. They seemed most interested in what just happened - their eyes reviewing her. The shorter one was more stout with a scarred forehead and a militant haircut of flaming red hair. The other was taller, thin, and dark skinned like the blackness of the Void itself. His hair had begun to lose color, showing a paleness at the edges that was neither gray nor white exactly. His eyes showed a slight unevenness. The left one with a laziness that was almost unperceivable, as if he was trying to self-cure his amblyopia. They both still held the same drinks in their hands that they ordered when they entered.
She set herself against the leering gaze and locked eyes with them, one at a time, in turn. Lyn gave Stumpy the once over first, realizing that he was sitting straight up, not slumped over or leaning into the bar, making him shorter than her, but he would still be the bigger problem if it came to that. Darkey on the other hand was leaning, and was still taller. Something in their eyes; they were sizing her up. Neither seemed to be interested in duplicating the man-child’s mistake, nor did they want to take on something of a more sporting nature, they were mentally recording all of her. They were… assessing her. She saw then that Stumpy was no longer watching her, but seeing something behind her, something her attention had been diverted from.
She became so transfixed with what Stumpy and Darkey were doing that she ignored the rest of Bar-04. That was until she noticed Stumpy’s single nod to her. The subtle indicator that maybe she should turn around. And turn she did, but a nanosecond too late. Lyn didn’t see Mister I-lie-to-get-laid stand up. She did see the front of his closed fist as her face turned. She did hear some curse about her lineage and her ignorance as the knuckles made contact with her upper lip and nose. As she slid off her barstool, she gathered her feet as best she could, and he laughed.
Lyn didn’t hit the floor fully. She managed to get both feet under her, and raised her head to see him set himself for her counterstrike. He could fight, she saw, but he wasn’t practiced. She let him move in. She closed the distance as he started to change his weight. She allowed it to last long enough for him to get three swings, only one of which connected, albeit just a grazing blow. She merely gained a hold, introduced his abdomen to her knee and stood him back up with a second knee to his face. He grasped for her throat, and ended up with a thin lock of hair as he landed face up on the nearest table. In his rearward flail, he sent a hot drink flying into the lap of the blue-gray tinted skin of a Roliquin. Bar-04 erupted.
“Fuck.” Was all she said before she started laughing her way through the next thirty seconds. She backed against the bar to prevent someone circling. Lyn saw an incoming stool that missed its intended target, which she believed was the Roliquin, and was able to sidestep enough that its metal leg barely brushed by her hip. She spun and threw out a front kick into the gut of the first one coming at her. The man-child was back on his feet, and coming in for her. Behind him, four other patrons of Bar-04 were now involved in their own individual wars. The place descended into chaos. She smiled. She let him come. Lyn heard the crack of bone as she dropped him to the ground for the third time. Before he could make any attempt to regain his feet, she dropped on him wrapping herself around him. It’s what he had wanted all along, she considered as all of her teeth could be counted through her grin. His head lulled back onto her shoulder as his consciousness drifted away.
She began to release her grip. His eyes popped open. His hand, broken just above the wrist, clutched at her, “You’re going to have to kill us all,” he said.
His voice came out guttural and cracked. His eyes blank. On her knee, she still had a half hold on him as the words dripped out one by one. They were not his eyes. Not the eyes of the man-child she denied. Even the color in them had changed. The sounds of the ensuing bar brawl failed to reach her ears.
“You’re going to have to kill us all, before the morning comes, if you want to save yourself - if you want to save him,” said the sluggish voice from elsewhere.
She started to stand, to match the hair on the back of her neck and arms. She felt a hand reach and grab hold of her shoulder. The sounds of the bar returned. She dropped her shoulder, slacked her knees and spun, dropping low, to sweep out the legs of the new attacker. She missed as he was pulled back from behind. It was Stumpy, the redhead, being pulled back by Darkey.
“Whoa!” Stumpy’s hands went up into a ‘not me’ gesture.
“Quick! Follow us, and we can all get out of here.” Darkey nodded toward the front of the bar. The large round entrance, with a rolling pneumatic-powered door, sat open along its track with the final few inches protruding from the receiving recess in the wall.
There were seventeen others in the bar. Only two were not actively fighting or attempting to flee. Both were hiding under their tables, and by the end of the night, they would be the only ones to leave feeling they met someone new, someone special, in their life. Though they would never return to that particular watering hole, they would spend a great deal of time in them together. And when they did find themselves out, they would always sit near an exit.
The melee forced the three of them to fight their way out. Stumpy led and Darkey followed her. She saw Stumpy shove one off-balance man in greasy overalls out of their way as they went. Lyn put down two other patrons of the once quiet bar. One was just knocked back out of the way, but the other was sent to the stars and was not going to appreciate the first couple of hours after he woke up. She did not bother to turn and see how the dark one was doing.
Out the entrance and across the gap between buildings - down an open air corridor created by two buildings, set at a diagonal, to form an angled street - they went. Once on the main street, Lyn spat blood from her mouth and wiped at the trail coming from her nose. The streak of blood it left on her sleeve ran alongside the drops that had dried there before. The street was nearly deserted. A single shop, of what purpose she was clueless, stood open. A tracked people-hauler was parked across from them.
“I guess I should be thanking you for the assist.” Lyn nodded at Stumpy as she spoke.
“Evelyn Ab…” The dark one started, but was cut short.
“Lyn. Just Lyn,” she corrected him. Lyn instantly felt the rush of calculations going on in her head. How did he know who she was, especially her whole name? Her innards twisted; nothing good was to come of this, she thought.
“Fine. Lyn. I would like to introdu…”
“Want to tell me how you know my name?” Her question shot across his words as a demand. She postured for the attack, wanting to keep him backpedaling. Who were these two?
“I was tryin’ to do just that.” His deep baritone voice carried a practiced authority. Nothing in his voice said he was pretending to be tough. It was the voice of someone sure of himself, in the I-have-been-in-charge-for-a-long-while kind of way.
“Well, then get to it.” She wasn’t about to let up. Her eyes darted back and forth between the two of them, watching their hands and stance. She searched for any sign of their next move.
“Lyn,” Darkey nodded toward her, still authoritarian, but with am allowed hint of submission, “this is Slone.” He motioned to Stumpy. “I’m Khenu, Captain of the Genesis.”
“So, I’m here to offer you a job.” Khenu’s eyebrow lifted as the one he called Slone offered a medwipe to her. Lyn took it, and pinched her nose off to stem the bleeding.
“You didn’t tell me how you know my name.”
“No. I didn’t.” Khenu did not flinch; his jaw set. He stared straight at her. Lyn kept her shoulders squared off. The two spent a lifetime sizing each other up, from his blackened irises to her green ones and back. She’d been offered jobs under more questionable circumstances, and a job is a job. These two helped her when they had no cause to. Besides, she thought, maybe this time the job will have a better ending.
And twenty seconds into that lifetime Lyn relaxed her shoulders, straightened her tan waistcoat once more, lifted an eyebrow of her own, and spoke.
“What’s the job?”