Oblivion (21)

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PrrRrrrrRrrr 5412: Shattered ERth

Polyglau waited patiently for the liaison to arrive. Though the matter they had to discuss was pressing, she didn’t mind the wait. The fact that the meet was happening in a swanky bar on the upper edge of Swerve District certainly helped. The autophones pumped in a sultry smooth mix of Venusian Jazz and the lights were soft and pleasing to the visual cortex. She wasn’t much for the arts, but something about human musical compositions intrigued her in a way she couldn’t quite quantify.

Venus was the human name for her home planet. Her people knew it as Amtris. She had brilliant, scaly golden skin, typical of her kind, which sparkled even in the bar’s low and warm atmospheric lighting. She wore a green party dress that she’d borrowed from a friend since she owned nothing one could wear to a bar, any bar, but especially this bar. Bar’s weren’t her typical scene and she felt like she stuck out a lot.

She nursed a mildly alcoholic drink with gene-juiced fruit. Her biology couldn’t do much with alcohol, but it left a pleasant taste on the tongues. It was the fruit that affected her more. Something about the sugars in Earth fruits manipulated her people’s physiology, dampening inhibitors and shooing nervous energies away. Strawberries were preferred for social meets and casual work talks as they only produced a mild effect, but throw in a mango or banana and watch out, baby!

She checked her time keeper again. In a minute or two, the liaison would be late. She wondered what the protocol was if the person she was meeting didn’t show. Would she have to contact the local station again? Or did the sensitive nature of her dilemma preclude such an action? The physical nature of the meeting had been at the request of the officer she’d spoken to. There were concerns of… interested third parties listening in. Hence meeting at the bar. She hadn’t been all that concerned about eavesdroppers, but the tenor of the officer’s voice as he relayed the details of their meet up left her with a changed mind. Besides, who was she to argue with an Instruman?

So here she sat. Waiting. Her thoughts were occupied with the particulars of her dilemma, but occasionally they would wander to other subjects. Like, what order of Instrumen did her liaison hail from? She didn’t know much about Instrumen, those interplanetary arbiters of justice, but she knew enough to recognize their Order on sight. The patches on their uniform as well as their distinctive tools gave them away.

Would they send a Hammer, perhaps? Strong and imposing, and great leaders also, a Hammer would be a blunt but viable solution to her problem. Or maybe a Drill? Versatile, cunning and adaptable, a Drill could resolve her issue in a patently creative way for certain. Ah, but while Drills were versatile, they were also single-minded and once set on a course, rarely deviated from it. Perhaps a Saw then? Insightful and brilliant, a Saw measured twice but cut only once. An Instruman from the Saw Order would operate with steady hands and cut right to the heart of the matter. Yes, maybe a Saw would be best, after all. The situation back home was delicate, and a Saw would definitely…

“Hey.”

Polyglau turned her head ever so slightly. A very drunk, very unsightly man had just spoken to her. No, not spoken. More like flung a booze-soaked word grenade in her direction.

“Am I the one with which you speak?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

He wobbled slightly in his chair at the bar, the series of empty glasses next to him betraying the source of his wobbliness.

“Well, what is it?” she asked.

“Amtrian, right?” he asked. She nodded. “You’re pretty. Anyone ever tell you that?”

“From time to time,” she replied. She returned to her drink and her thoughts, paying him no mind.

“Hey.”

She sighed.

“I’d rather not talk to you right now, mister. I’m quite busy dealing with a matter of my own.”

“Oh. You don’t say. Did you ha… did you happehhhh… Did you happen to be waiting for shum one?”

The man nodded toward the empty chair across from her, and an empty coaster awaiting a yet-to-be-ordered drink.

“Yes, I am. Please don’t bother me,” she said.

The man’s face changed from happy and just a little bit randy, to regretful and embarrassed.

“Excuse me, miss. I’m terribly sorry to intrude on your evening like this.”

It was the middle of the day.

“Think nothing of it,” she replied, hoping to be done with this man.

“No no no. I must apologize properly,” the man said, almost falling out of his chair and stumbling from the bar toward her table. “It’s the proper thing to do. Why don’t I buy you a drink?”

“Please don’t,” she insisted.

“Miss, I have interrupted your night with a rude though well-intentioned compliment. A round on me is the llllleast I can d… the leassst I can dd… Hrm. My words seem to have mutinied against me.”

“Mister, you’ve done enough. So if you could please go back to your drinks, I’ll just…”

“Is this guy bothering you, ma’am?” a square jawed man said. He was tall, muscular, and expertly shaved and groomed. He wore a tight fitting shirt and tighter fitting pants which did nothing to hide his “assets”. He had an easy smile, perfect teeth and eyes that invited one to swim in them all day.

“Oh gods below,” Polyglau sighed.

“Bothering her? Not at all, buddy. We were just having a conversation,” the man from the bar slurred.

“Really. Cuz from back where I was sitting, it looked like you were bothering this poor woman,” square jaw said.

“Poor woman? Really?” Polyglau said, exasperated.

“See what you’ve done? You’ve insulted her with your Ass Umptions,” the drunk man said. “Apologize to her right now.”

“You’re not the boss of me, tiny. In fact, I think it’d be best if you make like an egg and beat it,” square jaw said, his pecs flexing under his tight shirt.

“I don’t understand what is happening right now, but I need both of you to leave me alone,” Polyglau said.

“You heard the lady. Leave her alone,” the drunk man said.

“Both of you!” Polyglau exclaimed.

“Look what you’ve done. I was trying to help this defenseless woman and you turned her against me,” square jaw said, jaw clenching.

“Defensele- okay that’s it. I’m having the manager throw you two out. I can’t be dealing with whatever this is right now,” Polyglau said, outraged.

“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of this bum,” square jaw said with a shiny toothed smile.

Polyglau realized that Mr. Jaw wasn’t even listening to her. Just pantomiming some weird good guy fantasy with her in the role of distressed damsel. The drunk man was just drunk. Very drunk.

“‘Scuse me one second, miss,” the drunk man slurred.

Square jaw advanced toward him, planting two meaty paws on the drunk man’s shoulders. The drunk man fell, his face hitting square jaw’s groin on the way down. Square jaw’s breath caught in his throat and he went down hard. Other bar patrons, who had been watching the scene with some amusement, began to make room for the two as they got to their feet and began a drunken/hobbled dance around each other. Polyglau began to pray for the Instruman she was waiting for to swoop in and save her from this headache.

Square jaw went for a wild swing, his shirt busting as his rippling muscles flexed. The drunk man fell back just in time for the punch to fly harmlessly by. The drunkard replied with a wild swing of his own, but he stumbled and his punch went straight into the other man’s groin, dropping him again.

Polyglau looked around for security or bouncers or someone who could handle this. Big men and women in fine suits and sunglasses were indeed present, but they appeared to be cheering the two fighters on, even placing bets on who would win.

Square jaw rallied and decided to go for one last all out attack. He flew into a full body tackle, catching the drunk man in a double arm hold. The drunk man fell backwards into a table, spilling chairs and glasses. In doing so, the drunk man’s leg folded in and his knee found its way directly into square jaw’s groin. Square jaw rolled over, holding his bits, crying. The drunk man tried to get up, but he only managed to fall on his hands, which also happened to be where square jaw’s groin currently was.

“Holy marbles! Why?” Square jaw squeaked an octave above his normal range.

“Dang. Your face is soft,” the drunk man said, inspecting square jaw’s package.

“Oh God!” Square jaw squeaked, his pitch even higher.

The patrons were now leaving the bar area for the front lobby, unsure of what exactly was going on. Polyglau went to follow them, when the manager appeared, sweaty hands folded and rubbing each other.

“Oh no, what’s happening here?” he said, sniffly.

“Manager! Manager, over here!” Polyglau waved. “These two are fighting and breaking things.”

“Oh dear. Can you two please break it up?” the manager asked.

The drunk man grabbed a server’s tray and whacked square jaw’s face with it, knocking him out cold. Cries of concern went out across the bar.

“I will break it up,” the drunk man said. “By arresting this man.”

“Excuse me?” Polyglau and the bar manager said in unison.

“Jinx. Anyway, I am arresting this… man. *hic*”

“On who’s authority?” Polyglau demanded to know.

“Mine.”

The drunk man pulled a badge from his jacket pocket and held it upside down for all the bar to see.

“An Instruman?” the bar manager said.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Polyglau shook her head.

“Not even a little. Anyway, this man is under arrest. I’m arresting him. For assaulting an officer of the laaawwww.”

“But you never identified yourself as one,” Polyglau objected. “I certainly didn’t hear it.”

“You’re right. But that’s because I’m undercover. Shhhh.”

“Really. Because it just looks like you’re drinking. A lot,” Polyglau said. The bar manager looked between the two of them, unsure of what to do.

“Ah, but you see, this man has been following you, miss. He’s been following you and he has… ho man… *urp*. He has ill intentions for you. Had. Had ill intentions.”

“What are you talking about?” Polyglau asked.

About half of the patrons returned to their tables to resume their midday drinks while the rest waited to see where this was going.

“You see, this was no ordinary asshole. He’s part of the notorious interplanetary gang of human traffickers, the Sleeping Beauties!”

“Say it ain’t so!” one patron cried.

“Oh my!” another shouted.

Polyglau rubbed her temples.

“Okay, so you’re an Instruman.”

“Yes,” the drunk man said, flashing his badge again.

“And you were tailing this guy because he was tailing me.”

“Correct.”

“And he’s part of a gang of human traffickers?”

“Yes.”

“Called the Sleeping Beauties.”

“Yes! Look here and you’ll see their distinctive tattoo,” the drunk man said. He grabbed square jaw’s pants and pulled them down with some effort. They were very tight, you see. “Behold!” the drunk man said. A bare ass cheek was all that greeted the onlookers. “Huh. Not there. Maybe on the other one?” He pulled the other ass cheek out. Nothing.

“Why is this happening to me?” Polyglau mumbled to herself.

“Hmm. Maybe it’s tattooed on the inside,” the drunk man said as he went to part the man’s ass.

“Enough!” Polyglau screamed. “I don’t know who you are or if you’re really an Instruman or if this man was an interplanetary human trafficker, but I’m in the middle of something and I don’t have time for any of this. Excuse me.”

She made her way through the crowd of onlookers and left out the front into the brisk afternoon air of Swerve District. The sky lanes were thick with homeward rush traffic and the hoofers on the ground level were picking up speed as well. The mega balcony that hosted the bar, which was named Du Pillar if anyone was interested, looked out over the vast cityscape where Swerve District ended and the rest of the world truly began.

What a waste of a day, she thought. Now what was she to do about the situation back West? Her only hope had apparently stood her up. She was fuming and tired and really wishing she had some sugary fruit to munch on when a familiar and unwelcome voice shouted from behind her.

“Wait! Miss!” the drunk man called after her, almost falling on his face with every step.

“Haven’t you done enough?” Polyglau asked as he fell at her feet. Dusting himself off, he fixed his jacket collar and smoothed his hair back.

“We were never properly introduced.”

“I don’t care who you are. I don’t want to know you,” Polyglau said.

“Are you sure? Because it sounds like you’re the person I was supposed to meet at the bar. Something about treasure hunters and corporate secrets?”

Polyglau’s blank expression betrayed no emotion, or even a hint of thought. She watched him for a good five seconds before a flat, “what,” escaped her lips.

“Yeah. Um, Polly Glll…. glow? Polly Glow?”

“You’re the liaison from the Instrumen I’m supposed to meet?” Polyglau asked, dumbfounded.

“I think that’s where we’re landing on this, yeah,” the man said.

“But but… but how?”

“I showed you my badge, didn’t I?” the drunk man asked, examining his badge, as if for answers.

“But what about your patches? For your Order?”

“Shling!” the drunk man said, flashing his beaten and faded Instrumen patches on the upper arms of his jacket. They were so faded, it was no wonder she missed them.

“But what about your tool? Every Instruman has a tool,” Polyglau reasoned.

“Schwabing!” the drunk man said as he pulled a giant wrench out from behind his back.

“A wrench?”

“That’s my title. Don’t wear it out,” he said with a wink.

“So… but…”

“We spoke on the phone. I knew there was a chance there’d be people listening in, so I had us meet at the bar to give us a little privacy. I arrived early to keep an eye out. Make sure you weren’t followed. Turns out you were.”

“Keeping an eye out wasn’t the only thing you were doing,” Polyglau said, closing her mouth so his booze breath wouldn’t seep inside her.

“It’s called undercover work,” he said, sounding a little offended. Then he burped quite loudly.

“This is for real? You’re serious. You’re the Instruman who’s going to help me?” Polyglau asked.

“You got it. The name’s Emilio Delmundo. Instrumen Officer Corps, Order of the Wrench, First Class. At your service!” he said with a wide grin.

Then he ran and projectile vomited into some bushes.

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