By Jared Vaillancourt [Creative Writing Bureau Chief]
“Amber Mist, Brakksys-bred, just the way you like it,” the bartender said as he passed Vintis the drink. Vintis accepted it with a grunt and took a sip. The bitter liquid had long ago become numb to its taste organs. It passed its credit coin across the reader and nodded at the bartender.
“Thanks,” Vintis muttered. The bartender sighed and retrieved Vintis’ other glasses for cleaning.
“You’re quite the creature of habit, Vintis,” the bartender remarked as he loaded the glasses into the sterilization unit. “This must be the third night you’ve come in here and dried my stock of Mist.”
“And you have an issue with this?” Vintis grumbled as it rubbed its head.
“Not really,” the barkeep replied, turning his eyes to face Vintis. “But then again, I’m not the one burning his pay with alcohol, am I?” The barkeep smiled, pulling the tendrils around his mouth out of place. Vintis tried to emulate the expression.
“I’ve got a lot on my mind,” Vintis said to its glass. “This whole war, for one.”
“Ah, isn’t it exhilarating?” the barkeep interjected. “For the first time in five hundred years, my people are back on the field of battle! It’s good practice for the afterlife, eh?” the bartender asked with an incredulous smile, his Izraal eyes glowing. Vintis closed its eyes.
“I had the same argument with a coworker today,” Vintis said. It took another sip.
“That would be Kyraa,” the bartender remarked. “She’s quite the specimen, eh?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Vintis grumbled. The bartender laughed and patted Vintis on the arm.
“I suppose not being Izraal does that,” the bartender winked. Vintis smiled and took another sip.
“Or a man,” Vintis muttered. The bartender’s expression changed briefly to surprise.
“Really? You’re a woman?” the bartender remarked. “You know, I never really can tell with Zwitii. Other species? Eh, got them pegged. But you, you’re tough,” the bartender said with a slight chuckle, not hearing Vintis as it replied to his question with a discreet “no”.
“Yeah, tough,” Vintis mumbled as it tossed the half-empty glass back. The barkeep laughed and turned to serve another patron that had lumbered into the stool next to Vintis’. Vintis considered its glass, contemplating another round when the bar doors hissed open and the room became immediately quiet. Vintis looked around; all of the patrons – all of them Izraal, save for Vintis – were staring at the doorway. It took Vintis a moment to recognize the immense form of a Pyryx standing there.
If Vintis could read the large alien’s bone-plated face, it would have recognized nervousness. The alien lumbered slowly up to the bar, its eyes darting back and forth between the statue-like patrons. Vintis felt a nervous twinge spike up through its gut as the alien sat on its other side and quietly asked for a drink. The bartender stood in front of the alien and narrowed his eyes.
“Why should I serve the enemy?” the barkeep asked loudly. Vintis groaned.
“Jaxal, don’t do this now…” Vintis whispered at the barkeep. Jaxal ignored it. The Pyryx reared up slightly and ran a claw across the bony crest atop his head.
“I am no one’s enemy,” the Pyryx replied in a deep voice. “I am a traveler. I am thirsty.”
“I bet you’re all thirsty, aren’t you?” Jaxal replied for the benefit of the other patrons. Vintis discreetly slid off of its stool and tried to appear small as it tiptoed towards the door. The other patrons seemed to take no notice of it.
“Please, there is no war here,” the Pyryx replied. “I am no soldier. I have not come to fight.”
“Always talking about you,” Jaxal hissed as Vintis ducked beneath a patron’s legs and snuck as quietly as it could to the door. “You are this. You want that. You never stop to consider others.”
“I have no quarrel with you…” the Pyryx stuttered. Vintis tapped the door control.
“No,” a patron reared up, “but we have quarrel with you!” With this angry shout, the patron threw a stool at the Pyryx. Vintis quickly jumped out of the open door as other patrons jumped at the immense alien, who screamed in anger and easily threw the light, nimble Izraal off. Within moments, the bar was in chaos; patrons were clawing and jabbing at the Pyryx ashe attempted to fend them off long enough to withdraw his body into his protective exoskeleton. Vintis ran for a nearby city-COM and jabbed its finger over the green emergency button.
“Kapilo security,” a polite male Jukkopo voice greeted. “How may I direct your call?”
“My name is Vintis,” Vintis stuttered over an angry scream. “I’m downtown in the capitol. There’s a bar full of Izraal trying to tear a Pyryx apart!” Vintis informed the blank screen. Before the voice could answer, the bloodied form of the Pyryx smashed through the bar’s window and crushed the COM, forcing Vintis to duck out of the way. The body groaned and relaxed as angry cheers rose from inside the bar. Vintis gasped and ran down the street, fighting alcohol as it made its way back to the transit station.
“Last time I ever drink there,” Vintis muttered to the midnight moon.
To be continued…