by Jack Carrigan
Even an immortal can feel exhaustion. Living many lives carries more stressors than that of a normal who only has to face one.
THE BLACK HOLE
UNKNOWN SOLAR SYSTEM
Another day of hard work getting things settled for The Revenant Order had come to a close, and I was in need of a break. Diplomatic efforts with a corporation we had been speaking to had dried up after they started making unreasonable demands. A clear message was sent to their CEO in the form of an audio recording of one of their pilots panicking as their ship was destroyed, and pleas for mercy could be heard as the pilot’s capsule started to breach around them. A capture from one of the exterior camera drones from Hetja, my Arazu-class Force Reconnaissance Cruiser, was the last image in the packet which had been sent to the offending corporation’s CEO. The image was the look of horror on the frozen corpse of the pilot who had been forcibly removed from his capsule at my hands. I smirked as I thought about it, and made my way toward the Hole. Bouncers yelled for people outside to look out as they threw a heavily intoxicated man out the door. I looked down as I stepped over him and made my way inside.
As I scanned my surroundings, I could see that it was the typical crowd hanging around. Businessmen in crumpled suits, punks just looking to have a good time, and those who sat in the dark corners aiming to forget why they were there. I made my way to the bar, and slid some credits across it, “Can I get a beer?” The bartender, who obviously remembered me from the last time chuckled and placed a beer down in front of me, “Looks like you learned something from last time.”
“Doesn’t change the fact I still think you’re a bitch,” I replied with a smirk, sliding an ash tray in front of me before lighting a cigarette. I expected one of her typical verbal barbs, but was disappointed when she sighed and went back to trying to clean some unidentifiable fluid from the bar. The man sitting next to me coughed, “Looks like you pissed her off. Bad idea mate, as she controls what you drink.” His concern was met with a shrug as I turned back to my beer. I lifted the bottle to my lips and took a long drink from it before placing it back on the coaster which had been placed in front of me.
Something about The Black Hole had a bit of charm that kept me coming back. It definitely wasn’t the staff, as the bartender I had the luck of dealing with most of the time proved to be a sarcastic bitch, and while she was easy on the eyes, it didn’t change the fact she was an ugly person due to her demeanor. As for the other patrons, a few of them were far too loud, or would make fools of themselves due to their inability to handle their liquor. The atmosphere was the charming thing. The Black Hole was a place that accepted everyone, no matter who they were. It made me laugh for a moment as I considered the fact that here, despite the fact I was a capsuleer, I was just another guy sitting in a bar, drinking beer, and telling stories.
As I sat there and finished my beer, I found myself watching one of the holo screens on the wall. Some sporting event, but I wasn’t really paying attention to that. My eye was on the news feed running along the top of the screen. Lately, the goings on between the empires had led people to start becoming uneasy in regards to what the future held. Many of the people that surrounded me in the bar would not be able to pay their bills soon enough, or would be drawn into military service against their will. My trance on the holoscreen was broken by the bartender stepping between me and the screen, “Another beer doll?”
“That’d be great,” I replied.
She then sighed, “This is embarrassing, but can I get a cigarette from you?”
“I thought you didn’t like smokers,” I said sarcastically as I held out the pack of cigarettes.
“It’s been a rough week,” she replied, taking a cigarette from the pack before pulling another beer from the cooler, placing it in front of me, “This one’s on the house.”
A simple act of kindness was all that it took to alter someone’s demeanor sometimes, or so I thought, right up until I saw the young guy at the end of the bar grab her ass. The bouncers made short work of him, and a medical crew had to be called to take him away.