Yes, I’m a little behind, but I hope it’s worth the wait! Thanks for the read!
And as always, any reviews, criticisms, pointers, questions, anything, is most welcome.
She didn’t want to but she had to do it. Hopefully recognition would be minimal, preferably nonexistent. Fourth Street Pub wasn’t a common haunt of hers in the past, but she did know about it through the grapevine. What other choices did she have?
Thankfully no one gave her a second glance at either airstation. Perhaps they have all forgotten, she hoped. The “gossip central” was a ways from the Market District and she traveled slowly enough to absorb the city’s climate. All was the same regardless of the passing trends and modernized machinery. Children still bustled in noisy groups, the denizens still hustled their wares and ran to and fro. It’s the mind that makes everything change. Our actions stay the same, but thoughts are what makes the difference.
Nearing the pub, the area became grimier, but with the sun still in the afternoon sky, it didn’t seem as bad as the last time she had come here. And there, there was that same drunken sailor. An interesting character trotted past. Freya tipped her hat a little lower and entered the bar.
It was smoky and the air smelled ripe with booze and sweat. It was like stepping into an alternate and filthy dimension, but she knew Zidane was right. Something could be found here.
She found a seat in the back at the end of the counter. If anyone wanted to part with information, they would do it in the shadows. She put up a finger when the bartender passed, the universal sign for a truce and his mercy for whatever was on tap. On the upside despite her mood, a drink would help her relax. Maybe.
As she nursed the watered-down beverage, she did her best not to make it obvious that she was eavesdropping the entire room. Griping about landlords, threats about neighbors, family and so-called friends, ruminations and sentimental tears, arguments over money. Where were the political naysayers? She dreaded having to stick around here any longer than she had to. Hopefully Dr. Francis was making more progress than she was. This was yet another blow and she hung her head lower. The drink was only a tease and Freya craved something stronger to numb the discouragement, but the bartender was schmoozing at the other end.
“Well if it isn’t the lone dragoon.”
She twitched her ears and peered at her new neighbor who sat down one stool away. She didn’t recognize him and a small seed of anxiety formed inside. “Should I know you?”
“Pah,” he turned his face away for a moment but looked right back at her again. “I’ve heard enough about you…”
“What I was matters no more.”
“You flatter yourself. What’s a dame like you doin’ in a place like this?”
He sneered. “With all this trash? Come now, you’re spyin’.”
“And what if I am?” Honesty was a good and bad thing.
“So what is it that you need to know?”
“I’m waiting for it.”
He sneered again. “Are all you Burmecians always so vague?”
She nodded. Let him think so. Better to be vague than garrulous.
“Let me guess. Politics.”
“Then I should be talking with the Regent.”
“Pah,” he waved his hand. “Don’t play games.”
“Are you telling me that you have much more to offer than the Regent?”
“He’s got nothin’ on me, dragoon. Try me.”
She eyed him. He appeared to be an engineer so he wasn’t exactly a drunk hoodlum. Unless his dress were a guise. A bit brash and vain, but otherwise a relatively normal patron for this area. “I’m looking for the Terrans.”
He rolled his eyes. “Please, you’ll never find them here.”
She must have hit a nerve because he went on rolling his eyes.
“They think they’re citizens of this planet now, walkin’ around with their books and their highfalutin noses in the air, like they know better than everybody. Get’m out, out, off this planet already! Just the other day one of them freaks got married, married to some miserable brain-washed bimbo, and now they both walkin’ around with their noses in the air, as if he’s some feckin’ prize or somethin’.”
“When did they come here?”
“Here? They’re everywhere now! They didn’t take their time neither, as if they’re still tryin’ to take over our civilization or somethin’. Totin’ some nonsense that they’re more advanced than us and that they can help us ‘move forward’ or whatever feel-good mantra they spew. They’re not from here and they don’t belong here! Right Gaz?” He turned around to an individual sitting at a table behind her.
“Eh??” Gaz barely got his nose out of his mug.
“Pah,” he waved his hand. “Dim bastard. If it were up to me,” he scooted himself into the stool beside her. The smell of alcohol in the vicinity most certainly came from him. “I’d throw them all out back to that village up there and lock’m in. Let’m go extinct like they’re supposed to.”
“No no,” he wagged his finger. “They’ve been nothin’ but a plague from the get-go and you know it. What the hell was all your fightin’ for? Fightin’ them aliens, don’t you sit there and say they should be free! Their planet might be dead now but that ain’t stoppin’ them from still tryin’ to take over our world! Parasites, leeches! And that leader of theirs, walkin’ around with our Regent as if she’s to be respected, pah! She’s the worst of them all, her nose is all the way in the stars the way she looks down at us — and him. No, she’s just puttin’ on a show because deep down she’s got some evil scheme to take over this world. She ain’t no peacebringer.”
Freya opened her mouth but was cut off.
“That friend of yours, at least he minds his own business. He sits there entertainin’ people as he should. I ain’t talkin’ bad about him, but he ain’t tryin’ to take over the world and he never did, so he’s alright in my book. But them other Terrans, aw no, they’re bad news. Bad news. Your friend don’t walk around lookin’ down at all of us like the rest of them do. There’s somethin’ fishy about them and you heard it first from me. I don’t trust them and I never did, they ain’t never gettin’ over on me.”
It would be pointless to object. “Are there many of them here?”
“Man, what hole did you crawl out of? There’s about twenty, thirty of them here, and that don’t include everywhere else. And that’s twenty or thirty too many. I’m only one man, but believe me, I ain’t the only one who feels this way about them. They’ve got to go one way or another. They’re teachers, keepers, sailors, shi’it, they’re infiltratin’ this world. And they’re damn good at it. Kwall!” He raised his fist and the bartender turned his head. He put up two fingers and turned back to Freya. “So whose side you on then?”
She shook her head. Never state your opinions to an irate man. “They could never take over this world, there aren’t enough of them.”
“Hey, I never underestimate my enemy. Who knows what they’re capable of, maybe they’re clonin’ themselves as we speak, how do you know! They did it with them crazy mages. They’re all clones themselves! That’s some sickness there!”
The bartender came over with a glass for each of them.
The drink looked tantalizing, but she didn’t want to spend her whole afternoon here. She took a courteous sip anyway, and like she thought, it was much stronger and satisfying than her truce drink. This guy was a regular without a doubt.
“Thank you,” she hoped he would cool down.
“They need to go, and you know it.” He took a large gulp of his liquor. “I’m tellin’ you: they’re in the schools and libraries and businesses already. Next, they’ll be in the government, and you watch, things’ll change, change for the worse. Things are already changin’. They’re already settin’ people against each other.”
“How so?” Now this was interesting.
He clenched his fists. “They’re brainwashin’ people into thinkin’ they’re good for society! And then there’s the wiser folk, like me, who know better and that they’ve got their own agenda and they aren’t doin’ anything good for us. And so now there’s people who think they’re good, and people who know better, and of course if they were any good for us, then why are we fightin’ over it? If they’re good, we wouldn’t be fightin’!”
“There’s always at least two opinions about anything.”
“There ain’t no two opinions about your friend with the tail there! Everybody knows he’s alright. But not everybody feels the same way about the rest of them parasites. They come here on charity ‘cause they ain’t got a nickel to rub, and some fool takes them in and they get their handouts and start tellin’ us what to do! And so what do the idiots whose eyes are all glazed over in admiration for somethin’ new do? They worship them! Them, the same people who were ready to steal our souls so they could devour our world and suck it dry like they did with their own world. Parasites! And they call this progress! Pah!” He took another large drought.
For a quick moment, she saw his point and shuddered. People were sheep, that was true. “Do you know any Terrans around here?”
He stared at her. “I ain’t associatin’ with those parasites. They ain’t even people, they’re clones. You meet one, you met’m all. I met one once. Like a feckin’ piece of wood, and pretentious to boot. She was just an employee of this clothin’ shop and she, parasite that she is, was orderin’ around the other employees. And they just fawned over her. But there was nothin’ in her eyes, nothin’. No appreciation, no thankfulness, just cold. Empty. And then what do I hear months later that this parasite took over the place. I knew that owner. He let her steamroll’m outta there, just let her smash him and take over his business. Now he’s had to move to the Factory District ‘cause he didn’t get no money out of the deal — and where’d she get this money to take the store from him I wonder? — and to top it off, she’s opened up two other shops. Cold. Heartless feckin’ parasite. They’re nothin’ like us and they don’t belong here.”
She felt a knot growing inside and in anxiety, she drained the rest of her drink. “I believe I’ve learned more than I anticipated.”
He raised his drink to her, then realizing her glass was empty, he drained his as well.
“I’m tellin’ you dragoon, watch them parasites. Take my warnin’, it’s for your good. Don’t trust them.”
She nodded and thanked him. “I must take my leave…”
“Call me Sieem. You watch your back, dragoon.”
“I shall. Fare well.”
She greeted the sunshine and warm breeze with a deep inhale. Deciding without a second thought that is was time to see how Dr. Francis was doing, she began retracing her steps back to the Market District. The religious suicides aren’t here yet, thankfully. But it seems there is more strife in the world over the Terrans than I realized. I didn’t know it was this bad. I’ve forgotten how narrow-minded people can be. Living in Daguerreo has been beneficial, but yet I really have been living in a hole. This is not good. Zidane said there’s always naysayers. Is he partial to them because they’re his relatives? Or is this Sieem exaggerating, as most opinionated people tend to think?
She didn’t see any Terrans along the way.