The depot was crowded, and stank of wet dog. Destyn was propped against a teller window, shaking his wristcom at the bored teller behind the transparent plasteel barrier.
“Look, here. I’m good for it, right? 500,000 credits, just like it says on the bounty.”
“Sir,” the blonde man replied, boredom apparent and dripping from his voice. “Proof of capture does not constitute proof of payment. Your account is still showing a negative balance.”
“C’mon, man. Look. The credits will be in in twelve hours. Can’t you just cut me a loan? I need to get back to my ship.”
“It is not beholden on Orbitcorp to provide travel expenses for pilots. All pilots are to have made previous arrangements for two-way travel, otherwise a seperate ticket is necessary to return offworld.”
Destyn frowned and squinted into the room behind the man. “Do you have someone feeding you these lines? It’s like you’re reading from a script.”
“Sir, if you’re done,” the man was unmoved, staring blankly at Destyn, “there are other customers waiting.”
Destyn looked back at the empty queue behind him, then back to the man, then to the queue again. “Right. Right. Sorry to have wasted your time.” He sighed loudly and stepped aside, flipping the teller off with both hands. “Just wait ‘til I get my ‘fuck you’ money, kid. Just wait.”
He turned his back on the ticket counter and headed to the bar just a few stalls down. The wet dog smell was replaced by the heavy stink of tobacco, and Destyn helped add to it by lighting up a fresh cigarillo. He watched the smoke billow and haze, relishing the deep, mellow taste of one of his last imports. He wasn’t a snob, by any means, but these had cost him a good bit, being specially rolled on the thighs of Ganymedean boys, or some such bullshit. However they were made, Destyn preferred them over just about anything else, and he was happy to pay the import tax. Or he would have been, had he ever gotten them anywhere but the black markets dotting the Jovian orbit. He leaned against the rough, wooden bartop and grinned at a passing bartender, who kept walking. Destyn blew a cloud of smoke at the man’s back, and took a seat on a nearby stool, bitter at having to wait.
He was halfway through his cigarillo when the bartender finally made his rounds back to Destyn. “Finally, hey. Black russian, yeah?”
“Sure thing. Start you a tab?” The man turned and grabbed an old fashioned glass, stooping down to grab the well vodka.
“Nah, I’ll pay as I go.” He laid his credit card on the bartop, watching the man with the vibrantly red mohawk pour the liqueur. “Thanks.” He slid the card to the bartender, who took it and slipped it into a folder behind the counter.
“Just let me know when you’re ready to tab out, and you’ll get it back.”
Destyn nodded and looked around for a place to ash his cigarillo. As if on cue, a tall woman, she had to be over six feet, dropped a small dish beside Destyn’s glass, and nodded at him. “Got a light, cowboy?”
Destyn produced his lighter and flicked it into flaming, holding it for the woman as she lit a cigarette that could have passed for the mixing straw in his drink. “You get anything from that?”
“Cancer, mostly.” She blew a line of smoke from the corner of her mouth up and toward the ceiling. “Same as anything else, really.”
“I hear that. To cancer?” He raised his glass, taking a long drag on his cigarillo.
“To cancer.” She clinked her own against his, hers a cocktail glass which looked to be filled with a ferociously dirty martini.
Destyn sipped carefully at his drink, unsure of how the mix was. Surprisingly for a rundown joint like this one, the man had done an admirable job, and Destyn was glad to finish the rest of the Russian in a gulp, before setting his glass back down on the bartop. He then proceeded to belch loudly into the back of his right hand.
“Good lord, pardon me.”
“Consider yourself pardoned.” The brunette woman laughed, and her crows feet were prominent at the corners of her eyes. “I’m Agape.” She extended a carefully manicured hand with nails filed like gleaming black talons.
“Wu,” Destyn replied, shaking her hand. “Destyn Wu.”
“Well, Wu Destyn Wu, what brings you up and about here? You don’t look local.”
“Business, mostly. Or a lack of it.”
She nodded, pulling her mixing straw out of the cocktail glass and delicately plucking a green olive from the end with her teeth. “Tell me about it. Place is dead, isn’t it?”
Destyn shrugged, and shook his glass at the passing bartender. This got a brief scowl, but also a refill. Whatever worked. “I’m usually not on planet this long. Starting to get an itch in my feet, you know?”
“They make powders for that, I think.” She grinned at him, some olive stuck between her front teeth.
It was Destyn’s turn to laugh. “You know what I mean. That heavy feeling in the body, too much gravity or something.”
“So you’re not a man who hangs around, hmm?”
“Not if it can be helped, no.” Destyn took a cautious sip again from his drink. This one was definitely stronger. Not a complaint, mind. “I get the old wanderlust and have to keep moving. Plus, the job, y’know, keeps me on my toes.”
“What is it you do, exactly?” Agape put out the minuscule twig of a cigarette in the small glass dish she had brought over.
“I’m in acquisitions.”
“Oh really? You don’t look much like a desk man, cowboy.” She looked him up and down, an easy feat at her height. “No, not with that boot and glove combo. You’re a man who works with his hands.”
“How better to acquire?”
She smirked. “Fair enough, dodge the question.” She sipped at her martini then checked her wristcom. “Damn, I’ve gone and made myself late.”
“Don’t let me keep you,” Destyn shrugged, snuffing out his own smoke.
“Oh, don’t worry about that Wu Destyn Wu.” She threw back the cocktail glass and swallowed it in one go. She sat the glass on the bartop and went to fishing around in her small, lavender purse. “Oh damn.”
“My wallet. It seems to have gone missing.”
“Damn shame, that.”
“Quite.” She scowled, and he wasn’t sure if it was meant for him or the vanishing act.
“Look, how about I cover your tab, yeah? Pay for the company and all that.”
“Could you?” She looked eminently relieved.
Destyn shrugged and nodded. “You’ll owe me.”
“Fair enough, cowboy.” She offered her hand again, which he shook. “It’s been nice chatting Mister Wu.”
“Same.” He nodded to her and she departed. He watched her as she hurried off, heels clicking on the marbled tile floor. He went to reach for the packet of cigarillos in his left breast pocket when the nagging feeling finally became a nagging knowledge. His wristcom. It was gone from his right wrist.
“Son of a bitch!” He hopped up and ran from the bar, just as a large crowd emerged from the arrivals terminal. He could clearly see her moving effortlessly through the crowd, her tall frame a good head above most of the people milling about. Destyn had far less luck, and it seemed for every inch of ground he gained, she took a mile. By the time he made it to the departures gate, she was gone. Destyn groaned, rubbing his eyes with his right thumb and forefinger, pinching the bridge of his nose. That had been a good wristcom. At least it had a suicide trigger. Three wrong entries of the passcode and it would fry itself. And hey, he thought, he had ‘fuck you’ money coming in. It would be alright.
“Sir?” It was the bartender, slightly out of breath. “I ran the lady’s tab for you.”
“Thanks, what’s the damage?”
The bartender just handed him the receipt and his credit card.
“Wait, what?” Destyn looked from the receipt to the bartender and back to the receipt. “What the hell did she have to drink?”
“About five martinis.” The bartender shrugged. “She demanded the classy shit. Sorry, hoss cat. I think you got hosed.”
“Yeah, thanks.” Destyn growled, then crumpled up the receipt, throwing it to the floor. “There goes lunch.”
Tio arrived just as Destyn bit into his fried fish sandwich. A lump of tartar sauce squeezed from the corner and plopped squarely onto the breast of Destyn’s shirt. He paid it no mind, hungry as he was, and he continued to eat. It wasn’t until Tio coughed behind him that he even looked up from his plate.
“Well, looky here.” Destyn said, muffled by a mouth full of food.
“You’re going to want to see this,” Tio said, and he handed Destyn the brown envelope he had received in his car ride over.
“The hell’s this?” Destyn wiped his hands on his bluejeans before opening the envelope and taking out the packet of papers. “Who the hell prints shit anymore?”
Destyn stiffened at the mention. “Oh really now?” He looked over the packet, clicking his tongue. “Where’d you get this?”
“They gave it to me. Said to use it to blackmail you.”
“You know blackmail only works if the other person doesn’t have the materials, right?” Destyn looked Tio over. “Still in your uniform? This happened recently then?”
“Yes, and I don’t think we have much time.”
“I lost the tail when they dropped me off here. Look, we need to get moving.”
“What the hell are you talking about? Blackmail? Tail?”
“I’m no fucking patsy for the cartel, you idiot. I’m a Marshall.”
“Were a Marshall.”
“It’s more than just a badge. Now come on, we have to move.”
Destyn tucked the photos and transcripts back into the envelope, and tucked that under his right arm. “Alright, hotshot. Where to?”
“You have a ship, right?”
“I do, but-”
“Then let’s get to it! C’mon!”
“Can’t? Why not?”
“I don’t have the money to get a ticket offworld. I especially don’t have the creds to get a double-pass.”
“Shit. Okay. Okay I think I’ve got this, c’mon.”
Tio ran off, and Destyn followed at a trot. It wasn’t long before they were both back at the ticket counter with the same bored man from before.
“Welcome to Orbitcorp, how-”
“Look, I need a dual pass off world to this man’s ship.” He turned to Destyn. “What was her name?”
“Right,” Tio turned back to the ticketer. “We need to get to the dock and get the Deegaf.”
The man behind the barrier took his time, typing in the information, waiting for the receipt to print, handing it over. It had to take two minutes that Tio knew he just did not have.
“Twenty five hundred credits? Are you insane?”
“The Deegaf had outstanding passage debits. This amount will bring it up to current and get you offworld.”
Destyn had the decency to look chagrined.
Tio tapped at where his badge used to be before he caught himself. He leaned in. “Look, I’m with the Solar Marshall service, and I’m currently on duty here.”
The man nodded, seeming unimpressed.
“I need to commandeer the Deegaf. It’s for a mission.”
The man shrugged and tapped the window next to the credit scan machine. “Input your IDN.”
Tio hesitated for a moment, then punched in his number. He held his breath until the light switched from red to green. It looked like Fort hadn’t put his dismissal paperwork through yet. How could he have, really. Tio was the closest thing the office had to a secretary. For once, his luck was looking up. The ticketer slid two passes through the semi-circular hole in the transparent barrier and nodded to them both.
“Have a pleasant flight, and thank you for using Orbitcorp.”
“Yes, thank you, whatever. Wu, lead the way.”