Scene: The slums of Station 7A, RUST Co. Just off a forgotten, yet worn alley is a dive bar that never had a name. Citizens ignore each other, turning their coats to the pollution drifting in the low G. A young woman enters the bar, the door squeaking on its neglected hinge.
The radio behind the bar crackled and the barkeep looked up from its cracked screen. A forgotten classic sang, “I see trees of green,”
"Say, why yous always coming through but never buying?”
“Can’t properly say.” I leaned on the sticky bar, ignoring the layers of filth accumulated over years of neglect. “There’s something about this place that keeps me coming back-”
"But never buying.” The barkeep crossed his arms. “That’s gonna be a problem miss.”
I raised an eyebrow. “What if I keep coming back just to annoy the bartender?”
The barkeep scoffed. “You need a hobby.”
I smiled, taking a seat on one of the few intact stools--nevermind it was missing half its legs. “Got any suggestions?”
“Yeah. Buy a damn drink if yous take up space at my bar. Otherwise-” He lifted the shotgun below the counter into sight. “Make youself scarce.”
I stuck my tongue out. “What’s on tap then? Anything new or interesting?”
“Same thing as everytime yous ask, Val.”
I blew errant strands of hair out of my face. “Then you’ve got nothing interesting Luis. I keep telling you, go out, taste some things, maybe buy a barrel from those blokes down in dock 9. But no.” I shrugged. “Just seems like you’re wanting to sit around on your fat ass and let your business fall to pieces.”
Luis scowled, more at how the lights flickered and the music warbled, than at me. “Damn the pieces, power brats going on strike more’s likey to send it down the shitter.”
“Yeah. It’s been all over the news.”
He looked at me like I’d grown a second head that was both stupid and ugly. “No news I’d seen.”
I shook my head. “Exactly. Only the small rags pick up the shit we care about. Seems pretty damn backwards, you ask me.”
“Damn station’s falling apart and all we’s ever hearing about is how the Mayor eats imported Earth food.” He whacked the radio, resurrecting it in the only way he knew how. Old Louis crackled out: “I see skies of blue,”
“Tell ya, Val. Someday soon--and yous mark my words young lady--things gonna change. Maybe for the better, maybe not. Depends on the young folk, whether they decide to take part in their lives and get out there, make a difference.”
“Nothing we do makes a ripple. Just look outside-” I gestured to the blacked out window; neon light managed to leak through scratches in the paint, trying to project their messages directly onto my retinas. Damn holo adverts. “Only those with money have any chance of being noticed. Even then, if you’re not from the right family, tough shit. Hydroponics for life, maybe maintenance or ship repair if you’re lucky enough to qualify to take--forget passing--the education aptitude test. We have to ignore what’s going on, anything else would drive you to an early death at worst, the VR sphere at best.”
“And clouds of white,”
Luis sighed, glancing around the deserted bar. Trash littered the floor; old posters peeled off the rusty walls. “Maybe there’s something to yous words. But that’s no excuse to not try.”
“You know as well as I do what happens to troublemakers round here.” I took a deep breath, failing to ignore the ache in my throat and burning in my lungs. “Luis?”
He grunted, not looking up from his cracked glassware.
“I’ll have a water.”
The glass in his hands managed not to shatter as he clacked it down before me; moldy smudges lined the rim. The water he poured was milky--just as it always was since the explosion in water reclamation. My throat tingled as I drank, quelling the burn.
“The bright blessed day,”
The door slammed open. Metallic rumbling from the street drowned out old Louis on the radio.
“Welcome.” Luis mumbled, squinting through the neon light--and the holo adverts they carried.
The stranger shuffled into the room and their eyes bore into my back--just the one by the sound of it. I drew my jacket tighter around myself.
The door squeaked shut and old Louis sang on, “And I think to myself,”
“What can I get you?”
“What a wonderful world.”
Luis’ arm exploded in a flash of light and red mist, leaving my ears ringing. He fell in slow motion, eyes wide: the mirror of my own.
My senses returned and I pushed off the floor, bounding off the ceiling and grabbing the edge of the bar to pull myself into cover. Blood pounded in my ears.
“The colors of the rainbow,”
Another shot splintered the wood over my head, cut by the rough cackling of the stranger, and I pressed myself against the floor.
“So pretty in the sky,”
Luis gripped the collar of my jacket, suddenly face to face behind the bar. Blood stained his remaining hand, gushing lazily from the shredded remnants of his other arm. His breath was hot on my face. “Get yous out of here.”
Sparks erupted from the wall above us, blown through by the stranger’s weapon.
“Are also on the faces,”
Luis groaned, pulling me closer. “Backdoor leads to the access allies.”
I swallowed hard, cold sweat running down my sides.
“Of people going by,”
“Come out little piggy!” The stranger called out. “I won’t hurt you.” He cackled again.
“I see friends shaking hands,”
“Just run!” Luis pushed me towards the door, his strength fading. “Please Val.”
“I’m just here for your money, rotten old place like this gotta have some.” The stranger chuckled. “Best part is, nobody cares about this old dump. Nobody comin to help you, old bag.”
“They’re really saying,”
I met his eyes: grim determination, acceptance.
The knees of my pants were soggy; droplets of blood and splinters fell slowly around us.
I reached under the bar, cold metal under my fingers. No safety--I cocked the hammers back.
With a grin to Luis, I stood and aimed, pulling the triggers.
“I love you.”