The crew of the Tyche (?) is more than the Nate & Grace duo. It takes all types to crew a starship. Often as not, the crew are better at lifting heavy things rather than their skill with words. Meet October Kohl – deckhand of the Tyche. Yeah yeah, first draft, but let me know what you think.
October Kohl was drunk. He knew it. That asshole who was eying him up knew it. The bartender knew it. The … proprietor of the brothel he’d just been thrown out of knew it. The question was not whether he was drunk, but whether it would hold him up any. He put a hand out in front of him, looking at the way it held in space.
It wasn’t waving all over the place, but it wasn’t steady as a rock either. That meant no guns, because Kohl wanted to drink here again, and shooting people who weren’t supposed to be shot was one of the best ways to never get back in. As Nate had explained to him, there were rules, and polite people didn’t shoot people who didn’t deserve it.
Kohl looked around the bar. There were probably people here who deserved it, sure as ships flew, but he could already feel the look Nate would give him. So, definitely no guns. He made sure his blaster was holstered, nice and secure, clip fastened over the top. It took him a try or two but he got there in the end. When he looked up, that asshole who’d been eying him up was right in front of him. Big asshole too, bunch of ink down one side of his neck, none of that glowy shit that was popular out here on the rim worlds, straight black needled right under the skin. Had a rivet in his forehead — a goddamn rivet, for fuck’s sake — planted above the guy’s right eye. Could be cosmetic, or could be because he had a bunch of metal in his head and that was the best way of solving the problem.
“Coins,” said the asshole.
Kohl swayed a bit, put a hand on the side of the booth that Nate and wossername, Grace, Grace, that was it, had just left. Looked the asshole in the eye. “Fuck off,” he said.
“No,” said Kohl, “really. Look,” and here, he realized he was slurring more than he’d expected, “I’m trying to work.”
“Work?” The asshole looked a little surprised.
“Yeah,” said Kohl. “I need to punch some fools.”
“I think you’re too drunk to—” started the asshole, before Kohl slammed a fist into his stomach. The guy, coughed, tried to stand, and that was just a bad move, because you should stay down when you’re outmatched, but not everybody worked that way. So Kohl grabbed fistfuls of the asshole’s jacket, and yanked the man forward into a headbutt. The impact was hard, but not too hard, which meant that rivet was cosmetic. He let the asshole slump to the floor, out like a cheap Kribian drive, and stepped over him en route to the bar.
Joni was behind the bar, those green braids of her glowing like a set of emergency beacons, and she saw Kohl on his way over. “October,” she said, “no.”
Kohl locked on to those green braids like a beacon guiding him in to land in a storm. The couple Nate had asked him to delay were already looking over, which was fine, because this wasn’t really surprise work. He made it to the bar, jostling hard against the woman, knocking her a little sideways into the man and spilling her drink. Kohl got a good look at them. Trim and fit. Drinks untouched, holding right at the top of the water line from when they’d bought them. Dressed in dark spacer overalls, which meant they weren’t spacers at all, because no crew Kohl knew of kept their damn jumpsuits on when they were shoreside. It was like they’d read a zine about spacer bars before going into this particular one, which meant two things.
First, because of how they were dressed, they were not spacers. No crime against that, rich people sometimes wanted to rub against the dirt, and Kohl was no particular judge on how people got their thrills.
Second, because of their untouched drinks, they were trying to keep sharp, either because they wanted trouble, or because they were on duty, or both. That there probably meant the captain was right in wanting to delay them. Could be wrong too, if they were Republic agents of one shape or another, but Kohl didn’t much care.
“Hey,” said the woman. “Hey!”
“Hey,” agreed Kohl, and started counting Republic coins onto the bar.
“October Kohl, no.” Joni tried to push them back at him. “Kohl? Are you listening to me? Not tonight. Not again.”
“It’s okay,” said the man, holding a hand up to Joni. “Man just wants to buy us a drink to apologize.”
“That’s not it,” said Joni. “October Kohl, you stop right now.”
“Sorry, Joni,” said Kohl. “Captain’s orders.” He examined the pile of coins, then tossed another on for good measure. “There.”
“Your captain wanted you to buy us a drink?” said the man, clearly not understanding despite being more sober than Kohl.
“That’s not it,” said Kohl. “Captain’s gone. This is for damage to the bar.”
The man gave a glance over to the booth where Nate had been, said something that sounded like shit, and tried to push past Kohl towards the exit. Kohl put an arm against the man’s chest and gave a gentle push. The man stumbled back against the bar, knocking into the woman, spilling her drink again. She really should put that thing down.
Joni gave Kohl a last, angry glare, than slammed her hand under the bar. There was a rattle, and metal shutters slid down over the bar, locking her in. The lights in the bar came up, causing Kohl to squint, which was why the man’s fist caught him in the side of the face. It probably wasn’t that he was drunk — he might still have worn a fist to the face, but he would have seen the damn thing coming.
That’s how he landed on his back, staring at the ceiling, those damn bright lights above him. The woman was saying something to the man, using words like move and backup and kill him, which were all the wrong sorts of words for a bar fight. And the man was pulling out some kind of communicator, a slick little thing that had black ops written all over it. It wasn’t that it was slick and black, it was that green lazed out of it, falling in quick raindrops of colored light over the interior of the bar. It made Kohl laugh.
They both paused and looked down at Kohl. He pushed himself up on an elbow, then levered himself to his feet. Pointed at the communicator. “That’s not very discrete,” he said.
“I—” said the man.
“Because,” said Kohl, “it’s got black ops written all over it, little toy like that. What’s it doing, taking our pictures and getting backup?”
“That’s the size of it,” said the woman.
Kohl turned his neck to the left, then the right, rewarded with a series of pops. “Last time I was in a situation like this, the backup wanted to kill everyone.”
“They—” said the man.
“I don’t care,” said Kohl.
“You don’t?” said the man.
“No,” said Kohl. “You do what you need to, right? Right? I’m here as a, what would you call it, a delaying tactic. Also, I owe you one.” With that, he slammed his fist into the side of the man’s face. The guy tumbled back against the bar, kind of loose in the limbs like he wasn’t piloting anymore, which turned out to be the case as he slumped to the floor. The woman looked at this, then smashed her drink against the bar, holding up the broken stem, and trying to stab Kohl in the face with it.
That’d be why she kept holding that damn drink, thought Kohl. He caught her arm, the broken stem spinning out across the bar, and he punched her in the face for good measure. She hit the deck right next to her partner.
Kohl was about to give himself a virtual pat on the back for a job well done when two things happened.
First, someone hit him in the back with a chair. This was supposed to hit Kohl in the back of the head, but misjudged timing or the second thing skewed the aim and all it did was hurt, but a lot, dropping him to one knee amidst the woman’s spilled drink and shards from her broken glass.
Second, a bunch of other assholes burst in the front of the bar, and started firing into the room. The person who’d hit Kohl in the back with a chair — turned out, it was the first asshole with the rivet in his head — got caught in a fusillade of plasma. The plasma picked him up, tossed the body across the room, and what landed was in pieces and on fire.
So it was good, in a way, that Kohl had been hit in the back and dropped like a dress on prom night, not that he’d been to a prom, but he’d heard stories. Because being dropped meant he hadn’t turned into human-shaped charcoal, and it gave him a moment of quiet, or quieter, reflection on the floor of the bar as what looked and sounded like a small-scale war broke out. Spacers were drawing down on the newcomers and firing back, and all that was fine, but one thing was bothering Kohl.