In the Sly
Posted on Mon May 30th, 2022 @ 1:26pm by Harlequin & Quinlan Barrett Poe
The Xiao Jin Chronicles
Location: Eavesdown Docks, The Eavesdown Sly
Timeline: Mission Day 20 at 2000
There was little to mark the club. Dingy pink and blue neon fizzled and buzzed in the shape of a pair of lug nuts. The door within opened to a pungent scent of something smokeable, and tinny music pumped from what were likely secondhand speakers. The room was saturated in fire engine red light. Hard vat alcohol permeated the air with the smoke, a tang of metallic and malt.
A pair of androgynes- one young and one, on a second glance, stuck in that odd post-thirties twink category- strode walkways, but to only a few onlookers. It seemed the Sly had seen better days. Perhaps it had become blase. Perhaps it was an off-night. Perhaps it was a downturn in the local traffic. A youngish-looking person approached Poe at the door, holding a round tray of beers. "You can sit anywhere you like," he flashed an easy smile. "It's a slow night," he admitted.
"Thanks," Poe said as he scanned the room. The interior was all mismatched furniture with tables marking off a small, dance area in a half-circle around the stage where there were indications that a band might play now and again though there wasn't one at present. There was a sizeable bar to the right of the entrance and he waited a moment, letting his eyes adjust to the soft lighting and deep shadows. Waited to see who would note his presence.
"Would you be Poe?" Yet another twinkish figure approached the Captain of the Xiao Jin some five minutes later. He was carrying a tray of plain bottle drinks, the labels likely steamed off to be recycled with whatever bathtub drink someone in Eavesdown was making.
"Yes, I would," Poe answered. He didn't reach for a bottle, years of tramping around the 'verse had made him suspicious of bottled offerings having suffered for the experience a time or two. "Who's asking?"
The redhead, questioned, pursed his lips and shook his head with a one-shoulder shrug. He began to wipe down the table. "Someone paid for a private dance for you about an hour ago. Enjoy." Picking up his rag the ginger twink stepped away and started wiping down the next table. But in his place, pawned from his wipe rag no doubt, was a small, round chit with a number on it. Stall 4.
Poe picked up the disk, abraded around the edges, the paint scratched, he imagined it had been held in any number of eager, sometimes sweaty hands over the years. He asked directions and followed the answers to a series of small rooms. Big enough for two if they didn't stretch their arms too far out to the sides anyways. He entered number four and dropped the chit in a small wooden bowl just inside the door and looked up.
A security camera stared back: unblinking, lifeless, aged. Only a steady green blip, regularly flashing every three seconds. There was a chair. How many eager and sweaty patrons had sat in that before? The room smelled like sweat and lubricant and a harsh tang of disinfectant, like bleach. Overhead the lights buzzed, and flickered like one of them couldn't decide if it was supposed to be pink or white. On the opposite wall, a door marked, "Talent Only."
For the briefest moment there was a squeal and a squelch and it came from the security camera.
"This is getting old," Poe said to the room at large as he leaned back against the door and folded his arms across his chest. "Not sitting in the chair and not playing along any farther. Show yourself."
The security camera's green light had pinged red. Solid red. The door opened and in skulked a figure. His jacket was black and leather, his undershirt a low-slung U-shape that showed collarbones and breastbone. He had a mop of stylized and swept hair, in a medium brown. The shaggy mop hung in the line of his eyes which were startlingly dark, smoldering black. He was moody sex in a twinkish shape.
An artificial hand, possibly an arm as it carried on under his jacket cuff, spun a knife dexterously like it was more plaything than weapon. "I'm gonna make your tramp, rust bucket pi gu rich and you ain't got a few seconds for an old friend?" Those cold-coffee eyes glance-glared at Poe as he strode by, straight for the security camera. He reached up, plugged a device of sorts into it, and started tapping buttons. The security camera squelched again and began to flash green regularly. The brunette turned and smirked at Poe. "Do you have any ta-ma-de concept how expensive it is to get a vid-render of you that's not gorram ten years old?" He folded his arms over his chest, a serrated blade popping in and out from near his armpit. "And your nav com's security is go-se, alright?"
"Now, why am I thinking about a gorram bird," Poe murmured as he searched beneath the posture and the attitude because there was something familiar about him. "Mudlarks. You're Mercy's son, Rem ... no, Remy, right? We took out the Alliance team that was bombarding your settlement but ..." His expression turned serious and sad as it all came pouring back. "Mercy was a good woman. Brilliant in some respects."
The conflict on the brunette person's face was almost a glitch before the cool, cold calm recoalesced. He waved a finger almost fluidly in a no-no gesture. "We don't use that name anymore, dong ma? Remy died in that gorram military hospital. As for her... if she was so gorram brilliant, why's Muir sucking Alliance cock now." It seemed a rhetorical statement. He head jerked to dislodge a tress of rich brown off his nose tip. "She's dead. We're alive. That's a fact." He gestured between them and shoved his knife into a pocket of otherwise too tight trousers.
"Here's more facts," he held out his hand, and with a thumb brush over a fat beveled disk, a hologram burst to life in a cone of light. "I caught this on an old band piece of go-se I salvaged around the Shǔ wěi's out of Qiang Long." And for the first time in their modern meeting, the strange one smiled. "I mean gorram old, Poe. Gorram old." The hologram was a triangulated three-dimensional representation of space that listed information. "Uranium radio-isotope decay, repeater-band signal. Now does that sound like any modern Alliance comm signal system to you?"
"No," Poe mused, as he studied the hologram, a frown creasing his forehead. "Sounds more like Earth-That-Was tech. I remember reading an article on this. Probably still got it in my cabin somewhere." The frown deepened as he tried to recollect. "You know, not all of the colony ships made it; three went missing and were presumed lost."
"Gorram right," the stranger that was once-Remy said. "If I remember right, at least seven of them. Unlucky number seven." His thumb swept and the hologram cone flashed a new image of an ecliptic shape around a distant blue star. "Right now Qiang Long's got a taste of it. Gravity wise. It's gonna start pullin' in. And Qiang Long's a real busy place with some hungry gravity wells itself."
Another thumb swipe and the cone of light was off. With a palming flick and roll, the little chunky disk was gone and the stranger was folding his arms again. "Thirty percent is my finder's fee of whatever gets found."
"Twenty-five and that's after all of the expenses," Poe said as folded his arms across his chest. The boy and man were different, strangers inhabiting the same body almost, but he left that thought for later. When there was time.
The brunette stranger balked with a laugh, enough that his lean body swayed and walked a tight circle before he looked back at the captain. "How many on your crew Poe? Three? Four? Five? Twenty, twenty-five percent on an even split, and who does that? Go se." His coffee eyes narrowed and he shook his head Bemused he rumbled, "Alright. Thirty, after expenses." He counterargued and pointed, "But expenses include how much I put into that gorram render," he pointed at the security camera, "So we could have this chat."
"Go se is what you're speaking," Poe said. "You have a lead. I have a ship and I'm the one that's going to be boots on the ground, maybe walking into a hornet's nest. Twenty-five is fair. You have a point about the render so yes, that counts toward the expenses." He paused a moment. "More than fair when you consider that there might be nothing out there at all worth salvaging except trouble for me and mine."
"I can find another ship, you're not the only outfit in Eavesdown," the youth countered. "Twenty-eight after expenses, final offer," the brunette said.
"Twenty-seven and we have a deal," Poe said. "You know me well enough to know that when I give my word, I keep it. Won't be playing any games or trying to cheat you later on."
The youth's brows lifted under that thick mop. He folded his arms across his chest again and stared with thought. For a moment, with a knotted purse of lips in thinking, he looked likely to walk back the way he came. He started that way, toward the security camera to unplug it. "Twenty seven-five," he said. "No games from you I expect. I don't know your crew."
"Twenty seven-five," Poe repeated. "And if they give you any trouble, send them my way. My word on that."
The one who was once called Remy extended his Human right hand. "Agreed," he said with a tilt of a smile. "I'll come to your ship in about an hour. I have some gear."
"You'll be welcome," Poe said as he accepted the handshake. There was a part of him that wanted to reach out, hug the boy he once was, but he resisted.
At the grasp, there was a modicum of that carefree dancing kid Poe knew. But he too held back. "Lets go make some money."