Mare Inebrium to All and to All a Good Night!
Mare Inebrium to All and to All a Good Night!
By Kate Thornton
A Mare Inebrium Story
Mare Inebrium Universe created by Dan Hollifield
The decorations were a little over the top, but that's okay in a place like the Mare Inebrium. In fact, it's expected. Synthetic conifer scents burbled from a pot with plenty of straws and other devices hanging out of it invitingly, sparkly pieces of plasticized scales from some insectoid species swung over the antique fireplace and the blinking lights which spelled out, in a dozen intergalactic languages, "Happy Holidays" or some such added to the usual atmosphere of my favorite bar on Bethdish. Actually, it's my favorite bar anywhere.
I smiled at Max, who was busy polishing glasses and other things behind the bar. I sure did have the Holiday spirit. "Hey, Max," I called, "make it a double!"
I ambled over to a table and sat down, my Port Authority uniform badges gleaming in the bright lights. It was a good day, I decided. And it was only half over. I had a whole hour for lunchtime pleasures. Trixie brought my double Zombie and I crossed my long legs. They were long in the humanoid sense, which even the males of other species sometimes find attractive. I adjusted the low-cut uniform blouse over my breasts and heard a ratcheting sound from my left. I glanced over. It was a young D'rrish male rubbing his back legs together in invitation. Ooowee, I sighed. Still got it after all these years. It always made me feel good to attract a little amorous attention, even from a species with a strong resemblance to scorpion life. And hey, where's the law against a little interspecies dalliance, anyway? Well, at least on Bethdish. Mind you, there were other places where such things could earn a messy death or two, but I stayed away from them. Who goes looking for trouble?
I bought the D'rrish boy a drink and let him run his long antennae over me in a friendly way. I giggled and squirmed a bit, and would have been ready for a more serious if careful encounter with those snapping claws and that stinger-tipped tail, only the doors opened suddenly and a loud voice called, "I am here to judge!"
The Mare Inebrium is accustomed to such bravado swaggering drunks of all descriptions are fond of kicking in the doors and making loud and ridiculous statements. It's practically a Bethdish hobby. The doors are outfitted with a shiny brass plate just for the convenience, and the noise level is generally high enough to preclude any but those sitting closest to the front doors from hearing these jewels of wisdom.
The latest customer stood silhouetted in the doorway for a few seconds, his bulbous form and upright gait indicating a partly-human genetic history. Clad in a two-color spacer's cloak, I took him for a junk pilot on a bender, methodically making his way from one watering hole to the next. His spacebag bulged and his hood flopped over to one side. Not my idea of handsome, but hey, I had been about to tango with a D'rrish, so who's picky?
"You!" he boomed at me, pointing a gloved claw. "Naughty?"
Naughty? Honey, you wouldn't believe! Why one time I was inspecting a junk full of spreege bottles and the captain, a delicious collection of carbon-based cells if there ever was one, suggested a little tete-a-tete to settle the Port fees. It'll take him about eighty thousand more trips to use up those credits. I fluttered my eyelashes and smiled at the newcomer. The D'rrish was still tickling me with those silky antennae, but D'rrish are not jealous types. Maybe a threesome would appeal to him.
I was about to suggest something very naughty indeed when the spacer strode right past me and into Trixie's line of sight. The tip of a scaly tail peeked out from his suit. He pointed at her and repeated his question. So maybe he was looking for a different threesome. Okay, I thought, that can be done.
Trixie shook her head. She was too busy to take a time out with a customer. She turned her back to him to fill up a couple of schooners for the fur factories at the bar, two mammalian forms from Rigel Seven who seemed to be made entirely of hairballs. The spacer grunted and reached into his bag, then flung a small object on the bar as Trixie nodded absently.
He continued toward the back of the Mare, and I lost interest. The D'rrish had renewed his attentions and was now singing to me in a low chirp about the toxic deserts of his homeland.
I guess I should mention that the bar was crowded, even at lunchtime. Even though there must be a hundred or so life forms to whom the idea of lunch is an oddity, there are no life forms none anywhere in the whole universe to whom a drink or its equivalent is an oddity. This is one reason why science never gave up on the Unified Field Theory. If a single unifying force the appreciation of a drink - could be found among the sentient of the Universe, then Unified Field was a piece of cake.
Just as I was about to reach a peak, what with the Zombie, the D'rrish and my imagination, I heard a commotion. "Whaddya mean," Max was shouting, "comin' in here and draggin' sand all over my clean floor?" The floor of the Mare Inebrium was many things to many folks, including intimately familiar, but clean was seldom a descriptor. Still Max could be particular about the damndest things. He held a small package in his hands.
The spacer headed out through the crowd, making a beeline for the front doors and dragging his bag behind him. As he passed me, his hood fell back a bit and I gazed into the rock-hard obsidian orbs of an elderly D'rrish. My young D'rrish saw the same sight and immediately retracted all his appendages in shock. His antennae waved wildly as the spacer disappeared out into the street.
"Jeeze," Trixie whispered in horror. "Max! Do you have any idea?"
"Any idea of what, Trix?" Max wiped his hands on a bar towel, put the little package in his pocket and came out to the middle of the floor where Trixie, my young D'rrish and I were staring after the spacer. The bar got quiet as it dawned on everyone what had happened.
"It was him," my young D'rrish hissed. "It was him!"
"Who?" Max asked. "Whaddya talkin' about? It was who?"
I pointed toward the door. "It couldn't be," I said. "That's just a legend, something you tell children to keep them quiet."
"What did he give you, Max?" Trixie asked in a hushed tone. "Show us."
Max pulled the little package out of his pocket. "It's wrapped up in somethin', " he said. He peeled the wrapper off it and stared. A tear formed in his eye and slowly slid down his weathered cheek. "I-it can't be," he said. "How could he know?" Max held up his open palm and displayed the object. It was a Junior Spacer's Sonic Speedo Ring, a real one. "I-I've wanted one of these all my life," Max said. "Ever since I was a kid."
"Open yours, Trix," I prompted. "I saw him give you one, too."
"Oh, yeah," she said slowly. She retrieved it from the bar and peeled of its wrapper. She caught her breath in a sharp intake. "Look! Look, it's a ticket to the Outer Belts. Max, I gotta go. I gotta have the time off! Max!" Trixie had wanted to see the Outer Belts for years, but passage was way too expensive.
"What about you," Max said to me. "Didn't you get anything?"
I looked down in embarrassment. "Uh, no
uh, I don't get anything."
Trixie looked at him in surprise. "Max, you really don't know?"
Max shook his head. "What's all this mean?"
"She doesn't get anything because she was naughty. Dontcha get it, Max?" Trixie rolled her eyes to the ceiling. The young D'rrish boy was still in a state of extreme agitation. Trixie sat Max down and gently explained. "Max, that wasn't just some whacked-out spacer. The guy with the scaly tail and cloak, he was You Know Who!"
Max still looked blank. "Who?"
Lights twinkled and the scent of the conifers rose in a cloud. Somewhere bells tinkled and the sounds of lunchtime revelers filled the bar. The young D'rrish switched his stinger-tipped tail around. "We have been fortunate, Human," he hissed. "We have seen the great D'rrish of the Desert"
I guess it was just as well that my lunchtime was over and I had to get back to work. After all, it isn't every day that you opt for being naughty and lose out on your heart's desire.
On the other hand, I am a Port Authority Inspector, and every spacer even hoping to take off from the surface of Bethdish has to get clearance from me, even the great Sandy Claws.
Copyright 2000 by Kate Thornton
Biography: Kate Thornton lives outside of Los Angeles and spends a lot of time wishing she could have just one gin and cranberry at the Mare Inebrium. Please visit her at http://sff.net/people/katethornton and drop her a line at email@example.com
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