Time: Just before Potato Surprise
Place: Orbiting space station, Earth
Shax yanked Verin into the doorway of a closed shop, gesturing for silence.
What? Ver mouthed, though he was aware enough to look anxious instead of irritated.
The tension in Ver's arm ratcheted up the second he spotted them, though. No need for Shax to explain. Three granite trolls wearing Infernal Enforcement uniforms stomped down the station's shopping concourse, heads swiveling as they searched the crowd. Shax pulled the shadows closer around them, only exhaling when the troopers had passed.
"They can't be looking for us already," Ver whisper-growled, but he didn't look convinced.
"I don't know how the alarm sounded so quickly, but they are. I heard one of them mention us." Shax chewed on his bottom lip, thinking hard and fast. "Change of plan. We can't go to the travel office and book passage on anything, spaceliner or otherwise. They'll be watching there and even if I use a less obvious name and account… We don't have time for me to finagle that."
"So what the fuck do we do?"
"Convince someone to smuggle us out."
"Seedy bar time?"
Shax patted his companion's shoulder. "Yes. Quick trip to the lockers for a change in clothes, then seedy bar time."
They both knew the drill as they walked briskly, but in a confident, I-have-somewhere-to-be manner, toward the rental lockers where they'd stashed their luggage. Verin stood in front of him while he shimmied out of his work pants and into skin-tight leather and a gold mesh shirt.
"How're we playing this, mud-for-brains?" Verin closed up the locker as Shax shrugged back into his jacket so he wouldn't be quite as attention attracting as they walked.
"Clueless, feckless demon tourist and surly boyfriend, I think."
Verin nodded. "Sounds right."
With an offended snort, Shax smacked Verin's arm before getting into character. Ver offered that same arm and Shax clung to it, looking appropriately wide-eyed and goggly as they took a leisurely stroll through the corridors to the less respectable part of the station closer to the loading docks. They'd both been to the Earth transit station enough times to know exactly which bar they needed and managed to reach Space Junk without running into any more Infernal Enforcement officers.
In order to properly shimmer and slink, Shax handed his jacket off the Verin at the door. They proceeded with a sharp eye to the patrons, mostly hard-bitten men and women drinking alone.
"Any targets?" Verin muttered out of the corner of his mouth.
Shax lifted his chin. "That one. Over in the far corner. All alone and already half soused."
"That's most of the fuckers in here. Why him?"
"Seriously, Ver?" Shax tsked. "Captain's jacket on the back of his chair. He's too shoddy to fly corporate, so it's more likely he's an owner-operator. We may be able to do better than beg a ride."
Verin only answered with a grouchy harrumph and a puff of steam. Completely in character, so it worked. With a little skip and a bright smile, Shax sidled up to the presumed ship owner who was trying to kill his brain cells.
"Oooh!" Shax wriggled and petted the worn jacket. "Are you a starship captain? How exciting!"
The human glanced over blearily, but something registered in that pickled brain since his eyes traveled up and down Shax's body before he attempted to sit up straighter. "Cargo hauler." The man stopped for a semi-polite belch. "Wouldn't call it anything fancy like starship."
Shax waved the bartender over and bought their new friend three more drinks, which started to vanish with alarming speed. "But I bet you get out of boring old Sol system, don't you? You must see all kinds of things."
"Oh, yeah." The captain's head wobbled in an approximation of a nod. "All kindsa…things. Ha." He finished off the third and Shax had another set ready.
"Is it difficult? Copernicus drive travel?" Shax leaned a little closer, hip just brushing his mark's.
"Eh." The human flapped a hand. "Copernicus…schmernicus…the AI does mosht of it."
Shax looked over the barfly's head and nodded to Verin. Bingo. Interstellar craft.
"Does it? Oh my. I thought you'd need just an enormous crew for all that."
Captain Barely Conscious put his arms on the bar and rested his head atop them. "Nah. Ish jus' me an' Ivana. All I ever…"
He trailed off into an alcohol-induced nap. When he started to snore, Shax slipped his hand into one cargo pocket after another on his work pants, taking anything that looked useful, though he left the human the spare credit chits in his left pocket. No need to rob the man entirely blind. Finally, he slipped the wrist comm off the man's arm and nodded to Verin to grab the jacket.
"Sorry, Captain." Shax kissed the top of his head. "I truly am. But our need is far greater right now."
Shax slipped into the captain's jacket once they'd left the bar, ignoring Verin's raised eyebrow, and they hurried back to the lockers to retrieve their meager luggage. It wasn't much, but it had been all they could pack in a panicked frenzy before anyone could catch on that Shax knew. Hells gates, yes. He knew they were doomed if they stayed, doomed twice over if he simply refused the suicide job, and possibly still doomed if they couldn't get away.
"Docking chit. He's at berth nine." Shax murmured as he went through the human's things. "Let’s hope one of these things provides entry."
They had to hide once more in a dimly lit cross-corridor when the Hell goons tromped by. Once they were out of sight, they both lost their nerve and raced through the hallways to the docking bays. Nine wasn't too far down, thank all the unholies, in the section for smaller cargo ships. Shax made an educated guess and held the stolen comm link up to the pad for the access portal. He allowed himself a huff of breath and a grin when it cycled open.
"We'll be okay now, Ver. Promise."
"Better be." Ver gave him a little shove into the access tube. "Go. Let's get the fuck out of this system."
Shax hurried along and into the ship, which, granted, had probably seen better days, but looked sound. "Away, away. Where the long arm of Hell has no jurisdiction and the powers that be can't travel. Oh, Ver. This will be such fun."
About The Brimstone Journals
Extra treats for our Brimstone readers, Brimstone Journals will post every Tuesday. Short scenes from characters' lives before, after or during the stories.
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