Time: a few months after the end of Shax's War
Place: Thinis, planet Elistrus
It had taken a bit to cotton to the signage of Corny's new world. Verin had been mighty patient, all things considered, but he'd been knocked back a couple of times by the things Corny had asked. Frustrating for both of them. Corny was getting it, though. He knew what kinds of things meant a saloon, or rather a bar now. His own instincts from back home did the rest in scouting out a place where he might could be comfortable.
Nowhere too highbrow. Nowhere too rough and tumble like Verin liked. Nowhere too wild like Cap'n Shax liked. Just somewhere seedy and quiet where he could have a drink and ruminate a spell. This being Elistrus, the seedy never got quite as bad as on Amnesia, say, but he found himself a dimly lit bar that was a mix of characters and nobody paid him any mind when he wandered in. It wasn't that he was hiding from his shipmates, exactly. He'd adjusted pretty well to this strange new life. But there were days when he looked at his new home—a metal box that hurtled at unsafe speeds through an airless, frigid nothing—and his new family—not another human among them—and he came over dizzy and weird. Dislocation syndrome, Mac said.
He didn't know anything about that. He just knew he needed a little time away.
With a quick glance around the room, Corny headed for the chrome and dark something material bar and slid onto an empty stool between an hombre who looked human enough and a person in a hood and robe. There was a beak sticking out of the front of the hood, but he wasn't judging. Corny nodded to the demon on his right, who ignored him, and to the human on his left, who turned out to be in no wise human. The boy had tusks.
Corny tapped in his whiskey order on the little light panel on the bar top and paid for it using the handy wristwatch-that-was-not-a-wristwatch the captain had given him. He had his own bank account—devil only knew how—and he had pay that magically appeared in it every month. Maybe not magic exactly. Captain Shax did that too but Corny didn't want to know the how's and why's of it all. The whiskey came by way of a robotic arm from behind the bar, which was handy when you really didn't want conversation. There were still flesh and blood bartenders in his new world, Corny had been relieved to find. Tonight, this was just fine.
Tusk Boy leaned over the bar to talk around him to Beak. "Kak? He look likely?"
For his part, Beak turned to stare at Corny if saying that a bird's skull with empty eye sockets could stare, of course. Gave Corny the willies, especially when Kak stared longer than was strictly polite.
"Help you with somethin', mister?" Corny drawled without looking up from his whiskey.
Kak opened his beak and let out a strange clattering sound like a raven's laugh scraped across bones. "Canz he helpz us, Tsidigor? Canz he?"
"Now see here, boys." Corny put his whiskey down with a solid thump on the bar. "I live with demons, so I ain't afeared of 'em. Whatever game you're fixin' to play here, don't deal me in."
"Game?" Tsidigor smiled and it wasn't a friendly, come-in-and-have-some-tea kind of smile. "No game, human. Though your new owners might have plenty of fun planned for you soon."
Corny hadn’t let himself be distracted in one direction or the other, so he was ready when Kak slipped a pair of cuffs out of his robe. Hand on the butt of his pistol, one of the brace of plasma pistols Verin had given him, Corny spun to his left, shoved Tsidigore off his bar stool, and jumped to where he could face the pair of them as he drew his weapon. Out of reach, of course. He didn't know exactly what was going on, but he knew he sure as hell didn't want to be part of it now.
"Hands where I can see 'em, the pair of you. Got a lot of nerve, tryin' to shanghai a stranger and not a lick of sense betwixt and between you for pickin' on an armed man."
Disturbingly, Kak laughed again. "Thinkz a little toy gun stopz us. Stupid human."
Things were fixing to get ugly mighty quick until a clip-clop of hooves ran up behind Corny and Heckle peeked around him from his unarmed side. "Corny? Um. Hi. Prince Shax said to come find you. He said he had a report of slavers in the city. Prince Shax said—"
At the first mention of Shax, Kak and Tsidigore exchanged what could have been a funny double take under different circumstances. At the second, they hopped off their barstools right quick and edged around Corny to scuttle out the door.
Heckle leaned out to watch them flee down the street in a manner not becoming…well, anyone. "What was that all about?"
Corny put an arm around Heckle's shoulders and steered him out in the direction of the docks. "Never you mind, Heck. Don't have a hankerin' to explain it right now. Just accept my thanks and let's head home."
"Oh. You're welcome." After a couple of minutes walking, Heckle said in a small voice, "Those were the slavers, weren't they?"
Corny glanced down at him just to be sure Heckle wasn't too badly shook up. "Sharp eye you got. And the less we say about the matter, the better."
His demons may have been ornery varmints sometimes but leastwise they weren't low-down bushwhackers. He just had to remember that not all demons were up to his high standards and that sometimes you had to drop a demon prince's name into a bad situation to come out with all your skin.
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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