A Y-shaped counter with blue neon trim above blocks of glass backlit by dim orange bulbs forms the centerpiece of this trendy San Angeles bar. A mirrored wall stretching between the upper legs of the Y bears several shelves that are loaded with bottles of liquor and wine.
Several tables and booths are available throughout the room, with a raised stage platform provided for entertainment acts, several holovid arrays, and virtgogg stations for people who want to pay money to be someone else for a while.
Double doors lead out to the street.
Vechkov sits at the bar, shrugging as he talks to the Demarian bartender. “It’s just a lot of ship, y’know? I’m not exactly an engineer. Hell, I’m barely a pilot. But she’s mine now. Might as well put her to good use.”
Speaking of ships, one about the size of a deck of cards comes flitting into the pub. Given the apparent erraticness of the flight path, there’s no guarantee the pub was an intended destination. Mind, the german drinking songs coming out of the tiny ship’s underslung speaker do suggest that it probably was.
The Demarian bartender bobs his snout, replying: “I hear of anyone looking for ship work, I’ll send them your way.”
The Ungstiri picks up his glass of whiskey and takes a sip. “Appreciated.” He hears the noise coming from Kilroy, then turns to look in that direction.
A little more flitting about almost wildly takes the tiny ship to a handy patch of the bar. It doesn’t land of course, just comes to a hover about a foot over it. “Evenin, barkeep! Could I get a drop of whisky, and perhaps a shot for the Limping Moth?”
The bartender eyes the Nemoni craft suspiciously, but grunts as his whiskers flex. “I got no idea how to enter that cost into the system.”
Prague chuckles. “Put it on my tab. I’m good for it.” He studies the ship from under the brim of his fedora. “Have we met before?”
Vechkov is sitting at the bar, where the Limping Moth hovers, apparently in conversation with the tiny vessel’s occupant while a Demarian bartender looks on.
The little hatch on top of the ship opens up so Kilroy can climb out and start unfolding the roof mounted deck chair. “Don’t think so… maybe? I do travel a lot.”
James Sterling swaggers into the place and heads for the bar, where he waggles his fingers to gain the attention of the bartender. He doesn’t notice that he might know a few of the people in here yet; his focus is on procurement of booze.
“Something familiar,” the investigator says, but then he shrugs. “Maybe not. Anyway. I’m Vechkov Prague. I travel a lot too. Used to be mostly by shuttle. Now I’ve come into ownership of a new vessel. Trying to put together a crew to manage it.”
The bartender tilts his head, ears twitching, and asks Sterling: “What’ll you have?” He’s in the process of spilling a drop of whisky onto the bar counter.
Kilroy smirks a bit at the barkeep as he pulls a moderately ornate stein from a compartment on the ship “Now there’s no reason to go spilling good whisky.” Vechkov gets a bit of a nod “I’m Kilroy, something of a wandering demolitionist.”
“Whiskey, straight,” Sterling says, glancing away from the Demarian before the words have left his lips. He smiles over at the tiny ship upon hearing the diminutive pilot’s voice. “Kilroy!” he booms. “Fancy meetin’ you here!”
Prague frowns as he turns to regard the newcomer. He waggles a stubby finger in Sterling’s direction. “I remember you, no doubt about it. You told me about Whitestar.” He raises his glass in salute. “So sorry to hear he died.”
The bartender trickles a bit of whiskey into the Nemoni stein, then goes to work prepping the drink for Sterling.
Kilroy takes a moment to enjoy the whisky before offering his sometimes companion and business partner a nod. “Evenin, there! Small universe, isn’t it?”
Sterling snorts at Vechkov. “Yeh,” he grunts, scowling. “It was a real tragedy, alright.” To Kilroy, he replies, “Sure is. What’re you doin’ here?”
Vechkov sets down his glass, then plucks a cigarette and lighter from his coat pocket. Seems content, for the moment, to listen to the exchange between comrades.
Kilroy shrugs a little as he stretches out in the ship’s deck chair. “Change of scenery, I suppose. Lot of universe to see, after all.”
“Yeh, same here,” Sterling replies. “Only so long y’can hang around the barracks before y’get bored.” He gazes around the bar. “This place sure has a lotta neon.”
Vechkov chuckles. “Well, if you know anyone looking for work on a Calliope-class freighter that’s in dire need of a makeover, I’m looking for crew.” He lights the cigarette, then tucks the cigarette into his mouth.
Kilroy hits a button on the deck chair, producing a quick fanfare of calliope music. “Possibly. Might be interesting, even. What sort of freight operation were you thinking of?”
“A freighter, eh?” Sterling glances to Vechkov. “I never worked on a ship.” He collects his drink from the bartender and slides onto a barstool next to Vechkov, nodding toward Kilroy. “An’ what he said.”
“I’m a private investigator,” Prague replies. “I’ll be dead honest: I got no hoopin’ clue what kind of operation to start here. All I know for sure is that I want to run a business that keeps me moving around the galaxy, pays for itself, and subsidizes the rest of the work I’m doing. I’d just want a minority percentage of the cargo profits. Crew would split the majority.”
Kilroy nods “Leaves a lot of room for options, certainly. Some good travel might give us some novel ideas for those suit mods…”
Sterling takes a sip of his drink and nods to Kilroy, extending his index finger as he takes the glass from his lips. “That’s a great idea, Kilroy.” He tilts his head and gazes thoughtfully at the shelves behind the bar. “I wonder if there ain’t somethin’ cheap y’could grab t’sell someplace.” He shrugs.
The investigator tugs at the brim of his hat, then shakes his head. “I’d rather not piss off a perfectly good host.” He inhales smoke from the cigarette. Taps ash on the floor. “More than I have to, anyway. The ship’s got a decent amount of space. We could probably haul a decent amount of cargo – food, water, construction supplies.”
Kilroy chuckles “Not to mention you could carry great quantities of widgets, doodads, and thingamahickeys. Point is, everything is more valuable somewhere. Just have to figure out where.”
“Piss off who?” Sterling frowns at Vechkov and takes another swig of his drink.
“Anyway,” the Ungstiri goes on, “at the very least I need a pilot and an engineer. Probably a quartermaster too. Perhaps a medic?” He takes a drink from his glass. “I dunno.” He shrugs. “We can figure out the cargo operation while the crew comes together.”
Kilroy smirks “Well, I’m hardly a medic… more likely to tear a building apart than put a person together… Still, I’m a fair pilot, and demolitions work is a very bad line of business if you can’t hack the engineering.”
Sterling grunts irritably as it seems an explanation from the investigator is not forthcoming. “My expertise is in military stuff,” he says. “My PMC used to do security gigs before hell broke loose in Brussels.”
“Security work, then,” Prague nods, thinking it over. “Sure. We’ll need security. Especially if we’re taking cargo to certain less savory destinations.”
Kilroy drains the rest of his whisky, listening to the large folks talking for now.
Sterling polishes off the remainder of his drink and sets the empty glass down with a ‘thunk’ on the bar. He grins at Vechkov and cracks his knuckles loudly.
Vechkov stands from his stool at the bar, taking another drag from his cigarette. “You’ve got my PDA contact information,” he tells Sterling. “Give me a shout if you want the work.” He nods toward Kilroy. “You too. I’ll have the ship free and clear sometime in the next few days. Then it’s going to be time for a refit.” To the Demarian bartender, he says, “My tab covers them.” The bartender nods approval.
A few days later…
Vechkov stands next to one of the landing struts beneath the lower hull of the Ekaterina’s Pride, puffing on a cigarette as he raps at the metallic cylinder with the knuckles of his fist.
From the general direction of the bar comes something small. Something small with an odd flight pattern. And music. Yes, that is clearly a tiny ship playing The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota as it heads roughly in the direction of that landing strut.
“She’s going to need a little work,” the Ungstiri private investigator notes, plunging his fists into the pockets of his trenchcoat and peering up at the hull from under the brim of his fedora. “Structurally, seems like she’s fine. Passed inspection without a glitch. Inside, though – it’s not that anything’s broken, it’s just not what I’d call homey. For my tastes, anyway.” He looks over at the Nemoni. “Apparently, it was a medical ship in its former life.”
The whimsical travel music pauses so the ship can produce the traditional sad trombone noise before the pilot speaks “Yeah, I have yet to hear anyone speak fondly of the living accommodations in any medical facility.”
Vechkov chuckles, plucking the cigarette from his mouth and tapping ash onto tarmac. “Maybe the gelatin’s second-to-none?” He smirks, the amusement not quite touching the wrinkles around his eyes. “You’re still interested in the gig, then?”
There’s a faint chuckle from the Moth “Probably a few hospitals do a decent enough job with the wobbly dessert, yes. But yeah, demo work’s a little slow right now, so this’ll make for a nice diversion.”
Vechkov tilts his head, considering. He returns the cigarette to his mouth. “Well, just to be clear, you’re not beholden to full-time life aboard this ship. Worst-case scenario, I can fly her roughly from point to point. Best-case, I hire a second pilot to play backup.” He shrugs. “Demo work, though. Huh. Sounds dangerous for someone your size. How does that work?”
The Moth bobs a bit in a vaguely affirmative manner “Surprisingly well, really. Being this size, I have a broader range of locations to plant charges. Just have to know where is going to get the best results.”
“Don’t you have to keep them pretty lightweight?” the investigator asks.
The ship emits a positive ding noise. “Well, when I’m planting them myself, yes. Obviously for larger jobs I’ll get some help so that it doesn’t take forever. But a few small chargers of the right flavor in the right spot can make quite the difference.”
Vechkov thinks about that for a few moments, drawing on his cigarette. Then he wonders aloud: “Ever done surveillance work?”
The Limping Moth sinks a little bit “Not as such, no. Not past needing to keep an eye on things when coordinating the demolition of something.”
Vechkov nods slowly. “Well. Could be worth thinking about. A good chunk of my work involves recon and intel. Might make the job easier if I can put your talents to use that way too. With a commensurate bonus, above and beyond the regular contract split.”
The ship chuckles “Well, wouldn’t be here if I weren’t willing to try new things.”
“Let’s keep that in the ‘maybe’ column, then,” the investigator replies, chuckling. “How often do you find yourself blowing things up, anyway? I’m not particularly troubled by it, although I’m not keen on harboring a terrorist if that’s your sort of work.”
The ship jerks up slightly as though startled “Uh, no. Not my line of work at all. Actual frequency varies of course, since most of what I’ve demolished have been condemned buildings. I do test new compounds in the Moth’s lab now and then, but those are by necessity quite small, and something I can refrain from while aboard other ships.”
“All right, good to know,” Vechkov replies, tapping ash from his cigarette again. He’s almost reached the metallic filter. He frowns, drops the butt on the tarmac, then crushes it under his shoe. “OK. First order of business is finding a cargo to pay the way to Antimone. That’s the only place I can get those vinderleaf cigarettes. I’ll see if I can line up a manifest in the next few days. Meanwhile, I’m going to need to find someone to help revamp the Pride’s interior.”
The Moth bobs around in a sorta thoughtful manner “Well, if something we don’t want’s stuck with some rusty bolts I could probably loosen em up a bit”
Vechkov nods. “I’ll let you know. Keep in touch. If you get called away for another job, just drop me a line on my PDA. Sound fair?”
A brief brass fanfare plays “Sounds fine to me.”
Vechkov smiles, and this time the emotion does seem to extend to the wrinkles around his eyes. “Excellent.” He starts up the ramp toward the airlock. “Have a good night.”
The Moth starts turning to face the bar again. Always important to know where the fuel is. “You as well.”