It’s a busy night in Ungstir’s most popular pub – most of the miners just got paid, some offworlders who love exotic accents are on the Rock, and it’s time for the weekly karaoke competition.

Not about who sings the best, though. It’s about who can stay sober the longest. Every time someone botches a lyric, they’ve got to take a drink. And you’ve got to try to remember the lyrics while two really loud miners are shouting the names of blood-rage music bands in your ears.

It rarely ends well.

Into this busy night strides Cygnari, the Falari freighter captain. Weaving his way through the various patrons, he steps up to the bar, and peruses the selections. Settling on a local microbrew, he orders, and turns to observe the Karaoke contest.

Beneath the shoulders of most of the miners, a swift, quiet young woman with auburn hair ducks about, slipping some small coin from several of them. She keeps it subtle, enough that they’ll just think they lost it, rather than as if it were stolen. She then approaches the bar after she has acquired enough for what she has in mind, and takes the free seat next to the Falari. She orders for a drink that comes in a mug about half the size of her head, and then waits patiently for it, surveying the bar for anything worth concern or intrigue.

As his beer arrives, Cygnari takes it and lifts it to his beak to take a sip, and savors it for a moment. “Ahhh.. a fine brew.” he notes, as he takes another sip. His PDA beeps and he takes it from his pocket. “Hmmm.. about to have a solar storm. That sure puts a crimp on things… I’ll have to sit tight until it passes as navigating through one of those can be a mess.” He shakes his head, flares his wings a bit in frustration, and maneuvering them around the barstool, takes a seat.

The young woman leans forward to avoid the wings as they settle down, tapping her fingers in a precise rhythm, but not one to the tune of the Karaoke song playing. One-two, three – and then it switches to the other hand, with the beat reversed.  She glances apprehensively at the bartender, but relaxes when her drink finally arrives. She reaches into her pocket and extends a very thin plastic tube. It looks more like the cable you’d find in an engine, but it’s been cleaned thoroughly. She inserts it into the drink and begins using it like a straw, grinning at the bartender raising an eyebrow at this.

Cygnari curls up the edges of his beak as he sees this. “That’s a new method if I’ve ever seen one.” he says, with a bit of a chitter, taking a sip of his own brew.

She glances up at the Falari with a curious, yet somewhat opaque expression. She then makes sure the bartender isn’t looking, and slips the tube out of her mug. She taps it three times, and out slides the gunk from the drink, silently dripping down to the floor. She’s found an alternative use for an engine fuel filter. “For those of us who don’t like pulp in our drinks,” she simply replies, putting it back in and taking another drink.

Cygnari widens his remaining eye. “Practical.” he says, curling the edges of his beak up again. He then looks down to the floor. “Besides, I don’t think they’ll notice…” he says, noting the rather high level of mess currently on the floor from the night’s activities.

A female Castori is trying to burble her way through a tender ballad about dying in space when a miner roars in her ear: “HATE FILLS THE STARS! HATE FILLS THE STARS! HATE KILLS THE STARS! STARS FILL THE KILLS OF HATE!” And so, of course, she botches the word “asphyxiation” and must take yet another drink. A cheer goes up.

The human nods in agreement, surveying the crowd again. “I don’t think they’ll notice much of anything…” she replies as one of the miners falls over in the background, fumbling about on the floor.

Cygnari chitters a bit at this. “Welcome to another night on the Rock.” he says, taking a sip of his beer.

She tilts her head at this and sighs, taking another sip of her drink. As she surveys the crowd again, she turns her glance back up to the Falari. “I don’t suppose you know of anyone here looking to hire?”

The bartender, a scar-faced Ungstiri man with one gray eye and one green eye, perks his bald head upward as he hears the woman’s question. “I could use a janitor.” Right about the time a miner throws up near her feet.

Cygnari looks down at the newest addition to the floor mess with a bit of disgust to his face. “You’d never be at a loss for work, that’s for sure.”

She grins widely to hide her impulse to scowl. “I appreciate the offer, but that’s not really my skillset. I’m just between crews at the moment, I’m afraid, but if I fail to find anything suitable, I’ll be sure to let you know!” She partially lowers the facade of jovial attitude as she takes a drink from the straw, her eyes tightening in frustration. Afterward, she shifts back into a more passive expression upon releasing the straw.

“Oh,” the bartender says, eyebrows edging up. “What kind of ship work you do? Might know a guy.”

Cygnari takes a sip of his drink, nodding towards the bartender. “There you go. I’m just a short hauler who makes enough just to keep my own ship running so not the hiring type at the moment.”

Fedya O’Dell ducks into the bar from outside, glancing out the door for a moment before smiling with relief. He heads up to the bar and plunks some money on it. “Double of vodka,” he says in Mierz.

The bartender supplies the requested drink. Well. At least it looks like vodka. Smells like it could be paint remover. Hard to say.

A human woman walks into the bar, jeans tucked into a rugged pair of dark brown leather boots.  She stops just inside the entrance, eyes scanning the bar’s occupants.  She pulls her hands out of her jacket pockets before turning in the direction of the bar.

Fedya’s right hand drops to the butt of a revolver stuffed in his belt when the newcomer pulls her hands out of her pockets, but he relaxes when they appear empty. With a subtle sigh of relief, he chuckles at himself before tossing back the remains of his drink.

The woman approaches the bar, both hands coming to grip the edge of the bartop, “Privet” she says, eyes on the bartender, obviously trying to get the bartender’s attention.

“What?” The bartender scowls at the woman as he grapples with a mop for the vomit on the floor.

The woman spares a glance at Fedya then at the vomit on the ground before her eyes lift to meet the bartender, “I heard you might be able to use a hand here.” she responds, hand reaching out for the mop, “Name’s Anna.”

The stocky mechanic places his empty glass down while observing the “interview,” raising his eyebrows in amusement.

The bartender shoves the mop at Anna. “You got the requisite number of hands and feet. At least one eye. If you can keep your mouth shut most of the time, we should get along great. You’re hired. I’m Guri.”

Cygnari places his now empty glass on the bar, checking his PDA. “Storm’s subsiding… about time.” he mutters.

Anna grabs the offered mop, “Spasiba.   And most of the time, I can do.” she replies, stepping forward to begin the process of mopping up the floor.

“So you have time for refill now, yes?” Fedya calls to the bartender tilting his empty glass back and forth.

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By Brody

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