Fri. Jan 28th, 2022

Thomas Novack sat at a table and sipped a drink that he didn’t want, at a club he hated and at a time he’d rather be asleep. What could barely be called music blared in his ear and thudded in his chest. He’s lived through 300 years of different music, and he can firmly say this time, they just have it wrong.

However, this was the only place his client would meet him. Public place, loud noise to cover their conversation and easy ways to escape whether in the crowd or through one of the many exits. His client had something to hide, or someone to run from. He hoped the former; less work, usually.

A tentacle from the tangle on his chin rolled down and scooped up his drink and took another sip. Cheap alcohol, made worse by watering it down. He scowled as his tentacle twisted, wiping off the condensation from the glass before someone slid into the seat across from him.

“Can I help you?” Novack asked after a moment, setting the glass on the counter.

“I certainly hope so. There’s no one else I can turn to,” the young man said, fingers nervously tapping on the table.

Novack didn’t say anything, simply making a gesture for him to continue.

With a cough and a glance to his left, he started, “I need off this station. It doesn’t matter where, just need to go, and it can’t be official.”

Novack held up his hand, three of his four fingers raised, ticking them off as he spoke.

“Three questions. I need to know about your payment, why should I not walk away, and who do you keep looking at?”

Novack never needed names; they were unimportant. But the why? That mattered. His green skin was marred with enough scars to prove it. The man deflated before waving at someone. He obviously wanted to keep them hidden before any final decisions were made.

The woman that walked over was a Rath. Tough skin, a dark complexion and flowers growing throughout her hair. They were created 50 years ago in an experiment. Some places treated them like people, and some not.

“Ah, the picture’s becoming clear. You still owe me one answer,” Novack said, leaning back in his seat.

“We can pay. I’m not sure how much, but we can pay,” the Rath woman said.

With a sigh, Novack responded, “Look, I want to help you, I do. Just, kindness doesn’t pay my rent. Even then, I’m not a smuggler.”

The barking of a gun announced five new arrivals to the club. All well-dressed in clean pressed suits. All human. The music cut out as every head turned to the entrance. Standing there was the last person Novack wanted to see: Jimmy “The Duke” Davis.

“Hello everyone, I don’t mean to ruin your night. I just need to find my son, and then I’ll be on my merry way,” Duke said, holding a small rifle with a drum on the bottom.

The man grabbed the Rath’s hand, “We have to go!”

“Wait, you’re Duke’s son?” Novack asked, and when he got the confirmation, “Never mind that payment, the fee is officially waived.”

Novack could see the question in their eyes.

“I owe him one,” Novack said with a sinister smile.

Novack activated a device in his ear and heard a voice, “Yes, Mr. Novack?”

“Disable the Grav-Generator in The Maltese Falcon and open the top hatch. The Duke is paying us a visit,” Novack responded.

After a moment, their connection to the ground was severed as the artificial gravity in the club switched off. Novack grabbed their arms and pushed them upwards towards the now open hatch leading out. As they flew upwards, Novack pushed back his duster with a flutter and grabbed onto a familiar handle. He flung his arm up and pulled the trigger of a pistol, covering the two’s escape.

The entourage jumped for cover as flechettes, sharp shards of metal, slammed into the wall above their heads. A moment before they returned fire, Novack focused his will forward, magic answering the call. A green hazy shield appeared in front of him. The flechettes ricocheted around him, missing as they rebounded off the shield. The other patrons were scattering with a healthy dose of screaming.

Novack pushed his will downwards, launching himself upwards to the ceiling. He shot through the hatch that opened, following closely behind the couple. He could hear gunfire getting quieter and quieter in the background. The two followed behind Novack, letting him lead them to their destination.

Novack knew the right people to smuggle the couple off the station. Good people who don’t ask questions, the kind he needed. He knew that he had just gained some heat from the Duke, but it was worth it to get back at him. Novack never claimed to be forgiving.

After a whirlwind of emotions and legally-questionable decisions, the Duke’s son and the Rath were on a shipping vessel currently leaving the station. He wistfully watched the ship pull out of port and begin its journey somewhere. Anywhere where the couple could start their new life.

“Mr. Novack, your 3 o’clock is here,” his secretary said, through the ear piece.

Novack sighed, taking one last look at the vessel before walking towards his office. When it rains, it pours.

Joshua Rettew is a third-year student majoring in Microbiology with a minor in creative writing. ✉

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