Friday, March 4, 2011

Ace's Triple - Part 2.

The station orbiting Owerth II was little more than a glorified gas collector and refinery but it had managed to carve out a stable business for itself over the years. It had maintained steady contracts supplying Tiberium gas, which was plentiful here on Owerth II. While not incredibly rare or prized for special applications it was a common element in numerous applications from ship reclamation systems to micro-therm heat generators. 

It’s causeways were relatively clean compared to some stations Ace had passed through, console walls within arms reach, mini-comm terminals spaced regularly for station personnel and visitors. Lumination rods were recessed into the ceiling, keeping things brightly lit. Overall, Ace found the station to be a fairly nice stop, a bit too quiet though as not many personnel seemed to be about. He had only encountered a handful the whole time he strolled around.

Figuring he had wandered long enough, and fairly certain he had a good feel for the place, Ace decided a drink was in order. By his reckoning if there was a station, there would undoubtedly be a bar. Checking the nearest terminal provided him a layout with detailed location markers. Looking them over he received just the answer he expected; there was indeed a bar onboard.

“Time for a drink,” he mused aloud despite himself. As he followed the marked path the terminal had shown him he couldn’t help but think back. He’d traveled a lot growing up, never quite content to remain in any one place for long. It was his wanderlust he’d always said that led him to enlist with the Confederated Commonwealth in hopes of getting to see other places, other systems. They definitely held up their promise, Ace couldn’t deny that. He’d quick enough earned a name and distinguished himself piloting a Mustang during the Rim Wars. The Mustang had proven itself to be a fast attack ship that quickly became the bane of many pilots. Powered by a reaction mass fusion core it utilized a superior vectored thrust system that enabled unparalleled maneuverability in space-born combat. Many pilots couldn’t handle the extreme G-forces or had the sheer reflexes and dexterity to tame a Mustang, but Ace had not only done so he had become sonorous with one. Every enemy unit that engaged one often was said to have referred to the enemy pilot as if they all were Ace.

After the Rim Wars, Ace had resigned his commission and refused any promotions. He had told them two things had always plagued him, a drive to wander the stars like a nomad, seeing all there was to see, and love of gambling. Often the two led to one another, but he’d seen enough of war, and personally didn’t like the odds of remaining in the cockpit. So after receiving his pay he bought a vessel and just left. Come to think of it, it had been a similar station as he recalled.

“Perhaps I’d better make that two drinks,” he muttered as he entered the bar’s open doorway. He casually glanced around taking in the room, gauging the other patrons. It was an old habit, but when traveled as much as Ace, you could never be too careful. A light clink got the bartenders attention as Ace tossed a small blue disk of silicon on the bar. “Credits alright?”

With a short pause the bartender, a bald gentleman whose left side of his face was locked in a droop, looked Ace up and down. His left arm an old manipulator arm with an industrial pink-cased exterior. The kind you get cheap, imported from one of those factory worlds. It even still buzzed and whirled when he moved. “Yeah, credits are still good here,” he proclaimed, a slight slur in his speech.
“Vernian brew, and make that a double.” Ace had always ordered the same drink, everywhere he went. Not because it was particularly good, but because of two things. For one it was strong, like getting kicked by a Altain in full rage, and the other, well he just loved the look you always got. A mix of fear and sympathy.  It was often reputed that Vernian brew was accidentally created to degrease engine parts on many fringe systems. Not only did Ace believe it, he’d seen it done. It was stout stuff most people didn’t bother with, and were perhaps better off for it.

His drink arrived before him without a word, it’s familiar thick black color and it’s warmth strictly warned his mind not to consume it. But as usual he bit back the natural impulse and swallowed the concoction, it’s familiar heat tracing it’s way down to explode violently in his stomach. Satisfied, Ace returned to his observation of the room, only to have temptation stroke at him eagerly.

A station worker, still clad in overalls was rising from a table of his peers to leave them, melancholy plainly displayed upon his brow. Setting at the table were two other similarly clad workers counting over a small pile of credits before them and collecting up cards, returning them to a deck. Immediately they caught his eye.

“Fancy a game stranger,” the older of the two asked Ace, no sign of real interest written on his face. But Ace immediately noted a ginger stroke and shuffle as he played with the deck of cards before him. His younger compatriot was no where near as subtle in his enthusiasm for fresh wealth from a passing traveler. This, Ace was sure, was a set up,.

Chuckling he strolled over to the table and raised the brim of his hat slightly to look over the two local sharks. “I never can pass up an friendly game.” Without a second thought he took the open seat, and all three put on their best friendly grin.

Where there is a station there is always a bar, Ace recalled the old saying. And where there’s a bar there will always be a game. That much, he was always certain of.