Hit pause for a second. Let me set the stage.
Lights, music, action.
We’re at a bar. Not a dive, no SLAM junkies huddled in corners, she’s classier than that; just. Room for dancing, some Hop on the sound-system. We’re sitting down, in a booth. One of those round, half-booths, with a semi-circle table in front of us. There’s red upholstery on the bench, with some of those gold rivets that make the nice diamond-y patterns.
The music’s up and going. The dampeners reduce some of the volume around the table, just enough to have a conversation, but you still know that the dance floor is loud.
The place isn’t packed, not yet, but it’s getting there. We skipped the line outside, but they’re letting the plebs in slowly. Flash a few credits at a bouncer, they’ll do just about anything. The people coming in, they sparkle. The girls have come to dance; slim but loose dresses, spaghetti straps, tassels, they look the part. The men; the men have mostly come to look, but they dress the part too. Belts and buttons on all of them, even a tie here and there. Everyone is clean, crisp, new.
The place positively gleams.
She gleams too, beside me. Long dark hair, a slim, glittering dress, a nice slit up the side that shows a lot of one leg; classy, like I said. I like a bit of class, now and then.
Her dress glimmers in the rotating lights coming off the dance floor, and she fills it rather nicely. Very nicely, if I’m honest. The dress feels smooth too; I’ve got one arm around her, hand down by her…let’s say her waist. I’ve got her pulled close, leaning against me, her perfume filling my mind with a haze.
The serving girl in front of the table, she looks good too. Short cut hair, a bit longer on one side, a short skirt, a tight top…she’s dressed to get tips, and she will. She smiles as she leans over, touches my arm, leans right up to my ear to ask for my order. She’s pushing it, being more forward than she should, but I smile.
Gorgeous girl on my left, gorgeous girl on my right, loud music, bright lights; you get the idea.
I’m distracted, unfocused. My guard is down.
The stage is set.
Press play. Here we go.
‘Sheane!’ Atna screams and pushes away from me as the first laser blast melts through my left shoulder. I don’t feel it yet, but looking at the pen-sized wound in my chest makes my stomach flip. The burnt flesh I smell immediately, and…burnt hair? A few of Atna’s locks drift lazily to my lap, severed by the blast. Too close.
The serving girl is screaming now too, her skirt hiking up as she tries to climb over the bench to cover. The second shot slices through her hip, grazes my arm. That one I feel, for some reason. Just a sting, but the pain is there. At least there won’t be blood.
I hate being caught by surprise. I feel so slow, so useless. Seconds have passed, and I still haven’t moved. Ambushed, instinct hasn’t kicked in yet.
I’m just lucky the shooter is moving.
No matter. For now…
‘Down!’ I yell, ducking down and putting a shoulder to the table. Some cover will give me time. I heave, and…
Nothing. Too late, I notice the table is bolted to the floor.
‘Bloody he-AGH’ I scream collapsing to the floor under the table as a third shot rips through my calf.
Why’d I wear a dress? No pockets, no pistol, no chance. Why’d I wear a bloody dress?
I wore a dress for Atna.
The shooter’s close now, I can see him walking forward, laser pistol pointed at me. He’s a heavy-set man, belt and buttons on. No tie. He has cufflinks though. Strange thing to notice, but…
‘Sheane Millihan!’ he yells at me, gun waving.
Yay, you know my name, I think, eyes rolling.
‘This is for what you did to me!’ he starts, reaching me and standing above me, laser pistol pointing straight down at my head. He missed before because he was moving; now? I won’t be so lucky again.
‘This is for what you did to me and my family! Two years ago your ship…’ I start laughing and he cuts off, confused and angry.
He thinks I’m laughing at him. He straightens his arm, tightens his face. He’s going to shoot; I’m going to die.
He doesn’t get it though. I’m not laughing at him.
Here I am, lying under a table on a floor sticky from alcohol, shot three times, about to die, and what do I see?
There’s gum under the table. And I think, man, who would do that? Who puts gum under a table, seriously?
Do you not see how hilarious that is?
Under the table.
I’m in pain, about to die, and I’m laughing my ass off because there’s gum under the table.
And then he gets tackled, taken out by the bouncer before he can get another shot off. It’s perfect.
Atna’s waiting for me as I’m walking out of the police station, kept up by the joy of being alive. And painkillers. So many painkillers.
Disheveled, her hair’s a mess, but she’s still beautiful.
‘Atna!’ I wave her over, hugging her as she gets close. Two hours of filing police reports, and my endorphins still haven’t come down.
‘Let’s get back to the ship,’ I say, holding her close, ‘I’ve got a bottle of 2907 Chateau Gris we can open.’
Atna hugs me close as we walk down the steps of the station.
‘Oh, and I got the number of the serving girl…’ I grin.
Atna bursts out laughing.
What a day.