(This Flash Fiction marks the end of three years without missing a single Friday. I hope you enjoy this one and the others!)
Shane and Cara stood across from the Far Stars Saloon and watched the steady stream of traffic through the doors. The building was one of the oldest on Flame and boasted being the oldest tavern in this sector, the stone exterior contrasting with the modern city around it. Old-fashioned and well-known.
The place thrived on trouble.
Four ships had ported today and Shane suspected everyone had headed to the saloon. The place was a problem on days with just locals; the influx of outsiders had gotten rowdy enough that someone called in the Port Guard. It wasn't even sunset yet.
Cara shifted from one foot to another, still not used to the gravity. She barely reached his shoulders and he wasn't a particularly large man. Shane hadn't taken her seriously until he saw her in the practice field. He'd requested her for a partner. The others thought he was crazy. They weren't paying attention.
"What are we supposed to do?" she asked and shifted again.
"We're supposed to look scary." Shane lifted his head as another group of spacers came down the street.
"Scarier than them? Not going to happen, Shane."
He grunted agreement. This group must have been hired by size and weirdness rather than ability. Oh, he'd seen weird ones before -- spiked purple hair and tattoos really didn't count for much. However, the sheer mass of this entire group of ten put them off the scale.
One gave a friendly nod as they went inside. They all had their hands on their laser pistols. Oh yeah, that looked like trouble.
Cara looked at him, her eyebrow raised.
"We can't do anything until there's a problem. Those are the Port Guard rules, Cara."
"But that last group -- why do we have to wait until they start shooting? That's going to get us killed."
"They didn't look any crazier than everyone else who went inside, just a little more colorful."
"And that makes it better?"
"This is an open port. They're allowed to carry weapons because there are dangerous creatures on Flame. You're new here but you've seen the files and the vids."
"Glad they don't get into the city much any more. But these guys --"
"We can't tell the ones looking for trouble from those looking for fun, Cara. If we go in and start demanding weapons, we'll start the trouble. We have to wait. I don't like it much either."
"There's another group. How many can they pack in there?"
The trouble started soon after with one huge shout that shook the windows. A heartbeat later they heard the sound of laser fire and an explosion.
"Well damn," Cara said. She didn't slow as they headed straight into trouble.
Smoke billowed from the door. Good. They'd be less likely to be seen and the smoke could disrupt lasers, though not much in such a small area. First job was to find the trouble though from the shouts and grunts it was pretty much everywhere. That put them at a disadvantage --
Someone huge plowed into both of them and sent the two sprawling off to the right behind an overturned table. Shane started to grab the guy, but the man with tattoos, spiked hair and metal in his nose rested on his knees with both hands held out. "Needed out of the door," he explained. "Fool is shooting at anyone who tries to leave without buying him a drink."
Shane noted a couple people down by the door but no one looked dead. "Thanks."
Purple Hair nodded. Then he winced when his comm went off but he flipped it on with a sigh, holding it to his ear. "Ma'am? No Ma'am, I haven't gotten your wine yet. Yes ma'am. No ma'am. Of course we didn't start the fight, ma'am -- no ma'am." He stopped and sighed, then turned an interesting shade of pink. "No, ma'am, I wasn't making a bored sound. Yes, ma'am." He lowered the comm. "Honest to god, if she wasn't my own sister, I'd mutiny -- but dad would hang me up by my ears."
The comm was still on and the woman on the other end laughed brightly. How much was a game? Shane wasn't sure, but while he'd listened, he and Cara had been scoping out the trouble. Cara pointed -- with her pistol -- towards the far corner of the bar.
"Little pudgy guy in a dark suit," she said. "You're right. You can't tell the crazy ones from the sane ones. I wouldn't have tagged him as the troublemaker."
"I didn't even notice him go in," Shane admitted. The guy shot a game board and it exploded while he gave a weird, high-pitched laugh. Several people yelled in game-ruined frustration and someone fired hitting him in the shoulder. The fool laughed louder.
"Damn! He's wearing a shock suit under his clothing! He planned this!" Cara snarled. "We'll have to tackle him."
Maybe not such a good plan to make her his partner.
"He's going to kill someone," Purple Hair agreed. "My crew will distract him. That's the best we can do."
Shane gave a nod. He and Cara crawled away to the right. This was going to go bad if they didn't get the guy down. They had to move fast.
A roar like wild beasts let loose filled the building as Purple Hair and his people stood and fired. The little guy ducked out of habit at facing something so fierce. They tackled him, Cara a bit more viciously than needed. Shane grabbed the weapon and Cara powered down his suit. Wasn't long before someone came and picked him up.
So they went back outside and stood watching the door. Purple Hair and his crew left not much later. He had a bottle of wine nestled in his arm and gave them a wave.
"Sorry to see them go," Cara admitted. "This is going to be a long night."
"Welcome to the life of a Port Guard," he replied.