Ranger's journal, Day 247: After months of traipsing the cold and lonely stars, our unit touched down on the balmy and boggy moon of Skellon. Weeks of slogging through the jungle shooting Weejoks and bayoneting Gurks, we were all ready for some R&R...or at least what this craphole sector had to offer that was close to "R&R." After a shower, shave, and dry socks, LT Hicks let us hop a rust-bucket bus to what we've dubbed "Old Town." None of us grunts can say its real name, let alone spell it. Yeah there are high rises and fine female companionship, but do you think a couple pukes like us on a few hours leave could afford it? Hell no. So there we were, boozing and smoking, trying to have a couple laughs in some gas-lamp, dive bar. The booze is pisswater and the music sucks. So when this little skuzz bumps into me, making me spill on my boots, I was none-too-happy. "Wet socks again" jibes Chucky with a grin. "Shut your fuck hole" I tell him without smiling back. I turn to give the shortstack stranger a piece of my mind and catch of glimpse of him holding the door open and glancing back over his shoulder, directly at me. He's too far away to hear anything I might yell over the music, so I just give him the finger. He still holds my gaze. He forks his fingers and points to his eyes, then mine. Then he inclines his chin and gestures for me to follow. I think the little dipshit is calling me out. Now I smile as I push up from my wobbly bar stool. "Jacko," Pickett cautions "don't do it man. He's probably got friends waiting outside, ready to gut you just for your boots." "I can handle it." I tell him and make my way to the door, fixing to go it alone no matter what's waiting in the alley. I kick the door open so hard it bangs against the wall and starts to swing closed again. I thought for sure some backstabber would have been hiding behind it ready to sink a shiv into my kidneys. Nothing. The filthy cretin is all alone, standing under a streetlamp to make sure I see him. He surely sees me see him. "Soldier...come. Follow." he stutters in what, at best, could be called broken English. I glare at him and take a hesitant step into the alley, unsure what is really going on. He turns and knocks on the door he was leaning against. A little panel slides open and he furtively jabbers with the beady eyes on the inside. The door cracks open and they hand him a bundle wrapped in a dirty rag. He reaches under his coat and hands them a platinum bar as long as my hand. He certainly has my attention now. "Soldier," he says again "Hurry. Come now." With that he stuffs the bundle under his tattered coat, clearly giving me enough of a look at his belt to see he ain't packing a shooter. Not that I haven't seen plenty of weapons pulled from less obvious places. My hackles are still up. I reach to my belt, pop the snap on my holster, and ease my sidearm loose. I make damn sure he sees the very deliberate action. "No need you gun." he says, patting at the air with both hands empty. "No need fight. Just follow. Watch." And with that he sets off. I'm not ashamed to say my curiosity got the better of me. Two roads diverge in a shitty ghetto... Does my choice really matter? "Armpit or asshole?" I tell myself and set off after him.
Thanks for the inspiration! I'll have to see where that story goes and maybe post it in my gallery.