'Water,' she said.
The machine jittered and straightened up. 'Very good. Two whiskeys it is.' Without waiting for a correction, it raced away towards the bar. The two patrons stared at each other.
'Are you blind?' she asked.
Daedalus slouched back, waiting for a clever response to make itself apparent.
She sat still, watching him. The soft orange light made her green skin look mottled and unhealthy. Could mean anything. Lots of people were green.
'I need a ride,' she said.
Daedalus groaned and ran a hand over his face. It came away slick with sweat. 'I'm not working today. Ask someone else.'
'Taxos. I need to get to Taxos.'
He rubbed his temple. 'Right, I know you core people are used to getting what you want, but out here if a man says he's not working, he's not working. Okay? We don't have trading standards people you can write to. There's no bloody... there's no manager. You can't push me around. So... so you can bloody well... just... go away.'
She placed a set of keys on the table. Daedalus looked at them.
'Those are mine,' he said.
'Yeah,' she said.
Daedalus reached into his pocket again. It was still empty. He shifted in his seat and she snatched the keys back, vanishing them from the table almost too quick to see. In the moment her face moved into the light, he saw that she was badly bruised, and in the turn he got a better sense of her frame: small and wiry, with an unmistakable shape given by the second pair of arms tucked away under her robe. He couldn't see, but he realised there must be a tell-tale crest beneath her hood, which she was trying to keep very still.
'Who are you?' he asked. 'You're somewhere you shouldn't be.'
'So help me get home,' she said.
Back in the shadows, her eyes glittered. Bulbous and black, they caught tiny white reflections that made them look like portholes into space.
Daedalus sat forward. When he opened his mouth to speak, he found he was short of breath. He could smell smoke.
She looked at him with an inscrutable expression, her mouth a slit. Daedalus could see that she was small. Entari were supposed to be the same size, all of them – that was kind of the point – but this one was short. She was propping herself up to reach eye level, hiding her body in a bundle of robes, but he reckoned she was a good foot shorter than him. Tiny. Her gaze felt hot on his skin. Slowly, she withdrew a wallet from her clothes and set it on the table.
'I'm looking for someone. And I'll pay,' she said. 'That's why.'
Daedalus looked at the wallet, emblazoned with a crude, anatomically-improbable design of a naked human.
'That's your wallet?' he asked.
She glanced down at it. Daedalus noticed her nose was slightly squashed, like it had been broken.
A thief. And a bad liar. Thieves with no cunning always had a violent streak. Often a temper to match.
'Oh.' Daedalus stressed the syllable, affecting surprise. 'So you're one of those.'
Daedalus saw a shadow cross her face. There's a button, he thought. She went a deeper shade of green and under her hood he saw a twitch as her crest stiffened in anger. He was still swimming through a tipsy fog with a headache, but he reckoned he'd got the measure of her.
YOU ARE READING
The Second Death of Daedalus MoleScience Fiction
Daedalus Mole has made some mistakes, but taking a wanted fugitive on an interstellar pub crawl is definitely the second-worst. The Second Death of Daedalus Mole is now published! You can read the whole thing! It's been edited to within an inch of i...