Signing Bonus: Part Two

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Performer's Park was a rather green slice of what was an otherwise artificial environment that was Teslovia as a whole. What Kracker knew of civic engineering was little, but he knew enough that green spaces were vital in a city, particularly one of Teslovia's continental-size, as cities trapped heat. As soon as he stepped foot into the park he felt a good ten degrees cooler. Beyond that, greenery was vital to keep one's sense of a natural connection, and it seemed like a lot of citizens had made their way to Performer's Park for that connection. Kracker flipped off his sandals and let his feet sink into the soft, tightly trimmed grass. Various musicians occupied public spaces or hastily constructed platforms, performing with their various instruments.

Kracker moved from a small crowd to a small crowd, sampling each musician's style. Nothing seemed to click for him. Granted, every musician was talented, but nothing he had heard seemed to convey the mood he was aiming for. Disappointed, he made his way to the edge of the park and took a seat on a bench that had been painted over by dozens of artists over the years. Layers of decals, paint, and do-it-yourself printing made the surface of the bench uneven, but it was still comfortable. From here the individual performers became a discordant mess, their individual refrains coagulating into a tumor of noise.

Then, as he sat, a simple guitar tune drifted by. It was something low key, sure, but there was some underlying vibrancy in the notes. Kracker rose from the bench and looked toward the direction where he heard the music. He began to follow, and as he did he felt the strumming quicken and the music grow more confident. His eyes darted around the park and down toward the various tall buildings. Then he saw a Gomben, guitar in hand, sitting against a small information kiosk, strumming absentmindedly. Kracker approached and noticed the small placard sitting in front of the guitarist. It featured the intergalactic symbol of patronage, an orange, rounded "P" shape, and a mobile-code. Kracker kneeled down and typed the code into his own mobile and threw some credits the Gomben's way.

"Thanks, man," the Gomben said. He continued to strum out an improvised melody.

"Not a problem, you're really good."

Kracker stood back up and continued to listen. The Gomben smiled and began to improvise a new melody, something a little lazier and more wistful. This was the kind of sound Kracker was looking for.

"You wouldn't happen to be available for a party tonight, would you?"

The Gomben flashed a wry, toothy grin as his fingers plucked the strings.

"So, my friends, do you have any idea what your flight agenda will be," Spril asked.

Marken took a sip from his teacup, "Unfortunately that is decided by GalactiCorp. The minute we know we'll send word your way. I wouldn't mind having another ship grouped up with us for safety."

Mara self-consciously picked at her salad, only now aware of how awkward her choice of food was given the present company.

A server approached the table and placed a small salad in front of Spril.

"Thank you," he said, and then immediately stuck several of the leafy greens with his fork, scooping them into his mouth.

Mara and Marken stared at the scene, unsure of what they were seeing. Spril paused for a moment, feeling their eyes on him. He swallowed and smiled.

"I assure you I didn't just eat my cousin," he then looked directly at Mara, "though I can't say if your lunch is a distant cousin or not... we all seem so similar sometimes."

Mara's eyes widened.

"I'm joking, Mara. Just because I have plant characteristics does not mean that we don't need food. Vegetables are the most efficient food source there is. Besides, salads are delicious."

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