Part of this might see the light of day in some other form, but I've decided to radically change one of the characters in it, so who knows what it will look like the next time is surfaces. Not wanting to see it go to waste, I thought I'd share...
Marlena started down the corridor, thought better of it, and turned in the opposite direction. She wasn't ready to deal with the Samiri brothers yet, and wanted to stay well clear for the time being.
The job had gone badly, just like she told them it would when they hired her. Still, they had already put a crew together by the time they'd contacted her and were ready to move forward with or without her. Even though she knew the plan would never work, the money and desperation conspired to make her sign on. It had been four days since the authorities came crashing down on their crew, and she still hadn’t come up with a decent story to tell the Samiri’s about what had happened.
With no particular destination in mind, Marlena turned down one gray hallway after another until she found herself at one of the station's saloons. At the bar she ordered a bourbon, neat, dropped some coins, and took her drink to the darkest corner she could find. The habit was something she had picked up from her father, despite her every effort to be nothing like him.
Drowning her thoughts in alcohol, time slipped away unnoticed. It wasn't until a curious looking man entered that she took notice of her surroundings again. Human, clearly, but she couldn't guess which system he was from. His clothes would have made him stand-out on any human settlement, but on a station like this that trafficked in every variety of alien, not many would waste a second look.
He took a seat at the bar, and appeared to be striking up a conversation with the barkeep. They were too far away for her to hear anything, but she decided she needed to refill her glass, even though she didn't intend to drink it. Saddling up to the bar a few seats down from the mystery man, she caught the attention of the barkeep and motioned to the empty glass in front of her. Breaking away, the barkeep took a bottle from the shelf on his way toward her.
"What's his story?" she asked while he poured, without looking at the man she asked about.
The barkeep understood whom she meant easily enough. "Asking questions, mostly." Adding, "Only drinking water." with a scoff. He walked off, replacing the bottle on the shelf before she could ask any more.
"Where's our merchandise?" a garbled, booming, and accusational voice came from behind her. Marlena didn't need to turn around to put a face to the voice, she already knew who was there, and was thankful for the full glass in front of her. She drank deep.
"Qylex, Z'rak! I've been looking for you." She swiveled her chair to face them, maintaining an air of nonchalance and took another sip. She wanted to keep this cordial for as long as possible, but odds were that wouldn't last long. The Samiri brothers stood close, blocking any potential exit she might have had. They were Velneks, towering three meters tall and each weighing a few hundred kilos. Although they appeared to be bulbous slobs, billowing over with fat, she knew from personal experience they had more than enough muscle to make short work of her.
"More like trying to avoid us." Z'rak spat.
"Where?" Qylex forcefully repeated the question she was trying to dodge.
She drained the last of her glass and put it on the counter behind her. "I think you already know I don't have it." This thing was going sideways, and her mouth wasn't helping things.
The Samiri brothers each took a half step closer, their formidable height and girth encroaching that much more. "Where?!" came the same scratchy, guttural question as before.
"Impound." The word slipped delicately from her lips, and relief came over her like a wave. None of this was going as she had planned, but nonetheless, at least she has told them. The hard part was over, and together they could all move on now that the truth was out.
There came a sound, that began as a growl, became a scream, and then left the audible range of human hearing. Z’Rak stood silent while his brother expressed his rage. Only silence remained in the saloon once the scream had ended, and all eyes turning to the three of them.
To her surprise, it was the mystery man that broke the silence. "I believe there's a desirable outcome to be reached for all involved without resorting to violence." He was now standing directly beside Z'rak, though how he'd gotten there, Marlena hadn't seen.
Z'rak’s response swift and brutal, launching a meaty back-hand at the stranger. Marena winced, but the blow never came. Cautiously, she opened her eyes again to find the mystery man had effortlessly stopped the blow with only one hand. And his hand seemed to be glowing as well, if only for an instant.
“Ah, Velnek physiology. I had stated I wanted to avoid violence, so you’ll be rendered unconscious for the rest of this conversation.” Placing his free hand over Z’rak’s eyes, more light came forth, and Z’rak collapsed on the ground.
The facial structure of Velneks don’t produce anything humans would recognize as shock or surprise, but from Qylex’s uncharacteristic silence and inaction, she knew that’s what he was feeling. “I--” she felt compelled to say, but couldn’t find the words to finish.
The stranger was the first to speak again. Turning to Qylex he spoke is a clam and quiet voice, “Your sibling’s actions weren’t conducive to a resolution. I hope you’re more willing to conduct yourself in a civil manner.” He wasn’t. Suddenly regained his composure, Qylex reached for the knife at his hip, drawing it with a speed Marlena didn’t think was possible for a being his size. Firearms of all kinds are banned on Paragon 3, but that didn’t mean its many inhabitants were without weapons. Upon arrival, most switched to blade or bludgeon weapons, and Qylex was clearly not ignorant of the practice.
Ultimately, it proved futile. Qylex roared and angrily slashed at the man that had rendered his brother unconscious moments ago, but he stubbornly remained unmoving. Involuntarily, she shut her eyes once again, expecting a violent end. Instead of fleshing slicing open, Marlena heard an unmistakable THRUM and Qylex grunt. Her eyes snapped open again to see Qylex struggling to maintain this balance, and what appeared to be - couldn’t be - shields surrounding the stranger?
Qylex whirled to face them again, looking poised to strike again, but paused, appeared to weighed the situation mentally, and spat an insult at Marlena, “We’ll be back for you later, when your guardian isn’t around.” He kept the knife in hand, but turned and left the saloon, with his brother still on the floor.
Adrenaline had countered the effects of the bourbon for the last few minutes, but now the alcohol was reasserting itself in her system. Marlena needed to get out of here, quickly. With no product for the Samiri brothers, one on the floor, and other humiliated in a fight, things were looking considerably worse than earlier.
The stranger turned to address her for the first time, “I’m sorry things didn’t go better, this wasn’t my intention.” He looked slightly confused, as if he honestly didn’t know what had gone wrong. There were so many things she wanted to ask, so many she wanted to ask, or scream at him. But what came out next wasn’t any of them.
Pushing her face into his, “What, was that you trying to help?” Marlena found herself jabbing a pointed finger into his chest and slipping one of her legs behind his. “You stay out of my business.” She slammed him square in the chest with both hands, sending him reeling backward, tripping over her leg, and crashing into the floor. “And stay the hell away from me.”
It took all her strength not to look back as she walked out of the saloon. She wanted to see the look on his face, on all their faces, but she couldn’t look if she wanted anything she’d said to stick.
Once again traversing the one gray hallway after another, Marlena took the opportunity to go over everything in her mind again and again, trying to puzzle out what had happened and her next move. A personal shield? Had to be. The Samiri’s still had no product, she’d have to find something else or burn a lot of bridges to never have to see them again. Did he have a scanner in his hand? She hadn’t seen one. Marco will be even more upset now than when he found out about the botched job. The light - how could anything do that to be Velnek? She’d have to get off this station on the first ship leaving. Those clothes, there’s something about his clothes that...
It’s impossible. He couldn’t be. Her pace quickened, now with determination and a destination in mind. She had to leave immediately. Marlena barreled through the entryway to her quarters, only missing the door by a hair’s breadth as it slid out of her way. Once inside, she stopped, leaned against the door, and slid down it until she was sitting on the floor. She looked up suddenly to check the lock, and locked it - not that that could stop him. The scanner, the light, and shield, the clothes. Could he really be an Engineer?
She was in a whole lot more trouble than she thought.