Stephen (chronicpaint) wrote in the1st100words,

Soul's Blood - The first 1000

Keene found him in a dingy odds bar deep in the Ring, alone at one of the small tables in the back. He fugued and the image Zyd had given him appeared behind his eyes, replacing the smoky, cramped room. Definitely Nord, Keene thought, watching him down a shot of something, then give a nervous wave of the empty glass to call for another. Finding a booth with a good view of Nord’s table, he closed his eyes and thought a drink to the bar’s AI. When it pinged confirmation, he focussed on Nord again.
*Got him in my sights, Blue, positive ID. Zyd’s information was solid* He looked in Nord’s direction, opened his node and ‘pushed the image to her.
    *Good* Her satisfaction was a warm ripple through his node. *I’m on my way there now. Mark him, and wait for me.*
    *Will do*
    Keeping an eye on Nord, he took a fizzing sip of his cider. It was crisp with just enough alcohol to take the edge off, but not enough to dull his senses. He wasn’t planning on drinking much of it anyway. He reached into his pocket, pulled out the tracer tablet and dropped it into his glass, watching it dissolve into a pillar of whitish bubbles and disappear. He clutched the glass, and took a breath to steady himself and focus, then eyed the crowd. The zoomstick finals were on the wall deevee, and the crowd was jostling in front of it, in a frenzy of illegal bets, just one goal away from being a mob. Keene could hear Slapjack tiles staccato clicking and clattering on tabletops from under the heavy, spicy-sweet haze of fizzstick smoke. Perfect. Seeing an opening, he stood.
    As he wormed his way through the crowd, he kept his glass above his head so as not to spill the contents. With the same honed skill he used to gauge weight distributions and lading of cargo, he calculated the distance he had to cross, the mark he needed to hit, how he needed to stumble and just the right tone embarrassed apology in his voice of.
    A gap opened in the crowd opened in front of him, just where he needed to be. He moved left into the sudden void in the crowd and was directly in front of Nord’s table. A shift of his body weight and he stumbled into a doughy, harmless looking man concentrating on the screen. Keene’s glass fell from his hands and hit the floor near Nord’s feet, and the marked cider fanned out in a sheet under the table.
    Nord moved to rise from the table, but Keene put a hand on his skinny shoulder, applying just enough pressure to keep the smaller man seated without him realizing that he was pinned. Keene grabbed a napkin from the table and wiped at the frayed hem of Nord’s coat for cider stains that weren’t actually there.
    “Shit, ser, I’m sorry. I can’t believe I did that. Someone bumped my arm. What a waste of good tope, eh?”
    Nord gave an irritated shake of his head. “Never mind. No damage done. Forget about it.”
    “Thanks, man, really.” Keene shifted his body and saw Nord’s shoes planted firmly in the puddle of cider, drops spattered across the toes. The corner of Keene’s mouth raised, the only outward sign everything was just as planned. He smiled down at Nord.“You enjoy the game, my friend.”
    He turned from Nord and walked back toward the booth, a half smile on his face. He settled back into the seat again, and ordered another cider.
    *Marked and ready. I’ll wait for you here*     
    He felt Lexa-Blue enter the bar shortly after that, through the passive ‘push they shared, the sensation in his mind like a shift in atmospheric pressure. His eyes stayed on Nord as he felt her feel him and make her way through the crowd to him. He knew she was in the booth with him an instant before he felt the seat shift under her weight.
    “Hey, trader, want to get squishy?”
He turned to her just as she picked up his glass and took a sip. She grimaced and put the glass back in front of him.
    “How can you drink that stuff? Tastes like someone pissed in a mug and shook it to make bubbles.” Her eyes lost focus as she ordered a drink for herself.
    “I didn’t order it for you,” he shot back at her. “And for the record, I’d love to get squishy, just not with you.”
    “Yeah, yeah, like it’s my fault you’re a bummer and I don’t have a dick.” She cuffed him in the arm. “Not that I’d want one anyway. They’re more fun when they belong to someone else."
    Keene chuckled, knowing that even a dick was not a prerequisite for getting her attention.
    “Where is he?” She asked, her eyes making a slow circuit of the room.
    Keene pointed to the table where Nord was still sitting, yet another drink in his hand, three empties on the table in front of him. “Looks like Caliban was right, he spends all his mony either here or at the casino, so we were bound to find him at one or the other. He looks just like the image Zyd gave us.”
    “Caliban was right? Don’t tell him that, or we’ll never hear the end of it.”
    *I heard that* Caliban said, through both of their nodes.
    *Shut up, Slave. Go count molecules until we need you again*
    *You're just jealous because you can't count that high. 'Push me when you need me*
    Without turning to him, she asked Keene, “You sure he’s tagged?”
    “See for yourself,” he answered, pointing at the floor beneath Nord’s table.
    She followed his gaze, shifting wavelengths in the black sensor gem, set where her right eye used to be. There was a slight tingle in the scar that bisected the eye socket from brow to cheekbone as her vision shifted.

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