Bioluminescent plankton basked the cloistered bar in dim azure glow from wall-bound tubes which ribboned the length of the square, low-ceilinged chamber. Blue-lit patrons sat around the semi-circular retractable table as drinks were ferried by server drones, payments automatically deducted from affin modules upon reception. Aecer Digest played across the numerous, wide wall-screens, information relayed to the onlookers by a prim woman in a suit.
Holleran Meris listened to the feed despondently, his eyes fixed upon his glass.
“Breaking news: Members of Aestival, the terror group responsible for the destruction of Starglaive One, have been detected within city limits. The Consortium, after considerable deliberation, has voted on a complete shut down until the criminals have been apprehended. If you see any suspicious activity, we encourage you to report to your local Consortium authorities as soon as possible.”
A young man with short, unkempt hair, and a complexion incongruent, sipped his half-empty glass and shook his head.
“Wish Aestival had blown up the Reiks Hall instead of the reactor, not that I mind them taking out that ugly hunk of junk.”
Men surrounding the speaker laughed derisively. Meris leaned towards the younger man with severity.
“That ‘hunk of junk’ powered the entire sector.”
“Seems we’re getting on just fine without it.” The man gestured flippantly to the chamber lights.
“Same people that built the reactor built this place.”
The man shrugged.
“The reactor isn’t running. There will be outages. Outages mean death for those on life support.”
“What’s your problem?”
“My problem? You’re sitting there celebrating terrorism and you ask me what my problem is.”
“Terrorism is a matter of perspective. If anyone’s the terrorists, its the Consortium. Detaining people without a trial. You know they locked up kids?”
“They detained the monsters that destroyed the reactor and everyone suspected of supporting them.”
“So? I say fuck um all. Consortium, and the damned reactor.”
“Many of my friends died in that explosion.” The old man stated with rising emotion, his visage pocked with wrath and despair, knuckles white about his jittering glass.
“And how many people have died because of the Consortium? Because of Kryos?”
“You tell me. How many?” The young man fell silent, brows knitting. “You’ve no idea, do you?”
“How about every mother and father, daughter and son slaughtered in the blast? You think they deserved to die? Or does it not matter to you either way?”
“Take it easy.”
“Easy…” The old man slammed his cup upon the table. “I should take it easy while a Souther celebrates the murder of my friends?”
“You got a problem with Southers?”
“No. Just Southers like you. Consortium gives you all the handouts you demand and what do you people do? Spit in their face. In our face.”
“You’re starting to piss me off.”
“You people are parasites.”
The young man rose from his seat and grabbed the old man by the collar and threw him from his seat as the other patrons watched warily, the closest jumping from their perches and backing cautiously away from the scuffle. As the young man drew his arm back to strike the old man, a hand caught his forearm.
“That’s your elder, not your sirloin.”
Meris looked up from the ground to behold a middle aged man, battered and bruised, with a sling about his right arm and messy hair that spun up from his head in short, slick whorls. The face was familiar.
“This is none of your concern, CAV-keep,” the souther snarled, observing the monochrome Vilar Corp jacket and pulling his arm free of the interloper’s grasp.
Ryard Vancing surveyed the man calmly, stolidly.
“That man is my friend. I’ve business with him.”
“You didn’t hear what he said.”
“You can return to bashing each other’s brains in after I’m done talking to him,” Ryard plucked a glass of alcohol off a oblivious, nearby server drone and handed it to the man with a smile as the payment was deducted from his module. “In the meantime, drinks are on me.”
Reluctantly, the souther took the glass and, with a final glare at the old man, turned and strode back to his seat as his companions eyed the scene furtively, muttering amongst themselves. After the attacker departed, the CAV-keep pulled his friend from the ground.
“You trying to get yourself killed, Holleran? He’d have taken your head off if I hadn’t come in when I did.”
“Probably. And… I appreciate it. Just… had a lot on my mind lately,” the old man sighed and ran a hand through his unkempt hair, matting it back from his prominent brow, “Thinking about Hal and Carol and… well, that souther son-of-a-bitch was praising them.”
Ryard’s eyes narrowed and a dark expression passed across his face and was gone just as swiftly.
“What happened to you anyways?”
“I don’t have time to explain. Do you still have your priority lane pass?”
“Everything’s been hectic after the attack. Don’t know what deal the company is gonna work out with the staff, higher ups probably don’t know yet either. Whatever they’re doing or decide, I still have full CAV-way privileges – but so do you, why do you-.”
“I don’t have my lev-han.”
“Let me guess – you wanna borrow mine?”
“Yes. Its urgent.”
“There’s no time.”
“If whatever you’ve gotten yourself into is that bad, you had better go to the Security Commission.”
“They’ll pull me in for questioning and…” he lowered his uneven voice to evade the prying ears of the bar patrons, “Lives are at stake.”
The old man surveyed Vancing for a long moment, his critical eyes roaming over the battered, yet wholly determined face.
“Alright. I trust you. And Vancing.”
“Would be nice if my han returned in better condition than you arrived.”
“Will do, sir.”