|This article, DT 2020: Plague Booth, was written by Distant Tide. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.|
“So this is where you’ve been for the last few years. Some backwater desert rock, raiding taverns for alien booze?”
Hidden away in a dark, musty half-booth belonging to the Whispering Spacer pub, a hooded patron laid his tired head into freezing arms, managing a hoarse groan at hearing the young woman leaning onto his table, and into his private affairs.
“What are they calling you out in these parts? Merlin the Wizard? Miracle Worker? Callsign: MAGI?”
For the last two hours, the other patrons belonging to this hole-in-the-wall alcohol stop steered clear of the coughing fit of a man in the back. Not even the multi-species staff of the establishment attempted to force the heavily-draped stranger out given the less-than-conspicuous firepower underneath the desert getup. M392 cutdown, automatic rifle. M9 fragmentation grenades. Portable pinch-fusion reactor and accompanying personal shield generator.
Travelers in these parts were often well-armed between the private military outfits, the pirate gangs, and the military patrols – but there was also such thing as overequipped. The smart sensor array near the door spoke of even more beneath his cloak and his condition. He was afflicted with Jir'a'ul wasting plague, contracted from proximity to sick Jiralhanae, and fatal to humans. According to colony statute laws, establishments were legally allowed to seize an expired patron’s effects.
So, for now, they just fed the fool his fairly-paid drinks since Kig-Yar rarely caught such sickness themselves; and money was money. But now this muscular lass in a tight-fit outfit and a sand-resistant mask atop her sand-filled black hair locks leaned over him, digging into his painful tranquility and doubling his irritation.
He burst out three sharp coughs before slowly raising his bloodshot eyes to stare down the woman. “W-what do you want lady? I’m not part of any military outfit, and I got no bounties on my head. Can’t you see I’m just trying to enjoy myself?”
“The only reason someone like you would be ordering Kig-Yar shit is that you can’t get knocked out by the human stuff. And you don’t look like you’re having fun. You play pretty poorly at hiding yourself or your augmentations, Merlin.”
“What makes you think I’m trying to hide?”
“It wouldn’t be the first time you pulled a disappearing trick on me.”
“Who…” Merlin hacked, even more, spitting a wad of old blood, mucus, and throat tissue into his royal-red colored drink. “Who are you?”
“Don’t even recognize your best friend after two years? That,” the woman’s faux-humored blue eyes squinted as her humorous inquiries lowered into a whispered accusation. “That hurts, ass.”
“An-Andra? That you?”
“Yeah, who else would it be? It’s been two years and three months – but only I come looking for you at the edges of the Frontier. Especially when you look like you’re on Death’s door.”
“You,” Merlin pulled up his contagion balaclava to cover up his continued coughing, muffling the noise and lessening the aerial spread in his old flame’s presence. “How’d you find me?”
“That’s a long story, but we got more pressing matters to deal with. Like that throat of yours.”
Andra slipped into Merlin’s booth and pushed aside his Kig-Yar liquor. “As we said as kids, I have your back.”