My Life in Films - Julie

Reet smoke, green and pungent, filled every secret place in the bar. A scented blanket hiding a thousand sins and secret deals from prying eyes, but not from prying surveillance. Those profiting from their deals knew if they didn’t leave a percentage tip at the bar it would be their last. She saw everything from her vantage point.

Tonight Leeria only watched half-eyed the bank of monitors - the computer would alert her anyway. The thrill of catching a punter trying to leave, their fearful mumbling and pathetic excuses and scurrying back to leave a tip no longer excited her as it once had. War was coming – the rumours grew stronger every day. Business was booming as transport ships took illegals escaping from certain conflagration and commodity dealers created profitable shortages. Yes, she was rich and getting richer. War would be good for business out here on a dirty world on the fringes of civilisation. A planet with no resources bar pirates, racketeers, low lifes and escapees. A place of no interest to the opposing forces of the Jarman Confederacy and the Ropean Alliance.

Leeria tossed her spent reet in the air trying to kick it but the soporific effects deadened her reflexes, she missed and swore. A blue light flashed on the console – deal in booth 4. Bolo. She might have known, he was the lowest of the low lifes but not stupid enough not to pay. She watched and sure enough a large payment was made, he even smiled at her surveillance monitor. Once she might have found that alluring, maybe even taken up his implied invitation but not tonight. Leeria watched until he left, stretching her stiff limbs. Time to make an appearance. She smoothed her hair and tunic, checking her concealed weapons in a well practised routine. Fixing the face to a condescending “don’t dare speak to me” smile she went to meet her public.

The smoke swirled about her as she walked to the bar, curling and twisting.

“Usual ma’am?” he was handsome, very handsome but too young

“Yes Aspa”

He poured a large glass of Dorillian whiskey, thick and golden, into a glass, sliding it towards her, their fingers touched for a moment. He smiled, hoping to offer a favour to gain promontion or just a bonus maybe. Leeria merely nodded her thanks and turned away. He shrugged and then noticed a single woman at the other end of the bar. She saw him of course out of the corner of her eye and for a thought wanted to change her mind. Claim him back from this rival. But it was only pride, not lust and she really wasn’t in the mood for another night of easy sex.

Leeria, she told herself, you are bored, bored and empty – maybe you should volunteer for one of the many mercenary bands and go to war. At least there would be something to feel – fear, pain, something to fill the void, something to excite the blood. She stared into the gold swilling in her glass and took a large gulp.

Two Aration miners, flush with their annual annuity, were dancing, the reet cloud almost cleared around them, its edges curling and twirling trying to regain its whole. She watched momentarily, entranced at their elaborate steps and arm movements. 12 appendages entwining in complex twists and flicks that sent the smoke into a frenzy. Leeria wasn’t the only one, several of the bar’s occupants had turned to watch the dancers as they corralled and cocooned the reet fog. Leeria’s gaze met Ranatar’s; he nodded back, his eyes dancing in tune with the Arations.

Leeria walked over to him watching as his scaly fingers darted over the multi-coloured circles of the ponphonium creating the music for the dance. She smiled, watching his consummate skills was the one joy left that still touched her. And he never tired to seduce her for favours. Even those who considered themselves committed trans-species in their sexual appetites never considered the scales, slime and amorphous shape of a Largg particularly desirable. Ranatar never flirted, he just played beautiful music.

“Evening Boss, you’re out late tonight?” Sometimes Leeria felt those pale eyes could see into her soul, see the hole were her heart had been.

“Yes – slow night” she replied as nonchalantly as possible.

The dance over the Arations crawled back to their seats. The reet cloud flowed to fill the hole, they had created, soon nothing remained of the dance. Leeria and Ranatar where enclosed and alone.

“ Request Boss?”

“You know the one”

“ No harm in checking you might have wanted something different”

“No nothing different” she lit a reet and sucked hard.

Ranatar began playing, the haunting melody a contrast to the joyous dance. Leeria took another lung full of reet’s sweet intoxification, closing her eyes she was transported back in to better times. Ranatar knew a few tricks and the song played twice as long as the original without becoming repetitive. Leeria opened her eyes as the last note played.

“Thank you”

“ You’re welcome Boss”, he started a new tune, a lilting jig. “ Maybe you’ll meet someone like that again”. No one else would have dared invade her privacy, but Ranatar had been her ponphonium player for a very long time. He too remembered happier times.

“No I won’t”, Leeria razed a finger to the barman, a Dorillian whisky was poured. There would never be another Jaza. The only man she had ever softened her heart for. Memories of the season they spent together had sustained her in the long days since. It had been an unlikely pairing, son of a rich business man and a young nobody making her way in the universe alone. But they had been soul mates. Then one cold day he had succumbed to the pull of his family, returned to do his Father’s bidding and marry the dull plain girl chosen for him. A powerful merger of two great merchant houses and a dutiful cowardly son. True, the dull plain wife had invented a way of maximising fuel efficiency so the Conglomerate vastly increased its profits as its shipping costs fell but had she filled his life with laughter and excitement? Leeria shook herself from her revere – it no longer mattered. War was coming, the Conglomerate had chosen to support the Jarman Confederacy believing it supported free trade and despite having many business interests on Ropean worlds. But a little part of her hoped he was safe, on the right planet when the shit finally hits the ion drive.

Ranatar, mindful of her mood, struck up another energetic Aration dance melody. This time all six stood up to dance. Leeria, fuddled by reet and whiskey, tried and failed to count the arms as they whirled and intertwined looking like one multi-limbed beast. The drafts from their moves shifted the reet fog, blowing a clear space across to the far side of the bar.

Leeria though she saw a familiar shape, no it must be a drug induced memory trick. She’d just been thinking of him now she saw him. Then he saw her. Even in the gloom she could see he was still handsome. He stayed still, waiting for some gesture that told him it was safe to approach. That she’d forgiven him at least.

Ranatar played with even more frenzy, as if the dance would cover up the intensity of their moment.

After seconds of extended time Leeria stood up and walked purposely towards him, a thin wake of green smoke chasing desperately behind her.

“ So coward you return”

He nodded.

“All the reet bars in the known universe and you pick mine?”

“Where else would I go to escape the storm?” he said softly, eyes bright with desire.