The Kings of Earth, Snippet #3

They walked in silence for a few minutes and she could see the conflicting thoughts flickering across his face.  As they walked, she noticed a little boy about 2 years old in nothing but a diaper that was constantly almost falling down and appeared to be ‘full’.  She recognized the pattern of a handicapped or drug addicted mother, probably too young, struggling with every ounce of her ingenuity and emotional strength to care for children she shouldn’t have had anyway.

Sathra didn’t notice.

Suddenly his eyes lit up again.
It’s kinda funny how his face would be all scrunched up with tension, eyes kinda furrowed and dark as if thinking was hard work and then suddenly his whole face would relax and his eyelids pop wide open  when he grasped a concept or remembered a thought.

“Hey!  You’re 21?”
“Yeah”, she replied as she wondered why he’d suddenly thought of it.
“Then you’re old enough to drink?”
“Yeah,” she replied hesitantly knowing this was probably going to mean she would have to use one of her fake IDs
“Well, we just passed a bar back there.  I know the drinking age in Talitheria is 20 so, let’s get a beer!”
“In the middle of the day?” she questioned with a touch of annoyance and a touch of surprise in her tone
“Sure, beer is good for you!”
“Grows hair on your chest”
“Hair on my chest! Yuck!  Why would I want hair on my chest?”
He laughed loudly.

He didn’t laugh often but when he did it was at some of the oddest things  It was a loud, full, robust kind of laugh.  The kind that came from the gut all the way up through the chest and shook his entire body.

“It’s just an expression”.
He chuckled again.
“It just means it makes you tough”.
“Oh” she replied demurely.
“I guess it would be good to be tough if I’m going to be traveling amongst the stars where Pirates and Dragons roam the clouds.”
“Yeah,” he snorted.  Then almost chuckled.
“It would be good to be tough.”

“Does that mean I can come with you?” she asked with a restrained excitement barely perceptibly leaking around the edges of the mask she wore to protect her self.
“We’ll see” he replied gruffly.
“If you can walk into that bar back there, have a few beers, stay on your barstool and walk out of the bar with me, then you can come”.
“Ok” she replied uncertainly.
This wasn’t going to be an easy test.
Talitheria is known across the empire as the City of Sin but they aren’t that tolerant to alcohol.
Mild, relatively harmless intoxicants such as Ecstasy or Psilymaje sure.  They’re pretty loose about that and even 13-year-olds can go into a Psi Parlor and drink Lucidor without getting carded.

But alcohol?
That’s another thing altogether.  If it weren’t for the human population that demanded it, it wouldn’t even be legal.
She could hold her own when it came to Lucidor but a 97 pound teenaged Purple against a 185 lb, 157-year-old, muscular, working class human with alcohol?
She could only hope she would be able to walk out of the bar after they were done

As they entered the bar and the bouncer stopped them for their IDs, Aleitheia fumbled briefly with her wallet as if she were unfamiliar with its usage.
Did she recognize him?  It was too dark to tell and the way he paused briefly as he scanned her with a critical look, she thought maybe he recognized her as well.
Perhaps he was a bouncer at one of the Psi Parlours she used to frequent when she was on the streets.
For just a moment it looked as if he was going to say something.  Did he know the ID was fake?
Then he gave them a quick nod in the direction of the bar indicating they could enter.
Whew! She signed audibly.  Maybe he knew she was less than a year away from the legal drinking age.  Not worth confronting a potential customer over an ID that might or might not be fake.
The police Raiders probably wouldn’t even know it was fake since they don’t have the budget to do the deep computer searches that would reveal it as such and, even if they did, they wouldn’t blame the bar’s outdated scanners, much less the bouncers, for not recognizing it.
As much as the Shalandrans don’t like alcohol, they tend to be a compassionate lot and understand that bars don’t make a lot of money so they can’t afford the fancy ID scanners that the Psi Parlours use;  when they use them.

The room was filled with smoke and she nearly choked as she took quick shallow breaths to avoid breathing too deeply.
“These humans are disgusting,” she thought.
“These alcohol bars are the only place left on Shalandra that even allow smoking,” she muttered under her breath..  Even in Talitheria; though the corrupt government fought the state of Paschkaala tooth and nail when they made it a state law.
The cities of New Calaedia were used to having a great deal of autonomy.  Especially in a city like Talitheria where the insanely rich Oners have so much power.

“The One Resort” Talitheria is often called because the Oners consider it their playground and they have the money to insure it stays that way.  There are even rumors that a few Quints have vacation home in Talitheria.  I guess quintillions of goldrans can pretty much buy a government.

But times were changing.  Shalandra was struggling to keep its planet from consuming all available resources with a population topping 250 billion.  The tide was flowing in a new direction and even relatively libertarian countries such as New Calaedia were beginning to realize that they would need to start reigning in their more permissive cities and states.

“They wallow in their filth as if they’re proud of it.”
“Why the hell am I thinking of going off to the stars with a human?”, she sighed again.
Maybe it would have been better if the bouncer had refused her entry.

“Whatsamatter, Alley?” Sathra asked in amusement
“Too dark and smokey for a Purple in here?” he chortled
She heard a few quick belly chuckles around the bar as her eyes gradually adjusted to the darkness and she made out the impossibly large figures of a few humans scattered amongst the overly tall bar-stools. There weren’t any Shalandrans amongst them.  One might be a Cerelian but she couldn’t be sure since they are at least as big as humans and a Purple isn’t likely to be able to distinguish one from a human unless he was undressed. She almost let a giggle escape but held it to a snort as she noticed that the guy she thought might be a Cerelian was almost twice as big as Sathra; except horizontally instead of vertically, and the repulsive picture of a giant naked Cerelian involuntarily floated across her mind’s eye.

As they walked forward and Sathra climbed onto a barstool, the tips of his toes hung down and just touched the floor.
Aleitheia climbed onto the stool and hung her feet well above the floor as if she were a child.  How much more humiliating was this “test” going to get?
As the bartender sauntered over, his giant belly swaying back and forth, he chortled as he asked “So what kin I get you and yer petunia?”
Sathra gristled at the term as he replied, “Listen joe!  She’s not my petunia.  Just introducing her to the ways of humans.”
For a moment he stared at the bartender with a look of daggers as the bartender met his gaze.  It was almost as if they were fighting a battle with their eyes and she understood that this could degenerate into a physical fight that could snap her neck like a bird at any moment.
Suddenly the bartender broke off and she realized that Sathra had won.

“Ok, bud.  You don’t call me joe, I won’t call her petunia”.
“Fair ’nuff,” Sathra replied as they grasped forearms and squeezed hard enough to break the tiny bones in Aleitheia’s hands.

“By the way”, Aleitheia finally whispered to Sathra.
“My name isn’t Alley.  I prefer you call me AleithEia but If you must shorten it the way you humans like to do, you can call me AlAy.  Accent on the second syllAble”.
“Ok, Alley” he replied.with a mischievous smile.
She sighed in resignation.

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