Episodic stories of fantasy and science fiction.

Tag: Sci-fi

Neon Noir: The Second Beat

Vash has fought long and hard to own her night club. She stays ahead of the law, remains in the two families’ good graces, and keeps her suppliers happy with cash. But all that is a balancing act she needs to keep up.

Vashti Kianian

The piano walks down the lane as the drum sits on that high hat. After getting used to the groove, the piano changes up its rhythm, culminating in a blast from the horns.

Everyone but the piano drops out. Anastasia sings a soft refrain behind the curtain, giving this part of the song an ethereal feel. As she builds up her voice, the city’s heart starts to rev up, warping the sound in the club. Low horns add to the sound as everyone builds up to their moment.

Finally, the city’s heart starts up its beat as the horns play an upbeat tune and Anastasia reveals herself from behind the curtain. The crowd on the dance floor cheer as she starts to sing her siren song.

Vash watches with amusement as she sings. She picked a good song for tonight.

I’d swear, she can always tell just what the city’s heart is going to sing. Should make for a lively evening.

Not that it needs any help. Vash can’t remember when she last had a night like this.

This keeps up, I’m going to have the unenviable problem of running out of giggle juice.

While Vash would love nothing more than to sit there and admire Stasi’s voice the rest of the night, she has work to do. She gets up from her seat and takes a walk back to the bartender.

“We need more bottles, Vash!”

“Then open them.” The woman was annoyed.

“But, we’re already overbudget for the night.”

Vash crossed her arms, her dark eyes glaring straight through the young man.

“I will handle it. Open the bottles.

The bartender sputters, almost protesting when he’s cut off.

“We don’t get nights like this often. Make it count.”

Her voice left no room for protests.

“And don’t question me again.”

When did Billy get so mouthy? And why didn’t Levard have the guts to tell him to do it. I swear, there’s no such thing as good help anymore.

A young man entered the back of the bar. He was dressed in a new suit, hair cut short and tight. His broad shoulders made him stand out from the crowd.

Speaking of no good help.

Vash crossed the club to Ryan her sly smile speaking volumes.

“Mr. Shane, how does the skin feel?”

Ryan looked around his person.

“How’s the suit, babe?”

“Oh! It’s good. I think.”

Vash gives a laugh.

“Good? That is one of the finest suits you can get in this town. Come, we gotta talk a few things.”

Vash escorts Ryan through the crowd. They cross back to the bar. Just diagonal to it is a door. Vash pulls out her key and unlocks it, revealing her office.

As they enter, the sound of the city’s heart fades, just a bit. It’s still there, beating to the rhythm of some unknown music.

“Vash! Baby! Your night is looking real smooth! How do you do it?”

In her previously locked office and older man was sitting behind her desk. Vash looked surprised for but a moment, but quickly relaxed when she realized who it was.

“By the way, that’s an instance where it’d be best if you protect me,” she whispers behind her to Ryan

“Kegley! Why don’t you tell me how you seem to always get where ya don’t belong?” Vash enters the room proper as she speaks, Ryan close behind.

She heads on over to her own bar and begins pouring herself a drink.

“I might tell ya if you tell me where you get your fancy suits.” Mr. Kegley was eyeing Ryan and his new outfit.

Vash is very glad she chose to make herself a drink, as it’s the only thing keeping her from decking the old man.

“I tell ya and you’ll scare him off. Can’t have that. You know how many tailors are willing to make a quality suit for a lady like me?”

She crosses from her personal bar to the desk. She makes a gesture and Kegley moves from her seat. He instead crosses around and sits in the chair on the other side of the desk, though he does place his feet up on the desk top.

Vash sighs at her guest. Then she looks to Ryan and snaps at him, pointing to her side. Ryan gets the picture and stands next to his new boss.

“Now then, I know you, Kegs. You’re here for business. What do you need?”

Kegley smiles, his mouth missing a few ivories.

“Oh I just needed to let you in on a secret on my last shipment. Seems it was a little special. I won’t even ask ya to pay extra.”

“Special? What, you get sentimental on a booze run?”

Kegley leans back further in his chair and fishes a cigar from his jacket pocket.

“Naw, business is business. But before you run out, might wanna tell your bar boy that stuff is extra strength.”

Vash immediately taps her desk top, bringing a screen to life. She presses the vid button, and a new window opens, calling her manager.

Kegley laughs.

“I should been chargin’ ya extra for that but you know me. I’m a big ol’ softy for my Vash.”

“Like hell I care. I could have been charging extra for that stuff.”

The call connects, the face of a young, but slightly timid man on screen.

“Levard, tell Billy to charge double on all drinks.”

The manager looks surprised at the request.

“But Vash, if we go to 50 cents a drink, the customers may not like it.”

“We don’t and I won’t like it. That stuff is double strong.”

“Oh dear! I will tell him right away.”

“Thanks Levard.” Vash takes a second before adding,

“Tell him to make ’em weak too. Those animals are drunk enough as it is.”

“Of course.” Levard gives a bow as Vash ends the call.

She looks up at Kegley, smiling his self-satisfied smile.

“How did this happen?”

Kegley is chewing on the end of his cigar, surprisingly following Vash’s ‘no smoke’ rule.

He definitely wants something from me.

“My supplier got a few wires crossed. Made that stuff strong and didn’t even realize it. You still got plenty left?”

“Yeah. Not as much as I’d have liked, but I got some.”

“Don’t you ever say ol’ Kegs never did nothin’ for ya.”

Oh, I for certain would never say that.

“C’mon. Why the act? Just tell me what you want.”

Kegs grins a shit-eatin’ grin that makes Vash’s skin crawl. She can’t help but wonder what new hell he has in mind.

“Well, now that you mention it, one good deed deserves another, right?” He reaches back in his vest and pulls out a card.

“I’m here to arrange a meeting. Promised a nice payout if they could meet with you.”

Vash is hesitant. For a good payout for Kegs, and he might not look to close at the deal. He knows not to turn her in to the coppers, but she never credited him with being too bright beyond that.

“Why me?” She reaches out for the card, but Kegs pulls it back.

“Wouldn’t say. I can tell ya, it’s a skirt. Real pretty too. Maybe they just heard how much fun you can be.”

He hands it over to her. She flips it back and forth. It’s not like her cards that are embedded with a code. Just has a phone number written on it

“How much is the pay out?”

Kegs pauses, probably trying to calculate what number is low enough Vash won’t care but high enough she’ll believe.

“$200” he says. Vash rolls her eyes.

“They’re givin’ ya $500 just for a meetin’ with me?”

“I didn’t say-“

“But that’s what it is, right?”

He looks down, that smile finally gone from his face.

He didn’t ask any questions and has no idea if this might be dangerous, does he?

“Get me 10% and I’ll do it.”

Kegley almost looks angry at the implication.

“Now hold on, I got you a double proof batch no charge, and you want to-”

“Relax, Kegs. You’re still makin’ double your profit on that booze ya brought me with what remains. But if you want me to stick my neck on the line, you better be sure what we’re doin’.”

He sits there thinking for a minute. Kegs had the connections to do some rum running but there aren’t many who would credit him with the fastest brain in this city.


Neon Noir: The First Beat

The year is 1927. Prohibition is in full effect. And Capital City has the most advanced tech available. The entire city seems to move to a beat, as the electronic hum bounces everyone about. But people are still people, and most people can’t be trusted.

Ryan Shane

This is it?

When Ryan was told to go to the Arcadia for a job, he was expecting something a little more impressive. But as he looked over the dilapidated building, he started having second thoughts.

I never should have come here.

As much as he wanted to turn away though, he couldn’t. The last few dollars he had in his pocket surely wouldn’t be enough for food for the rest of the week, let alone rent. What choice did he have but to ask this Lady Vash for a job?

Ryan walked around the building trying his best at finding the entrance. The door was as rundown as the rest of the wall, he walked past it three times. He held his breath and opened it, a dark hallway the only thing greeting him.

He wondered for a moment if the city’s heart would follow him down there. He always felt better when he could hear it. Even here in the hard part of town, the hum of electronics followed and moved him.

I guess I got nothin’ to lose.

The dark hallway turned a few times. Ryan worried it would be nothing more than a prank, that Abby was setting him up like this for a laugh. Why would a speakeasy be here? Weren’t they for the rich or the mob?

The hallway approached its end, a door illuminated in a silhouette of light greeting him. It seemed there really was something down here.

Ryan opened the door and was astounded to find the speakeasy was really here. Hell, it wasn’t just a bar, but a night club. Over on the stage, musicians tuned their instruments. But it seemed they were lacking an electro-player. Matter of fact, the walls didn’t have sound dampeners. The city’s heart throbbed down here. If Ryan weren’t sure it were crazy, it almost sounded louder down here.

The kid behind the bar noticed Ryan enter and stepped out.

“Hey, we ain’t open. Come back later.”

Ryan reached into his pocket and pulled out a small white card.

“I was invited. I’m looking for Lady Vash.”

The bartender took the card and looked it over.

“You’re gonna want to drop the ‘lady’ from her name. Wait here.”

He ran off to the back. Ryan stepped into the club, looking about. It was a good size, and looked fancy. Well, hard to say if it actually was fancy, or just felt that way after seeing the outside. I guess this made sense though. No one who didn’t know what they were looking for could find this place.

He took a seat to await his host. As he did he noticed the band had stopped tuning. A woman came out to the microphone, ready to sing. Were they going to play?

How can they play over the city’s heart?

The bass player and drummer seemed to be really still, as the rest of he band looked their way. Soon their heads were bouncing up and down to the beat of the city’s heart. Each hum of the tech surrounding them acted as an electro-drum beat.

The saxophone surprises by starting off. It wails out, singing its soulful mourn. As it comes to a crescendo, the rest of the small band joins. City’s heart acts as the electo player, the sound of a generator winds up, leading to the drum smashing into the bass. The horns blare out, announcing their arrival well.

Then whole mess staggers like a drunkard out into the night. They find their footing and fall back. The bass and drum walk together, really getting the groove going. The horns pop back in, joining the walk.

And then, she starts singing. Her voice carries over the sound of so many instruments and the singing of the city itself. For a verse or two, the saxophone player stops singing and joins her.

“We can’t afford an electro player.”

Ryan is brought to his senses at the sound of a woman’s voice right next to him.

“You pay for the electro player and you also have to pay to sound proof the whole place. But they do well with the heart.”

The woman wore a deep blue suit, expertly tailored and well pressed. She had a drink in one hand and her other in her pocket.

“Are you… Lady Vash?”

She pulled her hand from her pocket and extended it in a handshake.

“Call me Vash. Who sent you?”

He took her hand and gave it a slightly weak shake. He wasn’t entirely sure what was going on.

“My name is Ryan and-“

“I didn’t ask for your name. Who gave you the card?”

Ryan let go of her hand and studied her face and clothes. She was definitely a woman, but he couldn’t understand why she wore a suit instead of a dress. Her skin was darker than he was expecting, though nowhere near as dark as her hair. That was black as night, stretching halfway down her back.

Despite the suit, she still wore heels that gave her an extra few inches in height. Between those, her hair, and the fact the suit was tailored to her body, it was clear she wasn’t trying to hide that she was a woman.

“The card. I don’t have all day.”

“Yes! Right. My friend Abby gave it to me. She’s a waitress at a diner downtown. I mentioned I was looking for a job and she recommended me to you.”

Vash looked over the young man, a look of confusion spreading across her face.

“Abby, huh? How did a mook like you bag a girl like Abby?”

Ryan furrowed his brow, not sure right away what she was implying. He figured it out though.

“Oh! She and I aren’t together or anything. Just old friends.”

“Thank goodness. I love having her on call for some fun nights.”

Ryan furrowed his brow a second time in as many moments. This time he didn’t pick up on what she was implying.

“So, Ryan. Why can’t you find a job? If someone else won’t take ya, why should I?” Vash takes a seat in the chair across from the young man.

“I, um, I’m not sure. Abby implied it’d be something physical. She was asking about my time in the army.”

Vash gets a twinkle in her eye. If Ryan weren’t looking as carefully as he was, he might not have noticed it.

“Army boy? I guess Abby knows what to look out for. I need someone new for security.”

Ryan’s eyes widen. He had assumed this would be peeling potatoes or washing dishes or something.

“Security? Me? I don’t think- I should maybe go.”

He gets up from his chair.

“Pay is one-hundred bucks a week.”

He stops.

“You can’t be serious.”

“Oh honey, I’m very serious. But it’s an intensive job. During club hours, you bounce anyone acting up. Anyone too sauced. Out of club hours, every so often, I’ll need you to be my personal bodyguard.”

The job was a mixed bag. On one hand, the pay was amazing, and the club job should be easy enough. It was the personal part he worried about.

A gig is a gig.

“I’ll do it.”

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