Okay, so three people walk into a bar and recognize the bartender. “Here, I know you!”, says one of them. “You’re this joke! I’m your biggest fan!” This Joke is humbled and mumbles something about how nice it is to meet fans and then regales the three people with stories from when This Joke waited tables at the Last Supper because that’s how old it is.
So I’m filling in the blank… but in a different way.
Tuesday night, according to the chronometer; no point in trying to determine night or day in the endless dark of space through which the Kennedy Space Port twirled around New California in geostationary orbit.
Kennedy Verhoeven, who had heard absolutely every joke concerning both her first name and her work place, was tending the bar, wearing a pair of hologram glasses that made her look like Harra Lawrence in Gone Days because when she had woken up for work that day she had found herself disenchanted with both her wardrobe and her face. Not that anyone would have thought she actually was Harra Lawrence, because acclaimed 4D movie stars wouldn’t be caught dead mixing drinks in a third rate space port bar. Kennedy was also not exactly ecstatic about the prospect of sharing the shift with Jessa, who was a nice enough girl and an okay waitress but who had the annoying habit of relating boring pieces of celebrity gossip every time she returned to the bar for orders, as if she had to bargain for her customer’s drinks offering Cynthia Zottegem’s pregnancy rumours in exchange.
The crowd was normal sized for a weekday, two or three early drunks, a couple Earth soldiers breaking curfew (which meant that at any minute now a higher-up from the army might come barging in to verbally cut them back down to size, and Kennedy had already readied her microcam to record it for her blog), a few business people, haggard-looking, waiting for their next flight to be ready for boarding, the rest station workers come in for after work drinks that somehow always got prolonged. There were a couple shady figures floating around or seated in the corners, but that was to be expected.
Three newcomers approached the bar, two guys and a girl, none of them could be even in their mid-twenties yet. So much for tips, she thought as she sauntered over.
“Well, that didn’t work,” she overheard one of the guys say. Then the other one piped up.
“Hey, Harra Lawrence! What’s a guy gotta do to get a drink around here?”
“Say please, for once,” Kennedy shot back.
“Shut up, Drew, Christ, can’t take you anywhere,” the other guy said, evidently the older one of the two. “What’ll twenty credits buy us?”
“Andalusian beer,” Kennedy said and meant it.
“Andalusia on Earth or Andalusia the moon?”
“Damn. Guess it’ll have to do. Two Andalusian beers, please.”
The young man named Drew meanwhile was busy harassing the girl they had come in with, who was busy checking something on her computer screen. “C’mon, Marnie, you can’t let us drink alone. What’ll you have? D’you have any money left?”, he added hopefully.
“Go away, Drew, busy,” the young woman said, typing something.
“This guy bothering you?”, Kennedy asked, one eyebrow raised.
“Yeah, since birth. His birth that is.” She slipped her computer inside her coat pocket and tapped the bar twice for the drinks menu to light up. “Art, Drew, you guys get a table or something, I’ll be a while.”
Kennedy brought their beers, received no tip, and watched them disappear to a table near the stairs. “What’ll it be?”, she asked the girl, idly giving the bar a quick sweep and wondering why the young brunette was hanging out with two idiots like that.
The girl, Marnie, looked around quickly, then back to the menu as if indecisive. “I got a hundred.” She slipped a credit chip out of her pocket.
“Coma’s not on the menu.”
Kennedy started polishing a glass as if she wasn’t even talking to the other woman. “Maybe. What d’you want?”
“Know anyone in here interested in some merchandise? Tax-free, y’know.”
Kennedy glanced to the side. “Leather jacket at the other end of the bar.”
“What’s their drink? Can you send them one from me?”
Under the dish towel Kennedy rubbed her thumb and forefinger together in the international sign for ‘motivate me’.
“Done,” Kennedy said, pocketing the credit chips.
Kennedy knew the drinker with the leather jacket, came in here most nights, nursed her gin for an hour at least, tipped regularly if not exactly generously, but you didn’t work in a bar like this without picking up on some things. She put a fresh glass of gin in front of leather jacketed arms. “Greetings from the brunette,” she said briefly, cocking her head in Marnie’s direction.
Leather Jacket looked at the bartender, then at the girl at at far side of the bar, with a face so nondescript and common it might have been the result of hologram glasses because this level of average could just not be real. “I’m a married woman,” she said, sounding just the slightest bit sarcastic.
“Not that kinda drink,” Kennedy whispered before walking away to the shelves and pretending to be busy with the order screen. She could hear Marnie move over to Leather Jacket and some snippets of quiet conversation between the two business women. She decided that this had probably been the highlight of her shift and it wasn’t even halfway through.
Business was picking up at the bar. A shuttle arrived outside, bringing in a dozen or so passengers waiting for their connection flight, followed by a throng of late-shifters from the docks. Jessa barely managed to get a sentence in about Ron Fischer’s new hair cut which even holo glasses couldn’t fix.
Kennedy spent a good ten minutes trying to divine the order of an attaché to the Andalusian ambassador, but they managed, communicating mainly through the use of gesture, two arms on one side of the bar and five on the other. Jessa chimed in with news about Esla Chang and her plans to adopt all the poodles on Mars according to The Star, a newspaper which wasn’t what anyone with a functioning brain would call a reliable source and which Jessa read religiously.
The crowd thinned again with the next ship announcement. It left in its wake a the regular scattering of people. A small man in a suit was leaning against the bar on one elbow and started to snore; the army boys were still at their table and disappointingly no one came to rouse them and drag them back to their barracks ship; a woman with a briefcase and black tie was drinking like the world was going to end without showing any sign of the effects of alcohol.
“You sure you want another?”, Kennedy asked cautiously.
“Yeah, one for every idiot I had to meet today,” Black Tie said, sounding so sober it was scary.
“Riiight.” Kennedy delivered the drink and fled to the other end of the bar where Jessa nattered on about the many love affairs of New Punk idol Jimmy Phan. Kennedy nodded absently; that just wasn’t right, being sober after six whiskeys. Did this woman have the implant or something?
At this point, Marnie’s brothers came trudging back to the bar and joined the girl; Leather Jacket had apparently left. “… that’s how you do it, you idiots. I swear, if we didn’t share genetics…” Kennedy heard her say, with the tone of someone who knew all too well that they were the one who inherited the family’s supply of brains.
The chronometer chimed to let Kennedy and Jessa know to get their tails out of the place and clock out because the boss would rather get bitten by an Andalusian than pay overtime. Parvati, Jo, and Luke arrived on time to take over and after some polite small talk Kennedy was out on the halls, pursued by Jessa.
“What says we drive into town tomorrow?”, she twittered cheerfully. “Do a real girls’ day! Brunch and all.”
“Sure,” Kennedy said, knowing she would regret it, while planning out her next Confessions from the Space Port blog entry in her head. “Your sister coming, too?”
“I’ll message her. Y’know, you should really upload Yvette Coa on your glasses, she’d suit you.”
“Uh-huh.” Maybe a good way to spend some of her new hundred-and-fifty.