Home Blue Fires
By Kenneth Shumaker
Written: August 14, 2017(Published on Virily: September 3, 2017)
In Kenneth Shumaker’s Eren’s Challenge, we enter the world of the robotics research technician, a mature human male, Eren. During Eren’s 5th Galaxy Palcard sector journey, he encounters hazards with his friend, Esmelda, the mature human female who is an ambassador’s administrator. The pair struggle with adventures and dramatic developments while in the metropolitan industrial trade city of Goral, on the planet of the Krenar. Here, they fight with bureaucrats and the Hean priestly hierarchy.
In the Previous episode 005, ‘Miner’s Blackened Bart’ …
The Blackened Bart was introduced to us, and we met Eren’s new Archy Project crew – a much-reduced crew, though they toasted their secret.
We continue with episode 006, ‘Home Blue Fires’ on …
Lezmor 2nd RD 78
I arrive home to find Es has prepared a meal for us. I think it’s a conciliatory meal for her earlier activities in the day while I was away. When I entered my bedroom, I discovered she had moved in a month’s worth of clothing, as well as her toiletries.
The evening meal is passable for an average housewife’s cooking. The meal is not gourmet by any stretch, but I acknowledge that she tried. She even made dessert – a raspberry crumble – which is actually tasty, tart and sweet in the right proportions.
I reach over and hug this pretty woman who is trying to make nice to me. I say to her sweetly, “Are you actually interested in my work? Or you’re digging my grave for the goal cells by getting in deep with me so you can hoist as much dirt on me as you can … I’m going to gamble that you’re getting your hands dirty for interest’s sake, and I’ll bet you’re going to enjoy this, falling in love with me at the same time. I usually win my gambles.”
Patting my hand, she winks, saying, “In the future, we’ll see which it is, won’t we? If it is either … maybe I’m intent on jailing Angel.”
Chuckling, I then grin as I look at my chrono. “Time to set out for Blackened Barts.”
I move over to the computer terminal in my living room and tap in the summons for a Quickie Cab to my address, and we sit back to wait.
We barely waited five minutes for the cab. Climbing in, Es keys in the address to the Blackened Barts. She pays the fare with her card, and the cab whips us over to the tavern in just over two hours.
Arriving at Blackened Barts, I look at my chrono and laugh, saying to Es, “We have a half-hour until we’re to meet Everest, but we should grab a table anyway.”
She nods, and we walk in finding a table near the middle of the right-hand wall. It’s a good location for Es to watch for her contact, Everest.
We make small talk about social happenings while we wait, each ordering an ale.
Everest is half-an-hour late, and when I am suggesting to Es that we should leave, she informs me that socialite journalists are typically up to an hour late, considering it fashionable.
I swear, saying it’s plain rude and I offer to reduce his fee ten credits every minute he’s late.
Es recommends against this.
For which I suggest that our time is valuable and worth more than ten credits a minute, combined. I inform Es that I charge a thousand an hour for my services when working alone.
Then Es silences me as a swashbuckling, flashily-dressed woman in a bright coloured dress and bright shoes, wearing a wide-brimmed glaring felt hat, enters and spots Es. Waving to Es, Es waves back and the woman bounces her way over to our table, giving her order on the way. Pointing to our table, she talks to the server. He nods in acknowledgement to her.
Sitting with us is the flamboyant female who stands at least five inches shorter and sixty pounds lighter than Es, but she’s dressed a hundred times brighter in her flashy getup and makeup that looks painted on. The server brings us each two drinks and offers the POS machine to Es, gesturing that she’s to pay.
Laughing, Es digs out her work ID card and taps the machine, instantly paying the bill. Slipping the card back into her jewelled Raytel hand purse, I admire how smoothly and quickly she acts, not giving those nearby an opportunity to see the 11 mm Giourader semiauto-pistol that I gave her, just in case we run into issues. Es informed me that she does have some skill with automatic pistols.
Easily, Es says, “Well Everest, nice to see you. You’re as beautiful as the last time I saw you.”
I smile and nod, letting Es control the conversation. On a scale of ten, I suspect that under all that paint, Everest’s beauty doesn’t beat a five. Es’s beauty easily hits eight. But it’s all subjective in the eyes of the beholder; someone might find Everest beautiful.
Leaning forward, Everest smiles and then bows to Es. From the folds of her clothing, Everest pulls out a purse and holds out her hand. “I believe I said I’ll dish for a thousand.”
With an anxious tick at the corners of her eyes, Es looks to me, hesitating. Then, turning to look back at Everest, she shakes her head, saying, “We want to be certain of the quality of the dirt. We will give you five-hundred now. My friend, here, is going to check the dirt, and if it’s good, we’ll pay the other five-hundred.”
Stomping and putting her purse away, Everest starts to stand.
Setting down my drink after a sip, I say, “Sit … if you want a repeat customer, Everest! I was watching you eye me. You seem to think you know me … dish!”
Everest slides back onto her seat and swigs back an entire Dirty Temple drink. “You, sir, are lead research manager of the Archy project that failed yesterday. But I know it failed because your bosses cut your funding to a quarter of that agreed to in the Gov contract. The company cut the budget right at the beginning of the project. But that’s only one side of you. You’re also known in the underworld as the Challenge. Do I need to explain?”
I shake my head.
Sitting quietly, Es, squinting, with a wrinkled brow and tight lips, looks confused.
With confidence I say, “I look for contacts that I can use, who are reliable. I pay well for RELIABLE contacts. We’ll pay you five-hundred now so you can prove your worth to me. There will be six-hundred more if I really like what I see. But only five-hundred if it’s ok but doesn’t excite me. If I pay you six-hundred, we’ll do business again. If I pay five … we might do business again. But if I don’t agree to either, we’ll never do business again. Do you want our five-hundred now?”
She glares at me a moment, and then grabs her second Dirty Temple and gulps it down. Setting the tumbler on the table, she reaches for my untouched third ale. I stop her, shaking my head.
She withdraws her hand and nods as she retrieves her purse from her clothing and nods to Es. Es pulls five bars of gold from her purse and hands them to Everest who gleefully slides them into her purse. Retrieving a datacard flash-drive from her purse, Everest gives it to me. She utters, “Passcode is ‘home blue fires’. You only get two tries to enter the code. It’s all lowercase, three separate words. On a third failed attempt, the drive will melt.”
By, Kenneth Shumaker
To be continued in the next episode 007, ‘Red Paper Book’ …