Guided by instinct and years of experience in dealing with Regan Bard, Lilliana didn’t question the odd reply… she just ducked. Right as the now-purple concoction stopped its strangely contrary fizzing, a chain reaction of explosions went off among the bottles up on the shelves.
“What the hell was that?” Lilliana demanded as people streamed out of the bar in a panic.
“That would be the vigorous spankin’, then,” Regan said, sitting unmoved amidst the sudden chaos. She raised the oversized glass to her lips and downed the purple liquor as fast as was possible without a funnel.
“But why in the name of Old Earth did you blow up the bar?”
“What, didn’t ya just go an’ ask me to?” Regan asked. “If ya’re not after blowin’ somethin’ up, ya shouldn’t be askin’ for it in the first place, should ya?”
“But you’d already…”
“That’s what yer problem is, the Gypsy,” Regan said. “Never thinkin’ ahead.”
“You are unbelievable,” Lilliana said, shaking her head.
“Sometimes, I can hardly believe meself meself,” Regan agreed. She looked around the now deserted bar. Broken glass and liquid was strewn on the floor, not just from the initial explosion but from all the drinks that had been dropped and overturned in the mad dash for the exits. “We runnin’ or we stayin’? ’cause if we’re runnin’, I think we should run now or forever hold our peace, like.”
“Let’s stay right here,” Lilliana said, suddenly wishing she had a drink, something fruity with an umbrella in it, to sip nonchalantly and wait for security to come. “I’d like to see Fortunato make the Meadows management ignore that.”
In a reinforced room embedded in the outer wall of the Meadows not half a mile from the bar Regan had just devastated, a blaring alert brought a group of stun rifle-wielding men in bulky, all-concealing blue blast armor to attention. A man wearing a uniform of plascloth weave with the same color and a similar design strode briskly through a set of sliding doors.
“Listen up, HAZARD Squad! This is not a drill, repeat, this is not a drill!” he shouted at the line of troops. “We have a code C0B88 in the Long Live The Meadows Lounge! Repeat, code C0B88 in the Long Live The Meadows Lounge!”
“Exiled royalty has detonated a turtle?” one of the armored personnel asked, his voice muffled and distorted by the helmet.
“I said C0B88, you dunce, not C0B89!” the captain barked, rapping him on top of his helmeted head.
“Ow,” the unfortunate squad member said. “What’s C0B88, then?”
“Exiled royalty has detonated a bottle!” the captain said. He shook his head in derision. “And what do you mean, ‘Ow’? That’s ballistic nullification armor you’re wearing. Do you mean to tell me you felt that little love tap, private?”
“No… but I do have feelings,” he replied. “And why do you have to go around calling us privates all the time?” He pointed at the badge-like insignia on his chest plate. “Our name tags say we’re ‘Hospitality Ambassadors’.”
“Listen up, you zero G-acclimated pansy!” the captain shouted. “I am your commanding officer, and if I call you private, you will answer to ‘private’. If I call you a steaming turd, you will answer to ‘a steaming turd’.”
“We already answer to a steaming turd,” one of the other squad members stage-whispered. The others laughed.
“Oh, you think this is funny, do you?” the captain asked. He pointed to the Hospitality Ambassador who’d spoken. “Do you think that’s funny?”
“Well… you have to admit, you did kind of walk into it,” he said.
“How about you?” the captain asked another. “Did you find it funny?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“Not really,” the third one said. “I didn’t find it very funny at all.”
“Ah, we’ve got ourselves an overachiever,” the captain said, smiling broadly. “Why don’t you explain to your less quick-witted comrades why you think this is no laughing matter.”
“Well, see, sapient resources prefers that we use the official standardized job titles across the board,” the man said. “Just so there’s no confusion in dealing across department lines, as well as with our partners in the other….”
“Alright, that’s enough,” the captain.
“Believe you me, some of the things I saw people get wrote up for before I transferred from Accounts Receivable were even more niggling than that,” he continued, heedless. “In fact, I actually got written up for using the word ‘niggling’.”
“That’s enough!” the captain repeated.
“My supervisor said it was offensive to Gglings,” the transferee said, though by now he’d turned and was addressing the man next to him in the line. “Can you believe that? I called up a dictionary and looked up the etymology to prove that it wasn’t, but it turned out it was originally offensive to humans of color so I still got written up.”
“Oh, shut up!” the captain repeated. “Just get out there and do your job… I’ll deal with this insubordination after you’ve dealt with the incident!”
“Well, there’s an incentive to finish quick, eh?” one of the armored men said as the whole line turned towards the gap in the wall which, from the other side, was covered with a hologram of the wall.
At the touch of a button on the captain’s bracelet, a forcefield briefly crackled into view as it dispersed.
Before they could move out, though, the force field flared back up. There was a tone, and a holographic face appeared. It was a man wearing a hat similar to the captain’s, but gray and with a medal on the front that resembled the Fickle Finger in profile.
“You and your men are to stand down, captain,” the holographic face said. “The situation is being dealt with.”
“Dealt with? Dealt with by who?” the captain asked. “The Long Live The Meadows Lounge is HAZARD territory, by space! You HAVOC goons are outside your jurisdiction!”
“Our jurisdiction has been temporarily expanded.”
“On whose authority?”
“Whose do you think?” the face asked before it vanished, leaving the insignia of the Hospitality Ambassadors: Zoo, Aquarium, and Restaurant Division floating in the air.
“Damn it!” the captain yelled, ripping off his hat and throwing it at the forcefielded portal, from whence it rebounded with a sizzling crack.
“Ooh, you want to be careful with that, Cap,” the man who’d transferred from Accounts Receivable said. “If you damage the uniform, they take it out of your paycheck.”« « 50: All Mixed Up 52: Relative Concerns » »
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