Just Another Tuesday
The old bathroom light flickered as Leah pulled her hair back into a tight ponytail and used a small blue tie to hold it in place. Just a bit of faulty wiring. The old house definitely could've used a bit of an update. And a fresh coat of paint. And some new furniture. But, hell, it was home. The flickering was almost comforting in that regard. That's more than she could say about much else in her life.
Leah stared distantly out the open window, wondering whose thermal scope she was being watched through. As if it would even make a difference, she slammed the window shut defiantly. She glared at herself in the old beat-up mirror beside the shower. It may as well have been another window. An opening for her to be watched through. She leaned in close and pulled down on her lower eyelid with her index finger. With her other hand, she pulled back her upper eyelid.
No scrolling text. No demands. No orders. Just an eyeball. She rotated her eye, tilting her head along with it to examine as much of her own eye as she could. With an exasperated sigh, she released her hold and stood back. What was she even expecting to find? It's not like they'd leave a forwarding address stamped on the side of it or something. She wondered if they were watching her right now.
A sudden, sick impulse to tear it out of its socket overcame her. A million scenarios ran through her head. Of course! She could just dig it out. One fell swoop, before they could detonate whatever-the-hell an 'ocular flashbang' was. It would hurt like a bitch, but she was tough. She'd survive. A quick call to Jason is all it would take and he'd have Redrock there to bail her out in no more than twenty minutes. Solid plan. She could hold them off- whoever they may be- for twenty minutes. Her eyes darted around the bathroom, searching for something- anything- to cut it out with.
"Sweetie! You sure are takin' your time, aren't ya!?" a voice called out from the other room, "You're gonna miss the pregame show!"
Leah's mood darkened as her father's voice flooded her ears and she returned her hard gaze to the mirror. She could practically see whoever it was on the other side of the ocular implant. They must've been laughing at her. 'Additional insurance', they had called her father. She might've been able to keep herself alive in the event of a siege, but there was no guarantee she could protect her father. Tears welled up but she sucked back the emotion in her chest and wiped the dampness from her eyes.
"I'm coming, dad!" she shouted back, "Just pause it! All you do is watch TV all day, how do you still not know how to use the damn remote!?"
She picked up a blue marker from beside the sink. On her right cheek she drew a large U that took up the entire right side of her face. On her left cheek, an M. She put the finishing touches on by coloring in a large solid blue rectangle just beneath her left eye. She slipped on a pair of long blue socks with the words "Usaru Maestros" embroidered near the top. The shade of blue matched her shorts nicely. Her world may have been coming to an end, but for the next three hours she was going to put it out of her mind and enjoy the biggest game of the year for her and her father. She scrunched up her nose and put on her most intimidating expression as she snarled into the mirror with her fresh warpaint. For a moment, she actually found herself self conscious as she wondered how ridiculous she looked to whoever may be watching her. She pushed all that worry away wiped at her eyes one last time before hurrying out of the bathroom with a little more jump in her step than she actually felt.
"Well, look at you, kiddo." her father said as she made her grand entrance, "You and those damn Maestros. You are definitely your mother's daughter."
"Damn right! And those 'damn Maestros' are gonna whoop your Shockers' asses!" she spat back as she leapt onto the couch and huddled up beside her father.
It was tradition. Leah didn't even keep up with biotiball anymore. But growing up, everytime her mother's team- the Usaru Maestros- and her father's team- the Beijing Shockers- faced off, it was a family event. They wore their favorite team's jerseys, decorated the house, talked smack all week leading up to it, and the side whose team lost had to prepare a big dinner the following day. It was a tradition that was worth keeping alive for Leah. In some ways, it felt like a method of keeping her mother's spirit alive.
"This is going to be one for the highlight reels." the caster quipped as Leah lay her head on her father's shoulder.
"Glad we didn't have to watch the Maestros get stomped in that cramped hospital room." her father taunted as he reached up and rubbed the top of his daughter's head, just like he did when she was little.
As they argued back and forth about their respective teams, Leah could see some of that old spark return to her frail father. A small semblance of the man he used to be. Even if it was only for one night, it was something worth keeping him in the dark about certain truths for. She did her best to hide her sadness. Her worry. She wondered if he had any idea. If, when he looked at her, he saw someone that had just betrayed the man she worked for and called 'friend'. A traitor. Or maybe he saw a scared woman doing whatever it took to protect the only thing that still mattered in her life.
The camera cut to the field as the players all began to ready themselves and Leah's father leaned over and gave her a quick peck on her temple. No, all he saw was his little girl. The end of her world would have to wait. At least a few more hours.
"Another." Mendez demanded, slamming his glass down onto the counter with nearly enough force to break it.
He had silently been slamming back shots all night. Just perched atop the uncomfortable barstool and keeping to himself. It was a dive bar on the edge of town, notorious for catering to the seedier citizens of Freedom Falls. It wasn't Mendez' first visit. He had already caused trouble for the owner once, and trouble was the name of the game tonight.
"Haven't you had enough?" asked the woman on the other side of the counter as she used a dirty rag to wipe an even dirtier glass.
"I'm a big guy." stated Mendez plainly.
"I can see that, honey." the bartender said, looking over the tight, long-sleeved grey shirt stretched over his muscular form, "But you've also got a big bill. How about you square that up first and then I'll see about getting you a refill."
Mendez shoved a hand down into his pocket and produced a credit chit. "Another!" he repeated as he held the chit between two fingers and flung it across the counter at the woman.
Even over the rowdy music, his booming voice caused a few heads to turn. The woman jumped at his demand and scurried to retrieve the chit from the floor.
"This guy givin' you problems, Molly?" a voice called out over Mendez' right shoulder.
"No, Ted... Don't worry 'bout it." she said with a practiced smile as she stood back up.
"Don't worry about it, Ted." Mendez repeated through gritted teeth, "In other words. Mind your own fucking business."
The patrons sitting on the right and left of Mendez immediately vacated their seats. Molly's eyes darted back and forth between Mendez and the man she identified as Ted.
"Sorry, what was that? You got some sort of problem, buddy?" asked Ted.
Mendez snorted loudly. What did 'Ted' know about problems? Had he ever seen a person reduced to nothing more than a husk of their former self, everything about them replaced with an icy blue glow as they clawed and ripped at those around them? Had he ever racked a shotgun so much that his arms nearly gave out just so he could put out enough rounds to keep a horde of those creatures at bay? Felt a skull give way and cave in? No, Ted didn't know about 'problems'. But he was about to.
"C'mon pal, I think it's time for you to go home." a new voice called out as a hand clasped on Mendez' left shoulder.
Mendez leapt off the barstool with a speed betraying his size and captured the man's wrist in his hand. In one fluid motion, Mendez twisted the man's wrist with one hand and threw a haymaker with his other, flooring the concerned patron in a single blow. Molly shrieked and ducked behind the bar, but her screams were drowned out by the breaking of glass as Mendez felt a dull throb on the back of his head. Dammit, Ted.
Ted's attack with the makeshift weapon only served to further anger Mendez. He turned around to face Ted and eyed the broken glass handle in his hand that, moments ago, was attached to a mug. The sound of Ted's nose snapping filled the air as Mendez slammed him, face-first, against the edge of the counter. His body went limp as blood pooled onto the floor.
A third man leapt out of a nearby booth. In hindsight, he may have just been trying to leave the bar, but Mendez was far too amped to take any chances. He was in fight-or-flight mode, and the 'fight' box was clearly ticked. He grabbed his barstool and whipped it at the man, striking him square in the jaw and sending him onto his back.
"Enough!" a deep voice roared from the other side of the bar. "Mr. Williams has shown you a great kindness by not simply putting a bullet in your head the moment you walked through that door. And what do you do? Spit in his face and show that you're just another dumb pyjack. He rarely gives second chances. He won't give a third. Leave."
The armored krogan leveling a shotgun at Mendez was a familiar sight. Mendez gave him a smug grin and a quick wink.
"Be seeing you around, Wrend." Mendez said, raising his hands to keep them visible to the krogan as he backed up towards the door.
"You sure as hell better hope not." the krogan roared in response.
Mendez rubbed at the fresh cut on his head as he exited the run down old bar and the pink neon glow of the bar's sign bathed his back in light. He wiped away the blood onto his pants and tucked his hands into his pocket. That was definitely gonna need a few stitches. Still, not a bad way to let off some steam.
Jasper & Jattic
A knock sounded at the door. Jattic scanned each monitor feverishly for any sign of his uninvited visitor. Nothing. He checked the front gate's footage, rewinding it back five minutes. Nothing. Another banging knock. Jattic scooped his sidearm off the desk and spun around to face the door.
"Who are you? I wasn't told to expect any visitors!" the batarian growled as he approached the door cautiously, clenching his pistol tightly.
"Open the dang door! It's cold as an asari's titty on Noveria out here!" Jasper's familiar voice replied, somewhat muffled by the thick security door.
Jattic sighed and set his pistol back down before tapping the control panel. Jasper clasped his jacket shut tightly and shuffled into the cramped room as the door slid open.
"How did you get in here!?" Jattic interrogated, "Did you not see the signs? Trespassers will be shot on sight. I could have killed you."
Jasper let out an amused chuckle as he glanced around the security office, "Good to see you, too, you grumpy old bastard."
"You're one to be tossing around the word 'old' so lightly..." Jattic snarled.
"Is that so? Well this old sonovagun managed to find his way in here jus' fine with you none the wiser! These old bones still got a few tricks!" Jasper bragged as he rubbed his hands together to warm them up, "Why ya got so many goddam eyes if ya don't use 'em?"
Jattic tilted his head to the right pointedly, a gesture that went entirely unnoticed by Jasper which only worked to further annoy the batarian. "What do you want? Did you really just break in to insult me?" Jattic questioned, turning his back on the old human to scan the monitors momentarily, "If I get in trouble for this, I'm going to kick your ass."
"Oh you ain't gonna get in trouble, four-eyes." Jasper waved the threat off dismissively, "And whaddya think I'm here for!? You're my friend, you didn't think I was jus' gonna forget your birthday, did ya?"
All four of Jattic's eyes snapped shut and he brought a hand up to his forehead. "I am most certainly not your friend." Jattic assured the man.
"Are too." Jasper insisted, "My best friend!"
"That says very little about you if your 'best friend' refuses to even acknowledge your friendship." Jattic spat back.
"Hate to be the one to tell ya this, but I'm your best friend, too, Jatty. So what does that say about you?" Jasper said before breaking into loud laughter.
"I told you to stop calling me that." Jattic snapped at the nickname 'Jatty'.
"And I said no!"
A short silence swept over the room. It would've been awkward for most people, but it didn't seem to particularly bother either of them. Jasper reached into his jacket, pulled out a flask and set it down on the desk right in front of Jattic. The human leaned against the desk, resting an elbow beside the flask and gave Jattic a shit-eating grin.
"Special birthday brew. Made it jus' fer you, Jatty." he said in almost a whisper, as if it was a secret.
Jattic groaned loudly. "There's no way I'm drinking that. I'm working. Even if I wasn't working, I have no intent on going blind anytime soon." The batarian retook his seat in front of the terminals and pushed the flask away.
"It ain't gonna make ya blind!" Jasper promised, "Besides, what's the point in havin' a couple spare eyes if ya can't spend 'em drinkin' the best damn moonshine in the galaxy!?"
Jasper scampered over to a crate beside the door and began dragging it across the room towards Jattic. Jattic gave a shake of his head as he watched Jasper plop down on the makeshift seat beside him. "Fine. One sip." Jattic begrudgingly agreed.
"Awright!" Jasper cheered with a clap of his hands and slid the flask back towards the batarian.
Jattic unscrewed the cap of the small metal flask and pulled it to his lips. He tilted the container back slightly and swallowed hard, then tilted it back a second time. Jasper clasped his hands together and waited impatiently to hear what the batarian thought.
"Adequate." the batarian said indifferently, which caused Jasper to whoop and holler as if he had just won the lottery.
"Pass it here!" Jasper said, reaching out.
Jattic pulled the flask back to his chest with a furrowed brow, "It's a birthday brew. It is not your birthday."
Jasper knew that was about the closest thing to a compliment he'd ever get out of the batarian and a smug smile crossed his lips. He began to rifle through his jacket pocket once more and produced a pack of playing cards. "Told ya it was the good stuff!" he bragged as he dealt to himself and the batarian.
The old human adjusted his dirty cap before scooping his cards up and giving them the once over. The batarian gave a loud sigh and did the same.
"Ya got any fours?" asked Jasper.
"Go fish." Jattic responded, seemingly irritated by merely using the ridiculous phrase. "Such a stupid game." he grunted.
"Uh huh..." Jasper said unphased, "...Now don't you go cheatin' again!"
"I do not cheat!" Jattic growled, as if he took great offense to the man's accusation.
"Cheaters always say that."