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Cultural Exchange - Part 10

Boy. What a bad start to the evening. I must have waited for a good hour, pacing around the tarmac under the nose gear. I guess my outburst wasn't such a good thing. Poor girl is probably spooked and doesn't want to come anywhere me. I knew that I'd screw up. I figured that I'd just wait until somebody came either to tell me where we're going or to tell me we were staying. The way I feel, I'll be depressed regardless.

"Let's go. How does Southwestern sound?"

I grunted an agreement. I hadn't seen them exit the ship. I had been gazing off into the heated darkness between the stars. Friedrich acted like nothing was wrong and she followed a few meters behind looking at his heels. Roary's ears were still laid back and she glanced up at me and scowled. She actively swerved to keep a healthy distance from me. I tried to say something but then she cut me off so I wouldn't speak to her. That's fine with me, then. I don't have to care for her.

"Where are we going, Mister Stracker? It can't be far if we are going to walk, I hope."

"No, it isn't far, Tuvi. We'll catch a jeepney at the gate."

We walked in silence. For some reason, I kept glacing around like I was expecting an ambush or firefight. Nervous habit. I always do stupid stuff like that when I feel jumpy.

The jeepney ride was just as bad. Fred tried telling a few jokes and make some chatter before he, too, fell silent. Roary just kept eyeing me from under slitted eyes and bowed head.

Bet this isn't what you expected tonight to be like, is it, partner. Sorry.

This was about my favorite restaurant this side of the fence. Lots of good food and lower prices than you'd expect from an eatery this close to the starport. Of course, the port is only a class 'C' so there's not too much traffic, but the place makes do with its handful of regulars. You can generally pick them out because they tend to ignore the chintzy tourist crap hanging from the walls and ceiling; the pinatas and big hats.

We had gotten there later than we would've liked (my fault for that, not that I'm apologising or anything. I meant every damn word I said.), so the place was relatively empty. We had our choice of tables and Roary made it a point to sit with Fred separating us. It made me think of how a dad had to keep fighting kids apart. I saw that on a vid once. Things like that never happened to me. And I wasn't even allowed to fight back.

Our most benevolent leader (he's picking up the tab) ordered for the three of us. He knows what I like and what might appeal to Roary. I still didn't want to talk. Neither did she.

I wonder what my partner said to convince her to come. Heh. Probably just hinted that it'd be the 'perfect' thing to do. I looked around at the restaurant; anything to keep from looking into her eyes. I makes me feel weird when she looks at me like that. Nervous habits die hard.

That tall guy in the booth sure seems out of place. People come here for drinks or spicy food, preferably both, but he didn't seem to have either one at his table. Just kept looking in our direction but couldn't tell for sure; he wore cheap sunglasses and I couldn't see his eyes.

Our dinner came and we started to eat. Big steaming plates of tamales and enchiladas with green sauce and fried rice. I forgot about my problems almost and scooped spicy cheese into my mouth. I love this kinda food. I tried making it on the ship a few times but I can never get it as good as this. All I succeeded in doing was giving myself an excuse to clean the air scrubbers. I watched Roary with amusement as she burned her mouth (or is it too spicy for her) and she had to gulp her tea.

"Plenty good huh?"

I thought I was just sounded friendly, but Fred kicked me under the table and shot me an evil glance. I smiled and pictured steam coming from Roary's mouth as she panted, like a dragon. That cheered me up some. Then she huffed out a reply in a scorched croaky voice.

"It is delicious."

She sorta grimaced and took another bite, all the while staring into my eyes. Her pupils dilated and she gulped tea again, but she wouldn't admit that she couldn't handle it. So I did what comes natural at a time like this... I smiled right in her face and bit into a fried Habernero, chewed it and swallowed it, all without losing my grin. Then I handed the other half and stem to her.

"Here. Try this. I think you'll like it."

Fred kicked me again and had pity on her. He stopped her from taking it and signalled for a waiter.

"Ish, you're a prick. She doesn't like this food. We shoulda gone somewhere else."

"Better she learns that now rather than 3 days into jump....and she said the food was delicious. I'm not leaving till I finish my enchiladas. Roary. If its too spicy for ya, just say so, ok? You can get something else, like maybe beef and cheese wrapped in a tortilla. "

Don't challenge me , chickie, unless its something worthwhile and ya got a chance of winning.

Sigh...This is a new low for me. Getting into a pissing contest with a female; a doggie female, over spicy peppers. Why did I do it? Oh yeah.... to put her in her place.... How incredibly lame.

Fred kicked me again.

" Cut that out dammit! I see them ok? They might as well be wearin' neon...."

Three toughs had come in and sat at a table next to ours. Loud obnoxious insects and smelly too. Odd accents, they're not local ergo they must've come from the base. Rookies, all of 'em. They kept leering at us and especially at Roary.

I've seen them somewhere before. I just can't quite remember where....

Typical punk kids of the base for booze; they stink of it and they don't seem to be able to hold their course to well. The alpha looks to be the husky fellow and the other two porky chumps might as well be on his leash. From their talk, I gather that they just left some sort of humano-centric elitist club..... ' gee, guys, lets meet at my treehouse next time, duh,duh,duh'..... morons.

I know its wrong, but part of me hopes that my rage won't have to go to waste tonight.

I ask Fred the ten credit question...

"They're not going to leave us alone, are they?"

"Nope. Get ready Tuvi, but just be quiet and polite. This could get ugly."

"Yes sir, Mister Stracker."

Nothing to do now but eat my food while its still hot and wait for them to act stupid. Two friggin' bites. They start yappin before they even order their food.

"Hey, lookee. A poodle. Doncha know there's a leash law?"

"Yeah, Shouldn't she be under the table beggin fer scraps?"

"Ya know they're unsanitary, they sniff each others butts. hahaha. Probaly gots fleas too... WAITER. Get this dog outa here already! "

Two more bites.....I'll let Fred try to reason with them first...

"Leave us alone, ok? We're just trying to eat our dinner, ok?"

Good , Fred...that'll convince them to go away.....The stocky one grabs Roary's dish and places it on the floor. The taller one pushes my engineer off her chair and down to the ground. Bullshit to that! I'm up and standing and starting to cook off. Fred pushes off too. Three to two. That makes the odds in our favor.

Hey...that tall guy in the corner stands too.

"OH! A dog lover heh? You one of them furverts what screw dogs?"

"How the hell should I know....I ain't fucked your girlfriend.....yet. She's doing too many techies ahead of me and I don't like sloppy fifty-thirds!"

He's so slow in the noggin that it takes a couple of seconds for that to sink in. He doesn't even get it until one of his cronies stifles a chuckle. It was an insult , you idiot! Not a joke!

"Heh,heh. .......HEY!!!"

Its gettin' awful warm at this table and spontaneous combustion's going commence soon, I decide. The events of this evening have brought more rage near the surface than in the past 4 months combined. I'm ready. Let's dance.

Roary tried to retreat in a lady-like fashion.

"Excuse me please, I must need to use the restroom...ertdg juyyt...."

What's wrong with you. Why do you have to be so goddamn perfectly polite all the time? Don't you know that they want to hurt you?

"Dogs piss outside, bitch."

The thug who pushed Roary off her chair, grabbed her by the scruff of her neck and started to haul her outside. Things are going downhill fast with no brakes and my enchiladas are getting cold. I moved to help Roary. Gee....The tall guy from the corner is leaving....hmmmmm..door's that way, cashier's that way...why's he coming this way? My hesitation gave a thug first shot, and he took it. Clean hook to my chin and it hurt; knocked me down to my knees by the table's side. But that's not important now. ....The tall guy from the corner put his hand into his pocket.....and takes something out....dammit....dammit. No time. Not now!!

I grab the bowl of chili sauce from the table and fling it into my attacker's eyes and I almost smile as he screams in pain. Experience and deceit triumphs once again over youth and stupidity. Fred tackles Roary's assailant. They go down and she's free from his grip. The strange tall guy moves closer and winds up.......

It's a setup! He has a puncher blade and Roary's the target!


Uh oh.... everything's moving in slow motion.....that's bad; real bad. I hope I can have control of my body again soon. Roary was turning and my hands touched her side and, whoosh.....she whirled like an underwater ballerina away from me...her eyes were wide....she has pretty eyes... I felt something hit my gut....is that important?....falling to the floor's goin' to hurt.....why am I falling?......look ma...I'm a rubber ball...bouncy bouncy.....

Where am I?...someone is holding me......hugs sure feel nice when you don't have to pay for them....Roary's holding me...I thought she hated me.....she smells like baby powder and cinnamin....oh dear...I musta wet myself....I'm so tired......damn it, my Cannons jersey is ruined....


"I had to protect you, didn't I?"

What did I say?........its raining, its pouring......no, wait.......great, I made her cry again......something must be wrong with me......poise, girl, poise........children of the night, such sweet music they make......i think i'll join th.............

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