You can get What at Which Restaurant?
“Certainly, Mister Plombkins, I’ll take care of it” the willowy humanoid office girl drones.
It’s a skin joint, like any other skin joint, Jack tells himself as he opens the double doors and walks toward her. Stainless steel rats abound in a place like this, it’s all the same. Cages of silver and steel and shiny baubles with mouths and teeth and needs. And the most fun of all- the attraction of exotic financial runs in the pantyhose. Remembering how hard it was to get the information that led him to this place, he’s beginning to lose hope that the man he’s looking for isn’t anything but what he wants him to be, a white mouse among the vermin.
And she’s a tall order, whose slim lines radiate a special kind of chill in that grey silk and those sharp shoulders, the kind you take up to the office and bury in the paperwork. The kind you don’t take home to your mother unless you want to get your ass hitched to a star. He’s got his own star now- no time for trifles.
Still… he doesn’t mind looking. He could use some information, after all.
Her thigh hugs the desk in a tight smoky pencil skirt. Endless legs claw down to the bluish grey carpet in sheaths of tawdry taupe. The seams are classic, easing blatantly up the backs of her calves in dark pinches of coffee. They stir in Jack’s hindbrain a vague sense of need, a sudden urge to go free-climbing up a sheer cliff. He hasn’t done that in ages.
However, the scent of morning roses is cloying, like a crinolin veil cushioned in her modestly piled brown hair. He watches her instead.
Her eyes are almond-color, he thinks as he makes a show of inhaling her scent, half-circling and walking and pawing around her little castle, re-arranging the furniture with his eyes.
“Is this the managing desk? I have this card.” Between two fingers, Jack holds up the white business card Benjamin left on his pillow that first time, trying not to think of how he steam cleans it and keeps it under glass between the pages of old books, to preserve the man’s scent. The almond gaze crawls over the stiff paper like a big brown spider, fangs just hidden behind what that icy, sculptured throat dragged in.
The card reads, in simple lowercase black:
cnalb·nipal·el ϿϾ le·lapin·blanc
Le Lapin Blanc, and two stylised e’s for the company name, Elegant Egotist. Elegant.
“Ah, yes- the White Rabbit. One of our best telepaths.” The suet-grey lips curl in a frosty smile; she understands. It’s business as usual, then. “He’s away at the moment. I’ll offer you another, shall I? My name, for convenience, is Prydonia. Sometimes Mister Plombkins calls me… no. You can’t call me that.”
Jack glares. “Let me guess… Nostalgia?”
Her highball, hourglass waist twists like the rotor blades on a boat engine as though she’s about to hook an arm around him and lead him down the garden path for some iced black coffee, but instead, she plucks a card from the white milk glass dish on the legless silver table, this one black with a single blue circle cut by a gold line. Her black-spine eyelashes never fall. They’ve fallen too much already.
“Try this one; he’s another minimalist. You know how hands-on they can be.”
She holds it up to the dim round lights, then flats her hand into Jack’s coat.
“Thanks, sweetheart, but I’m working… you know how it is,” he murmurs, grabbing her hand and easing it away from his trousers. Her fingers are minus the card, of course. Ha. Mister Plombkins had probably been on the com the whole time. Never mix poker and dancing.
With a nod and a wink, Jack backs out of the office building’s three-story tall double glass doors, heading out again into Mnrva’s red light district of crystal towers and giant stuffed bears eating ramen with their paws. It reminds him of 23rd century Tokyo. He smiles.
On the floating sidewalk, standing in the sunny glare of the asteroid’s artificial imported lighting, he digs the scribbly note from that Ood, Phillip Cake, out of his pocket.
Nostalgia comes looking
On a whim, Jack checks the blue card.
There’s something written on the back of it, in a spidery hand. He knows Prydonia, or Nostalgia, whatever her name is, didn’t have time to write anything. Unless the whole thing was staged by the man upstairs.
For a good time, try
His eyes cross the thin silver street and find a building covered with greasy neon and too many little black scratches on classic white brick, like old shrine wards.
Is that supposed to be hanzi? he wonders as he reaches to push in the door, stuffing a cigarette in his mouth with his free hand. No; it can’t be an authentic dive miniscoped from Old Earth; all the little papers read the same quote:
Hastily he jots the translation on the back of his hand as he considers the name of the place.
The Unicorn, huh? Someone’s a movie buff.
He sticks his dark boot in the door, catching it as a swaggering, youngish Cyclopian walks out, swaying, a blue bulb of something sloshing brightly in its hand, and more on a loose grey suit two sizes too large.
“Hey there, Grinchy,” Jack says, steadying the man with an arm as he picks his pocket for an ident, which he finds- a slim silver card punched sixteen times with little holes.
Grinchy’s obviously a heavy, judging by the extra bulk and the bulge of a firearm poking from under a half-tucked pink shirt.
A regularly sloshed heavy, too- that pink shirt is splashed with at least fifteen different kinds of liquor. The pissy stench of blue ale is un-missable.
So Jack gets a good look, memorizing the details he needs to get inside, then replaces the card back inside the man’s rumpled suit with a quick grab on the arse.
Speaking of poker and dancing…