Roxanne Sadler let out a groan as she finally made it back to her room. She tossed her apron to her dirty clothes pile, shut the door, and sank down to the floor, already exhausted even though it was still early in the day. She then put her head and her hand and sighed. She didn't usually mind her tri-weekly mornings in the kitchen, but why did this morning have to be so busy? Still, even as Roxanne pulled herself back up on her feet, and remembered just how nice her circumstances were, she knew she didn't have too much to complain about. Especially considering where she was the previous year.
Had it really been that long since she escaped the madhouse? And had she really managed to successfully stay hidden? Had Roxanne been an average person and been told that about someone other than herself, she wouldn't have believed it. Yet here she was, working as a singer at Heaven's Gate a restaurant that doubled as a jazz club. And it was probably the best gig she could've asked for. Even now she still couldn't believe her luck.
After managing to find her Zipcraft, she flew it away from the town and planet she somehow both hated and loved, and eventually landed in an entirely new town on Mars. She was somewhat surprised at first that it was pretty similar to Earth, but Roxanne knew that if she didn't find a job and a place to stay, she'd repeat a time in her history she didn't particularly want to. So, she took the first one that presented itself. There was an opening for a singer at this club, and she'd managed to convince the owner, an older yet somewhat cool woman named Georgia Finn, to not only give her the job, but also let her have one of the apartments on the upper floors.
Roxanne still remembered the day she'd first arrived. Having changed out of her asylum clothes and looking like she'd just been in a dirty fight, she didn't believe Georgia would listen. Yet the woman was surprisingly kind and sympathetic once Roxanne had given her not-so-fictional story of how she'd been thrown out by her abusive boyfriend. And every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night since, she'd been blessing the club's nightly patrons with the voice of Rosemary Singer, her new alias. She knew it would be a bit of a risk using the same initials, but then she realized it was so simple, hopefully no one would put two and two together. Hopefully...
And the changes hadn't stopped there. Roxanne had cut her once long auburn hair to her shoulders and dyed it light and dark red-pink. She also used contacts, changing her brown eyes to a pale blue. And it didn't hurt to wear more than the average amount of cosmetics. With this extravagant appearance, it would be even easier to throw everyone off her trail, since it would be the last thing they'd probably expect her to disguise herself as. Maybe a dock worker or maybe even a bar-maid, but certainly not a beautiful young woman with a just as beautiful voice, out in the open.
Still, even with this comparatively exceptional life she'd stumbled upon, Roxanne knew it wouldn't be long before people would start to catch on, and maybe even report her. And so, that was why she had not just been honing the skills she'd learned growing up, but putting them to good use. While it wasn't unusual for people around here to moonlight, she took it to a whole new level. It may have been further putting her cover at risk, but for Roxanne, it was worth it.
Suddenly, Roxanne's train of thought was broken when a knock sounded on her door. "Rosemary?" Georgia's stern tone of voice called.
"Um, come in," Roxanne called back. She desperately hoped Georgia didn't want to send her back to the kitchen, especially considering the crew had let her off a little early. But when her boss and landlady came in, she had a look of concern on her face, making Roxanne's own thoughts change as well.
"Morning, Georgia," Roxanne tried to smile. "What's up? Is there something wrong?"
"Well, I know it's not your night to perform, but Brandy seems to have caught a stomach virus. So she won't be able to sing tonight."
Roxanne raised her eyebrows. She did recall a strange noise as she walked back up to her room, but she had written it off as her imagination. And a stomach virus? She knew it wasn't her place to say, but Roxanne had a feeling it was more than just that. Not too long ago she saw Brandy with a man she had seen in the bar going into Brandy's room. It wasn't that unusual for the singers and bar-maids to get offers like that. Roxanne herself had gotten more than her fair share. But she always said no.
"And you want me to take her place?" Roxanne asked. Before Georgia could reply, she shrugged her shoulders. "Oh, why not. It's the least I can do for all you've done for me. If it weren't for you I'd be out on the streets for any drunken idiot to take." Roxanne hoped she didn't catch how sincere those words actually were.
"Oh, I still remember the day you came in, like a lost and bleeding kitten." Georgia's smile, soft at first, quickly grew. "Who knew she'd end up being one of the best singers I've ever had?" She caught Roxanne's smirk and went on. "I'm serious. Do you know how many times I've been asked to have you sing?"
"Why, no," Roxanne couldn't help but smile back. "I've been wondering why you've been tweaking my schedule over the last few months."
Both Georgia and Roxanne then laughed. "Yes, well, I hope you don't mind if I tweak it a little more."
"Alright," Roxanne gave a slight sigh. "But just for tonight. Oh, and, if you don't mind, pay Brandy as if it were her shift."
"Certainly," Georgia nodded. "I'll go let her know." Roxanne nodded, and was then left alone to her own thoughts again. And this time, they were quickly turning guilty. Georgia had almost been like a den-mother to her, and probably was to the other women, who seldom had something bad to say about her. She was a rare soul indeed, especially in this harsh new world. But Roxanne remained guilty because she knew she would eventually have to leave. And while she didn't want to disappoint Georgia, she knew she could never know the truth. It would put her and everyone else here in danger, and Roxanne would never be able to live that down.
Truly, singing tonight was going to be the worst of her worries considering all that was going through her mind.
Bright light flashed into Spike's closed eyes as he finally opened the curtains after getting who knew how many hours of sleep. It had been a while since he had slept so long, and it was a record he would like to keep going. At least for a few days. He'd only been in this hick town for a few weeks and already his job at the docks had sucked him dry. Another new record he'd add to his mental list. One that seemed to get longer by the minute, day by day. But for now, he'd just face this day. Alone. As usual.
After pulling himself away from the warm, bright mid-morning sun and into the cold darkness of his bathroom, Spike reluctantly turned on the light and had a look at himself in the mirror. Or at least, a person who looked like himself yet no longer seemed to be. In fact, he didn't even know if he'd actually been looking at himself for the past two minutes. Had he really stooped to a new low? One that was even worse than the night he got so drunk he couldn't even remember his own name? He'd never looked so pale. His eyes had sunken in a good deal. And he definitely needed to shave.
No longer the leader of one of the most infamous crime syndicates in the galaxy, or even a gun-toting bounty hunter, but now he was a washed-up shell of his former self. And the image that stared back at Spike was one he wanted to look away from, yet somehow couldn't. It was like watching a bad, explosive accident, knowing you shouldn't gawk yet doing so anyway. He knew he had to do something. But what? Here he was in his latest locating on his town-hopping journey, struggling to pay rent, and no longer collecting bounties. Was this really where he wanted to stay for the rest of his miserable life?
As he left the bathroom to sit back on his bed and stare out at the miniature metropolis below, only one thought entered Spike's mind. Only one idea to get him out of this slump of an existence. To start hunting for bounties again. But where could he begin? It had been so long since he'd actually turned in a considerably dangerous criminal that he even started to wonder if he was actually aging before his time. Still, he'd never stopped practicing Jeet Kune Do. And he'd practically gone to hell and back. So who was to say he couldn't become an old-fashioned cowboy again? Maybe even better than he ever was before?
But, of course, to do that, he'd need a bounty. And a nice, large, fat one. One worth more than most people earned a single year. Even though he hadn't collected a bounty in months, Spike still watched Bigshot whenever it came on, so a list of potentials ran quickly through his head. And it wasn't long before his mind landed on a single one. One he still remembered even weeks from first seeing it. Her name was Roxanne Sadler.
Seizing on her, Spike quickly ran through her statistics. Twenty years old. A crime lord's ex-girlfriend. An asylum escapee, potentially making her more unpredictable than the average criminal. And the last two reasons he remembered her most for. For a madwoman, she was lovely, with long waves of dark red hair and large brown eyes. But more important than that was her bounty. The one offered by her ex-boyfriend himself. Ten millionwoolongs. Just as handsome as her looks. Clearly worth more than anyone he'd ever brought in before. But this was a risk he was more than willing to take. After all, it was in his nature.
But there was one more problem. He had no clue where she was. Spike remembered the hosts saying she was somewhere on Mars. But Mars was about as big as Earth. Lots of land. Lots of places to hide. Then, as if he was being directed by some unseen force, Spike's unblinking gaze rested on a red and blue neon sign. One of only a few, he noticed with surprise. It read Heaven's Gate, and caused Spike to raise an eyebrow with interest. He had heard of a place called that, and that it was a fine bar with good jazz music and even better singing. At the time, Spike had been trying to avoid another night of drunken fiascos, so he hadn't paid much attention.
But, this seemed as good a starting point as any. There were bound to be plenty of patrons. And he would go there, tonight. All Spike had to do was try and get information out of them, discreetly, of course. Besides, what harm was there in going to listen to some jazz, having a couple drinks, and, hopefully, see another pretty young lady after what had felt like forever? Wait. Maybe...perhaps...there was some. He'd been through more in his life than most people ever had, and it left him with many scars, both visible and invisible. As Spike contemplated his new plan, he wondered if this would lead him down yet another path of memories he'd be more than happy to forget. But just then, as he recalled the night when everything changed, he quickly remembered who he was, and who he would make sure everyone else knew him as: Spike Spiegel, the man who didn't know when to die.