By Joseph Markell
Jadonna Wanna scanned the space station’s banners during her early morning walk from the Event Horizon bar back to her apartment. It used to be an invigorating walk, admiring the flashing advertisements and classifieds that span the interior wall of the corridor between the promenade to the Eastern wing. But after working at the bar for two years, the allure of living on the largest space station in the galaxy was lost. There was no intrigue or excitement, no “I made it,” pride. It was safe to say the honeymoon period was long over – and now she was considering leaving.
It was the usual garbage, Mare Brixy For Eastern Wing President right next to InGestia V-Reality – Make your Dreams Come True and Apexia Engineers – We Salute You. Endless flashing advertisements, all visible but most relatively dim so as not to overwhelm the passerby. Most advertisers seemed to live by an unwritten rule that you didn’t want to blind customers with overly bright banners. But there were always some that didn’t follow that rule. And she often found that these were actually the best ones. Sloppy, flashy and often offensive: Sex for me = sex for free, and her favorite, PirateProxy – download whenever, wherever, FREE!
Jadonna slowed and went to the exterior wall. Its slotted windows faced the dark expanse of space, and stars speckled the view in all directions. But far to the right she could just make out the far-reaching arc of the Apexia Moon’s dark side. The network of familiar settlements below glowed like embers and flooded her with uncomfortable memories.
She didn’t want to go back there. But she didn’t want to stay here.
Jadonna sighed and continued down the corridor.
A small advertisement caught her eye. It was a wide, perfect rectangle at the bottom of the wall that read: Make me laugh – 100,000 credits. “Scam,” she announced to herself. But she paused. Her intuition called her attention to it. All her years working at a bar, interacting with thousands of customers, hundreds of species, meant her intuition was finely tuned. And she always trusted it.
She bent down and examined it closely. Unlike the others, it was a pure white rectangle, with small black text and nothing else.
“Huh,” she said, “What are you about?” She aimed her Spark at the classified, which promptly chimed, and then she went home.
That Evening, when she woke up, she contacted the ad. It immediately sent her Spark instructions. It was her day off, so why the hell not, right? She made people laugh at the bar every day. She could do it for whoever or whatever this was and if by some small chance it wasn’t a scam – one hundred thousand credits would buy her a ship. A fucking ship.
She didn’t want to get her hopes up too much.
The meeting spot was all the way at the Western Far-Out, which was at the completely opposite side of the station and over ten kilometers away. After taking the Station Transport, she made her way to the Far-Out promenade and found the Eclipse.
The host at the entrance to the Eclipse was a Thoresian wearing a 2nd Stage satchel.
“Good Day and Ghoala Coahs” she said.
The Thoresian was taken aback. “You honor me, Human. How can I help you this evening?”
She pulled up her Spark as if to remind herself what she already memorized, “Well, says here I’m to meet someone by the name of Trisso.”
“Oh Yes,” the Thoresian said and with a sweep of his gangly arm invited her to follow, “Right this way.”
She followed as the Thoresian weaved ahead through the bar. The Eclipse reminded her of the Event Horizon, only much older and well past its prime. She could see how it could have been one of the coolest places a hundred years ago, back when the Western Far-Out was actually near the center of the space station. The cyberpunk décor had been updated but the design was clearly of its time. It had charm where it might have once had high fashion.
The Thoresian lead her to the far end of the bar and stopped before a garish maroon velvet curtain. He put a finger to his mouth to indicate silence. “He doesn’t like loudness. Best to keep quiet once you’re in his chamber.”
“Chamber?” she said. “His chamber?”
The Thoresian raised an eyebrow, suggesting that she shouldn’t have been surprised by this. But whatever. It is what it is. He pulled back the velvet curtain, exposing a thick honeycombed door, opened it and nodded for her to enter. He shut the door behind her and once sealed, the pressure changed.
Complete, utter silence.
“Weird,” she whispered to herself.
The interior door opened to a blue-lit room with similar décor to the rest of the bar, but fancier. It was a private room, undoubtedly for private meetings. A tacky LED sign above the private bar read “The Rabbit Hole.”
She heard breathing and looked to the left.
There sat a human male, roughly sixty years old, wearing a ridiculously flapped robe.
“You must be Trisso,” she whispered and approached the table where he sat.
“Too loud,” he whispered softly and shook his head. “much too loud.”
“You are trisso though?” she breathed.
“I am, the one and only.” He said in a voice so quiet she could barely understand him.
“You want to laugh?” she mouthed to him.
“More than anything,” he whispered.
“And you’ll pay me 100,000 credits if I can make you laugh?”
“Well how about this?” she breathed at him, then started bending her knees irregularly and moving her arms and head, like a monkey with no control.
He shook his head slowly.
“What do you think is funny Lotus man?” she tried, making fun of his robe.
“Not that.” He whispered flatly.
“Did you ever hear the one about the Thoresian Engineer? Well he was –”
“No jokes,” he whispered.
She started to mime.
She tried dancing, pushing her ass against the bar and bouncing.
She stared at him and smiled.
He shook his head.
Well what the fuck? She thought. This is dumb. I came all the way here for this, just to be humiliated. I mean, I’m glad I saw a new part of the station, but that’s enough.
Just then, a chime sounded softly and he looked at his spark. Then up at her.
“Your time is nearly up. My next contestant is coming in shortly.”
“I’m a contestant?” she asked.
“What did you think you were?”
“I dunno. Just me.”
He sighed, disappointed, but was surprisingly gracious. Well, thank you for coming, miss…”
He trailed off and seemed like he was waiting for something. She craned her neck as though trying to listen harder.
“…your name?” he asked.
“Ja…”His eyes flickered. “Jadonna…?”
He made a hmpf sound and bounced forward a little.
“Jadonna Wanna!” he said, in a normal volume, breaking into laughter.
“I can’t believe it,” he laughed and pounded the table. “You fucking did it.”
“Jadonna Wanna!” he repeated as he fell into an uncontrollable belly laugh for a solid minute.
“Okay…” He held up his hands. “Okay okay…phew, wow. Haha, wow. Okay, what’s your real name?”
“It’s…” she said and hesitated, feeling confused. “Jadonna Wanna.”
“No!” he laughed hysterically. “Stop! Hahahahaha!”
His belly bounced again and even in the blue light, he was turning red.
“Oh dear lords, thank you! Thank you!” He pulled out a protected tablet and connected it to his Spark to initiate the secure transfer. He looked up at her, with tears in his eyes, suddenly excited. “Jadonna?”
“Um…yeah?” she said.
“You…wanna the credits?” he asked and broke out laughing.
Oh my gods, seriously? But she quickly nodded and enabled the transfer on her Spark.
Her account went from one hundred seventeen credits to one hundred thousand seventeen credits.
“Thank you.” she said but furled her eyebrows.
“No, I wanna thank you, Jadonna!” he laughed.
“Are we done here?” she asked curtly.
“Oh yes!” he laughed and shook the table as he leaned back, rubbing the sweat off his forehead.
On the tram home, she looked at her account.
Well, she thought to herself, I’m rich.
“What the fuck?” she whispered to herself as she stared out the window.