Monday, January 16, 2017

Ghosts (Part 2)

The Golden Vein was easily the finest cantina on all of Veros. Its management made such a claim with no sense of uncertainty. They didn't need to. Because the Golden Vein was the only cantina on all of Veros.

There was a dark humor to the claim, one that ran through the rest of the settlement. The general store made a similar statement, as it had no competition. Elsewhere such things as the spaceport or the mine itself housed equally dark claims, if not worse. The former had 'We're surprised you didn't leave sooner' resting above its entrance, while the latter's motto was shamelessly, 'Off the deep end'. Most had taken the mine's motto a bit personally. Especially since it came a few months after a terrible accident flooded a number of caverns.

Those born on world were accustomed to it, and thus were an off-putting presence for visitors. Their dry senses of humor, and morbid sensibilities weren't exactly a tourist magnet. Anyone who happened to make their way to Veros were there for one reason. Minerals.

A boom decades prior had brought people from all across the galaxy, with people arriving and leaving as soon as they hit their respective gold mine. After they had enough to live off of for the rest of their lives, they left. Mostly because there was no way they were going to stick around to be near the people. As a result, there were more abandoned mine shafts around the lone settlement than there were people living there, each and everyone of them left after having been cleared out. In more recent years, people had stopped coming, though it wasn't because there wasn't anything left to find. It was because of the Empire.

As soon as they stepped in, setting up in the more abandoned areas of town, people stopped coming. When the people stopped coming, it became far more appealing for most people to take up the Imperial offer of coming to work for them, in the mines. The pay wasn't great, but for the people who had made their lives on Veros, they didn't have any particular option. Sure, a few people who could saddled up and left. The rest had to deal with their new way of living.

For most, that meant dealing with long hours, poor conditions, and then drinking away any memory of it. The management of the Golden Vein weren't exactly complaining, even if they weren't entirely pleased with the situation. Between the soldiers and the citizens, business was booming in a way they couldn't have even hoped for. And tonight was no different.

Tonight, just like any other night, the main room of the bar was lined with people. Even with the settlement's meager population, it had had its fair share of drunks about town. A dire lack of any other alternative had lead plenty of others to the bottle. In a way, it was a community within a community, complete with neighborhoods.

Most of the remaining business owners were stationed in the back corner, having claimed a few booths. Along the walls were the day shifters, just coming in. They filled up most of the tables as well, and a bit of the bar space. The rest of the bar space was filled up with third shifters, who were waiting to relieve their second shifter brethren. Staff mingled among them, waiters and waitresses speeding here and there to keep everyone as satisfied as possible. Elsewhere, in a newer addition to the building, there was a similar set of Imperial soldiers. It hadn't taken long for people to learn that it was best for everyone to drink on their own, so the Golden Vein had gotten a bit of an upgrade.

It also meant that people were free to sit and complain as they pleased. The possibility of some Imperial surveillance device didn't escape anyone. But so long as they weren't plotting some act of terrorism, no one seemed to care. Even open threats hadn't earned anyone more than a slap on the wrist. Truly, the line seemed to stop firmly at 'actively plotting to blow something up', as one set of would-be rebels found out the hard way.

Stationed behind the bar, in the prime position to survey the entire scene, was a rather large, yellow Twi'lek. His head tails reaching well down his back, he stood head and shoulders above everyone else in the room, and was wide enough to fill a doorway. As he was fond of telling anyone who happened to be new to town, his name was Uro'bek, but most people in the area simply shortened it to 'Bek'. Not that he had had anyone new to tell that to for some time.

At present, everything was calm enough that he could take to scrubbing a few glasses clean. Priming them for when their time of need would arrive. A moment of calm, before a storm of orders hit him. Surveying his domain, he made note of who was likely to require something first. Nelson in the corner was running low. Bernard off in the back hadn't gotten a refill in something like twenty minutes. And the business booth was bound to need a top off at any moment.

The sound of swinging doors caught his attention. Turning, he brought up a large hand, still clutching his cleaning cloth, to greet the newcomer. Iroe, a miner's daughter, who had turned out to be a miner of her own. Her skin was pale as marble, but the girl's hair was as blonde as though she spent her every waking moment in the sun. She had gotten that particular feature from her mother. On top of that, she had inherited her mother's attitude, as well. That is to say, a rather snide one.

Bek didn't even hesitate to fill up a glass, knowing full well what the woman would order before she even opened her mouth to the waitress. Her pa had ordered it for years here, and had managed to get her hooked on the stuff. Not that neither her pa or her ma were around to appreciate such rough results to their upbringing. Life expectancy had never been high out here, and they hadn't been the ones to escape the statistics.

One of the waitresses came by, quickly taking the mug with a silent nod of gratitude, which he returned. After the exchanging of gestures, she swiftly returned to the table, where Iroe gave a similar nod of appreciation. Turning, she lifted the mug to Bek, before turning back to her companions to start chugging from the thing.

Rush soon fell after, only to be followed by another lull. Another rush came after that, followed by a lull, and the cycle repeated itself for hours, until the third shifters left, only to be replaced by the second shifters. Soon after, most of the day crew was gone, to catch a bit of shut eye before they were due to clock in. Not long after, the only people left were a few seconds who didn't want to go home, and Iroe's little group.

The bartender was taking a moment of short respite. He only had an hour or two left before he could kick them out, and go home to sleep for a few hours. Then it was going to just be a repeat of the current day, and almost every one before that. Sleep, wake up, putter around, work, repeat. Closing his eyes, he allowed himself to eavesdrop on the conversation in the room. Though eavesdrop probably wasn't the best word. It wasn't like people were trying to be private at the moment.

"Hear what happened a few parsecs over?" someone was saying. One of the men at Iroe's table. Tall, with dark skin. He knew the voice, and the face, even if he didn't know the gent's name to heart.

"Nah," Iroe said, even managing to add a slight slur to a single word, "Wha happened?"

"Ghost a kriffin' Nemara happened," another man muttered. A red, bushy mustache to his face, and an old blue beanie on his head. Richard. Bek opened his eyes, resting more on the bar to get a better look at the conversation. The second shifters still sitting at the bar had turned by this point to listen as well.

"The hell's 'at?" came another slurred sentence from Iroe, who was lazily leaned against the table. She was squinting at Richard, waiting for some story to go with the random turn of phrase.

Richard happily obliged. "Imp outpos' got hit," he said, his words not so much slurred as filtered through an accent, "Bunch'a folks dead, nuttin' there to say who did it." Iroe just grinned at him, apparently amused with what she could only assume was a tall tale. "Happened a few other places too. Same thing, Imp post gets hit, anybody who sees anything says jus' a lady in white seen there. An' not no regular lookin' lady neither. Ghost."

Iroe rolled her eyes, "Tha's tha' stupiesht thing I've ever heard."

The taller man nodded, "Heard the same stories."

A drunken laugh managed to escape Iroe, "Okay, an' wha' the hell's a 'Nemara'?"

"Planet," one of the second shifters added. The trio blinked, looking to him, before the two men nodded, "Planet a few systems off."

"Got hit by Imps, everybody considered dead. 'Cludin' a woman know to hang around in white," Richard added, looking back to Iroe.

She let out a snort, "Sho what yer sayin' is that some ghost a some dead lady's goin' around killin' a bunch-a Imps?"

"Aye," added the second shifter, "An' they say you can get 'er to come, with the right kinda offerin'."

Iroe's eyes lit up as the prospect bounced around in her brain, "Can get some ghost lady to come kill yer Imps? Where the hell do I sign up?"

"Have to leave a sign, and an offering outside of town," the tall man said again, "Least that's how the story goes. Can take a few nights."

"Then you can find 'er?" Iroe said, taking mental notes of that.

"She'll find you," Richard said, a bit of faux darkness in his voice. After a moment of silence between them, he let out a laugh, which was quickly followed by the others joining in.

Bek let out a short sigh of relief, moving to find a glass to clean. The remaining people talked among themselves for a time, but the topic never strayed to something so heretical as the conversation prior. Nothing that could potentially get some of them killed, that is to say. Eventually they all began filing out, one by one, with Iroe being the last of the tree. As she made her way out of the bar, he frowned, turning his head as he heard her mutter to himself.

She had stopped, slumped against the doorframe to regain her footing. Once she had done so, she continued making for the outside, stumbling somewhat. Even still, he could hear her mutter to herself "I can probably manage an offering."

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