Writer’s note: Still in the process of closing out this long night on Kennet. I swear, it’s like I’m playing the Sims. I gotta make sure everyone is clean, rested, fed and back together. Next week should be the last post in the brothel. Thank god! I think we’re all ready to get the hell out of there and off this goddamn moon.
The large man groaned as he pushed himself to the seated position among the pillows on the floor. How long had he been allowed to sleep here like this? He felt grimy and his face was throbbing. He… remembered his other self being drawn to a porcelain faced woman. Alberich looked around the dimly lit lobby to find it abandoned. Only the clerk woman remained, sitting in her window at the other end of the room. She was smoking and leaning heavily on one elbow as she watched her kampdator sitting just out of sight. Where was Cael? That woman, his sister, was she still here?
It took too much effort to struggle to his feet from the floor. A new pain pounded through his head as he finally stood his full height. Alberich wasn’t sure if he needed more sleep, or food, or a doctor for his scratched up face. He did know that his movement caught the scowling attention of the clerk. With no other ideas, he groped his way through the room toward her.
“You are late to the party I’m afraid. It’s already morning.” The woman still wore her stiff jacket and collar, but her severe bun had loosened it’s hold a bit and the bags around her eyes were darkly bruised from lack of sleep. With no windows to allow light in, Alberich trusted those eyes.
“Could you tell me where my friends are?”
She sucked on the cigar for a moment, and when she answered she let smoke billow thickly out of her dry mouth.
“No? Why not?”
“We have a confidentiality agreement with our customers. Knowing they can reveal anything to our girls helps them to…” She took another puff from the cigar, “relax.” A wave of smoke crashed silently against the glass between them.
“But, I need to find my friends.”
“Unfortunately they are still indisposed. I have no girls available to entertain you at this hour. However, you are welcome to continue waiting in the lobby….”
“No, no, no…” Alberich’s mind raced. What if they left him here? Could Cael have gone back on his word so quickly? He needed to know where everyone was. “I can’t wait! I need to talk to Cael now!”
The clerk straightened in her seat a little and a hand disappeared under the counter. One of the guards appeared in the mouth of the hallway, as large as Alberich himself, but leaner. Alberich backed away a bit, and raised his hands in surrender.
“I’m sorry. You’re right, I’m sorry.”
The clerk leaned toward the glass, her tone casual and remote again. “I think you should be going now.”
“But I really need to talk to him.”
“If he is truly your friend, he will find you.”
“Is he even still here?”
Her frown lines deepened as she sucked on the cigar again. “What did I just tell you? Hell-ver-de! I said he was indisposed, not gone!”
“Can you… can you call his room for me?”
The woman gave him a withering glare. “I’m not disrupting the hard earned time of a guest.”
“I don’t know how he’s paying for it, but I doubt very much he earned it.”
The woman waved dismissively, cigar in hand, and the guard stepped forward again.
“Oke, fat man! Time to go. Byen vit!”
“No, no wait.”
He held a hand out to keep him at a distance, but the Moungren man grabbed it and deftly wrenched Alberich’s arm in a way that twirled the large man against the wall.
“We gonna walk out of here calmly, oke?”
Alberich whimpered. He waited to see if his other self would take over and get him out of this, but he felt nothing. Apparently, he wasn’t in enough peril. Well, he obviously felt like he could take care of this himself. Alberich stopped whimpering. He took a breath and with a grunt, pushed against the wall with his free hand.
They tumbled back against the wall. Alberich’s borrowed, long coat caught on a nearby lamp and it crashed down with them, the pedestal wobbling for a moment before toppling over itself.
“Arrestom!” The clerk woman shouted from behind her window. “I’ve had it!”
Alberich panted heavily, under the grip of the guard who lay on the floor with him, waiting for the clerk’s next order.
The woman picked up a boxy phone that was attached to her kampdator with a cord.
Mari’s head popped up from the pillow. Danger? The remaining lamp was off, leaving the room in pitch blackness, so she listened. Deep breathing next to her, that was big man whose name she didn’t know. Snoring from the floor, that was little Frantz. She wondered if she should be hearing the breathing of the even smaller Ilya; but there was no chance over the chirping of the phone…. Mari groaned. She reached down and felt around the carpeted floor. Her hand knocked against the receiver, revealing its blinking red light.
“Thes bettagh be good.”
Cael had finally started to doze off in the bath’s bubbling, hot water when he heard the electronic warble of the phone hanging from the wall.
Alberich was allowed to get off the floor when they saw Cael walking out of the hall in a bathrobe.
“Cael, thank goodness!”
The wiry man stopped short, his eyes squinting suspiciously through a mop of dark, wet hair.
“Right, and who are you?”
Alberich started, looking to the clerk woman and Moungren guard. They stared back in pity.
“I’m… you know who I am….”
“Are you YOU or are you HIM?”
“Oh! I’m me. I’m me. I woke up and he was gone.”
Cael nodded and turned back into the hall. “Good. Let’s get you washed up.”