T sat in Dusty’s Inn sipping the drink clutched between his hands. His Mohawk had now grown out, and he scratched the unkempt hair on his face. He looked at his three friends along the bar and shook his head.
What a sad state of affairs they had found themselves in.
All of their clothes had holes, their hair had not been maintained, and they nursed half-empty drinks in front of them. As he was about to take another sip, T’s shoulder was knocked forward, spilling the contents of his glass down his front.
He turned in his chair to see the offender walking away. “Oi, you spilled my drink!”
A short Tingoneese turned on his heels and looked at T with an upturned nose. “What?”
“I said, you spilled my drink.”
“So?” the Tingoneese said.
T shook his head and stood up. He walked over slowly. “Do you know who I am?”
The offender shook his head and looked at T in confusion.
“I am T, of the Worm Enforcers, and–”
“Sit down. No one gives a fuck!” shouted a voice in the bar.
T looked over his shoulder to see who had spoken.
“A bunch of washed-up losers! That’s what they are,” said another voice.
“Come here and say that to my face,” T said, looking around the dimly lit room.
“No one wants to fight a cripple,” said a voice, and the room erupted into laughter.
The short Tingoneese tried his best to hide his laughter but failed. “Look, maybe it’s better if you–”
“Maybe it’s better if I what?” T interrupted, walking up to the man and poking him in the chest.
“Look, I apologise. But I don’t want to fight someone in your condition,” he said, looking down at T’s leg.
The metal leg stood as a replacement to the one he had lost. It was rusted in places, and a dribble of oil leaked out of the joint. T tried to move forward but the leg locked in place. He gave it a slap to free it up.
“Look, as I said, I’m sorry. See you later.” The Tingoneese turned to walk away.
“Hey, I’m not done talking to you,” T said, trying to grab the individual’s coat but coming up short and falling flat on his face.
As spilt beer, dirt and vomit coated T’s face, the room erupted in laughter once again. He felt hands grab him under the armpits and hoist him up. On his feet once more, he shook himself free of his friends’ grip.
“Where the fuck were you when I needed a hand?” T asked, pushing his friends away.
They said nothing but looked away and skulked back to their chairs. T looked at them in disgust. The once great Worm Enforcers, now nothing more than a bunch of drunks.
He made his way back to his chair and sat down with a heavy sigh. Knocking back the remains of his drink T placed his head in his hands. How had it come to this?
Silence fell around the bar but T didn’t notice. He felt the elbow of one of his friends nudge him in his side. He looked over and his friend nodded to the entrance. T looked over and saw a group of off-worlders standing at the entrance.
One figure stood in the centre, pale skin adorned with luminous tattoos. Purple slicked-back hair sat above what appeared to be a glowing red robotic eye encircled by a star tattoo. The other eye was jet black. He wore a purple reptile-skin jacket, and the men around him had covered their faces with animal masks.
“My oh my, what a sorry state of affairs we have here,” he said in a voice just above a whisper as he entered the room.
T turned his head away and faced the front of the bar.
“The smell of failure in here is so overpowering it clogs the nostrils. Coats the skin.”
T still said nothing as the stranger walked into the room. He heard the footsteps, but he refused to turn his head. He heard people in the room leave in twos and threes.
“They told me what a miserable place this was,” said the hoarse, gravelly voice, “but I never believed it. My, my, this truly is a place dreams go to die. And die they have.”
T started to rise from his seat but he felt a pair of hands slap him on the shoulders. They ran through his hair before slapping him once more.
“Leaving so soon?” the voice whispered in T’s ear.
“I… Look, I just came in here looking for a drink. That’s all.”
“So did I,” said the voice. “So did I. But why don’t we drink together, as friends? My name is Dre, by the way,” Dre said, taking a seat next to T.
Dre leaned over the bar and pulled a bottle towards him. He gave it a quick glance and nodded in approval. Uncorking the bottle, he lifted it to his lips but stopped. “Where are my manners? Do you want some?” he asked T.
T gave a shake of his head. Dre shrugged his shoulders and drank his fill.
He slammed the bottle back down on the bar and wiped his lips. He drummed his fingers along the wood; it was the only sound in the room. T could feel Dre’s eyes on his face. He watched Dre’s hands as they tapped on the bar and noticed that the backs of his hands where also tattooed with stars.
“You may not know this, but I think you can help me,” Dre said.
“I don’t see how I can.”
“Look… What’s your name?”
“Look, T, not many people know what they can do before they try. They don’t allow themselves the pleasure of finding out. It’s so fun. Why don’t you give it a go?”
T said nothing and kept his face pointed forward.
Dre let out a sigh and resumed tapping his fingers. “There was a man that came through here some time ago. Dark, tall, obnoxious, with a bone in his ear. He would have had a crew with him. One of his crew came from this city, or so I’m told. Now, what I want to know is what became of him.”
T licked his lips. He felt sweat trickle down his spine and puddle in the small of his back. He went to speak but his words caught in his throat. Clearing it, he tried again. “I wouldn’t know.”
Dre barked a laugh that sounded like it wanted to start but never got going. T brought his drink to his lips but spilled most of it on the bar. He tried to steady his shaking hand but it was a losing battle.
“Your hand and leg say otherwise.”
T lowered his drink to the table and looked to his three friends. All three had their heads lowered; he wouldn’t find any help there. “As I said, I don’t know anything about this man you speak of. The only thing I may have heard is he caused a whole bunch of trouble for some big-time gangster. He also destroyed half this city before he left. Where he is now…” T gave a shrug.
“You sure know a lot for someone who doesn’t know anything,” Dre said with another laugh. “So you have no idea where he is?”
“And he wouldn’t be the same person who took that leg of yours, in this very bar?”
“I said I don’t know shit! Are you hard of hearing as well as half blind?”
“What’s with the temper, friend? We’re just having a conversation.”
T got up from where he sat and looked around the room at Dre’s men. The animal masks covered their heads completely. T looked over to his friends and nodded his head towards the door.
“Going somewhere?”
“I don’t know who you think you’re talking to! I don’t know who this city thinks I am, but they must have forgotten. I am tired of taking people’s shit! Do you hear me? The Worm Enforcers stood for something around here, and they will–”
“People treat you like shit because that’s what you are, T. A stranger can look at you and see what you can’t see in the mirror. They know you better than you know yourself. But now isn’t the time for change. That ship has sailed.”
“You don’t know anything about me!”
Humourless laughter escaped Dre’s lips as he turned in his seat to face T. He brought one hand up to cover his good eye, while the red glare of the robotic one stared into T’s soul. “The eye sees all, T.”
T stumbled a step back and knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that he was dead.