In the Saloon

The neon lights inside the saloon were bright and glaring. The marshal’s eyes stung from their harshness as he made his way down the diamond plate stairs leading toward the bar. Creatures of all shapes, sizes and colours sat and stood around it: a group of purple lizardmen from Solaris 7, soldiers, flicking out their long pink tongues as they spoken their hissed language amongst themselves; a hairy beast, a smuggler from the jungles of the Outer Rim, drinking beer from a large stein; tentacled beings with squishy orbs set on the end of long thin eyestalks; humans; silarians; drust; and, of course, city guards, always watching, black machine pistols hanging conspicuously in holsters at their sides.

The Marshal approached the bar and its tender, a burly green thing with six eyes set in a fleshy blob of a face, barked at him: “Whaddya want?”

“I’m looking,” said the other calmly, eyes turned down, “for an Arduinian.”

“Ya what?” The saloon owner grunted roughly. Patrons sitting close by turned to look. A bot squawked.

“I’m looking,” The Marshal said again, his voice growing cold and steely. “for an Arduinian. Has one come through here?”

He felt the focus of the place turn to him, felt the eyes – so many eyes of every different possible shape and description – stare in his direction. The Arduinian had been through here. Oh yes, it had. And within the alien cornucopia of bar patrons those who knew it weren’t happy about him walking in and asking questions.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” The bartender grunted and spat. “Arduinians are forbidden in this system, everyone knows that. Now I suggest you either keep your questions to yourself” – he furrowed his six brows – “or come back out the way ya came.” The disgusting creature bobbed its head back toward the door from where The Marshal had entered.

“I’m looking for an Arduinian,” The Marshal said, raising his voice. “And I’m not going to leave I until I get some answers.” The saloon was quiet now. Everyone in the place quietly watching the confrontation between the owner and this strange lawman who had wandered in, waiting for its resolution.

One of the drust sitting at the bar stood. The guards next to him turned and watched.

“I don’t think you heard the man,” it said. “We don’t like humans like you coming ’round here and asking questions. Best be on your way, fleshbag.” The drust grinned an evil grin full of giant sharp teeth. Its segmented eyes glinted in the light. The lawman saw it hover its smooth gray hand above the gun at its side.

The Marshal looked up. “I’m not looking for no trouble,” he said. He touched his hat with his hand. “Just some answers. But I tell you if you draw on me I’ll put you down faster than what’s what.” The marshal’s voice was cool and low. “And that’s a promise.”

“Get out, human!” The drust said. “Get out now!”

“I’m looking…”

The drust reached for the gun at his side but was too slow. The Marshal’s brass revolver was out, the barrel blazing, hammer slamming rapidly against the spinning chambers as its owner fanned six bullets into the gray thing standing opposite him.

The bar erupted into pandemonium. Someone screamed. Glasses shattered. Feet rushed for the stairwell and exits.

The Marshal holstered his weapon and looked down at the smoking bloody chest cavity of the dead drust. He closed his eyes and shook his head. He looked up and addressed the terrified bartender.

“Where’s the Arduinian?”

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