Horne staggered out of the room in shock; his mind trying to slice what he saw into more livable sections. He fell to his knees, and an arm brought him back up.
“Not right now, kid,” a voice said in guttural tones. “We’ve got work to finish.”
He looked around. A long, dusty hallway led to a white door, and he stumbled to it like a puppy on a leash. Another arm opened it, and he shielded his eyes to the bright lights outside. After a moment to acclimatize, he looked around.
The place was almost empty. The band was packing up to go. Lola was sitting there talking to another person, her silks and furs oddly out of place with the now absent atmosphere. She looked askance at the man, and then, with a smirk, walked past him, closing the door with a quiet snap.
The arm placed him down on a stool next to the bar and motioned to the bartender. The publican was dressed rather sloppily, a red and green striped shirt and black suspenders, both extremely faded. He was polishing a glass with a pristine white towel.
“Get the guy a Marauder, please,” the voice said, behind Horne.
The barkeep lowered his glass and took out a shaker. After filling it with crushed ice, he added gin, lime juice, a few dashes of orange bitters, and a quick spoonful of bar sugar before topping it and shaking it hard. He strained the pale fluid into the glass he was polishing and placed it near Horne.
He took the glass and sipped gingerly. After setting the glass down, he shuddered and made a face. “Dismal stuff,” he said the bartender, slipping him a small coin. The other took it and walked off.
“So, what do you say?”
Horne looked at the arm still holding him, then at the rest of the person. Nothing told him the hooded figure as a fellow tech junker, but with them, you could never tell really; they went in all circles if he remembered rightly. The trench coat covered the body, and the wide-brimmed hat hid most of the features in deep shadows, probably due to a constant tweak-hack in the clothes. Remembering seeing the person without it left him extremely uneasy. Horne also guessed that the voice was disguised as well. Who knew how he, or she even, really looked without the disguise. Judging from what he saw in the back rooms, he did not want to even hazard a guess.
He steadied himself against the bar counter, slowly pulled away from the hand, and took a long pull from the glass. “If we pull this off,” he said, “and I do stress ‘if’, we could begin the coming weeks with a bang.” He took another drink, finally relaxing. “Still, we have to be careful. I do not want the wrong people looking at, or for, this.”
“I hope we will not consider you as a wrong person,” said a voice to the left of him.
He turned to face the other person. Crystal white everywhere and decorated in black cloth that glistened oddly in the overhead lights. A slim blood-red mask covered the upper part of the face. “Well, hello,” he said to the figure, his eyes nonchalantly glancing at the dress. “You are looking remarkably shelved today.”
The person raised an eyebrow. “Shelved?”
“Yeah. As opposed to ‘dis’.” He took another gulp.
The other two exchanged a glance. “Ah, yes,” the newcomer said after a long pause. “A joke.”
“Get him another drink,” the standing figure said.
“No thanks,” he said to the bartender, who came back polishing another glass. He raised his drink, still half filled. “This will do fine for now.”
The other one frowned slightly and sat down on the stool next to him. “I was under the impression that a half-filled drink is a signal for getting another one.”
“I am not that much of a boozer,” Horne said, smiling slightly. He took another sip and changed subject. “So, how can we pull this off? I can think of only one person who might be interested, but she is rather hard to contact. She is an extremely high-circle gal, you know?”
“Yeah,” he said, trying not to bristle. Were these people even ignorant of basic slang? “You got the low-circles, which are the losers, the mid-circles, which are somewhat okay, and then we have the high-circles. Those highs are the ones we have to watch out for.”
“Why?” the standing person said.
“Because if they put two and two together, they will stop everything you showed me. And I know the both of you, and that founder person for that matter, will not like that.”
The two nodded. The shadows hiding the standing figure flickered, showing something that caused the bartender, who was looking up at the time, to drop his glass.
“What the hell was that!” he said hoarsely, stepping back against the bottles behind him.
“None of your business!” the figure snapped back. “Get back to what you were doing.”
“Like hell!” he said, throwing his towel to the bar. “I do not know what the fuck you are or what the fuck is going on here, but–” The rest of the statement cut off as he fell to the floor, twitching.
Horne turned around and leaned over the wooden counter to find the bartender knocked out, covered in taser wires. Faint blue sparks ran in every direction with every twitch.
“We do apologize for the scene,” the sitting one said, putting away a small gun. “We can’t have any witnesses yet.”
Horne sighed and turned back to face the duo. The standing one had its back towards him, the finely manicured hands fiddling with the hat in faint clicking noises. The shadows flickered with every click.
“I should not think of looking too long,” the other suggested softly.
Horne took the hint and looked down, taking a sip of the drink.
“When will see the results?” the standing person said, still adjusting the hat.
Horne paid close attention to the drink. “If it goes well, we might see results as soon as a few days. I hear from a good source that the seed is already ready to be taken.”
“Excellent,” the sitting one said. “And how do you think we should start?”
The man thought about it, and nodded. “I think using the waves will help us here.”
“As in radio.” He raised his head and looked directly at the standing man, now with the hat taken off. “With a few tweaks, I am sure that the machine can use them.”
The person snarled out, “I thought we told you not to look at me.”
He sighed again. “Look,” he said, putting the glass on the table. “I know what you are, and who you work for. Your looks are no importance to me. What matters is that we are here to have this happen. And if we are to have this happen, I don’t need to obey the rules. I am sure this founder guy would agree in an instant.”
The two looked at each other.
“It appears we have underestimated you a bit,” the standing one said, putting the hat back on. Deep shadows draped across the face like a theatre curtain.
“As well you should,” the man said, draining the last of the drink. “So, what happens now?”
The other one leapt over the bar and removed the wires off the bartender, then draped him across the shoulder. “We’ll deal with him.”
“As for you,” the standing one said, placing a hand on Horne’s shoulder. “Let’s take you back for another session, huh?”
Horne’s eyes lit up, and he smiled broadly. “That would be amazing.”