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You study the Gomben at the other end of the bar, verifying he is okay. A sudden, snotty sneeze confirms it, and you are able to turn back to Quile, who is sipping on the second cocktail.
“So, what about that Syrien?” you ask.
Quile pauses a moment, the drink just hovering below his mouth. He takes a sip and smiles to himself.
“She was a real inspiration, that Enna. She was an artist.”
“My travels took me to Galactic Hub Serreven a few years ago because I was looking for a job. This was, of course, back when I was a code-jockey vying for work. Truth be told, I was a pretty mediocre coder, but I figured I could get some work at one of the big corp headquarters on the Serreven, and maybe even learn to be a better coder while there.”
“I applied at the hAPPy company, you know, the company that makes the Waypoints and Intrsts apps. I landed an introductory coding job where it was mostly just data entry. I’d take coordinates users send to the servers across the GIN and then sort them into certain criteria. A ‘memorial’ here, a ‘restaurant’ there…”
He takes a long sip of the cocktail and sets it down.
“I couldn’t afford much with my salary, so I had to live in some of the cramped tech deck apartments where most of the heavy industry happened on the Serreven. I kid you not I was right next door to the recycling plant for the entire Hub. The smell could get overwhelming on particularly hot and crowded days.”
You ask how a space station could get so hot.
“No way I know. But, it probably had something to do with stretching the power or the number of occupants in the station at any given time. I don’t know though. I just remember that it got very hot and very stinky. Needless to say, I was miserable. The work was awful, the living conditions were unpleasant, and I felt… empty. When I was younger I was creative and did a lot of amateur fashion design. It was bad, of course. I was untrained, but I enjoyed it and I was happy then. Now I was feeling awful.”
“Well, on my walks home from work I noticed some brilliantly colorful designs that would pop up every day. I’d see some on the way home and then overnight they’d be painted over and they’d be gone on my way to work. Then on the way home there would be new, brilliant drawings waiting for me. I began to rely on those for a little joy in what my life had become…”
Quile polishes off his drink, and shoves the glass forward. You refill it as he continues.
“So one day I called in sick, grabbed some snacks, and parked myself in a public space right across from a particularly active corner of the station.”
“So did you see the artist?” you ask.
“Wouldn’t you know it, nobody showed up. I was annoyed, of course, but also kind of sad, so I did something I never thought I’d do… I took a pen out of my bag and wrote a note on the wall.”
“What did the note say?”
“So I went back to the grind at work for another week, and sure enough, the art kept appearing. So now I decided to take my breaks out in that same area. It was a five minute walk there and back which only left me another twenty for my lunch, but it was worth it to me to see if I could find the artist. But of course, I never caught the person in the act. So every time I was out I would have my lunch, then make my way back to work, but stop off at the wall and write my little note to the mysterious artist.”
“How long did this go on for?”
“Haha, weeks. And then I got caught for vandalism.”
“One day after my lunch I wrote my message only to turn around and find a security drone hovering right above me. Moments later I am caught in the stasis beam and taken off to a security outpost, and shortly after I was fired from my job.”
“Yes, but by that time I did not really care about that job anymore. My focus was finding the artist who inspired me so much… and I began drawing on my own. I could no longer afford my apartment, but the Serreven has plenty of safe places to sleep. I fell in with the transient population on the station, and every day I made my way back to the bench across from that wall. Then one day, a pretty young Syrien girl sat next to me.”
“Was this the artist?”
“Sure was. Her name was Enna and she told me that she saw me get pinched by HubSec. We hit it off and I let her know that she had become my muse, of sorts. I even showed her my work, which was rough, but she seemed to like it. She offered me a place to stay for a couple months when she found out I was homeless.”
“So you lived with her?”
“Oh no, not at all. I had grown happy by living the life of a wanderer. I had decided that I wanted to do what she did, leave art where I could. So I spent a few months on the Serreven earning what credits I could, borrowing what I could from her, and getting some supplies. Then I bought a liner ticket to Teslovia and have been journeying from colony to colony ever since.”
“How do you make money?”
“I borrow, I do odd jobs, and on some exciting occasions manage to sell my work.”
You take a moment to think about what you just heard.
“You DO have money for the drinks, yes?”