art by Seth Alan Bareiss
Time Monkeys and the Fullness of Glasses
by Dawn Bonanno
Hachi Station was jumping for a Restday Eve. Marina had enough of the crowd and headed for the door when a man showed up in an illegal purple haze, leaving Marina in a coughing fit for inhaling the dust.
"Hey!" The last thing she wanted to do was get any closer to the newcomer, but apparently he didn't check the rules before landing. Someone needed to set him straight, and since most of the patrons were hybrids with gill flaps over their intakes and submerged in the various hot pools, none of them were going to bother. It was bad enough she was a landwalker in a bar full of hybrids, she also happened to be a veteran auditor and compulsive rule upholder. She really should have stayed in tonight.
Marina covered her mouth with one hand and tapped the tall orange stranger on the shoulder. He swung around, eyes gleaming. She felt mesmerized and forgot all about the coughing and the purple haze. Heat rushed up her spine and her mouth dried. He was handsome, even with the orange skin. Brown hair waved back from his forehead into a long braid that trailed forward over his shoulder and continued down to... She blushed and averted her gaze.
"Something I can help you with, miss?" His voice was smooth, silky, and almost in her head instead of hitting her ears.
"Your little entrance," Marina said.
Blue teeth gleamed at her. She wasn't sure if he was trying to flirt or threaten her.
"It's... lovely but disturbing. Can you tone it down before the air-breathers choke?"
"You have no idea who I am." He caught her in his gaze, his eyes deep and dreamy blue, like his teeth. Where had she seen a race with coloring like his? He was taller than most humans and even most hybrids, but he didn't show signs of hybrid genetics. No gills, no wings, no tail. He had to be a native, which was worse. It meant he was a native hitting a traveler's facility.
She smiled, and though she'd preferred to have walked away, she had to finish this. "You sir, are ruining my evening. I don't care if you're the Prime Minister of Tivolia. This station is open to all species."
"All species, yes."
"So long as they follow the rules."
"You imply I've broken a rule." He leaned closer.
"Yes, my good sir, you have."
"I set those rules."
Marina laughed. "That's a good one."
He pulled out an official name card. "Ozenious, Prime Minister, Tiviola."