Alder had four questions.
He was rather upset that it wasn't three questions, because three is a very popular number in fairy tales and storytelling and he was having one of those feelings right then that something big was coming; perhaps it was the eve of a mildly interesting occurrence, or an elaborate and actually successful escape or -dare he even consider the possibility- an adventure in the near future. Hope was the best way to put it, but he didn't like that this very same type of hope had been a lie thousands of times over the course of his life. As far as he understood, that's not how hope is supposed to work. Not in the stories, anyway.
Alder had decided after a week's worth of internal meandering that hope wasn't really hope until the hope actually came true.
He had tried explaining this to Vortex over breakfast in a slow vocal amble of wisdom and understanding, only for Vortex to tell him that he "didn't understand definitions" and "was missing the point" to which Alder moped for a solid three days.
Oh, why couldn't it have been three questions? He had the most remarkable feeling right now.
Alder lightly dragged a gloved hand across the wall's curved metal paneling as he stepped, pacing idly in circles around the perimeter of the circular shaft they had come across. It was very small, with a rusted floor and rusted walls and thin rusted ladder rungs which spiraled up the tunnel into the darkness. By the time he had passed the door they had entered in through for the twelfth time, he decided to attempt starting a conversation.
He put his back against the wall and rubbed his arms. He ached for the warmth of sunlight. Most days he debated whether it was better that he didn't know what sunlight actually felt like, considering he might just miss it more if he did know. He could feel goosebumps beneath his many layers.
He wondered about the word goosebumps. It was perhaps a question for another day. Vort didn't like getting berated with Alder's constant curiosity.
This tended to frustrate him. She was a computer, answering questions was her point.
"Vort." he called, absently.
The small metal orb turned the glowing star across what Alder assumed was Vortex's face down at him from what seemed like a mile up the tunnel. A crackling fizz of pixelated sound cascaded down with the echoes of her distant "WHAT???" ricocheting off metal. The surprisingly sharp noise shattered Alder's thoughts and he looked up. Vortex looked like nothing more than a distant star to wish on in the darkness. Alder had tried wishing on her before, but they usually didn't come true unless they were very mundane, like "get chocolate in next month's resupply" and Alder didn't like thinking too small when it came to dramatic things like wishes.
"What's up there?" He called out. That was his first question, because that's what they were doing here, after all. It wasn't every day that they came across something new in The Underground.
Alder had mapped, explored, and investigated nearly every part of The Underground he could possibly find. It was only after most of it had been discovered that he named it The Underground, when he realized that while all downward passages and doorways eventually ended, there were still many tunnel ways that continued to travel into the distance above him. He had no choice but to assume that there was an Above ground. A sky somewhere currently unreachable.
To find something new was a huge development in the whole "Escaping" thing. Especially something like this.
"VORT?" Alder called again. She hadn't replied in some time.
"YES, HI, HOLD ON." Vortex called back. She was incredibly distant by this point, and yet it felt like huge speakers in Alder's ears. He assumed that having to wait was good news, considering Vort may have found something worth inspecting. It was also viciously frustrating to Alder. His whole life was "Hold on."
He also still had three questions left. Oh. There we go.
Alder found himself staring at the ladder across from him fixedly. Vort had demanded he wait instead of attempting to climb them, considering they could break under Alder's weight. For age fifteen, he was heavily built, with a particularly hefty upper body from a lifetime of climbing up up up.
He grabbed a rung and another. He was twenty feet up when Vortex exclaimed "Eureka!" followed by the whirring sound of her dropping to Alder's previous location. Before he could speak she shot past him and stopped dead in the air. He bit his lip and kept climbing.
"Really." Vortex deadpanned behind him. "You couldn't wait two more minutes."
"No." Alder replied.
"I'm an intelligent Artificial Intelligence, you know. I literally absorb knowledge. Actually listening to my advice sometimes might help you not die."
"Mm." Vortex was really the only thing he ever listened to. Alder enjoyed the times when he didn't listen to Vortex for that exact reason. It fulfilled some itching desire to be more reckless than he usually was. He always felt bad afterwards, of course.
The little orb continued, glow directing itself upward into the darkness. "Seriously, there's just a man-hole above, I think it's stuck and ruste-"
Alder stopped climbing for a moment to look behind him at Vortex. "A what?"
Alder squinted at his computer silently. Vortex sighed. When she spoke, she retained the bored tone of someone reciting a textbook. "Definition of man-hole: A small covered opening in a floor, pavement, or other surface to allow a person to enter, especially an opening in a city street leading to a sewer. Citation unknown. One of those. An old one."
Alder stared up into the darkness, eyes wide, mind processing. He could feel the chill of cold metal in his bones and the burn of his fingered joints gripping the rusted ladder rungs tiredly. Muscles were burning in his arms and back and the sound of something dripping could be heard echoing softly. He spoke quietly, "Like a door?"
"Like a small circular one. We've seen a couple before, Alder." Vort said. "The POINT is, it looks like it's stuck in there. If we want to get through we should go back to camp and get suppl-no, no, Alder, what are you doing."
He was climbing again. "I just want to see."
Vort sputtered in a fit of protest. "What's that going to solve?!"
Nothing besides Alder's curiosity. His body was screaming from the work, but he was very close. The dark stopped looking so dark above him. Vort continued to fret in a continuous murmer of "This is too high up" and "It's really not worth it it's very dull looking absolutely nothing interesting" and "Why are humans so squishy?" that Alder had difficulty cutting into. He didn't want to be rude and interrupt but he knew that Vort could easily ramble on for the entirety of the climb.
"Vort?" he said during a split second pause. "What do you think it'll be like once we're out?"
This caused an even longer halt of speech. Alder stopped a moment to breathe and give his muscles as much of a break as he could. He could see a circle above him in the darkness.
"I don't know." Vort said. "Something new. Something better. I don't think it can get much worse than this."
Alder groaned. "Why did you say that? In stories they always say that and then something worse happens."
He kept climbing again, slowly. Vortex gave a pixelated huff. "Well aren't you talkative today! Fine! Everything's going to be terrible! Terrible things all the time! War and famine and murder and poverty and bigotry and, and, boring things!"
Alder laughed quietly.
They lapsed into a small silence as they approached it. Alder stopped when he was within reach and breathed. The tunnel had gotten smaller the farther they had gone up. He took it as an invitation to turn his back to the ladder, hands still gripping a creaking ladder rung, and prop his feet against the opposing wall. The burning in his twisted muscles was overwhelming and he could feel his arms shake. As usual, Vortex had been right about this being a bad idea.
"Well, there it is." she said. Alder opened his eyes and indeed, there it was. Imprinted on the metal disc was SKID 2242 along with the lined design of what looked like a spacecraft. Most promising to Alder was the metal handlebar jutting out, begging him to tug. On the side of the man-hole cover the rim protruded, as if shoved in improperly. He could definitely tug it loose with enough force.
"See what I mean?" Vort said, quietly. "Looks stuck. Let's go now Alder."
But it was right there. Alder climbed back on to the ladder rungs and with one hand took hold of the cover's handlebar. "Why is your name Vortex?" That was his third question. He had kept forgetting to ask.
"No, I know what you're doing, stop it, we need to go. You could hurt yourself."
"Mm." Alder replied, tugging a little bit. It wasn't budging. He felt bad for not listening to Vort, but this was very important.
"Start going back and I'll tell you, how about that?" Vort replied in a cold tone. Alder smiled and continued tugging, this time harder. It moved ever so slightly and his heart felt like exploding from excitement. "I'm serious!" Vortex exclaimed. Alder tugged it again and the orb sighed again.
"Okay, fine. Vortex's are kind of swirling masses of water or space or wind or anything, really, depending on the type of vortex, that sucks all of this stuff in and it can't come out unless the vortex stops. Which is like ME, because I absorb information from nearby sources." Vort paused before grumbling, "I mean, granted, if I wasn't damaged, I would do a lot better job of it."
Alder felt a pang of sympathy. Maybe he shouldn't have brought it up. He tugged again and pondered on something kind to say in reply to this, but words escaped him. As usual.
He figured they would have to come back, considering any more force could cause him to plummet. Vort most likely didn't want both of them damaged.
Sighing, Alder turned back to the ladder rungs and started down. "All right, I'm sorry. Let's go."
His foot slipped.
His arms burned as he jolted down, stopped only by his hands still gripping a rung above him. The sudden tug caused the rusted bolts to break free from the wall, and within another split second he was free falling. Vort shouted his name as he fell. And fell. And fell. And he still hadn't asked his last question.
The great thing about Skid Valley was that you never had to be alone. Everyone was so equally pissed off about being stuck there that they would all get together at The Rathskeller beneath Station House 8 after a day of hard work and complain about it all.
More so, the entire populace was too exhausted from constant manual labor to care if an innocent youngun' like Godwin got in and made a ruckus. Everyone loved a good ruckus. What they loved even more was music, and Godwin was the one with the old music player.
Terry knew all about Godwin from the other SKids. On the weekdays all the younger workers would unwrap their lumps of lunch and wipe grime from their faces with dirty gloves and hide away in a cove made as an entryway for a long-broken elevator. It was on a higher level of the docking tubes's tunneling systems, and therefore quieter. The metal framework, steel pillars, and clockwork engines rattled less as space-faring ships zoomed past in preparation of docking. There weren't more than a dozen children who worked in The Skid, but those who did so had a solemn respect for silence.
That, of course, wouldn't stop them from talking. Their subjects of interests were boundless; outer space, stories their families and friends told them, who they saw coming into the Station House that morning, and who they guessed were too poor to ever leave. They spoke about books and television and movies and music, and Terry told them that he had a guitar just to see their mouths drop.
He didn't really have a guitar. It's not like any of them could prove that he didn't. He just didn't understand why he got all the doubt.
Terry could tell that most of the kids didn't really like him. But they seemed to love Godwin. Godwin told the best stories. Godwin had the best music. Godwin was at the best Rathskeller party. Godwin ran off for two days and came back saying he met a dragon. Godwin this. Godwin that.
Terry didn't really like Godwin before or after he had met him.
It was dark and it was cold and the lights were going out all throughout The Skid, which Terry could see far below him. People called the Docking Bays "The Skid", but Skid Valley specifically was a little column of life sprawled beneath two of the Docking Bay towers. It was similar to a small town that had been crumpled up and smashed violently into the entryway of an intergalactic planet-wide space-port, then left to fix itself up. The population consisted of the washed-up, the tired, and the poor.
Terry was sitting on a steel frame, head lightly resting on the cold pillar beside him, legs dangling above the town. His pallor complexion reflected the remaining light of the Valley below, and he was thinking to himself that The Skid wasn't as bad a place as everyone made it out to be, really, when he heard the angry voice echoing down the hall.
He neglected treading carefully upon the noisy chain-link rafters, so by the time he had turned the corner, the stranger was completing his call.
"No, that's completely not what I meant, and I don't even care, so bye." He said into the back of his fist, followed by the glide of his thumb and the notification sound of a call ended promptly. As soon as the farewell was spoken, the glare of wide cold eyes shot at Terry, daring him to justify his sudden presence.
A strong desire to stare at his feet, mutter some incomprehensible excuse of "hearing something" followed promptly by running down the rafters as fast as his legs could carry him was vanquished by the stranger raising an eyebrow and the twitch of his scowl turning to a bemused smirk.
"Is there something you need?" the boy said. Terry had to assume it was The Godwin. He knew all the other younger kids in The Skid. But this wasn't how he had pictured the local legend.
Godwin was standing upright on a steel bar five feet above Terry's head, back resting against the glass wall behind him, now crossing his arms and staring down his nose as if Terry was a beggar in a King's Royal Court rather than a cold deserted corner of The Skid. While most people who worked in the Port had built bodies made from curves and muscle, Godwin was thin and gangling, with clean sorrel skin unburdened by the dirt, grime, and sweat of so many others. Everything about him was sharp edges; his gaze, his shoulders, his peculiarly pointed black shoes, his curved nose...
And apparently his personality, if first impressions were anything to go by.
"Did you really meet a dragon?" Terry blurted.
Before suddenly ceasing to exist before Godwin's very eyes.
At least, Terry had thought so until a few weeks later, when he had returned and Godwin had noticed him one morning in the marketplace, and excitedly grabbed his arm and dragged him off to explain "Whatever the HELL that was," in his words.
When Godwin had finally released his clutch on Terry's arm, they had arrived in the shade of curtains draped over a market stall, with boxes of miscellaneous foods piled in carts, momentarily out of the way of the heavy crowds of morning shoppers.
Godwin was wearing work attire familiar to anyone who lived there; the dull colors of dirty beige and brown coats, belts, gloves, pants, and boots, all of which looked several sizes too large for the tall boy. Unfamiliar to Terry was the black hair sticking out in every direction, the bright pink bow-tie tied around a dark purple turtleneck, and the glint of thrill dancing in Godwin's eyes as he alternated between excitable pacing and grinning down at Terry. "I swear to gob if that was some sort of crappy magic trick I might just die right here and now, kid, my life is on the line, please tell me that was actually the coolest weirdest thing I'd ever seen, I'm beggin ya, becaus--"
"Well," Terry said, automatically triggering Godwin to glare down at him as the shorter boy continued, "Sometimes I accidentally travel through time. But don't tell anyone about that, because I could probably be killed for it. Hanged by the neck. Drowned at sea."
Godwin narrowed his eyes. "We don't have a sea."
Oh. "Well they'd deport me to one. They've done it before. That's what they do. I'm a time travel fugitive, really." Terry was lying through his teeth. Not about accidentally traveling through time, of course, but definitely about all the other stuff. He was, truthfully, completely unaware of any laws that pertained to time travel. Honestly he was a bit afraid to ask.
"So you accidentally time travel." Godwin repeated, sudden skepticism coating his every word. "But you can't control it? At all?"
"Of course I can control it." Terry boasted, finding a sudden interest in watching the morning crowds. "But I'm so powerful that sometimes I end in the wrong place, or the wrong time."
He could feel Godwin losing interest, so he added quickly, "I usually end up in interesting places, of course. Lots of people trying to kill me. I figure it's cuz I'm a fugitive. Whenever I go out they know who I am."
That wasn't a lie, actually. He had no clue why everyone was always trying to kill him whenever he winded up somewhere. It was an incredibly terrifying experience suddenly poofing into the middle of some government office or war-ravaged battle or underwater civilization just for everyone to shout his name and yelling "Get him!!!"
He was only a kid, after all.
Godwin was tapping his foot. "Yeah, cool, so can you do it whenever you want? Could you bring someone along?"
Terry looked directly at him with his sunken wide eyes. With a sinking feeling in his stomach he realized that Godwin had his own agenda, and was not as impressed by his stories as Terry had hoped. "I...I mean, I haven't really tried before, but, maybe? It could be possible. If I practice then..." He looked at his hands curled into fists. "Then..."
Godwin gave him a sad look before sighing. A gloved hand slid through his already mussed hair. "Well, that's disappointing. I mean." He awkwardly shoved his hands in his pockets, looking down at the ground. "I mean it's still insanely cool that whole...thing you have going on there, and good luck with the not being killed thing! But ah, I was just, I didn't mean disappointing, I just meant, I was sort of hoping for..."
He sighed in exasperation. The awkwardness was stifling. "Look, I'll see you around at work, I gotta run. Nice seeing you again or whatever, Skid." Godwin finished, looking at the back of his glove at a touch screen for the time. He looked back again and found a wave of pity hit him looking at the younger boy.
The desire to get as far away from this entirely awkward social interaction felt like the forces of gravity themselves. There was a reason that he didn't talk to the other kids. Or the adult coworkers. Or anyone, really. And this was a fabulous example of that exact specific reason.
He looked back down at his touchscreen, gaining a bored expression. "And tell me if you get that thing figured out. Maybe stop by for lunch today, I get my break at four, top floor, find me. I've got music."
He flicked his eyes up to monitor any possible responses to his change of heart, and was rewarded with the boy looking up at him with wide glinting eyes.
Godwin flashed a grin. "What was your name again?"
The boy's expression flickered into what could have been interpreted as a smile. "Terry."
Godwin looked at the time again and acted out the sudden realization that he was running late, and dashed into the crowd, praying that Terry wouldn't follow. "Okay, well, bye! See ya later, gotta run!"
Terry watched as he disappeared in the crowd, excitement stirring in his stomach like nausea.
As desperate as he was for someone to talk to, he had an unsettling feeling that he didn't really like Godwin. He didn't like most people, really, but there was something about Godwin that he really, really didn't like. Both fortunately and unfortunately for Terry, Godwin didn't really like him either.
As he dodged effortlessly through the crowds of slithering, hulking, dirty, and consistently worn and weary species that populated the marketplace, his eyes slid up to the arch. The arch was a roofing for Skid Valley that shielded it's inhabitants from a very thin atmosphere. The holograms that covered it were anything but well-kept, and as he stared the false morning sun flickered.
Amidst a busy schedule, Godwin couldn't help but find time to glare at it. Every single day.
The ground shook, as if The Skid itself was nudging him by the shoulder to remind him of today's plans. Beneath his quickened pace, a boy just a tad younger than him with golden hair and a broken back awoke from what was hoped to be a very bad dream.
Rathskellers was a dreary place in the mornings, but also much brighter. A cold light filtered through blinds, warming the surface of the red cafe counter where a Varanargus had it's scaled back turned from Edoline's studious gaze, occupying themselves with dirty plates desperately needing a better cleaning than the Vara was diligent enough to accomplish.
Edoline watched them from across the cafe.Varanarguses were generally genderless by both cultural and biological nature, so they/them/their was more commonly used as a singular pronoun than was often accepted in human and human-descended species. She gazed as the one- humming a tune deeply from behind the counter- extended one of it's many arms to place a solitary plate - still smudged with soap and the scabs of old food still lingering - to the side of the filled sink.
"Gross." She mumbled quietly into her drink, eyes still directed at the Vara. "Where are we supposed to eat here? Every place we've been to is disgusting."
She wasn't trying to be rude, staring. She'd been scolded for it before. "It's because of my eyes, isn't it." She'd state, demanding. Daring her aggressor to agree. Two irises looking around in different directions in one eye was not something many were familiar or comfortable with. Nor was the intimidating blackness where the whites in her eye should be in the other. At least not anymore.
They'd always backtrack. "It's not your eyes, it's just, you know, rude to stare at people..." And they'd mumble on and on. As she stared.
Edoline could see through their ruse, you could say. She thought of this now and tried not to snort her drink. It wasn't even a good joke.
Once, Jude and her were tracking a politician who had gone missing after allegations of murder, and had found themselves acting as business-people working for an intergalactic energy pirating cartel. She had blown their cover by whispering a pun about one of the lackey's hair during a high-stakes meeting between three different warring kingdoms and had to try to shut up Jude because he couldn't stop giggling.
It wasn't her fault that she was friends with one of the only Androids in the universe who couldn't control their laughter.
Said Android sitting across from her in the dingy Rathskeller huffed softly, gazing from beneath the brim of his worn green hat at a dusty older human entering from the stairway. "Well, you've got to have something. And pay attention, we're supposed to be scanning crowds."
"Well you've got to have something," she mimicked. "Jude, I don't know if you're aware of this, seeing as you've never had to eat anything moldy or rotten before, but it's not the funnest use of your time. Or bowels."
"Most fun." he whispered with a grin.
She mimicked him again.
Scouting out crowds wasn't the most fun thing to do ever. It was an awkward yet necessary stage in bounty hunting. And boring, because most of the time you didn't even 100% know if you were looking in the right place. Despite this, it was their best bet. It had only taken a few hours to learn that The Rathskeller was the most popular place in this god-forsaken canyon. Valley. Whatever the locals called it. Maybe it was valley.
It was more like a canyon if anything, she didn't like that it was called a valley. It itched at her mind.
"I hate this job." she said, slumping down in her seat. Why was their table bright lime green? Why was the sky here so stupidly fake? Why were these cloaks so dull in color? Oh, the Vara caught her eye. She looked away and took another sip of her drink.
Jude turned to look at her with his long electric blue eyes. "What, bounty hunting? Or this specific job?"
Edo glared back at him with a single iris. "Both."
Her friend nodded. "Same. Why didn't we do taxi service?"
She mulled this over. "This one pays better." She pursed her lips, "And it's more fun."
Jude smiled and looked down at his notebook, eyes hooded by his stupid hat. It had flowers and leaves to the side, stuck in the ribbon. He was rereading the notes he had written down about their mission. For the millionth time.
Edoline watched him still with the smaller iris of her eye. "You gonna tell me why you were so interested in this one yet?"
Jude smiled again, but smaller, and continued reading. "Nope."
Of course. Jude was rarely secretive, especially with her, but when he was, Edo had to assume the universe itself couldn't possibly know what the android had going on in his mind.
She sighed and stood up, adjusting her brown cloak. "All right, I'm getting stir crazy. I'm heading out to look around the Skid. Let's meet back here at six?"
Jude was lost in his notes. "Hm? Yeah got it."
It was also incredibly jarring to Edoline, not being on the same page as Jude. She figured that she should allow him the few secrets he had. That didn't mean it wasn't entirely uncomfortable. So she left him to mull over whatever he was thinking about and walked up the stairs.
At the top of the steps she paused. The realization that she might have to interact with people without her ever-so-amiable friend to assist gave her a clammy feeling. This wasn't uncommon, but it never exactly turned out well. Talking with Jude was one thing; she had known him nearly her entire life and they were dear friends. Talking with literally anyone else in the entire universe was something altogether different. And yet, she chose to. Constantly.
Sometimes she felt like she was getting better at social interactions and sometimes she just felt like she was egging on her own anxiety. This day wasn't going to be any better.
She clenched and unclenched her gloved hands, then swiped at the motion sensor handle and thought determinately that she'd make it better, damnit.
And then the door swung into someone's face.
They both swore the same dirty word in shock. The boy laying on the ground of the station holding his face in pain laughed.
"Okay, Jinx." He said. Sitting up and still holding his forehead, he glared up at a stuttering Edoline. "You owe me a drink, jackass."
Followed by a few blinks and a suddenly intrigued expression, an eyebrow raised. "Cool eyes, by the way, where you from?"
She stared blankly in shock. This boy fit the exact description of who her and Jude were looking for and she had just slammed a door into his skull on accident. "A-Ahm, Ahmresteed." She sputtered. A lie, but one that she actually remembered. "Do you need help with uppin--getting--standing up. Standing up?" Oh my god, she must have been blushing bright blue.
At least there was no possible way she could look like a bounty hunter at this point.
He squinted as he stood. "I'm fine. That damn door has always done that, I should have seen it coming." He flashed a grin at her and offered his hand. "The name's Godwin, I'm from around here." This was said as if the word had the taste of a dead bug, and he started walking toward the door again. "I was serious about that drink, of course, if you're gonna get anywhere around here you gotta own up to slamming doors in people's faces. I swear I'm cheap, I was only heading in for a quick soda, but I enjoy mooching off people too much to pass up an opportunity."
He talked very fast and fluidly, and while Edoline could tell that he was messing around and being friendly there was a sharpness in his eyes and a cheapness in his grin that she could tell was half serious.
She was going to have to say yes. This had to be who they were looking for, and passing up an opportunity like this was simply not an option.
She laughed awkwardly at his friendliness. "Um, sure, yes, I suppose so." She took a moment to clear her throat, mumbling, "I guess it'd be nice to talk to someone who's familiar with the area."
Godwin's broad smile curled into a cheeky frown. "Don't expect much, just thinking about my continued presence in this place makes me want to puke. I don't want to waste that drink." He swiped at the door's sensor and dodged cleanly out of it's swing, heading down the stairs.
Edoline huffed. At least he had a sense of humor. She followed him down and let him ramble. Were most people in The Skid this talkative? It wasn't exactly normal for someone to be so open with a complete stranger, let alone one who had just given you a nasty bruise.
Godwin lamented, "I'm serious, this place is the dumps. Sure, interesting crowds, great stories cuz everyone's been everywhere, except for the people who've had to grow up here." He said through gritted teeth. "But at the end of the day it's just a bunch of wash-ups breaking their backs working the docks and then coming to the Rathskeller to get drunk and complain."
She didn't bother to mention the hypocritical moaning about people who complain. "Charming," Edo mustered instead, as they entered the Rathskeller. An iris darted to Jude, who was still staring at his stupid journal. She was going to strangle him.
Godwin took a seat on a bar-stool. She followed suit as her throat constricted. Sitting down and talking to someone she'd never spoken to before felt terrifying. And she still wasn't sure if Godwin considered this some kind of flirting ruse. Explaining to strangers all the time that she was gay and generally found romance unappealing altogether had grown to be incredibly annoying and awkward. Edoline hated awkward.
Godwin seemed to be completely unfazed by what she assumed was her obvious anxiety, smiling at the Varanargus coming to greet them. "Caught another traveler, Godwin?" They said in an amused tone, with a voice deep and loud that vibrated through Edoline's stool. Apparently this wasn't a first.
He scowled. "Hey, what am I supposed to do, make friends at school?" Apparently making friends in a bar was the better alternative. Was this only a bar at night, perhaps? "And she owes me a drink. Slammed a door right in my face, look at it, Guil, you've got to fix that stupid door." He pulled his wild bangs back to reveal the very minor bruise erupting in purples on his forehead.
Guil guffawed. "I'll look into it, I will!"
Godwin looked unconvinced. "You said that three years ago. Gimme a regular and whatever she wants."
The focus being turned on Edoline again was not comforting. She mumbled a quick "Oh! Um. Whatever he's having." And instantly regretted saying so. She had forgotten about the dirty dishes spied upon not ten minutes ago. There was no way in hell she was going to embarrass herself further and take back her order.
As Guil slithered off to make their drinks, Godwin turned his full attention back to her, face lit with curiosity. "Where was it you said you were from again?"
She wasn't sure what she was supposed to be doing with her hands, so she rested her shoulder upon the stool and waved the other one at her acquaintance in a flippant manner that may have come off slightly over-exaggerated. "Oh, Ahmresteed, haven't been there in a while though, very far off. Too busy to visit." She pretended to be gazing boredly at the crowd and finally thank the stars made eye contact with Jude, who seemed to be watching them with a curious gaze, eyes barely visible beneath his brim. Probably for the best at the moment.
Godwin eyed her. "You don't look like you're from Ahmresteed."
Well then, he knew his galactic neighborhood. Ahmresteed was a planet of humanoids, most of which had darker skin and descended from South American pioneers (or cosmoneers, specifically). Edoline's strange eyes, bluish white skin, and yellow windswept hair didn't exactly fit the description.
Finding a little more comfort in acting as her alias, she smirked. "My family wasn't from there. And like I said, I wasn't there myself long. Still was a great place though." The last part was true. Her and Jude had visited for a refueling and stayed an extra two days to soak in the sun, despite Edo's distaste for vacationing. For all her awkwardness she was an excellent improvisor.
Her stare turned to Godwin. "To be fair, you don't exactly fit in with The Skid, either. Have you really lived here your whole life?"
An unexpected reaction crossed his face, like she'd dug into something he'd rather not think about, before the split second passed and it was replaced with the bored and scowling expression he had worn before. Edo couldn't help but get a little excited by her excellent conversational transition and it's effect. She knew now that it wasn't just her acting; it was both of them.
"Yep." He replied morosely. "Pretty sure my first memory had something to do with dust, fake skies, and shaky spaceships, so yeah."
It was definitely him.
Their drinks arrived and Godwin sipped at his, mulling something over in his head. Edoline took a sip and then spit it back into her cup as sneakily as she could. Godwin snorted loudly and she closed her eyes in embarrassment. "Dear god, you don't have to drink it." He said, giggling.
Edoline laughed too, half because she prayed laughing at herself would help her not replay this millions of times over in her head. The other half of her reasoning fell into an actual sort of comfort. Godwin seemed almost genuine when he laughed.
As her laughter faded, she pushed the drink away. "...Ever thought of leaving?"
Godwin snorted, then rolled his eyes at her, smiling. "Oh, ya think? Gee, never crossed my mind before." Edo couldn't help but laugh a little again.
She paused a moment before continuing, "Well, I'm- that is, me and my partner- we're um." She searched desperately for a good lie to come to mind as Godwin looked at her, interest piked.
A hand clapped down lightly on her shoulder. "A Taxi-Service!" Jude said. " Intergalactic taxi service, that is. Hello Eponine, I just saw you. Is this a customer?"
Godwin looked at him wide eyed. Tall Androids with dark-silver steel, glowing blue eyes and nose and cheeks, wearing heavy cloaks and flower hats and friendly smiles, were not something many people came across. Edo couldn't help but appreciate Godwin taking it all in stride, grinning back widely and offering a hand to shake. His eyes darted back and forth between them. "Are you guys serious?"
Jude took his hand and shook. "We're pretty cheap, we are. We've already payed for our fuel restock, so we take whatever you can give. If it's somewhere particularly far I'm sure we could use help around our ship."
Edoline wondered if they'd broken the poor kid. He looked shell-shocked and momentarily speechless, but somehow found his words again. "Uhm, yeah, that, that actually sounds great! Is there a specific time you need to leave? Maybe tomorrow morning?"
The two friends looked at each other, only momentarily weary. Edoline turned back to Godwin with a smile. "That sounds fine. I'm sure you'd need to get packed."
Godwin clawed a hand through his tousled hair, looking into the distance. "Oh my god, okay, uhm, yeah, wow, great, I'll be ready. I guess I'll meet you guys in the station? I just gotta do some...stuff before I leave." He looked back and forth between them. "You guys won't ever understand how much this means to me."
Guilt curled inside her stomach. A spark of anger flared inside her at Godwin for not being smart enough to see through the fact that he was agreeing to his own kidnapping. This was too easy.
Jude smiled easily at the boy, "Well I'm glad we can help! We'll need to leave early though, we've got a busy schedule. Three in the morning, in fact." And looked down at his notebook as if reading what he had just come up with. "Does that work for you?"
Godwin jumped up, "Yes, everything works for me, it's all fine, look, the drinks are on me." He stuffed a hand in his pocket and dropped some coins into the jar. "YO, GUIL, IM GETTING OUT OF HERE! The pay is in the tip jar!!!" And started toward the door, quickly adding, "I'll see you guys tomorrow, I'll be there, I've gotta run though, lots to do!"
They watched as he bolted up the staircase out of site, skipping steps. Jude stood in silence as Edoline took a sip of her drink before spitting it out upon recollection, pushing it away again. "Augh, that whole everything was awful in every way."
"What, the drink or the talking with him?" Jude said. "It's been fifteen seconds, by the way." He added.
Edoline stood up. "Both. Let's follow him."
She headed toward the stairs and heard Jude's tentative footsteps following. "Edo, we need to find the other one. She's supposed to be here."
"And how else are we supposed to find her in such a short amount of time?" She replied, swiping at the sensor quickly and praying she wouldn't owe anyone else a drink for of it. She caught the site of him running off through the bustling crowds of the Station-House, and nodded in his direction for Jude to see. They stepped in time side by side, one of Edo's irises looking at her friend. "Godwin will probably lead us straight to her."
As they stepped out into the faux light of day, to the crowds of the populace crowding their view, Edo smiled. "Oh dear, I think we're going to have to fly to find him." Then grinned at Jude's expression of loathing as she ran into a near alleyway.
Jude hated flying. Edo loved it.