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ashamed, mournful, sad

Down, Part 1

Ronin opened his eyes and stared groggily at the old, crumbling ceiling over his head. He was lying in a bed, stiffer and lumpier than usually preferred. For a moment, Ronin was not certain how or why he had ended up here nor why his head was pounding. Feeling less constrained than he normally did, Ronin took a look under the rumpled sheet. Typical, he thought resignedly. It certainly explained why he was sleeping in such a large bed.

As he lied and waited for the headache to pass, the memories came back to him. Another conquest, she would have told him when she saw him, but she had left years ago, before their great success and their greater fall. Here tonight, gone tomorrow. This one, at least, hadn’t cost him any credits. Not many, at least, which was good as Ronin seemed to have fewer to spend every day.

Groaning, Ronin sat up and pushed himself out of bed, grabbing for his clothes nearby on the floor. Every muscle and joint seemed to ache with stiffness. There was something he would never get used to, even as it seemed to get steadily worse as time passed. He was too young to already feel this old. Ignoring the dull pain, Ronin dressed: pants, shirt, socks, boots, and finally the jacket, each item with its own distinctive smell. Together, it was all rather pungent, but he could tolerate it until he could find a new set of clothing.

He made for the refresher, flicking on the bright, sterile light, momentarily blinding him. His eyes adjusted to find a rather appalling individual staring back at him. Not long ago, the pale, aged, lifeless man looking back with his eyes would have startled him. Now, however, it was an all too familiar sight.

The chilly water on his face helped bring Ronin out of his haze, but which unfortunately gave him a clearer view of his grey-flecked hair and three-day-old beard. With a frown, he turned from the mirror and left the room, trying to walk the stiffness off as he headed for the nearby lift. In moments, he reached the ground floor and veered right toward his intended destination. He soon stood in front of the hotel’s small combination bar and restaurant. Unsurprisingly, the place was all but empty, even more so than it had been last night, what the bartender had pitifully called their “high time”. Yawning, Ronin made his way to the bar and sat heavily on one of the stools. The bartender, a tall Selkath, looked up from the glass he had been cleaning and greeted him with a nod.

“Good morning,” he said in screeching Basic. Ronin replied by pointing to a tall, clear bottle behind the bartender.

“I’ll take a couple of those.” He pulled a few spare credits out of his pocket and tossed them onto the bar. The bartender eyed the credits with surprise.

“Starting a little early today, aren't we?” he asked as he reached for the bottle and two small glasses. Ronin’s eyes flashed to the nearby wall chrono. An hour before the planet’s midday.

“It’s going to be a long day,” Ronin said, and left it at that. Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn’t, Ronin didn’t really know. He was never sure of anything these days.

For a moment, Ronin stared at the dark, pink liquid that the bartender had poured. In a pair of quick movements, he downed both glasses, grunting and contorting his lips as the prickly, almost foul liquid tore its way through his esophagus. Ronin lowered his head to keep it down and pointed to the glasses, his request clear. The bartender obediently refilled both shots.



December 2007

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