Driftwood

A Pink Dormouse Production




Blake drifted. He barely got off Jevron with his life, and that had soured the taste of rebellion. But there was nothing else for him to do, nowhere for him to go that mattered to him now. So he drifted, amongst the multitudes of others displaced by the War. And eventually he washed up at Freedom City.

For want of anything better to do he made his way to Chenie's Bar, which was at least familiar. It was busier, more crowded than on his previous visits; there were more tables, and all of them were surrounded by drinkers. He spotted one free stool at the bar, and moved forwards to claim it.

"What'll it be?" Chenie said, as she turned around. A flash of recognition passed across her face. "So you came back."

"Yes," Blake said, taking his seat at the bar, "I came back."

"No girls with you this time?" Chenie began to pour him a drink. "Have this on the house; and then tell me what news you have of Kline - Docholli - whatever his name is, or was?" She nodded to a man over by the curtained doorway, and he joined her behind the bar, then began to serve the other patrons.

"No news, I'm afraid." Blake took the glass and took a tentative sip. It was sweet, but not overly so - some form of fortified spiced wine, he assumed. "I hope that he got away, but I never heard."

"And the information that he gave you, did that help?"

"I don't know." Blake took another drink. "I found what I was looking for, thanks to Docholli, but I don't know what good it did me." He looked around the room, then back at Chenie. "Or anyone else for that matter. Once I thought that I could do something to help people, to make a difference."

"And now?" Chenie poured a drink for herself, then leaned towards him, resting her elbows on the bar. 

"Now," he took another drink, "it seems like more people are suffering because the Federation's collapsing than ever suffered under it." He drained what liquid remained in his glass. "I wanted freedom for all, and they got chaos."

"How were you to know that?" Chenie refilled his glass. "Could you see into the future?" 

Blake noticed that she did not ask why he held himself responsible for what had become of the Federation. Maybe she had heard enough about Star One to put the facts together for herself. Or maybe she was simply humouring a melancholy drunk. He was not drunk yet, nor was it his habitual state by the end of an evening, but there was as little reason for her to know that as there was for her to recognise him as Blake the Revolutionary, or Blake the Political Criminal.

While citizens of the Federation, and those of its allies, were encouraged to report suspicious persons, only the military, the law enforcers, and the bounty hunters ever had full access to files on wanted criminals. He had once argued to a meeting of dissidents that this encouraged division amongst the population - not knowing what the real criminals looked like allowed neighbour to inform upon neighbour for any spurious reason. There was no 'he isn't on the wanted list, so he can't be doing wrong' to fall back on, only 'he's acting suspiciously, I should inform on him before someone informs on me' and guilt by association.

But he was not bound by the Federation here. Freedom City was outside the Federation, unaligned with the Federation, tolerated, but barely, by the Federation, known throughout the Federation as a hotbed of un-Federation-like immorality. So tonight, he may as well drink, and try to temporarily forget all about the Federation.

***


He missed people. He missed his people. He suspected that he had told Chenie so already - possibly more than once - but he told her again to be certain. 

Chenie smiled knowingly and refilled Blake's glass.

***


Chenie had stretch marks. Blake noticed that the holos in her room mostly showed a much younger Chenie with a child at various ages. The rest showed that same child grown to a young man, and wearing a uniform that Blake did not recognise. He estimated that the last had been taken some years before, but refrained from asking Chenie what had become of her son.

He thought she looked more beautiful without her make-up. She laughed when he told her, but not unkindly. She stopped laughing when Blake began to kiss the lines on her belly, and when he next glanced up her eyes were closed and she was smiling indulgently.

***


In the morning, Chenie made breakfast for him, the sent him on his way.

"You should find your people," she said. "Maybe they'll give you back your faith. And if you ever see Kline again, remember me to him."

"Why don't you look for him?" Blake asked as he pulled on his jacket. 

"Because I belong here. Besides, one day someone may come looking for me, and I'd hate to miss him."

Maybe Chenie meant her son, maybe she meant Docholli. It was possible she was referring to both of them. The important part, it seemed, was that she had faith that one day this someone would return to her, if only she waited long enough. 

***


Blake drifted again, but this time he had hopes of washing up somewhere where he might be able to make a difference. He thought about the way he had connected with Chenie, and her assertion that he needed to go out and find a place where he belonged. She belonged in Freedom City, she had said, and somewhere out there was a place for him. Or, if that place did not exist, he simply needed to find the people who would help him create it. With any luck her optimism would be enough to keep him going until he could make some more, perhaps even some potentially useful, connections.


Dormouse

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