"Whiskey. Straight up."
The bartender gives me a strange look. I narrow my eyes to indicate that I mean business. The fat, bald man behind the counter continues to wipe the glass in his hand with a tea towel. His mustache twitches a little as the wheels in his head spin at top speed.
"Wouldn't you prefer something a little more—"
"Lady-like?" I interrupt with a little snarl. "What do you think this is? The 1800s?"
"Well… I…" the booze dealer's eyes drop beneath my chin. Not bad – he actually lasted a good thirty seconds before succumbing to male programming.
I slam my fist down on the counter, well aware of how it makes my ladies jiggle. "Up here, pal. And no, I wouldn't like something that you deem a little more appropriate! Whiskey! The cheap stuff will do."
Amazingly, he doesn't bother to take his eyes off my chest. What a pig.
"Coming right up, miss," he says and turns to the assortment of colored bottles behind him.
Someone left an empty glass on the counter beside me. There are still a few chunks of ice in the bottom, so I swipe it and press it to the back of my neck. I let out a little sigh. I get so hot wearing all this gear.
The bartender finishes straining my alcohol and places the chilled tumbler in front of me. "Whiskey. Straight up."
I don't care where his eyes go any longer. I feel the pleasing burn of the first sip. Soon, all my troubles will melt away.
The telltale click of a pistol being cocked beside my ear interrupts the descent down to my happy place.
"Well… look what the cat dragged in."
I sigh. Why does she always have to show up at the very worst of times?
I turn my head to lock eyes with the blonde standing over me, her big iron pointing directly at my nose.
I look the other woman up and down a few times and manage my best smirk. "Did you put your top through the dryer again, hon? You look like you're going to burst out of that thing."
She returns the smirk, but keeps the firearm leveled at my face. "You should talk. Have you walked by a mirror lately? Or are you just kind enough to give every man in this dive a free show?"
I snort a little and take another sip of the caramel-colored poison in front of me.
"What do you want, Donna?" I ask without turning to look at her again.
"You know what I want, Elaina."
The tubby bar tender tries to find his courage. "Now ladies… I don't want any—"
The blonde and I shoot him a look. He wisely chooses not to finish his whining and scurries into the back room.
I run a hand through my black tresses and continue to concentrate on my drink.
Donna presses the issue by pressing her gun to my temple. "I'm not kidding, Elaina. Give it to me. Now."
I weigh my options for a moment. This sort of thing is common in these parts I guess, as no one else in the bar is even paying attention to us. I pause another moment, then make a choice.
In a blur of movement, I simultaneously stand, grab the blonde's gun hand by the wrist and point it toward the ceiling. With the other hand, I form a fist and send it sailing toward her jaw.
Donna manages to catch my fist and we stand locked in stalemate. We've been in this position before; too many times to count actually. After all, we've been rival bounty hunters for as long as I can remember.
Now it's her turn to smirk. "I don't remember asking you for a dance."
"I don't remember asking you to press a gun to my head."
She snorts a little and relaxes her grip on my fist. "Let's not do this, okay? Just for once, play nice, will you?"
I let go of her wrist and sit back down to my drink. She slides onto the stool next to me. Dressed in our regulation leather jackets, we could easily pass for sisters. Hell, during the brief times when we're actually on the same page, we'll sometimes borrow each other's clothes.
"I'm guessing you're talking about the little black book?" I ask as I press my glass to my lips again.
Donna replaces the safety on her trusty ol'rusty and shoves it down the back of her skin tight jeans.
"You know I am," comes the reply. "Now, come on, pass it over." She nods to the bar keep and slaps a few dollars on the counter. "Sarsaparilla, please."
I smile in my glass. "Still drinking like a lady, I see." My voice echoes out of the glass and makes me sound like I'm from another planet.
The blonde shoots me a dirty look. "That's because, unlike you, I am a lady!"
I raise my perfectly manicured eyebrows a little. "Unlike me? Honey, you're showing just as much cleavage as I am."
Donna pulls up her top a little. "Stop changing the subject. Give me the little black book, or I'll take you outside and beat it out of you!"
I know I could keep yanking her chain all day long – she's always been so easy – but I decide to actually play nice like she requested.
"Fiiiiiiine…" I drawl. "I'd give it to you, but I don't actually have it."
I can feel her temperature rising a little. I'd better watch myself, or bare-knuckle Barbie really will try to take me outside for a dustup.
"Alright, alright, alright. I gave it to Jack."
She almost chokes on her lady drink. "What! Why did you do that?" she demands in a harsh whisper.
Just a little note here – Jack is Donna's ex-husband. They were a bounty hunting team back in the day. Real good, too. I actually dated Jack half a lifetime ago; that's how the blonde and I got introduced. Saw them at a watering hole on Vega9 and asked who the bimbo on his arm was. Donna decided I needed a black eye for that, and I quickly returned the favor. We've been frenemies ever since.
She gives me a light punch in the shoulder. "I said, why did you do that?"
I look at her and frown. "I owed him, alright?"
Her eyes roll into the back of her skull. "Ugh. Elaina, again?"
I finish my whiskey with a little shrug. "I was in a bad spot, okay? I needed a little something to get me through the rest of the month."
She flicks the side of my tumbler with her finger. "Goodness, whatever could you have been blowing your money on this time?"
My expression clouds over and I look away. I hate that she always knows exactly how to shut me down when she wants to. "I don't have a problem with that, I have a problem with life. That's just the lubricant I need to slide by. You can take a damn walk if you're going to start getting all preachy and judgey."
"Oh, you'd like that, wouldn't you?" she says as she runs a couple fingers through my back belt loop and yanks me off the bar stool. "Come on, sister. I'm not going to go see my ex alone. You just volunteered to come along."
I'm a little fuzzy from the whiskey at the moment, so I decide to make a show of being dragged out of the bar by my girlfriend. I make pistol fingers at several of the men watching and slap Donna's butt as hard as I can.
"Ow! Dammit, Elaina!"
Several men cheer and raise a mug in my direction.
The blonde lets go of the back of my jeans when we get out into the night air. I spin around and give her my silly 'I'm a little drunk' smile.
Her eyes visit the back of her skull again.
"Where is my idiot ex these days anyway?" she asks. "Is he still here on earth1? Or is he portal jumping again?"
I draw a deep breath through my nose to try and steady myself a little. "Yeah, last I heard he was up in Canada chasing down Brick Mickey."
"Brick Mickey…" Donna says and shakes her head. "This is all your fault! You just had to give him the little black book, didn't you!"
I shrug again. "Like I said, I needed—"
Donna waves her hand to cut me off. "Whatever. How many portal charges do you have left?"
I glance down at my wrist. The digital readout on my flesh says '005'.
I hold up three fingers. "Two?"
Donna checks her wrist. "I've got seven. Okay, come on. I'll spend a couple charges."
The blonde grabs my hand and starts pulling me toward a large metallic circle across the parking lot.
A pimply teenage boy in a wrinkled uniform looks up from his holographic comic book as we approach. He never quite makes it past our matching cleavage.
"H… how m… many?" he stammers.
"Two, please," Donna says sweetly.
He taps a few virtual keys and motions for the blonde to press her hand to a scanner. The machine beeps twice and the boy presses another button to activate the gate.
"Thanks, sugar," I say in my sexiest half-drunk slur.
I'm pretty sure the kid just wet his pants. I'm really mean.
Donna approaches a panel on the side of the metal ring. "Which part of Canada?" she asks.
"The coast," I reply.
"What do you mean, 'which coast'?"
"There's two, Elaina. Canada reaches from the Pacific to the Atlantic."
"What about the Arctic?"
"Fine, fine. I think he said Vancouver, so… that's Pacific, right?"
"Yes. Yes it is. Well done, Black Beauty! I guess the booze hasn't killed all your brain cells yet after all!"
"Shut up, Donna."
Black Beauty was a horse. I hate it when she calls me that. I'm not even black, just my hair is. She's just trying to get back at me for all the Barbie jokes I make.
The blonde giggles a little, then turns back to the panel. "Vancouver, please." She never stays mad for long. That's something that I actually really like about her.
A loud crackle fills the air for a moment, then a street, presumably in Vancouver, appears inside the ring in front of us.
We walk through the portal the same way you would walk through someone's front door. The reality folding technology that Musk came up with back in 2045 really changed everything.
The Las Vegas street in the portal behind us blinks a couple times then disappears. There's no going back to sin city without paying another couple of portal charges.
I rub the back of my neck and groan a little. Donna shakes her head at me. "Were you hydrating between those whiskey shots?"
I shake my head back at her.
She continues to shake her stupid blonde head. I hope it falls off and rolls down the street.
"Come on," she says and takes my hand again. She holds my hand so much I swear she might be a little bit into me. "You need water or you'll be no use to anybody tomorrow morning."
I won't admit it out loud, but I think she's totally right. I can already feel my body complaining.
Luckily, Canadians like water apparently, and soon I'm making loud slurping sounds at a public drinking fountain.
Donna taps her foot impatiently as I take my time. "Hurry it up, will you? We still have to find Jack before Brick Mickey crushes him."
I snort a little. Not a great thing to do while using a drinking fountain. She was right though – Brick Mickey got that nickname due to the muscle enhancing implants in his body. They caused his flesh to become misshapen and hideous – so much so that his face now resembled that of a rodent that ran face-first into a brick wall. Hence the name.
The water did the trick and my head began to clear a wee bit. "Okay, so call him. Don't tell him that I'm with you though."
The blonde lets out a long sigh. "And say what? Hey Jack-ass, I happen to be in Canada tonight and thought maybe I'd stop by for a quickie for old time sake? I think he'll figure out what I'm after right away!"
"Wait, you dragged me all the way to fricking Canada and you don't even have a plan?" I ask in mock shock.
Donna's face starts turning a little red. "Well, if you hadn't stolen the little black book from me in the first place, neither of us would be standing here right now!"
"Well sorrrrrrrrrry," I grunt. My stomach isn't feeling too good. I think I'm going to hurl soon. "You should have kept a better eye on your things. Everyone knows that book of yours lists all of the most lucrative bounties on this side of the galaxy. I'm surprised you don't just sew it into your bra or something."
"Most lucrative and the most dangerous! And we both know you'd still go for it even if it was in my bra!"
She's right. I've never been shy about reaching in there in the past when we've gone out on the town. It's where little miss perfect keeps her party drugs.
"Dammit, Elaina!" she shrieks and stomps one of her boots on the sidewalk. "I don't want Jack dead! I just want my property back!"
I hold up a finger to signal her to hold that thought. A moment later, I vomit into a nearby sewer grate. I'm such a lady.
I look up to see Donna pacing back and forth making unintelligible animal noises. It's what she does when she's nearing her breaking point. I consider letting her have a meltdown – it is kind of funny to watch – but decide that I'll be a nice frenemy tonight. Besides, if we team up and bring down Brick Mickey, the bounty will more than hold me over for the rest of the month.