My Flash .

Teddy ordered the expensive dark Irish ale and a shot of top-shelf whiskey from Saturn’s Ring, an out-of-the-way bar on the moon. He’d done his homework. Very few people visited this place. No sports holograms, no avatar pool, or 3D board games. Just booze and finger food. The menu was vegetarian since animal protein was illegal on most outposts. A smell of something fried came from the kitchen as the bartender passed through pine Venetian doors. The churning in his empty stomach screamed for food, a tantrum he could no longer ignore. Ambivalent, looking over the main courses, he decided it would be best not to ask for something “off the menu,” if he wanted to remain just another face in the bar. He finished the special ale in six gulps. The shot was next to go. This was his third round.

“Could I get a refill on these Jimmy? And I’d like to try the sweet potato black bean taco that’s on the menu,” Teddy slurred out the last word, sounding like ‘in you’ instead of menu.

“Sure pal.” Jimmy acknowledged his only patron, a forty-something, stocky blond man with a crew cut. The 3rd shift crowd was not due for another 3 hours. He refilled the drinks.

“Would you like a BKT, since you’re still drinking?” Jimmy offered. A Buzz Kill Tablet reversed the effects of alcohol in a few minutes, which made it legal for patrons to be served at a bar intoxicated.

“Yes, I’ll have one.”

Most bar owners offer BKT early on to keep the customer buying drinks. Jimmy preferred to keep them tipsy, just under the limit, to keep them talking.

“If you’re running up a tab, I got to scan your wrist to secure payment.” Jimmy dispensed a BKT and dropped it in a shot glass next to two fresh drinks. Teddy turned his left wrist around, giving Jimmy’s hand scanner access to the barcode implanted in his skin. The scan displayed 1,532 credits. Jimmy secured 850, more than enough for the growing tab.

“What’s the celebration?” Jimmy asked, moving away from Teddy while cleaning the countertop, but still in earshot.

“Five years of being stigma-free,” Teddy said, sounding much like sigma fee.  He downed the shot and swallowed the BKT with a little ale.

“Stigma free you say?”

“Damn right. Stigma-free. Teddy answered, slapping the bar top. His words were just slightly slurred now.

“And five years wondering what if.”

“What if?” Jimmy turned his back, putting washed glasses back in their place. He waited for Teddy to continue on his own. Most did.

“I wonder, what if she didn’t leave me?” Teddy said. “What if I married her? What if I were older and strong enough to not give a damn what people thought about us,… you know what I mean?”

“Yeah man, I do. Been there before myself.” Jimmy agreed.

“No, you haven’t”…Teddy answered sarcastically. “Unless you were seeing a Thomian woman.”

Jimmy, eyebrow raised, moved over to Teddy. Checking that they were still alone, he scanned a bar code on the counter that locked the front door. A second scan turned off the open sign. The bar, wired to a central bridge hub, utilized bar code scans linked to an AI computer, responsive enough to minimize staff.

“Ha! Got your Damn attention now, don’t I?” Teddy beamed triumphantly.

“That you do,” Jimmy agreed, pouring another shot. “This one’s on the house.” He slid the glass over to Teddy.

“Like I was saying, I had a chance with a Thomian woman.”

“But they’ve been gone for at least ten years,” Jimmy pointed out.

Rolling his eyes, Teddy said “Don’t you think I know that? It was when I got my first good job, with bennies, bonuses, and credits about fifteen years back.” He downed the shot in one gulp, followed by some ale. The drink kept him talking, as Teddy wanted, needed, every year.

“When I was an apprentice for Air Tech on earth, we put together the dome partials covering bars like this one. I dated Shawnda Kassia, her earth name. She was a dream to look at. I mean some serious eye candy, boy. Her real name was Lushian. They didn’t have last names. She was really sweet on me,” Teddy hesitated, then smiled. “Told me not to tell a soul.”

“Nobody knew she was Thomian?” Jimmy questioned.

“Were you born yesterday dude?  Nobody knew because they looked just like humans. The iris in each of them has the same alien DNA code. It’s like the same ID print. If any Thomians were retina scanned, they would all have the same footprint.  During a scan, brown eyes looked sky blue on dark brown skin. That’s how you knew.”

“So she was scanned? Jimmy asked.

“No,… yes, I,…I outed her.”

Teddy became silent. Jimmy refilled his ale and shot glass.

“What exactly happened?”

“Well”… Teddy continued. “even though the Thomian’s race had been on earth for almost two decades, it was forbidden for humans to date or marry them. Just a kiss could land you in jail or worse yet, at an EC-DC, Earth Center Disease Control lab. They never let you go once they get their hands on you.” Teddy took a minute. He looked out at the image of orbiting earth from the sky view in the bar.

“Why did you out her Teddy?”

“Because I was young and afraid of the stigma. If you exchange body fluid of any kind with a Thomian, male or female, their DNA signature would be in you forever. That’s the reason they mate with one person for life. I didn’t want to go to jail. I had to expose her before they guessed that… I”… Teddy didn’t continue. He just stared at his empty shot glass.

Jimmy sighed. “Tell me. I never had a chance to be with one of them, you know, hit it the right way, with consent. What was it like?” While he waited for an answer, Jimmy poured a shot and dark ale for himself. A new patron tried to open the front door, but quickly moved on when it didn’t budge.

“It was like heaven man,” Teddy recalled. “Her skin was so soft. It had a bronze glow like she had oiled up her skin and it shined bright, like sunshine. Lips full, soft. I couldn’t stop kissing her. I never hit it,… had sex I mean. I chickened out. But after just a few minutes of kissing, I felt something, weird. It felt like my skin was on fire, then cold. Then, like something was crawling on me, but I didn’t see anything. I couldn’t shake it off. She told me what I was feeling was some Lactobacillus from her body going into mine.

I freaked out. Some living alien bacteria was invading my body! I told her I could feel them under my skin, moving everywhere. She said not to worry, they’re harmless. But I couldn’t get over it. I got away from her fast. The next day I sent an anonymous barcode message to management. I accused her of being a Thomian without papers.

By noon, security grabbed us both, since I was seen with her. They forced a retina scan on her right there, and me too.

I was let go when tests proved I was human. She was detained. I don’t know how long. I quit the job on the spot and got the hell out before they called in the EC-DC lab goons. They caught me two days later though. After testing me in the lab, I was told I had no signs of the TL5 STD, so they cut me loose. But I’ve been avoiding the EC-DC ever since. I got married and took my wife’s last name, Normand. Gave her a bullshit story about how her family’s heritage and surname would help me move up in the Tech company I started. I never told her about Lushian.”

“Damn, what a story!” Jimmy said in awe. “TL5 STD?”

“Yes, named after the planet they came from, Thomia – L5, Species Transmitted Disease.”

“Did your wife get it?”

“No. It can only be passed on by another Thomian.” Teddy emphasized this as a fact. He hoped Jimmy wasn’t afraid of being infected, or call the EC-DC.

“I was infected…, no, more like exposed to TL5 from Lushian. Her Lactobacillus is with me for life. Doreen or any human can’t be infected by me, but I can’t rid myself of it. I’m just glad EC-DC’s blood work came back negative for infection back then.”

Just then, Teddy felt the bacillus moving through his body aggressively as he thought about Lushian. He sat quietly and pretended everything was okay. His sex life was over the top with Doreen, since the alien microbes could invade his penis upon mental command, expanding to form an erection at will, all the while moving throughout the organ, giving him multiple orgasms, with or without a partner.

“I might scan positive now,” Teddy said, as an afterthought. “So I keep a low profile just in case.” He continued talking about the unofficially banned subject.

“I wouldn’t feel so bad if I,… the government hadn’t treated them so bad. Tagging the Thomians to one location, forcing them to carry digital paper IDs which were scanned more than once a day. Given menial jobs after assisting humans to cure shit like the common cold. They just left one day without a trace. Not sure how they did it, but just like that, the Thomians were gone.”

“Would you like to see her again?” Jimmy asked, out of curiosity.

“I would like to know what happened to her and if she is alright.”

And apologize for his betrayal, he thought, remembering the digital IDs all Thomians had to carry. Zoo animals were treated better than they were. Teddy sat in silence while finishing his drinks. Another year of releasing his burden was accomplished.

When Teddy stood up, his head began to spin. He gripped the bar with both hands and sat back down slowly.

“Jimmy, close my credit line, and if you don’t mind, could I have another BKT for the road?”

“Sure,” Jimmy comforted, getting the tablet. “Should I call an earth-bound Sky cab?

“Yes. I’ll wait outside, under the dome. The view of earth is nice here.” Teddy remarked. The tab came up to 578 credits, including the drinks Jimmy had.

“Need to scan your wrist. You have credits left over.” Jimmy said.

“You keep them, Jim,” Teddy said, feeling comfortable talking to the bartender. He hoped never to see him again, the reason he picked Saturn’s Ring to rant about Lushian. “It’s the least I can do since I chewed your ear off.”

“It’s okay, really.” Jimmy shrugged. “It comes with the job, I just happen to like it.”

Teddy walked out the door, steady on his feet, now that his second BKT kicked in. He closed the door behind himself, noting that Jimmy still had the closed sign lit. The door was still locked on the outside too.

‘Glad my tip paid the bills today and gave the guy a break. Maybe that’s why he hasn’t reopened yet,’ he thought, as mild tremors around him signaled the Sky cab arrived, just before he saw it.

Jimmy watched Teddy hop into the Sky cab for the two-hour trip to earth. He scanned the counter barcode to unlock the entrance door. A second scan failed to turn on the open for business sign on the front door. It could be dirt on the lens of the handheld.

Just a speck could render the low-power device useless. He would have to test the unit, turning it on while looking directly into it for foreign obstacles.

Best not to do that. As the owner of Saturn’s Ring, he didn’t allow hologram or avatar games that might need a retina scan. To be safe he used the backup scanner, as a precaution. The backup handheld worked like a charm, signaling the 3rd shift crowd to his establishment with a blinking ‘open’ neon sign.

Copyright © 2018 Darnell Cureton. All Rights Reserved.

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