Boom (Landing Day - 4th Hour)

Aurora Creek wasn’t panning out. At all.

As Marisol slogged from one dead end lead to the next, it became painfully obvious that she should’ve booked her room no later than sixteen days ago…about the time she was hanging by the neck from Jat’s choke hold. It made a certain sense; when the logging companies and sawmills shut their doors for the solstice, the hard bitten folk who cut the wood didn’t want to waste their precious time on horseback to some far off holiday. And so, Aurora Creek would fill to overflowing, starting tonight after five o’clock.

It’s not that Marisol simply couldn’t find a room. She could have a spot right now, in the Crosscut Saloon or even the best hotel in town, the Aurora Creek Lodge. All she had to do was whore, for the cost of the room plus thirty percent of her take. The prospect of spending the next week on her back was a non starter for the Spanic woman. And so, she labored through the snow, shifting her tool bag to allow each hand a few minutes’ protection in the thin lining of her pocket.

“No rooms…no work.” A number of the “cutters” apparently had their regular deals cut months in advance. Even the mysterious Jacobs, recommended by her Samaritan….Rowan?...simply shook his head before offering her another chance to put her ankles in the air. Now, as she turned off the main street in the fading daylight, Marisol’s thoughts darkened at the prospect of begging her way back aboard Lunar Veil. “I’d sooner freeze than give her the satisfaction,” she whispered through teeth gritted against the unrelenting cold. Considering her lot, it looked as if the town of Aurora Creek was prepared to deliver on that outcome.

She had one last lead, a boarding house at the end of the street. Well, not boarding, per se, she’d been told…more like a cot in the attic for fifty credits a night. As the cold marched up her extremities, the mechanic began to think that might be a pretty good deal.

And then she heard the explosion.

Muffled as it was by the snow and the building whose placard read Le Cabaret de Montagne, the sound which shook the rafters was more of a throaty ‘whump.’ “Holy hell!” she cried out as she raced up to the ornate doors. “Hello?” Marisol burst into the cabaret. “Hello? Are you alright?”

The room was a frontier attempt at the grand show clubs of the central planets. A small stage projected into a space that held some two dozen tables, each draped in a white cloth and adorned with gilded centerpieces. The walls were hung with tapestries, framed art, and show posters depicting black and white scenes of people she’d never seen before. Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Judy Garland were a few of the names that splashed across her eyes as she ran into the empty club.

“Hello? Hello?” Marisol stood in the room’s center. “Is anyone there?”

Soon, she could hear the sound of two voices. Men…one bellowing in anger as the other…laughed? As they drew closer, she realized that not only was the second laughing, but he was positively uproarious in his amusement. “Shut up!” the first shrieked. The pair burst through a side door as a black cloud belched outward. “You moron!” the first shouted at his laughing counterpart. “You utter buffoon!”

To Marisol’s eye, both men appeared unharmed, but for sooty black smudges on their faces and clothes. “Are you alright?” she asked.

“No need for alarm,” the more jovial of the pair replied to the stranger in their midst. “We don’t open until seven.”

He received a swat to the shoulder. “Are you mad? There’s every need for alarm!” his partner groused. “You nearly brought the gorram building down on us, and we STILL DON’T HAVE HEAT! I’m sorry, miss,” the second collected himself. “We’re not our best selves at the moment.”

“Remy…Remy!” the taller chided. “We shouldn’t trouble this fine lady with our petty inconveniences. I am Arturo,” he smiled through the black, oily sheen on his face. “This is Remy, my partner in business and in life. We are grateful for your concern, miss..?”

“Marisol,” she gave a smile. Strangely, it felt as if it were the first time she’d done that in ages.

“Marrrisol,” Arturo repeated with a flourish and a lengthy rounding of the ‘R.’ “You are here for the festival?”

“No,” she shook her head. “Looking for work, and a place to stay.”

“Hmmm,” Remy answered. “I take it you’ve been offered the local Whore’s Arrangement.”

Her shoulders slumped. “Everywhere,” she sighed. “Look…you seem like decent people. I’ll cook…I’ll clean. I know how to wait a table. I’ll sleep in a storeroom. I just need…”

“Shhhh,” Arturo placed a finger to his lips. “Mustn’t reveal desperation. Tell me,” he said as the index finger now pointed toward her tool bag, “what do you do with those?”

“I was a mechanic on a boat.”

“The one that landed today?”

“Yes.”

Arturo traded a meaningful glance with Remy. “Tell me, if you would, Miss Marrrisol…as a mechanic, might you be familiar with the inner workings of an oil fired furnace?”

The woman’s eye trailed from one to the other, before her face broke into a grin. “I’d be delighted to have a look at your furnace.”

Remy clapped his hands together as Arturo grandly proclaimed “and so she entered our lives. Please…allow us to lead the way. Welcome to Le Cabaret de Montagne.”

“Thanks,” her voice conveyed genuine relief. She wouldn’t freeze tonight, or be forced into whoring. “So,” Marisol asked as they directed her toward the cellar, “what happened?”

“It just stopped working,” Remy explained. “And then this…this…IMBECILE…”

“Remy…Remy!”

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