“You’re a miracle worker, Peg,” McClellan said, reaching for the cup. “I’m bloody parched.”

Peg yanked the cup back. “Parched enough to pay in advance?”

“Parched enough to break your arm and take all I want straight from the faucet!” McClellan laughed.

Peg snickered. “Go ahead! No one knows how to work the thing but me.” She stroked one of the pipes, gently swirling McClellan’s beer as she did so. “I built it. It’s my baby. You can barely find your own stick in the cockpit.”

McClellan raised an eyebrow. “It’s called a yoke.”

“Or you could take your business elsewhere,” Peg continued. “I do believe you can get some beer in our home port, if you go down the right back alley, but that’d be quite the wait. Why, it’d be weeks and weeks before you got some mead in you.”

McClellan licked his lips, and slapped a handful of worn company pay slips onto the bar. “You play dirty. Beer me. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned bartender talk? Maybe the occasional ‘I’m sure it’ll work out, Mr. McClellan,’ or ‘I sure do value your business, Mr. McClellan.'”

Peg ran a rag over the metal plate that served as a bar. “I’m not a bartender,” she said. “I happen to be a highly trained United Nations Transport Service communications officer. Important people have my voice in their ear when things get done. I just moonlight as a bartender when there’s nobody important to talk to.”

“There’s never anybody important to talk to out here,” McClellan snorted back. “This Theta Proxima milk run is the ass-end of space.”

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