Hunter made his way down to the Waiting Room. It was the closest bar to the drop hangers and a favorite of freelancers such as himself. Good place to get the latest scuttlebutt from the surface. It was right next to the appraisery where returning rangers traded ancient trinkets for cash, and naturally they were more than happy to turn around and exchange the cash for the chance to yell, “Next round’s on me!” Good place to pick up contracts, too. The Guild didn’t take a cut from the work they didn’t know about. Sure, Hunter had a sanctioned job already, but that was just so he had a way to get planetside and knock out some side work.
More than anything though, the Waiting Room was a great place to kill time.
Word got out yesterday that the Diamond Inquisition—and thereby its 338,000 inhabitants—would extend its anchorage over Absolutno Alpha for another 100 days. It was unusual to stay in one place for this many cycles, and people were getting restless. All the easy stuff was picked clean. The proper xenoarcheologists must have lobbied the Navigator’s Union. Bad news for the rangers, but as a freelancer he could probably eke out a decent cut with one of the bigger diggers.
Hunter bellied up to the counter and ordered a pint-of-the-day. Didn’t matter what it was; they were all good. The bright pinks and yellows and violets of the kaleidoscopic ceiling display pulsed with the slow, electronic music, and the shifting patterns gave the mind plenty of room to wander.
The place was mostly empty; it was a weird time of day—mid-shift. Most people were at work or dead asleep. Hunter didn’t keep to a shift though. It gave him access to the die-hards, the drifters, and the desperate. They all paid better than the average client. The barman slid him a pint and Hunter brought it to his lips, but before he got a taste there was a tap on his shoulder.
“You a ranger?”
He turned around to find a little old man who looked to him like a human laundry hamper holding a cap between his hands, running his fingers over the brim. Desperate.
“No,” said Hunter. “Freelancer.”
“Oh, good. I’ve had it with these rangers. I’m looking for someone who’s not afraid to get a little creative.”
Hunter smiled and handed the man his drink. “Not looking, friend: found. Let’s talk business.”