Justine’s Job

“Not that one!” J.J. stopped Maurice with a hand on his shoulder. She was rewarded with a pair of hands, from two different men, against each of her shoulders. Each of the men used their free hands to aim sidearms at her head. The tall pale man on the right had dark long hair and his eyes glowed red. The shorter, bulkier man on the left sported a bushy brown beard; his eyes glowed yellow.

“Why not?” Maurice raised a thin eyebrow. The gesture deepened the wrinkles already on his forehead. It was the only hint of surprise at anything happening in the empty bar. Three men, a woman with a purple crewcut, and a silent bartender were the only bodies in the bar. J.J. interrupted Maurice as he moved to sit on one of the dozens of unoccupied stools and it made him curious. He also took note that his men’s attempts at intimidation didn’t phase her at all.

“It’s a trigger,” she said. “It’s not hard, but we don’t need that kind of distraction right now, do we?” she asked. Maurice glanced down at the stool, then at the bartender. The late 20s man stood at the end of the bar wiping a glass while facing the other way. Then, he nodded.

“Fair enough,” he leaned forward and spread his arm to gesture at the vacant tables. “After you.” The two men pulled their hands off J.J. and she nodded. She turned and picked a round, wooden table that seemed built for two. Maurice sat across from J.J. while his guards remained standing on both sides. Once they were both seated Maurice gave a slight nod. The tall, pale henchman placed a golden glowing cube on the table between them; it was the size of a grapefruit.

“You have my request?” he asked.

“Yeah, about that…,” J.J. said. In an instant, the golden cube was gone from the table and Maurice was moving to stand. “Wait!” J.J. shouted. “I have it! I just don’t know how much you need,” she said. Maurice’s bottom hovered above his seat for a moment as he tilted his head at J.J.

“What?” he asked. J.J. nodded, and she gave an exaggerated shrug.

“Look, all cards on the table: I’m new. I don’t know the going rate for this stuff. I heard a couple of guys talking about it in a bar somewhere, and here I am.” An amused smile tugged at the corners  of Maurice’s thin lips and he let himself settle back onto his seat. J.J. relaxed when it seemed like he would stay and she sat back in her seat too.

“That cube looked like 100 million; how much is that worth?’ J.J. asked. Maurice appraised the short, pale woman. Her crewcut was a deep shade of royal purple. Her black duster covered most of her body  but he could see a white t-shirt underneath it and she had a large hairy tarantula tattooed on her neck. Her appearance wasn’t anything special, but Maurice had dealt with a lot of people to get to his current position. What impressed him the most was how at ease she was. She didn’t flinch when his henchman brandished guns. She was either naively honest, or actually unconcerned with the possibility of being swindled. The one thing he could tell for sure: she would deliver whatever she promised.

“How much do you have?” Maurice asked. J.J. maintained eye contact with an amicable smile on her face; but, she did not say a word. Maurice felt a brief moment of embarrassment, the first time in possibly a decade, when he realized her silence meant, ‘I asked you first.’ He’d used similar tactics in the past and her carefree attitude hinted that he did not stand a chance of winning that contest with her. He nodded again, the cube was placed on the table again.

“It is 100 million. That normally buys 250ml.” J.J.’s coffee-brown eyes widened; it amused Maurice to see something finally surprise her.

“100 million nanos for one cup!?” she asked. “That’s insane! What do you even use it for?”

“Alchemy,” Maurice smiled. “It’s one of the rarest substances in the multiverse and its properties are useful in a variety of formulas. I’m assuming you do have..,” Maurice chuckled. ” a cup’s worth of it for me? Otherwise, I don’t think you need to waste any more of my time.”

“Oh yeah!” J.J. nodded. “Gimme whatever’s on tap!” J.J. shouted in the general direction of the bar, then she turned back to Maurice.

“Just need to get you a container,” she said. In seconds a blonde waitress appeared to place a frothy mug on their table. Then she wandered off. J.J. lifted the mug and chugged the amber liquid in one go. Once it was empty, she took a moment to dry the inside of the mug out with napkins from the table. Then, she lowered the mug beneath the table and hid it in her coat.

“So how fast do you go through this stuff?” J.J. asked as she nonchalantly hid the mug on her lap.

“It’s so rare; I can never get enough,” Maurice replied. J.J. giggled.

“You keep saying it’s rare. But nothing in the multi-verse is rare; if you know the right people.” J.J. pulled the mug out from under her coat and placed it on the table. The mug was filled to the brim with a viscous, translucent blue liquid. J.J. shrugged.

“There’s at least a cup in there, I don’t have a measuring cup or anything,” she said.

“How…?” Maurice asked. He held his right hand out; the shorter, bushier henchman presented him with a long, thin, obsidian spike that ended in a needle point. He reached forward with a steady hand, gently touched the tip to the surface of the liquid, then, he pulled up. A thin wispy strand followed the spike upward as Maurice stretched it out like a strand of pizza cheese.

“How did you get so much liquid silk?” he asked. “The spiders are impossible to find and savagely ferocious.” J.J. smiled.

“I asked nicely,” she said.

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