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Journal Entry 01028 292 000 A Beer



Journal Entry 292 / 01028

Mettare 01028

There seems to be one universal feature of all outposts, no matter whether
they're in the middle of a desert, a forest, or at the bottom of a sea.
Sociologists call it the 'third place.' It's where you neither work nor
sleep, deal with your peers or your family, but instead you interact with
your community, with strangers, with the other people who are important
to the stable life of a neighborhood. It never matters how large the
community is; if it exists, in needs a third place, a place for strangers.

Bigger communities have three. The first is the reading room, the second
is the coffee shop, and the third is the bar. Which one a person goes
to depends on what that person needs.

Furry needed a drink.

With a sigh she slid down behind a table in a booth with dark- red leather
in the chair and faux-wood top. It was obvious to her that the entire room
had probably been built by nanochine constructors and probably had used
a complete "how to build a bar" program without modification. This place
looked the same as all the other outpost bars to be found all across the
galaxy. There may even be a bar in the llerkin embassy exactly the same
size, shape, and dim lighting as this one.

The only advantage this place had over many of the others was that
this one, at least, had once been a real bar. It had been the school's
"watering hole" once upon a time. Evidence had turned up only the mildest
of alcoholic drinks, but there had been a series of intoxicants served
here all the same.

She pulled up a menu and selected a shot of scotch whiskey. She figured
she should start small. It burned going down her throat, made her eyes
water, and made her stomach contract painfully.

"Drinking alone?" said a voice she didn't recognize. The face, though,
was vaguely familiar. She looked up and said, "Chatenni, isn't it?"

"And you're Jofuran Shigokai," he said.

She gestured toward the other chair. "Have a seat. And call me Furry."

"If you'd rather drink alone, I can leave," he said.

"I don't know what I want," Furry admitted. "Except maybe to get stinking
drunk. That's the right phase, right? 'Stinking?'"

Chatenni nodded. "That's the right word." He looked at the menu and
selected a beer. It appeared on the table almost immediately, and Jofuran
goggled at the size of it. "Are you going to drink all that?"

He nodded. "I am. And maybe you should too." He dialed up something on the
menu and handed it to her. "It's called a cream stout. You'll like it."

She looked at him dubiously and took a swallow. Her nose pinched up for
a moment, and then she sighed. "It's better to drink than the scotch."

"You're supposed to drink both. One puts out the fire of the other,
and both get you drunk."

She nodded and ordered another scotch. "Are you sure you want to be
drinking that quickly?" Chatenni asked.

"Nix will stop me if I'm about to get alcohol poisoning, right Nix?"

The menu on the tabletop blinked and one word appeared there. "Yes."

"See?" Furry said. "Nix is one of my oldest and best friends. Nix is
Mom's AI." She tossed the scotch into the back of her throat, shivering as
it went down. It burned sweetly, and she enjoyed the feeling of it. She
looked over at him. "So, why are you here?"

He grinned at her. "To get drunk."

"Really?" she asked.

"Really," he said.

"So," she said, "how did your life get so fucked up that you ended
up here?"

"What makes you think my life is fucked up?"

She grinned. "I think it's empathy. Do you believe in it?"

"I know some special people have it," Chatenni said, taking another deep
drink. "I'm not one of them."

"Neither am I," Furry said, looking down at her third shot-glass. The
alcohol was definitely kicking in hard. She could feel the warming
sensation traveling up her neck and taking possession of her head. It felt
wonderful in its own right. If only her stomach would stop complaining.

Chatenni kept up with her, drinking his beer in huge gulps to fuel a
drunk in that massive centaur body of his. He looked at her and asked,
"So why do you want to get drunk?"

"You really wanna know?" she asked. Even she could tell that her
vocabulary was slipping.


"Because I think I'm losing Nickolai."

"Your lover?" Chatenni asked. "No offense, Furry, but I find that hard
to believe. You guys have been together for nearly a century. You must
have passed the breakup point a long time ago."

"People change," Furry said, shrugging and knocking back another drink.
"People change all the time." She looked him up and down as the hurt within her swelled up to be spoken. "You know what I hate? I hate the
fact that I'm not one of the eminent species. I hate the fact that I'm
not a human being, and I can't give Nickolai that human sensation that
he obviously needs, or he wouldn't... he wouldn't..." She tried to get
the tears under control, but the tremble in her lip was too strong,
too forceful. "He wouldn't be with that witch!"

Chatenni sighed and leaned back in his chair. "I don't know what to tell
you there, Furry, other than that I'm sure he didn't do it on purpose."

"Nobody does shit like this on purpose," Furry said. "I know that. I
just don't know how to make it right, or even if there is a way to make
it right." She sighed, taking another gulp of the beer. "So, why are
you here?"

"Because I don't have any empathy."

"I thought we'd eshtablished that," she slurred.

"No, I mean I really don't have any. I don't have a clue what other
people are feeling and thinking. I could dress up in a field of horny
clues in the middle of clue mating season and douse myself in clue musk
and I still couldn't get a clue."

Furry giggled. "Now that's an image I won't be able to get out of my
head for a week."

Chatenni said, "I lost my girlfriend this week."

Furry looked up. "What happened?"

"I wasn't paying enough attention to her. I feel bad about it."

"Why not?" Furry asked. "I mean, why weren't you paying enough attention
to her? Was she, like, needy or something?"

"No, not really. As girls go, she was pretty low maintenance. She was
even the same species. It's just that I'm much happier being alone. It
takes less effort than being intimate." He sighed. "I guess I'm not
someone meant to find a lover."

"Do you want one?"

"I guess," Chatenni said.

"I don't know why you'd force yourself if you'd only guess that you want
one. You don't know?"

Chatenni shook his head. "From time to time I just want to get laid, but
that's not the real thing. I can take care of those things myself. It's
more like... I want friends. Good, intimate friends, without feeling
like I'm responsible for their pleasure."

Furry nodded. "In bed, you mean?"


"Oh," Furry said. "My head is numb."

"You've been drinking too much."

"Is that what that is?" Furry said, casually tossing back another drink.
She'd forgotten. Was that five... or six? "I'm still thinking about him."

"Maybe that's a sign that you want to keep thinking about him."

"I want him to go away," she said.

"I don't think you do."

Furry stopped, dropped her head to the table. "No, I don't think I do
think I don't. I mean... Oh, forgetaboutit." She picked her head up and
looked at him. "Hey, do you wanna fuck?"

"Me?" Chatenni asked, looking surprised.

"Yeah, you," she said. "Kolya said that if he was gonna be with
what's-her-name, if I found someone I liked I could have them on the side
too. Well, I don't want a lover. I just wanna get laid. Would you lay me?"

"Furry, I'm drunk. You're drunker. Drunker? More drunk? Never mind. It's
stupid to make decisions like that when you're..."

"Stupid?" she said, grinning. "It's not like it means anything, right? I
mean, you can't get me pregnant and you can't make me sick, so it's just
sex, right?"

"Sex still means something to what's going on up here," he said, pointing
to his head.

"Yeah, it means I wanna have it."


"If you don't wanna, I unnerstand. Nobody wants ta fuck Furry anymore.
It's okay. I'm used to it by now. You don't wanna do it, P'nyssa Shardik
wouldn't do it, Kolya won't do it. 'sokay." She was starting to cry.

Chatenni slid out from his half of the bench, which remained ready to
accept a 'tauroid form should he decide to come back; for the time being,
it was his seat, after all. "You've got P'nyssa on your list? That's quite
an impressive list, then. But, no, Furry, actually, I would love to get to
know you better. But like I said, I don't seem to be the kind of person
who want to take responsibility for your happiness. So I'm not going to.
But more than that, it's better if you got it all out of your system,
because you seem to be a miserable person right now, and then go back and
figure out what it is that you really want." He walked around the table.
"Come on, you've had enough."

"I can still see his face in front of me."

"Good. That means you love him."

"It means I want to rip his fucking heart out with a fork and eat it."

"You don't really mean that, do you?"

"No, not really. But I don't know what to do."

"Neither do I," Chatenni admitted. "But something's gotta be better
than sitting in this bar all night, getting sicker and sicker as we pour
various poisons into our bodies."

"Yeah." Furry said. "Oh, fah, my stomach!"

"You'll be okay."

"No! I gotta get to a bathroom... like, now!" She ran to the door marked
'H' and disappeared. From the other side, Chatenni could hear the sounds
of someone losing control of their innards in the most painful way. He
listened as it wont on for some time, until Furry was well into the dry
heaves and the sound was becoming intolerable. He dialed up a cure from
the menu and barged into the bathroom on her. She was kneeling in front
of the toilet. At least the had made it that far.

"Here," he said, wrapping the tab around the edge of her ear, where her
underlying fell was most exposed.

Furry immediately fell against the wall. Chatenni tried not to look at
her as he handed her a towel from the supplies rack. After a few seconds,
she said, "Thanks."

"You're welcome," Chatenni said. He reached down and picked her up.

"I'm still drunk," she said.

"And I'm still just going to take you to a coftel and put you to bed."

He saw tears in her eyes, but he recognized gratitude when he saw it.

The coftel was only a few steps down the corridor from the bar. It had
apparently been a storage room back in the college's early days; the
shelves had been moved out and temporary coftels, one-person roomlets
barely big enough to hold a bed and some luggage, had been set up.
Chatenni grabbed one and dropped Furry into it. "Be right back," he said.

When he returned, Furry was unconscious. A quick check showed him that
it was normal sleep, not an alcoholic coma, but he turned her on her
side just the same. He left a liter of water on the headboard with a
note reading, "Drink all of this. You're dehydrated" on it.

He didn't know if the night had resolved anything for either of them. He
wondered if she would be okay, and hoped that she would be. For him,
though, Rima had been... an opportunity, maybe a lost one. For Furry,
though... he thought she still had a chance.

He sighed. "Good night, Furry. Sleep well."


The Journal Entries of Kennet R'yal Shardik, et. al., and Related Tales
are Copyright (c) 1989-2000 Elf Mathieu Sternberg. Distribution limited
to electronic media not-for-profit use only. All other rights are reserved
to the author.


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