Fifty years ago, on Earth—or for that matter, just about anywhere—a bar was a place to go and get a drink. Maybe get really drunk and embarrass your friends with some karaoke.
Lynn dragged in a deep breath, and with it, the scent of seasoned tobacco, alcohol vapors, and kindling. And a touch of spice—one she could not identify.
She ran a manicured fingernail through the water that had sweated off her beer because she liked the play of light and the scowl of the bartender as he aimed his one-eyed gaze balefully at the coaster sitting by her elbow. Tilting her head to hide a satisfied grin, she shifted on the plain wood barstool made slick by way too many coats of paint and the tendency of her patent-leather-encased butt to slide.
She had no interest in the beer. It was there, more or less, to give the right impression—and to piss off the bartender because nothing sweated bullets quite like a big old glass of fermented hops.
The Armory still looked very much like a real bar. Jukebox in the corner. Booths. Faded pictures on the wall. An eccentric mix of lighting hanging from the ceiling. Empty bottles cemented together to make a fake wall separating the main area from the back. Taps. Barrels. Crappy music.
And one door leading back into the real world. Boise. As in Idaho.
Really, The Armory could’ve been cast as anything. The word “bar” had all but lost its meaning. Coffee bars. Nail bars (as in the kind where you get a manicure). Brow bars (yes, you can now buy eyebrows). Boba bars. Alright, those she didn’t mind so much.
Nothing quite like a drink you can chew, sucking up a big old tapioca ball through an oversized straw with a tip sharp enough to use as a weapon if the occasion called for it. Sometimes you could add pudding to the drink too. Really, there was no way to go wrong.
But a boba drink didn’t sweat enough and it wasn’t on the menu here, and ah, yes, that was the spice she was smelling—chai.
The bartender ambled up, grabbed the beer, set it on a coaster with a thud, and used a meaty hand to drive a towel through Lynn’s swirly artwork.
She had to tilt her head to look him in the face. All he needed was a big old stogie to go with that scowl and all those tattoos, and damn if he wasn’t fine otherwise. Nice beard too, although soulless gingers weren’t her thing. Too bad.
Light shifted with the sunset.
Soulless pushed a menu at her. Right before her eyes, the script changed, from the usual fare a place like this might peddle—grease and heartburn in varying proportions—to a more appropriate list.
Silver bullets of varying grains. With or without capsules of holy water embedded in the hollowpoints.
Shotguns and rifles and pistols—from every era and dimension.
Magical powders and elixirs.
Weaponized salt. Add-on saltiness optional.
There was nothing quite like a well-stocked weapons bar to make one feel optimistic about a mission.