"`Nother round!" Big Lizard shouted out as he pounded his fists upon the tavern table, which shook the copious amount of empty glasses that remained in front of the group of miscreants, and they rattled and clinked together. "An` be quick about it, wench," he demanded, as a snort shot through his mighty nostrils when he spoke.

Iren's night was turning worse and worse, and the fatigue of constant toil and worry weighed upon her. Every ounce of her heart begged and pleaded with her not to return to Big Lizard's table, but she also feared the consequences of not serving the drunken squad of criminals. Iren's emotional struggle was not the only thing of hers to be tested that evening. One of the other two bar maidens that worked along side her fell into a nasty altercation with an inebriated alien, and as a result a glass was flung at the poor runaway's head. The glass shattered and cut open the bar maiden's face terribly so, and she had to cease working to seek medical attention. This unfortunate circumstance only doubled Iren's work load for the night. She was busy mopping up some the blood that stained the tavern floor when she was beckoned again. She plunged the flimsy mop back into the dingy bucket and hurried toward the bar to fetch another round for Big Lizard.

That night, like all nights in the tavern, Grigg was standing behind the bar pouring watered down drinks and charging aliens full price for them. His presence aided in the quelling of bar brawls and drunken masquerades, and not a soul dared to question the alcoholic content of their beverages. Grigg was a large alien from one of the watery, oceanic planets  known as Okea Saltoon. His physical appearance is best described as a walrus-man, which is to say he had smooth skin like wet rubber or slick butter, as well as two bulky tusks of ivory that protruded from his face close to his mouth. He was broad and his face bold, and the wickedness that infiltrated his life etched a look in his eyes of menace and unrivaled greed. There were no aliens dwelling in the ghettos of Myris that dared contend with him, or oppose his opportunistic operations.

When Iren had approached Girgg, he was behind the bar cleaning an empty glass with a mixture of dirty water and personal saliva. Any untrained bar maiden would have, at the very least, winced in utter disgust at the sight of a such an obvious violation of universal health codes and practical hygienic practices. Iren had been the subject of the monarchy of sorrow that mocks and rules over the weak, and many nights have passed since her nightmarish reality was spawned, therefore she was more than acquainted with the ambience of the tavern, and of Grigg's terrible lack of cleanliness. She said nothing to him, as she was also well acquainted with the consequences of speaking out of turn, but simply nodded her head in the direction of Big Lizard. The wretched lizard-man had the head of a lackey under each of his muscular arms, and he was laughing wildly as they both struggled under his suffocating might.

"That one again? Hah! Talk about easy pickings." Grigg smiled with crooked menace as he spat into the glass he had been cleaning, and not bothering to rinse out the small puddle of saliva, he poured out another round for Big Lizard. "Here! Now hurry along and bring it over there, wench." The last word he drew a pitifully dark pleasure in saying, for Grigg had never heard it uttered in his tavern before, and yet it stuck to Iren much like all the other derogatory terms he relentlessly called her night after night.

She hesitated for only a brief moment, and looking down at the glass she saw the buoyant bubble of mucus mixing with the froth of the alcohol. Like a dutiful warrior she was, and Iren reached forth clasping onto the dingy handle, then once again she dragged herself unwillingly toward Big Lizard's table. Grigg stared on, and delighted in twisted fantasies as Iren silently obeyed his command. He became even more excited to witness the inebriated alien receive his grotesque cocktail.

Big Lizard slurped up a mouthful of the foamy beverage, and sighing with satisfaction he slammed the drink to the table, again rattling the empty glasses. Iren hoped to seize  the opportunity to walk away before her presence was noticed, but managed only to get as far as within arm's length of Big Lizard when she heard the alien drunkenly shout aloud.

"Wer` ye gettin` off to, wench?" He extended one of his bulky arms and curled his fingers around Iren's shoulder, and with a mighty force she was yanked back to the table. For a moment she winced in pain as she realized the powerful strength of the wicked alien, and she could only look away from the faces of the thugs that eyed her down, like starved and depraved wolves ready to taste fresh meat.

"Why don` you do a lil` dance for us. Ye `av a nice body." Big Lizard flicked his tongue with lewd desire when he said this, and the gesture only made the demand more unbearably off-putting for Iren.

"I have work to do. One of the bar maidens was released early and I have other tables to tend to," Iren said forwardly, and she hoped the truth would set her free from the licentious gazing of the gang.

The answer she gave only infuriated Big Lizard, and his eyes burned with rage as he struck one of her cheeks. "I se` dance, now DANCE!" His tone sunk to wicked depths as he commanded the poor Felisian woman to go against her will for his sickening delight.

Iren's eyes shot toward the bar where Grigg was standing, hoping that he may have witnessed the altercation, and at the very least would intervene based on the calculated severity of having only one bar maiden working the floor. He had another glass in his hand that he was routinely cleaning, and all he did was look on satisfyingly, as if Iren had deserved her sorrowful fate.

When it was made painfully obvious that placing any fragment of hope in Grigg was more foolish than believing wishes come true, Iren fought back her tears and straightened herself out. Her heart cried aloud in grim agony, but there was no one to answer the call. Her sadness was like a lone siren echoing upon the surface of a voiceless sea. Her pride was slipping as little by little she mustered the strength to move. Her frame was shaking, and she could not help but quiver in fear and disgust as the table of brutes batted their eyes and wetted their lips. Even Grigg would not look away, and his crooked smile arced and revealed his approval. It was not just the table of thugs or the tavern's owner occupying Grigg's that evening, and many of the other patrons stared at Iren with licentious pleasure.  

This is why, at that particular moment, not a single alien noticed the presence of a strange foreigner enter the tavern. He was a surreptitious alien whose ancestry can be traced back to the planet Earth, and though he would have been considered a mountain of a man among his Earthian kin, to other alien species he was a rivaling equal. While Iren stood as if under an unwanted spotlight trembling with fear, the stranger passed through the tavern and quietly seated himself at an empty table.

"Thas` not enuf. Les `av a peek at yer skin!" The large hands of Big Lizard molested Iren up and down while she struggled in his grasp. His hands pinched and groped unmercifully, bruising her soft, furry skin while he savagely grabbed at her garments and breasts.

The tears were beginning to surface under her eyelids, and all the while she fought to refrain from vomiting all over the wretched alien, which would only escalate her current plight. She struggled from his hands, and Big Lizard was enjoying the tussle. The entire time he abused her with his appendages he laughed wildly, and his lackeys mimicked his laughter, mixing in derogatory words as they mocked Iren relentlessly. All other eyes stared on at the Felisian, except for the stranger's; the dark gaze that emanated from beneath the brim of his black hat peered at one solitary alien, and his sight was set firm like stone upon the horrible scum known as Big Lizard.

Finally the spell of hellish torment ceased when Grigg snarled out, "Enough. You have a customer, bitch. Tend to him, now!" It never took long for the greedy alien to notice loitering customers that lacked drinking vessels but retained adequate funds for them.

Big Lizard rose from his seat and glared in disapproval at the command of Grigg, but he dared not to oppose the tavern owner when he noticed the employed private security guards, who were now on edge and prepared for a violent outburst. Instead, the lizard-man flung Iren off to one side and grumbled some slanted words under his breath as he slouched back into the chair.

Iren swallowed her sadness as she unruffled her garments, and straightening out her appearance as best she could, she hurried over to the stranger. He was still staring at Big Lizard, and Iren detected secret motives that were stirring in the Earthian's soul.

"What do you want?" She asked flatly, as courtesy is just as frequent in Myris' ghettos as wishes coming true, which is to say that politeness is dead. Iren did not look away from his face as she did most others, and she thought to herself that he bore an appealing and handsome look about him.

When Iren posed the question, the stranger's eyes fell from Big Lizard and his gaze locked onto her own. For a brief moment, a small fraction of time that cannot be measured in all of its minuteness, she felt a connection to this stranger which pierced her grievous sorrow. In his eyes there was a familiar agony that she recognized, and somehow a wave of sympathy overwhelmed her. Like a loose thread, the sick tether of shared doom had shown itself again, only this time she saw it reflected through another's expression.

"Whiskey, dry," he said. While Iren was surveying his face he added with an air of jest, though all too seriously, "in a clean glass, if you can manage." He motioned toward Grigg, who spat once more into the glass he was handling at that exact moment.

"I'll see what I can do." This time Iren's tone was more affectionate, as if somehow the presence of the peculiar Earthian eased the heaviness of her overbearing loneliness. Dreading her momentary departure from the stranger, she turned to face the tavern and sighed in gloom as she noticed that Big Lizard's table was in the direct path to the bar. The gang of brutes had the other bar maiden deliver a fresh round to them, and currently she was being subjected to their tormenting mockery. Iren passed by unnoticed and approached Grigg, though she felt pinched by guilt when she silently walked by her helpless fellow bar maiden.

"What does he want?" Grigg addressed Iren, thus permitting her to briefly speak in his presence.

"Whiskey, dry." Just as Grigg was about to pour the drink into the spit filled vessel, she cried out, "Not that one. Over there!" and pointed to a cleaner glass hanging from the wall. Grigg was enraged by this. He perceived that she was speaking out against him, and soon a malice appeared on his grim face. When Iren had detected the shift in demeanor she quickly replied, "It's his request. He said he would pay well." Grigg eyed the stranger up and down from behind the bar while he huffed and puffed angrily, then he snarled as the immeasurable greed residing within him conformed to the aspect of financial gain. He poured the drink in a cleaner glass.

"Charge him triple the worth, for the effort," Grigg said, laughing wickedly as his mind dwelled on the prospect of the miniature fortune he would squeeze from the stranger's pockets.

Iren had only crossed three steps past Big Lizard when he stamped his foot down upon her feline tail. She screamed aloud as the table of thugs burst out in obnoxious laughter. The lizard-man thought Iren was a more suitable play toy that he could torment, and so he dismissed the other woman by shoving her away while the poor Felisian's tail remained trapped under his heavy boot.

"Les `av us summore dancing!" He quickly resumed where they had been previously, and unmercifully he pinched at her breasts again and again. He grabbed her firmly and handled her body in such a barbaric fashion, all the while Iren struggled in his hands, desperately hoping not to spill the Earthian's beverage.

"Let her go."

A lone voice rumbled from the audience of the tavern, and Big Lizard's first reaction may have been violent, if it weren't for a stupor that blinded him. Strengthening his mighty grip on the Felisian woman, he stood up from his seat and scanned the crowd of aliens; all of them appeared to share the same wide-eyed look as himself. Finally his eyes fell upon the stranger, who had remained relatively unnoticed until now.

"An` wut makes ye think I'ma let this wench go?" The confused lizard-man sneered, then his sense of enraged malice returned to him. Another snort shot through his nostrils.

There was a deafening silence that filled the tavern in that moment, then the Earthian spoke aloud as he said with a tense seriousness, "The lady hasn't brought me my drink yet, scales."

Big Lizard became furious at this remark, and he unwittingly thought he was being mocked by the stranger; something only an audacious alien would do if they had a death wish. He looked down at the beverage in Iren's hand, and then he looked at Iren. Her face was locked in an unbreakable stare, and her eyes gleamed with the smallest twinkling of gratitude. It had felt like a lifetime had past since she had been called any word that was not degrading, but her change in demeanor had been realized, and it only fueled Big Lizard's hatred. He wrenched the drinking vessel from Iren and said with obvious sarcasm "Oh this," and he took a slight swig from the glass.

After gulping down a small portion of the whiskey he sighed and said, "Ah! ye `av awful taste. Maybe this bitch wantsum," then he tipped the glass and poured the remaining alcohol onto the floor.  With a forceful might he gripped Iren's neck, and he bent her over so that she fell upon her hands and knees. She cried out in agony as Big Lizard knelt beside her, and with a fierce tone he shouted at her, "Lick it up! Wut a nice cattish whore ye make," then he flicked his wily tongue against her delectable skin.

None of the tavern's patrons were prepared for what happened next. Iren's eyes filled with the ocean of tears that welled up within her, and she hesitated in a trembling state as she poked the tip of her tongue out of her mouth. Her head dipped lower and lower, and she closed her eyes in anticipation for the tormenting ridicule she was about to endure. In that moment, just before her head reached the pool of whiskey that settled on the filthy tavern floor, Iren felt a sudden jolt as Big Lizard's grip loosened from her neck completely. She had time enough to open her eyes and turn, as she witnessed the left boot of the Earthian collide into the monstrous alien's head. The impact sent the husky lizard-man reeling backward.

He toppled and tripped over the table with the copious amount of empty glasses, and they rattled and clinked loudly as they crashed and shattered upon the floor. If there had been a stupor before, when the stranger had spoken outright, there was now a bewilderment so fascinating that every alien remained petrified.

Big Lizard was laid out upon a pile of broken glass, mumbling slanted words in a muddled voice. His wretched gang of thugs were the first to respond to the abrupt outburst. Two of the aliens leapt from their seats to subdue the stranger, but in a time that spans less than three seconds, both of them fell onto the floor grasping at broken appendages. They screamed loudly like infants in mid-tantrum as they writhed around in the puddle of whisky. Another one of the cretins sprang upon the stranger when his attention was turned toward the other two aliens, and fierce grappling ensued.

The private security guards entrusted with keeping order inside the tavern looked toward Grigg for immediate orders. However, the nefarious alien enjoyed these types of violent outbursts from time to time, and he greedily began to take wagers on the outcome of the fight. For the time being the security squad lessened their tensions and watched on, just as all of the other bewildered patrons were doing as well. Not a soul could believe what was transpiring before them.

The pair of wild wrestlers began to exchange punches and strikes that sounded painful, even at a distance. Iren was still upon the floor, and she was frozen in disbelief that an Earthian was risking his own life for her sake. That small fragment of hope which fizzled out from her heart long ago suddenly returned, and she found strength returning to her spirit once again.

At that moment another one of the thugs, who only seconds ago had failed to bring Big Lizard to his feet, was reaching for a sidearm that was holstered to his belt. Dismay and panic overwhelmed Iren, and she began to frantically piece together a pitiful attempt to thwart the gangster before he could fire upon the stranger.

When the human had punted Big Lizard's face with a titanic effort, a small shiv happened to fall from the alien's right pocket, and it landed and rolled next to the tormented bar maiden. When she spotted it, her fingers curled around its handle, then her eyes locked onto one of the hellions responsible for her unending nightmare; he was now about to dastardly shoot the stranger in the back.

The thug lifted the sidearm, aiming ever so carefully, and the Earthian's body filled the crosshairs. The trigger finger readied itself, and his hand tensely locked, but not a shot was heard. Iren regained her fiery Felisian strength, and with a remarkable agility she assailed the wicked gangster, instinctively plunging the shiv deep into one of his audio cavities, puncturing his brain. Another shrill scream erupted, and green blood that quite resembles liquid bile spurted forth from the alien's wound. Iren's hand became immediately saturated in the goopy substance, and for the first time since her beginning days at Grigg's tavern, she winced in disgust. After a moment, a twisted and remote feeling of satisfaction swept over her. She watched on contently as one of the aliens who had dashed her soul into tattered bits slowly bled out, dying from the fatal blow.

The stranger had overpowered the thug he was wrestling with, and when the alien was at a disadvantage, he withdrew a slender scarf from underneath his long coat. He began to wrap the baby blue garment around his opponent's neck, then he grabbed onto each end and pulled with all of his might. The wretched gangster struggled and kicked; once or twice he nearly worked himself free, but in the end his strength wavered and he was throttled to death.

Big Lizard was more enraged than he had ever been, and a single blow delivered to his meaty face was not enough to render him defeated. His eyes burned with the flames of infuriated violence as he slowly regained his senses, and while the stranger busied himself strangling one of the thugs, the lizard-man staggered to his feet and was now upon the Earthian. He bent over, and with his massive might he lifted the stranger as if he were meager toy, then with little effort he tossed him onto one of the tavern's tables; there was a couple occupying it, but they darted out of the way, though unable to save their half-full drinks. The table instantly collapsed under the sudden shift in weight. Grigg would have been upset by this, but in his mind he knew he would force the victor to pay for the mess that would be left after the brawl, which he perceived and wagered to be Big Lizard.

Iren was still holding onto the shiv that was painted in a green mess, and bravely she charged at the lizard-man hoping to aid the savior who had been kind enough to stand up for her. Big Lizard had a tail as well, only his was covered in a light smattering of spiny thorns, much like the rest of his backside. He batted the Felisian woman away with one quick sweep, and she fell to one side crying out while grasping at her lacerated flesh.

"I be with ye soon, bitch. Ye killed me mate, so yer gunna dance for me all nigh`." Big Lizard's eyes were on the Felisian woman when he spoke; his attention was divided. When he turned back to the stranger, a thundering noise rang out that silenced the brawl, and all at once the entire tavern returned to an utter stillness. The lizard-man was baffled momentarily, then he reached down and lifted his hands from his chest. Scarlet blood was issuing from a fatal wound; his heart was pierced by a single round of ammunition, which was fired from a sidearm the Earthian had drawn out from a hidden holster. Big Lizard took two steps backward, then he toppled once more to the floor, and landed on a small pile of scattered shards of glass; the fight was over.

The onlookers were beside themselves, and no one anticipated such a miraculous outcome. A group of rebellious thugs lay upon the tavern floor; all of them either dead or dying, the criminals singlehandedly defeated by a meager Earthian, with little aid from a terrorized Felisian bar maiden.

The violence did not end there, however. The two villains that writhed upon the floor in excruciating pain were still crying out and rolling around wildly. In an instant, the stranger was on his feet with a cold look in his eyes. He slowly strolled over to them step by step, with an overly confident swagger, and when had approached them he pointed his weapon directly at them. They pitifully begged and pleaded for mercy, so he delivered a hard kick to one of their bodies.

"Apologize to the lady," he demanded coolly.

Their eyes glanced nervously over at Iren, who was struggling to her feet, still holding the bloody gashes on her stomach. She limped in pain over to the stranger, and when she looked down she saw a sight unimaginable; one of the fiends that remained alive was the second hellion that scourged her life, filling it with untold misery. He was begging for clemency, and he even pawed at the end of Iren's dress as he groveled like a lowly beast. She was reminded of her disastrous past, and of her torturous ruin. While shedding tears she spoke, though her voice was broken by the anguish deep rooted in her soul. "Where was my mercy? Where was my mother's?"

The Earthian, who held his weapon steady and remained indifferent, did not understand what she meant by this, but a look of familiarity brooded over the face of the wretched thug. He gradually recalled his recognition of the Felisian, but no more words were spoken; the stranger was satisfied with their whimpering apologies. Four more shots rang out from his sidearm, two of which planted in the brain of the hellion, and the other two penetrated the abdominal cavity of the other gangster; smoke rose from the barrel, and bitter justice was delivered onto them.

A deadened stillness lingered for quite a time, while all of the patrons and Grigg stared at the stranger in astonishment.



In the next installment the identity of this strange Earthian is revealed, and the fate Iren is determined.


The End

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