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A Day at the Races

In the rewrites for the 2nd draft of my scifi/adventure/romance "Fate's Apology", I had to back up and give the reader time to learn about the characters in their normal world before all hell breaks loose. This gave me an opportunity to see my male protagonist, Rey, getting together with his old academy buddy, Jaiynder. Today's snippet is an expansion of one of my #1lineWed lines from this week's topic of "last line of a chapter", in which my two guys are taking a breather between races at the Zaraxen Trophy Run-Offs in Sepherra City, an outing that Jaiynder has invited Rey to for more than just a chance to re-live the good old days. (What's a zaraxen, you ask? Not a horse, that's what.)


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            Rey took his turn with the pay-out attendant then secured the purse full of shiny plastisheen sheets and square, gray coins in his leather shoulder bag. On the way back to their seats, they stopped at a small bar filled with racing patrons from across the sector and ordered two drinks of dragonspit. Rey removed the gray, fleece poncho he'd brought to keep out the chill of the late-season weather and tied it around his waist, then took a seat at a tiny table near the entrance.
            "So enough about me and my work," he said. "What about you? You look fed."
            Jaiynder slurped his drink and smacked his lips. "Yeah. I'm freelancing."
            "Ah. Talent on the heizeko finally paying off? You were quite the virtuoso. Didn't know you were still playing."
            "I'm not. I'm freelancing keeping peoples' debts paid, hunting down property on the lam, that sort of thing."
            Rey blinked. "You're a mercenary?" He laughed then took a sip of his drink.
            Jaiynder flicked a hank of hair from his eyes. "What's so funny about that?"
            "Nothing. It makes sense. You never did play well with others."
            Jaiynder grinned. "Guess I was always meant to be a 'solo artist'." He took another slug, waving at a passing waitress. "It'll all be changing soon though."
            "Oh?"
            The waitress took Jaiynder's glass. Rey held his hand over his own, not yet finished.
            "Yeah. Got a deal in the works. Can't really share the specs, as it's not all fleshed out yet—you know, 'don't speak of fortune and tempt fate to steal it'."
            "Well, that's good. Maybe then you can afford a personal skipcraft and come visit."
            Jaiynder laughed. "You remember."
            "How could I forget?" He took another sip. "Only man I know who can't take a back seat on a skipgate jump. Thought you were going to get us kicked off right in the middle of the Sonic that day."
            "What can I say? I gotta be in control. Always."
            The waitress returned with another dragonspit, took the currency off the table, and waited.
            "You looking for a tip?" Jaiynder pointed to her chest. "Lose the top button. Best tip you'll get all day."
            Rey huffed and reached into his bag. "You'll have to excuse my vulgar friend. He doesn't get out much." He dropped some coins into the woman's hand. She flashed him a fake smile, narrowed her eyes at Jaiynder, then stalked off.
            Rey swallowed his drink. "Valosh on a heggamog, you haven't changed a bit."
            "Good. I like the old me. Why change a perfectly good me if I don't have to?" Jaiynder downed his drink, slammed the glass on the table, and stood. "C'mon. Birdies are waiting."