Flash Fiction Friday: Orichalcum Slinger

This week we are invited to invent our own cocktail (and give the recipe), then write a short story tied to the cocktail in some way.  Any genre, 2000 words.  So this story contains alcohol and mild abuse of it. Thanks, Chuck, I will kill two birds with one stone and make my chapter 3 of the Viridian System book so much better for the addition of:

  • 1 part Talian brandy
  • 1 part pomegranate juice
  • 2 parts sparkling white wine
  • a shot of O liqueur (Cointreau or Grand Marnier will do nicely)
  • stir the above together and add…
  • a few leaves of mint (any variety except ginger or eau de cologne)
  • a tiny sprinkling of orichalcum fines

to make…

An Orichalcum Slinger

Sunset Strip is the pleasantest planet of the Viridian System; Pleasant Valley, its orbital twin, being somewhat of a misnomer. Sunset Strip offers a temperate climate, pleasing weather, beaches, mountains, lakes, surf, greenery and not too many inhabitants.  Most of those are transitory, enjoying the holiday perfection that is Sunset Strip’s forte.

For two orichalcum miners fresh out of the asteroid belt, Sunset Strip was poised to offer four months of relaxation and entertainment.  Their agent in Pleasant Valley had set them up with most of their usual escorts, a new box of books from the library their profits had founded a few seasons earlier, and a private villa up in the hills, overlooked by nobody, and even with its own forest.  Admittedly not many asteroid miners could afford it, but Pete and the Swede were the success story. A story they liked to keep quiet.

On the second afternoon of their holiday, Pete was happily ensconced in the basement, drawing out his idea for modifying their spacecraft on large pieces of sheeting called paper.  The girls were still unpacking, Dolores looking through the box of books, as she had learned to call these strange antiques.  These men were the only clients she had who collected old artefacts, and she marvelled at the way the typeface stained a permanent mark on the surface of each thin wafer of stiff but pliable material, called a page.  She picked out one with a colourful cover of glasses holding different liquids, decorated with sticks with round fruits on them and little umbrellas.  She stopped her unpacking and settled down to read.

Outside, a blond man leant on a balcony rail, displaying both the muscles and scars developed through years of asteroid mining.  His gaze was over the grass to the trees, and across the inlet to the mountains beyond, but his mind was elsewhere entirely. The Swede displayed his disappointment through his jaw movement as he literally chewed things over.  His favourite girl hadn’t arrived.  Dolores and Maggie were delightful, but he’d been looking forward to Aramintha.  Some spacehound with an Imperium identity chip had hired her right under their noses.  The Swede was frustrated, in more ways than one.

Decision made, he pulled on some shorts, then his running shoes, and went off to explore the forest at a steady lope.  Exercise of a different sort would do for now.

“Maggie, have we got any of these things?” Dolores had abandoned the unpacking and taken her prize to Maggie, who was getting started on dinner.  “Look, they are sort of party drinks.  It might help the Swede get over it if we really celebrated tonight.”

Maggie looked through the book with Dolores.  “Cocktails, aren’t they funny!  I never realised you could make them with the original spirits and things.”

“Do they make them on Pleasant Valley, then?”

“Zito does, at a couple of his bars.  I’ve had clients that like them.  The Venusians are very fond of them before they get drunk.”

“How does Zito make them?”

“Oh, it’s all automatic at his place – tap in the order, out comes the drink, ready-mixed and garnished.  This book makes out that they should be made in different ways – look!”  She pointed out a discussion on whether to shake or stir something called a martini.

“I like books, there are so many interesting things in them.”

“I expect they are in our readers if only we knew how to ask for them,” Maggie replied.  She pulled over a viewscreen and tapped in ‘martini’.  “There you are, see – there’s an entry if you know what you’re looking for.”

Dolores compared the entry on the view screen with her book while Maggie continued stripping the fuulis beans ready for their marinade.  She had decided on a mixed dish menu tonight, while they had a lot of fresh food.  Maggie liked cooking, the men liked their food fresh, and she enjoyed watching them enjoy it.  “Have you got something in that book that will go with these dishes?”

***

The Swede had gone into hunter-gatherer mode.  He had followed the footprints of an animal that seemed like a deer in his memory, then come across various places where the trees had lost quite large branches.  Some of them blocked the narrow trails in the wood, so he hauled them back to the edge of the forest and made a pile of them.  Could come in handy if we want a barbecue, he thought, but then remembered they were not to use wood for anything on Sunset Strip.  There were black pebbles on the beach they could gather for firestuff.  He left the branches and nipped down to the beach to collect some.

Meanwhile Pete had emerged and discovered what the girls were plotting.  He wholeheartedly joined in, setting out interesting bottles of liquid, both alcoholic and not, on the low table on the covered part of the veranda.

“Do we have cocktails before or after the meal?” he asked Dolores, who checked the start of the book.

Traditionally cocktail hour is before the evening meal,” she read, “although a cocktail party can also last all evening, so long as canapés and small dishes are served to aid the guests’ enjoyment.  What are canapés?”

A small piece of bread or pastry with a savoury on top, often served as an … I don’t know what that is,” finished Pete on encountering the word hors-d’oeuvre in the reader.  “An appetiser served at the start of a meal” he finished, having clicked for an explanation.

“That sounds like all my dishes tonight could be served on pastry as canapés, then,” said Maggie, cuddling up to Pete and looking at his reader. “They’ll be just as nice without, though.  I was going to serve them in dishes and let you help yourselves.”

“That sounds perfect,” said Pete, whose mouth was already watering at the smells from the kitchen. “How soon can we eat?”

“As soon as the Swede gets back.”

“Can we start without him?”

Maggie and Dolores both giggled, but Maggie went to start serving up her feast.  Dolores made a selection of cocktails, pouring them into different jugs to try in turn. She wisely labelled them as she went: Gin Sling, Lemon Berry Zinger, Manhattan, Daiquiri, Long Island Tea.

***

From the laughter emerging from the villa as dusk fell, one would think that a dozen partygoers were revelling.

“Well, I think the olive should go in afterwards,” said Dolores, popping an olive in Pete’s mouth as they lounged on the cushions.

“No, before!” shouted the Swede, feeding one to Maggie, then lifting the glass to her lips and helping her to sip, mindful of the choking hazard.  It was hard to sip and not giggle at the same time.

“What about some more Daiquiri – oh it’s gone,” Dolores looked at the jug in disbelief.

“I’ll take Manhattan instead,” Pete said, then giggled again, “Hey, I’ll take Manhattan – haven’t we read that one somewhere?”

“Maybe,” the Swede rolled over and tapped the reader a few times, “yeah, we’ve read that.”

“It’s gone too.”

“Let’s invent our own.  Maggie, you’re the chef, what ingredients should we use?”

“A pound of flesh,” she giggled, pulling at the Swede’s waist.

“Let’s put some of this in.”  Pete reached for the bottle of Talian brandy and sloshed some in.

“Yeah, and some of this,” Dolores matched it with an equal amount of pomegranate juice.  “Your turn, Lars.”

The Swede grabbed a bottle of sparkling wine and gave it a generous glug. “Maggie?”

Maggie picked up the O liqueur and splashed it in.  She swirled the jug around and looked in it, got up and staggered to the kitchen.  “Mint,” she returned having added some green leaves.

“Mmm,” said the Swede swilling it around under his nose. “Glass!”

Maggie held a glass for him and he managed to pour a helping without spillage. “You?” he offered it to her.

“Mmm, not bad,” she swayed slightly and sat down abruptly.

Dolores sipped in turn and smiled appreciatively, lying back heedless of her position.

“Mmm, nice – er – legs,” commented the Swede, eying her attributes as he passed a second glass to Pete.

“Needsa li’l sumthing,” Pete slurred after tasting it.  “I know!”

He hauled himself to his feet, using the Swede’s waist as well as his arm.  Lars did well to save the jug from spilling.  Pete staggered off to his room and returned holding something small between his thumb and forefingers, cupping it with his other hand.  He sprinkled the contents into the jug.  The Swede held the jug out and they all watched, mesmerised, as the rather pink contents turned through shades of red and violet into gold.  Sparkly gold with bronze mint leaves.

“Pour!” Pete wanted to try it.  They watched as he sipped the concoction after the Swede handed him a glassful.  “Wow!”

“Wow!” agreed Dolores, and Maggie and the Swede in turn praised it in one syllable and stood or sat looking at their glasses with stunned expressions.

“Wha’did you add?” asked Maggie, hypnotised by the drink in her hand.

“A mini-mini bit-of ori-chalcum fines.”

“Ah!”

“Mm!”

“Wha’shall we callit?”

“Love!”

“Love-in-a-mist.”

The girls certainly had it taped, the Swede thought, but it made him ache even more.  He staggered out onto the balcony and slumped on a bench.  Let the girls and Pete have some space, he justified to himself.

The night was well upon them, the only sounds being the breeze in the treetops and the faint echo of the surf from the ocean on the other side of the promontory.  The Swede gazed at the stars, tracing out the line of the asteroid belt in which they worked so hard to make their fortune.  He sipped some more and his head cleared, or else it gave him a clearer perspective, heightening his senses.  Orichalcum Slinger, he thought to himself, gazing again at the liquid in his glass.  In the starlight, it still looked gold, but the gold was from distinct flecks, swirling around making random motion trails.

Please put our branches back.

Lars wondered why he thought he should.  It was a strange thought to come into his mind at that part of the night.  It was a reasonable request, but why should he bother?

Please put our branches back.

The request repeated itself in his brain.  I could, he thought.  It wouldn’t take any effort.  Although wandering around in the wood at this time of night, in the dark, being more than three parts drunk was surely a recipe for disaster.

We will guide you.

For some reason the Swede trusted the idea.  Who ‘we’ was did not occur to him.  He pulled himself upright and felt his way along the balcony to the steps.  He did stumble on the way down, but he made it across to the woodpile he’d made earlier with no further mishaps.  Something was giving him strength, guiding his steps.  He gave himself up to the guidance, and retraced his steps of the afternoon, placing branches back in spaces where no tree or only very old trees grew.  Either the cocktail enhanced his eyesight, or something else was at work, since he could see everywhere as clearly as with an EV visor.  This place is beautiful, he thought.  I’ll enjoy being here.  Even if Aramintha can’t be here.

We will protect you when she comes.

The Swede laughed aloud.  Now he was just being silly.  He staggered back to the villa and surveyed the debris of their party.  He drained the jug of the cocktail he now thought of as an Orichalcum Slinger, and carefully recorded the recipe they’d made.  His head felt perfectly clear. He felt peaceful and positive.

As a well-disciplined asteroid miner should, he tidied up the place before went to bed, alone just for this time.

(c) J M Pett 2014

Sorry to leave you with a lot of loose ends.  You’ll have to wait for me to write  the other 90% of the book.

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