"Critical Mind"
by Masha

Drew Shadey, master-thief extraordinaire, was extremely hung-over. It just so happened that last night had been Thief's Day, which was why he had suddenly turned human and allowed himself the pleasures of getting shit-faced… Well, back home, it had been Thief's Day. In the City, it had been just another Tuesday night. But Drew, you see, missed home. A thief should miss a city in which there is a holiday entirely dedicated to thieves. The greatest holiday, actually; which left you with the greatest hangover.

It just so happened that Drew's head ached and his eyes were crossed, and his usually nimble fingers could barely light a match to start a fire in his little grate. He was trying to make the bestest, blackest coffee ever, but up till the moment had not been overly successful.

He swore in a whisper. He crept in the shadows of his own flat, hiding himself from his greatest enemy - light. Light gave him such a big goddamned headache! His hair hurt, goddamn it! … Not to mention a suspicious hickey on his neck.

An hour after he woke up Drew could be found sitting comfortably in his one and only love – his armchair; a mass of overstuffed, formerly-scarlet velvet. His pride and joy. He had a mug of coffee blacker than life itself in his hands, and he was gulping it down like he had gulped down the City's equivalent for vodka the previous night. This was the ultimate remedy. Some guy he had found sleeping on the floor of his flat the morning after a Thieve's Day taught him how to make it. Drew never did catch his name, but he was a good chap.

Chap. He found the word very amusing.

Bam! Bam! Bam!, came a polite knock on his door. Drew cringed. He hated noise. Especially when he was sure that the only concept the melted grey mass in his head would ever comprehend from now on was "Chap".

Chap. Hehe.


"Al-right! Fine! Just lay easy on the door!" he shouted and cringed at the sound that came out of his own throat. In the back of his mind, he decided that he should cut out the vocal cords of everything in a few miles' radius around him. He set the mug of coffee on the floor and wobbled over to the door, scratching his neck and absently wondering what an Adams-apple was for. He looked in the peephole. There was a mutated young man there with an extremely large head and a small body.

"I don't give to charity, mate," said Drew angrily, "so you can relieve the corridor of your misshapen visage and not waste my time!"

"Sir, I was sent by the Downwinders' Guild –" started the mutant in the bored tone of an official messenger.

"I don't give charity to thieves, either, so bugger off!"

"Sir," the man said tiredly, "I don't know what the hell's wrong with your sight, but I am not mutated and the guild doesn't want your money, but your membership."

"You sound like someone from the government," Drew said hatefully. "And in addition to that, I don't join any guilds. So bugger off."

"Sir, are you sure you don't want to reconsider?" the man asked, his bored tone slipping off the sharpness that hid behind it like lace off a sword. "This means you are hostile to the guild, and over the time, that has proven to be quite unhealthy."

"I have healing potions, so thanks for your concern," replied Drew, unsure whether he really meant it or he was just playing along with the guy's metaphor.

"Fine, Mr. Shadey, but note this: we don't appreciate foreigners in this city, especially disrespectful ones who might come in the way of our business. Watch your step – the Guild is always right behind you."

"I believe that should come in reference to the speed of your thinking process," Drew said kindly. "Now, pardon me, Mr. Not Mutated, but I'm in the middle of being hung-over in here, and I'd like my privacy please."

The man, obviously no match for Drew's abilities with words (and probably intimidated by the way he pronounced the word "privacy" – the "I" being said like the name of the letter "E"), went away and left Drew to his quiet misery.

That same evening Drew was already out and about, the hangover gone, and a meeting with a client at hand. He was supposed to meet the man in some tavern, one of those with the strange names that had "Burrick" in them, whatever a Burrick may be. Drew couldn't understand what bar-owners in this city had against normal names, like "Booze Here" and "The Raven", and "The Pub", and "The Hole" and "The Mended Drum". Those were names. Back home, there were about three or five taverns for each of these titles. Back home the booze had alcohol in it, and the shadows were dark, and 'black' wasn't the name of a faded shade of dark-grey. Drew missed home.

He came early, of course, and stalked in the shadows near the entrance, waiting for the client to come. For some reason, this made him feel more secure, like he was ahead of his enemy. And everyone was his enemy. Plus – you can imagine the surprise of his clients when he recognized them right away when he had never seen them before. Drew was a good friend of the Element of Surprise.

The man walked in. Drew knew it was his guy because he had an unneeded black cloak on (which probably still had the price-tag on it). The inexperienced always felt that a meeting with a thief should have an air of secrecy. That was dumb. How many idiots like these had been caught by the police, mistaken for the thief himself, while Drew walked away as an innocent client of the tavern? They always insisted on masquerading as thieves, as if wanting to be caught in their cool new black outfit. The ones who dressed like that were usually rich people who found crime new and exciting, something out of a book.

Drew, being the master-thief extraordinaire that he was, used his "tall'n'scrwany can’t-harm-a-fly" look against the world. Drew was a cunning bastard who looked like the relative of the avarage coat hanger.

He waited for a few minutes, during which he allowed himself the day's prize: a cigarette. One imported from back home, courtesy of a "friend" of his. And Drew had no friends… though he was willing to overlook that when it came to cigarettes. He couldn’t possibly smoke the crap they sold in the City.

When he finished his little candy, he opened the door and went in.

If there was one thing about the city that Drew couldn't complain about, it was pubs. Their names may have been deserving of critisism, but when it came to appearance and complete incompotence in everything concerning service, taverns and pubs worked under strict universal codes.

…To be continued…. I guess… I just thought this was going nice, so I decided to share…

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