For the week of St. Patrick’s Day, The Deli Counter of Justice will only be $0.99 for the Kindle! Click here to get the book. We’ll also be releasing three FREE short (very short) stories set in New Caliburn, all of them St. Paddy’s-themed.
Up first is “St. Paddy’s Day” by Eric Sipple, featuring his creation Tabitha Cook AKA The Pixel, whom you can read more about in his contribution to the anthology, “Pixelated.” Enjoy!
It was Tabitha’s third beer in less than an hour, and she still wasn’t buzzed. Why had she ordered beer, anyway? Anything would’ve been a better choice. Vodka. Whiskey. That gross-looking bacon moonshine in a mason jar the bartender kept forcing people to smell. But no, she had to go with green pissbeer because most of her paycheck got eaten by rent, and green pissbeer was on special. Tabitha was the queen of bad decisions.
She reached for her wallet to see if she had enough for another drink, resting her left elbow on the bar for support as she did, and choked back a wail of pain. Right. Still not healed. She couldn’t even be angry at the nanoscopic jerks in her bloodstream for not getting her fixed up yet, not after the night they’d had. More victims of Tabitha’s shitty choices. She just had to get St. Patrick’s Day off to patrol the Row, unable to resist the opportunity to pummel a few sloshed frat boys looking for trouble. Only tonight turned into one of those “more than she bargained for” deals and now she was doing something she’d sworn she never would: spending St. Paddy’s Day in a bar that served green fucking beer.
The night wasn’t looking up. Her wallet was empty save for a years-old losing raffle ticket. Tabitha was out of cash, nursing a shattered-into-dozens-of-bone-fragments arm, and was stone cold sober. All because what she thought was a simple gang of thieves knocking over an armored car was her crew. The one people’d been whispering fearfully about for weeks. Cadence, they called her.
“Hey, you, uh…you with the…um…hey.”
Tabitha turned. Standing beside her was a gawky kid in a black Caliburn U. t-shirt and a pork pie hat who didn’t look old enough to smoke. If Tabitha’s arm wasn’t screaming in agony, she’d have punched him on principle.
“Hey, I was…” he trailed off and swayed back and forth for a second before continuing. “Do you want a drink?”
“For fuck’s sake.”
The kid leaned past her and slammed a ten-dollar bill on the bar. “Get this fine lady a bacon moonshine! A big, fat bacon. Get it for her!”
“I don’t want a drink, dude. I want you to—“
“A double, fine sir! A double bacon!”
The bartender dropped a glass of smoky liquid ass in front of Tabitha and swiped the cash. The boy looked at the drink, then at Tabitha, and grinned. Before Tabitha could tell him to fuck off, he stumbled and fell into the arms of a girl that looked even younger than him. She held the boy steady and smiled apologetically. “He likes to buy people drinks when he’s hammered. He’s not hitting on you, promise.”
“Oh,” Tabitha replied. The girl dragged the boy away and into the crowd. In that case… She spun back to the bar, lifted the glass, and shotgunned it before the chemical pork flavor had a chance to make her gag.
That’s when it hit her. Not the alcohol (she wasn’t that lucky) but why she was sober. There was only one explanation. Look, boys. I got my ass kicked and my arm is in pieces. Keep your hands off my booze. The Pixels couldn’t be hungry. She’d nabbed three Italian hoagies from the deli while Dad was too busy with customers to know she was there. If her turncoat nanobot friends were eating her booze, they were doing it on purpose. To hell with this, Tabitha thought. Even her Pixels hated her.
Things had been going so well, too. People knew who she was. Criminal types were afraid of her before she broke their jaws. Tabitha had even stopped hating it when people called her The Pixel. Four awesome months living the dream, but apparently that’s all it had been. It was bound to happen eventually. She hadn’t gone up against anyone serious since her first night out. Tabitha had taken down her share of superpowered assholes, but no one really dangerous. This was the first challenge Tabitha’d faced in months, and here she was. Beaten to hell.
God, did she wish she was drunk.
Wait, hold up. Are you… no. No way. The Pixels didn’t care what Tabitha did so long as she kept them fed. They didn’t talk to her, and they definitely didn’t teach her object lessons. Unless… you aren’t growing up on me, are you?
Maybe they were right. Was this all it took to put her down? One thief with some kind of… well, “sound” was a weird word for the vibrations that turned her ulna into gravel, but that’s all it was. Sound. It would take a day for her arm to heal, but that didn’t mean she had to waste the night moping in a bar. She’d need to shake some people down if she was going to learn enough to be ready for her rematch with Cadence. Plus she was broke and the next guy who wanted to buy her a drink probably would be hitting on her. Fine, boys. Message received.
Tabitha stood up and kicked the stool under the bar. She’d planned on spending St. Paddy’s as The Pixel and that was what she was going to do. She pushed through the door (with her right shoulder, obviously, since her left arm still hurt so much she wanted to cry) and made for the first patch of shadows where she could change. By the time her army of tiny robots were done forming Tabitha’s costume, she was ready. She bolted up a fire escape, across the bar’s rooftop, and leapt to the nearest building.
A wave of lightheaded euphoria washed over her as she landed on the opposite side, knocking her so off-balance that she almost face-planted onto the cement roof. Three green pissbeers and a double bacon moonshine hitting her all at once.
Had Tabitha just made up that whole Pixels-were-teaching-her-a-lesson thing? Or had they quit booze-hoarding now that the message was received? Either way, it was fucking typical of them.
You’re the worst, you little assholes.