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   Chapter 3 No.3

Dead Man’s Hammer By Christina Engela Characters: 6096

Updated: 2018-06-30 12:02

Saturday morning had started off rather nicely for Albrecht, who had just recently more-or-less recovered from a nervous breakdown. Albrecht had always been a little highly strung, but the public was fond of him. They liked his hot dogs and cold cats, which he made to an old family recipe (the way his a'Mamma showed him). He tended to exaggerate his quasi-Italian accent quite a bit, because he thought the people liked it when he 'sounded foreign'.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Deannean Tourist Office, the general public didn't care about his accent one way or the other as long as the food was quick and the coffee was good. The survey results showed around 540 for and 120 against, with a few respondents who actually remarked 'what accent?' Mr. Albrecht offered bottomless cups of coffee (and a free doughnut with the 5th cup) but only on Tuesdays and only if drunk while standing up. Then again, who could drink that much coffee and stay sitting down? This was similar to his credit policy. He would give credit to clients only if customers were over 60 and if accompanied by both parents and grandparents – until somebody actually did that. (Hey, this is the future – anything's possible.) Although he was strictly speaking, a small-timer, Albrecht had about twenty small tables surrounding his establishment, some of them already occupied by customers. His popularity made him rather unpopular with several other merchants around the square who could only fill half that much. This led to some healthy, if rather frisky competition.

Pigeons, the winged vermin of the galaxy, were already hungrily scavenging for crumbs and left-overs, and covered the square with their speckled blight. Evidently there wasn't much crabby-grass in the center of town. Cindy-Mei Winter, sitting at one of Albrecht's tables, casually sipped a tall mug of flavored coffee while sheltering from the bright morning Ramalama under a multicolored umbrella. She swiped her index finger over the DNA scanner of the small device he held out to her.

"Graci, thanka you very much, signora." Grinned Albrecht, laying it on thickly and tipping his Venetian gondolier style hat. She smiled back at him, returning her attention to her companion as he left, tray under his arm.

"He seems to have recovered quite well." Said her companion, a young girl with long dark wavy hair. Her name was Danielle Grauffis, and she was enjoying a large cool drink with ice. The liquid in her glass was green, blue, red and yellow. It looked like a tropical bird had dissolved inside it. She'd heard about the disturbance that sent Albrecht on his short trip over the edge and back. Mei giggled.

"All you've got to do is ask for a cup of Hot Stuff Blend, then you'll see what I mean." She joked. "No, don't!" She giggled as Danielle jokingly put her hand up as if to call Albrecht, who was busy serving another customer and fortunately hadn't noticed.

Mei grinned. She was happy on Deanna. She'd made friends here. There was Fred, and now little Daniell

e, who was just turning 20 and was fast becoming a good friend and understudy. They had met shortly after her arrival on Deanna only seven short months ago and Mei had decided to help her out a little. Danielle's elder sister Jenny was unable to see to her continued education after finishing high school and so Mei stepped in and was sponsoring Danielle's studies at the University.

Then there was Gary, aka Beck the Badfeller – the love of her life and the reason she had stayed behind on this insane little planet. Instead of going right back to her family home on Mars after her gender reassignment procedures several months ago, she decided to treat herself to a holiday while traveling back – and ended up here. In case anybody is hard of reading, Cindy-Mei Winter did start out in life as a male, but decided for personal reasons that she was a she and not a he – and set out to set her true self free. At the age of 30, Agent Winter (Colonial Intelligence Agency) – came out to family, friends and colleagues, only to be ridiculed and ostracized. Life became so unpleasant, she decided to go it alone and resigned – much to the satisfaction of the stuffed shirts at the Agency, and became Cindy-Mei. That was almost three years ago and since then, she'd never looked back.

Life as her true self was like experiencing true freedom and a breath of fresh air for the first time. It was time to start living. Technically Mei was still on holiday. She was independent financially – thanks to some smart (if not slightly unorthodox) investments she made while she still worked for the Agency.

Danielle was enjoying her Saturday morning off with Mei. There were no classes on weekends, and she was having a nice visit with her new friend and benefactor. For an old(er) person, Mei was a lot of fun, and besides – they had a lot in common. You see, Danielle was in the same position as Cindy-Mei when it came to gender disconfuckulation, as she called it. (The appropriate medical term is gender dysphoria.) She couldn't help it. She had always just been Danielle, instead of the alternative – which might have made life a lot easier for both her and her family if being a boy had been something she could have accepted. Both her parents and elder brother had died in incidents related to the greed of the local mining company, and now it was just her and her elder sister Jenny. The Grauffis sisters got on well together, but Jenny had her hands full still trying to run the family ranch – pretty much single-handed – while she, as the family perse', was more interested in being Danielle than in getting her hands dirty like other boys her age. Her final operations were still quite a long way off, but Danielle was every bit as pretty and feminine as any other girl in her classes at the ACU. And not many people, if any, knew her little secret. She and her ex-Colonial Intelligence Agency friend compared it to being under cover. In many ways it was exactly the same thing. Especially if her cover got blown and she got caught out.

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