I probably should have known better than to set foot in the Bar. But I was new to Spirit of Botswana, and curious to explore everywhere I could reach. Having just purchased a guest room for the night, I decided to poke my head in at the local watering hole. Mistake.
"Ho, traveler!" A boisterous cry greeted me. "Come, come in! Rest your legs! Slake your thirst!" A booming laugh accompanied these words as the speaker--obviously a Colonist--waved me over. She seemed friendly enough, so I approached her table, and she lazily kicked a chair towards me.
"Thank you, umm..." I said. She grinned hugely. "I am Takiyah!" she boomed. "And you are?"
"Shadow," I murmured as I slid into the seat, feeling a bit overwhelmed by the strength of her personality.
"An auspicious name!" Takiyah proclaimed. "And what do you do, in these shadows?"
I blinked. "In the-- No, I-- That is..."
Takiyah laughed heartily. "Come, come! You must allow me my little jest. We do not always choose our own names, eh?" She leaned over, as if conspiratorially... an attitude belied by the sheer volume of her voice. "My name means 'Woman of the Cosmos,' or so they tell me, yet I get spacesick on the briefest of shuttle rides!"
She laughed again, infectiously. "So, Shadow! We have a little tradition here. Newcomers buy the first round. What are we having?"
I hadn't planned to imbibe, so I politely demurred. "Actually, I don't drink much. I was just looking around the station, and--"
"What!?" Takiyah cried, in mock outrage. "You dare insult our fine establishment by declining our wares? What, are we not good enough for you space travelers?" Her eyes twinkled and I could tell she was joking, but still...
"C'mon!" laughed Takiyah, smashing me playfully (if somewhat painfully) on the shoulder. "Have a drink, traveler! Tell you what--forget buying a round. Get yourself a beer, and I'll join you. You can regale me with the latest tales of the Black. And I'll pick up the next round, too!"
"I really don't think--" I began. The Colonist wasn't having it. She gestured at the bar. A frothy beer materialized before me, and another before her. She picked up the mug--looking tiny in her massive grip--and raised it towards me in salute. "Amandla!"
She looked at me expectantly. Clearly amused. So I did what anyone would do in such a situation, and raised my own mug right back at her. "Cheers," I offered.
"That's more like it!" bellowed Takiyah cheerfully. She tipped her head back, and I swear she simply poured the entire beer into her open mouth and straight down her gullet. She slammed down the empty mug, wiping her lips with the back of her hand and heaving a great sigh of satisfaction.
And looked at me expectantly again.
Great. "Bottoms up," I muttered, and lifted the mug to my own lips.
Things get a little fuzzy.
No, a lot fuzzy.
There may have been singing.
The next thing I knew, I was lying in a hospital bed in a dimly glowing room, strapped down (though not uncomfortably), head pounding, while a white-coated technician busily fiddled with the dials on some strange beeping machine.
"Back with us now?" she said, noticing my eyes opening. I managed a groan in response. Barely. She smirked. How unprofessional.
"I'm afraid you'll be staying here for some time." she added, matter-of-factly. "Doctor's orders." I could have protested, I guess, except that the little man bashing the inside of my skull with the enormous sledgehammer was taking up most of my attention. "Enjoy your down time. If you need anything..." She paused. "...it can wait until you're out of here.
"See you in a few segments." And she left, without any further niceties, closing the door behind her quite a bit more loudly than I would have liked in my current condition.