struck by a smooth criminal
“You look like you’re waiting for someone.”
He’s lost track of how many times he’s used that stupid line. The words have tumbled out of his mouth on far too many occasions, uttered to too many people. The saying tastes bitter on his tongue, but he can’t help but use it anyway. To him, it’s just some nasty habit he can’t seem to get rid of. Well, one of many nasty habits he can’t seem to shake off, anyway.
The woman sitting at the bar has a look about her that’s like so many of Reyes’ other clients: an occupied gaze, creased brows, pursed lips, and a rhythmic, anxious bouncing of her leg. With all the pieces put together, she looks like she’s waiting for something -- for someone -- and the instant she hears Reyes’ voice, she immediately perks up and her face softens, no longer preoccupied with whatever her prior thoughts may be.
“Mr. Vidal, I presume?”
A breathy laugh escapes from Reyes’ lungs as he leans against the bar. He's never much liked the way his name sounds with a “mister” slapped in front of it. It feels as if it's too impersonal, too formal for his liking. He refrains from mentioning this, but he's quick to correct her. “Mr. Vidal? No need to be so formal. Please, just call me Reyes.”
“Oh, uh, of course, Reyes.” She clears her throat and tucks thick strands of hair behind her ear with long, ruby red nails before she speaks once more. “I suppose we should get right down to business. But first, I need to ask you a few questions.”
It’s not so unusual for clients to want more information. He may boast about being a gambling man willing to take risks, but he sure does like to know what all the variables at hand are. He can respect the woman’s desire to ask questions, but he knows all too well that he’s probably going to have to make up some answers. In his line of work, he can never be too careful about who’s listening in and who he can trust with confidential information.
“I’m an open book; ask away.” That’s a lie, and it’s certainly not the first one that’s come out of his mouth.
“Let’s start with where you’re from. I know you’re from Pandora, but... where were you before here? You know, before Elysion? You must have come from somewhere, right?”
That’s a question that throws him off immediately. Nobody really asks him about his personal life, and he doesn’t make a point to talk about it much either. The way he sees it, his life has become a three part story: the Milky Way, Andromeda, and Elysion.
In the Milky Way, he was a nobody. A shuttle pilot with the call-sign “Anubis,” he was never satisfied with what life had thrown his way. There was always a desire for something more. More adventure, more recognition, more anything. He was stuck in a rut with no way out, desperately waiting for some grand opportunity to reinvent himself at any moment.
Then came the Andromeda Initiative, and with it came a chance to start over in a completely new galaxy. He could build himself up, become somebody. Eagerly, he left behind the Milky Way galaxy to venture into the unknown, coming to the decision that anything would have been better than his current life. But after awakening from a six hundred year long frozen nap, he was disappointed yet again. The Initiative was incompetent and could barely look after anyone who decided to join them, not to mention ships full of Initiative members had gone missing. He was not the only one disappointed, as an uprising started and several members of the Initiative were labeled exiles and forced to fend for themselves with no aid from the Initiative. Though he didn’t get involved in the uprising itself, he left the Initiative with them and found refuge on planet Kadara.
Out of all the exiles, Sloane Kelly thought she could be a leader. She and her “outcasts” thought they could run everything, but Reyes felt otherwise. She was too brash, too hostile, and she was making it far more difficult than it should have been for anyone on Kadara to make allies. If someone like her could be in charge, than why couldn’t he? It’s a question that lingered in his mind, and eventually, he formed the Collective to tango with hers, believing that he was the better candidate to rule Kadara Port, yet he couldn't openly voice such disagreement -- not yet. First, he had to work from the shadows, and he had to make sure he wasn't caught for conspiring against Sloane, even if it meant being incredibly dishonest with everyone he met. Folks started referring to the Collective’s leader as “the Charlatan,” yet hardly anyone could piece together that it was Reyes Vidal -- and that’s the way he liked it.
He made nice with the native angara species living on Kadara, assisted them when such opportunities presented themselves, and he did it all from the shadows, pulling the strings to make sure he got his way in the end. He even got one of the Initiative’s own pathfinders to help him out with his quest to take over Kadara Port, and it seemed as though all the odds were heavily skewed in his favor.
All that effort to take over Kadara Port is wasted, though, now that he’s in Pandora, starting back at square one yet again.
“I come from a little place called Kadara Port. I wouldn’t recommend living there, but if you do manage to find yourself there someday, stop by Tartarus and tell ‘em I sent you. They’ll get you set up with some good drinks.”
“I see. And what did you do for a living while you were there?”
Nothing legal, that was for sure. Smuggling, stealing, killing. Just about every exile did those things, and Reyes was no exception. That's simply the way things were on Kadara, and he couldn't help that. He takes a quick glance to double-check if anyone is listening in on their conversation before opening his mouth once more. “Same thing I do now: business. I work for people who need things to go from one place to another. Nothing has changed there.” It's not a complete lie, but it's certainly not every little detail about what he's done.
“Dogs or cats?”
The more Reyes hears out of this woman’s mouth, the more he thinks that he’s stuck in some weird interview that has nothing to do with the task at hand. A brow raises questioningly, but he answers it regardless of its absurdity. “I’m fine with both, but I’ll admit, I do love big dogs.” There’s a wary pause and suspicion leaks into his voice when he speaks yet again. “You’re not asking me to move dogs or cats somewhere, right?”
“Uh... no, I just thought I’d throw in a wild card question to keep you on your toes. Moving on, is there anyone special in your life? A romantic partner?”
There have been several men and women who have come and gone out of Reyes’ life. He’s no stranger to courtship and romantic nights out on the town with smiles and chocolates galore, nor is he unfamiliar with how it hurts to see a loved one walk out of his life forever. He’s had several romantic encounters, but he can’t claim that he currently has a special person in his life. He didn’t leave anyone behind in the Milky Way, nor does he have a lover in Kadara Port.
He's met plenty of interesting people that have caught his eye in a romantic sense, though he hasn’t found himself in a real relationship since coming to Elysion. It’s not something he worries about too much, however. He has the rest of his life to figure it out, right?
With a cheeky smile, he answers his client’s question. “As a matter of fact, I’m not seeing anyone right now. If that’s what you really wanted to know, you could have just asked me right at the start.” He winks at her, prompting her to clear her throat and continue with her interview.
“Alright, so no romantic partners. What about your family? Can you tell me anything about them?”
Simply put, his family is dead and has been dead for at least five hundred years. It still doesn’t feel like so many centuries have passed, but sometimes he remembers how long it’s been and how many people are long gone in that time. People like the only family he had. He can clearly remember his mother and the hard lines etched in her face from years of endless work and stress, and he wonders how, when, and where she must have died. He told her about how he was going to go cross the stars, and part of him wishes she came with him, but she was far too dedicated to her job and far too in love with her home to even fathom going to another galaxy. He was just one of many left without a family upon arriving in Andromeda.
He can only imagine how disappointed she would be to see him now. A smuggler, gangster, liar, murderer, and thief, all wrapped up into one entity. He always got into his fair share of trouble and he has no doubts that at least some of the creases in her face were from frowning and shaking her head in disbelief at his latest antics. “Dios mío, when are you going to grow out of this?” was a phrase often uttered by his mother. Some days, he asks himself the same thing: when is he going to grow out of his bad habits? And much like the way he answered his mother in his youth, he shrugs his shoulders and moves on.
His answer is quick and not much of an answer at all.
“That’s something I’d prefer not to discuss, if you don’t mind,” he says, the once jovial look on his face instantly fading.
“Oh, sorry. Is there anything you’ve always wanted?”
There are plenty of things he’s always wanted. Lots of material objects come to mind, but what he’s most wanted his whole life is to feel like he’s someone important. He wants to feel like he’s a driving force in the events in his life, as if what he does will have a rippling effect to the world around him. For so long, he has felt like he’s just another face in a crowd, and there is nothing he wants more than to feel as if there’s some sort of purpose and meaning to everything he does.
What he wants, he is not willing to admit to an absolute stranger.
“Eh, I’ve wanted lots of things. We’ll be here all night if I list everything I want, so let’s move on.”
“Is there anything you regret?”
Oh, there’s many regrets that plague him. There’s people he’s killed that weigh on his mind, relationships he wishes he could have salvaged, lies he wishes he never told, lies he wishes he did tell, promises he wanted to keep unbroken. There are so many things he’s done wrong, and so many regrets that come with those decisions, but he can’t do anything about them save for live with knowing what he’s done. He laughs, but it’s a forced laugh that doesn’t hold much weight to it. “In my line of work? You can’t have any regrets. Once you start regretting everything you do, you get sloppy, and I’m one of the best there is. Does that answer your question?” There’s a slight edge of hostility to his voice, clearly agitated by the constant prodding.
“That answers it perfectly. Now how do you feel-”
There are only so many questions he is willing to deal with, especially when he simply wants to get a job done. If he doesn't cut this interview short now, he might not get the chance. So, that's exactly what he does.
“Look, I appreciate your enthusiasm when it comes to getting to know me better, but let’s get back to business, shall we? Just tell me where you want me to go, and what you want me to take with me.”