“My mama walks the streets so it’s fine
I won’t be forever young but I’ll be forever kind
Tender eyes oh tender lips
Let’s run away to where stars shine…”

The streets are heavy with fumes. Sweat. Excrement. The unmistakable stink of rotten dextro food is making him queasy.  The air hums — the life support on this station is old, and prone to giving out once in a while. Whole sectors vented. That’s why he’s never out of his mag boots, why he always has a mask tucked away somewhere. Half of those “incidents” are planned, after all.

There’s a krogan behind the glass, a scar over his lips. He’s chopping up a hunk of meat, one beady eye on Nihlus and the other on his cutting board. Nihlus looks away. Right plate colour, but not his contact. The rest of the window is covered with charred flesh and chains and rusty hooks. When he looks back, the krogan’s spitting on the counter without a care in the world. His partner, a deep blue asari, takes a long drag on her cigarette.

A passing turian leers at him. About to make a move. Nihlus glares right back. Heavy armour, but poorly armed. Feeling lucky, filth? He grits his teeth, tucks his mandibles. Spirits. This fucking place. He needs out.

“My daddy’s behind bars so it’s fine
I won’t leave if you’ll never leave my mind
Tender eyes oh tender lips
Let’s run away to where stars shine…”

The kid falters when Nihlus approaches. A batarian boy, about eight or nine. His lower eyes are swollen shut, surrounded by yellow-green pus almost the same colour as his cracked skin. Parallel lines of snot run from his nostrils to his mouth. He’s shrivelling up; his back is pressed flush against the piss-stained wall. Nihlus sighs. Takes a breath of dirty air.

“My lover’s long buried so it’s fine
I’ll look on forwards if you’ll never look behind
Tender eyes oh tender lips
Let’s run away to where stars shine…”

He stretches out the last notes, then tosses a chit into a battered little shoe. “Run, kid.”

As he walks away, he can hear quiet sobbing. And snot-filled words of praise and thanks.

This fucking place. He walks faster.

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