You’re told one thing but then you come face to face with it, and realize it’s not at all what you were led to believe it would be.


The Set-Up

By:  M. J. Cogburn and C. E. Krawiec

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The handsome Englishman ambled through the hallways of Lothos' complex without a care in the world.  He'd had the privilege of having a cozy dinner *alone* with Tala Lothoman last night -- a very nice, quiet, romantic, candlelit dinner that had ended with a warm hug and a decent kiss from the redhead.  After the last couple of months of sharing her with Andrew Stockard and that louse of a guard, Quinton Sylvane, had only stiffened his resolve to be with Tala as much as she'd let him.


He nodded to several of the women who were giving him little waves and polite smiles of hope to catch his attention, but Maxwell Robinson's pensive attitude from the previous evening was keeping him from noticing their even brief encounters.  Moving deftly into one of the local taverns located on the second level, The OMS Bar, Max went up to the counter and had a seat, his mind set on last night's interaction with Tala Lothoman.


"Max, why are you in here so early?”  Daniel Kennedy, the bartender, asked with a smile.  Normally, Maxwell Robinson didn't come in until well after five o'clock in the afternoon and here he sat, looking like he was out in left field picking daisies.  "Max?"  When the Englishman didn't answer him, he reached out and snapped his fingers in front of his patron.  "Max?"  Earth to Max.  Come in Max."


Max blinked several times as a smile appeared on his features.  "Damn, Dan, you ruined a perfect recall kiss."


Daniel grinned at his friend.  "Well, at least you can recall it!  That's the important part, Max!"


Max nodded his head as he fixed his gaze on his friend and confidant.  "She's quite a woman."


"I'm sure she is to have to put up with you."


"Hey!”  Max retorted back with a chuckle as Daniel laughed at his own harassing joke.


"So, is she... is she... ya know..."


"The one?”  Maxwell answered as he leaned slightly back on the barstool he was sitting on.  Seeing the prodding look the bartender was giving him, Max only smiled back.  "She would most definitely be a candidate."


Daniel Kennedy good-naturedly chuckled as he shook his head at the Englishman before him.  "You know what I think?" he said with a grin.  He watched as Maxwell Robinson shifted, sniffed his nose and raised an eyebrow to him in response.  "I think that you want her to be the one, but those other two guys... making moves on her as well make you as nervous as a cat in a room full of rockers that she might pick one of them over you."


Maxwell blinked at his friend.  "How the hell did you..."


"Max, after what happened in the causeway three months ago, who doesn't know that Quinton Sylvane, Andrew Stockard, and you are all trying to lay claim to Ms. Tala?"


Max continued to look at the bartender for a long moment before he decided to say anything else.  "Well, since my romantic business is in every little place in this complex, what should I do, Dan?  Keep going after the woman that I want to go get to know better, or just back off and let one of the other guys move in?"


Dan just smiled at his patron.  "You know, Max, I don't have a clue on what you should do.  It seems to me that Tala's got the best end of the stick here.  I mean, she had three guys fighting over her, and it's not like there's a shortage of girls in this complex."


Maxwell just looked at the young man across from him.  He was exactly right.  Max found himself nodding in agreement to his friend's thoughts.  "You're right.  She needs to make a choice.  I can't keep playing this cat and mouse and dog game."


Daniel grinned.  "So what are you gonna do about it?"


Max Robinson popped the top of the bar with his right hand.  "I know exactly what I'll do.  Thanks, Dan.  I owe you one."


"For what?  I’m just being a friend."


Max leaned forward with his hand held out and shook Daniel Kennedy's hand.  "I gotta run, but I'll be back later."


Chuckling, Dan watched as Maxwell walked out of the OMS, his cell phone already up to his ear as he walked out of the bar.


"Yeah, uh... Andy - got a minute?"  Max said as he stepped out of the bar and began walking toward the bank of elevators.  "Great.  Listen, would you mind calling up Quinton Sylvane to your quarters if he's not on duty?"  Max paused slightly when he heard the question coming from his co-worker and friend.  "Why?  Because he hates my guts and he wouldn't come to my quarters if they were the last cool place on this god-forsaken earth - that's why.  I want to run something by both of you and see what you think."  He paused again then smiled.  "Thank you, Andy.  Hey - the sooner we can meet the better.  So - yeah - as in an hour and we'll meet.  Go it?  Thanks man.  Hey - yell back at me if it’s at another time."  Max couldn't help but chuckle at the response he received.  "And you kiss your mother with that dirty mouth?  He-he - I'll see ya in a bit.  Bye."


Even as Max clicked his phone shut, he grinned.  He knew that Andy would go for it.  Now, he just had to see if the almighty security guard would take the bait or not.




Snapping his cell phone shut, Andy slid it into his pocket without missing a beat as the elevator he was in was ascending toward the second level.  The gist of the conversation with Max Robinson replayed through his thoughts, the grin on his face widening a bit more as the car slowed to a stop.  Allowing the other occupant of the car, an older couple to exit ahead of him, Andy chuckled under his breath. "Max you are a sneaky s.o.b."


"Who's a sneaky s.o.b.?"


Caught up short by the question, Andy whirled to find Sheila Wenby, one of the complex's few female gardeners coming toward him, her arms laden with packages and a of couple bags.  "Sheila," he responded.  "What a coincidence.  Here," Andy said, moving quickly to catch one of the elevator doors as they started to close.  The doors halted at the resistance and slid open again.  Quickly he stepped to one side, allowing Sheila to enter the elevator.  "All in?" he quipped, watching her turn to face the door.  Seeing her nod, he removed his hand from the door.


"Hey," Sheila called out just as the doors slid shut.  "You didn't answer my question."


Andy grinned at the closed doors then continued about his own trip to the one large grocery store that served the complex.  Approaching the store, he remembered and pulled out his cell phone again, dialing a familiar number.


"Quint, what did I catch you in the middle of?  Or should I ask "who"?"  Andy laughed aloud at the reply.  Inside the store's double doors, he paused near the rows of grocery carts.  "Okay, okay.  Listen, there's something I want to talk to you about.  How about coming to my place hour?  Nah, it's not the sort of thing I like to talk about in public.  Gimme a break, I'm not one of those nightcrawlers working down in the sub-level basement.”


Grabbing a cart, Andy started into the store proper then paused again, a grin spreading across his face at what he was hearing.  “Later.”  Snapping his phone shut, he tucked it in a pocket then made short work of getting the few items he needed.


He had just finished putting away the perishable items he’d purchased when the doorbell rang.  Not bothering to go to the door, he hollered out, “It’s open.  Come on in.”  Closing the refrigerator door, he turned as his front door opened.


“You allergic to answering the door?”  Max ragged his pal as he stepped inside then closed the door.  “Or did you just forget how?”


Grinning, Andy opened his refrigerator again and grabbed a couple of frosty cans of beer.  Without warning, he tossed one to his guest.  “Drink your beer,” he quipped back.


Popping the top on the frosty can in hand, Max rolled his eyes at Andy then took a swallow of the beer.  “So, any luck with Sylvane?”


Andy was about to open his beer when the doorbell sounded again.  Setting the can on the counter, he brushed past Max on his way to the front door, stage whispering, “Luck, thy name is Andrew Stockard.”


“You are so full of it, you know that, Stockard?”  Max responded, half turning to watch his host.  “For sure, if Lothos ever runs out of fertilizer, all he’ll need to do is sprinkle you all over the gardens.”


Grabbing the doorknob, Andy swung the door open to find Quinton Sylvane standing there.


“Quint, come on in,” Andy greeted, taking a step back, allowing his second guest to enter.  Closing the door, he asked, “How about a beer?”  The offer of refreshment, however, was ignored.


“What kind of a set up is this?” Quinton demanded, his gaze narrowing as he came face to face with one Maxwell Robinson standing across the room.  “What the hell is he doing here?”




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