After they had released him from the detention cell, Gromov realized he had nowhere to go. He only knew people who lived at Dolzana base, and he did not intend to show anywhere near Space Forces' facility again. To his surprise, the latest events made him bitter.
The bars had not opened yet; the city offered no sanctuary, in which he could wash away the unpleasant aftertaste, so he just bought a bottle of vodka in a small supermarket and downed half of it.
The burning sensation soothed his emotional state and injected courage into his veins.
"Time to begin a new life," Gromov exclaimed to indifferent walls covered in graffiti. "Eh, awful!"
With the sun rising over the buildings, the streets started to flow with people. They were strangers, just another living walls with graffiti, not related to him.
If Miriam B were right, they walked past their savior, utterly oblivious to the fact they had met the famous Captain Gromov, the very same man for whom they would fight furiously as soon as they got access to their social network accounts.
After an MP officer gave him back his communication tablet, Gromov visited the Internet to realize the sites overflew with his fans who took the opportunity to express their frustration over the case, exercising an awful level of ignorance.
- Send pics of cute kittens if you think Gromov should be released immediately.
- OMG, my hubby scolded me today. I told him he was chauvinistic like that Gromov guy. I cried afterward since I realized I'd insulted a hero. I do not want to believe Gromov is so awful. Shame on you, @MiriamB.
- We have to stop officers like Gromov. If you think Gromov is a piece of crap, upvote this. Another garbage is trying to make himself famous.
- Yours mather suuucks bcs she given birth to a piece of CRAP. Gromov is a noble offeecer, the best we has. SF are proud of him. Just ask them. My brother serves in SF and know gooder than u.
In the end, Gromov upvoted the brave guy who called him a piece of crap, switched the tablet off and cursed Miriam B. "That insolent woman! Encouraging idiocy versus idiocy! Give me a break!"
With the urgent need to disappear from the world, Gromov spotted a vast flat screen advertisement:
DO YOU WANT TO FLY AWAY?
There, a pair of curvy models were embarking on a spaceship, waving happily at an accompanying crowd. The people, judging from their broad smiles, were immensely relieved that the two were departing.
Gromov decided, "Alright, I want to fly away as well," and entered the building, in which he hoped to find the traveling agency from the advertisement.
Surprisingly, inside the shabby office sat no attractive receptionist who would give potential customers a warm welcome. Instead of her, dwelling on the black revolving chair, a large beefy man surfed the Internet, leisurely visiting tabloids dedicated to popular actresses' latest affairs.
Even though the motivational poster over the computer claimed, "Serious business is our priority," the man did not bother to take his eyes from the screen, being engulfed in the story of 24 years old star who got engaged with 50 years old millionaire.
"Hohoho, would you believe that?"
Finally, the man turned around and greeted Gromov. "She plans to marry him out of deep and sincere love. If you ask me, this is bullshit. Do you have a wife, sir?"
"Oh, you lucky bastard. I am getting divorced for the third time in a row. The name is Cecil Shanks. Call me Shanks, not Cecil. And you are? Oh wait, I know you... Aren't you that buddy who ditched Miriam B? Major Grimmauld, isn't it?"
"Gromov. How do you do?"
After they shook their hands, Cecil Shanks excused himself and began frantically clapping on the keyboard. "I have to tell my oldest daughter. She is your biggest fan. Do you have children, Major?"
"Call me Sava, please. I am most certainly not the Major Grimmauld you are taking me for. And no, I have no children so far."
"Oh, Sava, you lucky, lucky bastard! No children, no wife, ultimately famous. I bet you have pretty raw times chasing all the hot chicks away. My daughter wants me to give you a discount. Would you believe that?"
"No, I wouldn't."
Gromov, somewhat puzzled, made himself comfortable in a stained leather armchair, dropping the bag with his belongings to his feet. From the air, he could smell cigarettes and cologne, coming from notable Mr. Shanks.
The whole office looked rundown, like a maintenance department, littered with technical documentation. Nothing resembled a traveling agency here.
"I came," Gromov said, "because of your advertisement. What destinations are in your offer?"
"The whole Universe!"
Cecil Shanks gestured toward a poster on which the artist depicted the Solar System with details of places, inhabited by people. "You can conquer any planet or asteroid with our used spaceships."
"I beg your pardon? Used spaceships?"
Ignoring Gromov's astonishment, Cecil Shanks opened the drawer behind the desk and put an amber liquid bottle on a prepared stainless steel tray.
"No, thank you. But don't mind me, suit yourself."
"Oh, I shouldn't."
After a short hesitation, Cecil Shanks poured whiskey to the glass and gulped it in one shot.
"You know I am not surprised seeing you here," he continued afterward. "A man of your valor cannot date hot chicks as I would. The moment you've entered the room, I knew you were an adventurer, addicted to adrenaline - I knew you were here to meet another challenge."
Gromov grinned, "The moment I've entered, you were browsing tabloids."
"Oh common, perhaps the oppressive aura of yours prevented me from turning my head. Seriously no. Sorry about that. If I may be so bold, what brought you here, Sava?"
"I thought you were a traveling agency."
"What? Traveling agency?"
The information shocked Mr. Shanks to such an extent that he had to pour another glass of whiskey. Then, he suddenly smiled.
"And you were absolutely correct, Sava. We are the best traveling agency around. Pick your ship and visit any destination you want. You are a certified military pilot, aren't you? Make your own spacelines."
Born in the Czech Republic, Pavel Morava is not a native English speaker. Having been twenty-two years old, he published his first book, which did not become an international bestseller. After a few other attempts, Pavel Morava abandoned the literary career for over twenty years, during which period he has been focusing on processing of plastics, programming, and raising of children.
Recently, with more time at his disposal, he returned to the forgotten ambition, fighting a futile battle with English language, procrastination, and the tendency to give up too early.
Being vivid reader of not Anglo-Saxon origin, Pavel Morava was fortunate enough to experience books from different countries, including Czech, Russian, Polish, Chinese, Swedish, Dutch, Japanese, French, German, and English. Such a vast literary variety heavily influenced his own work, which typically relies on an one-point-of-view narrative, consecutive storytelling, and elimination of unnecessary details.
Web novels and online publishing made him reevaluate his approach to style and building blocks of the text; the result should be, hopefully, lighter, shorter, and more intelligible for reading on electronic devices.