The Long Walk
by Naomi Kritzer and Lyda Morehouse
Lucien spat into the alleyway, then stood up with his hand out for the money. He kept his gaze trained on the other man's boots; a story had gone around about six months ago that magi could strike from anywhere if they got a good look at your face first, and Lucien didn't want anybody to think he was going to try something funny. It didn't matter that the story wasn't true; besides, Lucien didn't want to know what his customers looked like.
The john was still buttoning his pants. He was a citizen -- probably one of the legionary veterans who'd enlisted during the war. His boots and cloak were both new; if Lucien hadn't been so desperate, he might have held out for more money. This man could easily afford it. Lucien's palm itched as he waited for the familiar weight of the denarii. He hoped this guy wasn't another dodger who'd refuse to pay up after the deed was done. Thanks to bad luck and an unscrupulous customer, two days had passed since Lucien had been able to afford equus, and his insides ached with an unnatural cold.
"We agreed on sixteen," Lucien said, kicking a pebble with his toe. "Is there a problem?"
"I was hoping you'd at least look at me, Lucius."
No one had called him by his Latin name since his days at the academy, before the war. Lucien raised his eyes and squinted into the face shadowed by the cowl. Then he shook his head; he didn't have time for a reunion. He could almost taste the equus. "It's Lucien now. And, look, even if I knew you once, that doesn't mean there's a discount for services rendered, okay? Pay up. I've got stuff to do."
"You've changed, little scholar. So anxious to get your next ride you don't have time to talk to an old friend? Not even a friend who could help you get out of here?"
If you want to read how the story ends, TOTU is available for sale at: http://www.totu-ink.com/current.phtml