Of Dancers and Doves
Chapter 1: Treasured Petals

Copyright© 2016 by Lord Van Leak

Science Fiction Sex Story: Chapter 1: Treasured Petals - Mack Wolf works as a manager for Treasured Petals, a strip-club owned by the Shroud Mafia. His life is turned upside down when a new player comes into town and he is left with no option but to leave the life he has come to love. Forced to reforge his life, he must navigate through the dangers of living in the corrupt and dangerous city with a vindictive powerful woman trying to make him her slave and slowly heal the scars from his past that he hid from by overworking himself.

Caution: This Science Fiction Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa   Fa/Fa   Mult   Consensual   NonConsensual   Lesbian   Heterosexual   Fiction   Science Fiction   Space   Aliens   BDSM   Light Bond   Safe Sex   Oral Sex   Anal Sex   Petting   Exhibitionism   Body Modification   Violent   Prostitution  

 ”Boss, HEY BOSS,” a lilting feminine voice yelled into the noisy and bustling kitchen of the Treasured Petals. Men and women in gray and navy aprons ignored the woman shouting except for a young man in the back with dark brown hair and a sharp blade. He looked up from the cutting board for a moment, eyes scanning the kitchen, before returning to his work. His hands cut the vegetables in smooth, practiced motions as he prepped for the evening rush. Glancing up again, he scanned the kitchen to find the source calling for him. The only things he could see were pots and pans hanging from an overhead rack and the other cooks on the grill line. Steam fogged up the air down the grill line as one of the chefs began cooking.

 ”Boss, I know you’re flaming back here somewhere,” the female called again, her voice sounding annoyed. The young man suppressed a smile as he recognized Cassie’s voice by her favorite curse. He and some of the dancers had picked up her off-world curses, but no one said it quite like she did. Shaking his head, he finished chopping the siziaya, a sweet and tangy spice native to Beorus IV, into cubes and scraped them into a bowl for the line chef next to him. Cassie continued to call for him louder and louder. A few cooks snickered or tried to cover up their laughter as she yelled more and more colorful curses.

 ”MACK! There you are!” Cassie growled and stomped down the line of grills to his corner of the kitchen. She wore an unbuttoned white blouse that revealed one her multicolored dancing pasties on her large tanned breast, the edge of her nipple poking out the side of the covering and the tight black synthetic hiphugger-panties from her last dance.

 ”Why hello Cassie, I didn’t hear you,” Mack said with a broad smile and grunted when she punched his arm, hard. It was hard not to like the brunette, but he couldn’t help cursing her when she left bruises with her punches.

 ”I know you heard me, you flaming twit, but never mind, we’ve got a flaming ion licker trying to rough up,” the beautiful brunette started, but when he’d heard the worry in her voice and the words “rough up”, he slipped past her and pulled off his apron, putting it on a peg above the sinks.

 ”Where and who?” he grated out over his shoulder as he stormed up the line of cooks. Cassie tried to follow in her 6” stiletto heels, heels clicking on the tile over the sounds in the kitchen. He saw one of his cooks, Jeff, pick up a meat tenderizer and start to follow, but he shook his head and smiled. The muscled cook got the hint and grumbled before turning back to cutting the meat on his table. He loved his staff, but sometimes they could be a little too quick to jump to his aid like he couldn’t handle difficult situations by himself. It gave him a mixed feeling of pride and exasperation. He threw the clear disposable gloves in the trash as he waited for Cassie to catch up, trying to keep his eyes where they should be and not on his employee’s displayed assets.

 ”Tiff is in booth three with the flaming pig,” Cassie said and took off towards the back of the strip club, hips swaying.

 His eyes roamed over the club in a practiced sweep as he made his way to the back. He’d been busy in the back, preparing for the peak hours and hadn’t kept up with the flow of customers. The long ornate bar and lavish dining area were almost full with patrons, with only three tables open on the far side of the stage. Mel was dancing on the color changing light-pole to Star Drop’s Dream, a new-wave pop hit, wearing only her red heels and a sparkling smile. The dark room was pulsing with multicolored lights to match the beat of the song, and the crowd ate it up. The young dancer had suggested to sync the lights to the song, and it had become a hit with the patrons. Two large groups of men on either side of the stage were yelling and whistling in appreciation to Mel’s lithe form, but the two men in black dress suits caught his eye sitting a few feet back from the middle of the stage. There was a wide circle of empty tables around the two men and one of his waitresses, in a low-cut top and g-string, was serving them drinks. The Shroud Mafia owned the club and brothel next door, but he always hated that they pushed paying customers out to have the best view.

 Shaking his head, he returned his attention to the back of the club where Guido and Jack stood with their arms crossed, underneath a holosign in red reading “Exotic Dances,” blocking anyone from entering or leaving the booth section. “Guido, Jack, what’s going on back there?” he asked once he’d reached the two muscular men. Guido was an illegitimate bastard of one of the mafia lieutenants, and Jack was a local boy from the 13th block. Both men had more muscles than any two dive-miners he’d ever met, and unlike the stereotype of muscular men, they were both intelligent.

 ”Boss, we got a newbie with wandering hands and a desire to hurt women to get his way. We got Starlight out when she hit the panic button, but she’s got a terrible shiner,” Guido sad with a frown and pointed over his shoulder with his thumb. Tiff, or her dancer name Starlight, was sitting on the floor crying and holding a bruise-pack to her eye. Cassie squatted next to the injured dancer, comforting her by rubbing her arm and looking worried.

 ”Boss, we’re not sure, but we’ve never seen this moron before. He might be a spacer or someone that moved into the city recently, but he looks like a typical bottom level Shroud enforcer. I ran him through the usual channels as soon as we pulled Starlight out, but it came up clean. Normally, we’d rough him up and dump him in a garbage hauler, but,” Jack said breaking off with a shrug. It was the owner’s rules to rough up any patrons that hurt or assaulted any of the working girls or boys, and Mack had no problem with the policy. Guido nodded and told him he didn’t know who the attacker was either when he’d asked around.

 ”I’ll go back and have a chat with him,” Mack said as he pulled his slug-thrower from the shoulder holster under his dark jacket and passed it to Guido. The TE-SA110 was a civilian model slug-thrower that put a nice sized hole in anything in the path of the subsonic projectile and his favorite self-defense weapon. Guido took the gun without comment and slid it into the back of his belt under his jacket.

 Stepping past the two bouncers, he walked over to Tiff and rubbed her shoulder, pulling her into a gentle hug. “Tiff, sweetheart, go with Jack into the dressing room and get the first-aid kit. The bruise-balm will help with the eye.”

 Tiff looked up and sniffed, trying to keep her composure. Her mascara had run, leaving dark streaks on her beautiful oval face and her synthetic-red hair was matted to the side of her face where she kept the wet bruise-pack. “I’ve got a dance in a few, Mr. Wolf. I’ve got kids and,” she broke down in fresh tears.

 He hated seeing women cry and his bullshit meter wasn’t going off signaling Tiff was trying to play the situation to her favor, but he’d been wrong about pretty women before. Shaking his head and smiling down at her, he lifted the lovely redhead’s head up to look in her amber eyes. “Tiff go ahead and get cleaned up in the changing room. If the bruise doesn’t go away after the balm, we’ll take you across the way to Doc’s, and he can clean it up before you go home to your kids.”

 Tiff hiccuped and hugged him hard before nodding and struggling to her feet, using him as support. He did his best to ignore the two generous mounds of flesh rubbing against his chest. Once Tiff was on her feet Cassie stood and took Tiff’s other arm to support her. She kissed her on the cheek. “Come on, Tiff. We’ll get you looking beautiful again and let Boss have fun with the ion licker,” the beautiful brunette said as she helped Tiff towards the dressing room.

 Tiff giggled through a sob and stumbled off with Cassie, but not before he got a good look at Tiff’s face; it wasn’t just a little bruise on her face. Her eye was red, and it looked like there might have been a cut on her skin because there was blood on the outside of her eye. He wondered if she could see anything out of the eye at all. Glancing back, he noticed Jack had seen the same thing he did by the thunderous look in the large man’s eyes.

 Jack moved closer and whispered, “We’ll get her over to Doc’s right away to make sure nothing was damaged other than her beautiful face. Boss, you could let me in,” Jack started to say, but Mack put a hand on his shoulder.

 ”Jack, take care of Tiff, and I will take care of the shit stain,” he promised and pointed at the retreating women. Jack looked once at the door to booth three and nodded once before turning around and hurrying after the girls. Guido glanced over at him as Jack ran after Tiff and nodded once before turning back to watch the main floor.

 He sighed and shook his head, it had been such a pleasant night so far, and he hadn’t had a girl hurt in over three months. The last time one of the girls got hurt was when a new girl decided to try a new dance move on stage and had face planted onto the hardwood stage. Rolling up his sleeves, he strode over to the third door on the left and pressed the unlock and open button on the panel. When the door slid open a man in a black dress suit sat on the couch with his arms folded across his chest.

 ”You must be Mr. Wolf, that took some time for you to grace me with your presence,” the older man remarked with a sneer. A scar went across his pasty white forehead, and his unkempt black hair looked like it left a grease stain on the leather of the couch as it shined from the overhead light. His bulging muscles stretched the too-small suit, and numerous tattoos wound up his arms. The man sat up and cracked his knuckles.

 Mack strode further into the room, glancing around and looking over the seated man while the door slid closed, blocking out the music and loud catcalls from the main room. The dark three-piece suit, attitude, and empty shoulder holster matched that of a Shroud mafia member, and he shook his head. “You know Don Savino doesn’t like his girls roughed up under any circumstances. The problem I have is I don’t know you and more importantly, Guido, my bouncer, doesn’t know you either. Why is a Shroud member roughing up our dancers?” He asked, his question as polite as he could make it. Anger bubbled beneath the surface of his skin as he looked at the trash in front of him.

 ”Where is Sibilla? She should have been here and told you the new rules.”

 He shook his head and frowned. “I don’t know a Sibilla, and I definitely didn’t get told about rules allowing shit stains to rough up girls when they say no.”

 The suited man cursed in his native tongue and charged Mack from a seated position. A swift, hard front kick to the man’s face sent him sprawling backward into the couch. “I recommend you don’t attack me again. There may be management changes in the future, but until then Don Savino owns this club, and his rules are law.” He watched as the Shroud member got to his feet on unsteady legs. Shifting his weight, he dropped into a defensive stance, left foot forward and weight on his back leg, to ready himself in case the idiot tried to attack him again.

 ”You won’t hear the last of this Mr. Dead Wolf. I don’t care who you are, but Sibilla will make you pay for hitting me.” The larger man cracked his neck and flexed his fists to show his dominance. Mack was unimpressed by the man’s bravado. The bright red imprint in the middle of the man’s forehead stood out against the white scar. Growling in anger, the man shook his head again before looking at him with hate-filled eyes.

 ”Get out, take your friends if you need to, but you are barred from this club and the brothel next door until this can be sorted out,” He ordered, shaking his head and keyed the door open behind him. The noise of the strip club filled the room again, and he stepped aside to allow the man to leave.

 ”Brothel? There is a Shroud run brothel in this hell hole?” the man asked, confused.

 ”Don Savino owns almost everything on this side of the city. Torus may be a shit city on Beorus IV, but there are rules and factions that govern the city. The quicker you learn them, the better chance you don’t catch a slug for being an ion licker,” he answered in a soft voice and swept his hand towards the open door, dismissing the man. He didn’t strictly have the power or authority to remove a Shroud member, but since he was a manager of the club and the man had caused harm to one of his girls he didn’t care.

 ”Fine, this place is a dump anyway.” The greasy-haired man strode out of the room without looking back or picking up his fancy hat from the couch.

 Guido appeared in the doorway half a second after the man exited and he gave the order to have the man escorted out and banned until everything could be worked out. Without a word, the large bouncer yanked the shorter man up by the collar of his expensive jacket, ripping part of the jacket, and frogmarched him towards the front door. He did his best not to smile at his bouncer’s method of removing the trash and went back into the booth to call his boss. Taking out his communicator, a small hand-held tablet, he hit the first quick call contact and placed the communicator on one of the tables. The ringing sound played over and over while he cleaned up the small room before the call rolled over to an automated answering machine.

 When the automated voice stopped talking, he picked up his communicator again and spoke in a clear voice, “Don Savino, we’ve had a problem with a possible Shroud member hitting one of the girls. I’ve had him removed and temporarily banned until you tell me what to do. He spoke of Sibilla coming and changing the rules, which is news to me, but if you know of any changes let me know. Thanks, Boss, Mack out.” He turned off the communicator and tucked it back into his jacket pocket. The next call was to his opposite, Madam Yvette, who ran the brothel next door explaining the situation. He was about to leave the room when the door opened, and Nilde stepped in with a rag and a disinfectant spray bottle, her eyes darting around the room before landing on him.

 ”Oh! Boss, I didn’t realize you were cleaning up already,” the buxom blonde said and stuck out her lip in a pout. Her plump blue lips glistened from the overhead lights.

 He saw through the fake pout and had to suppress a laugh. “Nilde, I didn’t see you come in tonight. I cleaned up some, but these booths always need a thorough cleaning if you’d like to do it now.” He bit the inside of his cheek to not laugh at the flash of revulsion on her face before she hid it behind a stunning smile. Nilde was a daughter of one of the local gang leaders and liked to work the “safe” clubs whenever she felt like dancing, much to her father’s displeasure. She wore a bright pink top that failed to contain her enormous chest and a black g-string thong, leaving nothing to the imagination. Nilde’s half New-Italy and Native Beorus ancestry made her look exotic. Her olive skin had streaks of blue veins all over her body that seemed to enhance her beauty rather than detract from it.

 The exotic woman stuck out her tongue in a seductive way and wiggled her chest. “Aw, come on Boss! I was just getting the cleaning stuff for you,” she said with wide innocent eyes, then winked at him, her tongue running over her lips.

 He bit the inside of his lip when the dancer’s breast fell out of her top and cut his eyes away from the huge dark brown nipple. It was his policy to never get involved with any of the girls in his club, but damn if they didn’t make it hard on him sometimes. To him, it was one thing to see them dancing on stage for profit, which he watched with a professional eye, and another when they used their assets to try and influence him. It became almost a game at one point to see how far they could push him until he put his foot down a few years ago, stopping the shenanigans. He was a red-blooded male and having forty or more beautiful women, between the strip club and the brothel, parade around in various states of undress made it hard for him to concentrate on not wanting to screw their brains out. The rumor was Cassie won a huge bet saying he’d stick to his guns when the “game” started and Yidia lost the most money betting he would fall to her charms first. He saw the women that worked for him as his children or family, even when some of them were older than him, and always felt uncomfortable thinking of them sexually.

 He caught her satisfied smirk on her face out of the corner of his eye and shook his head. She knew what she was doing, and he was tempted to paddle her ass for it. He thought the idea over for a moment and realized she’d probably even enjoy it, the kinky girl. “Nilde if you keep that up I’ll order you to clean all the booths tonight,” he warned and stared into her soft brown eyes.

 ”No thank you, Boss,” she stated and put her large breast back into the tiny top, the fabric straining at the seams. Her wardrobe looked like an accident waiting to happen. “You want me to leave the cleaning stuff with you?”

 He thought about it for a moment and told her to leave it so he could do a quick wipe down of the booth. She smiled and left the supplies on the table before hightailing it out of the room. He shook his head at her antics and sprayed the room’s surfaces down with the disinfectant before wiping everything off, including his communication tablet. A few minutes later, he double checked over the surfaces to find them dry and left the booth. Guido was still standing there watching the club while Roxie, a tall blonde dancer, was pulling a pimply-faced young man with a drunken smile into the second booth. Once the two had gotten into the booth, Roxie poked her head back out and winked at him before and closed the door behind her.

 ”Anything else going on tonight?” Mack asked Guido as he stepped up beside the muscular bouncer.

 ”No Boss, that was the only issue so far. The night is still young if you wish to allow The Risen into the club again,” the bouncer answered with a dark chuckle. His eyes darted from one patron to another as he continued to watch and assess.

 Mack cursed aloud, thinking of the last time The Risen gang had graced his club. They were a pro clone-slavery and extremist hate group toward the natives to Beorus. The gang had a large following of Neo-Massiah religious fanatics who weren’t afraid of killing or dying for their cause. He’d had trouble with them before, but had always been polite when escorting them out. The last time they’d gotten into his club, a drunken man attacked one of his bartenders, a sweet kid by the name of Tan, and broke his arm. Tan wasn’t a clone, but the gang member was drunkenly sure of it at the time and attacked him. After that, every person that came into the club wearing The Risen gang tattoos or colors were thrown out with extreme prejudice. After the incident, he made sure to keep the club as neutral as possible, requiring gang and organization members to leave any distinctive clothing at the door.

 Shaking his head, he turned his back to the crowded room holding out his hand. Guido dropped the gun in his hand, and he made sure the safety was one before tucking back into its holster. “Come get me if anything else happens tonight,” he ordered and strode back off towards the kitchens.

 Mack loved to cook and spent every moment not dealing with the club or brothel cooking in the back with the other chefs. When he first started, he thought the head chef was going to throw him out of the kitchen, but the older man smiled, shook his head, and explained what went wrong and why. When he’d hired Chef Ty, he’d permitted him to throw anyone out of the kitchen he deemed unfit to wear an apron. During the three years he had managed the strip club, he’d become an accomplished chef, and it was mainly due to the head chef’s calm and careful instruction.

 After he washed up and got his apron back on, Jack came through the back door of the kitchen and got his attention. “Boss, Tiff is alright, and Doc is seeing to her now. There was a cut next to her eye, but no damage to the eye itself,” he said with his voice low. Relief was evident in the young man’s eyes.

 Mack nodded and breathed out a relieved sigh. “I’m glad, get her anything she needs within reason. The idiot was Shroud so I couldn’t do much but throw him out until Don gets in touch with me. I’ve left him a message with the situation as it stands, but no idea what will come of this. I really don’t want to lose a damn good dancer over that flaming idiot.”

 Jack nodded, a small jerk of his head, and breathed out. “Boss, she’s already said she might put in her notice. This incident shook her up, and the fact our hands are tied will get back around to her. Better it comes from you than one of the other girls.”

 He knew good advice when he heard it and thanked Jack again before sending him off to help Tiff for the night with the added order of telling him when Tiff was back in the building so they could talk. The club would be down a bouncer for the evening, but so far nothing else of note happened that night, and he cared about his girls’ safety. Shaking his head again, something he felt he did a lot, he threaded his way down the line of cooks to the station in the corner, the prep station near the cooler, and looked at the next item on Chef Ty’s list to get ready.

 Two hours later the orders started to slow to a trickle and the rush hour chefs were allowed to go home after cleaning up their stations. Mack had been pulled away from prep work twice to deal with minor issues, but Tiff hadn’t returned from the doctors, and Don Savino hadn’t called back. Sitting at the end of the bar with Tan he watched Holly Hotday, Tina, dance naked on the stage with a miner’s hard hat on, heavy work boots, and all but molesting the poor prop mining laser. Her ebony body glistened with oil that made her look angelic and breathtaking under the lights. The group around the stage was going wild and throwing colored of cloth on the stage. Each colored strip had a credit value attached, and the dancers would make a provocative display of collecting them at the end of the dance. He was glad the cloth strips were washable as most of the time the fabric found their way into the dancer’s body, much to the delight of the audience.

 ”Boss, you want anything else?” Tan asked as he made the bottles of alcohol dance in his hands. There were dispensers on the market that would make drinks for the patrons, but many enjoyed the young man’s talent to engage them while performing tricks with the bottles.

 He looked over at the slender young man and shook his head. “I’m alright Tan; I’ll clock out and lock up in an hour, grab a shower, and crash before the morning chefs and caterers come through.” Chef Ty brought up the idea of catering to businesses and important events because the strip club had to keep a team of chefs on hand around the clock for the brothel next door. A brothel couldn’t have a kitchen on their own, as it was classified as a pleasure service, whereas a strip club was an entertainment service, which could sell alcohol and food. Each order that came from the brothel went in the books as a charge to the strip club’s account for the food catered so the taxman wouldn’t have a conniption fit. The Shroud Mafia was old school in its way of thinking, but their primary source of income was legal, except for a select few businesses they ran. Smuggling, extortion, blackmail, weapon running, and drug trafficking were a few of the businesses Don Savino had running to support the legitimate ones, more to provide a wider range of goods to his customers. Even with all that, the illegal enterprises of the Shroud Mafia made up around a sixteenth of their total income.

 He spotted Jack waving at him from the kitchen as Holly Hotday’s performance came to a close and she left the stage, pink and red cloth strips sticking out of her sex. The crowd was screaming for more when Diva Rocket, Cassie, swished her hips down the stage in a bright pink jumpsuit with the zipper already halfway down to her navel as she cat walked onto the stage to a popular spacer dance remix. The two small side-stages on the other side of the club had a small group of men and a few women at each watching some of the newer talent dance with the song as well. Monica winked at him as he crossed through the dining area and blew him a kiss. He smiled and continued over to where Jack stood to wait. “What’s the news?” he asked once he’d reached the nervous bouncer.

 ”Tiff’s out back, and she wants to talk to you,” Jack answered, hesitation clear his voice.

 Nodding, he walked past Jack and saw Chef Ty’s usually jovial and friendly face looking livid. He didn’t spot anything out of the ordinary from the other chefs. Glancing at again at the head chef, he noticed the man’s dark hands turning almost white as he gripped the knife handle, showing how angry he was. A moment later he saw why as he rounded the corner and neared the back door. Tiff’s entire side of her face was one huge bruise, and her eye had a cotton patch over it. She ran up and hugged him hard when she saw him and cried on his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around Tiff and let her cry for a few minutes, rubbing her back to try and comfort her. The entire kitchen was subdued with barely a clang of a pan while Tiff cried.

 A few minutes later, Tiff composed herself and looked him in the face. “I’m going to need to quit, Boss,” she said in a small voice and looked down at the tiled floor.

 ”Hey, I will support your decision no matter what you decide to do. It’s never easy in this business and worse when you’re dealing with scum. As your boss, I can give you a few days to think it over, but as your friend, I’d urge you to follow what your heart says.” He hugged her again, and she cried for a few more minutes before finally pushing away from him.

 ”I’ll pack up my things. Can, can you have someone take me home?” Tiff asked, looking around and tried to smooth out a wrinkle in the oversized shirt she wore. He could see she had nothing on under the shirt and made a snap decision. “Would you like Jack to take you home or would you rather one of the girls go with you?”

 Tiff thought about it for a moment and looked around the corner where Jack was talking in a low voice to Chef Ty. “I like Jack but can one of the girls do it?”

 He nodded and told her to wait a moment. As he walked out of the kitchen, a slim form dressed in a t-shirt and booty shorts, ran into him with her purse in hand. “Oh! Sorry Boss, I heard Tiff was back,” Tina said in a breathless rush. Her clear eyes were wide and her chest heaving.

 He smiled, wanting to hug the young woman for caring about Tiff’s well-being. Tina was a rare woman who held no judgment for anyone, regardless of their situation. “This place never ceases to amaze me. She needs a ride home and might need a shoulder to cry on. You’re off for the night, completely paid, if you can help her. She’s family, but I understand if you need to come back.”

 ”Say no more, Boss,” she answered and hefted her purse higher on her shoulder while pulling keys out of her tiny shorts. He had trouble imagining how a set of keys could have materialized out of those tiny shorts and shook off that line of thinking.

 Tina was about to go over to Tiff when an idea struck him. “Hold up a second, Tina,” he said as he dug his communicator out and pulled a blank credistick out of his jacket pocket. Plugging the stick into his tablet, he transferred a few hundred credits to the stick and gave it to Tina. “She’ll need this even if she refuses. Leave it where she’ll find it later if she refuses outright.” Tina beamed at him, and he felt his knees go a little weak.

 ”Holy void, she’s beautiful, “ he thought as Tina floated over to Tiff and wrapped the smaller woman in a tight embrace. Chef Ty caught his eye and nodded his approval before turning back to his work. Jack had wandered over to Tina and Tiff and stood around, looking lost. The bouncer’s indecision made Mack have to choke back a laugh. Jack had become infatuated with Tiff first night she worked the club. Looking at the time, he realized it was almost four AM Beorus Standard Time (BST) and stifled a yawn. Mack had been up since eight AM the previous day and expected to get little sleep before needing to be up again. Looking over the club one last time, he was happy to see the large crowd still engaged in the dances and hoped it would stay that way until close.

 He made his rounds to each station to double check everything was in order and was happy to see nothing else needed his attention. As he finished his rounds, he noticed the girls weren’t as animated or excited as they talked in the dressing room, understandable considering a girl was hurt. When he spoke to Nilde about it, he was happy to find out they didn’t blame him for the fiasco and understood the “rules” about the mafia, even if it was unfair. He went up to his office, turned off his terminal, put in the code to lock down the room into the panel beside the wall safe, and locked the door before heading over to the brothel.

 The Shroud Mafia’s territory expanded over most of the industrial districts and some of the warehouse and supply areas throughout the city. Treasured Petals and Eternal Doves, the brothel next door, was off a major road between the industrial district and the medium income housing areas. The highest paying jobs came from the industrial plants since most of the city’s exports were minerals and metals, and Don Savino was there to capitalize on it. The brothel and strip club were two different buildings on paper, but in actuality, it was one building that made an “L” shape. Mack’s one-room apartment was on the top floor of the brothel, all the way in the back. Most of the prostitutes lived on the top floor but the only males Madam Yvette allowed to live up there was Chef Ty and him.

 Stepping through the back door of the kitchen, he breathed in the cold, dusty air. The lack of sleep was catching up to him quickly, and he yawned, jaw cracking, as he looked around the back parking lot. Most of the hovercars he recognized, but the two nearest the brothel’s backdoor looked too shiny to have been in the city long, that or they had been washed earlier. The lingering smoke and chemicals that came out of the industrial district left dark smudges on almost the entire city. Breathing out, he walked over to the back door of the brothel and keyed the code into the panel. The door slid aside, and a muscular Beorusian stepped into the doorway.

 ”Mr. Wolf, we wondered when you would retire for the day,” the blue and gray-skinned enforcer said in a low rumbling voice, his smile split his grim face.

 ”Di’fen, I didn’t realize you were back and got the cushy job this month. How is the wife and little Di’ron?” he asked and stuck out his hand to shake the larger man’s hand. Di’fen had invited him to his son’s naming day a few months previously, and he had learned a lot about the Native Beorusian culture. Beorusians were one of the closest “alien” species to humans had evolved from a primate as well. The government still saw the entire species as a sub-species of humans, despite hard scientific evidence otherwise, and treated them as the lowest class of an intelligent sentient species on Beorus IV. A recent study discovered the Beorusians were more than likely descendants one of the ancient human colony ships sent out of Sol after The Great Purge, in the hopes humanity would survive. The government didn’t want to acknowledge the validity of the study and the professor had disappeared.

 ”My son is strong and thriving after his naming day,” Di’fen said, his chest puffed out and his smile widening to show sharp teeth. “Sorry, Mr. Wolf, come in from the cold,” the large enforcer whispered and stepped aside while smoothing out his black designer jacket.

 As Di’fen stepped aside, Mack could see into the soft light of the brothel’s staff room. Yun and Madam Yvette sat at one of the tables eating and talking in hushed voices. So engrossed in their conversation, neither noticed as He walked over to the table and sat in the open chair. They cut off their quiet conversation with a start and turned to look at the interloper at the same time.

 ”Why, my boy, have you decided to take up young Ri’nil’s bed?” Madam Yvette asked with a saucy wink. Her sultry smile wasn’t forced as she leaned over, revealing the tops of her milky breasts in her blue corset while rubbing his arm.

 ”No, Madam Yvette. I think sleep is the only thing I could manage tonight,” he answered with a small smile of his own. Madam Yvette’s ageless face always made him think of a loving aunt or older sister, despite the almost ninety-year difference between the two of them. Yun took the opportunity to jump in with a light touch to his other arm.

 ”You can always borrow one of us to cuddle with,” she said with a shy smile. Her soft slender body, pale skin, and light blonde hair made her look like a willowy ghost. Despite her otherworldly appearance, she always had a long line of customers begging to spend time with her.

 ”Thank you, Yun, but I’m perfectly happy snoring alone,” he answered with a half grin. He knew he didn’t snore, but he hoped she didn’t know it and would drop the subject. She smiled back and didn’t respond, but left her hand resting on his arm while tracing a random pattern over his skin.

 ”Well, you know where to find one of us if you do, sweetheart,” Yun teased with a saucy grin after a moment of playing with his arm. She went back to eating her soup and pinching his arm, sitting back to watch him.

 ”How is Tiff?” Madam Yvette asked into the silence. Her large frame shifted on the chair as she turned to look him in the face.

 He was staring into Yun’s soup without looking at it, his mind lost in thought, and started when the madam spoke. “Huh? Oh, Tiff isn’t doing great. The ion licker hit next to her left eye, and it looked bad, but Doc says there is no lasting damage. There is a lot of bruising and swelling though. I sent Tina, well she volunteered, but still, she went with Tiff to get her settled in and last I saw Jack he was hovering over her like an angry go’let protecting her cubs.”

 The older woman shook her head and rubbed her right temple with a slender hand. “Kids these days,” she muttered and looked up. “What of the man who attacked her? You mentioned he was Shroud.”

 He cursed under his breath, causing Yun to look up and squint at him. “Don hasn’t returned my call, and I don’t dare call twice in one day. The man was expecting someone named Sibilla, whoever that is, to have changed the policy of the club. I don’t know anything more than the idiot had to be a Shroud enforcer, more by his attitude and aggressiveness than any skill, but no one recognized him. I’m wondering if there is a new player in the city.”

 Madam Yvette and Yun shared a look, and the younger woman nodded. Madam Yvette turned back to Mack with a small frown on her ageless face. “One of the young fellows mentioned something about some changes while he was with Yun earlier. Seemed to be under the impression some signifigant changes were coming in the future and wanted to have “a good time” before the boat got rocked. Now he didn’t say that outright, but that’s what young Yun and I were speaking about when you came in.”

 He grunted in displeasure, which caused Yun to begin rubbing his arm again. Ignoring the comforting hand, he shook his head. “That isn’t good, not good at all. You have a plan if things go ass up?” he asked and looked around the decorated room. He knew there were cameras all over the place, but he didn’t want any of the other girls catching wind of possible problems before they may or may not be a problem.

 Madam Yvette nodded once and knocked on the polished wooden table once with her knuckle. He got the point and breathed out, sinking into his chair a little. “I’ve got one too, and Chef Ty and Guido know what to do.” Both the brothel and strip club were completely legal on Beorus IV and in most of Republic Space, but some factions liked to cause trouble by doing “sweeps” for illegal goods, undocumented people, and banned weapons.

 Pushing back his chair, he got up and got an unexpected good look down Madam Yvette’s corset as she stood with him. She was one of the few women he’d have a very hard time saying no to if she pursued him because of the kinship he felt with her. A tempting forbidden fruit that he regarded as closer to family than his mother. It was something that made him feel awkward about as he lay awake at night. Hoping his sudden erection would go unnoticed, he smiled at his friend and patted Yun on the back of the hand. “Ladies, please have a wonderful night and come get me if you need anything. I think I’ll ask my pillow for some head and my nice cool sheets for a little ass now.”

 Yun choked into her spoon. She had been taking a sip of soup and glared up at him. “I see how it is, you need a frigged bit of cloth to get some sleep, but you won’t let one of us hot-blooded women keep you warm.”

 He laughed at her obvious mock anger and smiled. “Sorry dearest Yun, but my cold black heart can only take the company of those colder than I am,” he joked and got poked in the stomach for his cheek. Yun giggled when he was surprised by the sudden attack and glared at Madam Yvette who wore a satisfied smirk.

 ”Off to bed, you troublemaker. You’re going to give the poor girl a complex,” the older woman joked and winked at Yun who giggled harder.

 He backed away from the older woman’s outstretched finger with his hands up in surrender. “Yes, ma’am,” he shot and darted out of the room before something heavy could be thrown at him. Madam Yvette hated to be called “ma’am” and viciously disabused anyone who dared call her that. A metal utensil crashed into the wall next to his head as he made a hasty retreat, much to the merriment of Yun who was now laughing hard. Once he made it to the relative safety of the hall, he spotted two women poke their heads out of rooms down the corridor looking at him. Colleen shook her curly red hair and ducked back inside the room she occupied, but Rina pointed a finger at him from further down the hall.

 ”Don’t make me paddle you, Mr. Wolf! No running in the halls except when I am chasing you with my strap-on,” Rina called with an evil glare and burst out laughing when he flipped her off.

 ”Good to see you, Firefly, and good night,” he said to the beautiful raven-haired woman and made his way down the hall to the lift. Moans, curses, grunts, and screams of passion came from some of the rooms he passed. Except for the sound of pleasure the brothel was quiet, no one speaking above a whisper. Stepping out onto the third floor, he was greeted by a walking nightmare of color after too many hallucinogenic drugs. Two of the girls had won last quarter’s contest and had the privilege of making the top floor any color they wanted. The walls were a multicolored mess, colors clashing with one another, and the floor had black and white tiles. The effect was jarring the first time he saw it and was still unnerving for him. He found if he stared at the off-white ceiling he could make it through the wacky wonderland with relative ease. His favorite color combination was when Colleen and Helena won; they had the walls painted like space, and the floor was fake blue grass carpet, so it was like walking across a bridge made of grass through the universe.

 The last room on the left at the end of the hall, across from Chef Ty’s, was where he retired after his long days of work. He didn’t mind the walk as he got to see most of his friends and acquaintances as he walked down the long hall. It was an unwritten rule that if you kept your door open anyone could pop in and talk. A few of the girls were very private, but the vast majority kept their door open unless they were sleeping or had company over, even then sometimes they left the door open. He made sure to stop in at any of the open doors and say a quick word of hello or ask how their day went. If he was honest with himself, he knew he enjoyed looking at the various states of undress he found the women in when he popped in. True to his rule, he kept his libido in check and refused to succumb to some of the open invitations he got.

 After he’d popped in to say hello to a few girls, he reached his room and put in his ten digit code to unlock the door. The door slid to the side and a blast of cold air swept across his face. Smiling, he entered his apartment and hit the light panel on the wall to light his spartan one-room apartment. All his clothes fit into the top two drawers of the wide dresser, and his pressed suits and jackets hung on the back of the bathroom door. Moving over to the table with his terminal on top of it, he sat down in the chair and removed his shoes with difficulty. The aching in his feet started as soon as he let them free of their leathery confines and his calves began to protest as well. He’d been on his feet most of the day and wasn’t surprised his feet and legs were sore. After undressing, he checked his clothes and found a spot of blood on his collar. He was still livid he couldn’t have beat the guy to a pulp for messing with someone under his care. Putting the jacket near the front door for washing later, he went to the bathroom and finished preparing for bed.

 The tiny bathroom had one toilet, the shower, sink, and a large mirror; it was more than enough for him. Some of the girls complained about the small bathrooms, but they could use the special rooms on the second floor with permission if they wanted to take a long bath as long as the room wasn’t occupied. He realized he’d been staring in the mirror, studying the bags under his eyes, with his toothbrush in his hand. Blinking back weariness, he finished his nightly rituals, letting his eyes roam over his face. His hair was right on the edge of needing a trim to keep it a short length and his goatee was getting a little scruffy around the edges. As always when he looked in a mirror, his eyes were drawn to the long white scar on the right side of his face going from his jaw to his temple and unpleasant thoughts filled his mind as he remembered the accident that took his fiancee from him. Shaking off the unpleasant memories, he finished brushing his teeth, turned off the light, placed his gun in the holster under his bed, and crawled under the sheets. He was asleep before he could truly appreciate the cold sheets and soft pillow.

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