430th Year of
Emperor Valek Foger XXVI
Vaughn worked around the ship doing routine maintenance for the rest of the afternoon. In the late evening, he walked downtown, towards the market to get a bite to eat and a change of clothes.
After growing up and spending the first half of his life in the military establishment, Vaughn was accustomed to wearing a uniform. When he left the military, he’d adopted a kind of civilian uniform in a similar fashion. Hanging in his berth back on the ship were five pairs of brown pants, each spaced five centimeters apart. Next to that were five cream colored shirts with brown buttons. Five soft, form-fitting shirts were folded on the shelf next to five pairs of socks. His closet was a model of organization. On this trip, he’d added a formal suit for the funeral.
The problem with wearing the same clothes all the time was that people recognized you by your attire. As he walked the streets of Foger, he stopped in the first clothing store he came to, one that definitely catered to a younger crowd. Rows of brightly colored pants and circular racks of tiny shirts filled the store. All the kids these days were wearing floor-length gnarg-hide coats. Vaughn picked one up and tried it on.
He was slipping it down onto his shoulders when he heard a voice from behind him. “It suits you.” Vaughn spun around, not used to being surprised. A tiny larveign woman sat perched on the rack behind him. She was no more than fifteen centimeters tall, but almost entirely Human looking. Beautiful sparkling blue eyes blinked at him, and gossamer wings spread out behind her. She flapped her wings several times, lifting herself up off the rack to be eye-level with Vaughn. “I’m Shyla. What can I help you with today?”
“I’m not sure this is quite what I wanted. All this extra fabric, easy to get caught up in.”
The girl looked flew up and down, eyeing Vaughn. “Are you a dancer?”
“Oh, no,” he laughed. “Well, I have been known to get my swerve on, but no. I just don’t like to have my movement restricted.”
She floated back towards his face and looked into his eyes. In one gaze, Vaughn felt like she was searching his soul. After no more than two or three seconds that felt like an hour she said, “You’re a fighter. You have a look about you. An ease of movement… Like, you’ve trained your body, and you move with confidence. It’s very sexy. I like being around a man who knows how to handle himself. We just have to get you out of those horrible old clothes. Follow me.” She flitted off towards the back of the store.
Vaughn followed, unsure about what just happened. She landed on a rack towards the back. “These pants are for a guy like you,” she said. “They’ll allow you to move, but you’ll blend in with the crowd. That’s what you’re after, right?”
Vaughn nodded. She was unsettling in her ability to read him. She pointed out a pair of black gnarg-hide pants and a dark gray, stretchy shirt and sent him to the changing room. Minutes later, Vaughn stepped out. The clothes fit perfectly. Vaughn was strong and well-muscled from years of training, and it showed in the skin-tight shirt.
“Ohh, nice. Now you just need a jacket to tone it down a little. I think this one,” she said, hopping over to a different rack. “Short enough not to get in the way, but long enough to be in style. Slightly padded, that can’t be terrible, and the fabric is strong enough to offer a little protection. Now you’re ready for war, or a night on the town. Will this be cash?”
“Yes, thank you for your help,” said Vaugh.
“No problem. I live to serve,” she replied with a smile. “That’ll be twenty-eight fifty.”
Vaughn counted out thirty crench, enough money to take Sarah to a very fine meal at a very fine restaurant. Shyla giggled. “Two thousand eight hundred fifty. You don’t get out much, do you?”
Vaughn coughed. “Uhh. Better use credit,” he said, holding his thumb out.
She scanned his thumb and handed him the receipt. “You want me to toss the old clothes?” Vaughn realized he was still wearing the new outfit.
“Yes, please. And thanks, Shyla.”
“It was my pleasure, Vaughn. Good luck tonight, and try not to get hit in the nose. It would be a shame to ruin such a pretty face.”
Vaughn walked out, wondering what the hell just happened. He never told her his name.
Feeling stylish, Vaughn slipped in to a small little café that specialized in Fogerian food. Sarah hated Fogerian. “I just think food should be cooked. Or at least dead,” she would say. Vaughn on the other hand, loved the simplicity. The flavor of the food was not altered by artificial enhancements or preparation techniques.
He never was much for going into a fight on a full stomach, so he ordered a small fish and nibbled at it to kill some time. The lighting in the restaurant was low, focusing everyone’s attention on the massive circular aquarium that filled the center of the round room. Six chefs worked with their backs to the base, in front of a counter that circled the massive coral reef, teaming with ocean life. Around the outside of the room, booths lined the wall, with a row of tables between the bar and the booths.
It was late, but the restaurant did a brisk business. The chefs prepared small morsels and put them on individual plates in front of their station. Fogerians circled the bar, picking up plates as they went, watching the fish in the aquarium, reminding them of where they came from. Many paid a small fee but didn’t eat anything at all. Others made several slow trips around the ring, eating each of the chef’s creations several different times. The booths were not in high demand, so Vaughn didn’t feel particularly bad about taking one up for an hour until it was time for him to head to The Alley Cat.
He walked casually a few blocks over to the outskirts, a small section in the southern district against the city wall. A brightly lit sign led him the last block, a picture of a nude woman spinning around a pole above the words “Alley Cat” was hard to miss.
The door man eyed Vaughn as he approached. “Don’t get many of us in here anymore. Five crench to get in.” Vaughn took the money out of a stack of bills in his wallet and handed it to the man.
“This used to be a Human bar. Haven’t been in town in a while, has that changed?”
“Nah man, always gonna be a Human bar, but the Geraldinians have taken up residence. Won’t be too much longer before we have them all worked out though. Fuckers never buy a damn drink and don’t tip the girls for shit. They’re running off our regulars.” The bouncer spat on the sidewalk.
“Well, I’m here, might as well go in and get a drink. I don’t want any trouble though.”
“Shouldn’t be any. They mostly keep to themselves.”
“Good to hear. Have a good night, friend.”
Vaughn stepped into the bar. It was a seedy, run down joint. Ten years earlier, Vaughn would have felt quite at home in The Alley Cat. He sat down at the bar at the base of the stage and watched the girl dance.
She was amazingly strong. She pulled herself up, hand over hand up the pole to the rafters, then wrapped her legs around it and leaned back, slowly spinning her way down, all in time for the music. When she was near the bottom, she grabbed it again with her hands and let go with her legs, holding her body straight out from the pole, twirling her legs in time with the music. Vaughn was impressed, and wondered about the girl. There were two other patrons at the stage. She worked her way over to Vaughn, crawling on the floor. Her body was absolute perfection, toned in all the right places from her nightly work out.
She leaned way over the stage and put her head on his shoulder, resting the top of her breasts on his chest. In a deep, husky voice she whispered in his ear, “Hey. Having fun tonight?”
“More than I expected I would,” Vaughn replied. She grabbed the back of his head and steered his face between her breasts, while she looked out at the small crowd to see who was watching. Seconds later she was crawling away from him, looking back and shaking her ass. Vaughn laid another crench on the stage and walked over to the bar.
“Need a drink after that, eh,” the bartender asked. “Amber does that to just about any red-blooded Human male and most Human females.”
“Haha, yeah,” Vaughn replied. “She’s amazing. I’ll have a moge.”
The bartender reached down and set a glass on the bar under a tap. With his other hand he flipped the tap on, grabbed the cup and tilted it. As it filled, he tilted it back, letting the last quarter inch splash into the glass before flipping the tap back.
“This one’s on the house. Happy to see one of us back in here,” he said, sliding the glass to Vaughn just as the song ended and Amber left the stage. Vaughn pulled out a stool at the bar and sat down. Seconds later, Skye, the girl from the bar that morning, took the stage. She was wearing a long dress that perfectly highlighted her assets. She worked the floor for half a minute before slowly peeling the dress down. She squeezed her breasts together as she pushed it down to the floor and stepped out of it gracefully.
Vaughn felt someone approaching from behind him and turned in his chair. Amber was approaching from the dressing room door. She put her arms around him and climbed up onto his lap. “You want to go in the back? We can have a little one-on-one time.”
“In a few minutes, absolutely. I actually stopped by to see my friend Fresia. Any idea when she’ll be up?”
“She did a set just before me. She’s in the back with a couple Geraldinians,” Amber said, nodding towards the back room.
“On second thought,” said Vaughn, leaning in to Amber. “How about that private dance?”
“I thought you’d never ask. It’s twenty for two songs, or fifty for the champagne room.”
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