I tipped the brim of my new hat as I exited the cab. I didn’t know if there were a lot of cameras on the streets by the strip club, but I didn’t want to risk Elaka Nota’s eyes getting a location from my face. I kept my head down as I paid the driver with the pimp’s stolen payment card, and then I turned to the front door of the place.
I never particularly enjoyed strip clubs. I went with friends to a few when in Jupiter’s Marine Corps, but I had never done more than drink a few beers while sitting at the topless bar. I didn’t consider myself a prude; I just had a mother and a sister who occupied my mind too much. My sister had been pretty, and she could have paid off most of our family’s debt if she wanted to sell her flesh.
I’d joined the Marines so that she didn’t have to.
Then she’d gotten sick.
The man at the door spoke the language I didn’t recognize, and I answered him in English.
“Ah ha. No ah weapons.” He gestured to my coat, and I let him pat me down. I didn’t like the idea of coming in here unarmed, but the other option was just not coming in at all, and that wasn’t part of our plan.
“It’s ahh two hundred to get in. That ahh gives you a meal and five drinks. Then you pay girls for what you want. Get ahh?” the man asked.
“Yeah,” I said as I handed him the cash. He exchanged my bills for six tickets and then gestured for me to enter.
The inside of the club was much nicer than I expected. The place was dimly lit, of course, but the furniture, bar, stage, and carpet looked to be new and chic. A pair of lingerie wearing women greeted me as I walked in; both redheads with bodies that looked unnaturally perfect, and they escorted me to a seat at the foot of the stage. As soon as I sat down, a waitress came to take my food and drink order, and I gave her two of my tickets.
“Is this your first time here?” the redhead on the right asked me.
“Yes,” I said as my eyes scanned the inside. There were only a few other patrons in the place, and the girls who weren't already sitting with them were eyeing me with hungry expressions on their pretty faces. I didn’t see Uwuwto Alwin or my two partners, but I had arrived a good half hour before his usual time.
Eve and Z had driven one of our motorcycles here a few hours ago and messaged me to say that they had been offered jobs almost immediately. I wasn’t surprised. Eve’s beauty was beyond any woman I had ever seen, and Z looked stunning after she’d changed out of her bulky-grungy hacking clothes and into one of the many tight dresses the two women had ordered.
“Are you looking for something in particular?” the other woman asked. She must have noticed me checking out the room for my friends.
“Awww. You don’t like redheads?” the other one asked before I could answer.
“Just getting my bearings. I like all types. You two can sit next to me if you want,” I said. I didn’t want to be here, or be talking to them, but if I dismissed these two, one of the other women would just approach.
“It’s all about what you want, handsome,” the second one said. They looked very much alike, but I could smell the sticky sweet scent of drugs on this one.
“I want the company. Sit with me while I eat,” I handed both women a bill from my pocket, and they slipped the paper into the thin waistbands of their underwear before they sat on either side of me.
The two asked me questions about my name, job, hobbies, and political affiliations. They were surprisingly good at conversation, but I lied about all the answers and tried not to make too much eye contact.
“Why don’t you take your hat off, handsome. We want to see your face better,” the woman who was not addicted to drugs asked.
“I’m fine for now. I have light sensitivity. It will take me an hour to get used to these,” I answered as I pointed at the neon strobe lights.
“We can go somewhere more private with fewer lights. It will be very relaxing,” the one who smelled like drugs said.
“I’m fine for now. Maybe after I eat,” I answered without smiling.
Z had just walked into the room. I almost didn’t recognize her because she was wearing a fluorescent green wig and a black string bikini that did little more than cover her nipples and the lips of her vagina.
I was sure the hacker was absolutely thrilled about the outfit.
“That’s good cause here comes your food. We can go afterward,” the non-druggie said.
“You two don’t have a local accent,” I said as I watched the waitress approach.
“We are from Trappist - 1d. Came here on work visas. Escaped the war before it started.”
“Ahh. You came together?” I asked.
“Yes. We are sisters.”
I doubted they were sisters since they smelled so different, but I didn’t want to argue. The waitress laid down a plate in front of me, and my eyes were drawn to the dinner. She hadn’t even asked me what I wanted, but if she had, I would have told her to bring me exactly what she did. It was a large porterhouse steak with fried potatoes and grilled asparagus on the side. The aroma of it filled my sensitive nose and caused my stomach to roar like the tiger trapped in my soul.
“Here is your steak sauce, mustard, ketchup. Was there something wrong with your drink?” the waitress asked as she pointed to my full glass of alcohol. Their strategy would be to get me to eat some, drink more, and then give all the rest of my money to the women.
“Sorry. I’ve been talking to them.” I gestured to the redheads on my side.
“We’ll make sure he starts drinking,” the woman who wasn’t doing drugs said cheerfully, but I could guess they were both afraid of getting fired if I didn’t get drunk enough to take them into a back room.
“I’m fine. Thanks. I will eat now,” I told the waitress, and the woman nodded before she left.
“That looks delicious,” one of the strippers asked as she looked at my food.
“It does. Tell me about this war on 1d,” I said.
“Usual corporate versus government bullshit. We elected a great president, and they assassinated him. Then they put a puppet in his place. Red Star killed the puppet and encouraged a new election. Hellitan Corp, which is really just a subdivision of Elaka Nota, sent in drones and killed half a million people. Workers started protesting. We took all of our savings and got here before the killing started,” one of the redheads answered as I cut into the steak.
“Call themselves freedom fighters. You haven’t heard of them?” the drug-addicted woman asked.
“No,” I answered. The steak was good, not quite as rare as I would have liked, but that was probably the tiger DNA talking.
“Is it good?” one of them asked.
“Sure. Want a bite?” I asked her although I knew she would say no. They wouldn’t want the girls eating or drinking when they were supposed to be working.
“Oh, no. Thank you though, you seem nice.”
“After you finish eating, we can go somewhere more private and return the favor,” the other redhead said.
“Who is that?” I nodded my head to the group of men who entered. I already knew the mousy looking Asian man in the middle was Uwuwto Alwin, but I wanted to see if the pair knew him. The guards weren’t as big as me, but they looked capable.
“That’s a big shot guy from Elaka Nota. He gets the biggest private room whenever he comes in.”
The girls in the club who didn’t already have a patron all moved to gather around the guards. I saw Z move in close and wave through the ring of muscle around the small man. The other strippers were all trying to get his attention, and I could see the man study the women as if he was selecting which brand of toothbrush to buy.
Then I saw Eve.
Time seemed to stop when she walked onto the main floor of the club. The other women who worked here were all attractive, but she was a creature of myth. A goddess of beauty. A perfect creation that I felt unworthy to look upon.
She wore a red and gold lingerie style corset with straps that crossed over her collarbone before connecting to the bra part. The gold embroidered satin pressed her breasts up to perfection. The garment squeezed around her narrow waist before hugging her hips. It flowed down into a slight skirt which left almost all of her legs bare, and the paleness of her skin seemed to reflect the metallic color of the fabric. Her lips were painted the same color as the red fabric on the outfit, and her dark hair fell loosely over her back like a wave of night. She had put smoky eyeliner around her red eyes, and the color also seemed to match the shade of her lingerie.
I wasn’t the only one to notice Eve’s arrival. Every single pair of eyes followed the woman as she floated across the floor, and I observed that all the men, along with most of the women, had their mouths hanging open.
Eve approached the circle of guards around Uwuwto, and it was clear the man had never seen a woman such as Eve.
I doubted anyone had ever seen a woman such as Eve.
The man gestured for her to come toward him, and the dark woman stepped past his circle of suited guards. He reached out to rub his fingers against the bare skin of her left arm, and I felt the beast inside of me scream. I fought against the anger, but I might as well be trying to capture a swimming pool inside of a soda can. I wanted to kill the man for touching her. I wanted my teeth to close around his throat. I wanted to hear his muffled screams and feel his body twitch as I crushed his neck in my jaws. He didn’t even deserve to breathe the same air as--
It is fine, Adam. Please relax. I care nothing for the man. Less than nothing. I am not his. Breathe and think of the ocean. Remember our plan. Soon we will be free and have our vengeance.
Eve’s voice calmed the burning in my body. Her words were an ice-cold glass of water driving away my red thirst. The room stopped spinning, and the music of the club shifted to become louder than the slamming of my heart in my brain.
“You okay?” one of the redheads asked as she stroked my arm.
“Yeah. Sorry. This is a good steak.”
“You look like you are a steak fed kind of guy. These muscles in your arm are really big and hard,” she continued.
“I wonder if you’ve got anything else big and hard we can touch. Can we see after you eat?” the other redhead asked.
“Ha. Maybe.” I smirked at the women and took another bite of the food. Eve had pulled Z into the circle of guards, and the two women were walking with Uwuwto toward the opposite side of the club. The other girls in the place shot glares at my two friends, but Eve and Z were doing a good job of paying attention to the short man.
“Where is Mr. Big Shot going?” I said as I nodded to Alwin and his entourage.
“To the private rooms. We can show you them better if you are done eating,” the one who smelled like drugs said.
“Confirmed,” I said as I pushed the plate away from me.
“You haven’t had any of your drink. Do you want to get a few more before we go?” the other stripper asked.
“No. That is fine. Let’s go to this private room.” I nodded to where the group of bodyguards walked.
“Great!” both of the redheads said at the same time. One grabbed my still filled drink, and the other grabbed my arm when I stood.
The three of us followed the other group to the back of the club. I couldn’t see Eve, Z, or Uwuwto past the suited men, but it was obvious what backroom door they had gone into.
“Musa bin is the bouncer. Can you give him a tip when we walk past? Then he’ll let us get really frisky with you,” the woman who held my arm whispered to me. The bouncer was about half the size of Uwuwto’s guards, and he looked like a tan bullfrog. I handed the man a bill, and he glanced at it before nodding for the three of us to walk into the hallway.
One of the bodyguards put his hand on my chest and said something in the language I didn’t understand. Musa bin exchanged a word with him, and then the redhead holding my drink said something. They all looked at me, and when it was obvious I didn’t know what the bodyguard had said, the stripper spoke.
“He wants to search you real quick. If you wouldn’t mind. His client is high-profile and one of our most honored guests. Uhhh, you don’t have to, but--”
“That is fine.” I nodded to the thick man, who obviously had a big ass pistol holstered in his coat, and raised my arms so he could search me.
He nodded at me when he finished groping me, and I walked past the group of men with the two strippers in tow.
“How about this room?” I said as I pointed to the door next to the one I thought Eve and Z were in. Was Eve touching him right now? I tried to keep my mind off of it. She wasn’t my woman. She was just doing this so we could get off of this planet. She was probably talking to the man right now about the computer message Z had set up to deliver the videos to his wife and general inbox of all the Elaka Nota Corp employees. I didn’t know if the blonde hacker could actually send it to all of the company’s employees, but I imagined she would make Uwuwto Alwin think that she could.
The private room had three couches with a coffee table in the middle. One of the women set down my drink, and the other one pulled me onto the nearest seat. A music player sat in the corner, and the stripper who put down the drinks went to the display.
“Should we start by dancing for you? Or would you rather have us do something else?”
“Dancing is fine,” I said as I forced a smile to my lips. Both of them were prettier than any girl I had ever been with, but all I cared about was how Eve and Z were doing. Asking the strippers to dance would probably delay them from taking this session toward a lap dance, or whatever kind of sexual encounter they might expect me to ask for.
The stripper hit the music, and the two of them began to move together. It was a routine they seemed to have practiced, and I might have been turned on if I wasn’t distracted by the lack of contact from Eve. She should have told me that everything was okay by now; they had been in there for what? Five minutes or so. What could be taking so long? Were Eve and Z dancing like this for that asshole? Ugh. Adam, calm the fuck down.
“Don’t you like us dancing?” one of the redheads asked. Their arms were wrapped around each other, and they started kissing.
“That’s fine. Continue.” I tried not to sigh.
The women were more making out than dancing, but I wasn’t really paying attention. My friends should have finished talking to this guy already. They should have shown him the blackmail--
Mr. Alwin has agreed to our terms.
The sensation of Eve’s voice in my mind caused the tension in my muscles to relax. The two women swaying had been glancing at me out of the corners of their eyes, and I guessed they noticed me relax.
Meet us out back. He is going to take us into the facility. His mind is hard to read. I think that his guards might prevent us from leaving, so be prepared.
“I’m going to go,” I said as I stood from the couch.
“No!” both of the women gasped. “We haven’t even--”
“Thanks for your time. Here.” I gave each of them a pair of bills from my roll. It was many times what I had paid to get into the place, and I was sure it was more cash than they would have expected.
“Are you heading home? This is enough for us to leave our shift early for the night. We both like you. Do you live nearby?” the woman that was the drug addict asked.
“No. I have to leave. Take care. Thank you for the conversation.” I walked out of the private room and caught the back of the guards as they left the hallway.
The club bouncer stopped me from exiting the hallway by putting his fat hand on my chest. He said something that I didn’t understand, but I figured he was just wondering why I was leaving so soon.
I nodded to where I thought the bathrooms were and then made an unzipping motion with the fly of my pants. The bouncer got the point, and he moved his hand so I could get by him. He was probably just trying to make sure that the girls weren’t getting hurt when they were in the private room, but then again, I was sure they had surveillance cameras and a security team watching the footage.
Would Elaka Nota get the footage? It was a hole in our plan. Z had hacked into the club’s database to get the videos of Uwuwto Alwin’s orgies, but I suddenly realized that Elaka Nota wasn’t going to let their president of weapons design and manufacturing off the reservation without a tight leash. They had to have a team watching the videos. It was just a question of when they would watch them, or if the same facial recognition software would recognize Eve, Z, and I inside of the private rooms.
Regardless, we needed to hurry.
I saw my friends as soon as I turned the corner into the main area of the club. Both Eve and Z were still wearing their outfits, and the ring of guards was tight around them and the short president. The group walked out of the rear door of the club, and I saw a dimly lit parking lot.
Half a dozen girls tried to talk to me as I walked, but I pointed the bathroom signs by the exit and then waved them away. The first challenge of the night was getting Eve and Z into the room with the man. The next was getting him to agree to take them into the facility. The third was convincing the guards that there wasn’t any problem with the man taking two strippers to the facility for a night of sex.
He is offering money to them to just enjoy their time here. Three of the four are agreeing, but the fourth is having none of it. He is loyal to Elaka Nota and takes his job seriously. I’m going to get him in the car. Follow us on one of the motorcycles.
“Confirmed,” I whispered as I pushed open the door. I saw the four bodyguards standing around Eve, Z, and Uwuwto. The short man had his arms around both of my friends, and his hands were cupping their butts. I managed to push aside my rage and give the group a half smile when they all turned to me.
“Awww, just come with us then. Maybe Alwin can let you watch,” I heard Eve say to one of the guards. The men were watching me walk, but they turned back to their conversation when I straddled one of the big motorcycles. The key fob was still in the ignition, and I was a bit surprised no one had stolen it.
This is unfortunate. The single objector has convinced all of his guards to accompany us. I won’t be able to eliminate all of them when they are in the car. Please help.
I watched my friends get in the limo after the corporate president. Then I debated my options while the other four guards slid through the door. I was only at the strip club for insurance purposes. Eve had felt confident she could get the man to take both her and Z to either the facility, but the plan left too many variables for me to stomach. I didn’t know how powerful the strange vampire woman was, but I didn’t want to just wait on the outskirts of town while they did all the heavy lifting for this part of the mission. I had actually planned to kill all of these guards in the hallway, throw the president fuck in his car, drive to the facility, use his clearance to get in, put a bullet through his brain, grab the closest starship we could find, and then blast off.
Eve preferred a little more elegance.
The last bodyguard closed the door behind him, and the limo began to roll away. I waited for it to pull out of the parking lot before I fingered the start button on the motorcycle. The bulky cruiser crawled forward, and I watched the president’s car turn onto the street before I began to follow.
This was not good. My weapons, armor and the rest of our meager possessions were hiding in a spot I’d found at the edge of the city by the facility. It would take me only a few moments to grab them from the spot, but I’d have to stop following the limo, and it would be doubtful that I’d catch up to them until they actually reached the security gates of the facility. I couldn’t really blast ahead to grab the stuff. I would definitely lose the car then, and I didn’t know for sure which route the driver would take out of the megacity.
I was going to have to think of something quickly, or Eve and Z would both end up dead.