Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: New Lancashire, United Commonwealth of Colonies
<It just had to be this place, didn’t it?> Coop looked across the semi-crowded street at the squat ployplast building on the corner. <The night started so promising.>
Sandy’s e-mails had really gotten his blood flowing, but when he arrived at her apartment she wasn’t there. A quick message later and it turned out she was pulling an emergency shift and wouldn’t be able to see him until the following night. Talk about a chub breaker. He’d been looking forward to some quality time with the flexible physical therapist.
He’d been feeling sorry for himself when the message from Aiko arrived. She gave him a time later that night and an address to meet at. They were meeting in a public venue so the people they were selling their goods to didn’t feel threatened. It didn’t matter if you were a nineteenth century outlaw in the Old West or a twenty-fifth century renegade in the Rim, relationships were still built on trust, and no deals were done without some sort of relationship. The irony was these were the hardest type of people to build trust with.
Aiko’s message suggested bringing a little cash to help speed things along. Nothing said “let’s be friends” like buying the entertainment. Normally, Coop was against spending his hard-stolen money on others, but the guns and drugs were going to fetch him a lot more than the five grand in chips he’d smuggled off Argo, so he pocketed fifteen-hundred and went to the address on the message.
He’d spent the last ten minutes standing outside the establishment wracked with indecision. The place was called The Pit Stop due to its location within spitting distance from the civilian spaceport. Coop could still smell the fumes from an old-model shuttle that had launched a few minutes ago. A few people walking around the area were wearing breathers like the one he’d had back in the PHA, except nicer.
Most of those people were giving The Pit Stop a wide berth, and for good reason. The entertainment establishment was affectionately known to the locals as The Pit. It got that nickname because it was where the dregs of the colony ate, drank, and got their rocks off. The Pit’s permit called it a casino. There was a small gambling suite just off the entrance, but Coop would be surprised if it comprised a tenth of the building’s square footage. It was what went on in the back that made the real money.
That was another reason the more morally-minded locals had nicknamed it after Hell, because this was where sin flourished. Coop didn’t give two shits one way or another. His hesitation was entirely practical. The Pit was one of those establishments the local commander had deemed off limits to military personnel. There had been too many fights and questionable encounters for the Commander’s taste, so he used his God-given authority and put a stop to it. Not that it actually put a stop to it, but it greatly reduced military boots that went through those doors, and it gave him legal powers to nail the ass of any violators of his order to the wall.
All of that made Coop think twice before entering. <Why do I have to stand out like a sore thumb?> It was one of the rare times he regretted being HI, but it was a fleeting moment.
“Cover charge is ten.” The big bouncer at the door was scanning the street for the local cops who seemed to be on a permanent stakeout somewhere nearby.
Coop pulled out one of his chips and tapped it to the Bouncer’s PAD. Ten dollars was taken from the chip and transmitted into the club’s account and Coop was waved through. The vestibule was about what anyone would expect of a gambling parlor. The space had an old-timey feel. They were going for a western saloon look. Coop wasn’t knowledgeable about the time period, but if the low-cut tops of the waitresses was any indication he wanted to become a fan.
A long bar with some attractive bartenders dominated one wall. There was a double-door of faux wood that was open and led into the gambling area. They had all the classics: blackjack, slots, roulette, and they were all packed. A few people looked up at Coop, but dismissed him. They had the look of more well-to-do spacers who were just on a short layover in Town Center before flying back out. Likely, they didn’t know what went on here, and their business kept the Pit looking somewhat honest.
“Can I help you, Sir?” A man in a period-appropriate tuxedo asked when Coop just stood in the doorway for a few seconds too long.
“I’ve got a reservation, number 69697,” Coop recited the number from Aiko’s message.
“Yes,” the man gave Coop an up-down appraisal. “Follow me please.”
The man led the way through the small gambling parlor, past another man playing some catchy tunes on an ancient piano, and to a duro-steel door with two well-muscled men standing next to it.
“Reservation number?” The bigger of the two asked. Coop gave it to him, and he checked it against his PAD. “Enjoy yourself.”
Coop passed through the metal door and entered a small space. All that was in it was another door a few meters ahead. A slight tingling sensation passed over him, and he was sure he was being scanned by something. He’d thought about bringing some type of weapon, but ultimately decided against it. You couldn’t build trust with someone while you were planning to kill them at a moment’s notice. It went against Coop’s instincts, but he needed to make this work. It could be his biggest payday ever.
The far door slid open and his senses were immediately assaulted by lights, sound, and smell. He was honestly surprised he didn’t have a seizure as he stepped into the large space that made up the main part of The Pit. Scanning the room, he now knew first hand why they called it The Pit.
The Pit was a themed establishment, and that theme was kinky shit that got people off. Right inside the door, right in Coop’s line of sight, a pair of dirty-looking spacers were sucking on some striper’s toes. She looked bored and was checking something on her PAD, but the two guys were going to town on her big toes, and that was the most innocent thing he saw.
“Hey there, big boy.” A stripper ran her hand across his chest as she passed and circled provocatively around him. “I’m free if you want some alone time.”
The woman was in some type of latex costume made to look like a horse. Two holes in the chest were cut out so she could pop some nice, surgically-enhanced boobs through them. A section of the stomach was also cut out to show off her toned abdomen. The horse head she was wearing was a little weird, but everything else above the waist looked good to Coop. Things went terribly terribly wrong when he looked farther down.
She was wearing some sort of contraption around her waist that culminated in a foot-long strap-on made to match the anatomy of what she was dressed up as.
“Um…no thanks.” After all Coop had done and seen, he didn’t think he was capable of blushing as fiercely as he was now.
<I don’t even want to imagine what alone time with her is supposed to be.>
“Gotta go,” he slipped away from the horse-stripper and started to navigate through the crowd. There were tons of seats, both public and private, surrounding a central dance floor where close to a hundred people gyrated against each other. Ployplast bubbles hung from the ceiling on duro-steel strings and were occupied with naked ladies, naked men, and naked lady-men. One look up and Coop knew he was going to have nightmares about giant penis chasing him, so he kept his eyes down and found an empty, private table as far back from the ruckus as possible.
Like a good soldier, he was a bit early to do recon and assess his options if things went sideways, so he sat there for fifteen minutes in uncomfortable awkwardness. He did order a drink from one of the more tamely-dressed women. She had on fake ears, whiskers, and gloves that made her hands look like paws. The coupe-de-gras was a tail just above her ass. By the way it twitched, Coop was pretty sure it had been surgically grafted onto her lower back.
<How much cash does she make here?> he wondered. Surgical grafts weren’t cheap.
Aiko answered that question when she arrived. “Some guy just paid me fifty bucks to smell my feet.” She laughed as she plopped herself down into his lap and planted a kiss on his lips. “Joke’s on him,” she smiled when she pulled away, “I ran all the way here from the spaceport.”
Coop’s nose wrinkled automatically.
“No…” Aiko’s eyes went wide and she looked from Coop to the room in front of them. “Are you popping your fetish club cherry?”
Coop never got a chance to answer because cat-stripper returned to take more drink orders.
“Aiko!” The two women apparently knew each other.
“Let me see.” Aiko made a turnaround motion with her finger. “How’d it turn out?”
“You tell me,” Melissa, aka cat-stripper, wiggled her ass back and forth to show off her tail.
“Awesome!’ Aiko reached out and touched it. “They did good work.”
“Management wanted me to ask when you’re coming back.” Melissa turned around and pouted. “Your act was a big crowd pleaser.”
<Coming back…act…?> Then it hit Coop like a runaway cargo shuttle. They weren’t here because their potential trading partners had asked for it. They were here because Aiko felt comfortable and knew the staff.
It was brilliant on Aiko’s part, and put them in a position of tactical superiority, but Coop was surprised he hadn’t noticed this. He’d been boning her on the regular for the past week and nothing like this had ever crossed his mind.
“Next time I can get any decent amount of shore leave I’ll make sure to let them know.” Aiko shrugged.
“You’re here now?” Cat-stripper looked hopeful in the kind of way that said her tips would go up dramatically if Aiko did her thing. Whatever her thing was.
“Sorry. I’m here on business.” Aiko turned her down, and as if on cue their guests showed up.
There were two men. One was a grungy looking spacer-type. The other was in an upscale smartcloth suit. The latter was a little of a surprise to Coop. He looked more like a lawyer than a smuggler or black-market dealer.
The two newcomers sat down and didn’t say a thing. They just stared at Coop and Aiko. The silence was almost as awkward as the guy in the next booth over getting jerked off by some dude with tentacles sprouting out of his back.
So, Coop decided to break the ice. “How about a round of drinks for the table?” He looked at Melissa before transferred a hundred bucks onto her PAD. In this type of establishment, a hundred bucks went a long way with drinks. The drinks weren’t the expensive things.
The drink order did the trick and got the guys talking.
“We heard you have a proposition?” The lawyer-guy spoke up once Melissa came back with chilled beers.
“We do,” Aiko cut Coop off before he could reply. “We’ve got a dozen glowsticks, some premium herbs, and a hundred fireflies”
“We’ll need to take a look.” The lawyer looked around.
Coop knew what he was thinking. <No way she got the guns and drugs in here. The scanner would have picked them up.>
So, of course she had to prove them all wrong. She pulled out one of the laser pistols, a bottle of the pills, and one of the plasma-tipped rounds.
<I guess it pays to know the management here.>
“I need collateral.” Aiko didn’t hand them over right away.
The spacer grunted and tossed over two chips, each with a grand on them. Aiko swiped them and slid the pistol, pills, and bullet across the table.
No one around them noticed. Anyone who wasn’t engrossed in their own fantasy world was busy watching two people in one of the hanging bubbles start to sixty-nine each other.
The lawyer looked over the gun and bullet while the spacer took the pills. Coop’s eyes narrowed and he shifted himself so he could lunge across the table and grab the spacer if he needed to, but the man just pulled out some type of testing kit. He extracted one of the pills and placed it in the kit, but Coop still didn’t relax.
Meanwhile, the lawyer was disassembling and reassembling the pistol with surprising speed. “They have power packs?” The lawyer put down the gun and gave the bullet a quick check. It wasn’t hard to figure out it was legit.
“Fully charged.” Aiko nodded.
“This stuff is premium.” The spacer stated as he pulled the pill out of the kit and tossed it in his mouth.
<Fucking idiot.> Even PHA Rats knew the number one rule of dealing was to not get high on your own product.
“Good” The lawyer slid the weapons back across the table and the spacer did the rest with the pills. Aiko reciprocated with the chips. Apparently, that pill the spacer took was a free sample.
“Let’s talk price.” Aiko steepled her hands in front of her. “Five-thou per glowstick, five a firefly, and two-fifty a bottle.”
“Two-thousand per stick, two a fly, and one-fifty a bottle.” The lawyer countered
“Four, four, and two-twenty-five.” Aiko countered back.
Coop just sat there and watched the two of them go at it for a few minutes. He’d done the work of getting the shit in the first place, so it only seemed fair that Aiko do the rest.
“Thirty-two-fifty per glowstick, three a firefly, and one-ninety a bottle. That’s my final offer.” The lawyer sat back and waved his hands in a final motion.
Aiko sat back and crossed her arms defensively across her chest before leaning over toward Coop. “Hey,” she whispered into his ear. “Pretend we’re talking about something important.”
“I do have an important question.” Coop whispered back. “What is the act Melissa was talking about, and when do I get to see it?”
“If we make this deal then we’ll find a place tonight and I’ll show you.”
Coop gulped and nodded back to her.
“I’ll tell you what,” Aiko addressed the two men across from them. “We’ll agree to thirty-two-fifty for the glowstick, and three a firefly, but we’ve got to ask for two hundred a bottle. However,” she held up her hands for the men to be patient. “For your inconvenience we’ll make sure that this young lady shows you both the best night of your lives.”
Melissa had just walked up with refills, and raised an eyebrow at Aiko. Aiko gave her a nod, so Melissa made sure to bend over nice and good when she gave Coop his drink. That gave the two men a prime shot of her ass and tail.
“Deal,” the spacer accepted immediately and grabbed a handful of her ass.
The lawyer looked a little pissed at his associate, but he nodded his acceptance. With negotiations closed all that was left was payment and delivery.
When everything was tallied up it came out to fifty-eight-thousand- one-hundred dollars. The lawyer pulled a parcel from his smartcloth suit and began to count out chips on his side of the table. An impressive stack built up once the full payment was doled out. Aiko used her PAD to confirm the chips’ legitimacy.
“The goods are in a warehouse a block from here, unit twenty-two alpha. The entry code is 584984152.” She fulfilled her end of the deal.
The lawyer made a quick call on his PAD and they waited patiently. The chips sat on the table between them in the meantime, and the spacer started chatting up Melissa. Five minutes later the lawyer received confirmation that his people had obtained the goods.
“Pleasure doing business with you.” He stood up and shook hands with Aiko, gave Coop a nod, and left.
“Uhumm.” Melissa coughed as the remaining spacer started to get more handsy with her.
Aiko slipped her a chip worth two grand. “Give him the full treatment.”
Melissa nodded and led the spacer away, which left her and Coop sitting there with a bit over fifty-six grand. It was easily the biggest payday of Coop’s life, and no one had tried to kill him in the process.
Aiko just leaned back casually and gave Coop a mischievous grin. “Not bad for a couple of days work.”
“Not bad at all.” Coop put his arms around her and pulled her in close. Their lips touched and fire raced through him. He thought they were going to do it right then and there it was getting so hot and heavy.
“Let’s take care of this first.” Aiko swept the chips toward them.
Their deal was seventy-thirty, so they each were supposed to walk away with thirty-nine-thousand-two-seventy and sixteen-thousand eight-thirty respectively, but when Coop counted his out he only had thirty-nine grand.
“You short changed me two-seventy.” He frowned and gave her a level stare.
She just stared back like the cat that ate the canary. “You wanted to see my show, and that shit doesn’t come free.” They pocketed their earnings, left the Pit, and found a hotel.
A few hours later, Coop was convinced he’d just witnessed the greatest show ever, and two-seventy was definitely a bargain.