Jiyoon Mar stared at her wig. It was a contradiction, but life among the Gaeans was full of contradictions. They called themselves “basics” as in “basic humanoids”, the word “human” had become an elitist word in some circles and a racial obscenity in others. She had permanently removed her hair like a Shoovian nun because the Gaeans were more comfortable around hairless aliens. Yet, Gaean society defined beauty and vitality with a healthy head of hair. It was silly, futile, and maddening all at once. Then, there was her blue skin, which reminded her she could never return to normal Xeog society.
She put on her wig and adjusted it to look natural. She applied one last coat of lipstick and left the dressing room. She had gotten a job with the massive Prosperity Corporation as a “hostess” – a corporate prostitute. Working in a company owned night club in a mining facility was the only way she could get to Festivius IX where the Shikar housing had been found. Festivius IX was uninhabitable. The mining facility was a domed bubble on a toxic world. The Prosperity Corporation would eventually “resurrect” the planet to a habitable state, but only after the vast mineral resources had been plundered.
Jiyoon had only been on the planet for a few days and she was already popular. She preferred to attribute her popularity to her beauty than to the fact she was “fresh meat.” She worked the upper levels of the club, the levels reserved for managers and executives. Her approach to gathering information had to be top down, for once she’d had sex with a common worker, the doors into management circles would be shut. Corporations had rigid hierarchies and bureaucratic fiefs, which perpetuated an antiquated caste ranking system.
Night clubs were the same across the galaxy, they were loud and dark with brightly lit dance floors and bars. They almost all smelled the same – the cheap ones had the odor of urine mixed in. The managers’ level had thicker carpet, better furniture. She walked while mingling, prowling for a prospective client. She smiled and waved, she wore the prerequisite outfit – high heels, short skirt, and clingy top with plunging neckline. A modest person would say she had left nothing to the imagination – from her point of view, she was advertising goods for sale. Jiyoon soon spotted what she was looking for, a table with three men. A table with three men meant she would at least get one client. One of the three would be interested, and, if he were hesitant, the other two would bring peer pressure to bear to complete the transaction.
Two were drinking whiskey, the third, bourbon. It was an old argument as to which tasted better, but bourbon was a bit more expensive. Under law only Gaea Prime and a few planets with “home-world” status could produce bourbon. This limitation itself made the drink more expensive off world, regardless of ingredients. Jiyoon’s personal thoughts were that those who drank bourbon were either well off or pretentious – often both. The men wore dark suits and the typical “corporate” tie which was black or red or some combination of the two colors. The one drinking bourbon had loosened his tie.
“I hope you gentlemen don’t mind if I sit here for a while” Jiyoon said as she wriggled into the chair.
“Why, no, of course not, I’m Bruce Ap…”
“Fool! Don’t give these girls your name” said the one drinking bourbon.
“Oh, yes, quite right” said Bruce looking sheepish. Bruce twitched his bushy mustache. His gray eyes seemed apologetic.
“Don’t be silly,” said the balding man in the middle. “My name is Ralph Simmons, young lady.”
“Nice to meet you, Bruce and Ralph” cooed Jiyoon. She turned to the surly one drinking bourbon and asked, “And what is your name?”
“I’m not giving you my name” he barked.
Jiyoon peered into his eyes, she was trying to determine if the man was angry or just on the verge of being drunk. She got her answer when the man slammed down his glass and slightly bobbled as he looked up – he was soused. “Okay, I’ll call you Mr. Bourbon” she said.
“And what shall we call you, dear?” asked Ralph.
“Oh my, I don’t know if I should. Maybe I’ll follow Mr. Bourbon’s example, you may call me ‘Cuddles,’ I like to cuddle” replied Jiyoon. She giggled and the others laughed, except for Mr. Bourbon who just sighed.
They made small talk. A waitress came and they all ordered another round of drinks, Jiyoon ordered club soda – “I’m on the clock” she explained, and they all laughed.
As if out of nowhere, Mr. Bourbon asked, “Are you blue all over?”
It was a racist question. Ralph and Bruce immediately went silent. Jiyoon responded “For one hundred credits, you can see for yourself; for two hundred credits you can touch.”
“Ha!” sputtered Mr. Bourbon. “I happen know you girls have to do it for one hundred credits, it’s in your contracts. Don’t try to gouge me!”
Jiyoon smiled, “Let me tell you a secret” she said leaning into the table. The men leaned in as well. “It’s true, we have to provide sex for one hundred credits. But.” she paused and looked about as if she were about to divulge a state secret. “At one hundred credits every girl you see here lays like a limp rag. For some men that is enough” she added nodding toward the lower levels.
The men sat back with wide eyes. For the first time it had dawned on them the lower price was for the common man. Turning her full attention to Mr. Bourbon, she asked “Which do you desire, Mr. Bourbon, a limp rag – or a memory that will last a lifetime?”
Ralph and Bruce stared at Mr. Bourbon wondering what he would do. He took a last sip of bourbon and gently set the glass down. He staggered to his feet and said, “Let’s go make a memory.”
The club’s “Hospitality Room” looked like any other nondescript motel room in the galaxy. He slumped into a chair next to the bed. “This better be good he grumbled.”
“Just relax, baby” cooed Jiyoon.
“Don’t call me ‘baby’” he said.
“Fine but relax. Sex is always better when we relax.” Jiyoon also knew that a relaxed person provided better information. She removed her top, “See, blue all over.”
“Everywhere?” he asked.
She giggled and replied, “Well, I might be green on the inside.” She shimmied out of her skirt and asked, “Have you ever made love to an alien?”
“No,” he grunted.
“Have you ever seen an alien?” she teased.
“Don’t be silly, most of the crews in my sector are aliens” he replied.
Jiyoon asked, “Sector?”
“Yes, I manage all of Sector Fourteen” he answered. “The mine is laid out in a four by four grid, for a total of sixteen sectors.”
“Mining must be interesting. Do you ever find things?” Jiyoon asked.
He answered with a question, “What do you mean find things?”
“You know,” Jiyoon responded, “things like buried treasure or lost civilizations?”
“Normally, no,” he said, “and I wish we didn’t. My crews are always finding alien junk, it slows us down.”
“Slows you down?”
“Yea, every time we find a piece of junk, we have to stop and call in the government. Puts my sector behind schedule” he added.
“What does the government do with it?” Jiyoon asked getting her hopes up.
He replied, “They take it somewhere; don’t know where, don’t care as long as they get it out of the way.”
It wasn’t the answer Jiyoon was hoping for, but it was a lead. “Why, Mr. Bourbon, here I am stripped to my panties and you still have your clothes on. Let me help you out of them” she said as she tugged on his belt.
Jiyoon spent the next two days following up with the managers. It seemed the artifacts came from the wreckage of two craft and were found only in sector fourteen. They didn’t know or wouldn’t say where the wreckage had been taken. So Jiyoon turned her attention to the sector fourteen workers. She felt no shame in selling her body for sex – she had stopped feeling shame long before she had turned blue when she had executed Hishen collaborators.
The workers, who had seen the wreckage, described a large Shikar ship and a smaller vessel. It struck Jiyoon as ironic that the sisterhood devoted so much time to the Shikar, they had no clue as to who were the Shikar enemies. The first time, archaeologists examined the site. All other times, the ones who collected the debris were dressed as ISS troopers, though Jiyoon had a feeling that instead of Interplanetary Special Services, they were actually Covert Operation Group or COG teams.
She found herself at a table with Grot Thork and George Rath. Grot was a Soldur refugee, his home world, like so many, had been absorbed into the Hishen Empire. He was tall, muscular, and quiet. George Rath was an amiable older man. Before he had become a miner, he had been a bosun’s mate in the Gaean Star Navy. He was quite a storyteller; he had traded stories with the troopers who gathered the debris. In fact, Jiyoon, herself, fought the urge to tell of her experiences commanding a marine platoon aboard the frigate Mago. For an instant, she saw herself as a young lieutenant in the dress gray uniform with bright green skin and white hair in a short bob.
“It wasn’t like anything I’d ever seen” said George snapping Jiyoon out of her reverie.
“I’m sorry, I must have drifted off, you were saying?” asked Jiyoon. Grot laughed. George blinked his eyes and stared into his beer.
“As I was saying, that housing you described contained nothing I’d ever seen before” said George.
“Was it maybe, a weapon?” Jiyoon asked. She noticed she was beginning to slur her words just like George, which was odd since she was drinking club soda.
“Nah, it wasn’t like any weapon I’ve ever seen. Beam weapons, even rail guns, become narrower over the length of the barrel to concentrate the energy particles, and projectile weapons maintain the same bore diameter. This thing flared out into some sort of flange or dishk, disk, whatever” George answered. He pushed himself to his feet and wavered. “Time ta’ go an’ drain the lizard. I be back” he said and then began staggering toward the men’s room.
She sat there in silence with Grot. Grot took a long pull on his beer and then said, “He won’t tell you.”
“What?” Jiyoon asked.
Without showing any emotion, Grot said, “He won’t tell you where they took the wreckage. That’s what you want to know, isn’t it?”
“Why do you think I want to know where it is?”
“Because you’re a Xeog and Xeogs get all hot and bothered over anything that might be a Shikar relic” he said. “Knew a Tip-Tip Glom trader out of New Hope who gathered junk and sold it as Shikar relics – Xeogs were his biggest customers.”
Jiyoon cooed, “But darling, George will tell me.”
“No he won’t,” Grot replied. “He’s a vet and still loyal to Gaea.” Grot took another long pull on his beer and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. “Don’t look disappointed, sweetheart. Grot listens, Grot hears when soldiers tell George where they’re stationed.”
“And you’ll tell me for a price?” asked Jiyoon.
“Grot doesn’t want your money” he said. “A freebie will bring name of base to Grot’s mind.”
“A freebie? Honey, if you know where that wreckage is, you can have the deluxe package” said Jiyoon.