Free Reads – Adrift Ch 6 by J Alan Veerkamp #scifi #mmromance #freereads #lgbtfiction

Hi everyone!

I hope you’re starting to read and enjoy my new story through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.

Each week we get a prompt to write our chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words.

This week’s prompt was use quarry, motel, whiskey.

An interesting conversation has broken out between Torrins and Franc. What have we here?

Missed the first installment and want to start at the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1


 

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Chapter 6

“What do you mean no?” Torrins appeared equal parts confused and affronted by Franc’s refusal, whatever is was about.

“You know exactly what I mean.”

Franc’s dark gaze locked onto Torrins and the two resumed the unspoken communication which took on a new intensity and flared into an unheard argument. A test of wills, helmsman challenging the captain. Arad wondered if they were going to share their ideas or continue to communicate through body language and psychic streaming. Although Arad had the impression neither man had the requisite hardware installed or would allow themselves to be connected to any corporate network in such a fashion.

A strobe of red and blue caught Arad’s eye. Through the nearby window, a sector authority officer tackled a running man, slamming his quarry against the wall. Security drone lights swept back and forth, their harsh spotlight flashing into the tavern, distorting the interior’s colors. Disquieted murmurs from the establishment’s patrons flitted between booths and tables. Arad shuddered at the thought of what might have prompted the overzealous arrest. Neither Franc nor Torrins gave the scene the slightest attention.

Torrins shook his head and took a swig of his drink. He slid into a seat facing the booth and nudged Arad to sit in the adjacent chair. “I don’t see what your problem is.”

“This isn’t what we talked about.” All of Franc’s earlier playfulness had vanished. What was left was an unerring sharp edge aimed at Torrins and it brought up a wave of concern in Arad.

“He’s perfect.” Torrins leaned back in his chair, leaving his arm resting on the back of Arad’s. His fingers cupped the join between Arad’s neck and shoulder.

“You don’t know that.”

“He fits everything we need.” Torrins began a deliberate massage with his thumb, working up to Arad’s nape. The move underscored Torrins’s interest and under better circumstances if would have settled Arad’s worries. It did not. The contact failed to rise any revulsion, creating a sense of wariness instead. There was far more going on than he understood, but he managed to gather at least one thing out of the veiled discourse.

“Excuse me. Are you talking about me?” Arad tried to stare each man in the eyes, to no effect.

Franc reached out, only to find his empty glass which only renewed his scowl at Torrins. “The crew won’t like it.”

“Why?”

“Too many people knowing puts everything at risk.”

Torrins looked at Franc’s glass and taunted him by taking a slow sip of his own. “Not everyone has to know everything.”

“There’s not enough room on board.”

“We have plenty of space if we get creative. We were prepared for that.”

“Daiko and Serene will have a shit fit. You know they didn’t want anything to happen unless they had a say in it.”

“Well in the end it’s my ship, and I’m gonna hold onto my supreme veto power, if you don’t mind.”

Arad waved at each man in turn. “Hello, if you’re talking about me, I’m right here.”

And again, they continued talking as if Arad wasn’t even present or trying to be heard. Heat built along the edges of his ears at the insult. He may have been a slug, but he had some pride, even as low as it had become recently. Outside, the officer ignored the man’s pleas and requests for the charges as restraints were lashed around his wrists. Dust swirled around them as the sentries hovered close. Another officer joined in and grabbed a fistful the man’s hair, drawing his head back at a painful angle. They clamped a gag around the man’s jaw, stifling his outcries.

“You’re asking for a mutiny. We all have a stake in this.”

“And you’ll all get paid. Just like normal. Shit, Franc. I’d think you’d back me up a little here. It’s what we’re here for in the first place, remember?” Torrins gave Franc a knowing grin. “You know, you stand to benefit in a lot of ways too. I’ll make sure of it.”

Franc’s glanced at Arad and then away just as quickly. “I don’t like this at all.” He couldn’t mask his frustration as he rubbed his face with both hands.

“Fat payment cards will make it all better. Now’s not the time to get squeamish when what we need is right in front of us.”

Outside, the authorities dragged away their suspect as he kicked and squirmed, protesting their handling. They heaved him into the back of the security trawler that had flew in during the scene and brought down the solid metal door. The searchlights vanished, leaving the tavern in its standard level of bland lighting. Everyone else in the tavern went back to their booze, meager snacks, and whispering, pretending their lives wouldn’t be touched by the violence out there, but knowing it could at any moment with one wrong word or one wrong move.

Arad kicked back his chair and set his drink down hard. Drops of cheap alcohol splashed onto his wrist, chilling as they evaporated. Abruptly, Arad stood, dislodging Torrins’s hand from its perch.

“You know what? I think the two of you have some serious issues to sort out. I’m going to go. Thanks for the drink. You boys have a nice evening.”

Torrins and Franc both finally shut up. Interrupting their discussion gave Arad a small sense of satisfaction even if the night had turned into a complete disaster. Nothing had gone as planned, no matter how flimsy a plan he’d started with. At this point, Arad should have been shacked up in a motel earning the credits to feed himself, but no… he had to take way too long to choose a mark and ran into these two.

With a snug grip on his bag, he turned and stepped away, only to halt when Torrins spoke up over the room’s din.

“Arad, come back and finish your whiskey. If you leave now, how are you gonna get paid?”


 

Want to start from the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!

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Free Reads – Adrift Ch 4 by J Alan Veerkamp #scifi #mmromance #freereads #lgbtfiction

Hi everyone!

I hope you’re starting to read and enjoy my new story through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.

Each week we get a prompt to write our chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words.

This week I chose the prompt, “I’ll have whatever he’s having.”

Arad is homeless, jobless, and is at a seriously low point. What happens next? Let’s find out in Chapter 4 of Adrift.

Missed the first installment and want to start at the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1


 

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Chapter 4

Two drinks maximum was all he could afford and the bottom of number one came closer no matter how much time Arad managed between sips. The lager had warmed a while ago, but he didn’t mind. He’d learned to savor these moments a long time ago.

Almost a week had passed since the dock reclamation had ousted him and the others. Six days of walking the streets looking for suitable shelter each night, holding tight to what little he owned. Word was Mareth had stowed away on a transport, following a rumor of a job lottery in district A-6. It took some effort because of the expected awkwardness, but Davis told Arad the chance wasn’t any better there than here, so Arad hadn’t followed. Loyalty barely existed among most of the slugs, and he knew he wouldn’t see her again.

Arad liked this tavern with its simple, low-tech atmosphere. Filled with locals and outliers alike, the pricing brought in wealthier clientele, but not enough that Arad couldn’t blend in. After a trip to the bathhouse, anyways. His seat at the bar was well suited to keep sight of all the current patrons, watching them come and go as he quietly nursed his drink. Suppressing the frustration when he saw someone approaching was difficult. Arad couldn’t help being turned off by the aura of booze drifting off the middle aged, decently groomed man as he sidled close.

“Looking for a little company?” Words on the verge of slurring confirmed Arad’s disinterest.

“No thanks.”

He edged closer, scrubbing his chest against Arad’s shoulder. “You sure?”

“Yeah I’m sure.”

“C’mon. I got a place ‘round the corner.”

The drunken attraction reminded Arad of the worst parts of his contacts with Davis. The reactions of men under the influence often couldn’t be trusted. Arad cursed under his breath. He didn’t need this hassle. The trick would be getting the jerk to bugger off without causing a scene, and the longer this went on, the less chance there was.

A sudden shadow blanketed them. Paired with a hostile snort, it caused the pushy man to pale. 

“He said no. Get the fuck out.”

The man backed off and left the building at an unexpected casual pace, leaving Arad only partially relieved. The hulking new bartender blocking the light unnerved Arad enough he’d avoided him most of the night.

By his facial structure and the ring looped through his wide nostrils, Arad pegged him for a bull DemiShou. Smooth, black fur covered his skin, making the oversized arms spilling out of his short sleeves shimmer in the minimal light. Two broad horns protruding from his temples had been cut short, leaving the black bone flat and harmless. Which seemed ridiculous given the fearsome muscles found on most DemiShou.

DemiShou had originally been engineered as the first settlers during terraforming efforts. Their human-animal hybrid physiologies were spliced to be better suited for the hostile extremes on undeveloped planets. Once the planets were suitable for regular people, there wasn’t much need for them, so they were folded into the population. At least that’s what Arad understood. Most DemiShou he’d encountered were laborers, security, or penniless slugs like himself. A wolf DemiShou snatched the job he’d been promised last week, but he didn’t harbor any ill will. Being at the bottom of the food chain didn’t give him any illusions about being better than anyone else.

“I was surprised you told him no. I figured you were here to make a little money.”

Arad didn’t appreciate the bartender’s perceptiveness. This place was a refuge he didn’t like hustling, even if that was exactly his plan. He was trying to be subtle about needing more cash. Arad had spent the first drink sizing up potential marks, but he wasn’t running off with just anyone. The bartender may have been a big beast, but he wasn’t stupid.

Arad took the last swallow and pushed the glass across the bar. “I’ll take another draft.”

The bartender collected the glass, stowing it under the bar. His non-human gaze never wavered, drifting over Arad with…appreciation? That couldn’t be right.

“There are better ways to make a living.”

Arad had no intention of giving the bartender the satisfaction of being right. “Are you offering me a job?”

The bull chuckled. “I wish.”

“Then pour.”

The bartender filled a fresh pint and slid it over to Arad, Still holding the drink when Arad reached for it, their hands touched. Leaning in, the bull shared his quiet rumble with Arad alone.

“A man like you shouldn’t have to demean himself. If you were mine, you wouldn’t have to. Ever.” 

“I… I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Spoken—or rather, stammered—like a guilty man, Arad couldn’t think. Indecent ideas surfaced as his face grew hot. He wasn’t attracted to the bartender, but the bull bulged… everywhere. Arms, shoulders, legs… between them. Everything about them was oversized. Whispers and jokes ran rampant about DemiShou mating instincts, their appetites and sexual prowess, but Arad had never really considered it. Animal rutting frenzies.

Flustered, Arad dug into his shoulder bag, scrambling to find money and end this conversation. Where the hell were those tokens?

Out of nowhere a dark haired man with broad shoulders pushed forward, making a wall between Arad and the bull. He slapped the bar, cash in his hand.

“Save your money. I’ve got this one.” The stranger stared at the bartender. A silent challenge, but subtle enough someone might miss if they weren’t paying attention.

“I don’t need you to.”

The swarthy gentleman turned to Arad, his grin confident and disarming. “Call it my good deed for the day.”

“You sure?” Arad hated needing to be saved, but he’d yet to find the last of his tokens.

“I’m sure.”

The bartender frowned and took the cash, apparently not caring who paid in the end. All business, he nodded at Arad’s savior. “A’right. What’ll ya have?”

“I’ll have whatever he’s having.”


 

Want to start from the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!

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Free Reads – Adrift Ch 3 by J Alan Veerkamp #scifi #mmromance #freereads #lgbtfiction

Hi everyone!

I hope you’re starting to read and enjoy my new story through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.

Each week we get a prompt to write our chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words.

This week was a freebie so I could write whatever I wanted. 🙂

So welcome to Chapter 3 of Adrift, with a new post each Wednesday.

Missed the first installment and want to start at the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1


 

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Chapter 3

Arad jerked away from Mareth and ran around her into the chaos. At the end of the docks he found the source. Dust kicked into the sky clouded the air around the mammoth transport sitting on the once unused landing pad. Search beacons reflected through the fog, scattering the light into a dangerous haze as a line of machines exited the vehicle. Mechanical leviathans at least fifteen meters tall rose between the buildings, crushing makeshift shelters between its hydraulic jaws. Each step was thunder and wrenching metal all in one.

Frightened screams could be heard under the layers of noise as people fled their only sanctuary. The clamor stole part of his sanity, and he drove deeper finding a few sporadic humans standing alongside the machines. Traitors.

Arad approached one of the men, trying not to notice his military-like garb complete with body armor and riot helmet. “Why are you doing this?”

“Demolition for corporate reconstruction.” The guard barely glanced Arad’s way. 

Yards away, Shaky Jake barely avoided being smashed under the rusted metal shed as he scrambled to retrieve his few meager belongings. The machines weren’t hesitating, ignoring the people present and treating them as less than obstacles as they performed their duties. Corporate reconstruction at its finest. After all this time, the company decided to reclaim its property and woe to anyone caught in the crossfire while they used mercs to do the dirty work. Fewer witnesses that way if things went wrong.

“People live here.”

“Not any more. They’re trespassing.” The guard’s words were clipped. He didn’t even raise his head this time, maintaining his focus on the com-pad in his hands, making an obvious effort to ignore Arad. Almost as if he had issues with this job.

“Someone’s going to get killed.”

“Not if they get out of the way.”

“What do you expect them all to do?”

The guard shrugged, his voice impatient and exasperated. “I don’t know. Get jobs like the rest of us.”

Outraged, Arad circled in front of the guard, throwing out his arms to demand his attention. “How can you say that with a straight face? Are you really that dense? If there were jobs to go around, do you think anyone would live like this on purpose?” Arad swung his arm wide, showcasing the decrepit conditions of both the demolished and undemolished zone. He had to make the man understand.

No one chose this existence. Circumstances and financial inequities forced this upon them all. When the machines could do the work themselves, what use were the people who once did the work? Even here, only a small number of men ran the operation to reclaim this area.

The guard stalled. For a moment, a calculating light brightened his eyes. A glimmer of recognition hinted at the truth of Grey District’s social dynamics at work, but he shook his head and the sympathy flickered out. He raised a hand. “Look, I’ve got work to do. Go earn a living and quit begging for a handout. Lazy fucking slugs.”

The fresh venom left Arad aghast. Everyone present was being upheaved without the slightest notice, all for the love of profits. If you couldn’t create it, you didn’t matter. 

“We don’t want handouts! We just want a chance to survive!”

“Survive somewhere else.”

“We don’t have anywhere to go, you bastard!” Blinded by fury, Arad flung himself at the guard. The unconscious action surprised him in the deep recesses under the burning anger, but it was buried too far to stop him either. He grabbed at the armor panels attached to man’s uniform, unable to get purchase on the slick material. It made no sense. Arad wouldn’t know what to do if he got a proper hold anyways. 

“Step off!” The guard snarled and stiff-armed Arad in the chest, knocking him to the ground.

The texture molded into the plasti-crete pavement for traction dug sharp lines into his back. Spasms froze his breathing into short, erratic pulses, but Arad jumped to his feet and advanced on the man. He didn’t make half the distance before the security drone dove between them, its pacifiers armed and sparking. Hands in surrender, Arad inched backwards as one would from a rabid animal, not trusting the bot wouldn’t strike him from behind given the chance. Who knew if a person was behind the controls or an algorithm. Neither one was a safety guarantee.

A pair of arms latched around him and pulled him away. His heels dragged twin lines in the dust as Mareth’s familiar worried voice hissed in his ear. “I told you to go back. You can’t win this. None of us can.”

This time he didn’t resist, because he knew Mareth was right.

At a safe distance, she released him and continued on, leaving Arad behind to watch the heartless erasure of his haggard community. The people who used these docks scattered like insects and would be treated as such by the population of whatever street whose alleys they next huddled inside of. Constant relocation was a way of life from them. Permanence was a fiction for slugs in Grey District A-5. A series of shanties collapsed under a tech-behemoth’s foot as another scooped up the debris and shuffled it into a garbage scowl waiting in the landing zone. Steel screeching vibrated up Arad’s spine. So much gone in such a short period of time. Many of the fleeing slugs would be left with nothing after it all. Arad clutched his shoulder bag that much tighter. It was all he had in the world. He was fortunate not to lose much in the destruction, but it didn’t make the impact any less profound.

Sitting on a dirty half wall, his strength and resolve bled out in combination with an extended, defeated exhale. Arad stretched his sight up again for the few stars visible through the skyline, jealous of their position so far, far away from this wretched planet.


 

Want to start from the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!

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Free Reads – Adrift Ch 2 by J Alan Veerkamp #scifi #mmromance #freereads #lgbtfiction

Hi everyone!

I hope you’re starting to read and enjoy my new story through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.

Each week we get a prompt to write our chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words.

This week was a freebie so I could write whatever I wanted. 🙂

So welcome to Chapter 2 of Adrift, with a new post each Wednesday.


 

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Chapter 2

“You could stay the night.”

Davis brushed his knuckles along Arad’s shoulder. Holding back a shudder, Arad smoothed back his hair still damp from the shower. The embedded wall sconces were calibrated in automatic night mode, bathing the one room flat with a meager level of illumination. In the poor light, Davis’ pleading eyes were dilated with barely any visible color left. He meant the words now, but when the drug wore off, the morning would be painfully awkward for them both. 

“I need to go.”

“You always say that.” A strobe of harsh light from a passing trawler swept through the window slats, highlighting Davis’ sturdy, naked body. His shoulders sagged as if sadness were a physical thing.

Arad had to turn away. “Because it’s true.”

It wasn’t the first version of this exchange. Temptation was a seductive creature. Having a bed to sleep in, a man of his own made for a powerful enticement. Arad didn’t need a reminder of how they’d spent the last few hours, rutting in a Syn-fueled frenzy. PnP was Davis’s preferred scene, giving his needs a voice he wouldn’t have otherwise. His addiction for companionship outweighed his decency. Arad shouldn’t have followed through again, but in the end, credits were credits and jobs were hard to come by.

The script played out the same each time. Arad would prepare to leave. Davis would beg. Arad would politely refuse, holding out his hand, waiting. Just like now. Brow crinkled in embarrassment and frustration, Davis slipped the fund tokens into Arad’s hand. For a moment he hesitated, like he might take Arad’s hand, but drew back.

“Be safe out there. Let me know if you need anything.”

Shirt barely buttoned, Arad slung his satchel over his neck before he could change his mind. “Tell your wife and kids I said hello.”

He heard the soft gasp, imagining the hurt flinch. Stepping onto the landing, Arad didn’t look back, knowing Davis would be standing there, high and undressed in the doorway until he was out of sight like all the times before. It might have been a cruel jab, but Arad couldn’t afford to get too close to Davis, and the man needed the reminder. In the end, he had to be a customer. No more, no less.

Davis was always more emotional until the Syn wore off. It lowered inhibitions and induced a nice sexual euphoria, making for a fun time. It was also cheap enough for even a slug to get their hands on. Tricks often liked it, but Arad left it alone. It wasn’t a case of judgement. Stoned hustlers were likely to be rolled, raped, or worse.

Once at ground level, he moved a block down the street to be sure Davis hadn’t followed. Each step twinged with the promise of a furious ache in his backside tomorrow morning. With a stuttering exhale, he stopped and slumped against the nearby warehouse until his forehead touched the cold metal wall. Life fed his weariness, from its trials to his own choices. Arad was educated, and handsome enough most people usually noticed it under the grime. If he made more of an effort, he could rake in far more credits than he did. There were plenty of offers. But by accepting he’d have to face himself, and it was hard enough with what few men he hustled now. Multiplying the resulting shame would do him no favors. Arad scoffed. World’s oldest profession? He was a part-timer at best. This wasn’t the life he was born to but it’s what he had thanks to his parents, and he refused to wither into nothing.

Pushing off, he set back on his path, making the long trek back to… where again? Not home. He didn’t have one of those.

It was late, yet Arad wasn’t sure of the time. Like every other slug, he couldn’t afford any level of tech implant that would link to the world server. The street was devoid of people and when he looked up, buildings reached upwards to such impossible heights, few stars could be seen through the night. Random vehicles floated between sleek towers dotted with vulgar brilliance all the way to their peaks. The world up there was active and vibrant and here he stood—far, far away from it—cast in shadow.

So he walked. The further from the district’s center he became, the more dilapidated the environment. Ground level was hardly well maintained, but where he headed could be mistaken for a scrap heap. These machine docks had long since been abandoned by their corporate owners. Maintenance panels along foundations and site barriers were out of position or missing, their valuable parts long since scavenged. 

Arad was spent. A makeshift shanty might be all he had, but it was shelter and he needed sleep. Feet and body aching, he almost wished he’d taken Davis up on his plea to stay. Almost.

A growing commotion slowed him to a halt. Noises that didn’t belong grew in volume. Angry overlapping voices and chugging machinery had no place in this dead facility. A smattering of people appeared, scuttling away from the ragtag community of slugs and their only refuge. Vermin fleeing a sinking vessel. One woman caught sight of Arad and rushed at him.

“Arad! Go back! Go back!” She fisted his shirt, shoving at him in her panic. In the dark, he didn’t recognize her until the searchlight of a series of security drones swept the area.

“Mareth? What’s going on?” Arad grasped her wrists to keep the burly woman from knocking him over. Her eyes were wild and wet, ready to overflow. A broad smudge on her cheek nearly camouflaged a growing bruise.

“Go back! You have to go back!”

Her manic words continued to loop and he struggled against her hysterical strength. This wasn’t like her at all.

“What are you talking about? What’s happening?”

Mareth gasped as the first tears fell. “They’re destroying everything.”


 

Want to start from the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!

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Free Reads – Adrift Ch 1 by J Alan Veerkamp #scifi #mmromance #freereads #lgbtfiction

Hi everyone!

It’s been a while and I’ve been working on revamping older pieces for so long I decided to start a new story through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.

Each week we get a prompt to write our chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words.

The prompt I used this week was: Use mustard, intriguing, and system.

So welcome to the first installation of Adrift, with a new post each Wednesday.


 

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Chapter 1

 

Traffic beacons swept the corporate work zone as a shuddering transport dumped off another load of hopeful men and women. The stench of mustard tinged exhaust choked the air in its wake.

Arad Ansari shivered in the claustrophobic queue leading to the Grey District A-5 techyard. He’d camped overnight after visiting the bathhouse using the token he’d lifted off a wayward tourist to be sure he was clean and ready to work. Manufacturing was automated, leaving tech jobs scarce among the self-made engineers in the factory slums. There was no way he could risk this chance getting away from him.

Boots clunked along the steel causeway in unison as the mass of people shuffled forward, invading Arad’s personal space in all directions. Whether intentional or not, he kept a tight grip on his shoulder bag even though it was latched tight, keeping his few possessions safe. The crowd funneled into a line aimed at the guard wall entrance, but the man big enough to be DemiShou blocked Arad’s view to see how much further he had to travel. The pace was cautious in spite of the anticipation present amongst the workers. Security drones hovered over the area scanning everyone present with their unnatural eyes maintaining order. No sane person would be willing to lose wages spending the day dealing with District Authority. 

The crowd inched along as a sluggish wave. Stretching around the human wall before him, Arad could see the attendant reading his handheld against the scan results, passing some through the gate and sending others on their way. With too many people and not enough work, the whole labor force was built around a lottery system. A flawed and dysfunctional method, but all the slugs—poor bottom feeders like himself—could hope for. He’d arrived early, but there were still so many in need and not enough work to go around.

Finally reaching his turn, Arad pressed his finger to the attendant’s screen and waited for the gruff man to verify his details.

“Not authorized. Next.”

Arad’s chest threatened to collapse. “What do you mean not authorized?”

The man gave a frustrated sigh, but never raised his eyes to Arad. “You’re not on the work list.”

“No, no, that’s not right. Davis confirmed this yesterday.”

Using the scanner, he impatiently pointed at the milling group standing alongside the wall. “Then take it up with him. Next.” 

Before he could protest further, Arad was shoved out of the way by the next hopeful slug. He managed to catch himself as the waiting crowd filled the space. Panic fed his outrage. It was a done deal. How could this happen? He needed to know. The attendant was useless. Arad would need to hunt down his source and there he was taking a drag off a cigar, waiting for the shift to start. When he caught sight of Arad approaching, Davis cursed to himself as he carefully stubbed out the smoke to salvage his precious vice.

“Davis, they kicked me out of line. What happened?”

The scruffy foreman hesitated, pocketing his dead cigar in his stained coveralls and avoiding Arad’s piercing stare. “Sorry, kid. Management went a different way. Management gave the spot to a wolf DemiShou this morning.”

“Why? You said the job was mine.”

“He’s got a wife and kids to feed.”

“So because the wolf-human hybrid is married and has kids he can’t afford, he gets first dibs?”

Shaking his head, Davis shrugged. “It’s a quota thing. Politics. Way above my pay scale.”

“Maybe I should let someone experiment on me and then maybe I wouldn’t have to slave for wages.”

With a firm clamp on Arad’s arm, Davis pulled him aside. “Don’t say stuff like that. Someone might hear you.”

“I know.” Dirty steam billowed out of a nearby service vent and Arad deflated. “I really needed this, Davis.”

“I know, kid. I’m sorry. I tried. Really.” Releasing Arad, regret colored every inch of Davis. It helped soothe the rolling frustration, but didn’t extinguish it.

“Yeah. Thanks. I have to figure what to do now.”

Brow arched, Davis looked around and lowered his voice. “I know it’s not much, but you could stop by after shift end. It’ll be another week before I can get home. I could use the company.”

“You’re not serious?”

Opportunistic prick. Even if it wasn’t the first time he’d exchanged funds for favors with Davis, Arad wanted to tell the man to go to hell. But he’d just lost the job he needed. He didn’t have any wolf Demi welfare to rely on, and those wages could have fed him for a month. 

“Come on. We have a little fun, let off some stress, and you get some credits in your pocket. Everyone wins.” Davis smiled, which gave his smudged and unshaven face a certain charm. He wasn’t a slug like Arad on the bottom of the food chain. While not an elite, Davis didn’t need to scrounge to feed and had a real roof over his head.

“You’ve got some balls on you, Davis.”

“One of my best features according to you. You were right gentle with them even. What do you say?”

Rowdy noise behind them drew their attention. Furious shouts on all sides rang out as a man tried to push back into the job line. Probably a reject like Arad. Tempers flared as he refused to quit. Screaming and shoving escalated between everyone involved, tensions already strung tight threatening to break. A security drone swooped in and shocked the man to the ground. The stunned crowd quieted and went back to its dreary routine. Right then Arad’s stomach growled, gnawing at him with its ceaseless hunger and anxiety. 

“I’ll think about it.” The money always became more intriguing when reminded about how little he had and how few options he had to acquire it.

Davis patted Arad’s shoulder and walked off. “You know where to find me.”

“Yeah. I always know where to find you.”


 

Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!

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