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Just Crystal

The bus ride into the center of the city was a brief one, but it gave her time to think about her next move. After leaving the bus, her first stop was in a public bathroom, where she rinsed the grey dye out of her hair, then pulled her hair back in a tight ponytail. Next she applied garish makeup to her eyes, lining them in thick black strokes, then painting her eyelids a bright cobalt blue to match her lipstick. She slipped out of the shabby, grey man's shirt she was wearing and pulled on a tight black dress and some translucent heels that added six centimeters to her height.

She stood up straight and made a kissy face at the mirror, having taken two decades off her apparent age. It was a risk, and one that she wouldn't have run on a more advanced and civilized world, but on a low-tech backwater like Terentulus, it was her safest bet. Men never looked too closely at a woman's face when her body was on display. And while she was nearly too old to pull off such an act where the women were more plentiful, what she'd seen at the spaceport and on the bus suggested that she wouldn't have any trouble finding employment.

She threw her old woman clothes in the trash, cut up her identification, and flushed it into the sewers. Now she was Damara Haze, a hard-living 29 year-old from Moyen Chari, seventh of the yellow sun Pavonis Gamma. She walked confidently down the sidewalk, hips swaying as she ignored the stares of the men and women she passed by. She rejected the first two possibilities that she encountered, as one was too small to permit residence and the other was too low end for her to convincingly blend in.

But the third gentleman's establishment was large, had high-ceilings on the entry level, above which were at least four floors of what looked like residences, and a large neon sign that identified it as Platinum Pink. She walked past the two large men standing at the open double doors without breaking stride and saw that the day girls who were languidly attempting to elicit coins from the paltry few men inside were moderately attractive.

She smiled brightly at a middle-aged man with slicked back hair and gleaming white teeth who approached her with the arrogant ease of a predator. Not the proprietor, she guessed, but the day manager.

“Lookin' for new talent?” she asked him.

“Always,” he said, his eyes expertly assessing her from head to heels. He made a twirling motion and she obliged. “Not bad. You use?”

She shrugged. “Just a little weed.”

“Weed's not a problem. Anything harder and you're out. House fee is fifty a night. What's your name?”


“Just Crystal?”

“Just Crystal.”

“All right, Crystal it is.” He offered his hand and she shook it. “I'm Antony. I run weekdays. You'll meet Garan later, he runs weekends. We're short on girls so you can start tonight. If you need anything, you just ask me.”

“Thanks,” she nodded appreciatively. “Hey, Antony, I'm new here and I don't got nowhere to stay. You got some rooms upstairs, maybe?”

He smiled cynically. “Looking to do more than dance?”

“Maybe. Depends on how the dancing goes. Not tonight, anyhow.”

Antony pointed to a small, elderly woman who was dusting the sound booth. “Tell you what. I think you're going to do okay here. For an extra twenty a night, you can stay here. That's Eritha. Tell her I said to give you Room 23 on the fourth floor.”

“Thanks, Antony!” She smiled as foolishly as she could muster and tried not to roll her eyes when he winked at her. “You're a lifesaver!”

Just Crystal panel 3
A Mind Programmed series cover
Just Crystal episode cover
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A Mind Programmed

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Vox Day
The Greater Terran Ascendancy finds itself facing a historic crisis when the Shiva-class cruiser ATSV Rigel goes missing during a routine patrol through the Kantillon sector. Fortunately, the Ascendancy Intelligence Directorate's top operative, Daniela York, is on the scene.
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