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Episode 39

Business in the Pleasure Zone

We stepped out of the alley and started walking west towards the whorehouse.

“So,” said Jock brightly as we walked, “who’s going to win the Series this year?”

“Asteroids,” said Park.

“Asteroids?” I said. “They’re not even in class A.”

“That would explain the odds against them,” admitted Park.

“Well,” said Jock, “I think the new padding rules are stupid. It’s a man’s game, not some sort of padded low-grav gym for coddled youth.”

“Agreed,” I said. “The padding takes the guts out of the game.”

“It’s also an invitation to get hurt worse,” Jock said.

“Yeah,” I said. “I heard that. The players hit harder because they think they can’t get hurt, right?”

“Exactly,” Jock said. “Safety gear is actually worse for injuries.”

“Here’s the thing,” Park complained. “Some of those guys get paid more for one game than we make in a whole year of missions. You know that? And they’re just playing a game. Sure, they might get hurt, but ain’t no one going to blow their heads off”.

The district was lit brightly with strings of bulbs around small trees planted in the sidewalk, banners in windows, clothing, purses, boots, even an antique book store. In between were cafes and bars. Live music echoed from multiple establishments as we passed, washing together with the honking of horns, talking and the sound of visiscreens broadcasting sportsgames. It was obviously a night life hotspot, but the crowds were subdued and many of the open establishments had few patrons. Having your city besieged and shelled wasn’t good for business.

The eight block marked the beginning of the red light district. Outlines of legs in neon tubes, darker colors and blue and purple lighting, with men in leather and women in slinky dresses in knots of conversation or smoking.

It looked like most red light districts I’ve seen, though I laughed involuntarily when I saw a poster in the black-painted window of one seedy looking joint. It had three topless women standing with their arms linked and their midsections blurred out. Not their breasts, their belly buttons.

“What the hell?” Park said, observing the same thing.

“It’s must be a local fetish,” I said. “The exposed stomach is a major turn-on here. Full navel exposure prohibited by law.”

“That’s crazy,” Park said.

“Bellies are hot,” Jock said. “There was this one chick I used to know, she had one of those belly buttons like a little slit.”

I’m partial to a pierced belly myself, but I didn’t feel any need to share my thoughts on the subject.

“Thanks, but we’re busy,” Park said, pushing away a heavily made-up woman who reached out to brush his arm as we slowed our pace. At least, I think she was a woman.

And then we were there. Planet Spice was a white brick building lit with neon purple lights along its lines. The windows were mirrors and a hefty pair of bouncers in black stood at the door, checking IDs and letting people in and out.

The big acne-scarred and stocky bald bouncer on the left held out his hand as we walked up and Jock passed him his forged ID. Park and I did the same. He looked at us, then at the IDs, then waved us in.

The other bouncer was tall and skinny, and had shining black hair pulled into a pony tail. He was carrying, too; I could just make out the tell-tale bulge in his breast pocket. I heard him click a tally counter as we passed. One guy must have been the intake, the other the outtake. Either way, we’d want to take out the guy with the weapon first.

Then we were inside. A tall woman in tights and a halter top which barely contained her well-shaped and unencumbered breasts met us with a slight smile on her red mouth. “Are you here for the show this evening or are you looking for a little more private entertainment?”

“We’re meeting some friends here tonight,” Jock said, nodding ahead towards a hallway to the right where three men stood rigidly. “That looks like them there.”

He pulled a credit card from his wallet and handed it to the woman. She scanned its chip on a small necklace she wore, then smiled brightly at him. “Very good, gentlemen,” she said, “you may go on back and you’ll be taken care of.”

Business in the Pleasure Zone panel 3
Business in the Pleasure Zone panel 4
Wardogs Inc. series cover
Business in the Pleasure Zone episode cover
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Wardogs Inc.

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