No matter how many times I think about it, no matter how many times I ask myself the question, is this right? The answer always remains the same.
King’s Private Journal
Chapter Five : The things we do for a living.
Ducking into the alley behind Angela’s Place, King made a break for the relative safety and freedom that he knew was located only a few hundred yards away. Got to run, got to hide. Sticking to the shadows as he went, he opened the door that had been conveniently disguised as a holo-poster and slipped inside.
Stepping into the Culture Club was like walking into a different world. Where most over night hotels offered people clean rooms and a bed, the Culture Club had been designed to mimic the different environments that had given rise to evolution, and as the place where chimeras could come and enjoy themselves in the comfort of their own natural habitats, it was hoped that simply being exposed to a more organic world would allow them to get in touch with their own instincts and desires. That was the idea anyway. But with a vending machine offering his and her condoms, along with countless other things for sale inside a glass display case located in the far corner of the room, chimeras often found themselves coming to the Culture Club for completely different reasons. Ones that had nothing to do with spiritual fulfillment, and more to do with getting it on.
Sitting behind the service desk waiting to greet people was a solemn looking badger girl, her nose buried deep in her book she barely registered King’s presence even as he stepped towards her.
Leaning on the counter in front of her, King said. “Hey there Camille. How’s business?”
Ignoring King’s attempt at striking up a conversation, she just flipped to the next page of her book, pointed to the wall behind her and continued reading.
“That good huh.” Looking at the wall completely covered in television screens, each one showing a live feed from the various rooms that were currently unoccupied, King noticed that every single one of them showed a black screen. “So . . . good book? Who’s it written by? Anyone we know?” Tipping the book back so he could read the name on the cover of the dust jacket, King said. “Hmm, Twilightiger, I know that name” Scratching his chin, he snapped his fingers as it came to him. “He’s one of ours isn’t he?” When Camille refused to respond he added. “Maybe you might like to meet him? It might; inject a little romance into your love life.”
“You smell like you just had sex.” Said Camille without ever lifting her eyes off of the page. “Who was it with this time?”
“Angela.” The way that King had said her name left little to the imagination. “We have a, how shall I put this? A working relationship.” The feeling of fucking her from behind still fresh in his mind, he tried to keep the lewdness to a minimum. “I keep trying to find ways to make her happy, and she keeps trying to find ways to get herself pregnant. Two goals I’m beginning to suspect which are no longer mutually exclusive.” Looking Camille in the eyes, King said. “Now, since when did you start taking an interest in who I choose to have sex with?”
“Its not that I care about who you choose to have sex with,” Said Camille as she tried to hide behind the pages of her book. “Its the number of women that I have a problem with.”
“Oh really? So you have something against my keeping an entourage do you?” Treating it as if it were a matter of little to no consequence, King said. “Well, I do enjoy keeping the company of quite a few female companions. Certainly more then enough for any one man some might say.” Leaning in close enough to whisper, King went on to say. “Care to know how many of them have carried my heirs?”
Avoiding the question, Camille wrinkled her nose and said. “This place smells like sex.”
“That’s because this place is a love hotel that caters to chimeras looking to escape from the ordinary. They come here in order to indulge in their, fantasies. If you wanted, I could show you one of the V.I.P. rooms.”
Having seen the V.I.P. rooms for herself, Camille thought about what it would be like to indulge in a few fantasies of her own and fought to keep from blushing. “Certainly not. In fact, I don’t even know why you’re trying to proposition me. Its never going to happen.”
“Camille,” Sensing a sudden spark of interest, King said. “If I were trying to tempt you into sleeping with me, then I would start by winning your heart and fulfilling your every need and desire. And I most certainly wouldn’t do it while covered in the scent of another woman.”
Having half-expected him to do exactly that, Camille simply said. “Then why . . .”
“Because I enjoy getting to know people. And quite frankly, this is the most you’ve said to me all week. You know, for a young woman who claims to be an intellectual, you don’t like to talk to people very much do you?”
Peering over the edge of her book she said. “I just, I don’t like the smell of sex, that’s all.”
Rolling his eyes, King simply said. “Then why in the name of all that is good and holy do you continue to work here?”
“Because the pay is good.” There was another flip as Camille continued reading.
“Well, since I am paying you to be here. The least you could do when I walk through the door is smile.”
Putting her book down with a sigh, Camille’s halfhearted attempt at actually cracking a smile only served to reveal rows of dozens of razor sharp teeth. “Happy now?” She said, before picking her book back up once more.
“Beautiful, simply beautiful.” King purred. “I do so love it when a woman smiles.”
For a moment, Camille was surprised to find that he was actually being sincere. And then she realized what he had really meant. “You . . . your . . . incorrigable! Your nothing but a tomcat on the prowl. A lothario looking forward to his next conquest. I won’t fall for your tricks do you hear me! I won’t become just another one of your women waiting around for you to call!”
“So feisty!” Picking up a pen, King wrote his number on a business card. “You know, I’m willing to bet you like to bite.”
This time she really did throw her book at him.
Catching it deftly he returned it to her with ease before stepping towards a wall that was covered in TV screens. As he drew closer, the wall parted, revealing a secret passage that was connected to a service elevator. “You know Camille.” Said King as he started to swish his tail back and forth. “You really should smile more often. Maybe then we might actually get some business around here.” Stepping onto the elevator caused the wall to start closing behind him. Before it could close completely he turned and said. “Oh, and Camille, before I forget. Keep up the good work.”
Smiling himself as the sounds of the outside world steadily grew quiet and dim, and the screams of excited fans cheering for their favorite fighter slowly grew louder and louder, King allowed himself to revel in the wonder that people felt whenever they saw it for the first time. For stretching far beneath the streets of Sector Seven, was an old underground parking complex that had secretly been converted into a serviceable fighting arena where the underworld’s elites could come and compete.
Having been the one to purchase the previously failing endeavor from its former owner only a few short years ago, King had worked hard to turn the once outdated and outmoded parking complex into one of the most successful and lucrative underground arenas in all of SynCity. Of course, the fact that he had opened its doors to chimeras eager for a fight had only served to bolster its reputation, as well as serving to ensure that not a night went by where there would be an empty seat in the house.
Leaning against the wall the elevator, King recalled with fondness the early days of his often chaotic career. Living his life on the run, hiding from bounty hunters and company officials alike in a desperate bid to survive. There had even been times when he’d had to call in favors just to keep himself alive.
Of course, building a fledgling empire from the ground up hadn’t been nearly as easy. It had required massive amounts of capital simply to get started, and more often then not, he had found himself forced to fall back on black market deals and petty thefts just to make ends meet. But once it had it had gotten out that a prize fighter could win enough money after just a few short bouts to buy their way out of their service contracts, King had found himself with more fighters on his hands then he knew what to do with.
Feeling the roar of the crowd and the excitement of battle begin to wash over him as he stepped off of the service elevator and into his office, King saw the pile of paperwork that was waiting him on his desk and knew it was already too late to go back the way he came. Because standing in the middle of the room as if patiently anticipating his arrival, was his very own personal assistant, Shinji Moto.
“Always with the flashy entrances,” He said offhandedly. “Never with the front door.” Adjusting his glasses, Shinji sighed. “I swear, nothing you do is even close to normal.”
Dressed in a pitch black suit with a plain white tie, the young tom with midnight colored fur and an easy smile carried himself with a quiet confidence that served to disguise his humble origins. Formerly an employee at Cyber-Life Industries, Shinji had defected from the company after twelve long years of faithful service. Preferring to sell his considerable skills out on the streets, rather than spend his life seeing everything he might invent used to further the Companies own selfish ends, he had found in King a kindred spirit, and it hadn’t taken long before the two of them had become fast friends.
“Speaking of doors,” Said King. “Your son showed up on mine again. Somehow, I don’t think his mother is going to be too happy with either of us when she finds out that both he and the babysitter have been sneaking out of the house to go running around at night.”
“And?” Said Shinji. “Is running around all that they’ve been doing?” When King refused to answer Shinji pushed his glasses closer to his face and said. “I see. Well, I’ll try to have a talk with him about it then. But somehow, I don’t think Hien Ko will be willing to listen to the voice of reason. He idolizes you too much you know.”
“A gentleman and a thief.” Said King as he glanced at the papers Shinji had prepared for him. “I hardly think I’m the one he should be admiring.”
“A thief you may be . . . but you were the one who transformed an entire sector suffering through hellish poverty into one of the most sought after locations for chimeras seeking a place to live. If that is not an act worth admiring, then what is?”
Fixing his seal to a over a dozen different documents ranging from payments to crooked cops who wanted payoffs to local charities looking for help, King said. “The way you say it, you make it sound as if it was easy.”
“The only reason I’m saying it,” Said Shinji, placing a fresh stack of documents in front of King. “Is because you never give yourself enough credit. But then again, in a world as corrupt ours is, who does?”
Barely taking the time to read through the endless legalese, King discarded anything he didn’t like the look of and went about signing his name to everything else. “So what does tonight’s schedule look like? I know we have a meeting with some of the local drug lords from Sector Two looking to expand into our area, but after that. Enlighten me.”
Nodding almost imperceptibly, Shinji touched his fingers to his glasses and accessed the Culture Club’s internal mainframe using the up-link built into the frame. “Let me just see now, ah, here it is. You have a dinner date planned with a prospective courtesan, a young lemur woman specializing in remote energy transfer systems has come to us looking for a research grant. Her work has already started to show promise, and she’s hoping to expand beyond the initial testing phase.”
“Are there any potential applications we might be interested in?” Balancing a pen on his nose, King leaned back in his chair. They had explored the use of remote energy transfer systems before, but multiple factors including weather had made its use less then feasible.
“Several, not the least of which include a viable alternative to our current dependence on conventionally coded transmissions. And if that proves to be successful we could even free ourselves from our reliance on SynCity’s power distribution grid.”
“Now that’s something to invest in.” Hating the idea of being subjected to a boring, stuffy lecture when he could enjoy listening to someone’s theories in a more relaxed setting, King said. “Black tie, or casual?”
“Casual, of course my wife will be the one to prepare the meal, provided you agree to her terms.”
King couldn’t help but shake his head and sigh. Terms, why are there always terms with that woman? “Let me guess, she wants me to build her a nursery.”
“How did you . . .” Shinji just blinked. “We haven’t been trying that hard . . .” Wondering how King always managed to find out about these things before everyone else, Shinji was forced to remind himself that King had already spoken to Hien Ko. “Yet.”
“Never hurts to be prepared.” Noticing Shinji’s discomfort, King asked the only question that actually mattered. “Is she cute?”
“She has been, informed, of your preference for women with long flowing tails, and will dress accordingly.” Putting aside King’s unique methods of doing business, Shinji decided to speak seriously for a moment. “King, please, try not to overwhelm this one would you? Your flair for the dramatic tends to distract women from the reason they come to you. And its already bad enough that rumors abound that the best way to get ahead in this business is to sleep with the owner. The last thing we need for them to find out is that if they actually do manage to get themselves pregnant, you then set them up for life.”
“You know me.” Said King as he looked up from a pile of paperwork that seemed to be getting bigger instead of smaller. “I do enjoy mixing business with my pleasure.”
“After that, you have some more paperwork that you’ll need to catch up on,” Said Shinji, taking perverse delight in trapping him in bureaucratic limbo as he added another stack of papers to the pile. “And after that, you planned to field test some of the modifications you asked me to make to the Zero-One, the prototype battle suit we’ve been developing.”
“Zero-One is ready to be tested?” King’s ears perked up at hearing that little bit of good news. “Sounds like fun. Let me just get dressed for the meeting and we’ll be on our way.”