Author : Benjamin Fischer
“Last dance of the night,” said Aemilia.
Under harsh floodlights in the center of the deserted dance floor, Phil the bouncer was struggling with the maintenance access latch of the misbehaving auto-buffer. He rocked the bulky machine back and forth in his muscular arms, sweating profusely and fighting for leverage. Aemilia and Magic watched him from the bar.
Magic was tired. He rubbed his shaved head, blinking at the bright glare off the cleaning robot’s shiny black carapace. Thin, spidery fingers decorated with a dozen ruby rings hid his eyes for a moment, and he groaned, only partially from exhaustion. He did, however, smile just slightly.
That made Aemilia very happy.
“No luck?” she asked.
“It’s not about luck,” Magic replied.
“I think it is,” Aemilia said.
Magic slowly shook his head. “It’s about who you’re willing to wake up next to in the morning.”
“Mmm,” said Aemilia. She placed a tumbler at her lips and sipped. “Then no prospects?”
Magic sighed. A practitioner of the Venusian arts, he was very good at the pickup. But this had been a Monday, and a slow one at that. “None that caught my eye,” he admitted.
“The twins,” Aemilia said.
“Clones, and more interested in their source material than me.”
“The Brazilian dancer-“
“A wirehead. A puppet.”
“But very hot,” said Aemilia.
Magic grunted, nodding.
Somewhere a clock cheerfully marked six in the morning
“The blonde in the corner booth, with the sailors-“ offered Aemilia.
“Was in the company of his fellow men,” Magic said, finishing her sentence.
Aemilia giggled and draped herself across the bar.
“I thought you were more open-minded than that,” she said.
Magic flashed her a vicious look.
“You should know,” he said, “I have my standards.”
“Of course,” Aemilia said, her eyes fluttering shut.
“Hey!” called Phil, detaching himself from the innards of the auto-buffer. “Wake up, girl! You know the rules!”
Magic rubbed Aemilia’s shoulder.
“I’m not sleeping,” she said.
“Magic, wake her drunk ass up,” Phil yelled from the floor.
“I’m not drunk,” Aemilia whispered.
She felt a thin, wiry arm wrap around her shoulders.
“Hey, can’t quit yet,” Magic said, his breath on her ear.
Aemilia’s eyes leapt open.
“Tell me,” she said, “would you take me home if you could?”
Magic swallowed. “You’re the prettiest girl here,” he said.
“So you would?” Aemilia asked.
Magic looked into her deep green eyes. He gently brushed them shut with his hand. Then he pressed his thumbs to her temples.
Phil saw this and he swore.
“Yeah,” Magic said. “I shut it down.”
Phil came over, wiping his face and muttering.
“You know that buys her a cold start, man,” he said. “Now why the hell did you have to go and do that?”
“It was doing it again,” said Magic. “And I can’t stand it when they start acting that way towards me.”
Phil sighed and glanced back at the auto-buffer.
“Whatever,” he said. “At least something around here works.”
Magic snorted and shot back the slug of tequila he’d been nursing for the last hour. He stood, gathered up his jacket, and when he was sure that Phil’s attention was occupied elsewhere, he kissed Aemilia goodnight.