Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

The tattoos writhed.

The tattoos strobed through creatures and colours in time to the music and the backbeat of her heart. They’d flash up in blues and purples, mapping out her internal organs before slashing to a zoom-in of Hercules battling the Hydras across the bladed bones of her hips. Stories unfolded down her legs. Reels of film patterened across her shoulder blades. Home movies from Old Earth flashed nostalgia across her buoyant breasts. A burning python lazily wound underneath it all down from the hairline of her neck, around her waist, between her thighs and around one leg to the ankle.

After ten minutes of watching her, one could detect patches that would repeat, see loops start to form, pick up on what images were generated by her consciously and what was being influenced by the music but still, the artistry and complexity involved was breathtaking.

I can’t even imagine how much it must have cost to get the whole back done up like that, let alone the legs and arms as well. She was one of the hottest dancers in the club and rumour said that for the right price she’d cook you breakfast. But still, even if she was the highest-paid hooker in the spaceport, she must have saved every penny to get that kind of work done. The level of detail was amazing.

All I knew was that the six-frame animation of the purple butterfly on my shoulder looked pretty weak in comparison and that tattoo alone had cost me a month’s pay.

I sucked back another beer. For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t looking forward to what I’d been sent here to do. The puzzle pieces were falling into place.

She must have borrowed heavily to get the work done. Borrowed from my boss. I guess she’d defaulted on that loan a few times too many.

I was the one they sent in when things got physical. I was there to make sure that she wouldn’t be able to dance anymore. I was here to make her into an example.

She caught my eye. There was a rabbit-warren terror there. She recognized my job in my stare. She recognized what I was there to do and she knew that she could try to run. Both of us knew nothing was going to happen until after her songs finished.

She danced like it was the last time she would ever dance. I watched with a respectful awe. I’m no art expert I never saw anything like it. I didn’t want it to end.

I suppose that’s why she and I are here, in Devil’s End, two planet-hops away from that backwater moon. We have fake IDs and watch our backs.

She tells me she’s in love with me but I don’t buy it. I know I’m only around for protection. I don’t care. I know I love her. As long she needs me, I’m having the time of my life here. The days are a chase, I have someone to protect, I’m living in the moment, and every night is heaven.

I feel like I matter.

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