My Poison Kiss Doth Purify by Holly_Gonzalez

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Strobelights flashed, electronic drums thumping. Sybelle claimed the stage as the dancers whirled aside, their nude bodies aglow in neon. The audience clapped and hollered. Another night, another spectacle to please the Cartel. At least Sybelle's performances earned enough to spare her from prostitution. Most of the women onstage weren't so lucky. Silver slave torcs gleamed around their necks, a reminder they were all prisoners. The Cartel pirates owned everything aboard Delirium 8, this corrupt pleasure station at the farthest bounds of the Star-ways.

Sheer veils drifted around Sybelle's slender figure as she swayed. Golden scales striped her face and limbs. She arched her back, and her hair fell in a lustrous black curtain to the floor. Pivoting on one nimble foot, she writhed before the drunken onlookers, and wireless tips flooded the currency drive embedded in her torc. All profit for the Cartel, her iron-fisted masters. Only a little trickled into Sybelle's account. Regardless, she'd saved for five years and almost had enough to buy her freedom.

The rhythm crescendoed. Time for her finale--the revelation. She peeled her translucent gown away, and it dripped to the floor. She might have passed for a full-blooded human if it wasn't for the coiling snakes which were her arms.

Gasps and sighs ensued.

A drunk man shouted, "A Venomisan wench! Forsooth, a fine pair o' tits for a snake."

Another hissed, mocking her hybrid human-Venomisan ancestry. "Forsooth nothin'. Snakes don't got tits."

Their laughter didn't faze her. She twirled her serpent hands and closed her eyes. The Cartel controlled her body, but they'd never conquered her spirit.

The dance ended, and Sybelle slipped her gown on. The crowed shouted for her to stay naked. Let them clamor for what they can't have. She sauntered to the bar, her copper skin damp from exertion. Behind the counter she stored her robotic prosthesis between shows. She retrieved it and slipped the metallic gauntlet over her left hand--the snake which struck with antidote. The lethal venom of her right she kept uncovered for defense.

Her titanium fingers clinked against the wine glass the bartender offered. As she sipped, her torc hummed and blinked. Damn. The Boss wanted to see her. With a sigh she headed upstairs to the VIP lounge.

Boss Eljax sagged in his usual chair, surrounded by buxom slave girls. Eight tuliped ears pricked forward around his broad Rethnarian face, his single bulbous eye ogling Sybelle as she entered.

Sybelle knelt in submission, though she wanted to strike Eljax with her poison, to make him pay for killing her father and abducting her into slavery. "You summoned me, Master?"

The Boss's deep voice gurgled. "Got a job for you." He tossed a key at her. "Third floor, cubicle 8. Honored client. Do him right, or it's a month in the dreg pit for you. Got it?"

"What? My contract states I'm exempt. I'm a dancer, not a whore."

"You're a whore if I say you are." Boss Eljax lurched to his feet, so tall that his head scraped the ceiling. He pointed at the door, and his four thick tails lashed behind him. "This client's asked specifically for you. Get to it before I flay you." His long claws clacked menacingly. Those same claws had once gashed her father's throat.

Obstinance sank into her churning gut. She slowly scooped up the key and bowed. "Yes, Master."

***

Sybelle ignored the curious stares of the prostitutes as she stormed down the corridor. When she reached the client's room, she slipped the key into the lock. She slammed the door behind her, not caring what anyone thought. She was above chattel work. This client must be elite for the Boss to waive her contract.

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