Ch. IX, p.5

. . .

Dominic pressed his hand against a glass panel outside the Dragon’s Breath. DNA gathering components matched his prints and genetic makeup against a database that told whether he was wanted for any crime or barred from the establishment for some other reason. He was clean, and the door swung open, allowing him into a vestibular chamber closed off on either side. Once a set of scanners had determined that no unwanted guests had come in with him, a second set of doors slid quietly open.

He walked in, gazing upwards to where a massive, domed ceiling stretched broadly and indigo-lit décor with an origin in Chinese aesthetics presented itself. On either side of him, lavish stairways curved up and around the room, reaching towards the darkly colored ceiling that brewed black and purple with clouds, shape shifting into snake-like dragons and blazing phoenixes, their mythical play spanning the width of the entire ceiling.

Dominic walked close to the wall, hand on the railing as he went up the stairs. In the center of the room was a black mass of faces and figures lying around a large column, ensconced in a cloud of smoke that billowed up from pipes and tubes in their mouths. Hashish was much preferred to liquor by many, as its users seldom turned to violence, and the Dragon’s Breath was well regarded in smoking circles.

The stylish metal stairs turned to hard, lustrous flooring sided by smooth wall and glass paneling. Following a wide arc, the path emptied into a large circular space populated by a few steel tables and kneeling chairs arranged upon a marble floor. Well kempt patrons were scattered amongst the seats, engaged in private conversations or, as with a pair of young men, playing a game of chess on a simple board carved of wood.

Dom headed for the back, a beautiful young woman catching his eyes along the way. He smiled inwardly, enjoying her radiance, all the while knowing that anything past that would cost money. Presently, he arrived at the bar.

“Hello.” A smiling woman, silver hair and golden eyes, greeted him from behind a semi-circular counter of glass and polished mahogany.

“I’m looking for Berin Grates,” said Dom.

“The Dragon’s not seeing anyone,” she replied immediately.

“Tell me where he is.”

The heavily robed bartender cocked an eyebrow, leaning her face in to examine him. “You’re not a buyer, are you…”


She nodded. “He’s in back—down the hall, third door on your right.” She pointed beyond a shimmering curtain of water that appeared to run down from the ceiling, saying, “I hope it’s important…”

“Thanks.” Dom rapped on the counter twice and walked towards the watery hallway entrance. As he passed through the clear fall, a refreshing breath of life washed over him, the holographic water seeming to spill through his veins.

And then it was gone, replaced by simply decorated hallway and dim wall panels. He stopped in front of an unlabeled door, matte white, and pressed his hand against its surface.

“Not Receiving Visitors,” appeared on a graphical overlay.

‘Force Entry,’ he thought.

“Government I.D. confirmed. Force entry?”


The door slid open and he barged into the small space. Two men looked up at him from their place on the floor, bearing the appearance of a conversation interrupted.

“Berin, I need to see your contact,” he growled. "Now."

A muscle bound, red haired man smiled widely at him and motioned to the floor, his thick, curly locks flowing over broad shoulders onto a keenly maintained suit.

“Long time no see, big D. Have a sit brother.”

Dominic shook his head. “I’m short on time.”

“Later, then,” he said, nodding in understanding. “It’s a demanding world… Well, it looks like you’re in luck. This is my guy.”

Next to him sat a slick, blonde haired man, dark eyes and cold, steely expression. Underneath the man’s silky white sports jacket, Dominic could see the bulge of a pistol for a single moment. The man smiled at him coolly, saying nothing.

“Name of Detroit,” Berin finished.

“What can I do for you?” asked Detroit, his voice like knives dancing in the sun. “And, more importantly,” he said slowly, his tone unchanging, “what can you do for me?”

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