Written by: Candace Rugg
Cover art by: Rachel Hoard
“Cass get your ass out on the floor, we are packed to the brim tonight with patrons and we can’t handle it with just two fucking servers!”
“I just got here PETE give me a minute to at least get my coat off before you start barking orders at me!”
“Well what do I pay you for if you are not going to be ready to be out on that floor the minute you arrive here!?”
Cass could feel the anger welling up inside of her. If she didn’t need this shitty serving job at the Broken Record Bar so badly she would have told her boss, Pete, to fuck off a long time ago. But life was hard enough as it is, and the last thing she needed was to be jobless in a time where having one meant that you had a shred of dignity left .
She took a deep breath in.
That’s right just stay calm and ignore him, just get through this night and you’ll be just fine.
Cass exhaled and proceeded to tear off her coat and other belongings rapidly off her body, revealing her “uniform” which was nothing but a skimpy yellow and orange neon dress that clung to her body like tight latex. Pete had told her once that it was more pleasing to the patrons to see a human woman dressed in skimpy clothing. But personally, Cass thought it had the opposite effect.
“What section am I getting tonight?” She asked while she hooked a rather large pair of gaudy, metal earrings through her ears.
“The VIP section.”
Cass’s heart sank into the pit of her stomach.
He has got to be kidding.
“Come on Pete, I know that we started tonight off on the wrong foot, but to assign me to THAT section after what happened? That’s a new low even for you.”
It had taken Cass several bottles of whiskey to push the image of her former co-worker’s mangled body from her mind. Sadie was found torn to shreds on the VIP lounge floor last month. Her once beautiful,sweet face was barely recognizable by the time Cass saw her. The two weren’t particularly close, but Sadie had always been shy and sweet to everyone she had ever talked to. It was hard to imagine how she could’ve provoked a Zecurcian to attack her.
Everyone was horrified by what had happened to Sadie. Unfortunately you can not stop working for long at the Broken Record during business hours. It was a death sentence. Pete had no choice but to wrap her up in a rug and wait till closing time to deal with the clean up. Cass was pretty sure the blood stains were still in the carpet floor of the lounge.
“I know, but it’s not like I can turn away their business. Just keep your head down and don’t look em’ in the eyes.”
She was also pretty sure Pete gave Sadie the same advice the night she had died. She shuddered at the thought.
“If you get nervous, just choke some beer down, I won’t judge you for it. Now stop wasting more of my time and get out there already.” Pete turned and left through the main door of the locker room, leaving Cass behind to seethe in her growing fear and anger.
This was quickly turning into a shitty night.
However Pete did have a point, there was nothing that he could do to fix this situation. Nobody on Earth could for that matter. She was just going to have to hope that her customers were feeling merciful tonight.
The music blared against Cass’ ears as she snaked her way up to the bar rail on the main dance floor. She took a moment to look around the room. Pete wasn’t kidding the place was packed tonight. She could see her coworkers running around desperately trying to bring their orders to their tables.
Cass admired them. They still maintained their false calm appearances, their fake smiles.
“Hey Cass can you take this to table five? Marcy is having a rough time getting her shit together tonight, and I don’t want things to escalate to violence cause someone didn’t get their damn drinks on time.”
Kevin, the main bartender of The Broken Record, pushed a serving tray towards Cass. It looked heavy and was loaded to the brim with large beverages that could topple over at any given moment.
“Maybe she would get her shit together if you stopped giving her trays that would spill on the clients, Kev.”
“Hey it’s not my fault. You know how temperamental these guys get,” he stated with a shrug.
“If they don’t get what they ask for right away, they get triggered...and then you die.”
He shot her a grin.
“I prefer to live.”
Cass laughed as she hoisted up the serving tray “Don’t we all?”
“That is debatable at this point,” Kevin’s carefree smile faded for just a moment. “I heard what section you got tonight. That’s some bad luck Cass.”
Crap that’s right I forgot.
Kevin had been the first person to discover Sadie the night she had died. He was like a big brother to everyone in the bar, but he always had a soft spot for Sadie. Cass knew that he somehow blamed himself for her death.
Kevin might not have been saying it out loud, but his eyes were full of concern.
Would the same thing happen to her tonight?
“Don’t worry about me Kevin, I’ll be fine.” She was scared but she wasn’t about to let everyone in the damn bar know about it. It wouldn’t do them any good.
She turned and started to make her way across the room to her table; in doing so she allowed her eyes to wander around the room. Tonight the bar was completely rented out by the Zecurcian army. That meant the VIP section was going to have some sort of important figurehead within it.
Zecurcians were the things of nightmares. They had red skin, white hair, and were also extremely tall, with four pairs of eyes that were pitch black. They were also armed to the teeth with fangs, claws, and advanced weaponry that could obliterate any living creature in seconds. It wasn’t a surprise that they managed to take over the planet so quickly. Zecurcians were also very ill tempered, and easy to offend. Making random acts of violence very common among them. If Cass was going to survive her shift tonight, she needed to be careful with basically everything.
“My Lords.” She bowed and smiled politely when she arrived at her table. It was occupied by two large male Zecurcians that had irritated expressions etched on their faces.
It made the hairs on the back of Cass’s neck stand up.
Pete’s words rang into her head in that moment.
Don’t look them in the eyes..stay calm.
She let out a quick breath before she presented them the tray, and bowed deeply.
“I live to serve you.”
It was absolutely humiliating, but she hoped that worthless line was enough to satisfy them.
A long silence followed. Cass was beginning to sweat until one of them finally leaned forward and plucked the drinks from her.
“Pah, and don’t you forget it, human.” He sneered.
The Zecurcian who spoke finished his drink in an instant, and slammed the glass back onto the tray.
“If I were in charge I would have wiped this planet from existence. I don’t know what Overlord was thinking when he spared your miserable species.”
Fuck you too buddy.
“O-of course my lords we owe you everything.” Cass’s voice shook as she spoke.
More irritation shot across their faces.
“Leave us.” The other one demanded with a snarl.
They certainly didn’t have to ask her twice. She gave them another deep bow before turning and leaving them to talk about how much humans suck, or whatever it was that Zecurcians discussed.
“Tough crowd tonight.” She mentioned to Kevin when she returned to the safety of the bar railing.
“Always.” He sighed as he slid her another tray. “This is for your VIP room.”
“I haven’t been up there yet---”
“Don’t worry they put their order in when they arrived. It hasn’t been very long so they shouldn’t take offense.”
“Oh...alright then,” Cass grabbed the tray and gave him a small smile.
“Thanks for getting this together for me Kev, I owe you the biggest drink when my shift is up.”
“It’s no big deal Cass I’ll see you soon.”
Without another word, Cass hoisted the tray up from the rail, and started walking towards the stairs that would take her to the lounge.
And possibly to her death.
Cass tried to remain calm as she made her way up to the lounge.
The VIP section of the Broken Record wasn’t anything special. It was in a lofted area that was just above the main bar that was sectioned off to be one big giant room. Pete originally intended for the space to be another dance floor. But after the Zecurcians showed up, he ended up installing soundproof walls and turned the spot into a sitting lounge since his new clientele were not fond of dancing. Unfortunately for everyone, it quickly became a favorite meeting spot for the aliens to meet up.
“My lords I’ve come with your drink order," she called out.
With a shaky free hand she punched in the door code and entered the room.
There were five of them. All massive, and all taking up what little space that the room had to offer. Four were seated on the lounge’s couches that were facing each other in the middle of the room. They didn’t bother to look up from what they were doing when Cass had entered.
Instead, they remained focused on the fifth one who was casually leaning back in a cushioned chair in front of them.
The fifth guy... wasn’t a Zecurcian.
He wasn’t anything like she had ever seen before either. He clearly wasn’t human, and yet he looked almost like one. The only difference was that his skin was a light purple and that his ears came to a point.
“What is this now?” The mysterious being stood up from the chair. His eyes were fixed on Cass, like a snake about to strike its prey.
“Y-your order? I’ve brought it to you.”
The look on his face said it all. He was clearly not expecting her to arrive.
“My order you say..how amusing.” He turned to the other aliens in the room. “ I don’t ever recall ever ordering anything. Do any of you?”
The Zecurcians all stood up at once causing panic to shoot through Cass in an instant.
What the hell is going on?
“Did I say order my Lords? What I meant to say was that it’s an offering to you from this establishment.” Cass bowed low as she presented the tray. “I was told to give you this, as you are an honored guest.”
It was a straight up lie but she needed to pull something out of thin air to save herself. A million questions began to race through Cass’s mind.
Why would Kevin send her here? Did he make a mistake?
The Being let out a laugh.
“Well, aren’t you a clever one.” He said in an amused tone.
He stood up from his chair and glided over to Cass. Whatever this thing was, he was incredibly tall, maybe even taller than the other aliens in the room. He towered over Cass as he reached down and grabbed a goblet off the tray.
“Tell me, what is this establishment offering me?” The Being swirled the cup in his hands and raised it to his nose.
“Our finest selection of brandy and top shelf drinks made special just for you, my lord.”
The Being turned to the Zecurcians.
“Be seated.” He commanded.
Immediately they all sat back down, however their pitch black eyes remained focused on Cass.
It sent a shiver down her spine. Whoever this was, he clearly had authority over them.
“Come, sit with me human. Your timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I have questions about your species that only a human can answer.”
“Ah, I really should get back to my duties my lor-”
“Are you refusing my request?” The being shot her an irritated scowl
“Of course not!” She smiled as best as she could. “I would be happy to answer any of your questions.”
The being smiled back, however it didn’t reach his eyes.
“Excellent.. so happy that you decided to indulge me.”
Cass followed him over to a section of the lounge that wasn’t currently being occupied by four large aliens waiting to pounce on her, and took a seat into a small purple loveseat that was nestled away in a corner.
“Here let me take those off your hands,” he gestured to her drink tray.
The being reached out with one of his hands and closed his eyes.
A blue aura instantly consumed the tray and soon it pulled itself out of her gasp, and into the air.
“Holy shit!” Cass gasped.
The tray was levitating.
She watched in awe as it slowly made its way over to a coffee table where the Zecurcians were sitting.
“I take it from your slack jawed expression that seeing something like this isn’t common on your planet?”
“No. That was incredible!” She beamed.
The Being smiled. This time it was genuine, clearly he liked being complimented “Please call me Arharkin.”
“A-alright Lord Arharkin...”
“What can I call you human?”
“My name is Cassidy, but everyone calls me Cass for short.”
Arharkin let out a laugh “Why would someone shorten their name to a simple noise?”
“For that very reason. It keeps things simple and short...plus I like it better.”
“Amusing.” Arharkin sat himself down next to her in the loveseat and studied Cass for a long moment. The silence was beginning to unnerve her until he finally spoke up.
“You’re female.” He stated.
No shit, Sherlock...
“Yes. I am,” she replied.
“I’ve never had a chance to converse with one in person before.”
Arharkin leaned back into the seat and gave her a sideways glance. “I’ve only seen them on what you humans call a TV. My work hasn’t given me much time to fully explore your planet and cultures. But one day I’m sure I’ll get around to it.”
Fat chance, everything got destroyed...
“When that day comes, I hope that we don’t disappoint you, Lord Arharkin,” she stated. Cass was just being polite,but she could sense that her answer somehow bothered him.
In an instant his whole demeanor changed.
“You already have dear, this planet went belly up in a matter of days.” Arharkins face was all pleasant and smiles, but his voice was full of disgust and venom.
“I’ve actually seen bugs that put up a better fight than you humans ever did.”
She remained silent.
Cass found that this was usually the best thing to do in these types of situations. She had seen too many run ins over the same topic with humans and Zecurcians. It always ended the same though. Death for the human who dared to talk back.
“What’s this? No response? Where is that human pride that I keep hearing so much about?”
Arharkin reached out and lightly grasped a strand of Cass’s hair between his fingers.
“Or maybe you have other ways of venting your anger and frustration.”
Cass quickly pulled herself away from Araharkin’s reach, and scooched herself as far away from him as the couch would allow. He didn’t seem bothered by her reaction though. He looked more entertained by it, actually.
“What questions would you like to ask me, Lord Arharkin?” She asked hoping that he would drop the last subject.
“Well, you already answered one for me already.” His eyes raked over her once more.
“The other is more of a debate question that I would love to hear a human response to.”
“What is it?”
His smile twisted.
“Why should the human race continue to live?”
She was speechless really; how could she possibly answer this question without seeming like she was retaliating against her alien oppressors?
What sort of sick torture would she have to endure for speaking her mind?
But what if she didn’t answer?
Would her silence actually bring death to her and the human race? Arharkin was clearly in a position to make that happen based on the amount of authority he carried with the Zecurcians. Panic quickly shot through her. She stared desperately at the unknown alien. He was practically gleaming at her. Arharkin was toying with her, and clearly enjoying it.
However, before Cass even had the chance to speak fits of wheezing and coughs erupted from the Zecurcians across the room. Arharkin looked unbothered by the sound but soon It grew more desperate and sporadic, to the point where it was hard to ignore. Even for Arharkin.
They both glanced over.
Two of the Zecurcian generals were clutching and clawing at their throats struggling to breathe, their faces were quickly turning an even darker shade of red than normal. Their bodies began to shudder and shake, causing one of them to fall off the couch and go crashing to the ground.
The two remaining Zecurcian men picked up their cups and brought it to their noses.
“Deathroot!” One of the remaining generals snarled.
Cass noticed the discarded goblets rolling around on the lounge floor from where the two Zecurcians were choking. The liquid inside had turned neon pink and was currently burning a hole in the lounge floor.
Deathroot. It was undetectable in its first stages of application, but after a set amount of time it changes color and kills its victim from the inside out. All the color drained from Cass’s face as she realized what was happening.
She glanced over to Arharkins goblet and noticed the same color liquid had suddenly appeared inside of it. She felt the blue aura around her body before she had a chance to even speak.
“I guess this is what I get for entertaining myself with human company.”
Cass was thrown against the ceiling with such force that it rattled her teeth. She tried to speak but whatever this power was that Arharkin wielded, it was preventing her from even drawing in breath.
Arharkin turned to the remaining Zecurcians.
“Clear the area. If you see any humans bring them to me, and kill them if they resist.” His voice was casual and calm as he spoke.
“Do we have to bring them here alive?” One of them complained.
Arharkin released his hold on Cass long enough for her to come crashing down from the ceiling and into a wooden coffee table that broke her fall. The table splintered on impact, and caused sharp pieces of wood to lodge themselves into Cass’ body.
“I didn’t do anything!” She screamed desperately.
Arharkin ignored her as he continued to address the Zecurcians. “You have your orders.”
The Generals grunted as they stalked towards the entrance of the room.
The music of the night club blared in Cass’ ears as the door to the room opened and then closed behind the Zecurcians.
“Please, don’t kill me.”
Arharkin let out a cruel laugh as he approached her.
“Please..” Cass choked. She looked up desperately at him; tears stinging her eyes. “I was set up, I swear to god!”
“I must admit--I love hearing you beg for your life.” Arharkin said. He kneeled down beside Cass and gently brushed his fingers across a large wooden splinter that was lodged into her side. In an instant he grabbed a hold of the wood and yanked it out causing Cass to let out a yelp of pain. Blood began to rapidly spread across her abdomen and spill onto the floor, it took everything in Cass’s power not to faint from the sight of it. She covered the wound with one of her hands in an attempt to stop the bleeding.
She also watched in muted horror as Arharkin dipped his outstretched hand into her splatters of blood on the floor and began to smear it around like some kid with an art project. He flexed his fingers and squished them together as he brought his hand up to his face for further inspection.
Without breaking his concentration from examining the blood he spoke.
“Who sent you to me?”
A breath was caught in the back of Cass’s throat. For a split second she thought about Kevin and his carefree smile. She thought back to the tray that he handed her before she came upstairs.
Could he have really done this to her?
She realized that she must have taken too long to answer Arharkin because the next thing Cass knew she was being thrown across the room again. This time though she had the good fortune of colliding with one of the couches.
It still hurt like hell but at least it was something softer than the ceiling or the ground.
“”I asked you a question.” Arharkin stated dully.
Cass struggled to sit up after her collision with the couch, her vision was already starting to blur from the amount of blood that she was losing.
She stared across the room at the purple alien that was determined to torture her.
It was very unlikely that she was going to survive this, and if Arharkin didn’t kill her, the wound in her side was going to do the trick.
It was only a matter of when death was going to arrive for her today.
“I found out at the same time as you did.” Her voice was shaking as she spoke.
“I had no idea that the drinks had been poisoned, I just came to work thinking that this was just going to be a regular shitty shift here. Instead I had to have the worst luck in the world and have this shit happen to me. So cut the bullshit and just kill me already! I know you are going to do it anyway!”
“Silence.” In an instant Arharkin was in front of her
The door to the VIP room suddenly flew open and was sent flying across the room. It landed with a loud crash against a mirror that instantly shattered on impact. A small hum filled Cass’ ears as she watched a tall hooded figure emerge into the frame of the door way. Arharkin turned away from Cass; his hand outstretched towards the stranger preparing to attack instantly, however much to his surprise the blue energy that normally would form didn’t appear. A look of shock crossed his face.
“No way,” he murmured.
The Figure stepped into the room, carrying a severed head of a Zecurcian. Cass’s eyes widened with surprise when the stranger tossed it causally towards Arharkin’s feet.
Whoever this person was, they were incredibly tall; and they were dangerous. They were clad in all pitch black gear, and were armed to the teeth with all sorts of weapons that Cass had never laid eyes on before. A long black hood was draped over their head and left an opening that revealed a metal plated mask underneath it.
Arharkin let out a fit of hysterical laughter.
“Oh, you have got to be kidding me!” He shouted with excitement.
Without saying a word the masked figure quickly unsheathed a long, narrow, black blade from their side . At that moment a small mechanical orb that was attached to a chain around the stranger’s neck began to glow green and float in front of them.
Arharkin quickly turned and lifted one of the couches into the air and hurled it towards the stranger.
They didn’t even try to dodge it.
In a matter of seconds the couch was torn into shreds before it could even reach its target.
Amazing. Cass didn’t even see the figure move an inch.
The stranger took a step towards Arharkin and turned the blade in their hands..
Arharkin smiled with amusement.
“Lets not get too cocky now.”
Arharkin reached into one of his pockets and produced a metal orb that looked exactly identical to the one that the stranger was wearing.
“This is what you want, right?” He asked in a playful tone.
The stranger froze in place as the orb in Arharkin’s hand began to float and emit a blue glow.
A beam of bright blue light erupted from it that sent a shock wave throughout the entire room. The stranger stabbed their blade into floorboards and braced themselves against the wave’s blast. Their own orb formed a small transparent barrier in front of them.
Objects began to rapidly blast into the air as more waves began to rapidly come from the blue orb. Cass had thrown herself to the ground and was trying desperately not to get hit by the flying objects in the room. It was like a tornado was being unleashed on all of them.
Cass glanced up at Arharkin who remained unaffected by the blasts of the orb.
She watched as the stranger was being pushed back slowly from the blasts, It wouldn’t be long before they struggled to keep up with their guard.
How was she going to survive, when the one thing that could maybe get her out of this situation was just seconds away from being blasted apart? Cass stared into the blue light that was coming out of the orb. This little piece of junk was the source of all this power? The humming in her ears seemed to grow louder the more she stared at it.
What is this feeling?
If this little thing could do all this damage, could it maybe get her out of this mess?
She could feel adrenaline rushing into her veins the second she made up her mind.
Cass began to army crawl her way across the floor and towards Arharkin. She winced in pain as she felt her battered body drag across the ground.
Arharkin had his back completely turned to her; his full attention on the Stranger.
Good, keep looking away from me you bastard!
As she got closer, she looked around the room for something to strike him with, something sharp, something to make him suffer as much as she did. The blasts weren’t making finding a weapon any easier. Cass winced again as she felt a painful tug on her thigh as she dragged herself further along the floor. She looked back and noticed a large wooden splinter from her earlier encounter with the coffee table was embedded into the back of her thigh.
She had been in too much pain to notice that was there. Her face turned slightly green at the sight of it.
It would have to do though.
Cass reached back and grasped onto the piece of wood, and in one swift motion yanked it out. She clenched her teeth together to keep from making a sound. She tried not to look at the blood that covered the wood. Instead she focused on Arharkin and remembered the way he threw her around like a rag doll.
Without a second thought, Cass stabbed one of Arharkin’s legs as deeply as she could manage. Arharkin let out a yelp of pain that caused him to break his concentration on his attack.
Without Arharkin controlling it, the orb quickly began to fall.
In that exact moment Cass’s free hand reached out and caught the orb before it could reach the ground.
Cass’s vision began to blur as soon as she felt the cool metal hit her skin. Her body began to rise dramatically in temperature.
Something wasn’t right.
Suddenly, small unknown symbols began to flash across her vision at a rapid rate. Images of unfamiliar places began to fill her mind.
Jungles with colors she had never seen before, a shrine made of obsidian.
A second later she felt herself being lifted off the ground.
What is happening!?
Her body felt like it was being lit on fire.
“Impossible!” she heard a voice in the distance shout.
She tried to concentrate on it, but it was futile to try and drown out the noises of the images that were playing in her head.
She let out a scream before everything faded to white....
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Candace Rugg (she/her) lives in the fabulous mitten state in Lansing, MI with her husband and lazy cat (who owe her 10 years of rent.) She's a banker by day and an introvert gamer who also writes at night. Candace loves nature and plans to move closer to the water in the future