Naff’s lids were heavy and his muscles ached as he lurched through the restaurant kitchen’s double doors with a helio-carrier topped with dirty dishes.
Hickory smokers full of ribs and brisket lined the back cooking area. The sweet undertone of Charlie’s barbeque sauce combined with the woodsy odor of cooking salty meat stung Naff’s nostrils.
Steam and smoke haunted the ceiling with an eerie white glow churning on the currents.
Passing the hot grills and fryers, Naff continued to the rear where an android moved to rinse, wash and sanitize the dishes. A second android took the clean plates and bussed them to the front where the cooks could refill them for the Seth-forsaken-filthy-mouthed Terrans that loved their nasty barbeque.
Naff hooked the helio-carrier to the magnetic bar and unloaded the top plate with three uneaten ribs. He glanced around to make sure no one was watching, took the ribs, wrapped them in the extra foil he had carefully folded in his pocket, and wedged them in his pocket. Then finished unloading the plates and utensils.
Removing the red-stained glasses, Naff’s Minky watch trilled. His alarm. Time to clock out.
“Naff,” a male voice called.
Naff turned his head, waiting for the Terran male to speak. He could never remember his name. Terran males all looked the same.
His own race made things easy to distinguish them apart. All Night Demons had distinctive bone formations. Some had claws or spikes along their spine. Others had sharp teeth or horns.
Naff was one of the Night Demons with forehead horns. Black ones. Ten inches long… with spikes.
A hellbeast. That’s what the Terrans call him behind his back.
The male Terran in front of him was short, thin and had baby soft hands. Whatever his name was, this one liked to think he was important. And he liked to tell Naff how to do his job.
If this Terran lived on Lotus Adaamas, Naff’s birth planet, the Demons there would call him a nip. In other words, a nobody.
“Hey, you need to clear off table sixteen.”
Not a chance. “Sixteen’s still full. They haven’t left yet.”
“I know. I have eyes. You need to go over there and start clearing their table, so they get the point. If I go over there, the two lovers will ask for more coffee. And they already drank a pot.”
Naff shrugged. “If they’re paying for it, make another pot.”
The Terran’s eye twitched. “We have other people waiting. You need to pick up the table.”
Last he saw, there wasn’t any line. “Not gonna happen, Chip. My shift’s over.”
“My name is Gage, and it’s not over if you still have tables to clean.”
Naff untied the black stain-free, fire-resistant apron and tossed it in the laundry chute. “You want them gone, Chappy, you do it yourself. I’m off.”
“You do understand that I’m the manager’s nephew, right? If you leave, I’m going to tell him you left with a table full of dirty dishes.”
With a yawn, Naff walked to the back door. On the wall was a hand scanner to clock in and out for each shift. Peering back at the arrogant Terran, Naff held his hand up to the device. “You do that.”
Naff turned back because he enjoyed pissing off the arrogant little nip. Just as predicted, the little Terran glared at him like he could actually do something, but while the Terran stood there sputtering with impotent anger, Naff had years of fighting in the bare-knuckle arenas on his side. Which was why he was tired and his shoulder ached.
Chap or Chip or whatever his name was, curled his upper lip and walked away. Naff would have laughed, but he didn’t have the energy. For the last three years, he worked non-stop just to make rent.
And rent kept increasing.
Outside pushed open the back door the emptied into a small parking alcove.
Adjusting to the dim light of dusk, Naff walked to the side street and used his Minky watch to alert nearby Nack Krawlers he needed a ride.
Several streams of unmanned hover crafts followed a single glowing cable above the buildings. A few seconds later, a Nack Krawler left the yellow-sky line and descended to the street, stopping right in front of him. The passenger door opened and a young Terran jumped out, saw him and slunk back into the Krawler with both arms pulled into his chest.
The idiot was wearing a black t-shirt with a red Charlie’s Barbeque logo on the chest. The same logo that was on several t-shirts in his drawers at home. Not that he wore them, he refused. He had a reputation to maintain.
“If I was going to hurt you, you’d already be on the ground with a broken neck. Now move.”
Amazingly, the kids’ eyes widened further. And he didn’t leave.
“Now,” Naff barked. The half-grown kid zipped forward, running in a wide arc away from him and the open door.
He sneered. Terrans.
Slinking into the seat, he programmed the navigation to his apartment building, then moved to the back bench, laid down and threw his arm over his eyes. A twenty-minute drive meant a twenty-minute nap.
The smell of barbeque sauce wrinkled his nose. After three years working in that Terran slop of restaurant, he still couldn’t stand the stink.
An audible growl resonated from his stomach followed by an acidic burb. He needed to eat, but he didn’t have time to stop.
That’s when he remembered the ribs.
Thrusting his hand into his pocket, he pulled out the foil and sat back up, already feeling nauseous. He needed the food, but this sticky sweet stuff was going to make him sick. He scraped away most of the sauce from the ribs with the foil and forced himself to take a bite.
Naff needed the energy or he would get his ass handed to him in The Pit tonight. Rent was due, and he needed to win to cover the bill.