Speaking of the professional, this is Nathan Dodge’s first professional sale. It was written for – and won – a contest consisting of all the students of the 2015 Sail to Success cruise sponsored by Arc Manor.


Nathan Dodge

As the express hydrolift rose swiftly and silently toward the luxury suite level of the hotel, Brea regarded the reflection that stared back from a full-length mirror on the rear wall of the lift.

Shoulder-length blonde hair, framing the face. Check. Wide-spaced blue eyes, a strong, upturned nose, lips with a naughty pout, a determined but diminutive chin. Check. Filmy metallic-gold dress, barely covering ample, upright breasts, small waist, hips with lots of curve. Check. Petite feet encased in gold spike heels. Check.

Always meet the client’s expectations exactly.

The lift slowed, stopped, opened on the top floor. Across an expanse of dark blue carpet, a decorative young woman, though by no means in Brea’s class, sat behind the concierge desk. To the rear of the desk and on either side, short halls led to each of the three executive suites. At her left, tall windows revealed a broad expanse of the spaceport, bustling with activity as ships either prepared for launch or disgorged passengers and cargo. Centered on the field, a blunt, bulbous jumpship lifted on a tail of flame, bound for the solar system rim, where the jump drive could freely operate. The windows shuddered as the thunder of the engines reached the hotel.

Behind the desk, the walls were a pale robin’s egg hue. A calming color, designed to reduce the stress of the busy CEO or influential politician.

Approaching the desk, Brea noted the young woman’s wide-eyed appraisal. The silence was about to become uncomfortable when she cleared her throat and said, “May I help you?”

Always be polite. It costs nothing and always engenders good will.

Brea smiled. “I have an appointment with Mr. Carson.”

The young woman scanned a display screen. “Ms. Breuh?”

“It’s pronounced b-r-a-y.”

“Sorry.” The concierge entered a code, pressed a button. “And your business?”

Brea increased the wattage of her smile. “I’m a therapist.”

The woman frowned, then the light dawned. “Ah.” Some hotel employees, and the occasional concierge, might act condescending or superior on learning Brea’s profession. This one simply smiled, the look in her eyes showing that they shared a secret. In addition, there was the tiniest bit of desire behind the smile. She indicated the passage to her right. “Suite one.”

“Thank you for your attention.” Aware of the following eyes, Brea walked with an exaggerated hip roll to the suite door. Would the young woman catch the double meaning of her farewell?

Take time to cultivate potential clients.

Carson opened his door instantly. Somewhat taller than Brea, his face a bit florid, his body still stood erect, stocky but not paunchy. Into middle age, but still not bad looking. Seeing Brea’s face, his breath caught.

After a frozen moment, he retreated into the room. Brea entered, closed the door. He was still speechless, lost in Brea’s smile.

As usual, research had been extensive. Brea knew the client, although they had never met. Knew his habits, his desires, his longings. His first name was Charles.

Brea approached him until they were face to face. His glance took in the barely-concealed form, the angel face. Putting a hand out, he touched long blond tresses, caressing the soft skin of Brea’s shoulder.

For a moment, he simply stared at her. Finally, Brea leaned in, brushed lips against his cheek. “It’s okay to touch me. I am yours for the evening.” The client brought their lips together, drawing them closer, his breath quickening.

After a moment, Brea began to loosen his belt. “Why don’t you remove all those clothes and let’s sit on the bed?”


Exiting the room near dawn, Brea left the client exhausted and asleep. A quick check via personal mobile showed the payment already credited, plus a tip more than twice the fee.

The size of the tip shows the level of satisfaction.

At the concierge station, the same young woman still occupied the desk, looking weary. She glanced up and inhaled sharply.

“Your... therapy session is complete?”

Brea smiled. “Yes, Mr. Carson is fast asleep. The therapy was a success.”

The concierge smiled timidly. “I’m sure you are always successful.” She hesitated, sucked in a breath, as though afraid to say something. She looked up, her face an agony of indecision.

“Go ahead,” Brea encouraged.

“It’s just,” the woman blurted, “I’ve never seen anyone as beautiful as you in my life.”

Which hasn’t been so long, thought Brea. Aloud, “What a nice compliment.”

“The thing is,” the young woman rushed on, “I’ll probably never see you again.”

“Oh, I’m here from time to time.”

“Yes, but even if I do see you, I’ll always think about this first time. Would you, that is, could I have... a kiss?”

Free samples are often a good investment.

Without a word, Brea leaned forward. The concierge lifted her head, and their open lips touched, joined.

After a long moment, Brea turned and moved toward the elevator. The young woman’s face held a worshipful expression. Striding onto the lift, Brea turned, smiled, and blew her a kiss.


In the hotel room, Brea slipped off the dress, stood examining his naked form, smiling. Moving to the computing unit on the desk, he activated it, pulled up the current schedule.

The next client was a jumpship tycoon, Rezzed, who would be checking in this evening. A prestigious client, and scheduled half a hydra cycle ago. Quite a coup, even for him. Summoning his comm list, Brea selected Mazl and pressed the call button.

After maybe a dozen rings, a click was followed by a raspy voice. “First chance I get in weeks for a good night’s sleep and... Brea?” The display lightened and a cockroach-like head appeared. After a moment, its mandibles began to vibrate, then opened wide, a sign of pleasure.

“Hey, Mazl,” Brea grinned at the image. “How’s it hangin’?”

“Good, good. Just got done with the client; trying to catch a couple hours downtime.”

Brea smiled. “Sorry to interrupt your rest. How’d that go? I didn’t think the Ba’rx’hnn went in for our services.”

“Not usually. I was a stand-in for the prime patriarch. You know how they got those extended families.”


“He died last year. They have some rite every few cycles and she wanted to have him there, like he was still alive. She’s very sentimental. Sent me tri-vids, bought a full week of service. I had time to perfect his look. She was real pleased; got a hell of a bonus.”

“Good for you. You still got tonight reserved, right?”

“For you? Absolutely! Who’s the customer?”

“Big-time client, worth a zillion.”

“What is it, some sort of three-way?”

“Naw, he’s Zaeran. They’re trisexual, remember? He’s an alpha male. I got the female covered, I need you as the beta male.”

“Gotcha. No problemo. You got his forms?”

“Sent them to you last evening. Check your mail.”

The cockroach-head swiveled toward the upper corner of the screen, then returned to Brea. “Got it. I’ll catch a little more rest, then start the conversion.”

Brea gave him a thumbs up. “Pay attention to his preferences list. He likes a little one-on-one with his beta.”

“Fine with me. That’s an extra, right?”

“Twenty percent. He didn’t even argue.”

“Hey, how come I never get to be the female?”

Cause I’m better at it.”

“True, true. Hey, want to catch dinner tonight?”

Brea scowled. “No, I hate the restaurant in this place. Besides, the client promised refreshments, and he ought to be able to afford gold-plated appetizers.”

“Fair enough. I’ll come by your room.”

“Meet me here at second ten. We’re under contract till noon tomorrow.”

“Geez, another night without sleep.”

“You can catch up next week, Mazl. This is a big payoff, and a nice tip if he’s pleased.”

The roach-head eyed him. “Tell me something, Brea. I’ve known you two thirds of your life, maybe twenty hydra-cycles. You’ve been top of the heap for at least ten, raking in twice as much as anybody else in the business. You’re fixed for life—hey, you’ve helped me get fixed for life. Ever think about just chucking it all and retiring?”

Brea stared at the screen, surprised. He shrugged. “Not really. You know, our family’s been in the business since my grandparents started it. Mom was one of the best, the first to be popular in several systems. She loved what she did. ‘Making people feel good,’ she told me, ‘is a good way to make a living.’ The thought just hasn’t come up.”

“I seem to remember your mom retiring.”

“Yeah, but not that long ago. She got me started, helped me get established. Encouraged me. She always had these ‘words for the wise.’ Things to do to make sure the client got the best experience possible, to be a success in your job. She had a great attitude. For instance, her mantra was, ‘Always do what you like and you’ll never have to go to work.’ She always had a saying like that handy.”

“Sounds like a smart old broad.”

“Yeah, yeah, she is.” Brea smiled.

Mazl’s mandibles spread again, showing humor, then vibrated up and down, a farewell sign. “See you later.” The screen darkened.

Brea stood, approached the mirror again. The female human form had always been one of his favorites, with its soft, symmetrical breasts, flat stomach, and gently curving hips. Today’s creation had surely been his best work. The Change was already starting, however, breasts deflating, six vestigial arms becoming visible, the mating hooks starting to grow at his shoulders and hips. He had studied the background information and knew exactly what was required. The client would certainly hate to see him leave tomorrow.

Always leave ‘em wanting more.

Copyright © 2016 by Nathan Dodge


by L. Neil Smith

A classic closed-room mystery with a murder most foul....and most alien....



The Editor's Word

The Vampire's New Clothes
by Martin L. Shoemaker

Penguins of Noah's Ark

by Larry Hodges
At the Mouth of the River of Bees
by Kij Johnson
The World That You Want
by Laurie Tom
Capricorn Games
by Robert Silverberg

Pure Beauty and the Beast

by Mike Resnick

Patent Infringement
by Nancy Kress
Leslie's Love Potion #4
by Dantzel Cherry
The Devil Walks Into a Bar

by Steve Pantazis

The Professional

by Nathan Dodge

by George R. R. Martin

Robert J. Sawyer

by Joy Ward

The Long Tomorrow (Part 4)
by Leigh Brackett

From the Heart's Basement
by Barry N. Malzberg
Science Column
by Gregory Benford

Book Reviews
by Bill Fawcett & Jody Lynn Nye








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Copyright © Arc Manor LLC 2016. All Rights Reserved. Galaxy's Edge is an online magazine published every two months (January, March, May, July, September, November) by Phoenix Pick, the Science Fiction and Fantasy imprint of Arc Manor Publishers.