“So tell me, Ms. Almeta, what do you bring to the Honey Bee Inn? Why should we hire you instead of one of the hundreds of other up and coming strippers anxious for access to our high-rolling clientele?” The owner, Madam X, regarded her newest applicant with a jaded gaze.

Donna, excited, began her prepared speech. “Well, I have a year’s experience at the EXP Bar-“

Madam X cut her off curtly. “I’ve seen your resume. A year at the EXP Bar, another at Chamber of Secrets, and six months at The Other Castle and Star Whores. But we don’t look into the Pensieve here, Ms. Almeta. I want to know how you can handle yourself.”

“Well, I’ve got a lot of experience-“

“What did I just say? This is an audition, Ms. Almeta, not an interview.” Madam X motioned for Donna to follow her.

The Honey Bee Inn was closed for the morning, and staff was busy cleaning and making repairs. The remote-controlled droids that served drinks were being polished, the individual booths shaped like British police boxes were being wiped down, and large wall hangings were being changed out, as they were every week. Thursday’s Rurouni Kenshin was coming down and Friday’s Firefly was replacing it.

“It’s not enough to have a little experience at a nerdy club,” Madam X said over her shoulder. “We’re not just looking for cosplayers.”

“Coming through!” A staffer rolled a rack of clothing past, bagged for dry cleaning; Donna counted nineteen Sailor Moon suits and a single pleather-stitched Catwoman jumper.

They entered the backstage area next. A few of the girls were lounging around, either watching subbed reruns of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya on a 50-inch plasma screen or playing console games. Donna recognized a Famicom, a Sega Saturn, and even a PC-FX among other consoles, and one of the dancers was furiously button mashing through a game of Darius Gaiden.

“We’re looking for hardcore nerds who are able to understand and improvise,” Madam X continued. “When someone calls you sempai—and they will call you sempai—we need you to roll with it.”

Donna smiled. “Senpai, watashi ni kidzuite kudasai!” she chirped. “Senpai, kakkoiidesu!”

“Hmph,” Madam X said, though Donna thought she saw a smile flitter across her face. “Your accent is boorish, provincial, and you speak it through your nose. Save it for the audition, shojo.”

Coming out from backstage, Madam X led Donna to one of the poles. “Oh,” Donna said. “A lightsaber pole! I’ve got a lot of experience with these.”

“You’ll find these are not so clumsy or random as the ones you’ve used before,” Madam X replied. “The color varies depending on your performance, from purple to green to blue to red. You won’t be Sith-ing pretty if we get to red, though. Now, we’ll start you out with a basic set. Diva Dance followed by Lapti Nek, then some Hatsune Miku. If you make it that far, we’ll wrap up with the image song from One Piece, a disco remix of Eyes on Me, and The Power of Love by Huey Lewis. Any questions?”

“Which Hatsune Miku piece?” said Donna.

“I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?” Madam X jabbed a finger at the booth, high above the stage and floor. “Hit it!”

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