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2. Tiff & Fox

Bren’s stomach rumbled. It had been a long time since he had eaten. He had no money. His sire had taken care of all that, too. He wandered the big avenue of the space station’s commercial area. He followed his nose to a place he recognized from the other day: a cozy sort of place, perfect for wolves. The Tiff and Fox was a very Wester Wood kind of place, one of his fathers had explained: primitive. Barbaric. The food was hearty, though. Bren liked it. 

He went into the cafeteria and looked at the food being served up. He folded his lips over his teeth, folded his ears down, and took a tray. The server was a wolf with grey and brown fur.

“What will you have, then, young wolf?” he asked. 

Bren looked at the selection of meats. He pointed to the small sausage links. The server paced some in a dish. 

“Well, there you go. Is that all you’re having? A growing wolf like you needs a lot of food!” 

Bren frowned and nodded. The server handed him the dish of links. 

“Thank you.” 

He went to the next station, produce. Bren smirked as the server here was a Cratif, a vegetarian. He got a baked tuber with sour cream and thin sliced shoots. 

Finally he came to the cashier, an elderly female wolf with tan and grey fur. 

“Let’s see. Sausage links and a tuber. That will be half a credit.” 

“Um.”

“Yes?” 

“I haven’t got any money.” 

“What?”

“I haven’t got any money.” 

“What about your parents? Where’s your sire and dam?”

“I don’t know where they are.” 

“Well who will pay for this?!” 

Bren folded his ears down and looked at the floor. 

“Ralf! Ralf!” said the cashier. “I’ve got a street urchin who can’t pay for his meal!” 

Ralf answered from the office. 

“What are you talking about? There are no street urchins on this station.”

“There’s a young wolf here, a Tarkel by the looks of him, who bought a meal he can’t pay for.”

A dark-furred wolf in a cheap business suit came out from the office and stood next to the cashier. He looked Bren up and down.

“Tarkel. Think you’re entitled to your food?” 

Bren looked up at him and opened his mouth to speak. 

“Well, around here you have to work to earn your keep. No slackers on a space station. A lesson you Tarkels should learn.” 

Ralf grabbed Bren by the arm and dragged him back to the wash kitchen. 

“Here you go, slacker. Earn your keep. Keep this dishwasher fed, and stack the output. Gram will show you how to run it.”

Bren sighed. Wearing the oversized overall suit Ralf had thrown at him, he pushed another cartful of dishes and flatware from the guest tables to the wash kitchen. There he scraped the uneaten food into the compost container and set the plates in the dish rack. He poured the contents of the glasses into the sink and set them in the rack. Flatware he sorted into the baskets and napkins he tossed into the laundry bin. He pressed the button on the washer and confirmed that the cycle had started. The compost and laundry containers were full enough, so he hauled them into the alley behind the restaurant, to be picked up later. 

“Eat your supper,” said Gram. “When you’re done, get back to busing tables.” 

Bren’s stomach growled. Despite the food being bland—cabbage and something that resembled protein paste pretending to be K’raawk—he ate what was set before him. Eating let him cover up his resentment at being treated like a commoner. Bren Feltwig, a proud Tarkel of Wolfheim, kept as a kitchen slave. He furrowed his brow, folded down his ears, and chewed.