Mr. Jones met Pearl at the hospital. With the excitement generated by the news media, he already had a security team in place for the arrival of Miss Margaret Dominique a.k.a. Sara Reid. He said he was both amazed and proud of how Pearl had handled the assignment. He had told her that most operatives he knew would have given up. He was simply amazed that Pearl had assembled a small army to rescue Miss Dominique. He gave Pearl a five thousand credit bonus, which she shared equally with Vivian and Denise. Now that Miss Dominique’s identity was known, she needed a larger security detail. Mr. Jones assured Pearl that he would not hesitate to use her services in the future. Even Ms. Anderson gave Pearl an appreciative nod. And with that, Pearl’s life went back to being a small-time security consultant.
On this particular day, Pearl had finished upgrading the security system for “Madam Chang’s Palace of Delights Brothel.” Pearl liked old Mrs. Chang. Mrs. Chang’s family had held to Chinese ethnicity for several generations. Almost all humans in the galaxy had some Chinese in their DNA. It was widely believed that seventy percent of Gaea Prime’s original colonists had been Chinese or other Asian ancestry.
Mrs. Chang ran one of the few licensed brothels near the star port. She cared for the health and safety of her employees. Pearl also knew that Mrs. Chang was a shrewd businesswoman and that getting paid the full amount of the security upgrade was going to be difficult.
“I give you deal.” Mrs. Chang said. “You always do me good work, Pearl.” She led Pearl to a set of storage closets. Pearl wondered what the old woman was up to. The registers were at the front of the building and the safe was in Mrs. Chang’s office.
“What I give you worth more than security system.”
“You honor me too much, Mrs. Chang.” said Pearl. “Please, just pay the invoice.”
“No, you worth more than that.” countered the old woman. “This better, you see.” She unlocked a closet and opened its door.
Pearl was startled, there was a woman in the closet. Mrs. Chang laughed. “Don’t be scared, only Luvdoll. I give you this Luvdoll.”
“Luvdoll?” quizzed Pearl. “An android hooker?”
“Android escort.” replied Mrs. Chang. “Luvdoll old model, have two new ones. This one be good for you.”
“What would I do with a ‘Luvdoll’? I don’t even know why someone would use an android for sex when they can find a live willing escort.”
“Using Luvdoll same as women like you who use vibrator instead of real man. Same thing.”
Pearl blushed. “Ok, I can see the attraction and need for android escorts. I’ll concede that point. But why do I need a ‘Luvdoll’?”
“Luvdoll good companion, she help you.”
Pearl had to think of something fast. She saw her fee vanishing before her eyes. “I can’t even take care of a houseplant. How can I take care of an android?”
“She take care of herself and take care of you.”
“But I don’t need that much sex.”
“No. Don’t be silly. You reprogram Luvdoll. She clean house, cook, help with business.” said the sly old woman.
“Reprogram? How much will that cost me?” thought Pearl.
“Luvdoll, wake up!” Mrs. Chang commanded the android. The android’s eyelids fluttered open. Luvdoll surveyed her environment and then looked straight at Mrs. Chang. “Online, mistress.” she said in a pleasant silky voice.
“Come out of there, let us look at you.” said Mrs. Chang. Luvdoll stepped out into the hallway. While Luvdoll was in the closet, it hadn’t registered on Pearl that Luvdoll was nude. Pearl blushed as she felt a moment of desire. Mrs. Chang evidently saw Pearl blush. She smiled and said, “See, very pretty. Feel her skin, so soft.” Pearl inwardly groaned realizing Mrs. Chang was about to close the deal. She had one chance left.
“Why would you part with someone so beautiful?” Pearl asked.
“I tell you. I have two new ones. They smarter and more skillful than this one.”
“Then why don’t you reprogram this one to help you? Like you said, she could clean or cook.”
“Why do that when I can get girls work for me to clean? Keep them from being so lazy.” responded Mrs. Chang. “You need Luvdoll. I know you, Pearl. Luvdoll help you many ways.”
The jaws of the trap slammed shut. Pearl knew now that she couldn’t reason her way out of the deal. She could still just refuse the offer outright and demand payment. But that would be rude and Mrs. Chang was too good of a client to risk losing over a system upgrade. So Pearl tried the emotional appeal. “Mrs. Chang, I really can’t accept this. The android is worth many times the amount of the invoice. You can pay it out if you wish.”
“Pearl, old saying it not good to turn down miracle gift. It right that I give you Luvdoll in payment.” replied Mrs. Chang.
“Oh, great. She’s bringing in Taoist mysticism. She knows I’m a sucker for balance.” thought Pearl.
“Luvdoll, give me your hand.” commanded Mrs. Chang. The android dutifully obeyed and extended her right arm. “Pearl, you put thumb in Luvdoll’s palm so she scan you.”
Pearl placed her thumb in the android’s hand. “Good.” said Mrs. Chang, “Luvdoll, access net and confirm identity. Pearl, tell Luvdoll your name.”
The android looked straight at Pearl. There was no way out. Pearl had been bested by Mrs. Chang. “Pearl Lemay. My name is Pearl Lemay.”
The android replied “The identity of Kathleen E. Lemay, also known as Pearl Lemay, is confirmed.”
“Good. Luvdoll you now belong to Pearl. Pearl Lemay is now your owner. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Mrs. Chang. You have transferred ownership of this unit from yourself to Pearl Lemay.”
“Ok. Luvdoll yours. Take Luvdoll home with you.” said Mrs. Chang.
“Wait, I can’t take her like this.” said Pearl, “She doesn’t have any clothes on.”
“You right, Pearl. She has clothes in vacuum pack to stay clean.” replied the cagy old woman. “Luvdoll, put on your clothes.” The android didn’t budge. Mrs. Chang struck her forehead with the palm of her hand. “I already forget. Luvdoll no longer listen to me, she belong to you. You have to tell her to put on clothes.”
Mrs. Chang laughed at Pearl’s startled expression. Pearl gave her first command, “Luvdoll, please put on your clothes.” The android replied “Yes, mistress.”, and then turned to the closet to retrieve her clothing.
“While she dress, come with me to office.” said Mrs. Chang. “I give you manual and paperwork on Luvdoll.” Mrs. Chang started off to her office with Pearl right behind her. “You think it strange now, but later you appreciate this gift. Luvdoll good for you, Pearl. You see.” she said over her shoulder.
Pearl was a bit shocked when she returned to the hallway closet. Luvdoll was wearing a maid’s costume, a very naughty maid’s costume. The ruffled skirt did not extend past her buttocks, and the tight fitting bodice exposed both breasts pushing them together and up. She was wearing six inch heels, micro-fishnet hose and held a feather duster that had a sex toy for the handle. “Are those the only clothes you have?” Pearl asked.
“Well, come with me. The first stop will be to buy you some decent clothes. Luckily, you won’t get arrested in this part of town for going topless. What is your name, by the way?”
“Yes, your name. What people call you.”
“Luvdoll.” she replied.
“I’ve been called lots of names.”
“Well, let me hear them.” Pearl said.
“Bitch, whore, slut…” Luvdoll began a long list of names she had been called. Pearl would have thought it funny, but she realized she had been called those same names. “… skank, Nina.”
“Stop!” commanded Pearl. “Nina?”
“Yes, mistress, ‘Nina’. It means girl in an old language.”
“I like it.” replied Pearl, “Your name will be Nina Luvdoll. Do you like it?”
“If it pleases you, mistress.”
“It doesn’t matter if it pleases me. Do you like it?”
“Like is beyond the scope of my programming. While I understand the meaning of the word ‘like’, I can not ‘like’. My programming is successful only when you are pleased. Therefore pleasing you is the utmost importance for this unit.”
“Ok, I think I understand. Look, Nina has a nice sound to it and it seems to fit you. To use concepts you understand, it pleases me for your name to be Nina.”
“Come on, Nina, let’s go shopping.”
Pearl took Nina to “Marsha’s Charm Box”, a boutique near Pearl’s office. Like Pearl’s office, it was in one of the many strip shopping centers that lined the streets from the star port through mid-town as one traveled toward the skyscrapers in downtown New Hope City. A chime sounded as Pearl and Nina entered the store. A perky young lady at the register said “Good afternoon, welcome to Marsha’s Charm Box.”
An older woman who was hanging clothes on a rack turned around. “May I help….” She stopped in mid-sentence when she saw Nina. “Whoa, there’s no hiding those high beams.”
Pearl smiled. “That’s why we are here. My friend needs clothes that are suitable for wearing in public.”
“Certainly, Alice, bring me a tape measure. I’m Marsha, by the way.” said the woman approaching Pearl and Nina.
“I’m Pearl and this is Nina.” said Pearl leading Nina forward by her forearm.
“Why, she’s an android!” said Marsha.
“How can you tell so quickly?” asked Pearl.
“By her leg to waist ratio. Humans don’t have legs that long. Xeogs and Razors, yes. But not humans.” Marsha replied. “In fact, you usually don’t see legs like that on regular androids. Is she special?”
“Yes,” Pearl blushed. “She’s designed to be an ‘escort’. I’ve been told that I can reprogram her for other tasks.”
“I see.” said Marsha. “Have you ever owned an android before?”
“No, I’ve no idea what I’ve gotten into.”
“Alice, please take Nina’s measurements.” said Marsha. Marsha looked at Pearl and made a little “tsk-tsk” sound. “I’ve had Alice for years. She’s one of the Robo-Serve models. She’s a good worker and I don’t think I could run my store without her. She’s an excellent clerk, but ask her to do anything outside of her programming and she’s as dumb as a brick. That’s how they make their money.”
“They?” asked Pearl.
“The android and android servicing companies. Androids have very narrow learning parameters. They can’t learn to do other things. You pay through the nose to augment their programs. Thousands of credits in programming charges”
“You mean I can’t user her for anything else?”
“Not without paying for the programming. Well, you can have her do things she already knows how to do in a slightly different way.”
“What do you mean?” asked Pearl. “I can’t afford a big expense right now.”
“Well, in her current line of work, I’m sure she knows how to meet and greet people. You could use her as a receptionist.”
“That’s a great idea.” said Pearl.
“Oh, and one more important thing.” said Marsha. “Don’t develop the mindset that Nina is somehow a person. It will cause you nothing but grief and frustration.”
“Right, an android is an artificial person.”
“No!” exclaimed Marsha. “An android isn’t a person of any kind. That’s the trap. An android is a machine that looks like a person. It has no personality of any kind. Trust me, I went through therapy on this one. Androids don’t care; they don’t love; they don’t have opinions; or any other emotion.”
“But they look like people and interact with people.” said Pearl.
“Yes, but they are not people. Years ago, I built a little room for Alice in the back that had a bed, chair, and even a vid-screen. She never used it. She can’t use it. I can command her to go to the room. I can command her to sit in the chair. But she won’t do any of those things on her own. When I go home and she shuts down for the night, she is in the exact same place when I return.”
Marsha gave Pearl a lot to think about as they picked out clothing for Nina. And true to Marsha’s words, Nina had no opinion or emotion about any of the clothes. Nina did ask questions on how to wear some of the garments. Pearl purchased several nice outfits for Nina and even a few things for herself.
Dinner was interesting. Unlike other androids, Nina did drink water and ate some foods. Unlike other androids, Nina had “organs” that had to remain moist, pliable… lubricated. She was only fourteen years old, but would forever appear to be twenty-two. The manufacturer claimed that they did not build underage androids. Pearl didn’t believe that. Pearl believed that any organization which took the moral high ground had some participation in ventures that were anything but moral.
Nina couldn’t remember any of her experiences. She had no stories. She couldn’t tell what clients had been gentle and loving. Nor could she tell who had been abusive and cruel. She could tell you statistics. In her brief existence, she had performed thousands and thousands of sex acts with both men and women. The catalog was overwhelming. It brought back painful memories for Pearl. Pearl didn’t keep count. She didn’t have the statistics. But she had the memories. The memories of kindness were overshadowed by abuse and the beatings. Memories she wanted to forget and couldn’t. In those respects Nina was lucky not to have memories. Memories of a husband drugging her and paying a doctor to have her committed. A husband who put her away in an insane asylum, while he divorced her and left the system with their four-year-old daughter. Memories of sexual abuse by asylum staff. Memories of being abandoned by friends and coworkers. Memories of learning to live on the street turning tricks for food and drugs. As bad as the memories were, they began to bond Pearl to Nina. They had both seen such ugliness in acts that should have been loving and beautiful. Only Nina didn’t realize that she had seen the ugliness.
Pearl shifted the conversation away from their respective pasts. She began telling Nina that her new job would be as her receptionist. Nina listened attentively. Soon it was time for bed. Pearl stripped to a tank top and panties and then plunged into bed. Nina, however, drew a bath.
Pearl was drifting on the edge of sleep when Nina came into the bedroom. She was wearing a sheer baby-doll negligee. “Mistress, may I come to bed now?” Nina asked.
“Of course, Nina. There’s plenty of room and I don’t bite.” said Pearl.
Pearl rolled over onto her side giving Nina plenty of room to climb into bed. Nina slid under the covers. “Good night, Nina.” said a sleepy Pearl. Pearl yawned. The bed shifted as Nina rolled onto her side and scooted next to Pearl. Nina conformed her body to Pearl’s body. Her legs were against Pearl’s legs. Her hips were against Pearl’s buttocks. Like a pair of spoons, Nina pressed her breasts into Pearl’s back. Pearl didn’t think anything of it until she felt Nina’s hand on her breast. Nina kissed the back of Pearl’s neck, whispered “Good night, mistress.” and blew a shallow breath into Pearl’s ear.
Pearl’s eyes grew wide and she leapt up in bed. “Nina, what are you doing?” demanded Pearl.
“Following protocol, mistress.” replied Nina.
“Protocol?” asked Pearl.
“Yes, mistress, once in bed I conduct analysis of pulse rate, blood pressure, body temperature, breathing rhythm, and other physiological metrics. The analysis indicated that I should initiate seductive foreplay.”
“Seductive foreplay, Nina?”
“We are in bed, mistress. Logic dictates that it is the optimum place for sexual pleasure.”
“Nina, people don’t always have sex in bed.” said Pearl.
“I know, mistress, there are chairs, the floor…”
“No, no, Nina. I mean people don’t have sex every night.” said Pearl interrupting Nina.
“Logic indicates that is unwholesome and unhealthy, mistress.”
The last statement caught Pearl by surprise, and she really didn’t have any logic to offer in rebuttal. “Ok, you have valid points. But humans are not always logical and this is a night where I’ve determined that we will not have sex. Ok?”
“Are you displeased with me, mistress?” asked Nina.
“No, Nina, it’s been a long day and I just want to sleep. The two of us just laying here sweet and innocent getting a good night’s sleep.”
“Innocent?” quizzed Nina.
“Yes, innocent, like before we knew what sex was, Ok? Have you ever had a time in your life like that, a time with no sex?”
“Yes, mistress, it is called startup diagnostics.”
“Arrgh! Nina, just roll over to your side of the bed and go to sleep.”
Nina dutifully rolled over on her side and announced “Commencing sleep mode.”
Pearl laid back and stared at the ceiling. “What has old Mrs. Chang done to me?” she thought. The air conditioner clicked on and she got a whiff of Nina’s perfume. The scent was familiar. Then Pearl realized it was the perfume Vivian had given her on her birthday. “Did Nina know the scent was a favorite?” thought Pearl. “How much about me has Nina analyzed? How much of that analysis is correct?”
Pearl turned on her side and snuggled against Nina. She placed her legs behind her legs and her hips against her buttocks. Pearl pressed her breasts into Nina’s back. She put her face near Nina’s ear and deeply inhaled the perfume. She burrowed her arms under Nina’s arms and held Nina close. As she drifted off to sleep, Pearl sighed. She knew that in the morning she would lose her resolve and have sex with Nina.
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