Pearl was surprised at how well Nina handled the Shadow Reaper on their way to Mrs. Chang’s Palace of Delights Brothel. They had stopped briefly at the apartment to pick up ammunition. Pearl offered the shotgun to Nina, but Nina chose the stun baton instead. When they reached the brothel, Pearl was beginning to limp again and feel the pain in her hip. Mrs. Chang took them to her apartment where there was a second set of security monitors. Mrs. Chang then left the apartment to check on Bobbie, her office manager/hostess.
“You need rest, mistress.” said Nina.
“Well, that will have to wait until this is over, Nina. Why did you pick the stun baton over the shotgun?” Pearl grimaced as she sat down in front of the monitors. Mrs. Chang wouldn’t let Pearl set up cameras in all of the rooms. Pearl had electronic eyes and ears in the office, the hallways, the entrance, the two emergency exits, and the bar and dining area. Mrs. Chang wouldn’t allow cameras in the bedrooms, bathrooms, or the parlor. She did allow sensors on the windows in the bedrooms, so Pearl would be able to tell if any of them were opened.
“I picked the weapon appropriate for the mission, mistress. You said you wanted answers as to why these people were attacking you.” replied Nina looking over Pearl’s shoulder. “Dead people seldom talk.”
Pearl ran a check on all of the cameras and sensors. “Oh, I see. I thought it might have been some robot law about not harming basics.” said Pearl. She was satisfied that the security system was ready.
“There may be safeguards like that programmed into the earlier models and synthetics which have little contact with basic humanoids. They were eliminated in all Synthetic model twos, so that Synthetics could serve in military combat roles. I assure you, mistress, my programming is capable of using the appropriate force.”
Nina opened the small bag she had packed at the apartment and produced a clean pair of underwear and shorts. “Mistress, since we have a little bit of time, why don’t we clean you up a bit? You’ll feel better and Mrs. Chang has a fully functional bidet.”
Pearl had never used a bidet before. In fact, Mrs. Chang’s bidet was the only real one she had ever seen. Before, she had only seen them in vids and pictures of mansions. They were considered by most as outdated and superfluous. Yet, as Pearl straddled the bidet and sat on its rim, she felt completely feminine for the first time in years. Clean and dry, Pearl was standing with her panties in her hand as Nina applied the stim patch to her left hip. Mrs. Chang entered the apartment. Pearl blushed. “Ahh, see Pearl! I tell you Luvdoll good for you.” the older woman chuckled. Pearl quickly dressed and brought up the brothel’s floor plan onto a tablet sheet.
The “Palace of Delights Brothel” was a single story building the size of a small inn. It had six rooms with attached bathrooms; a two room apartment, which was Mrs. Chang’s residence; an office; a dining area with bar and kitchen; a parlor; and a bedroom without a bath called the “doll house”, which was used by the android sex dolls. Three of the rooms were empty, the girls having finished for the night were encouraged by Mrs. Chang to go out. Three of the girls were still with their clientele. One of the androids was safely stored in her closet while the other “doll” was in the “doll house”. Bobbie was in the office. Pearl’s plan was simple, she would patrol the brothel while Nina watched the monitors with Mrs. Chang. She tested her headset. She wanted constant contact with Nina. Pearl would rather have had Vivian with her. She knew how Vivian would react. Nina was an unknown quantity. It suddenly struck Pearl as odd that she was concerned about Nina’s safety, the safety of a machine. Nina had become more than a machine to Pearl.
Pearl began her patrol by checking on Bobbie in the office and then moved into the dining area. While Pearl was walking through the kitchen, Amy, in room two, was whimpering and pleading for help. However, her pleas went unheard as she was bound and gagged. Amy’s client was a member of the gang. With Amy subdued, the ganger stepped into the hall. The brothel had two hallways. One long hallway that ran north and south accessed the rooms and the parlor. The other hallway ran from the front door past the office and dining area to join the other hallway forming a “T” intersection. After a quick survey of the hall, the ganger opened the emergency exit. “Mistress, the south exit has been opened.” Nina announced over the headset. “Got it.” responded Pearl.
Before Pearl could reach the hall intersection, the couple from room four stepped into the hall. Misty noticed the ganger at the end of the hall and shouted “Hey, you’re not supposed to open that door!” For a moment the ganger was unsure what to do, but as Misty and her client approached, he pulled his gun and quickly stomped toward them. “Shut up, bitch!” he growled.
“You can’t talk to her like that!” protested the client.
“You can shut the hell up, too!” said the ganger striking the pistol across the client’s face. He clubbed the client once more and the client dropped to the floor. Misty shrieked and attacked. The noise roused the remaining couple out of their room and into the hallway. They were in front of the parlor just as Pearl reached the long hallway.
“Get in the parlor and lock the door!” Pearl shouted. The couple seemed to hesitate, but when they saw Misty crumple to the floor, they quickly ducked into the parlor. This gave Pearl a clear shot. The ganger pointed his pistol at Pearl. Before he could pull the trigger, he doubled over as the bullet from Pearl’s gun tore into his gut. “Mistress, I’ve sounded the alarm, the police are on their way.” said Nina over the headset. Pearl moved down the hall and knelt to check on Misty and her client. Misty was stunned and groggy. Her client was still unconscious. Pearl heard a door open in the hallway. She looked behind her and saw Nina and Mrs. Chang. “Mistress, the exit!” shouted Nina. Pearl turned to see another gang member enter the hall. The ganger was surprised to see so many people in the hall. He quickly fired at Pearl, but missed. Pearl didn’t miss. The shot hit him square in the chest.
“Are you all right, mistress?” asked Nina as Nina and Mrs. Chang reached Pearl.
“Yes, yes. Help me get these two up and into the parlor.” They helped Misty and her client up and shuffled them into the parlor. “Mrs. Chang, please look after these two. Nina, go check on Bobbie. I’m going to go shut that door.” Mrs. Chang put her pistol down and began attending Misty’s client. “Lock the door behind us …. please.” said Pearl as she and Nina left the parlor.
Nina bounded down the short hall toward the office. Pearl got halfway to the exit when another gang member entered with a machine pistol. Pearl snapped off a shot, but missed. The ganger sprayed the hallway with fire. A bullet hit Pearl in her midsection knocking her down. The impact stunned her, but Pearl was ever so glad she had put on her armored duster before leaving Mrs. Chang’s apartment.
Hearing the spray of gunfire, Nina hissed “Mistress?” over the comm-link. When Pearl didn’t reply, Nina turned around and headed back toward Pearl. As Nina rounded the corner, she saw Pearl on the floor. At that instance, the parlor door opened and Mrs. Chang stepped into the hall with her pistol. Mrs. Chang’s pistol drew the ganger’s attention and he brought his machine pistol to bear on Mrs. Chang. In a blur of speed Nina charged the ganger. He barely had time to look up before Nina was on him. A kick forced his gun arm to the wall turning his shoulders to expose his neck where Nina struck discharging a debilitating jolt from the stun baton.
Two gang members arrived in time to see the blue flash from the stun baton and witnessed their comrade hitting the floor. Then, as if from a single fluid movement, they saw Nina leap toward them. The sight of the platinum haired Nina clad in an icy grey body suit soaring at them was too much. Before Pearl’s avenging angel could land, the two fled. Nina started for the exit door when her heightened senses picked up a commotion in one of the apartments. She entered the apartment and discovered the trussed up Amy.
Mrs. Chang helped Pearl to her feet. “Are you ok?” asked Mrs. Chang.
“Yeah, at least I didn’t pass out this time.” replied Pearl. “But it hurts.”
The exit door was still wide open and two men and a young woman rushed inside. Pearl drew her other pistol and fired both of them. One shot missed and the other hit one of the men in the chest. He fell dead to the floor. A ganger fired and the bullet struck Pearl in the arm spinning her around. She lost her balance and fell. Mrs. Chang returned fire wounding and knocking one of the men down. The remaining young woman fired and missed. Mrs. Chang’s return shot missed. The ganger tried to steady her next shot, but she missed again. As if in a macabre tennis match, Mrs. Chang’s next volley struck home grazing the girl’s skull. Mrs. Chang then wisely took cover at the corner of the hallway.
Nina appeared in the hallway with Amy in tow. She saw the stunned female ganger and went to her side. “Amy, get the cords you were tied with and bring them here, quick!” exclaimed Nina. Amy dashed back into the room and returned with the cords as fast as she could. Nina bound the still stunned female ganger. “Duck!” Nina cried pushing Amy to the floor as a ganger leaped into the hall. This one had had some martial arts training. He tried a sweeping kick which Nina blocked. As he sought to plant his foot for a kick with the other leg, Nina seized that split second of off-balance, grabbed the ganger’s jacket and rolled back tossing the ganger to the floor. A quick tap with the stun baton and the ganger was out.
Meanwhile, a group of gangers had managed to break the front door. Mrs. Chang turned and quickly fired at the first man through the door. She missed. He fired and struck Mrs. Chang in the shoulder knocking her back around the corner.
Nina leapt to her feet as two men entered. One with a rifle and the other with a shotgun. Nina charged them. In the narrow confines of the hallway, the two men got tangled up with their weapons. Nina jumped and raised the stun baton. One man fell to the floor scrambling backwards. His comrade turned and fled. Nina let them both flee. Finally, Nina was able to pull the exit door shut and hear it lock into place.
A trio of gangers joined the man who had shot Mrs. Chang. They started down the hall toward where Mrs. Chang had ducked back. Passing the office door, Bobbie threw open the door surprising the men. She fired and wounded one of them. In the midst of the confusion, Pearl peeked around the corner. She was seen by the one in the lead and he fired at Pearl, but missed. Pearl, using the corner for cover, opened up on the men. She hit one in the arm and another square in the chest.
The remaining ganger looked at Pearl in horror and then his expression changed into a twisted smile. As his expression changes, Pearl recognized him, Clayton Madison, the leader. He glanced to the side and then shouted “Come get me, you old whore.” With that, he turned and charged through the open office door. Bobbie fired, but missed. Madison slapped Bobbie across the face with his pistol knocking her unconscious. Three more charged through the front door. The hail of gunfire caused Pearl to duck back behind the corner.
Mrs. Chang was rubbing her shoulder. “This hurt, Pearl.” she groaned. Pearl took a look at her. The old coat that Mrs. Chang always wore turned out to be lightly armored. Pearl grinned at her and said “Tell me about it. I’ve been hit three times in the last eight hours. Don’t know if I could stand another one.”
The other emergency exit, the one on the north end of the long hallway popped open. They had managed to pry it open. A young man immediately rushed in firing. Pearl pushed Mrs. Chang behind her and fired both pistols. The young man went down. “I’ve had enough of this.” said Pearl. “Their leader is holed up in the office. The sooner we get him, the sooner this will be over.”
“Then what we wait for?” asked Mrs. Chang.
Pearl peeked around the corner. “We got three more guests. Let’s welcome them.” Pearl stepped into the hall with both pistols drawn. Mrs. Change moved to the corner. Pearl fired and hit the first man. Mrs. Chang fired and missed. The two remaining gangers fired. Pearl hit another one and he hit the floor hard. The remaining ganger ducked back into the dining area across from the office. Pearl ejected the empty clips from her pistols. “As soon as I reload, we can move down the hall and flush them out.”
No sooner than Pearl had said this than three men entered the north exit. Now, they were outnumbered and Pearl’s guns were empty. Two men at the end of one hall and three men at the other. Out of no where a blur of gray swept past Pearl. Nina was charging the three men at a superhuman speed armed only with a stun baton. Meanwhile, Clayton Madison looked across the hall to his man in the dining area. “We charge them on three.” he whispered. The other man nodded. “One, two, three!” The man across the hall charged out of the dining room firing. Clayton stayed in the office. Mrs. Chang fired and dropped the man to the floor. The gangers at the end of the hall opened fire, but couldn’t hit the twisting and turning Nina. She leapt the final twelve feet and took out two of the three gangers before her feet touched the floor. The third one fled in terror. Nina secured the door behind him.
Pearl finished loading her guns in disbelief as Nina approached. “That impressive kung fu, Luvdoll. When you learn that?” asked Mrs. Chang.
“I don’t know.” replied Nina. “The programming was just there when I needed it. I may have used it before, there were data fragments of training exercises.”
The three women began moving cautiously down the hall. They stopped short of the office door. “All right, Madison, it’s over. Give up! You’re alone.” shouted Pearl.
“Never! — I’ll never surrender to a whore like you Lemay! You deserve to die.”
“What’s this all about, Madison? This stuff about Mudd Street. You couldn’t have been born when it happened. Why so much hate?” asked Pearl.
“Remember Danny Degallo?”
“Yeah, he ran a brothel for the Tri-System Syndicate.”
“He was my father and, well, you killed him, you whore.”
“Kill him? I didn’t shoot him. Nikki Moar shot him in the back and she didn’t kill the bastard.”
“I know, I’d kill that whore as well if she was still alive! She shot him, yes, but you killed him.”
“As he lay there bleeding, you kicked him and stomped on him.”
“Ok, I kicked the crap out of a piece of shit. That didn’t kill him.”
“No, but you crippled him, you worthless whore. Mom said the doctors told her that the bullet had missed his spine, but your repeated kicks drove the bullet into the spinal chord and severed it.”
“I didn’t know that. So boo hoo, it still didn’t kill him.”
“He was a broken man. I know. I saw him. He struggled to earn the money for the surgeries so he could walk again. It was too much. He killed himself. He killed himself and it is your fault!”
“Madison, this is Mrs. Chang. I knew your father. I know all brothel owners and pimps for many year. Pearl not kill him.” said Mrs. Chang.
“He wouldn’t have killed himself if she hadn’t crippled him!”
“No, you wrong. I remember. Danny Degallo didn’t kill himself. He make syndicate mad. He stole from them. When he steal too much, syndicate kill him.”
“You lie!” Madison cried as he began to sob.
“I no tell lie. I remember well. Syndicate man kill Danny Degallo, tell everybody to say he kill himself. Syndicate pay to have coroner say suicide.”
“No, no.” Madison was crying.
“Now we can rush him.” said Pearl cocking her pistol.
Nina touched Pearl’s shoulder and whispered “Pearl, no.” Pearl was shocked. Nina had never addressed her by anything other than “mistress.” “Mistress, the police have arrived. Let them handle it.”
“Luvdoll, right. Bobbie still in there. Police take care of Madison. Nobody else get hurt.” said Mrs. Chang agreeing with Nina.
Pearl holstered her pistol. “Ok, we let New Hope City’s finest finish this.”
“Police, raise your hands so we can see them!” shouted the first officer through the door.
Detective Hulce and a crisis negotiator got Clayton Madison to surrender. Surprisingly,there were only three fatalities. Bobbie, Mrs. Chang, and Amy all had bruises, but thankfully, no broken bones or internal injuries. Pearl was banged up pretty good, but she refused to go to the hospital. She was treated by the same handsome med-tech, only this time, she couldn’t sweet talk him into more stim patches. Instead, he gave her a sedative.
A few weeks later things were somewhat back to normal. Pearl managed to keep Trudy Morgan from canceling her account. After a long day, Pearl and Nina enjoyed a nice dinner and watched the sunset. Pearl still took time to watch the sun rise and the sun set whenever possible. Nina adjourned to the bedroom leaving Pearl to savor the last rays of light. Pearl didn’t mind. It always took Nina longer to get ready for bed. Pearl had been warned about becoming too attached to Nina by some, but her closest friends, Vivian and Mrs. Chang kept telling Pearl how much she needed Nina. Pearl had been in love before. Her past relationships had left her broken hearted and one put her in a mental institution. So, she wasn’t really sure she knew what love was anymore.
Pearl was taken aback when she entered the bedroom. There was a machine on the foot of the bed. “What is that?” asked Pearl.
“It’s a sexual intercourse machine.” replied Nina.
“I know that. Where’d you get it?”
“It was in the back of your closet.” stated a puzzled Nina.
Pearl blushed. “Well, it was back there for a reason. It never worked right.”
“Mistress, I’ve often observed that you sometimes exhibit a lack of patience towards machines.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I think you may not have used it correctly.”
“Why do we need it anyway? Doesn’t it do what you do?”
“Please, mistress, the difference between that machine and myself is the difference between your toothbrush and a starship!”
“Ok, Miss Starship, are you going to show me how to use a toothbrush?”
“That is the general idea, mistress.”
“No. Say ‘that is the general idea, Pearl’.” Pearl studied Nina’s passive face for a long moment and she thought she saw a glimmer in Nina’s eye. Maybe she was reading too much, but she also hoped that she detected a small smile.
“Yes, that is the general idea, Pearl.”
“Nina, I think I love you.”