Nina put the last breakfast dish into the dishwasher. She looked at the coffee pot and began running an analysis including probability calculations as to whether or not Pearl would want another cup of coffee before leaving for the office. The part of her mind which mimicked subjective human behavior told her that she was “wondering” if Pearl wanted another cup of coffee. It also told her that “speculating” and “pondering” were also acceptable terms. At the same time she was “wondering” about the coffee pot, she was trying to break the communications system’s encryption of a mysterious ship which had entered orbit early this morning. The ship’s transponder said it was a cargo merchant, but the ship’s configuration was that of a battle cruiser.
Her thought processes were interrupted by a giggling three-year-old green-skinned girl running through the kitchen wearing nothing but a pair of pink panties. Upon reaching the door to the laundry room, she halted and turned toward Nina. Placing a finger to her lips, she gave a big “Ssshh!” and then disappeared into the laundry room.
“Jun? Jun, sweetie, we don’t have time to play. We need to get ready to go” said Pearl entering the kitchen with Jun’s clothes in her arms.
“Have you seen the little imp?” she asked Nina.
Nina replied “She’s in her new favorite hiding place – under the clothes in the laundry hamper.”
“Thanks, love. Wanna’ help me get her dressed?”
After a brief struggle, which involved a small amount of tickling, Jun was dressed. Pearl was fastening Jun’s sandals while Nina brushed Jun’s hair. Being half human, Jun had a healthy head of dark hair.
A tone chimed – Pearl and Nina suddenly froze. “Someone’s coming up the driveway.” said Pearl. “Take Jun to her room, I’ll get the door.”
Colonel Ranald “Buck” Johnson brought the black sedan to a halt. The house was the typical pre-fab colony box, the type of building used when first settling a planet. The Lemay residence was on the very edge of New Hope City. It was located past the agri-domes among the agriculture workers’ community – the very last house on the very last block of the very last street. Buck rang the doorbell and waited. There was a mini-car in the carport with a child’s seat and two tarp covered motorcycles. Hearing the clicks of the deadbolt and door knob, he turned his attention back to the door. The door opened half-way. It was hard to say which Buck noticed first, the thick luscious red hair or the breasts straining to escape a tight yellow tank top, but he would never forget the fierce piercing stare from such attractive green eyes.
“Yes? How may I help you?” asked the woman. She had a silky voice, but Buck noticed a hint of irritation behind it. His unexpected arrival must have put her on edge, Buck decided he’d better turn on the charm.
“Hello, I’m Colonel Buck Johnson. I’d like to speak to Ms. Nina Lemay.” he answered showing his identification card.
“Ok, I’m Nina Lemay, what do you want?”
Buck smiled, “No doubt you are Ms. Lemay, but you’re Peal Lemay, not Nina.”
“Oh? How do you know, Colonel Ranald Johnson?” Pearl retorted emphasizing Buck’s given name.
“You’re good, Pearl!” he said still smiling. “You read my I.D. And you’re tough – opening the door half way instead of a crack like most people, you’ve set up a good shot. I’ll tell you what, if that 9mm you’re holding behind your back is pearl handled, then you have to own up to being Pearl Lemay.” He heard a click, she had cocked the hammer, his charm wasn’t working.
With a voice that defined sarcasm, she said “I’m so sorry, we’re not receiving visitors today.”
Pearl started to close the door. Over her shoulder Buck saw a young platinum blonde woman with a concerned look on her face. He had one desperate chance, he shouted “Wait, Nina, don’t you want to know what you are?” Pearl froze.
Nina asked “Are you from the cruiser in orbit, the Samuel Thomas?”
Buck was surprised – “You, you broke the encryption? Then you must know –” He looked at both women and said “Look, ladies, I really need Nina’s help. Would you please hear me out?”
He heard a click as Pearl released the hammer, at least he wasn’t going to get shot. Pearl opened the door, “Please come in Colonel Johnson, or do I call you Buck?”
Buck sat in a comfortable chair directly across from Nina and Pearl. Nina was without doubt one of the most beautiful young women he had ever seen. She looked to be in her early twenties, though there was no telling her exact age. She portrayed innocence, though she was quite lethal. She wasn’t supposed to exist, yet here she was. “So this is what a Cyndee looks like,” he thought. He turned his attention to Pearl. He had to pay attention to Pearl, she held the 9mm in her lap. Pearl was much closer to his own age. He thought Pearl would be fun to date, that is, if she liked men, but he knew that bridge had been burned long ago.
“Well,” said Pearl breaking the silence, “just how do you know so much about us and why do you need Nina’s help?”
He settled back in the chair and thought about how much he should tell the women. Buck desperately needed Nina on his team, so he decided the best chance of winning them over would be to tell them everything. “The Samuel Thomas, it’s crew and everyone aboard are members of COG, the Department of Home World Security’s Covert Operations Group. I command the operations teams. The teams are composed of exceptional personnel from all branches of the military and intelligence services. A few days ago, a secret research facility on a remote planet went silent. We have to find out what happened. Because of the type of research at the facility, this mission is extremely dangerous, the kind where good people get killed. Our simulations reveal the only chance of success and the team’s survival is to have an android of exceptional abilities on the team.”
“And you think Nina is this android with exceptional abilities?” Pearl asked.
“Yes, and you know she is exceptional.”
“I don’t understand why I have all of these abilities. I can’t comprehend how any of these abilities could have been useful in the brothel.” said Nina.
“Officially, androids like Nina don’t exist. All records about her line of androids were destroyed decades ago. What we know we pieced together from legends and urban myths. Nina is a Synthetic Life Form Model D, often called a ‘Cyndee’ for short. The Model D was the most human-like android ever developed to date. It was designed to live among humans without being detected.”
“What was the purpose behind the design?” asked Nina.
“The Cyndee was the perfect assassin.”
“Assassin! That’s absurd, Nina won’t even step on a bug.” said Pearl.
“Let me explain,” Buck continued, “as a young woman, the assassin would have no problems getting close to her target, since powerful leaders tend to associate with attractive young women. That being said, not all of the Model Ds were ever put into operation. When the program was cancelled, the manufacturer was able to sell the remaining inventory as escorts provided the brains were reprogrammed. We’ve discovered the brains were not reprogrammed, instead a firewall was installed to prevent access to the Model D’s full abilities. Over time, some of the Model Ds broke down the firewall.”
“So, if Model Ds are scattered across the galaxy, how did you find us?” Pearl asked.
“Through media and news accounts. Androids with exceptional abilities will do something that catches the eye of local reporters. We learned of you through your petition to the court for permission to marry.”
“Even though I have these abilities, Colonel Johnson, I can not, will not use those abilities to kill.” Nina said.
“It isn’t your martial abilities that I need.” Buck replied. “I need your ability to reason and your ability to function in an extreme environment. We have SYMONs on our teams, but if the human team members are incapacitated or killed, the SYMONs will only execute the last orders given. They lack the ability to adapt to unexpected situations and complete the mission. Completing the mission, in this case, is critical.”
“Do you expect us, expect Nina to volunteer for your mission for the good of Mother Gaia?” Pearl asked. “Why should we help? How do we know you won’t conscript Nina into COG and make her do your dirty work the rest of her life?”
“Nina will be commissioned as an officer with the ability to resign from service at any time. I guarantee she will not remain with COG any longer than she wishes. Also, there are groups within the government who are committed to destroying Cyndees whenever they are discovered. COG has the ability to erase all traces of Nina from government systems.”
“How long would I be gone, if I were to go?” Nina asked.
“For you, it would only be six or eight weeks. However, even with FTL, five to seven years would pass for Pearl.” Buck hoped the time away from Pearl wouldn’t be a deal breaker. He hoped they would take the offer. Nina seemed to look to Pearl to make the decision. Pearl looked unconvinced. Just as he thought Pearl was going to say “no,” a little girl ran into the room and threw herself into Nina’s lap – a little girl with green skin.
“Mommy, I’m scared, I don’t want to hide by myself in my room any more.” said Jun.
“Is she –” Buck began.
“Jun is our daughter.” said Pearl.
“Colonel Johnson?” Nina asked, “When you said COG could alter and erase records in government systems, does that include the Alien Studies Institute as well as the Department of Home World Security?”
“You see, Buck, our daughter is half-human.” added Pearl.
“Your daughter is half-human and half-Xeog? That’s incredible there’s no evidence of Xeog and human interbreeding. How –”
Pearl interrupted Buck, “It’s a long story. Anyway, our pediatrician says that genetically Jun is actually 65% human and 35% Xeog.”
“Colonel Johnson, if you can fix it where Jun will be safe from ASI and DHS, I will go with you and help your team.” said Nina.
“Nina, no.” pleaded Pearl.
“Mistress, it’s a chance for us to be safe from the darker side of Mother Gaia. I think it’s worth it.”
“This must be your lucky day, Buck.” said Pearl as she began to tear up. “I should’ve shot you at the door, damn it.”
Pearl and Nina wanted the night to say their goodbyes. Buck agreed to meet them at breakfast the next morning at Yanni’s Pancake House.
When Buck arrived at Yanni’s Pancake House, Pearl, Nina and Jun were already there along with a bevy of friends, mostly women. Pearl’s eyes were puffy and red from a night of crying.
Buck was wearing the class A dress uniform befitting a Marine Colonel. Before he sat down, Buck handed Nina a box. “You will need to wear this on the shuttle.” Nina and Pearl left the table to change in the ladies room.
“What’s good to eat, here?” Buck asked.
“Pancakes!” said Jun.
Buck chuckled. Part of him regretted tearing Nina away from her family. Being apart for seven years would be hard on them. He hoped that in the long run, Mother Gaia would appreciate the sacrifice they were making.
Jun leaned toward him, “Mister, is my mommy going with you in outer space?”
“Yes, young lady, she is.”
“Are you going to take care of her so she can come back?”
Jun was asking a tough question. Buck answered “I will do everything I can to keep her safe.”
“Here, she will need this. It’s her favorite. Mommy likes blueberries.” she said handing him a pitcher of blueberry syrup.
When Nina came out of the restroom wearing the white Naval dress uniform, everyone at the table gasped and the restaurant became silent. Nina saluted and said “Lieutenant JG Nina Lemay reporting for duty, sir.”
After a long hiatus, Pearl and Nina are back, just to be separated? “What’s going on?” you may ask. Well, several years ago I purchased a THW supplement to the original 5150 rules titled Infestation which I’ve never gotten to play until now. It features a COG team and I thought it would be interesting to add Nina to the team (Pearl just isn’t disciplined enough for a military operation).
Pearl isn’t going to sit idle while Nina is off having adventures. No, she has work to do. There are New Hope City PI cases for her to solve. It’s just without Nina to hack into computers and now, being a single mother, solving cases might be more of a challenge.
In fact Pearl will be featured first. Because she’s Pearl! Gosh Darn It! (Actually, while Pearl works her first solo case, I’ll be finishing the figures for Infestation.)
As always, thank you for taking time to read these posts. Comments are always appreciated.
2 thoughts on “Nina’s Nocturne – Part One, Setting the Stage”
Only just discovered this site and read this piece. Nice work thanks, now I shall spend a bit of time going over a bit more. Please keep it up.
Thanks Elaine, when I saw the email from the THW group I actually shouted, “YES!!!”. Pearl and Nina are my favorite sci-fi pulp characters, and you’re up there with Heinlein, Cherryh, Adams and Aspirin as far as I’m concerned.
Comments are closed.