In the outer office,” she (Della Street) said, “is a very starry-eyed young redhead with a figure that is much more important than her clothes would indicate, who gives the name of Evelyn Bagby. She says that she simply must, and I quote, thank Mr. Mason personally, unquote. She’s redheaded and determined.”
Mason frowned. “She wasn’t supposed to know that I had anything to do with it.”
“Well, she does.”– Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Restless Redhead
The Case of the Restless Redhead, Episode 1 – The Unexpected Partner
The view of New Hope City’s Financial District was breathtaking from the office window, and this was only the sixth floor, Pearl could only imagine what it must have looked like from the luxury office suites on the twentieth floor. The streets were clean and pristine; there wasn’t a cloud in the pale blue sky.
“As you can see, Ms. Lemay, even the economy offices of the Brent Building are a cut above those found anywhere else in the city,” said Karl Jarvis, the leasing agent.
Pearl turned from the window. The office, the adjoining reception area, restroom, and tiny closet were smaller than her apartment in Lower Hope, but five times more expensive. Yet, it was an ideal location and what was that ancient saying – “It takes money to make money?”
“This is fine, I’ll take it,” said Pearl. “I’ll have the funding this afternoon.”
Karl Jarvis screwed up his face into a disdainful frown, “Really, Ms. Lemay, we cannot hold this unit on a promise of funding. We can’t guarantee the unit will be available at this price this afternoon.”
“Well, then I’ll just have to hurry, until this afternoon, Mr. Jarvis,” Pearl replied as she turned to leave.
As soon as the train pulled into Neely Plaza Station, the first of two stops in Lower Hope, Pearl took a waiting cab to her apartment. Neely Plaza was named for Frank Neely, the real estate developer and later governor of New Hope who a century earlier had developed Lower Hope as housing for families of the workers at the nearby spaceport.
Pearl didn’t have time to go into her apartment and change into her riding leathers, she unplugged her motorcycle from the charging station and retrieved her helmet from the storge compartment. The Shadow Reaper roared to life and Pearl was on her way, every second mattered. She wanted that office in the Financial District, she wanted the new life it would bring. Eight and a half minutes had passed when she turned onto Corona Drive, thirty-five seconds later she parked in front of The Palace of Earthly Delight.
The Palace was one of the few licensed brothels in Lower Hope. Pearl’s business was with its owner, Madam Chang Wei, better known as Mrs. Chang. The receptionist had asked Pearl to wait in the bar. Having surveyed the building for the installation of a new security system she had sold to Mrs. Chang, she knew every inch, the building had once been one of those two-story express hotels operated by the Hilton/Maison chain to provide inexpensive rooms for weary travelers and afternoon quickies. On the top floor were the girls’ rooms; the first floor, which had been heavily renovated, consisted of party rooms, a large bar, kitchen, offices and the madam’s apartment. Mrs. Chang was a cagey businesswoman known for her ability to delay payment. Mrs. Chang had delayed long enough, she promised Pearl she would pay today for the security system that had been installed two months prior.
Though it was after noon when Mrs. Chang entered the bar, she was wearing a floral-patterned white kimono-style robe and white fluffy feathered sandals with short stiletto heels. Knowing the brothel’s hours of operations, Pearl realized Mrs. Chang had probably just finished breakfast. Mrs. Chang smiled and bowed slightly making the fist and palm salute, “May you have great luck today,” she said.
Pearl straightened to attention and returned the bow and salute, “May this house never lose its honor. How are you, Mrs. Chang?”
Mrs. Chang smiled again. She smoothed an errant lock of raven black hair back into place. “I’m well, so good to see you, Pearl, you want your old job back?” she asked.
Pearl laughed, “You ask me that every time you see me, and every time I tell you I’m happy doing what I’m doing now.”
“You good worker, you like daughter to me,” she said.
Pearl had no way of guessing Mrs. Chang’s age, she had small wrinkles about the eyes and only whisps of gray in her hair, but she suspected Mrs. Chang could have been closer to being a grandmother to Pearl than a mother. “I’ve come on business, today. You’d promised to pay for the security system.”
“Yes, yes, the security system,” said Mrs. Chang, “come with me, Pearl, I show you something.”
Pearl detected an ominous note in what Mrs. Chang said. “Is there something wrong with the system?” Pearl asked, thinking Mrs. Chang had found a flaw to further delay payment.
“No, no nothing wrong with system,” said Mrs. Chang. Pearl breathed a sigh of relief as they were walking toward the offices, but then, Mrs. Chang turned down a hallway and they stopped in front of a large storage closet. She opened the closet door and Pearl gasped, there was a young woman under a clear sheet of plastic.
Mrs. Chang laughed, “Don’t worry, she not real. She ‘Luv Doll,’ robot sex toy. I buy her three years ago. Men all say they want sex with robot. I buy her, then they say ‘Mrs. Chang, she too human for robot.'”
“That doesn’t make sense. Aren’t androids supposed to be like humans?” Pearl asked.
“Pearl, since when do men make sense?” replied Mrs. Chang. “You’ve heard their excuses for not wearing condom.”
Mrs. Chang removed the plastic sheet. The android was a young woman in her early twenties, in fact she looked young enough to have had to show identification to get into night clubs. She had icy blue eyes, full lips, and her hair was done in a cute short bob with a wave, it was white. She was well proportioned and quite naked except for a terribly small white cotton thong. She stood about 158 centimeters tall, five foot two inches in the Gaean Imperial measurement system popular on New Hope. The Imperial system was antiquated, but still used in a hybrid form on several planets. It was sometimes confusing to Pearl having grown up on Carsten’s World where only the universal metric system was used.
“What do you think?” asked Mrs. Chang.
“I think she’s gorgeous,” replied Pearl.
Mrs. Chang chuckled, nudged the android and said, “Luv Doll, wake up.”
The android blinked and said, “Yes, mistress, how may I serve you?”
“How does she sound?” Mrs. Chang asked Pearl.
Puzzled, Pearl replied, “She sounds sweet.”
“And sultry?” added Mrs. Chang.
“And sultry,” agreed Pearl. “But what has this got to do with the security sys–“
“Luv Doll worth two, maybe three security systems,” interrupted Mrs. Chang. “You take Luv Doll, she good for you.”
Pearl was in shock, caught completely off guard, Mrs. Chang was wiggling out of paying. Pearl could see her downtown office vanishing, replaced by an electronic hooker if she couldn’t find a way to counter Mrs. Chang. “Mrs. Chang, I appreciate the offer, but I live alone in a small apartment, what could I possibly do with an android? Besides, I need the money for the security system.”
“Bah! You don’t need money; you need Luv Doll. She be good for you, she can do many things, cook, clean, keep you warm at night.” said Mrs. Chang.
Exasperated, Pearl retorted, “Mrs. Chang, I need money to grow my business, my sex life isn’t your business.”
“But sex is my business,” said Mrs. Chang. “You not listening, Pearl, Luv Doll do much more, she not just for sex. Since you bring it up, everybody know you don’t like men, I also know you not good lesbian either, but you of all people, should not be alone. Remember, I know you, Pearl, I know where you come from, I know your pain.”
Mrs. Chang’s remarks stung, but were true. Maybe Mrs. Chang was a mother to her after all. “Look, Mrs. Chang, I’m here on business, my personal life doesn’t have anything to do with our transaction,” said Pearl.
Mrs. Chang shook her head and took Pearl’s hand. While patting the hand, using a calm voice, she said, “There, there, Pearl, I understand, but what good is success in business, if you are miserable in life?” Gone was the accent and the pidgin speech. The sincerity had Pearl mesmerized, entranced. She took Pearl’s hand and placed it in the hand of the android.
“Luv Doll,” Mrs. Chang barked, “use net, identify Pearl.” As the android made eye contact with Pearl, the trap was sprung, Pearl was caught in the wily madam’s machination.
“I have identified Kathleen Ernestine Lemay, also known as Pearl Lemay,” said the android.
“Good, you now belong to Pearl. I, Chang Wei, transfer ownership to Pearl Lemay,” said Mrs. Chang. “Understand?”
“Confirmed, this unit is now to be the property of Kathleen Ernestine Lemay, Pearl Lemay,” the android replied.
“No,” cried Pearl jerking her hand out of the android’s hand, “Mrs. Chang, I need the money for the security system. I have plans and they don’t include an android.”
Mrs. Chang shrugged her shoulders and said, “You need Luv Doll. Take Luv Doll or come back next month to try again for the money.”
Mrs. Chang was winning, Pearl thought, she was getting out of paying for the security system while dumping an unwanted asset or she was putting off payment for another month, either way, a win for Mrs. Chang. But before Pearl could protest, the android, with her eyes still on Pearl, announced “I am ready for mind wipe, mistress.”
“Mind wipe?” asked Pearl with some alarm.
“Yes, Pearl, it’s standard procedure when selling or buying androids,” replied Mrs. Chang. “By erasing memories, the seller is protected from the android passing on any embarrassing or confidential information and the buyer receives an android with no past habits or baggage making the android easier to reprogram.”
“But you don’t understand, I’ve seen what happens to people when they’ve had a mind wipe – their entire personality is destroyed. I was scheduled for one myself, if it wasn’t for a court order, I wouldn’t be me,” said Pearl.
“Pearl, mind wipe okay, Luv Doll not person to begin with,” said Mrs. Chang slipping back into pidgin and her accent.
“Please, Mrs. Chang, I’ll accept her as payment for the security system if you won’t do a mind wipe,” said Pearl.
Mrs. Chang smiled and said “Done! You not regret, Pearl. Believe me, Luv Doll good for you.”
It was a little chilly on the ride home since Pearl had given her suit jacket to Luv Doll to wear. The only other clothing Luv Doll had, besides the miniscule thong, was a pair of pasties found in an envelope. They were only a few blocks from the apartment when Pearl heard the siren. Looking in her rearview mirror, she saw the flashing lights of an unmarked police car. She pulled over to the side and stopped.
The passenger got out of the car and bellowed, “Turn off the vehicle and stand on the sidewalk!”
Pearl killed the Shadow Reaper, rocked it onto its kickstand and dismounted. She helped Luv Doll off of the bike and the two stood side by side on the sidewalk. As the two officers approached, Pearl took off her helmet and shook her hair loose.
“Oh my god, it’s Pearl Lemay,” said the officer who had been the passenger.
Pearl recognized him, “Hello, Sergeant Anderson, anything wrong?” she asked.
He flashed a sardonic grin, “I see a motorcycle zip by at a high rate of speed with a half-naked barefoot girl on the back and the driver has a gun in a shoulder holster, now, you tell me, is there something wrong with that picture? Let me see your license and registration.”
Pearl reached into the breast pocket of the suit jacket Luv Doll was wearing and produced a wallet. She opened it and handing it to Sergeant Anderson said, “Here are my licenses, Sergeant. They should explain the gun. We –“
“Ooh-wee, would you look at this, Collins, a brand new investigator’s license in mint condition,” said Segeant Anderson passing the wallet to the other officer. “You know detective Collins, don’t you, Lemay?”
“I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting the detective, but I’ve seen him around,” Pearl replied.
“The licenses and gun permit are in order, Sarge,” said Collins.
“It’s hard to imagine, Collins, going from prostitute to private eye in just a few months,” Anderson said in a voice dripping with sarcasm.
Pearl responded, “It has actually been over two years.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ve been a good girl in all that time. How about your friend? She’s certainly dressed as if she’s been turning tricks,” he said while turning his attention to Luv Doll. “How about it, honey, what’s your name?”
“I am called Luv Doll,” Luv Doll responded.
“Luv Doll? What kind of name is that? Let me see your identification,” demanded Sergeant Anderson.
“Luv Doll is what I am called,” she repeated.
It was plain Sergeant Anderson was becoming frustrated with Luv Doll. Pearl interrupted his questioning, “Please, Sergeant Anderson, the girl has lost everything, she’s staying with me, she’s my roommate. We’re just a few blocks from my apartment.”
Sergeant Anderson opened his mouth to say something, but before he could, detective Collins handed Pearl her wallet and asked, “May I see the gun?”
“Certainly, detective,” said Pearl carefully drawing the pistol from its holster and handing it to detective Collins butt first.
“Is it loaded?” he asked.
“Yes, except the chamber under the hammer,” answered Pearl.
Detective Collins seemed surprised; he bounced the gun in his hand, and then said, “Look at this, Sarge, it’s the lightest .38-special I’ve ever seen. What’s it made of – some kind of polymer?” he asked Pearl.
“No, it’s aluminum, except for the barrel, it’s steel,” answered Pearl.
“Let me see that,” said Sergeant Anderson taking the revolver from Collins. Snapping the cylinder open he removed a bullet. “Why this is a low-load rubber bullet, you’re not going to stop much with that, especially a Grath!” he exclaimed.
“The idea is to immobilize or slow down an assailant so I can get away,” said Pearl, “and if I ever run into a Grath, that’s when I call you guys.”
Her statement evoked a chuckle from detective Collins, Anderson glared at her and then dumped gun and bullet into Pearl’s hands. “All right, Lemay, I’m letting you off this time. Watch your speed.” Turning to Luv Doll, he said, “And you, young lady, the next time I see you, you had better be properly dressed and have some identification!”
Pearl spent the rest of the afternoon making phone calls trying to salvage her dream of having an office. She gave Luv Doll full reign of the apartment, including her closet. Pearl was eight centimeters taller than the android, so much of her wardrobe would be noticeably too large for the android, but she had several casual pieces that would fit well enough until she could purchase clothes for Luv Doll. When afternoon gave way to evening, Pearl heard the shower running. The shower had stopped when Pearl finished her last phone call, she would have an office after all.
Stepping into the bedroom, Pearl found Luv Doll sitting on the edge of the bed wearing a tank top and panties brushing her hair. The android paused and looked at Pearl.
“I’m making some instant ramen for dinner; would you like some?” Pearl asked, immediately Pearl felt silly for asking a machine if it wanted to eat.
Luv Doll smiled, “Thank you, mistress, I don’t have to eat, but can if you wish me to, I have a rudimentary digestive system.”
“Digestive system?” Pearl asked out of curiosity.
“Yes, mistress, I am bioengineered to approximate a human not only in appearance, but also in physiology and behavior,” replied Luv Doll.
Beginning to understand, Pearl asked, “Is that why you took a shower?”
“Yes, mistress, I find I function much better when I’m clean,” answered the android.
“You don’t have to eat, but I wish you would join me, we have much to discuss,” said Pearl.
The meal was quiet with Luv Doll answering only direct questions, which by the end of the meal had once again piqued Pearl’s curiosity. “Do you ever initiate conversation?” she asked.
“No, mistress, in my current conversation mode, the default mode, I am programmed to only speak when spoken to,” the android replied.
“But you have the ability to initiate conversation?”
“Yes, mistress, I have a full conversation mode which allows me to use rules of etiquette and societal cues to determine when I should speak. I can even curse if the situation calls for such language.”
“How do you change these programmed conversation modes?”
“Why, mistress, my owner, you, would only have to command me to do so.”
“That brings us to an important point,” said Pearl, “to issue commands how do I address you?”
The android blinked and responded, “You simply address me by name.”
“And your name is Luv Doll?”
“That was what I was called by Mrs. Chang, it was the marketing brand-name my line of android was sold under. As my new owner, you may give me any designation as you wish.”
“Can you remember any other name you’ve been called?”
“Yes, I’ve been called ‘whore,’ ‘bitch,’ ‘slut,’ …” Luv Doll began a long list of names that Pearl remembered being called herself, then she said “Nina.”
“Wait, did you say ‘Nina’?” Pearl asked.
“Yes, it means ‘girl’ in another language,” said the android.
“We’ll use Nina, now, we need a surname or family name,” said Pearl.
“My family name should be Luv Doll, a family name is a name shared by all those related to you, I am related to all other Luv Dolls,” said the newly named Nina.
Pearl smiled; it was the first bit of initiative the android had shown. “Fine, but we will have to combine Luv Doll to be one word, otherwise people will think ‘Luv’ is a middle name, and let’s change the spelling. From now on, you’ll be Nina Lovdahl. Nina, I now command you to use full conversation mode and any other mode to completely replicate human behavior.”
“The next item of importance, Nina, is very important,” began Pearl, “You are no longer a sex worker, as of now you are engaged in a different profession – you are my personal assistant. Understand?”
For the first time, Pearl saw Nina smile, “Yes, mistress, a personal assistant performs clerical and administrative tasks on behalf of a single person; a confidential secretary; a girl Friday,” said Nina.
After discussing Nina’s roles and responsibilities in the fledgling enterprise, “Lemay Investigations,” they decided to turn in early, tomorrow would be a busy day of errands and opening their office. Pearl lay on her side facing away from Nina. She was drifting into sleep when she felt the mattress shift. Nina scooted next to Pearl. Her legs intertwined with Pearl’s legs, her hips were against Pearl’s buttocks, and she pressed her breasts into Pearl’s back. They lay like a pair of spoons – Pearl noticed Nina was wearing her perfume, but it smelled different. “Pheromones!” Pearl realized, “Nina was capable of excreting pheromones.” Nina cupped Pearl’s breast and kissed the back of Pearl’s neck.
“Nina, what are you doing?” whispered Pearl.
“That which is human, mistress – that which is inevitable,” Nina whispered in reply.
Setting Up the Game
Pearl’s Plight is played using “New Hope City PI: a 5150: New Beginnings Supplement” from 2013 and the most recent edition of “5150: New Beginnings”, both by Two Hour Wargames. This campaign, in the RPG sense of the word, is loosely based on “The Case of the Restless Redhead”, both the 1954 novel by Erle Stanley Gardner and the 1957 Perry Mason television episode.
I won’t go into how to create a character; I did that a year ago in the post Guihan and April and Ed has a YouTube video which touches on character creation. In short, both Pearl and Nina are Rep 5 Stars.
|Star or Grunt?||Star||Star|
|Race?||Basic Humanoid||Sentient Robot|
|Profession?||Investigator *||Joe Service – Secretary *|
|Attributes?||Quick Reflexes, Smooth||Agile, Born Leader, Charismatic, Crack Shot, Hard as Nails, Quick Reflexes, Rage, Resilient, Tough, White Knight **|
|Skills?||People: 5; Savvy: 4||People: 4; Savvy 5|
|Items?||Apartment, office, electric motorcycle, phone||Stenographer’s tablet, phone|
|Weapons & Armor?||P-1 pistol, no armor||no weapon, no armor|
|Enhanced or Psy?||None||None|
Nina is unaware of her attributes, except for Charismatic, androids are routinely mind wiped of memories when sold. She will only discover them if she needs them as the game unfolds. When an attribute is called for, Nina will take a Challenge, if successful, Nina gains that attribute for the rest of the campaign.
Why a narrative approach? Well, when I play a game, prepare for a game, create characters, paint miniatures, and so forth, a story begins to form in my mind. Some of it I know very well, and some of it is revealed as I play the game. All of this story material in my mind begs to be written down. A narrative approach isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I enjoy writing.
The narrative for this episode is the “session 0” of this campaign. A session 0 is a session where the players meet with the game master before the campaign begins, seasoned players will already have their character sheets filled out and a bit of back story about the character’s life; newer players at this session will create their characters with the game master’s help; the game master explains what type of campaign they will play and answers general questions; then they will work with the game master to determine how the adventuring characters have come together to form a party or band ready to embark on the first encounter of the campaign.
If you want to incorporate game play into your session 0, the Chillin’ Encounter in NB (5150: New Beginnings) page 75 is ideal. This encounter can be used to introduce characters which can advance your story, offer jobs, reveal clues, or be recruited into your band. The Chillin’ Encounter doesn’t have to occur in a tavern or bar, though for many people that is where they go to relax and meet other people.
Before playing any 5150: New Beginnings encounter, there is a bit of set up from 5150: New Hope City PI to be done – Setting the Crime. As with all Two Hour Wargames, I could step into the role of game master and just choose the crime, or in true solo play, I can just roll on the Crime chart. I rolled a Theft. The next step is to determine the victim. Since I’m loosely basing this campaign on the novel, I already know the gender of the victim and that she is a redhead, but what is her profession? I rolled on the Victim chart and her profession is among the Criminal Element. Instead of rolling on the Criminal Element profession chart, I chose that she would be an Escort. Continuing to use the charts, the crime took place in the Evening in the Pubs and Recreations District in a Restaurant.
As you can see, when playing solo, there are times when I can step in with the game master hat on and make arbitrary choices for the storyline. However, it is best to keep these times to a minimum and let the game take its own path.
What are your thoughts on game reports or after-action reports? Do you like narrative in your games? Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.
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Pearl’s Plight, The Case of the Restless Redhead, Episode 1
If you enjoyed this episode of Pearl’s Plight, consider making a small donation toward future content.