5150: Science Fiction

Pearl’s Plight – The Case of the Restless Redhead, Episode 2

And so you lost your Hollywood ambitions?”

“I thought I had. I waited on tables. I learned about life the hard way, and I suppose it did things to me. I would look at myself in the mirror and compare what I saw with the fresh, young girl I’d been when I was thinking of a career on screen and building all those air castles. Well, that’s the way it goes, Mr. Mason.

“However, I was always restless. I never want to stay in one place. I keep roaming around the country. So finally I asked myself, ‘Why not see Hollywood after all?’ So I made it in two hops.”

“Two?” Mason asked.

– Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Restless Redhead

Episode 2 – The Rookie Lawyer

The alarm on the nightstand went off for the second time, as Pearl reached for the snooze button, Nina grabbed her wrist and pulled her hand away from the clock. In a voice that was half pleading and half scolding, Nina said “Mistress, you need to get up. You said we needed to get an early start today – also, there’s no coffee in the apartment.”

Pearl could have blown off Nina for at least another half hour of sleep, but the thought of no coffee jarred her awake. Sitting up, Pearl noticed Nina was wearing her sheer white baby doll negligee, then she realized that she, herself, was quite naked. Blushing, Pearl covered herself with the sheet, “Ok, I’m awake,” she said, “let me take a shower, then we can go out for coffee and breakfast.”

Nina coaxes Pearl out of bed

When Pearl stepped out of the shower, Nina was standing over the sink brushing her teeth. Nina was dressed in jeans, Pearl’s favorite black t-shirt with the clenched fist and “No Pasaran!” slogan, and a pair of flip-flops. Though she was only a little taller than Nina, it was noticeable her clothes were almost too large for Nina. Nina looked as though she were wearing her big sister’s hand-me-downs.

“You’re brushing your teeth?” Pearl asked.

“Yes, mistress, for oral hygiene, prevents cavities,” replied Nina.

Puzzled, Pearl asked, “Can androids even get cavities?”

Nina spat, filled her mouth, and turned to Pearl with both cheeks puffed out while swishing water. She blinked and looked a little puzzled herself and then shrugged.

They finished breakfast at the Fast Wok in the Hubert’s Crossing shopping center just as the shops began to open. Pearl’s breakfast had consisted of coffee and eggrolls, while Nina just had coffee with a generous amount of sugar. Their conversation had been sparse, Pearl was still grappling with Nina being a part of her life. She hadn’t wanted Nina and had no idea how to care for, or what to do with an android.

Leaving the apartment to go shopping

First, they entered Thomasson’s Office Supply and Furnishings. Pearl purchased a good desk and credenza for her office and a smaller desk for the reception area; two swiveling office chairs; four chairs for clients; waste baskets; and a surprising number of sundry objects to equip a small office, all of which would be delivered the next day. Lastly, the most important purchases were a phone and stenographer’s tablet for Nina. The stenographer’s tablet was much like any other computer tablet or laptop, but was smaller and upon default, the device started in “steno” mode – camera and audio recording activated and a word processor using a stenographer’s keypad. After the salesclerk’s demonstration, she was surprised at how quickly Nina learned how to use the tablet.

The next stop, in the same shopping center, was a visit to Mona’s Clothing Boutique. It was still early enough in the morning that Pearl and Nina were the only customers in the shop. They were greeted by a full-figured woman with a broad smile.

“Good morning, ladies, feel free to browse and if you have any questions, just ask. I’m Mona, by the way,” she said.

“Mona? Is this your shop?” asked Pearl.

Mona laughed and replied, “Well, the bank and my creditors let me pretend it is my shop.”

Leaving the apartment in new clothes for City Hall

Pearl gave a short laugh, “I understand, believe me. I’m Pearl, Mona, and this is Nina. Nina just got a position in a small office as an administrative assistant. She needs suitable clothing and since our primary form of transportation is a motorcycle, it has to be durable as well.”

Mona looked Nina over, paying close attention to the oversized clothing she was wearing and then asked, “Will she be able to change at the office, or will street wear be adequate?”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” answered Pearl, “Let’s plan for both.”

“How about foundation wear?” Mona asked.

Pearl said, “Oh, yes, Nina pretty much needs everything.”

“Certainly,” said Mona. Turning away from Pearl, she called, “Oh Janie, would you come here, please.”

“How may I be of service, mistress Mona?” asked Janie with a faint mechanical click at the end of her question.

“Yes, Janie, please take Ms. Nina to the dressing rooms, take her measurements, begin with bra and panty sets first and then business suits and skirts,” replied Mona.

“Go ahead, Nina, I’ll join you in a moment,” said Pearl. As Nina and Janie walked back to the dressing rooms, Pearl asked, “Mona, I hope I’m not being intrusive, but Janie is an android, is she not?”

Mona looked slightly offended saying, “Certainly, Janie is an android, one of the latest of the Robo-Serv series. Is that a problem?”

“Oh no,” Pearl replied, “It’s just I will be working with one and was curious as to what to expect.”

A smile of relief came over Mona’s face, “I’ll be glad to tell you anything you want to know. For a moment, I was afraid you were going to complain. You see, while android salesclerks are the norm on the more populated worlds, here, out on the fringe, there is a resentment toward being waited on by an android. People tell me they don’t want to be touched by an android or that I should help our local economy by hiring humans. You have to be very patient to begin with,” Mona continued while showing Pearl a rack of business attire, “to be so efficient and smart, androids are incredibly dumb.”

On the train platform

Pearl held a grey jacket to her chest and looked in a mirror, “Smart and dumb?” she asked.

“Yes, they are very smart in the areas of their programming, but painfully ignorant of anything else,” replied Mona.

“You mean she can’t learn on her own?” asked Pearl.

“Yes, anything new has to be spoon fed to her multiple times and even then, she may not learn, and you’ll have to purchase additional programming, which is quite expensive,” Mona said taking a blue blouse and holding it next to the jacket Pearl was holding. “I once fixed a little space for her in the back, a cot, table and chair – she never used them. When I leave for the night, she shuts down and is in the exact same spot when I return in the morning. The biggest mistake is to think an android is a person.”

Pearl and Nina returned briefly to the apartment to change and put away Nina’s new clothing. They both left the apartment wearing new business suits, Nina in blue and Pearl in grey. The next stop was a small shopping strip a few blocks from the Neely Plaza Station. The shopping strip had a sandwich shop, a hair salon, a donut shop, and a yoga studio; the remaining spaces were empty.

“Well, here’s our new office,” said a proud Pearl.

Nina looked up at the huge sign over the door: “Bob’s Donuts,” the “o” in “Bob” was oversized and painted to resemble a donut. “Our office is in a donut shop?” she asked.

“No, silly, we’re in the small space between the donut shop and the yoga studio,” replied Pearl, “Let’s go in and see how the build out is going.”

Waiting to board the train

Inside, they met the leasing agent Sam Garcia, “What do you think of your new offices?” he asked, “We’ve just finished laying the carpet.” One of the carpet layers was putting tools into a bag while another was picking up plastic sheeting and other debris. There was a faint smell of the glue used to put down the carpet tiles.

Pearl smiled and replied, “This is wonderful, Mr. Garcia. Will everything be ready when the furniture arrives this afternoon?”

“Oh, yes, Ms. Lemay, all that is left to do is a thorough cleaning and painting the sign on the door. The furniture is scheduled to be here by four,” said Sam Garcia.

With an open palm gesture pointing to Nina, Pearl said, “Mr. Garcia, this is Nina Lovdahl, my assistant.”

“A delightful pleasure, meeting you Ms. Lovdahl,” Sam said.

“Thank you, very much, Mr. Garcia,” replied Nina.

The space, or suite, was divided into two large spaces, a reception area and an office with a restroom and two small closets behind the office. Pearl proudly showed Nina every inch of the small suite. In the reception area, Nina noticed a phone on the floor. She knelt down and picked up the headset. Placing the headset onto her head, Nina pulled her own phone out of her coat pocket and tapped the screen.

“Nina, what are you doing?” asked Pearl.

“I’ve just forwarded the office phone to my phone, so we won’t miss any calls, mistress,” Nina responded.

Surprised by the android’s initiative, Pearl said, “That’s a great idea, I should have thought of that.”

A brush with a pickpocket

They had to rush to the transit station to keep from being late to their appointment in Judge Anton Spurlock’s chambers. Though the cars were crowded, and Pearl and Nina had to stand, the trip was uneventful until the train left the Financial District for Central Station in the City Hall District. Pearl had been watching the changing scenery out the window when she turned to speak to Nina and saw a slender young woman standing with an outstretched hand nearly touching Pearl. The young woman nervously said, “I’m sorry,” and then pushed past Pearl. She was wearing pale blue leggings, a knee-length striped tunic under a black leather corset, black boots, and carried a large off-white tote over her right shoulder.

“I wonder what that was about?” Pearl asked.

Nina pulled her sunglasses down to the tip of her nose and said, “Look, mistress.”

Pearl watched as the young woman lifted a wallet and dropped it into her tote.

“Should we do anything?” asked Nina.

“No, not this time, Nina, we don’t want to get involved, especially since you don’t have any identification.” answered Pearl.

The chambers of Judge Spurlock were richly paneled, he sat behind his desk in an overstuffed swivel chair listening to Pearl, while Nina seemed fixated on a painting of blindfolded Themis, the ancient goddess of justice.

“Let me see if I’ve got this straight, young lady, you want an identification card for an android when legally a sales receipt is all that is required. You do have a receipt?” the judge asked.

“Well, I have Mrs. Chang’s verbal agreement and Nina’s electronic record,” replied Pearl, “but that’s not the point, your honor, Nina is so human people expect her to have a form of identification like the rest of us.” Pearl leaned over the desk and said in almost a whisper, “She’s so human, she even poops.”

Judge Spurlock laughed, “All right, Pearl, any sentient being who can ‘poop’ should have identification. Wait in the outer office while I have my clerk prepare the order.” He paused and leaned back in his chair and added, “You’ve come a long way since I issued the injunction forbidding the mind wipe, though you did have me concerned later when I jailed you for solicitation. I try to help people in this world as much as I can while maintaining justice. There’s a young lawyer I know who is looking for a reliable investigator, she’s fed up with the ones here in City Hall and the Financial District. Let me give her a call, she might want to try ‘Lemay Investigations’.”

After a quick lunch, Pearl and Nina found themselves in the private office of attorney Sally Blue. Sally Blue was a fit woman in her early thirties and though she was wearing the dark pin-striped suit favored by attorneys across the galaxy, she stood out by having her hair dyed a brilliant blue. She picked up a small box from her desk and held it out to Pearl as she opened it. “Cigarette?” she asked. When Pearl hesitated, the attorney added, “It’s real tobacco.”

Taking the offered cigarette, Pearl asked, “Real tobacco? Is it imported?”

Sally Blue took a cigarette herself placing the box back on her desk and picking up a lighter. “Of course, it’s imported, everything on New Hope is imported except for cabbages and potatoes.” She flicked the lighter.

“Also, turnips and carrots, the New Hope Agri-domes produce a large variety of root vegetables,” added Nina.

Seeing a puzzled look on Sally Blue’s face, Pearl quickly said, “My assistant is awfully good at trivia, you wouldn’t want to play against her on trivia night at the pub.” Pearl leaned forward and accepted the light from the attorney. Pearl didn’t normally smoke, the vape pens so readily available had such a sickly-sweet metallic taste, Pearl couldn’t stand them. However, she had never tried real tobacco.

“I see,” said Sally Blue lighting her own cigarette. Exhaling a large cloud of smoke, the attorney gave a smile and then her expression turned hard, “The problem I’ve had with many of the established investigators is they leak information to interested parties in the syndicates and the Heights. I need someone who can maintain a strict confidence and who can get things done. For that reason, I’m willing to give you a shot Ms. Lemay.

The Job Offer

“I have a client, a Ms. Chrystal Shard, who is in a predicament. Night before last, she and her roommate, a Ms. Ginger Schnaps, went out in the Pubs and Recreations District. At the beginning of the evening, the clasp on Ms. Schnaps’ diamond bracelet broke and not having a bag of her own, she asked Ms. Shard to keep the bracelet in Ms. Shard’s purse for the evening. The two women separated and came back together for a late dinner, whereupon it was discovered the bracelet was missing. My client has just two days to return the missing bracelet or pay twelve thousand dollars, if Ms. Shard is incapable of either, Ms. Schnaps will report her to the police as a thief.”

“Crystal Shard and Ginger Schnaps? Would these two ladies happen to be entertainers?” asked Pearl.

“You could say they are entertainers of a sort, Ms. Schnaps performs in a drag revue, but both also work as escorts,” Sally Blue answered. “As you can see, with Ms. Shard’s profession, she has little desire to become involved with the police. How about it, Ms. Lemay, can you recover the bracelet?”

“If I can’t, I can certainly find out what happened to it,” said Pearl.

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Pearl’s Plight – The Case of the Restless Redhead, Episode 2

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Playing the Encounter

Today, I’m giving some insight as to how I play games to form a story. Not everyone will follow my process, nor should they. We all play games for different reasons and in different ways.

The definition of “campaign” is “an organized course of action to achieve a goal.” In role playing games (RPGs) and other types of character driven games, a campaign is a series of linked encounters or adventures – the course of action to achieve the goal of the game. In playing a game, however, the goal is not always clear in some games and is discovered during game play.

When playing the 5150: New Hope City PI (NHC) supplement, the goal of the campaign is to resolve a Crime. Before playing a 5150: New Beginnings (NB) campaign, I need to define my character and perhaps recruit a band of followers; before playing NHC, I need to define or set the crime. Just as there are charts to aid in defining a character, there are charts to aid in defining the crime.

You first roll 2d6 on the Crime Table, or the game master could just choose the crime. I rolled a Theft. Something was stolen, whatever it was is up to you. Basing my campaign loosely on the novel, jewelry was stolen.

The next step is to determine the victim, by rolling 2d6 on the Victim Table. The victim’s Profession is in the Criminal Element circle. I could roll on the Criminal Element Profession table in New Beginnings, but I put on my game master hat and chose Escort, since I knew my victim’s gender was female, redheaded, and had been “around the block” in keeping with the novel.

When did the crime occur is the next question to answer. This time I roll only 1d6 on the Day Part Table – the theft occurred in the Evening, after 5:00PM and before midnight.

Where did the crime occur? There’s a table for that, in fact, there’s a Where Are They Table for each profession. My victim is of the Criminal Element, so consult that table and I discover that in the Evening, the victim was in the Pubs and Recreations district. Anyway, I go to the Pubs & Rec Buildings Table, roll 2d6 and the theft occurred in a Restaurant.

Just a few more questions or details to set before I know the goals and parameters of the campaign I’ll be playing. How difficult or the Difficulty Factor of the campaign is next. I use the Investigation Table and discover I need to roll 1+1/2d6 to determine how difficult the crime will be to solve – I score a 4 as the Difficulty Factor and there will be 4 to 8 Clues to gather before being able to solve the crime.

Next, we determine who is the Employer. There’s a table for the Employer, but again, I step in as game master and decide the Employer is the Victim’s attorney in keeping with the novel (though this attorney is nowhere near Perry Mason’s league).

“Time is money,” they say and there is a Time Frame for solving the crime. Unfortunately for Pearl, I rolled poorly on the Time Frame Table – she has only two days to solve this Pressing crime. Wages? Pearl and Nina will receive 3 Increasing Rep D6 for completing the job on time.

Here’s what the entry in the Case Notebook looks like:

CrimeDFCluesVictimCircleWhenWhereEmployerWages
Theft44-8Crystal Shard, EscortCriminal ElementEveningPubs & Recs DistrictSally Blue, Attorney3

If I were strictly a gamer, I’d go straight to a Chillin’ Encounter in NB and play a Job Offer. However, as a storyteller, I have to come up with how Pearl and Nina learn about the job offer and how they get from their apartment in Lower Hope to the attorney’s office in the Financial District. So, there’s going to be some additional Interactions, possible Confrontations and possible Travel Encounters in getting from point A to point B. Time to put the fiendishly flawed Floozy logic to work.

By the way, a side note about setting the story in New Hope City. I ran a poll where the overwhelming majority of readers wanted the story set in some other city. However, 100% of the poll respondents wanted to see a step-by-step account on how the game is played. To set the story somewhere else involves world building, a lot of activities outside of how to play the game. By using New Hope City as the setting, where the transit system and city sections are already laid out, the readers can easily follow along.

Okay, here’s the elevator pitch for the beginning the story. Pearl and Nina go shopping for clothes for Nina, a phone for Nina, a stenographer’s computer tablet for Nina, and other office supplies. They go to their new office to check on the build out. Then they go to the City Hall District to see Judge Anton Spurlock who issues a court order to get an identification card for Nina. In addition, the judge mentions a young lawyer needs to hire a competent investigator for a case. He calls Sally Blue, and she agrees to interview Pearl and Nina for the job.

In the attorney’s office, Pearl and Nina are introduced to the victim, Crystal Shard, a redheaded escort. Crystal Shard and her roommate, the drag queen, Princess Ginger Schnaps had gone out for a night on the town in the Pubs and Recreations District when the clasp on Ms. Schnaps’ diamond bracelet broke. Now, the rulebook doesn’t go into a great deal about the Pubs and Recreations District, but where I live and in most large cities I’ve visited, the area is usually called the “Arts District” and these “districts” are often adjacent to a robust, vibrant, and diverse, often LGBTQ, community. Anyway, she asked to put the bracelet in Ms. Shard’s purse for safekeeping. The two women separated, Ms. Schnaps to party and Ms. Shard to ply her trade.

They met for a late evening dinner at Mambo Italiano, a posh restaurant/dinner club with a dance floor, live band on weekends, and a pianist in the bar area on weeknights. It was at the dinner club where they discovered the bracelet was missing from Ms. Shard’s purse. Ms. Schnaps is demanding the return of the bracelet or $12,000 dollars in two days or she will refer Ms. Shard to the police for theft.

Shopping

Pearl and Nina leave the apartment to grab a quick breakfast and to shop for clothes and office furniture. I first roll for a Travel Encounter; they’re staying in Lower Hope making the number or areas traveled 1. I roll a 2 on 1d6 and pass 0d6, there’s no Travel Encounter.

I don’t want to play a Chillin’ Encounter for every store Pearl and Nina enter. I set up a challenge for each stop – the fast-food restaurant, the office supply store and the clothing store. If the challenge is successful, Pearl conducts her business and leaves, if the challenge is failed, Pearl interacts with an NPC at that stop. This adds a small bit of interest to the story without taking a lot of time to play. After rolling the dice, each Challenge is successful – but I put on my game master’s cap and decide Pearl should have an Interaction with the owner of the clothing store to give the reader a sense of how most people in New Hope City view androids and robots.

Pearl and Nina travel to their new office in another shopping center just a few blocks from the transit station, there is no travel encounter. Pearl interacts with the leasing agent. Pearl has two attributes I like a lot – Smooth and Quick Reflexes. With the Smooth attribute and her Rep of 5, Pearl is successful with nearly all interactions. I could have skipped this interaction, but I wanted the readers to know where Pearl’s office is located. There is no official map of New Hope City, so I’m creating streets and buildings as I go. I document these locations on the same 3×5 index cards I use for characters. This is for continuity in the campaign.

Job Offer

Pearl and Nina have to travel to the City Hall District using the transit system to meet Judge Anton Spurlock. The City Hall District is six stops away from Lower Hope, I roll a five so there will be a Travel Encounter aboard the train. The Daytime Law Level for my destination, the City Hall District, is four. Subtracting the Law Level from the result of my die roll, I discover the Travel Encounter will be a pickpocketing. Pearl and the pickpocket pass the same number of d6, the result is that the pickpocket walks by without picking Pearl’s pocket.

Meeting with Judge Spurlock, Pearl succeeds in the Interaction and the judge issues a court order for an identification card for Nina. He also informs Pearl of a young attorney who needs to hire an investigator; he arranges a meeting between Pearl and Sally Blue.

Sally Blue describes the job to Pearl and Nina including its time constraints. Pearl accepts the job. Everything from the shopping to Pearl accepting the Job Offer was played in New Beginnings.

NPCs Used in This Encounter

StatisticMona ReeceRobo-JaneRon TraskSticky Fingers JaneAnton SpurlockSally Blue
Star or Grunt?GruntGruntGruntGruntGruntGrunt
Race?BasicComplex RobotBasicBasicBasicBasic
Gender?FemaleFemaleMaleFemaleMaleFemale
Profession?Shop OwnerSalesclerkLeasing AgentThiefJudgeAttorney
Attributes?CowardLogical, ResilientToughAgileBorn LeaderSmooth
Reputation?444454
Skills?People: 4, Savvy: 3People: 3, Savvy: 4People: 4, Savvy: 3People: 3, Savvy: 4People: 5, Savvy: 4People: 4, Savvy: 3
Items?StoreOfficeOffice
Weapons & Armor?NoneNoneNoneKnife, no armorNoneNone
Enhanced or Psy?NoneNoneNoneLeft ArmNoneNone

Now, that Pearl has accepted the job, we return to New Hope City PI for what happens next – consulting the Advance the Investigation Table. The result of rolling on this table determines the next encounter to be played, the next episode to be written. So as the announcer on a popular TV show when I was twelve would say: “tune in tomorrow night, same bat-time, same bat-channel.”

Be sure to leave a comment! Your comments are appreciated and are helpful. Besides, they add a little to a Floozy’s day.

2 thoughts on “Pearl’s Plight – The Case of the Restless Redhead, Episode 2”

  1. Thank you, really good, loved the narrative followed by the ‘behind the scenes’ descroption. Looking forward to Pearl and Nina’s further adventures. Loving the scenery/ backgrounds, they look like cardstock are they WorldWorks items?

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