Part 2

It's now 12:28 pm, and I'm in my office. Over the past three hours I have not found the missing synth, but have showered (again), dressed (knee-length skirt, blouse, jacket—typical corporate look), and am enjoying lunch, which today is a bowl of won ton soup, Hong Kong style. It's broth mixed with noodles, won tons, and leafy green bok choy, and its exactly what I need right now. The soup's from a place one tower over, and in my opinion, one of the best things about working here.

So I sit at my desk, slurping down noodles, and trying not to spill soup all over me or my desk. I like to think I have a nice enough office, even if it is fairly small and has a limited view. But then, I don't know too many synthetics who have their own cubicle, much less a private office, so I can't complain.

Then, the phone rings.

I stare at the phone with an expression of annoyance mixed with disgust. Here I sit, chopsticks poised in the act of guiding strands of noodles from the bowl to my mouth, and the phone is ringing. It never fails. And it's never good news either. In fact, with my luck today, its someone calling to tell me a VTOL just crashed on the roof of the tower and we're all going to die.

I should be so lucky.

Biting the noodles in half I hastily swallow my end and let the rest fall back into the bowl. Trying not to choke, I pick up the receiver.

"Sarah J. Ferrari, manager."

"Hey, you should check the skinjobs you've got around here, one of them's looking funny."

Great. Just... great. I always like it when my lunch time is interrupted by a chance to discuss racial epithets over the phone with a tenant. I wonder if I qualify as a "skinjob" as well. It's funny, as manager, my occupation sometimes seems to take precedent over my origin. Sometimes. Still, it's a lead.

"What do you mean, "funny"?" I have to ask.

"Y'know, funny."

What a helpful response. "As in?"

"Just... funny lookin'."

I try not to sigh too audibly into the phone. "Can you tell me where you saw this "funny looking" synthetic?"

"Uhm... tenth floor."

Thank you." I hang up before I get any more useful information.

The tenth floor. That's about a fifth of the way up the building. It's above the low-rent residents (which is a relative term in this building), but far below the more wealthy apartments. I'm not sure I should be worried. The building seems to attract more than its fair share of freaks, of which I am most certainly one. I could find anything, or nothing, on the tenth floor.

I try to finish my won ton soup as I mull this over. I figure it can't hurt to go up onto the tenth floor and check things out, but I have to wonder about the use of the term "funny looking." What was meant by that? Did Ryosuke have a personality breakdown? Getting up, I push my bowl away—my appetite has vanished, and head for the gun locker.

The term "gun locker" sounds a lot more menacing than it actually is. There are three weapons in this locker. One is a simple 10mm pistol, which is there for "internal security" reasons. Never know when a tenant may decide to rampage though the halls. The second is a taser. It's your typical police model, and I use it for keeping the synthetics under control. Not that I've actually had to use it, mind you. The third weapon is another taser. This is a big, shoulder-fired model, and is supposed to be able to fry the inner circuits of your average domestic cyberdroid, if one happens to run amok for some inexplicable reason. I've never had to use that either.

After a bit of debate, I drop the pistol into the pocket of my jacket, where it makes for an all-to-obvious bulge. I decide to just carry the taser, hoping it will keep people from noticing the gun. Feeling armed and dangerous, I head out.

The tenth floor looks just like all the rest of the floors, except maybe the plants are different. Which means it's easy for me to find my missing synthetic. Ryosuke is standing in the alcove near the elevators, looking...

I step out of the elevator and stop dead. "Funny looking" doesn't begin to describe Ryosuke.

I blink. And then blink again. It doesn't help, Ryosuke's not getting any better.

Long purple wig sitting askew on his head, eyeshadow, smeared lipstick, a sheer nightgown, panties, stockings, and high heels. I feel a sudden urge to lock myself in my apartment and hide until it all goes away.

"Ryosuke?" I ask. "Where the hell have you been?"

Ryosuke blinks and looks around as if he's never seen the tenth floor before. Hell, as if he's never been in this building before. Finally, he zeroes in on me and smiles. "Hello, Miss Ferrari."

Great. What little mind he has is out to lunch, which is where I should be right now. I try again, slower. "Ryosuke... where have you been?"

"Oh..." Ryosuke looks around for a few more moments and then points. "With Mr. Brady."

Mr. Brady... My day just gets worse and worse. Brady is a walking case of overactive hormones who regularly harasses not only the female synthetics on-staff, but female tenants. He also seems to have decided he must have me, and blatantly hits on me whenever we happen to pass in the halls, an event I now go to great lengths to avoid. I fear what would happen if this were some other country, where my rights, Australian citizenship or no, were virtually nonexistent.

Without even thinking about it, I switch off the safety on the taser and then turn in the direction Ryosuke is pointing.

I don't get five steps before Brady comes running around the curve of the corridor, initially unable to see me due to the elevator alcove and a few convenient potted plants. He can, however, see Ryosuke just fine.

Brady is, I presume, fairly handsome. I mean, he's tall and slim, with a goatee and long hair tied back in a ponytail. He's wearing a bathrobe of all things and looks like he just woke up. I have a bad feeling I know why.

"Ryosuke!" he bellows, looking highly agitated. Hell, I would be, if I was running around the tower dressed in just a bathrobe. "What are you doing!?!" Funny... I just asked virtually that same question.

Before Ryosuke can answer, Brady has him by the arm and is pulling back the way he came. "Come on, I've got to get you inside before someone sees you like that." Too late.

Raising the taser, feeling quite angry, and acting braver than I probably should, I step out from behind the plants. For some reason I keep expecting theme music, flying doves, and things to be moving in bullet time. I've been watching to much tv.

"Mr. Brady, Ryosuke is property of Mandarin Apartments, I doubt he supposed to be going where ever you are wanting to take him."

"Sarah!" Brady says my name in a tone that is a blend of fear and excitement. "What are you doing here?"

"I work here Mr. Brady. So does Ryosuke."

Brady drops Ryosuke's arm like it might be something that's catching and whips his hands behind his back. I raise the taser slightly. I don't know if it will do any good, but it makes me feel better.

"Look, Sarah. This isn't what you think."

"Yes it is. And it's Miss Ferrari."

"Sar--Miss Ferrari, let me explain." Brady takes a step forward.

I shoot him.

I'm surprised how easy it is. Just a little pressure on the taser trigger. There is a soft "thunt" noise and then a crack as the darts discharge. Brady sort of jitters around in a short circle and lunges for me. I work the arming lever and fire again, hitting him dead in the chest. Brady makes a strange "woo" noise and then collapses like a dropped dishrag. He hits the ground much like a dropped dishrag as well.

A few moments later I am able to get my breathing back under control. The pistol still sits in my pocket, unused and totally forgotten about. I carefully put the taser in my other pocket, and back away from Brady's body. I guess... I hope he is still breathing. Australian citizenship or not, I'm a replicant, and replicants normally don't go around shooting people... unless told to. I have no desire to experience what passes for the Hong Kong judicial system.

When I finally recover my composure, I discover Ryosuke still standing there, and still looking confused. I can't blame him. I know that shooting Brady was the wrong reaction. I know, in retrospect, that I shouldn't have done it. But it felt so good. Anyway, I'll worry about that later, right now I need to take care of a more pressing problem.

"Ryosuke! I want you to return to your quarters, get cleaned up, get dressed and take the rest of the day off. Understood?"

"Yes, Miss Ferrari."

Once Ryosuke has left, I sit down on a nearby bench and get out my cellphone. With some trepidation I call the police. The actually call is fairly simple. I report theft, destruction of property, probably sexual violation, and attempted assault. Then I sit down and wait.

It takes the police about fifteen minutes to arrives. In the meantime I've suffered a great case of the shakes, and have managed to call up one of the cyberdroids to keep Brady restrained. What follows is an experience that I hope to never repeat for long as my artificial lifespan lasts.

It ends with Brady taken away, probably to spend time in the local lockup. I get questioned, and requisitioned, and all my permits, licenses, and visa aside, I almost get arrested on the spot for being a "rogue" synthetic human. I'm lucky, in Japan, I'd probably would have been shot on sight. For once, fortune smiles on me. One of the officers has been here before, and knows who I am. This also means he is more inclined to listen to me than Brady, who apparently wants to sue me and Mandarin Apartments for everything we've got. Since I don't have much, I ignore him.

When all is said and done, they end up hauling Brady off. Good riddance. They search his apartment while questioning both of us, and discover some recreational chemicals that are illegal even in Hong Kong. Things don't look good for Brady. I could care less.

My days ends almost the way it began, with me naked in the tub. It's a bath this time, not a shower, and I run the whirlpool function as an extra bonus. I end up soaking for what seems like forever, as I can't bring myself to get out. I'm weary of the world and tired of idiots. You would be too, in my job. The best part is that tomorrow, I get to do it all over again.

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