Frank glanced at his monitor and pulled over into the exit lane near B24. “The thing you’ve got to remember, Barry, is that it’s just a job. Don’t let it get to you.”
Barry swiveled around in his seat and stole another long look at the Kim. She was unnerving, even with her eyes closed and her face in slack repose. “Yeah, okay,” he mumbled absently.
“I’ve been in transport for 3 years now. We’ve lost five guys since I’ve started. They just get too caught up in the merchandise. The guy you replaced took off with Andrea – the police are still looking for him.”
They were on the exit ramp now. The concrete landscape was turning to lush green as they approached the high-security suburb of Falling Brook. Frank grabbed his infocard off the dashboard and pulled up to the check-in gate.
“Can you reach back and turn her on for me? We don’t want to have to be carrying her anywhere – she’s not a lightweight.”
Barry suddenly felt put on the spot. “Um… how do I turn her on?”
“Fuck! Didn’t they give you any training at all?” Frank looked incredulous as he opened the driver’s side window. He shook his head in disgust. “Just reach around to the back of her neck..under the hair. There’s a little bump that feels like loose skin, just push it hard.”
Barry scrambled into the back seat and sat beside Kim. He didn’t feel all that good about putting his hands on her neck; she looked so damn real. It seemed as unnatural and intrusive as touching a woman sleeping on the bus.
Frank passed his infocard to a security guard who’d walked up to the vehicle. “Oh for fuck’s sake, kid! Just jam your finger in there and turn her on! We’re late already.”
Barry’s gut clenched, but he did as he was told. Gingerly he slipped his hand under the long auburn hair at the back of her neck and poked around. The skin felt so real it freaked him, but he found the spot without any trouble. Suddenly he had visions of flipping the switch and having her turn on him like some crazed killer cyborg. Jesus fucking Christ he thought, getting tough with himself. He angled his finger forward and jabbed into the slack skin. He fully expected her to turn around and slap him. There was a distinct, discrete electronic click and then… nothing.
“Frank…ah…I don’t think she’s working,” called Barry.
Frank sighed heavily, thanked the guard and pocketed his id. He looked back into the backseat. “Oh, she’s working alright. Her systems take a while to boot up.”
Kim’s head moved suddenly and with languorous grace towards Barry’s, her eyelids slid open as if she were waking from a delicious dream.
“Well, hello there.” The voice was warm and mellow, seductive but not overly so.
“Holy shit,” muttered Barry, sliding away from her by a couple of inches.
In the front, Frank chuckled and pulled onto a stately tree-lined boulevard. “Don’t let her get to you, kid. She’s just merch – remember that.”
Kim ignored the comment and Barry wasn’t really listening. Like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, he couldn’t look away from the thing sitting next to him.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you. What’s your name?”
“He’s not a client,” hollered Frank, who was busy looking at the numbers on the gateposts, driving slowly. “Okay, here we are. Number 83.”
“I apologize, my mistake,” said Kim. She turned her face away from Barry and it went slack, in profile. Barry felt like someone had turned off the sun.
“Okay, kid. Come up front. This is a 24 hire so I hope you were paying attention to the address. You’ll be picking her up tomorrow.”
Barry took another long look at Kim and climbed back into the front passenger seat. “Damn, she’s freaky.”
They drove around a circular drive and pulled up in front of an outrageously huge house. The doors were glass and over ten feet tall. A fifty-something, short, plump man walked out onto the portico.
Frank turned off the engine and got out. “Mr. Briggs?” he asked, walking around to meet the man. Barry opened his door and climbed out, feeling useless, waiting to be told what to do.
“That’s me,” said the roly-poly man. “Did the office tell you it was for 24 hours? I had to re-book to get that block of time and I’d be mighty disappointed if they’d screwed up on me.”
Frank rechecked his delivery terminal. “Nope. Everything’s in order Mr. Briggs. 24 hour hire. Have you ever had one of our girls before?”
“No…Never. But I’ve heard a lot about them.”
“Okay. Well, Barry, why don’t you help Kim out of the transport,” Frank said, looking over at Barry. He turned back to Mr. Briggs. “And I’ll run through the details with you.”
Barry put the breaks on a lewd daydream about Kim and pushed opened the rear sliding door. She was still sitting there, where he’d left her, staring mutely ahead. “Ah… Kim?”
Frank reeled off the rental conditions to Mr. Briggs. “… no burns, no cuts, no bite-marks please or you forfeit your damage deposit. She’s fully charged so there shouldn’t be any power problems. And if she’s returned to us in a soiled condition, there are surcharges…”
In the transport, Kim turned her head to face Barry and smiled again. “Is it time?”
Barry was sure it was his imagination, but he thought she looked a little sad. “Yup, it’s time.” He held out his hand to her to help her down from the transporter. She reached out and took it so gracefully and, fuck, her touch was so warm. She let him lend her a little balance as she stepped down from the running plate. “Thank you so much.”
Barry couldn’t help himself; he blushed and stammered, “Oh…no…No problem.”
In a million years, Barry would never get a girl like this. Well, there weren’t any girls like this – not real ones. And in his wildest dreams, he could never afford her. When he’d interviewed for the delivery job, they’d told him the girls were valued at somewhere in the region of $80,000 per model.
“So, is everything clear Mr. Briggs? Any questions?” Frank was wrapping up the handover spiel.
“No…no, I don’t think so.” The plump little man was no longer paying any attention to Frank. He keyed in his credit number on the delivery terminal without even looking. Kim took up his entire attention as she walked towards him, her hips rolling, her arms swaying, her head held at an endearing angle.
“Well, I guess that’s everything then,” said Frank. “Kim? This is Mr. Briggs. Mr. Briggs, this is Kim, our very best model. If you have any difficulties give our customer service hotline a call.”
Kim smiled brightly and held out a slender arm, hand extended. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Briggs.”
The guy beamed and looked questioningly at Frank. Frank nodded sagely, like a father giving away his daughter at her wedding. Mr. Briggs took Kim’s hand in both of his.
“Oh, it’s a pleasure to meet you too, Kim,” the little man squeaked.
Instantly, Barry felt a surge of hatred for the fat, rich little bastard holding onto Kim’s hand. It wasn’t fair that assholes like that could get girls like Kim. It wasn’t fair at all. Frank signaled to Barry to get back in the transporter, and walked around to the driver’s side himself. When they were settled in the car and moving down the driveway, Barry sighed heavily.
Frank grinned and slapped Barry on the shoulder. “Don’t worry kid. You get an hour’s credit for every year of employment with the company. Me? I’m saving up for the four-hour afternoon delight with the Sandra model. She’s a blonde.”