art by Shothot Designs
by A. Merc Rustad
He walks into the brothel in a heavy black duster and a wide-brimmed hat and asks for Number 536289. I'm not allowed nervousness until ordered to show it, but I've seen it in instruction vids and wonder if it feels like this--a shivery, short of breath sensation with tightening in my abdomen as I step out of the waiting pod. The coolant in the air raises tiny bumps along my bare skin.
He doesn't show his face; he pays in international chips and buys all rights. The Madame gives him the full programming collar and assigns him Suite 12--the finest room in the brothel.
I wait in blank silence until he takes my wrist. His palm and fingers are cool and dry. He hasn't removed his other glove. We enter Suite 12, an empty room fully programmable for any desired situation. I've never been in a suite. Those who go in don't come out whole and are recycled immediately.
He locks the door, thumbs the info pad. I have the oddest wish to shut my eyes and pray. I don't know what a prayer is. This must also be a glitch in my system; I should not think or feel anything until collared and ordered.
Why am I malfunctioning? I've been out of the master pod for less than twenty-four hours, and he's my first patron. I should tell him there's a glitch so his experience isn't tainted, but I don't want to. I don't know why I don't want to, because I should.