Hailey didn’t know how long they were in the air. She was too busy enjoying the food and drinks the limo had stocked in its little bar. She still felt like she was in deep shit. After all, the good guys didn’t kidnap you, enter you in a blowjob contest to the death with a bunch of other PHA Rats, and then take the winners on a fancy limo ride. However, it was being a PHA Rat that let her adapt to the situation. She’d nearly died half a dozen times in her eighteen years. To her, this was just another close call. That would be true of all of them until it wasn’t, and then she’d be dead and wouldn’t care. Right now, she decided to see the glass as being half full…and it was full of expensive hooch.
Her vision swam a little bit as she laughed at something one of the other women said. No one had wanted to talk at first, but the social lubrication of a few drinks helped everyone to open up. Hailey was the only one from PHA-Two, and no one seemed to know each other, so no one knew anyone’s reputations, or if they even had a reputation. The other girls might have been spewing bullshit, but Hailey was sure it didn’t matter. If the boss lady wasn’t lying, which was still a real possibility, then they’d left that life behind the second they boarded the air-limo.
Despite her inebriation, she felt the air-limo start to slow and descend. The boss lady, who’d been silently watching them for the trip’s duration, finally spoke. “Put everything away and prepare yourselves.”
<Prepare yourselves,> Hailey mocked the woman in her mind, but still did as instructed. She was rebellious, not a moron.
A few minutes later, the air-limo settled to a stop and someone on the outside opened the door. Since the windows were tinted, it was the first look Hailey got of her new surroundings. The first thing that hit her was the fresh air. She was instinctually putting her mask on her face, but one breath of the crisp oxygen told her she didn’t need it. That was the first indication that the boss lady was telling the truth.
The second indication was when she stepped out of the air-limo and looked around. The ground was flat and extended as far as the eye could see. Off to her left she could see a big city, and its surrounding PHA’s highlighted against the horizon, but there was a solid stretch of emptiness between that and their current location.
<This isn’t even the burbs. We’re beyond the burbs.> Hailey could see the little housing developments where the upper-middle class lived outside the larger cities, and there had to be ten kilometers between her and them.
“This way.” The boss lady grabbed Hailey by the shoulder, spun her around, and gave her a push.
Hailey was so entranced by what she saw in the distance that she didn’t bother to look around her. When she did, what she saw made her jaw drop. It was a campus, like the ones she saw of colleges and universities on the holo. There were a dozen or so multi-story buildings situated around a large, central green quad.
<Holy shit! Trees!> Hailey had never seen a tree before, except in a photo, and she jogged over to touch it. It felt a lot rougher than she imagined, but she marveled in the shade it threw over her to protect her from the sun. Wherever she was, it was hotter than Buffalo.
She heard laughter nearby, and turned to face the sound with a snarl on her face. A group of three girls was about twenty meters away. They were sitting on benches, with books on their knees, pointing, and laughing at her. Hailey’s hands curled into fists, and she took one step in their direction.
“No.” The boss lady’s hand grasped her shoulder like a vice, which elicited a squeal from Hailey. The three bitches weren’t laughing anymore either. One look from boss lady shut them up.
The stronger woman turned Hailey around and marched her toward their destination. The building was at the center on one side of the campus. Hailey didn’t know shit about architecture, but it looked nice. It had an old feeling to it, like it had been around for a while, but she could tell there was tons of modern stuff about it. The first being the automated turret’s armored hatch near the front door. To others, it might just look like a decorative, rounded piece of metal, but Hailey had grown up in the PHA. The Civil Administration buildings had similar defenses.
It didn’t activate and hose her down with bullets when she passed, which allowed her to breathe a little easier; until she got inside. A wave of lights swept over her as she entered, and a burly man in a uniform behind a monitor, protected by some thick ballistic polyplast, gave a nod to the boss lady. Once through the security check, two more guards, one man and one woman, fell in with the boss lady and her five charges.
The skin on the back of Hailey’s neck crawled as their escorts took up positions at the front and the back of the group. She felt trapped. The woman looked like she’d be the easiest to take if Hailey needed to make a break for it, but as she looked over her shoulder, she saw the woman looking directly at her. Hailey gulped and returned her eyes to the front. She wasn’t going anywhere.
She was so preoccupied that she didn’t see the stylish, classy, and expensive furniture, art, and decorations that lined their path to the office on the top floor. The two guards broke off to take positions on either side of the door as the boss lady led the way in. The doors silently slid closed behind them.
Now, Hailey couldn’t help but notice the expensive stuff in the office. If she could get passed the guards and defensive turrets without getting turned into human hamburger, she’d be set for life if she could find a buyer for only a few of these things.
<She just leaves them casually lying around for everyone to see.> Hailey could tell that she was in a powerful presence just by that alone.
The ‘she’ in question sat at a large desk at the center of the room. When the group entered, she gave a swipe of the PAD she was reading and the wall behind her, which previously looked like a window overlooking the quad, disappeared.
“Welcome,” the woman hopped down from the high-backed chair and approached the group.
As she approached, Hailey wondered if this was a joke to fuck with her head. The boss lady who’d brought her here was big, tough, and had an air of authority that radiated from that. However, once she stepped in this office, it was clear this other woman was the real boss.
<She can’t be more than a meter and a half.> At that height, Hailey towered over the slender woman.
They also looked like they could be sisters. Hailey was wondering how that was all possible until she saw the blue in the woman’s eyes. Those specks told Hailey everything she needed to know. Not even the big boss lady had blue in her eyes. Hailey immediately stopped looking at the new woman as small and weak, because she realized that was what the woman wanted her to think.
The big, former boss lady hustled the five younger women into a line for the new boss to look them over. Hailey immediately felt self-conscious. She was standing on a plush rug that looked like it cost tens of thousands of dollars, in a place that looked like it catered to high society, and being scrutinized by someone rich enough to afford longevity treatments.
<Am I supposed to be the sexy maid or something?> Hailey wondered what she could possibly do here as the new boss looked over every one of the women from top to bottom.
Hailey tried not to flinch when the woman stopped in front of her. The old and new boss shared a quick look before the new boss slowly circled her. The woman pinched the side of her hips, her ass, ran her hands through her hair, and even gave her tits a firm squeeze. Her face remained passive the entire time, and Hailey couldn’t tell what the woman was thinking when she finally took a step back to address all of the women.
“Welcome!” The new boss repeated and smiled. “My name is Madame Desroisiers, and I am the headmistress of Madame Putinski’s School for Gifted Youngsters. You five are its newest students.”
That caught Hailey by surprise. <School…I haven’t been to school since I punched out Betty Garland in ninth grade.> The concept of school was something she’d given up on years ago. <What is there for me to learn?>
“As Madame Sourd said when you first accepted the invitation to come here, we will feed you, clothe you, and train you in our chosen profession. You will have power and riches for the first time in your lives. I should know, I used to be just like you. I was picked up by Madame Putinski herself out of PHA-Eleven, Austin-Houston-San Antonio Metropolis.” The woman’s smile grew a little brighter at the memory. “After fifty years of hard work I run this academy where I train the next generation of employees for Putinski Family Holdings.”
“Employees?” Hailey couldn’t stop the word from escaping her lips.
“Yes,” Madame Desroisiers turned her smile on Hailey. “You will be educated, evaluated, and stationed as employees of Putinski Family Holdings. You will perform your assigned tasks, and if you do them well, you will be rewarded accordingly.”
“You mean fucking people for money.” Hailey didn’t want to beat around the bush, but she flinched a little when Madame Desroisiers’ gaze hardened.
“Among other things, we engage in the world’s oldest profession. There is no shame in that. You will not be some two-dollar whore working a street corner. That fate is delegated to those with lesser potential. You five have been chosen for greater things. You excelled in a trial every person at this academy was faced with. You all came out on top.”
<No pun intended.> Hailey kept the thought to herself, but something must have shown on her face.
“Madame Sourd told me you had spunk.” Madame Desroisiers took a step closer to Hailey. “Channel that and use it to your advantage. With it, customers will be putty in your hand.”
“What’s the point of all this?” Another girl finally spoke up. It was the one who’d got her guy off first. “All guys want is tits and ass. Flash a little skin and they’ll be putty in any of our hands.”
Madame Desroisiers acted like she was considering the thought as she approached the girl. “Do you think your tits and your ass are your greatest assets when dealing with customers?”
“Of course,” the girl answered without hesitation.
“Hmm…we’ll need to fix the way you think.” Madame Desroisiers ignored the shocked look on the younger woman’s face as she turned away. “Your greatest weapon is not your body but your mind.” She dug her pointer finger into her temple. “You are not going to be trained to be street walkers. You are going to be elite. You will wine and dine with the blue bloods of Commonwealth society. You will engage in dinner table conversation with titans of industry. You will dance with local, planetary, and galactic politicians. You will share drinks with Admirals. Each and every one of those men and women will expect you to be beyond reproach when it comes to the arts of the boudoir, but that is not why they want your company. They want someone they can have an intelligent conversation with. They want someone that can hold their attention. Madame Putinski wants you to be able to hold their attention because we like repeat business.”
Hailey couldn’t help be a little slack jawed at all of this. She knew she could perform in the bedroom, Coop never had any complaints, but everything else Madame Desroisiers was stating seemed a little outside her wheelhouse.
“Here at the academy, we will invest in your future. We will cultivate your body and mind, we will identify your particular skillsets, and we will perfect them. Once you graduate, you will be assigned to one of our many establishments throughout the Commonwealth, where you will be expected to pay back the debt of your education. Debt repayment plans will be worked out and spread over however many years you wish. We still want you to enjoy the perks of your employment, but we all work for a living, no matter our rank, if the price is right. Madame Putinski herself would suck the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth dry if he gave her a planet, but probably not for anything less.” The joke got a chuckle out of Madame Sourd, but Hailey didn’t get it. She had trouble understanding a lot of what was happening.
“You start classes tomorrow. Madame Sourd will escort you to your dormitories, you will meet your roommates, resident advisors, receive your schedule, and all the supplies you will require. You will have medical appointments throughout the week, and a series of evaluations to see where you currently stand educationally. Do not worry if you are behind, we have ways of catching you up.” Madame Desroisiers’ words made Hailey a little uneasy, but she didn’t have much of a choice.
<It’s still a step up in the world.> If she was being honest with herself, it wasn’t too different from what she’d been doing with Coop, but this time she got paid for it.
Hailey went to join the other women exiting the Headmistress’ office, but a surprisingly strong hand on her forearm stopped her. “Stay with me a moment, Miss Armstrong.” Madame Desroisiers’ smile bored into Hailey. “Madame Sourd informed me of your out-of-the-box thinking during your audition. I think I have a career track in mind that might intrigue you.”
“Uh…yes, Madame.” Hailey gulped as the door closed and left her alone with the headmistress.