After getting everything settled, I collapsed on the couch, feeling completely exhausted. It was passed dinner time now and the beach was closed, as was the café. Most of the boys were either helping clean up the messes created or were passed out themselves. That was when my eyes passed by Ryan, who was patiently waiting in a corner without saying anything.
I realized that through all of this mess, I had completely forgotten about our conversation in the freezer. I remembered right then that I had made a promise with him. We were supposed to go meet this Mia person. I had ended up leaving him hanging. If it was anyone else, I might have been fine blowing them off, but Ryan was strangely different. I remember him once saying that he was used to people saying one thing and doing another.
I didn’t want to be that kind of person for Ryan. Many people, like Samantha, exploited his do-anything nature. He was a robot programmed to serve, and girls at school would often force him to do their bidding. The more I got to know the true Ryan, the more these kinds of things bothered me. Even though Ryan claimed it didn’t matter and showed no emotion himself, I knew he had to care a bit.
“Stephan, do you mind watching the guys while I go out for a bit?” I asked as he walked by me, carrying a shovel so that he could clear the various holes in the sand made by the other boys during their fight.
“Why? What’s up?”
“I just promised Ryan we’d meet up with an old friend of his. We’ll be right back.”
Ryan turned to look at me, his first movement in a while, and he seemed genuinely surprised, “You still want to go?”
“Of course,” I said, “I’d love to meet someone else like you. Plus, I think you should see her while you have the chance.”
Allan broke in while he was putting the chairs in the store up on the tables, “There is a female robot as well? Nearby? Would it be okay if I accompany you as well? I would be interested in learning more about these robots.”
I gave a nod before turning back to Stephan, “Is that okay with you?”
Stephan chuckled, “That’s fine. There won’t be anything interesting happening here tonight. Plus, I trust Ryan and Allan to keep you safe. Just… be safe, okay Jane?”
“What are you talking about? I’m always safe.” I scoffed.
It would be nice if Stephan didn’t give me that look of disbelief. He made me promise him I’d be careful before he allowed me to go. I grabbed the two boys and made my way out the door. Ryan took the lead, using whatever GPS he claimed he had in his head, and the pair of us followed closely behind. He insisted she was within walking distance and I had to take him at his word. However, when blocks turned into miles, I began to wonder exactly how long a walking distance was for a robot. If we went for much longer, I’d get a blister on my foot and then I wouldn’t be able to wear sandals for the rest of the trip!
Allan didn’t seem to complain about the distance though, so I didn’t feel like I could say anything. Then again, Allan was an alien, so I’m sure his idea of distance could be a little skewed as well. My feet were starting to ache and the walking had already been going on for at least an hour. I decided that exploitation be damned, I was going to make Ryan rub my feet when we finally got back.
As we continued on, another worry set in my mind. We weren’t traveling into what looking like a friendly neighborhood. If anything, we looked to be leaving the city and entering an industrial complex area. There were large buildings, piles of dirt and scrap, parking lots, and various dark alleys. Thick smells of melted metal and chemicals permeated the air. It was not a pleasant location, and if the boys weren’t with me, I definitely would have been afraid.
We continued walking for another fifteen minutes, and I was about ready to give up when Ryan suddenly stopped short in front of a large fenced entrance with a sign above it. I glanced up at the sign and blinked a few times. It was a garbage dump. Why was Mia at a garbage dump? For a moment, I wondered if Ryan’s GPS was haywire.
I glanced over at Allan. He gave a shrug and began following Ryan who was already walking in. He traveled across three aisles before he finally stopped at one. I frowned, giving him a questioning look. Ryan met my gaze with his usual impassive one.
I glanced around, but all I could see was scrap metal and junk. This certainly didn’t look like the place where I’d expect to see a robot just standing around. Ryan walked forward, pulling off pieces of trash and tossing them to the side. Several of them were far larger than something I could ever hope to be able to pick up. Sometimes, I forgot how strong Ryan could be since he had such a small form.
When he pulled off that last large piece of sheet metal, a leg was exposed. I fought the urge to scream. It was a little easier after having seen Stephan torn to pieces so many times. It still was unnerving to see a body part sticking out of the garbage. Ryan continued to pull pieces of metal off the pile until a girl was completely revealed.
She had a very small form much like Ryan’s body. She was clothed, but the pants and shirt were terribly ripped and stained in dark colors. Large chunks of her skin were ripped off, revealing the metallic parts underneath. She had brown short cropped hair, and might have been cute in a childish kind of way. Seeing her unconscious and tattered in the trash like that was very heartbreaking.
“Oh, Ryan…” I put my hand over my mouth. “I’m so sorry.”
Ryan had come to see his friend, and here she was in this state. Is this the kind of state Ryan could end up in if he didn’t keep up all that maintenance he kept telling me about? How did he feel about seeing her like this? Did it hurt him? I moved forward, giving him a sympathetic hug. He looked at me with a questioning look in his eyes. Did he not feel for the sight in front of him?
“Does she… just need to be powered up?” I asked nervously.
Ryan leaned down and reached into his ear, pulling out a long cord. I realized that these were the headphones that I had seen on him before. I hadn’t realized they were attached in that way. He reached and ripped off the girl’s shirt and I involuntarily gasped. Then he ripped off a chunk of her skin and I cringed. This was not easy to watch. Couldn’t he be a bit more tactful?
Ryan plugged into her and then stared blankly for a few moments. Then his eyes blinked and he looked over at Allan and me. Allan watched with curiosity, unaffected by the whole scene. I wish I had brought Andrew or Rune along. Andrew would have been bound to make comments about how impolite Ryan was being. Rune would make a snide comment about how gross it was. Well, at least someone would say something to liven up the morbid scene.
“It would seem that her systems shut down some three months ago. Hardware damage from an impact. I’m scanning her memory. I-” Ryan stopped, his eyes going wide for a moment.
“What?” I demanded, “What is it?”
“It appears that she visited our mistress. I think… yes, she has the location of our mistress in her databanks.”
“She does?” I asked.
Ryan seemed to be excited for a second, his eyes almost glowing in the darkness, “Yes! It appears that Mistress is currently located in Italy.”
“Italy?” I asked. Ryan nodded, unplugging the cord from her.
A quick tug and the cord rolled back into his head. It was a weird sight to be sure.
“What about Mia?” I asked.
Ryan answered, “There is nothing I can do. Maybe we can take her to mistress and she can repair her.”
Allan interrupted, “Actually, I’d like to have a crack at her if you don’t mind.”
The pair of us turned to him.
Allan coughed and readjusted his glasses, “I mean that I think I’ve seen enough of your anatomy that I can repair her. It would be an interesting learning opportunity. In the meantime, maybe you can contact your mistress and get her schematics.”
Ryan lowered his head, “That is not mistress’ orders. She ordered me to stay and wait for her. It is nice to know where she is, but-“
“Ryan!” I exclaimed in shock, “No, you’ve been waiting two years to find your mistress. You should go see her immediately.”
Ryan shrugged, “Unless you have a way of getting to Italy, there is no way for me to reach her.”
I looked down at my watch and then back at Ryan. “Actually, there might just be a way. Allan, it looks like we’re going to take a little trip. You mind letting the guys know?”
Allan nodded, leaning over and picking up Mia over his shoulder. He looked pretty strong and muscular himself right now.
“Um… you might want to be careful heading back.”
Allan raised an eyebrow, “What do you mean?”
“It’s just… a strange guy wearing sunglasses at night with an unconscious woman in torn clothing on his shoulder doesn’t look all that great.”
Allan blushed, but gave me a nod. I turned back to Ryan, who stood as if he was waiting for something.
“Are you ready to meet your mistress?” I asked.
Ryan nodded, “That would be wonderful.”
Ryan’s expression didn’t appear as excited as I thought it would be. In fact, there seemed to be a hint of regret in his eyes. I frowned, but didn’t say anything more. I needed to meet this woman for myself. Who the heck was she? Why did she leave Ryan two years ago? Those questions burned to be answered.
I pulled out my phone and dialed, “Hey Victor? On second thought, I’d like to take you up on your offer to go to Italy. And… you might want to send a car to pick us up.”
It looked like I was going to be at it again, but I just had to know who this mistress was.