<What's wrong Piro? >
Piro looked over at Erika and tried to smile but he just couldn't.
<She showed me the pictures and the letter this morning. >
Erika looked down then reached over to lay her hand on his shoulder. <I understand. >
Piro shook his head, <No, you can't understand. It's just…> Piro turned away from her. She stood still for a moment, then stepped closer. She leaned down to whisper in his ear. <I think I do. You've looked at things like that before, but you never really thought about the girls in the pictures or the video. What it must feel like. If it hurt them, if they cried later when they were alone. And now you have to think about that. Because you know Kimiko and you are able to see what it did to her. >
Piro slowly turned to face her, and looked into her eyes, <That's not all. All through college and for the last year or so I've gotten Largo out of one scrape after another. How could he have thought that about me, why would he drive off every girl that I liked? Why did he throw away the replies to my job applications? >
Erika shrugged; <He just never saw the things you did as being important. > She smiled then, <Face it, you weren't very ambitious or you'd have started following up on some of that. You let your low self esteem get in the way. >
Piro smiled wanly; <I guess so. I really should have been suspicious when absolutely no one replied to me. I should have called some of those girls and found out what happened rather than just thinking that they didn't like me. >
Erika hugged him quickly, <Well, if you'd done any of those things then you wouldn't have come here and we'd never have met. >
Piro finally smile a real smile, <That's true, but I trusted him. Now I feel like we were just Beavis and Butthead. Hanging out and getting in trouble. >
"Hello Piro, is this a bad time? I can come back later."
Startled, Piro jumped back from Erika. It was Dom! How had he managed to get right up to the counter? They'd never even heard him enter the store!
"Uh, hi Dom. " Piro shuffled uneasily as he remembered Ed's warning. "What brings you out? We haven't seen Largo for a while." Piro winced, why did he have to bring Largo up?
Dom smiled, "Actually I'm here to see Hayasaka-san. I'd like to offer her a job doing some things for Sega." He looked at Erika and smiled, "Nothing major to begin with, just a few ads, maybe some appearances. That sort of thing."
Erika stared at him coldly; "I can get work like that anytime I want it. Don't call me, I'll call you."
Dom blinked but continued to smile, "I don't think you realize what we can offer you."
Time seemed to slow to a crawl for Dom; he could suddenly see Piro's pupils dilating. He could smell his fear. He heard the soft pad of footsteps by the door and could feel the change in air pressure as someone began to move toward him. He ducked as he saw Piro's mouth start to open.
<PING! NO! >
Ashley had launched herself into the air intending to catch Dom's neck in a flying scissors. If she had succeeded then he would have died. As it was she sailed over his head and slid across the counter into Piro.
<Hi, I'm not Ping. I'm Ashley. I've wanted to meet you Piro-kun. >
Piro was crushed against the shelf behind the counter by her weight. He could only stare as she stepped back away from him. <Sorry Piro-kun. >
Piro's eyes widened when he saw Dom stand and almost casually draw his pistol. He blinked and missed it when Ashley turned and just as casually snatched it from his hands.
Everyone, even Ashley froze at Erika's command. She looked at the new robot girl and held out her hand. <Give it to me. >
Ashley slowly extended the arm holding Dom's pistol as Dom stared in disbelief. Erika took it and expertly checked its condition then laid it on the counter.
Ed walked in the front door like he owned the place; he shook his head and smiled. <Ashley, what happened? I thought that you told me that you could handle this for me. >
Ashley moved away form Piro and strutted toward Ed, "Piro-kun and Hayasaka-san were here. They must not be hurt."
Ed looked at her strangely, "How do you know them?"
Ashley smiled, "All of us know of Ping the very first time we awake in the vats. We know of her true love for Piro-kun. We know the kindness and acceptance of Hayasaka-san. We even know the tale of Largo the Traitor."
Ed looked at Ashley then with and expression of both awe and horror; he glanced back at Dom, "Another time, you heard her. They are not to be harmed."
Dom glared, "Agreed, another time."
Erika and Piro watched as Ed and Ashley walked out arm in arm as if they had been casually shopping. They looked at each other in amazement when they realized the Dom and his pistol seemed to have simply disappeared. Finally Piro spoke.
<What do you make of that? >
Erika shook her head; <I've said it before, you have some strange friends. >