After receiving an obscene down payment of lons to begin his search for the elusive Naria, Dirk takes his ship to Doran—considered an insignificant planet by many—to pick up some regulars for the hunt and then some.
From Chapter 9 of Where Pirates Go to Die:
Bars and scorpions littered the dusty streets of New Arizona. Dirk passed the General Store without a peek through the grit-laden windows. New Arizona was a well-worn city, although no one would admit to ever being there. It did not have the glitz or glamor of Galaxis. No fancy boutiques lined its unpaved avenues. People traveled there to get away from the prying eyes of the Patrolbots and savor more unsavory delights.
A battered wooden sign swung over Dirk’s head. Reading, “Fox and Hound,” he entered. An older woman greeted him from behind a desk in a cozy, sterile lobby. “May I help you?” she asked with a smile.
“I have an appointment with two-two-three,” Dirk said.
The woman pressed a button. A young teenage boy entered through a door behind her. After she whispered in his ear, he nodded.
“Follow me,” the boy said. They climbed a narrow staircase. A few men and a couple of women exited rooms off a long hallway.
The boy unlocked a door with a metal key. Opening the door, the boy recited his spiel. “We’re a clean facility, so please use the cleansing station. Anti-transfer spray is provided. Your Eroi will be right with you. Tips are always welcome. Pay at the front desk when you leave.” He closed the door behind Dirk.
In the center of the room, he waited. Dirk would not sit on any of the chairs and consciously avoided the bed.
A man entered through a door on the opposite end of the room, wearing nothing more than a sock below his rippling abs. “Oh, it’s you,” he said.
“Don’t sound so disappointed, Drake,” said Dirk.
“I was hoping you’d be a real customer,” Drake said, flopping on the bed.
Dirk dropped a bag of spare parts on the table. “I’ll make this quick. What do you know about a pirate named Naria?”
Raising his eyebrows, Drake said, “Take your scraps and go.”
“You’re loyal to her? What is she, one of your regulars?”
“It’s not like that,” Drake said. “You saved my life, Dirk. My loyalty lies with you. I just don’t have anything to tell you about her.”
“What about her crew? Pistol? Gorm? Wretch? Bob?”
Sighing, Drake propped himself on his elbow. “I may have seen Pistol browsing the Flower Bazaar on Daisy not too long ago. Bought untraceable explosives. She said that she was experimenting, but she bought much more than for experiments.”
Perhaps to break someone out of a highly secure prison, Dirk thought.
“You want info about Naria, go see my former employer.”
Drake nodded. “Be prepared to pay gobs of lons. Don’t mention me. That’s if you can find him.”
“Thanks.” Dirk left the bag on the table as he walked out.
When he reached the bottom of the stairs, a woman wearing a satin corset under a see-through robe stood in a doorway. “A word,” she said.
He entered her boudoir without question.
“Sit,” she ordered.
Carefully, he sat on a red, poufy chair.
Lounging on a chaise, she took a long drag from a pipe. “I let you come and go as you please, Dirk,” she stated. “Drake, who you found for me, is an excellent employee. He brings in the lons. Women love him and some men. For years, I have tolerated your fact-finding missions in my establishment. It’s time I cashed in the favor you owe me.”
Dirk waited for her to continue while she puffed on her pipe.
“Being an Eroi is not for everyone,” she lectured. “That’s why the oldest profession is overrun with androids. There is still something to be said for the human connection. That is why people seek us. Anyway, I need you to take a girl off my hands.”
“A girl, Madam?”
“Take her anywhere she wants to go, within reason.”
“It’s not a good time. I'm hunting a dangerous criminal.”
She laughed. “You’re always chasing someone or something.”
“Who is going to look after this girl?” Dirk asked.
“She can look after herself.” Getting up, she pressed a button near the door.
A figure of a woman entered the room. Dirk noticed her large travel bag.
“Selina,” said Madam, “this is the man I mentioned, Dirk.”
Dirk’s eyes traveled up from her boots, over her clothes, which could never hide a weapon, to her face. Selina was barely a woman.
“You’re welcome back here anytime,” Madam told Selina.
Selina half smiled. “Thanks.”
Madam made a weak attempt to hug her, but did not.
“Good-bye,” Selina said, then walked out the other door with her bag.
“Take good care of her,” Madam said to Dirk.
Selina and her bag waited in the lobby. She followed Dirk onto the dusty streets.
“I don’t run a shuttle service,” Dirk told her.
“I know what you do,” Selina replied.
He led her into one of the bars. “Madam told you?”
“She told me enough,” she said. They sat at a table in the back corner of the room. “I am not a child.”
“Never said you were.”
A waitress brought drinks while Dirk studied the room. No one batted an eyelash at Dirk sitting with such a young woman. That was what he liked about Doran. People minded their own business. When Cheat entered, he immediately walked to their usual table.
Sitting with them, Cheat stared at Selina.
“Cheat is my First Mate and pilot,” he said. “Selina will be joining us.”
“We got everything we needed,” Cheat mentioned without taking his eyes off of her.
Dirk caught a glimpse of Selina’s plump lips caressing the rim of her glass. As she downed her drink, he knew that bringing her aboard his ship was a bad idea. Hoping that he would be dropping her off at the next stop, he said, “Let’s get off this poorly terraformed rock.”