Chapter 6:

VIP Treatment

The Underwriters

Hibiki finally knew what it meant to be wealthy and powerful. The lush hotel room that they reserved for her and her commander was impeccable. A mechanical maid greeted them at the entrance of their suite, visible arm and leg joints the only reminder of her inhumane status. Her orange whisps of curls bounced up and down as she bowed to her temporary mistresses.

“Welcome, my ladies. Please make yourself at home. I have already placed your luggage away and unpacked your belongings for you. The service menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner has been sent to your devices.”

The doll-like android bowed once more before finishing, “Please let me know if you need anything. I will come immediately if you ring the bell.”

Yui stepped aside and watched Hibiki explore the suite in wonder. Maya chirped “Look here! Look there!” as Hibiki gazed at the wall-sized holo screen, the separate office with top-of-the-line computer and video conferencing software, the full-scale kitchen, and individual bedrooms.

“You can take either room that you want. Both should be similar so just pick whichever view you prefer.”

“No. I can’t. I wouldn’t even be here without you. I can take whatever-” Before Hibiki could finish, her body was trapped against the door with an arm preventing her escape. A frown greeted her as she peered up at her commander.

“Was I the one who found the hidden room and the tracker?”


“Was I the one who overheard Mr. West’s maids discussing another secret tracker?”


“Did I happen to hear the hotel employees planning to lie to us? Or did I sing a lullaby to calm Seela’s friends enough to hear about that message?”

“Well, technically that was-”

The door to the suite trembled as Yui smacked it forcefully, stopping Hibiki’s words. Her silver eyes had darkened making the pupils harder to see. Yui’s entire body stiffened as she barked, “Answer me, Hibiki!”

“No. That was me. That was all me.”

“Exactly. I never want to hear you talk about yourself like that again. Understood?” Yui kept her focus on Hibiki until the girl nodded and mumbled out an affirmative reply. Softening up, she gently rubbed Hibiki’s cheek.


Settling into their bedrooms, the trio all regrouped in the office. The commander typed out a report and sent it out to Mr. West.

“Okay. We’ll be hunkering down here for the next day or so. Our next move is to wait for a ransom note to roll in. If Mr. West doesn’t receive one by tomorrow, then we’ll have to proceed to a backup plan.”

“Did you ever hear from that computer whiz about the tracker in Seela’s holoband?”

“Computer whiz? Oh, you mean Tomoe. She hasn’t gotten back yet, but she should be finished with her case soon enough. It might take a while to hack into that backend depending on the software Mr. West is using.”

Maya chirped causing Hibiki’s attention to drift down to the cage around her wrist. The little bird’s head tilted as if to say, “That’s it?” Hibiki was similarly confused and decided to ask, “So, we’re just gonna sit here and wait?”

With a sudden tug, Hibiki half fell into her commander’s lap before scrambling into her own seat. Yui tapped on the screen to minimize it before giving her adorable new recruit her undivided attention.

“I know this seems confusing, right? Don’t worry. We aren’t going to just wait for Seela to get hurt. We’ll take a break for the rest of today before heading back out to retrace Seela’s last steps.”

“Oh, so we’ll be going back near the bar and seeing if we can find anything or anyone who saw something right?”

Yui popped a small piece of chocolate into Hibiki’s mouth while praising her, “That’s right my little detective.”

“What’s this? It tastes amazing!”

“It’s chocolate. I promised you a reward earlier and I always keep my promises.”

Maya pecked at her cage angrily as if to ask for her share of the reward. Meanwhile, Hibiki closed her eyes and savored every single second of the chocolate.

“Thank you. I never thought I’d get the chance to have chocolate.” Hibiki smiled at her commander before hopping out of her chair. “I’m gonna go take a nap. Uh, thanks again. Yui.”

Turning away from the now empty door, Yui enlarged the picture she had just taken with her built-in eye lens. In poster-sized detail was a hard-earned smile that would quickly replace her old holo background.


Frantic rings, beeps, and clicks were the first thing that Hibiki noticed when she woke up. Maya squawked back while turning her body away from the sound in an attempt to fall back asleep. Hibiki sighed while pulling on her clothes. Tying Maya’s cage to her wrist, she heard an indignant chirp as Maya realized bedtime was officially over.

“Why the hell haven’t you done anything yet? If you’re the best, then my daughter would be home already! What am I paying you for?”

Hibiki tapped her ears quickly to lower the volume before Mr. West’s screams took away her hearing for the second time. Finally, she joined her fearless leader in the office. Hibiki tried her best to ignore Yui’s messy mane as she sat next to her and joined the call.

“Mr. West, I understand your frustration. However, I would like to make something very clear. You don’t pay us at all. Your insurance company does.” Yui lifted a sharp eyebrow before continuing, “And the more time you spend yelling at us is less time we can spend trying to find your daughter. Now, are you finished?”

Mr. West shut up, although his face seemed to turn redder than a sunburn as he held in his anger. He stepped away from the camera for several minutes. Yui seemed unconcerned as she took a sip of her coffee and passed Hibiki several sweet pastries to munch on.

Returning much calmer, Mr. West was finally composed enough to have a proper conversation. He began with apologies, “I am sorry for my behavior. However, I am very concerned since you have not updated me since yesterday afternoon.”

“I recall telling you in my message that we wanted to give the kidnapper some time to send you a ransom note. We plan on searching for more leads later today.”

“How would they even send me a ransom note? No strangers have my contact information.”

“But Seela does. And the kidnapper should have her holoband.” Hibiki piped up to defend her commander. Yui bumped against her shoulder while handing her another croissant.

“Hibiki is correct. We only found the tracker in our search yesterday. If the kidnapper reaches out to you, it will most likely be under Seela’s name.”

“Seela. My little girl. I told her not to go so far away! If she wanted to play on an island, I have plenty.”

“I know, Mr. West. We will do our best to return her to you safely. We’ll be in touch.” Exiting the call, Yui observed Hibiki as she fidgeted with Maya’s cage. Hibiki tapped on bar after bar while Maya chased after her fingers playfully.

Realizing that she was caught, Hibiki finally spoke up. “Why didn’t we tell Mr. West that there might not be a ransom note? Then he could tell us who might hate him enough to take his daughter.”

Yui propped one of her legs on top of the other and leaned her head in her hand. She explained, “And have him completely change his mind about saving his daughter? Listen, keep one important thing in mind Hibiki. Our client isn’t Mr. West. It’s the insurance company.”

“But doesn’t the insurance company want to keep Mr. West happy?”

“The insurance company wants to not have to pay out. A funeral and death cost a lot more than ransom. And a kidnapper who wants revenge won’t stop at just Mr. West’s daughter.” Stretching an arm and yawning, Yui continued, “That’s why it’s Mr. West’s company who bought the insurance policy. The shareholders are the real power and Mr. West is just a disposable figurehead.”

“I see. What makes you think Mr. West would cause problems if he knew the truth?”

“Well, there’s still a chance the kidnapper just hasn’t sent the note yet for one. No need to cause panic now and then the note shows up later.”

“And the other reason?” Hibiki’s holopad was open as she returned to her note-taking. She reminded Yui of a student preparing for a final exam.

“If the kidnapper is out for revenge, then that means Mr. West has some serious skeletons in the closet. Most people panic when they think those skeletons are about to fall out.”

Yui slid the rest of the pastries over to Hibiki’s side before getting up to go to the kitchen. Filling her mug up with more coffee, she rubbed one of the many scars shimmering on her arm.