“Romy!” Alicia came running.
“Hi Alicia.” Romy replied with a smile.
Which caused Alicia to skid to a halt. “You can talk.” A closer examination. “And you have dog-ears, and a tail.” Another pause. “And the implant doesn’t say you are Property.”
“I’m not, at the moment. Me and my owner decided it wasn’t working the way we’d hoped.”
“Then why are you still a dog? And why the ears, and tail?”
“Because I like being a dog. And I’m hoping I can talk someone else into being my owner, and I think they’ll like the ears and tail.”
“Oh. Do you think they’ll let me play with you?”
“I would expect so. In fact, I think I might be required to.”
“Really?” She looked up at her parents, who had caught up. “Who are you going to ask to be your owner?”
“I’m going to ask you, Alicia.” She paused. “Can I be your Property? Your puppy-girl?”
Alicia’s face lit up. “Really? You want to be my Property? Can you do that?”
“We can, with your parent’s permission. I’ve already asked them, and they said it would be ok, if you said so.”
“Really dad? Mom? You’ll let me be her owner?”
Elliot bent down. “Yes, Alicia, really. But we are going to make you care for her: She can’t get food on her own, or water. And she’ll need to take baths if she gets all sweaty and dirty. As her owner, that would be your job.”
“It’s true. I’ll be work, I can do some things, but I can’t do everything. My old owner had modiﬁed his house so that I could do most of that myself, but that would be your responsibility, Alicia. I’ll remind you, of course.”
“But you’d have to do everything I say.”
“Mostly, yes. Though you’re not an adult, so I’d have some choice, and I’d have to listen to your parents too. And if I can’t do something, I can’t, no matter what you order.”
She pondered this a moment. “Where would you sleep?”
“Where would you like me to sleep? I’m comfortable just about anywhere, and it’s up to you.”
“Could you sleep in my room?”
“Sure. Though you might have to ask for your parents permission.”
Elliot looked at Candace, who didn’t say anything. “I don’t see why not. But you haven’t said yes to Romy yet.”
Alicia swiveled back to Romy, then stopped herself. “Will you have to go back to talking like a dog?”
Romy laughed. “That would be up to my owner. My previous owner liked it.” She got pretend-serious for a moment. “Though I’m putting in the contract that I have to be able to talk sometimes. No ordering me to just bark like a dog and never talk like a human at all.”
Elliot looked up at Talib, who had walked Romy up. Talib nodded.
“Wouldn’t you have to do what I say?”
“Only after we agree what types of orders you can give me. I’m oﬀering to be your puppy-girl, but I have to be able to talk, at least somewhat. Me and your parents agreed on a few other things, nothing major. But I would be your dog: I obey you ﬁrst.”
“The ears and tail were part of that?”
“They were. As were a few other things.” She sat back, so Alicia could see her featureless breasts.
“That looks weird.”
“It does, a bit. And I know you saw me before. When you’re older, we can explain why. Right now, let’s just say that a dog may be naked, but she shouldn’t look naked if you are her owner.”
“And this?” She pointed to the wolf’s-head tattoo on Romy’s shoulder.
“That’s something I came up with. It means I can protect you, if you need me to. Dogs are supposed to protect their owners, after all.” Very serious. “If you need me to protect you, don’t hesitate. But that’s not for play, ok? Only if you really need it, understand?”
“Yes, I think so.” She pondered a moment further. “It says something weird in the implant about you too.”
“It’s just saying the same thing as this tattoo. It’s a warning, saying that I can protect you, and that people should stay away if they want to cause us harm. The tattoo will glow in the dark too, so people can see it at night.”
“That sounds dangerous.” Elliot spoke up.
Romy looked over at him, and shrugged. “Only if someone puts one of us in danger. Without it, I’d be likely to cause her to get into danger, because I wouldn’t be able to defend myself. Talib and I looked over a few options, but this one was the least intrusive, and still gave me some chance if I needed it. It’s not part of the contract — no cost, it’s just something I have. It doesn’t aﬀect me being a dog in any way, but it does make me a better protector.”
“So you’d be my dog and my protector.”
“A dog is a friend, helper, and protector. I’d be all of that, if you’ll take me. The contract says I’m to be your companion and protector, in the role of a puppy girl. You should probably read it, if you want me to be your Property.”
“May I?” Alicia looked up at the adults surrounding her.
“Sure.” Talib produced a reader, and handed it to her. “You’ll notice your parents and Romy have already signed it. If you want to make any changes, they’ll all have to agree ﬁrst.”
Alicia studied it seriously. “It’s got a lot of big words.”
“It does. I don’t even really know all of them — it’s written for lawyers, not regular people. That happens in contracts. You can ask us what it means, and we’ll do our best.”
“It says that the contract ends in one year?”
“One year, renewing. That means that at the end of one year they’ll contact me and ask me if I still want to be your Property. All Sentient Property contracts have to have end-dates, where the Property can chose to not be Property anymore. One year is actually the longest term allowed.”
“And after one year, if you say yes you’re my Property forever?”
Romy smiled. “No. If I say yes, they’ll ask me again the next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, for as long as I keep saying yes.” She looked Alicia in the eyes. “I don’t expect to say ‘no’ any time soon, and I’ll tell you ﬁrst if I do. But they have to ask.”
“So, what do I do if I agree?”
Talib spoke up, to give this some authority. “There’s a circle in the bottom right. Put your thumb in it, and think into the implant that you accept this contract. I’ve set it to automatically ﬁle.”
Alicia followed instructions, then looked up at Romy. “Hey, the implant says you’re Property again.”
“Yep. I’m your Property now.” She paused, then asked a question in her best begging tone. “So, do I have to go back to talking like a dog, or can I talk like this?”
Alicia laughed, and put on her sternest face. “I’ll think about it. For now, you can talk like a human. But only when someone’s talking to you, ok?”
“Of course, no problem Owner.” Romy smiled back.
“Here, Alicia, I’ll take my reader back and make sure this is all completely ﬁled. You’ll be able to look up the contract at any time through the net. And you can have Romy’s leash.”
“No problem. It’s been a pleasure meeting both you and Romy. If you ever need any other mods or training for Romy, or any help on how to deal with owning Property, feel free to call me. I’ll give you a discount.”
“Thank you! Come on Romy, let’s go play fetch.” And Alicia took oﬀ with her pet close behind.