One by one, they strolled back into the room, carrying food, settling into their seats.
“Emi… did you want something to eat?” Ruth offered.
Emi nodded, accepting a sandwich from a platter. Given all that she’d had to drink, she needed some solid food in her stomach. Something besides fear and worry about losing the deal or being forced to be a mailgirl.
Bandy looked like she couldn’t wait any longer. “Emi certainly you can get over your fear of real-world testing of a smartwatch app. You are a professional, are you not?”
Emi ignored her. With a mouth full of food, she couldn’t speak, regardless. Finally, she swallowed. “Just show me the contract. I want to know what I’m getting into,” Emi said, bits of food still in her mouth, deciding that trusting Brandy’s words was unlikely to serve her well.
Reluctantly, Brandy gathered the contract from Ruth’s printer and handed it to Emi.
“I need an hour with this. Please go enjoy yourselves again,” Emi said, sitting down at Ruth’s desk as if she owned the place.
Emi started taking notes. Essentially, this was the meat of the contract. Or the preliminary version, as she liked to think of it. There was no way in hell she was going to agree to all of this.
- After two months, starting around the new year, Emi must pass a two-week real-world mailgirl test, with full-time office hours. This is to set the bar high, to help daily journal efforts and the big launch. A perfect mailgirl performance is required. Any failure in this test will require a reset and the two weeks will begin again. Success of this test and Jake will invest a million into Su-Ning’s resort to help development and marketing of the app.
- Sarah is to enforce and train Emi to be a perfect mailgirl (for authentic testing).
- At the end of each day, Emi is to give both a developer progress update and a personal and candid account of her mailgirl app testing. Brandy will ask questions with the help of a polygraph. The journal will have some embarrassing aspects to it, and full disclosure is mandatory.
- Upon successful completion of the app, if the expected growth with Brandy’s mailgirl community occurs, Jake will begin development upon a new multi-million dollar cruise ship port for the island and will agree to land cruise ships there every month. He will own and control the ports since he is paying for them.
- The signing of the contract is binding and all provisions need to be enforced. Backing out will cause Su-Ning’s resort to not only lose the million, but instead owe a million to be split between, and payable to, Brandy and Jake. Likewise, backing out forfeits the development of the cruise ship landing port and the agreed-upon monthly cruise ship visits.
- If Wang breaks her agreement with the newspaper requirements, she will lose access to the patrons of the cruise ship (if it happens) and also have to donate a million to Su-Nings resort and give her a year of free, full-page advertising.
- Emi will continue to test the mailgirl app until the development of the app has concluded. This will require three hours a day of ‘authentic’ mailgirl testing. Using all the mailgirl functions. Emi is to practice and perfect these ‘mailgirl training motions’ immediately, even before the app is functioning. This is to help marketing efforts and better guide the daily development of the app with practical knowledge.
Emi took a deep breath, and… just for the mental exercise, she imagined trying to negotiate with these ridiculous terms. Imagining that she didn’t just walk out right now. She took another sheet of paper and carefully wrote down how she would ‘negotiate’ with these terms, if she didn’t just outright tell them all to go fuck a cow.
After Emi had finished, she turned the revised paper over and slumped down over it. Her chin sitting on her fist, which was resting on the paper. She wanted to say something. Something about how there was no way she could ever agree to a deal like this, but the weight of her head was too much for her jaw and so she remained silent. Waiting for that dreaded moment… where she would tell them all… to go to hell.
But could she do that to Su-Ning? She needed to at least try to save the deal, excluding the testing component. She had to trust that Su-Ning had been straight with her. The woman obviously knew that this deal could be well past Emi’s red line. All people have red lines, and this was simply that. It wasn’t complicated.
Soon Ho would come in and threaten her with the extra year. Emi would say do your worst kiddo. And that would be it. Life goes back to normal. She wouldn’t have to go down in history as the world’s first real mailgirl. Sure one could argue that she’s just testing a cosplay app, but this contract is all about the mailgirl aspect and obviously, Brandy is getting off on it, regardless of her financial motivations.
More than all that, it was the principle. She didn’t want Evan’s mailgirl story to win. The idea that him passing her those stories could have resulted in her actually becoming one was just too outrageous and insulting to both her intelligence and integrity as a person that she just had to simply say – no. The big N and O. Put them together and you get NO. Two letters. One word. And that was what it was going to be.
She had to remain strong, vigilant, defiant, unflappable. Because while she was thinking of all this, there was a hurricane of guilt assaulting her from every angle. Images, memories of Su-Ning, her father, on the beach… when Su-Nig asked her about how hard it was to become a software developer. It was these memories that haunted her. Most potent of all was the car ride from the prison to the resort. How she felt when Su-Ning had saved her… riding in the very car that she had to lend to her cousin for half a year, not to mention all the money that Su-Ning paid to have her released. Going up against Wang couldn’t have been easy for the young CEO, and she did it all for Emi. Su-Ning still didn’t have access to her favorite car that her father had given her. Emi knew that she was a great deal in debt to Su-Ning. But was this asking too much in return?
The battle within herself continued at a fever pitch. It sucked out all of her energy. And so she lay slumped upon the desk, her chin firmly on her fist… resting on the turned over deal notes… that could seal her fate, making her potentially famous as the world’s first real mailgirl.
Despite telling Su-Ning she wouldn’t lose the deal, Brandy said repeatedly that everything hinged on her testing the app personally. Emi knew that this deal was likely all or nothing. She felt trapped.
The stakes were simply too high. On both sides. She needed to decide. Sitting up, she pulled open Ruth’s desk drawer and rooted around for some loose change. She found a dime and lifted it up, marveling at its design. Heads on one side, tails on the other.
She could sign the deal and make history. Or narrowly avoid history but know that she donated her dignity, her freedoms, her body, her soul, for what? For a nudist resort? For Su-Ning? But Su-Ning saved her… but did Su-Ning actually give this much of herself? No, this was returning the favor of saving her life, saving her from prison… with well… her very life. Or was it? Was she overreacting? Was she already naked in an office? Was this really not that big of a deal? It was just a part-time mailgirl deal, only a few hours a day… for just a few months.
She imagined herself testing the app. There she was, delivering a message to someone on the third floor perhaps… everyone watching her. But she didn’t know them. This was a foreign country. Hell if it was Becca she might even enjoy it a little. Isn’t there a form of enjoyment from being submissive? What did Su-Ning say? Strong people sometimes enjoy being submissive? Was that her? Did she enjoy this? Was that why she was naked here and now? A smarter woman wouldn’t have been in this situation to begin with. Regardless, these were the cards that she had been dealt and now she had to play them. But what was it going to be? Heads or tails? She took the coin, like some shiny gem, and leaned back in Ruth’s chair, way back as she triggered the chair to extend back further as she held it up above her. It was bright with the ceiling’s light sparking around it as she turned it over and over in her fingers.
Ruth and Ho walked in, both looking a little frazzled. Were they stressing out as well? Ho had some white powder rubbed off around her mouth, sort of like a homeless clown face. She looked pathetic. But her demeanor seemed unaffected. Her demeanor looked different… she seemed to be… friendly?
Hah… Emi thought. Was she going to try the ol ‘good cop’ routine on her in an effort to gallantly save the resort, her own job, and all the jobs of all the staff and Su-Ning’s family while she was at it… by simply being nice to her? Was that her plan? What a fool.
Ho took a chair and turned it to face Emi. Ruth did the same.
Emi ignored them as she continued to hold the dime up, letting it sparkle against the light through her squinted eyes.
“What’s that in your hand Emi?” Ruth asked.
“Salvation,” Emi replied.
“Emi?” Ho asked, tentatively.
Emi sat back up, putting Ruth’s dime back into the drawer. “Yes Ho?”
“Did you read the contract?”
“Was it understandable?”
“Are you ready then?”
“Then… I guess… we can resume. Ruth, can you gather everyone?”
Eventually, they all returned.
“Can we get someone else to do the mailgirl testing?” Emi suggested, hoping that she could lead with that.
As expected, Brandy dived right in. “Absolutely not Emi. The whole point of the contract is for your participation. Without you, all this would be pointless.”
It was worth a try, Emi thought. “I took notes of all the major points in the contract. There is a lot that I don’t agree with. I’m not sure this can happen.”
“Well, this is a ‘negotiation’ Emi. Let’s talk about the items, one by one. And see where we settle on things.
“Alright,” Emi said. The least she could do was give them some time. Act as if she was really considering all this. Besides, it might be interesting to see what she can score when negotiating with Brandy. It could be like a game.
“Let’s start with your notes. Let’s see where you stand on things Emi. Sarah, if anything changes, please amend the contract on the fly.”
Sarah nodded, opening her laptop.
“Ahh… okay… ummm… think I will start with my biggest concern. The thing that bothers me the most is the idea that my name gets out and I am somehow associated with this project. I think the only way I can even consider this contract is if Brandy personally buys me an apartment nearby and gives me ownership. When I leave this island, or 5 years later at the latest, if my good name is still un-famous, unsullied and undiminished… then I will return the property ownership back to Brandy.”
Brandy stepped back in surprise. “Emi… that’s a little personal. My own finances?”
“Personal? I’m naked. It doesn’t get any more personal than that. If you want to continue, this is how we start.”
“Alright, I’ll seriously consider it. Let’s move on to the next point.”
“Sorry, I need a full agreement on that point Brandy,” Emi said, curious how she was going to respond to that one.
“So you want to lock me into protecting you. Okay, then I want to lock you into this deal as well. If you back out or don’t do exactly as the contract specifies, then we get to publish your name and images. We can call this the mutual assured destruction clause,” Brandy laughed.
Emi thought about it, feeling that she’d succeeded in getting enough of Brandy’s skin in the game to protect herself. Besides if she actually ended up signing this ridiculous contract, she had no illusions about how tough this was going to be. She had no plan to back out if she miraculously signed at the end of this gong show. “Okay, that point is resolved,” Emi said, taking a deep breath.
“I want Jake to pay one million right off the bat to Su-Ning, just to kick-start this. With no strings attached. If we complete the project, then an additional million will be expected as well,” Emi said, looking nervously at Jake.
“I’ll leave this to Brandy,” he said, showing a poker face.
Brandy pulled out her pen and started making notes. “That sounds reasonable, but it’s only fair to have that go both ways. If you cannot satisfy the contract, then both you and Su-Ning are liable for a million each.”
“No… I said, no strings attached on the first million. But I accept your suggestion that the second million we would be liable for, but only if it was first paid. Which it will not be unless we complete the app satisfactorily. So your counteroffer simply has no merit… Brandy.”
Brandy was taken aback. “Ahh…”
Jake laughed. “That’s fine Emi… let’s move on to the next point.”
“I really dislike the idea of Sarah being in charge of me. That’s a non-starter.”
“Sorry, that’s not negotiable. Sarah is next to you with development, she’s the only one in a position to do this and she seems to have knowledge of the subject matter. Plus we are only talking about the brief mailgirl training, for the vast majority of each day, you will be entirely in charge of your teams. How about you ask for something in return?”
“Fine, I get to wear sunglasses. THAT is non-negotiable. I’ll trade you that for allowing Sarah to be in control.”
“I’ll accept that, but not in the building. A major part of being a mailgirl is to look down, acting submissively. If we can’t see your eyes, then you won’t be testing the app properly.”
“That has little value for me, as I’m not planning on going outside much. Then I can wear them on my head for safety and if anyone looks like they are planning to take my photo then I can put them on and run away.”
“We plan to have strict rules protecting your environment, Emi. That will not be an issue. But if you require this so terribly, then you must agree to the polygraph after each testing session.”
“You’re getting greedy, that’s a separate item,” Emi complained.
“Your request is that huge, it requires more on the table to balance it out,” Brandy explained.
“Whatever, I don’t lie,” Emi shrugged.
“Wonderful. What is your next point Emi?”
“Three hours testing a day is too much. I will be unable to develop the app. You have way too much work in a short amount of time. I think 30 min a day is sufficient.”
“You can remove an hour if you promise to completely obey Sarah’s training. So two hours.”
Emi folded her arms. No doubt Sarah was going to make this hard on her. “I’ll agree to that at 60 minutes a day.”
“Let’s split the difference. 90 min a day and move on to the next point.”
Emi hated this, but she was glad to cut three hours in half. She was making progress. “Lastly, on the continued development of the app. I require 3 months max on that provision. Otherwise you might simply keep adding features, trapping me indefinitely.
“Emi you said yourself that it was bare-bones just for 2 months. We need the fully featured app next, followed by the ACE features after that. I think you should commit to at least a year on this.”
“Look Emi, I don’t want to endanger the project by putting that much pressure on you. I think you need at least 9 months to comfortably develop this project, don’t you agree?”
Emi thought about this. The mailgirl training was only for two months plus the final test run. It was a complex app, and would it help to have less time pressure. “Fine.”
“Next point. There was something about a test run after two months, just before launch, ‘there will be a full-time mailgirl presentation for a period of two weeks to fully test the system’. Well, two weeks is way too long. Two days is fine,” Emi insisted.
“I’ll knock that down to one week if, and only if, you comply with Sarah’s training to the T, following anything in Seahawk’s story as if it were a training manual or bible.”
Emi considered that. While she hadn’t read the full story, she knew from Hannah that the story was indeed the most humane and safest of all the mailgirl stories. Still, this was a big ask. But for some reason, she had been expecting this. It was probably unwise to make such a big decision after drinking so much. But then she pretty much already agreed to this in an earlier point. This was practically a redundant point. “Alright…” she agreed. She was probably going to regret this in the morning, assuming she was actually going to sign.
After another hour of talking out boring little points, and it appeared as if they were at the end of all the negotiations, everyone took a moment, looking at each other. The anticipation was in the air. Everyone seemed as if they expected Emi to sign, but it wasn’t yet 100% certain.
Emi felt trapped. “Brandy, just tell me one thing. What’s in it for you?”
“I thought it was obvious. Well, you see… I pretty much started this whole mailgirls cosplay thing. I get a decent slice of the profits from ACE events. But, well… after 2 or 3 events at any particular resort, things slow down for my events as the mailgirls thing tends to perpetuate on its own after that. I maintain some control via online forums and such, but financially, it’s the resorts that keep benefiting from them while I’m mostly left out in the cold. I think the app that you make will strengthen my grip on the mailgirl community. It will help me shape and grow it, and hopefully, eventually, help share some of the profits with me. I am the founder of the mailgirl movement after all. Without my guidance, this movement could very well fade away, which would hurt nudist resorts around the world.”
Emi nodded. It sounded like an honest answer. It was all about power and money.
Emi took a deep breath. Ho was watching her carefully. Letting out her breath, Emi subtly nodded to her.
Looking relieved, Ho took the modified contract and signed for Su-Ning. Wang also signed. Sarah signed on as the mailgirl authenticity trainer. Brandy signed as well.
The only remaining signatures were for Emi and Jake to sign.
Jake shook Emi’s hand. “You’re a hard bargainer!”
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Emi grimaced.
Everyone watched Emi as Brandy passed her the pen. Emi picked up the contract and brought it around to Ruth’s desk and fished out that dime from her drawer. “Heads I walk, tails you have my ass.” And with that she flicked the coin high into the air, spinning, and it came clattering down on Ruth’s desk. Everyone watched… as it fell… finally… on tails.
Emi picked up the pen and signed. Fuck it, like as if she wasn’t going to sign. She just couldn’t do that to Su-Ning, no matter the result of that coin toss. She just wanted to prove a point… that fate, destiny… was out to get her. And the coin toss confirmed it.
“Jake, you haven’t signed the contract yet,” Brandy said.
“Don’t worry, we have an agreement in principle. I’ll have my people look it over tomorrow, and hash out the finer details. Make sure there is a good location that we can build the port at. Cross all the T’s and dot the ‘I’s. Tonight I want to have a good sleep. Ho, do you have a couple rooms for us at your resort? I wouldn’t mind trying the place out for a day in the meantime.”
Ho nodded. “Yes, of course! It would be our pleasure.”
“Brandy, would you mind joining me?” Jake asked.
Bandy looked at him with some side-eye. “I suppose you are insisting that I come along with you to a… nudist resort?”
“Absolutely. This whole thing was your idea and Ruth did say that nothing embarrasses you.”
“That’s true,” she laughed… her patented full-throated laugh. “Lead on Jake!”
Emi, still holding the very heavy pen, marveling at its power over her life, saw Jake turn to face her. She looked up at him.
Jake moved a chair out of the way. “Ahh… one favor, you see… after seeing that picture of you pulling the rickshaw… well, I’ve been dying to get a ride in one from the legendary mailgirl herself. Would that be okay, Emi?”
Emi blinked a few times.
Ho stepped up immediately. “That would be absolutely fine. It’s very late out and nobody will be around,” she added, quickly looking at Emi with a warning glance.
“I’d prefer to hear it from Emi herself,” Jake insisted.
Emi put Ruth’s pen back into its fancy marble holder on her desk. “Ahh… well, I’m sorry Jake. But it’s illegal for me. You see… I’m ahh… waiting for a travel permit,” Emi explained, glad for the delay.
“Actually, Wang and I got that covered before the meeting Emi,” Sarah said, pulling out a tag permit with a string. “This was very difficult to get. Here let me put it on you,” Sarah offered. It looked like a shiny metal army dog-tag dangling from a cheap piece of string.
Emi froze awkwardly as Sarah began tying the string around her neck. Emi could smell her weak scented perfume, as her gut lurched, realizing that soon she would be outside pulling a rickshaw, naked. She didn’t see how she could get out of it, especially considering it was dark out.
Sarah took her time, seemingly enjoying her task.
Emi felt that she was entirely too close. Was that a smirk on her face?
Finally, Sarah finished, stepping back. “There you are Emi… off you go now.”