|by Van ©2013|
| Chapter 1
|OUR STORY BEGINS
"I still don't like it," Siri Nesbitt muttered. "I don't like it at all."
"Tell us what you really think," Clem Ricci said, eliciting a giggle from Gwen Percy.
The trio were sophomores at Lewis & Clark University and roommates, or more properly, housemates. Together they comprised three-quarters of the residents of the scholarship hostel known as Rook House—but they were about to become three-fifths—and that was the source of Siri's discontent.
The girls had just finished their last classes of the day, which by coincidence met at the same time in different buildings on the far side of campus. The sky was overcast, par for the course this time of year in the Pacific Northwest, but at the moment it wasn't raining. They'd rendezvoused at the quad and were making their way back to Rook House. All three were wearing sneakers, jeans, blouses, and water repellant jackets, standard L&C female undergrad garb. Siri and Clem each had messenger bags slung over one shoulder and Gwen wore a small backpack. None were encumbered by textbooks. One of the perks of Rook House residency was access to an e-library that met all their academic needs via iPad.
"Four," Siri complained. "It's supposed to be four students. Plus, she's a grad student. She'll ruin everything."
Professor Kimberly Pappas, the Rook House Faculty Adviser, had arrived at the House a few days before and announced that the formerly unoccupied attic was now designated a fifth bedroom, and a grad student would soon be arriving to become their live-in Resident Adviser. In short, the "Rook House Rapscallions," as the girls called themselves, were about to get a babysitter!
"Maybe she'll be nice," Gwen suggested.
"She'll ruin everything," Siri reiterated. "We won't be able to..."
"Play?" Gwen suggested, then giggled, again. It didn't take much to set Gwen Percy to giggling.
Clem smiled. "I suppose you could write a check to Salamandras and La Roque for fifty-one percent of Rook House and tell them to shove it." Salamandras International, a technology corporation, and La Roque International, the famous fashion house, were the sponsors of Rook House and the girls' scholarships.
"Hah!" Siri responded. "Don't be crude."
They left the campus proper, crossed the street, and approached their home away from home. The residents' consensus was that Rook House was best described as "Arts & Crafts meets English Country Cottage." At least, none of them had come up with a better shorthand description. Like the other structures lining this side of the street, Rook House had been built as a private home; but also like the others, it was a home no longer. Tasteful, elegant, low key signs in front of every building on the block announced an academic purpose. The house immediately to their right was an annex of the Zoology Department, given over to a seminar classroom and office space for grad students. The house on their left was the headquarters of an academic foundation affiliated with the Physics and Engineering departments.
As they neared the gate of Rook House's picket fence, the front door opened and Rory Macy, the fourth undergraduate resident and also a sophomore, bounded down the porch steps and met them on the flagstone walk. But for her lack of jacket, Rory was dressed like the others, with color choices that complemented her ginger hair and fair complexion. Her green eyes were wide and she was not smiling. "It's horrible!" she gasped. "She's here!"
Clem frowned. "Already?"
"I knew it," Siri huffed. "She's an ugly witch."
"No, no," Rory shook her head, "she's nice, really nice, and she's cute."
"So, what's so horrible?" Gwen demanded.
"She's a computer geek," Rory continued, "and—"
"Pappas already told us she's a computer geek," Clem interrupted.
"Computer Science doctoral candidate, actually," Gwen corrected.
"Cute and nice," Siri huffed. "I bet."
Rory stamped her right foot in exasperation. "Let me tell you!"
"Chill," Clem chuckled. "Speak."
Rory composed herself. "She's a computer geek and... She's British, by the way. Wait 'til you hear her accent."
"That's the horrible part?" Gwen giggled. "I didn't know you were an Anglophobe." She turned to Clem. "She's always seemed like such a tolerant person."
"Yes," Clem agreed, then smiled at the glowering Rory. "Really? Is it an Irish thing?"
Rory stamped her foot, again. "Fine!" she huffed. "Everything's ruined and you're making jokes. Don't say I didn't try and warn you." She spun on her sneakered heel and stomped back to the house.
Clem and Gwen exchanged winks and followed. Teasing "Ginger Fox" was something of a House pastime. Rory knew they were kidding and usually gave as good as she got.
Siri was still unhappy. "I knew it," she muttered under her breath as she followed the others up the porch steps and through the front door.
The newly arriving Rapscallions paused in the entryway to shed their jackets, bags, and backpack and hang them on the coat rack, then continued through to what they called the Common Room, the large living room space on the first floor.
Waiting for them was Rory and a diminutive brunette with a broad, dimpled smile on her decidedly cute face. Obviously, she was the newly arrived RA, the source of their ruination and despair. She stepped forward and pumped Clem's hand as she introduced herself.
"Hello. Jaden-Louella Goodwin. Please call me J-Lou. I'm so pleased to meet you." She spoke with an unmistakably British accent, as Rory had warned.
"Hi," Clem responded. "Clementine Ricci. Call me Clem."
Gwen was next. "Gwen Percy."
Siri managed something resembling a smile. 'Siri. Siri Nesbitt."
J-Lou Goodwin was indeed cute, as Rory had warned. Round face, dimpled cheeks, button nose, sparkling brown eyes, long brown waves of silky hair—cute. She was also short, the shortest person in the room.
Siri was the tallest, 5' 9" with a lanky frame and long blond hair framing her "chipmunky" face, a description coined by Gwen (much to Siri's chagrin). Clem was next in height, with her ever present glasses and pageboy crop of brown hair. She was 5' 7". Gwen and Rory, the "Rapscallion Reds" were both 5' 4". Technically, while both did have red hair, Rory's long, straight mane was really red, as in flaming ginger, while Gwen's long locks were best described as auburn.
J-Lou, on the other hand, was 5' 2". She was tiny. And to reiterate, she was cute. The Rapscallions had only just met her, but it was undeniable that she was cute, as in look up the word in the Oxford English Dictionary and you find her picture cute.
By any objective measure, all five of the residents, the Rapscallions and their new "babysitter," were attractive, even beautiful. Clem was equal parts sexy-librarian-nerd and tomboy. Gwen was bubbly, girly, and a bit of a flirt. Siri was tall (somewhat tall) and quirky cute. Rory was a Celtic beauty. There was no other way to describe her.
"You're British," Siri noted.
"Stunning insight," Clem muttered under her breath. Gwen giggled and Siri favored her bespectacled friend with a hostile stare.
J-Lou laughed. "Oxford born and raised," she confirmed.
"God save the Queen!" Gwen responded with a smile.
"Yeah, pip pip cheerio," Siri muttered. Her lips were curled in one of her trademark mischievous smiles. Despite her best efforts she found she was warming to the newcomer.
"I'm so glad to be here," J-Lou gushed. "I'm sure we're all going to get along famously."
Clem, Gwen, and Siri smiled back. The three non-ginger Rapscallions focused on Rory. The unspoken question was clear: What's so horrible?
Rory blushed, then rolled her eyes and sighed. "Fine. I tried to warn you." She cleared her throat and continued. "Sally, screen on, please."
"Sally" was the Rook House avatar, the artificially intelligent interface of the structure's automated "smart house" systems. A Salamandras product, Sally spoke with the simulated voice of Sigourney Weaver, the actress.
"Rory," Sally responded, "J-Lou just asked me to blank the monitor. Please resolve this conflict." Sally was clever, but the social interaction program behind the interface was rather limited (or so it seemed to the Rook House residents).
J-Lou's smile broadened. "By all means. Sally, screen on."
The LED-HDTV filling most of one wall of the common room began to glow—and Siri, Gwen, and Clem gasped!
The TV was in computer monitor mode with the screen divided into four windows of equal size and proportion. Each window framed a video image of one of the Rapscallions, and all four were bound and gagged!
Four faces blushed in embarrassment!
Four pairs of eyes popped wide in astonishment!
Onscreen, four naked or semi-naked bodies writhed in rope or leather bondage!
Through the common room's state of the art sound system, four captives mewled through tight gags!
Granted, Rory was in no way surprised by what she was seeing and was less embarrassed than the others, but her cheeks and the tip of her button nose were still flushed a bright shade of pink.
Clem, the onscreen Clem, was wearing bra, panties, and rope—lots of rope—and she was writhing on her bed. Her arms were behind her back, her legs together, and a web of rope bound her body, dimpling her flesh from shoulders to ankles. A ball gag plugged her mouth, and for once she wasn't wearing her glasses. Oh-by-the-way, a wand-style vibrator was lashed between her thighs with its head nudging her crotch.
Onscreen Gwen was also in bed. She was completely naked—as in nude—and was spreadeagled on her back with her wrists and ankles lashed to the four bedposts and a broad strip of white medical tape plastered over her mouth. A crotch rope encircled her waist and cleaved her pussy, then stretched up to an unseen lashing point overhead. Another wand-style vibrator was lashed to the crotch rope's vertical element, business end down. Its knob-shaped head just nudged Gwen's reddish-brown pubic bush.
Onscreen Rory was in bed, as well, but she was encased in a body-sheath of butternut leather. Its network of horizontal and lateral straps were buckled tight at regular intervals from Rory's collared throat to her ankles. A matching, butternut panel gag covered her mouth. It incorporated a chin strap and was tight enough to make her flushed cheeks bulge. An electrical cord emerged from the sheath's crotch region and trailed off to one side. In addition, Rory's big toes were tied together with a leather thong and a pair of specialized vibrators—small, rounded cylinders attached to oval shaped pads of plastic bristles—were strapped to the soles of her bare feet.
Onscreen Siri was in panties and bra, like onscreen Clem, and like the onscreen others was on her back in bed. Her arms were raised, folded back behind her head, and lashed in place with neat bands of rope around her upper arms and wrists. In addition, her legs were folded at the knees with bands of rope lashing each ankle to its corresponding upper thigh. Rope strands linked her wrists to the upper bedposts and her ankles to the lower bedposts, and thanks to the slack in these tethers, the full nature of her bondage was revealed as she tried and failed to lift herself off the mattress and roll to the left or right. Siri had plenty of writhing room, but despite her energetic efforts it was clear she was not getting off the bed. Finally, a torpedo style, battery powered vibrator was tucked down the front of her panties and an elaborate web of thin cord tied around her waist and upper thighs and through her crotch anchored it in place. Strips of medical tape covered her lips, mouth, and most of her lower face.
Clem's embarrassment turned to anger, and that anger was focused on J-Lou. "The security cameras are supposed to be private!"
"Not to worry," the smiling Brit responded. "The social privacy firewall between Rook House and the Salamandras engineers monitoring the smart house functions is solidly in place." Rook House was both a scholarship hostel and an R&D project, but the girls had been assured they were being watched over by artificially intelligent computer routines and not human eyeballs. J-Lou nodded at the kinky spectacle on the screen. "I'm afraid this is my doing. Soon after I arrived I opened a secure link between Rook House and the SIAS servers. My superior corporate clearance and status as a newly arrived resident overrode the settings."
"Sigh ass?" Gwen asked.
"Salamandras Institute for Advanced Studies," J-Lou explained. "I have laboratory space in the building. It's about two miles from campus. I'll give you all a tour sometime if you like."
"Hey!" Clem barked. "Focus. Privacy?"
"Yeah," Siri muttered in agreement.
"I asked Sally if you, meaning all of you, engage in games or sports. I thought it might be a good way for us to get to know one another. Anyway, she mentioned your bondage tournament. What do you call it?"
"Bondorama Extravaganza," Gwen answered, then cringed and blushed even more brightly when her fellow Rapscallions turned and glared in her direction. "We call it that," she whined in defense.
"Only you call it that, twerp," Clem muttered, then refocused on J-Lou. "And it's not an actual tournament. We play chess or poker or truth-or-dare or something... and the loser gets tied up; but it's not like we award points or have a ranking system or anything."
"Uh..." All heads swiveled towards Siri. "Actually, I asked Sally to keep track of who was doing what to who."
"Whom," Gwen said. "It's 'who is doing what to whom.' The first who is nominative, but—" She withered under Siri's stare. "Never mind."
"It was just for the hell of it," Siri continued, still staring at Gwen. "I asked Sally to keep track, just for the hell of it."
"You should be careful what you wish for," J-Lou said with a pleasant smile, an irritatingly pleasant smile to the Rapscallions. "Rook House Sally was unsure of how to proceed. So, following protocol, she passed the problem to R&D Sally, she passed it to SIAS Sally, and the games theory server complex was tasked to develop a set of rules. I'm speaking in anthropomorphic terms, of course. You'd find an explanation couched in computer science jargon stilted and impenetrable, at best."
Rory cleared her throat. "Nobody human has seen all this, right?"
J-Lou nodded. "Your group privacy is intact. Our group privacy, that is, with myself as a member of said group."
The four Rapscallions gazed at their new RA. They were still embarrassed, but realized they were recovering from their initial shock.
"Seriously?" Gwen asked. "There's a set of rules and everything?"
J-Lou's smile widened. "Sally?"
The four video windows closed and a new window opened. A banner at the top read "BONDORAMA EXTRAVAGANZA." Underneath scrolled a seemingly endless series of equations, line after line of alphanumeric and mathematical symbols. To the Rapscallions, it all might as well have been in Klingon.
"Oh, she used the name," Gwen noted, "Sally, I mean. Bondorama Extravaganza."
The other three Rapscallions focused on the grinning Gwen. "Twerp," they said in unison.
J-Lou gestured towards the screen. "I apologize for the symbolic logic and linear algebra," she said. "You're aware that Sally's social interaction routines are heuristic, am I correct?"
Clem nodded. "She learns. The more we interact with Sally, the better she gets."
"It's like the way Google gets better the more you search," Siri added.
"Exactly," J-Lou confirmed. "In the hour since I arrived and opened the portal to SIAS, Sally has grown by leaps and bounds, but developing a clear human interface for the Bondorama object cloud is a moving target."
"Bondorama Extravaganza," Gwen giggled. "I love that name."
Clem rolled her eyes, then focused on J-Lou. "Moving target?"
"My role in the game has yet to be determined," J-Lou explained. "Now, who wants to help me cook dinner?"
Dinner was more than an hour in the past and the four Rapscallions were in the sauna. Just off the common bath, the cedar-lined room was large, with two tiers of cedar benches and a stainless steel heater with lava rocks. It was yet another perk of Rook House residency. Other L&C students had to trek to the fitness center's steam rooms to subject their bodies to thermal stress. All four girls were naked, dripping with sweat, and either seated or reclined on towels spread to protect their skin from initial contact with the hot, dry wood. Clem lifted a wooden dipper from a wooden bucket and ladled water over the lava rocks. They hissed in complaint and sent a cloud of steam into the stifling air.
"She can cook," Gwen observed.
"She can cook," Siri agreed.
"And she's cute," Rory added.
"She's cute," Clem confirmed, "and nice, like you said."
The topic at hand was J-Lou, of course.
"I vote we let her stay," Gwen announced.
"It's not a democracy, twerp," Clem muttered.
"She's staying, regardless," Rory observed.
"Then I vote we like her," Gwen said. "All those in favor?"
"Aye!" the Rapscallions chorused, with the exception of Siri. Three pairs of eyes focused on the glistening blond.
"The motion wasn't seconded," Siri stated primly.
Clem smiled. "I move the regular rules of order be waved and we tickle the distinguished member from the state of tallness until she agrees to the proposition."
Siri smiled. "Aye. I vote aye."
"The motion carries," Clem chuckled. "Her Excellency the Resident Adviser is officially liked."
Just then, the sauna door opened, admitting a gust of cold air and the RA in question. J-Lou closed the door behind her and smiled. A white towel was wrapped around her petite form, but she was otherwise naked. "May I join you?"
"Sure thing," Clem muttered, then focused on Gwen. "Make some room, twerp."
Gwen had been stretched out full-length on one of the upper benches. "Oh, sorry!" She sat up and moved to occupy a corner.
"Thank you," J-Lou said, then removed her towel and spread it on the bench. Siri gave her a hand up and she sat on the towel.
"All over tan," Gwen noted. She was staring at J-Lou's body, not in a rude way, but she was staring.
"Smooth, twerp," Clem whispered, rolling her eyes.
J-Lou smiled, obviously not in the least bit offended. "In the year I've been at Lewis & Clark, I've regularly visited my major professor's home. We discuss my research as we exercise. Afterwards, we sunbath on her deck, weather permitting."
"I don't tan," Rory stated. "I just turn into a lobster."
"Like now," Siri observed.
Rory stuck out her tongue. "Beanpole!" she accused.
"Lobster!" Siri shot back.
"Stretch!" Rory countered.
"Lobster!" Siri reiterated. It was an irrefutable charge. Rory was about as flushed as she could get in the dry heat.
"Where were you an undergraduate?" Clem inquired.
"Kebel College, Oxford," J-Lou answered. "My masters is from Carnegie Mellon."
Gwen smiled at J-Lou. "I don't mean to stare, but you have a great bod."
Clem shook her head. "Hopeless," she muttered under her breath.
J-Lou blushed—or perhaps it was the heat. "Uh... thank you."
It was undeniable. Despite her short stature, J-Lou's hourglass waist and full breasts perfectly matched her athletic physique. She did have a great bod.
None of the four Rapscallions had been shortchanged in the bod department, and all four kept themselves in shape with running and yoga, as their studies allowed. But J-Lou was hot, current setting aside.
Granted, Gwen gave the little Brit a run for her money, both in terms of general shape and the size, shape, and volume of her boobs, but J-Lou edged her out.
Clem's physique was a little stocky, a little more jock-like, but only in comparison to the others.
Rory was a Celtic Goddess, clothed or naked, but her naked lobster imitation revealed a thin layer of baby fat she had yet to outgrow. Again, this "shortcoming" was only in comparison to the others, and it wasn't really a flaw. Rory was exquisite.
Siri, aka Beanpole, aka Stretch, was lanky, almost enough so to be a little gawky, but with an undeniable svelte beauty. Her breasts were the smallest of the group, but they were definitely there, and had a pleasing shape.
Clem smiled at J-Lou. "Sorry about the twerp," she said, nodding at Gwen. "She has the social skills of a zombie."
Gwen gasped in outrage. "I do not!"
Siri stretched and cleared her throat. "Uh... you aren't gonna ruin the game, are you?"
Gwen smiled. "Bondorama Extrava—"
"Shut up!" the other three Rapscallions barked in unison.
J-Lou laughed. "No, I'm not going to ruin your game. With Sally watching over you and keeping things safe, I don't see a problem. Just keep it all inside Rook House and don't let it interfere with your studies."
The Rapscallions visibly relaxed.
Clem ran her fingers through her sweat-dampened hair. "Seriously, you're okay with this?"
J-Lou stretched before answering. "From what little I saw of Sally's retained records, your game is nothing compared to what my classmates and I did to each other when I was at public school."
"Bondage games?" Rory inquired.
"I was Queen of the Damsels," J-Lou confirmed, "the best escapologist of the lot. I could squirm out of anything."
"Well, it takes time to learn how to do that sort of thing right," Siri drawled.
"Anything," J-Lou repeated. "Then and now. I can squirm out of anything."
"Ooooh, that sounds like a challenge!" Rory grinned. All four Rapscallions were grinning.
"She can't just join the game," Gwen objected. "Not unless we spot her a bunch of points."
"However Sally is assigning points," Clem noted. "The final rules of—" She noted Gwen's expectant smile. "—Bondorama Extravaganza—" Gwen giggled with glee. "—have yet to be codified, remember?"
"Rules, schmules," Siri muttered. Her eyes were on J-Lou. "If I tie you up you won't wiggle out of it."
"We'll all do it!" Gwen gushed. "We'll all tie you up, one at a time!"
"And the point score isn't a problem," Rory added. "We can reset everything to zero and begin again."
"With five players," Clem nodded.
The four Rapscallions focused on their RA. Silence hung in the hot, dry air for several seconds, and then...
"Very well," J-Lou agreed—and the Rapscallions cheered. "But not so fast! There will be rules. Rope only. No twine or cord that can't possibly be untied by human fingers. Likewise, no chains, locks, duct tape..." J-Lou's smile became a coy, dimpled smirk. "Make that no tape of any kind. And no glue on the knots." She focused on Siri. "And none of your frightfully clever and quite obviously inescapable leather creations."
"Spoilsport," Siri huffed. As a student of design and engineering, and with a computerized sewing machine in her Rook House basement studio, courtesy of Salamandras International, leather creations were Siri's specialty.
J-Lou stretched before continuing. "One of you ties me up on my bed, in my room. Then, you leave and Sally locks the door."
"We don't get to watch?" Gwen objected. "I want to watch."
J-Lou smiled and shook her head. "And learn all my secrets? Not unless and until I decide to share my vast knowledge of the science of escapology."
"Well la de frickin' da!" Siri sneered. Her dimpled smile softened the remark.
"No knives or blades of any kind," Clem specified. "The only tools you get to use are your fingers. If the rope has been cut, you lose."
"The only tools allowed are my fingers," J-Lou agreed. "I'll be free by morning."
"And if you aren't?" Siri demanded. "If we troop up to the attic at sunrise and find you still tied up on your bed?"
"Then I lose," J-Lou shrugged, "and whoever tied me up begins the new game with one full point." Her smile broadened. "But if I win, I get one point. And, I get to tie up the loser. If she escapes, it wipes out my point."
Rory nodded. "That seems fair. If everybody escapes everything, we all start at zero."
Clem nodded towards J-Lou. "And if the Queen of the Damsels here is the Queen of the Damsels, she starts with four points and we're all at zero."
Rory shrugged. "If she's the Queen, she's the Queen."
"God Save the Queen," Gwen said gravely.
Clem rolled her eyes, then focused on Siri. "Well? Still want to go first?"
Siri thought for several seconds, then her smile returned. "Deal! When do we start?"
"No time like the present," Gwen suggested.
"Yeah," Rory agreed.
Clem smiled at Siri. "Are you absolutely sure you don't want time to develop a game plan?"
Focusing on J-Lou, Siri shook her head. "I'm ready."
J-Lou smiled at the waiting Rapscallions, then nodded. "Agreed."
Cheers and high-fives ensued.
"I think you're all had enough of the sauna," J-Lou suggested. "Showers, then upstairs. I'll be a little longer. I'm still slightly undercooked."
"First in, first out," Gwen giggled, and the girls headed for the door.
Siri was the last to leave. She turned and smiled at J-Lou from the threshold. "You're goin' down, Short Stuff."
"To the contrary," J-Lou countered, "you're goin' down... Stretch."
"Hah!" Siri made her exit, closing the door behind her.
J-Lou smiled and stretched out flat on the bench with her arms raised and the back of her head cradled in her hands. She was confident in her skills (and her secret weapon).
Tori Ballantine flopped into her one and only, and therefore by default, her favorite easy chair, and took a drag on the cold bottle of Bud Lite dangling from her right hand. She'd earned it, having spent the last hour pummeling and kicking her martial arts dummy, as well as doing pushups, situps, and pullups. It was maintenance, something she liked to do at least three times a week. Her weekend krav maga classes were not maintenance. They were something else, but her weeknight exercise sessions were maintenance. Dressed in shorts and a tank top, her hands and feet wrapped in athletic tape, and her long, blond hair pulled back and tied in a tight ponytail, Toni's fit, toned body glistened with sweat.
It was more than a month since Tori had been promoted to "Inspector." She still carried a Lewis & Clark Campus Police badge, but no longer wore a khaki-tan and brown uniform when on duty. As before, her position was funded by Salamandras International and she held dual credentials with the corporation's security department. Also as before, her principal duties were to investigate industrial espionage and any other criminal activity involving the millions of dollars of Salamandras R&D projects scattered across the campus.
Why the change? A few self-important faculty buffoons—all with exceedingly long and straight sticks up their butts, in Tori's opinion—had complained to their department heads and/or deans about the "ape in uniform" sticking her nose into their important academic business. The solution that trickled down from somewhere in academia and/or Salamandras was to put her in civilian clothes and take her off the regular patrol roster.
Tori didn't know who actually ordered the change, but it didn't really matter. She did her job in the same way, only now she did it dressed in expensive business attire. Sally-Corp had paid for her new wardrobe, all of it was first rate, and even Tori had to admit she looked good in Calvin Klein, Versace, and Louis Vuitton.
In any case, and also as before, Tori kept an eye on the campus in general as she went about her investigative work, strolling from office to lab to office. If her fellow cops needed a hand, she'd be there in a heartbeat.
Inspector Ballantine took another drag on her beer. Work day done, evening meal consumed, workout complete—now was the time to clear an hour or two of the backlog on her DVR. But first...
"Sally," Tori addressed the empty air, "anything I need to know about?"
"Not really," Sally's disembodied voice answered. Like Rook House, Tori's townhouse was "smart," and Tori's Sally also spoke with the sexy alto voice of Sigourney Weaver. "Miss Goodwin has taken up residency at Rook House, as planned. So far, there have been no serious incidents."
Tori paused with the bottle halfway to her lips. No 'serious' incidents? "What aren't you telling me, Sally?"
"Nothing, really," Sally answered. "There was a nominal violation of privacy protocols, but nothing worth mentioning."
"And yet," Tori purred, "you mentioned it. Elaborate."
"Miss Goodwin opened a secure data port between Rook House and SIAS," Sally explained. "This caused a temporary inconsistency in privacy monitoring protocols; but it was quickly resolved, and entirely within the Salamandras local net."
"Seven point three microseconds."
Tori smiled and drank from the bottle. "You call that quick?"
"It takes time to hold a conversation with yourself" Sally explained. "The resolution cycle took seven point three microseconds. The global consensus and warm feeling of a job well done took somewhat longer."
"Privacy protocols, huh?" Tori finished the beer and set down the bottle. "This sounds like a job for security."
"Not really," Sally responded.
"It's at least worthy of investigation." Tori began unwrapping her hands. "I'm going to start with those responsible for sending Miss Goodwin to Rook House to perpetrate her dastardly and unforgivable violation of security protocols."
"Oh," Sally sighed. "Investigate. Why didn't you say so?"
"It's my job," Tori chuckled. She unwrapped her feet, tossed the tape away, and strolled to her bedroom to shower and change. "Do me a favor and don't tell the Doc I'm coming, okay?"
"I wouldn't dream of it," Sally purred. "You can't 'investigate' if I warn your quarry, now can you?"
"Don't warn anyone," Tori added.
"Oh, you're no fun," Sally chuckled. "I won't warn anyone... but I will watch."
"You always watch," Tori purred as she pulled her tank top over her head.
|The ROOK HOUSE