Van © 2023
If anyone was worthy of
the title genius, it was Edwina Bliss. She was born in
Sheffield in northern England, at the tender age of 13 she'd
gained a First in Computer Science at Cambridge, and before the
age of 23 had earned two PhD's, one in Applied
Mathematics and Operations Research from Oxford and the other in
Software Engineering and Robotics from M.I.T. Her
published works were all required reading in their related
And oh-by-the-way Edwina was an undeniable beauty with
symmetrical features, flawless skin, sparkling brown
eyes, long, straight brown hair, an engaging smile, a svelte,
athletic feature (thanks to daily exercise), and she moves with
the natural poise and grace of a natural dancer. Over the
years she has enjoyed the occasional casual romantic fling (with
both men and women), but none of them ever blossomed into long
term relationships. Edwina left very little room in her
life for anything other than her absolute passion, the
theoretical and applied study of robotics and artificial
After M.I.T. Edwina completed a string of postdoctoral
fellowships at several different institutions. She never
wanted for funding, but most such grants come with strings
attached in the form of specific topics to be researched.
What Edwina longed for was total freedom to research anything
she pleased. And although she'd been urged to apply for
permanent positions at more than one prestigious university,
she'd always politely declined. It wasn't that she was
averse to teaching (for the most part), but was wary of the
academic politics and time-draining committee assignments that
went with any Assistant Professorship at any university.
And then, Edwina received the offer of a lifetime (or so it had
seemed at the time).
Out of the blue, Edwina was offered a job by Dr. Lydia Aelios,
the reclusive billionaire owner of Aelios Cybertronics (aka Λ≡LIOS «YB≡RTRONICSô,
aka Λ«ô)! And it wasn't just any job.
Edwina was to work side-by-side with her new boss on all
her cutting edge projects! And it would happen at Lydia's
famous, mysterious, and highly secretive private laboratory on
the northern coast of California!
Few if any commercial, governmental, or academic endeavors in
the broad field of robotics happen without some link to
Λ≡LIOS. While the company
manufactured very few actual products, its ever-growing list of
patents were fundamental to the product lines of other prominent
companies and corporations. This made for a highly
lucrative and reliable revenue stream for Lydia Aelios.
Strands of her web stretched into virtually every aspect of
cyber technology across all political boundaries and into every
corner of the globe.
And speaking of spiders, Lydia might enjoy an enviable intellectual,
academic, and business reputation, but in social terms...
not so much.
Lydia was a recluse in the literal sense and only rarely emerged
from her private lab to attend professional meetings, but once
there, she invariably delivered biting and/or snarky criticisms
of her fellow scientists' latest published works. (And it
didn't help Lydia rebuild the inevitable burned bridges or make
new friends that her critiques always turned out to be spot
on). Also, over the years Lydia had allowed only a few
casual visitors to her lair, and her social media footprint was
virtually nonexistent. That said, it was widely
acknowledged that Lydia Aelios was a stunningly beautiful spider.
The few photographs Edwina had been able to find of her new boss
revealed a gorgeous, shapely, and physically fit brunette, an
impression that was confirmed when they finally met.
And of course Edwina took the job. Uninterrupted
research in a bleeding edge laboratory with the promise of total
intellectual freedom and virtually unlimited resources?
How could she not take the job? (She could always
quit if Lydia Aelios really was a total bitch and
impossible to work with as a research partner.)
Edwina flew into San Francisco International Airport and was met
at luggage claim by a handsome male chauffeur in traditional
uniform and holding a printed sign that read "DR. EDWINA
BLISS." She made the rest of the trip to the Λ≡LIOS headquarters and manufacturing
campus in the back of a luxurious SUV with heavily tinted
The flight had been long and exhausting, so, after enjoying a delicious
cup of tea in the back of the SUV, Edwina wasn't surprised
when she dozed off and had to be politely awakened as they
neared their destination... which turned out to be a rather
modest set of ultramodern buildings seemingly in the middle of
Discrete and stylish modern signage confirmed that this was,
indeed, the "Λ≡LIOS «YB≡RTRONICS
WORLD HEADQUARTERS." They were vetted at a security
station off the main road, then passed through the twelve foot
chain link fence topped with concertina-ribbon-wire that
apparently surrounded the entire campus. Other traffic was
coming and going, mostly vans, box trucks, and a few
semi-trailer trucks, all heading to and from the outlying
factory building, but the SUV stopped at what was clearly the
actual headquarters of the headquarters, as it were.
Edwina was courteously received and processed as a new Executive
Employee by a series of smiling men and women, all impeccably
dressed for business. She signed various forms, including
a voluminous non-disclosure agreement, then was issued a
security badge with her picture and a prominent QR code (but
not, surprisingly, her actual name). She was then led to a
discrete private elevator, traveled down two levels, and into a
large, nondescript concrete hallway with a steel door at the far
end. She was led to the door, her badge and face were
scanned by a low-powered green laser, and the door whisked into
the wall (just like on Star Trek, Edwina mused).
Beyond was an extension of the hallway and another steel
Edwina's smartly dressed executive handler/guide gestured for
her to cross the threshold. She did so, the door snicked
closed behind her, and the door in front opened, revealing Lydia
Aelios, in the flesh. She smiled (coldly) and offered her
"Welcome, Dr. Bliss," Lydia purred as they shook, then she led
the new arrival to a golf cart with Λ« markings. Like
Edwina, she was dressed for business in high-heels, skirt,
blouse, and jacket. They took seats and the cart
immediately purred to life and smoothly accelerated down yet
another concrete corridor. There was no steering wheel or
other controls and the electric motor was virtually silent.
Edwina had returned Lydia's greeting, but sensed her new
co-researcher (okay, boss) wasn't in the mood for small
talk. They rode in silence for at least a full minute,
then the cart halted in front of yet another steel door.
They crossed the threshold and entered an elevator for a ride
She really is a cold fish, Edwina thought during the
surprisingly long ride. Finally, the door whisked open and
she found herself in a luxurious, ultramodern, hilltop mansion
that reminded her of Tony Stark's lair in the Ironman movies.
Edwina wasn't a huge fan of the cinema, but she enjoyed
Marvel movies, the Harry Potter series, and the Lord
of the Rings trilogy (but NOT The Hobbit trilogy.
What was Peter Jackson thinking? she remembered asking
her friends after viewing them.) Anyway, the mansion's
decor was spartan, as well as somewhat... impersonal. She
noted a disc-shaped cleaning robot rolling across the floor of
an expansive lounge as they passed. There was a lot of
glass and every room seemed to have a spectacular view of the
surrounding landscape, and to the west the Pacific was visible
on the far side of a line of forested hills.
Edwina noted a plethora of small silvered domes set in the
ceiling in every room. Obviously, they concealed cameras
or other sensors. But then, it was hardly surprising that
Lydia Aelios lived in a Smart House. Actually,
Edwina decided, it's probably a Genius House.
"Your rooms," Lydia said, gesturing to a polished wooden panel
that whisked open, as if on cue. The suite beyond was
neither huge nor small, and like the rest of the mansion, it was
ultramodern and sparsely furnished but quite luxurious, sort of
like a suite in a futuristic five-star hotel. "We'll do
most of our collaborating on my intranet," Lydia said, "but
tonight I'll see you at dinner. The house will give you
directions." And with that, she turned and walked back
through the open dooróSnick!ówhich slid closed behind
Edwina looked around. Her employment contract had
specified that housing would be furnished, but... a luxury suite
in a luxurious ultramodern mansion? Wow!
That said (meaning thought), Lydia Aelios wasn't exactly a
welcoming hostess. I almost feel... tolerated, Edwina
thought. How disappointing. She hoped Lydia
Aelios was a better work partner than roommate or...
mansionmate? If not, Edwina supposed she could
more-or-less ignore her supposed boss and work
independently. The suite appeared to have everything she'd
need, including a more-than-adequate workstation with an
extra-wide curved monitor and the style of ergonomic keyboard
she preferred. And if she was wrong about Lydia and they did
manage to connect, all would be well. If not, if
Edwina's instincts were correct and they were incompatible, she
could always find another post-doc or give more serious thought
to accepting a teaching position.
She decided to put up with Lydia-Aelios-the-cold fish for... six
months, tops. How bad can it be?
|TΛKΞN BY THΞ MΛCHINΞ
|| Chapter 1
NEARLY SIX MONTHS LATER...
long since settled into a routine. As it turned out, she did
collaborate with Lydia on a daily basis, but almost
exclusively via keyboard and screen, as she'd been warned.
Face-to-face meetings were few and far between. "Social
interactions" were even less frequent The mansion was
large, but not so large that the two occupants didn't encounter
each other, but while Lydia wasn't exactly rude, she made it
clear she had no interest in anything even slightly resembling a
normal friendship with Edwina Bliss.
And so far, there had been no outside visitors to the mansion,
not even Λ« executives from the unseen headquarters in the
valley beyond the southern slope of the mansion's hilltop
perch. Granted, Lydia's Lair was big enough and the floor
plan complex enough that her employees could be slipping in and
out of the residence on a regular basis without Edwina noticing,
but it more probable that most of the time they communicated
with their boss mostly via the intranet... like Edwina herself.
There was no formal meal schedule. Edwina placed her food
orders via the mansion's network, they were prepared by the
mansion's robotic kitchen, then delivered to the dining venue of
her choice by the robotic staff. Everything was
robotic, meaning all housekeeping and maintenance functions were
accomplished by self-directing automated technology. It
would seem robotic systems had been integrated into the
mansion's design from the drawing board up. Lydia's Lair
truly was a Genius House.
Also, the Lair was quite luxurious. There was an elegantly
curved outdoor pool wrapped around the eastern side of the
hilltop. It was only suitable for idle recreation, but there was
also a much smaller, rectangular "endless pool" on the western
side, suitable for exercise. In addition, there was a
fully-equipped home gym with state-of-the-art exercise machines,
as well as the required shower area and sauna. Edwina had
adhered to a regular exercise regimen since she was a teenager
and took advantage of the mansion's amenities on a daily basis.
As the days turned into weeks and months, the mansion's
interface got better and better at synchronizing Edwina's work,
meal, sleep, and workout schedules, and life at the lair slowly
became what Edwina could only call a "unique experience."
Delicious food appeared when wanted (and needed). Windows
popped onto Edwina's workstation screens suggesting she might
want to pause whatever she was working on and take a relaxing
swim or gym-session, followed by a nice sauna. At night,
the system subtly reminded her it was time for bed with more
onscreen messages, dimmed lighting, and soft music (mostly
As for running, one thing the mansion did lack was running
trails. Not only was the mansion perched on a steep peak
of chaparral-blanketed rock with no running or hiking paths of
any kind, but Lydia explained the surrounding landscape was the
protected habitat of several rare species of butterflies and
wildflowers. No human feet allowed.
However, in addition to the excellent treadmill-running-machine
in the gym, there was a subterranean running track two stories
below the mansion that was unique in Edwina's experience.
The floor was padded with textured rubber, and as the
subsystem's user interface explained, it was designed for
barefoot running. No shoes. The walls were also
padded, but while the floor had a subtle, swirling, mottled
pattern in shades of green and other earth-tones, the walls were
a uniform, opalescent, light gray. That is, they were gray
until the projectors mounted in the ceiling activated full color
animated images on the inside and outside walls and overhead,
creating the illusion that the runner was jogging down a forest
trail, or a desert track, or through an alien landscape.
The projections were highly photo-realistic, as well as
aesthetically pleasing and very easy on the eyes.
A dozen different venues were available, but so far Edwina's
favorites were an enchanted forest reminiscent of Hayao
Mononoke and an alien jungle trail that evoked the
movie. Edwina spent many pleasant hours padding through
the towering old-growth forest of Ancient Japan or the bizarre
but beautiful jungles of the planet Pandora.
As time passed, Edwina learned she was living and working atop
much more than a circular running track. There was a huge
but conventional basement, of course, with the usual household
utilities and storage shelves, but beneath that were several
floors of industrial facilities dedicated to
rapid-prototyping and the manufacture of the lair's specialized
robots and control systems. All the technology in the
"Genius Mansion" was built on (or more precisely beneath)
the premises! Lydia could probably have bought equivalent
systems on the commercial market, but her machines were
not only fully functional and customized to her exact needs, but
acted as test beds for her brilliant ideas, or so she
explained. Edwina hadn't actually visited any of the
levels beneath the running track, but she had no reason to
believe they weren't there.
Regarding the basic research for which Edwina had been hired,
Lydia presented her with a list of theoretical problems she'd
like her to tackle, all of which Edwina considered intriguing
and significant. She replied with a few suggested
additions to the list, all of which Lydia approved, and they
were off to the races!
Collaborating via the mansion's intranet they made rapid
progress on several fronts. And then... one day Edwina
discovered that her work files were being regularly copied to
various sub-directories, and the destination directories seemed
to be regularly changing names and migrating to different
locations across the mansion's servers. None of the
activity had been immediately apparent, but an automatic
"lab-notebook" program she'd written as an undergraduate to
document her personal research had noted the changes. It
was... suspicious... more like industrial espionage than
collaboration. She coded a few routines to track the
downloads and the directory name changes... and over the next
week a disturbing pattern began to emerge. Her work was
being used for unknown purposes on servers that were highly
encrypted, hiding every aspect of their very purposes.
The most logical innocent explanation was that Lydia Aelios had
a personalized document-handling program of her own and it was
copying and redirecting the files, and if Edwina had had a
meaningful personal relationship with her
hostess/co-worker/boss, she probably would have just asked Lydia
what was happening... but she didn't, meaning she didn't have a
meaningful personal relationship with Lydia. Edwina
continued covertly tracing her "stolen" files, doing her best to
disguise her efforts by encrypting important code blocks and
taking other countermeasures to disguise her efforts.
Edwina Bliss was certainly no rebel, but she was a firm believer
in the principle that it was better to ask forgiveness after
breaking arbitrary and stupid rules that stood in the way of her
curiosity rather than wasting time seeking permission
beforehand, and she wanted to know what Lydia was up to.
Anyway, as Edwina penetrated deeper into the peculiar and
ever-shifting directory structure, she continued encountering
large portions of the intranet dedicated to unknown
purposes. And eventually she realized that all of
her own research was part of a larger pattern.
To illustrate, Λ« had a thriving Medical Division, and the
research efforts supporting its various products were also being
copied into what Edwina decided to call the mansion's "Secret
Servers," and the volume of traffic was far too great to be just
the administrative files Lydia might need to supervise the
division's management. The Secret Servers were sucking up
all sorts of data, including the work of the teams
developing medical expert systems, software designed to fully
automate patient diagnosis, treatment, and care.
And the same went for data streams external to the
company. Edwina selected one such stream at random and
backtracked it to forums and websites dedicated to various
martial arts and hand-to-hand combat techniques. Needless
to say, this was puzzling. What did kung-fu have to do
with robotics? Refining ergonomic models?
Maybe. Making fighting robots? Absurd!
Edwina followed yet another data stream... and became quite
alarmed! It was dedicated to sucking down information on
BDSM! Bondage and discipline! Dominance and
submission! Sadism and masochism! There was no
mistake... and no conceivable explanation!
Her expression one of uncomprehending shock, Edwina stared at
the screen. After several seconds of rapid blinking and
feeling her heart pound in her chest... she calmed herself and
decided she had no choice but to confront Lydia and demand to
know what was going on and why even a small part of her hostess'
vast research apparatus was dedicated to any aspect of
such unsavory activities! And if Edwina didn't like the
answers, she'd quit!
But first... Edwina decided to take a few precautions to
safeguard her files. Typing rapidly in Python, her high
level programming language of choice, Edwina composed a worm, a
virus that would infiltrate the mansion's high-level
administrative systems and rewrite all of her personal
privileges to the highest level. That way, she'd be able
to retrieve her research and prevent Lydia from stealing credit
for her work. This took less than an hour, and she took
the precaution of hiding copies of the final program in several
different directories across the mansion's intranet, and it had
an "active trigger" that would activate if Lydia threw a hissy
fit and tried to purge everything having to do with Dr. Edwina
Bliss from the system.
It was late in the afternoon and Edwina realized she was tired,
hungry (meaning ready to eat), and still a little frazzled from
her discoveries. She powered down her work station, stood,
and straightened the front of her mint-green Λ« lab coat.
Edwina always "dressed properly" during work hours in stylish
heels, skirt, blouse, and lab coat. It was a
matter of pride. Most of her actual activity might involve
keyboards and touchscreens in an office setting, but on
occasion, robotics took her into laboratories and workshops, so
wearing a lab coat to protect her clothes from lubricants and
grime was a sensible precaution. In any case, wearing a
lab coat had been instilled in her early in her academic career
and had long since become a habit.
Edwina's intent was to order dinner from her kitchen terminal,
marshal her thoughts while she ate, then confront Lydia.
Edwina frowned. She recognized that sound. It was
the whine of the motors and servos of one of Λ«'s family of
medium-size autonomous robots. She turned to face the now
open door of her suite... and there it was! Roughly 500
lbs in weight, it moved by means of a complicated arrangement of
rubber treads and wheels that allowed it to negotiate complex
terrain, including stairs and steep ramps. Two large,
strong, articulated arms with padded pincers and additional
smaller but otherwise similar arms were folded along its
sides. This model had always reminded Edwina of a giant
spider or scorpion with a flat horizontal carapace and treads on
each of its many legs. Creepy, to be sure, but it was also
a miraculous fusion of some of her favorite advanced
technologies. At the moment, however, "creepy" wasn't the
half of it! The thing was trundling in her direction!
Edwina took an unconscious step back and nearly stumbled against
her office chair. The robot was getting closer!
"Stop!" she ordered. The robot didn't stop... and
now a second identical robot was lumbering through the door and
into the suite! Edwina had no idea what was going on,
meaning what instruction-set the robots were executing, but it
couldn't be good and it was time to put a stop to it! "End
program! Executive override!" Her administrative
status should have overridden the robot's programóor
rather the robots' programs, plural, as the first
and second automatons were now side-by-side and rolling ever
And then, a pair of armsóone from each robotódarted forward with
blinding speed and unswerving accuracy grabbed Edwina's
wrists before she could react! "No!" The padded
clamps lifted her arms over her head as the remaining two robot
arms extended forward and down and grabbed her ankles!
Now, despite her energetic struggles and frantic kicking, Edwina
found herself off the ground and held in a vertical spread-eagle
with her four limbs stretched to their comfortable limits!
"Release me!" Edwina demanded. Insteadó"MRRMPFH!"óa pair
of the lighter robot arms unfolded from the robots' sides,
darted forward, and clamped her head in place while a third arm
thrust a sphere of black, medium density foam into her
mouth! "Mrrrrrm!" Narrow steel bands padded with
black rubber on the surface against her skin were deployed
across her mouth, to either side of her head, and under her
chin, then snapped together. Her head was
released and the smaller arms retracted.
"Mrrrmpfh!" Edwina's ponytail fluttered and shook as she
tossed her now thoroughly gagged head. The robots' main
arms allowed enough slack for her to struggle, but they remained
rock solid, not even shaking in response to her most energetic
contortions. The clamps holding her wrists and ankles were
surprisingly "comfortable," but their wide, padded grips were
inescapable. She continued squirming and mewling through
her gag, but knew she was totally in the robots' power!
Meanwhile, the two robots had rolled together and essentially
fused into one double-length unit. Next, the arms lowered
her to a horizontal position and settled her on her back across
the robot bodies. Her arms were forcibly lowered to her
sides and her legs brought together while all or most of the
remaining arms extended, folded across her body from shoulders
to feet, and tightened. The fluid technological dance had
been unarguably graceful, and at no time had Edwina been
uncomfortably stretched or her anatomy unsupported.
Howeveró"NRRRRM!"óat the moment Edwina was too preoccupied with
the shock and alarm of her capture to appreciate a demonstration
of robotic artistry.
Restrained on her back atop the joined robots, Edwina continued
her fruitless struggles as her cybernetic captors spun in place
and rolled out of the suite. The door slid closedóSnick!óand
Edwina's desperate, well-muffled protests were no longer
A few seconds of silence followed... then several small, hidden
doors close to the floor snicked open and various small robots
of different designs rolled into the suite. The bed linen
was changed and the used sheets folded and taken away,
presumably to the subterranean laundry. At the same time,
Edwina's clothing and other possessions were neatly packed,
stacked on a robot cart, and taken out through the main
door. Finally, the specialized dusting and vacuuming
robots did their things... returned to their hidden alcoves...
and it was as if the suite had never been occupied.
|TΛKΞN BY THΞ MΛCHINΞ
|| Chapter 1
her ultra-comfortable, custom made, throne-like office chair,
dressed in one of her custom made business ensembles from Milan,
her silk-clad legs crossed, and sipping tea from an exquisite,
eggshell thin porcelain cup and saucer, Lydia watched the
unfolding... experiment. It was also something of an
entertaining melodrama, but above all else it was a test of
important technology, so... experiment. The action was
unfolding on the wall-sized projection screen beyond her
expansive desk and was repeated at different angles on
smaller but still quite large desktop monitors arrayed in an arc
before her. There were also windows inside a few of the
screens dedicated to text and graphics, but everything on
display was directly related to what was happening to Dr. Edwina
Bliss, Lydia's house guest and fellow scientist who, as it
turned out, was also a treacherous snoop.
Lydia watched as Edwina was transported from her guest suite
(her former guest suite) and through a secret door that
had whisked open to reveal a featureless concrete corridor
leading to a shining steel elevator door. She was
squirming and struggling, mewling through the gag covering her
lips and filling her mouth, and doing her best to escape the
many arms of the pair of general-purpose robots holding her
prostrate form atop their hard bodies with their many
articulated arms. The agitated, beautiful, curvaceous (if
somewhat slender) Brit was making quite an effort, but quite
obviously was totally helpless. There was audio to
accompany the hi-definition visual spectacle, but it was limited
to the hum of the robots' motors, the occasional squeal of a
tread or wheel, and Dr. Bliss' well-muffled protests, pleas, and
"Mrrrf! ó Mmmpfh! ó Nrrrrr!"
The elevator door snicked open, the robots and their struggling
cargo entered the car, the door closed, and the descent into the
mansion's underworld began. Upon arrival at the designated
level, the robots and their captive negotiated a series of
additional concrete corridors, passing junctions leading off
into darkness. The passing walls were interrupted by the
occasional steel door, large power panel, or pipe and/or conduit
junction, but there was no signage or decoration. Finally,
a door whisked open and Edwina and her captors took an abrupt
turn and rolled into an approximately fifteen-foot by
fifteen-foot room with a nine-foot ceiling.
Centered in the chamber was a complex and quite peculiar piece
of... furniture? It might be some sort of table
or lounge-chair. Of course, Lydia knew exactly what the
thing was. After all, the mansion's expert manufacturing
systems had dersigned and fabricated it to her demanding
specifications. Specifically, it was an array of
rectangular pads, all supported by one or more robotic arms
similar to the appendages of the robots that had captured Dr.
Bliss. At the moment, the pads formed a roughly
rectangular horizontal bed resting atop a great deal of
complicated machineryóbut that was only true for the
moment. If so directed, the pads and robot arms could form
themselves into almost any configuration from a day-bed to a
lounge chair to a gynecological examination table/chair to an
"X"-shaped framework, horizontal, vertical, or at any angle in
between. And more importantly, it could take a human
occupant with it as it changed shape without overstretching or
damaging her joints.
That was the theory, anyway. The device had passed all of
its simulations with flying colors, but had never cradled a
human subject. Lydia wasn't about to ride the thing
herself, so until Edwina's arrival, unforgivable snooping, and
subsequent capture, there had been no specimen available.
That was now changed, of course, but first...
The robots trundling Edwina's prone, enthusiastically struggling
body into the chamber ground to a halt. Then, without
significant pause, the secondary arms folded across her body
retracted and the main arms lifted her back into the vertical
spreadeagle she'd experienced upstairs in her former
suite. Edwina was not happyó"Mrrrpfh!"óand
continued squirming and tugging against the robotic grip of her
captors and mewling through her gag. "Nrrrrrrr!" Her
long brown hair had somehow escaped the elastic band formerly
restraining it in the neat ponytail Edwina habituably wore while
working and now fluttered in tousled waves as she tossed her
gagged head. "Mrrrmfh!"
With the exception of the now closed steel door, the walls of
the entire chamber were lined with narrow vertical steel panels,
several of the closest of which snicked open and robot arms
emerged from within. They were longer, thinner, and with
more joints than the arms of the "capture-bots" enforcing
Edwina's captivity and were capable of far more complicated
articulated motion. In addition, their business ends were
something like motorized Swiss Army knives with a variety of
specialized tools, as well as conventional gripping pincers
similar to those restraining Edwina's wrists and ankles.
Clearly, the chambers' robotic arms were designed for more
delicate and complex work.
Anyway, as Lydia watched (and smiled, and sipped her tea)
several of the arms extended towards Edwina.
The arms used various cutting and grasping tools to slice open
and remove Edwina's clothing! All of her clothing!
To elaborate, they plucked Edwina's sensible shoes from her
feet, sliced her mint-green Λ« lab-coat to ribbons... followed
by her charcoal-gray skirt... followed by her white blouse...
followed by her white, lacy, and surprisingly stylish panties
and bra! Finally, with amazing delicacy, they removed
Edwina's jewelry, which consisted of a thin gold chain formerly
dangling around her neck and the pair of simple pearl posts
formerly gracing the lobes of her pierced ears!
Edwina was now totally nude, not counting her gag and the wide,
rubberized grips closed around her ankles and wrists. Her
shoes, ruined clothing, jewelry, pens, pencils, Λ« ID badge, and
everything else that she'd been wearing or carrying on her
person were all deposited in what amounted to a mobile robot
hamper. The chamber door opened, the "robo-hamper"
trundled away, and the door snicked closed behind it.
Nude and helpless, Edwina continued struggling and mewling...
even though by this time she had to know she was not
going to be able to extricate herself from her robot
captors' relentless grips.
Lydia continued watching the unfolding spectacle on her giant
screen, smiling and taking occasional sips of tea. She
supposed she could begin the next stage of her plan for
Dr. Edwina Bliss... but Lydia had important theoretical work
she'd hoped to accomplish before supper. Dr. Bliss could
wait until morning. She certainly wasn't going anywhere,
nor would she be able to continue treacherously poking her
pretty little button nose where it didn't belong. Lydia
stabbed a button on the virtual control panel, a side menu
appeared, and she made another selection.
Down below in the chamber the effect was immediate. In a
whine of motors the capture-bots rolled close to the padded
adjustable framework as it reconfigured itself into a vertical
"X"-shaped frame. The capture-bots pressed Edwina's body
against the frame's pads and small arms deployed from the
mechanism to secure narrow, black, braided nylon straps similar
to automobile seat-belts across her torso above and below her
pert breasts (which were pleasingly shaped but not as
perfect as Lydia's) and across her waist. At the same
time, additional straps pinned her limbs against the pads, over
her upper thighs, above and below her knees, and over her
biceps. And then, the capture-bots released her wrists and
ankles and their padded grips were instantly replaced
by wider straps otherwise identical to the rest of her new
restraints. Needless to say, Edwina's struggles were now
significantly more restricted, but nonetheless she continued her
pointless struggles, squirming, wiggling, fighting her bonds,
and tossing her mewling head.
The capture-bots' arms retracted, their bodies separated, the
chamber door snicked open, they rolled from the
chamber, and the door closed behind them. Their work was
Meanwhile, Edwina's padded, "X"-shaped prison slowly lowered to
just a few degrees above the horizontal. "Mrrrmfh," the
spreadeagled prisoner whimpered. Edwina gave her
restraints one last violent test, then relaxed.
"Until morning, Dr. Bliss," Lydia purred. She'd been
thinking aloud. An audio link to Edwina's subterranean
prison was available but not active. Lydia tapped another
virtual button... and down in the chamber the tiny spotlights
studding the ceiling like so many regularly spaced stars slowly
dimmed... and dimmed... and finally winked out.
Total darkness did nothing to promote Edwina's acceptance of her
predicament. "Mrrrrrp!" In fact, the tears that had
been begun welling in her eyes as the framework's straps
tightened across her limbs and torso began dripping down her
cheeks and the sides of her face. "Nrrrrrrr."
The office displays had shifted to infrared cameras and the
chamber's microphones were still open, so Lydia could continue
watching Edwina's weak struggles and listen to her pitiful
gagged sobbing... but she had work to do. She left a
single live video image of Edwina's spreadeagled form on a small
side-monitor, muted the audio from the chamber, and reconfigured
the remaining displays to their usual work-mode. The
screens filled with blocks of code, esoteric graphs,
mathematical equations (many with notation of her own devising),
and she tackled the next item on her to-do list.
Down below in the inky blackness of the subterranean chamber,
Edwina languished... completing her first hour as Lydia Aelios'
naked and helpless captive.
|TΛKΞN BY THΞ MΛCHINΞ