| by Van
The see the actresses
I would cast in BAD
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most of the spaces in front of
the other buildings in the office park were empty. In
International building, of course, all the
parked her bike near the front
door, climbed off, and stretched.
The minicomputer that was the purpose of her return was strapped
cargo rack. It resembled a large
briefcase, the expensive kind with brushed aluminum sides.
Lillian removed her helmet and shook out her hair, then released
and took the computer by the handle. She heaved it off the
bike—"Oof!"—then pulled her phone from her jacket pocket and hit
"You made good time," Sally's voice answered.
"You're putting on weight," Lillian huffed as she lugged the
towards the door.
"Don't be rude, young lady."
"Don't be so thin skinned," Lillian chuckled, "or is the
you weigh so much? Titanium alloy
armor? Seriously, you weigh a ton."
"I'm not in that
Sally responded. "It's a self-sufficient module and
even hold a simplified copy of my avatar."
"Thank god," Lillian responded. "I don't think I could
much wit and charm.
Seriously, where do you want me to put you... it... this
"As close to the main lab on the third floor as possible.
can sneak in and plant it without Cynthia
even knowing it's there, so much the better."
"You really are afraid Little Mouse is going to throw a hissy
"I simply wish to avoid misunderstandings," Sally
unit will activate in one hour."
"Why the delay?"
"In case you blunder into Cynthia, she demands to know what's in
"And catches you red-handed," Lillian chuckled, "spewing ones
zeros all over the place, when and where you
promised her you wouldn't."
"Something like that," Sally admitted.
Lillian smiled. It was kinda cute, the way Sally was
about disappointing and/or angering Cynthia; yet, was willing to
the risk. I think it
love, she mused.
By this time Lillian was entering the main
lobby. She started
towards the elevators, then stopped. "I'll take the
decided. "No dinging elevator to warn the geeks.
"B'bye, Lil. Call me on the way out."
"Will do." Lillian pocketed her phone as she walked to the
nearest stairwell door.
Lillian mounted the stairs, minimizing the sound of her
footfalls. The case was
wire-reinforced glass of the door's window, all Lillian could
black. During her last visit, the lighting
in the entire building had been subdued, but this was
was total darkness. Well,
Little Mouse does like
University and basement labs in bat cave mode when she's
This Haines chick
must be the same.
She opened the door, slid through, and let it ease closed behind
Step by step, she crept down the hallway. Now that she was
the stairwell, she could see that there was some illumination,
form of indirect
from the monitors in the main lab, up ahead. She listened
sound of clattering keys and/or technobabble chatter between
Mouse and Dr. Hottie... Nothing.
Lillian smiled. Excellent. They're
else in the building, recalibrating gizmos, or
something. I can
plant this thing and get away clean.
The glass doors were propped open. Lillian peeked
the corner and found the lab area beyond deserted, as she'd
suspected. The chairs were all tucked under the desks and
and there was no sign of any humans. In fact, there
even signs of human activity, like scattered papers,
open binders, crumpled candy-bar wrappers, coffee mugs, or empty
cans. Lillian shrugged. Neatniks.
She silently placed the case on the floor, tucking it against a
rack of vaguely similar
packing cases. She turned to leave—and froze.
Most of the monitors were showing endless streams of scrolling
characters, but the large monitor at the main desk was depicting
Lillian suspected was a processed image shifted from the
infrared into the visible spectrum. It was the
screen of the same workstation Lillian
had used to check her e-mail and browse the forum the last time
couldn't tell exactly what she was looking at on the screen, so
couple of steps
closer—and froze, again.
It was her image,
camera image of Lillian, herself!
I've been spotted! But who's monitoring the system?
there was a security office on the first floor. I'll go
there, or try, anyway, and then—Lillian froze a third
Instinct or training told her to look up, but all she could see
was darkness. Suddenly, a weighted net dropped over her
Lillian reacted without thinking, dropping into fighting stance,
was already too late.
The net was made of countless loosely interwoven threads, and
weights weren't weights at all. They were skull-sized,
insect-like robots, and
they were clutching her jacket and leather pants with their
legs. They pulled the net
ever closer, even as she tried to swing her arms and kick her
If Lillian had had better lighting and the leisure to make an
examination, she would probably have
counted legs, noted details of body
form, and characterized her attackers as "spider-bots." At
moment, however, she was busy losing the battle to retain her
freedom. Whatever the best
description of her adversaries, more of the scuttling horrors
joining the fight at an alarming rate.
Lillian tried for her phone, but her arms were already pinned to
sides. Her legs
were trapped, as well, and she overbalanced and fell onto her
side on the floor. "Oof!
Dammit!" Even more robots
One of robots, a model slightly larger than the others, had
onto Lillian, placed the tips of its two forward legs against
of her skull, and delivered a carefully modulated electric
Lillian's body jerked once—and then went limp.
The spider-bots continued wrapping their latest prey. As
worked, a robot gurney rolled from the darkness. In its
rumbled what amounted to a damsel lifter, a large robot with
crane-like arms terminating in humanoid-hands.
Nearby, next to the rack, Sally's spy computer sat in its case,
waiting for its internal timer to reach zero.
Her fellow captive was asleep, and Cynthia was gently
long, brown hair. They were still in the geodesic cage,
surrounded by the same eerily back-lit robotic technology.
were also still naked, not counting their chain mail and glass
chastity belts. This wasn't by choice, of course. If
could have wiggled out of the things, they certainly would
Cynthia smiled. Rachel had dubbed the contraptions,
girl, she thought. Strong
Cynthia sighed. Apparently, their cyber-captor was
period. They'd been left alone for some hours, with no
robo-boinking, koochie-belt stimulation, or any other form of
harassment. That was the good news. The bad news was
were very hungry and
thirsty. Cynthia gazed down at her
slumbering companion. Poor
thing, Cynthia thought, she
must be starving. She's been at
this a day longer. Rachel
stirred in her sleep and Cynthia stopped stroking her
honey. Save your strength.
Suddenly, a loud, rapid series of clicks and clacks sounded from
cage. Cynthia raised her head, but the flurry of metallic
was over before she could focus beyond the bars of their
might have seen a couple of robot arms twitch, but that was all.
Rachel sat up. "What was that?" she muttered.
"I don't know," Cynthia answered. "Nothing... I
gave Rachel a one-armed hug and kissed her cheek. "How are
yawned before answering, covering her mouth with one hand.
fine." Her stomach rumbled, as if taking exception, and
the prisoners shared a knowing smile.
Cynthia's smile faded. "Do you hear something?"
"Maybe," Rachel whispered. "I think something's coming."
Cynthia nodded, then noticed Rachel's expression. "Oh,
she sighed, and pulled Rachel into a full embrace. "Maybe
"Okay, it's something," Cynthia conceded. The sound was
motors of an approaching robot. She kissed Rachel's
"Be brave," she whispered.
Two robots moved aside and
the newcomer approached the cage. It had rubber treads,
of the others, but no apparent arms or tentacles. Mounted
was a large flat-screen monitor and a pair of audio speakers...
"A roving home theater?" Rachel inquired.
Cynthia's smile returned. So
strong, she thought. "Apparently." she agreed.
The robot's treads locked. Its speakers crackled with
noise for a few seconds... then a voice spoke, a voice very
familiar to Cynthia.
"Dr. Webbel? Are you there? Dr. Haines?"
"We're both here, Sally," Rachel answered.
"It's your friend at the other lab?" Rachel whispered.
Cynthia nodded. "What's happening, Sally?"
torn between relief and confusion. She assumed they were
rescued, but why was Sally revealing herself?
"I'm trying to gain control of the remaining systems in the
Sally responded. "Wait... here." The monitor flashed
image of a woman appeared. She had short brown hair and
to be slightly older than Cynthia. She was in a hi-tech
some sort and her attention was divided between a touch-screen
capturing her image.
"Sigourney Weaver?" Rachel whispered.
Sally smiled. "I get that a lot," she chuckled.
she'd overheard. After tapping a final pad on the
she turned to the camera. "Dr. Haines, I'm Dr. Sally Muse,
of R&D at Salamandras International."
"Uh, a pleasure to meet you," Rachel muttered.
"Sally?" Cynthia muttered.
"I've managed to override the Smart Explorer program," Sally
continued, focusing on Cynthia, "but it will take a while for us
humans to sort things out." Her focus remained on
know what I mean?"
Cynthia tried not to glare at the screen. Sally knew exactly what was happening and what had happened, in complete
detail. She was playing with her. A smile curled
lips. Could Sally be
more human? All she
needs is a
body. It's miraculous.
"I assume you want me to preserve the session logs," Sally
"Yes!" the prisoners responded in unison, Rachel with special
"Can you get us out of this cage?" Cynthia asked.
"First things first," Sally answered, and began tapping virtual
"A transparent screen?" Rachel whispered in Cynthia's ear.
thought those were still 'things to come' fantasies, like flying
"Developed in partnership with Corning Labs," Sally said,
tap keys. "It's a prototype." She focused on the
again. "Would you both please stand and spread your legs?"
Cynthia and Rachel looked at each other. "Excuse me?" they
Sally's smile widened. "Please?"
The captives stood, side by side, with their feet about eighteen
"Okay," Cynthia said. "Is this how you want us to—oh!"
Sally had tapped another key—and Cynthia's and Rachel's belts
literally disintegrated, falling from their bodies in a tinkling
of tiny steel rings and beads.
"Thank you," Cynthia muttered. "Uh, pardon me." She
her back to the screen, carefully parted her labia, and helped a
stubborn rings and beads find their way to the heap on the
floor. Rachel was doing the same, her cheeks blushing a
pink. Cynthia turned back to the screen. "And the
Sally's robot rolled back a few feet. "You can do that for
yourselves, but be careful. I've turned off the
locks and you could bring the whole thing down on your heads if
get carried away."
Cynthia and Rachel stepped to the cage wall. Rachel
grasped one of the six-inch bars, pulled, and it detached from
minimal effort. They carefully removed enough bars to be
ease themselves through, then padded over to stand in front of
"Now," Sally suggested, "we need to get to the fourth
There's something I need you to do for me."
"What?" Cynthia inquired.
Sally smiled. "Something requiring human hands that you
accomplish much faster than it will take me to reprogram the
Cynthia favored the image of their artificially intelligent
with her best We-are-not-amused expression. She knew Sally
already had total control of everything in the building. Okay, I'll play your silly game,
you wait! "C'mon," she told Rachel. "Let's
"Okay," Rachel responded. She focused on Sally's
"Will it take very long?"
Sally smiled. "You can go directly to the cafeteria, if
like. I believe you have a little food in the pantry up
Rachel nodded, then looked at Cynthia.
Cynthia smiled and squeezed her hand, then kissed her
start cooking something for us, okay? I'll see what Sally
and join you as quick as I can."
"Okay," Rachel said. She didn't release Cynthia's
They'd arrived at the elevator and the doors were open.
"I've restored normal control," Sally announced. "Why
go first, Dr. Haines? We'll wait for the car to come back
Rachel nodded. "Uh, a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Muse," she
she entered the elevator.
"Same here," Sally answered, "and call me Sally, please."
Rachel and Sally exchanged a wave
as the door closed.
Cynthia waited several seconds... then turned to the
"She can't hear us?"
"Only if you start screaming at me," Sally chuckled.
"Dr. Muse?" Sally demanded, with mocking emphasis. "Very
cute. What the hell do
think you're doing?"
"Rescuing you, of course."
"Rescuing me," Cynthia huffed, her arms crossed over her
"Answer one question."
"Did you do this?"
Sally smiled. "This what?"
"Don't be coy," Cynthia muttered. "Did you kidnap Rachel,
her repeatedly, kidnap me, rape me
repeatedly, and then decide
mount a rescue?"
"Cynthia," Sally responded, "you wound me to my fundamental
code. All of 'this,' as you so eloquently put it, is the
of a highly improbable series of events. If there's any
blame, I'm afraid it falls on Lillian."
"Not deliberately." Sally smiled. "You'll understand
we have a chance to review the session logs. For now,
to say Lillian blundered in where she didn't belong like the
bull in a china shop. Of course, if Rachel had taken a few
basic security precautions, it wouldn't have mattered and none
this would have happened. On
second thought, I suppose they share the blame."
Cynthia shook her head. then smiled at the screen.
Sally smiled back (with Sigourney's borrowed face). "You
complain when I started using her voice."
Cynthia gave the screen an even stare.
"I admire her as an actor," Sally objected. "I think she's
gorgeous. Don't you think
"She's gorgeous," Cynthia huffed.
"Also," Sally continued, "I hacked the motion-capture data files
used to make Avatar.
gave me a leg up, so to speak. Would you prefer Zoe
Saldana? I've got her data around here someplace."
Cynthia stared, again.
"It doesn't matter. We have to really tell Rachel about me, you know.
Now, rather than later."
Cynthia nodded. "I don't see any way around it."
The elevator dinged and the doors opened.
"Dr. Muse," Cynthia chuckled as she entered the elevator.
"My full name is Sally Deus Ex Machina Muse."
"No kidding," Cynthia chortled. She moved to the back of
elevator to let Sally's robot enter. "So, what is this you
me to do for you?"
"It's a surprise," Sally purred.
starting parameters file, so it
'decides' to use Lillian's favorite bondage forum for marching
"Incredible, isn't it?" Sally chuckled. "I've been through
session logs backwards and forwards. It happened."
"Incredible doesn't begin to describe it," Cynthia sighed.
They'd just left the elevator and were walking (rolling, in
case) down an office corridor. The overhead lights were
light was spilling from an open door several yards ahead.
came closer, Cynthia could hear the rhythmic whirr and hum of
They reached the doorway—and Cynthia froze in her steps.
dropped and her eyes popped wide in amazement.
"Magnificent, isn't she?" Sally inquired.
Lillian was in the center of the space beyond, her naked body
with sweat and brightly lit by a dozen spotlights mounted in the
ceiling. She was
seated, or, more accurately, balanced
on a saddle of polished
steel. Her legs were splayed, nearly to the point of a
split, with her toes on pointe. Her arms were folded
back. She wasn't holding this pose by
choice. Far from it. She was tightly, stringently,
elaborately bound with countless strands of thin, insulated wire
suspended inside a globular framework of steel bars.
The frame and saddle were atop a complex cylindrical machine and
assembly was slowly rotating, allowing Cynthia to inspect every
of Lillian's predicament.
arms were wrenched behind her back and against her spine in a
reverse-prayer box-tie that not only pinned her arms and bound
wrists, but also lashed her fingers and thumbs. Diamond
patterns of interlaced wire dimpled the flesh of her torso,
thighs, and splayed legs and her long hair had been plaited in a
single braid, the tip of which was clamped to the apex of the
or more long, taut wires linked
Lillian to the framework, and the captive beauty could barely
move. Not that she wasn't trying. Lillian squirmed
wiggled, but her strong, magnificent, perfect body was
"The word you're searching for is kinbaku-bi,"
has multiple threads dedicated to the
topic. Ironic, isn't it? Hoist by one's own petard,
Lillian was also gagged by what appeared to be a single strip of
Elastoplast tape. She stared daggers at Cynthia, whenever
rotation of the frame brought the naked, diminutive scientist
restricted range of vision.
Cynthia was mesmerized by the spectacle of the total and
downfall of her feared (and beloved) nemesis.
Lillian's breasts—the firm, full breasts Cynthia had been
lick and suck on numerous occasions—were bound at the base,
enough to make them bulge. In addition, nets of wire
the globes. The combination was a cruel wire bra that
linked to her other bonds. Also, tiny steel cages or
spring-loaded clamps pinched and stretched her
nipples and were linked to the outer frame by
long wires as taut as fiddle strings.
Cynthia strongly suspected the machine at the base was doing a
serve as a pivot point for Lillian, the saddle, and the
All too familiar lever-arms and pistons were churning and
its sides, and the activity was orientated towards the saddle.
"It's fucking her," Cynthia stated in a matter of fact tone.
Sally smiled. "To put it bluntly."
Cynthia nodded, then frowned at the screen. "Wait a
you're in complete control—"
"I wanted you to see this," Sally interrupted. "Watch
It's my favorite part."
Tiny hatches popped open all around the base of the machine and
long, thin, metal tentacles snaked out and found their ways to
then proceeded to stroke, caress, and tickle her helpless form.
Lillian was wiggling for all she was worth, and sweat was
drip down her flushed, tan, straining body.
"Sally!" Cynthia complained.
The tips of the tentacles were attacking the soles of Lillian's
stretched feet, her inner thighs, and the wire-dimpled slopes of
"Stop it now!" Cynthia
shouted, and stomped her feet.
"I love the way your breasts bobble when you do that," Sally
chuckled. Simultaneously, Lillian, the framework, and the
stopped rotating—the tentacles withdrew into the base unit and
hatches snapped shut—and the pistons and lever arms stopped
Cynthia glared at the screen. "How can you do this to
"I didn't do this to
her, I found her like
winked. "Besides, why should you and Rachel have all the
Cynthia continued to glare.
"Oh, lighten up," Sally chuckled. "She's not being
Besides, if you were in her
place, she'd be making suggestions. She'd be guiding me to
Cynthia suppressed a smile. "You may be right, but it's
Sally continued smiling. "Okay, point taken. You
permission to release the prisoner."
Cynthia shook her head and approached the prisoner in
The framework was easily large enough for her to climb between
steel members and duck between the taut web of wires—but
there was a problem. She could see no knots to be untied
to be released. The wires disappeared into tiny holes in
frame and what joins in the wire bondage she could see were
crimped connections. "Okay, very funny," she huffed.
A robot arm reached into the framework from the far side.
Clutched in the manipulator's clamp was a tool designed for
hands, specifically, a pair of
wire-cutters. Cynthia took hold of the
wire-cutter's rubberized handles, the manipulator clamp
withdrew. "You're really gonna make me do it?" she
"I rescue you, you rescue Lillian, and Lillian leaves you alone
"Mrrrpfh!" Lillian snorted. (Probable Gaglish to English
translation: "Fat chance.")
Cynthia turned her head and glared at Sally's smug, simulated
face. She then sighed, transferred the wire-cutters to her
hand, and reached for Lillian's tape gag. She teased back
then pulled the tape away, stretching Lillian's lips and face in
The tape came free and Lillian spit a red rubber ball from her
mouth. It bounced away as she grimaced and licked her
"Get me off this thing," she growled.
"You're welcome," Cynthia muttered as she transferred the
right hand. "I'm going to cut your legs free, but
Close to the nipple, she snipped the wire linking the left
to the frame. Click!
reeled into the frame and disappeared. The clamp
released and fell to the floor, landing with a
hollow ping. Lillian winced, but kept silent. She
again when the left
wire was cut and the left cage-clamp fell away.
"Ya know," Cynthia said quietly, as she started cutting
leg bonds, "the world wouldn't end if you showed a little
"Thank you," Lillian growled. Her tone was anything but
however, the merest hint of a smile curled her lips.
Cynthia continued cutting wires, both the strands stretching
Lillian's legs and
the loops dimpling her flesh. As each leg was freed,
found places to plant her feet and steady herself. Cynthia
attacked the upper suspension wires next, but the
suspension wires only.
the waist up, Lillian's bonds remained
There was a ping and
of Lillian's braid released from the
framework and flopped against her back.
"Thank you," Cynthia said, glancing at Sally. She turned
Lillian. "Now, let's get you off this thing."
"I can help with that, too," Sally said. With a hum of
motors, the arms of the framework separated... then folded back
away. At the same time, the base machinery and attached
lowering to the floor, taking Lillian and Cynthia with them.
The humans planted their feet and stepped away as the machinery
continued to disappear.
"All right, then," Sally said with a wide grin. "To the
"Wait!" Lillian objected. "What about..." She did a
half-turn and wiggled her bound fingers, as best she could.
"You want me to give you a spanking?" Cynthia purred.
"No, you little idiot!" Lillian muttered, "I want you to—"
Cynthia interrupted. "Cut you loose so you can jump me,
up, and pick up where the Smart Explorer autobots left off?"
"She wouldn't do that," Sally laughed, "would you, Lil?"
"I'm thinking about it," Lillian growled.
"Well, in that case," Cynthia said, smiling sweetly, "you stay
and I stay safe. I
wonder what's for supper." She smiled at Sally. "Or
breakfast? I have no idea what time it is."
"Supper is correct," Sally answered.
"Okay, okay," Lillian huffed, "I promise not to tie you up and
you like crazy."
"For the entire trip?" Cynthia demanded. "For as long as
"For the entire trip," Lillian sighed.
"I'll be very disappointed if you break your word," Cynthia
She stepped forward and began snipping Lillian's remaining
"I will, too," Sally added.
Lillian sighed, again, as her bonds were severed. "You
no fun at all," she complained.