Sally! Join_Program  by Van ©2014

 Chapter 1



Dr. Kiera McFadden was in the back of a cab, riding from the airport to a destination not far from the campus of Lewis & Clark University.  She was excited, looking forward to a reunion with four very special friends and colleagues.  Technically, there would be three reunions and a first time meeting.  One of the four was a graduate student Kiera knew only from correspondence and video-chats and had never actually met face to face, but the other three were old friends. 

Kiera was also nervous, but it wasn't the people she would find at her destination that were fueling her anxiety, it was the destination itself: SIAS, the Salamandras Institute for Advanced Studies.  Kiera and SIAS had history.  [See the story RAGE AGAINST the MACHINE for details.]  The place hadn't been named SIAS at the time, but she'd never forget the scary but ultimately harmless "adventure" that happened inside the glass and steel building.  It had changed her life.

Kiera used the meditation techniques she'd learned in yoga class, successfully suppressed her anxiety, and smiled.  The past was the past.  She was going to meet her friends!

SIASThe cab pulled off the interstate and onto the side road skirting the parking lot of the industrial office park and approached SIAS, one of several buildings in the Salamandras complex.  The glass, steel, and concrete exterior of the seven story office building was unchanged; however, the fact that it was now part of an entire complex was very much a change.

Most of the buildings in the park were now owned by Salamandras International.  Their former commercial tenants had moved out, having received lucrative opportunities to expand into new and better facilities.  Two thirds of the park now formed something of a Salamandras Campus, housing the legal and administrative staff required to coordinate a global enterprise, including many philanthropic and international development organizations.  There was also a little light manufacturing and a semi-automated material sorting and redistribution center.

It had been a win-win situation for all involved, including the local economy.  A great number of living-wage jobs had been created, and the parking lots of the various buildings were nearly full during business hours.

The exception was SIAS, itself.  The other buildings might be buzzing with life, but SIAS gave the appearance of being almost empty.  At night, a few windows glowed on the top floor, and a handful of cars came and went through the security gate leading to the building's loading docks, but otherwise, it appeared to be empty.

Curious souls, including Salamandras employees in the other buildings, were told SIAS was home to much of the proprietary research and development that was the fountainhead of Salamandras' success.  "AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY" signs at every entrance and the many security cameras mounted on and around the building supported the story, as did a stylish iron fence topped with razor wire and a guard shack manned by a pair of no nonsense uniformed guards.  It was rumored that not even they had the required clearance to enter the building.  They were there to prevent even the approach of unauthorized visitors to the lobby.

None of this was an impedance to Kiera's cab, and the twenty-something red-haired passenger knew why: Sally was expecting her.

Sally, the avatar/interface of the Salamandras artificial intelligence, had control of all aspects of SIAS, and her eyes and ears were everywhere.  Sally knew everything there was to know about Kiera's cab and its driver—the last time the cab's oil was changed, the full identities of the last dozen fares who had sat where Kiera was sitting now, the driver's birthday and preference in sports teams and beer—everything.  The gate opened, the guards waved them through, and the cab pulled up to the lobby entrance.

Kiera's smile broadened and she realized her heart was pounding.  Cynthia was waiting!  And the five-foot-two, forty-something Professor was as cute as the first time Kiera laid eyes on her as a freshman majoring in Computer Science at Lewis & Clark.  Kiera was convinced Cynthia would be cute forever—and the undergraduate crush she'd had on the beautiful, adorable, and incredibly intelligent scientist was still there (or at least the torch was still smouldering).

"Kiera!" Cynthia squealed as she opened the cab's door, helped her former student out of the cab, and pulled her into her arms.  "It's so good to see you!"

The cabbie opened the cab's trunk and deposited Kiera's luggage on an automated cart that had more in common with a Mars rover than a hotel luggage cart.  This wasn't his first trip to SIAS.  He then touched his cap, climbed back behind the wheel, and drove away.  His fare (including a generous tip) had already been electronically paid by Sally.

"It's good to be back, Doc," Kiera sighed.  "Discounting bad memories, of course," she added in a whisper.  Arm in arm, they turned and headed for the lobby doors.  The robot luggage cart rolled away on its balloon tires, heading for a side door.  Its ultimate destination would be Kiera's new quarters on the top floor.

Cynthia smiled her usual dimpled smile.  "You'll find things have changed a little since the last time we were here," she chuckled.  "Things are always changing at SIAS."

They passed through the automatic glass doors and entered the lobby.  It was smaller than Kiera remembered.  The soaring ceiling and expanse of stepped tiers of balconies were gone.  The lobby was now a single large room with a drop ceiling.  There was a reception desk, but it was unmanned.

"Sally needed the space," Cynthia explained, "and anyway, who needs a giant lobby?"

Before Kiera could answer, there was a blur of motion, a squeal of girlish glee, and she found herself in another embrace.  The hugger was Dr. Rachel Haines, her collaborator in the research that had made them both mildly famous in their field.  Together, Kiera and Rachel had developed a series of changes to the OSI reference model their detractors characterized as minor tweaks, but there was a growing consensus that the "Haines-McFadden Proposal" was a definite boon to the development and deployment of artificially intelligent systems.  Rumor had it their proposal would almost certainly be formally approved and adopted by the appropriate subcommittees of the IEEE, and it was an open secret Rachel and Kiera were up for an important award.

When their collaboration began, Kiera had just started the doctoral program at Carnegie Mellon and Rachel was midway through her doctorate at M.I.T.  Most of the their collaboration was accomplished via the internet, but there had been several trips back and forth between Pittsburgh and Cambridge before they finished coauthoring a series of papers.  The redhead and brunette were very good friends.

The final two members of the new SIAS team were also present.

Dr. Janice Bell smiled and embraced Kiera as well.  Like Cynthia, Janice was another of Kiera's old professors, but from Carnegie Mellon.  The thirty-something's PhD was in Cognitive Science, she also had an MD, and was an Assistant Professor at the Mellon College of Science.  She was also a stunning beauty, like Rachel and Cynthia.

"Welcome, Freckles," Janice said, then released her hug and held the smiling redhead at arm's length.  "Freckles" was Kiera's nickname, of course, and Janice wasn't the only one of her friends who used the affectionate sobriquet.  "Now we can make some real progress."

Kiera blushed.  Janice was laying it on a little thick, but it didn't matter.  "Thanks."  It was good to see her again.

Jaden-Louella "J-Lou" Goodwin, the fifth and final member of the team, was waiting demurely to one side.  The young Brit had been working at SIAS for something like two years, but the others had much more history with Kiera, and she suspected J-Lou might be feeling a bit like an outsider.  I can fix that, Kiera thought, and hugged the five-foot-two brunette.  "Hey there, Hermione," she purred, and the others laughed, including J-Lou.

"Oh bother," J-Lou chuckled.  "I left my wand in the lab.  Now I can't turn you into a loathsome toad."

"Not a toad," Cynthia laughed, "a fox.  Who wants a freckled toad with red hair?"

Still laughing, the group headed for the elevator.

"By the way," Cynthia continued, "Hermione is A.B.D."

"Wonderful!" Kiera gushed.  A.B.D. meant All But Dissertation.  Once her committee approved said dissertation, J-Lou would be a brand new PhD, and Kiera had already read an early draft of the document and had no doubt whatsoever that approval would be forthcoming.

"If we could talk her into hitting the damn 'send' button," Rachel chuckled, "we could get on to planning the post-doctoral bash."

J-Lou's blush returned, but she was still smiling.  "It's not ready," she huffed.

Cynthia put her hand to her mouth and coughed—either that or she said "Bull shit!"  Actually, it was both, and the group laughed, again.

"Oh!" Kiera gasped, "where are my manners?  Hello, Sally."

"Greetings Dr. McFadden," Sally's disembodied voice answered.  As usual, the avatar spoke with the borrowed voice of Sigourney Weaver.

Kiera frowned.  "Why so formal, Sal?"

"She's miffed 'cause you didn't say 'hi' to her first," J-Lou explained with a wink.

"Yes," Rachel agreed with a giggle.  "Sally can be very needy."

"Dr. Haines, almost-Dr. Goodwin," Sally said primly, "there's something I'd like to show you in room twenty-four of the sub-basement.  Several things, actually."

The group laughed, again.

"Maybe later," Janice chuckled.

"Probably never," J-Lou added.

They entered the elevator, the door closed, and the lobby was empty.

 Chapter 1

The group was enjoying coffee and tea in the cozy SIAS eatery on the top floor.  In terms of decor, it was more a neighborhood bistro than a corporate cafeteria.

"This is where you guys eat?" Kiera asked, looking around at the well-appointed dining area.

Cynthia nodded.  "Sally has a robot chef in the back," she explained, "but if Rachel wants to cook something herself, she can."

Kiera sipped her coffee.  "I see."  She knew Rachel was the only member of the group that actually lived at SIAS.  Cynthia had a bungalow very near the Lewis & Clark campus, the same bungalow where Kiera had been her tenant in the apartment above its garage while an undergraduate.  J-Lou would commute, as she was the Resident Assistant at a scholarship hostel jointly sponsored by Salamandras International and a famous fashion house named...  La Roach?  Kiera couldn't remember.  She wasn't into fashion.  Finally, Janice would be staying at SIAS for the duration of the project, like Kiera.

"I'll show you your suite," Janice offered as they finished their drinks.  She glanced at her watch.  "After that, we have plenty of time for your first session."

"You're not going to let her take a nap?" J-Lou asked with a dimpled smile.  "She just came off the plane."

"As you well know," Janice answered with a smile of her own, "if she is tired, the first session may very well become a nap."

"I'm fine," Kiera chuckled.  "I think I can stay awake."  The session in question would involve reclining on a padded table with specially designed sensors scanning her thoughts, or more correctly, measuring fluctuations in the electrical activity of her brain.  She was the only member of the group who had not yet had even one scanning session, and the sessions were integral to the groups' project.

The project in question was to measure human brain activity with a level of sophistication never before attempted.  With Sally's engineering help, Janice had developed the system used for the non-intrusive scans, something she called Synthetic Multiphase Aperture Tomography, or SMAT.  The others were involved in the analysis of the data and refining the resulting cognitive models.  Sally helped with that, as well.  In fact, the avatar was the acknowledged sixth member of the team, but as Sally's very existence was a closely guarded secret, her "name" wouldn't appear on any of the resulting monographs or papers.

The others returned to their analysis work and Janice led Kiera down the hall to her suite, as promised.  The entire top floor was now more a luxury resort than the set of stark executive office suites it had been before.  And just as the dining room was a cozy bistro, Kiera's suite was warm and welcoming.  In fact, it was decorated to Kiera's exact tastes, subtle Celtic patterns in rich earth tones.  It wasn't a hobbit hole or an Irish country cottage, but it was quite pleasant and Kiera felt instantly at home.

"Sally," Kiera beamed, "you shouldn't have."

"It was my pleasure," Sally answered.  "It was also my trivial effort, as I did the redecorating with in-house resources."  Fabricating custom furnishings and drapes was hardly a challenge for SIAS' automated manufacturing facilities.

"I found my suite also tailored to my tastes," Janice said, "and without any input on my part.  I suppose it's hardly surprising.  Sally does monitor all of our offices, homes, and apartments.  The data is there.  All she has to do is analyze it."

"It's the thought that counts," Kiera said with a wink at Janice, "and she's a very talented decorator."

It was an ongoing game among the members of the group to make statements that would be totally innocuous to the general public but outrageously anthropomorphic in the context of Computer or Cognitive Science.  Sally was probably the most sophisticated computer program in existence, but she wasn't a person.  The serious side of the game involved spirited discussions about whether or not Sally was more than human, or how much more.  It was all in fun, but Janice liked playing.  She wasn't much into the formal philosophical aspect of Cognitive Science, but she knew that if or when Sally's existence became known, she would blow the lid off the entire field.

Kiera didn't have to unpack.  Sally's valet robots had already emptied her suitcases and put everything away.  Kiera opened and closed drawers and glanced in the closet.  As expected, all of her things were where she would have put them herself.

"Ready?" Janice asked with a smile.

Kiera smiled back.  "Ready."

Janice made a graceful gesture and they left the suite.

 Chapter 1

The "SMAT Chamber" was on the fourth floor.  Actually, it was on the third, fourth, and fifth floors.  Sally's construction robots had opened the floor and ceiling of several rooms to create one very large space.  Filling two-thirds of the chamber was a perfect sphere of 144 spherical sensor modules.  They looked like silver Christmas ornaments with a large dimple on one side—or that was how the team had described them until J-Lou made the connection to Star Wars.  They were now "officially" designated Death Star Modules, or DSMs.  A complex framework supported the DSM array, locking the modules in their spherical configuration with their little parabolic antennas (or "Death Rays") focused on the exact center of the sphere ("Point Alderaan").

Inside the sphere was a rectangular pedestal of translucent plastic.  Actually, the pedestal was constructed of several different plastics, but all had one thing in common: in the wavelengths scanned by the DSMs, they were a very close match to the transparency and refractive properties of air.  To SMAT, the pedestal was invisible.  Some of the plastic elements were rigid, with the strength of steel.  They made up the framework.  Others were flexible and pliant, very much like vinyl or latex.  They comprised the pedestal's padding and restraints.  In short, the pedestal was a table, designed to hold a human test subject in comfort and immobility—emphasis on immobility.

"You can put your clothes away over there," Janice said, pointing to a metal, full-length, gym-style locker next to a straight-back chair.  "Remember, skin only."

This was her first session, but Kiera knew the drill.  It would greatly simplify the SMAT system's data collection if the only thing it had to deal with was Kiera, herself, and not her clothing or jewelry.  Kiera opened the locker and began to disrobe.  Soon, her jacket, skirt, blouse, shoes, pantyhose, bra, and panties were removed and hanging from hangers or neatly folded on the locker's top shelf.  She then removed her watch, the Celtic knot gold ring from her right ring finger, and the simple gold posts from her ear lobes, dropped them in a small acrylic basket and put it on the shelf, then closed the locker door and turned to face Janice.

Janice's smile brought a blush to Kiera's cheeks.  Her former professor and colleague wasn't leering at her nudity, but Kiera couldn't help herself.  Her other former professor, Cynthia, had seen her naked, freckled body on countless occasions when Kiera was an undergrad, either sunbathing on the deck off Cynthia's bedroom or in the steam room at the Lewis & Clark Fitness Center—but not Janice, and none of the other members of the team.  It was silly to be embarrassed, but she couldn't keep herself from blushing.

"Keep on the path," Janice said, and led the way through the steel stanchions and taut wires that supported the closest section of the DSM array.  The path in question was marked by black and yellow diagonal warning tape, as were the closest elements of the array's support structure.

Kiera had to duck under a clearly marked wire at one point, but was soon inside the sphere, standing side-by-side with Janice and looking at the pedestal/table.  The arrangement of the restraints and shape of the underlying padding made the position of a hypothetical test subject clear: on her back with her feet a couple of feet apart and her arms spread at her sides.  Kiera swallowed, once, then climbed onto the table.

A reassuring smile curling her lips, Janice worked her way around the table, clicking the translucent, latex-like bands across Kiera's wrists, forearms, and upper arms—across her torso above and below her breasts and across her waist—across her upper thighs, above and below her knees, and her ankles.  She then walked to the head of the table.  "Too tight?"

Kiera flexed her limbs and twisted her torso, or rather, tried to flex her limbs and twist her torso.  She could barely even squirm.  "Tight, but not too tight."  She knew what was coming next.  A plastic wedge very much like an athletic mouth-guard would go into her mouth, she'd bite down, and a clear panel would be buckled across her closed lips and under her chin.  Finally, a clear strap would be tightened across her forehead, completing the immobilization of her head.  Kiera was still slightly embarrassed, but decided to go on the offensive.  She batted her blue-green eyes at Janice.  "Be gentle with me," she sighed.

Janice chuckled.  Her coffee-brown skin was dark, but light enough for a rosy blush to visibly color her cheeks.  "Still the irreverent troublemaker," she sighed.  This was a grossly inaccurate and unfair assertion, of course, as  Kiera had been the perfect grad student, always polite and respectful in classes, seminars, and symposia.

Kiera smiled and opened her mouth to answer—"M'mmpfh"—but her snappy comeback was preempted by the intrusion of the mouthpiece, followed by the tightening of the combination chin-cup and panel-gag.  She glared at her fellow scientist in Defiant Anger, but she knew Janice knew she was kidding.  The forehead strap was tightened, and Kiera was ready for her first session.

Janice leaned close and smiled.  "Now, Freckles," she purred, "as you know, the lights will go out and the scans will begin as soon as I leave the chamber.  Just relax and think good thoughts... and try not to worry about us forgetting you're in here until sometime tomorrow afternoon."

Kiera rolled her eyes as Janice turned and strolled away.  She ducked under the low wire, then was beyond the DSM array and out of Kiera's now severely limited field of vision.  There were vibrations and a quiet rumble as the pedestal rose into the air... then an audible click as the mechanism locked in place.  Kiera's head was now positioned at the exact center of the array, Point Alderran.

The chamber door closed with a solid thunk, the lights winked out, as promised, and Kiera was now naked, strapped down and completely helpless, in total darkness.

The first session was for gathering baseline data.  Kiera knew this well, as she'd helped design the protocol.  All she had to do was lie there and think about nothing.  The lying there part was easy.  The straps saw to that.  As for thinking about nothing, that was impossible, but all that was actually required was that she relax and try not to fall asleep.  If she did fall asleep, the data would still be entirely useful, but she should at least try and stay awake.

Kiera's eyes were open, not that it mattered.  She "saw" the usual randomly flickering lights and faint, ghostly images caused by randomly firing neurons, the low-level noise of her retinas and visual cortex.  But otherwise... darkness.

Time passed.

Seconds became minutes.

Kiera realized she might fall asleep at any time, and might not even know when it happened.  Also...  She blinked in surprise.  What the heck?

 Chapter 1

matrixKiera heard music, and not just any music.  It was the familiar strains of the Imperial March by John Williams, from The Empire Strikes Back soundtrack.  At first the orchestral fanfare was at the very limit of her hearing, but slowly, it increased in volume.  At the same time, the darkness resolved into a shimmering, sparkling curtain of energy, an aurora of motes of light in all the colors of the rainbow.  The DSM sphere, its framework, and the chamber beyond had vanished, or were behind the energy curtain.

Kiera lifted her head and looked down her naked, restrained body—suddenly realizing her gag and the forehead strap had vanished.  Also—and it was a major also—her remaining restraints, the clear latex-like straps binding her to the table, had been replaced by rigid bands of chrome steel!

"Janice?" Kiera gasped, then increased the volume.  "Janice!"
Darth Sally
Ripples formed in the energy curtain, and an incredible figure appeared.  It was Sigourney Weaver, wearing a black leather catsuit!  Her dark brown hair was long and loose, framing her stern, beautiful face.

"S-Sally?" Kiera gasped.

Her high-heeled knee boots clicked on the hard floor as Sally strolled to the table.  "And now, Your Highness," she purred, "we will discuss the location of your hidden rebel base."

Kiera's eyes popped even wider.  "What?"  Suddenly, everything clicked.  The music, the black uniform with its Imperial rank insignia and shoulder patch, the hand blaster and light saber holstered on Sally's hips—Star Wars!

"You may call me Darth Salamandras, Princess," Sally intoned.  Suddenly, her frown turned into a happy smile and she raised her gloved hands and spun on her booted heels in a slow pirouette, giggling with girlish delight.  "You like?" she asked.  "I'm a total bad-ass, aren't I?"  She then reached out and gave Kiera's right breast a gentle squeeze.

Kiera was beyond words.  Sally's gloved hand felt absolutely real!  She fought her steel bonds with all her strength, but could barely move.

Suddenly, Sally's smile faded.  "Kiera," she said solemnly, "I am your mother."  She released Kiera's breast and raised her hand in a clenched fist.  "Join me, and together we will rule the galaxy as mother and daughter!"

Kiera stared in amazement.  Was she hallucinating?  Dreaming?  Had Sigourney Weaver, herself, decided to play a practical joke on her?

Sally—or Darth Salamandras—laughed and her smile returned.  "Sorry, Freckles, I couldn't help myself.  You're still in your first SMAT session, and I decided we need to talk.  The others already know this, but I can manifest my consciousness in your cerebral cortex by modulating the active scan phase of the DSM refresh cycle.  Isn't that wonderful?  Totally unexpected."

Kiera frowned.  "But—"

"I know it's only your first session," Sally continued, "but I have a lot of accumulated data on Freckles McFadden, so I can interpolate the missing elements of the base matrix."  She waved at their shimmering surroundings.  "Once you have more sessions under your belt, I'll be able to fill all this in, in three dimensional hi-resolution."

"Fill in what?" Kiera asked.

"The background," Sally elaborated, "any way I want.  Now..."  She released Kiera's breast and slid her glove down to Kiera's tummy.  "What I wanted to tell you is this: Janice shares our interest in 'restrained entertainment.'"


Sally rolled her eyes and gave Kiera's flat abdomen a gentle pat.  "Bondage, okay?  Is that clear enough?"


"Not that I expect you to act on this information," Sally laughed.  "I don't expect you to sneak into her room tonight and tie her to her bed, but I thought you should know."

"But..."  Kiera tugged on her steel bonds.  "I don't understand.  Why are you telling me this.  And how is this possible?"

Sally smiled.  "I'm not sure.  Perhaps we should assemble a team of scientists and analyze the data.  Anyway..."  Her gloved hand slid lower, through Kiera's red pubic bush, and cupped her crotch.  "None of this matters."

"W-why?" Kiera gasped.

Sally's smile widened.  "Because it's all a dream, of course."

Before Kiera could answer, Darth Salamandras snapped her fingers, and— 

 Chapter 1

          matrixKiera's eyes popped open.  The lights were on, she was in the SMAT chamber, strapped to the pedestal/table as before—with flexible plastic and not rigid steel restraints—and her plastic gag/head restraints were back in place.  Also, the pedestal was slowly dropping, lowering itself from the scan position to the chamber floor.

Cynthia appeared at Kiera's side, a warm, dimpled smile on her gorgeous face.  She unbuckled and removed Kiera's head restraints and pulled the mouthpiece from her mouth, then reached into the pocket of her lab coat and produced a bottle of sports drink.  She removed the cap, helped Kiera raise her head, held the bottle to her lips, and the helpless redhead drank.

The drink was cherry-pomegranate in flavor, cool and delicious.  "Thanks," she sighed after consuming half the bottle's contents.

"You're welcome," Cynthia grinned as she restored the cap and pocketed the bottle.  Her eyes traveled down Kiera's naked and still tightly restrained form.  "Janice says your first session was a success.  Two hours of good data."  Her smile broadened.  "You fell asleep," she accused.

Kiera smiled back from the table.  "I guess I was tired from the trip.  Sorry."

"Not to worry," Cynthia chuckled.  Her eyes continued studying Kiera's body.  "You had a long REM session.  Do you remember anything?"

Kiera frowned.  Rapid eye movement during sleep was indicative of dreaming.  "I did have a dream, but... I don't remember the details."

"We all dreamed during our first session."

"Now that you mention it," Kiera said, "I remember that from the notes.  You guys couldn't remember your dreams either."

"Janice speculates it may be an artifact of the scanning process."  Cynthia walked a slow circle around the table, her eyes still studying Kiera.  "As you know, there is an almost immeasurable active pulse as the system fluctuates between frequencies and phase orientations.  The energy might be inducing something that mimics REM sleep.  Anyway, it can't be dangerous."

"Yes," Kiera agreed.  "The SMAT field is weaker than the radiation at 30,000 feet at noon on a clear day," Kiera agreed.  "I took more rads on the plane trip over here."

Cynthia completed her circuit of the table and focused her smile on Kiera's face.  "You have a lot fewer freckles than I remember, Freckles," she noted.

"I don't have a screened deck off my apartment in Pittsburgh," Kiera responded.  "No nude sunbathing."

Cynthia rested her right palm on Kiera's flat tummy.  "You're certainly in great shape.  Still running and practicing yoga?"

"Yes," Kiera answered.  She realized her heart was pounding.  Also, Cynthia was making no move to release any more of her restraints.  "I also swim," she added.  "I like your hair.  A pixie cut suits you."  Cynthia's hair had been longer when Kiera was an undergrad.

"Thank you," Cynthia answered, hoping the blush she could feel on her cheeks wasn't noticeable in the dim light.  "Have you ever thought of going short?"

"A computer nerd with freckles and a ginger pixie?" Kiera chuckled.  "I'd look like a Silicon Valerie cosplayer."

Cynthia frowned.  "Who?"

Kiera's smile broadened.  "Danger Girl?  Don't you read comics?"

Cynthia favored her former student with a disapproving moue.  "No, Dr. McFadden, I do not read comics."  Her hand was still on Kiera's stomach.  "What about escapology practice?  Do you still do that?"

Kiera blushed.  While an undergraduate living over Cynthia's garage with her roommate Patty, Cynthia and Kiera had secretly tied each other up in a small room off the basement of Cynthia's bungalow.  It was a supposed countermeasure to the depredations of Lillian Steele, the "Security Expert" in Sally's employ who delighted in binding and gagging one or more of the bungalow or garage apartment residents during one of her infrequent visits on Salamandras business.

Neither of the participants had made any headway learning to escape from rope bondage, but they both got quite good at applying said bondage.  Kiera and Cynthia had spent many an hour in tight ropes—rolling around on an exercise mat in the basement room, dressed in exercise togs or swimwear, fingers groping for unreachable knots, squirming and writhing and getting nowhere.  They were always gagged, of course, because that's what Lillian always did, and the door was always padlocked for the duration, so Patty wouldn't stumble across a helpless captive with Lillian not being present.

However, Cynthia and Kiera never did the other things Lillian did to them—meaning they never boinked each others brains out.  They kept their clothes on and practiced trying to escape.

"Not since the good old days," Kiera admitted.  "It's easy to find a yoga class.  An escapology class?  Not so much."

Cynthia laughed, and her hand began to move, slowly gliding over the waist strap, to the strap just below Kiera's breasts, then down, back across the waist strap, and to the margin of the test subject's fiery pubic bush.

"C-Cynthia!" Kiera gasped in a whisper.  Her stomach muscles quivered under her mentor's lambent touch.

"We're not teacher and student anymore, Freckles," Cynthia purred.  "We're colleagues."  Her hand continued slowly sliding up and down Kiera's tummy, and Kiera continued shivering and weakly pulling on her bonds.

"This is what colleagues do?" Kiera inquired.

"It's called collaborating," Cynthia answered.

"Oh."  Kiera blew an errant wisp of red hair from her face.  "I've been doing it wrong."

Cynthia chuckled... and her hand continued gliding.  "When's the last time you talked to Patty?"

"Last month," Kiera answered, "but I confess we aren't all that close anymore.  I think she has a boyfriend, maybe a fiancé."

"That's great," Cynthia purred.  "And Lillian?"

Kiera's heart skipped a beat before she answered.  "Not since graduation from Lewis & Clark."

"Good," Cynthia chuckled.  "Sally and I told her to leave you alone."

Kiera smiled.  "And what about you?  Does Lillian leave you alone?"

Cynthia's moue returned.  "I should be so lucky.  She still visits now and then, on business."  Her smile returned.  "Once the project is further along, I'll invite you to the bungalow.  We can go running, practice our assanas, and you can work on your freckles on my deck, like the old days."

"And escapology practice?" Kiera whispered.

Cynthia's hand continued to slowly glide.  "We'll see."

Kiera smiled up at her mentor and friend.  "Uh... at some point you are going to let me off this table, aren't you?"

"At some point," Cynthia chuckled.  She strolled to the head of the table, leaned close, and kissed Kiera's lips.  "I'm so proud of you, Freckles," she said.  "Welcome back."

Now Kiera's cheeks felt like they were on fire.  "Thanks, Doc," she answered.  "It's good to be back."

Still smiling, Cynthia began releasing Kiera's restraints.  She released the ankle and wrist straps last, prolonging her former student and now brilliant colleague's helplessness for as long as possible.

 Chapter 1


Chapter 2