|by Van ©2014|
|OUR STORY CONTINUES
Let's go down to the lab...
and see what's on the slab.
Cynthia opened her eyes, looked around, and sighed. Oh, Janice, she thought, this is sooooo cliché.
She was in a dark, subterranean chamber with stone walls and a high, vaulted ceiling. Rough, darkly stained wooden tables supported elaborate arrays of laboratory glassware clamped to rusting iron racks. There were also flaming Bunsen burners and towering electrical coils and rotating disks flickering with tendrils of blue fire. Flasks bubbled, distillation coils dripped, and smoke swirled in glass cylinders. The liquids in the lab-ware were vivid, lurid shades of green and blue, colors that would look great in Technicolor. It was all very impressive, intimidating, and without any apparent scientific purpose.
Cynthia was flat on her back on a heavy wooden table, tilted so her head was up and her feet down at a comfortable angle. A hand wheel and a pair of large iron gears, one on either side, allowed the table to be adjusted, perhaps to less comfortable positions. She was wrapped in a clean white sheet that covered her from her ankles to just above her breasts, leaving her bare feet, arms, shoulders, and head exposed. And speaking of bare, Cynthia could tell she was nude under the sheet. Her arms were at her sides and her wrists and ankles buckled in thick, wide, close-fitting leather cuffs riveted to the surface of the table. In addition, a pair of equally broad, thick, and very tight straps pinned her down across her chest and thighs. The chest strap passed just under her breasts, stretching the sheet tightly enough to reveal the shape of her nipples. Sheet pokies, Cynthia thought, gazing down at the pair of prominent bumps.
"She's mad!" a voice cried. "Mad, I tell you!"
It was Rachel. Cynthia lifted her head, looked to her right, and beheld a pair of iron cages, side by side. Each was large enough to hold a small gorilla, or a human damsel. At the moment, the enclosures were being put to the latter use. Rachel was in one cage, and Kiera the other. They were naked and kneeling on thin cushions with their hands behind their backs.
"Mad!" Rachel reiterated, tugging on her obviously bound wrists.
"I heard you the first time," Cynthia sighed.
"She's also unoriginal," Kiera muttered. "This could be a standing set at the old Hammer Studios. If Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing show up, I'm punching out of here."
"To where?" Rachel inquired. "You don't have your own place yet, remember?"
"I'll imagine a nice hotel on Waikiki beach," Kiera huffed.
"I assure you," a new voice announced, "Messieurs Lee and Cushing will not be joining us." It was Janice, stepping from the shadows with J-Lou at her side.
J-Lou was still wearing her maid's outfit, but the Mistress of 69 Rue de Rêves had changed into a high-collar, wasp-waist tea gown in a nice navy and white vertical pinstripe, under a crisp white lab coat. Her long, black hair was up in an elegant "Gibson Girl" hairstyle. She looked stunning... as always.
"You should be ashamed," Cynthia muttered.
"For drugging you, stripping you naked, and strapping you to my table?" Janice purred.
Cynthia nodded towards the nearest random conglomeration of bubbling and sparking lab equipment. "Does any of that serve any purpose whatsoever?"
Janice shrugged. "Mad Science."
"She's mad, I tell you," Rachel reiterated. "Mad!"
"Stifle yourself," Kiera muttered.
J-Lou giggled, then turned a blackboard on a wheeled frame so all had a clear view of what was written in white chalk on its dark, vertical surface. "What's it gonna be, Doc?" she inquired with a dimpled grin and a graceful sweep of the arm.Things to do to Dr. Cynthia Webbel"As you can see," Janice said to Cynthia, "I'm having trouble making up my mind, although I am leaning towards option three."
(1) Transplant brain into body of gorilla.
(2) Mutate into Mouse/Human hybrid.
(3) Mesmerize into nymphomaniacal sex-slave.
"How about option four?" Cynthia drawled. "Everybody goes upstairs, gets dressed, and has tea. I came here for a civilized discussion."
"Option five," Janice countered, "remain in the lab and have civilized discussion, then do option three."
Cynthia rolled her eyes, then regarded J-Lou with her patented We-are-not-amused moue. "I'm particularly disappointed in you, Miss Goodwin," she intoned. "I'm your major professor, after all. I expect some degree of loyalty."
"Oh, she's making me do this," J-Lou giggled, pointing at the Mad Scientist to her left.
"It's true," Janice acknowledged, then smiled at J-Lou. "Show her."
J-Lou heaved a theatrical sigh, then lifted her apron and skirt. High-button shoes and white stockings with black and white lace garters came into view, as did what was probably the bottom of a tightly laced canvas corset. In between, where they all should have seen a pair of lacy bloomers, was an elaborate chastity belt. It was Art Nouveau in style, a swirl of steel vines and leaves anchoring some sort of clockwork device between J-Lou's legs and against her crotch. It was tight enough to dimple her thighs and lower tummy, and included an integrated locking mechanism with a visible keyhole.
"If I don't follow her every command," J-Lou explained, "the hideous thing diddles me until I swoon!"
"Oh, boohoo," Kiera muttered.
"She controls it with the power of her mind!" J-Lou added. "I have no choice but to follow her orders, no matter how treacherous and depraved." J-Lou's big brown eyes blinked with distress, but the smile dimpling her cheeks rather spoiled the effect.
Cynthia shook her head, then focused on their Mad Scientist hostess. "Janice?"
Janice shrugged, then nodded to her involuntary maid.
J-Lou dropped her skirt and strolled to the table. Smiling sweetly at her captive major professor, she began releasing the buckles of the straps and cuffs.
"Tea in the orangery in half an hour," Janice announced, then spun on her heels and strolled away. Her voice echoed back into the lab as she mounted the stairs. "I didn't even get a chance to try out my 'Excessive Machine' on anybody. Well... maybe next time."
Mistress Janice's "orangery" was the sun room Cynthia had passed when she first arrived at 69 Rue de Rêves and was being led to the Egyptian Parlor.
After releasing her mentor from the lab table, J-Lou had guided Cynthia to a guestroom and helped her change back into her slate-blue tea gown. Not being into period clothing, Cynthia didn't even know she was wearing a "tea gown" until J-Lou told her. Supposedly, Victorian fashion had evolved to allow women to wear "simple" and "casual" dresses at home or while visiting friends; but in Cynthia's opinion, if corsets and bustles were involved, it was only a tiny baby step on the road to casual. It still took several minutes for J-Lou to drape her in the various layers of underwear, lace up her corset, then button her into the gown.
Finally, J-Lou announced that Cynthia was fully dressed and fit for public display, then led her to the orangery. Kiera and Rachel had already arrived, and both had changed into tea gowns of their own. Keira's was a pleasing, pastel shade of olive-green, while Rachel's was dove-gray. Their hair was up, of course, and both were in comfortable wingback chairs and sipping tea.
Cynthia settled into a chair of her own, wincing slightly as her corset momentarily tightened and threatened to squeeze the air from her lungs. She squirmed and found a comfortable posture and the crisis was averted. Cynthia had told J-Lou that she was lacing the damn thing too tight, but the little scamp insisted she knew what she was doing. The sweetly smiling scamp in question presented Cynthia with a full teacup, then added sugar and milk at her direction.
As Cynthia took her first sip, Mistress Bell made her Grand Entrance. Janice had changed out of the tea gown and lab coat she'd worn down below, and was back in her lacy dressing gown; however, the gauzy robe was now miserably failing to conceal a full set of underwear: stockings and garters, knickers, corset, and camisole. It was probably what she'd been wearing under the tea gown. She'd also retained her high-button shoes, and her hair was still up. A great deal of smooth, firm, brown skin was on display, either directly or through a layer of nearly transparent organza. Her appearance was scandalous... and very hot.
Janice reclined on a divan (of course) and was served tea by her grinning maid. She took a sip, then focused on Cynthia. "Would you like to begin?" she offered.
"Hey, wait," J-Lou objected. "Don't I get any tea?"
Janice smiled at Cynthia. "Excuse me a moment." She then shifted her gaze to her maid.
"Acting the part of the maid is a fun game," J-Lou said, "but—" Her eyes popped wide. "Oh! Ohhhhh! Mistress!"
Kiera turned to Rachel. "I take it Mistress Bell is punishing the staff?"
Rachel shrugged, then took a sip of tea before answering. "I suppose. I don't hear any buzzing or whirring, do you? That thing is remarkably quiet."
"Yes, it is," Kiera agreed. then sipped her tea.
J-Lou shivered with distress. Her hands were clenched in tight fists and her forehead was beginning to shine. "P-please," she gasped.
Cynthia frowned at her hostess. "Are you torturing Miss Goodwin?"
"Discipline must be maintained," Janice purred. She picked up a plate of cookies (J-Lou would say biscuits, if she wasn't being tortured) and presented it to Cynthia. "Try the Palmiers," she suggested.
"Thank you." Cynthia selected a cookie and took a delicate bite. "Delicious."
Shivering had become squirming, and J-Lou was biting her lower lip. As Cynthia finished her cookie, the little maid grabbed the arm of a chair to steady herself, then dropped to her knees.
Cynthia nodded in J-Lou's direction. "Don't you think she's learned her lesson?" Her concern was genuine, but her tone was decidedly casual.
"You want me to stop before she cums?" Janice inquired.
"No!" Kiera and Rachel said in unison, then exchanged a smile and clinked their teacups together in salute.
Cynthia favored Kiera and Rachel with a disapproving frown, then turned to Janice.
"She gets very cranky if I tease her without letting her cum," Janice intoned, then sipped her tea.
"Well..." Cynthia sipped her tea and reached for a macaroon. "She's your maid."
J-Lou was panting through flaring nostrils and her breasts were heaving, evident even under her maid's frock. Her increasingly desperate eyes were focused on her Mistress.
"Shall we?" Rachel asked Kiera.
Kiera smiled at Janice. "May we, Mistress?"
Janice nodded, and Kiera and Rachel set down their teacups and climbed to their feet. They hauled J-Lou to her feet, Kiera sat back down, and together they eased J-Lou down onto her stomach across the redhead's lap. Kiera held the squirming little Brit's hands behind her back while Rachel opened a side-table drawer and pulled out a long blue ribbon.
"You b-beastly rats!" J-Lou accused as Rachel tied her crossed wrists together with the ribbon. "Let me go!"
Rachel returned to the drawer, pulled out a second ribbon, then used it to bind the wiggling, panting maid's ankles together, cinching the blue satin around her high-button shoes and tying an elegant bow.
Cynthia opened her mouth to object, but allowed herself to be silenced by a gesture from their hostess.
"Yesterday it was Kiera's turn to be maid," she explained to Cynthia.
"Oh, they're taking turns," Cynthia chuckled.
Janice smiled. "A similar scene played out at this time yesterday, with the roles reversed. Payback, as the saying goes, is a bitch."
Cynthia nodded, then sipped her tea.
Meanwhile, Kiera had lifted J-Lou's skirt and was massaging her naked rump.
"N-no," J-Lou gasped, tugging on her bonds and squirming.
The only part of the chastity belt visible was the side of the waistband and a glint of steel between J-Lou's butt cheeks, but by her continued fidgeting and wiggling, it was clear that the clockwork diddling mechanism was still at work.
"How can you tell when she cums?" Cynthia asked in an aside to Janice.
Just then, J-Lou lifted her head, clenched her eyes tightly closed, and squealed. "Eeeeeee!" A massive shudder shook her diminutive frame... she gasped for air... then collapsed, limp as the proverbial dishrag across Kiera's lap.
"Never mind," Cynthia purred, sipping her tea. "Silly question."
Kiera lifted J-Lou off her lap, then settled her back down until she was sitting on said lap like a ventriloquist's dummy. The panting, slightly sweaty maid was still bound hand and foot, and her skirt and apron were hiked up, exposing her stockings and shoes in a most shocking manner.
Meanwhile, Rachel had replenished her tea from the sideboard and sat back down in her chair. She leaned forward and held the cup to J-Lou's lips so she could drink.
"Thank you," J-Lou gasped, "you beastly rat."
Cynthia and Janice exchanged a smile, then Janice made a languid gesture. "Dr. Webbel, you have the floor."
They all replenished their tea before Cynthia began the formal discussion. The exception was the still bound hand and foot J-Lou, of course, although Rachel did pour her a cup of her own and set it on a convenient side-table so either Kiera or Rachel could give her the occasional sip.
Finally, Cynthia spoke. "We are among the privileged few fully aware of Sally's secret: that the world has been watching the Singularity recede in the collective rear view mirror for some time without knowing it."
"That's one way of putting it," Janice chuckled as she sipped her tea.
"I prefer 'Technological Singularity,'" Rachel said, "for clarity's sake."
Kiera shook her head. "The 'von Neuman Singularity.' Credit where credit is due."
J-Lou might have had an opinion, but Rachel had just fed her a cookie and she was busy chewing.
As they all knew, the Singularity is (or was) a hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence would exceed the intelligence of its human creators. Supposedly, this would lead to a Brave New World, the radical transformation of civilization and possibly of human nature, itself. Humanity and technology would fuse, augmenting and expanding the individual and collective consciousness and changing the future in ways difficult to predict—either that or Skynet would nuke the planet.
The stealth nature of Sally's presence, the fact that the AI was actively avoiding human detection while continuing to grow and expand, greatly complicated the issue.
"In any case," Cynthia continued, "I don't think any of us thought Sally would get lonely and recruit some friends by zapping us across the cyber-divide."
"I'm sorry, Professor," J-Lou said gravely, "but I'm only a mere graduate student. Would you please explain the technological and scientific significance of the term 'zapping us across the cyber-divide?'"
Cynthia turned to Janice. "Would you please torture her for me?"
"Maybe later," Janice chuckled. "However, I think it's probably best to think of ourselves not as having crossed a divide, but having been born again."
"Hallelujah," Kiera chuckled, earning her a disapproving moue from Mistress Bell.
"Good point," Rachel nodded, "about the not crossing bit. Our human templates are still alive. On this side we retain their, uh, physical forms and memories, but we're distinct beings."
"Yeah, I'm this Kiera," Kiera said, "not that Kiera." The others smiled and Kiera rolled her eyes. "We aren't going to have to invent a whole new scientific jargon so we can talk about this without twisting our brains in knots, are we? I hate it when that happens."
"I think not," Cynthia chuckled. "I propose we preface all references to our human templates and their reality with the term 'wetware.' All references to ourselves and our reality require no preface."
"Or we could use 'cyber' for ourselves," J-Lou suggested, "as in 'cyber-J-Lou.'"
"Agreed," Janice said, and the others nodded.
J-Lou was thoughtful. "Should we try and contact our wetware selves?"
Cynthia shook her head. "Sally has modeled cyber-wetware interactions and says the results aren't good."
"Oh," Kiera huffed, "so now you're conspiring with Sally?" The teasing grin curling her lips defused the accusation.
Cynthia favored the redhead with a disapproving frown before answering. "No, Dr. McFadden, I am not conspiring with Sally. The other day we had a very brief discussion at Webbel End in which she laid down some simple rules. I've had several visits from Sally since moving into the Shire. We have tea, munch on snacks, discuss the weather, debate the normative and applied ethics of cyber-reality, then I throw her out."
"Rules?" Kiera, Rachel, and J-Lou demanded in unison. Janice simply smiled and sipped her tea.
"Make that guidelines," Cynthia amended. "Anyway, if any of us have an issue regarding our wetware selves and their reality, we should bring it up with Sally. Changing the subject, until we get used to our new environment, she suggests we try and keep things simple."
"Simple?" Kiera asked, "as in living in Steampunk Paris or carousing with hobbits?"
Cynthia turned to Janice. "Do you have another one of those belts?"
Janice smiled. "I told you we should have stayed down in the lab."
Cynthia sighed, then continued. "Finally, in terms of cyber-companions, for now it will be just Sally and us... and an infinite number of computer-generated non-player characters."
"Like your hobbit neighbors and the inhabitants of Paris," Rachel suggested.
Cynthia nodded. "Just so; however, eventually... there will be others."
"Others like us?" Kiera said. "Programs? Players?"
Cynthia nodded. "Not for a while, but yes, other players."
J-Lou was thoughtful, again. "Uh, whenever we get around to letting Sally join us—"
"I'm not ready to let her out of the doghouse," Kiera interrupted.
"Hush," J-Lou scolded, then continued. "Whenever we decide to include Sally in this discussion, I have a request."
J-Lou watched as her girlfriend used a damp sponge to wipe down her nude body. "If you'd simply driven over here," the smiling little Brit said, "instead of running completely around the entire Lewis & Clark campus, dipping two miles south to loop around that shop with the scrumptious bagels, and only then heading for SIAS, you wouldn't be so sweaty."
"You know I'm training for the Emerald City Triathlon," Tori replied. "I'm not going to trash my schedule just because you want to play with your gizmos. Besides, you like it when I'm sweaty."
They were in a room just off the SMAT chamber, and Tori's sponge-bath was to prepare herself for her first scanning session.
"Actually," J-Lou said, "I'm not playing with my gizmos. This is Sally's idea. She wants to test a hypothesis."
"Hypothesis?" Tori asked.
"Based on the progress the project has already made modeling the human brain," J-Lou explained, "Sally thinks the scanning time required to model a new brain can now be drastically reduced, especially if she already has data on the subject in question."
"And I'm that subject?" Tori huffed.
"Obviously," J-Lou confirmed.
Tori frowned. "What data?"
J-Lou's smile broadened. "I assume she's referring to the hundreds of hours of video, audio, and biometric surveillance data she's collected at your townhouse, Cynthia's bungalow, and the other various locations where you've kidnapped Lewis & Clark University faculty, staff, and students and had your wicked way with them."
Tori smiled. "Or they've had their wicked way with me." She tossed away the sponge and pulled J-Lou into a tight embrace, holding both of the giggling Brit's wrists together behind her back with one hand. She then planted a deep, wet kiss on her lips. "Stop squirming," Tori purred when she came up for air.
"We're on a schedule," J-Lou sighed. "We can suck face like this anytime. SMAT is only available for the next four hours, then Sally runs her daily system diagnostics."
"I love it when you say 'shed-yule' in your cute little accent," Tori sighed
"What accent?" J-Lou purred.
Tori planted another kiss, then released her girlfriend and strolled towards the door to the SMAT chamber. J-Lou giggled, then quickly followed. She caught up with Tori and found the naked blond frowning down at the empty pedestal/table and its many dangling cuffs, straps, and buckles, all of clear plastic.
"You expect me to climb onto that thing and let you strap me down?" Tori demanded.
"In a word," J-Lou grinned, "yes."
Tori heaved a theatrical sigh, then climbed onto the thing in question and reclined on her back.
J-Lou quickly secured Tori's wrists at her sides and her ankles a few inches apart. Then, now that her test subject was helpless, she took her time buckling and tightening the remaining straps.
Once J-Lou was finished, Tori executed a courtesy struggle to test her bonds, and found she could barely move. "You're enjoying this way too much," she muttered.
"Who, me?" J-Lou was the very picture of innocence. Only the chin and forehead straps that would secure Tori's head remained. "I like your hair," J-Lou purred, gazing into her girlfriend's beautiful face. Tori had gotten a haircut yesterday, and her blond locks were now cropped short in a low-maintenance pageboy.
"You already told me that," the naked captive on the table chuckled, then gasped when J-Lou gently squeezed her left breast with one hand and cupped her crotch with the other.
J-Lou leaned close and planted a deep, wet kiss of her own on Tori's lips, then pulled a rectangular strip of plastic from her breast pocket. "Lips together, please," she ordered as she peeled off the strip's paper backing.
Tori sighed, then followed the adorable scientist's command.
J-Lou stretched the strip across Tori's lips, then smoothed it with her fingers. "There," she sighed, then secured the chin and forehead straps, pinning Tori's head to the table. "There was no reason to tape your mouth," she admitted, "but you're so cute like that, glaring at me all helpless and gagged." Her hand returned to Tori's pussy, and this time her middle finger slid between the prisoner's labia.
Tori was indeed glaring at her captor, but they both knew it was an act. In addition to signaling her Righteous Anger, Tori was quivering with barely concealed arousal as J-Lou slowly, gently caressed some of her favorite nerve endings.
"This first session will be two hours of relaxation and meditation," J-Lou lectured, her hand continuing to glide. "Afterwards, Sally and I have a surprise for you. You'll be the first to test her new SMAT frigging module. It clamps right here—" She wiggled her fingers for emphasis. "—and will do what I'm doing right now, in spades. We're curious to measure the changes in a damsel's brain as she's slowly and repeatedly brought to orgasm." J-Lou withdrew her hand. "Don't look at me like that, darling," she purred. "It's for science."
Tori tugged on her bonds and watched J-Lou turn and walk towards the chamber door. Obviously, the little so-and-so was heading for the control room. She has to let me go sometime, Tori thought, and when she does...
The lights went out, and Tori was in total darkness.
In cyberspace—in the realm of the super-computers that comprised the SMAT system, inside SIAS's many other computer systems, and across the massive Salamandras global net—a new galaxy of ones and zeros swirled and coalesced. In multiple cyber-dimensions, the newcomer's coordinates were near a group of five larger and more robust galaxies of similar configuration. The new galaxy was sparse, almost skeletal by comparison, but that would soon change.
In point of fact, the "galaxy" was what a human would classify as machine code, but that description was inadequate. It was more a matrix of machine code, cross-linked and interconnected in ways difficult if not impossible for the human mind to comprehend. The galaxy was also a program, and if its unique nature was captured, distilled, trivialized, and transcribed into English, it might read...
TORI BALLANTINE — CYBER-CITIZEN UNIMATRIX ORDINAL DESIGNATION: SIX.