© Copyright 2014 - AmyAmy - Used by permission
Storycodes: Solo-F; M/f; scifi; captive; cond; mc; vid; bodymod; bdsm; punish; pain; enslave; puppet; objectify; cons/nc; XX
The net said a storm was coming. No panic, a storm was always coming. It would be hours before it hit. Plenty of time to finish the job. A reminder about the time and date of the meeting flicked across her vision. Month 10, Day 31. Something familiar? Maybe some famous historical date. Disinterested, she suppressed the overview. There were more important things to worry about.
Hannelore felt as if she was being watched. The city streets up here were near empty in the dark. Hell, they were deserted any time of day. Abandoned would be a better way of putting it. Only the rich could risk it out where they could be seen, despite the darkness, protected by their drones and their privacy screens from being picked off by slavers or organ looters.
As always, the city stank of stale piss and methane. Above her, the broken video-sky looped flickering remnants of ads for companies that had vanished thirty years ago. She was missing the brightness of the slums already. The light from the sky wasn’t enough. In this place, people brought their own illumination, or didn’t need it.
She couldn’t risk a light and she couldn’t afford a screen. She made do with cheap light amplifiers and her skin-hugging black armour. It once had some sort of mediocre active cammo, but that had been busted before she bought it. Broken gear marked her out as poverty scum, but it wasn’t like she could hide what she was. The guy she bought it off said it would stop a bullet in a pinch but she wasn’t dumb enough to believe a feed like that.
Nervously, she checked the reassuring weight of the old metal NK-made pistol strapped against her side. It could hurt people back in the slums, but out here in the city-proper it was only good as a lucky charm; it wouldn’t even scratch a rich-kid’s screen.
Keeping to the shadows and trying not to break into a run she passed the glow of a privacy screen on the far side of the street. The street was quiet enough that she could hear the stealth-hushed buzz of its drones somewhere overhead, lost in the darkness. A person-sized tube, it flickered with the wearer’s personal feed: close-ups of birds pecking, feeding their chicks. Weird, but not that weird. Hannelore had never seen a bird like one in the video. It was probably a virt. Sometimes people would show really messed up shit on their screen feed, stuff with people getting cut-up, or creatures she hoped couldn’t be real.
Not that there were many real monsters. Not here. There were rumours, sure… People on the net said that things had got out of the Hanson-Muller labs. Maybe they had, what would she know? The pictures of those things were enough to make you turn-off. Probably not real though; just more virt shit. The stories about the hive-mind plastic people were probably just spam too. It sounded like the sort of thing a bored AI would do, but an AI wouldn’t hide its identity; she didn’t buy it.
One threat of the city she knew was real, sex-art bio-puppets, all glossy black, bulging muscles, giant tits, monster cocks and dripping orifices, scuttling on insect legs. She’d seen a couple with her own eyes – live feed – and she didn’t want to end up getting sucked into performance art like that kind of shit. Being murder-fucked would be bad enough, but there were feeds where people ended up added to the puppet, their broken, still living bodies merged with its art.
The intuition of being watched wouldn’t go away, but five minutes later she reached the corner where the customer was waiting. He, or maybe she, was waiting inside a privacy. The video was a freaky pattern of dots eating dots and turning into more dots. Sometimes it flickered and there was some kind of demonic face. Old school stuff. She caught a glimpse of one of its drones, ominous against the misty yellow letters glowing in the sky.
Her net pinged her feed; she had the right person. Hannelore moved out of the shadows to approach the screen. She didn’t want to be mistaken for an attacker or those drones would flatten her. The person inside the screen would have a 360 view, seeing through the enhanced eyes of the drones, the net cameras nearby and the surface of the screen itself. No way they’d miss her, even in the dark.
The screener would already know from his net but she hailed him anyway. “Hey, I’m Hanny. I’ve brought your delivery,” she cried out.
“Place the package on the ground in front of you and step away,” came a booming machine voice from above.
“I’m just going to get it out, ok?” She slowly pantomimed keeping her hands visible as she reached inside her suit and cautiously pulled out the tiny black package. She had no idea what it was: drugs, data, credit, stolen scents? It wasn’t her business to know and she didn’t much care.
She placed the package on the ground, moving slow and careful, just in case the drones decided to reclassify her as a threat. Stepping away, she let out a sigh of relief.
The screener moved over and collected the package. What he did with it under there she couldn’t see but a few seconds later payment appeared in her public account. Paid in full. Enough that she could afford to fix up some of her gear without having to starve.
It always put her off balance when she did a deal for credit. The slums moved on cash and barter; everything done slow and cautious. She took comfort from the methodical ritual weighing of the gold or silver dust. Credit came and went so fast; it never felt real.
All she had to do now was make it home without something bad happening. The odds weren’t good. Her net had updated that the storm would hit sooner than first forecast. She’d planned on getting home before it hit. Pity her luck wasn’t in. It never seemed that it was. Hell, if she’d been born lucky it wouldn’t have been in the slums to drug fucked parents that didn’t even have the wit to sell her to a sweatfac as labour.
Some were born in a concrete fortress with a corporate pedigree and an army of AI slaves to look out for them. Others were born in a leaky tent, inheritor of a bunch of pirated genome fixes and a birthing debt. Even if you were dealt a losing hand from the start, things could always get worse. You could hope for better. It wasn’t impossible, just unlikely.
She was out of the city and far from home. She needed a safe spot to hide from the storm. Her net guided her to a bolt hole rated high enough to be safe but low enough to be empty. It looked like a big sewer pipe, blocked at the back. It had been voted up as a safe shelter repeatedly over the last five years. The last up vote was two weeks ago. She figured that it would still be good.
She took a drink from her pack; the safe flat taste of precious clean water. She might be poor but she’d never been so poor that she’d had to drink rain-water. That stuff could really mess you up. OK… She’d done it once, but those had been a desperate times and she’d only been a kid. She’d been lucky with that. The fever and the vomiting weren’t fatal.
Hunkering down behind a pile of scrap metal she began to relax, a wave of exhaustion sweeping over her. She’d been up twenty-hours straight for the job. As the howling hurricane winds blasted in and the rain crashed down hard enough to drown feral cats and dogs, she relaxed into a wary sleep. She was used to sleeping through the storms in strange places. Nobody would be able to get near her. She was the safest she’d been for weeks. Safer than sleeping in the slums.
* * * * *
She woke up with a start. One thing she had, she was good at waking quickly. Her brain was fixed to sleep one eye open. She saw the thing coming at her – some kind of droid – she rolled back behind the crumbling rusted remains of an ancient, metal, pre-electric car drawing her gun. The engine block was gone, stripped for aluminium. The rusted hulk wasn’t worth shit for cover.
The bot hesitated in a near human way, lightning flickers and environmental clutter interfering with its ability to lock on. She got three shots into it before it put her down. She’s always known that gun would be useless outside the slums.
Oh no… Tranqs… She thought as she lost consciousness. It was always worse if they didn’t just kill you outright.
* * * * *
She had a strange feeling waking up, a kind of buzzing sensation through her whole being. She opened her eyes and everything was too sharp, too bright, too clean. The sensation under her fingers was more distinct than it had a right to be. Her fingers… Her fingers, in front of her face, were clean. At first Hannelore thought they weren’t hers. She’d never seen them like that. She didn’t get much exposure to hygiene – wasn’t on speaking terms with anyone that saw any point in it.
Her net was dead. She was alone, isolated, all her data gone. Her clothes, her pack, her gun, all gone too. She could feel the cold floor against her naked skin. It was formed from glassy squares. Even the smell was missing, the ever-present piss-methane smell of the city that had come mostly from her unwashed body… A body that felt strange, so strange. She couldn’t put her finger on it at first. Where was the constant empty, aching sensation in her gut? Was it simply that she wasn’t hungry? A first time for everything, but it could have been better circumstances.
She crouched, ready to move in any direction. The walls and ceiling were more glistening white stuff, just like the floor, all luminous glass like a maxed out screen. The only feature was in front of her, a squat machine of polished metal. It would come up short of her waist if she stood. A metal spiral-wrapped cable snaked out of it towards her and disappeared behind her somewhere.
She tried to stand and almost collapsed from a wave of nausea. She dropped to all fours, letting the dizziness fade completely before she had the confidence to attempt standing again. Her agility was shot to hell but the sickness soon passed.
It was an endgame scenario. She was naked, scrubbed clean, and something was rubbing against the back of her leg. She reached down to brush it away and caught the cable in her hand. It was the same cable that ran into the machine. She traced it back by feel and found that it disappeared into the base of her spine. Life support? Had they pulled her organs?
She gave the cable a tentative tug. There was no sharp stab of agony, just the feeling that it was solidly connected. She tried twisting it and it turned freely in both directions. Obviously, it wouldn’t unscrew and she wasn’t strong enough to pull it out. For now she was tethered to the machine.
She walked over to examine its silvery bulk. Her steps felt strange at first and then seemed to normalize, though she still had the feeling that the world was jagged around the edges somehow – sharper, more detailed, than it ought to be.
She slid her hand across the top of the machine. It felt unsettlingly warm and the surface was mirror smooth apart from where it was embossed with some old-style letters she couldn’t understand.
Like the cable, it had the solid sophisticated class of something made in China – the tinsel fairy land of wealth and celebs. Whatever it was, it was expensive; made by machines, not some rewired kids in a GLA sweatfac.
She caught her reflection in the surface: her hair, normally kept trimmed stubble-short was gone completely; her cheeks pink. She was nineteen, according to her net, mature by slum standards, and hard weather had burned and cracked her skin, like it did to everyone. She was used to seeing the dirt ingrained into those lines in her face but now they were gone. It looked as smooth as the face of a little kid, or a celeb in some AI rendered virt.
She must have been treated with something – the kind of nano-med-process that rich kids could afford. Inspecting herself she found that her hands symmetrical, nails perfectly smooth, trimmed and clean. That had to be some kind of magic because she’d been missing two fingernails and a finger joint.
She explored the room as much as she could, but it was obviously empty apart from her and the machine. The cable wouldn’t allow her to reach the walls. She could see a door in one place when she was close enough but it was out of reach no matter how she tried. After a while she accepted there was nothing she could do and nowhere she could go. She sat down in the middle of the room and hugged her knees against the chill of the clean-smelling draught that came from somewhere.
She tried to dream that something horrible wasn’t going to happen next, but it was too far to reach. Even a slowie with fried implants could work out that something bad was in store for her. Her body might have got a fix-up, but it was also wired to a box, and that was a bad feed for sure.
After some indeterminate time – it could have been minutes, or days – the door opened and a rich kid walked in. He was money-tall, skinny and young looking but that didn’t mean much, they were all young looking, no matter how old they were. He was dressed in a loose fitting pair of pants, the soft black fabric the same colour the long hair that contrasted his pale bare shoulders.
The only people she’d ever seen for real with long hair and perfectly muscled skinny bodies were slumhos. Characters in virts didn’t count.
“Good morning my pet,” he said, towering over her.
She didn’t answer. It wasn’t that she was being awkward on purpose, she just didn’t know how to answer a greeting like that. What the fuck was a pet?
He tried again in a few other languages before returning to his first choice. “I know you can understand me. I have access to your net,” he said. “You may as well answer. It’ll go better for you if you do.”
“What’re you doing with me? What’s this place?” She said flatly. They were honest questions but they seemed idiotic as soon as she spoke them out loud.
He smiled in a relaxed way, perfect white teeth. Not reassuring. “We’re in my house of course. One of them, anyway. I picked up a stray. You’re lucky. You just don’t know it yet. A slummer like you should be thankful for what she can get. If there’s any personality in that empty head of yours, you might have hit the easy life jackpot.”
“I don’t mean to be any trouble. Let me go. I won’t say anything, and even if I did, so what? Who’d join my feed anyway?” She said. She didn’t really expect him to let her go, but there was no harm in trying.
He leaned forward, putting his hand on her face. He stretched up her eyelid with his thumb, examining her as one might inspect a dog with an eye-infection.
“The skin has come up pretty nicely, considering the state it was in. I think I’ll leave it on,” he said. “So, can you do it? Without me having to jailbreak you?”
“Do what?” She asked. Probably he wouldn’t answer. He’d feed her information at his own pace, taking pleasure in the power of it – that was clear, even to her, wither her low grade empathy score. The jailbreaking might not be an idle threat: he could have the gear to rewire her brain for instinctive loyalty. Or maybe he couldn’t do it. If he could, why not do it straight off? Why even bother with threats?
“My sex-slave pet of course… Though I might sell you if you’re boring. I’ll see how you work out.”
“That’s sure retro of you. Why don’t you just get a sim like a normal person?” She asked. She regretted that too. If she was going to say something she could at least have asked for useful information.
“How do you know you aren’t a sim?” He said, his voice turning to laughter.
“That’s an old question. Even slum scum like me know the answer to that one,” she answered bitterly.
“I won’t permit that tone of voice. You will speak sweetly to me,” he paused, staring her down. “If you want to stay yourself.”
She shrugged, looking away nervously.
“Or you can see if my encouragement system works for you?” He continued to stare. He didn’t need a remote or anything; obviously he could access anything through his net.
For a moment she was puzzled about what he meant by encouragement, but she knew the instant it hit her. It wasn’t only pain. There was plenty of that but it was more. It was pure, mind shattering terror. She didn’t know what she feared, or why she was afraid of it, but it hit her deep down in the gut.
It was the kind of fear that turned legs to water, loosened bowels and bladders and made breathing impossible. The kind of fear that turned into recurring nightmares.
The pain came in a rising crescendo. Maybe it was the pain she was afraid of. It would be reasonable… More than reasonable because it felt as if her skin was being burned off her body.Her tongue, her lips, her nipples, her sex parts and every other part of her that was softer than bone felt like it had been stabbed with a thousand needles, and then the needles had been wired to electricity, fire and acid. It was as if every part of her that was harder than flesh had been shattered into a hundred thousand pieces, then rattled and shaken. She would have soiled herself but her body was empty. Her throat tried to vomit but nothing came up.
The ragged screaming she could hear was her own. The pain had stopped. The fear remained, gradually fading. She trembled as if she was in withdrawal – as if she were having a fit – probably it was, though that was hardly a consolation. The only thing on her mind was that she did not want to feel like that again unless there was a good reason for it.
“Whenever you do things that I don’t like you get some of that. Simple tech wired straight to that bad girl did a naughty thing centre of your brain.
“Fear, pain, guilt, sorrow, regret. I can trigger what I like directly. It’s the same system your brain uses to teach itself, so you never get used to it. You don’t learn to cope. In fact, from what I’ve seen, the more I use it the worse it gets.
“You might know it by the name ‘scummer’s jailbreak’ because it’s so cheap. Almost as effective as a specialised loyalty implant. I imagine that, after a while, just the fear of the fear is enough to break your will, assuming you have any to begin with. Hard to tell with slumborn if there’s going to be a anything in there at all.”
Hannelore wanted to tell him that she got it already. She understood. She’d be good. She knew the trick. The gang had stolen an inducer that could do it for a while. They’d used it on each other for kicks until it broke down. His trick was worse though. Much worse.
There was always the chance he might not like her speaking again so she stayed silent. It was no big deal. Most people generally didn’t want to hear her words. It wasn’t like she’d ever had much anyone needed to hear. She wasn’t going to feel that awful sensation again just for the chance to talk some crap he wouldn’t even listen to. He’d let her know if he wanted to know something. If he was being kind, he’d probably tell her what answers he expected as well. Rahul had always told her how to answer.
“Right. You’ve gone all quiet. That’s fine. I don’t have any special rules as long as you’re respectful. Eventually, you’ll learn that you have to work hard to keep me amused. You’ll want to do that as much as possible. It will be expected. How you do it, well that’s up to you to figure out,” he said. He grinned then added, “Get creative.” His enthusiasm was cold.
She realised that she was looking at him in terror. What did he want from her? What could he possibly want her to do that a perfectly tailored fake person couldn’t do better?
“Remember, the encouragement goes both ways,” he added. “So, if you do good, you get rewarded.”
It hit her again. She collapsed backwards, not hard enough to hurt herself, though she was beyond pain at that instant. She moaned with pleasure, joy, ecstasy, but she didn’t hear herself shrieking with happiness. Her mind was away with the glow of a thousand orgasms – enough to shut out the universe – enough to stop time.
When it ended, the feeling of loss was heartbreaking. She’d never felt so good before, never known it was possible to be so satisfied, so complete. The gang’s machine didn’t have a function remotely like it. If it had, they could have made a fortune with it.
He looked down at her, sprawled on the floor. “Are you wondering where I got this kit? Back in China they use it for medical purposes, but they have all these … tiresome … laws to prevent it being misused. Misused? I think it’s designed what you’d call ‘dual purpose’. Really, you have to laugh. They sell most of their output to the fun-houses in Liberia.”
He crouched down and pushed his fingers into her mouth, casually invading her body, keeping her on the floor. She considered biting them off and then she remembered the pain. The fear returned, only an echo, but enough to make her shudder uncontrollably.
He grinned, then kept on talking. “I thought to myself, why should those kids have all the fun and profit? I bought my first unit ten years ago. Yours will make fifty-one. I guess I’m probably the biggest operator on the east coast, but that’s not saying much. This place is a shithole after all. The Liberian shops run hundreds.”
He pulled his wet fingers from her mouth, wiping them on her nose, leaving a cold streak.
“You should probably start with the basics… You know, cocksucking, fucking,” he said. He grabbed her by the chin. His fingers were smooth, almost delicate, not rough and strong like the men she was used to.
“Once you get that down, we can do the fun stuff. You know? Dress-up, role-play, rubber, plastic, bondage, spanking…” He laughed. “Oh that won’t hurt, don’t worry, but if you can’t amuse me, I’ll have to modify you to make you more fun. The customers expect novelty after all. But in the end, it’s what you say that keeps people interested. A low grade AI can fuck like a demon, but people want a person, you know? If you can play head games you could have a future.”
She reached tentatively towards him, but he deflected her hand. She drew back as if bitten.
“I tell you what. I’ll play some stuff into your net to give you some ideas. See you later.”
He left through the single door. She remained, fastened by her cable.
The fucking cable.
The feeds he’d mentioned started in her head. He had an override. She couldn’t turn them off, or mute them, or anything. It was like she was drowning in it. They weren’t glossy porno sims like she’d expected, they were real recordings of him in the room. Gritty. Real. Invasive. He was in the room with other girls. What had happened to those girls? In the first few minutes she got clips of at least five different ones.
His idea of fucking appeared to be mainly him torturing the parts of a girl that ought to be for sex and the girl saying she loved it. She was just an observer, not in the role of one of the participants, but it was bad enough. Boring. Repetitive.
She couldn’t see but she could still feel. At least he hadn’t made it full virt. Her hands found the cable, twining it around her wrists. She used the memory of the terror and pain from before. The fear couldn’t stop her. Maybe if she could wreck that cable she could die. She would try.
Even through the metal spiral-wrap cut into her wrists, even though her arms were coming out of their sockets, even though she couldn’t brace herself any stronger against the machine – and she was pushing away with all the strength in her legs – even though…
A little more and she could be free. Then the cable started to creak and groan and a moment later there was a pop as the wrap came apart.
* * * * *
She was in an empty space that stretched as far as the eye could see. She could hear a voice. The figure of the rich kid popped into existence in front of her. She was in full virt for sure, but there were no telltales or warnings telling her it wasn’t real.
Hannelore stared at him. “So I broke the cable and now the only way I can sense anything is virt? But where’s my brain? You took it out didn’t you? Futurama’d my ass.”
He nodded, making a cheesy ‘you scored a point’ gesture. “Now breaking that cable, that was impressive. Maybe if that had been some kind of life support tether you might have achieved something. The way it is… See… You guessed it now. You weren’t in that body. It just felt like you were. There’s a support cocoon … somewhere … with your brain in it,” he hesitated, “and your spinal column and all the yucky wetware stuff, but it’s not even in this building. You can’t cut the power to it. You can’t smash it. You’ll never even learn where it is. Escape is literally impossible.”
She sobbed. Despite herself. Even though it was meaningless in virt. She didn’t need him to explain any more, but he did anyway, painstakingly. Her life had been shit, but at least she had the power to end it. Now she had to look forward to something like an eternity as a piece of his computing platform.
“The body… Well, you’re not in there any more, obviously… It’s just a bio-puppet that I made from what was left over after I removed your CNS. Even if you’d killed it… It’s fine by the way… I could simply swap it for a different one. I have a nice selection in storage, though some are a bit hard to drive…
“I got an award for one. Third fucking place though. Embarrassing really.” He chuckled to himself. “In your case I guess it’s more a case of feel and experience first-hand. And ‘see’ is just a figure of speech. After all, it’s not as if every one of them has eyes. Tell me, what would you least like to be?”
“What will you do if I don’t tell you? Or I could lie.”
The pain and terror hit her before she’d even finished the words. She couldn’t think of anything worse than that really. She knew now there was no hope of release, even in death. He had her. She was too afraid to even think about disobedience. What if he was monitoring her thoughts somehow? Could he do that? Probably jailbreak gear could do that. If he hadn’t turned it on yet, it was only because he was playing around.
“I never had to think of what I’m afraid to be before,” she whispered. “I don’t think there’s much worse than being a hacked brain in a box, and that already happened. After that, it’s all just more horror right?”
“I’ll believe you’re being honest. I was thinking that given the sort of life slumborn lead you might have rated this an improvement. I guess you pride-in-your-underclass types are stranger than fiction. What sort of troll bitches about getting a life expectancy increase of a hundred years plus?” He said. It wasn’t a question. He turned away, walking around her in a slow circle.
She turned to face him. He stopped, rubbing his temple. “For now, I’ll just put you back in that puppet and let you get used to how I work. Don’t worry. There’s no chance of you damaging it again. I set the strength limiter wrong before. Sometimes takes a few goes to dial in a new puppet. You’ll be too weak to stand, but hey, you broke my cable. You think they’re for free?”
She gazed into his empty eyes. He was just an illusion rendered onto her visual cortex after all. “I think being in somebody else’s old body would be worse. Less familiar,” She said. She knew she was damning herself, but what else could she do? If there was any way to resist him it would be extremely subtle and she’d have to win his trust first. “Your sex art puppets would probably be the worst. But you should probably save those and let me keep imagining how bad it’ll be.”
“I didn’t think you were going to be much fun but you might work out after all. While you’re here though, you may as well fast-forward through the history of your predecessors. At least that way you can spare me having to educate you in all that. You’ll find things aren’t always as they seem. Most of the time they really are enjoying it, even if I had to rewire their senses to make it so.”
She looked blankly at him. Unsure what to do.
“It’s alright for you to thank me,” he said.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Don’t worry, you won’t be bored at all. Once you’re nice and eager, and don’t worry, you’ll get there, you’ll move on to wireless puppets. I have customers who like to get … physical. I don’t think you’re ready for it yet. It’s going to take a lot more training. But once you’re ready you’ll be able to make money for me properly. You won’t have to work all-hours, so there’ll be some downtime for you to mess around in. You may grow to like the work. Even if you don’t, your adoration for me will keep you focused and at it.”
“What do-” Her words cut off. She thought the pain and fear had hit her again, but it was nothing but her own fear.
He showed her his awful grin again. Why couldn’t he use an avatar less like his real body? If he even had a real body. Maybe he was an escaped AI, or a brain in a box like her.
“You don’t think I’m going to let you off that cable-wrecking prank without a lesson do you?” He asked rhetorically.
And then the fear hit her again, this time for real, and Hannelore knew she’d never dare to even touch the cable in the future. She would never go against him. She just knew she was his, and he would never let her go. Gradually, he’d own her perfectly, the punishment triggering automatically based on her thoughts.
Eventually, even the idea of the thought of rebellion would leave her terrified and shivering. By and by, the rewards would make her love and worship him.
She’d never seen it done, but she’d seen the end result: peppy little robots, ready to do anything for their owner. They usually seemed relentlessly happy. Was that an act? Now that she considered it, it probably wasn’t. She couldn’t imagine herself that way. But still, it might be nice to love something – someone – even if she didn’t have a choice in it. That was generally how love worked anyway, wasn’t it?
“You have a lot of fun stuff to look forward to,” he signed off. His avatar winked out of existence, leaving her alone to live through fifty lives of debasement in fast-forward.
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