The next few weeks were Mr. Scary-free. Debbie came bouncing into my apartment after work and happily announced, “I made the Dean’s list! This is the first time in my life I’ve done this well!” She gave me a big smooch. “Dinner tonight—my treat. And no—” She lit a More and french-inhaled slowly. “—Arguments from you.” The dinner Debbie promised was delayed for appetizers and dessert in the middle of the living room.
Debbie didn’t settle down until after we had ordered dinner, despite my earlier efforts. “Y’know, I think it’s because—of you,” she said, grasping my hand. A momentary panic flashed through me; had she figured something out? “I mean, I’ve never been this happy before,” she continued, returning my heartbeat to normal—well, as normal as it could be when I was looking into her beautiful blue eyes. “It’s almost like I’m able to concentrate better because some part of my brain isn't busy worrying about my romantic life, so I can use it, too.” She gave me an impish grin, and in a softer voice, said, “Not to mention that you’ve done a great job at keeping me from being horny, and we both know how distracting that can be.” Her eyes went horny again, and I knew what that meant.
However, when we got home, she begged off of a second round. “I know this sounds bad but… I’ve got a headache. And I really, really want to… but…” I waved dismissively, saying that I understood. Debbie gave me a sweet hug. “You are like… the perfect boyfriend.” I whispered the magic words into her ear, and told her that she would not notice her headache, and that it would go away because she wanted it to. I wanted her again, and I wasn’t going to let a little thing like a headache stop me.
It was hard not to show surprise when Debbie became animated again, and told me that she was headed to her own apartment to take some aspirin and lie down. “It’s really bad tonight. I haven’t had a headache like this in a long time. I used to get them a lot in college,” she sighed, looking at me wistfully before walking out the door. Apparently, there was a limit to the power of the command: it didn’t seem to work on real physical problems. I had been able to change her perception of her body’s nervous impulses before, but that had always been in a sexual context. I resolved not to report it to Mr. Scary—he’d only want me to run more tests on my girlfriend.
I was balefully staring at the cell phone sitting on my kitchen counter, waiting for it to ring, exactly two weeks before Debbie and I were headed to Paris. It had been wonderful not hearing from Mr. Scary, and life was feeling more and more normal each day. Debbie was supposed to be at work tonight, trying to earn some extra money for shopping in Paris, and hadn’t been gone more than fifteen minutes before the courier showed up to ruin my evening. About an hour later, as per usual, the cell phone went off. “Good evening, Mr. Grant. I trust you’ve enjoyed your little—sabbatical from our experiment?”
“I was hoping that you had decided that it was a success and we were finished,” I answered.
“As I have said before, we will let you know when it has run its course. You won’t have to guess about that.” Mr. Scary let me chew on that for a few seconds. “Now,” he began without preface, “I have another test for you and Miss Stafford. We’ve confirmed that she is under your control, and that you can trigger her remotely. We have also seen that you can—suppress, for want of a better term—recognition of people that she knows, at least in the short term. Now we want to see if you can suppress her normal moral judgment in the same way.”
“What are you asking me to do?” I snapped, getting a very uncomfortable feeling. “I thought she was an alpha subject.”
“You are correct in that. However, this is not an assignment per se for Miss Stafford. We need to assess the feasibility of using all the knowledge we have accumulated. If you have any strenuous objections, we will terminate the experiment. Today’s sunrise will have been your last—and Miss Stafford’s as well. Is that clear?” I weakly assented. “Good. This is what you are to do…”
An hour later, I dialed the phone number that Mr. Scary had given me as instructed. “Hello, Deborah Stafford. How may I help you?” My heart fell through my churning stomach at the sound of my girlfriend’s voice. I had gotten ill earlier at the thought of what I was about to do, and that was the only thing that kept me from dropping the phone and running for the bathroom again.
“CS. DS. LO. Obey and Become. Ten-Gamma-Ten. You will give confirmation when I ask you, ‘do you understand.’” I took a deep breath. “There is a gun in the third drawer of the file cabinet directly behind you. It is in a box marked ‘paper tape.’ Do you understand?”
“Yes,” she said without any intonation or hesitation. I felt worse.
When you hear the words, ‘a true patriot,’ you will open that drawer, and remove the gun. Then you will place it in your handbag. You will instantly forget that it is there, and you will not notice it should you open your handbag for any reason. Do you understand?”
“The next time that you need to go to the bathroom, you will take your handbag with you. In the bathroom, you will encounter a co-worker named Ellen. When she says hello, you will no longer recognize her. She does not look like anyone from your job, or any one that is familiar to you. She is a total stranger. Do you understand?”
“When this total stranger asks you if you have seen any good ball games lately, you will remember the gun in your handbag, remove it, point it at her face, and pull the trigger once.” My stomach lurched violently. “Do you understand?”
Bile filled the back of my mouth and my heart thumped wildly as I swallowed and forced the next words out of my mouth. “You will then put the barrel of the handgun to the side of your head, and pull the trigger once more.” I retched, my guts twisting viciously, sending acrid, acid-tinged air and more bile into my esophagus, as there was nothing else to eject. “Do you understand?” I gasped.
Debbie's response gave no sign that she had noticed anything. “Yes.”
“After you have pulled the trigger, you will remove the gun from against your head, and place it in the toilet of the stall furthest away from the door. Do you understand?”
“When you hang up the phone, you will not remember this phone call. The phone did not ring, and you will resume your work as normal. Do you understand?”
“Zero-close-zero,” I said, and hung up the phone. Although Mr. Scary had told me that the gun’s chambers would be empty, it would be easy for them to use a revolver with a blank round and a single bullet. Debbie would commit suicide—at my command. And that was the last thing I would have said to her. No, “I love you,” no farewell, just a command for a mindless drone to terminate itself. I cried, sitting in a ball on the floor.
The cell phone went off about an hour and a half later. “We’ve sent Miss Stafford home for the evening, with full pay,” Mr. Scary stated without greeting. “She completed all parts of the exercise without hesitation. Bravo, Mr. Grant.” I was speechless. “Yes, I know that it would have been easy to terminate Miss Stafford,” he said, uncannily interpreting my thoughts. “However, I told you that no one would be harmed in this exercise, and while deception is an integral part of my job, I do try not to lie outright about such things. Have a pleasant evening.”
Fifteen minutes later, I greeted Debbie with a hot, hungry kiss before she could even close the door behind her. “Wow,” she panted, “I’ve only been gone for a couple of hours—they let me off—Ray!” I knelt and urgently pulled her pants and panties down, and began to lick her pussy with ardor right there in the foyer. “Ray! Ray—mmmf—ohhh—Rayyyy…” Debbie’s protest quickly turned into a pleasured purr. She began to undulate against the wall, and stopped me long enough to step free of her pants and panties before pushing my head back into place. “Ohhh—fu-u-u-uck…” she happily sighed. “Make me come right here…” I was only too happy to grant her request.
After her orgasm, Debbie pushed me to the floor, frantically removed my clothes, and hastily mounted me. Her lust crazed enthusiastic ride left us both drained, but extremely happy with each other. After a while, I had recovered enough to stand up and gather our clothes, still haphazardly lying in the foyer, while she made her way to the sofa and lit a More. “Mind if I don’t get dressed?” she huskily intoned, reclined on the sofa. She was quite inviting, obviously comfortable with her body for what was possibly the first time since we’d been together. Her sensual aura faded, replaced by a happy one. “Paris is going to be so much fun," she excitedly exhaled. “I’m little worried about the language, though. I wish I knew French. What if we get separated?”
I joined her on the couch, gave her a kiss, nibbled on her neck, and whispered in her ear. “CS. DS. LO. Obey and Become. Ten-Gamma-Ten. You will be able to use your new powers of concentration to achieve your goal of learning French in the next two weeks. You will find that learning a new language is fun, and it is an easy thing to do because you are very smart, and very focused. Your new concentration allows you to learn anything you want. Zero-close-zero.” If it had helped her make the Dean’s list, maybe she’d be able to handle French well enough to get along in Paris without me translating everything for her.
“I can’t believe that I’m in Paris!” Debbie exclaimed when we got to the hotel. “How did I get so lucky?” she breathed. “I’ve got a hot boyfriend who takes me places I’ve only ever dreamed about—and that’s not even counting the sex.” “Merci beaucoup, monsieur, c’est pour vous,” she said to the limousine driver, handing him a generous tip. My tampering with her mind had paid off; Debbie had negotiated the airport and even held a conversation with our driver in near-flawless French.
“I can’t get over how much of the language you’ve learned in two weeks! It took me ten years starting in junior high,” I said, honestly surprised at her skill. Debbie shrugged as if it was no big deal, and said that she’d really crammed hard over the last two weeks. It was looking as if I could actually make her smarter—a lot smarter—with my control over her. It wasn’t just “yes, master” mind-control any more, although that did have its place. Maybe I’d try that during this trip. The question came back: could I hypnotize someone who was already in hypnotic trance?
Something happened that evening that erased those thoughts. We were having dinner on a sidewalk, enjoying a glass of wine after dinner while taking in the atmosphere. Debbie reached into her purse, removed a silver cigarette case, and a—cigarette holder. Nothing ostentatious, black, about four or five inches long, and put her cigarette in it. “As-tu du feu pour moi?” she innocently smiled.
My jaw was on the table. “Kitty cat got your tongue?” she purred. “Surprised?” I nodded, still speechless. “I thought that sitting on a sidewalk in Paris was a perfect place to use a cigarette holder—you did tell me that you liked it, right?” I nodded again, lust flaring. “I’ve bought two or three over the past few months. Got a real pretty one from EBay—it was made right here in Paris.” Debbie smiled knowingly as she exhaled. “Then I had somebody set them up for my Mores… and I just waited for the right opportunity. So, how do I look?”
“Amazingly gorgeous and sophisticated,” I managed.
“Wanna take me back to the hotel—after we’ve finished enjoying our wine?” I nodded, and Debbie smiled, her happy, horny, in love one.
The following night at dinner on the Champs-Elysées, I marveled at the way she carried herself, comfortable with the extra looks from passers-by as she used a longer holder, even the non-flattering ones. Debbie was no longer the shy, chubby chick from next door. She looked so regal, so—everything that the words just spilled out of my mouth. “Debbie, will you marry me?”
She smiled at me, and softly said, “Y’know, I’ve always thought that guys never ask that question unless they know the answer. Either way.” Debbie french-inhaled from her holder, waited, and then leisurely lifted her head to exhale. She fixed her eyes on mine. “So, what do you want the answer to be, Ray?”
Getting engaged in Paris meant shopping for a ring in Paris, so I signed on to check my accounts. My bank account showed an extra twenty-thousand dollars that hadn’t been there when we left home. Not that the money wasn’t welcome, but it shattered the fantasy that I had been living in. Debbie noticed the change in my mood. “Having second thoughts? A little panic?” I shook my head and told her it was investment related. “Ohhh… worried about the cost of the ring,” she said. “I promise I’ll keep it reasonable. Huge rocks are for skinny blonde chicks looking for a little extra income after the divorce,” she grinned. “Think I can provide a little distraction?” Her cigarette case snapped shut.
It took a couple of weeks for the initial hubbub about our wedding to subside. Parents and co-workers were appropriately shocked and thrilled. My co-workers may have been a little puzzled why a guy like me would go for a girl like her, but they were well-behaved enough to keep any smartass comments to themselves.
As for Debbie, her co-workers were thrilled—they thought she’d gotten very lucky in landing me. Her boss was a different story. She came over after work in tears one day. “My boss said that—that—I must be marrying a loser who couldn’t get a real woman! Because that’s the only person who’d marry a fat cow like me!”
“Did he say this to your face?” I immediately asked, anger flashing through my head. I wasn’t a fighter, but…
“No, just loud enough for me to hear, and nobody else,” she sniffled. Debbie dried her tears and urgently said, “This guy’s like—big. He’d kill you.” I looked at her strangely. “You balled your fists. Didn’t take too much to read your mind. He’s a workout junkie, perfect abs and all that. He’s the kind of guy who women see him and think he’s the shit. I bet his wife’s a real trophy doll, too.”
“Why doesn’t he just fire you?”
“Well, I think it has to do with the rules thing. And I can’t quit—the company reimbursement is what’s letting me get my MBA. I just have to stick it out for another year-and-a-half. He’s trying to make me miserable enough to quit, and I don’t know why. I’ve never seen him before.”
I was angry enough to consider having Mr. Scary deal with it—but my conscience immediately nagged me long enough for my rational brain to kick in, reminding me that I already had made one deal with the devil on which my—our—lives hung. Even if I had fallen in love with my experimental subject, she was still an experimental subject.
Mr. Scary paid me a visit while I was in St. Louis on business. “Congratulations on your pending wedding, Mr. Grant,” he said, “but we do need to see Miss Stafford more regularly than we have lately. We’ve made allowances for your upcoming life event, but we do need to resume our monitoring.” As I prepared to get out of the limo, he said, “We’ve given you a bonus dividend, by the way. To help with the wedding expenses. Please make sure that Miss Stafford resumes her schedule with us. Good night, Mr. Grant.”
When I got home, Debbie was ready to show me how much she had missed me, but I commanded her as I had been directed before she could jump me, which left me in no mood to play with her. Not even the cigarette holder and sultry posturing could arouse me. I finally told her that I just wasn’t feeling well—something I ate on the trip wasn’t sitting well with me. It was obvious that Debbie and I would never be released from the experiment; they would just keep changing the conditions. How could I tell the kids that Mommy’s a brainwashed zombie who only acts normal because Daddy programmed her to and that she’s permanently hypnotized? My dick didn’t get hard for another week, despite my fiancée’s best efforts.
I eventually managed to re-immerse myself in my fantasy world. Debbie was so obviously in love with me that she made it easy to believe that we would have a normal married life when I was with her. Despite all the tinkering I had done with her mind, she was still ultimately acting from her own memories, perceptions, and desires in that gigantic post-hypnotic world of hers. I had never directly commanded her to fall in love with me, and I swore that I never would.
One evening, when Debbie came back from her night job, my fantasy was shattered once again, perhaps beyond repair. “Weird night,” she said, lighting a More as she plopped onto the sofa. I asked her how so. Anything new that Mr. Scary came up with was a cause for concern. “Well,” she exhaled, “they asked me to take dictation, so I wore headphones. That wasn’t weird, but what they wanted me to write, what was on the tape… it made no sense. Just a bunch of letters and a few numbers.”
I asked her if she remembered any of them.
“Not really,” she said. “I just heard what was on the tape and typed it. Goes faster that way.” Debbie thought for a moment. “Actually, the weirdest thing was that the voice on the tape… well, it sounded a lot like you. I mean, a lot.”
Loud alarms were going off in my head. “Are you sure you didn’t remember what was on the tape?”
She closed her eyes. “Lemme think… there was something about… ‘obey.’ Yeah, definitely. I remember that because it was so… out-of-place. Still, I think the weirdest part was that it was your voice. Been recording any tapes lately?”
I told her no, and said that I had a meeting the next day, so it wouldn’t be a good idea for us to sleep in the same apartment. She smiled at that and made a very showy drag and exhale. “I love having a fiancé who is so into me that sleeping in the same bed may make something happen that will put him at a—” She brushed my ear with her lips. “—Disadvantage at work.” She glanced at me over one shoulder as she headed out the door and smiled impishly. “But sometimes, we all have to make sacrifices. G’night, Ray.”
I was very pissed off, but I had no way to contact Mr. Scary. They had taken a recording of my voice, and tried to control Debbie using it. They were trying to take me out of the picture. If it had succeeded—and I wasn’t exactly sure that it hadn’t—they would no longer need me to command her. If they didn’t need me to command her… I was going to be dead very soon. I could only wait and see what the results of their independent experiment would be.
I started taking a much greater interest in what Debbie did in her night job, questioning about what she had done at work. Her responses gave me no clue as to whether they had succeeded or not. Of course there wouldn’t be any outward sign. I knew that I couldn’t use the command to find out anything. Once she was told that a memory was gone, it was gone. Her programming wasn’t consciously available to her. Maybe I had done my job a little too well. They could program her to kill me while thinking that I was a complete stranger. I knew what was possible with the magic words, and so did they.
I started getting nervous around Debbie, and it was obvious enough that she wondered if I was getting cold feet, even though we weren’t supposed to get married for another eight months. I tried to assure her that I was still in love with her just as much as when I had proposed, but it was a tough sell. I finally had to put her at ease about it. “CS. DS. LO. Obey and Become. Ten-Gamma-Ten,” and just like that, Debbie would no longer react to my nervousness. Even if she did happen to notice, she wouldn’t feel insecure about it. My anger and frustration boiled over, and I marched down to her apartment, leaving Debbie in her programming state at my place.
“Y’know, you could have just told me that you were looking to make me expendable,” I said to the empty room. “I gotta know… are you having any success? If you are, then just kill me now and get it over with.” I stalked out of her apartment, unsure if her place was still bugged. If so, I wondered when I’d get a response, and if I’d see it coming.
Two of my questions were answered at the end of my workday as I left the building and headed into the garage. There was a limousine sitting in my parking space, and two men in dark suits motioning to me. I thought it was too public a place for an assassination, so I walked over there as bravely as I could, determined to face my fate. “Please step inside, Mr. Grant.” I heard the words, and felt a needle stick in my arm. So this is… how… it…
I awoke in all-too-familiar all-white surroundings. It wasn’t long after I stirred that I heard crisp footsteps approach the door. It opened, and Mr. Scary strode in, radiating displeasure. It was the first time I’d felt such a tangible anger from him. “Mr. Grant, give me one reason why I should not give you your wish and kill you right now,” he snapped, drawing his gun and pointing it at me.
“Look, I feel like shit because of whatever you shot me with, and frankly immediate death is looking better to me than always wondering when you’ll set Debbie off like I showed you, and she kills me. I don’t know if it will cause her to have nightmares down the road or what.”
He placed the gun right at my forehead. “We can do that.”
“So get it over with,” I grumbled without flinching. “At least let a professional do the job instead of an innocent girl.” I wasn’t calling his bluff. I had finally had enough of this cloak-and-dagger mind-control shit. It wasn’t fun being paranoid and scared of my fiancée all the time, and it was obvious that the experiment wouldn’t end until I was dead. If they had control of Debbie, they might keep her around. Alpha subject my ass. His hand didn’t waver. “Well?” I asked, not bothering to hide my irritation. “Or do I have to do something else stupid to make you shoot me?”
A loud click indicated that he had put the safety back on. He put the gun into its holster and sat. “You really don’t care if you live or die now, do you, Mr. Grant?” I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was genuinely puzzled by my reaction.
I shook my head. “I don’t want to play this game any more. I’m opting out. Kill me now. Experiment’s over. Take your knowledge and make a thousand human time bomb assassins. I don’t care.”
“Even if we have to kill Miss Stafford so that our secret program stays secret?”
“If you kill me, she’ll likely want to die, too,” I answered, voice flat. “Of course, you can probably program her to forget all about me.” My head still hurt from the knockout drug, and I was still pissed off.
“You are too damn smart for your own good,” he muttered before suddenly, unexpectedly deflating. The tension in the room vanished. “Well,” he finally admitted, “there is a problem with that. Yes, we tried to turn her programming mode on. How did you find out?”
My jaw dropped. Somewhat incredulously, I said, “I asked her what she’d done at work one night when she came home.” The returned expression told me everything I needed to know. God knows how many hundreds of thousands of dollars they had spent on this super-secret operation, and they didn’t consider a little thing like two lovers talking about mundane activities like work.
He sighed again. “We’ve tried just about everything, and it appears that command of Miss Stafford is exclusively yours. We don’t know why. We tried a perfect digital copy of your voice at extremely high resolution. We tested it by opening a very sophisticated voice lock. We tried subliminals, even… hypnosis.” I cocked my head. “Yes, she went under. No, she couldn’t be manipulated beyond some standard stage tricks.” Mr. Scary regarded me suspiciously. “Is there something you haven’t told us? You haven’t been under close surveillance, and that might have been a mistake on our part.”
I shook my head. “Not that I can recall. I’ve only accessed her programming mode; I haven’t altered it since—I created it.”
He frowned and stared at me, trying to figure out if I was telling the truth. Finally, he said, “Mr. Grant, I won’t lie. Your intelligence complicates matters for us, and frankly, yes, it would be much easier to do this without you. However, that is apparently not possible.” He pushed his chair back from the table. “Therefore,” he said as he arose, “we have no alternative to keeping you on the company payroll. This is… a permanent arrangement. As long as you maintain our confidences, you and Miss Stafford will have nothing to fear from us. I give you my word.” The door opened, revealing two other men in dark suits and sunglasses. “These gentlemen will escort you home. Good night, Mr. Grant.”
One of the men put out his arm to keep me from following Mr. Scary as he left, and the other raised a syringe. Looks like I’m gonna miss work tomorrow.