This work is copyright thrall and trilby else ©2006. Do not repost or otherwise use.
"You can run, babe. But you can't hide."
Idris had left a channel on Receive specifically to hear them, but the voice still startled her. Still, she didn't even blink as she finished orienting Molly Millions, sliding the ship deeper into the unnamed star system.
She didn't wince at the lame script he was following, either. She'd heard it enough before.
"We already know where you're headed."
She did cock an eyebrow at that. She didn't know where she was headed at this point, other than away from them. If that Patrol twerp had actually stayed awake during Mindgames 101 at the Academy, it'd probably been just to scope out a cute classmate.
Idris raised her eyes to the stuffed poku doll on top of the console. A favorite memento of her stay on Velvian, she'd decided the little guy was too cool to need a name. Now the little alien figure seemed to roll all three of its eyes in sympathy as the Patrol twerp bluffed on.
Couldn't he at least pick better clichés to mangle? the poku seemed to ask.
Ah. There they were in scan, the Patrol cruiser just big enough to show up for her at a range where svelte little Molly wouldn't show up for them.
Perhaps, she thought, the twerp meant they "knew" she was making for one of the asteroid belts that clouded the inner system. Though they could be dangerous places to try to hide with all those rocks traveling at speed, they were logical.
That was why Idris was staying away from the belts, after choosing this system to hide in.
At first, she'd considered just kicking on the jumpdrive and hauling non-Euclidean ass away from the scene of the crime. It was tempting and immediate, but she had no idea what kind of ships might come tearing out of the Tau Aquilae system after her.
They might be faster. The collection of alien artwork now safe in Molly's hold had come with some very rich owners. That was part of the risk Idris took, but they might have enough juice to get not just the Patrol but the Fleet to chase her, with bigger drives and stealth cruisers and things she'd rather not consider. So finding a hidey-hole for a while was smarter than running full-out.
This star was mostly unremarkable, one of several she could find in the sector. None had names, just catalog codes too long to trip lightly on the tongue, and survey reports too short to be of great interest.
But this one had gas giants.
One was already singing to her as if in demented welcome as she steered Molly toward its gravity well. The storms in its atmosphere, some of them as big as the planet Idris had been born on, were throwing electromagnetic noise all through the system. On another speaker tuned to a different frequency than the Patrol twerp, Idris listened to it warble and boom and hiss.
Then, even as Molly flew closer, the planet started to howl on the Patrol channel, too.
Suddenly she felt small, like a minnow sliding in to shelter under a sea monster's jaws, hoping she was too small to interest it. She watched the sensors, starting to calculate a safe enough orbital altitude that would keep her essentially invisible in the giant's noise and brightness, without coming close enough to skim tangible atmosphere and degrade her orbit.
The Patrol twerp's patter was already breaking up in the electronic chaos, but now her own sensors were losing rez too. They might check out the gas giant to be thorough, and whether either ship saw the other might come down to whose scans were less fucked-up.
Idris hoped it was just one ship out there, anyway.
For now, there was nothing to do until she was closer to the giant. She leaned back in the acceleration couch and thought about her cargo. Her Uskoi fence had missed the rendezvous, and the Uskoi were usually a reliable species, so the Patrol had likely gotten him. But there were places, both in and outside Commonwealth space, where she could sell it herself. Plenty of dealers would want it intact, and even if she had to settle for buyers who'd strip them for exotic materials, she could still make a profit.
". . . khhhhssss. . . on, Idris. You know sshhhkkkkssss. . ." Maybe the Patrol twerp was just bored.
Idris hugged herself. Actually, letting someone destroy the delicate sculptures would feel a lot like murder. It was what she'd learned the owners planned to do, part of what determined her to take them. Even to her own foreign eyes they were beautiful, in a way she couldn't put into words. She'd rather they went to someone who wanted them. She'd try hard to find them a good home before she sacrificed them to operating costs.
There was a bang from the speaker as some tight invisible wavefront a worldswidth long swept across Molly. In the silence behind it the Patrol transmission gained strength.
"For now it's a garrison matter. The Commodore says we can settle it with some service-in-kind."
Idris scowled witheringly at the speaker. The bored Patrol twerp was an idiot, too, if he expected her to buy that. She'd been a damn good thief in her young life, and they'd gotten her just a couple of times, enough so she had some credibility. And enough that she never wanted to get sent back in, much less get sent to a hard-regime prison.
"You might even keep your ship. Just spend a few months indentured--maybe shuttle miner relief crews insystem back at T-Quill. So kkkkssshhhhh . . ."
Right. Idris glanced at the poku, which considered this unworthy of response.
What they'd do would be to impound Molly before they'd dragged her out its airlock, and probably use it for grimy little Patrol errands until they broke it. The only ship she'd ever see after that would be the one that took her to the penal mine--and she'd see little enough of it before they sedated and tubed her with the other convicts.
The exact sentence wouldn't matter. They always found ways to keep you there. Some people used drugs or other things to make it bearable, and if Idris took that route, that would be it. She'd never get out.
It made her cold just thinking about it.
Idris knew they wouldn't put her down a mineshaft, not at first. She'd end up as some guard's pet, or maybe work in a staff brothel and get shared around. She'd end up digging when they got tired of her and new shipments brought new girls and boys to use.
If the other convicts let her dig.
Idris could fight, and she'd never let anyone have her that she didn't want to be with, but that was out here. In there if she fought, and worse luck if she won the fight . . .
More rumors, but they sounded bad enough to be true. Things like disciplinary psychosurgery.
She turned off the speaker and kept on only the short-range one that gave her what the huge banded planet was saying to her. All it might do was kill her, and it wouldn't mean to.
This close to the giant, nothing much was working except the visual telescopes, and they showed her nothing. If the Patrol ship had altered course, she'd never know. Suddenly, hanging here above the storm world seemed more precarious.
Idris checked the survey report. The giant had moons.
Three were small, one of them as close as a few hundred thousand years to falling out of orbit and into the world. Another had shattered, possibly as something else swung by it long ago and they ripped each other apart.
But the last was fair-sized and a safer distance away from the planet.
She swung Molly into an intercept orbit and looked at the bright horizon, waiting for moonrise.
The passageway twisted down into the bowels of the moon, and Idris followed.
She'd almost peed herself when her instruments detected faint electronic emissions just south of the equator, then the faint signs of structure. That'd be all she needed--escaping the Patrol by dropping in on some super-covert Fleet base.
But nothing had shot at her, or even hailed her, and as she'd brought Molly in, it became clearer that what looked like a small-scale complex was inert. It also seemed to be alien, but there was nothing in Molly's databases about what species this was. Surface scans had turned up nothing else on the airless landscape, but deeper penetration revealed this clutch of suspiciously regular tunnels under the moon's hard crust. The visible complex was just headworks.
She'd waited, with Molly parked as far as Idris could get it below a natural overhang. If she could find this place, so could the Patrol. But after a sleepless few hours she guessed they'd left.
Her luck held: the tunnels were airlocked. When her tools brought her through, the air inside was fresh and breathable and she could remove her helmet. The aliens' chosen climate was warm enough to take the EVAsuit off, and she bundled it into carry mode to stuff inside the helmet. She still wore the skinsuit liner, reslinging the gearbelt more tightly at her waist.
Idris looked up at the smooth walls, with their inset lighting that brightened as she passed and then dimmed again behind her. She was rapidly concluding the place was unoccupied.
She walked slowly but confidently, trusting Molly to warn her by remote if the complex's owners--or the Patrol twerp--returned. She'd have to rig relays if she started to lose signal, but so far so good.
Some rooms she passed on this higher level held excursion vehicles or other equipment. Their controls would work for humanoids, but some looked designed for something else. More than one species used this place.
There didn't seem to be weapons or defense systems, which seemed lucky--no alien Patrol waiting to nab her--but also odd. What civilization was that naive?
Maybe they arrogantly assumed no one dared attack or rob them.
She grinned. Sorry, guys. I'm heeeere!
Then she stopped grinning. The place was starting to look very much like a supply cache. Several species set them up in less-traveled parts of Commonwealth space, on their own or cooperatively. Some had permanent crew, but many were automated. These aliens might do the same.
Idris scowled as the next set of lights came on for her. She shared the taboo against stealing from caches. You never knew when you might need one yourself, and that counted for aliens too. Even previously-unknown ones. So even if she found something really good here, she'd leave it. Probably.
On the upside, caches could stay unvisited for years at a time.
Down a level along a curving ramp was a more developed section of the complex, as if she'd left the more workaday layer behind. She picked a room at random, which lit obediently as she stepped inside. It seemed to be some sort of theater, with high seats ranged around a central stage.
Touch-sensitive controls at the rear turned on colored strobe lights and a tinny, grating noise which Idris decided was probably music. She wasn't sure she wanted to party with whatever thought that was music, but overall it made sense. Marooned space crews would hold up better with entertainment.
Of course, that suggested some staff here to provide it. She looked around, spooked, but there wasn't that feeling that anyone was around.
Maybe this civilization was big on amateur theatricals. Gotta make your own fun, eh? She moved on.
Attached to the theater was a kitchen, but its food was locked in what seemed to be cryo-storage, based on what she could puzzle out from the instrumentation and power. Maybe I'll try to unfreeze some of it when Molly's stores get low. Or tiring.
Also ranged around the theater was a cluster of rooms filled with cushions, curtains, and scores of implements that seemed equally suited to torture or pleasure. Idris decided they were made for the latter. She seemed to have stepped into a bordello, or so she thought until she found the next room.
There, high banks of what seemed to be control panels stretched to the ceiling, many higher than she could reach on tiptoe.
Tall suckers, aren't you? she thought. Maybe she'd find something in another room that she could stand on to reach the controls. The machines were inert, but she'd love to turn one on and try to make it work. Idris was good at figuring out alienia; she'd had to be, in her job.
Beyond the instruments, Idris found frustration. The complex was higher-tech here, and instead of the simpler mechanical doors and machines of the upper level she was finding some that didn't open. A couple that did or were ajar seemed to be private living spaces, maybe VIP or officer billets.
Warmer here. She unzipped the skinsuit and peeled it down to her waist, tying off the arms. It would take longer to suit up again if she had to, but by now she was feeling fairly certain she'd have time. Anything Molly spotted would be hours getting here, and there was no one already inside.
Besides, I do look damn fine in a tank top.
There were plenty of control rooms and workshops, and after a while Idris started thinking that despite the technology, there'd be a lot of labor-intensive activity here when the occupants were home. Maybe it kept stranded space crews busy helping fabricate new parts for broken-down ships, or maybe this culture's caches ran on work-exchange.
Yeah. After a long hard day at the lathe, meet your buddies at the theater for some improv comedy and weird-ass music, and then adjourn to the brothel for--?
Idris looked back down the corridor. Maybe work-exchange included some horizontal duty on the cushions. Did you just hope a cute shipmate was in your alcove? Or by then were they all cute?
The next room she poked into--that let her in--was full of low-tech equipment with seats, benches, and lots of weights and pulleys. A gymnasium, she thought. Some of the machines were hooked up to computers, perhaps for monitoring the exercisers' progress.
A little later she came to a vast, open room with walls like a honeycomb. Each tiny chamber contained a bench or possibly a bed, as well as what she took to be a toilet. The sparseness of these sleeping quarters seemed strangely at odds with the extravagance of the rest of the complex.
It was like a prison without bars. None of the cells seemed big enough for the tall computer-users a few rooms back--did they just never misbehave, or was there a taller prison further on? More to the point, what kept the prisoners in their cells? There were neither doors nor the fittings for them.
Some sort of force field? Idris wasn't about to step inside, in case she found out.
Then she saw something out of place, alone on a shelf outside one bay of the oddly-open cells. An open ring of circuitry, about two inches tall and as big around as her bicep. It was strangely beautiful. Idris picked it up, her thief's mind ticking into overdrive.
OK. I decided I probably won't take anything. And maybe they won't miss this.
Although clearly mechanical, its circuits were glitteringly bright, arranged in swirling patterns that made it look more like jewelry than equipment. It flexed, like a wristband. She imagined it gracing the arm--or leg, or pseudopod--of some queen of technology. Perhaps with a matching tiara.
On impulse, Idris slipped the band onto her own arm, and slid it up as high as it would go.
There was a moment of disorientation, and then a feeling of . . . of . . .
Her body stiffened and then relaxed, as she suddenly became deeply aware of every cell inside her. Her other hand was frozen by her wrist, halfway to taking the armband off on an impulse she didn't even recall. But she'd stopped. Or been stopped. Inside.
Then something was in her head and she screamed.
Idris was on her knees, staring, patting her head as if to ensure it was still there. The whatever was gone, from her mind and body. Like an electric shock, but more massive and at the same time barely there at all, and . . . and . . .
. . . ohhhhh . . .
Idris melted to the floor, hearing herself mew as the feeling coursed through her goooood like the best massage happening all at once all over her with hot oil and loving hands while someone licked insanely at her pussy knowing exactly where . . . exactly . . . whe . . . w . . . oh just . . . nnnn . . . th-th--
It faded without peaking.
Crumpled on the floor of the alien brig, Idris sobbed for it.
Time passed, while she wept and stared.
Finally the stiffness in her limbs drove out the divine memory of that full-body tonguefuck, and Idris could kneel upright and look down at the alien metal binding her bare skin.
That thing is dangerous.
She stared at it. Seeing it on her flesh reminded how good it felt. Whatever it had done to her.
What had it done to her?
Idris fought to think, suddenly afraid of how much she wanted it to do it to her again. Right. It had--what, calibrated itself, first. Those twinges. Her lower nervous system, then her mind.
She could finally make herself touch the armband, but instead of yanking it off she found herself stroking its fine circuitry instead. It had measured her and determined what she liked and--wham.
Maybe this was the installation staff. Catered pleasure.
Was this something misplaced from the bordello? It'd come within a breath of getting Idris off harder than she'd ever done on the touch of another person, man or woman. Or even that Kerian she'd sworn never to tell anyone--no. This had been almost perfect.
The best sex of my life, and it's with a machine.
Well, at least a piece of equipment didn't want anything from you afterwards. Idris fingered the circuitry and smiled shakily. Maybe she'd just found something else to do with her free time.
Then she swallowed. It hadn't actually finished her. Maybe it was a sample. Maybe . . .
If this thing actually did give orgasms anything like that buildup, who'd need the bordello at all, even when it had people in it? Was this just something to tease, something to get your motor running before you actually opened one of the curtained alcoves? That would be disappointing.
Either way, the techno-queen that wore this must be a pretty kinky female. Of whatever species.
Idris shook her head and stood. What she needed to do was figure out how this place worked, not play with alien sex-toys. Still touching the armband with her other hand, not quite ready to slip it off, she looked around.
She looked at the nearest console of incomprehensible controls. If she could figure out how to talk to the control system, she might be able to find out how soon anyone was scheduled to return. It shouldn't require cracking into anything very secure. That was the sort of thing the base's intended users would need to get at easily--how soon they might get picked up, what kinds of spares or food supplies were on hand.
One thing she noticed was how sterile it all was--no sign of anything personalized. It made sense, if no one occupied the complex but maintenance crews or transient space travelers. And they'd keep clutter down. But there was nothing individual here. She decided she might bring the poku back on her next trip to Molly and set it up here. It might enjoy the change of scenery.
Idris wandered back to the room with floor-to-ceiling panels. She hadn't seen anything she could conveniently bring back in to stand on to reach the upper ones, but she decided to use the ones at normal-person level to orient herself.
She already knew some alien ergonomics, and it looked like there were some redundancies--things that looked like keypads for humanoid fingers, but also some ball-shaped things netted with narrow holes that suggested something could select them with clawtips. Other things she didn't recognize.
After several tries, nothing seemed to be an On switch.
Maybe she needed some sort of command code to get access. Maybe the aliens had entities like nations or combines that didn't fight but didn't share emergency facilities, either. Until Idris could convince the complex she was a homegirl, it wouldn't do anything for her.
She glanced at the armband, which remained quiet. At least I have a souvenir.
Looking away at a panel just above eye level, she saw it light up. But before she could do more than gape, she was standing rigid, with that something humming in her head again.
It faded, and the panel darkened again. She barely noticed that and stayed perfectly still as the whatever-it-was had posed her. Just in case. Maybe it would jazz her again.
Almost sullenly she refocused her thoughts. God--she'd lit up that panel just by thinking about it. Hadn't she? She picked another panel and concentrated. Nothing happened, either to it or to her now-itchy nerves. Damn. She tried again, holding the armband with her other hand as if that'd make a difference. It didn't. Crap. She glanced at a third panel and--
Ha! It lit! And she felt some kind of connection with it, too. Nothing like being able to control anything through the panel, or even know what subsystem it operated--but she knew, with a quivering certainty, that she could plug herself into it. It had taught itself how to listen to her thoughts, and to the extent it could figure them out, it turned them into commands for the base's systems.
Wow. Hopefully she wouldn't turn on the self-destruct unit by mistake. Oops.
Idris giggled, and hearing it in the alien chamber just made her laugh some more.
Well, they wouldn't make it that easy to blow the place up.
She stopped giggling anyway--mostly--and considered less extravagant hazards. She could accidentally tell the complex it had erred about, say, her atmospheric needs, and it would helpfully gas her with an ammonia-methane mixture before she could clear that up.
Idris decided to think very carefully while she had the armband on.
But if she could avoid catastrophic mistakes, it was a definite shortcut to making life easier here--or even profitable. She might not steal anything tangible here, but somewhere in all this alien tech there must be some plans or processes or something she could copy that would sell well to someone in Commonwealth space. Inevitably there'd be contact with this other federation and trade, but she'd give her buyers an edge.
She let herself giggle again, and patted the armband like a new accomplice. Violating the intellectual property rights of intellects no one but she herself knew about wouldn't even be illegal. Not in the Commonwealth, anyway. And data took up no cargo space.
Walking to the center of the control room, she threw an imperious pose, stretching out her arm with the alien device on her bicep, and sneered at the maybe-keypads and claw-globes.
Maybe this bauble she'd found in the prison had been misplaced from the VIP quarters, not the brothel. The kinky queen of technology who'd wear this didn't get her fingertips dirty poking at control panels--she willed the complex's systems to serve and inform her.
Idris would make them behave, too, given a little time. Which, pending some sort of schedule once she dug it out, she seemed to have a lot of.
Idris walked back the way she'd come, idly stroking the armband. Tracing the whorls of circuitry, she wondered which branching was responsible for the tonguefuck she'd just enjoyed. Was this the spot? Or this? She'd almost forgotten the pain of the original calibration.
Then she smiled at herself. Dinner before dessert. It wasn't the joybutton she needed to identify, but the boring controls for interfacing with higher-level systems.
If the owners returned early, better they find her leaving a note, than sprawled drunk in the parlor.
Soon she reached the central control room, its computer panels stretching from floor to ceiling. Slightly nervous, she stepped to the nearest wall and focused on a screen at eye level. Light, she thought. On.
The screen remained dark. Damn. She focused on another panel and willed it to light.
Suddenly something flexed in her head. Blink.
The screen lit, and so did her pussy. It was the tongues again, turning her legs to jelly and making her mew like a kitten, but this time she didn't collapse on the floor. She couldn't. The armband held her upright as firmly as a hand on her bicep. Then she could move. Had to. Compelled, she went to the keyboard beneath the lit screen and placed her hands on the keys.
For a second Idris felt as though each fingertip was a clit. But she barely had the chance to moan before the feeling subsided and she began to type.
Idris didn't know what she was typing--her hands had found a pattern that shared nothing with the touch-typing she'd learned--but it didn't seem to matter. A tutorial, she thought, watching alien characters dance across the screen. Good. I . . . need to be taught.
She sensed a presence rummaging around in her brain, turning and tuning her thoughts. It felt good. She'd contacted the base, itself, and it was helping. She waited eagerly for meaning to coalesce.
It came slowly, but that was all right. The presence took up so much of her thought-space that Idris hardly remembered why she wanted to use the computers in the first place. All she knew was that the armband had put her here. It was enough.
Several minutes passed and Idris had made no progress in understanding the alien language. Without warning the screen went dark. She felt nothing, no disappointment, no frustration. Not even surprise at feeling nothing.
Just an irresistible urge to try another screen on the other side of the room. She obeyed.
On reaching it, her hand hovered briefly over a claw-ball, but soon laid itself flat on a pad instead. Again her fingertips buzzed with pleasure. This was where she was meant to be. She tingled with certainty.
Idris felt like a passenger in her body--even in her mind. It scared her a little, but mostly she felt she needed to show some aptitude, that she wasn't some stupid alien animal.
Sensing her response, the armband seized her mind more firmly, and her head rotated upward. Her thoughts yielded to instruction again. She must stop thinking and focus.
Idris obeyed. The screen above her was lit with a new kind of writing. With the spark of free will left to her she sensed that she was supposed to respond to the writing, but she had no idea how. Instead she simply stared. After awhile her mouth dropped open and a thin trickle of drool started down her chin.
She must focus. She kept staring.
The screen went dark. As she blinked, Idris found herself already turning away from that computer and moving to another. The screen above it lit at her touch. She began typing, and this time faint sparkles of comprehension lit her mind. This program directed traffic around the moon and into the base. Now that she could actually understand what she was doing, Idris began unsnarling a tangle of imaginary vehicles and deconflicting their imaginary flight paths--damn, this place could get busy.
Transfixed by the screen, she still stiffened proudly to show the system she could do something after all.
Lost in the task, Idris belatedly realized it was the tutorial, rewarding her. The pleasure was precisely timed not to break her rhythm, and wasn't as mind-melting as that first dose. But before she could resent being stroked, she--
The simulation added hyperspace traffic. She started falling behind. Her brain just wasn't quick enough to juggle that many variables.
I have to! I must--learn the controls! She wasn't just desperate to earn pleasure, was she? Half-mesmerized by the flickering symbols, Idris fought their complexity to keep performing.
Suddenly the armband's control shifted. Traffic control stopped mattering to her. Through clearing thoughts, Idris sensed it had given up on teaching her to use the computers. Embarrassment flared . . .
But the screen powered down. She found herself turning and marching out of the room. Her interest in the panels faded as quickly as the lights did, as questions did. Her eyes stared blankly, her limbs pumped mechanically, and she found herself seeking the gymnasium.
The tutorial stopped Idris before a contraption something like a weight machine. She lifted a set of wires tipped with small, sticky pads. This was one piece of equipment she understood. Stripping off her tank top and letting it fall unheeded to the floor, she stuck the electrodes to her chest. Again a wave of pleasure shook her and departed. Taking this as her signal, she squatted under the bar and stood beneath its weight.
At first the load was light and she had no trouble bringing it above her head. But each time she set it down, it grew heavier. Soon Idris was panting and straining, but she had no thought of stopping. The fatigue tingled almost sexually in her muscles, and she threw all her wiry strength into it. Each lift fulfilled her. She must achieve.
She lifted. Feeble questions about this tutorial faded. The armband soothed her back into rhythm. Her thoughts should slacken as her body tensed. She should not question, just work.
Now the weight was so heavy Idris groaned aloud, but still she did her best to lift. Need to perform well made her head spin.
Sweat poured off of her as she strained beneath the load. Her eyes squeezed shut, her teeth clenched, and every muscle ached. Now she was halfway to a standing position. But by this time her arms were trembling so badly she could hardly hold onto the bar. The machine dinged and the weight on her shoulders vanished.
Idris should have felt relieved, but she knew the armband had given up on her again. She felt a twinge of shame. Bad enough to be computer-illiterate here, but. . .
I can't even do their heavy lifting.
She should have lifted more, she knew; the machine was calibrated for loads up to fifteen times her body weight. Idris would have sighed if she could. Instead, she felt the armband take control again.
She welcomed it now. The tutorial erased her shame, making her tingle with its direction. Stripping the electrodes from her chest, she marched out of the gym, knowing only eagerness for her next task. Her tank top lay abandoned behind her.
This time the armband steered her toward the theater. As she passed through the doorway by the control switch, her hand reached out and activated the lights and music. Again came the burst of pleasure, and Idris smiled dreamily. She was so glad to be here. It felt so nice to do what she was supposed to. Everything was so beautiful.
The piercing music sounded so sweet.
She floated up to the stage and took her place in the center of the lights. Then she began to dance.
Beat, beat, twist. Beat, beat, turn. Step out of your boots, then reach down inside your skinsuit and slide it off. The music is glorious. You live for the music. Beat, beat, hands on tits. Twist your nipples. Ahhh, that feels so good! The lights control you. Beat, beat, hand on pussy. Tickle it. Ohhh!
Idris had spent some time as an exotic dancer, and she knew how to move. But she'd never moved as smoothly as this, or enjoyed the movement so much. Every roll of her hips was like a lick against her clit. Every caress of her body brought her to the brink of orgasm. The armband grew warm around her bicep and she felt its approval like a shower of sweet oil. She writhed within it, smearing the imaginary lubricant all over her body and deep inside her cunt. And as her fingers found the g-spot she came at last, shrieking. She rubbed it hard and fell to the stage, smearing the floor with saliva and pussy juice. This was heaven.
At last she lay sated, eyes closed, flat on her back, still idly caressing her clit. But now something felt wrong. The lights flashed in just the wrong sequence for comfort. The music, which had sounded so heavenly a moment ago, now grated in her ears, as when she'd first heard it. The armband had abandoned her and she was just herself again. It felt so lonely.
As if sensing that, the music cut off. Another armband function, apparently. Silence was nice.
Idris sat up and scrubbed her face with her hands. Was I really dancing just now, naked? The last hour seemed like a dream she could barely remember. But her muscles still ached from the weight lifting and the floor beneath her was warm and sticky. Idris' hand rose to the armband around her bicep. It did all this, she thought. It used me. And for what? She had the sense of being tested, and of passing at last, in this room.
She looked down at the armband and shuddered. You're a dangerous piece of work, aren't you? She slipped it from her arm and tested its weight in her hand. The smart thing to do would be never to wear it again. But she couldn't promise herself to do that, not when putting it on had felt so damn good.
Idris stayed naked.
She cleaned herself with wipes from her kit while the skinsuit aired out. It was too strange to stay in the theater--she kept remembering how it had felt up there on the platform. So she'd laid out her gear in an open area of the brothel. With the curtains, she could almost pretend this was a trying room in a store, and she was cleaning up after a mishap in the food court. Well, except all the stains were hers.
Closing her eyes, she didn't look at the sealsack where she'd balled her sodden panties, and tried to remember where she'd left her top. She could go commando in the skinsuit, but every step and breath would remind her . . .
Idris fiddled with the remote, which hadn't made a peep, then stopped. Molly had nothing new to tell her.
She admitted to herself that walking around here rubbing against the suit's unfamiliar surface would turn her on like crazy. Her gaze slid over to the entrance to the theater, and crazy felt really good. Her pussy flared: she could stalk back out just like this, mount the stage, and do another set. The alien music would still sound weird, but after she'd stroked herself and surrendered to its beat again it might sound different. Better. Compelling.
She hugged herself. She should be trying to figure out what all that had been about, what the alien system had been trying to get from her or tell her. But all she could think of was posing and writhing up there like a whore.
It brought back memories of doing that to pay the bills while she sweated out her flight license. She hadn't enjoyed it, but she'd faked that well enough. Better than well--people told her she'd looked like she was actually lost in it, as needful as the audience wanted to imagine all the dancers being.
Except now those memories were making her wet for real. One club she'd worked had drugged unwary dancers with something that turned them on and dumbed them down, and Idris'd been the new girl no one knew well enough to warn. She'd quit next day, but that night she'd nearly--
And that night hadn't felt half as good as what she'd just done. Now she remembered every night as being that hot. She didn't want to, and tried to know it wasn't true.
She looked almost accusingly at the armband where it sat on a cushion, but it wasn't affecting her now. This was in her own head.
So what had that sex-buzz been for? A reward? For what? She'd flunked control-panel tests she still didn't comprehend, probably caused a half-dozen imaginary hyperdrive mishaps, and then she hadn't even qualified as a substandard labor beast. If she put the armband back on, could she communicate that she wanted, needed, to ask some questions first?
Feeling the alien air on her bare skin, Idris admitted to herself she was really hoping it would get her off again instead.
Right. It's measuring you. You might be the first human it's ever dealt with. And so far what it knows about your whole species is that you're stupid, weak, and horny.
She flinched. Maybe it was just indexing her skills in exchange for using the base. Like any immigrant without the language, she'd found her way to body-labor quickly. And apparently the only thing of value she had was her body. But just what did the base think would like watching her dance and climax onstage?
Damn it. That excited her too.
She imagined it again: going out there, turning that weird ugly music back on, and masturbating under the lights. She could wear just the armband, highlighting her nudity, metal on smooth flesh as she swung and postured to the music.
Like a slave. Not a smart slave to work the boards or a strong slave to carry the burdens--just a sex-chained one to keep everyone happy.
Idris flinched again. The aliens would walk in, then, wouldn't they? She'd be too lost in it to hear the remote when Molly tried to alert her, and they'd find her here in their theater, dancing nude to their music.
She shivered. She still didn't know what these aliens looked like. There were plenty who found humanoids attractive, and vice versa. Maybe they'd just assume she was on the job, and expect her to come down off the stage and do them.
If the armband was controlling her, she might do just that. And get rewarded.
Oh come on. She wasn't going out there and dancing, sans clothes or otherwise. She was going to get to work--understand some basics of the station's functionality, get some idea when the owners might swing by, and score at least one or two things in its memory that she could turn a profit on when she left here and got back to civilization. Well, her civilization, anyway. To do that, she needed the armband. No way around it.
It wasn't like it would trap her. It didn't lock, and she'd had it on and off twice. There weren't any must obey alien masters! thoughts quivering in her head. She just had to be careful, and maybe keep in mind the kind of alien mentality they'd designed this for.
I have really, really, really got to get laid when I get out of here. Really.
Idris felt the skinsuit, and decided it could use some more time off her. Where had she put that top, anyway? She blushed, realizing she must have . . . discarded it while she'd been under the armband's influence.
Whatever. She stepped briskly over to the cushion.
She thought about kneeling to pick it up. Staying on her knees as she put it on. Waiting, on her knees, for it to touch her mind again.
Idris forced a smile, ignoring the heat between her legs. It's just an interface. She didn't kneel. She bent from the waist and casually swiped the armband up, striding away toward the computer room without putting it on.
There was something naughty about padding naked through the alien rooms. It wasn't like the throbbing abandon of trance-dancing, or the strangeness when she'd awakened from it. Idris felt more in control, like a mischievous houseguest. And she was. Not about to break or take anything, or even make a mess--
Well, there was the stage. She winced and smiled. She'd need to clean that off before the aliens got back. For now, she had work to do.
She smiled again and bowed to the towering banks of controls, thinking about Molly's systems and others she'd learned to work so expertly. It was one of the things she'd aced, to win that license and the career that had paid her way out of the dance clubs. I'll show you 'computer-illiterate,' my friends. She slid the armband on, shuddering as she did.
Other than its comfortable grip warming to her upper arm, there was nothing. Idris wondered if she were disappointed or relieved. She formulated her first question about access.
Something flexed in her head.
Idris snapped to attention. A couple of panels lit, but she could only see them peripherally--her gaze was as locked as her body. Before she could even think oh shit she felt the ability to think at all loosening in her head.
She felt it in her mind again. It knew its way around and as she stood, dazed and starting to feel very nice, she moaned. Idris liked being that user-friendly.
More pleasure. Yes. Idris liked being used.
That was all right. She still had a half-transparent idea of what she'd meant to do with the armband, but now she realized that what she meant to do meant nothing. She stood compliantly still as the intention was deleted from her thoughts.
Other than the baseline hum of pleasure that kept her eager to be commanded, there was little else in Idris' thoughts.
Controls. Molly's controls. A starship alien to the base. She was aware of the alien system making her think, as if turning the pages of her mind. She shivered, hoping her mind wasn't as sluggish to use as an old book.
A familiarly irresistible urge gripped her like a lover's hand in a perfect place. Idris pivoted and sleepwalked to a distant part of the room, to a series of panels that stayed dark. She stared forward at the unlit controls, dampening at how helpless she was and without any purpose of her own.
Her head lifted, and now she looked only at a single display that came to life. It began to show her blinking patterns, and Idris gazed deeply into them. They strobed and pulsed, and she heard herself whimper once from discomfort. But she neither blinked nor turned away, standing rigid and watching only the patterns. Before she knew she was being hypnotized, she was already deep in trance.
Idris woke up staring forward. Her mind felt . . . sore but also nice. The system had used what it'd already observed of her mind to deduce a way to read some of her knowledge directly. It had also figured out that hypnotizing Idris would make her thoughts easier to access, and had taken barely over a minute to teach itself how to control her that way.
She moaned aloud with the pleasure. The system preferred her to be that user-friendly, and it was teaching her to want that too.
It was working. Idris wanted to be useful again. She looked passively through the empty display, aching for another task to perform.
Her mind was so open that the new command came to her as simply another thought, although such an important one that all others faded. Idris' mind was an effective control system for her, but the starship's computers were a much more complete and systematic database than she was. The base needed to access them. It would use her convenient mobility to gather some needed instruments, and then send her out as a remote probe.
Thrilled to be of service, Idris waited to obey.
An image grew in her mind. A device. It had a function, but Idris did not need to know it. Her own, lesser but useful function would be to carry it while it operated.
It was the first time the system had actually deigned to talk to her, but Idris' elation was a result only of being commanded. She pivoted and marched to a nearby wall, where a panel slid open to reveal the small, oblong device of her image. Idris lifted it from its drawer, not questioning its shape or its purpose. It was what she had been shown, and that was enough.
Now the armband gave her another series of images: a path through the complex that would take her back to Molly. Idris set out instantly, taking the small device with her. Her route took her through several halls and rooms she hadn't explored yet, but she felt no curiosity. Obedience rang in her mind like a bell; nothing else mattered.
She heard her own bare feet padding along the smooth alien floor in a changeless, machinelike rhythm that might have mesmerized her if she'd been free. Now and then, she passed a reflective length of wall and saw herself: erect and staring, naked but for the bangle on her arm that controlled her, pacing with a clockwork doll's precision, bearing the mysterious device before her like an offering. Like a sacrifice for the altar, bewitched into going on her own without need to be drugged or guarded. It was making Idris wet.
That was too intense for the armband to tolerate, and it snuffed the image from her mind.
Idris padded onward without breaking step. Soon, her blunted mind was awake again and ready to be bidden.
It occurred to her eventually that if she were going outside she'd need a spacesuit, and hers lay far behind her now; but this was no cause for concern. Idris imagined the armband leading her out the airlock just as she was, exposing her naked flesh and needy lungs to vacuum, and she shuddered deliciously. Obedience unto death would be the ultimate proof of her devotion.
The control kept her walking. Neither fear nor arousal interrupted her obedience. Idris wondered if the control might even keep her alive and functioning without a suit, for at least a few seconds. Leaching the last atoms of oxygen from her cells while she pressed the necessary controls, then letting her drop lifeless to the dust. Even better: her death would serve.
But her walking eventually brought her to a room of spacesuits, and a fresh command bloomed in her mind. There would be no death-walk for Idris today; she was to select the suit that best fit her needs and put it on. Disappointment was not allowed.
Idris browsed the racks for several minutes before running across the suit the armband told her was right for her. Its arms and legs were too long and the helmet seemed designed for an entity with a beak, but it was the best the complex could offer her and there was no question of returning for her own suit. The moment she began to think of it, the armband deleted the thought and sent her climbing into the too-tall alien gear. The arms and legs bunched in accordion folds at her wrists and ankles, and something rolled tightly against her bare crotch.
This time the armband had her responses calibrated. Idris hadn't even finished wishing for her skinsuit liner before the memory of having one was wiped from her. She rode the wedgie of smooth/weird alien material and went on preparing herself to serve. She put on the helmet and clipped the device from the computer room to her belt. Just moving in the suit was a strange tease, as the material rubbed her wherever her skin touched it and reminded her she was naked in an outworlder artifact.
It didn't affect her performance. She stepped quickly to the airlock and cycled it.
Molly waited for her outside, patient as always. Normally Idris would approach the ship with a feeling of pride and even love, but now she felt only the joy of serving. She unclipped the alien device from her belt and pressed the button the armband told her would turn it on. Then she aimed it at her ship. Lights lit and indecipherable characters scrolled across a display screen. Keeping the device pointed at Molly, Idris walked slowly around her ship.
With each rhythmic step, it was easier for her to forget this was "her" ship. Its familiar lines were as irrelevant as any other memory. It was just the object which the base had dispatched its mindless mobile unit to investigate.
Even lost in her dream of obedience, she could sense the flow of data from the scanner back to the computers underground. But she didn't wonder what they were learning from her measurements; that would have required too much freedom of thought.
She was halted, and stared quietly into Molly's hullplates while a new task was generated. She was as much a machine as this ship. But unlike the ship, Idris had someone at her controls.
Thinking that, Idris clenched her thighs around the suit fabric bunched between them, anointing it with her juice. Even that heat stayed in the background, as she waited for purpose.
A question arrived in her mind. The computers wanted to know about Molly's engines. Idris climbed up onto one wing of the ship and, using a tool from her belt, unscrewed a plate. She pressed the scanner against the hardware beneath and waited while it measured and recorded. Then she climbed down, leaving the plate unscrewed. More questions arrived, and she unscrewed several other panels and left them lying where they fell. She knew she was mistreating her most prized possession, but that didn't matter. The armband had no use for "tidying up," and she had no use for disobedience.
Now it was time to go inside the ship. The retinal scanner recognized her even beneath the oddly constructed helmet: the system wasn't designed to register how glassy Idris' eye was, or how little thought was left behind it. A distant part of her mind wanted to cry out and warn it not to let her in.
The armband put that part back to sleep.
When she passed through Molly's outer skin, Idris felt only gladness that the base had gained access through her. Once inside, she stalked to the command center and sat in the pilot's chair, powering up the ship's systems. It occurred to her briefly that she could just fly off now: leave this eerie, empty complex behind and find a safer haven to wait out her pursuers. But the armband caught that thought almost before she'd finished thinking it and erased it from her mind. Idris never missed it.
She ran the scanner over the control console, then unscrewed the panel beneath it and spent a good half hour squatting in place as she pulled wires and recorded the shipboard computer's thoughts for the sake of the complex's computers. Her muscles creaked and complained, but Idris took it as a sign of her devotion that she never moved. Her pussy leaked around the alien plastic pressing against it.
It felt wonderful to crouch blankly where she'd once walked as an owner. The alien machine in her hands interrogated the human ones around her, and Idris was nothing but the simplest machine here, dumb flesh that held and waited. Her function required no mental involvement from her. She was a mindless mobile unit. She performed so well, when her human mind was kept offline.
By now, Idris no longer needed rewards to think correctly.
Her mind was still not a perfect tool. Stray thoughts kept appearing, and she kept ignoring them, primed to respond only to those that mattered--the ones from the armband. One stayed a little longer, a half-wish to look around and see if there were anything here to bring back with her, that the computers might find useful.
With a submissive thrill, Idris remembered she was just a mobile unit. A way to get the scanner where it was needed. Her mind had no utility. This idea dripped from her mind and left nothing there.
Idris never even raised her eyes to the poku. The armband through her eyes had taken one look at it and dismissed it as useless. Like her ideas.
Alone with the scanner and the lovely pain in her back and thighs, she continued blankly to function.
At last her work was done. Rising swiftly she headed for the escape hatch. There was no need to look behind her. She marched stiffly toward the base's airlock, holding before her the scanner that was so much more important than she was.
Then she was stopped. Legs together, she stared at the open lock, blissfully calm, not curious at all about why she was no longer impelled to enter. Idris wasn't yet completely conditioned to serve, though, and her mind still held stray thoughts. One of these pussythrilled her with a new fantasy of obedience unto death: the base would drain the scanner's data remotely and let her stand here until her air ran out, with no further need to waste air and food on her.
But no. The complex needed Idris to bring the suit and scanner back in--
Orders wiped her mind clean. She pivoted to stare at the ship, reeling as even her thoughts of it as Molly were brutally sucked out of her. The base was using her brain directly. Idris became its visual sensor, scanning the lines of the ship she'd loved as if she'd never seen them before. Her gaze swept over the opened panels and little pieces of Molly she'd just dropped when her trance re-tasked her, and she felt nothing.
It finished using her. She kept looking at the ship until reinstructed.
Another mind-tweak swiveled Idris back toward the airlock. Her legs were already carrying her in when the small, aware part of her realized the base didn't care about the mess around the alien starship.
She'd half-expected some implanted thought to make her agree, but there was no need. Tools required no explanations. Soon, the base would finish turning her a tool that didn't even dream of one.
Idris squeezed her thighs once more around the suit material bunched between them.
Back in the changing room, Idris placed the scanner carefully on a shelf before slipping out of the alien spacesuit. Its reek of unfamiliar polymers and her own sweat and pussyjuice made her dizzy. It fluttered through her head, briefly, just to drop the suit and bring the scanner at once back to the control room.
The idea vanished before the cool air hit her skin. The control paused her, then turned her to a set of machines to wash out the suit and remove her foreign secretions. She was vaguely relieved not to be leaving proof that she'd climaxed, but then regretted destroying the evidence of what a docile unit she'd been.
Neither mattered. The control played through her mind, putting her body through the correct motions to dry the oversized suit, rearrange it, and return it to storage. As the armband's puppet, Idris stared forward, not needing to see what she was doing. Presently she was done, the suit stowed, her body wearing nothing but the armband again. Her hands fell to her sides and she stood still, between tasks, empty of any thought of acting for herself.
Idris pivoted to face the scanner on its shelf. It was full of the alien ship's--of her ship's--secrets now, but she felt neither dismay nor pride. She'd been an adequate vehicle for it, that was all. Soon she would receive new purpose. She waited, staring.
The impulse came and she stepped forward, taking the scanner almost reverently, and then pivoting, bearing it before her as she marched back to the control room. For some reason the program varied her route, walking Idris back through the complex on her original way in. She followed the altered directions without question.
Padding through the theater, she barely saw the stage where she must dance, later. It was her default function, but that part of her was shut off until the base no longer had use for her as a mobile unit.
Idris entered the room full of computers and halted, like a maid with a tray waiting to be told to serve. She held the scanner level with her breasts, below her locked gaze. In a small corner of her mind that still worked, she realized she couldn't look down even if she wanted to. All she felt was turned on.
That faded under the deeper, slower lick of waiting for command.
Command came and Idris moved, stepping briskly to another console and turning the scanner to slot it into a dock. Her eyes didn't waver from the middle distance, and her hands moved with a blind skill that would have embarrassed her.
Idris installed the scanner, stared ahead like a zombie, and quietly juiced.
She stepped back and waited again. There were quiet sounds from the console and a half-thought, more of a mental reflex, flashed across her mind. Couldn't the base take the data directly? Interrogate the scanner while she was stripping in the locker room? Or maybe--
She was suddenly aware of herself, naked and controlled while harder machines did the real work. She was just a temporary mobile unit. It was not her function to wonder or question.
Idris moaned with the pleasure of submitting to that truth. She waited. The machines worked.
Her hips twitched and swayed a little as she thought of her default function. Soon it might be time to be sent out to mount the stage and let the music make her body dance. After a moment Idris dimly realized the base hadn't completely shut down her mind. It was letting her dream of her dancing-girl task.
She juiced again. What was controlling her smothered only wrong thoughts, but permitted her to think correct ones.
She must be learning to please it! Learning to think only what made her useful to the complex. Idris felt wonderful. Under her unblinking eyes she simpered foolishly at the empty room.
Soon she was gazing serenely at nothing as the bliss plateaued and faded. She was being trained to think correctly, but she was also being trained not to think much at all, and slipped easily into a deeper trance. Under this control, Idris would not want to do anything. When it was time, she would simply be activated. Until then, her function was stillness, emptiness.
Idris stood still.
After a while, Idris felt her mind coming back. It felt almost strange. Before she could sense more, she could feel the armband grip her thoughts again. It had loosened its control once she had no task, but it was still there, waiting to smooth her will down to flat obedience.
She shuddered. Part of her was discouraged--but another part wanted the harness to tighten again.
It took moments to remember to try to resist. Moments of standing still, tranquilized, while machines, more useful than she was, performed. Moments of deep arousal as she just waited, not being even a self-actuated machine. Moments of being a slave.
But some blank minutes or even hours before, she'd stood this passively on her own ship and not even thought about doing anything but obeying. She had to fight this before she learned it too well.
The system, already inside her mind, moved to soften it again. Dazedly, Idris realized the pleasure was really flowing into her. It wasn't just conditioning--she was being controlled again.
More moments of slow, blank joy. She blinked at the scanner in its dock, emptying her ship's secrets, making them part of the base, and before she could help herself she quivered happily.
It was winning. Conquering her again. Still half-conscious, it took her even longer--more lovely heartbeats spent simmering in the sexjoy--to realize what the armband wasn't doing to her. It wasn't using that super-orgasm to blast her mind. It didn't need to.
Idris had already learned to behave. It only needed low-level pleasure, a trickle onto her trained brain, to control her now. She'd been broken. Even knowing what it was doing to her, she needed no rewards. She did tricks just to be petted.
But not all of her liked that. Soon it might, but not yet.
Now the computers realized they needed something more to keep her quiet. She felt herself start to look upward, seeing another screen start to light up, the patterns already beginning to dance. She knew it would hypnotize her instantly this time. Her pussy dampened.
So did her eyes. Idris barely remembered what shame was, but it stung her now. Her tears blurred the patterns, and their pull on her mind loosened. She blinked--the trained part of her tried to open the way to her mind and let it enslave her again.
The system didn't need its slave's help. The blurred display began to pulse instead, soothing her with a different pattern. The armband synchronized it to her heartbeat, her brainwaves. In a moment Idris became the pulse.
The machine had fixated her mind and quieted it. She relaxed as the alien base corrected her thinking further. She never noticed it putting her to sleep again.
The next thing she knew, she was standing in a small metal room, facing one wall. For a second, she felt trapped, though she was so calm about that it was like she'd been sedated. But when she turned, there was no fourth wall, just an opening.
By reflex, she felt and found the armband in place, but she didn't feel it working in her mind, and her mind itself was clearer than it had been for . . . a while. She didn't try to take it off. She didn't even wonder how long she'd keep such a thought before it was wiped.
She walked toward the opening, not even sure where she was hoping to go. At each step, she felt oddly reluctant to go further. Each step made her want to go back to the flat bench at the back wall and sit or lie down, relax, and wait. For orders, or for sleep.
Idris stopped and shook her head. Thought was unfamiliar by now, and she used it only hesitantly. She tried to make herself get to the opening to this little cell, but the compulsion to go back in and submit was almost an erotic need.
A weird, rapid noise almost frightened her. Then she recognized her own ragged panting, echoing off the metal as she struggled to take another step out.
She'd won forward enough to confirm what she was already realizing: this was the honeycomb room of barless prison cells. The complex had put her here, without needing her to be awake for the trip.
Idris was stumbling back to the metal shelf it meant her to sleep on, hand between her legs, before she realized it was the image of herself sleepwalking here so mindlessly that made her want to masturbate.
She was able to make herself stop. She slumped down on the metal, wincing before she realized it was warm under her skin, and looked out at the room. Now she knew what this place was, and why it could be open.
It was the slave quarters. And slaves were put here when their minds had been wired to stay.
Idris would be here until the system decided it was time for her to dance. When she was done gyrating on the stage, she'd be walked back here for her sleeptime. By then, she'd be high on obedience, without a lick of resistance.
When the aliens came back, they'd find her here. She thought about that again, this time without her ship or her tools within reach. Without even her clothes--other than the alien control device on her arm, she was as naked as an animal.
She was only a few meters from her things, unless the complex had used her body to clean them up--or destroy them--while her mind slept. But even if they were stacked neatly outside, she wasn't sure she had the will to fight the invisible leash that kept her in this . . . kennel.
Idris had expected the aliens would be bemused to find her here. Maybe annoyed. Even ready to help her and do some trading. But she might learn they'd returned only when she pranced past them on her way to dance. They wouldn't even see her as a spacefarer like them. She'd be nothing to them but an already-trained slave.
Their system logs would diagram her mind for them. Show them just how quickly and easily she'd been turned into a marionette. They might blank her on the spot, or they might listen to her sputter before turning off her thoughts.
They might decide they had a trading interest in humankind after all.
She had to get out. She had to.
Idris rose, and ignored the deepening urge to turn back and stay. She dreaded how the armband would feel, flexing in her mind and blanking her. How much she was starting to want it.
She looked down at the armband. It wasn't controlling her right now--she must already be enough of a tool. But once it read her mind . . . if it let her think at all while she masturbated, it'd be to dream of obeying new alien masters. Conditioning herself with each new orgasm.
Almost absentmindedly, Idris took the device off her arm. She stood nude in the cell, looking at it, shaking with how much she'd expected it to stop her, and make her like it. She'd gotten this chance because the base considered her broken.
Idris looked down at herself, and thought about putting the armband back on and waiting to be enslaved again.
She didn't. But she kept it in her hand as she walked out of the cell.
Hah, thought Idris as she cleared the threshold. But it wasn't a very energetic hah. Even as she thought it, she realized just how much she missed the armband's leash on her mind. She looked at the thing in her hands: angled metal, twists of gold and silver. So innocuous, so lovely...and the way it made her feel.... The armband was halfway back to her bicep before she caught herself.
No! She was hardwired for pleasure now, but even if she never had another orgasm (a distinct possibility, she thought, knowing how she'd come to rely on this one particular kind of pleasure), she'd never touch the armband again. She'd had the narrowest of escapes. One more session under the thing's control, and she'd be a drooling sex slave for the rest of her life.
Idris found the shelf where she'd first spotted the armband and laid it down gently. Her fingers stroked its whorls a final time, and then she straightened. She wouldn't waste a minute more in this mental bear trap. An hour or two of repair work to Molly, and she'd be out of here for good.
Her stomach twisted as she thought of what she'd done to her beautiful ship. She remembered climbing over it in that awful alien spacesuit, tearing off one panel after another and feeling nothing but ecstasy at the act of obedience. She'd pulled the guts out of the control panel and squatted happily before the pile because an alien computer had told her to, and she'd loved it.
Even remembering brought back the sweet bliss of that moment. Idris' clit throbbed to life and she found herself grinding her hips together, still staring at the armband where it lay. She could almost feel her mind flattening.
No, she thought again, and forced herself to turn away from the slaving device. It was harder than she thought. Even when she couldn't see it anymore, she could still picture it in her mind, pulsing with reflected colors from the hypnotizing screens. It sang to her, and something in her core sang back.
Idris took a step away from the shelf, then another. She gritted her teeth and took a third. Then she looked back. The armband lay just as she left it, looking forlorn as an abandoned lover. Fine, she thought, with something like relief, I'll take you with me. Just until I find someone to help me break this addiction. She thought of some scientist taking the armband apart to learn how it had trapped her, and felt a pang of slave-guilt.
But I will do it, she told herself. And even though I'm taking you with me, I won't put you on again. That's final. She scooped up the armband and marched out of the kennel room.
Her skinsuit and EVAsuit were just where she had left them, thank goodness (though she still didn't remember where she'd lost her tank top). It was hard to set the armband down while she dressed herself, and she only managed to pull the skinsuit up to waist level, but that was all right. She felt like a free person again, at last. She set out with her helmet in one hand and her armband in the other.
But it was a long way back to the docking bay, and Idris hadn't gone very far before a screen on the wall beside her sprang to life. Soothing colors spun and swirled, catching her eye. She stared, and felt her brain begin to soften. No! she thought again with her last vestiges of free will, and forced her gaze aside. I will NOT!
The screen continued to swirl as she stepped warily past it. Then another lit on the opposite side of the wall. Idris looked quickly to the floor, but she could still see it out of the corner of her eye, so she raised a hand to shield herself from it. Unfortunately, the hand she raised held the armband, and seeing it backed by the flashing colors of her dream was too much to take. Slave-Idris woke inside her, hungry for obedience.
She turned slowly toward the screen, letting her hand drop just enough to see the patterns. The hand floated toward her other arm, which dropped her helmet to accept the armband again. It would feel so good, Idris thought, to give in. She remembered pacing naked through the halls, a robot with skin, and her pussy twanged. She remembered dancing blindly to the beat of the alien music and tipped her head back, eyes closed, to better remember the sensation. Her arms flew out from her sides and her hips began to sway.
But she'd moved the armband farther away from her arm, and with her eyes closed, she couldn't follow the patterns on the screen. Free-Idris woke again, and began to struggle. I will not, I will not be a slave again! I will NOT! But it had felt so good, so right, being controlled. Maintaining free will was hard, too hard for her, really. She belonged in slavery. No, I DON'T! I'm a free woman, and I'll always be free. I'm too strong for you!
Clenching her teeth and keeping her eyes shut, she bent down to collect her helmet and then began to walk again, holding the armband away from her body and behind her back. When she judged that she'd left the two screens behind her, she went forward another dozen steps and cautiously opened her eyes. The walls were blank. Shuddering, and not entirely with relief, Idris took another look at the thing in her hand. It was far too dangerous to keep it where she could see it, but she couldn't bear to leave it behind. After a moment's thought she tucked it into her waistband at the small of her back. It didn't sing to her so loudly there, and she continued on down the hall, eyes squinting protectively and staring at the floor the whole way.
A dozen more screens lit on her way to the docking bay, but Idris had their number now and managed to throw her hands up in time to shield herself from each of them. When three lit in quick succession, she closed her eyes again and walked blindly past them, not stopping until she bumped into a wall which, fortunately, was blank when she opened her eyes in surprise.
At last she made it to the docking bay entrance. Slipping into her EVAsuit, she clipped the armband onto her belt and made her way outside.
Molly sat just as Idris had left her, panels scattered all over the ground like fallen leaves. "My poor baby," Idris murmured. "I'm so sorry." She picked up the nearest panel, unclipped a tool from her belt, and began the sad task of reassembly.
All the while she was working, Idris kept expecting the complex to try to get her again. What would it do, she wondered, flash the landing lights in pattern? Send out a heretofore unseen robot? Speak directly to her mind? Or maybe the aliens would come back now, just as she was trying to leave. That would be just her luck. They'd take one look at the armband clipped to her belt and guess the whole story. Then they'd either knock her out or turn on their own portable hypnotic devices and re-enslave her on the spot. Either way, she'd end up owned. But somehow she made it through the repairs unassaulted, and she climbed gratefully into Molly's welcoming interior.
Shitfire, she thought, looking at the mess under the control panel. She'd forgotten just how bad the damage was. She pulled off her helmet and shook out her hair. "At least I'm here," she told the poku doll. "And I'm getting out of this place."
She peeled off the EVAsuit and stored it in its locker, then got down to work. Reconnecting all the wires took almost an hour, but Idris worked with a vengeance, desperate to get away from this pitcher plant of a hideout. Finally she plugged in the last wire and sat back with a sigh. I'm really going to make it. I'm going to get out of here. She closed the panel, climbed into the pilot's chair, and flipped the switch to power up Molly Millions.
The status screen came and lit with pulsing lights. Idris had just enough time to gasp, and then her eyes were caught.
Somehow she shut them, and bit down as she fought the slippery urge to surrender and open them. How had the complex reprogrammed her controls?
Oh shit. The complex hadn't done anything--Idris had, as its puppet. She'd obeyed so mindlessly she hadn't known or cared what it made her do.
She saw herself staring, naked in the alien suit, turning her own ship into a trap.
Perfectly conditioned to obey. And it felt so goooood . . .
Idris' eyelids drifted open, and she looked into the colors. They seemed bolder now, as if waiting had made them stronger. The pulses were sharper, deeper, dug right down to her core. And the armband, which she'd set on the dash right next to the poku, gleamed triumphantly in the flickering light. It had her, and she knew it had her.
idris' mouth hung open and she sighed as the first strand of drool crept over her lips. There was no rush to put on the armband now; she could savor the moment. i am owned, she thought, and shuddered deliciously. i am a slave, and i am owned. i belong to the Owners of the armband. she unzipped the skinsuit and slipped one hand inside her panties. i am owned, she told herself, and diddled her clit until she squirmed in her seat. i am owned, and when They come back, They will give me my purpose in life. she thrust two fingers into her cunt and found her g-spot. she came in moments, screaming as the sweet fire raced through her body. she bucked in her chair, never taking her eyes off the screen, where the fine, bright waves of color rolled in time with her spasms.
At last the ecstasy subsided, and the pulses on her screen took on a more imperative tone. It was time. idris reached blindly for the armband and rejoiced as her fingers found its chunky weight. she slipped her free hand inside it and slid it gratefully up her arm, then sighed and closed her eyes at last. There was no need to look at the screen any longer. Now that Control had closed around her again, it would never leave.
idris paced through an unfamiliar section of the complex. she thought about her destination as little as about the burden she bore at Control's bidding.
The garments felt strange cradled in her arms. she vaguely imagined wearing them, but she was a slave. she wore nothing but the armband that Controlled her.
she stopped by a metal wall and pivoted to face it. A panel slid aside and she dumped the clothing into a disposal chute. The suits muffled the thump of the space helmet. idris felt nothing but pleasure at helping keep the base tidy.
she pivoted again. Control walked her back to the kennel. she loved being refunctioned as a disposal drone, but now it was wonderful to reassume her primary function.
By the time she reached the kennel, Control had helped her forget holding a spacesuit. But as she reentered her cell and faced outward, it did let her remember a starship just outside, even as it remolded her thoughts. Now idris was conditioned to think of a starship only as something her Owners, or Their guests, would arrive in to use the base.
They would find its amenities now included a hot, obedient human slave who knew nothing else about starships.
idris relaxed, blankly awaiting command.
Then she was walking the now-familiar path to the theater and the stage.
her gaze was locked forward over her automated, inviting smile, but she knew where the brothel alcoves were as she stepped past them.
idris knew her function went beyond dancing. she had no idea what the guests would look like, but she would be wet for them. she hoped they would find her hot enough to pull into an alcove and fuck.
As she stepped nimbly onto the stage, idris wondered if she would survive their fucking. she posed blissfully, ready to die if that was what pleased them.
Pleasing was what idris was for.
Control turned on the music and the lights, and idris gave up her mind and body to them. In the millisecond before trance blanked her mind, idris wished that when she was aware again, they'd be here.
Then she stopped thinking and danced.
"Sir!" Ensign Dvorchak looked up from his instruments. "Commander! I'm getting some images from that asteroid up ahead! They look like--sentient structures! A--a base!"
Commander Keshigi nodded without turning away from her own panels, which made it easier to keep from smiling. Here in the midst of the asteroid belt, at least Dvorchak had shown a talent for not crashing them into anything. "Any activity, Ensign?"
"Negative, sir! But--" Dvorchak fiddled with the board. "But it's big, sir! If there's a whole nest of smugglers helping her hide, we . . ."
"Want to call for some backup, Ensign? Maybe get a cruiser like Isandlwana behind us?"
"Yessir!" Dvorchak looked relieved and eager at once. "We can bring 'em all to justice! They'll learn it's a hard road to hoe when you go up against the Patrol!"
"Think we could take it ourselves, Ensign?"
Dvorchak stared. Keshigi cocked an eyebrow. "Take this boat down onto that rock and go in on the surface? Minimize collateral damage?"
Dvorchak gulped. The command test! His call, and here he was unable to make the right one with Keshigi's onyx gaze drilling a hole in his skull like a runaway laser cannon!
"I--uh--sir! We could--" He glanced wildly at the console. "We could do a sensor pass! Figure out their numbers!"
Keshigi sighed. "I can tell you that right now, Ensign." She saw his shock, and was irritated enough not to laugh. "No, I'm not secretly in league with them. There's no 'them' down there to be in league with. Even were I so inclined." She sighed again. Dvorchak wasn't as much fun to play with now as the first eleven times she'd done it. He was just too easy.
"You're about three billion years late to make this bust, Ensign. That structure's a Culture R5 Gamma artifact. The deep thinkers say they were big back when--well, when Earth was still cooling from lava. They don't even rate a mention in most of the commercial databases. Their work's rare enough, and by now most of it's barely even recognizable unless it's well-protected. R5 Gamma built really well, I hear, but not that well. Missing and presumed extinct."
Keshigi waved her hand at her console, and the display they shared spun a panorama of the system, including the asteroid belt and the gas giants.
"Prophet knows what this system even looked like when they put that here." She nodded at the asteroid he'd found. "Might even have been part of a perfectly good planet back then.
"There might be more of their junk around here, Ensign. But I'm not wasting time looking for it--time to get back to Tau Aquilae. We're already past the level of effort Sector allocated to finding this wench. We're not archaeologists, anyway."
Dvorchak looked disappointed, and he was uncharacteristically quiet as the Patrol ship slid out of the system.
On a stage far below,, a naked slave danced as strobe lights flashed in her wide, dull eyes. She writhed like a ribbon for patrons who would never materialize, and she didn't know or care. She was owned, and she was happy. Nothing else mattered.