General Disclaimers: While it features no ‘on-screen’ sexual activity or explicit adult situations, this hypnofetish story does contain examples of fictional characters doing illegal, immoral and/or impossible things to other fictional characters. If you are under the age of consent in your community, are disturbed by such concepts, or want hot wet thrusting monkey-sex in your on-line pornography, then for goshsakes stop reading now!
Permission granted to re-post for free to any electronic medium, as long as no one's being charged to view it, and this disclaimer and e-mail address (email@example.com) are not removed. It would also be nice if you told me you were posting it.
Copyright Voyer, 2005.
It was then, only then, that the horrific realization crashed down over Krish.
when he had first envisioned this experiment...
he had overlooked one critical point...
He could now gain total control over Miss Hobhouse’s thoughts and actions when she was asleep...
when she was in the green...
But when she was awake...
She would still be assembling her friends and having the parties.
His eyes stared at the opposite wall for a very long time, but his brain was seeing nothing much at all. A good match for Miss Hobhouse, if he had been in any condition to notice it.
He sagged in defeat, and bowed his head.
Miss Hobhouse continued to silently massage his back and neck.
It was, he had to admit, quite pleasant.
He lifted his head. He removed his eyeglasses and carefully polished the lenses. A soothing ritual.
After all.. she didn’t entertain her guests every night..
And if he could make his way up here, and get a massage like this on those nights when she had no guests..
Krish cocked an eyebrow, and leaned back against the sofa.
It really was quite comfortable.
“Perhaps this will be bearable after all.”
Miss Hobhouse did not reply.
Krish closed his eyes.
Krish roused himself with a start, wondering how much time had elapsed. Miss Hobhouse’s hands continued to work, tirelessly, machinelike. He extracted his pocketwatch and noted the hour. Much later than he had realized. He sighed.
“That will enough for now, Miss Hobhouse.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
Her hands dropped away.
Krish pulled himself to his feet, and collected his testing unit, making sure the probes were folded away. Miss Hobhouse remained standing behind the sofa, staring straight ahead. Krish noted the broom still lying to one side, and picked it up with his free hand.
“Where do you store this, Miss Hobhouse?”
“i Store the broom in the closet by the front door, Professor.”
“You may retire now, Miss Hobhouse. I shall see you tomorrow night.”
“i Hear and i Obey.” She turned and walked not towards her bedroom, but to the kitchen counter. She picked up her telephone’s receiver and began to push at the controls.
“Miss Hobhouse? What are you doing?”
“i Am Calling mr. brown to tell him that i Have retired.”
“Mr. Brown? Who is Mr. Brown?”
“he Is my boss at adeline wholesale theatrical supply.”
Krish stared at her for a very long moment, then roused himself back to action.
“No! Miss Hobhouse! Please.. hang up the telephone.”
“i Hear and i Obey.” Said in the same tone as always.
She replaced the receiver. Krish felt the beginnings of a headache, and had to resist the impulse to tell her to massage his forehead.
“I meant.. Go to bed. Go to sleep.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
This time, she started towards what was presumably her bedroom, her night-garment as always wafting diaphanously along behind her.
She had nearly reached the door when a new thought suddenly occurred to Krish.
An entire train of thoughts..
“Wait a moment please, Miss Hobhouse. Rather, stop.”
She stopped in place, not even turning to face him.
“You have a job. You make money.”
“yes, Professor. yes, Professor.”
Krish agonized for a eternal moment.
“Are you in possession of a savings account?”
He studied the apartment around him.
“Do you have more than.. $500 in that account?”
“Would it.. severely inconvenience you.. in financial terms.. to withdraw.. $500?”
Krish agonized some more. It was a monstrous gamble. He would have to find some method of repaying the money, at the latest, before the end of the month, when the arrival of Miss Hobhouse’s bank statement would bring the monetary loss to the attention of her waking mind.
But $500... to think what he could purchase in terms of equipment with an additional $500 dollars...
He squared his shoulders.
“Miss Hobhouse. Do you possess a card to use at your bank’s automatic teller machine?”
“Please fetch it.” An unsettling vision of her carrying the item to him in her mouth came to him. “Get it, and bring it to me, please.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
Now she turned, and walked past him. Her purse was positioned on a small table by the door, and she extracted the card from some sort of feminine version of a wallet and brought it to him. His became aware his hands were full..
“Please raise your other hand.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
He placed the testing unit in her outstretched hand once again, and took up the card for examination. Seafront Savings Bank, the same institution he himself patronized, mainly because the nearest branch was located only a few short blocks from their apartment building. He would have sent Miss Hobhouse to the bank herself, but her moving beyond the range of the Snarkwaves was of course impossible.
At least at the moment.
He would have to go himself.
He extracted his own narrow wallet, and carefully put the card in one of the waiting slots.
“What is your card’s personal identification number?”
“My card’s personal identification number is 5545, Professor.”
Krish returned the wallet to its place, made his way to the door, belatedly remembered the broom in his hand, and paused long enough to file it away in the indicated closet. As best as he was able; the space was terribly cluttered.
He started to leave, then had a pang of conscience.
“Miss Hobhouse. If I do not return in one hour.. go to bed, and get some sleep.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
She would find the testing unit upon awaking, but if he didn’t return, something drastic if not terminal would have happened to him, rendering the problem unimportant.
He left the apartment, carefully closing the door behind him. After considering and rejecting the idea of going to his apartment for his overcoat, he made his way downstairs to his well-used automobile. (And well-loved; it pained him to leave it parked out at the mercy of the elements..)
The streets were deserted as he drove to the bank, pausing at all the stoplights for cross-traffic which never came. He arrived at the bank’s parking lot, and scanned the area meticulously before exiting his vehicle. There was no indication of any criminal miscreants lurking anywhere, waiting to waylay nocturnal users of the “ATM”.
He went to the machine, the sound of his shoes jarring in the night air. He could also just discern the eternal rumble of vehicles on the freeway which bisected the city.
He was quite aware that he was being photographed by the teller machine when withdrawing the money; he could only hope that if he was able to replace the money in the account, Miss Hobhouse’s curiosity would not be aroused enough to pursue the matter. A slim hope, probably.
On other hand, if he were incarcerated for theft, at the very least he would be assured of regular meals, and perhaps he would be allowed to keep his notepads..
He inserted the card and typed in the supplied code.
The machine considered, and accepted it. However, when he attempted to withdraw the funds, the device grimly informed him that the daily withdraw limit was $400, and he decided not to quibble.
Back to the vehicle, and back to the apartment, his legal doom now swirling over his head. A solitary police vehicle zipped past in the opposite direction, ignoring him. In an obscure way, Krish almost felt offended.
He maneuvered into his assigned slot, and made his way back up to Miss Hobhouse’s apartment.
She stood exactly where he had left her. He returned her card to her purse, and again collected his testing unit.
“Now then. Go to bed, Miss Hobhouse. Sleep until morning.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
She dropped her arm and disappeared into the bedroom without a backwards glance.
Krish returned to his apartment.
He deposited the testing unit in its assigned storage space, and slumped into his waiting chair. Miss Hobhouse's Equation throbbed reassuringly; she was asleep. He cranked back the settings, and the numbers loosened, began to waver in more normal fashion. She should awaken normally in the morning with no memories of what had happened.
He wished he could go quiz her at that point, and learn her emotional state.
Instead, he removed his garments and retired.
He only had a few hours to try and get some sleep.
Less, perhaps, if instead Miss Hobhouse remembered what had happened to her...
He was allowed to sleep without interruption by minions of the law, except in his dreams, where he was pursued by a relentless calliope, painted in the colors of the city police and wailing one of Miss Hobhouse’s songs. Finally he roused himself from his slumbers and performed his morning toilet. Then, a perusal of the equipment showed that Miss Hobhouse had long departed, presumably to go to her place of employment. What had she said? A theatrical supply company? This gave Krish pause for a moment. It had been a very long while since he himself had attended the theater. Before the Snarkwave research had consumed his time and finances, he had often made an effort to attend Shakespearean productions at the..
But that was, of course, over and done with, long ago.
He sallied forth to spend Miss Hobhouse’s $400.
While he was a regular fixture at the Volt Hut franchise closest to his home, not many blocks from the bank, the esoteric nature of his research meant that all too often he was left with no option but to resort to more unorthodox channels to obtain his needed equipment. Not that anything he owned was illegal.
Officially overtly illegal.
Still, his suppliers tended to be eccentric and depressingly slipshod and erratic in their business dealings, and during his searches he would often have to crisscross the city, his travels carrying him across what had proved to be a surprising cross-section of society, squalorous alleyways and dilapidated warehouses one day, the back doors and loading docks of gleaming institutes of higher research the next. On one or two particularly memorable occasions, he had been reduced to sorting through the dumpsters of certain establishments, attempting with mixed success to locate his better-funded compatriots’ cast-offs.
Having some funds tucked in his wallet, for a change, made the task somewhat easier if not any faster. He spent too much of the morning searching for one of his suppliers, a surly potbellied man named Bottlemayer whose current place of business was eventually revealed to be located behind a coin-operated laundromat. After the distastefully requisite bout of haggling, Krish came away in triumph with an almost-new 80% functional Yankovic Datastorm Assimilator, along with one or two other lesser-but-still-useful items from Bottlemayer’s copious ‘bargain bin’.
Krish had desired a "YDA" for months, and the device proved its worth when he finally succeeded in integrating it into his system and bringing everything back up to full running, a process which was far more delicate and took far longer than he had anticipated and hoped. (More hours flashing by..) When he flipped over the last switch and adjusted the last dial to its proper calibration, the Snarkwaves, while not coming close to giving up all their mysteries, instantaneously snapped into the sharpest focus he had ever seen.
As it happened, the timing was nearly perfect. Only a few short minutes later, a now-familiar Equation wound its way onto a screen: Miss Hobhouse had come home, and she was still wearing the node. The information from the node was sharper as well; Krish could even roughly follow his neighbor’s progress as she left the parking lot, climbed up the stairs and entered her apartment overhead.
He could also see that the waves were influencing her, picking at the Equation's edges...
Krish began narrowing the waves again, and the node responded, better than before. Tighter.. Tighter... If the YDA made such a difference, he began to allow himself to wonder what other relatively minor additions would add .. just one or two Dodgson Crystal Matrixes.. even, dare he wish for it, a Gryphon Baffleweave..
Something twanged on the monitors, properly bringing his wandering attention back to the situation at hand.
The Equation had been disrupted by something. Not fatally, but noticeably.
He hovered his hands over the controls, but waited to see what would happen. The Node bobbled about slightly, then Krish became aware that there were strange interference ripples bouncing the numbers...
The only possible conclusion was that Miss Hobhouse had a visitor. He strained his flesh-and-bone ears, but there was only the faint suggestion of voices, and the babblings of a television somewhere in the vicinity. Only the wretched music which had started all of this could easily penetrate through the ceiling.
He turned his attention back to the monitor.
The way that they moved..
A bout of typing. Yes. Another Equation formed. Not as strong and sharp as the one representing Miss Hobhouse, but there.. and indirectly open to influence...
If it was one of Miss Hobhouse’s party guests..
And even if it wasn’t..
It would be a useful test.
More typing, inserting ideas, thanks to the YDA twice as deep as he had the night before. The lines stretched out to quivering nothingness, but they held.
And after a series of weakening struggles, the Hobhouse Equation stretched out, surrounded the other.
Barely. Stabilization. Not permanence.
Krish came to the realization that he was going to need to build a new node, and quickly. Actually.. he considered for a moment, extracted his notepad and dashed out another page of figures, wincing at his own sloppiness of scribbling.
Finally.. Yes. A sort of subnode. It would work. Linking it to the main node would simplify everything, and require only.. more figures.. one-fourth the handwavium of the main node. Maybe even less, if he had time to consider it more carefully.
But that would have to wait until tomorrow.
He pulled out his equipment, and more raw material, and began to work, casting occasional concerned glances at the displays, issuing silent but preemptory demands. Thanks in great part to the YDA, everything held in place.
It required over four hours, and his eyes were blurring with fatigue in the end, but he finished the subnode.
He took it, and the remote testing unit, and went back upstairs.
Krish stepped across the threshold of Miss Hobhouse’s apartment with a certain degree of trepidation.
The lights had been doused, but a green glow permeated the gloom.
He located the lightswitch again, and flipped it upwards.
Miss Hobhouse was standing next to the sofa, her back to Krish, her node-bearing hand extended down towards...
The head of the woman reposing on the sofa.
Krish approached cautiously.
The new woman was evidently of Latin American descent, tall with an impressive mane of jet-black hair. (Krish had had similar hair, in color if not in length, before the gray had begun to creep in these last few years..) She was dressed in rather revealing undergarments which were colored a dark red, a good estetic match for her skintone; Krish concluded that when she had arrived, she had almost certainly not been planning to remain in Miss Hobhouse’s apartment overnight.
He again positioned the testing unit upon the coffee table and flexed his hand. He truly needed to develop a better method for conducting these remote tests. Some sort of remote unit that stayed in the apartment...
He turned towards the apartment’s owner.
“Miss Hobhouse? Can you hear me?”
“i can Hear you, Professor.”
“Who is this, on the couch?”
“angelita gomez, Professor.”
“Gomez. And she is.. one of the individuals who regularly attends your parties?”
He started to move the subnode closer to the node, but then had second thoughts. He extracted his handkerchief from his pocket and wrapped the subnode in it so that the metal was no longer touching his bare skin. Another mental note; next time, deploy his heavy workgloves.. He brought the subnode and the node together, and noted that as anticipated and hoped, the former activated and started to glow. Even through the cloth he could feel it buzzing slightly.
Maneuvering around Miss Hobhouse, and encumbered by the handkerchief, he located Miss Gomez’s finger and attached the subnode to it. Perhaps he imagined it, but it was almost as if with the last centimeter or so the subnode leaped out of his grasp and into position, eager to-
Miss Gomez flipped her eyes open and spoke towards the ceiling.
“i Hear and i Obey.”
Krish recaptured the breath her actions had startled out of him. He mopped his brow with the handkerchief, then slowly folded it up and returned it to the appropriate pocket.
“Good. And thank you, Miss Hobhouse. You may stop.. touching.. Miss Gomez.”
“i Hear and i Obey.” Miss Hobhouse shifted back to an upright stance, the node once again tracking him around the room.
“Miss Gomez. You may.. please stand up.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
The newcomer rose to her feet, and Krish sighed, and took her place on the sofa.
“Miss Hobhouse. I would benefit from another backrub, please.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
The red-haired woman walked around behind the sofa and once again clamped her hands into place.
Bliss. Even more enjoyable than the previous time.
Krish examined Miss Gomez, feeling oddly as if he was visiting the city zoo, looking into an animal’s cage. She appeared to be quite.. athletic.
“Miss Gomez. When you are not.. what was the phrase.. dreaming in the green.. what is your occupation?”
“i Work as an aerobics instructor at goldengirl gym, Controller.”
“Aerobics instructor..” Krish raised a mildly puzzled eyebrow. “Please demonstrate what you do, if that is possible in this setting. And please call me Professor.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
Miss Gomez pivoted and paced to a more open position on the floor. Once in position, she abruptly began to rhythmically contort and flex her body. After another startled moment, Krish vaguely recalled seeing this sort of thing before, in studios passed on the street, occasional glimpses of other people’s televisions...
“Ah. And you lead other individuals in this activity, thus promoting their physical fitness?”
“yes, Professor.” He was intrigued to note that her voice did not display even the slightest sign of exertion.
He watched her performance in silence for a time.
It was certainly not ballet, and it would be better with some appropriate music playing in the background, but yes, in its way it was rather enjoyable.
He became aware that he was famished; he couldn’t remember the last time he had paused to eat.
And there was very little in his refrigerator apart from the Handwavium.
“Miss Hobhouse. If you have any.. prepared food that I could eat, please fetch it.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
She left off her ministrations, walked past the flexing Miss Gomez without a glance, and into the kitchen. A microwave oven stood in one corner of the counter, and she pushed at one of the device’s controls with her finger. In response, the oven’s door popped open, and Miss Hobhouse extracted a small white bowl. She started to walk back towards Krish, then stopped and blinked, once, noticeably. (It was the first time she had performed that particular action in his presence, Krish realized.) She pivoted, opened a drawer and extracted a fork. Leaving the drawer standing open, she returned to the sofa and handed both of her burdens to him. Pause. Blink. She walked back around the sofa and resumed massaging his neck and shoulders.
Krish looked down into the bowl. It contained a mixture of rice and some variety of meat, chopped into small chunks. Chicken, judging from the smell. He sampled a mouthful, and it proved to be delicious. He chewed and swallowed.
“Did you prepare this, Miss Hobhouse?”
He waited for a moment, but no further information was forthcoming. He sighed again and rubbed at his eyes with the back of his fork-wielding hand.
“Both of you ladies. From this point forward, if I query you on a subject, you have my permission.. my orders.. to offer any additional immediately relevant information on that subject that you may possess. Do you understand?”
“we Understand, Professor.”
They spoke in perfect chorus. Another interesting datapoint.
“Good. Excellent. Now then. Miss Hobhouse. Who prepared this excellent dish?”
“clover givney Prepared it.” Pause. “she Is another woman who regularly Attends my parties.” Pause. “she Works at the deli counter in the hinkley heights hypermart.” Silence.
“I see. Thank you.” He thoughtfully consumed more of the food, chewing slowly to enjoy it. It had been so very long since he had partaken of a properly-prepared meal, even in a restaurant. A thought occurred to him, one that was almost worrying. “Miss Hobhouse. Did you set out this meal in anticipation of my arrival?”
“no Professor.” Pause. “i set it out for myself, but miss gomez Arrived and we Fell into the Green before i Was able to eat it.”
“Ah. I see. Thank you.” He ate and watched Miss Gomez’s movements for a time. “Now if I only had some proper music..”
Finally his curiosity became uncontainable.
“Miss Gomez. You may stop now.”
“i Hear and i Obey.” She ceased her moments in an instant, almost clicking to a stop.
“Come here, please.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
She walked to where he was sitting, her unshod feet silent on the carpet. He set aside the now nearly-empty bowl and the fork, and took Miss Gomez’s wrist, feeling for her pulse. (He had acquired enough basic medical knowledge over the years to know how to do this properly.) When he located it, it did not seem to be running nearly as fast as he would have expected. It was clear that Miss Gomez was in excellent physical condition, but still.. she did not appear to even be perspiring. He touched gently against her chest and felt the slow steady thud of her heart.
“Intriguing.” As he pondered, he realized that after the food he was rather thirsty. “Miss Gomez. Please bring me a glass of water.”
“i Hear and i Obey.” Miss Gomez pivoted and followed Miss Hobhouse’s path into the kitchen. She went unerringly to a cupboard, and extracted a tall narrow glass with.. Krish winced.. yellow and pink splotchs disfiguring its surface; evidently they were supposed to be flowers. She moved to the sink, but then paused exactly as Miss Hobhouse had. Again, her back was to Krish, so he could not confirm whether or not she blinked, but after the pause, she turned instead to the refrigerator. From the freezing compartment she extracted a plastic tray of ice cubes, twisted it, and deposited three of the freed cubes into the glass. She abandoned the tray on the counter, returned to the sink, and filled the glass. Back to the sofa, where she extended the glass in his direction.
“Thank you.” He sipped at the water. Nicely quenching. Even so, he almost asked if Miss Hobhouse had any stronger libations on the premises, but then refrained. If her taste in furniture and housewares was any indication, he would most likely not enjoy what she might be able to offer. Canned beer, perhaps. He shuddered a little.
And besides, it was quite essential that he keep a clear head for the tasks ahead.
“Miss Gomez. Do you possess a savings account?”
“And can you spare.. $400 dollars from that account without severe financial burden?”
He took one last sip and put the glass next to the bowl. In for a penny, in for a pound..
And if his gambit ultimately proved to be successful...
“Please bring me your ATM card.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
Krish admired the near-perfection in the movement of her hips as she pivoted and walked to the same small table that Miss Hobhouse had visited the night before. They reminded him of the purity of the Equations. There were two purses at her destination, and from the new one, Miss Gomez extracted a card. She carried it to him, and he accepted it from her.
“And what is the personal identification number attached to this card?”
Krish rotated the card in his fingers, studying it from all angles; not Seafront Savings this time, but instead AuricBank, an institution about which he knew very little. He was at least aware that ATMs used an interconnected system, and that he could deploy the card anywhere, but the thought of returning to the scene of his previous crime provoked a touch of unease. Infantile superstition, but still...
“Miss Gomez? Where is the nearest branch of this bank?”
“the nearest branch Is located at the corner of applebaum and 10th, Professor.”
Krish calculated, and sighed in resignation. Twice as far as the Seafront branch. Still..
“You may stop now, Miss Hobhouse.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
Her hands fell away.
He rose to his feet, and made his way towards the door, again putting the card safely in his wallet. He had actually opened the door before he berated himself, and retraced his steps to the remote testing unit. He activated the device, summoned the two women close (“we Hear and we Obey.”) and carefully probed the angles of the node and subnode, tracing down every connection. As before, everything proved to be functioning far better than he had dared hope. Finally, he folded away the probes and started once more for the exit.
Once again, he did not reach his destination, as intellectual curiosity got the better of him.
“Miss Gomez. Resume your.. aerobics.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
Miss Gomez returned to the same position as before and began to flex.
A further thought occurred.
“Miss Hobhouse. Is the key to your apartment in your purse?”
He located the fastener on the flap of the purse, opened it, and poked about inside. Among the various items a keyring attached to a police whistle presented itself, and he extracted it. Sorting through the ring’s contents, he located one which looked almost identical to his own apartment key. After checking to confirm the hallway was deserted he tested the key in the lock, and was rewarded with a sharp click, and the sight of the deadbolt shooting out into the air.
“Now, Miss Hobhouse. Please join Miss Gomez in aerobics.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
The red-haired woman moved closer to her taller colleague and began mimicking her movements with a near machine-like precision. Krish watched with interest for a moment, then departed, locking the door behind him and adding the keyring to the growing collection in his pocket.
He was unpleasantly surprised to discover upon arriving downstairs that the weather was beastly, with rain pouring down in sheets. After considering a return to his own apartment to fetch his umbrella, he instead found his own keyring, and made the long wet journey down the sidewalk to his automobile.
The advantage to the rain was that the streets were even more deserted than the previous night; he did not see even a police car.
And in another small mercy, the AuricBank’s ATM was revealed to be of the ‘drive up’ variety, and under the cover of a roof, so it was not required that he get out of his vehicle or receive another wetting.
Still, it all took time, time, time.
And he was already tired..
The money obtained, his face once again exposed to a security camera’s unwinking gaze, he returned to the apartment building, waded back up the sidewalk (although the rain appeared to be tapering off.) and climbed back to Miss Hobhouse’s unit. The two women stood exactly where he had left them, still silently moving their bodies in unison. He returned the proper set of keys to the one purse, and the ATM card to the other. Then-
“You may stop now.”
“we Hear and we Obey.”
They froze into immobility.
Krish examined them, touching carefully here and there. They both had a light sheen of sweat, and their pulse rates were elevated, Miss Hobhouse’s more than Miss Gomez’s, but not as much as would be expected after such an extended period of vigorous physical exercise. Even as he watched, the breathing rates of both women quickly returned to normal.
He was not entirely sure what conclusions to draw from this.
He sighed, and collapsed onto the couch again, his damp clothes sticking to his skin.
Miss Hobhouse came instantly to life, circled the sofa, and resumed massaging him. Each time she performed this action, it was more enjoyable; he speculated that she was able to tailor her ministrations based on very subtle responses. Was this a natural talent, or another effect of the Snarkwaves?. One more thing to research, if somehow he ever had the time..
“Miss Gomez. Please resume your aerobics.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
Krish recovered the glass of water, and watched for a while.
He considered the money now filling his wallet, and watched a possibility construct itself inside his head.
“Miss Hobhouse. Please describe the other regular attendees of your parties. Miss.. Givney, was it? She is one?”
“yes, Professor. clover givney Is a white woman with orangish-red hair, when it Is not dyed. she Works at the deli counter at the hypermart in hinkley heights. teresa cartwright. she Is a black woman. she Works as a salesclerk at the tuneworld branch in hayestown. rebecca abernathy. she Is a white woman with light blonde hair. she Works as a bartender at flint’s. anna lee. she Is a chinese-american woman. she Is a salesclerk at ottoman’s discount furniture.”
“Tuneworld.. they are sellers of recorded music, correct?”
“I have sadly been exposed to those gaudy advertising fliers of theirs in the Times. So, how knowledgeable is Miss.. Cartwright.. in regards to music?”
“she Is extremely knowledgeable, Professor.”
“Hm.. And out of all of these individuals.. including yourself and Miss Gomez.. who in your estimation is the most well-off financially?”
“rebecca abernathy, Professor.”
“Really? The young lady who is employed by the tavern? How did that come to be?”
“flint’s Is not a tavern, Professor. it Is the most exclusive nightclub in the city. rebecca Is one of the most popular bartenders, and she Receives very generous tips.”
“Tips. Ah. Gratuities. Fascinating.” Krish was genuinely interested; he was quite aware that there was a great deal to life that had passed him by, while he had been immersed in his long solitary years of research. Even during his college education, what seemed now a million years previous, he never been one to waste time in more frivolous pursuits. Not that his alma mater was one which had encouraged such behavior.
He felt the movement of Miss Hobhouse’s fingers.
Perhaps after he finished that research..
He pulled himself back to the present.
“So. Miss Abernathy has the most.. disposable income.. of the individuals you listed?”
“And she knows how to properly prepare alcoholic beverages?”
“Very well.” He stared again at Miss Gomez as he consumed the last of the contents of the glass, and felt the last sliver of melting ice shatter between his teeth. “In that case, I must get back to work at once.”
He lingered a moment longer. Then:
“You both may stop now.”
“we Hear and we Obey.”
They both stopped.
Krish pulled himself slowly to his feet.
“Miss Gomez. Lay down on the sofa and go to sleep until morning.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
“Miss Hobhouse. Go to bed, and sleep until morning.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
Miss Gomez lay down and closed her eyes. Miss Hobhouse disappeared into the bedroom.
Only then did Krish remember about the bowl, fork and glass. He considered for a moment summoning one of the two women to deal with them, then sagged his shoulders. He carried the paraphernalia into the kitchen, washed and dried it, and located what appeared to be the proper cupboards and drawers in which to put it away. He also returned the ice-cube tray to the freezing compartment and closed the door of the microwave oven.
Then he collected the testing unit, and slipped from the apartment.
Back down the stairs. Back down the hall to his own apartment. Instead of returning the testing unit to its far-off shelf, he simply deposited it on the carpet near the front door, and stripped himself out of his still-damp clothes. He changed into his pyjamas, placed the discarded clothes in the hamper, then lingered by the bedroom window for a moment to look out onto the parking lot. Judging from what fell in front of the light, the rain had slacked off to a near trickle. He closed the curtains decisively, and returned to his workbench. The monitors confirmed that both of the women had been pushed down into “the Green” by the waves. Two nearly identical Equations. He started to make the adjustments to shift them into normal unaffected slumber, but then he paused.
Miss Hobhouse had said that Miss.. he strained to recall, cursing his failure to record notes.. Abernathy.. was the most well-off financially of the party-goers.
And she is in the business of preparing alcoholic beverages.
Krish attempted to recall the last occasion he’d had such a thing, properly prepared. How many years?
He tapped the familiar patterns on the workbench with his fingers.
With the YDA.. just perhaps it was possible...
And if he could secure even more ready funds, in addition to Miss Gomez’s $400..
He set to work, forcing himself to proceed slowly and methodically. A mistake at this point would be disastrous. A short string of coded and timed instructions..
Instructions which just might be remembered outside the immediate range of his equipment...
He typed and typed.
Rearranging the figures on the screens..
And realized, finally..
That it simply wasn’t going to work. Not with the still-feeble equipment at his disposal. He sagged in despair, and clutched at his head. It would not work, and it was so, so wretchedly close..
If he could simply boost the effects..
It would not take much..
If he could simply piggyback his efforts onto something..
Krish thought back to his search through Miss Hobhouse’s purse.
Among the various feminine items..
He lifted his head.
He was certain there had been a cellular phone.
Once again forcing himself to remain calm, he rose and searched among his archives until he found his own phone, filed away in a box. It had been useful back when he was still searching for this Snarkwave junction, but once he had settled down to serious work, he had quickly learned that the Waves interfered with the phone’s functioning, and he had allowed his account to lapse. Just one less monetary expense.
He managed restore the phone to a semblance of life, and then took it methodically apart to examine the workings.
Yes. He could just squeeze in a bit of extra circuitry.. feeding off the phone’s batteries..
It would only give a short burst of useful power...
But that might be just enough at the right moment.
He would have construct something better, but even if he had unlimited funds, he foresaw that a truly effective booster would be unavoidably bulky, far larger than a entire cellphone casing.
But that was for later. For now..
Krish groaned as the chilling realization hit him. It was unavoidable. He was going to have to return once again to Miss Hobhouse’s apartment. He noted the time, and made calculations.
Is nothing went amiss, the procedure could be completed. Barely.
He collected his needed equipment and parts, hurriedly donned some fresh clothes, and when it was time to depart, summoned the Hobhouse Equation back from its bed, sending it to unlock the door to the apartment. One small mercy was that he could simply keep Miss Gomez locked in sleep.
His feet dragging wearily on the carpet, he returned to the other apartment.
As the monitors had promised, Miss Hobhouse was waiting for him beside her door, standing in her now-familiar pose. Miss Gomez lay quietly on the sofa. Krish passed the first woman, and started to position his equipment on the kitchen counter, but then reconsidered; for a variety of reasons, he had no desire to damage the countertop...
“Miss Hobhouse. Do you possess any old newspapers I can use?”
This stopped him.
“No? Do you not read the Times?”
He blinked at her.
“How do you keep informed on the issues of the day?”
“i Watch the news on tv, Professor.”
He sighed and pinched at the bridge of his nose.
“Very well. Do you have some.. cleaning rags? Old towels, perhaps?”
“Good. Fetch them, please.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
She disappeared into her bedroom and returned shortly, carrying a stack of the indicated items, in various states of disrepair.
Krish relieved her of her burden and spread a few of the towels out, creating a passable workspace. Once all the equipment was arranged, he made his way to Miss Hobhouse’s purse, and once again opened it. Yes, a phone was there, and he extracted it. After some experimentation, he located the power button and activated the unit. It powered up, but, as he had expected, the relatively powerful concentration of Snarkwaves in the apartment blocked it from finding a signal. He returned to the counter, and was removing the phone’s garish customized cover, when a belated thought occurred to him. He held up the device so that Miss Hobhouse could see it.
“Miss Hobhouse. This.. is your cellular phone?”
“And when not in the Green, you do regularly carry it with you, and use it?”
“Good. Thank you.”
He opened the cover and examined what was thus revealed. Fortunately, while not produced by the same manufacturer as his test model, it was close enough in terms of internal structure as to be usable. He found a small niche in which to wedge his addition, and began to link it into place. As he worked, wishing he was in possession of an extra hand or two, he spoke without much hope:
“Miss Hobhouse. I do not suppose that you possess any detailed knowledge in regards to the inner workings of a cellular phone?”
He nodded resignedly. He considered having Miss Hobhouse resume her physical ministrations on him as he worked, but then realized that it would simply be too distracting.
She was, however, able to assist him by focusing his flashlight on the proceedings and periodically wiping his brow free of sweat with one of the more intact of the towels. He found the latter activity more soothing than might be expected.
The first hints of daylight were beginning to creep into the living room window as he made the last connection and reattached the cover. He rubbed at his eyes. The wise thing to do would be to take the phone down the block, out of the range of the Snarkwaves, and test it to see if it worked. But there simply wasn’t enough time.
He returned the phone to Miss Hobhouse’s purse, gathered up all of his equipment, and folded up the towels. No sign was left of any of his work, and he stacked the towels in Miss Hobhouse’s hands.
“Please return these to where you obtained them. And then, you may go to bed and sleep.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
She turned to go.
“Oh! Miss Hobhouse! Wait!”
She turned back.
“What was your friend’s name again? The one who is employed by ‘Flint’s’ nightclub?”
“rebecca abernathy, Professor.”
“Rebecca Abernathy...” This time, he wrote the name down in his pocket notebook, careful block letters. “And the woman who works at ‘Tuneworld’?”
“theresa cartwright, Professor.”
“Cartwright. Thank you.” He finished jotting, and looked at the stereo. “If she truly can provide a collection of acceptable music, she may be a good subject for a test of.. remote acquisition. But that is later. Today.. Miss Abernathy.” He remembered himself. “Carry on, Miss Hobhouse.”
“i Hear and i Obey.”
She disappeared. It was rather unsettling how silently she moved.
Krish scanned the room one last time, confirming once again that he was leaving behind no overt trace of either of his two visits.
He went back downstairs.
Pushing away thoughts of bed, he resumed his place at the workbench and typed out the instructions he hoped to implant.
It was not long before the two women woke up, the Equations flaring to life almost simultaneously. Neither appeared particularly disturbed or erratic as they touched against each other, which was expected but encouraging. Miss Hobhouse’s collection was more thoroughly integrated into the waves surrounding it than was Miss Gomez’s...
More integrated, and easier to reach..
He could, in a sense, now whisper discrete thoughts inside her head..
The two clusters came closer together; the two women were in the same room..
He typed, chasing the clusters back and forth across the screen.
Resistance from Miss Gomez. He could see it, spiking. He had no choice but to push harder.
tie the knots together, tighter and tighter.
The danger passed, for the moment at least, and he watched Miss Gomez’s node pass smoothly out of range.
He coded in the instructions, the crucial test..
call rebecca abernathy.
Miss Hobhouse departed.
Krish dropped his hands to his lap.
Nothing more could be done. If either of them were to remove their nodes while out of the range of the Snarkwaves..
Nothing more could be done.
Now it was time to go spend Miss Gomez’s money.
Just for a little while..
He would simply rest his eyes for a few moments...
He lay down on his narrow bed and fell asleep.
Krish flailed about in a muddy slow-motion dream, somehow both appalling and
exhilarating.. The waves broke and oozed, and risingfalling all around him were..
He woke up. His beddings reluctantly released him from their twined grasp, and he
hoisted himself to his feet, feeling wizened and stiff. There was his drinking
glass positioned on the top of the dilapidated dresser, and he fumbled for it, finding a last
swallow of water, tepid but coating his throat adequately. He returned the glass,
conveniently leaving his hand in close proximity to his eyeglasses. He donned them, and
the illumination insinuating itself around the edges of the curtain was enough for him to
see the clock and the information it conveyed. He stared at the quietly-ticking device,
struck aghast. Surely it could not be accurate?
It was. He inserted his feet into his slippers, made his bleary way to the workstation and received brutal confirmation: the short string of numbers blared at him, somehow mocking. How could he
have overslept so badly?
He sternly collected himself. Resolutely turning his back on the bench, he performed
his morning toilet with careful deliberation and donned fresh clothing. He then forced
himself to brew a pot of tea and consume his morning toaster-pastries before even
allowing himself to glance at the data again. Finally, feeling rather more sapient, he
resumed his station, the chair squeaking itself into its familiar position around his body.
There was little to be seen at the moment, but apart what was displayed by the system’s official clock, what was there was reassuring.
Krish sighed, and brought forth the spread of paper bills he had extracted from Miss
Gomez’s account. Feeling their texture with his fingertips, he was quite tempted to go
back to bed, and return to dreams. This reluctance to move to action was due to the
grim fact that there was only one “short notice” supplier with whom Krish was
acquainted who could possibly be in possession what was now required.
Mr. Whitcomb. An individual who by comparison caused Bottlemayer to instantly
become a paragon of garrulous congeniality. Allowing himself a only a further moment of
vacillation, Krish once again squared his shoulders. He concealed the money back within his
wallet and sallied forth from his domicile, beginning another round of inquires, which,
as he fully expected, took even longer than the one of the day before. (Perhaps once again
coming into possession of a cellular phone would be useful ..) Finally, after many false starts dead ends and refueling stops for both himself and his automobile, he was sent out to the far eastern edge of the city. His destination was then revealed to be, of all things, a small
farmstead, a relic of a previous era that somehow managed to cling to existence even as a
tawdry wave of ever-expanding suburbs and strip-malls implacably sloshed out to wash it
from existence. At the large mailbox, he turned off the road, and navigated his way down
a narrow lane. To one side behind a sturdy fence, a few cattle grazed in a field, ignoring
his passage. Opposite the cattle, chest-high evergreen trees grew in careful rows.
The farm’s evident owner was a thin, bleak-looking man who possessed short-cropped
iron-colored hair under his billed red cap. He was standing at the end of the lane, in the
gravel-covered strip in front of a white building with a sharply-peaked roof which Krish
presumed to be the farmhouse, standing there as if he had been waiting either for Krish or
the termination of existence to arrive. After studying his visitor from behind a pair of
unreadable black eyes, and hearing the reason for his presence, the presumed-farmer directed Krish
towards a low-roofed ramshackle structure in the medium distance, attached as an
afterthought to.. a barn, Krish again supposed. Agricultural terms were not at all his forte.
He stepped through the open doorway, fastidiously avoiding the impressive but
evidently unoccupied spiderweb which was stretched across one corner of the wooden
The windowless room beyond was a collection of benches and tables, illuminated with
rows of fluorescent lights. A utilitarian-looking sink was positioned against the wall.
Larger objects, all meticulously covered with gray shrouds, loomed in every corner. The
entire collection mostly covered the concrete floor. Music issued quietly from some
unseen source. Once again not real music, but a whole level of improvement over the
caterwauling which had initiated this wretched series of events. Apart from this minor
irritant, and the slothful-looking gray cat occupying a wastefully large potion of the table
nearest the door, Krish was rather reminded of his own current domicile.
Only one other human was immediately visible, standing across the room at one of the
benches, surrounded on all sides by a collection of equipment in various states of
disrepair. The only thing he recognized offhand was an omnicron underthruster. Or at
least, that was his initial speculation as to the device’s identity; it appeared that some
unknown individual had modified it using components which were at least four decades
out of date. Perhaps someone was in even more dire straits than himself, which managed
to be simultaneously cheering and depressing.. Another of the devices was tall and
angular and topped with a glitteringly metallic dish which spun in ominous circles,
all the while producing a strangely cheerful peeping noise. Oddly, there was also a large
metal birdcage filled with a bright green plethora of inhabitants; Krish momentarily
considered the possibility that it was actually part of one of the machines, then decided
they, like the cat, were simply being maintained as domestic pets.
He wrenched his attention toward the other person, who evidently had not yet noticed
Krish’s lurking near the entrance, and was still working at the bench. Even though this
individual’s back was turned, Krish saw at once that it was not Whitcomb. In fact..
He ventured a discrete cough.
The woman turned about with a jerk of startlement. She solidly-built, with dark brown
hair pulled into a sort of disordered knot at the back of her neck. She wore a one-piece
gray garment liberally supplied with pockets, and a pair of heavily-tinted goggles was
resting against her forehead. In one blackened hand she grasped a wrench and in the
other, an almost ludicrously-oversized stembolt.
She blinked in his direction.
“Oh! Howdy. Didn’t hear you there. Can I help you with something?”
“I am looking for.. Mr. Whitcomb? I was informed by Mr. Tomlinson that he was now
operating from this..”
She sighed, and rubbed just below the goggles with her wrist, contributing a new
smeared mark to an already-present collection.
“Joe didn’t tell you?” She did not pause, but proceeded to supply an answer to her own
inquiry. “No. Of course he didn’t.”
“I’m sorry? Joe?”
She indicated the doorway, using the wrench for emphasis.
“The creepy guy out front? The one in the overalls? Doesn’t talk much? You must have
“Ah. We were not introduced.”
“Right. Anyway, Tomlinson, whoever he is, is another one who didn’t get the word, I see.”
“Mr. Whitcomb. He’s dead.”
“Oh.” Krish digested this information. Now that he had occasion to think about it,
Whitcomb had not looked all that well the last time the two of them had had dealings.
But then, the man had never looked all that well. “I am sorry.” He studied the woman
more particularly. The shape of the chin, the hair.. “Forgive me if this is an inappropriate
intrusion, but were you related to.. the deceased?”
“Yup. I’m his daughter. Was his daughter.”
“For being his daughter, or because he died?”
“I meant no-”
“No no.” She brushed the comment away, again using the wrench, seeming quite
dry-eyed. “It wasn’t like we were close or anything. But still, I was the old buzzard’s only
relative, and so I got all his swag when he finally kicked off.” She encompassed the room
and its contents.
Krish considered some more.
“Miss Whitcomb. I am in search of a Gryphon baffleweave.”
She blinked at him once again.
“You just assumed that I’m carrying on the business.. Mr..?”
Krish introduced himself and went on:
“You are repairing a stembolt. I thus assumed that you inherited more from your father
than just your physical appearance. If I assumed incorrectly..”
“No. No. You’re right.” She directed attention to her general appearance. “Should be obvious, shouldn’t it? It’s just that not all of my father’s.. associates.. are as enlightened as you.”
“Enlightened?” Krish calculated that this was a compliment. “Thank you.”
She eyed him even more thoroughly, displaying an expression he was regrettably long
“Enlightened, but strange. What do you need a baffleweave for? No, no. Sorry. Never
mind. As far as I know, you can’t build an atomic bomb with one, so it’s none of my
business. I keep forgetting how damn touchy you people are about nosy questions.”
Miss Whitcomb disregarded his perplexed query, but returned her burdens to the
workbench, wiped her hands on an already-begrimed towel and began an inventory
among the numerous dilapidated wooden boxes which were jammed into close proximity
upon a nearby table. The side of every box was adorned with a large letter, stenciled
in black paint; the box on which she finally settled featured a “G”.
“Baffleweave.. baffleweave.. they don’t make them anymore, really, you know.”
“They don’t?” Once again, Krish realized how sadly he was falling behind the flow of
“Well..” She shot him a glance over her shoulder; the intent of this one he could not quite interpret.. “nothing worthy of the name, after Gryphon got bought out and dismembered
by.. whoever it was. Can’t remember. MeirTech still cranks out those pieces of crap in
Ruritania, but the damn things shatter if you look at them cross-eyed. They don’t.. ah! I
thought I saw this the other day!” She lifted something free of the box’s confines, but the object
was further concealed within a dingy section of yellow-colored fabric. She brushed away a patina
of dust, unwound the wrappings, and turned to display the result to him.
A baffleweave. The distinctive shape was unmistakable. One of the lower corners was
broken off, and it appeared the device hadn’t been polished or properly aligned in the many years
since it had been fabricated, but still.. it was one of the most beautiful things Krish had
ever seen. Hard-won experience caused him to instantly and ruthlessly smother any
outward sign of elation.
“Yes. That is more or less what I was looking for. Would it be possible to see if it is
“Yeah, I think we can manage that. I’m kinda curious myself.” Miss Whitcomb moved
to yet another area of the room, to another bench piled with more equipment. Krish
followed along behind her, and was pleased to note, for a variety of reasons, that in this instance at least he recognized several of the devices. “Suppose I shouldn’t reveal this to the customers, but I haven’t tested even half the crap in here yet.”
The baffleweave fitted into a waiting vise, and she began efficiently clipping leads to the
various terminals, absently humming along to the music as she did so. After a short
moment, all was in position.. “Well, let’s see what we got here.” She found a control, and
manipulated it. For a moment nothing happened, then the indicator diodes ranged along on
the baffleweave’s perimeter abruptly activated, causing the two of them to jerk slightly in
simultaneous surprise. Miss Whitcomb smiled, and with a convenient screwdriver, poked gently at a random sampling of the quivering metallic strands of the baffleweave’s central matrix. They reacted as hoped, or at least as Krish had hoped. “There you are. I better turn it off; you’ll
want to polish it up before using it for very long. Assuming this is in fact what you’re looking
Krish studied the rimlights. Not all of them were functioning, but those that were
operational displayed distinctly promising colors.
“Yes, I believe that it might meet my requirements. What price do you wish for it?”
“Well...” As she terminated the device’s function and began removing the leads, she
bestowed another unfathomable look upon him. “As I said, it is practically an antique, which of course raises the value. On the other hand.. it’s not in the best of shape, and since you are enlightened..”
She named a price. It was worse than Krish had hoped, but far better than he had
feared, and well within his expanded budget. Still, if only to lay the groundwork for any
future dealings with Miss Whitcomb, he expended a mild effort at mostly unsuccessful
haggling. An agreement was reached, they completed the transaction, and he took
possession of the baffleweave, once again wrapped in the cloth. Holding his precious
burden in both hands, Krish hesitated, then asked:
“Miss Whitcomb. Do you share your father’s distaste for the use of telephones? It is
quite possible I will need to use your services again in the near future.”
“Nope. I mean, unlike dad, I have fully submitted to the new technological order.
Although Joe gets kinda picky about them being used here sometimes, as you can
understand.” Krish did not in fact understand, but he decided it would not be prudent to amplify the point. Miss Whitcomb made her way to the sink and washed her hands. Then she
produced a business card from one of her pockets; it displayed only “P. Whitcomb”, and
a phone number. “The P. stands for Patricia, if you were curious. You can at least leave a
message for me here at this number, and I’ll get back to you. And you might pass the
word around to.. the others, about the change in management.”
“Others.. Yes. If the opportunity should arise. Thank you.”
“Right. Hope your whatits works out.”
The moment lingered, then disintegrated.
“Thank you again.” Depositing Miss Whitcomb’s card in his pocket, Krish turned to
depart. As he did so, his gaze fell upon an object rising up from another table, another box. It was a tall and spindly framework, fashioned of brass, which eventually tapered
to an approximate point. After studying it remotely, he extracted it, and noted it rested on
four truncated legs, complete with padded ‘feet’. It was also more substantial and sturdy
than its appearance would suggest. He turned his attention back to his host, who was still
watching him with a faintly unsettling intentness. “Miss Whitcomb? What is this
“That? I’m not sure..” She came forward and relieved him of the object, examining it
from numerous angles, and then scrutinizing the manufacturer’s information, which had
been stamped into one of the legs. “Zarkoff Industries, Model number 235..” She turned her attention to the
ceiling for a moment, then snapped her fingers. “Oh wait. I know! It’s one of those old
amplification beacons, or what’s left of one; most of the actual equipment’s been stripped off
of it. They used them in remote granite-resonator surveys; the main unit was the size of a
small sofa, just about.” She indicated the shrouds in the nearest corner. “I think I have one of
those, too, back there somewhere. Nowadays, course, with all the modern circuits, the
survey equipment’s all contained in a unit you can carry on a strap over your shoulder,
and they don’t have to set up the beacons.” She sighed, and rubbed at a welded junction
with her thumb. “Zarkoff. Progress is great and all, but there was an outfit that turned out high-quality stuff.
This thing was meant to be hauled around mountaintops and lowered off cliffs, but they
made something that you could proudly display on your damn coffee table.”
The idea was not formed in its entirety, but components of it worked around the edges
of Krish’s mind..
“I would like to purchase it. I.. may have a use for it. A scientific use.”
“Good.” She nodded. “But that’ll make quite an armload. Here, I think I have an old
plastic sack you can put everything in..”
“I would appreciate that. Thank you.”
He surrendered the relative pittance she requested for the beacon, not bothering this time to haggle. His
two purchases were placed in a rather gaudy plastic sack, the top of the beacon poking
out into view. Once again, they exchanged farewells, and Krish made his way towards
the waiting egress, carrying the sack via the integrated handles. Something prompted him
to halt as he approached the vacinity of the spiderweb, and look back. Again, Miss
Whitcomb was watching him. Following an impulse he could not adequately quantify, he
“I am conducting research into Snarkwaves. Have you ever heard of them?”
“Snarkwaves? I don’t think.. no.. wait..” Her dark eyes resumed their examination of
the ceiling for a moment.. “I read something about them once in one of Dad's tech journals... In heavy concentrations, they interfere with cellphone reception, or something? They’re kinda rare, but still sort of a nuisance?”
“So. Making any progress? With the research?”
Krish considered this for a very long moment, then told her the truth.
“I thought perhaps I was.. I am no longer sure. However, you have been of great assistance.”
“Oh.” She smiled for the briefest of moments. “Glad to hear it. Well, let me know how it works out, if you can.”
“If it is possible, I will.” He bowed. “Good day.”
The journey back across the farmlot to his waiting vehicle seemed to take an inordinate
amount of time. There was no sign of “Joe.” Krish took his place behind the wheel, and
began the long drive home.
To be continued