|DAMSELS UNDER GLASS: THE SERIES|
| Anne's Story — by Van
Anne tried to concentrate on the tree-like diagram growing on her computer screen. Far from bored, Anne thought that so far the assignment was exactly the sort of cutting edge challenge she had come to expect during the year-and-a-half she had been with the TESSERACT legal department. Being the legal mind attached to a software development team evaluating the performance of an "expert system" program designed to provide an "80 percent solution" to any litigation challenge faced by a small business was certainly not the sort of thing most of her friends from her school and Law Review days were doing (or could handle)—it was just that her gaze kept drifting to the thick folder of printouts and glossy photos currently acting as a coaster for her cobalt blue TESSERACT coffee cup. Finally, deciding the screen could paint itself without her assistance, Anne reached for the folder, paused, and slowly opened it.
The current test simulation had been the case of a hypothetical author and publisher being sued for copyright infringement. The nonexistent work involved had been an illustrated fantasy, with a burly, sword wielding hero, and several nubile female companions, all of whom were apparently in constant peril and requiring rescue. An actual document had been created to allow the "expert system" to perform content and context analysis against real, existing works, and the folder in front of Anne held copies of the supposed illustrations from that document. The images, like the book itself, were computer generated, and Anne found herself strangely fascinated by them, especially those of one particular female. They looked so much like Anne herself that when she first saw them she thought one of the programmers on the team had used her image as a joke, but she was assured the "book" had been generated by the gaming division of one of TESSERACT's subsidiaries, and it was all a coincidence. One illustration showed the damsel in question having just been captured by a wizard and his troll-like minions. Clad in a leather bikini, she was bound hand and foot with hemp cords. A filthy rag was being forced into her mouth by one troll, with a second troll standing by to complete the gag with a silk scarf being handed to it by the wizard. The second illustration showed the damsel spread-eagled and chained on a stone slab, naked (her modesty preserved by strategically placed, bandage-thin, silk bands draped over her body and the slab), and gagged with what looked like a bone or wooden bit tied in her mouth with a leather thong. The wizard and hero battled in the background, while the object of the exercise watched a precariously balanced glass cylinder filled with huge tarantulas about to be dumped over her sweating form by a primitive, clockwork mechanism.
Anne gazed at the illustrations, imagining she was the damsel in such serious peril. Suddenly, the computer beeped and a message popped onto the screen.
Run cycle complete Iteration 0012 Status register F002 Bifurcation index e00178 continue
Anne sighed and hit the return key. She was really going to have to talk to the code people. Did the messages have to read like they were written by a random word generator? After all, this was TESSERACT, not the recently fragmented and now rapidly declining Microsoft. The new run would take nearly an hour, and it was already after six. Anne closed the folder and straightened her desktop (physical and computer). Enough for one day, she thought. Besides, she was overdue for her evening swim.
On the top floor of the tallest building on the TESSERACT campus, in what she called her "ceremonial office", Margo relaxed in her chair and watched the ceiling-to-floor wall display with satisfaction. Among the dozens of information windows competing for her attention, one particular report which she had been anxiously anticipating appeared. For the third time in one week the biosensors of the Eve 6900 artificial intelligence that ran all of her systems had successfully captured Anne's reaction to the specially prepared illustrations Margo had arranged to have planted in the lawyer's work files. The pattern was conclusive.
Y RESPONSE SUMMARY
Pupil dilation 0.93 Surface temp 0.82 Subvocalization 0.91 baseline D
0.85 ±3 continue
...all of which meant, in a nutshell, that Anne was physically excited by the sight of her own image in the role of a helpless damsel in distress. Margo tapped the appropriate pad squares on her huge desk, and a new, large window opened next to the response summary, showing real-time video of Anne gracefully strolling the tube-like corridors of the campus. The image jumped from view to view as Eve's surveillance cameras automatically tracked Anne's progress towards the health club's lap pool. Margo tapped another square, and yet another window was added to the wall display, this one an open, two-way video-link. The static swirled briefly, and Elke's image appeared.
"Is all in readiness?" Margo asked.
Elke's smiled. "Of course. I take it you've reached a decision?"
"It is Eve's considered opinion that Miss Clayton will make a perfect addition to the 'Wonderland' harem ...a decision with which I concur," Margo answered with a sardonic grin. "We'll take her 'through the looking glass' tonight. Tell Jodi that if she gets carried away this time, I will be most displeased."
"Are you really sure you want me to tell her that?" Elke chuckled. "She might take it as... incentive."
Margo's smile broadened. "You're probably right. Just tell her to act like a grownup for once." Margo tapped the appropriate square and the vidlink window closed.
In the pool locker room, Anne removed the last of her clothes, then turned and gazed at her reflection in the ubiquitous mirrored wall, not knowing she was facing one of Eve's hi-resolution cameras. Margo slid her finger over a succession of squares, and all other windows of the display winked out. Another wave of the hand, and Anne's image grew and filled the wall until it was life-size. The resolution increased, the number of scan lines doubling and trebling, until it was almost as if Anne was there in Margo's office, naked and posing, rather than in the innocent privacy of the locker room. Margo's smile turned slightly feral as her eyes slid down her employee's toned, athletic body. In the locker room (and on Margo's office wall) Anne took a stylish, black, very French-cut, one piece swimsuit from her locker, pulled it on, carefully tugged and stretched the fabric to a comfortable fit, and headed for the shower.
Anne heard echoing voices and splashing as she stepped out into the main pool area. Elke Weber, at pool side watching someone swim laps, turned as Anne approached. From her daily workouts, Anne was acquainted with the Health Club Director, although as yet they had never had an occasion to really socialize. "Hi," Anne called.
"Anne Clayton. Hi, yourself," Elke answered with a friendly smile. "Hmm... You'll do perfectly."
Anne continued forward. "Huh?" she remarked.
Elke's well-defined muscles rippled as she pointed towards the figure in the pool. "You willing to help us test one of my sister's harebrained ideas?"
Anne's attention turned to the pool. A lithe figure was undulating through the water, using an efficient dolphin kick. It was Jodi Weber, legs together, rhythmically flexing and extending her body. She was good. There was some splashing, but she was making good speed... only Anne noticed that there was something not quite right. "What the—?" Jodi's arms were held together behind her back and encased in a tight, black sleeve of some sort. "She's... tied up," Anne said softly.
"She designed that thing herself," Elke explained, shaking her head. "Claims that having the arms behind you like that isolates the abs and gives you a better lower body workout. Helps you concentrate on the crunch. She calls it a 'flipper sleeve'. She wants me to try it, but I swim like a rock." Jodi had executed a graceful racing turn and was on the return leg. Elke turned to Anne. "Will you try it for her? It's the only way I'll get her to leave me alone. And I know you swim like a seal."
Anne watched Jodi approach. The sleeve didn't really seem to be doing much of anything for the stroke, one way or another. The only way to tell if it did do anything (other than make you a little ...helpless, Anne thought with a slight thrill) was to try it and see how your muscles felt. "Uh... sure," Anne answered. "I guess."
"Thanks," Elke said with a grin. "You have no idea what a pain she can be when she gets a bee in her bonnet like this." Elke knelt and shouted towards her sister as she splashed near. "Hey shrimp! Take a break! I've found you a victim... I mean volunteer."
Jodi stopped kicking and floated on her back, flashing a dimpled grin. "Oh goodie! A sacrificial damsel!"
Anne instantly thought of the illustrations in the folder on her desk and felt another secret thrill. "Hi, Jodi," she said.
Elke leaned over, grabbing her sister by the upper arms, and as Jodi squealed and giggled, lifted her bodily out of the water and set her on her feet, pool-side. Anne had to laugh at the spectacle. Anne, herself, was of slightly above average height, and Elke towered over her. Standing next to her sister, Elke looked like a giantess, and 5'4" Jodi looked like a dripping wet hobbit in a white, two piece swimsuit. Anne noticed that with her arms trapped behind her back in the "flipper sleeve," Jodi's pert breasts thrust forward, straining the thin fabric of her top. Water dripped from Jodi's erect nipples, which were clearly visible through the thin, wet cloth. A glint in her eyes—had she noticed Anne's gaze?—Jodi pirouetted to give Anne a good look at her invention.
The "flipper sleeve" was fashioned of neoprene rubber (wetsuit material) and completely enclosed Jodi's arms, from her armpits to the tips of her fingers. A heavy stainless steel zipper ran from the wrist area to the top of the sleeve. Broad, doubled neoprene bands, stitched and glued to the main sleeve, tightly encircled Jodi's wrists, forearms, elbows, and upper arms. Black, plastic, clamping buckles held the bands closed, the halves closing over the track of the zipper. A final set of bands stretched under Jodi's armpits and over her shoulders, meeting and clamping to the top of the sleeve. A long, lace-thin strip of nylon webbing attached to the clasp of the closed zipper at Jodi's shoulder blades dangled to the region of her upper thighs, where it terminated in a generous, tied loop.
Jodi knelt gracefully, put one big toe through the dangling loop, and arching her back, slowly stood. The two halves of the zipper rippled apart, each of the clamp buckles and bands popping open as the zipper clasp passed. Jodi wriggled her hands free of the bottom pocket, and was free. "It really does work," Jodi said. (Elke shook her head, skeptically.) "The only problem," Jodi continued, "is I can't figure out a way for a person to put it on by themselves. Turn around."
Anne took a step back and crossed her arms under her breasts. "Uh... will it fit?" Anne asked. "It looks too small for me."
"It stretches," Jodi explained. "You aren't getting cold feet, are you?"
"I'm getting cold everything ," Anne answered, running her fingers through her wet hair.
"Pleeease," Jodi cajoled.
"No pitiful begging, Shrimp," Elke chuckled. "If Anne doesn't want to try it..."
"No, I'll try it," Anne said quietly. "I said I would... and I will." Anne slowly turned and clasped her hands behind her back.
Unseen by Anne, Elke and Jodi exchanged satisfied smirks, then, as Elke watched, Jodi began fitting the dripping rubber sleeve over Anne's arms. "Put your fingers into the pockets in the bottom," Jodi instructed. "Feel them?"
"They're like the ends of two wetsuit gloves glued palm-to-palm," Anne remarked a little nervously.
"They are the ends of two wetsuit gloves glued palm-to-palm," Jodi explained. "I had to work with what I could scrounge." Anne gasped as the zipper was pulled all the way to the top and her arms were pulled together, until her elbows nearly touched. One by one, the bands were clamped over her wrists, forearms, elbows, upper arms, and shoulders. "The buckles are spring loaded," Jodi explained, "which is why they open when the zipper's pulled down. There! All finished."
"How does it feel?" Elke asked.
Anne flexed her arms and pulled against the sleeve. "Tight," she said through clenched teeth.
"It has to be or it'll give you too much drag in the water," Jodi said. "I designed it so nothing presses on any pressure points, so you can wear it for hours. Ready to take the plunge?"
Anne continued her exploration of the sleeve. "'...for hours,'" Anne whispered. She found she could barely wiggle her individually encased fingers. Obviously, her hands would be completely useless if she had to somehow escape from this thing. The sleeve alone was tight, and with the added bands... Anne realized Elke and Jodi were looking at her with amused, expectant smiles. "Sorry, what did you say?"
"I asked, fair damsel, if you were ready to take the plunge," Jodi chuckled.
Anne felt her cheeks burn. "Okay."
"Let's start in the shallow end," Jodi said, leading the way. Anne followed, with Elke straggling behind. Finally, Jodi gestured to the lapping waves, and Anne hopped into the water. "It's just like the regular dolphin kick," Jodi called. "You'll get it."
Anne turned towards the deep end, and kicked off. It took a few tries, but she did find the rhythm. She reached the deep end, did a racing turn, and started back. Anne had always found the dolphin kick to be a serious working stroke and good exercise, but it was not one of her favorites. Concentrating on the feelings in her thighs and tummy, Anne found that having her arms not just at her sides, but pulled back and immobilized did seem to make it more intense. She did one more full lap, then let her feet find the bottom and stood up.
Anne looked right and left. Jodi and Elke were nowhere to be seen. Anne turned in the water a slow 360º, surveying the entire pool area. She was alone.
|of Anne's Story— Chapter 1|