DAMSELS UNDER GLASS: THE
SERIAL MELODRAMA by Van © 2001
VIRTUAL & VIDEO
GAME DESIGN TEAM
Ronnie's desk rang, the warbling tone designating a call internal
to the TESSERACT Headquarters Campus. "Games, Cultural Design,"
"You owe me, Allbriton,"
an alto voice drawled.
"Liz!" Ronnie said with a grin,
recognizing her friend from R&D Technical Services. "You
aren't finished already, are you?"
"Ha, I like that!" Liz
retorted, with a cynical laugh. "I go out on a limb and upgrade
personal SPHERUS unit to full TIKLER six months ahead of
and you complain I'm too fast."
"It's not my 'personal
SPHERUS unit'," Ronnie protested in mock outrage. "The entire
Game Design Team will be very grateful you stepped us ahead of
the queue and—"
"I've seen the logs,
Allbriton," Liz interrupted. "You spend twice as much time in VR
rest of your Division put together."
Ronnie blushed. "I like
designing things from the inside out," she said
defensively. "It speeds up the refresh cycle, and—"
"Don't get your
panties in a bunch," Liz
interrupted again, "I'm just rattling your cage. Listen, there
are things you need to know about this new unit. Open the file I
just sent you."
Ronnie turned to her workstation and
tapped a few keys. "SPHERUS-V(T)/FLS," she read aloud.
"'Full Life Support?'"
"You read so very well," Liz
said sarcastically. "The only way I could sneak you an upgrade
was to down a spare LS unit for one of Margo's black programs."
frowned. Everyone at
knew Margo Wells had dozens of "black" or "secret" projects underway at
any given time. "You aren't gonna get us in trouble, are
"The unit genuinely failed a
maintenance check," Liz explained. "I replaced the faulty module
and diverted it to your Division for 'troubleshooting.' It's a
backup to a backup. We'll be in Generation Six before
anyone asks for it back. Anyhow, it is a full life
support unit, but leave the LS subsystem on standby and the
catheters and feeding tubes don't engage unless the medical monitors
decide you need them, and then it's automatic, so—"
"Can't you just
disconnect all that?" Ronnie
Liz laughed. "That's about six
month's work, with the full-time help of the code jockeys that
wrote the triply redundant safety and medical routines. By the
way... you'll need a new VR unitard for the new unit, one that
doesn't mask the TIKLER sensors, that or your birthday suit. Now,
check this out."
Ronnie heard Liz' keyboard clacking
over the link. Her monitor cleared, and a full color 3-D image
snapped into focus. Ronnie instantly recognized part of her
prize-winning creation, The Lost City of Kul'Dakar.
gasped. The image was clearer and more detailed than what she
usually worked with by an order of magnitude! Shafts
across moss and lichen covered stone walls. A spider was spinning
an orb across a dark opening. "Valpakra!" Ronnie whispered.
It was a side entrance to Kul'Dakar's ruined "Palace of Pain", the
complex of dungeons and torture chambers used to train and discipline
the horde of fictional slaves that supported, had supported,
the fictional Kul'Dakar Amazons' predatory economy.
"Did I mention the new and improved
super-servers that come with the new unit?" Liz asked smugly. "Sixteen
giga-quads of ambiance, plus direct channels to as much
more power as the network can spare. This is as real
as VR can get... at the moment. Check back with me next week."
"Wow!" Ronnie repeated. "I have got
to see this in full VR!"
Liz laughed. "It's Friday
afternoon, Allbriton," she observed. "Leave it 'til Monday... I
mean Tuesday . It's a three day weekend, remember?
Anyway, I've got a soccer team to coach. Bye!"
"Bye Liz," Ronnie mumbled, still
staring at the screen. "Thanks!" she added hastily, then hung up
the phone, mesmerized by the photorealistic realization of her
creation. "I have got to see this."
This place is a ghost town,
Ronnie mused as she walked through the nearly deserted Entertainment
Division corridors, waving amiably at the few coworkers she encountered
who hadn't yet left for the long weekend. Ronnie had
scheduled a late afternoon Robo-Tae-Bo session at the Health Club Gym,
but testing the new SPHERUS unit was just too tempting. She'd put her hour of time sparring with the
"smart dummy" up for grabs
and it was immediately snapped up by the scheduling agent of some
other "TESSERACT Tae-Bo Tart." I'll run an extra six miles this
weekend, she promised herself.
arrived at her Team's Storeroom and swiped her security badge through
the reader to open the door. She passed through and it hissed
closed and locked behind her. Ronnie continued forward
through the clutter of shelves and cabinets groaning with Video and
Virtual game products (TESSERACT's and their partners' and
competitors'), books, old briefing binders,
stored files, holiday decorations, bulk coffee and tea, office
etc., etc. She approached a nondescript alcove tucked into the
wall and swiped her card through another, inconspicuous reader.
The projected image of a touch-pad appeared, as if by magic, its
glowing in red on the alcove's mirrored wall. Ronnie entered her
access code and the wall rumbled aside.
When her Team had moved into their
spaces in the new Headquarters Campus, they were allocated a secure
storeroom with an included high security vault for "sensitive
or classified material" (even though her Team neither worked with nor
generated "sensitive or classified materials"). The hidden,
vault was at first thought to be a rare example of TESSERACT
waste, but possession of the "Virtual Dungeon" (as the Game Division
insiders now called the hidden space) turned out to be a happy
when they went looking for a place to install the Team's SPHERUS
unit. Full VR rigs were in great demand at TESSERACT HQ, and
having one squirreled away where almost no one knew about it
greatly simplified the Team's scheduling problems. It wasn't
exactly an actual secret, but the Team kept "forgetting" to
order the required signage designating a SPHERUS Facility, and they
resolved to keep the number of non- Team Members who knew about
the system to an absolute minimum. (Liz, Ronnie's friend and the
Team's technical support, was, of course, very much the
"Wow!" Ronnie gasped aloud. The
new, Generation Five SPHERUS was nearly half the size
of their old unit, the spherical framework and armatures much
less complicated. One of TESSERACT's stated long-term goals was
to develop a full VR unit for the home consumer market within
years, and Ronnie was beginning to believe Liz and her techno geek
just might pull it off. The controls were reassuringly familiar,
the interface screen identical to what Ronnie was used to. Time
up, she thought, and opened the gym locker tucked in a
small, curtained alcove near the door. To her momentary surprise no
spandex VR unitard was waiting, just a few empty hangers
and a hand scrawled note. It read:
Oh yeah, Ronnie remembered, she
mentioned that. Well, if I'm going to be prancing around here
naked... She walked to the door, inserted her security badge
in the reader slot, and keyed the sequence that locked the vault and
gave her "full privacy" on the Campus network. Now, no one would
be able to disturb or even find her using the TESSERACT
network's public locator system; therefore, no suddenly opening doors,
no pop-up video links, and no "urgent" message relays (as unlikely as
these events were, this late on a get-out-of-town Friday). Ronnie
was a little
shy. She wasn't a prude, but she certainly wasn't an exhibitionist,
either. She stepped back to the locker and began undressing.
Ron —Old suit not
New suit ordered. Remember, skin
Ronnie stepped out of her
"sensible" pumps and
carefully hung her sweater, top, and skirt from hangers. She
caught a glimpse of herself in the mirrored wall next to the open
locker... and smiled. Ronnie was your classic "late
bloomer." She had taken a lot of grief in High School for
her "scrawny geek" figure, compounded by her quiet demeanor and
bookworm habits. Twelve years later, with advanced degrees in
History and Cultural Anthropology, after countless miles of
running and countless hours of Tae-Bo... Who's
scrawny now? Ronnie mused, admiring
her toned, sleek, buxom figure... then blushed
self-consciously. Silly idiot! Ronnie didn't need to
to anyone anymore.
She began removing what Ronnie
thought of as "Veronica's Secret," her "hot lingerie."
she was wearing bikini panties and bra, both in a leopard skin
print. Liz, among others, constantly teased Ronnie about her
mousy dressing habits, her propensity for conservative business attire
in muted earth tones, "virgin librarian drag," as Liz put it. Like
coveralls , the nearly naked brunette mused. Little did
her friend and other coworkers suspect her secret indulgence: "naughty
Wearing only her glasses,
Ronnie closed the locker, pattered to the SPHERUS console, and began
programming her session:
City of Kul'Dakar.
(Ronnie specified coordinates near the main gate.)
Ronnie was very careful to make
sure the Life Support system was set on STANDBY. No
need to get double goosed by catheters and have a nano-tentacle
feeding tube snake down my nose, she thought with a delicate
shudder. The status board blinked "READY". Ronnie
removed her glasses and set them on the console, then stepped towards
the waiting machine. Like the rest of the system, the open VR
cocoon was more compact than the previous model; much more like
a futuristic fully-articulated suit of plate armor; much less
like a steel moon suit.
Ronnie settled into the sensor bead lined cocoon cavity, settled her
hands and feet into the gloves and feet, and took a deep breath.
The panels snapped closed one by one, then slowly squeezed her
limbs and torso to achieve perfect fit. The full head mask closed
last of all. Several seconds of total immobility
and isolation followed (as well as carefully controlled panic
(Ronnie was a trifle claustrophobic)), then...
Morning. (She loved the play of the jungle mist
rising through shafts of tropical sunlight.)
Dry/Hot. (As one wag on the Design Team had noted, for a
rainforest, the jungle surrounding Kul'Dakar never seemed to get much
LC1. (Ronnie's favorite "Lara Croft Wannabe" outfit: dark
gray T-shirt and shorts, jungle boots, "stun pistol" in a shoulder
holster, and a long boot knife.)
Nominal/Neutral (Friendly). (No need for excitement this
trip. She just wanted to admire the scenery.)
(Full Feature). (Ronnie always carried a "Personal Access
Data Device" when she entered VR to work. It was really just
a system interface (conveniently styled to resemble a PalmCom, a
handheld computer. It allowed Ronnie direct control of all
parameters of the Virtual environment from inside the
session. Programming the "device" had given the code jockeys
fits. Overriding the various safeguards and controls so
Ronnie could change the running program without the entire
system crashing had not been a trivial task, but all
agreed the results for the Design Team had been well worth the
Maximum (10x.) (Ronnie liked "apparent game time" to run fast.
normal, of course, but
it allowed her to get a lot
more work done. With the TC factor set at 10, she could stay in
Kul'Dakar past sunset (always a spectacular sight) and still make her
solo dinner reservation at The Cedar Plank, one her favorite
SPHERUS-V (TIKLER INTERFACE)
RUINS OF THE LOST CITY OF
mused, I mean WOW! She was used to VR being, well,
realistic... but this was so real, so much better than
Generation Four it was scary! Huge forest giants with
buttressed roots, flowering vines, ferns, bromeliads, orchids,
butterflies, colorful birds... Okay, granted the jungle was a
Disneyesque (no clouds of stinging biting insects; no disabling
disfiguring skin rashes, and various fevers and diseases not known to
Medical Science); but who wants to play in a festering, humid, snake,
spider, and ant infested natural jungle when you can
play in the most picturesque, artistically naturalistic
Ronnie made her
way down the jungle trail, approaching the Lost City, a journey she had
made countless times... but never like this! The sound of
distant birdcalls; tiny, unseen things scurrying away into the leaf
the smell of damp wood, green leaves, and countless blossoms; a breeze
stirring the canopy and lifting strands of her short hair...
She was nearing
the turn in the trail that would provide her first good look at the
jungle clearing containing the main entrance to Kul'Dakar.
This is gonna be good, Ronnie mused... and it was! The
massive blocks of Kul'Dakar's "Victory Gate" were draped in vines (some
flowering) and overgrown with moss, lichens, and tropical
The mist and sunlight effect Ronnie loved so well lent the massive,
intact gatehouse and city walls the airy feel of one of Monet's
only the un-shrouded detail was crisp and absolutely
photo-realistic. Wow! Ronnie mused, then smiled
ruefully. Time to stop staring like a hick, Ron, she
scolded herself, and get to work.
become... "Action Ronnie—Intrepid
Adventuress!" (the teasing but
good-natured nickname her coworkers had given her favorite VR
persona). Ronnie checked the energy cell in her stun pistol,
eased her jungle knife in its boot sheath, and settled her PADD in its
belt case. It was a ritual, something Ronnie always did
before venturing into her creation to get herself into the mindset of
The Gamer. This was also the reason she dressed the part
(in VR)... at least that was what she told her fellow designers.
be told, Ronnie loved playing "Action Ronnie," pretending
she was venturing into Unknown Peril.)
the city. The massive teak and iron portals of the Victory Gate
had long since returned to the soil, but the bas-relief sculptures
adorning the walls could still be seen: wagonloads of tribute, exotic
animals, captive maidens, rank upon rank of captive maidens,
all making their way into the city, guarded by armed whip-wielding
Amazons. In "Ancient" Kul'Dakar the monumental carvings would
have been brightly painted, as would the entire city, but in the ruined
"Present" they were bare stone, moss shrouded, chipped, and
cracked. Ronnie paused to examine the scene, not for the first
time imagining the feeling of being an Ancient captive, stumbling into
Kul'Dakar after a hellish, endless, nightmare journey of scores if not
hundreds of miles, staring at these very images, images that
depicted the gazer's very fate... a fate that had befallen countless
others. Ronnie smiled (and shivered in the tropical heat.)
The irony was delicious... just as she'd designed
continued into the vast Central Plaza. A few stunted, twisted
trees struggled to grow in the huge mostly open area. Ronnie knew
they were sickly because under her feet (and the trees' roots) was a
vast warren of
subterranean vaults: the work chambers, passages, storerooms, and slave
barracks of the main city. Opposite Victory Gate on the far side
of the Plaza rose the empire's administrative center: the huge step
of The Kul'Dak, the "Throne of the Moon," abode of She Who Commands
All—The Queen. To
the right was the massive fortress of Kat'Ur, the "Warriors' House,"
of the Amazon class. And to the left, Ronnie's destination, the
colossal, windowless, monolithic block of Valpakra, the "Palace of
and somewhat inelegant next to its two sisters, Valpakra was
nonetheless as vital to the city as either the palace of the Queen or
the fortress of the Amazons. In Valpakra captives became slaves,
and the most aggressive and talented slaves might became
Amazons (if they survived the trials.) Slaves were
everywhere in the city, but in a curious way, Valpakra was their
house (hence its other
name, "The Mother of Slaves.") Ronnie made her way to the same
entrance that Liz had displayed on her workstation screen, and
(The spider was still there, and Ronnie was careful to step
under its web.)
All trace of
the exterior gate had long since rotted away, as had the iron
portcullis which had barred escape or intrusion. Only rust
stained sockets in the stone floor, walls, and ceiling hinted at their
former existence. Ronnie pulled out her PADD, punched up the Gamer's
City, zoomed in and scrolled to the floor plan of the
Valpakra Ruins, and used it to guide herself to the Chamber of
Waiting. (Ronnie knew most of her creation—her Team's creation—by heart, but
again, she liked to play the Player, to stay in the Gamer's
The Chamber of
Waiting was a staging area for newly acquired captives. Dimly lit
by indirect sunlight from neighboring, less intact rooms and
passageways, roughly a hundred meters square, the floor and the lower
walls of the Chamber were rough semi-dressed stone. There were
several small drains set in the floor and one or more doorways pierced
each wall. Two meters above floor level, the stones were fully
dressed (as finely worked as any building in the city), and covered
with bas-reliefs of naked maidens undergoing torture. The
images were graphic, disturbingly graphic, and
terrifying. That was their purpose. Naked, bound, dusty
from the trail, the cheers and jeers of the arrival parade still
echoing in their ears, new captives would be herded inside the Chamber
and the doors locked... and the waiting would begin. Hours,
possibly days, with little food and only occasional showers of water
from high in the vaulted ceiling to sustain them... The captives
would stare at the Chamber's decorations... and think about what lay
ahead... and despair. Ronnie shuddered in sympathy as she stood
in the dark, cavernous space and gazed at the artistic propaganda she
had helped create. Again, the detail of the new Virtual
environment was spectacular .
the elements, some of the sculptures' original paint layers were
semi-intact. The 3-D forms of the suffering maidens were faded
and stained, but—
Suddenly the paint was crisp and
new! Torches lit the chamber, and the PADD was gone
from Ronnie's hand and—
The PADD was back and the
chamber dark. The PADD was beeping and its screen flashing.
Ronnie looked at the small device and read: "WARNING! NETWORK
Again the chamber was bright and new and
Ronnie's PADD was gone and—
The PADD was back and the chamber its
former, ruined self, and now the PADD was speaking in a
tinny, strident voice. "EMERGENCY! FATAL ERR—"
The PADD was gone and the Chamber
bright. "Juuust great!" Ronnie groused. "A damn
malfunction on a Friday afternoon, and nobody left in town to fix
anything. We'll probably lose half of next week just figuring
out..." Ronnie became aware that she was not alone. Near
one of the doorways a young woman (little more than a girl actually)
was kneeling on a folded cloth, a scrub brush in her hands, a wooden
bucket of soapy water by her side. But for a filthy ragged
loincloth and an iron collar around her throat, the sweaty,
waif was naked. I've crossed into a different live
session, set in Ancient Kul'Dakar, Ronnie surmised. I
thought accidental transfer was supposed to be fundamentally,
technically impossible! That's what Liz said, anyway.
The drudge-slave (Ronnie could tell
by costume and context the slave's role) carefully put down the brush,
slowly stood, and backed towards the door.
"Sorry about this," Ronnie called
out. "Didn't mean to disturb you... if you're real, I
mean." The slave continued backing, an expression of horror and
fear on her otherwise quite beautiful face. She's probably not
real , Ronnie realized, and here I am talking to a generated
character like an idiot. "Computer!" Ronnie shouted.
"End program!" Nothing happened (other than the slave flinching
at the sound of Ronnie's raised voice.) "Hello?
program! Echo—Pappa! This is User speaking!
Uniform—Sierra—Echo—Romeo! User protocols invoked!
Hello?" Still nothing. The slave was nearly to the
door. Ronnie smiled
at the terrified, nearly naked maiden. "Uh, could you please
me to the nearest session interface? I need to..." The
had turned and run out the door. "Juuust great!" Ronnie
She patted her belt. The carrying pouch for her PADD was missing
as well, but her stun pistol and boot knife were present.
"I'm not in freakin' Kansas... don't even have a freakin' Toto!"
stone maidens of the Chamber of Waiting offered no response.
There was a sound at the door.
Ronnie turned to find a blonde Amazon in leather armor in the
doorway. The warrior was clutching the recently departed slave by
her hair. The shivering maiden pointed at Ronnie. "Do you see,
Mistress! She's a Spirit-Witch, Mistress! She came
out of the very air and spoke Words of Power, Mistress!"
"Silence!" the Amazon barked, then
gave a loud whistle. Instantly, a dozen more Amazons were
at her back. A Captain in the Panther Cult Guard (Ronnie
recognized her uniform and the badge of rank mounted between the cups
of the blonde's breast armor), the Amazon had a high-cheeked, almost
girlish beauty, but the smile curling her lips and the glint in her
pale blue eyes hinted at something... disturbing. The
kissed the terrified slave full on the lips, then released her
Instantly the slave knelt beside the doorway, her breasts on her knees,
her wrists crossed behind her back, her forehead pressed to the rough
stone floor. Her eyes locked on Ronnie, the Amazon spoke again,
time gently . "Look at me, Little One." The slave
lifted her head and gazed up at the Captain. "You are loyal and brave,
Little One," the blonde warrior continued, "and will be
rewarded." She pulled a small token from her belt and tossed it
to the floor. "Finish your tasks, then use this pass to get
yourself a bath. Have someone bind you and be waiting in my
quarters at the turn of First Star Watch." The slave leaned forward and
used her tongue and lips to pull the token into her mouth. The
grimy little waif gave the Captain a worshipful smile; favored
Ronnie with a haughty superior smirk; and settled her dirty
on the floor.
Her eyes still on Ronnie, the
Amazon Captain drew her sword and motioned to her troops.
"'Spirit-Witch' or no, this one's a spy." The troops,
armed and dressed in leathers like their Captain, edged past their
leader and into the
Chamber. "If you surrender now, spy," the Captain
Ronnie, "I promise you a clean death... after your interrogation, of
Ronnie glanced from Amazon to Amazon
as the female warriors slowly began to encircle her, then drew her stun
gun and pointed it at the Captain. "I don't belong in this
session," she explained. The Captain gave Ronnie a puzzled
look. "No, really," Ronnie continued. "There's been a
network malfunction or something. We all ought to
terminate this program and—"
Two things happened very fast: a whip
snapped from the right and Ronnie's pistol flew from her hand
and skidded across the floor; then a pair of bolos were thrown at
Ronnie's feet from the left. The confused and increasingly
alarmed brunette barely reacted in time, leaping into the air and
avoiding the bolos, coming back down in Tae-Bo combat stance. That
hurt! Ronnie thought, shaking her still stinging hand. Things
aren't supposed to hurt in VR! Apparently the sensory
feedback routines in Generation Five were every bit as enhanced as the
rest of the presentation. Not so sure feeling pain
is an improvement, she mused.
The Captain smiled. "Very good
moves, spy," she said, then gestured to her troops. "She's to be
taken alive, unwounded if possible. First Squad—pin and hold.
Squad—nets. Slave..." The kneeling
drudge-slave lifted her head. "Fetch your High Mistress. "
The slave's face paled
slightly under its patina of dirt, then she scrambled to her bare feet,
slipped the Captain's pass token from her mouth and into the front of
her loincloth, and followed half the Amazons out the door.
(Ronnie assumed they
were the Second Squad, scurrying to fetch nets as ordered.)
The remaining warriors arranged
themselves to cover all exits. Not... freakin'... Kansas!
Ronnie mused. This was all getting a little too real, too
much like an actual adventure... only Ronnie wasn't in control!
Time to beat a retreat until she could figure out how to
terminate the program. There has to be an interface someplace,
and I seriously doubt it's disguised as a net. She considered
drawing her boot knife... then eyed the Captain's sword (modeled on
the Roman gladius, only with a longer blade and grip) and
thought better of it. One of the Amazons (the one who had
her of her pistol, Ronnie thought) was coiling a whip and preparing to
draw her sword. Ronnie feinted in the opposite direction, then lunged.
One strike and a spinning kick and
Ronnie was past her opponent. She sprinted for the nearest open
door and rushed through. The fugitive could hear another of the
Amazons right on her tail with the others close behind.
She paused at the first corner, then executed a punch and kick, timing
the attack to catch her opponent just as the surprised warrior
came into view. The Amazon staggered back, tripping two
others. Ronnie turned and fled.
Where am I? she thought,
besides in deep shit? She came to a junction: a ramp going
down, and a narrow set of stairs going up... and she
knew where she was. The stairs would get her nowhere
but deeper and deeper into Valpakra. The ramp, on the other hand,
led to the lower dungeons, and several possible routes into the main
city, the catacombs, even the outside jungle, via the service
gates. Ronnie sprinted down.
She could hear the clamoring,
hobnailed boots of a handful of her pursuers. They must have
spilt up at the junction, Ronnie surmised, but they're too close. I'll never get away
without some breathing space! The
only thing was to set an ambush. She ducked into
an alcove and waited until her pursuers rushed past, then felled the
last Amazon with a blow to the head and sent the second sprawling with
a running kick. The
remaining Amazon spun and managed to deflect
Ronnie's first punch with a slap of the flat of her sword. Ouch!
alive, Ronnie mused, fluttering her
hand, then attacked again. The Amazon was good, but seemed
by Ronnie's Tae-Bo style. The Amazon's sword went clattering and
soon she too was sprawled on the stone floor.
Ronnie turned to
sprint away into the
darkness—and suddenly a net of hemp rope dropped over her head.
She tripped in the folds and fell heavily, then looked up to find the
swordpoints of the grinning, blonde Captain and the returned Second
Squad surrounding her.
"Very, very good moves, spy,"
the Captain purred, then gestured at Ronnie with her free hand. Before the entangled brunette could do more
than struggle to her knees,
the net was pulled off, her wrists wrenched behind her back,
and bound together with rough hemp.
"Look!" Ronnie protested as she was
being tied, "It's all a system malfunction! Computer!
COMPUTER! END PROGRA—M'MMPFH!" A blue silk cloth was
tied tightly between her teeth.
"Our spy is a
blonde Captain said with an evil grin. She sheathed her sword and
drew a dagger. "We've caught ourselves quite a prize, haven't
we?" The question must have been rhetorical, because none of her
troops replied. "We'll take her to North Dungeon Five on this
level," the Captain announced. "Strip her, but don't damage her
clothing or equipment. The Queen's scholars may want to examine
them... and if that boot knife disappears before finding its way to my
belt, there'll be hell to pay." The gloating blonde
lifted Ronnie's chin and held the dagger to the helpless brunette's
throat. "Hmm... punishment tie three , with white silk
rope," she decided. "She
may as well begin learning her place."
Second Squad had a grand time stripping their captive.
There was minor disagreement over which Amazon should be detailed to
run and fetch the white silk rope for Ronnie's more elaborate binding,
but as with most military organizations, seniority ruled, and the
youngest member of the squad (a svelte brunette of about twenty) missed
most of Ronnie's unveiling.
As per orders,
the prisoner's T-shirt, shoulder holster, shorts, boots, socks, and
underwear all received careful treatment. Ronnie's person
not so lucky. She tried not to react, but the guards' groping, pinching
fingers and lewd, taunting remarks made
it impossible not to squirm and mew through her gag as her wrists were
her limbs and torso grabbed and held, and each item of clothing peeled
revealing more and more and finally all of the embarrassed
to her handlers' pawing explorations. Ronnie struggled for all
was worth, but was helpless in the hands of the half dozen trained
warriors. Kul'Dakar culture revolved around warfare and the
and handling of slaves. In her current circumstances, Ronnie was
not a challenge to her captors.
were amused by all of Ronnie's costume. but her bra was singled out for
special ridicule. The consensus was that only a race of dimwitted
slaves would torture themselves with such a breast binding
garment. Cowering on the floor, naked, gagged, her wrists again
bound behind her back with hemp, Ronnie's cheeks burned with
guard returned with coils of white silk rope. "Punishment tie
three" turned out to be a shoulder yoking harness that framed Ronnie's
breasts, lashed her touching elbows together behind her back, encircled
her waist, dove between her legs, and pinned her wrists to her
buttocks. It was indeed punishing, the ropes pulled taut
and double cinched by the snickering guards for added discomfort.
Ronnie knew the
significance of white silk rope: she was a State Prisoner, not
a slave-in-training or a war captive. Ronnie had been singled out
for special treatment. The blonde Captain had leaned
against a wall and watched Ronnie's stripping and binding with obvious
relish. Ronnie stared back at the Amazon officer in angry
laughed. "A spirited spy," she purred. "You'll soon
learn to show the proper respect." She stepped forward and
slapped Ronnie's face, hard, then grabbed
the wincing brunette's chin. "Listen, Brown Eyes," the Captain
barked, "you are a criminal foreign prisoner,
lower than the lowest, newest, most poorly trained slave. All
you have to look forward to is torture, interrogation, and your
eventual ritual execution. Keep staring into the eyes of your
and your death will be agonizing, elaborate, and very, very
her gagged head (still ringing from the slap), her eyes carefully
averted to the rough stone floor. Ronnie was still angry, but she
was not stupid.
Brown Eyes," the Captain cooed, then gestured to the amused
guards. "Let's march," she barked, spun on her booted
heel, and tramped away. With a rough shove (and a chorus of
mocking laughter from the Second Squad) Ronnie was hustled along in her
"North Dungeon Five" turned
out to be one of the countless torture chambers comprising the massive
labyrinthine edifice that was The Palace of Pain. A complex frame
of heavy dark timbers (almost certainly a torture engine of
some sort) was in the center of the large dimly lit space... but
standing in front of the device and apparently awaiting the prisoner's
arrival, two very beautiful women demanded Ronnie's immediate
The first had delicate fair skin,
auburn hair tucked in a tight bun, and a commanding presence.
She was wearing a fabulous costume of silk and cloth-of-gold,
and also wore what Ronnie recognized as the badges of rank of
the High Mistress of Valpakra: gold bracers and high collar (symbolic
of the chains of a slave), all elaborately engraved and studded with
The other woman was bare breasted,
wearing only the leather G-string, body harness, and engraved collar of
a Trustee Slave. She had long chestnut hair and carried a
scribe's slate tablet. Her self-assured (but respectful) manner
suggested one of the High Mistress' close assistants.
The Captain, her troops, and their
prisoner approached the waiting duo and Ronnie was thrown to
the stone floor, none too gently. The Panther Cult contingent snapped
to attention, then their Captain
bowed from the waist and stepped forward. Ronnie fought to
her anger (and fear) and stole a surreptitious glance at the imposing
figure of the High Mistress. I don't remember designing
her this... attractive, she mused.
"Well... look what the Panthers
dragged in," the High Mistress drawled, eliciting an appreciative
chuckle from the Amazons. With a gesture from the Captain Ronnie
dragged to her bare feet and thrust forward.
The bound and gagged captive blinked
in surprise. I... I know that voice, she
realized. It's the primary avatar of the Eve-6900!—Margo
personal manifestation of the Artificial Intelligence
that ran her domain! Ronnie remembered a briefing she'd
attended once, in which "Eve-Prime" had narrated part of the
presentation. She stole another look at the "High
It was Eve-Prime! Ronnie twisted in her bonds, mewed
through her gag, and lunged forward, desperately trying to
communicate with the smiling simulacrum. If only she could
Surely Eve-Prime would have to respond to User Protocols!
The blonde Captain grabbed Ronnie by
the hair and pulled her back. "Stop it, Brown Eyes!" she hissed,
then continued in a whisper. "One more show of disrespect in the
presence of the High Mistress and I will personally whip your
breasts, rump, and feet for one full turn of the glass, and then
you over to Second Squad for some real punishment. Do I
myself clear?" Ronnie nodded, then winced when the Captain's grip
on her hair tightened. "Good!" the Captain barked, and thrust
head away. The captive staggered, then stood very still, her head
bowed, her eyes carefully, respectfully lowered. Maybe I'll
a chance later, she decided.
The High Mistress ignored Ronnie's
outburst and correction with regal indifference, then glanced at her
scribe-slave and smiled. "Hmm... reminds me of a certain
spirited, defiant slave who required special attention,
she earned her special collar," she purred, eliciting laughter from her
fellow Amazons and a coy blushing smile from her demure
assistant. The High Mistress turned back to the Captain.
"Report," she ordered.
The Captain placed one strong
hand on Ronnie's right breast.
"This one was discovered spying in the Chamber of Waiting," the
grinning Captain explained. "The dirty little monkey of a
drudge-slave who reported her claims she appeared from thin air."
"A Spirit-Witch whose magic is no
match for the protective wards of the City, no doubt," the High
Mistress mused aloud.
The Captain nodded in
agreement. "She's a trained fighter, and spoke Words of Power,
but as you can see..." The Captain gave Ronnie's breast a squeeze,
"...she was unable
to escape. I ordered her gagged immediately."
"A wise precaution," the High
Mistress agreed, then walked a slow circuit around the nude, bound and
gagged captive, examining every detail of Ronnie's athletic, toned body
and flawless, tanned skin. "She has magnificent breasts," the
High Mistress observed. "Perhaps we should make her a dairy
"Who would want to drink the slave
milk of a Spirit-Witch?" the Captain inquired. The High
Mistress and Amazon guards laughed (as did the Trustee Slave, carefully
hiding her amusement behind the top edge of her tablet.)
"You're probably right," the High
Mistress conceded, then took one step forward and abruptly placed her
right hand on Ronnie's sex. The helpless captive yelped through
her gag and took a step beck.
Instantly, the Captain's hand gripped
Ronnie's tousled hair and she was thrust forward. "Stupid
less-than-slave," the Amazon scolded.
The High Mistress smooth, strong
fingers resumed their examination, parting the labia and slipping into
Ronnie's vagina. "This one's wet," she observed.
Ronnie squirmed and blushed bright
crimson as the High Mistress probed her most intimate person, lifting
the hood of her clitoris and teasing the expanding, throbbing nubbin of
flesh with gentle, educated strokes. Despite herself, Ronnie
felt her nipples responding as well, and the passage of her tormentor's
fingers being eased by increasing wetness.
"Responsive little minx, isn't
she?" the High Mistress mused, eliciting more laughter from the
Amazons. "Clearly, a natural slave... whatever her skills or
'Natural slave?' Ronnie
blushed anew, and stole a glimpse of her tormentors.
The High Mistress had an amused, wolfish look on her beautiful
face; the scribe-slave was glaring at Ronnie, openly jealous;
and the Captain—
Smack! The blonde
warrior slapped Ronnie's blushing face. "Keep your eyes on the
floor," she commanded. "Are you dimwitted as well as
The High Mistress lifted her now
slightly filmed fingers to the scribe-slave's lips. Instantly,
the slave licked Ronnie's musk from her mistress' hand. A quick
darting glance on Ronnie's part confirmed that the slave's jealousy had
"She'll meet The Queen in the
morning," the High Mistress decided. (The slave began writing on
her tablet.) "Collar her, and she is to remain gagged until
inside The Kul'Dak. The Queen's Witch-Warriors will make quick
work of our little mage-spy if she tries anything in their
"As you command," the Captain intoned.
The High Mistress lifted Ronnie's
chin and gazed into her gagged, tear stained face. "Beautiful,"
she murmured, "a diamond among quartz pebbles. Such a
pity." She dropped Ronnie's chin. "I approve of your choice
of accommodations," she told the Captain. "We want her in a
talkative mood when she's questioned by The Queen tomorrow. Let
her ride the Water Horse. Well done, Elá," the High
Mistress praised the Captain, then turned with her assistant and
departed (the Trustee Slave favoring Ronnie with a dismissive superior
smirk from the doorway).
An iron collar was snapped and locked
around Ronnie's neck (the Captain pocketing the key). The
collar was heavy and clutched Ronnie's throat uncomfortably.
Ronnie was dragged towards the torture engine in the center of the
dungeon. Before she had a chance to examine the "Water Horse"
(she assumed it was the "Water Horse") Ronnie found her
clamped in a stout wooden pillory, the edge of a smoothly rounded but
plank nestled against her loins, her widely separated ankles clamped in
wooden stocks, and her toes dangling in midair. Ronnie's white
bonds and blue silk gag remained intact. The semi-suspended pose
bearable, but hardly comfortable. (Ronnie was
relieved that only a portion of her weight was riding the rounded
"Out!" the Captain barked.
"Stations!" and her troops dutifully withdrew to resume their posts...
and Ronnie was alone with the blonde warrior. The Captain had a
fiendish, almost maniacal glint in her pale blue eyes, a hungry
smile on her angelic face. "I want you to know I agree
with the High Mistress," the Captain purred, gently caressing
Ronnie's breasts. "You are beautiful."
Ronnie squirmed in her wooden prison
and tight bonds, lifting her gaze to lock eyes with her captor.
What had the High Mistress called her? 'Elá.'
Let her punish me, the helpless prisoner thought. What difference
does it make now?
continued the gentle massage, fingering her victim's erect
nipples. "I also want you to know I will do my best to
see that you are not put to death. I've
always wanted to own a strong fighter such as yourself, to break her
spirit and train her to the yoke."
shuddered as she felt the Elá's
hands slowly slide down her rope-bound torso... across her flat
tummy... then gently stroke her labia where they parted to kiss the
"It can get boring
playing with cattle," the smug Amazon explained, continuing her
sensuous, cunningly lambent massage, "don't you see?"
squirmed, despite her current circumstances, responding to her
tormentor's teasing touch. (Or was it because of her
current circumstances?) No! Ronnie thought, I
am not a 'natural
slave'! When I get free I'll kick her butt! I'll kick all
their butts! I'll... I'll... Ronnie closed her
eyes and shuddered again. Elá
's hand was bringing her to climax! She whined through her gag
and swiveled her hips, grinding her sex against the unforgiving plank,
against her captor's strong, tan, dancing fingers; twisting in
her tight, inescapable rope bonds; bucking against the viselike,
grip of the torture engine's pillory and stocks; and the delicious,
delicious feeling was building, and building, and... Elá 's hand was gone!
her eyes. Her torturer was licking her fingers, one by
one; a cruel, knowing smile curling her smacking lips. Ronnie
felt her cheeks burn with humiliation and shame. Tears
welled in her eyes. You bitch! She
had been close... so close...
"You didn't earn
it, Brown Eyes," Elá said with a
mocking laugh, watching her prisoner squirm and blush. "A life of
exquisite pleasure and pain awaits you," she continued, "...if
I can save your pretty skin from the
flaying knives... or whatever fate The Queen decrees."
stepped behind Ronnie, out of the captive's rather limited
field of vision. Seconds passed, then abruptly the slow echoing
sound of dripping water filled the chamber. Elá returned, but now her expression was wistful, almost
sad. "I know a pretty thing with the learning of a Spirit-Witch
familiar with the principle of the lever. The water you hear
emptying from one barrel to the other will shift the balance of this
device, slowly settling your weight, and the weight of
the pillory and stocks, onto the edge of that plank you feel beginning
to squash your smelly, well-handled, no doubt dripping
loins." Despite her fear, Ronnie glared at her
tormentor, eliciting an evil smile. "You won't be so defiant in a
few hours," the gloating blonde purred. "By morning you'll
be screaming and begging for a chance to demonstrate your
complete obedience, your craving for the Yoke of
Kul'Dakar. They always do." Elá gasped in mock dismay. "Oh, I forgot the
gag! You won't
be able to scream or beg, will you Brown Eyes?"
Elá laughed, spun on her heel, and strode
to the doorway. She favored her victim with a lingering, gloating
gaze as she paused to adjust her armor and weapons harness... and then
she was gone... and Ronnie was alone... alone with the stone walls, the
sputtering torches, and the sound of the dripping water.
in her bonds, then went very still when the "Water
Horse" gave a delicate vibrating shudder... and more of her weight
onto the plank... ever so slightly more. Her
mouth was becoming quite dry, and the tight gag was beginning to make
her jaw ache. Trapped in VR... which isn't supposed
to be possible! she mused, the
start of a three day weekend in the real world, so with full
compression in effect... at least thirty Virtual days until I
can expect rescue... more if no one notices I'm gone right away.
tear trickled down her cheek.
The water continued to drip. The faint, echoing, piteous
scream of one of Valpakra's other victims found its
way into Ronnie's dungeon. I am so... very ...
screwed! she mused.
Be BRAVE, our little Tae-Bo Tart!
Things can't possibly get worse... can they?
Well... can they?
Is this truly...
|| of Trapped in
| In a word... NO!
(...& we get to watch! J
Stay Tuned for the NEXT thrilling episode