Chapter Six: Operative
The provocative scent of hopeless need filled the room, although the blonde woman’s soft, unformed, psychic pleas were a far more potent distraction. Miriam tried again to distance herself from the former trainee’s projected desire, but only succeeded in pushing that erotic, gnawing sensation into the background.
Angelica’s insistent presence lapped at the limits of her awareness as she began to tap at the worn, plastic keys. Even the most cursory check was enough to confirm that Vee’s software had already purged any incriminating data from Jillian’s computer. A self-consuming gauss mine would take care of any copies the target might have made, of course, but the young Asian liked to be thorough.
A brief spike in her perception from somewhere in the middle distance indicated that Katiebot had safely reached the van. That was one less thing to worry about, although clearly Miriam wasn’t about to grow complacent. The cost of pushing her talent like this was beginning to tell. She could feel the tension behind her eyes and found herself wondering just how much longer her shielding would hold.
She leaned back in the seat, trying to suppress the growing discomfort and then returned her focus to the helpless woman. Angelica’s awareness was a bright, flickering flame. The former trainee’s mind was ablaze with barely coherent lust and even at a distance it was almost too painful to touch. Up close, it was simply unbearable and it took all of her control to push even the simplest of instructions through the heat of that all-consuming, carnal fire.
“Get dressed, Angel,” she whispered hoarsely. “It’s time to go.”
Miriam snatched her thoughts away from the other woman’s scalding presence. The urge to indulge was painfully strong, and a string of increasingly perverse images flickered through her mind. So potent was the proximity of that tiny, libidinous sun that for several long moments the psychic couldn’t quite untangle which were born from her own fantasies and which from those of her captive.
From the corner of her eye, the ESPer could just make out her captive’s movements as she carefully pulled on the clinging suit. Angelica still had the same fluid grace, but there was now an unhurried feel to the blonde woman’s movements. Miriam swallowed hard, recognising just how seductive the ‘reverse striptease’ was when she found herself openly staring.
The psychic almost leapt from the chair, not wanting to linger any longer than absolutely necessary. She stooped to collect the last of their equipment, intentionally turning her back on Angelica’s unexpectedly lewd display. Even though she could still feel the ripples of submissive heat, not being able to see was enough to dampen their effects.
She placed a small plastic cube as close to the apartment’s centre as she could manage. And only once it was perfectly positioned did she turn her attention back to her now-suited captive. Angelica gazed at her, eyes filled with adoration and Miriam hated how good that made her feel.
“Come on,” she almost pleaded, not trusting herself to touch that molten mind.
They slid through the door, melting into the shadows as the chameleonware rebooted. Miriam took a moment to press a small device against the doorframe. She set the mine’s timer and then led the way back to the fire escape.
Inside what once had been Jillian’s home, the cube’s outer layer was already cracking. Its contents instantly sublimated, filling the air with surprisingly simple molecules. The enzymes were already denaturing any protein with which they came into contact by the time the two women reached the van.
Once Miriam had finished securing Angelica and Katiebot into their own isolation pods, any genetic material they might have left behind had been completely denatured.
The ESPer climbed into the driver’s seat, automatically adjusting its position to accommodate her much slighter frame. Pleasure buzzed comfortably in the back of her mind, a soft echo of each captive’s delicious torment. Miriam shifted uneasily, glad of the low-strength electric fields playing over the girls’ helpless skin and dulling their psychic moans.
Taking hold of her disquiet, the slender oriental ruthlessly strangled the errant emotion, crushing it beneath the strength of her conviction. However wrong it felt, she had to trust that she was doing the right thing.
She was good. Well practiced in the arts of deception and misdirection. So good, in fact, that she almost managed to convince herself.
By the time she arrived back at the Organisation training facility, her mask was back in place. Calm, competent efficiency had completely replaced the earlier uncertainty. She drove unhurriedly through the concealed entrance and into the main garage. All manner of vehicles filled the cramped space, ranging in size from the articulated, mass-transportation lorries, all the way down to the unmanned spy drones and hunters.
Miriam reversed cautiously into her allocated slot and then, once all four telltales were blinking green, let the automated systems take over. The unloading process was entirely in the hands, claws and mechanical grabbers of the Processor’s subunits. And they could manage four captives just as effortlessly as one.
She had to think of them as ‘product’, anything else was simply too difficult. The first stirrings of her hastily contained guilt bubbled corrosively somewhere in the background, but Miriam had worked too hard for this. She’d come too far to let things slip now.
Nothing but slaveflesh, no more, no less.
The memory of Veronica’s laughter cut through her attempts at rationalisation. Neat-trimmed nails bit into the softness of her palm as the pain balled her hands into pale fists. Tiny sparks of self-inflicted numbness crawled through her brain, massaging away the concerns and leaving the memories hazed and fuzzy.
Somewhere inside a part of her wept at the loss but soon even that was softened to the point where her discomfort became a mute shadow of that true emotion.
There was a debriefing to attend and a report to make. The Overseer would already know what had happened, but Miriam needed to make sure it was her version of the story that became the official one.
A distant longing nagged at her, but it was soft and all too easily ignored. Miriam wrapped her thoughts in unflinching confidence and followed the instructions projected through her visor. Neon arrows directed her to the conference room, an unreal map that only she could see.
Every debriefing room had the same feel, no matter what they looked like. Fear and anxieties seeped into the very fabric of these places, to the point when even those without sensitivity could sense some of it.
For a psychic like Miriam, it was like having someone dancing back and forth across her grave. But she had long since inured herself to the sensation. Gazing across into the impassive face of the Overseer’s intentionally bland avatar, the ESPer tried to ignore the way it made her skin crawl.
“Well,” the androgynous, chrome-skinned being began after a prolonged pause. “You certainly don’t like to be predictable. Do you, Miriam?”
The lithe woman wasn’t sure how to respond. She simply wasn’t used to the Overseer being so... off-hand and, in its own way, that was even more disconcerting than the room itself.
“No,” she admitted.
“Perhaps you’d like to explain why your fellow trainees have returned to us in more or less the same condition as your target?” the Overseer continued, his virtual presence giving no real clue as to the construct’s emotions.
Miriam took another breath. Having already rehearsed her explanations during the long drive home, she felt relatively confident. After all, the Organisation had to have been monitoring their progress throughout and she wasn’t going to tell them anything that would challenge what they had seen.
“Angelica tried to jump me,” she explained quietly, her tone devoid of any emotion. “She failed.”
“And the others?” the electronic voice prompted.
She could feel her self-control beginning to crack, as emotions started to bleed through the veneer of false normality.
“Angel and I went down to the van,” she said, haltingly. “We left Kate and Vee to clean up the apartment while we secured the target. After... after a bit, Angel went up to see what was keeping them and then when she didn’t return either, I left the van as well and almost walked into her trap.”
“Go on,” the Overseer urged softly.
“Angel’s good, but there’s no way she could have taken both Kate and Vee,” she almost whispered, her voice raw. “So one of them must’ve started it. Given their characters, Kate has to be the most likely candidate.”
The ESPer stopped for a moment, tears prickling the corners of her eyes. She really didn’t want to even think about what had happened to Vee, let alone talk about it.
“Whichever of them was still standing, Angel obviously got the drop on them,” she finished in a rush, her eyes wet with sorrow. “But she got sloppy, and I managed to turn the tables.”
Time ticked by and Miriam was forced to watch the slow crawl of seconds as the dispassionate avatar processed this information. She knew it was pure emulation, the speeds at which the electronic presence worked were so far beyond her understanding they made any delay infeasible.
But, whether it was showmanship or not, Miriam could still feel her anxiety building. Anticipation held her in its toxic embrace, which of course was exactly what the Overseer wanted.
“Impressive,” it offered eventually. “To take on the best hand-to-hand combatant in your intake and emerge victorious.”
She blinked in surprise, that almost sounded like a compliment.
“I cheated,” she suggested weakly.
“We don’t expect our Operatives to play far, Miriam,” the Overseer explained and the amusement was clear in its tone.
The hairs on the back of her neck stiffened at the mention of the word. The Asian psychic wasn’t sure, but that had sounded an awful lot like an acknowledgement. She knew she simply couldn’t allow herself to get her hopes up, but the prize was so close now, she could almost taste it.
“Let me cut to the chase, Miriam,” the avatar suggested. “You’ve shown exactly the kind of ingenuity, single-minded determination and ruthless efficiency the Organisation is looking for in its Operatives. Our appraisal of your performance in this final task was almost perfect.”
Surprise and pride mingled in her reaction, even though she could tell that the Overseer wasn’t quite finished.
“The skill with which you manipulated the team was really quite breathtaking,” the unfeeling voice continued, “Your colleagues, your friends... even your lover. Why don’t you tell us about that?”
It was only through a supreme effort of will that Miriam managed to restrain her shocked gasp. She stared across into those knowing, digital eyes trying to gauge what was behind them.
“Honestly, Miriam,” it added, soto voce. “I’m mostly silicon and even by my reckoning, that was cold.”
Miriam felt herself flush, unable to find it within herself to deny or even challenge the Overseer’s calmly stated accusations.
“I only worked with what was already there,” she whispered, fighting the revulsion welling up inside. “A nudge here and an idea there. They all wanted rid of Kate, so that was easy enough. Giving up Vee... wasn’t. But, in the end, we couldn’t both claim the prize and, in all honesty, I was always going to choose myself over her.”
“And of course,” the smooth voice continued. “Those qualities are precisely what we’re looking for in our Operatives. So, are you going to tell us how you did it?”
“The link,” Miriam admitted. “It gave me all the time in to world to find ways through the other girl’s mental defences.”
The Overseer’s projected image nodded, as if it had expected as much but had merely sought confirmation. She didn’t want to get ahead of herself, but the question still tumbled toward her dry lips.
“Does that mean,” she breathed. “I’m the Operative?”
Soft laughter rippled over her skinsuit, but the avatar’s features remained inscrutable.
“Not quite,” it sighed. “There is one final task before I bestow that honour.”
She bowed her head, accepting the gentle words.
“There are now four units ready for processing,” the Overseer continued. “Go there, sever your remaining ties with what has gone before and then you will be able to take up the mantle of Operative.”
“Yes Sir,” she answered with far more enthusiasm than she felt.
The Processor was a lot more impressive up close and infinitely more intimidating. Miriam’s heart was hammering against her chest, and all the biofeedback in the world wasn’t enough to slow it down.
Jillian writhed in the capture-sack, while the former trainees stood at attention. Arousal and entirely helpless desire poured from the four women. It brushed against Miriam’s awareness, flowing in a series of submissive waves.
She avoided Veronica’s blank, ebon gaze, unable to tolerate the feelings it tugged from her far softer core. Emotions weren’t a luxury she could afford. There would be time for a mental breakdown later, once she’d been accepted. But right now the young oriental had to stay frosty.
“The target first,” the Overseer suggested, its voice slightly distorted by the Processor’s proximity. “Then you can move onto those you once called friends.”
Miriam didn’t want to think about that, because such thought inevitable brought her back to the latex-skinned Irishwoman and that wasn’t a place she was prepared to go. Instead she bent to Jillian’s almost equally sheathed form and lifted the helpless woman up into her arms.
Unconsciously, Jillian’s lust-fuelled movements slid pleasurably against the ESPer’s skin. Miriam felt them almost as sweetly as the soft caress of the girl’s partially subjugated mind. Her soundless mewling filling the ether, tingling deliciously across the folds of the psychic’s sensitised brain.
The Processor’s maw loomed close and the svelte Asian paused at the threshold, unsure how to proceed. She sensed movement within the colossal machine and her instincts screamed at her to step away.
“Place her in the reception chamber,” the Overseer instructed as though sensing her reluctance. “The Processor will do the rest.”
Hesitantly, Miriam did as she was asked, easing her unresisting burden down onto the wide, flat dish that extended from the lip of the machine’s mouth. Then, giving in to the increasingly irresistible imperative, she stepped back quickly, her eyes fixed on Jillian’s gently squirming form.
In contrast to Rose’s capture, this was a relatively sedate affair. A mass of metallic cables slid from the darkness. They moved over Jillian’s body, before wrapping around it, almost lovingly. Moments later, she was lifted up and dragged slowly back into the unlit interior.
“Target acquired,” an eerie, feminine voice announced. “Program running.”
The rim of the dish took on a soft, red glow and distant rumbling filled the chamber. The sensations emerging from the mechanical monstrosity were already warped, but as the Processor did its evil work, that discomforting strangeness grew more acute. Several minutes later the warning lights faded into blankness and the machine spoke again.
“Processor ready,” it sighed happily. “Please deposit next package.”
And so it went, as first Kate and then Angelica joined their target in the bowels of the Processor. By the time she came to Veronica, the young psychic was shaking so hard she could barely grip her friend’s slick, glossy skin.
The tears still refused to come, but Miriam knew that wouldn’t last.
“I’m sorry, Vee,” she whispered, projecting love and reassurance into the doll’s empty mind.
Pain stabbed through her, stinging with unbearable intensity. Regret swirled through the feelings she poured into her lover’s mind, adding confusion to the rich muddle of emotion. The hacker’s latex-smothered brain mewled in sympathetic distress and Miriam could feel her self-loathing begin to trickle over her cheeks.
But before those second thoughts could evolve into action, Vee’s unresisting body was whisked from view. The psychic choked back her denial, blinking away the tears that continued to spill from her burning eyes.
“Congratulations, Miriam,” the Overseer blandly intoned. “I know that can’t have been easy.”
“So,” the ESPer panted, struggling to hold onto her anger. “Are we done? Am I the new Operative?”
The speakers added distortion to the electronic laughter. She gritted her teeth, finding the strength she needed to keep the pain at bay.
“Like I said before,” the avatar responded. “Your appraisal was almost perfect.”
She glared at the passive face and felt her anger swell into something darker. It was much easier to blame someone else for her failings than to accept responsibility, even if the deception offered only the flimsiest protection.
“Almost?” she asked.
The Overseer’s laughter grew softer and somehow more understanding. It chuckled warmly, digital eyes gleaming from the flat projection screen.
“Tell me about Rose?” the unseen controller asked.
“Rose?” Miriam replied weakly.
“Well,” the Overseer continued, “let’s start with how you managed to frame her and we can work from there.”
“I...” she whispered, unable to find the words she needed to defend herself.
“We knew there was a spy in our midst,” it replied. “And I have to admit, your little deception had us fooled at first. But the Processor takes its victim’s minds apart, piece by succulent piece and there was no trace of anything but the usual sociopathic single-mindedness when Rose was dissected. That leaves you, which is as good a definition of ‘almost’ as you’re likely to hear.”
Another collection of semi-rigid, steel tendrils flashed from the Processor’s open maw. Each impacted, punching through her suit, and filling the chamber with the sonorous clang of metal meeting metal. Miriam felt the shock of violation as the machine linked with the outer layers of her implant.
She tugged at the nearest limb, fighting to escape the remorseless grip. Then, quite suddenly, a sensation of absolute powerlessness flowed into her, the first taste magnified within moments by her own psionic augmentation.
Veronica’s thoughts were instantly recognisable, even in this fragmented form. Unbridled lust played across the surface of her mind, dragging Miriam into an entirely personal subspace of suffocating plastics and absolute obedience.
The tears grew hotter, scalding her lips with their salty intensity. Miriam ached, inside and out. But the sheer weight of Vee’s submission was almost enough to soothe away the agony of her sorrow. Another presence added its strength to the wellspring of sensation, the razor sharpness of Kate’s awareness in sharp contrast to the hacker’s molten plastic core.
Arousal played against Miriam’s skin, sliding into her flesh and urging it to tremble. It dribbled wetly from the psychic’s swollen lips, an oozing tide of someone else’s depravity. She felt herself clench, squeezing down on the latex invading her lover’s cunt and arching at the answering twinge which sang through Katiebot’s tormented nipples.
Jillian clung to her, wrapping herself around the stricken ESPer and filling her with the thrill of hopelessly confined desire. Their target’s weakness seemed to bear down upon her, robbing the slender oriental of any hope of resistance. She revisited each defeat, experiencing it second-hand but perfectly recalled through the exotic psionic hardware.
When Angelica rejoined the link, Miriam couldn’t keep herself from answering with a helpless whine of her own. The blank slate she’d created overlaid itself upon her horribly receptive mind and all she could do in response was cum.
The tentacles tensed, hauling the psychic’s dead weight back into its gaping maw. She barely registered the wet collision as she splashed down into the waiting chemicals. Somewhere in the darkness two reunited lovers clung avidly to one another, each touched by something instinctual even though they barely recognised each other.
Three other fractured psyches coiled around them, massaging and caressing the ESPer’s disintegration as they shared every torment that had been visited upon them.
“By order of the Overseer”, a painfully calm, feminine voice whispered. “Today’s program is Operative...”