“So the party is still going ahead? For real?” Trev asked, lounging on the sofa.
“Well, yeah.” Tiff smiled faintly. “I mean, we’ve all invited people already, right?”
“Yeah… I guess so,” Alice murmured. She was on the other sofa, but perched much more rigidly.
“Yeah, I haven’t,” Lucy scoffed. “It’s the first I’m hearing about it, if I’m being honest.”
“Do we really have to?” Alice asked, her voice bitter with annoyance. “Isn’t there something else we can do?”
“Look, according to your Mistress personality,” Tiffany said, “her plan was to lure Dillon to the party, have a bunch of brainwashed people surrounding her, and either seduce him or force him into the chair to bring him in line with the Algorithm. Unless anyone else has a better plan, I think we should stick to it.”
“I don’t like it, but I admit I don’t have a better suggestion.” Josh sighed.
“Can you not just tell him to fuck off and leave you alone?” Lucy asked with a tone of boredom.
“No.” Alice sighed, getting to her feet and pacing nervously. “He knows about the Algorithm, and my behavior has been too all over the place for us to just expect him to forget about it.”
“It’ll be okay,” Tiffany reassured.
Alice snapped round to face Tiffany, a scowl quickly appearing on her face. “Tiff, please shut up. Honestly, I can barely look at you right now.”
Tiffany shrank away. “I- I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”
“And stop apologising, jesus!” Alice snapped in reply. “It feels like you’ve apologised a million times. I get it, you’re sorry! It doesn’t undo what you did, nor does it help me deal with all of this crap in my head. On top of that, the horrible controlling bitch that you created is still somewhere in my brain, hiding away until the moment you need her to do something for you.”
Tiffany tried to stop her eyes from watering up. Speaking as calmly as she could, she said, “Once Dillon is dealt with, I promise that trigger will be gone forever. I just need you to keep it for a couple more days.”
“Urgh!” Alice turned away in frustration. She slumped back down on the sofa. “Fine. Whatever. But are we done here yet? I need to get outta here.”
“There’s one last thing.” Tiffany walked into the middle of where the sofas all faced. “Trev, I’ve reinstated the trigger you had for Lucy. I felt it only fair that you get to decide what to do with her.”
Lucy exhaled sharply in indignation. “Excuse me, I’m right here! I don’t think it’s fair that I have any triggers at all.”
“No, no!” Alice interjected. “I get to have Monster Psycho Bitch living rent free in my head for the next two days. You’re a liar and a cheat, so yes, whatever the fuck happens to you is fair.”
Lucy glared furiously at Alice, before turning to Trev, her expression melting into pleading sorrow. “Baby… Trevor. Come on… I’m sorry, I made mistakes, I know that. But I love you, please don’t put more fucked up programming in my head.”
Trev looked at Tiffany curiously. Tiffany just nodded, and he nodded back. Turning to Lucy, he spoke softly. “It’s okay,” he said. “No more programming. No more triggers.”
Lucy smiled hopefully and opened her mouth to reply, but Trev continued.
“Sleep, Lucy, sleep,” he said, a sadness in his voice.
Lucy’s expression turned to confusion before fading completely. Moments later, her eyes were unfocused, her mouth hung slightly open, and she was entirely still and mindless.
“Lucy…” Trev said heavily. “When you wake up from this trance, you will no longer have any triggers or programming in your mind. Anything anyone ever programmed into you as a result of the Algorithm will be gone, and you won’t have any memory gaps. You’ll remember everything, from in trance and out. Understand?”
“Yes…” Lucy whispered faintly. Tiffany felt her heart jolt. Surely he wasn’t going to...
“Good,” Trev said. “Wake up, then.”
Everyone watched as Lucy stirred, opening her eyes and shaking away the brief trance. She looked tentatively around everyone, before turning to Trev, a hopeful smile spreading across her face. “You… You freed me?” she said faintly.
Trev’s expression was solemn. “It was a parting gift,” he said.
Lucy’s face was quickly overcome with confusion. “Wh- what?”
“Lucy, we’re finished,” Trev said firmly. “I’m breaking up with you.”
Lucy frowned and shook her head. “No, no, no you can’t.”
“Well I am,” Trev replied. “It’s not just the fact that you were sleeping with James behind my back, it’s not just that you don’t like my friends. On top of those, we just aren’t right for each other. I’m not in love with you, and I don’t want to be with you in that way.”
“You can’t… I’m not…” Lucy seemed lost for words. “You need to give me… It can’t just be.”
“And the thing is…” Trev said, more animated now, “You knew we were having problems! I was in denial about it, and just hoping it would go away, which I admit wasn’t great. But it was a damn sight better than finding a friend of yours to fuck. I can’t forgive that, and I don’t want to. Frankly, I don’t want to see you ever again.”
Lucy was silent now. Her eyes were boring into Trev like there was nothing else to look at in the world.
“Now, if you want to keep fucking James, that’s your business. I’m done with him too. But please stay away from my place until I move out or I kick him out, whichever. And if you happen to see him before I do, you can go ahead and tell him that he has 24 hours to come clean to Libby or I’ll be telling her everything.”
Lucy just stared at Trev. Tears started falling down her cheeks, and then she began shaking. She then spoke in a hushed, furious voice. “No one will ever love your lazy, pathetic, worthless ass the way I love you. You are making the biggest mistake of your life right now, so I’m going to give you one chance and one chance only to apologise and take it back. One chance.”
Trev looked at the rage radiating from her face and shook his head in disbelief. “Yeah, I think you should just go.”
The sound that came from Lucy just then started as a low growl but quickly turned into a guttural scream of absolute fury. She was on her feet next, bellowing into Trev’s face.
“I HATE YOU! I FUCKING HATE YOU, YOU PATHETIC PIECE OF SHIT!” She then turned to Alice. “AND I HATE YOU!” Then Tiffany, “AND YOU! AND YOU!” Lastly to Josh. “I HATE ALL OF YOU SO! FUCKING! MUCH!”
With one last scream, she grabbed her things and stormed out, kicking over a stool and slamming the apartment door behind her.
Everyone stared in shocked silence at the door for a lingering moment. Eventually, Josh exclaimed, “What did I do?”
His words seemed to knock everyone else out of their stunned silence. Tiffany exhaled deeply. “Okay, wow.”
Alice snorted in derision. “Ding dong, the witch is dead!” She turned to Trevor with a kind expression. “Trev, I’m really proud of you.”
“Yeah, that was a long time coming.” Tiffany nodded.
“I’m being serious,” Josh said. “I mean, I get why she hates each of you specifically, but what did I do? Guys? Guys!”
“Honestly, I deeply regret that we didn’t catch that on some kinda recording.” Alice smiled. “I mean, talk about—”
“Please,” Trev said faintly. “Please don’t.”
They all turned to Trev, who was looking dejected. Alice quickly went over to him, kneeling down and clasping onto his hands. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Trev, I’m sorry. I know that was hard, I know. Tell me what you need. Seriously, anything.”
“Anything?” Trev looked up.
“Short of murder, but yeah,” Alice said.
“Two things… Can you give me two things?”
“Trev… I’d give you fifty.” Alice sighed, looking at him with kind eyes..
“Heh. Okay… The first is can you come with me to get a coffee?”
“Absolutely.” Alice nodded.
“I don’t mean as in, suddenly let’s go out and be a couple and it looks like a rebound thing,” Trev quickly added. “I just want to talk, sort out all the crap in my head, and there’s no one I’d rather do it with than you.”
“Trev…” Alice smiled. “I already said yes.”
“Right. Right.” Trev shook his head. “Sorry, I’m just…”
“It’s okay,” Alice said softly. “Now, what was the second thing?”
“Okay…” Trev started, nervousness suddenly appearing in his voice. “I want you to forgive Tiff. And Erin, for that matter. Please forgive them… Or at least try as hard as you can.”
Alice stared at Trev for a long, silent moment. Their eyes locked and Tiffany watched in wonder, trying to imagine what kind of understanding they were getting from each other. Without saying a word, Alice got to her feet and walked over to Tiffany.
Now it was Tiffany’s turn to receive Alice’s intense stare. She looked into her eyes and to her amazement she saw the same fierce determination that Mistress Alice had, but also the same devotion and care that her slave Alice had shown her. Tiffany felt a nervous shiver run through her.
“Tell me, Tiff. Honestly,” Alice said in the most serious tone that Tiffany had ever heard her use. “If it wasn’t for the Algorithm, would you have ever have asked me out? Or at least admitted your feelings for me?”
Tiffany felt her lungs fill with air as she nervously drew in breath. “Honestly… No.” She exhaled. “I was always too scared to. I never imagined you’d ever think of me in that way.” She bowed her head. “I was a coward.”
“Yeah.” Alice nodded, her expression softening to one of pity. “You were. Tiff, if you had come to me, we could have at least talked it through. Hell, I probably would have wanted to go on a date with you just to see what it was like. It might have ended up going nowhere, but who really knows?” She sighed, bowing her own head. “The point is, if you had done it that way, then you would have given us that small chance. Because of what you chose, there’s no way I could ever trust you like that. But... I still want to be your friend, and so I’m going to try my hardest to forgive you and move on. Okay.”
“Really?” Tiffany raised her head in hope.
“Yes,” Alice said softly, before steeling herself and facing Tiffany directly once more. “But this?” She motioned between them. “You putting me on a pedestal, only seeing the good, ignoring the bad? This has to stop. Like, right now. I want you as a friend, not as a lovesick dope, you got that?”
Tiffany felt like something inside her click. She nodded sincerely. “Yes. Okay, yeah. It’s over, I swear.”
They started into each other’s eyes in intense silence for a lingering moment, until Josh broke the tension, leaning in towards them and saying, “Annnnnd… kiss!”
“What’s wrong with you!”
Both women simultaneously beat at Josh’s arms as he tried to bat them away. “Oh come on! You know all girl sexual tension wigs me out!”
“Stop talking!” Tiffany shouted, though she was struggling to hide the smile on her face. Trev was out and out laughing.
Moments later, Alice calmed down from the fluster. “Okay, so now that that’s happened, it’s time to go. Trev? You good?”
“Yeah,” Trev said, still coming down from his laughter. “Let me just grab my things.”
He disappeared into the spare room, and Alice started getting her coat and shoes. Tiffany watched her silently, trying to fight back tears. It really was time to let her go, wasn’t it? She hugged herself as Trev and Alice waved a cheery goodbye to both her and Josh before leaving together.
She stared at the door longingly before shaking her head at herself.
“You okay, Tiff?” Josh asked, sliding over to her and prodding her in the arm gently to let her know that he knew she wasn’t okay, and that also he knew she knew he knew that she wasn’t okay, but in situations like this you ask if people are okay, because what else can you do...
“No,” Tiffany said, breathing out her tension. When she turned to Josh, she allowed herself to smile. “But I will be.”
Tiff sat in the chair, staring at the screen. What a refreshing change that for once there wasn’t an entrancing pattern sapping her will and her thoughts away. Instead, there was a bunch of code in one window, a folder full of files in another window, and a control bar of settings in a third. Josh was at the side monitor, occasionally typing into the keyboard as he tried to explain all the features he had been installing into the Algorithm.
“I’m amazed you’ve done so much with it in just a few days…” Tiffany remarked as she looked over the code. Aside from a word or two that she recognised, none of it really made any sense to her.
“Well, being programmed to have unparalleled focus certainly helped.” Josh grinned. “But let’s face it, I wasn’t exactly a slacker before, now was I? I have been falling behind on my Netflix bingeing though…”
Tiffany chuckled. “With everything going on, I’ve been falling behind myself… How about a catch up binge over the weekend? Just the two of us?
“Sounds nice.” Josh nodded. “You can help me clean up after this party on Friday.”
“Ha! We might need to program a willingness to help into me!” Tiffany retorted, and their eyes locked. Their smiles faded, but gazes still entwined. Tiffany found herself softly asking, “Would you really have deleted it?”
“Probably…” Josh replied. “Maybe.” He chewed his lip. “Now that I’m here with it, it doesn’t seem like such an easy thing.”
“I did what I did so your life can be better too, you know,” Tiffany said solemnly. “If there are things that would make you happier, I want to do them. This isn’t just mine, I don’t have the sole right to it. Look… If there’s something you want, if you could do anything with the Algorithm, what would it be?”
Josh looked away, exhaling sharply and shaking his head. “You don’t want to know what I would do, Tiff… It’s rather pathetic.”
“Hey…” Tiff said softly, reaching for his hand. “You can tell me.”
Josh looked back to her and shook his head as he rolled his eyes. “Okay, fine. Promise not to laugh or throw up?”
“I promise to try at least,” Tiffany assured him.
“Okay, so I would… heh. I would make you my girlfriend so I could take you home to meet my parents. I’ve not come out to them, but they likely have their suspicions, and if I could put them at ease over it all, my life would become a good sight easier. Of course, a little programming in me, a little programming in you, and we could make it seem convincing to everyone that matters but revert to being ourselves with the people we want to be with.”
Tiffany didn’t laugh. Nor did she throw up. Instead, an intense sadness filled her. She got out of her chair and wrapped her arms around Josh. “Josh, I don’t want you to have to hide who you are,” she said. “I love who you are, and I swear it’s like, 90% platonic love, 10% my weird hetero-curiosity. But I don’t want you to change for me, any more than I want to change for you. I want the world to both accept us as we are. I’d rather use the Algorithm to make the world fit us than the other way around.
Josh held onto Tiffany, pressing his face gently onto the top of her head. Eventually he pulled away and smiled. “Thank you, Tiff. I think I needed to hear that. I don’t really want to change, not really. What I really want is to feel like I belong in my own family. I don’t want to feel normal exactly, more like I want to feel okay to not be normal, you know?”
Tiffany nodded. “I know. God I know. And look, I’ll think about it, okay? If in a few weeks you feel like you want to be a pretend couple to make life easier with your family, we’ll revisit it then. Although honestly, I hope we have the tablet version up and running by then, as that would permit other options…”
Josh sighed heavily. “I don’t know if I can brainwash my parents, Tiff. That… that’s maybe a bit too far for me. I dunno.”
“Hey, no pressure.” Tiffany held her hands up. “I would totally do it to mine if I had any reason to, but I think we all know by now that I’m an evil bitch like that.”
Josh chuckled. “You’re not evil, Tiff. A bit fucked up, maybe, but who isn’t in some way or other?”
“That’s kind of you to say.” Tiffany smiled, shaking her head lightly. “I wonder if you’d be saying it if I hadn’t programmed you to accept everything I’ve done?”
“Probably not,” Josh admitted. “I’d probably have kicked you out by now, and deleted the Algorithm for good.”
“Right,” Tiffany agreed solemnly. “So it’s okay for you to think of me as evil. No good person would do this to their friends. I think it helps me rationalise it if I out and out admit that I’m the bad guy, but I just don’t care about that.”
“If it helps, Tiff, I don’t care either.” Josh shrugged. “You’re not making any of us do anything horrific, you’re just doing what you need to do. I’m not bowing to you, and I’m not calling you any fancy titles.
Tiffany gazed at him pointedly. “Unless I drop you into trance.”
Josh’s demeanor shifted. He nodded briskly. “Yeah.”
“Because then I can do anything.” Tiffany said, letting her hands slowly grab Josh by his t-shirt.
“Yeah,” Josh murmured.
“I can make you kneel for me.” She pulled him down a few inches, so their eyes were level.
“I can make you call me Mistress.”
“I can make you…” She bit her lip briefly, feeling the heat build between her legs. “I can make you do anything for me, anything to me.”
“Yes. You can.”
They stared into each other’s eyes for a long, lingering moment. Tiffany felt the urge to pull Josh in and kiss him getting stronger by the second. She yearned to feel his tongue in her mouth, feel his tight muscles envelope her. She knew he could effortlessly pick her up and pin her to the wall, restrain her like she was a rag doll, and fuck her with the power of a beast. The thought made her head light with desire and her loins burn with passion.
But she gently pushed him away and exhaled deeply. “But we’re not doing that right now,” she reluctantly told him. “I’m behaving. At least I’m trying to.” She centered herself, and looked up at him apologetically. “You don’t really want to fuck me.”
Josh blinked a few times. “I don’t think so. A week ago it would have been a hard no… Now…”
“Everything is a bit confusing,” Tiffany finished for him. “But it’s okay, because you won’t remember the parts of this conversation where we acknowledge that you’ve been programmed.”
“Yeah.” Josh nodded calmly. “No, I won’t.”
“And it’ll be like we were talking normally the whole time.”
“What are you on about, Tiff?” Josh squinted at Tiffany in amusement, “We have been talking normally the whole time.”
“Yeah, I know.” Tiffany offered a flustered smile. “So, weren’t you about to tell me what you still need to do with the Algorithm to get it fully functional?”
The confusion on Josh’s face drained away as he turned back to the small side monitor on the desk. “It depends on what you mean by fully functional.” He scratched his head.
“Oh, you know…” Tiffany chirped. “Basically to the point where we can sit anyone down in the chair and the Algorithm will zero in on the frequencies required to trance that person and then completely ensl- I mean program them to whatever we want.”
Josh looked at her blankly for a moment, one of his eyes involuntarily twitching. He shook his head quickly, then frowned. “Tiffany, I don’t think I can get it to that point.”
Tiffany’s heart leapt in her chest. “Wait, what?! I thought that was what we’ve been working towards this whole time?”
“Look, some computer programming problems are much easier to manage than others,” Josh explained, weighing up the imaginary problems in his hand. “Believe it or not, creating a backdoor to let Erin’s version of the Algorithm stealthily control and monitor this one, that was pretty easy. Doing what you’re suggesting where the Algorithm ‘locks on’ to someone’s face and can read their expression well enough to know how alert they are… I mean, facial recognition tech has come a long way, but software that can tell when you’re deep in trance? Shit, I know there are people working on it, the applications are there for advertising, self driving cars, VR games… But that’s teams upon teams, it’s not something I think I can manage in the short term.”
“What, so you need a team?” Tiffany asked thoughtfully. “Would your classmates do? Because if you can select who you need, bring them here to ‘show’ them the work in progress, you could have a team working for you on this pretty easily.”
Josh stared at Tiffany, before blowing out a slow whistle. “Fuck, Tiff, have I ever told you how terrifying you are?”
Tiff felt herself blush slightly. “I could stand to hear it more. But look, when I say a team for you, that’s all I mean. I’d have them work on whatever you wanted them to work on, but that’s it. No fucking about, literally! I’m not going to go around sexing up every person we put under the Algorithm’s control.”
Josh smiled slyly. “And I’ll believe that when I see it,” he retorted, to which Tiffany punched his arm playfully.
Just then, the buzzer to the flat sounded.
“Well that’ll be Jan,” Josh said. “Please can you ensure all of her clothes stay on for the duration of the visit?”
“Hey!” Tiffany shoved Josh playfully as he led the way to the lounge. “I’m turning over a new leaf here! Watch and observe just how little I’m about to try and make your friend my brainwashed slave!”
His comment made her wonder, however. She had never met Jan in person. If Josh was truly worried over what Tiffany might do to her, it could mean that he knew how attractive Tiffany would find the stranger. Perhaps the person waiting on the other side of that door would have Tiffany racing to put her in front of the Algorithm.
Josh shook his head but couldn’t resist smiling. “You say that, Tiff, but between you and me, there have been a lot more naked women in my apartment than I’d typically be comfortable with of late.” He then answered the intercom and pressed the unlock button simultaneously. “Yeah, hey Jan, come on up!”
Tiffany tried to think of a good comeback to Josh’s remark, but before she had success, Josh was opening the door and inviting his classmate inside.
A woman with long legs, a toned waist, flawless skin, and luxurious hair was not what they found standing before them. Instead, Jan was a short, mousy girl with soft features. Her long bangs hid her eyes as she stared at the floor, clutching her left wrist in her other hand.
“Tiff! Meet Jan,” Josh said.
“Hi!” Janet looked up to reveal her brown eyes, timid, but with a hint of curiosity behind them. “It’s um… Janet, actually.”
Josh turned to her, perplexed. “It is?”
It took a moment for Janet to process the response. Only when Tiff caught her staring did she tear her eyes away to look once more at the ground in an effort to hide her blushing cheeks. “Ummm, yes?”
“Why didn’t you say anything until now?”
“I did. Many times!” Janet then flinched at her own outburst. “Sorry…”
Josh scratched at his head, trying to recall any moment that would confirm her statement. Nothing came to mind.
Tiffany chuckled. “Don’t take it personally, Janet. Josh doesn’t like names with more than one syllable. I swear he even tried to call my friend Erin ‘Er’ one time… That didn’t end well for him.”
Janet let out a restrained chuckle. She shifted her weight from one leg to the other a few too many times as she waited in the doorway.
Tiffany felt the telltale sign of an awkward silence coming on, so instead she clasped her hands together and announced “Drinks!” loudly. “And look, leftover pizza! Amazing. Please, Janet,” she gave Josh a teasing glare as she said Janet’s name, “Help yourself. You hungry?”
It looked like Janet was about to decline until, after a short pause, she nodded her head with a smile and shuffled up to the breakfast bar where the pizzas had been unceremoniously abandoned.
“Yeah, well I’m pizza’d out!” Josh declared. “I’ll need to do a double morning run tomorrow to make up for the higher than average amount of gluttony there’s been lately.”
“I’ve always fancied getting into running, but I’ve never made it out the door,” Tiffany remarked, sitting opposite Janet and pursuing her options.
“It would change your life,” Josh said. “Your metabolism may be fine now, but the older you get, the more you wished you’d started an exercise regime to keep yourself in shape.”
“Well,” Tiffany said with a blissful smile as she munched on a piece, “I’m sure I’ll find some way to motivate myself to stay in shape one of these days.” She then turned her attention back to Janet, who quickly looked away when Tiffany’s eyes met hers. “Hey, I like your glasses by the way.”
“Oh, thanks!” Janet blushed. “I don’t usually wear them, but I keep forgetting to pick up more contacts. They aren’t comfortable to wear under safety goggles while I’m soldering.”
“Oh yeah, of course.” Tiffany nodded. “Soldering.” When Janet next looked away she frantically shrugged at Trev and mouthed the word “Soldering?” silently to him. He shook his head and put his face in his palm back at her.
“So… Janet,” Tiffany said, “How much has Josh told you about the Algorithm?”
“Oh!” Janet said. “Not much, really. Just that he wants to do something with a tablet, and wanted my help putting one together that would optimize performance. I know that wasn’t much to go on, but I already have some great ideas that I think might help!”
From there, Janet went off on what Tiffany could only describe as a journey of geekery. Half the words sounded made up to her, and the other half were spoken so fast that she almost didn’t hear them. Some of the ideas didn’t even seem related to the original topic in a way that Tiffany could comprehend.
Unsure of when it would end, and worried that Janet was going to run out of oxygen soon, Tiffany placed a hand on Janet’s arm, causing the girl to jump.
“Sorry...” Janet said with a sigh. “I get excitable about some things…” Her eyes returned to her plate of food.
“It’s fine, happens to the best of us?” Tiffany wasn’t sure how else to reassure her. “Anyways, Josh, want to explain what we need?”
“Well, basically I have this sweet audio visual sensory stimulation program,” Josh said. “And it works well enough, but we’re thinking it has applications that would be well suited to a mobile device. A high end laptop would probably be able to handle it, but I’m looking to optimise it into the likes of the latest iPad model.”
“Well I don’t have one of those just lying around.” Janet’s eyes widened.
“It’s okay. I’ve got two.” Josh shrugged.
“I know...” Tiffany suggested. “Why don’t we just, y’know, show Janet what we’re talking about?”
“Oh, yeah, sure,” Josh said. “Then it’ll be easier to discuss the requirements for the tablet in context.”
“Oh, okay.” Janet nodded, placing her barely touched slice of pizza down on her plate and stood up.
“Follow us.” Josh led the way through to the Algorithm, the screen currently blank and innocent looking.
“Have a seat.” Tiffany motioned for Janet to sit in the chair. “Here, wear these.”
With the headphones on, Janet watched as the screen flickered to life. Tiffany stood beside the chair, putting effort into not looking into the screen
“Is the sound coming through okay?” Josh asked.
“Yeah? I think so. There’s no discernable pattern to it, is that correct?” Janet squinted in uncertainty.
“No that’s fine. I just need to make some adjustments, bare with me.”
“So we developed this program last week and are still working out the kinks,” Tiffany said. “Just watch the screen and listen, and it will all make sense in a moment.”
“Okay,” Janet said as the swirling patterns filled her vision.
Tiffany kept a close eye on Janet as Josh continued to fiddle with the frequencies. Janet still seemed fairly with it, although clearly curious about what they were showing her. A few moments later, Tiffany noticed the slight sway and captivated gaze that were the telltale signs of someone slipping into a gentle trance.
“Umm, so what does… Er… what does... the program do?” Janet asked in a sleepy tone.
Tiffany smiled, watching the mousy girl start to succumb to the Algorithm’s effects. “Well, using the combination of audio and visual waves, it basically captures the attention, mesmerises, and then deeply entrances whoever we want it to.”
“Oh. Okay... That sounds... fun...” Janet murmured faintly before slumping in the chair.
“Almost there…” Josh said, adjusting the settings more carefully. “How is she doing?”
Tiffany got closer to Janet, examining her posture and expression. Her pupils were widely dilated as she started blankly into the swirling patterns before her. “Yeah,” she turned back to Josh, “She’s down.”
“Is it just me, or was that pretty easy?” Josh asked.
Tiffany sighed in exasperation. “I can’t believe it took me such a long time and a whole bunch of pain to finally get control over everyone, and here’s your classmate just being perfect about it!”
“It probably helps that she didn’t know anything about it.” Josh grinned. “But more importantly, before we actually do anything with her, did you notice how much she was checking you out?”
“Wait, what?” Tiffany found herself jerking back in surprise. “No she wasn’t.”
“Oh. Oh, Tiff, you poor oblivious creature…” Josh shook his head. “She wasn’t being at all subtle about it, either. You really didn’t notice anything? The look she gave when you touched her arm?”
“No?” Tiffany frowned in confusion. “I mean, I don’t think so. She looked away every time I tried to make eye contact with her. I just figured she was shy.”
“Haha!” Josh burst out with laughter. “Don’t get me wrong, shy… Yes. But the real reason she was doing that was because she kept checking you out, girl.” He winked at Tiffany who just shook her head as her mind tried to process this information.
“I… I had no idea…” Tiffany muttered to herself. She crouched down next to Janet. Being careful not to obstruct the girl’s view of the screen, Tiffany reached her hand up to push aside some of Janet’s hair. Under it all, Tiffany found an attractive girl. It was almost as if Janet was going out of her way to hide it. The simple dress that she was wearing—that was bordering on mismatching with the rest of her ensemble—did nothing to showcase her figure. Something that Tiffany could always investigate later. Tempting, very tempting...
For now, she was just happy to get a good look at Janet without her squirming away, thanks to the irresistible effects of the Algorithm. The way her mouth hung open just a touch, as if inviting another pair of lips... The way her focus remained fixed in that glassy stare of mindless oblivion…
Tiffany felt an oh-so-familiar sensation come over her. How easy would it be to just plant a little suggestion here? A little compulsion there? Janet would emerge from her trance, see Tiffany, and then sink to the floor on her knees with dreamy, happy obedience plastered over her face. Janet was already into her, apparently. Where was the harm in helping that along a little? Where was the harm in a little indulgence? Josh wouldn’t mind. With a word and a glance, he would either sink to his knees, drop into trance, or calmly watch the whole thing unfold and then forget about it right after.
It was dizzying for Tiffany, knowing that she could do whatever she wanted.
Was this what she really wanted?
She opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted when the buzzer sounded. Who was it now?
“I’ll get it,” Tiffany muttered, part of her thankful for the interruption. “Just, keep her there for now, no programming yet.”
As she approached the buzzer, Tiffany felt the nagging feeling that she was forgetting something… Something important…
“Hello?” she said as she picked up the receiver.
“Hi! Omygod, Tiff, is that you?!” an excitable voice gushed over the line. “Can you believe it I’m finally here? I honestly thought you were never going to actually invite me around and at first I thought you just didn’t want to hang with me but then I thought maybe it’s just because we all need space and I see you in class and then home like all the time but then that being said I haven’t seen you in class or at home much at all this week so when I got your text to come over I thought maybe—”
“Hannah, Hannah! HANNAH!” Tiffany snapped.
Tiffany’s mind raced. She couldn’t send Hannah away. Not now, surely! She’d be devastated… Tiffany slung her head and sighed in exasperation. “Come on up.” She pressed the buzzer, the sound of which mostly drowned out Hannah’s squeals of joy..
She looked back towards Josh’s room, sudden anxiety gripping her heart.
“Fuck,” she said, and ran back to the Algorithm.