“Erin, come over here.” Tiffany waved to Erin to get her attention.
Erin left Hannah by Josh’s bed as she joined Tiffany and Josh by the control console. “What’s up?” she asked.
“Okay Josh, now,” Tiffany said.
“Done,” Josh replied.
Tiffany turned back to Erin, nudging her and motioning to Hannah. At first Hannah waved to them with a bright smile, but after a few moments she seemed to be finding the screen more and more distracting. Bobby remained deep in trance in the chair, still as a statue.
“Ahhh, I see…” Erin grinned. “Fucking ace, Josh.”
The three of them watched as Hannah, unable to take her gaze away from the screen now, became more and more dazed and entranced staring into the irresistible pattern.
“Yeah, this is going to come in handy a fair bit tonight.” Tiffany gave a nod of approval.
“You just need to be careful not to let yourself become distracted with the screen if you’re going to help Hannah to the chair or whatever,” Josh explained. “And for that reason, I recommend that there are always two of us here doing this, it’s the best way to avoid any slip ups.”
“You’re a man of much wisdom, Josh!” Erin slapped him affectionately on the back. “I don’t know where we’d be without you…”
“That might be tricky if it’s just the three of us working this thing,” Tiffany murmured. “Especially when we’re inundated with guests.”
“It doesn’t just have to be just us Tiff,” Josh reassured her. “All you need to do is tell our glow stick wearing party guests what they need to do to help. And if you need it to be people you can completely trust, we can get Alice and Trev to help.”
”Hannah would help with it if you batted your eyelids at her, Tiff,” Erin said snarkily, motioning towards the spaced-out girl. “Princess there practically worshiped you before you brainwashed her! And you could always make a drone or two to help us out.”
Tiffany tilted her head as she examined Hannah from head to toe. Admittedly, it would be easier if she were an unambiguously devoted slave to Tiffany’s will rather than being steered by some subtle layered conditioning. It would be easier if they were all slaves, brainwashed into total obedience and willing to do anything to achieve her goals.
Tiffany shook her head. That kind of thinking was dangerous for her. Once it started, where would it stop? Recent events proved that she was better than that. She didn’t enslave Erin when she could have. Nor did she enslave the rest of her friends when she could have. Sure, she programmed them all with conditioning, but she had a good reason for doing so.
That alone already had her feeling like a monster.
It was a constant effort to not take the easy approach and use the Algorithm to control everything and everyone around her. Restraint made the challenges she was planning to face more difficult, but the alternative was losing herself. And that was something she could not allow to happen. Playing out fantasies with Erin was one thing, but justifying to herself that it was okay to enslave dozens of people was a path she knew she mustn’t let herself walk down.
Steadfastly, she turned back to Erin and Josh. “We’ll manage as best we can. You’re right Erin, Hannah will help if I ask her to. But honestly, the programming we’re putting into everyone is extreme enough, I’m not willing to do anything more to these people… And at the end of it, it’s important we remove the programming and memories from most of them. From everyone who doesn’t pose a threat to us.”
“I agree, Tiff,” Josh said with an approving nod.
“Booooring!” Erin rolled her eyes. But then she relented and reassured Tiffany with a smile. “But whatever you want to do, babe. I’m with you…”
Tiffany felt her heart melt as she pulled Erin into a loving embrace, the two of them holding each other close before tenderly kissing, sinking into each other’s bliss.
“Uhhh, guys…” Josh said after a few moments had passed. “Guys, c’mon!”
Erin broke from the kiss to snap back, “Shut the fuck up Josh, we almost watched you get your dick sucked!”
Tiffany giggled as she watched Josh blush for the second time that night. “Part of me really regrets not letting that play out, you know, but clearly I’m not all evil, after all.”
“Even though being evil is more fun…” Erin purred, biting Tiffany’s ear.
“Hmm…” Josh forced a smile despite his embarrassment. “Say, how about we use the Algorithm to wipe your memories of that little incident?”
“Nuh-uh!” Erin hissed in a playful manner. “No one is messing with this noggin!” She tapped her temple and grinned defiantly.
“Well sure, not yet…” Tiffany purred. “But once we have everyone else taken care of, you’re going to drop to your knees and beg me to brainwash you…”
Erin’s smile faltered somewhat, though she did her best to act unfazed. “Oh really, Tiff? What makes you so sure?”
Tiff simply smiled her sweet smile for a few moments, gazing deeply into Erin’s eyes. She could see her desire fighting her resistance, and it was a delight to watch. All she needed to do was tilt the balance in her favour over the course of the night, and she’d have Erin in front of the Algorithm before dawn, no trickery required.
Not giving Erin the satisfaction of an answer, she instead turned to Josh. “Okay, let’s get Bobby out of the chair and Hannah in. Her turn for the recording.”
“Sure thing,” Josh said. “We have her frequency saved from before, so that saves some time.”
Josh helped Bobby out of the chair while Tiffany approached Hannah. She could see that her red haired roommate was trying to break herself away from the pattern that drew her vision but was finding it too hard.
“Hannah, relax…” Tiffany soothed her. “Don’t worry, it’s okay.”
“Tiff?” Hannah murmured in confusion. “I… can’t…”
“Trust me Hannah, just look at the screen and relax. It helps you to relax, you just have to let it.”
“That’s it, let me take your arm here. Come with me, keep watching the screen,” Tiffany instructed softly. She guided Hannah into the chair with ease, then placed Josh’s new wireless headphones over her ears. The hardest part was completing all of this without so much as a glance at the screen herself. She made it back to where Erin and Josh were waiting for her at the control console. Bobby had been guided to the bed a few feet behind the chair and sat there staring at the screen blankly.
“Okay, Bobby has received the conditioning and will wake up when we turn the screen off. I’m gonna switch it from Bobby’s frequency to Hannah’s now.”
“Both of you pay attention to her face and body language for this part,” Tiffany said pointedly. “You see how she’s sitting rigid right now, her head slightly to one side like she’s trying to minimize how much of the screen she can see?”
“Yeah,” Erin said, staring attentively.
Tiffany nodded firmly. “Hit the switch now, Josh, and watch the difference.”
As Josh pressed the required button on the console, the three of them watched as Hannah’s eyes went from bleary to blank, from squinting to wide open with completely dilated pupils. She sank into the chair like a deflating balloon, her shoulders sagging as she unconsciously leaned back into the leather.
“That’s quite the difference,” Josh mused.
“Exactly,” Tiffany replied. “Since we’re working with two stages of trance now, we need to be sure we can spot the difference.”
“Seems simple enough, Tiff.” Erin shrugged. “Shall we finish up before the guests start arriving?”
“Good idea,” Tiffany said. “I think we’re ready.”
As Tiffany’s pre-recorded voice played through the headphones for Hannah, conditioning her exactly like Bobby, Josh presented the upgrades he had made to the Algorithm’s control interface to Tiffany and Erin.
“Wow, this is a lot more user friendly than before.” Tiffany scanned the screen, marveling at all the changes.
“Thanks, Tiff,” Josh replied. “It was because the audio and visual components are being made by different pieces of software that had individual interfaces, and neither were designed for what we’re using them for. So I programmed this control panel to interface with both simultaneously. We can keep the frequencies in resonance by clicking there, or easily adjust both freestyle with the two sliders.”
Erin whistled slowly. “You’re like a programming machine, Josh… So this is the saved frequencies for people we’ve had in the chair before…” she said, pointing at the screen. “And these are the scripts?”
Josh nodded, a hint of pride on his face. “That’s right. The recordings Tiff and I just made are saved in the audio script sub folder, but it’s just as easy to make a written script to make writing appear on the screen here. I’ve not had time to program in combined vocal and visual scripts yet, that’s work for next week.”
“You’ve done a ton already, Josh.” Tiffany beamed. “Thank you.”
“So is all this new stuff on the Algorithm at my apartment too?” Erin asked.
“No.” Josh shook his head. “I either need to go over there to upgrade it,” he said as he held up a flash drive, “or I can do it from here only if someone is over there to ensure it’s working properly. Your setup is still in standby right now as it’s not pinging. It’ll activate again once you next enter your apartment and run your deprogram script on your frequency.”
“Yeah, except there’s nothing to deprogram now.” Erin chuckled. “I’ve not been back to my apartment in days either. I guess I’m glad it’s not actually on this whole time, that would be a power bill I cannot afford.”
Tiffany and Josh shared a glance. Although they both had concerns about Erin’s living situation, it didn’t seem like the best time to bring it up. Instead, Josh brought the topic back to the Algorithm.
“So the Algorithm at your place can still access the webcam here to let you see who’s in the chair,” Josh explained. “It can also take over the visual and audio frequencies, and put words on the screen that you type there, but there’s no added functionality as yet.”
“Yet?” Tiffany raised an eyebrow. “After tonight, will we need that Algorithm at all? If anything it’s a liability sitting in your unoccupied apartment in what is, let’s face it Erin, a bit of a rough looking neighborhood.”
“It saved all our asses once, Tiff, don’t knock it.” Erin stuck her tongue out. “Besides, my landlord is stupid trigger happy, the people in that hood know better than trying to break in to any apartment in his building…”
“That really doesn’t make me feel better…” Tiffany said gravely.
“Oh quit worrying, Tiff.” Erin jabbed at her ribs playfully. “Look, we’ll take care of it after tonight, we have enough on our plate here.”
“Speaking of,” Josh interrupted, “That’s Hannah’s conditioning complete. All we need to do is shut down the Algorithm, wake them up and give them their glow sticks.”
“Let’s do it,” Tiffany said, clasping her hands together excitedly.
“And let’s each wear a glow stick as well,” Josh suggested as he offered one each to Erin and Tiffany. “It’ll mean people won’t ask why we’re not wearing them if everyone else is.”
After putting on his own glow stick, Josh shut off the Algorithm and they watched as both Bobby and Hannah stirred.
“Damn, dude…” Bobby rubbed his eyes, “That was some psychedelic shit right there…”
“It was soooo pretty!” Hannah chirped. “I could have stared at that all night.”
“That would be a pity, seeing as there’s a party to be enjoyed…” Tiffany joked. “Let’s go back and finish setting up.”
“Yes! The party! Tiff I am soooo excited! Ahhhhh!” Hannah practically vibrated with glee. Bobby too was looking exceptionally happy. As Josh handed both him and Hannah their glow stick bracelets, he looked filled with energy.
“Yeah man, let’s get some beats on!” he declared, leading the way back to the lounge.
They all proceeded back to the lounge where Josh took a few minutes explaining to Bobby his mixing station setup that had taken over a corner of the room. Soon enough, Bobby was mixing tunes and getting into the DJ role with boundless enthusiasm.
As Hannah helped Josh move the last of his breakable decorations into the spare bedroom closet, Erin slid up next to Tiffany who was reading a message from Alice.
“Alice and Trev are on their way,” Tiffany said as she noticed Erin. “It’s uncanny, but I’m pretty sure Trev knew we’d ordered the pizza, they’ll arrive at almost exactly the same time as it.” Tiffany turned to see Erin staring at her, a coy smile on her lips and desire in her eyes. “What? What is it?”
“You could have made Alice fall head over heels for you, you know…” Erin said suggestively. “You could have turned them all into your adoring obedient puppets.”
Tiffany raised an eyebrow slightly. With a nonchalant shrug, she replied, “Yeah, I could have, so?”
“You could have trapped me with the screen the way you did Hannah just now,” Erin added. “But you deliberately got me out of the line of fire first.”
“Yes, I was there, I remember,” Tiffany replied jokingly. Where was Erin going with this?
“I’m just wondering if you’re going soft on me,” Erin said, her cheeky grin returning in full. “The Tiff I knew a week ago would have had us all drooling at her feet in complete enslavement, no chance for escape, no mercy…”
Tiffany flicked her hair and turned to Erin with a glint of mischief in her eyes. “Oh I’m still here, Erin, I’m just not so obvious and direct in my approach any more. Alice and Trev are made for each other, so I’m not going to get in the way of that for anything. Josh deserves happiness too, so I’ve delivered him his crush on a silver platter. Hannah doesn’t resemble anything like herself from before, but she barely notices a change.” She closed the gap between her and Erin now, so their noses were nearly touching. “And all of them, at any moment, will drop into the deepest trance for me where I could rewrite their entire reality if I really wanted to. I don’t need any of them to be drooling at my feet to know I’m in complete control, and I don’t need you to be either.”
When Tiffany put her hand on Erin’s cheek, she could feel Erin melt under her touch. Her hot breath felt electric on Tiffany’s bare neck. “You see, sweet slave, I know I could give you any command right now and you would do your very best to obey me, because you want to, and you need to. By the end of the night, you will willingly set up the Algorithm to enslave yourself to me, recording your own voice telling yourself to surrender your body and mind, and then sitting in the chair and letting your own words bind you to my will.”
Erin let out a soft whining moan as Tiffany leaned in to whisper into her ear. “You will surrender yourself once you see how it looks when everyone falls into trance and kneels for me. You won’t be able to help yourself. You’ll need to know what it feels like for me to invade the deepest corners of your mind and rewrite your reality into one of complete pleasure and obedience. You won’t be able to help yourself, you won’t manage to resist. You will fall under my thrall, and it will be everything you ever dreamed of.”
Erin’s eyes were closed now, her head tilted back as she whined with need.
“All you need to do for now is obey, like the good slave you are. Help program all our party guests, and be ready to support Alice when she deals with Dillon.”
“Yes, Mistress,” Erin whispered. “I obey.”
“Good girl.” Tiffany pulled Erin in close. She was wearing perfume that filled Tiffany’s nose with its subtle spices. Feeling her lust permeate her completely, she wanted to devour Erin where she stood. She wanted to strip her first of her clothes, then of her resistance. She craved to feel Erin’s hands explore her, feel her fingers and tongue invade her, have her use her body as an instrument of indulgence that Tiffany controlled with loving precision. “I want you.”
Their lips met and their tongues danced passionately. Erin greedily grabbed and squeezed Tiffany’s skin, eliciting grateful moans and excited squeaks.
Tiffany was about ready to drop Bobby, Josh and Hannah into trance so she could jump onto the kitchen island and direct Erin’s tongue to where she craved it most, but the thought was cut off by the apartment’s buzzer obnoxiously interrupting their fun.
“Ah fuck it!” Erin groaned. “This isn’t over, Mistress...”
“You better believe it isn’t,” Tiffany agreed as she buzzed the new arrivals into the building.
A few moments later, the door to the apartment opened, and four guys walked in carrying bags of alcohol, expressing general greetings to Tiffany and Erin. The noticeable feature they all had in common was that they were taller than average, all of them easily over 6 feet.
“Fuck man, these chicks are hawt!” one of them exclaimed, nudging his friend as if they hadn’t noticed them.
The apparent leader of the group chortled and added, “Please excuse Chad, he’s a walking jock stereotype.”
Erin rolled her eyes and was about to sling some choice words at the newcomers but was suddenly interrupted.
“Marty!” Bobby bellowed through the sound system, causing everyone to turn sharply to see him at the DJ station. “Marty in the house everyone!”
Josh emerged from the guest bedroom and greeted the arriving crew enthusiastically. “Oh captain my captain!” He then checked his watch, “You guys are early!”
“First to arrive, last to leave.” Marty smirked. His eyes did a quick scan over Bobby, Tiffany, Erin, and finally Hannah who had followed Josh out of the guest bedroom. “Well, that was the plan anyway.“
Josh took care of the introductions, and after depositing their drinks in any available space in the kitchen, the basketball team started mingling with Erin, Tiffany and Hannah who had instinctively closed ranks with each other.
“So, Erin… is it?” Chad asked. “What is it you study?”
Erin looked back at him cooly. “You’re wasting your time with me, ‘brah.” She added sardonic emphasis onto the last word. “I have zero interest in any of you.”
“Ahh, really?” Chad play-acted taking offense. “But you haven’t even gotten to know me!”
“We don’t need to,” Tiffany interjected. “Though I’m sure you’re all upstanding respectable gentlemen. The eligible bachelorette here is the delightful Hannah.” Tiffany placed her hands on Hannah’s shoulders.
“Gee, thanks, Tiff,” Hannah joked sarcastically. “Why not put me on a silver platter first?”
“But since only one of you can have her,” Tiffany continued, “the question is who is the best player out of all of you?”
Tiffany enjoyed watching how her question played out. It started with the players being reasonably modest and complimenting each other, but rapidly descended into them arguing over who had played best over the course of their season.
“Nice to have guys fighting over you, eh?” Erin murmured to Hannah.
“This is a whole new experience for me…” Hannah replied. She looked at Erin with a cheeky smile. “I like it…”
It got to the point where an irate Chad had challenged Marty to an arm wrestle. It was then that Josh intervened. “Fellas…” he said. “Before you break your pride measuring your dicks, I need to show you something. It’ll help you calm the fuck down if nothing else?”
“Shit man, you got some weed?” One of the other players asked.
“Hell no!” Josh scoffed. “That shit stays traceable far too long.”
As Tiffany went to follow Josh, she relayed some instructions. “Hannah, warm up the dance floor maybe. Bobby, get some dance tunes on! Erin, stay here in case more guests arrive. I’ll be right back.”
She caught up with Josh just in time for him to reach the Algorithm control console. Josh gave her a brisk nod then activated the screen. Josh’s teammates had been admiring the various sporting equipment and checking out the signed posters on his walls, but soon all of them were drawn to the pulsing signals being flooded into the room by Josh’s large screen.
“Dude… what is that…” one of them said in a daze.
“So weird…” another added.
“Just watch the screen and relax, guys. It’s really cool,” Josh ordered calmly.
“Okay,” Tiffany murmured. “Let’s do this.”
One by one, they put the basketball players in the chair, isolated their frequencies, and programmed them. Tiffany felt her heart thumping the entire time, expecting something somewhere to go wrong. Once all four of Josh’s teammates were programmed, they were woken up and given their glow stick wristbands without a hitch. They returned to the lounge, boisterously exclaiming their excitement and promptly joining Hannah on the dance floor.
“We have enough manpower to take care of Dillon already…” Tiffany remarked to Josh as the last of Josh’s teammates left his room.
“True,” Josh agreed. “I just hope it doesn’t come to that. You stay here and be ready to activate the screen again. I’ll check to see if there’s anyone else here.”
Tiffany nodded and stood ready by the Algorithm. It wasn’t long until Josh returned with two attractive young women.
“Tiff, you remember my neighbours from down the hall, Sydney and June?” Josh said.
“Hey!” Tiffany chirped. “It’s nice to see you again! Do you want to see this thing we’ve been working on?”
Before giving them time to answer, Tiffany activated the Algorithm, lighting up the screen and bombarding the new arrivals with its entrancing light. Josh was prepared enough to avert his gaze, and he safely made his way to join Tiffany at the control console.
“You invited your neighbours?” Tiffany asked skeptically.
“Yeah, Tiff. Best way to avoid a noise complaint is to have them be part of the noise… Besides, I invite them to every party I have, they’d be upset if I didn’t, and they might even crash it. Better to do it this way, no?”
“Urgh. You’re right.” Tiffany sighed. “I guess I’m a little nervous about how many people we’re going to have here. But on the other hand, your modifications to the Algorithm are working like a dream so far. They’re already so dazed…”
It was trivial to guide June then Sydney into the chair and program them one after the other.
“It would be good if we had two screens and two sets of headphones so we could speed this process up to be honest,” Tiffany remarked as the last of the programming flowed into Sydney’s unresisting mind.
“Well I was planning to see what I could do with these.” Josh pulled out a VR headset from under his desk. “Having a few headsets is a more efficient way to go than multiple screens for programming several people at once, but I’ll need a fair bit of time to get the Algorithm to work in the VR interface.”
“That would be incredible!” Tiffany exclaimed. “Don’t worry, we’re going to have all the time we need once tonight is done.”
They turned off the Algorithm again, waking June and Sydney up. Both girls keenly accepted their glow stick wristbands and returned to the lounge to join in the dancing with giddy smiles on their faces.
As more guests arrived, Erin, Tiffany, and Josh worked together to guide them into Josh’s bedroom in groups of two or three. Nobody was expecting the Algorithm to light up in their face and dazzle them. Nobody was able to figure out what was happening before they were ensnared. Tiffany’s work colleagues, Bethany, Monika, and a few others turned up and were also ensnared. Tiffany was disappointed to hear that her ex boss Dennis wasn’t going to be coming. She would have to perhaps pay him a visit with a working tablet one day instead… Once her former work colleagues had their programming complete and their wristbands in place, they too returned to the lounge to join in the party.
As Erin and Tiffany followed them back into the main room, they saw that the party was really starting to come to life. The dance floor had a dozen people on it now, all grooving to the music that Bobby mixed from his booth in the corner. Some of the cheer squad from Josh’s team turned up earlier and were now dancing with the basketball players, occasionally doing incredible displays of acrobatics to the delight of the other dancers. Hannah seemed to be having a great time dancing with various guys on the floor, her face a constant delighted smile. Everyone there was wearing glow stick wristbands, leading Tiffany to estimate that there were now two dozen people she could drop into trance instantly, should she need to.
“We sure know how to throw a party!” Erin remarked, linking her arm with Tiffany’s.
“We sure do,” Tiffany said. She felt a growing confidence that the plan was going to work, and that by the end of the evening, everyone who knew anything about the Algorithm would be at its mercy. At her mercy. The thought sent a shiver of excitement through her, and for a moment she felt an urge to pick three or four of the hottest looking party guests so her and Erin could have some fun.
The moment quickly passed though. There would be time for that later. Besides, just then there was an eruption of cheers as a comically large pile of pizzas arrived through the door. Somewhere behind them was a laden delivery girl who was thankful to find a space on the kitchen island to place them down.
As Josh tipped the girl, there was a mass movement from the party guests to distribute and devour the pizza. Tiffany held back as she found herself checking her out. Her dark makeup, crimson hair, and multiple face piercings gave her a distinct goth energy, but the bright pizza parlor uniform and cheerful smile created a noticeable juxtaposition. She couldn’t help but imagine that friendly expression being drained away, her mind becoming blank and open in the presence of the Algorithm.
Erin was watching Tiffany closely. “Well it’s easy to tell what you want for dessert,” she teased.
“I didn’t! I mean, I don’t—“ Tiffany stammered, snapping out of her reverie.
“Haha, it’s fine, Tiff,” Erin reassured her. “She’s hot! You wanna invite her to join the party?”
“What?“ Tiffany replied. “No! We have more than enough people coming already! Any extras are just risking it for no good reason.” It was a tough call, but she needed to not push her luck. Things were working so far, there was no need to add additional unknown elements into the mix.
“Oh come on, Tiff! Invite her! It’ll be fine,” Erin insisted, stroking Tiffany’s bare shoulder.
“Yeah, okay.” Tiffany nodded. Erin was right, inviting her was a great idea. It would be fine. She took Erin by the hand. “Come on, then.”
Tiffany led Erin over to the delivery girl who was just thanking Josh for her tip.
“It’s quite the shindig you have going on here,” she remarked, looking around the buzzing room with admiration.
“Well yeah…” Josh shrugged. “I’m contractually obliged to host all parties since everyone tells me I have the best apartment.”
“They’re not wrong…” the girl replied, staring in wonder. “Your TV looks bigger than my bedroom.”
“You wanna join us?” Tiffany asked. “We have pizza…”
The girl laughed. “Yeah, yeah I kinda noticed!” She made a deliberating expression. “I have to finish my shift, then I was planning to study…”
“Maybe we shouldn’t corrupt the Bringer of Pizza, Tiff,” Josh joked.
“Hush, you.” Tiffany stuck out her tongue at Josh, before turning her attention back to the pizza girl. “You deserve a bit of fun after work, don’t you?” Tiffany flirted, twirling her hair and batting her eyes. “Your books aren’t going anywhere, but this event is one night only and isn’t even in full swing yet…”
The delivery girl looked Tiffany up and down, a coy smile spreading across her face. “You’re going to be here later?”
Erin wrapped her arms around Tiffany from behind and stared intently at the pizza girl. “We both will be,” she said with a mischievous glint in her eyes.
Trying to hide her blush, the delivery girl fixed her hat and nodded slowly. “Um… sure! It looks fun, I’ll, er, see what I can do.”
“Great!” Tiffany replied. “I’m Tiffany, by the way.” She extended her hand towards the girl. When she took it, Tiffany looked her confidently in the eye. “People call me Tiff.”
The girl couldn’t hide her blush anymore. “Am- Erm- Emelia!”
“Nice to meet you, Emelia. This is Erin.”
“Sup?” Erin smirked at Emelia’s flustered expression. “Guess we’ll see you soon.”
With a final agreement, Emelia made a hasty retreat, turning back for one glance at Tiffany before she exited the apartment.
“You two are incorrigible…” Josh rolled his eyes at Tiffany and Erin before helping himself to some pizza and starting up a conversation with some of his teammates.
Erin turned to Tiffany, a subtle look of admiration on her face. “Damn Tiff, were you always such a smooth flirt?”
“I really wasn’t.” Tiffany chuckled. “I was nervous as fuck and could barely get words out to girls I found attractive. I had like one date in high school, and my experience in college was mostly from being approached.”
“Ahh, how times change,” Erin said wistfully.
“Well yeah… Knowing I can erase a bad conversation from history and change someone’s mind at will, it puts things in a different kind of perspective…”
“For what it’s worth, I like this new more confident Tiff.”
Tiffany kissed Erin and then stared deep into her eyes. She was about to say something but was cut off.
“See, I told you the pizza would be here!” Trev exclaimed to Alice who was walking into the apartment with him hand in hand. Trev then waved half-heartedly as he jested, “Also Erin and Tiff are here too, I guess.”
“Trev, Alice…” Erin sighed as she unraveled herself from Tiffany and practically fell into the arriving couple’s arms. “I’m so sorry…” she whimpered as she buried her head.
Trev patted Erin on the back, clearly feeling a bit awkward about it. Alice embraced Erin completely however, placing her forehead against Erin’s. They seemed to share a silent moment before Alice said. “Don’t be sorry. Thank you. For everything.”
Tiffany watched and felt a warm fuzzy feeling bubble up inside her. She had never known Erin to be the huggy feely type, even though she now knew just how deeply the typically reserved tomboy cared about her friends. And she had gone from having Alice in mental chains as a pawn to use against Tiffany to freeing her and everyone else from the monstrous person that Tiffany had accidentally turned Alice into. Tiffany marveled at how her misadventures with the Algorithm had somehow brought everyone closer. She wished she could claim to have meant it all to happen the way it did, but nobody would believe that, especially not her..
Tiffany was so caught up in her thoughts that she hadn’t noticed Marion and Libby enter with Alice and Trev until they circumvented the hugging trio and greeted Tiff.
“Marion, I’m so glad you came!” Tiffany beamed. It was part genuine happiness to see her, part knowing she needed Marion to be in front of the Algorithm. She may not know any details about the Algorithm itself, but she was the one to find Tiffany, Alice and Erin frozen and stuck in trance, and Tiffany’s explanation for it had been met with cautious skepticism.
“Hey, Tiff. You’re looking stylish.” Marion gave Tiffany a subtle nod of approval.
“Thanks, Marion.” Tiffany felt a warmth at the compliment, unsure of what else to say. So instead she turned to Libby, a tall brunette with a gloomy look on her face. “Libby, it’s good to see you again!” She had only met Libby a handful of times before when she had been out with her boyfriend James, and each of those times she looked infinitely more cheery than she did now.
Tiffany remembered that Trev had told Lucy to relay to James that he had 24 hours to come clean to Libby regarding the cheating or Trev would tell Libby everything. Tiffany had no idea if Lucy had actually delivered the message or if James had actually been the one to share the truth with Libby.
None of that seemed to matter now, though. Libby looked like she hadn’t smiled in days. Tiffany was honestly surprised to see her at the party.
“I doubt that, Tiffany,” Libby replied glumly. “But thanks, I guess. Trev and Marion all but dragged me here against my will, don’t take offense if I don’t stay long.”
“That’s fine!” Tiffany felt her voice shrill and tried to fight it. “Have some pizza… Grab a drink. Anything, really. I’m really sorry about—”
“Don’t!” Libby interrupted firmly, but Tiffany could tell that she was trying hard to control her simmering temper. “I’m sorry Tiff, but if I hear one more person saying how sorry they are and looking at me with sad eyes like I’m a kicked puppy… I honestly think I’ll snap.”
“Okay,” Tiffany said with a grim nod. “No sad eyes.”
“Hell yeah.” Erin burst into the middle of the conversation. “Fuck James with a rusty rake. That ballsack didn’t deserve you anyway!”
Everyone looked at Erin with a mixture of expressions, some amused, some concerned. She took it all in and doubled down. “Seriously! Fuck him! He made the worse mistake of his life and I hope to hell you dumped his ass because of it.”
“I did.” Libby sighed heavily.
“Good!” Erin exclaimed. “Now no matter how much he grovels and begs you keep telling him to get fucked, ya hear!” Erin held onto Libby’s shoulders and looked up at her with complete conviction. “I know we barely know each other but you are a goddess! You are a goddess and you deserve much better than that cheating pile of capybara crap!”
Libby chuckled despite herself, and her demeanor seemed to soften. “Capybara crap?” she parroted with an amused squint.
“Yes!” Erin exclaimed. “You’d have to be a giant rodent’s dropping to cheat on you, and with Lucy?!? The last word dripped with venom, before Erin hastily turned to Trev. “Erm, no offense.”
Trev shook his head but couldn’t conceal his smile. “None taken. The wool was thoroughly over my eyes…”
“Thanks, Erin.” Libby smiled gratefully. “I appreciate your bluntness.”
“That’s where I shine!” Erin grinned. “Ask anyone. Now then…” she linked arms with Libby and started leading her towards Josh’s bedroom. “I’m going to show you something that will really lift your spirits, and I guarantee that afterwards you will have a slightly less terrible time than you thought you were going to tonight.”
Libby laughed softly. “Okay, that sounds nice.”
“You guys coming?” Erin asked just before they disappeared.
“Yeah, okay.” Alice nodded, giving Tiffany a knowing glance before turning to her roommate. “Marion?”
“You go ahead,” Marion replied, “I need to have a word with Tiffany.”
Trev made a childish “Oooooh!” noise as if Tiffany was getting sent to the principal’s office. “Good luck Tiff!”
As Alice and Trev disappeared into Josh’s bedroom, Tiffany felt a nervous energy cone over her. She resolved to play it cool however, turning to Marion and asking, “so what’s up?”
Marion seemed to steel herself as she heaved a deep sigh. “I need to apologize to you.”
Tiffany instantly felt her nerves dissolve somewhat, but she was determined not to betray her emotions until Marion had said her piece. She simply raised her eyebrows and said, “Yeah?”
“Yes,” Marion insisted. “I’ve not been fair to you, and I’m sorry.”
Tiffany let a look of concern come over her face. She actually didn’t know what Marion was referring to, but she didn’t want to interrupt.
“I was really distrustful of you after everything that happened with Alice…” Marion explained, guilt in her voice as if she were at confession. “First Dillon, then that weird frozen thing in our apartment, and you were both acting so strange in the days that followed that. I barely saw either of you and when I did, you felt really off.”
It was impossible for Tiffany to forget the time she had spent as a brainwashed and devoted slave to the domineering and dangerous persona of Alice. The helpless obedience, the complete loss of control, the regular helpings of discipline and humiliation… It sent a shiver down Tiffany’s spine. She focused on the memories where she had briefly interacted with Marion while in that state. She had definitely been trying hard to come across as her normal self, but she had been a squirming mess of arousal and shame, barely able to maintain her composure. Avoiding her had been easier, therefore it was no surprise that Marion got suspicious.
“Well, I mean…” Tiffany stalled for time. How could she explain herself to Marion? Telling the truth would be pretty disturbing, but she didn’t like lying to her face either.
“No, Tiff, it’s okay.” Marion shifted where she stood, fighting through her own demons. “Last night Alice came to me and we had a good long heart to heart. She explained everything to me. I have a much better understanding of what happened now than I did, and that really helps.”
Tiffany had to bite her tongue once more. Surely Alice hadn’t shared the sordid details concerning all of Tiffany’s mistakes over the past week? If she had, Marion couldn’t possibly be apologizing to Tiffany right now, right? Right?
Feeling like she had to say something, Tiffany half heartedly offered, “It’s been a pretty crazy time for all of us, I guess. Which parts did she tell you about?”
Despite the music and the general noise of the party, Tiffany focused intently on Marion. Nearby party guests getting pizza seemed to realize that their conversation was not to be interrupted.
“It started with why she went back to Dillon. She said you had all found out that Trev’s girlfriend had been cheating on him that night. She told me that you had convinced Trev to stay with her and use the whole incident to make her agree to treat him better. She had been in love with Trev and couldn’t handle knowing that they would never be together, so she freaked out and went to him because she knew she would get affection despite all the crap that came with it.”
Tiffany just nodded along, rapt at attention. It was an interesting way for Alice to interpret things, but Tiffany realized that by giving Trev control of Lucy, of course it nudged him towards staying with her and trying to fix her. If Tiffany hadn’t meddled, he might have broken up with Lucy on the night in question. Of course, Tiffany’s meddling was what caused Lucy’s infidelity to come to light in the first place, so she hoped Alice counted that in her favor at least.
Marion continued, her eyes slightly glossy. “And when you and Erin went to convince Alice to come back from Dillon’s place, she told me how you were helping her try some unconventional methods to help both with her emotions and the comedown from the drugs she took while over there. The living room incident was an accident that you made sure didn’t happen again, but you continued helping Alice tirelessly with hypnosis and other therapy techniques. And Alice explained that the whole thing was really intense for both of you, and that you needed space.”
“It was intense,” Tiffany agreed. Alice had clearly filtered the truth rather heavily for Marion’s benefit, but all the events were still there.
“And the last thing she told me,” Marion had tears in her eyes now, “Was that you were able to help her over her insecurities in a way no one else has, and that’s the reason she was finally able to be honest with Trev and share how she felt with him.”
Again, it felt like Alice was filtering the truth. “She said that?” she asked, genuinely surprised. It still felt nice to hear.
“Yes,” Marion said, on the precipice of sobbing. “And I guess I was simultaneously really grateful and completely jealous. But most of all, I feel like I misjudged you, and for that I’m really sorry!”
Tiffany placed a hand on Marion’s shoulder, and as they locked eyes, she said, “Hey, it’s okay.” She pulled the crying girl towards her and held her as Marion sobbed gently in Tiffany’s embrace.
“I really care about Alice, Tiff. I really care about her,” Marion said between sobs. “She deserves a happy ending.”
“You’re right,” Tiffany said solemnly. “She does. Let’s both of us support her to make sure she gets it, alright?”
“Okay,” Marion said. After hugging it out for a bit longer, Tiffany directed Marion towards the pizza and drinks. They chatted about more mundane matters until Erin reappeared with Libby, Alice, and Trev in tow. They were all wearing glow sticks on their wrists now, and Tiffany couldn’t quite figure out if that meant Erin had put Alice and Trev through the same programming as everyone else, or if she had simply given them wristbands. It didn’t really matter at the end of the day, as she could put them in trance either which way.
Only if she needed to, of course.
They collectively dug into the mountain of pizza that covered the kitchen island, and the talk turned to less serious topics. Tiffany tried to eat something, but there were butterflies in her stomach. So much was riding on this night that it was hard to ignore the anxiety it was creating. At least, she reassured herself, once it was done it was done, and as she stared at Erin who was chugging a bottle of beer, she realised she was going to enjoy her reward immensely.
“Hey Marion,” Libby chirped between mouthfuls of pizza. “You should check out the weird swirly light thing in Josh’s bedroom. Just staring at that for a couple of minutes has really lifted my spirits.”
Marion turned to Tiffany, and gave her a knowing look with a raised eyebrow. Turning back to Libby, she shrugged. “Nah, I’m good chilling with pizza and soda.”
Tiffany could see that Libby was going to insist and instead interjected herself. “That’s cool Marion, it’s there if you change your mind.”
Marion nodded and the conversation quickly moved onto other things. Remarks were made about the impressive energy of the dancing going on in the middle of the decent sized lounge. All of the sofas and chairs had been pushed to the side of the room to make plenty of space, and most were occupied by people chatting and laughing or just chilling and enjoying the party vibes.
“Hey, Tiff,” Alice said quietly to Tiffany. “Can I talk to you and Erin for a moment? Somewhere quieter?”
“Sure.” Tiffany motioned to the spare room. Trev and Erin both followed as Tiffany wound her way around some dancers and past a pair of Josh’s teammates who were arm wrestling as a small crowd cheered on.
Tiffany opened the door to the spare room and stopped in the entryway. On the kingsize bed sat several people in various states of undress, clothing scattered all over the floor.
“Tiff!” Hannah squealed excitedly. Her dress lay neatly on the bed beside her, leaving her in a white cotton bra and panties. “Come play strip poker with us!” Her cheeks were pink as her eyes darted across her opponents, most of them as undressed as she was. Either side of her were Tiffany’s ex colleagues from the movie theatre, and also on the bed was Marty and Chad, and another two athletic looking girls Tiffany assumed were some of the cheerleaders that arrived shortly after most of the basketball team.
“Uhhh… Maybe later,” Tiffany replied, trying not to let her eyes linger on Hannah’s body too long. “I’ll be back.”
Erin, Alice, and Trev were all peeking in the door now. “To be fair, it is a pretty good use of the spare room.” Erin smirked.
“Where else can we go?” Alice asked.
“Are you sure we can’t just talk in there?” Trev suggested. “I mean, Tiff, can’t you just…” he snapped his fingers and then made an exaggerated zombie face.
“Trev!” Tiffany chastised him as she led them towards Josh’s bedroom instead. “Just because I can doesn’t mean I should. I’m trying to be good here.” She then muttered under her breath, “It’s so much harder if everyone is looking sexy and getting naked…”
“Aww, hang in there, Tiff…” Erin teased her. “Maybe when we’ve done everything we need to do tonight we can have a massive carefree orgy… let us all blow off some steam, huh?”
Tiffany wanted to say something sarcastic back to Erin, but her words caught in her mouth as she realised that a massive carefree orgy sounded like a great idea. Once she had done everything she needed to do, it totally had to happen. So many young, sexy bodies, all filled up with lust and no restraint… She felt a flush of warmth spread through her just thinking about it.
“Maybe we should clarify that Erin was joking?” Alice said concernedly as she saw Tiffany blush. Tiffany just smiled sheepishly as they entered Josh’s room. Joking or not, it was still a great idea.
“So what’s up?” Tiffany asked as they entered Josh’s bedroom. Josh wasn’t currently there, and Tiffany hoped they didn’t get too many new party guests while their brainwashing room was occupied.
Erin was last in the room and locked the door behind them, the sounds of the party still thumping through the walls from the lounge. Alice held Trev’s hand and looked at Tiffany nervously. “I just wanted to talk about what happens when Dillon gets here.”
“Sure,” Tiffany replied. “Everything is in place for that already, what do you want to know?”
“How do we know I’m not going to become as bad as I was last time?” Alice asked in earnest. “What I did to you was terrible, Tiff. If I end up doing that to all these people here… I…” Alice’s voice catched in her throat, emotions rushing up inside her.
“You won’t!” Tiffany urged her, pulling her into a hug, “I promise you won’t.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because I programmed you precisely,” Tiffany explained, breaking from the hug so she could look Alice in the eye. “You will act the way you did before, but only to get Dillon under the influence of the Algorithm, not to break me. And once it’s done, you’ll revert to normal, you’ll never be changed like that again.”
Alice looked down at the floor. When she looked up, there were tears in her eyes. “No, Tiff, I don’t want it. I don’t want to become her again. Please don’t make me.”
A sense of dread came over Tiffany. Dillon would no doubt be arriving soon, and the key player in her plan wanted to back out. She didn’t know what to say. “Um…”
“I know it’s last minute,” Alice said apologetically. “But I’ve been thinking about it non stop and I just… I don’t want to become her again. Not even for a second…”
“I can make you forget after… You’ll never—“
“That’s not the point, Tiff!” Alice interrupted. “It doesn’t matter if I don’t remember it, it still would have happened. I’ll still have had to go through it in the moment. I shouldn’t have to ask, Tiff.”
“She should get the final say, Tiff,” Trev added.
Tiffany looked to Trev, who was wearing his rare serious face, then to Erin who wore a conflicted expression. She had no support here. The only thing she could do was drop Alice into trance or stare into her eyes and command her, but neither option felt right.
“You’re right.” Tiffany shook her head in apology. “You shouldn’t.” She then looked at Erin. “Any ideas?”
“None that I’m proud of,” Erin said grimly, also shaking her head. “Nah, Tiff, you should respect Alice’s wishes. And Trev’s.”
Tiffany wanted to put forward one final counter argument, but she realised that respecting Alice and Trev’s wishes was a great idea. There was really no reason not to in the face of that.
“Okay. We won’t do it that way,” Tiffany finally said. She sighed heavily. Had she just brainwashed Erin when she had the chance, she could simply drop the three of them simultaneously and dictate exactly what needed to happen. She tried to remind herself that doing the right thing was worth it, but if it all went wrong with Dillon, would that even be true? “How would you like to play it?” she asked, pushing her frustrations down as far as she could.
“Just let me talk to him. As myself,” Alice said calmly. When Tiffany couldn’t hide the uncertainty on her face, Alice gave Tiffany a determined glare. “Look Tiff, I managed to skirt the truth with Marion, and actually made you come off favourably… Trust me, if I can do that, I can talk to Dillon.”
Tiffany met Alice’s fiery gaze. There was the dominant Alice she had planned to bring out. She had always been in there, one way or another. All Tiffany had done when she created Mistress Alice was bring that decisive fire within her into sharp focus while blotting out the softer edges. In that sense, she reckoned anyone could be made into a domineering master or mistress, the same way that anyone could be reduced to a helpless slave.
Tiffany wasn’t sure if it was left over conditioning from when she has been fanatically enthralled to Alice’s will, or just her own sense of fairness, but she found she couldn’t say no to Alice. “Okay, Alice, you can do that. I guess we’ll all be nearby if it goes wrong.”
“We’ll all be paying attention, Tiff,” Trev said. “We’ll be okay.” Erin simply nodded stoically.
“It’ll be fine, Tiff,” Alice said softly now, placing a hand on Tiffany’s shoulder. “Thank you for listening.”
“Sure.” Tiffany nodded. “I guess you want me to remove the programming in your head that’ll be triggered by seeing Dillon then?”
“Could you kindly?” Alice smiled sweetly.
“Alice, drop into trance for me,” Tiffany said without missing a beat. Alice’s eyes fluttered closed for a moment before opening again and dilating as her gaze lost all its focus. Her kind smile dropped until her entire expression was blank, her mind empty.
“Well, Trev…” Erin said jokingly. “Here’s your chance to turn Alice into the perfect girlfriend…”
Trev just smiled with his eyes closed and shook his head. He then looked at Erin with a look of total contentment. “She already is. No way I’m making the same mistakes with her.”
“Aww…” Tiffany cooed. “You two are so sweet…”
Erin stuck her tongue out in pretend disgust. “Urgh, I regret saying anything. You could have at least joked about making her need to give you head everyday or so, jeez!”
Trev rolled his eyes, then motioned to Erin and Tiffany.. “You two can come up with whatever agreement you want. I’m good.”
“Oh, I’m sure we’ll come up with something fun.” Tiffany grinned. “But quiet time, let me do this.”
Deprogramming the dormant dominant despot that lay lurking in Alice’s mind only took a few minutes. When Tiffany had finished unraveling the triggers and goals of the alternate personality, both Alice and Trev seemed a lot lighter than when they had entered Josh’s room.
“It’s funny,” Alice said, looking over the currently inactive screen of the Algorithm. “Our lives changed so much in this room. Everything is going to be different now, isn’t it?”
“Better, I’d say.” Erin said with a look of genuine happiness. She then scrunched up her face like she was deliberating something challenging. Lowering her voice, she started to say. “I… um… I just want to say…” but then she was cut off as her phone buzzed. As she took it out of her pocket and checked it, her expression changed to one of excited mischievousness. “Oh-ho! Mike and Izzy must be close! I’m gonna go find them… Tiff! Wanna stay here so we can snare and program them together?”
“Sure.” Tiff nodded.
“You want us to stay, Tiff?” Trev asked.
“Nah, it’s cool.” Tiffany shrugged. “Erin and I have got this. Besides, I need you both out there looking out for Dillon.”
“Good deal.” Trev gave a thumbs up. “I wanted more pizza anyway.”
“How many slices have you had?” Alice asked in a concerned tone.
“You know I deliberately don’t count them to avoid the harsh truth of reality…” Trev replied as they opened the door. “Could be two, could be twelve. We’ll never know…”
Erin planted a sneaky kiss on Tiffany’s cheek. “See you soon, Mistress,” she purred, before bounding after Alice and Trev, closing the door behind her to leave Tiffany in an empty room.
Tiffany felt the spot on her cheek where Erin had kissed. The thought of Erin’s tender lips filled her with warmth. It was real. It was, for lack of a better word, uncoerced. Had she gone ahead and brainwashed Erin in that moment of opportunity, she would probably have left herself wondering if moments of spontaneous affection such as that were anything other than the result of a mind programmed to dutifully administer random acts of fondness, no independent thought involved. This was surely the better way to do things, the more meaningful way.
She walked up to the control console of the Algorithm, ensuring it was unlocked and ready to activate its entrancing pattern at the press of a button. There was a niggling doubt at the back of her mind that Erin was planning to betray her for Mike, that everything to this point had been another elaborate scheme. She simply shook her head and chuckled at herself at the ridiculousness of it all. Erin had ample opportunities to screw Tiffany over at this point. She deserved trust. She had more than earned it. Tiffany just hoped that she had earned it back.
Not being sure how long Erin was going to be, she wandered over to the bed and flopped down onto it. She was starting to feel the exhaustion that came with such a crazy week catching up on her. Maybe once she had brainwashed the whole party she could sleep through the weekend? She chuckled again. Not like anyone could stop her.
She heard the door open and close quickly again. And then the telling click of the lock.
“Well that was fast…” Tiffany remarked jokingly as she started rolling over to confirm it was Erin returning.
“Tiffany,” said a cold, dispassionate voice.
Tiffany leapt off the bed and spun around to face the intruder, the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end.