Tiffany took a step towards Ross. He looked at her expectantly, a smug smile on his face as he casually stroked the heads of the slaves kneeling in front of him. They also looked at Tiffany, one set of eyes glaring, a second curious, and a third devoid of all emotion.
“Ma… maybe you can unbind my hands first?” she said, a hopeful tremble in her voice.
Ross suppressed a chuckle, the smugness plastered all across his face. He slowly stepped past his kneeling slaves and walked up to Tiffany, towering over her. Leaning in close to her, she felt his hot breath on her neck, the scent of booze filling her nose.
“We can do better than that, surely…” he said suggestively as his hands started roaming over her body, freely caressing and grabbing where he pleased.
Tiffany inhaled sharply, then tempered her exhale as she felt herself tense. She tried not to respond to his touch, keeping her eyes locked on his feet, but couldn’t control the reluctant gasps that escaped her lips as his fingers probed and pinched her.
His hand cupped her chin and forced her gaze up into his. “You’re making the right choice, you know.”
She didn’t say anything. She couldn’t. Her mind was made up, but it didn’t make this part any easier.
Ross then started grabbing at and pulling off Tiffany’s clothes, starting with her corset. He tugged hard at the laces on the back, making Tiffany gasp nervously.
“It’s okay…” he encouraged. “You’re not going to need this.” He tugged again until the corset was loose enough to slide down her breasts and to the floor. “You won’t need this either.” She was completely aware of how much stronger he was than her, trembling as he ripped her skirt apart. “And I’m sure you agree…” he added as he did the same to her black lace underwear, the fabric digging into her skin briefly before it gave way and fell to the floor in a frayed mess. “You’ll probably not be needing those ever again.”
Tiffany said nothing, all her effort was going into controlling herself so that she didn’t provoke Ross more. He continued to grab and grope her, enjoying the hitches of breath and sudden gasps that she couldn’t stop herself from making. He held her tight in one arm so she had nowhere to go as his free hand cupped her breasts and squeezed her ass. As his finger slid up between her thighs and teased her before plunging in, she balled her fists into tight vices to stop herself from letting out a scared whine or uncomfortable moan. She didn’t want him. And he didn’t care. His eyes bored into her, and she could see the appetite and enjoyment running deep. He wanted to fuck her but also fuck with her. He smiled provocatively as his fingers pushed deeper.
“Why so tense?” He whispered aggressively into her ear, brushing his lips against her skin. Her skin was crawling, but she suppressed the urge to flinch away. “We’re going to be doing such great things together. You’ll get used to it. You’ll enjoy it.” He raised his finger up to her lips. “You’re already enjoying it, see? So fucking wet like a back ally whore.” He forced his fingers into her mouth while his other hand held tightly to the back of her head. “Taste it!” he snapped suddenly. “Suck!”
Feeling nauseous, Tiffany slowly encircled her lips around his fingers, and reluctantly started licking and sucking, her eyes meeting his the whole time. She could tell that Ross would do much worse down the line. There was no remorse in his eyes. There wasn’t the slightest hint of conflict. For him, manipulating and molesting her before ever using the Algorithm on her was a delicious game. But he held all the cards. He had a small army of slaves under his control. He was already powerful, and he reveled in that power.
What else could she do?
Ross pulled away, running his fingers under his nose with a gloating hum. “Mmmm. Now kneel.”
Tiffany glanced at the duct tape on her wrists, then at Ross questioningly. “M… My hands?”
Ross chuckled at her. “Don’t be silly, Tiff. You don’t need your hands free to suck a dick.”
Tiffany’s mouth opened in hurt surprise. All of that. And he wouldn’t… He was just fucking with her. He would never stop fucking with her.
“Now,” Ross repeated, his eyes darkening. “Kneel.”
She took a measured breath and stepped closer to him, nodding slightly. She looked Ross dead in the eye, seeing the glint of triumph in his gaze. She maintained that gaze as she lowered herself on one leg, the other sliding back.
He didn’t expect her to suddenly charge into him, bringing her knee up as hard as she possibly could into his groin.
”Never!” She spat in his face and shoved him into the kneeling slaves behind him, her heart bursting with exhilaration as she did so. Hannah shrieked in fury as Ross fell on top of her and the slave.
The entire rest of the room seemed to tense in a heartbeat as Ross howled in pain, shocked at what Tiffany just did. Tiffany turned and sped towards the desk where the Algorithm’s control console sat. The hope was they’d all be too taken aback to stop her in time. No matter what happened though, she stood by her decision. She had never planned to kneel. She had never planned to accept his offer. She wasn’t going to become complicit in Ross’s twisted plans to build a brothel full of slaves, nor was she simply going to roll over and let herself become an obedient little fuckdoll for Ross to use anyway he liked. She wouldn’t have minded having her hands free, but in the end it only made things slightly harder than the near impossibility this was already going to be. Most of all, it was her decision made on her terms. Not his.
All she had to do now was make it to the control console, then she could take stock of the room and either go for her phone or spur Dillon and Alice into action, depending on how much time she had. Just a couple more paces to-
Something clamped around her ankles. The ground rushed up to meet her. Her wrists were still bound in tape so she landed awkwardly on her forearms, pain shooting up through her elbows. “Ah! Fuck!”
She turned to see who had caught her, and was unsettled by the implacable expression of Emelia, or Em-bot, who had lunged and tackled her like a goddamn terminator. Tiffany frantically tried to tug a leg free so she could kick Em-bot in the face and continue to her objective. If she wasn’t quick, she’d lose the initiative.
But Em-bots grip around her ankles was impossibly tight, and within moments, Libby, Marion, and Izzy were upon her.
“No!” Tiffany screamed. “Get off me!” But arms were soon around her neck and her own arms, and she couldn’t move an inch.
Ross was picking himself off the floor, fury bulging from his temple as he coughed in pain, “Bring her here!”
Between the five of them, they practically carried her to Ross, whose face was contorted into furious humiliation. He grabbed her by the neck, his hand squeezing the breath away from her. Tears swelled up in her eyes so that she could barely see the contempt on his face. “You stupid bitch!” he snarled. “I mean, what the fuck?!”
Tiffany flinched as he spat in her face, the saliva slowly dripping down from her eyebrow.
“I’m done being nice to you!” he said, tightening the grip around her throat.
Held in place by multiple pairs of hands, Tiffany could offer no resistance save for a struggling choking noise through her constricted throat. Sparks were rapidly appearing in her vision, and darkness was closing in from her peripheries. She could feel the strength abandon her body and knew she was on the verge of passing out. She was terrified that she’d never wake up. Her eyes pleaded with him, she couldn’t hide her fear.
“Stop it!” Janet screamed suddenly, terrified tears pouring down her face. “You’ll kill her!”
“Fuck it…” Ross seemed to snap out of his murderous rage as released his grip on her with an angry scoff. “The last thing I need is a body stinking up the place.” He looked at her with contempt. “Whore.”
Tiffany gasped for breath, her vision still blurry, shivering violently as she wheezed through her constricted windpipe. Then a sudden sharp pain exploded on her shoulder and she screamed in agony.
“Jesus, Hannah!” she heard Marion exclaim, “you’ve broken the skin!”
She heard a loud spitting noise, and felt a warm liquid run down her back. “Good!” Hannah snarled. “She’s lucky I didn’t do worse!”
“Put her in the chair,” Ross ordered. He then snapped around to Janet, “and you’re next!”
Tiffany felt herself hauled over to the chair, her neck and shoulder throbbing in pain. They roughly grabbed and groped her with wild abandon, and she sobbed in pain the whole time. She was shoved into the chair and held firm while the headphones were placed over her head.
“No! NO!” she whimpered in protest, but there was nothing she could do.
“Wiping your mind would be a mercy…” Ross growled from behind the chair. “No, you deserve a different fate. Your mind will be completely intact, exactly as it is now, but when you wake up, you’ll no longer be able to move anything, not your arms, not your legs, not even your eyes. You won’t be able to so much as wiggle your small toe!”
“Like locked in syndrome?” Marion asked with a slight frown.
“What’s that?” Ross turned sharply towards her. Tiffany struggled and hissed at her captors, but there were enough hands to easily keep her clamped into the chair.
“It’s what you’re describing, Master,” Marion said. “A condition where a patient is completely paralyzed, but their brain is active and aware. They feel everything but can’t move or speak or communicate with the world around them.”
Ross nodded, a dark glare in his eyes. “Perfect. We’ll do that, then she can be a cum bucket for all the dudes in the next room. Then we’ll dump her back in her apartment and make it look like she OD’d…”
“So you’ll keep her like that forever, Master?” Libby asked, a hint of concern in her voice.
Ross turned on her angrily. “Do you want to join her?!”
“No, Master!” Libby cowered away. “I’m sorry Master!”
“She’ll still be able to feel pain, thankfully.” Hannah smirked as she walked over to the control console. “Oh, good news!” she remarked, “Tiff’s frequency is here too…”
“Activate it then,” Ross ordered. “Let’s lock this bitch in.”
Tiffany was breathing too fast to let out any more protests. The familiar thrum of the Algorithm’s audio signal started playing through the headphones, and immediately Tiffany felt the urgency of her panic start to ebb away. She clamped her eyes shut, fully aware that it would buy her a few seconds at most and do nothing else to prevent the brainwashing she was about to experience.
“Open your eyes already, Tiff,” Izzy said bluntly. “Why prolong things?”
Tiff tried once more to break free of the chair, but too many hands held her firmly in place. What had she been thinking? Her defiance was going to cost her dearly… Yet oddly she stood by her decision. Ross would have done whatever she wanted to her regardless of any deal she struck, he just enjoyed toying with her. After what he did with Lucy, she knew she would never be safe under his control.
“It’s okay.” Marion shrugged. “She’ll open her eyes in a minute. Keep the headphones firm on her now…”
The headphones kept pulsating their low thumping beats into Tiffany’s mind. Already her breathing had slowed, and her mind was becoming foggy. Nevertheless, she tried to think her way out of the situation she’d found herself in. At least she wasn’t gagged like before. She could still go for broke and shout a command to Dillon or Alice. Chances are they’d gag her as soon as she did, so she’d only get one order out.
“Open your eyes, Tiff.”
It would have to be a concise order as well, lest a hand be clamped over her mouth before she completed it. But what order would have any effect? ‘Dillon, kill Ross’?
No. Not that. She could say it, sure… It might even work to get one of them, but Tiffany knew it wasn’t right. It wasn’t her.
The thump thump thump of the low rapid base sound felt so pleasant in her ears, like the vibrations were snaking down her ear canal and massaging the base of her mind. Thump thump thump, at the speed of her thoughts. Thump thump thump, making everything not seem so bad.
She tried to focus. What was she trying to do? That’s right… Give Dillon an order so he could… Do… Something…
“Come on now. Open your eyes.”
Tiffany’s eyes flickered, she almost opened them. There was a reason she wasn’t supposed to. It was so hard to think.
She tried to focus. She was in the Algorithm. The Algorithm was the source of the sound. It was dulling her thoughts. That was bad. She didn’t want that.
She tried to focus. Thoughts so slow. What was she thinking?
She tried to-
“Open your eyes Tiff.”
Her eyes flickered open. The most beautiful, mesmerizing light poured into her mind, and her thoughts ceased. Her eyes dilated as her mind opened wide to the signal of the Algorithm.
“Tiff…” a voice said. “I love you, but that was really dumb… Incredible, but so fucking dumb…”
“I’m speaking on the headphone feed, so only you can hear me. It’s time to remember, Tiff. Remember now.”
Tiffany’s irises contracted to a pair of fine points as a locked away memory flooded into her head.
”I hate this Tiff. I hate it.” Erin gripped Tiffany’s shoulders and looked into her eyes intensely.
“How could you hate it?” Tiffany replied with a cheeky smile. “It’s your idea from a few days ago, just revamped for the modern day…”
“That was different! It was just Alice to worry about, and we had an idea of what she was capable of. This is Lucy we’re talking about now. She’s already tried to get us to jump off a fucking bridge! Dillon and that other prick aren’t much better either.”
Tiffany sighed calmly before taking Erin’s hands into her own. “I know all that. I know it’s dangerous. I know there’s a chance I could end up dead, enslaved, or worse… But I’m still going. You’re not going to stop me.”
“I can trance you,” Erin threatened. Tiffany had never seen her look so serious or scared. “I can make you forget this whole stupid plan and make you do my plan instead.”
Tiffany closed her eyes and pulled Erin into a hug. “You could. But you’re not going to.”
“Oh yeah? What’s stopping me?” Erin asked angrily as she gripped Tiffany tightly.
“I saved us from jumping off a bridge,” Tiffany said. “I deprogrammed you, got us back to your apartment, then I used Janet’s tablet to make your landlord think he’s an earthworm…” They split from the hug as they both turned to see Erin’s landlord wriggling lamely on the floor of his lounge. Tiffany turned back to Erin with a smug grin. “So basically… you’re my bitch.”
“Tiff…” Erin pouted.
“Come on! You did this to me when you saved me from Alice!” Tiffany prodded Erin provocatively. “Say it! Say you’re my bitch!”
Erin gritted her teeth, then reluctantly laughed. “You know, that last bit wouldn’t have happened without Janet and her tablet, so maybe I’m her bitch, not yours...”
“Oh that’s okay, Janet’s my bitch too. Hey, Janet!”
Janet had been in the middle of connecting cables back into to the chunky PC tower that Erin’s landlord had confiscated. “Umm… yeah?”
“Say you’re my bitch,” Tiffany ordered with a jovial smirk.
“Uhh…” Janet looked at Erin and Tiffany with uncertainty. “I… I’m your bitch,” she said in an effort to join in on the fun. The words brought a rosy blush to her cheeks, and she turned around to continue her work, her body tense.
“Thanks Janet!” Tiffany winked at her. She then faced Erin again. “See?”
Erin sighed in frustration. “Tiff… you’re just… you’re…”
“Yes! That and really annoying!” Erin whined, before lowering her voice and staring into Tiffany’s eyes. “I just… I don’t want you to go. I want to be selfish, I want to come first.”
Tiffany pulled Erin back into another embrace. After silently hugging her for a few moments, she drew back so she could stare into her eyes. “Look, Erin, I hear you. And there’s a big part of me that wants to run away with you too and never look back. But if we do that, I won’t be fully with you. I left a part of myself back in Josh’s apartment, and if I don’t get it back… I’ll never be the same. I’ll never forgive myself for abandoning all those people.”
Erin stared silently back at Tiffany, a tear rolling down her cheek as she nodded.
“Hey… don’t give up on me just yet… We have a backup plan for each backup plan. If we throw enough crap at the walls, something is bound to stick!”
“Erin,” Tiffany said frankly, “it’s going to be okay.” She pulled Erin back into her shoulder, feeling the tears against her skin as Erin openly sobbed.
“Hey guys,” Janet piped up after a few moments punctuated only by Erin’s sadness. “I’ve finished plugging everything in. Shall I turn it on?”
“Go ahead.” Tiffany nodded. “We need to get back to the party as soon as we can. I’ve already been away too long.”
“It might still be set up to trance and deprogram me.” Erin said after a loud sniff. “It’ll be set to my frequency though, so you both should be fine.”
“Should being the key word,” Tiffany chuckled. “Janet, see if you can cancel the automated program while Erin and I both look away.”
“Okay,” Janet replied. A few moments later, a loud bass tone started playing from the PC speakers. Tiffany watched as Erin’s eyes began to lose focus. She took her hand in her own and squeezed it until the noise abruptly stopped. “Okay it’s off,” Janet announced.
“Good work,” Tiffany said. “Next we need to check the remote interface still works, and if so, we then need to give me a bit of programming.”
“What programming?” Erin asked with a frown.
“I want to forget that I came here first,” Tiffany explained to the two of them. “Janet and I are going to Josh’s as soon as you’re set up here, but I want us to go in thinking that we went there directly from Janet’s dorm.”
Janet and Erin both looked at Tiffany with uncertainty. “Okay… but why?” Erin asked.
“Because…” Tiffany said expressively. “If things go wrong with the other plans, I don’t want them knowing that you’re in play with the backup Algorithm.”
“But if they capture you, Tiff, you’ll spill your guts once they put you in trance,” Erin said, the discomfort at the idea apparent on her face. “So what’s the point?”
“Look, I don’t know if I can fully explain it.” Tiffany fiddled with her hands. “But I plan to lock the memory away, only you’ll be able to unlock it by telling me to remember. It means they shouldn’t be able to find out that you’re able to activate the Algorithm from where you are. They may change my loyalties if it all goes wrong, but I won’t know that you’re able to intervene, and neither will they. If I reveal anything to them at all, it’ll be that you’re being held hostage and still need rescuing.”
“Okay…” Erin scratched her head. “If you’re going to lie to them though, why not make yourself remember that I did jump off the bridge? You can tell them all I’m dead and actually believe it. They won’t come looking for me at all then…”
Tiffany looked at Erin gravely, shaking her head. “I can’t do that. Erin, if I truly thought you were dead…” She shook her head more, her throat choking up.
“No, it’s okay, it’s okay,” Erin said. It was her turn to pull Tiffany into a hug now. “It was a stupid idea, I wasn’t thinking.”
After they hugged it out for a moment, Janet tapped Tiffany on the shoulder. “Sorry, Tiff?”
Erin and Tiffany turned to Janet. “Yeah, Janet, go ahead.”
“Well it’s just, if we are caught, and they find out what the tablet can do…”
“I know we’re risking it falling into their hands,” Tiffany said heavily, “but we’re going to need it with us to pull this off.”
“No it’s not that,” Janet stressed. “What do we say if they ask why we didn’t come here first and use the tablet to help Erin?”
“Ah. Yeah.” Tiffany looked thoughtfully off to the side. “It was the obvious move, hence why we did it… We’ll have to program me with the belief that we couldn’t for some reason…”
“Hmm…” Janet hummed in thought. “Maybe make you think he wouldn’t have let you back in without all of the money Erin owed.”
“Ha! Yeah…” Erin scoffed. “In stark contrast to him salivating at Janet’s twenty seven dollars and walking face first into the tablet because of it.”
“Can I, uh, get that back, by the way?” Janet asked quietly, but Tiffany was more focused on replying to Erin.
“I don’t need to know that,” she argued. “I can just be under the assumption that I won’t get a chance to use the tablet on him unless I have the cash.” She then frowned in thought before clicking her fingers with an idea. “And there’s also Janet’s dorm being closer to Josh’s apartment! We can pretend we went there first for that reason, on foot as well, despite us jumping in a cab the moment I got to hers…”
“Okay.” Erin pinched the bridge of her nose. “I guess we can do that. But look, Alice knows what the backup Algorithm can do, I doubt she’ll fall for it twice… And she can warn the others.”
“Well then I’ll have to ensure I take her out first,” Tiffany replied. “Hell, if the tablet works well enough, I’ll be able to take them all down with it.”
“But if you don’t?” Erin frowned again.
“Then I’ve at least been distracting them all to let Janet find Josh’s phone, or mine…”
“And if she can’t?”
“Then you make a judgement call,” Tiffany said solemnly. “Use the Algorithm here if you have a decent chance of trancing them all, or the ones we didn’t already get with the tablet.”
Erin sighed heavily. “And if I don’t?”
“Then don’t risk revealing yourself,” Tiffany said gravely. “They’ll come looking in your apartment for the second Algorithm eventually, but you’ll have enough time to skip town and disappear.”
“No, Tiff.” Erin shook her head angrily. “Not without you.”
Tiffany sighed in annoyance before grabbing Erin and pushing her backwards suddenly. Erin yelped in surprise, stumbling then tripping over her landlord who was wriggling awkwardly in front of his sofa. Erin fell onto the cushions with a grunt, and Tiffany was on top of her in an instant.
“I’m telling you what’s happening, slave, and the next words out of your mouth will be ‘Yes Mistress,’ because you know as well as I do if we don’t try our fucking hardest to save our friends, then we don’t deserve the freedom we’ve denied them.”
Their faces were inches apart, both of them breathing heavily as Tiffany’s steely gaze bored into Erin’s shocked eyes. After a few moments, Erin whispered, “Yes, Mistress.”
“Good girl.” Tiffany planted a kiss on Erin’s cheek before stepping away from the sofa back towards the Algorithm that Janet was studying intensely. “How’re things looking here?”
Janet sighed in frustration. “There are a bunch of features that would be extremely useful to access on the other Algorithm via remote,” she explained, pointing to various buttons on the interface, “but they haven’t been coded in yet. It’s just commented placeholders.”
Tiffany patted Janet on the shoulder. “Let’s focus on what we can do. Can we activate the new program that Josh has linked from our phone apps?”
“Sorry, no,” Janet said. “I could try and code that into here, but it would take me a while…”
“Urgh, no.” Tiffany shook her head. “We don’t have time to waste. So long as everyone is still contained in the one place we can turn this around… Once Dillon and Ross leave… I honestly don’t want to think about it.”
“Yeah,” Janet said gravely. “I understand.”
“But we can change the frequency that’s playing on their Algorithm from here, can’t we?”
“Great. Can we activate the Algorithm from its standby state?”
“No,” Erin interrupted, appearing on the other side of Janet. “When I saved you from Alice, Tiff, remember that I didn’t make my move until you were being tranced. Well, that’s why…”
“And here I thought you were being dramatic with your timing.” Tiffany smiled playfully.
“Well that was just a bonus…” Erin shrugged, but a tiny smile flickered on her lips for a moment.
“What else have we got? Can we lock them out from their Algorithm remotely?” Tiffany asked.
“Sorry, no.” Janet shook her head. “The Algorithm will follow the last input given to it from either here or there. If someone is at the control panel there, they can undo any action almost as quickly as we initiate it.”
“Fuck…” Tiffany looked up at Erin then Janet thoughtfully. “Unless we hide it… Make it look like they’re doing what they want it to do…”
Erin frowned. “How, exactly?”
Tiffany’s eyes widened with inspiration. “Janet…” she said excitedly, “Josh developed a new output setting that interlaces all of the frequencies. You have access to that from here, right?”
“Yes.” Janet nodded, bringing up the file.
“Paste the settings for that into the pre-saved file of my own frequencies.”
“Wait, what?” Erin asked in distress.
“Think of it!” Tiffany said as she grabbed Erin’s arm. “If it all goes south, and I’m the one placed in the chair, they’ll think they’re trancing me, but really the signal will be affecting everyone!”
Erin rolled her eyes at Tiffany with a sigh of frustration. “No, I get that, Tiff! It’s you being in the chair is the problem, don’t you see?!”
“Well it means the other plans have shit the brick, right?” Tiffany said with wide eyes. “It couldn’t hurt to have this to fall back on…” She saw the look of apprehension on Erin’s face. “But we won’t need it! Our other plans will kick ass first.”
“Okay, that’s done,” Janet stated. “But you should keep in mind, Tiff, the way the Algorithm is set up there, you’ll be wearing headphones, and I can’t override the audio feed or make it play through the speakers instead, without…”
“More programming,” Tiffany finished wearily. “Time we just don’t have… So while everyone seeing the screen will be unwittingly affected by it, I’ll also be getting whammied by the audio?”
“Yes. Pretty much.” Janet nodded with a grim smack of her lips.
“Well shit, it’s still worth considering.” Tiffany grimaced. “Okay, you know that headphone thing… We could play that to our advantage. Please please please tell me that you can send voice commands from here into the headphone feed there.”
“Ummm…” Janet trailed as she looked over the interface. Her face lit up. “Yes! You can!”
“Oh good!” Tiffany breathed in relief. “In that case, ladies, I think I have a plan…” She turned to Erin. “There’s one more thing I need to make me forget in addition to coming here and making these plans by the way… Just so I don’t use it too soon… I need to save it for when it really matters most.”
“Yeah, sure,” Erin said. “What’s that?”
With a look of fierce determination on her face, Tiffany held up her hand, extending her left thumb and middle finger.
Which she now tapped together three times. Her hands may have still been crudely bound by duct tape around her wrists, but she still had her finger dexterity and felt the sudden rush of intense clarity filter across her mind the moment after all of those memories flooded back into her.
She immediately knew that she had about a two thirds chance of success if she intervened now. She wasn’t sure how she knew it, but she did. She also knew that if she didn’t act fast, she would miss her window of opportunity. Her mind went into overdrive. Time seemed to slow. She knew that Erin was safe in her landlord’s apartment, sitting at the second Algorithm and watching everything unfold from there.
She got to her feet and took everything in. Ross and his slaves were in various states of confusion, some of them close to falling fully into trance. Trev looked nearly gone and had loosened his grip on Janet, who was herself looking dazed and caught in the pattern pouring out of the screen. Josh seemed to be fighting it, clearly understanding what was happening. Dillon and Alice were both distant looking, but that was barely a difference from before. Marion and Izzy, who were close to Tiffany, seemed confused and disoriented by the Algorithm signal. The former Lucy slave stood impassively, uncaring one way or the other, while Em-bot and Libby seemed mostly unaffected by the colorful patterns pouring out of the screen.
The least affected was Hannah, who by standing at the control console was out of the way of the large screen’s effects. She surveyed the scene with increasing confusion and distress. “Somethings wrong…” she muttered in frustration, turning back to the controls and frantically examining the settings.
Tiffany couldn’t be tranced because she was already in a deep trance, one triggered by the memories flooding back into her. Except the condition of this trance was that she would act and be aware as if she were fully awake. With her heightened awareness, she knew exactly what to say.
“Dillon, Alice, disarm and restrain Ross. Janet! Wake up, grab the tablet, and escape!”
There was a burst of movement all at once.
“Master!” Josh shouted, slamming into Dillon to protect Ross. “Snap out of it. Resist the trance!”
Released from Josh’s grip and spurred to alertness, Janet easily pulled free of Trev’s dazed grip and snatched the tablet from his hands.
“Shit! Stop her!” Libby yelped. Izzy jolted to alertness and rushed after Janet, but Marion was still in a daze, her relaxed mind not interpreting the order as for her. Em-bot eyed up Janet but then turned to see Alice trying to tackle Ross.
Hannah’s eyes met Tiffany’s, and a realization slapped the redhead in the face. She narrowed her eyes, and Tiffany could tell that Hannah meant her immediate and serious harm. Without looking away from Hannah, Tiffany barked. “Emelia! Snap out of it, grab that bat and smash the screen!”
Tiffany’s heart froze in her chest. If her instruction to Emelia didn’t stick, then she calculated that things would likely go badly for her. She could hear that the commotion had snapped Ross out of his near trance, and even with Emelia, Tiffany’s allies would be outnumbered.
Em-bot was almost on top of Alice when Tiffany’s words cut through her mind like a hot knife through butter. Suddenly, Em-bot was no more, and a highly confused but lucid Emelia was springing for the baseball bat that Josh kept on his wall.
“No!” Hannah yelled, charging right past Tiffany to intercept Emelia as she tried to swing the bat right into the signal emitting screen. Hannah caught the bad mid swing and tried in vain to wrestle it from Emelia’s grip.
Tiffany lunged forward, feeling like the entire world was moving in slow motion. She reached her phone by the Algorithm’s control console. With her hands still bound it, wasn’t easy to enter her pin, but her movements were focused and precise. The phone unlocked. She opened the app.
She heard Alice scream in pain. She didn’t look. She pressed the red button.
She let herself turn to see Dillon’s slave on top of Alice on the bed, clawing at her face. Only Marion and Trev were still dazed by the Algorithm. The rest of the room was pure chaos. Hatred and fury poured out of Ross as he tried to get his bearings. The moment his eyes locked with Tiffany, she gave him a half smile and said, “Sweet dreams, asshole.”
Ross reached for his gun, but for a split second, Tiffany saw fear.
A deafening sound erupted into the room, equal parts agonizing shriek and unsettling bass, with a wide range of tones in between. Everyone instinctively covered their ears as small screens that had been recently installed on the walls flickered to life and started spewing out bright interlaced patterns. One by one they became overwhelmed by the signals that bombarded them. Tiffany watched as Ross stopped trying to protect his ears, his eyes glossing over and his body sagging as he succumbed to the trance. The gun held loosely in his hand dropped to the floor with a loud clatter.
Tiffany watched as one by one everyone in the room failed to resist the overwhelming signals. With the extra screens on every wall and the sound blasting at full volume, it was inescapable. Tiffany felt fortunate that she was already in a trance, immune to the visual onslaught.
Yet the sounds thumping into her head were impossible to ignore, a cacophony of mind stripping discord that rattled her skull.
She slowly walked across the room towards the bed. Dillon and Josh had been fighting beside it, but now they stood together, staring blankly at opposing screens. On the bed, Ross’s slave was on top of Alice, hands placed around her neck. Both the slave and Alice had blank, dazed eyes. Tiffany pushed the slave off Alice, finding it more difficult than she expected to move her.
The slave released her loose grip on Alice as she collapsed onto her back, her eyes automatically drawn to the nearest screen on the wall. Tiffany looked at the screen. Somehow she could tell it was a mixture of frequencies that was pouring out of it and every other screen in the apartment. Between that and the sounds being layered and loud, no wonder everyone was falling into a deep forced trance.
Trev and Marion stood entranced where they had been before. Emelia and Hannah both clutched loosely onto the baseball bat right in front of the original Algorithm screen as they faced it, minds bombarded with the signals.
Tiffany meandered towards the lounge, sometimes bracing against a wall to keep her balance. She was trying to piece together an important thought regarding Emelia, but she couldn’t.
Emelia shouldn’t be affected by the… the thought wouldn’t form.
Most thoughts couldn’t. Why?
Wasn’t she already in a…
Was this signal overpowering…
She saw Janet as she stumbled into the lounge, tackled to the floor by Izzy and Libby. All three of them stared up at a small screen on the wall while the rest of the room’s two dozen or so inhabitants were all standing, staring at the massive TV that was pulsing out the brightest visual pattern of them all.
All of them in deep trance now, Tiffany thought.
But she could still get to the exit..
If she could just… keep going.
Her feet stopped working before she managed to get past the kitchen. The door to safety was still a dozen paces away. Maybe if she…
She slowly raised her hands to cover her ears, but as she did so, the small screen which Janet was entranced by caught the corner of her eye.
It was beautiful. Calming. Entrancing. Nice.
Her hands slowly lowered back to her sides.
She stared and stared and stared as the signals washed through her mind.