As Bambi came up the path to the cabin where the guest waited, she automatically adjusted the thong over her shaven pussy and smoothed her hands down her bare hips, swaying into a languid walk. Just the few yards it took it get to the door had her hot and almost quivering with need. She hadn’t met the guest before, but she was already getting wet for his touch. She knocked.
The door opened, and she saw a balding man, slightly shorter than she was, with spindly pale legs poking from beneath a bathrobe that lumped over a paunch. He stared at her blearily; she knew from the hypnotic prep this morning that he’d been to a bar down by the beach last night and then to one of the brothels, where he’d failed to perform.
His image hit her consciousness, and she came almost to attention as the heat bloomed between her thighs and her pussy moistened visibly against the tiny triangle of yellow lycra. Her ears buzzed with half-remembered programming, and she gazed adoringly at his face and body as if through a ghostly pastel spiral spinning gently around her thoughts.
She loved him. He was the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen.
“Good morning, Sir!” It wasn’t hard to sound eager; the hard thing was not to whimper and beg. “I’m Bambi, your slavegirl! How may I serve your pleasure?”
He looked her up and down without expression, and she loved the feeling of being just so much meat to him. She felt a familiar internal prod and stood straighter, thrusting her breasts forward. It drew his eyes to them, to linger for a moment on the palm-frond logo on her left bra cup. He took hold of her, and she tried and failed to restrain a gasp at how good his grip felt on her upper arms. It seemed to surprise him, and he stared into her eyes as if seeing her for the first time. Bambi realized he had been looking at her as a blowup doll that moved, and regretted breaking that illusion.
Then, inside on her knees, on her back, she just made sure she was his blowup doll . . .
Bambi let her hips sway as she walked down the path, a happy, well-fucked girl on her way to . . . she closed her eyes briefly without breaking stride, looking for that moment like a lovely sleepwalker while the morning’ s indoctrination slide replayed in her mind. Yes. She opened her eyes. She had massage duty at the gym now until just before lunch. Then, she got to cage-dance for hours down at her favorite club. She shivered—she always got rented and fucked when she did that. Her Owners had trained her so well as a dancer.
She let her steps carry her along one of the paths that ran between the back areas of two of the spacious condominium-style compounds for the longer-term guests, already looking forward to the club, starting to feel the beat of the music and the pulse of the lights turning her mind off and softening her body into a yielding, pliant thing that writhed and shook and shone with sweat.
The first time she’d served at that club, waiting her turn to dance, she’d seen another girl up in the cage, her skin flaring in the strobes, her muscles clenched, her face blank . . . Bambi hadn’t realized how mesmerizing it was until she woke up later in the restroom passageway, astride someone’s cock, urgently sucking his ear. She’d been worried, but the manager had just been amused. They’d altered her hypnotic training after that, and she’ d never gone under until she was supposed to, in the cage herself.
Then up ahead she saw a man in the green polo shirt and khaki pants of an senior staff person, and she stepped briskly over to stand in front of him for inspection.
“Good morning, Master! I’m Bambi!” she recited eagerly. “I’m super-eager to work and . . .”
“Yes,” he said and the words stopped in her.
“Wind in the trees.” He sounded bored. But Bambi’s eyes widened with fascination, as the idea struck through into her mind. Her eyes slid to his polo shirt, to the logo there, the palm fronds, the repeated curves, the spiral they formed. He said there was wind, so they were moving, turning, spinning . . .
The staff man watched the hypnotized girl’s eyes glaze over and her body slowly grow still, her perkiness giving way to a trembling drowsiness as she stared at his chest. He waited, enjoying how the breeze blew a few strands of her soft brown hair across her face, and she stared through it, heedless. “Your mind is blank, slave. You no longer remember your schedule for today. When you try to think of the schedule slide, you will lose any desire to think of it. You will remember only that you have been given an unscheduled break period.” Her eyes fluttered and almost closed as she absorbed the reprogramming, and she whispered it back to confirm it was part of her mind, now.
He snapped his fingers and she blinked prettily until her eyes focused. “Did I . . . was I in trance, Master? I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I don’t remember what we . . .”
“What do you remember, Bambi?”
He watched her face lose expression as she stared ahead. “I remember that I have been given an unscheduled break period.” She blinked again, and a perky smile blossomed again. “Oh, cool! I’ll go at once and avail myself of one of the fine break facilities. Thank you, Master!”
The staff man watched her strut happily into the trees, not even letting himself think about calling her back and triggering her and taking her behind the discreetly-placed maintenance shed. Resort management was very strict about that, and they provided diversion enough. It would be nice, though, to have a whore once in a while who could at least pretend to act like she had a mind.
And there were the cameras. He smiled ruefully for their benefit, then pulled out his rumpled to-do list. His smile deepened to something more genuine. At least he still needed lists.
Bambi let her feet carry her into the trees, to a small clearing and a kiosk of gray metal. She stepped under its small overhang and stared happily at a palm-frond logo on its door while something hummed electrically over her head. The door slid open, and she stepped onto the spiral staircase inside. All staff facilities were underground, to leave more room for the guests and, of course, to spare some of the more sensitive guests the tiresome details of how staff were handled.
At the bottom, she passed through the opening that said “Staff Lounge”. Glancing to her right, she saw the vending arcade. On the concrete wall, there were the crudely-spraypainted outlines of a number of machines, labeled “Slut Snacks”, “Game It Needs A Brain To Play”, “Other Things to Suck”. Bambi smiled. The facilities were so nice here; she vaguely remembered a job somewhere where she had to go somewhere else to eat, and sit down and wait for someone to . . .
It was too complicated, and besides, she needed to check in. She smiled down at the girl who sat behind the empty desk. Tina had been staff here since before Bambi had . . . joined? . . . and though she was sort of higher-ranking she wore a bikini as minimal as Bambi’s, in lime green. She also wore a pair of very large-lensed sunglasses, making her look adorably owlish. Bambi almost wanted to look into her eyes, but knew there was no reason to.
“Hi, Tina! I’m scheduled for an unscheduled break!” They giggled. “I could use a diet something, too!”
“Sure, Bambi!” Tina seemed a little more in control of her enthusiasm. Bambi wondered how many hours it was since she’d been fucked. “Bet you would! But the Owners thought that before you did, you’d want to enjoy a restful few minutes in the waiting area!”
Bambi’s thirst was real, but just knowing what the Owners wanted her to was tipping her mind away from the idea of quenching it. Obeying orders was so much more important. When Tina raised her arm slowly and gestured to the left, it was as if she’d gently taken Bambi’s chin and turned her gaze that way too. A door had slid aside, and when Bambi saw the far wall, the huge spiral pulsing there seized her whole awareness.
Tina smiled at the way the other girl gasped, almost in dismay. She knew Bambi had forgotten all about her, her whole body loosening as she almost staggered into the waiting area. Inside, another girl in sunglasses helped her to an empty chair to join the other staff transfixed by the display.
Bambi barely felt the hand on her shoulder, the plastic seat under her. She was dimly aware of the other girls staring hypnotized into the vortex. In her ears she could hear a soft, sleepy female voice. “. . . get wet when I obey . . . my Owners are always right . . . I need to be a productive little slave, I desire to be a productive little slave . . . I obey without question . . .”
Soon Bambi had joined the murmuring chorus repeating it into the pauses.
Then another voice, firmer and male, said, “Becky, obey now!”
In a row in front of her, Bambi saw a girl rise slowly to attention. “I obey, Master,” she whispered in awe.
“You have enjoyed a very pleasant break, Becky. You are now relaxed and refreshed and ready to resume your duties. You will continue on your schedule, working the area by the promenade. You will only solicit unaccompanied men.”
“Yes, Master,” Becky said gratefully, and left her place. Bambi stopped paying attention, because it was so much easier to relax and listen the truth pouring into her ears . . .
She was on her feet and receiving her own orders before she really knew it.
The door slid open before her, and she saw another girl outside facing away from the door and standing over Tina. Bambi watched absently as the girl reached down to take Tina’s sunglasses. The door stayed open behind Bambi, like waiting mouth, and Bambi gazed at the graffiti on the far wall, whose skewed lines broke up the fitful, snaring glow the spiral cast against it.
Tina’s voice was quiet, but held an odd note that tweaked something in Bambi’s memory. “Please, Megan. Please let me keep them. I don’t want to . . .”
The other girl laughed. “Don’t want to what, honey? Don’t want to obey? Don’t want to go under hypnosis? Just hold still.” Bambi stopped to watch, not sure why she did. Tina trembled slightly and her arms almost rose off her thighs, but then settled as Megan reached down and slid the glasses off.
“There. Now.” As she put them on, Megan stepped carefully to one side, and the light from the spiral flared over Tina, whose eyes widened. Bambi thought she saw moisture in them and on her cheeks, but in a moment Tina was smiling deeply and standing. Megan whispered something in her ear, and she nodded slowly, without turning her head.
“I will enjoy my break,” Bambi heard her murmur as she walked into the room, not blinking.
Bambi’s gaze started to follow her, suddenly fascinated by the dreamlike way she moved, almost floating. She was turning to face the spiral when Megan snapped her fingers.
“Don’t get lost again, Bambi. Tend to your special duties now.”
“Thanks, Megan! I sure will!” Bambi skipped out of the staff lounge without another thought for Tina or the spiral.
Restful breaks, in-fucking-deed. It felt good just to sit. Allison took five near a small brook in the restricted area, a few hundred meters from the villa on the headland. She realized, now, she’d been programmed for simple servant duties here where the Owners lived and ran the island. With a little time before she was expected there, she’d slipped out of trance.
Bambi. She shook her head. She knew it was a crucially important undercover task, but why did she have to even pretend to be Bambi? This was beyond ridiculous.
She’d just let an nearly impotent pig fuck every hole she had to offer, and thanked him for it, but she could almost take that in stride. She was proud of it: no one would ever suspect that she wasn’t as brainwashed as she was supposed to be if she’d let someone do that to her.
But it was always the little things. She’d never liked Bambis.
Before sitting, she’d rinsed her mouth with streamwater. Meaningless, since she’d done the usual hygienic before leaving the kiosk, but this time it was hers to do. She felt a bit cleaner.
If the people running the freakshow had shown a bit more imagination, she wouldn’t feel quite so awkward. It was weird to sit in the middle of this bent male fantasyland and feel most strongly how insulting it was for the “staff” here to be so stereotypically bimboized. There was much worse going on here . . . slavery was well, outlawed, like kidnapping and drugging women, like whatever they did to the ones who were really here.
Of course, if she really let herself think about that, she’d need to consider being alone on an island completely controlled by people who’d brainwashed dozens of women into obedient prostitutes. Who’d already conditioned many of them beyond any hope of being deprogrammed into thinking women again. Who had plenty of personnel and weapons to take care of anyone who was less than obedient, if they learned she was there, if she made a mistake.
So she tried hard not to think about it. She usually pretended the women were just the whores they seemed, doing it all for money. She told herself that for now they probably had fewer worries than when they’d been free. Bullshit and hideously unfair, but it kept her going.
Closing her eyes, she admitted to herself that most of the time, in-character, as . . . Bambi, she was just as mindlessly happy and submissive as they were.
Allison stifled a shiver. This was not getting the job done. She looked around reflexively, but saw no one. This exclusive end of the island was protected from curious guests by fences, signs, polite guards, and very tough terrain. Staff, of course, were simply programmed not to come here unless summoned.
As Bambi (groan) had been, for “special duties”. She felt a little quiver, and looked down at herself. Excited? Maybe she was getting too well into character. Not for the first time, she wondered how good an idea it had been to let her own people partially brainwash her for real.
She stood up. No, she thought, waiting for “special duties” to pop into her head, she had to admit that trying to be Bambi most of the time purely on her own acting skills would not have lasted long. She had to be hypnotized to be that much of a ditz.
Her blissful smile as she walked out into the open, where there was a camera, grew as she visualized the pig from the cabin trying to pick her up in a real bar, back in a real place, away from this mind-control theme park. Her eyes twinkled merrily as she thought of the sounds he’d be trying to make when she hit his . . .
Villa servant for a while. That was fine; they’d known slaves were rotated up here for that, and her hooker turn had been a holding pattern. Other things were coming back to her now: the layout for this place, for example.
The computer room, with a dedicated link to the Web. Together with what she’d learned, just lighting up that IP address would give everyone back home the target they’d been waiting for. The target they’d infiltrated her to find.
She looked up at the sky over the villa as she walked into the compound. How pretty it looked. How much prettier it would look, filled with choppers coming down.
As she smiled blankly back at another slave leaving the main house, she found herself searching the girl’s face. No one she knew. Allison wasn’t the first to be sent on this mission, and to date they’d had no word from Kelly or SaraJane. There was a lot of the island she hadn’t seen, and her friends might have been on rotations that didn’t give them house access, but she’d developed the leaden certainty that they weren’t here. She couldn’t decide which was worse: finding they’d been discovered and killed, or learning they’d been held elsewhere, and disappeared when the raid came and the network fell apart.
Maybe they hadn’t been killed.
Every war had casualties, she tried to tell herself, but as she walked into the insolent luxury of the compound, she suddenly felt almost sick with grief. Kelly and SaraJane wouldn’t begrudge their lives to help the women down there being used like so many blowup dolls, but this was no way to be when you died.
She started to be afraid for real, as she imagined what breaking down in tears would get her here. She swallowed it. She kept walking, and smiling. She reached a changing room and took a basket from a naked, collared girl who mirrored her blank smile with chilling sincerity. Into a basket went her yellow bikini. Allison peered for a second at the palm-frond tattoo just above and to the left of her groin, marking her as resort property just like the plastic basket and the bikini. The girl took the basket back and held up a plastic collar in front of Allison’s eyes.
She felt her gaze snap to it and heard herself say, “Bambi incoding.”
The girl said tonelessly, “Bambi coded for purple.”
“Bambi coded,” said Allison, feeling the compulsion to stay only within purple-designated areas, to call and submit to a senior staffer in any case of doubt, flow over her like a warm wind. She felt the girl’s cool fingertips fastening it on her neck. They turned away from each other without a word and the girl resumed her place inside the door, staring, smiling, waiting for the next new slave to code.
Padding barefoot through the spotless corridor, Allison fought the strange feeling of being an intruder in the territory of her betters. She forced positive feelings into every corner of herself: she’d made it this far, and they’d never be expecting a good little girl inhibited by a strip of plastic to run quietly amok in their systems. She’d supplement Kelly and SaraJane or she’d avenge them. Period.
Turning, she walked into a small office and stood at attention before the trim older woman in a sleeveless top and long sheath skirt who sat at the desk.
“Slave Bambi reporting for special duties, Ma’am!” she chirped. Thank god she could do perky outside of hypnosis, for short periods.
The senior staff woman—Bambi’s memory called her Ms Garrett—looked up at her, and Allison had an odd frisson as the eyes seemed to reach into her, but she seemed satisfied.
“Welcome back, Bambi,” she said, and then sat back so the logo on her top was easier to see. Allison looked at it, distracted by wondering what “welcome back“ meant, but remembered to focus on the counter-trigger when Ms Garrett added, “Wind in the trees.”
As her eyes started to watch the palm-frond spin, Allison felt as if someone had drawn the drapes. She could still think, but things were coming through Bambi’s hypnotically narrowed perceptions. She absorbed the tasks fairly easily, and for a moment wondered if somehow they were onto her after all.
It was too perfect. She’d be playing servant in the computer center, with the sort of free access to everything that a brainwashed slave like Bambi could be trusted with. Weighing it, she had to conclude that she hadn’t been found out. They wouldn’t play a game like that—there’d be no point in it.
These people weren’t into chess. What they played was more like Australian-rules football with knives. If they’d found out about Allison, she’d know.
Then she was on her way down the hall on Bambi autopilot, letting it happen. There were too many cameras and unhypnotized staff here to risk having Allison reactions.
She passed a room where several women sat frozen and staring at something flickering on a wall out of sight. A sleepy but insistent female voice recited, “I cannot remember being in the restricted area. I am a happy, productive slave. I have no memory of the restricted area. I am a sexy, obedient slave. I have no desire to think about the restricted . . .” Allison wondered which one she was replacing.
The computer center was a spacious, glassed-in area off the corridor. With her peripheral vision, Allison glimpsed rows of carrels with collared slaves at workstations, staring intently at their screens and talking on headsets. There were senior staff as well, all women, some at desks on a dais, others walking around, monitoring the drones. Other slaves came and went with bottled water, disks, other things, or stood entranced behind the seniors, awaiting tasks. Allison couldn’t look more closely, since slave Bambi would have no curiosity. She was here to serve, not to observe.
Nearing the desk at the far end, where the entrance was, to report for duty, Allison let herself go deeper into Bambi. She was already adapting: the Bambi perkiness was muted into the hushed whisper of an awed schoolgirl in church. She received her orders, and went inside, moving quietly to the cabinet to get the cloths.
She went to the first row of computer drones. They were more variable in appearance than slaves in the resort area. Allison rather loyally decided none of them were bad-looking, but clearly the Owners had used different criteria. She strained to look at what they were doing, but there was a heavy inhibition on Bambi not to see or comprehend anything on a computer. Great; when she finally got to one to signal out, she’d have to be herself, and hope it wasn’t anywhere someone would notice.
Then she realized what her duties were. Each drone had cables running between her thighs, some plugged into powerboxes on the floor, others to the computers themselves. Bambi felt placid admiration for the Owners’ skill at harnessing talent. Allison did not know what to feel at all. She walked slowly down each row, looking into the lap of each obliviously typing woman, and stopped when she saw one falter and lift her hands from the board, moaning softly. Allison smelled the arousal and stopped.
The woman’s eyes were wide, and she didn’t blink when the screen flared. As Allison leaned down, she heard the woman whisper, “G-good girl . . .” Allison wiped gently, delicately around the woman’s pussy, sopping up the fluid as the drone recovered from her reward. She resumed typing, breathing hard, and Allison straightened to seek the next high achiever, trying desperately to keep herself detached.
At the end of one row she found someone rocking her hips in a continuous orgasm but still typing away in a machinegun rhythm. The conditioning process that was training these women to perform was either succeeding brilliantly or about to fail spectacularly with her. Allison was afraid for a moment to look into the face of someone feeling like . . . that . . . and went through a new cloth wiping her up. Then the drone’s almost inaudible keening got to her, and she looked up.
It was SaraJane.
What kept Allison focused and saved her from blowing it all was the simple job of keeping Bambi from leaning down and licking SaraJane’s come. Something in Bambi felt almost religious about someone that devoted to the Owners, and Allison could almost understand.
SaraJane gasped, and as she began almost hyperventilating, her manic keystrokes slowed and became more spaced. Allison thought insanely of popcorn in a microwave, and wiped. A touch on the skin of her back made her stand, and she saw two other slaves like her with a light gurney. Behind them, staring blankly into infinity, stood another woman with a headset whose jack cord was wrapped neatly around her neck.
Finally, SaraJane stopped typing, let her hands settle into her lap with no reaction to the moisture, and let her head sag forward. The slaves unplugged her headset and eased her chair back, and Allison felt a compulsion to kneel and slide the dildo out of her pussy. It was thinner than she’d imagined, but that just made her more afraid of it. She reached for the shelf under the gurney, finding a plastic tub for the dildo and more cleaning materials for the slick seat of the chair. As she worked, the slaves helped SaraJane onto the gurney.
Her replacement seemed healthy. Allison pictured something that made resort slave life seem almost normal: maybe these woman were exercised in human-sized gerbil wheels to keep in tone, when they weren’t dildo-chained to their workstations. She wasn’t sure whether she was about to start laughing or screaming hysterically, and her next task wasn’t going to help: she fitted a new dildo onto the connector and knelt by the chair with a squeeze bottle of lubricant, waiting for the new drone to be installed.
The drone didn’t move until one of the clothed staff women touched her shoulder. She stepped forward and sat, looking into the screen and breathing quietly. Allison applied the lube and gently slid the dildo in, then leaned back as the others rolled the chair forward and unwound the cord from the drone’s neck to plug her in. By the time Allison was standing again, the gurney and SaraJane were gone.
A senior staff beckoned to her, and when she approached, held up a fingertip. Allison felt her gaze drawn to it, and listened through the clicking and humming as the woman ordered her to tidy up two of the adjoining conference rooms and report back when she was done.
A minute later, she was stopping herself from leaning splayhanded onto a conference table and vomiting. Instead she replaced upturned water glasses from a cupboard, straightened a whiteboard against a wall, and stepped through the far door.
It was an office, actually An Office, with a polished stone floor, window walls looking out and down off the headland into the ocean, glass and steel furnishings that, in the glare of day off the ocean after the fluorescents of the computer room, blurred into a single forbidding postmodernist whole for Allison. The little touches she could see as her eyes adjusted made it worse: a rosewood cabinet by a column, an inlaid table, a simple pine desk by the wall with . . .
A laptop. With a modem.
She looked around. Whoever owned this office might be too important to have cameras watching, or too important not to.
Taking a deep breath, she walked over, sat down, and looked at it. She looked up. She had her back to the wall, and could see the rest of the large room. If she heard someone, she might be able to stand in time, become bewildered but obedient slave Bambi.
Maybe SaraJane had felt confident about something like that when they caught her.
Allison suddenly balled her fists, trying to swallow everything down again. She realized she hadn’t worried that SaraJane, now brainwashed into their service, would betray her to them. Part of her already knew SaraJane was already past that.
Sorry, SJ. I’ve got it now. Wish me luck.
The system was up and logged on, and there didn’t even seem to be a password on the screensaver. This didn’t make sense, unless whoever was in this office was so arrogant . . . but they hadn’t made security mistakes this severe in all the time they’d been pursued. Not even Australian-rules football played like this.
Something told Allison to wipe her prints off the keyboard and just back out, but there was nothing else to do if she did. There was no way she’d get other access by passing as a drone (she ignored the sudden twitch as she thought of earning rewards from an automated vibrator) and soon enough she’d be rotated out of the villa, with Bambi sitting compliantly to have her memory wiped. Then more endless time getting fucked by guests.
Fuck. She started typing. It looked like the best thing to do was get to the monitored chat and start spewing go-codes. Then, as she was making her way toward that, the system slowed down. She started to swear, then closed her mouth, kissed her fingertips, and stroked the top of the screen. The text window sat taking its time. She hissed her breath out, and then saw the screensaver come up. She reached for the touchpad.
It wasn’t the same screensaver. It was the palm-frond logo, and it was . . . spinning . . .
“Gone with the wind,” said someone.
Allison sat straighter. She blinked desperately, but it was as if she’d been awake forever, and sleep simply would not be denied. Her eyes would stay open, but her mind would . . . stay open . . . completely open . . .
“Time for another progress report, Allison,” said someone. “Take a moment to gather your thoughts.
“Here are your thoughts.”
Someone spoke. Allison listened.
When she was given permission, she stroked the touchpad, and found herself already in the chatroom. She quivered a bit in relief at seeing Jimmy and Kimiko both logged on, and swapped greetings. For all that she knew they were authentication codes, it felt good to speak of old times with people she loved.
“Confirming sunny Caribbean,” she said, and typed in a bunch of numbers. It puzzled her. Sometimes, when she was on night shifts, she’d glance up at the sky to see . . . the Southern Cross. What was she doing talking about the Caribbean? Where the hell was she telling them to send the choppers? But now she was saying no to the choppers. “Something big for next month. Waiting is, water brothers.” She let the blink of the cursor occupy her thoughts until another idea occurred to her.
“No sign of the twins,” she typed, shaking her head at how she was going to tell them about SaraJane after that. But as she typed, trading a joke with Kimiko that had nothing to do with authentication and everything to do with squicking Jimmy, she lost track of what she really needed to say about SaraJane. Besides, there was something more she had to . . .
Remind them to be quick. “Not problem; all secure here, but late for shift if I stay on too long.”
She watched a question come out in fits and starts; Dr Philomel must be hanging over Jimmy’s shoulder.
Someone began telling her what to say even as the question inched out.
“No serious brainwashing. Only mild indoctrination,” she typed. “No sign of anything more intense. Not to worry.
“Have question. Know its bad ‘craft, but need to know how to talk to the next one.”
She waited. Someone waited.
She knew they were puzzling over her request.
So was she. It was very bad tradecraft to put two agents into direct contact, since it could destroy what little insulation they had. If someone with her experience was asking, they were thinking hard about it. What the hell was she thinking of?
What if they asked her to wait until next call? Someone would be very, very displeased.
What if they wanted her to tell them why? Allison felt words sitting at the bottom of her brain, opaque to her but ready to type if she had to. Someone wanted her to wait.
Allison stared at the screen with a new thought, wondering where it had come from. Suspect it! Throw me out of the room! Don’t tell me who she is! Her hands stayed still.
A command decision happened at the far end. “You know best.” It was Kimiko, talking about a racquetball game they’d had just before Allison left, and she knew the person who’d sat and watched them play. The next agent. She closed her eyes, but the knowledge was in her head now. She knew someone would show her pictures of the latest acquisitions, and when she saw the right one . . .
They’d be trolling her out in the Caribbean, too. Allison might never see her.
Someone made a suggestion, with the faintest ironic chuckle. Allison typed. “Btw, hyp-resistance training works fckg-A. Come in handy more than once. Haven’t gone fully under once. Perfect for anyone else’s vacation.”
She felt the closing jokes flow out her fingertips, saw the farewells from Kimiko and Jimmy, and swallowed hard at the lump in her throat. At least she didn’t have to watch them leave chat. She logged out first.
Her hands found her lap, and she sat like a deactivated drone while someone closed the laptop.
“Awaken now.” She blinked. The woman across the desk was short, compactly built, with a wave of short white-blonde hair off her forehead. She looked familiar, but Allison couldn’t really . . .
“We meet very seldom when you’re awake, Bambi. I just like touching base now and then. I might as well. If you people used something as civilized as e-mail, we could dispense with these visits, but with chat—”
Allison shook herself. “Like a Morse key.”
“Right first time.” The woman smiled. “Some of that delay when you were getting them to tell us which new girl to look for was a keystroke analysis, which of course you passed. As well you should, since you’re still you. You just obey me, now.
“It’s why we’ve left Allison inside you. Bambi’s an excellent whore, but even if she could remember all the in-jokes and codes, she couldn’t type in Allison’s rhythm.”
“But . . . I’m . . .”
“Only until the next trigger, dear. Then Bambi’s back to work. A lot of pussies to wipe, this shift; we’re preparing the quarterly reports for the whole Pacific subsidiary group.”
Allison just sat. This was just too much. But then something occurred to her.
“Where’s . . .” The woman waited patiently for Allison to get her sluggish mind around it. “. . . Kelly?”
The woman looked thoughtfully at her. “You always ask that, dear, no matter what else is happening to you. She had a very good friend in you.
“She was a lot tougher than either you or the other one. We had to be a bit more insistent with her.” The voice sounded almost sympathetic. “And she didn’t have the aptitude that got the other one her job in there.” She inclined her chin to the computer center. “She’s doing what you do, Bambi, but for a subcontractor on one of the larger continents. She thinks about it a lot less.”
Sighing, the woman looked out at the ocean. “She thinks a lot less, anyway. Waste.” She looked back at Allison. “Soon enough, they’ll realize that they’re only pissing off small stamp-issuing nations as they lurch across the Caribbean looking for you. At some point, you’ll have to drop off the air. No more periodic progress reports. Then you’ll have a fulltime job at last.
“I’ll be sorry when they finally stop sending me new people. Their recruiting’s almost as high-quality as mine. Once you girls open your minds, you’re so ready to take orders. And so very fit.”
Allison stared at her, numb. The woman shrugged. “Oh, well. This gets to be more like talking to myself each time. But I’ll see you again, dear. Even like this, there’s something quite fine about you. Maybe I’ll ask for you tonight.
“Look here, please.” Allison didn’t even try to fight when her gaze rose to the woman’s lapel, to the jadeite palm-frond brooch.
“Winds aloft, Bambi.”