She had no idea how much time really passed, but it felt like she had been climbing for an hour by the time she finally reached the trapdoor at the top of the ladder, with only a few short breaks to catch her breath. She heaved it open, climbed out and rolled onto the floor, panting for breath and wishing she could make her suit vanish if only to stop feeling the latex texture against her sweating skin.
Xara climbed out and bent slightly, hands on knees, as she caught her breath, but otherwise didn't seem nearly as exhausted. "You drones don't get much exercise, do you?"
"I haven't had time," Amanda panted in reply. "How do you?"
Her domme smiled a little. "We get fitness training once a week. You lot seem to love guys and girls who can overpower you, so we learn all about that." To make the point Xara gently put her heeled boot on Amanda's belly, causing her to shudder and groan in tired arousal.
"Okay, okay...what now?"
"What do you mean, what now. Now we get to the Matriarch and get her to tell us what's going on. Bimbo," Xara finished with a mutter.
Amanda felt a giggle escape her lips. "Like, sorry, Miss Xara! I didn't think!"
Xara smiled as Amanda's face went red. "Thanks, Amanda. Always know how to make me feel better. Come on."
She offered a hand and pulled Amanda off the floor without much difficulty. Amanda glanced around and realised they were in the Shaft's dungeon room, having climbed out of the access tunnel next to a set of stockades. Xara led her up a set of stairs in the back of the room to the top floor of the building and down the corridor, peeking around the corner and jerking back.
"Fuck, there are guards."
"Mmm. More drones. Two of them. I get the feeling they aren't being monitored actively. They're just standing there, not patrolling. Careful," she warned as Amanda leaned past her to look. Sure enough, two grey-suited drones in helmets stood in front of the double doors of the Matriarch's chambers, arms at their sides and staring forward as if they were statues. Amanda couldn't tell who they were; thanks to the standardisation she had witnessed down on the street levels she had no hope of identifying one drone from another. It was just T & A all over the place.
"What are we gonna do, Miss?"
"I'm going to walk through the front door. You..." Xara swallowed, looking slightly anxious. "You need to distract them."
Amanda blanched. "Distract them? Me?" She squeaked.
"Drones aren't very smart. If you walk past them, they'll go after you, and I'll be able to get in. I know it's... scary, but I need you to do it, okay? I'll find you, whatever happens."
"I don't want to," Amanda gulped. "They'll turn me into one of them or something."
Xara wiped her face with her hands in agitation. "We don't have time for this. Amanda, go distract them or I'll trigger you to skip out there and shake your ass at them."
That would probably be worse. For all Amanda knew the guards were programmed to subdue and force themselves on any intruders. She scrunched her eyes closed and took a deep breath. "Damn it, Mistress..." She paced back and forth for a moment trying to build up the courage, then forced herself to run around the corner and past the doors as fast as she could.
Immediately the two drones raced after her, wordlessly and tirelessly. Amanda shrieked, looking back over her shoulder and seeing how close they already were. Despite the terror she couldn't help but fantasise about what might happen if she got caught - was this the first time she had run since she got upgraded? Her balance felt off and she found herself jealous of the guards, wishing she could see herself run from their perspective.
Then she tripped on the carpet and sprawled on the floor, the guards jumping on top of her seconds later.
Xara winced as she heard Amanda's cry for help echo back down the corridor. "I'll find you," she muttered, breaking the door's lock with her laser knife and slipping inside.
The Matriarch's quarters were even larger and more opulent than her own. She had an aesthetic and she leaned into it. Not quite goth, not quite queen, but the inside of her chambers reminded Xara of gothic manor, with stone columns and statues, candles and mannequins fitted with leather suits and whips. A large ruby crest was set into the middle of the foyer, reflecting the light of the chandelier above it. Xara shook her head and walked past it, and up the stairs.
There was giggling coming from the bedroom. She knocked and entered, frowning as she beheld the Matriarch, still in her business skirt and blouse, cuddling with the church's nun on a leather sofa. Her hands roamed over the mindless submissive's hips and thighs expertly, playing her like an instrument as the girl shuddered, giggled and groaned.
"Aunt, we've got a problem."
"I'm aware, Xara. Someone's taken over our lovely society for their own nefarious purposes. Very distressing." She smiled at the nun, who mewled and started to hump against the Matriarch's hip.
"You don't seem very worried," Xara muttered. Here she was, anxious as hell, and her aunt was too busy playing with her toy to care? "Isn't kia a hypnosub? Didn't she get recalled?"
"Each of the upper echelon of Ananke's society has their chosen toy's emergency override. You have Amanda, and I have kia," she smiled again. "Our captor allowed me to keep her and the maids in return for my cooperation in staying under house arrest."
"Well, we need to get our city back! Who knows what whoever's taken over wants to do," Xara rambled, ignoring her aunt's smirk. "What we are going to do?"
"'We' aren't going to do anything, pet. I'm under instructions not to leave my chambers. You, on the other hand, are the Heiress. The city is your responsibility, and thus you must be the one to save it."
Xara's eyes widened. "Are you fucking serious?"
The Matriarch chuckled. "I have the utmost faith in you, Xara. Think of it as a test."
"Is it a test?"
She relaxed a little. "Oh. So, there hasn't really been a takeover?"
"The takeover is real, love," the Matriarch said, groping kia's chest. "It's just a good opportunity for a test."
"You're infuriating, you know that?"
"kia," the Matriarch whined, "am I infuriating?"
"Noooo," the priestess sighed, staring into her owner's ruby eyes. "Not at all..."
Xara crossed her arms as her aunt smiled at her. "Can I get a hint, at least?"
"Oh... Very well." The Matriarch frowned and stood up, suddenly serious. "This is a secret only to be used in dire emergencies, understand, Xara?"
The shift in behaviour unnerved her more than her aunt's past flirtations ever had. "I understand."
"No, you don't," The Matriarch sighed. She looked around for a moment and collected a vase from a nearby stand, then directed kia to hold it in both hands. "kia, my sweet, you love your church, don't you?"
"Yes, Matriarch!" She beamed.
"If you break that vase, I'm shutting it down."
kia's eyes went wide and she focused intently on the vase, holding it as carefully as a baby.
The Matriarch turned to Xara. "I'm going to teach you the killswitch. The emergency override you know clears a subject's mind of programming and disconnects their implant chip from the network, to allow them to regain consciousness. This killswitch is more powerful, and less ideal." She stalked around the priestess, fondly running her fingers over kia's hips as the girl shivered and held onto the vase for dear life. "It will knock any hypnodrone who hears it out, completely. For all intents and purposes, they will cease to exist until a condition to wake them is met."
"Condition?" Xara frowned.
"Either after a full day passes, or after they are plugged into a chamber to be reprogrammed and reset. The second is ideal. The first is a failsafe; they'll wake up on their own, but they will be... distressed at the cognitive dissonance between their last memory and waking up entirely disconnected from Ananke. It's more ideal that they be woken in a safe environment. That's why we only use it in dire emergencies."
"So, we just go around saying it to all the drones until we can figure out a solution?"
The Matriarch stretched. "Not exactly. If you use it on enough drones one at a time the one who enacted this coup will catch on, learn of the killswitch and change the code phrase. You'll need to hit them all at once."
Xara gulped. "How?"
"I think you know," the Matriarch smiled. “The drone chamber control room has a console that will allow you to speak directly into the chips of any and all drones in the city. You just need to get to it, disconnect it from AI influence, and use the phrase into the mics."
"Just?! Why do we need to -"
"Whoever took over has taken Nyna's place. She has access to the powers Nyna had, and if she is able to control the console when you use the killswitch she'll simply prevent it being sent out. You need to disconnect the console from the drone network. This will limit her power - she will have been having dominants sealed into the drone chambers to replace the processing power of the drones she's using to take control."
"She? You know who it is?"
"I have a suspicion," the Matriarch smiled.
"Okay... what's the killswitch?"
"Activate killswitch, code B83NG712KM, submit."
kia's eyes rolled up and closed as she collapsed to the floor, the vase shattering as it landed in front of her. The Matriarch sighed and knelt on one knee to brush hair away from her toy's face, stroking her cheek fondly. "When she wakes up, she won't have any memory of anything that happens from now. It'll be the same for all of them. We need to get them into pods as soon as we can to wake them safely and kindly."
"Are you going to help me, then?" Xara asked as her aunt lifted the unconscious woman in her arms and carried her across to the bed, laying her down gently.
"No. I'm under house arrest. If I leave, it will alert the network. I'm going to stay here and watch over kia. And fuck her. It's what she would want." The Matriarch smiled and spread the nun's legs.
"Some of you dominants are as bad as the submissives," Xara muttered. "Fine, I'll save the world on my own."
"You won't be alone. You've got your chosen sub. She'll have what you lack." The Matriarch winked. "You can take the access tunnel you used to get here to reach the drone chambers, but once you're there you'll want to start freeing our compatriots if you want to succeed. Good luck, Xara."
Xara stopped by her room on the way to change into her domme uniform. The tight leather gave her a confidence she never felt in a loose skirt and blouse, and she felt more ready to take on anyone who stood in her way. Which was fortunate, as once she left her quarters she was attacked by a curvaceous drone.
The drone lunged at her as she walked through the door, and if they weren’t so clumsy they might have ended the resistance in seconds. Xara dodged to the side on instinct; years of domme training had given her a level of fitness and dexterity no drone could really match; by and large, they were more on the soft and vulnerable side than the toned and coiled side.
Xara was about to knock the drone out when she recognised the shackled on its wrists and ankles. "Ah. Layla, was it? I don't want to hurt Amanda's friend."
Layla advanced emotionlessly and grabbed wildly as Xara dropped, sweeping the drone's legs out from under her. As Layla pulled herself back to her feet, Xara ran down the corridor and into the dungeon. She was about to jump down the access tunnel when she realised having a loose drone shadowing her would bite her in the ass later.
"Fight it is, then..." Xara sighed as she turned to face Layla, lifting her fists into a defensive block. She easily parried several of Layla's attempts to catch her, almost smirking. "This would be a lot easier on us both if you gave up."
Layla backed off a few metres and her helmet’s visor began to glow with many colours. Xara frowned momentarily, then gasped as she recognised the signs of an Infodump. "Are you crash coursing combat skills? That's fucking cheating."
Layla wordlessly punched and struck out at Xara with a lot more speed and accuracy than she had prior, but her body was still untrained and not at the same level of fitness as Xara's. The Heiress was able to block every strike, but she was slowly driven back, away from the access tunnel. She felt behind her with one foot as she bumped into a raised platform, stepping back onto it at the same time as she jinked out of the way of a swipe.
"Activate!" She called as Layla's right fist shot past her cheek. A low hum began to issue from the floor and Layla's hand continued to move past its intended target, dragging the girl up onto the dais. She tried to pull backward, but as she grabbed at her trapped wrist her free hand was slowly but irresistibly drawn to the opposite side of her body. Xara stepped off the dais as Layla was lifted into the air, her ankles spreading as far apart as her hands had, leaving her suspended star-shaped in the air, struggling uselessly.
"That'll keep you," Xara said, wiping her face clear of sweat. She turned to leave, then turned back and kicked a button at the base of the dais. The floor under Layla opened up and robotic tentacles began to rise towards her. "And that'll keep you longer."
She walked back to the access tunnel and slide down the ladder as the tentacles started to wrap around the squirming Layla and feel their way inside her.