Miranda burst into Doctor Berger's laboratory without even waiting for a response to her cursory knock, and went directly over to the bank of controls and the Caucasian woman who was burrowed into it up to the waist. "I think we need to have another little chat about lab safety protocols," Miranda said to Doctor Berger's legs, her voice curt. She was getting tired of coming all the way down to Sub-Sub-Basement 2G every few days, but the stream of complaints about Fiona's lackadaisical attitude toward her fellow scientists' well-being kept flowing into her office. And with the kind of research Fiona was doing, Miranda couldn't afford to take those complaints lightly.
But apparently Fiona felt differently. "Absolutely," she called out from within the nest of wiring and circuit boards, sounding as though she hadn't heard a word Miranda was saying. "Just leave it on my desk and I'll sign it later." She wriggled a little bit deeper into the control console, disappearing almost to mid-thigh, and Miranda heard a loud popping noise as something shorted out. "Ah-ha!" the young woman shouted, still not seeming to realize that Miranda was there to be anything more than a convenient audience. "That's where the problem is. Can you hand me that pair of needle-nosed pliers?"
Miranda picked up the tool from where it lay on the floor, seven inches from Doctor Berger's blindly groping fingers. "I will give it to you," she snarled, "on the condition that the moment you finish those repairs you come out here and discuss my concerns. Are we clear, Fiona?" The alabaster-white hand on the floor went still for a moment. There was a long pause. Miranda held the pliers up a little higher, just in case.
Then Fiona said, "Yes, of course, absolutely." She held her hand out expectantly, and Miranda dropped the rubber-handled tool into her outstretched fingers. Her arm disappeared into the cabinet with the rest of her, and Miranda heard a few grunts of effort and the sound of plastic scraping against metal. "You only ever need to ask, Director Tillens. I'm--erff--always happy to, nnnggg, to discuss my research with, gnnh, with my colleagues--" Her words finally broke off entirely with the clang of metal against metal, and a cry of, "Got it!" A few seconds later, and Fiona Berger emerged from the control cabinet.
Her long blonde hair was singed in places, and grease and soot stained her angular cheekbones, but her bright blue eyes still sparkled with excitement as she hauled herself to her feet. Even though Miranda stood almost six inches taller than the diminutive young woman, something about Fiona's boundless energy always made the facility director feel just a little bit helpless when dealing with Doctor Berger. The woman was a whirlwind--a double PhD in neuroscience and biochemistry by age twenty-seven who could probably hold a third degree in electrical engineering if she'd ever bothered taking the courses. Even a qualified physicist like Miranda often struggled to keep up with her intuitive leaps of deduction.
But brilliance, even though it could get you a position at one of the most prestigious and cutting-edge labs on the Eastern Seaboard, could only take you so far. Fiona's lab protocols had been sloppy, perhaps dangerously so, and even if the military was dumping money into Doctor Berger's projects like the young woman could turn lead into gold, Miranda had a duty of care to the other researchers. So she allowed her irritation with the pixieish scientist free rein and snapped, "I can't help but notice that you were carrying out these particular modifications while the device remained operational." She gestured to the large projector in the center of the room that looked something like a heat lamp mounted on a robot arm. "Was there a live current flowing through those circuit boards?"
Fiona rolled her brilliant blue eyes and turned to check the readouts on the display bank. "Oh, only a little one," she huffed, sounding a bit like a petulant teenager. "I disengaged the control linkages and left everything running on minimal power while I tested the current flow through the problem areas. Someone walking through the beam wouldn't have felt a thing." Miranda looked over at the projector. It was, once again, pointed square at the laboratory door. She shuddered in sudden, retroactive fear. She had walked through the beam. She must have. If something had gone wrong....
"Goddammit, Fiona!" she shouted, irritation combining with anxiety to flash-boil into rage. She slapped her open palm on the corner of the console for emphasis, adrenaline flowing so strongly now that she barely even noticed the stinging sensation in her hand. "You better than anyone know what the pacification ray can do! If something had gone wrong, if the short-circuit had re-engaged the control linkages and elevated the power levels--"
Fiona sighed loudly. "Then you'd have stopped in your tracks and taken a nice relaxing mental vacation until I turned the machine off, with no lingering effects. That's what we designed the pacification ray for in the first place, isn't it? As a safe alternative to riot control weaponry? All this device does--all it can do, by definition--is create an entirely temporary state of calm passivity. We've done plenty of tests on chimps, and there's absolutely no sign of any permanent alteration to brain chemistry. Let's not pretend that anyone's in any real danger here."
Miranda's eyes widened in frustration. "Even so, that doesn't mean you can operate the machine without taking any kind of safety precautions! That thing is an accident waiting to happen, Miranda! Look at it--the damn thing is pointed right at the door! Anyone walking in could get bombarded with a therapeutic level of kappa particles before they even realized it!" Miranda didn't bother mentioning it--Doctor Berger almost certainly knew already--but the situation was even worse than that. One of the known side-effects of kappa radiation was lethargy leading to temporary catalepsy; someone standing directly in the path of the pacification ray would almost certainly be unable to get out of it until the projector was deactivated.
But Fiona only smiled in response, the kind of smile that nurses gave to small children who worried about getting their shots. "That's really not possible," she responded reassuringly, gesturing to the control bank. "The pacification ray is kept fully powered down at all times unless actively needed for testing purposes, and even then there's a default timer in place to prevent extended exposure. Unless someone is actively entering input to the system, it shuts off after five minutes. Five minutes isn't going to hurt anyone, Miranda. You've read the extracts I provided. You know that."
Miranda put her hands on her hips, glaring down at the shorter woman. "But you don't have a set testing schedule, Fiona, and you don't use your indicators to let anyone know when testing is in progress. Doctor Krieger told me that she came down here yesterday and the light outside your lab was green, and do you know what happened when she walked in?" Fiona paused, a shifty look on her face. Miranda smacked the console again, aware of the diminishing returns such displays of temper provided but unable to find another way to keep the mercurial genius focused on the seriousness of the situation. "Well? Do you?"
Fiona shrugged. "Of course I do. I was there. Greta--excuse me, Doctor Krieger--experienced a thirty second period of externally induced lassitude, after which I deactivated the device and she returned to normal. Isn't that right?" Something about that calm, collected recitation of events bothered Miranda, but she couldn't quite put her finger on what it was. Perhaps it was the uncanny similarity to Greta's version of events; the other woman had been distraught, even angry, but when she explained what had actually happened to her, she used the exact same words and tone as Doctor Berger just now.
Miranda sighed, trying a new tack. "Yes, but... look, I just don't think we can take these kinds of risks, not when the machine hasn't been fully cleared for human testing yet. Even if Doctor Krieger seems unharmed, we're still experimenting in areas that we're not authorized to go right now, and...." Miranda tried to find a polite, non-accusatory way to say 'I suspect you're using these accidents to get data on human subjects without consent' and settled for, "I'm concerned about the possibilities of an unforeseen side effect."
Fiona let out a musical chuckle. "It's really not possible, Director," she cooed reassuringly. "See? The control linkages are disengaged, the timer's set to auto-shutdown in three minutes and forty seconds, and the power defaults to minimum when not adjusted by the controls. There's no way that anything could happen by accident. And again, even if it did, the only potential consequence is a mild, temporary state of induced calm. Believe me, I saw Doctor Krieger's face after the beam cut out. Kappa radiation might have flattened her brainwaves temporarily, but she bounced back pretty quick."
Miranda couldn't help but smile a little at that. "She was a little bit angry, yes." No angrier than any of the other scientists who'd come to her office complaining about being caught in Doctor Berger's pacification ray, though. Five incidents in the past three weeks, and every scientist had come up to Miranda's office with the exact same outraged tone in their voice. And every time, Miranda had gone all the way down to the sub-basement and extracted a promise of caution out of Fiona, and every time it had utterly failed to do a bit of good. She had to get to the bottom of this. If nothing else, for the sake of her reputation as a manager.
"Look, something has to be going wrong," she said, trying to sound as reasonable as possible. "Perhaps you need a safety cover for the linkage engagement mechanism? It's just this one green button here, and it's placed down at the bottom. Here, look." She stood directly in front of the console and leaned on the edge. "See how my hand can very easily press it down without even realizing it? That's a safety hazard, Fiona. Not only does it activate the controls and ramp up the bombardment, but it also resets the timer for automatic shutdown."
Fiona had the good grace to look ever so slightly sheepish. "Well, yes, but I mean... the bombardment is still only at forty-five percent power, and the machine is still going to auto-shutdown in five minutes. It's not like there's any real hazard of someone getting hit with a full blast from the projector--again, assuming a full blast from the projector did anything permanent, which it doesn't anyway, so I don't see why we need to worry about any of this." She fidgeted like a bored child getting a lecture. "It's only a problem if people keep dropping by unexpectedly, really."
Miranda frowned. She had to admit, she didn't like it when people wandered away from their own work to go pester someone who might be in the middle of a crucial experiment--especially someone like Fiona, who was one of her star researchers and working on a project that had the attention of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Doctor Krieger and the others should be making an appointment if they wanted to visit, and they should be clearing it with her personally for something as highly classified as this.
But none of that was an excuse for sloppy lab protocols. "I can understand your point of view," Miranda replied, "but it's clear that the design of the console makes a saturation bombardment more likely than you realize. Do you see how the power control is on a lever, instead of a touch-sensitive display? In its current location, if you were to hear someone swiping their badge at the lab door, you could turn to look--" Miranda matched word to action, rotating her body in the direction of the entrance and conspicuously smacking the large lever with her elbow. It slid forward effortlessly, ramping the power up to full capacity.
"See?" she continued, pointing at the lever. "Even just a locking mechanism to prevent it from being moved without pressing down a button or something might prevent a major incident. Now I've reset the timer, plus I've set the device to full power. Anyone walking into the path of the beam right now would experience the full force of the pacification ray. And we're not cleared for that kind of testing yet. Oh, we know from chimpanzees that it has no permanent effect on brain chemistry, but there are all kinds of potential side effects that we can't yet foresee. Until we get a go-ahead from the Department of Defense, we have to treat the possibility of lab accidents with the utmost seriousness."
Fiona shook her head in amused exasperation, a scorched forelock of her blonde hair waving from side to side as she chuckled at the director's concerns. "Look, I really don't think this is anything to worry about. Anyone with clearance to enter this lab and view my experiments knows what I'm working on. They're not just going to walk blindly into the path of a mind-altering beam of energy without looking to see where it's pointing, now, are they?" Miranda resisted the temptation to snarkily point out that five people had already done exactly that--the last thing she needed was to be drawn into an argument about Doctor Berger's opinions on her colleagues. Instead, she decided to demonstrate the problem.
"The thing is, though," she said, walking away from the console and heading for the door, "the beam isn't exactly visible, is it? Like, when I look at the projector, I might think that it's pointing at this spot here--" She stepped onto a square of linoleum tile. "When really it's pointed at this spot here." She stepped to another identical tile just inches away. "I might believe that I'm avoiding it when I stand here--" She hopped onto another square. "But in reality, the safest place to stand is right--"
Miranda jumped a few inches to the side, and suddenly... stopped. Her muscles stopped, relaxing into drowsy lethargy within instants until moving even the slightest bit out of the path of the pacification ray she only now realized she'd stepped into seemed like an impossible effort. Her train of thought stopped, jaw slackening and eyes widening as she found herself achieving the kind of blissful calm that Taoist monks spent lifetimes trying to achieve. Her willpower stopped, and she found herself waiting patiently for Fiona to tell her what to do next. Miranda couldn't think for herself. She couldn't even imagine wanting to. All she wanted to do was stand there and accept instructions like a good girl.
"Go ahead and take your clothes off," Fiona cooed, remotely locking the lab door from her console. Miranda slowly, vacantly complied.
"That's my good girl," Fiona husked out, her voice thick with arousal as she watched Miranda's fingers sluggishly unbutton her blouse and shrug it off along with her lab coat onto the floor. "You did such a good job of following your instructions, didn't you? You didn't remember them, because you never remember anything I tell you to forget, but now you're feeling relaxed and happy and it's all coming back to you and you can allow yourself to recall what a very obedient pet you are for me."
Miranda's breath hitched for a moment, the closest she could come to a gasp of astonishment in the grip of the pacification ray. She remembered coming down here time and time again, each time under the influence of conditioning that subtly influenced her to demonstrate exactly how the machine might ensnare an unsuspecting subject. She remembered sending other scientists down to visit Fiona, coordinating their arrival with Doctor Berger to ensure that they were captured by the beam before they even had a chance to react, let alone resist its effects. She remembered listening to their complaints on their return, consciously believing she was hearing out a sincere concern about a colleague but secretly checking their stories to confirm that their false memories were intact. She remembered... oh god, she remembered everything.
"Yes, Mistress," Miranda murmured vacantly, her hand reaching between her thighs to play with her slick pussy.
"Good girl," Fiona said, reaching out to tap a button and reset the countdown. Miranda didn't need to see the timer. She didn't need to know how long she was under the influence of the pacification ray. She would only recall what Doctor Berger needed her to recall, just like Doctor Krieger after her three hours under the machine. Just like Doctor Ballantine. Just like Doctor Fleming. Just like all the others that Miranda had helped her Mistress to enslave. "And the Joint Chiefs of Staff?"
Miranda stared straight ahead, her brain filling up with peace and pleasure as she mindlessly rubbed her soaking cunt. "The Secretary of the Army has read the doctored extracts I provided to him. He doesn't have the theoretical grounding to recognize any potential implications of the machine beyond temporary pacification." Miranda did, but her ability to understand the projector's capabilities had been carefully constrained by Doctor Berger. It was one of the first things the younger woman did to her, right after altering her sexual orientation. "He'll be visiting a week from Tuesday with a retinue of advisors."
Fiona nodded. "We'll have to go with a wide spread at low power, then. Catch them all in the beam and then ramp it up until they're properly subdued. You'll make sure to hold them up in the right spot, won't you?" Miranda smiled eagerly in response. She looked forward into tricking her conscious mind into finding some pretext to pause the assembled soldiers and scientists, keeping them together in a nice close group while her Mistress slowly and subtly melted their minds into obedience. The betrayal of her friends, her colleagues and her country no longer bothered her. Mistress was more important than all those things.
"That's my little brainwashed slut!" Fiona cooed. She slipped out of her own clothes, revealing a patch of curly blonde pubic hair with drops of musk clinging to it where her arousal had already begun to overwhelm her. "Now, I think I can take about forty minutes to play before I get back to my work, so why don't you come over here and sixty-nine me until then? And when we're done, you'll just get dressed, leave the lab, and forget any of this happened until I instruct you otherwise." Fiona lay back on the floor mat next to the console and spread her legs. Miranda's head swam with lust and devotion.
She walked out of the path of the beam, but her brain continued to effortlessly act on the instructions she'd received in her receptive state. Miranda knew that she would never be free of her programming; another reason, she convinced herself, to ensure that nobody but her Mistress ever discovered what the pacification ray was truly capable of. If that meant enslaving the entire lab and the whole Department of Defense, brainwashing the entire government and bombarding whole crowds of people with kappa radiation until they all fell to their knees in worship of Fiona Berger as a new god, well... that would keep them safe from someone unscrupulous. Someone who might use the machine for the wrong reasons. Miranda was so happy Fiona had explained it to her that way so she understood.
She knelt down over Fiona's head, settling her pussy onto her Mistress's lips, then leaned in to lap away at the sopping cunt in front of her. "When you get back to your office, send in Doctor Byrd to see me," Fiona added, just before her tongue became a little too busy to talk. "Okay?" Miranda nodded mindlessly. The instruction was already slipping out of her brain, along with everything else apart from licking and sucking Fiona's throbbing clit, but Miranda knew she would obey without question. Without even the slightest possibility of failure.
There were no accidents among Fiona's slaves. And Miranda would leave nothing to chance.