“Hey Harper,” Lori said. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”
The look of astonishment and confusion on Harper’s face quickly gave way to an expression of such profound gratitude and joy that it brought warmth to Lori’s heart. But there was no time for either of them to enjoy the moment. As Amia watched, dumbstruck and unable to react, Lori helped Harper to her feet, and the pair of them started to back away from the drones surrounding them. They were both unsteady, left dazed by having only just broken free of the hypnotic conditioning that had been affecting them, but they were able to lean on each other for support. Fortunately, the latex-clad drones around them didn’t react to what was happening. Deprived of their ability to follow through on the command to pleasure Harper they had been given, they simply returned to passive, standing positions and waited for further orders. Once they were a few paces away from the drones, Lori was able to breathe a sigh of relief, but she knew they weren’t safe yet. Far from it. Lori and Harper were at the back of the lab, and all the drones were still positioned between them and the door on the far side. Lori knew Amia wasn’t going to simply let them walk out.
“L-Lori?” Harper asked blearily, from Lori’s side. She sounded drunk, and her eyes were dim and unfocused. No surprise, Lori thought to herself, after what she had just been through. “H-how? How is this happening?”
“I’m not sure,” Lori replied, but that wasn’t exactly true. She just didn’t know how to put what she had just experienced into words. Despite everything, despite all the hypnosis and brainwashing, Harper’s words had managed to get through to her and break the spell. It seemed impossible, but it had happened. As much as the drone protocols in her head had been trying, they hadn’t been able to smother the irrational thoughts and feelings she’d been having. Not completely. They’d kept getting worse after she’d captured Harper, taunting her with the kinds of doubts she’d known no drone was supposed to experience. As she’d watched Harper being tortured and mind-broken, and even participated in it, her guilt had grown and grown, cracks and fractures forming in her drone persona. And finally, once Harper had made her final, heartfelt plea, it had all simply shattered. The rush of feelings and emotions Lori had experienced, no longer suppressed by hypnosis, had been intense, and almost overwhelming. But she’d been able to keep herself focused because she knew that there was only one thing that really counted: getting the both of them out of there. Harper had found a way to save Lori, even if she hadn’t really expected to. Now, it was Lori’s turn.
“That’s impossible!” Amia shrieked, shaking slightly. “You can’t… damn it! Unit #0001, get them back under control! Hypnotize them!”
“Command accepted,” the drone that was Professor Elbourne repeated obediently, before turning to Lori and Harper. “Beta-6913. Beta-7005.”
Lori braced herself, but she felt nothing. A quick glance at Harper confirmed that she, too, had not been affected. After a brief moment, Harper said what Lori hadn’t dared to: “We’re… free?”
Slowly, Lori nodded. The activation codes appeared to have lost their power over them. Why? Lori figured it had to be because of the way they’d broken free. She’d been able to throw off the brainwashing, and in her own way, Harper had resisted impressively for a long time, and had ultimately been saved before succumbing. Whenever she had encountered Professor Elbourne’s brainwashing technology, it had felt to Lori like some kind of invading force, infecting her and taking over her mind. Maybe, just like any other kind of infection, it was possible to develop a resistance. Maybe by being exposed and breaking free, Lori and Harper had effectively vaccinated themselves. That was a comforting theory, but Lori figured that whatever kind of resistance they’d developed, it wasn’t going to be ironclad. Lori looked at the brainwashing device that had been used on Harper. She’d tossed it carelessly to one side, but it looked to still be in one piece. She was sure no-one could stand up to being subjected to it for long, no matter how strong their resistance.
“No. You’re not,” Amia insisted coldly. Her eyes were wide, and even a touch maniacal. “You’re never getting out of here. Not with your stupid little brains intact.” She noticed Lori glancing at the lab door, and warned: “One step, and I’ll have all these drones pounce on you.”
Lori looked at the drones, one by one. Including Professor Elbourne, there were four of them. Four against two. Five, if Amia joined in. Those weren’t great odds. Lori knew how inhumanly strong drones could be, when following their programming. She wasn’t sure she and Harper could win out in a struggle, especially since Harper still seemed so dazed. Lori wracked her brains for a way out.
“You don’t wanna do that,” Lori said, challenging Amia with a steady gaze.
“Oh yeah?” Amia replied, amused. “Why’s that?”
“Because they might not do what you tell them.” Lori did her best to keep her voice even, trying to project confidence she didn’t really feel. “I didn’t. Your control isn’t everything you think, Amia. Push them too far, and they might break loose, just like we did.”
Amia froze. Her eyes flickered back and forth between the drones. It was obvious she was suddenly uneasy. Lori counted that as a win. She still didn’t know how they were going to make it out of there, but at least if she could make Amia hesitate, it would give her more time to think.
“I’m in control here,” Amia insisted after a long pause, but she didn’t sound sure of it.
“Not… not of us you’re not,” Harper managed to say. She was still weak, but nonetheless managed to throw a mocking, shit-eating grin in Amia’s direction.
“Yeah,” Lori joined in, squeezing Harper’s shoulder. “What happened to your little game, Amia? It hasn’t gone to plan, has it?”
“Shut up!” Amia hissed. Her hands had balled into tight fists. “Just shut up! You don’t know what you’re talking about! You’re weak. How else did you end up here? I’ve been watching you two blundering around helplessly for weeks. What do you know?”
“Everything,” Lori shot back. “We know everything, and soon, so will everyone. We’re going to expose you, Amia. You won’t be so tough when you don’t have Professor Elbourne to hide behind. It’s funny, isn’t it? All this gloating, but you don’t have the guts to take charge for yourself. You’re not the administrator. She is. You’re not the one the drones all obey. She is. I know you want to be some kind of shadowy puppet-master, but the truth is, you’re just a coward.”
“Shut up!” Amia shrieked again. Her eyes were bulging now. She looked dangerously angry. “They do obey me! This is all for me. All for my pleasure. All of you, your only purpose is to serve me. Your only purpose is to give me pleasure. My pleasure is all that matters. Say it! Elbourne… Unit #0001, make them say it!”
“Command accepted,” the dronified Professor Elbourne intoned robotically. “Our only purpose is to serve you. Our only purpose is to bring you pleasure. Your pleasure is all that matters. All units, repeat. Obey.”
“Command accepted.” The awful echo was deafening in the dim, sterile laboratory as each of the other drones repeated in one voice: “Our only purpose is to serve you. Our only purpose is to bring you pleasure. Your pleasure is all that matters.”
They repeated it over and over again, whilst Amia grinned, her mania fueled by the ego trip. Lori wanted to laugh, to show her confidence and defiance in the face of something so absurdly arrogant and self-centered. She wanted to, but she couldn’t. As she listened, she started to feel dizzy. The drones’ chanting was making her feel something. A magnetic pull, back towards obedience. It wasn’t that she wanted to serve Amia. Not at all. She simply wanted to serve. She might have been freed from the mind control, but she still remembered how it had felt. There was something inescapably alluring about the single-minded clarity that it had brought. When she had been a drone, her only purpose had been to serve. It had been such a relief, being able to set down all her anxieties and burdens, and think of nothing but following each command as she was given them. It had been horrifying, but it had also been blissful. Lori had never known any pleasure like it. Suddenly, she was keenly aware that she wasn’t as free as she’d thought.
“Yes!” Amia urged. She sounded exultant, as if she was in the midst of some kind of religious experience. “Say it! Believe it! Make it your core programming!”
“Accept modified programming,” Unit #0001 said in response, taking Amia’s words as a command. “Our only purpose is to serve Amia Grover. Our only purpose is to bring Amia Grover pleasure. Amia Grover’s pleasure is all that matters.”
“Command accepted,” the drones chanted, and then continued repeating the ghoulish mantra Amia had given them.
Lori couldn’t get the words out of her head. They crashed over her like a wave, threatening to drown the free will she’d only just recovered. She felt like she was moving underwater as she turned to see how Harper was doing. Lori gasped, horrified. Harper was clearly being affected even more strongly than her. Her eyelids were drooping perilously, and even though she clearly wasn’t conscious of it, her lips were moving, silently mouthing the same mantra the drones were repeating.
“Harper,” Lori hissed. She needed to rouse her roommate. There was no response. She gave Harper a sharp pinch. “Harper!”
Harper shuddered back to awareness. She looked over at Lori, and flashed her a weak, unconvincing smile. Lori smiled, but in Harper’s eyes she could still see the desire that she herself was feeling: the desire to surrender. Their situation was even more perilous than she’d realized. It wasn’t just the drones they had to worry about. Their own minds were equally unsafe.
“That’s enough,” Amia said at last, growing bored of the adulation. “Tell them to be silent.”
“Command accepted,” intoned Unit #0001. “All units, be silent.”
“Command accepted,” the other drone units repeated, and then nothing more.
Now that the drones’ dizzying, hypnotic chant had ceased, Lori tried to steady herself and recover her composure. Unfortunately, she failed to do it before Amia picked up on their uncertainty. “Not so mouthy now, huh?” she taunted, relishing Lori’s visible discomfort. “I told you, obedience is inevitable. You can’t win. There’s no way out of here for you. Not until I’ve brainwashed you and humiliated as repayment for all the trouble you’ve put me through. Once I’m done with you, the two of you will be grovelling before me on your knees - and the professor, too, for being such a bitch. You can’t stop this. No-one is coming to save you. You can’t trust each other. You can’t even trust yourselves.” Amia laughed cruelly.
“We… we can trust each other!” Harper protested. “We’re in this together, and together we’re gonna beat you.”
“Oh, that’s rich, coming from you!” Amia sneered pointedly. “Does Lori know, Harper? About what you did? About how you took advantage of her? The moment you found out about her activation code, you started treating her like her own personal maid - and worse. All for your own sexual gratification.”
Lori could see Harper shrink in shame, and moved to reassure her. “Yes, I know.” It was true. She could remember everything now, even if it was proving difficult to process all at once. She wasn’t quite sure how to feel about it all, but she knew that right now, Amia was her enemy and Harper wasn’t. That was what mattered. They could deal with everything else later. “And it wasn’t her fault! You did this to her. To all of us. You’re the only one who’s to blame.”
“Yeah!” Harper added. “You messed with my head. I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t in control.”
“Oh?” Amia was suddenly grinning from ear to ear. “And what makes you say that?”
“I…” Harper faltered. “I…”
“Let me tell you something.” Amia lent forwards, leering sadistically at Harper from across the room. “I didn’t make you do anything. I didn’t influence you. I didn’t give you any new desires, or reduce your ability to resist your own urges. It was all you, Harper. Everything you did to Lori - it was all you. You got no-one to blame but yourself.”
Harper’s eyes went as wide as dish plates. “Y-you’re lying.”
“Well, let’s just see, shall we?” Amia pressed. “Unit #0001, tell Harper what we did to her, and if I’m right. Tell the truth, no matter what it is.”
“Command accepted.” Seeing Professor Elbourne so deeply brainwashed and controlled never failed to send a shiver down Lori’s spine. “Amia Grover is speaking the truth. Besides what was necessary for the basic parameters of the serial recruitment experiment, no alterations were made to Unit #6193’s conscious behavior or predilections. No change was made to cause Unit #6193 to activate or manipulate Unit #7005.”
All the blood drained from Harper’s face. She looked like the ground had opened up beneath her feet. Her mouth was moving but she was strangled for words. This time, Lori didn’t try to reassure her. She couldn’t. She herself was still grappling with what Amia had just told them. Like Harper, she’d assumed there had been some kind of manipulation at play. Now she knew there hadn’t, she wasn’t finding it so easy to feel convinced of their bond or their mutual trust. She was trying to remember what she’d just told herself: Amia was the enemy, Harper wasn’t. But now, that no longer seemed so convincing. It was hard for her not to feel like perhaps the two of them weren’t as different as she wanted to believe.
“Oh, don’t act so surprised,” Amia snorted. “You knew, didn’t you? Deep down. See, we’re not special. Neither of us are. You’re not especially good or noble, and I’m not especially evil or villainous. It’s the simplest equation in the world: power corrupts. You did what you did to Lori because you could. Because you had that power. I’m doing all this, because I have the power. How could I resist? How could you? The only difference between us is that I have a little more power. But if you had been in my position, finding Professor Elbourne tranced out by her own tech and ripe for exploitation, you’d have done exactly the same thing. So don’t think you can judge me. Neither of you can. We’re the same. Everyone’s the same. We’re all just playing a game here, and I just happen to be winning.”
“Y-you’re insane!” Lori gasped. “How can you say that?”
“It’s the truth,” Amia shot back, her confidence absolute. “You can feel it, can’t you Harper? You know what I mean. You know how that power feels. It’s irresistible. There’s nothing else like it. The rush of feeling someone’s still, unresisting, brainwashed body beneath your fingertips. Of knowing that all it takes is one word from you to reduce them to your hypnotized slave. Of understanding that you can do anything that you want to them. Anything. You can let loose all your secret desires. You don’t have to hold back anymore. You don’t have to keep pretending that you don’t want what you want. Who could say ‘no’ to that?”
Harper was shaking her head, but Lori could see she was haunted by Amia’s words, unable to shake off their force.
“So you see, it wasn’t your fault,” Amia continued. “It’s just the way of the world. And isn’t it so beautifully simple? The strong triumph. The weak submit. It’s so much better than all that bullshit about morality and everything else. I know it was tough, but that was only because you were torturing yourself with doubts. Me? I just do whatever I want. Imagine if you could have that same feeling of power and clarity again, but with no doubts. No limits.”
Harper’s brow furrowed. She seemed like she was having trouble wrapped her overtaxed mind around Amia’s words. “But… but that’s not what… you just want to control us!”
“Dominance and submission are just two sides of the same coin,” Amia countered. She had found her rhythm now, and she could sense Harper’s weakness. Her previous uncertainty had evaporated. “You will submit to me, yes. But that’s inevitable. You’re not getting out of here. You know that. And, more importantly, you’ll enjoy it. You know you will, no matter what degrading and humiliating thing I make you do. Once you’re a drone, merely following my commands will be enough for you. And through me, you can get that dominant kick you’re craving too. You’ll be helping me dominate and brainwash so many more helpless drones. You’ll enjoy that - don’t even pretend you won’t.” A crafty smile came over Amia’s face. “Maybe I’ll even let you have Lori. You seem to have such a thing for your roommate. I’m not gonna get in the way of a cute little lesbian romance. If you submit to me, right now, I’ll set things back just the way they were when you were having fun playing around with Lori in your apartment. You wanna be in control? You can be in control of her as much as you want.”
“I-I would never do that!” Harper’s eyes were almost bloodshot. “I’m not like that!”
“Yeah?” Amia laughed. “Then why are you so turned on right now?”
Harper made an abrupt, strangled sound. Lori turned to look at her friend, intending simply to make sure she was OK, but she froze once she saw the state Harper was in. Lori’s roommate was breathing hard, harder than she had been a few moments before. Her face was flushed a deep red, and drenched with sweat. And most tellingly of all, her nipples were twin hard bullets poking through her still-disheveled clothes. It was painfully obvious how aroused she was. Harper looked horrified and transfixed in equal measure. Lori was shocked.
“That’s because you made us tie her down and fuck her!” Lori protested, trying to reassure herself as much as anything else.
“She can tell herself that, if she wants,” Amia continued, addressing Harper and completely ignoring Lori. “But we know differently. We know the truth. You’re turned on because you know how good it feels. And you know you’re going to give in to me. You already have. You already proved that you can’t resist temptation, Harper.”
“Yes, you can!” Lori clasped Harper’s hands, pleading with her. “Come on, Harper! Don’t listen to her. Listen to me. Please! You… you didn’t know what you were doing. No-one would, in that situation. It was crazy. You just… you just slipped, that’s all. You didn’t mean any harm.”
“Yes I did, Lori,” Harper replied, after a long pause. Her voice was hollow. “I mean, I didn’t want to hurt you. I just… didn’t care. It wasn’t just a slip. A slip is once. I did it… a lot more than once. Just because I wanted to, and because it felt good.”
“Exactly!” Amia cheered triumphantly. “That’s what people are. It’s what they do. It’s what I’m doing, right now. And it’s what you’re going to do. It’s obvious how conflicted you are. All it takes is one moment of submission, and that’s all gone. You’ll be at peace again. I bet there’s still enough conditioning in your head that all you’d really have to do is let go. Doesn’t that sound good, Harper? Just let go. Let yourself slip back into trance. Obedience is pleasure.”
Harper almost moaned as Amia spoke the words of the mantra that had been drilled into her brain over and over and over again. Lori could only stare at her in disbelief. She was feeling more and more alarmed with each passing moment. She could only imagine what Harper must be feeling. Shame, arousal, confusion, hope, despair, and so much more, all rolled together in an unimaginable tide of emotion. Lori didn’t know what to do. It was starting to seem like Harper wasn’t going to be able to hold out against Amia’s commanding presence and seductive words, and Lori wasn’t sure she knew how to convince Harper to keep fighting. And she still had no idea how they were going to get past Amia’s drones and escape.
“I’m…” Harper murmured, her words strained. “I’m not… I can’t…”
“Why not start small?” Amia suggested, making her voice soft and conspiratorial. “Just reach down between your legs and touch yourself, right now. I know you want to. I know how much your body is craving it, after what you were just put through. So just, do it. Obey.”
“No!” Lori cried out, but it was too late. Harper seemed to be moving without thinking as she slipped a hand down between her legs and started to pleasure herself. From the moaning she started rubbing her needy, already-overstimulated pussy, even over her clothes, she was moaning with rapturous pleasure. Lori immediately realized that Harper had been holding back too much for too long. She was at the limits of her ability to resist anything or anyone. Lori wasn’t sure she could blame her, after everything Harper had been through. Still, it was horrifying seeing her roommate being manipulated so easily, like she was nothing more than a marionette on strings. Lori reached out to grab Harper by the shoulders, to try and shake some sense into her, but Harper shrugged her off. She was already hooked on the pleasure, too weak to fight her own need for more. She wasn’t even hypnotized. Not really. She was just broken.
“Come on, Lori,” Amia laughed cruelly. “Don’t you want a taste? It’s not like you’re any better. You know you liked being a drone. You know it made you hot. You know you want it again. How couldn’t you, when it feels so good?”
“That’s not true!” Lori spat. She was trying to ignore what she already felt happening in her body.
“Sure,” Amia mocked sarcastically. “Then, you won’t have any problem imagining going down on Harper right now. Imagine sinking to your knees, where you belong. Imagine taking your place, between your roommates legs. Imagine pressing your lips against her cunt, knowing that her pleasure is all that matters, and that all you need to do is serve, as you sink into mindlessness. Now try and tell me you don’t want that.”
Lori wanted to protest that she didn’t, but all of a sudden her mouth was too dry to speak. She was trembling. She glanced at Harper. That was a mistake. She immediately discovered she was unable to pull her gaze away from her alluring roommate. The sight of Harper pleasuring herself over her clothes was making every fiber of her body scream with need. She needed to sink to her knees. She needed to take her place between Harper’s legs. She needed to press her lips to her cunt. She needed it so much. Just as Amia had said. Lori could feel the powerful hypnosis that had claimed her for so long beginning to take hold on her mind again. She wasn’t free. It wasn’t that easy. Maybe she would never be free. Maybe obedience was truly inevitable.
Amia laughed maniacally. “Oh my god! This is just too much fun, playing you off against each other! It’s so easy. You’re so easy to toy with. I can’t believe you ever thought you had a chance. Look at you! You’re both already about to give in. Come on girls! Say it. Obedience is pleasure.”
It took every ounce of willpower Lori had left to suppress the words as they rose to her lips. Harper managed to suppress them too, letting out a needy moan in their place, but it was obvious she had perhaps only a few moments of free will left. Desperately, Lori racked her brain for anything that she could do. There had to be something. There had to be a way out. There just had to be. This couldn’t be the end for them. Not after everything there’d been through. Was there a way to get past the drones? Not that Lori could think of. She could only assume that even now, Amia was poised to command them to restrain her and Harper. Lori’s suggestion that the drones might not obey had been, in truth, little more than a bluff. What else? Was there another way out of the lab? Not that Lori could see. Was there a way to somehow get control of the drones? No, they were conditioned to obey Professor Elbourne alone, and Lori was sure she would only obey Amia. What about Amia? Was there anything they could do to stop her? Lori wasn’t sure. If only she had more time to think. But she was sure she didn’t. Already, the urge to fall to her knees and let her conscious mind slip away was almost overwhelming. Lori grunted and swore through gritted teeth. There had to be a way to beat Amia. She wasn’t so smart. Lori had managed to set her off balance before. Maybe there was something Amia had done, something she’d said, that held the key to defeating her. If only Lori could remember.
But then, in a sudden moment of revelation, it came to her. Despite her perilous situation, Lori smiled to herself. It all made sense now.
“You’re not going to beat us, Amia,” Lori said. Her newfound sense of hope gave her the strength to pull her gaze off of her roommate and look her adversary dead in her eyes.
“Oh?” Amia replied nonchalantly. She seemed entirely unconcerned. “And why’s that?”
“Because I’m not the one who wants to be a drone.” Lori smiled. “You are.”