Sara ignored the sound. It didn’t matter. She just continued preparing food, as ordered.
The sound of broken glass hitting the floor a minute later, though, warranted investigation. That could be dangerous, and even if it wasn’t, it would be a mess she needed to clean up.
She passed the blank toys standing at attention by the door. Their expressions were stoic, but they were clearly suffering from sleep deprivation, Sara noted idly. Just as soon, she dismissed the information. It wasn’t important.
The window had a spiderweb crack in it. A couple of small pieces had fallen against the floor, making the sound she’d noted. Frowning slightly, she looked out the window, seeing a spot of pink against the darkness. She turned. This was something she had been warned about.
“Mistress,” she intoned, “Clair is at the window.”
Swearing, but that wasn’t directed at her. She knew to ignore it when her Mistress began to curse.
Her Mistress shoved her aside, then growled in Clair’s direction. Then, she turned to Sara.
“I’m going,” she said simply. The flat tone of her voice betrayed discomfort, but that was not Sara’s task. “You two,” her Mistress nodded to the toys standing by the door, “come with me.”
“Yes, Mistress,” they both replied. And then they were gone.
That did not change Sara’s task. So she went back to cooking. She noted that her charge had not moved from its position, and dismissed that as irrelevant. It would eat when prompted.
Her concentration was broken again, sandwiches half-made, by a scratching sound from the main room. It sounded like metal against glass. She likely would have to clean that up. Still holding the knife she had been using to cut the bread, she moved back to the main room.
She had not expected to find a person on the other side of the glass, using some sort of saw in a multitool to cut through the already cracked pane. Certainly not when they weren’t on the ground floor.
He punched in the pane along the lines he’d scored, then reacted with shock as he saw her. Scenarios flashed through Sara’s mind. Was he a petty thief? If so, she would simply cower, pretending to be afraid. That would prevent her injury and result in minimal fighting. If he was there for other reasons, however, she would have to take more drastic action.
“Fuck. She’d been hoping you wouldn’t be here,” the boy muttered. Who was ‘she?’ Mistress would have known she’d be there. It had to be Clair.
She froze, considering the situation. What would she need to do?
“Yeah, that’s right. You just keep standing there all blank and empty. And I’ll just slowly make my way past you.”
She couldn’t ignore him. Whatever he was here for, it likely was related to her Mistress’s consternation. So as he walked by, she spun, bringing the knife to his throat. He stopped.
“Go no further,” she ordered.
Eyes wide, the intruder nodded his head slightly in agreement.
“Explain your intentions.” Her mind went over the list of toys and customers. This boy - Matt, her programming provided - would have no triggers she could exploit. He would not be able to tell anyone about anything that happened in this room, which allowed Sara greater freedom in her actions.
“I... I’m just doing what she said,” he said hoarsely, eyes locked on the knife in Sara’s hands. A bead of sweat rolled down his forehead.
“What did Clair tell you to do?”
Matt’s eyes widened. “How... damn it. Did she set me up?”
Sara waited for an answer, pressing the knife lightly against his throat. It drew blood, and he hissed in pain.
“Fine!” he growled. “Fine. She told me to get here, and rescue Amber. Okay?”
She let the hand holding the knife drop. Threats were not required, then. He looked at her, confused.
“Your objective is impossible,” she said simply, returning to the kitchen. As she started to run water over the knife to clean it, Matt followed her in.
“What is wrong with you? Why did you just let me...” he trailed off.
He saw her charge.
“What are you talking about? She’s right... there...” His earlier bravado seemed to have left him. Instead, his voice was wavering.
He had noticed it, then.
“What happened to her?” he whispered.
“That,” Sara began, not bothering to look away from the sandwiches, “is not Amber. That is Tool.”
Sara nodded absently, elaborating. “Amber is gone. Erased. Ask it yourself. As previously stated, your objective is impossible.”
“... Uh... Tool?” he tried.
“Acknowledged,” it said.
“How is she gone? She’s speaking to me!”
“Tool, state your knowledge of this person, Matt.” A hiss of air from him, likely at her knowing his name.
“None. I have no memory of this person.” Sara nodded, still not looking.
“It has no memories,” Sara explained patiently, turning to face him once she’d set a cutting board atop the sandwiches to press them. “She is gone.”
“Fuck,” he muttered. There was a soft flump as he sank to his knees. “What’s she going to do to me, if she finds out?”
Sara ignored the rhetorical question.
“And why are you being so civil, anyway?” he spat.
“I see no reason to harm you further. You have tried, and failed.”
That seemed to take him aback. His mouth moved, no sound coming out.
“What would you do if I grabbed Am- er, Tool, and ran, then?” he asked slowly.
“I would have it stop you.” She turned, taking off the plastic wrap from around the sandwiches and removing the cutting board.
“Right. What if... I was to play a recording?” he said slowly. “Would you stop me then?”
“No,” Sara replied. “Is your intent to try to fix her?” She said it blandly, but Matt’s response had far more emotion. Slowly, he nodded, his face becoming resolute.
“Try,” she ordered.
“... I love you, Amber. Wake up.”
They stood there, waiting. Matt with bated breath, and Sara with perfect patience.
“Fuck,” Matt repeated, his eyes flicking to Sara, then back to Tool. “Fuck.” His voice shook with anger.
“I still don’t get why you’re helping me,” Matt growled. “I mean, you haven’t pulled the knife out again, or anything. Isn’t this betraying your fucking controller, or whatever?”
“No. I am obeying her commands. I must take care of Amber.”
Matt frowned. “And this, letting someone else try shit on her, is taking care of her?”
She obeyed her Mistress, and those were Ikora’s orders.
To obey her Mistress’s orders, she had to identify obstacles to obedience.
Her Mistress had shown, repeatedly, that she did not have Amber’s best interests in mind. She had ended the one she had ordered Sara to protect.
So it was simple. She would follow orders.
She would take care of Amber.
“Uh, hey, fetish maid? You there?”
Sara blinked, her train of thought broken. “Yes.”
She looked at Tool. An imperfect substitute, but it was still her charge.
“We need to leave,” she said suddenly. “Mistress is going to return eventually. With Clair.”
“With Clair? You think she’s going to... lose?” Matt immediately rejected the concept.
“Of course. Mistress will not fail. She has retaken all of Clair’s resources by this point.”
Matt paused. “So... I could leave. I could leave, and she couldn’t do anything to me.”
Sara nodded, even as she moved to get changed. She would need to wear her standard clothes to go out, to minimize the risk.
Matt looked at her, flushing. He glanced towards Tool, then blanched and looked away.
Sara ignored that. She was a sexual object, but not for him.
“If you leave now, Clair will not be able to harm you,” she elaborated. “But Mistress will.”
“If she discovers you trying to take Tool, she will destroy you. I doubt she would be as kind as she was to Tool, either.”
“That was kind?”
“Tool was a mistake. You would be deliberate. Tool is fed, and is treated well. I doubt you’d have the same consideration. I trust this is enough to keep you in line?”
Matt had frozen up again. “Y-yeah. I... fuck, I thought her threat was bad. Okay. I guess I’m doing this. Don’t really have a choice, do I?”
“Yes, you do. You can choose to die.”
Matt nodded, his face blanching. “Right. Yes. That’s an option. Got it. Thanks.”
He sighed, color slowly returning to his face as he brought his emotions back under control. “Alright. In for a penny. You said we need to leave. Where?”
“My room is too close. Mistress might check it. She would not know you’re helping me until she interrogates Clair, so your room is safest. Do you have a roommate?”
“Yeah,” he scratched the back of his head. “Steve. I... he’s a customer, so that’s not a problem. And he’d probably listen, if I told him it’s important and explain.”
Sara nodded. “Tool,” she called, “get dressed. We’re going out.”
“So, I have to ask,” Matt said again. “I get that you’re helping me. I get that. And I get that you’re probably as fucked as I am if this fails. But why?”
They had made it to Matt’s room with little difficulty. Him bringing a girl back seemed to be expected by his neighbors, and even having two only earned him raised eyebrows.
Matt’s roommate hadn’t been there, and Matt informed her that he probably wouldn’t be back for hours if he was out at this time of night. So it was just the two of them, with their stolen charge.
“I’m taking care of Amber.”
“You said that already. But... from what I understand, this stuff is powerful. It’s not that you have to obey, it’s that it’s impossible to disobey, right? So... how?”
Sara sighed, turning to face him. It appeared he wouldn’t be satisfied without clarification. “I have to take care of her. Those were my orders. I also have to obey my Mistress. However, those orders are in direct conflict.”
She gestured to Tool. “Mistress did this, and had not treated her well beforehand. When it comes to Amber, she has shown cannot be trusted. Her orders are, therefore, faulty.”
Matt nodded slowly. “I... think I get it. You had to obey one or the other?”
Sara nodded back.
“Alright. Okay.” He still sounded shaky. It was understandable, even expected, in the situation.
“So. What now?”
“We need to restore Amber. Until then, my orders are incomplete.” Sara was not an admin. However, she had that recording, and that would allow for her to act as one.
She fiddled with the phone Matt had handed her, then held it up to Tool.
“Admin override -” she cut it off, skipping forward as she said “shield” in a soft voice - “protocol. Administrator Amber Cheng.”
This had been the protocol used to simulate Amber outside of Mistress’s room. It was the most likely avenue towards restoration.
Slowly, Tool’s eyes blinked, and it looked around, its eyes passing over Matt and Sara.
And then, it stayed silent.
“Uh... Amber?” Matt ventured.
“Yes?” Tool replied.
No. That was not Amber.
Matt grimaced, looking at its blank expression. “Aren’t you... angry, or scared of me, or whatever?”
Tool cocked its head. “No.”
That was not Amber.
“Tool,” Sara said, noting that it responded just as easily to that name. “Who are you?”
It stopped. It didn’t look panicked, or even surprised. The sentence had just ended, and it waited for further instruction.
That was not Amber.
“Who am I?” Matt pleaded.
“Matt. Last name unknown. Suspected rapist.” He flinched at the last word.
“That’s progress, right?” he turned to Sara. “She remembers me...”
“Yes,” Sara nodded. “It is progress. But that is not Amber.”
Matt collapsed into a chair, breathing heavily. Sara and Tool watched, dispassionate.
This was not Amber. It might have Amber’s memories, but emotion, connection, was missing. It had information, but no psychology.
“Suspected rapist?” she asked.
Matt grimaced. “Yeah. I, uh...”
“Tell me,” she ordered.
“I was doing stuff, before I found out about the toys. Date rape, roofies. Ok?” He looked pained as he spoke.
Psychology. Emotional connections were missing. They needed to be restored.
“Matt,” she said suddenly, voice firm. “We are going to get Clair.”
Matt was a rapist. A plan began to form.
He looked at her with shocked disbelief.
“Her? You said she’d lost! We’d be going right to your Mistress! And even if we do save her, somehow, she’ll kill us if she finds out we couldn’t help!”
“That is possible,” Sara said, and Matt flinched again. “This is unlikely to work. But we cannot help. She can.”
Matt sank into a chair, putting his head in his hands. He looked up at Sara, then winced again.
“I believe I will need your assistance. Otherwise, I don’t think we can save her,” she added. Matt grimaced, but still said nothing.
Finally, he sighed, then chuckled. Then, he laughed, slowly growing louder and louder until he was cackling. He trailed off after a few moments, grinning at Sara.
“Fine. Fuck it. I’m in. What’s the plan?”
Her eyes slowly opened, gazing at the darkened room. A line of thralls flanked her on either side, mimicking her expression, peaceful and serene. She responded.
“Hello, Mistress. It’s a pleasure to serve you.”
Her Mistress strode towards her and caressed her cheek.
“I want you to remember this, Clair. This will be the last happy moment of your life.”
She tapped her on the forehead. The other woman inhaled sharply and fell to her feet. She coughed and gagged on her own spit while her breathing quickened.
“How do you feel?”
Her response was immediate. “Afraid. Panicked. Angry.” Her eyes darted across the room. She knew she was still inside the spare room she’d lured her Mistress - no, no, fuck no - to. Questions darted across her mind. How much time passed? Did it work?
Through lack of insight, or perhaps dumb luck on Clair’s part, her Mistress - no! - failed to recognize Clair’s trepidation.
That’s not important right now. I can still be a distraction. Please. This has to work.
A venomous smile cracked her lips. She opened her mouth to speak.
I’m not stuck here with you...
No sound escaped. With a start, Clair realized her mouth wasn’t even open, nor was she smiling. Her body refused to move.
“I’m the one asking questions here.”
She drew from whatever confidence remained within her, and locked eyes with her Mistress - how dare she!
“What about earlier? How did you feel?”
“Peaceful.” Another instantaneous reply.
The... Her Mistress. Fuck. Her Mistress licked her lips. “Keep. Going.”
“It felt right. Like it was the most natural thing in the world.”
“Were you happy?”
“Happier than when you were with her?”
Even with her own mouth betraying her, she still managed to pour emotion into that single word. “No.”
Her Mistress snorted. “It doesn’t matter. If you’re too stupid to see just how good you had it, I’ll just have to make you see it.”
She stared into her Mistress’s eyes, as if boring deep into her skull. Even without words, that look could kill.
I hurt you. For all your power, you still lost.
“Fuck you! You’re not better than me!”
That statement hung between them, ironic in the awkward silence.
“Let me guess, you’re going to say something clever. Go on! Say something clever!”
Clair’s mouth opened. “Ev-”
Her mouth closed itself.
“I’m in control here. I make the decisions. I have the power. You have nothing!”
Another pause. That, at least, was true. She made the decisions.
“Fine! You really think you’re so perfect? Tell me, Clair. What would you do in my position?”
“Not let me have my mind back.”
She smirked. “And why is that?”
“It’s my greatest asset. I can still win so long as I’m myself.”
Her Mistress slapped her.
“You’re not... better than me.”
Another pause. It was a statement, not a question, so Clair couldn’t answer. She didn’t need to. Her Mistress paced the room, muttering incoherently to herself.
“Alright, Clair. Why don’t we see how good you really are? How would you break yourself?”
“I’d make me want it.”
Clair stared her down.
“That means keep going,” her Mistress growled.
“Make me want to be your slave. Make me believe that I don’t deserve her. That the best I’ll ever get in this world is being your slave.”
“Alright,” she smiled. “And how should I go about doing that?”
“My greatest fear is not being able to do enough for those I love. Play into that. Make me watch as I hurt them,” her eyes widened. Oh, god, no. “I’ll do anything for those I love. So use the disk. Make me feel, not just believe, that being your slave was the greatest experience of my life. That I loved that even more than her. Tell me that the only way to go back is to destroy her. To make her into another me.”
Tears streamed down her face. She bit into her lip, but her body didn’t comply. Her voice just continued.
“Worse... after that, give me a choice. Make being your slave feel like... like how I feel with her, only now her is tainted. Force me to choose one or the other. I’ll crack. I’ll crumble, and kneel before you. No matter what I choose, I’ll never be happy again.”
Her Mistress grinned. “Well, I guess I owe you an apology, then. Why don’t we start with trying out a few of those suggestions?”
Her Mistress reached for her forehead.
They marched in unison back towards the dormitory, her Mistress leading them with a manic grin. They made it to the door, and Clair’s smile widened, patiently awaiting her Mistress’s command.
Her Mistress touched her forehead.
A wave of nausea crashed into her, and she nearly vomited. She felt like crying, or flinching. Not that her body would have moved either way.
I’ve lost. But that doesn’t matter.
The door creaked open, revealing discarded clothing on the floor.
Because you didn’t win either.
Her Mistress gaped, rushing to look at the clothes. Slowly, her expression twisted, and she screamed, shouting at people who couldn’t hear her, couldn’t understand. Finally, she stomped towards Clair.
Her malice was like a physical weight, it was so apparent. She only uttered one word, imbuing it with all the hatred and rage she could muster.
“What did you do?”
Clair smiled at her Mistress.
“I didn’t do anything.”
Sara put her key into the room’s lock. She was not tense. She knew exactly what to do.
She opened the door. Mistress was there, inside, and her head whipped to face Sara, who bore her scrutiny without complaint.
“You betrayed me too?” she scoffed.
Sara shook her head. “No. I brought Tool back.” At that signal, Tool moved, displaying herself to its Mistress.
Her Mistress looked at her, as though reevaluating her. She noticed the bruises and scrapes. As expected, the injuries she’d had Matt inflict seemed to give her Mistress relief, as she got a false image of the circumstances.
“You came back,” she whispered, collapsing. “You came back.”
Her Mistress stumbled to her feet, running over and grabbing Sara in a hug.
“You came back...” she moaned, tears wetting Sara’s shoulder. She held Sara there for a time, then sniffed, looking her in the eyes.
“Amber, I’m so glad...” and then, her Mistress recoiled.
“Right. Uh. Tool. I...” the relief drained out of her Mistress’s face, replaced with something bitter. “Damn it.”
Sara waited, allowing her Mistress time to calm down.
“At least it’s back,” she sighed.
Then, her face shifted, a smile slowly growing. “It’s back. And I’ve won.”
“Won? What was the result of your confrontation, Mistress?”
Her Mistress looked at her askance, before grinning maniacally. “Oh, I got her, alright.” She gestured to the corner, and Sara blinked, seeing a person in the shadows she’d scanned earlier.
No, not a person.
“This,” she snorted, “is Tool zero-two. New and improved.”
She walked over, slapping Tool 02, and Sara noted as an instinctive reaction began and was halted.
“How do you feel about this, oh-two?” her Mistress asked.
“I am enraged beyond reason. I am vividly imagining what I would do if I was able to move, with most of those imaginings ending gruesomely for you, Mistress.” Despite the dispassionate tone, there was something almost smug in that last part. “I am despairing over my inability to help Amber, or, as you have stated she is now, Tool.”
“Exactly,” her Mistress gloated. “And this time, it’s even better. I had her do it to herself, but this time, I didn’t want to destroy her. No, that’d be too good.” She smiled, though it didn’t reach her eyes. “I wanted her to suffer.”
That was an issue. Clair was incapacitated, though still extant.
“And now that you brought Tool back, my victory is complete. I’ve won!”
She sighed, collapsing into a chair.
“I’ve won!” she repeated. “I’ve won. Just look at oh-two, Sara. She can’t touch me. She’s mine, and nobody can stop me now!” She grinned, looking up at the ceiling. “We ought to celebrate!”
Sara just remained, waiting for orders.
“She’s trapped, now. I kept her, but she can’t try to escape. Her mind won’t let her. And on the surface, she’s just as blank as Tool,” her Mistress mused. “That way, she gets to watch.”
Her Mistress was rambling. Now was the ideal time.
“Mistress, should I prepare refreshments?”
Her Mistress smirked. “Oh, please do. That would be delightful.” She looked behind Sara, and smiled. “In the meantime... Hey, Tool. Why don’t you come here?” When it did, she whispered something into its ear, then leaned back, smiling as she met its eyes.
“I never loved you,” Tool droned. “I never cared about you at all.”
A slight widening of Tool 02’s eyes, and the faintest glimmer of a smirk. Tool had merely repeated the words, not bothering to face Tool 02 to do so.
Her Mistress didn’t even seem to notice.
“Now, Tool oh-two, and Tool. Follow me into my bedroom, why don’t you? I think I’ll celebrate my Tool’s return by showing it off right in front of you. Ooh, and maybe I could make it so you can’t feel pleasure at all, so watching just leaves you cold!” She giggled, a manic, crazed sound.
Sara took that as leave to move to the kitchen, pouring two glasses of wine as she watched her Mistress herd the Tools into her bedroom. After a pause, she followed, handing a glass to her Mistress, who drank it gratefully.
“Oh-two, stand over there,” her Mistress ordered. “Tool, come here. let’s put on a show for her.”
There was no specification for Sara, so she remained against the wall, holding the other glass.
“Kneel,” her Mistress ordered Tool. She did so immediately.
Tool 02’s eyes widened almost imperceptibly.
“Good girl,” her Mistress smiled, leaning her head back. “Take off my skirt and lick my pussy.”
Tool did as ordered, taking off her skirt, then running its tongue along her slit. Then, it straightened.
“Right. Keep doing that, Tool,” she ordered. “I’ll have to teach you how to do it properly later,” she grumbled. “Sara, give me the other glass.” She held out the empty one.
She looked across the room, her eyes resting on Tool 02.
“Tell me what you’re thinking.”
“I want to break your hands for touching her, Mistress. I hope you never have another orgasm again. I’m thinking of ways to break your programming and make sure you never experience happiness ever again.” The words, as before, carried a feeling of rueful emotion despite their tonelessness.
“Yes!” Mistress cried, grabbing Tool’s hair and shoving her deeper between her legs. Tool was unfazed, just continuing to lick.
“Keep going, oh-two! Tell me how it feels to have your lover doing this to me instead of you.”
“She was not my lover yet.”
Her Mistress’s grin grew. “Well, how does it feel to have the one you love doing it, then?”
“I want to free her, but don’t know how. I’m terrified that I’ll fail. I feel guilty about getting turned on by this. I want to scream out and apologize for not being able to free her. I feel worthless, because the only things I can think of right now are fantasies of me doing that to her and fantasies of having your head mounted on a fucking pike, Mistress.”
“Fuck, yes!” her Mistress cried, curling her legs around Tool’s neck and letting out a guttural moan. “This feels soooo fucking good. Watching you suffer while I fuck the husk of your girlfriend? Never felt better!”
This time, Tool 02 didn’t wait for a question. “I’m going to make you suffer through a thousand times the pain you’ve put others through. I wish I could pull her away from you right now, but I know that the more I struggle, the less energy I’ll have. I’m terrified you’ll win. I know you’ve already won, but the only thing keeping me sane is the delusion that you haven’t.”
“Petty fuckin’ stuck up bitch,” her Mistress giggled. Sighing, she let her hands droop.
“I’m confused. I can’t tell if this is fatigue and stress catching up to you, or something else.”
“I’m just enjoying your...” she giggled, waving a hand in her direction. “Yeah. I feel gooooood.”
“You’ve clearly been drugged, Mistress.”
Her Mistress snorted.
“Be quiet, zero-two,” Sara ordered. Her Mistress chuckled lazily, but didn’t respond.
Tool 02’s mouth snapped closed. Its eyes flicked to Sara for just a moment.
Her Mistress laughed again. “‘Good... dumb little bitch...” She let out another moan as Tool continued to lick.
Sara watched, waiting.
Her Mistress didn’t respond, a dazed smile on her face.
“Stay still,” Sara whispered.
Her Mistress did.
“You drugged her,” Tool 02 said, its words seeming to imply a question. Sara didn’t answer.
Sara walked back into the main room, looking around. She found the disk, plugged into a laptop by the wall, which she grabbed, moving back to the bedroom.
Sara entered the password her Mistress had taught her. Her Mistress just smiled, seemingly oblivious as Tool continued to lick.
Sara hit enter, then went about setting up the program as she’d seen her Mistress do. Nodding, she clicked the button, watching as a light flickered on the board the disk was attached to.
It began to vibrate.
Sara turned to Tool 02. The faintest hint of fear flickered across its expression, over and over, suppressed by the programming. Those moments were getting shorter and harder to identify.
“When you wake up, this will all be over.”