Amber returned to awareness all at once, horrible clarity returning to her. She took a deep breath, her eyes still closed. Everything felt... distant. Wrong. Like she wasn’t really there. She slowly took a deep breath, trying to center herself. It barely helped. The events of the night before were still fresh in her mind. She had tried to run. Tried to run and failed. Matt had said something—something simple. A phrase? An order? Amber wasn’t certain. But somehow, she wasn’t panicking. The specific events of the night were still a blank, but she knew what must have happened. She had been used, and Matt had been responsible for the gap in her memory. Yet... her mind felt less clouded. Calmer. I’m becoming more aware, she realized. And with that realization, somehow, she knew what happened last night.
Matt used me. Activated me with a phrase. I obeyed his commands for the evening. I’m not supposed to be concerned with the missing time. I should leave, and forget this ever happened. The thoughts felt like hers, but something about them was different. Toneless.
Amber began to gather her belongings. She worked quickly, gathering the remnants of her maid costume. Then she nearly dropped it as a shout from behind startled her.
“God fucking damnit! I’ll gut that bitch! The whore ratted me out!”
I’m not supposed to pay attention to that. I should leave, and forget this incident, Amber thought.
“Dude, just calm down for a sec. Tell me what happened?” Another voice joined in. Steve?
I should ignore that too. I will leave and... Amber inhaled sharply. No. With a surprisingly difficult effort of will, she stopped what she was doing, looking around the room. She recognized the first voice, too. She wasn’t supposed to, but she did. Matt.
“It’s that bitch! The anime slut, the one with pink hair! It’s all her fault!” Matt raged.
Clair? What happened with Clair? Amber approached the door, closing her eyes so she could hear better. I need to leave. I’m supposed to leave in the morning, she told herself again. No, that’s bullshit. I’ll leave when I’m damn well ready.
“Those pretentious comp-sci assholes froze my account. Said I was using their property outside the agreed upon bounds. What the fuck does that even mean?”
“Matt, chill!” Steve said, trying to calm him down. “What does that mean?”
“The pink bitch thinks I raped her friend.”
“I mean... you kinda did, didn’t you?”
“You know what I mean, asshole,” Matt growled.
“Ok, dude, relax. I thought the girls weren’t supposed to remember anything?”
“They don’t. But the bitch I just banged is scared of me for some reason. So pinkie must think I did something.”
Silence. Amber could imagine Steve opening his mouth to say something, before being given a baleful look by his friend.
Except you did, shit for brains, Amber snarled silently.
“So now,” Matt continued, his voice growing even louder. “Admin has placed my account under review. Aka, I can’t order any more girls because of something I didn’t even do. Fucking dicks, man.”
Amber’s thoughts moved to Clair. She... mostly had been right. That was essentially why Amber had been so scared of him. And the fact that she cared enough to report it... She must have called campus security after last night. Then she realized the implications of what Matt had said.
Clair had contacted campus security to report a rape, and somehow ‘admin’ had been notified instead. Although protecting her was an oddly compassionate gesture for people who were, if she understood what Matt meant by ‘account,’ literally selling her out like a whore.
They probably just don’t want people getting in without paying, she grimaced.
Although the fact that ‘admin’ existed was a worry. It meant Amber had a tangible enemy, now. An enemy who, if they found out she was breaking free, might do far worse than just sleep with her. She probably wouldn’t have a thought of her own again.
I have to leave and forget this ever happened, she reminded herself, then stopped. That hadn’t been her thought.
Amber grabbed the last of her belongings, and slipped out the door, heading for the nearest fire escape. The act was becoming annoyingly routine.
I hope this is the last ladder I ever have to go down.
Amber’s heart mostly had stopped racing by the time she made it to ground level, though having to look around to make sure nobody was staring at the girl in a maid costume didn’t help. Why had she been so calm at first?
I at least feel like myself now. She drew her lips to a line. Am I getting worse? Those thoughts, the ones that aren’t mine. I can hear them now. Is that them getting stronger? Or am I just more aware of what’s been done to me? She paused, going over the mindfulness exercise. She hated how much better she was getting at it.
Clair! the thought struck her. She swiped through her short contact book to her friend’s number and hit call. The ringing was barely audible, but even that little discordant noise made her feel nauseous. Should she hang up and send a text instead? But she couldn’t risk her message being missed...
“Hey there, Taskmistress! How was your night?” Clair’s voice cut through her worried thoughts. Amber kept a lookout, praying that nobody was within earshot.
“Clair,” she whispered. “Are you alright?”
“Uhh, yeaaah? Why wouldn’t I be?”
Amber cupped the speaker, holding her breath. Fuck, why do you always have to be so peppy?
“Listen, I... I really need to see you, ok? It’s about last night.”
Clair paused. “Amber, listen. If this is about hypnotizing you last night, I’m really sorry. I should have asked for permission, but I was caught up in the moment.”
“What? No, that’s fine. It’s... it’s not that. I just... Listen. Can we meet?”
“No, I’m serious. That maid outfit thing was really taking it too far. I—”
“Clair!” Amber hissed. She scanned the pathway once more, hoping the outburst had gone unheard. “P-please, can we meet? I... I really need to be with someone, right now. Please.”
Clair gasped softly. “Yeah. Of course. I’ll be at your room in twenty.”
“Thank you,” Amber exhaled. She fought back tears, imagining the beaming smile framed by pink hair on the other end of the phone, horribly blank and without a single sign of the girl Amber so desperately wished could help her.
The walk home was slow. Amber avoided the main path, trying to hide in what little shadows remained in the light of morning. She was still dressed in her serving attire from last night. She had enjoyed herself last night, genuinely, until... the obvious. I need to stay with people I trust, she resolved. I’m safe when I’m with friends. They can’t get all of us. She paused. Is it wrong of me to wish I had any gay guy friends, right now? That’d be the safest bet. If only.
In an odd twist of fortune, though, she probably wouldn’t even need to explain much to her friends. If Clair had really been that concerned for her, she would stay over, and seeing her so adamant would probably convince Sasha. And they were unlikely to ask many questions due to the programming in their heads.
Hell, I could literally just tell them everything, and they would forget about it in seconds. I have done that with Clair, even.
A small part of Amber felt bad, using her friends as human shields. But logic won out. As far as I know, I can’t be used when I’m in a group. That gives me the greatest chance to fix all this. And even then, it’s not like I’m doing anything bad to them. Sleepovers aren’t a punishment.
She sped up as the girl’s dorm came into view. Clair was waiting on a nearby bench, phone in hand. She started waving as she caught sight of her friend, and Amber felt immediately self conscious. She glanced around, scanning for boys as Clair called her name. She was safe. It was an open area. Nobody could sneak up on her.
“Get over here, girl!” Clair called, opening her arms for a hug.
Amber crossed the remaining distance between them, still looking around even as she embraced her friend. She couldn’t let her guard down for anything. Not even for a desperately needed hug. She pulled Clair in tighter. Maybe one day, when she’d solved this mystery, they could hug without worrying about phantom assaulters.
Clair let go, but kept a hold of Amber’s shoulders. “So, how was last night?” She seemed to shrink into herself as she asked.
Fuck, what do I tell her? The truth? “I was with Matt last night.” She couldn’t bear to say any more. I’m getting too good at casually telling people I was a sex slave.
“Oh.” Clair nodded.
“I... I really don’t wanna talk about it,” Amber looked down. Clair just put a hand on her shoulder. “Can... can we just go inside, please?”
Clair nodded again solemnly. “Of course. Why don’t we go inside and watch something? Take your mind off things?”
“I’d... I’d like that.” Amber said, trying to hold back tears.
“Better yet!” Clair smiled, although it wasn’t as wide as normal. “I hear there’s a new episode of Second Attempts at My Inescapable Doom. I still don’t get why that title is so long, y’know?”
Amber smiled wanly. “It’s a good show, though.” She closed her eyes, sighing as two women walked up the stairs. She could finally relax for the first time in what felt like weeks. Had it really only been a few days.
“I’m sorry about last night,” she sighed, leaning against her friend.
“Don’t worry about it. I had it under control,” Clair giggled.
Something about the way she said that struck a chord in Amber. Under control. Her programming had been flagging, clearly. She’d been able to hear those thoughts, the ones that weren’t hers. Maybe...
“Amber... what... do you think about... Matt?”
Clair’s eyes flared. “Don’t worry. I’m on your side, Am.”
Well, that certainly wasn’t the reaction I was expecting. But something was going on with him. If they can somehow cut off his... ‘access...’ she might not have him as ‘trusted’ anymore.
“What about Steve?”
Clair smiled blankly at her for a moment, then kept walking.
She’d almost had an ally. She’d almost had someone to help.
Just another piece of shit on the pile, I guess...
Clair blinked a few times, then looked back at her friend. “Sorry, what were we talking about?”
Amber smiled, trying to hide the pain in her voice. “New episode.”
“Oh yeah! You’re gonna love it! The girls finally get the courage to confess... not that the lovable idiot ever realizes they actually like her.”
They stepped onto Amber’s floor. She kept telling herself it was ok to relax, but she could only think of her friend’s safety. She went over scenarios in her head on how to keep her away from ‘admin.’ Could she keep Clair in her room? Would that even work? And she couldn’t do that to Clair, not when she couldn’t understand why Amber would be doing it. And she didn’t even really have any information on how the ‘admin’ would send new programming to her. Was it through a cell phone, an email, or a physical piece of mail? That last one felt off. Surely someone random would have found one of them if that was the case.
She couldn’t focus. Too many questions, not enough Amber. She was being stretched to her breaking point, and each new worry just raised more questions, and more horrifying images of her friend being violated. She was fighting against the clock, and she was wasting too much time.
“We’re authorized for two, right?” Amber heard from behind.
Amber blinked, trying to focus her eyes. Had she been taken? That’s what it felt like... The room wasn’t hers. It stank of booze and weed. What kind of shitty guy had she ended up with this time? Clair and I were activated. I have completed my task. I will leave this place and forget being used.
Her eyes widened in horror. Clair? She was caught too? I need to save her. Where is she? She looked around, taking note of the room’s occupants. three women, two unconscious. No, not asleep... Though they were slumped on the couch lifelessly, their eyes were open. They were staring at Clair—topless Clair. The pink haired beauty was whispering something softly, gently massaging her own breasts in circles as she did so.
Clair’s mouth moved, and the girls repeated it in a murmur. Had the guy who got her captured more women? Was this her chance to see who was behind this? Maybe pleasure conditioning is the thing that makes it work, she thought, watching the girls begin to play with their breasts like Clair was
But something was off about it. What? What wasn’t she realizing?
She looked down at her own state of undress. She was still wearing the maid costume from last night... in a manner of speaking. She had the apron, and a small garter belt around her left leg, and that was it. The only thing else she had was a tray of snacks that she just now noticed she was holding at waist height. She placed the food on a nearby table, trying to surreptitiously creep closer to her friend. The cloying, awful smell grew stronger the closer she got. So, maybe she was right about the drugs, then? Their eyes were bloodshot. They paid no notice to her, just repeating Clair’s words, which she was now close enough to hear.
“Sink... and... go deep...” they breathed.
“Continue to sink deeper,” Clair smiled. Amber’s eyes flickered as that brought back memories of the previous night, but a quick bite of her tongue kept her lucid.
“Clair,” Amber whispered. Her friend didn’t budge. Amber glanced at the two insensate women. They weren’t going to be a problem. So she moved over, standing between the hypnotist and her subjects. “Clair!” she hissed, louder this time.
The pink hypnotist paused, surveying Amber’s semi-nude form. A moment later, she continued rubbing her breasts. “Sink deep and obey. Even though you cannot see my perfect tits, you will continue to see them in your mind’s eye. Obeying. Sinking. Relaxing. Listening.”
Amber felt her eyelids droop again. She slammed them shut reflexively, trying to keep focus on something else. Something different. But she could only picture herself rubbing her own breasts in time with Clair’s, letting herself be taken and carried by her wonderful, soothing, relaxing words. No! I still need to find the guy who got us!
Her friend immediately stopped. Amber looked on in horror, noticing the blank look in her eyes. Clair was still under. The gentle mantra of sink and go deep echoed throughout the room, but it held no sway over Amber’s thoughts now. She had a single-minded purpose. To save her friend.
“Are you alright, Clair?” Amber asked. Once again, Clair remained silent. “Come on, Pinkie. Say something. Anything.”
“What would you like me to say, Mistress?” Clair responded, in a calm monotone.
“Clair... Can you hear me?”
“P... please don’t call me that.”
Clair suppressed a groan. “What happened here?”
“I have placed Mistress Gina and Mistress Lois into a deep hypnotic trance as ordered.”
“You were ordered to do this?”
“Gina and Lois, Mistress.”
Amber stumbled back, nearly bumping into the entranced women on the couch.
But... that would mean...
Of course. Of course it would work that way. Of course women could activate them too.
Clair smiled blankly. “Mistress, are you distressed? Should I assist?”
Sasha had called her that at the party, too.
How had she not noticed? How was she so blind?
Clair had come up with the nickname. Was that part of the programming, too?
A horrifying thought occurred to her, and she dropped to her knees.
Is there anywhere I can be safe?
She stared at her friend’s empty smile. “Help me, Clair...” she whispered, despite herself.
She squeezed her eyes shut, ignoring the sweat beading on her forehead. Why did it feel like the walls were closing in on her? Her chest was tight. She tried to breathe, but all she got was a ragged shudder.
She felt a hand press against her cheek. “Hey,” said a soft voice.
Amber groaned. Was she finally breaking? The fear and anxiety catching up to her?
Amber focused on that hand. It didn’t feel fake. It felt real. But... What did that mean? SSlowly, she opened her eyes.
A worried smile greeted her back. Beneath a shock of pink hair, focused eyes stared at her with concern.
Clair got down on her knees, putting one hand on her friend’s shoulder.
“Talk to me, Am.”
Amber couldn’t dare to hope. “I... s-saved you?”
Clair shook her head, considering it. “No. This is just... how I do what you asked. I don’t really understand it. I don’t think I’m allowed to understand it. I just know that this is what you need. To help you.”
Tears streamed from Amber’s eyes.
“Hey, hey. I’m here, Amber. I’m here. And it is me.”
Something about that sounded...
Amber’s thoughts snapped into crystal clarity. She was still in shock. That was clear. But this was more important.
Clair was here. She hadn’t dismissed Amber saying she was programmed. Amber had wanted a sounding board. A friend to work this out with. Normally, that would have been Clair.
And... Now, maybe, it could be.
“Can... you tell me what happened, when I was... activated?” she whispered.
Clair shook her head. “I can’t. I’ve still got to follow the rules. I’m not deactivated, Amber. Just... here to help.”
Amber shuddered at the way she said the last words, so blissfully compliant.
“First...” she paused, thinking.
She was interrupted by the girls she’d nearly forgotten about, repeating sink and go deep... on the couch behind her.
Amber grimaced. “First... we should move somewhere less distracting.”
The coast had been blessedly clear between Amber’s room and the two women who’d... she shuddered.
She was straight. She was sure of that. Yet, somehow, even something as basic as that was overridden. What couldn’t it change? What about her was even real?
“So,” Clair clapped her hands, getting Amber’s attention. She’d finished putting the deadbolt into place. “Do you need me to comfort you, or comfort you?”
Amber wasn’t quite sure how to feel about that question. It just made her painfully aware of how topless her friend still was. “I... I’m still... How... are you...”
“I’m here to help. That’s all I know.” Clair shrugged.
Amber hesitated. “And you’re still...”
“I still have to obey anything you say, Amber. I’m... sorry about that,” she sighed.
Amber couldn’t hold the tears back. Clair held her softly, letting her cry in silence.
How much of this really was her friend? It could just be an act. A logical construct, pretending to be Clair. But... this had to be her friend.
It was something she’d learned in class. If an algorithm was to completely simulate the human brain, down to the atom, that would be true AI. Indistinguishable from humanity, if not better. And a person, even a simulated one, with Clair’s memories, Clair’s personality...
Was still Clair.
“I missed you,” she choked out, moving to embrace her friend.
Clair hesitated, then softened, leaning in to the hug. “I missed you too.”
Amber wasn’t sure how long they held each other like that. It felt like an eternity, but an eternity wasn’t long enough. But eventually, Clair pulled away.
“So... how can I help, Am?”
“I... I don’t know. I need to figure this out. I think... I need a rubber duck.”
Clair snorted. “And you needed me for that?”
Amber gave her a flat look. “You know what I mean, Clair... Someone to bounce ideas off of. But... you’re better than that. You’re smart. I...” she stopped, tearing up again. “I need to not do this alone.”
Amber gestured to her couch. “Sit down,” she sighed.
Clair moved to the couch with surprising speed. She sat down with a beatific smile.
“Shit!” Amber hissed. “I-I’m so sorry. I forgot...”
“It’s ok, Am. This isn’t your fault.”
Amber frowned. “You... aren’t upset. Why are you not freaking out right now?”
“Wouldn’t be very helpful if I was, right?”
“Right, of course.” Amber’s expression fell.
Amber fell face-first onto the couch beside her friend, groaning into the fabric.
Clair sighed. “Am, it’s ok. Er... You know what I mean. Just tell me what you need. Even if I didn’t have to, you know I would still want to help.”
Amber nodded slowly, turning around to face her friend. Clair would want to help. Amber couldn’t think of this like she was using Clair. Not if she wanted to stay sane. “Ok... ok.” She nodded more vigorously, as if to shake away the doubt. “Ok. So. What’s the last thing you remember, before activation? Or... the last thing you can tell me about?”
“We were walking down the hall to your room. Someone said something, and then I was activated. And before you ask, no, I can’t tell you the phrase they used to do that.”
Amber nodded, memories clicking into place. “They said... ‘We’re authorized for two.’”
“Yeah! That’s it!” Clair laughed softly. “Talk about creepy, right?”
Amber smiled despite herself. “At a time like this, Clair?” she chuckled faintly. This really is her. Someone whose only concern was obeying orders would just try to comfort me.
“Am, I am literally compelled to comfort you right now. I don’t think that either of us have an idea of what a ‘time like this’ should be.”
Amber chuckled again. “I concede that point, yeah... but... that doesn’t bother you?”
“No,” she reached out, placing a hand on Amber’s cheek, meeting her friend’s eyes with a determined look. “I’d do anything for you, girl. That’s what friends do.”
Amber suddenly realized just how close Clair was. It felt nice, though, in the moment. She leaned against her friend, just... letting herself be safe. People may be corruptible, but I doubt this conspiracy is going to kick down my door. Way too conspicuous. And they’d have to kick it down, she thought, glancing at her deadbolt.
Clair didn’t say anything. She just gave Amber the moment, letting her finally relax. Controlled or not, I’m so grateful she’s here.
She brushed Clair’s hand aside, finally, blinking as she tried to get back on topic. “So, these two girls,” she said, willing herself to focus. “I think they bought us.”
“Definitely creepy.” Clair grimaced. “Alright, so, walk me through your thought process.”
“Are you trying to be my therapist?”
“Well, you are sitting on a couch,” Clair giggled. “So tell me, how does zat make you feel?” she said in an absolutely awful German accent.
Amber smiled. This felt... good. She had Clair back. She had Clair back. “Ok, so. When I woke up this morning, I was in Matt’s room.”
“Fucking douche, by the way.”
“Oh, yeah. I- actually, you got him good.”
Clair sat back on the couch, looking very proud of herself. “I can neither confirm nor deny that I may or may not have done anything regarding that fucker.”
Amber rolled her eyes. “He said the gist of it. Reported it as a rape, I think?”
Clair raised an eyebrow. “Is that not what it was?”
“Point. Anyway,” Amber said, trying to regain control of the conversation. “I heard him say something about ‘admin’ freezing his account.”
“Yeah. So... some kind of weird membership, where you get to have sex with all the helpless women you want. Or maybe not all the ones you want. I don’t think Matt was allowed to have two.”
“That would explain that time he passed us on the street. And you think Mistresses Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum in the next room are a part of this... ‘club?’”
“Yeah, but I think they’re on a different level. Like, a tier? Although, table that, I have a more important question. Why were you hypnotizing them?”
“They ordered me to,” Clair snorted.
“I mean, you said that... but... really?”
“Well technically, Mistress Lois ordered me to. But high-as-a-kite Mistress Gina didn’t stand a chance against my skills.”
“And you... kept going?”
Clair frowned. “You know that I had to.”
“Right... yeah, of course. Sorry.”
Clair flicked her nose. “Hey! Deductions now, feeling sorry for me later. I’m supposed to help you, remember? Very usefully nonspecific, that.”
Amber nodded. “Right, yeah. Thanks. Ok, so. Whenever I’ve been used in the past, it was always me. Like, a solo thing. I’m also pretty sure they can’t activate us unless we’re alone.”
“Ok, logical. So, Mistresses—”
Amber grimaced. “Could you please stop calling them that?”
Clair considered that for a moment, then winced. “No can do. They’re still the ones who activated me. Sorry.”
Amber sighed. “If you can’t help it, I’ll just have to deal.”
“Ok. Tell me if it gets bad. I’ll see if I can find a way around it. Anyway. Mistresses Gina and Lois. Why are they ‘authorized for two?’”
“I don’t know, but I’d be willing to bet my right arm that’s why we both got activated at the same time.”
“Hold on,” Clair paused. “Right arm? Specifically?”
Amber slammed her hands together, and Clair snickered. “Alright, alright. Go on.”
Amber got up and started pacing, moving her hands animatedly as she thought. “I don’t know what to do with any of this. Like, great, I found out there’s a secret sex club at our school—”
“—cause’, like, that doesn’t help us at all. If anything, it just makes it wor—”
“—and I have absolutely no idea how to save you. I am completely—” Something hit the side of her face. She flinched, instinctively hiding from the sudden motion, crumpling against the wall. Clair gasped, then gestured somewhat apologetically to the couch.
“Oh... Yeah. Sorry. You can stand up now.”
Clair got up, then gave Amber a quick hug. “You’re smart, girl. You can figure this out,” she said softly.
Amber took a couple of deep breaths, letting her tension fade. “Ok... ok. I’m good. Thanks.”
“Let’s start from the beginning. Did Matt say anything else?”
Amber closed her eyes and tried to remember his exact words. Thinking about it was worrying, painful, exhausting... but Clair was there. It was okay.
“Yes!” she shouted, opening her eyes. “He called them ‘those pretentious comp-sci assholes.’ His exact words.”
Clair raised an eyebrow. “Now we’re getting somewhere.”
“And... so... people from my department turned us into sex slaves?”
“Unless Matt was lying, I guess so.”
“Fuck,” Amber groaned, placing a hand to her forehead. “That still doesn’t explain why I snapped out of it, but you’re still a zombie. There’s no way it’s because of my frigging major.”
Clair pulled her in for a hug. “You’ll find the answer.” She pulled back, grinning. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you find a puzzle you couldn’t throw ungodly amounts of effort at until it went away.”Amber flushed, turning away as she got an eyeful of her still-topless friend. How the hell did I forget about that? It wasn’t even the programming. I can hear that now.
“I... can hear it now.”
“... I still can be activated. And I don’t remember what happens when I do. But the... the passive stuff. The stuff telling me to forget, to leave. I can hear it.”
“Amber, you still haven’t told me what ‘it’ is.”
Clair stumbled back.
“Holy shit. You can... hear it?”
Amber frowned. “Is that... surprising?”
Clair shook her head, grinning. “That’s not it, Amber. Tell me what you’ve heard from it.”
Amber paused. “Alright... you can put some clothes on first, though.”
“Are you really sure you want me to? You might not get another chance to see me naked,” she teased.
With the adrenaline rush slowly fading, Amber was struck by how striking an image her friend made. Clair wasn’t as defined as her, having only started working out two months ago when they first met. But her slender frame drew no less attention. The vibrant hair colors she went with were a bold contrast to her barely-tanned skin, and combined with her plucky attitude, she always stood out like a beacon. And... other things stood out too. Amber averted her eyes, flushing again. You keep working out and you’ll turn more heads than me one day, Amber smiled, watching as she threw one of Amber’s shirts on.
“Clair,” she said hesitantly, then shook her head. “Never mind.”
“What is it, Am? I’m still here to help.”
“I know. It’s nothing. I just... I’m just tired.”
Clair moved in for a hug. “You’ve got more than a right to be,” she whispered softly.
Amber wanted to stay in this moment forever. Safety with other people had been something she’d missed. She’d never realized how much she needed friendship, companionship, to thrive. Being with Clair made it feel like everything would be alright. But she had to save Clair before she could rest.
“Comp-sci,” she sighed, pulling away from the hug.
“The facility is large, but we can split up to cover more ground. Or one of us can keep watch. This late at night, it’ll be completely empty...” Amber trailed off, noticing Clair’s grimace. “What’s wrong?”
“Am... I... I don’t know what’s in there. I’m not allowed to know. But I know that I am not allowed to even look. And even if I was...” she grimaced.
“I have to deactivate eventually.”
“I’m sorry, Am. It’s... the rules.”
Amber went to her knees, leaning against the wall for support. “You... can’t stay?”
Clair shook her head. “I... know that’s not what you need. But I have to follow the rules. I’m... sorry.”
“How... much more time do I have?”
“Minutes. Not much. I have to deactivate.”
Clair hugged her, but it didn’t help. It just made her want to stay like this longer.
“Clair...” she grimaced. “I have to go there. To find out.”
“I don’t wan—”
“I know.” Clair gripped her tighter.
Amber knew what she had to ask. It had been there, under the surface, from the moment she’d seen Clair open her eyes. Maybe she was wrong. Maybe this time, things would be different.
She doubted it.
“You... won’t remember any of this, will you?”
Clair met her eyes, then just gave her a sad smile.
“We... still need to deal with Mistresses,” Clair quickly changed the subject.
“Yeah. Fuck. Uh... could you erase their memory, or something? So they don’t remember who they’d gotten. And maybe... make them not want to use their membership again.”
“I don’t think I could do that last bit, but yeah. Given how high they are right now, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even need hypnosis to get them to forget this evening ever happened.”
“Alright,” Amber’s voice grew quieter, choosing her words carefully. “Can you do that, then? And then, you know...”
“Am,” Clair whispered. “If you want me to deactivate... you’re going to have to order me to do it.”
“I know,” she whispered back. “I’m going to miss hearing you be... you.”
Clair’s eyes widened. “Right. Hearing. You’d said... I need to tell you that. Before I forget it. The programming tells you what you can’t do.”
Amber blinked. “Wh...”
Clair glanced around furtively. “I can’t stay more. You’ll... see me again soon. I promise. I really have to go, Amber.”
Amber closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. She planted her feet, and met Clair’s eyes.
“Bring a flash drive,” Clair hissed, clearly getting antsy.
Amber nodded. “Ok. Clair... I order you to go back to Gina and Lois’ room. Hypnotize them to forget about this evening, and if possible, make them never want to place another order again. When you’re finished, you’re going to head back to your dorm room. Don’t speak to anyone along the way, and don’t let anything stop you. Accept orders from nobody. And... when you’re safe, and alone... I want you to deactivate.”
Clair gave her a quick squeeze, and then she was gone.
Would Amber ever see her again? She’d see Clair again, but... would she ever actually see Clair again?
Amber collapsed onto her bed. She wished the ceiling would just cave in on her. Then, she could stop worrying. No. I have a job to do, she growled to herself. For Clair.
She quickly changed, then grabbed her key ring, making sure her flash drive was attached. She needed to be ready.
She had a department to raid.