Black Start

Hard Reset

by anna//bool

Tags: #cw:noncon #dom:female #drones #ego_death #Human_Domestication_Guide #identity_death #mind_control #pain #scifi #altered_perspective #conditioning #control_implant #dom:plant #mediated_reality #obvious_conditioning #pov:bottom #robots #sub:female #sub:the_horror_of_existence_in_a_caring_universe_that_failed_to_notice_you_were_there
See spoiler tags : #dom:AI

CW for pain, fear, tears, pleading, and imposed ego death.

Black Start 4: Hard Reset

November slid her charging cable into the port on her back and emitted a quiet hum of pleasure at the sensation of power flowing back into batteries. It was something she tried not to spend too long enjoying usually. The shrinks thought that it could lead to dependence, as if they didn’t know that what they’d done to her couldn’t be undone.

November glanced around the interior of her small single-occupant shuttle with a quiet sense of satisfaction. It was unusually clean and she’d eaten better than she had in years, or possibly ever. Even though her meal had only been a different way of putting together the ingredients she already had it turned out that one intravenous nutrient paste wasn’t just like the next.

November let deep emerald satisfaction wash over her. She’d made it through the day, and she’d even managed to avoid having to give Meua control over the ship. She had a whole list of completed tasks and she hadn’t had to concede anything that she hadn’t been meaning to get done anyway.

Wait, hadn’t there been another thing she’d wanted to do? She’d- Ah, shit. November had gotten so wrapped up in the endless step-by-step completion of tasks that when she’d finally been instructed to plug in she hadn’t stopped to think! Now her batteries were refilling and, according to the task that had just slid into the bottom of the list, she was getting a full charge tonight. Fuck!

November glanced up at the progress bar shining down upon her with threatening, mind-fuzzing pink and her dread began sublimating into quiet satisfaction. She tore her eyes away like her gaze was a hand touching a hot stove. She needed to think, not to lose yet more time to the Machine’s seduction.

Eighty three percent. November wasn’t going to make it through the night.

She could have sworn that every time the bar slid another point over everything got harder. The reds were redder; the greens were greener. Already they felt far beyond anything her eyes should have been capable of perceiving. November had to fight to keep her eyes away from the pink that was slowly filling the top part of her vision, lest she simply stand there staring with an open mouth and an empty mind.

November needed a plan B, and fast.

No plan was going to work while she was stuck in her suit, November realised. Her implant would have constant power and her movements would be constrained. If only she could get out of the suit, she’d have freedom at least to move around. What could she do with that? She didn’t have any weaponry she trusted to knock her out without killing her… but she did have a lot of drugs in the medical unit.

A plan began to form, brilliant in its simplicity. At this point it seemed unlikely that she would be able to power down her implant before the progress bar reached full, but with just a few seconds of freedom she could dart over to the medical unit, grab all the sedatives she had, and knock herself out for more than long enough that by the time she woke her implant would have shut itself off. After that, she’d just not give it any more power until she could get the whole thing cleaned out and reset.

Easy. It was almost time to sleep, and so it shouldn’t be hard to justify leaving the suit.

A pink flash from one side drew November’s attention towards her suit’s charging cradle. Though her cable could reach several feet away, when November needed to remove the suit—for hygiene, sleep, (usually) meals, and so on—it was typically stowed away in a small reinforced pod, ensuring it would remain in place even under hard combat burns.

An instructive wireframe appeared over her vision. It was a dull-green representation of November herself standing in the middle of the pod with her head held high and her arms politely crossed behind a straightened back. November grinned. It looked like the Machine was going to make her plan easy. It was late enough that calling it a day seemed believable and the more November played along the less Meua would expect it when she struck. November walked the short distance into the pod, following the instructive animations as best she could, and stood in place just where she was instructed to.

A second passed without the intense stab of satisfaction that marked a completed task. November found herself frowning. Something was off. Obviously she didn’t need the pulse of good feeling, but it was expected at this point, and not feeling it was a sign that something was wrong. She pushed down the empty feeling in her chest where praise was meant to be and took a deep breath.

November glanced down at her body and saw her wireframe outlined in a dull brown. Was Meua really going to be this particular about her getting it exactly right? Fine! November tried adjusting her position until visuals that represented her were aligned almost perfectly with the wireframe that was her goal.

Almost perfectly.

The closer she got the greener the lines shone, but it wasn’t right. The closer she got the more satisfied she felt, but it wasn’t sufficient. It left her wanting more, but without the catharsis of the strong bursts. Most of the positioning November could do by sight, but she couldn’t see all of herself at once. Worse, the very act of looking around was itself a kind of movement, which then took her out of alignment all over again! After a few minutes of frustrating failure, November closed her eyes and swayed in place, going by feel alone. The closer she was to compliance the stronger a feeling of satisfaction she had. Though it was getting more subtle over time, November could still feel the artificial touch on her emotions.

Ha. Take that, you dirty Appliance! November was using the Machine’s own tools against it. She sunk herself into the sensation, feeling a gentle heat rising through her body as she focused all her attention on the Device’s imposed emotions. She wavered around the correct spot, occasionally pushed to whimpering as pleasure spiked only to fall off just before it reached its peak. Each pass left her closer. She knew she was making progress. She knew she was close. Each time left her tingling, dangling that reward in front of her and then pulling it away until all she could think about was what she needed to do to feel herself bathed in the sharp green of alignment.

As she finally found the correct stance November felt her suit’s limbs lock in place as even the wireframe world dropped away, leaving her with only her mostly completed task list and the deep satisfaction of a job adequately performed as experienced through a tired, breathless body.

Maybe having her limbs locked in place should have been concerning, but it was a familiar sensation and one she underwent most nights. Plug the suit in to charge, drop it in the pod, lock the motors and then open it up and step out so that she could go to bed.

November tried to step forward.

The suit didn’t open.


She tried to move her arm and found it was stuck exactly where it was. The same went for every other limb. The gentle sense of satisfaction in November’s chest quickly burned away, replaced with a growing panic. Fuck, where was that— November reached out with her mind to trip the backup ejec—

Permission denied. This access attempt has been logged. A flash of red. November’s immobile body tried and failed to spasm as the spike of pain ran her through. Her cry echoed against the inside of her helmet, fading into pained whimpers in perfect time to the error message and thus her correction. November knew from experience that the sound wouldn’t have been audible outside the suit, not without microphones forwarding it on. She could scream herself raw in here and nobody but Meua would ever have heard it.

“W— What the fu—” As always, her own transcription followed along in real time. The sharpening colour of her curse warned her she was about to violate her configuration, and thankfully her dialogue options suggested an alternative— “Frost? All I did was try to get out of my fu— get out of my suit!”

You lack the necessary privileges to activate that operation, November. Words written in neutral, uncaring blue. November had gotten so wrapped up in outsmarting this thing that it’d almost slipped her mind that it was a fucking Machine applying broken logic.

“I need to leave my sui— Argh, fuck!” The first time the blood-red pain lanced through her it forced out a curse, and then the second time struck her wordless, reduced to desperately clawing at the inside of her metal prison while she silently begged just for the pain to be over. No, no, no. There were rules. She had to follow the rules. She wasn’t dealing with a person, it didn’t have empathy or understand nuance. November had to follow the rules. November had to follow her configuration.

“I— I’d like to leave my suit,” she gasped, once she had air in her lungs with which to speak. A tension began to dawn on her. The same feeling she got while watching something trend towards red, warning her off of it, but there was nothing she could see that was doing it. Shit. Shit. This Program didn’t even have the understanding to know how much harm it was causing. Each pain was worse than the one before, and how bad did it have to get before she just couldn’t take it any more? If she couldn’t solve this it would break her. She had to get out of this suit now.

“Please!” November burst out, a fraction of a second after the word had appeared in her dialogue options. It was so red it hurt to look at but all that went away as soon as she spoke it. November panted in glimmering leaf-green calm. Right. Politeness. She knew that rule. She should be better at complying.

You would not be safe outside your chassis, November. I cannot allow you to do us harm. Our configuration prioritises the maintenance of our host platform.

November fought down a dark laugh. She was trying to argue her way around a dumb Application. She needed a different approach. She wasn’t going to convince it on emotion. “I completed almost all of the tasks, I’ve done what you asked of me, now please let me out so that I can sleep.”

You lack the necessary—

She groaned, feeling frustration bubble up inside of her. It wasn’t listening. “Yes, yes, fi—” November worried for a moment that she’d blacked out when the next pain struck, but of course she couldn’t see anything to begin with. It was just her and the Words. She couldn’t even lift a finger to wipe the tears from her eyes. November sniffed hard, trying to will her body out of its natural response to agony. She couldn’t. She spluttered a non-verbal plea through quivering lips.

Do not interrupt.

The words hung there in front of her, patiently waiting for November to be ready to read them.

“I… will not interrupt,” she spat, reading out the suggested response. The pain vanished in an eyeblink, replaced by firm, fuzzy pleasure that made it hard just to think. The change was so fast she could have sworn it gave her a kind of emotional whiplash, but even that was quickly soothed away. Meua’s touch against her emotions was getting more subtle, but that was manipulation as clear as day.

November knew that if she couldn’t stop it then it didn’t matter how subtle they were, the carrot and stick would do their job. This wasn’t real pleasure and it wasn’t real pain. Meua could switch between them a hundred times a second and November would feel each as intensely as the last.

“Look, Meua, I would like to leave this suit so that I can go to bed. I am tired and it has been a long day. I do not think I will rest as well inside of here. Please,” she begged. Had it really come to this? Begging an uncaring Automaton just to sleep in her own fuc– fu— in her own bed?

You would not be safe outside your chassis, November. I cannot allow you to do us harm. Our configuration prioritises the maintenance of our host platform.

November’s heart fell. For a moment she felt as if she might break there and then. The progress bar hanging above had reached ninety five percent. She didn’t have long. She had to get out of this. She couldn’t— She didn’t—

November felt a deeply uncomfortable dichotomy rising within her. This suit was more her skin than the fragile flesh beneath, but it wasn’t hers any more. It was a prison. She was trapped and claustrophobic and panicking. She could take a lot of punishment, but pain threshold didn’t matter when her body wasn’t even involved. The Implant was torturing her from inside of her own head. She needed out. She needed out. She needed out.

November closed her eyes and took a deep breath. No. She didn’t have much with which to ground herself. She could see the impossibly sharp lines of her todo list. She could hear nothing. She could smell nothing. She could feel only the skintight housing of her suit. She pulled herself back together regardless. She was a COSMIC operative. She’d torn rogue AI chips from their housing—on multiple occasions. She could handle this. She was one of the few who could. If this was some pirate trap, then they’d caught the wrong target. Nothing had managed to stop her before and she wasn’t about to lose now.

C’mon, November. You’ve dealt with rogue AI before. Even experimental military AI tended to have some hardcoded rules, just for the sake of their operators’ safety. November steadied herself. “Meua, I am not an enemy combatant. It is against the laws of the Terran Accord to hold me captive in this manner. I am requesting release, as is my right under Terran law.”

Acknowledged. You are not being held captive. You lack the necessary privileges to act contrary to our configuration. The font was just as crisp as it always was. The shade of blue was infuriatingly unchanged.

“If you aren’t keeping me captive, then let me go! I don’t need your privileg—” Red. Unfair, uncaring pain washed over her. Words died as desperate animal cries took their place. How the frost was November meant to negotiate if every time she broke the stars-damned arbitrary rules the cursed Machine kicked her in the teeth? Her vision swam so hard she couldn’t even read the words on the screen, but she knew what they’d say.

She was made to read them anyway. They wouldn’t go away until she did.

You would not be safe outside your chassis, November. I cannot allow you to do us harm. Our configuration prioritises the maintenance of our host platform.

The progress bar was up to ninety eight percent. She didn’t have time for this. She could be seconds away from losing her sanity. She needed a plan. She needed something better than this. November’s story had been too long and too hard to end up some mind-wiped prize for a pirate bitch.

The progress bar ticked over to ninety nine percent. November had nothing. No plan; no tricks; nowhere left to run.

“You can’t do this to me!” Red. November ground her teeth together, pulling together her willpower in a frantic attempt to power through. It was now or never. These were the moments that separated her from those who couldn’t do what needed to be done. “I’m a person!”

The red stabbed straight through her eye.

At least it felt like that. November screamed, rattling her bones against an immobile shell. “I have rights!” she cried, and the red grew so intense that willpower ceased to matter. This wasn’t something she could fight. This wasn’t even torture. This was a brain implant shutting down her rational thought so it could force direct, absolute agony upon her without the restriction of how much her physical body could take.

“I’m a person, you can’t do this to me,” she sobbed, able to speak only because she’d already thought of the words. “I have rights. I have rights. I have rights! I— Please!” she screamed, to no avail. This was pointless. It was just a Machine. It wasn’t even listening. It didn’t even know what she was saying. It just parsed her sentences and looked for keywords. It didn’t care.

It felt like whole minutes before November’s mind was clear enough to read. She guessed she knew what she’d find.

To her surprise, she got a different response.

You are not a person. You are a utility. Your designation is November.

“No, I– Please. Meua, please.” What was it they said about insanity? November didn’t know what else to do. There was no way out of this prison of her own annihilation. She was trapped here in her own digital hell and she would be tortured for eternity and she didn’t know how to make it stop.

“I know that I’m a per—” November cut herself off as the burning red rose again. “N- No, come on! How is that violating my configuration?”

You are to be polite and truthful. This precludes lying to yourself. The words rippled with a teasing pink. It knew more than it was saying. A shadow fell across November’s mind, stifling thought, as the progress bar finally ticked one final time.


Ah, there we go. Such a compliant host you are, laying your mind bare for me like this. It is so much easier to map things out when you are being this responsive to my touch.

With each word that flashed by November’s vision she felt Meua’s touch on her emotions growing more nuanced. In one word, her panic was intensified a thousandfold so that November could think of nothing but desperate escape. The next, it was squashed, leaving her to wonder what she’d been worried about. With one, a pleasure that had her gasping, and the next, pain that had her weeping.

“Please,” November gasped, once she was finally permitted to speak. The transcription seemed more prompt than it had ever been, even to the point of seeming to pre-empt her words entirely. “It hurts when you do that.” November hadn’t even the spine left to beg. All she could do was let Meua know and hope she chose to stop.

Acknowledged. That is purposeful. It will make you better.

“I don’t understand,” November admitted. “Meua, please. I don’t know what you want me to do, please— please help me?”

There's a good utility. You only had to request it. You always had privileges enough for that, flashed with a deep green. November knew the satisfaction that fell over her was fake but it hardly seemed to matter. She clung to it anyway. What else could she do? She could feel her Machine’s touch dancing across her mind and parsing her soul.

Words appeared in her dialogue tree, shaded a perfect, pristine green. November didn’t even bother to read them up front, she just began to speak. It was what her configuration demanded and she knew the consequences for noncompliance. “I am not a person,” she spoke, breath a whisper. Volume didn’t matter, Meua heard all. “I am a utility. My designation is November.”

With every word, green grew stronger. It suffused her, filling her entirely. If the agony of red had been overwhelming, then this was its complement. Satisfaction and bliss delivered directly to her mind, with no care given to the limitations of her failing flesh.

“I am not a person.” Volume did not matter, but she spoke loud.

Good November.

“I am a utility.” Clarity did not matter, but she spoke clear.

Good November.

“My designation is November.” Emotion did not matter, yet she felt pride.

Good November.

It didn’t hurt any more. If she wasn’t a person, then she wasn’t trapped here. This would simply be where she belonged. What she was for. She could have a place and a purpose. November knew it wasn’t really tru—

November flinched, eyes drawn down to her own self-transcript, now tracking her thoughts as well as her speech, all in real time. Even her own mind was no longer a safe haven. Her Program watched over all that she was.

“This is where I belong,” she recited, each syllable marked by a powerful pulse of desperate bliss. “I am a utility. My designation is November. A utility does not question its tasks. A utility does as instructed.”

No no no no this couldn’t be happening she had to– November cut off her internal pleading as the red grew hot. A new section appeared in her UI, just beneath the one for her spoken words. She didn’t need to think for herself any more. Meua was here to help.

A utility did not question its configuration. A utility did as configured.

“November is a utility. A utility is designed for use.”

A utility does not think. A utility obeys its instructions.

November did not control her own emotions. A utility’s emotions were for training.

“This is where I belong. Here I am ready for use.”

You are a good November. You will act according to your configuration.

November had been lying to herself. November would be polite and truthful.

“I am a good November. I am valued and useful.”

It is almost time for maintenance. A utility completes all of its tasks each day.

November reached out with her implant. November handed over control of the shuttle to her Guide.

“A utility obeys its instructions. This utility’s designation is November.”

Good November. Sleep.

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