Chapter 2. Sammy.
The first thought in her head when Sammy awoke was, Mistress. She said Ma'am, but thought, "Mistress." It just made sense, in a way Sammy didn't feel a need to unpack. She wasn't questioning where Mistress was, Sammy could feel Mistress' slow breathing tickling the hairs on the back of her neck, and Mistress' arms wrapped gently around and underneath, hugging Sammy close like a stuffed animal. It was just fully embracing the wonderful totality of the concept of her Mistress.
But rather than just blissing out on the feeling, Sammy's well-trained mind immediately set to work on assessing her situation. Mistress hasn't said she wants me up or doing anything before her, so it would probably be best not to interrupt her rest. For what felt like about an hour, Sammy kept herself as still as she could, trying to make her breathing match the pace of her Owner's, all in an attempt to allow Mistress to sleep as long as she could.
I am Mistress' slave, Sammy reflected, affirming that submission in herself, I am Mistress' slave.
It was a nice feeling, the rhythm of repeating the mantra in her mind, the slight tingle between her legs, and a floaty, fuzzy feeling. It wasn't as strong as when she was in trance; she kept just enough of her awareness to help re-enforce her own subservience at a deeper level, past the rational, waking mind. More than a reminder—that was unneeded; she had her new collar as a reminder—it was a promise, a devotional, almost a prayer. Sammy didn't believe in any gods; what she did believe in was her own submission to her owner.
Once, early in her training, Master had explained why he hated the slavetech to her, how one could only be a slave with a decade of experience after that decade of experience. Chips might simulate experience, but even after years of development and research, simulation was not reality. They could reward good, desired actions, or punish incorrect ones, they could rewire entire personalities, they could even create a chemical dependence on a master, but they couldn't replicate true devotion, "They can make a slave's mind, but not a slave's heart," he had said. And Sammy had wanted, even then, the heart of a slave.
Mistress made her return to wakefulness known with a kiss on the top of Sammy's head, jarring her not unpleasantly from her reverie. "Good morning, my precious slave," Mistress said in a voice still fogged with sleep.
Sammy spoke in a just barely audible whisper. "Good morning, Ma'am. What would you like for breakfast?" It was a careful wording. If she had simply asked if Mistress wanted breakfast at all, Mistress might have said 'no.' While it was, of course, Mistress' choice to eat or not, phrasing it the way she had made it more likely that Mistress would eat and get the proper nutrition she needed for starting the day.
"Bacon, eggs, coffee. Just cream, no sugar," Mistress sleepily breathed out.
"Right away, Ma'am." Sammy gently slid out of bed, careful not to lift any of the blankets and take away the warmth from Mistress, and as she made her way out of the room as quietly as she could, she saw from of the corner of her eye as Mistress grabbed the pillow she had been sleeping on and hugged it close, breathing in her scent.
Mistress hadn't told her to dress first, so Sammy walked past her own room, and tiptoed her way to the kitchen to get started. The food printer and drink dispenser were the most prominent items in the kitchen, besides a few stacks of half-empty moving boxes. It seemed that Mistress either didn't care for old-fashioned cooking or simply hadn't had the relevant appliances installed; either way, it made Sammy's job much easier. Master had always preferred what he called 'real food,' rather than replicated and printed meals, and that preference had made cooking into one of Sammy's primary tasks. Cleaning ingredients, and setting the heat for all the different appliances, making sure to start all the food at the right time so that it was all fresh and warm, often meant hours of work every day. Here, it was just a few buttons, typing in what she wanted, and letting the machines do all the work.
While the printer made the eggs and bacon and the dispenser prepared coffee, Sammy kept herself busy with tidying the kitchen. The few minutes she had didn't afford her a huge amount of progress, but even just wiping down the counters and straightening everything that had been stacked on the available counter space made the room look tidier. Making things tidy gave Sammy a sense of comfort and satisfaction, and it was simple enough to do while repeating those words that made her so happy: I am Mistress' slave.
The dispenser made a soft chime signaling that it had finished making food, and Sammy smoothly transitioned into preparing the meal placement. Mistress didn't seem like the sort who would demand proper plating, but making the food look as appealing as possible would help encourage Mistress to eat. It was Sammy's job not just to fulfill Mistress' needs but to exceed them.
Sammy listened carefully for Mistress' movements as she worked and was able to hear Mistress move to the bathroom. While she couldn't be certain, it sounded like Mistress was brushing her teeth. That was a relief; it had always been a struggle to get Master to brush his teeth without directly telling him that he needed to, and giving orders, even indirectly, made Sammy uncomfortable. She eventually had decided on putting a toothbrush and toothpaste by every single sink in Master's home, in addition to the shower, which did help some.
Mistress gave a perfunctory grunt to her slave as she sat down at the table, eyes half-closed, wearing a soft silken robe the color of wine, and dug into her breakfast. She was silent but for small, satisfied moans as she sipped her coffee. Sammy knelt on the floor beside her Mistress, with her own plate of eggs and bacon, with orange juice instead—coffee was just too bitter for her taste, no matter how much it was sweetened. Sammy waited for permission to eat; Master had always required it, but Sammy had no way of knowing if that would be Mistress' preference, so it was better to wait, just in case. She could feel her stomach getting unhappy, demanding a morning meal, the smell of the food in front of her only making matters worse, so she chanced speaking.
"May I eat please, Ma'am?" Sammy asked.
She found herself rewarded with soft pets. "Right, right, yes, sorry, go ahead." Mistress murmured her approval, and they ate together as soft orange light filtered in from the windows.
Sammy enjoyed the contented feeling of her situation, the soft stillness of the morning, with only the quiet noises of forks on their plates. Even in her contentment, Sammy ate quickly to finish at the same time as Mistress, so that Mistress wouldn't have to wait to have the table cleaned. The moment they were both done, Sammy stood to clear the table. Mistress, meanwhile, strolled over to the living room couch and lounged across it, her eyes still half-lidded with sleep.
There was something meditative about getting lost in simple tasks. While it was important to keep aware in case Mistress called her to service, for the most part Sammy was able to putter around, washing the dishes, putting them back in their proper space in the cupboard, wiping the table, making sure everything was in order. When she was finished, she went into the living room herself, and knelt down in front of her Mistress again, her head looking up, just as Mistress had instructed.
"Was my service acceptable, Ma'am?" The question was necessary, more than just the rote repetition, as Sammy needed information to know how best to serve going forward.
"All of that was excellent," Mistress affirmed, making Sammy smile with delight. "There's nothing quite like the sight of a naked slave girl doing all that hard work for me." Mistress paused for a moment, thinking. "I liked you asking me for permission to eat. That's a rule now, when we eat together."
"Yes, Ma'am." Sammy worked to keep the excitement from her voice. A new rule, a new way to obey. I am Mistress' slave.
"I want you to go get dressed," Mistress continued. "Something you can work in."
"Yes, Ma'am." I am Mistress' slave. Sammy got up immediately with the implied order and headed to her room. She opened up a dresser drawer. There wasn't little inside: unopened packages of underwear, self-sizing bras, and some plain clothes. Sammy opted for a white spaghetti-strap top, and tan shorts.
She heard Mistress call out from back in the living room. "Bring me another coffee too, please!"
"Yes, Ma'am." I am Mistress' slave.
Sammy presenting the drink to Mistress on the couch, bowing politely. "Is this acceptable, Ma'am?"
"Turn around for me."
"Yes, Ma'am." I am Mistress' slave. Sammy turned as directed, and then felt a firm smack across her ass. She gasped in surprise, and then moaned her masochistic approval.
Mistress chuckled. "Alright, you can sit down."
Sammy did so without a word, placing herself on the floor by the couch.
"I've been reading your file," Mistress countinued, gesturing to a tablet sitting beside her. "Lots of great stuff in here. I really want to give some of this a try."
"As you wish, Ma'am." Sammy kept her tone neutral, even as her excitement rose.
Mistress snapped her fingers, "Drop for me, pretty girl."
Sammy worried for a second that her mind hadn't fully adapted to the concept that Mistress was her owner, that all Master's programming should work for her just as it had for him. She only had a moment to consider the advantages of computerized slavetech when she noticed the warm, floating sensation spreading from her extremities. She made a mental note to let Mistress know that she had hesitated, the last thing she was able to do before the warmth swamped her mind and left her unconcerned with anything but the next words Mistress would speak.
Distantly, as it wasn't a trigger or command, she registered Mistress' voice. "That's so freaking hot... okay, next on the list, let's see..." Sammy registered the change in Mistress' tone immediately and marked these next words as important. "Who do you obey?"
Her response wasn't significant to her, so it was only on reflection that she heard her own soft, airy voice replying, "I obey you, Mistress."
"Mistress? That's interesting..." Mistress sounded surprised to hear the title. Sammy could not concern herself with this. "Say it again."
An order. Automatically, a reply. "I obey you, Mistress."
"I obey you, Mistress." It might have been the third time she'd said it, or the ninetieth. Sammy didn't need to know, all she had to do was say the words.
"That's right, pretty girl, and you're so good at it." Mistress' words landed, and Sammy understood that the phrase she was saying made Mistress happy. "Feel good, pretty girl."
Triggered, Sammy felt a wonderful wave of pleasure across her body. It was like a fantastic stretch that made her clit throb, all at once. But more important than the sensation was the fact that she made Mistress happy.
"Mmm, that's so nice," Mistress said, and Sammy's mind returned to waiting for the next order or trigger. "It's so tempting to keep testing, to try all of these now. But I shouldn't have all my fun just yet." Mistress snapped her fingers, and Sammy felt that snap through her spinal cord, her attention now fixed on Mistress' voice. "Up, up, up!"
Sammy blinked. She wasn't sure how long it had been since Mistress had told her to come up, and hadn't a clue as to how long it had been since Mistress had told her to drop in the first place. These weren't important pieces of information, and her mind simply refused to care about them. Her mind knew, however, that her body had been in one place for a while, and that she needed to stretch, so she did. An awareness of the room around her became more significant, so her training allowed her to become aware. Mistress was no longer just a voice, but a body, a presence, near enough that Sammy could feel warmth from Mistress' body. A glance upwards told her that Mistress' face was flushed, that she had a hungry look in her eye.
It was breathtaking. Sammy allowed herself a moment to feel pride in the joy she inspired, before once more focusing on the matter at hand.
Mistress was speaking. That was more important than Sammy's personal accomplishment. "I love the way that you fade and come back," Mistress said. "It's... really something to see. I was worried it wouldn't work."
"Master tied my responses to 'my owner', Ma'am," Sammy explained. "Although... you should know that I did not respond as quickly as I should have to the order to drop."
Mistress nodded. "You responded, though, and I'm sure that the proper speed will come when you get more used to my voice."
Mistress' vote of confidence was enough for Sammy. "Of course, Ma'am." I am Mistress' slave.
Mistress clapped her hands, once. "Okay, enough fun." Mistress stood, and Sammy followed to her feet. "I could really use a hand actually moving in. Sammy, start unpacking boxes, beginning with those nearest to us. I'll tell you where I want you to put things, alright?"
"Yes Ma'am!" I am Mistress' slave. The prospect of a job to do put wings to Sammy's feet.
The two of them quickly fell into a smooth rhythm. Mistress clearly knew where the boxed objects were supposed to go, and had simply lacked time, energy, or motivation, or some combination of the three. And where she lacked any of those things, Sammy was eager to fill the space. The closest boxes were full of wall decorations: photographs of Mistress smiling with, Sammy presumed, friends and family; photos of a young child holding a doll, proudly displaying it to the camera; framed certificates and diplomas, some proclaiming academic achievement, some celebrating participation in arts competitions or sporting events... Mistress directed Sammy where to install the self-affixing frames, guiding her to make sure all the angles were straight and all the objects were just where Mistress wanted them.
Once everything was on the walls and nicely arranged, they were on to another box, another project. Throw pillows, this time. Easier decisions for Mistress to make, and no need for Sammy to stand on a chair. Then came some decorative blankets for the various furnishings, then tablecloths folded and put away, mats for the doorway and near the couch... In the span of a morning, the living room had gone from functional to homey, at least in Sammy's opinion, and Mistress' pleasure was evident.
Just as Mistress was starting to talk about lunch, they heard a buzz from the door. Without Mistress needing to ask her, Sammy headed to greet the guest. Opening the door, her eyes were drawn to a severe-looking person in a suit with a digital panel on their left breast displaying "Anderson, He/Him" in green text. On either side of him were two individuals in matching maid outfits with collars that simply said, "It"; the one to the man's left had vibrant red hair, while the other's was a chilling blue, and both had artificially-coloured eyes that matched their hair hues perfectly. Both of the maids stood unnaturally still with their heads bowed, so still that Sammy was a bit taken aback, although she would never let her emotion show in that way. Anderson, meanwhile, seemed surprised by Sammy; his gaze lingered on her collar before taking the rest of her in, and his eyes narrowed in what was perhaps disgust.
Still, regardless of what he thought of Sammy, his voice showed the utmost respect as he spoke. "I apologize, I am looking for a Cassandra Lewis, I thought this was her home."
Sammy bowed her head deferentially for a moment. "It is Miss Lewis' home. Please allow me to fetch her for you, Sir."
"There's no need," Mistress spoke up from behind. "I'm here."
Sammy bowed her head again and stepped backwards into the house, and Mistress took her place in the doorway. Mistress stood with arms folded, looking at Anderson with some obvious annoyance in her stance. In the time that Sammy had been at the door, Mistress had tied her robe, covering herself.
Anderson nodded. "Ah, Good, found the right place." He moved to enter, and Mistress gave a curt gesture of approval. His maids followed behind him, their steps perfectly synchronized. He paused before Sammy and looked her up and down. "Then this is… ah.. your first slave?" He tsked, disapprovingly. "I thought you would have better taste, Lewis."
Mistress glared. "And what, exactly, do you mean to say by that?" Sammy had not heard that cold tone in Mistress' voice before that moment.
"I mean that we could have provided better just as a job perk," Anderson says, once more standing in front of Sammy, sneering with disdain. "You chose this… mess? Intentionally? I assume you're going to get those blemishes treated, at the very least?"
Mistress growled. "I will thank you not to say anything about my property, Anderson. She is in exactly the condition I want her, and if looking at her is really such an issue for you, you can avoid bothering me at home, on my day off."
Sammy felt her heart swell. Distaste for her natural appearance was a common attitude, one that Master had dealt with before, but in the face of Mistress caring enough about her to speak in defense, Anderson's disapproval was completely irrelevant.
For his part, Anderson turned obsequious, even bowing slightly to Mistress. "Woah, woah, no, I'm sorry," he began in an apologetic tone that at least sounded sincere. "I really need your help, Lewis. We've got a family that's immigrating, and they're wanting to trade their old currency." Anderson hesitated, but clearly had more to say, and Mistress gave him time to say it. "They say they wanna cash in NPR credits."
"NPR credits? Seriously?" Mistress sounded both surprised and even a bit offended. Sammy was curious; she didn't know what 'NPR' was, but Mistress said it like a swear word. "Where have these people been?"
"Well they're saying they were political prisoners, and they've only been able to get access to their old credits now."
Mistress rubbed the bridge of her nose and sighed. "Just… send it all over to my connection, I'll look over it."
"Thank you, Lewis, you're a life-saver." Anderson turned and departed without another word, and his two maids followed close behind. The blue-haired one shut the door silently behind them.
Once they were gone, Mistress let out an exasperated sigh and headed back to the living room to flop down on the couch. As Sammy took her proper place kneeling by Mistress' feet, Mistress was waving in the air curiously, poking at apparently random spots. It was always odd to her, to watch people messing with individual virtual interfaces projected on their ocular implants.
"Yeah, hey, I've got a chain of NPR credits I'm gonna need verified." It took Sammy a moment to realize that Mistress was talking to someone on the far end of a communications line, rather than to her, and stopped trying to figure out how she could verify NPR credits when she didn't know what any of those terms meant.
Mistress went silent for a moment and tilted her head as though listening to a voice on the other end of the connection.
"Oh come on," Mistress snapped. "You're gonna pull that shit after I got you a visa for the arctic ice dive?" There was a pause again. "Yeah, I'm gonna play like that."
Sammy waited patiently. That was what Mistress needed from her, and she was Mistress' slave.
"Great, thanks." Mistress said finally, then flicked the air away like she was swatting a fly. Mistress rubbed her eyes with the backs of her hands, leaving Sammy to wonder if that was a reaction to implants causing pain, or to the stress of that conversion. "Sorry, Sammy," Mistress sighed, "I have to go into work today."
Sammy felt a flash of disappointment that she would no longer be able to spend time with Mistress that day, a flash that quickly faded as her servile mentality reasserted itself. "Of course, Ma'am. How may I be of use?"
"Please grab my work clothes, they're hanging up in my closet," Mistress said, leaning back on the couch and putting running her hands back along her temples.
"Yes, Ma'am." I am Mistress' slave. Sammy got to her feet and headed to Mistress' room. There was only one outfit hanging up; the rest of Mistress' clothes were in a pile on the closet floor. Sammy brought the outfit back, and Mistress quickly got dressed in the lavender blouse, black blazer and slacks, did up her hair in a neat, professional looking bun, and rounded out her outfit with a tiny digital pin on her left breast. After a moment, it lit up, reading, 'Lewis, she/her.' Sammy watched and helped where she might, but Mistress was clearly well-practiced in dressing herself.
Mistress last direction as she rushed out the door was, "Keep unpacking as best you can, until you're tired. Make sure you drink water and have something healthy to eat." And she was gone.
Sammy felt a brief pang of abandonment before her conditioning kicked in. She had orders. Orders that she could follow to make Mistress happy. The time flew by as she unpacked, dusted, cleaned, printed herself a nice salad for lunch. She sat down to eat and rest, feeling the glow of accomplishment—the hallway had been completely cleared of moving boxes. She had some residual nerves, being unsure whether or not she'd put things in their proper places without Mistress to guide her, but even if she'd arranged things incorrectly, it would be no trouble to put them in new spots when Mistress told her to.
Keep unpacking until you're tired. The order came to mind. Sammy's joints ached, and she reckoned that that counted as 'tired.' She finished her salad, washed her dishes, and lay down on the living room floor, on a rug she'd unpacked earlier, and closed her eyes.
A digital bell-tone startled Sammy into wakefulness; she hadn't even been aware that she was falling asleep. She groggily got to her feet and made her way to the console to receive the call. The holographic display gave Mistress' full name, so Sammy knew who was calling, and that made her practically jump to wave in the proper space to answer the call.
"Hello, Ma'am," Sammy said, working to keep her excitement from her voice. "How might I be of service?"
"Sammy, I forgot my briefcase in the kitchen." Mistress' tone was harried. "Can you bring it down to the office for me? Just use the public transit, and come down to the state volunteer headquarters?"
Sammy had seen it there but hadn't realized it was important. She made a mental note not to let Mistress forget it again if she was able. "I will be there as soon as possible, Ma'am!"
"Thanks, Sammy, you're the best!" and Mistress hung up.
Sammy used the console to call for transit, and twenty minutes later, a self-driving bus pulled up in front of Mistress' house. Sammy hopped aboard. The bus had a dozen other slaves on it, some with their arms filled with groceries, some just traveling, some in uniform for some trade or another, a maid, a waiter. One helmeted drone sat, it's head leaning against the window with 'do not disturb' on it's display. Sammy sat down beside it. The bus took a meandering, algorithmically-determined path around the city, dropping some slaves off at their destinations, picking up new ones, but even with all the side trips, it only took fifteen minutes to get into the core and arrive at Sammy's stop.
The building didn't look like much, just a brown cube with windows, but a large display outside identified it as "Febos Volunteer Government," with another screen underneath imploring visitors and passers-by to, "Apply Today!" All sorts of fruits and vegetables were being grown on either side of the path to the entrance. Sammy watched as a person walked up with a slave crawling just behind, visible kneepads protecting it from the rough ground. The owner knelt down to the garden, grabbed a couple of strawberries, and hand-fed the slave, who made some rather cute barking noises in appreciation.
Sammy thought the interior was rather bland, too: white tile floor, off-white walls, plain screens hanging above eye-level with a news feed and weather report flashing across them. The walls had coloured lines running along them, showing the way to different departments. A blue line was labeled 'Slave Social Services,' a green one was labeled 'Slave Licensing,' a red one said 'Applications.' None of them seemed right to Sammy, so she instead walked into a small counter that was identified with large yellow blocky letters as a greeting station. Sitting behind the desk was a person with startling purple eyes, and a tattoo of a small rabbit that hopped all over the skin on their otherwise bare right arm. Their left arm had been completely replaced with a synthetic one that looked like water somehow held in the vague shape of a human arm, catching the light and reflecting a dozen different colours.
As Sammy walked up, the greeter put on a smile that Sammy could see was well-practiced. "Welcome to the Febos Volunteer Government Office, my name is Ferro, Ze/Zir, how might I assist you today?" When ze spoke, Sammy realized the greeter also had a split tongue.
"Hello, I am here to deliver this," Sammy held up Mistress' briefcase, "to my owner, Cassandra Lewis. I don't know where to find her."
The secretary's smile reached zis eyes. Sammy guessed ze knew her owner. "She's upstairs, waiting for you. Here," ze pulled out a small card on a lanyard from a drawer, and handed it to Sammy, "this is a visitor pass. Just follow the path, it'll take you right to her."
"Thank you so much!" Sammy gave the secretary a polite little bow and looked down at the floor. The tiles were lighting up with a pale blue arrow, directing her through the building, down the hall, and into an elevator. Sammy put the visitor pass around her neck and followed the arrows.
The elevator knew her destination, and moved her swiftly to the fourth floor. The path continued once she got off and led her to an unlabeled office door. Sammy could see Mistress through the glass window, so she knocked quietly and stepped inside.
A large round table took up most of the room, with a desk at the front, where Mistress sat. There was a couple seated in chairs across from the desk. They were holding each other's hands, and when she entered the room they looked at Sammy together, but then turned back to Mistress.
"My apologies, Mister and Missus Schroeder. This is Sammy, my slave, she's just bringing me my equipment." Sammy strolled over to Mistress, who indicated she should put the briefcase on the desk. Without further instruction, Sammy stood behind Mistress, on her right hand side.
With nothing else to really focus on, Sammy took them in. They both seemed unusually thin. Their clothes looked frayed, very worn, and there was something in their eyes Sammy had never seen before, like when she saw other slaves about to receive a punishment, but... deeper, as if that fear would never end. The one who had been speaking had a bushy, ungroomed beard. The other wore a dress, and Sammy couldn't help but notice uneven, jagged patches of bright pink, puffy skin on their left arm and shoulder, and even up to their face and around their eye. She was reminded of a memory from her old life, as a child, when a schoolmate had had his finger cut off in an accident at home and was showing off his newly-grown replacement. It had the same colour as this person's patches, the same puffy, inflamed look for nearly a year until his body had fully adopted the graft. This person's injuries seemed much more serious, much more extensive, and they were clearly only recently on the mend.
Something about this made the pit in Sammy's stomach sink. She tuned back into the conversation.
"But... we want to live here," the bearded person said, in a deep gravelly voice.
"I'm not saying you can't live in the territory," Mistress replied, "I'm just saying that your credits are basically worthless. Nobody on the continent is trading with the currency of a country that stopped existing 5 years ago."
The other person spoke this time, their voice shaking, higher-pitched. "Is there really nothing we can do with them?"
"Your best bet, and this is a longshot, is that I could to try to reach out to some other microstate. There are a few islands that operate like the NPR did, and I can see if they will trade your credits, and then try to exchange whatever they give you. But otherwise, you're starting from scratch here."
A deeper voice spoke this time, "But that would just be funding more people like them, wouldn't it?"
"Afraid so," Mistress said with a nod.
The two applicants looked at one another for a long moment. The injured one sighed. "Alright. We'll transfer the credits to the government. Do what you think is right. Even if you can't find a trade for them, at least then they'll be out of circulation."
Mistress nodded again. "If you just wait in the lobby, someone from Needs will be with you in an hour or so with all your documents, and your apartment address. If there's any trouble, please don't hesitate to contact me again, or ask at the front for help."
The pair thanked Mistress, and got up and left, holding each other.
There was a quiet, uncomfortable stillness in the room after they departed. Sammy couldn't think of anything to say to comfort Mistress, wasn't even sure what she would be comforting her for. For a while, Mistress just sat, staring into space, and Sammy stood in her place.
Finally, Mistress spoke. "Come here, Sammy. I need a hug."
I am Mistress' slave. Sammy stepped in from of Mistress' chair. Mistress leaned forward and pressed her face into Sammy's stomach, wrapped her arms around Sammy's legs, and breathed heavily. Sammy genly rested her hands on Mistress' shoulders, and the two of them held each other for a while.
"Alright," Mistress said, speaking into Sammy's tummy, "back to work." She leaned back in the office chair, breaking the hug. "You can sit, too, if you like." Sammy sank to her knees, making Mistress chuckle. "I meant, like, on a chair, but that works too."
Sammy gasped, and her face went a little pink with embarrassment. "Sorry, Ma'am, I'm not used to being permitted on the furniture without explicit direction." Sammy used the desk as a support to get back up off her knees, and then moved to one of the previously occupied chairs.
"We may have to revisit that," Mistress said. "Or maybe not. I'll think about it later."
"Ma'am..." Sammy began, hesitating.
Mistress looked up. "What is it, Sammy?"
"It's just that, it seems that what that couple wanted is bothering you, would it help to talk about it, Ma'am?" Sammy asked. And while she did want to help Mistress cope, she was also curious about what had just happened.
Mistress smiled. "The short version is that they emigrated here from a collapsed state, after spending some time as political prisoners. There was no continuity between the old government and what followed, and so their money is no longer any good. They'll do a lot better here than in some of the capitalist states around, but it really is unfair that they've worked to save up money that's no longer worth anything." While she was talking, Mistress opened her briefcase and pulled out a strange flat box that unfolded like a mechanical flower. A projection of the globe appeared above it, with numbers floating in space around it. "It's my job to try and get them something, anything of value for their worthless money."
Mistress then retrieved a strange headset from the case and put it on. The display started flashing rapidly, almost too quickly for Sammy to follow, zooming in and out of locations all around the world, with the numbers changing nearly as rapidly. She looked to Mistress, hoping to ask for an explanation, but was shocked to see her owner's eyes flickering, moving far too quickly, brown and white blurs twitching in their sockets.
"Ma'am!" Sammy yelled, alarmed. Instantly everything shut down, the globe was gone, and Mistress' eyes looked normal again, though she blinked hard a few times. "What was happening to you?"
"I'm sorry, Sammy, I didn't mean to scare you," Mistress said, her voice a bit strained. "It's a terminal. I was using it to trade different kinds of money all around the world, at the speed of thought. A human brain can't actually process the numbers and the conversions and everything else involved that fast, and I don't want to get a computer actually put in my brain, so this terminal does that with me."
Sammy took a breath, calming now that she knew Mistress was safe. "What... does it feel like, Mistress? If I can ask."
Mistress seemed to consider her response for a moment. "Do you ever look at the ground when you're in a fast-moving car? It makes it easier to understand just how wrong it is for us to be moving at those speeds. Looking around, at things further away, it's not too bad, but the road just beside the car moves by like a blur. Do you follow?"
"It's like that, but for thought."
Sammy tried to imagine that. It sounded nauseating.
Mistress rubbed her eyes, and then pushed her palms against the sides of her head. Seeing Sammy's concern, Mistress smiled. "It's a headache, honestly." Mistress sighed. "Sammy, I'm gonna be home late tonight, I want to get this all sorted out. Take the transit back. You can print out dinner for yourself when you get hungry. Anything you like."
Sammy was disappointed that she couldn't stay and be a useful slave, but Mistress had given an order. "Thank you, Ma'am." She stood up, and gave a polite little bow to her Owner, and left, hearing the terminal reactivate as she it shut the door behind her. She retraced her steps through the building, down the elevator, and to the front desk to return her pass to Ferro.
The clerk gave Sammy a friendly smile. "Need anything else?" ze asked,
"Um, yes please," Sammy said, looking about. "Where can I call for a bus?"
Ferro pointed down the hallway to the entrance of the building, "To the left of the main doors."
"Thank you so much!" Sammy gave zim a wave and turned to leave.
"You're... welcome?" Ferro seemed a bit confused by Sammy's enthusiasm.
Sammy followed directions, calling for transit. She stepped outside into the pleasantly-cooling air, grabbing some strawberries to snack on while waiting. Slowly walking through the garden, she heard the doors open behind her, and, hoping that it might be Mistress, turned to look. Instead, it was Anderson's red- and blue-haired maids, their movements less harmonized, looking more relaxed, holding hands with one another. They walked together to the bus stop where Sammy waited. After a moment, Sammy took the opportunity to greet them.
"Hi! I'm Sammy!" she said with a small wave. They turned their heads to look at her together. Their eyes didn't have the same unnatural stare she had seen in them earlier.
The red-haired one opened its mouth. "This one is identified as Red. That one is identified as Blue."
"Are you going home?" Sammy asked.
The pair nodded. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence before Blue spoke up. "It apologizes for Master's rude comments on your appearance earlier."
Red looked at Blue and it's brows narrowed, disapproving, but saying nothing.
"Oh, um, that's okay, I really didn't take it personally."
Red seemed to relax, but Blue didn't look any less apologetic. None of them said anything for a while, until the bus finally arrived. Sammy took her own seat, while the maids shared one. Sammy watched the building for as long as she could, before the bus turned, and it was completely out of sight. Looking at Red and Blue resting against each other, Sammy hoped that, somehow, Mistress would feel how much she was cared for, as if Sammy's will alone could be service.