Rick Santos quietly entered the instruction room, noting the lights hadn't dimmed yet. The click of the door alerted some of the trainees sitting ahead of him. Tearing a few gazes from the front as they waited for their instructor, quiet rumblings made the rounds through the room. "The legend," "Fly boy," "Blind Flyer," titles worthy only for a veteran of his celebrity status in the service. 15 years worth of deep space operations, from flying the lowliest transport shuttle or fighter jet, to the fleet's biggest carriers, Rick had built quite a career, holding the record for time spent on the fringe, especially when it came to black hole studies.
Ever since humanity had cultivated the technology to move past just theoretically studying the colossal space phenomenon and braved to getting a little closer to observing them, and phenomena like them, whole divisions were formed to become more as intimate as possible. Key human advancements had come from the pursuit of studying them, and as a result of studying them, one of which was loosely linked to Rick close to his early years of service. He took it all in stride though. He was no scientist; he was just present. That what he said every year. And every year, several times a year, he'd come back to see what the newer generations were being taught. He shook his head and smirked as he realized he was still unofficially part of their studies, probably more exciting to learn about than whatever was on the syllabus.
"Welcome back, Fredrick."
Rick turned his head to the left to notice his old instructor resting against the wall like he was. Lillian McDaniels always had a knack for surprising people; apparently she was also a ninja in silent heels. His ears heard his birth name being spread around the room with surprise, and he winced internally. It took him years to shed 'Fredrick,' 'Fred,' and 'Freddie.' It was a lot easier to do in the academy since he called himself Rick, and everyone just assumed Richard Santos was his name.
Instructor McDaniels had the mercy and hospitality skills of a drill instructor, as well as the strictness. Annoyance shined in his eyes as he looked over the rim of her glasses into her artificial-red contacted ones, as cosmetic as the chopsticks sticking out of her antiquated hairstyle. She smiled before going over the roster on her clipboard, matching up numbers with her head-count.
"What is it with you and that name prof? Rick works just as well. After a decade and a half, would it kill you to acknowledge one tiny little preference of one of your prized students?"
She looked back at him with that UCS instructor's 'unimpressed' stare, the one that made her look like a sexy librarian.
"I've acknowledged your tiny little preferences since day one Santos. And you made it necessary to scrub as much of that foolhardy foolishness out of you as I could, lest I remind our new recruits the probability of death in the stunts you pulled in atmosphere and in orbit."
"Testing limits is apart of what we pilots do Prof. And I've wised up with my deep space operating, in case you've noticed."
"I've read the reports, and am of course glad you are still with us. I just hope you remember what it took to get you wise."
Rick stole a few glances at her, something he did more often whenever he came back. Speaking of wisdom made him realize that she had 5+ years experience as an instructor, and yet he was the one that looked older. For the sake of the academy, she was probably lucky that her impressive looks kept her students interested, no matter how important the subject matter was.
McDaniels looked down at her watch, and realized it was time to begin the class.
"I'll see you later, Fredrick," she whispered as she walked away, like whispering the name he hated was some sort of concession.
"Good afternoon cadets." The unchanging alto voice intoned to her class.
"Good afternoon Professor McDaniels," the chanted back with only a smidge more enthusiasm. It was to be expected as that day's lesson was specifically about the black holes themselves. Rick almost openly called her Lillian in retaliation, wanted to for years on end, but didn't want to disrupt the lesson or have the cadets thinking of her as less of an authority giving a not-so-vital suggestion. They were about to learn one of the biggest hazards of the job.
A few clicks to a cylindrical device in her hands dimmed the lights and cued up a projector.
"Ladies and gentleman, meet the abyss, also known as a black hole. I am fully aware that this is among the most boring aspects of the class, as you all are opting to be pilots in our fleet. 'Scientists are the ones that need to know about the space holes,' some of you might say. Not true. Not true at all. There are several steps to getting to deep space operations, which is the most prestigious, and potentially lucrative service thus far. It is the most rewarding precisely because it is the most high-risk job known to human-kind, and because the brass have finally loosened the sticks up their asses for acknowledging those brave enough."
Chuckling resonated through the students, even Rick responded. One joke during her lecture wasn't too uncommon.
"The biggest danger to all of you in this room is the pull of the hole itself. Let me clarify by saying it's not the gravitational pull, or how a black hole will suck everything in, including time and light. There is a reason we call these behemoths 'the abyss.' To quote Nietzsche, 'And if thou gaze long into the abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.' An apt quote, though if Nietzsche were alive today he would have to retract his words due to sheer underestimation. For those of you who find yourselves face to face with the abyss someday, she will not only gaze into thee. Her gaze is much stronger than yours. And old instructor of mine mused that looking at a black hole in its actual visceral splendor is like a siren calling out to you with her voice, leading you to ruin."
Rick remembered the first time in deep space he was introduced to an abyss. It was impressive to any set of eyes. He didn't orgasm to it like the science division nuts did, but McDaniels was right about the pull. He often compared it to the mythical death of the space farmer that watched the meteor coming to kill him, from the time it broke into the atmosphere of the 4th earth-like planet colonized, to the exact moment it hit the surface, vaporizing him. He wondered which way would be the worse way to go, the meteor, or the abyss. Something in him never allowed him to answer that question.
"Some of you have been staring at this image of the black hole for long seconds, already feeling a pull, wondering if this display is being played on a loop of it's most fascinating spin. This is not the case. What you're seeing now is uninterrupted footage, a clip from 48 hours straight viewing. It is said that 1 in 75 people will find themselves inexorably pulled into the abyss' gaze. I believe that to be grossly inaccurate, so let me set the record straight - not one of you will not be pulled in by the abyss in some way. The difference is how long you are to be exposed to it. There is a reason scientists are only ever allowed to view an unfiltered black hole for no longer than 20 minutes, just like there is a reason every ship or shuttle you will fly comes equipped with a filtered visor. A study I conducted years ago included 25 subjects watching a filtered abyss for random durations of time. All 25 within a span of 5 hours found themselves in a sleepy, catatonic-like state. The real concern I've found was finding the ones who stayed longer all moved themselves closer to the display than when the study began. As pilots, I'm sure you can the grave danger and grave responsibility you all have."
It helped Rick to come back and feel the absolute weakest version of the pull of the abyss from the safety of an in-atmosphere base, to know the varied strength they carried. He didn't have to look down at the newbies to know they were already pretty affected; they wouldn't be able to function if their first time exposed was out in space, slowly drifting to their doom.
Another click of Professor McDaniels' device cued up not only an enlargement of the abyss, but a sound system meant to suck all the ambient sounds from the room, to imitate the dead silence of space as perfectly as possible. Gasps of surprise, deep breaths, random sounds of shock were deafened. Some students literally couldn't hear themselves thinking. Somehow the only sound that was audible was Professor McDaniels.
"'And if thou gaze long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze long into thee.' It gazes hungrily, vibrantly, unblinkingly at you. It calls to you with nothingness, fills you with nothingness, and yet has a sound that satisfies you into complacency. You hear that sound in my voice. The sound is my voice. I am the abyss. I am the eye of deep space, fixing you eternally with my hypnotic stare. When you see me, there is nothing but me. When you hear nothing, there is nothing but me. When you feel empty, there is nothing but me. You are so biddable to my urges, to my whims. My pull is irresistible, pulling you closer and closer to my desires, to my instruction. Are you ready to receive my instruction?"
Professor McDaniels cross-checked the headcount she'd taken with the number of inaudible yes's she saw mouthed.
"Are you ready to receive my instruction, to do all that I say?"
Every last student, and one alumni standing in the back matched the count. She smiled in his direction, pleased that he was still unaware of the real reason he kept coming back year after year, whenever he could get a chance, to revisit her class.
"My eye of deep space instructs you, compels you to be pulled toward what I want, NOT what I am. You may only stare at what I am, but you may NOT advance closer to me. You advance yourself closer to my wishes - to fulfill your duty as United Colony Service officers, pilots tasked with the safety of many lives who study me. You are all fascinated by me. You all find me so very irresistible. You all worship the divinity I am in your own pleasing ways. You stare, you analyze, you work around me without ever getting close. All those who hear me now are my most appreciated worshippers. You all have the highest honor of my favor. You are all shepherds for my other followers, to keep them safe, to keep yourselves as safe as humanly possible."
Years ago, when she was called on as a researcher to measure the effects of exposure to deep space and black holes, she was mystified by the findings, seeing the risk as much too great without some sort of caveat or safety catalyst. Her background in psychology immediately allowed her to link the result of the effects to the signs of hypnotic trance. The simplest suggestions of anchoring and association worked well for most when it came to preservation and safety in-line with the UCS's once inane expectations for such working conditions. Professor McDaniels eventually became the progenitor of programs, classes and seminars meant to not only teach about black holes, but to program her pupils like they would be programming the machines that transported them to and back. Several female cadets had come back to her and ended up being mentored by her, to spread her safety initiatives in other classrooms and training facilities, unofficially safe-guarding the entire service.
"The voice you hear now is the voice of deep space, the most trapping sound or voice you will ever come into contact with. No matter where you are in the universe, close to my deep space eye, safe on your home planet or colony, or even in the depths of your dreams, my voice is a voice that must be obeyed. Commands from my voice can never be modified, they can only be repeated, or chanted if you wish, and fully believed and followed. You will act normal and fully aware if you hear my voice in the presence of others, but will still acquiesce to every word of mine. When we are alone, you will acquiesce, but are allowed to feel and express the positivity and pleasure of hearing only my voice and obeying it. Nod if you all understand."
More than two dozen heads in the classroom shook their heads in soft understanding.
"If you have a workdesk in front of you, I want you to look down at it, pick up the stylus, and prepare to answer the questions I ask you. Listening to me ask the questions, or simply speak, is as powerful as watching the abyss, the hypnotic eye of deep space. Here is the first question - What is your number one priority when you see or hear the eye or voice of deep space?"
Her clipboard lit-up as multiple notifications appeared, ready for her viewing. She nodded approvingly at all the responses of "safety," and "obeying the voice." Safety was the answer she was looking for, but she could settle with associating one with the other more as time goes on.
"Next question - when you see my hypnotic eye of deep space, do any of you feel the need to approach me, to be pulled closer to me instead of only my commands?"
She received close to unanimous no's. Those writing otherwise had their names and profiles saved for later.
"When you are out in deep space, studying the abyss, what is your function?"
Most answers were more or less satisfying, but she considered adding some suggestions to the course for this class about improving penmanship.
"Whose voice is the voice of deep space?"
Every answer was "Professor McDaniels."
"Whose voice is the voice that you are completely obedient to, that you can not disobey whatsoever?"
Same unanimous answer as before, to her delight.
"Put your stylus' away. Now, your last command for today's class is to consciously forget about all these commands. You'll never truly forget them, because they will remain in the deep recesses of your mind, ready to obey me when needed. They won't impede on your normal self however. Your subconscious will know, your conscious mind won't know, but both will obey. Is that understood? Nod and say yes to answer."
Another class full of exemplary students made their new teacher very proud.
"Perfect. Now, as the lights grow bright again, you will awaken to realize you've had a very informative, important lesson that you will take to heart. There were no notes taken because there was no need; what I told you was so common-sense that you just won't forget about the importance of them, even if the details get blurry. No need to worry about that at all."
Very slowly the lights shine brighter over her students, and they woke. On the back wall, Rick shook his head, and focused forward toward his old instructor. "Still as boring as ever," he muttered under his breath.
"That concludes today's lesson. We will go over these topics in more detail next time. In the meantime, please prepare yourselves for your next classes, and have a good day."
McDaniels walked toward the lecture hall's exit. Rick couldn't get a word in before he heard "come with me," from her.
Confused, he followed her, all the way across the campus to her office. He still had trouble getting a word in when he entered.
"Lock the door behind you."
He blinked after he did as she asked, slowly processing what just happened. It'd only become slow because her commands were more than second nature after a decade, made even stronger in her presence.
"When you look at me, you don't even have to think about doing my bidding. It will be done, won't it?"
She liked being called Lillian on her off-time, and with her most prized and programmed pupils. The cold, clinical, calculating look she kept in the public eye hid the voracious woman inside very well. Not even her superiors would use her first name, even if they could, their image of Professor McDaniels was singed into their heads with every interaction. She was both McDaniels and Lillian, and had come to accept Lillian having enough fun for both personas as often as she could.
"I think it's time you accepted being referred to as Fredrick. Sounds much more dignified to me, like you are a secure adult. You like the name, don't you?"
"I like being called Fredrick."
"See? There's still much to learn when you come back and see me."
"But some lessons you just like repeating, don't you?"
"How about this time, you try the lecture, just to show me how well you know the lesson?"
"Of course Lillian. It's a good lesson."
"Then you may begin. Don't forget to perform the actions as you narrate."
A strange smile came over Fredrick's face, as if he was switching gears standing in an office, and entering the cockpit of his UCS transport shuttle, the fastest one they would let him fly.
"Theoretically-speaking, the effects of deep space can lead people to see the abyss as an after-image, like seeing the sun after staring directly into it."
He took a step forward.
"The difference being, instead of a bright spot in your vision, you are prone to seeing dark circles in thin air. Gateways, in a sense, some sort of path the mind makes, or even the black hole forms as a sense of time, a sense of laying out a path that we're destined to follow."
He saw the circles. His vision rode through their center like a rollercoaster as they led him head-first, down to his hands and knees, and forward behind Lillian's desk.
"The beset path has yet to be broken, because it is our fate to follow it. Or it could be the mind giving us a path to our own desires. It could take decades, or even hundreds of years of study to unlock the why, but it will probably never undo the fact that well will just do, just follow."
The gateways created a path all the way to the front of Lillian's pantsuit, even following her as she stood up from her chair.
"To show us our destination, a black hole will linger and circle an object we are supposed to interact with."
A circle spun around her crotch, the zipper of her white pants making a shape familiar to him as he unzipped them, and pulled her pants down with his teeth for some reason. He felt the synthetic material of her clothes, even her panties, in his mouth before lowering them down to her ankles, before a new path of gateways brought him back to where she sat.
"The one element of this theory that gives credence to the 'mind's desire' aspect is that a gateway may modify itself into a shape symbolic to an individual, for a sense of desire, of purpose or both."
He watched a new gateway form around her crotch, a bead of liquid dripping from it like drool dripping from his mouth for staring without talking for a few minutes. Lillian loved to make some wait for what they so needed sometimes.
"And what is that symbolic thing you see Fredrick?" she asked, as passionate as he ever heard her sound.
"The cat's eye of deep space."
Lillian swore her pussy contracted to match the snicker from her whenever he said those words everytime. She formed the gateway and marker suggestion, but never put it together how her slit could be mistaken for the slit of a cat's eye if you put a circle around it. Fredrick's creative mind came up with that all his own, causing a deep laugh that roamed the then empty hallways of her building the first time he told her what he saw. "Thank god I did it at night the first time," she thought.
"What is the cat's eye of deep space doing, Fredrick?"
"Because it has missed you. You want to make it feel better. You want to lick all of it's tears of sadness and joy away, don't you?"
"Yesss..." he groaned.
"Then make the cat's eye happy. Don't miss a single tear."
Lillian pulled Fredrick's head forward as more than one part of her cried a cry of joy, for the lives she'd saved over the years, and the benefits she gave herself with her best students. She uttered through shuddering breaths how the cat's eye was the only abyss he was ever allowed to approach. The big ones in space were off-limits, and weak compared to the power around hers. She contracted hard over his professed love for hers when she told him if he ever succumbed to the big one, he'd never come into sweet contact with hers ever again.
Pilots like Rick Santos were always shining examples of service officers, all under her tutelage, and found praise in her class and office more rewarding than any medal, commendation, or ceremony in their honor. All they wanted was to be a good pupil in Professor Lillian McDaniel's eyes, at the head of her class.
"No better way to get a head in my class," she told herself as she succumbed to the first orgasm his tongue produced that day.