Frankly, Dr Candace Kraft thought privately as she sat in her car, looking out at the campus in front of her, single-occupancy offices should be assumed for staff, room shortage or no room shortage.
It was a thought she’d repeated to herself many times over the past year. The frequency of repetition was steadily increasing; for about the past month, it had been a once-a-day ritual as she summoned up enough irritation to get her through the day.
She needed that low-key irritated drive. Her office partner for the past three years now, Dr Alphonse Bimbeau, had become an Olympic-level frustration following the sad loss of his wife.
Quite a change from their first two years working in proximity. She’d expected… honestly, to this day she wasn’t sure what she’d expected from a young genius with a name like that, but it had probably involved a layer of arrogance a mile wide and a chip on his shoulder following what must have been a lifelong series of gibes at his name. (With a name like that, it was a safe bet.)
Plus, of course, his work was largely in computer science, and that faculty… well, Candace had opposed any faculty mergers that took her beloved medical faculty closer to computer science. Sexism ran rampant with the lot of them, and they had a tendency to dismiss her work as unimportant in comparison to their own.
Never mind that she was close to a true breakthrough; it was one that required expensive, custom-built circuitry to guide the devices she was designing. She’d had someone tell her to her face that, as computers were essential to use her work, they were of more value than the work itself.
When she finally met her new officemate, Dr Bimbeau (“Call me Alphonse, please. I’m not used to ‘doctor’ yet and the rest is just unacceptable!”), she met a man with a sunny disposition and a scientists’ appetite for knowledge of any stripe.
They’d spent a long time happily discussing the ins and out of one others’ work, neither one fully understanding the other (artificial intelligence was not an area of research she’d considered even for a moment) but each grasping its significance and potential.
Candace recognised in him that same desire to excel and flashing mind that had marked her out for greatness at the beginning of her own career. Even their partners got on with one another.
For two years, it had been a happy office, an unspoken partnership of equals. But that was not to last.
With the loss of his wife, Bimbeau withdrew into himself, becoming quiet and sullen. Over time that sullen attitude turned to brooding and ultimately to a toxic frustration that curdled the air around him.
She gathered, vaguely, that his AI research had hit a roadblock he wasn’t sufficiently inspired to overcome. Instead, psychology texts started to appear in their office. They would soon begin to clutter it, with pages from some being torn out and tacked to the walls, passages highlighted in blocks of yellow. (Early on, she tried to follow some of these, but they seemed completely unconnected. She chalked it up to her lack of understanding of the field.)
Along with this gradual shift, the atmosphere in the office had changed for, she felt, another reason. The affection the Bimbeaus and Krafts had shared was no longer present, but in its place she could feel a frustrated jealousy burn.
Candace, after all, still had her husband, and she also had a daughter, while Bimbeau now had only himself. She knew how much the idea of family had meant to him, how much her own meant to her.
So it was difficult to blame him for this change in atmosphere, but nonetheless, she was less comfortable in her office than ever before, and it could take her some time to mentally work herself up to be ready to deal with it all.
And if she was entirely honest, the fact it was now almost a full year did leave her wondering if the man oughtn’t to have pulled himself together by now.
At least she didn’t have a lecture or seminar today. She was a little concerned that her students might be bearing the brunt of her current frustrations.
With a sigh, she left her car and hurried into the boxy Department buildings.
She put her key in the lock, tried to turn it, and realised Bimbeau had beaten her in for the day. Which happened now, sometimes.
As she opened the door he was hastily taking his own seat, as if he’d moved suddenly.
And her computer was on.
This was a new level of intrusion, of acting up, of… whatever. She started to make her way to her desk, quickly mulling over her options.
She decided not to say anything. It felt a lot like he might be trying to provoke her to some kind of reaction. Out of respect for the man he’d been, she decided not to let him. Some dignity might yet be recoverable.
She logged into her account, opened her email, and frowned.
Her monitor was misbehaving. Flickering, dark, generally out of whack. Bimbeau might have meddled with monitor settings for darkness, but that would hardly explain the odd flicker.
She felt a strange, tense fuzziness at her temples, but she wrote it off as her frustration with her office mate.
“Kindly do not fiddle with my computer,” she said stiffly, keeping her tone as neutral as she could.
“Mm?” His noise of inquiry sounded fake and rehearsed. She heard his chair move as he turned to look over her back toward her screen.
“Oh! Sorry about that. I’ve been experimenting with some peripherals, and I think they built up some static. Try de-gaussing. That should help.”
It sounded like a lie, but without going through the motions, challenging him on it could see tempers flare. She pressed the monitor’s degauss button, hearing its characteristic thunk.
The screen flared, but not in the usual pattern. She blinked rapidly, feeling suddenly overwhelmed… and oddly aroused. Where had that come from?
Sure enough, when the flare died down, the screen was still flickering, shadowy, and somehow wrong.
Candace sat there a little while longer, silent, distracted, watching the screen flicker and dance before she abruptly shook her head.
She had the oddest sensation of déjà vu, recalling times when a sudden noise from her young daughter Kara had startled her when she’d been lost in her reading.
“No,” she said slowly, far less angrily than she expected. “That’s not working right.”
She noticed that there’d been no sound of work from him since she came in; no rattling of keyboards, no mouse clicks, not even a muttered fragment of computer code.
It occurred to her that she hadn’t heard him turn back to his own computer.
“Try it again,” he suggested, an odd tension in his voice. Somehow it seemed like a reasonable suggestion; by the time she wondered why his tone sounded so odd, her finger was already back on the button.
Again the flare, again the odd, brief, lightening of the tension in her head. It felt like fun somehow. And… no, of course this wasn’t the source of that heat between her thighs. That would be ridiculous.
But just in case…
Candace giggled, then wondered why, startled. “No,” she managed again. She wasn’t entirely sure what she meant. Definitely a refusal though. “You’ve done something. I don’t know what?”
His tone turned sly and amused. “Could you guess what?”
She thought for a while, trying to answer the question, but nothing came to mind. “It’s not supposed to be this hard to think,” she mumbled, defensive without knowing why.
She heard him roll his chair closer to her. For the first time since she sat down she realised she hadn’t looked away from the screen.
“There are things that will make it easier,” he said.
“What?” she asked, wondering if maybe she should look away from the screen.
“Obedience,” he said promptly.
The tension at her brow seemed to ease. It had to just be her confusion at the idea. She was so surprised she almost turned to look at him.
“That doesn’t make sense,” she mumbled.
“Oh, but it does,” he said, his voice practically a purr, packed with gloating and delight. “Let me show you.”
“I don’t think that’s-“
“Clasp your hands behind your head.”
As if it were perfectly natural, she reached up, twining her fingers together against the back of her head. Just the act of doing so straightened her spine, even as her eyes remained locked on the screen.
She’d completed the motion before she even realised she’d started.
It was true, though; her thinking seemed clearer again, less pressured. Maybe that was the posture, maybe it was-
“Are you… brainwashing me?”
“We’re finding that out together, but it looks like it.”
He turned her chair slightly to face him. Her head swivelled to keep drinking in that flickering screen as the chair moved. But she could feel him starting on her blouse’s buttons.
She didn’t seem to mind? She should, of course. All that frustration, all that growing discomfort… it wasn’t gone, so much as it just didn’t seem important right now.
“Why? We’ve never actually quarrelled.”
“No,” he agreed curtly. His hands ceased their activity for a few moments. He seemed to be thinking through his answer. She kept on watching the screen.
“Truthfully… I need your brain. I actually have a plan, now. A way to change things. I lost the life I wanted, so fine, I’ll take the one everyone joked about. I’ll show them.”
“You… need my brain?” The idea of dedicating her life to his projects was somehow blissful. That HAD to be whatever the screen was doing.
He went back to her blouse, a gleeful tug popping buttons off the blouse altogether rather than open them. “Right. But while I’m after that, I thought I’d take your body, too.”
That should NOT sound reasonable, but it did. It felt like he was just echoing reasonable arguments she’d read in one of her textbooks. She realised that she must be reading them - drinking them in through the screen, too fast for her to be aware.
“You’re using my short term memory?”
His hands were on her body now, bra cups tugged down away from her breasts. Fingers toyed and teased. It was all for his own satisfaction, but she responded to that as if programmed. Which, she reminded herself, she effectively was.
“That’s how my method works. I need your brain because I need your tech if I’m going to KEEP you like this permanently. Let alone anyone else.”
“I don’t… understand…”
“I’ve tried doing life the right way. Turns out you can lost everything that matters in an instant. So now? Now it’s time to cheat. Supervillains don’t have this kind of trouble.”
Candace had reservations about that. For one thing, so far as she could make out, supervillains were (and should remain) a mostly American phenomenon. For another, they seemed to spend half their time either being arrested or dying ironically.
But somehow, the idea of speaking up and contradicting him disappeared almost as quickly as it crossed her mind. Of course Dr Bimbeau was right.
“I have a family,” she managed. The Doctor sighed. One hand let her go, but he didn’t stop toying with her. Instead he hit the degauss button on the monitor again. Candace felt the bliss roll through her, moaning happily.
“Don’t worry about that,” he said.
His grip on her tightened at that, involuntarily, she guessed. Excitement? She’d pleased him! Her thighs squeezed together as a flood of delight and desire washed through her.
“Oh, fuck,” he muttered after a moment. “This was the right decision.”
“Yes, Doctor,” she said again, her tone suddenly perkier. Part of her was enjoying this. Was it just the brainwashing?
“Put your hands on the table edge, either side of the keyboard,” he instructed her. As she hastened to obey, she heard more than saw him stand up and kick his chair backward.
Part of her was impressed, she admitted, and that almost certainly wasn’t the brainwashing. The Doctor had picked up enough theory of the mind to design an effective brainwashing program inside a year. Whatever he planned to do with her genetic adaptation theory was likely to be spectacular.
“Stand up and bend over, hands where they are,” he instructed. She rose fluidly, kicking her own chair backward in an unconscious echo of his own actions. She took a couple of steps back to bend over with her hands in place.
Eager and hopeful for what might be coming, she spread her legs, back arched. Her eyes stayed on the screen. She was beginning to hope she wouldn’t have to change that any time soon.
It was a good job she didn’t need to worry about her family.
He fumbled with her skirt zip for a while before getting it right. She thought about giving him guidance, but the idea of speaking up and contradicting him disappeared almost as quickly as it crossed her mind. Of course Dr Bimbeau was right.
He pulled her skirt down to her knees, then took a moment to fondle her rear before slipping his fingers into her panties at the hips, drawing them down in turn. She felt wetness roll down her thighs from the sopping cotton. Perhaps belatedly, it caught up with her exactly how turned on the program had made her.
She quivered. It was such a good job she didn’t need to worry about her family.
She heard the Doctor chuckle. “I wonder how long I could leave you like this,” he mused. Candace whimpered.
“I… would wait, Doctor,” she said slowly, choosing her words with care, filled with need still. “But… I hope I would be a temptation.”
The chuckle broke into a delighted laugh. “This is going better than I dared hope,” he muttered. She felt his hands on her hips again. “And you always were smarter than me,” he added, almost too quietly to hear.
That was obviously ridiculous, even if Dr Bimbeau was saying it. She knew he was smarter than her. She knew she admired and lusted after his genius.
She had a sneaking suspicion this knowledge was programmed, but that didn’t make it wrong. If what she was being programmed to be was wrong, she’d have to try to resist.
But of course, Dr Bimbeau was right.
And then he was in her. She gasped in delight. Everything pouring into her eyes told her this was so right. Her mind and her body both belonged to the Doctor. Her mind and her body both served him. Pleasure naturally followed from him putting one or both to use.
Her hands tightened around the desk, gripping harder, giving her the balance she needed to grind back against him. The Doctor deserved her best effort in anything he asked.
The more she focused on his body against hers, his hands against her skin, his cock inside her, the more the screen seemed to just embrace her. Her mind was being fucked in sync with her body, and she couldn’t ask for anything better.
“Yes, Doctor,” she moaned. She felt him tense against her and pick up speed, pounding harder, so she took to chanting it, half-drone, half-moan, increasing in speed and urgency just as he did.
She drank in the screen’s teachings until the sensations overwhelmed her, eyes rolling back in her head, crying out in bliss, feeling him erupt inside her.
Candace supposed they were lucky that the lecturer in the neighbouring office had been giving a lecture at the time. Certainly the Doctor hadn’t thought about that.
She wore a lab coat over her underwear, now, her ripped blouse discarded, her skirt set aside by his order. He’d had to go out to buy lunch for them both, though naturally she’d provided her card and PIN at his command. Her husband’s wealth was vast enough to spend on the Doctor.
Her computer was shut down; Doctor Bimbeau had demanded it before he removed the polarised glasses he’d worn while programming her.
Instead she was working from a laptop he’d scrounged from somewhere.
The first euphoric rush of surrender was gone now, but what he’d said still held true. She didn’t need to worry about her family; she had other jobs to do.
She was working on a complete revamp of her technological designs. While Doctor Bimbeau had graciously agreed that the system should still fulfil its original purpose of being able to ‘write over’ chronic conditions, genetic disorders and the like, he also wanted to be able to shape and affect the form of those using it - and to make programming like the instructions currently running from her short-term memory into permanent adjustments to someone’s mindset.
She felt the urgency of that keenly. While she knew she’d be re-indoctrinated daily until the work was complete, the sooner she could be permanently brainwashed, the happier she would be.
Doctor Bimbeau’s sullen mood was gone now that he had begun his project. While he was certainly not returned to the cheerful scientist he’d once been, the atmosphere in the office was returned to a mutual appreciation and satisfaction.
He was whistling tunelessly. She considered joining in, but it wouldn’t be right to show him up by carrying a tune, would it?
The Doctor broke off suddenly. “Look at that,” he said. “We could have finished for the day half an hour ago. How long has it been since I wasn’t scrambling to get out of here on the dot?”
“At least nine months, Doctor,” she responded. He glanced at her, surprised, then chuckled. She decided her programming must have produced a result he hadn’t expected but appreciated.
“Well, all the same, we can continue the work more comfortably at home,” he said. “Are you still driving that BMW?”
“Hm. We’re going to have to start carpooling tomorrow. Tonight, you can just follow me home.”
His home wasn’t the wreck she’d feared. There were computers and computer parts left scattered everywhere - including a monitor on the kitchen table, missing its back cover, that he must have been using to test whatever he’d done to her - but beyond that, it was in relatively decent order.
Candace was still horrified, though, to learn that all the food he had in was cheap microwavable frozen meals. But Doctor Bimbeau was always right, so she said nothing… until he looked up in the middle of puncturing the plastic film and saw the expression on her face wavering.
“What is it?” he asked. “Can you feel your self-control returning?”
What a horrible idea.
“No, Doctor,” she said, then fell silent.
“Just… you deserve to be eating better. And healthier. Doctor.”
She couldn’t decipher his expression. He might have been annoyed. He might have been confused. He was definitely surprised.
Then he laughed. “I suppose you actually learned to cook?”
“Yes, Doctor,” she said, relieved to be back on track toward positive service.
He smiled. “Alright. You saw the bedroom. Find something you can wear outside and go shopping. Doesn’t have to be gourmet, just… better than these.”
“Yes, Doctor,” she replied, turning to go.
“For both of us,” he added. “Just in case you wondered.”
“Oh, and - best go two or three shops away.” His voice took on a different tone, the way it usually did when he wanted to set a new rule for her thoughts. “You don’t want to be traced.”
Now that he said that, it was so obvious. “I don’t want to be traced, Doctor.”
He grinned. “Off you go.”
“Yes, Doctor.” And off she went.
She was in the car on the way out when it occurred to her she should warn the Doctor her family would be concerned she hadn’t called home.