On the Job
Robert listened to the voice whispering in his ear, giving directions on where he needed to go. Every Warden had a separate channel to the central control room that coordinated all movements in the secure area. If necessary he could talk back with the wireless mike on his belt but that was only to be used if the women couldn’t see it. Much of their security, especially the communications and surveillance, depended on hidden technology. He rarely needed to use the microphone since a subtle nod or shake of the head to a question in his earpiece was enough to let the control room know his answer.
The effort required to fill a Warden’s position was more than he expected, but he couldn’t complain. While he had no interest in any woman other than Cathy he did enjoy the power trip that came with the job. Literally every female he saw was eager to please him by demonstrating how well, willing or not, she could obey his slightest command. To an unrepentant control freak, a character trait he freely admitted, it was heaven. Seeing the environment and its effect on the guests he supervised gave him a newfound appreciation for what Cathy had endured.
Even though surrounded by constant temptation his only real interest was in the influence he exerted over one single individual. Nothing but the control he wielded over Cathy truly satisfied him. Power she gave him without question or reservation. He could delve deep into her thoughts and emotions, probing her mind and bringing out her best while dominating every aspect of her life. The only boundaries between them were the ones he imposed on himself.
This was not the case with the guests he managed. In most respects they were off limits, someone else’s private property. His job was to be part of the ambiance, reinforcing the doctrine of obedience to male authority. Privately he thought some of the policies were excessive but there was no argument the overall effect worked, and worked well. Cathy’s first visit had produced changes he never would have believed possible.
Her constant exposure to the discipline in the secure area showed up when they were at home. He had never intended to be a micro-manager but the last few weeks she seemed to be drawing him into the role. If he was present she wouldn’t leave a room without asking his permission. When they were together she stood patiently in front of a door until he opened it for her. One radical change, she no longer asked permission to get dressed in the morning. That was because she didn’t put on clothes unless he ordered it. Her need for modesty seemed to be satisfied with the scanty cover of nothing more than a chastity belt.
The voice in his ear informed him a group needed to be escorted to class. Cathy’s class as it turned out; he recognized the room number. He and another guard would gather up the women and see to it they arrived at the classroom on time. Matt would deliver Cathy from the staff entrance when they had the guests in place. He looked up to where he knew the hidden camera was watching in the ceiling and nodded to indicate he heard.
When he arrived in the dorm hallway the other Warden, a man named Joe, was finishing up the collection of meal cartons. He stood back while one of the women pushed the trash cart between cells. Mindful of procedures from his training sessions Robert checked to make sure her ankles were chained together. Joe was one of the senior Wardens with quite a few years of experience. He didn’t make mistakes like that. They were on the last cell in the row.
Robert nodded to Joe as he approached but didn’t say anything. Minimal conversation and no pleasantries or greetings were part of the protocol to project a cold and impersonal attitude. When he passed each cell door he turned his head to check positions. At one he stopped and scrutinized the occupants carefully. There was no particular reason behind it other than to let them know he paid attention. And maybe a little guilty pleasure too, he told himself. As long as he or any other Wardens were nearby they would kneel in the proper manner. The only exception was lights out, when they were allowed to sleep.
If pressed he might admit that the sight of nude women kneeling before him was a pleasant picture, one he didn’t tire of seeing day after day. Nor did it bother him when he placed them in chains. He rationalized it away as nothing more than indulging his dark side but he thoroughly enjoyed the way he controlled them and the degree of obedience and deference he received in turn.
The woman pushing the trash cart didn’t turn around as he walked up behind her. He saw her tense but her head never wavered from the eyes front position that came with the assignment. The control room informed him that Joe would take her and the cart into an adjoining assembly area where the morning trash collection detail would take charge of her. Joe was waiting for the other side of the door to be cleared. When he opened it no one should be visible from the dormitory area.
He looked back, mentally adding up the occupants of the cells. Thirteen total, all to be moved to the classroom. Policy was to try to keep the ratio at no more than six guests per Warden during a move but he and Joe should be able to manage one extra. He stepped back so he could survey all the cell doors, keeping watch as Joe opened the security gate and the regular door.
None of the women tried to sneak forward and peek out. He would have been surprised if one did show her face. The discouragement, a euphemistic term, for willfully breaking position was unpleasant, usually consisting of being chained to the bars for hours at a time, for a first offense. They might not be aware of the penalty but they did know he wouldn’t hesitate to punish any infraction.
Joe returned carrying a canvas bag in one hand. Inside were the handcuffs and the lead chain they would use to keep the group together and easily managed. One at a time he and Joe took each woman out of her cell and attached her to the gang chain. When they finished all thirteen were lined up facing the wall, hands cuffed behind their back and linked together. Joe held one end of the chain while Robert went down the line, double-checking each woman. As he passed each one he turned her to face the door. When he reached the other end he picked up the trailing end of the chain along with the bag before nodding to Joe.
While Joe unlocked the door to direct them out of the dorm, Robert took a moment to enjoy the sight of so many women, chained together, passively standing in line waiting to be led off to some unknown place. How did they do it? If he were in their place he’d be in a murderous rage by now. Acquiescence would be the last thing on his mind. He couldn’t read minds but he didn’t see any sign of resentment or a sullen, uncooperative attitude. How could they submit to him, and all the other Wardens, in such a docile way? Granted the environment wasn’t designed to encourage any other response, but it still amazed him how quickly the female mind adapted to circumstances he would find intolerable.
Joe halted the front of the line when they were all in the main hall. Robert locked the security gate to the dorm area and closed the door. A door was never left open and unattended. He signaled Joe to continue. As usual the trip was uneventful, punctuated by a few stops and starts as they passed through security gates. When they reached their destination Joe freed the women one at a time at the front of the line and passed them into the classroom.
Robert stood by the open door while Joe put the cuffs and lead chain back in the carrying bag. When the far door opened and Cathy came in he paused just long enough for her to flash him a smile before he closed the door. Unless she called for help or surveillance reported a problem she was on her own.
The control room came back online and told him another group needed to be taken to the showers. This was a larger group, twenty in all, and would take four Wardens. He looked at Joe, shrugged, and they both headed back to the dorm area. All in a day’s work, Robert told himself.
Shower escort wasn’t his favorite duty. Managing a large group wasn’t any trouble but as a Warden he had to personally inspect each woman after she finished bathing. The inspection was primarily to check the belt and collar for any sign of tampering, or signs of chafing or bruising on skin. They might be attractive but he much preferred the same routine in private with Cathy.
The control room kept him busy moving groups or individuals from place to place. He did appreciate it when they directed him to Cathy’s classroom so he could escort her to her second work assignment. They were able to spare a few minutes in the break room before she had to start.
“So how did the lecture go?” he asked her when they found a table. Time was short so he left her hands behind her back.
She scooted around, trying to find a comfortable spot on the chair. “I think it went okay. No one went berserk. Everyone paid attention so I didn’t have to call for any disciplinary action. Even the questions afterward were well thought out. You know, sir, I think I got the point across to some of them. When I see those faces light up with comprehension, well, it makes all the difference. I feel like I’ve accomplished something special.”
From her animated excitement he could see how much she benefited from being an instructor. When the Director had first called him and suggested she might take a teaching position he had been unsure if it was in her best interests. But Robert also knew he was overly protective of Cathy and tended to err on the side of caution when contemplating any changes for her. The Director had been persuasive, even offering him a position as Warden so he could oversee her progress. Finally he had accepted a compromise where she would attend the Center a second time, but in a contrived situation where she mentored another guest. Cathy had proved herself capable of effectively communicating with and motivating other women. Faced with overwhelming evidence Robert conceded the Director was right and allowed her to join the staff. He did take up the Warden’s job offer for his own peace of mind.
He studied her as she went on about the class time. She leaned forward to emphasize some point, but all he noticed was the curve of her breasts. He couldn’t imagine a day without her. When she leaned back she unconsciously held her chin up so he could see the collar clearly. It was his collar, his mark of ownership that told the world she belonged only to him.
When Cathy paused to catch her breath he interrupted. “Still want to go for a walk later? We can bring along sandwiches and something to drink.” In his ear the control room reminded him he should take her to the practice area. “It’s time for you to go.” He stood up.
“Yes, sir.” Cathy waited until he took her arm before she stood up. “If it’s convenient for you, sir, I’d like to go for a walk later.” Standing by his side she turned her head and smiled up at him. Not once had she used his name. How did she remember all those rules? He knew she had been reprimanded for using someone’s name during her first orientation meeting, but not once since then had she repeated the same mistake. He was tempted to put his arm around her and steal a quick hug but he had his own standards to follow. No display of affection even if she was staff, even if he was her master.
It was a little after noon by the time Cathy and Robert walked out the above ground entrance. The sun felt warm but a cool breeze kept the temperature comfortable. In time the desert would be scorched by the summer sun again, too hot for a daytime walk.
“It sure looks different in daylight,” Cathy said as she looked back over her shoulder at the deceptively undersized building. “I don’t remember it being so small.”
“As I recall you were rather distracted at the time,” Robert answered, squeezing her hand. His other hand held onto the strap of a small knapsack slung over his shoulder. “It’s the desert. At night you don’t notice how big and empty it is. Besides, the building’s not supposed to stand out if you see it from the air.”
The paint job was sandy colored beige, which blended into the rocky backdrop. Even the paved road was done in a brownish color instead of the more common blacktop. When they reached the end of the driveway Cathy looked in both directions, trying to remember which way she had come that first night.
“The highway is in that direction,” Robert pointed to their right. Unlike most desert roads which ran in a straight line across the valley floor the road they stood on had several gradual curves. “The curves are to make it hard to see from an aircraft. No straight lines in high contrast black.” He turned in the opposite direction, heading for a nearby outcropping of rocks from the mountains behind them. “Over this way, there’s a table in the shade where we can sit and eat. I don’t want you out in the sun too long or you’ll get burnt.”
Hand in hand they walked in the middle of the road toward a small pavilion with a covered table. There was little danger of being hit by traffic as access to the private road was strictly controlled. Cathy took the opportunity to examine the surrounding scenery, or what there was of it. She knew they were in the Mojave Desert, one of the driest parts of North America. It showed in the scant vegetation. Sagebrush, mesquite, and the occasional barrel cactus mixed in with a few scattered varieties of other desert plants didn’t add much color to the sand and gravel that made up the desert floor. One brave lizard made a dash across the road in front of them, the only wildlife she saw.
“Not exactly the most scenic of views,” Robert said, breaking the silence. “But it does have a charm of its own, I suppose, once you get used to the wide open spaces.”
“Sorry sir, but it’s so empty. I can’t understand anyone wanting to make a home out here. It is a nice change of pace from being underground though. I miss windows and natural sunlight.” Cathy still wore her collar and chastity belt since she would be returning to the secure area. Robert had allowed her to put on her dress and shoes for the trip. Since she wasn’t a guest she didn’t have to wear restraints.
When they reached the table Robert slipped the knapsack off his shoulder and placed it on the table. “I’m not quite sure what we have for lunch. I got some sandwiches from the cafeteria but didn’t look to see what was inside.” He sat down as Cathy opened the bag and laid out their supplies.
There were two bottles of water. She placed one in front of Robert. Unwrapping the first sandwich she sniffed at it. “Egg salad,” she said.
“That’s yours,” Robert pointed out. She knew he didn’t like eggs so she put it down on her side of the table.
“This one’s ham and cheese, sir.” She handed it to him before she sat down.
He loosened the cap on her bottle of water before opening his own. “There should be a couple of cookies for dessert.” He took a bite out of his sandwich. “Mmmm, something about eating outside makes food taste better. And being entertained by a lovely young lady makes it all the more enjoyable.”
“Thank you, sir. For the outing and your company.”
Robert put down his sandwich and reached across the picnic table to touch her hand. “Hey, I know you miss being able to go outside. Once the job is done here we’ll go back home. Okay? This isn’t a permanent move.”
“I know, master.” Cathy put her other hand over his. “I miss the grass and trees but I can live with it. I know I’m doing something worthwhile. By the way, did I mention Kelli was in my class this morning?”
“I brought her in, if you remember. How did she do? She looked scared to death, understandable given it’s her first day.” Robert took a drink out of his water bottle while waiting for her to answer.
“She didn’t ask any questions but she did pay attention for the whole lecture. I’m glad of that; I didn’t want to turn her in. She was slow to get in line with the others but I knew she was doing her best to copy what she saw, so I didn’t get on her about it. As long as she shows improvement, isn’t disruptive and doesn’t repeat mistakes I have some discretion. I remember I did the same thing, watching everyone else to get an idea of what to do. I think if she keeps up she’ll do well.”
“She was slow to follow orders this morning but she did obey, though I imagine it was reluctant. I could see she was very self-conscious at having her clothes taken away.”
Cathy shook her head. “What do you expect? I can tell you it’s quite a shock when you have to bare all to anyone who walks by. I think, in the beginning at least, that was the single worst part of being put in the secure area. It really hit home, how I had absolutely no control over anything.”
“And now?” Robert raised an eyebrow, his distinctive sign of curiosity. “What do you think about going back each morning?”
Cathy shrugged. “Doesn’t bother me now, mostly because we all have to do it. I was really self-conscious about how I looked the very first time, but now, being part of the group, and knowing every one of us has to do the same thing, I can accept it. I guess you can get used to just about anything if you don’t have an alternative. I can see that’s why the teachers can never be exempt. No one can complain about the lack of clothing being unfair if even the instructors have to follow the same rules.”
Robert drained his bottle and tossed the empty in the knapsack. “No trash barrel, we have to bring it all back.”
“Yes, sir.” Cathy gathered up the sandwich wrappers and put them in the sack. She toyed with her half empty bottle, reluctant to end her time alone with Robert. “Master? I really don’t mind being here. I didn’t think I’d do a good job, but this morning? I believe I got through to some of them. I felt like I really accomplished something. Does that make sense?”
He reached across the table and took the water bottle out of her hands. He put it away before he took hold of both her hands in his. “Yes it does. I have confidence in you Cathy. I knew you could reach them and share your experiences. If I didn’t believe you’d succeed you wouldn’t be here.” Robert stood up and drew her up next to him. His arms went around her, holding her close.
She looked up at him, studying his face. “Really? You mean that, Robert?” She could tell he was sincere from the look on his face, but she wanted to hear it anyway. She reached up and put her arms around his neck.
“Yes, really. By the way, if you were a guest, do you know how much trouble you’d be in right now?” The smile on his face told her he was up to something.
Using his name, being outside, wearing clothes, she knew the list of infractions would go on and on. “No idea, sir. What would you do about it?” She snuggled closer to him. That should be all the provocation he needs to do whatever he intended in the first place, she told herself.
The results were about what she expected. Robert grabbed her wrists, pulled her arms down to her side and spun her around, pushing her face down on the table. His action was sudden and might appear violent but he was careful to make sure she wasn’t hurt. Pulling her hands behind her back he locked her wrists in the handcuffs he carried on his Warden’s belt. “First of all I’d make sure you weren’t trying to escape.” He leaned down and whispered in her ear. “But you know what happens if you try to run away.”
Grabbing her shoulders he pulled her up to a standing position. “That’s better.” He brushed her hair to one side and began kissing the back of her neck. “Y’know, you have me at considerable disadvantage,” he whispered in her ear. “The more helpless you are, the more I can’t keep my hands off you. What is this irresistible power you have over us poor dominant men?”
Cathy stood very still, hardly breathing, knowing she didn’t have to answer his question. She closed her eyes, enjoying the sensations from his soft kisses and the quiet words. But when he suddenly grabbed her waist, twisted her around and sat her down on the edge of the table her eyes flew open.
“Not a word,” he admonished her, putting a finger to her lips. Eyes wide she watched as he forced her legs apart and pulled up her dress. When he reached for the key around his neck she knew exactly what he intended. “We won’t be having the cookies for dessert after all.” Try as she might she couldn’t hold back a giggle while he opened the belt around her waist.
“Sir? Would it be okay if I did some work on the computer tonight? I have an idea for a lecture and I’d like to make some notes.” Robert and Cathy were on their way back to the apartment. He was holding her hand as they walked.
“I don’t see why not. What’s your idea?” He encouraged her to write as much as possible. She showed promising talent.
He spotted her hesitation when she didn’t answer immediately. “Or would you rather wait till you filled in the blanks first?” That gave her an out to put him off till later.
“Do you mind? I’m still not sure exactly what I want to say, or even what questions to ask.” He could hear the relief in her voice. One of her mannerisms was to pause when she didn’t have a good answer to one of his direct questions. It was her way of communicating her desire to think about it first. She found it difficult to tell him no or be evasive. He understood the reasons why and used the pause to give her permission to hold off on responding. If he didn’t say anything then she knew she was obliged to answer as best she could. It was a delicate verbal dance but it worked for them.
When they got home he ordered her to sit down and start typing while he fixed dinner. She offered a half-hearted protest which he cut off immediately. “Don’t argue. Ideas can slip away if not captured in the written word,” he told her, pointing to the keyboard. Robert wanted her to get her ideas on the screen as soon as possible.
While he cooked he watched her at the computer. At first her fingers pecked away, a few words at a time. Then the pace picked up until she was typing away furiously. Just as he suspected, something had been rolling around in the back of her head all day long. Now the ideas were pouring out her fingertips.
Dinner was ready before she was. He leaned back against the sink, folded his arms and watched her back. About five minutes later the typing slowed and then came to a stop. She took her hands off the keyboard and turned around.
“Oh! Is dinner ready? I’m so sorry, you should have said something.”
“That’s alright. The food’s still warm. You had to finish; that’s more important.” He took down two plates from the cupboard and put them on the table. “Did you come up with something good?”
“Yes! Or I think I did. May I come into the kitchen?” Robert glanced at her. He had never told her to ask permission to enter or leave a room; it was something she started to do on her own. He was still ambivalent about letting her continue.
“Come join me at the table.” He dished out dinner onto their plates, a salad on the side followed by macaroni and cheese with chopped ham bits. It was a modest meal, and they could always eat in the cafeteria, but he liked the conversation over supper. “Want to tell me about it now?”
“Yes, and thank you, sir, for letting me wait.” She stabbed a cherry tomato from her salad bowl. “After our walk today I got to thinking about Cathy five years ago versus Cathy today. I’ve changed so much. How did you ever tolerate me?” She bit into the tomato.
Robert had to laugh at her question. “Cathy, think about what happened. I didn’t tolerate you, not the part that was temperamental and self-centered. That’s what earned you a ticket here the first time. The rest of you I fell in love with; it wasn’t a question of tolerance.”
She nodded, agreeing with him. “Sending me here was the best thing you ever did for me. I’m not exaggerating, Robert. I couldn’t stand the old me now. That’s what I was thinking about. Why is it I feel so much better about myself today? And this is the question that I want to develop: Am I really happier with myself now or have I been brainwashed into believing the new me is better?”
“Brainwashed? Isn’t that a little strong?”
“And the philosophy behind this Center isn’t? It’s not a yes or no question though. I can truthfully tell you I’ve never been more content with my life than right now. I can’t even imagine living any other way than as your property, sir. If you were to ask me what I would change to improve it, I wouldn’t be able to give you an answer. You’d have to tell me, because you seem to understand what I need better than I do.
“I know what you’ve done to me. I know what living here has done to me. I can clearly see the progression that’s taken me from pampered and spoiled plaything to a woman who is so devoted to her man she would make any sacrifice for him. But has that same progression programmed my brain in some insidious manner to where I’ve convinced myself that becoming permanently dependent on you is the only way I can be happy?”
“You knew my intentions from the beginning.” Even as he spoke Robert could hear the defensive tone he was taking.
Cathy nodded in agreement. “Of course I did. You made it clear you were the breadwinner and I should learn to rely on you. I made a conscious decision to stay with you on your conditions. And I made that choice before you sent me here. That’s what clouds the question. Thing is, I may be the one doing the brainwashing, not you and this place. I deliberately buy into the message that it’s a good thing to be submissive. I’ve talked myself into the situation I find myself in now.”
Robert leaned back in his chair, unsure how to respond. Her original question now was so convoluted he was having a hard time keeping track of where she was going. “You may be twisting words in describing your own perspective. Did you talk yourself into it, or did you work to achieve a goal you set for yourself? Maybe you saw what you wanted and went after it?”
She smiled. “That sounds more like you. It’s what I’d like to believe. Is it brainwashing if you do it to yourself? I thought about all that, but then another question came to mind.
“What about you, sir? Are the tables turned here? Am I the one changing you into the ideal man for me? Are you being brainwashed into being my master and owner? I recognize some of the ways you get inside my head and do things to me; in some subtle way do I perform the same magic on you? That’s as far as I’ve gotten on my notes.”
Her concept of the dominant shaped by the submissive was a surprise to Robert. His first reaction was to laugh it off, but she did have a point that was difficult to ignore. He had changed too, changes that in hindsight were triggered by her behavior. He ruled by dictatorial fiat; she influenced by soft words spoken late at night. Who was to say which had more effect? He stared at Cathy, wondering if he should be the one questioning his role in the relationship.
“I’m convinced you can read my mind, so yes you do get inside me too.” He didn’t object. She needed a deep and pervasive understanding of how he was wired inside his head. He tried to help her understand the way he saw the world as much as he could. Conversations like the one they were engaged in over the dinner table now were ideal. “You do bring about changes in me, but I feel it’s more a process of opening doors to what’s already there.
“It’s something of a coincidence you brought this up tonight. Are you aware you’ve been practicing some of your magic on me the last couple of weeks? I bet you didn’t even realize it.”
Her shocked reaction convinced Robert she had no idea what he was talking about. “Me? What am I doing? You’re perfect, don’t you dare change into a rabbit on me!”
He laughed. “Nothing like that, I’ll stay a wolf for now. I’ve spotted two differences since we arrived. First, you seem to have adopted an indifferent attitude toward wearing clothes. And second, you’ve been steering me toward more control over your actions when we are together. The way you ask for permission to stand up or sit down, or enter and leave a room, you’ve come up with those requirements on your own.”
Cathy put a hand over her mouth. “I’m so sorry, master. I won’t do it again. I didn’t think. You should have corrected me sooner…”
“No, no, no.” Robert held up a hand to stop her. “You haven’t done anything wrong. I told you, I noticed. I chose to let you continue. It looks like another door is opening, because I think I like it.”
She looked relieved. “It must be the place. When I go to the other side, it does something to me. I can’t help it, Robert. There’s so much pressure to be perfect, it makes me want to prove to you I can handle it. I want to hear you order me around, to know you are firmly in charge. I can do it, master. Tell me what to do, anything.”
He took hold of her hands. “For starters, come back to earth.” Robert knew he had to be careful what he said next. A simple reassurance that she had already proven herself wouldn’t make an impression. She needed more.
“Yes sir.” She wouldn’t look him in the eye. It was time for something more direct than words.
“Stand up,” he ordered, changing to a crisp, assertive tone of voice. Cathy could have set a world record in the time it took her to get out of her chair. “In front of me, now, right here.” He pointed to a spot on the kitchen floor. She was there in a flash.
“Head up, and straighten your back. Hands at your side. Eyes front, no talking.” Robert stood up and walked around her. Her stare didn’t waver. Behind her back he smiled. He had her undivided attention now.
“Strip.” He backed up to give her room. The dress came off in less than a second. “Put it on my chair.” She dropped it where he had been sitting. As usual she had nothing on underneath, except for the chastity belt.
If she missed the rigid protocol imposed on the women still incarcerated in the secure area then he could accommodate her. Leaving her standing in the kitchen he went to the closet by the front door. Inside was the equipment belt he wore when in uniform. He opened the carrier on the back of the belt.
When he turned around he caught her furtive sideways glance in his direction. She hadn’t moved from the spot in the kitchen but she could see what he was doing. Back in the kitchen he stopped behind her. He paused to admire the fall of her hair across her bare shoulders. He’d never seen her wear her hair short. These days he wouldn’t allow her to change, but when they’d first met the way she had gone against the fashionable short pageboy hair-do of the day and kept her hair long and straight had caught his attention.
“Hands behind your back.” She knew it was coming, judging from the way her hands suddenly appeared in front of him, precisely positioned. He took his time locking on the handcuffs, carefully checking the fit and tightness on each wrist. When he took hold of her upper arm he felt a tremble. Yes, he told himself, it was exactly what she needed.
The center of the living room was only a few feet away in their small apartment, but he kept the pace as slow as he could. On the way he grabbed a large cushion from the couch and threw it down. He turned her to face the sofa and put a hand on her shoulder. “Kneel before your master. Present yourself for my approval.”
Without any hesitation she dropped to her knees. As he sat down she maneuvered into the position she had practiced time and again in front of a mirror located in a secure area classroom. Robert sat down in front of her and folded his arms, staring at his most prized of all possessions as she tried her best to please his eye. Mindful of his own obligations he carefully examined the angle of her legs, the width her knees must be spread, head high but eyes focused at a spot in front of her. Tonight she was definitely on her best behavior because he found no fault.
“This is why you are an instructor instead of a guest. How many women are over there tonight, wishing they could be like you? You set the standard they aspire to, Cathy. You define the perfection they so eagerly want to copy.”
She showed no external reaction to his words. Robert would have been taken aback if she had. Presenting herself required she remain motionless while he examined her at his leisure. But he was sure he saw the briefest of smiles cross her face before she got it under control.
“Now we can continue our discussion. You may speak but you are not permitted to change the subject. You are not released from your position.” He enjoyed it when she exhibited herself to him. He knew she liked it too. The long hours of enforced practice as a guest in front of a mirror now paid off. She knew his words weren’t empty praise; she had earned them.
“Yes sir.” She didn’t look directly at him when she answered. Part of the training she had received stressed development of the concentration to keep her eyes focused on one spot, no matter the distraction.
“The way you phrased your question is laden with semantic tricks. You choose words like brainwashing, something with a dark, evil, malevolent history. I won’t deny I try to steer your mind in certain directions; you do your best to influence me in return. But neither is necessarily a Bad Thing.”
He didn’t want her staring at the floor. “You have permission to move your head. I would prefer you look at me when we talk.”
Immediately she raised her eyes. “Yes sir.”
“We aren’t working at cross-purposes. You and I are growing closer; it’s only natural for us to try to accommodate each other in the process. You are telling me in a subtle way you want me to expand the ways I dominate you. I listened and decided it was a good idea.”
Cathy shook her head. “I don’t disagree with you but I have to ask if there’s more to it. Maybe I’m asking more from you not to fulfill some desire on my part, but because I feel the pressure to do it from the Center’s influence.”
Robert scratched his chin. He wasn’t a believer in complex and convoluted explanations when there was a simple alternative. “Granted that could be a possibility, but it’s just as easy to explain by assuming you want something and you’re asking me for it in the way you are most comfortable. If it’s brainwashing then you would do it in spite of what you want. Is that true?”
Cathy frowned, “I’m not sure, sir. Can I trust my feelings? I’m not sure what to think. I can say I believe I’m happy with my life. Most of the time at least. There are some moments when the restrictions get to me but on balance the good outweighs the bad.
“There was a time that kneeling before you like this, naked and bound, would have seemed like something out of a nightmare. Now? I love it! Is there something wrong with me, sir? Being in the Center, the regulations, the discipline, I thrive on it. Why?”
Robert stood up, towering over her. He began walking around her as she knelt in position on the floor. She started to turn her head to follow him but he pointed to the couch. “Eyes front, you do not have permission to speak. Mind your position.” He stopped as she shifted her body slightly. Her head lowered as she stared at a spot on the floor.
Standing behind her he ran his eyes down her back to where her hands were shackled, just above the waistband of her chastity belt. On impulse he crouched down and ran a hand down her back. He felt her tense as he touched her. He leaned forward as he took hold of the chain between her wrists.
“Why?” he whispered in her ear. “Because it’s what you crave, Cathy, as much as me. You are special, someone who can let go and give me what I most desire. You know it too. You trust me with your life. Not in some abstract way either, but in ways we can both see everyday. There’s nothing wrong with you Cathy, and you aren’t brainwashed into believing some fantasy.” He jerked on the cuffs holding her wrists. “These are real. The collar around your neck is real. The punishment for being disobedient or failing to please is real too. But none of those scare you, do they? You aren’t afraid, because deep in your heart you know you belong here.”
Robert stood up and went back to his place on the couch. He leaned forward and lifted up her chin. “You look for complex explanations when there are simple answers. You and I are partners; we work for each other in our own ways. I am the dominant partner, I take you where I think we should go, but I count on you to help me read the map and find our direction. There is no brainwashing, Cathy. You bring out the parts of me you want to see, and I do the same for you.”
He leaned back, stretching out his arms on the sofa back. “Of course, some parts are easier on me.” He smiled as he looked her over again. “I’d hate to have to kneel like that, and that belt would drive me crazy. I do so enjoy seeing you like this though.”
He crossed his arms as he studied the woman in front of him. “Spread your knees, wider,” he ordered on a whim. She immediately complied. The gleam of the belt as it ran between her legs was clearly visible. “Straighten that back, keep your head high.” She straightened, looking directly at him, almost defiant.
“Right now, right this second, look at your reaction. Is it anger, resentment…or is it pride? Pride in being a woman who can please her man, pride in how perfectly you obey my every command, pride in showing me you can be everything I could ask for, while still being true to yourself?” He locked eyes with her, holding her to him.
“I’m not going to let you answer, because it isn’t necessary.”
Kelli wasn’t having a good day. So maybe she had let her attention wander for a minute or two, it didn’t justify what they had done to her.
The green light came on. She hit the button under her right palm immediately and held it until the light went out. The button had a stiff spring under it. Her hands were getting tired. She wasn’t sure how much longer she could keep going.
Some of the lectures were fascinating, full of concepts she had never thought about before. Others, like the one today, were so boring she couldn’t make herself listen. Who cared about the proper way to fold Master’s socks or pour him a cold drink? The teacher was obsessed with a level of detail Kelli found ridiculous. If Matt was thirsty he got something out of the refrigerator. It didn’t require an exhaustive ritual to put ice in a cup and fill it with something he liked.
The red light came on this time. Grasping the edge of the chair with her fingertips she pressed down with her left hand. The light stayed on longer this time. If there was a pattern to the lights, or the duration, she hadn’t figured it out yet. When were they going to give her a break?
The instructor, Miss Sarah was her name, had droned on and on in her irritating monotone about keeping the house clean and how important it was to do the best possible because it reflected on their masters. Kelli kept their apartment reasonably clean, and even ironed his shirts when she had the time and wasn’t too tired. She didn’t need anyone lecturing her on domestic chores.
It was the red light again. She pushed the button, but had to release it as the light went out immediately. A chime sounded the announcement of a rest period. Grateful for a respite from the lights she relaxed her hands and closed her eyes. She was safe until the chime sounded again.
How had that woman known she wasn’t listening? Out of the blue Miss Sarah had walked over to stand in front of her and demanded the answer to some stupid question. Kelli had tried to bluff but it didn’t work. The teacher called for a Warden and expelled her for failing to pay attention. There were no warnings or second chances in this Center. She remembered how the entire class had stared at her in silence as the Warden handcuffed her and took her away. No doubt everyone else listened intently to the correct way to stack pans in the cupboard after she left. Meanwhile she had to be the object lesson.
The first indication she might be in real trouble came the moment the classroom door closed. She caught a glimpse of another Warden behind the door before she was down on the floor and a blindfold was around her eyes. They worked fast, before she had time to react and try to struggle. In seconds she had a blindfold and gag, plus chains on her ankles. When they hauled her back to her feet she discovered the leg irons had a short reach, no more than five or six inches.
They carried her as much as marched her down the hall, one of the men on each side of her, holding onto her arms. More than once she lost her footing but they didn’t stop. If she tripped they held her up and kept going. Kelli tried to plead with them to slow down but the gag garbled her words into incomprehensible sounds.
Twice they stopped and she was able to get her feet underneath her. From the sound they were going through security gates. Each time they started off again at an impossible pace. The third stop was different; after she went through some kind of entrance the floor started moving, down.
Where the elevator went Kelli had no idea. The downward direction told her she wasn’t going to be seeing sunlight. Neither of her escorts had uttered a single word. When the elevator stopped and the door opened they hustled her out but allowed her to stay on her feet. Progress was slow but she didn’t have far to go.
They went through more doors. She heard the distinctive lock and key sound. At some point her guards were replaced by a single Warden. This one held her arm painfully. She would have a bruise from his grip.
When the blindfold came off she found herself in a small featureless room. It contained one large sturdy chair bolted to the floor, with a panel in front of it. The chair faced away from the single door. Kelli noticed there was no door knob or handle on the inside. She looked up at the guard.
“When I take your cuffs off you are going to sit in that chair. You aren’t going to give me any trouble. Do we understand each other?”
Kelli nodded. He hadn’t removed the gag. It was obvious she was in trouble and something was going to happen. She had no intention of making it worse. When he took off the cuffs she rubbed her wrists but didn’t move.
“Sit down. Back against the chair.”
The chair was like none she had ever seen. It was made from thick wooden beams. Straps were fastened to it everywhere. She knew what was going to happen next.
He started with her hands and arms, then her waist, her legs, and finally her head. By the time he finished Kelli was an integral part of the chair. About all she could manage on her own was to blink her eyes and move her hands. Under each hand was a wide flat button. Directly in front of her was a panel with two large lights on it, one red and one green.
The next step scared her. He began putting dabs of some kind of greasy paste on her skin. On top of the paste he put small metal discs with wires connected to them. He used white surgical tape to keep the discs tight against her body. The wires ran to a point behind the chair.
He stood in front of her, behind the light panel. “The principle is very simple. You have trouble paying attention. I am not interested in the reasons why. This is not acceptable under any circumstance. I regret subjecting you to this but it is necessary to discourage improper behavior.
“There are two lights. The red corresponds to the button under your left hand, the green to the one under your right. When the light comes on you will hold down the corresponding button until the light goes out. You will not press either button at any other time. If you fail to follow the instructions correctly you will be given an incentive not to make the mistake again. You would do well to pay attention this time.”
Kelli didn’t like the sound of the last line. What did he mean, incentive? This was some kind of game better suited to a three year old child.
“I’m going to remove the gag now. Feel free to yell and shout. There’s no one to hear you. The exercise will begin immediately.” He reached down and removed the gag.
“Please sir, I didn’t mean any harm. I’m sorry I wasn’t listening to the instructor. It won’t ever happen again.” Her pleading fell on deaf ears as he ignored her. He walked away. She wasn’t able to turn her head to see him. The sound of the door slamming shut told her he had left.
Her first thought was to try to get out of the chair. She twisted and turned but all her effort accomplished was to demonstrate how well the chair was constructed.
The red light came on first. She pressed on the button and waited for the light to go out. When it did she let go of the button. What kind of punishment was this?
The lights blinked on and off in a random sequence. One time both came on. It wasn’t difficult to keep track of them. This was real boredom; even the home economics class wasn’t as bad.
Sometimes there would be long pauses when the lights stayed off. Then there were times they came in rapid succession, but not so fast that she couldn’t keep up. To pass the time she thought about Matt. Did he know she was here? She hoped not.
So far her experience as a guest wasn’t at all what she had expected. Somehow she had pictured it as a big sorority with a stern but understanding dean reminding them to follow the rules. Instead she was in a supermax prison living in the most degrading circumstance imaginable. Rules, regulations and more rules, that’s all she heard.
The time between the lights seemed to be getting longer. Kelli was bored and tired. How long was this to go on? Did she have to stay the rest of the day?
“Hello? Can anyone hear me?” The Warden had given her permission to speak. “Can I have some water?” She was getting thirsty. The gag had left a bad taste in her mouth. She listened for an answer or even better for the sound of the door opening. Nothing happened except a light blinked on.
Her hands were getting tired. The buttons were stiff and took some effort to push down. Her eyes hurt from staring at the panel. There was another long interval before a green light came on. When it went out she closed her eyes to rest them for a few seconds.
The sharp jab in her leg felt like she’d been stabbed. Her eyes flew open. The red light was on. Quickly she hit the button. It stayed on for several seconds before going out.
Now she understood the purpose of those little metal discs. They were contacts. The “incentive” was an electric shock to some part of her body. They were on her arms and legs, all over. No wonder he had warned her to pay attention. Would it be worse the next time?
Unnerved by the jolt she stared at the lights, determined not to miss one again. Her leg still ached. It had been right over her calf muscle.
The lights went on and on. Her world narrowed to red and green. Like a robot she pushed buttons on command. Her eyes felt like they were full of industrial grit. Hour after hour she grimly forced her eyes to stay open, too afraid of what would happen if she missed another one to risk more than a fast blink.
A chime sounded, or was it her imagination? The door opened and a woman came in. She was shackled hand and foot, and a leather hood covered her entire head except slits for her eyes. In her hand was a small cup of water with a straw in it. Kelli greedily sucked it dry when the woman held the straw to her mouth. The water was tepid but still tasted better than she’d ever had.
“Is it over?” she asked the woman. It had been an ordeal but she had made it. Next time she’d remember to pay attention even if it was a lecture on garbage can liners.
Instead of an answer the woman took the empty cup away. Maybe she was going for a refill. Kelli took the opportunity to close her eyes. It felt wonderful.
The sound of the door closing interrupted her. The same chime sounded again. The green light came on immediately afterward. Quickly Kelli hit the button. Her rest period was over.
“How much of this can she take?” Matt asked the supervisor. The monitor showed Kelli in her chair. Underneath were various readouts.
“It looks bad but we keep a careful watch on her vitals.” Joe Rossi, the shift supervisor for the section, pointed to a graph. “This one shows her respiration, that’s her blood pressure, skin conductivity, this one’s reaction time and over here is her heartbeat. Right now she’s tired and finding it hard to concentrate. See how the reaction time slows down, jumps up, then slows down again? You see the same pattern when you start to fall asleep, suddenly wake up, and then nod off again.” He checked a schedule. “We’re going to let her sleep in a few minutes.”
The room Kelli occupied had no windows but there were hidden cameras at all angles. Matt studied the one that showed her head on, from a vantage point behind the light panel. “How long has she been in there?” he asked.
“Less than a day, but to her it seems like two, or more. We keep her on a twelve hour cycle, sleep for four, awake for eight. By now she’s lost all track of time.” Joe held down a button and watched as the monitor cycled through all the cameras. “Physically she’s not suffering all that much. The strain is mental from the lack of visual or aural stimulation and the combination of boredom, endless repetition, disorientation and inactivity.”
Kelli might not be in any real danger or distress but it still hurt Matt to see her in the chair, frantically pushing a button every time a light came on. “I don’t suppose I could talk to her?” He knew the answer already.
“Sorry, Matt. If her infraction had been a serious one then yes, I’d have you go in there and tell her how disappointed you are.” Joe held up a hand as Matt started to protest. “I know you aren’t really mad at her. She’s only here for inattention in class, and it’s her first time, so we’ll keep her for a while longer and that’s it. If there’s a next time then you’ll have to be involved.”
Matt knew the policy and didn’t argue. When he agreed to enroll Kelli he knew something like this might happen. Maybe if he’d been more conscientious about changing some of her bad habits she wouldn’t be in there now. Like Kelli he was a newcomer to the lifestyle of gender-based domination and submission. They both made mistakes but tried to learn from them. Right now she was paying the price for his lapse in not doing something about her lack of concentration. Matt knew it was his role to be the one to insist on strict discipline. He had been too lax with her.
“I appreciate you taking time out for me, Joe.” The control room was whispering in his ear that they needed a classroom group moved back to the dorm area. “Listen, watch out for her, okay? I know I can’t interfere or help her out, but she’s my whole life. You know how it is?”
Joe slapped him on the back as they went to the exit. “Relax Matt, and don’t worry. She’s doing fine. I’ll let you know when she’s released back to general.”
In the elevator Matt ran through the pictures of Kelli over and over in his head. He was grateful he hadn’t been assigned to Warden duty in the Dungeon, as they called the punishment section. It was one of the toughest jobs in the Center. Only the most experienced men were asked to work in there, and they were rotated frequently.
Would she have been so eager to become a guest if he had told her everything? That was the critical factor in his decision to enroll her. He knew what awaited her, but was bound by his oath as Warden not to reveal operational details. The secure area had to operate in secrecy, even from the women on the staff side, in order to be effective. All they saw, intentionally, were the featureless grey walls. They had no idea of the extensive command, communications and surveillance infrastructure behind it. Virtually every square inch of the secured area was accessible by camera, and all group areas like classrooms and sleeping areas were wired for sound. No need for microphones in the hallways, Matt knew, because the women weren’t allowed to talk there.
The elevator door opened. Matt unlocked the gate and stepped out into the corridor. As he expected there were no guests being escorted past. The control room made sure they never saw any exit being used. The voice in his ear directed him to the left, where the classrooms were located.
The drawback of central coordination was the fact that they made sure he never escorted a group that included Kelli. He could be a few feet away, on the other side of a door or wall, and she would never know it. Fortunately, since he was her owner he could request her location at any time, and even watch her by camera. In their apartment he linked into the surveillance net and watched her all night long.
He had to take the next door on the left, according to the disembodied voice in his ear. Without that voice he’d be lost. The staff section had clearly marked doors and signs at every intersection. The layout on this side was deliberately confusing; there was no regular grid pattern, no door numbers and not a single sign anywhere. To keep it that way there was an inspection team that routinely went through and looked for any marks on the floor or walls that could be used for a reference. He had participated in a sweep the week before.
One door away he paused to compose himself. Bring up the uncompromising expression, he told himself, they expect it. His own confidence might be shaken by seeing Kelli but he had a duty to the women he was about to oversee. They knew exactly what a Warden was like; he was obliged to maintain the image.
When the lights came up Kelli was wide awake. Like the others in the cell she got up immediately and began folding the bedding. They had to be ready when the cart came by. No one appeared in the corridor outside so she joined the rest of the women as they lounged against the back wall.
She was still stiff and sore from her punishment a few days ago. There were marks on her wrists and ankles, but none of her companions mentioned it. She knew why; it wasn’t allowed. They must have known she’d been taken away yet not one of them even hinted at what had happened. She wasn’t about to break the rule either. A return trip to that chair from someone’s nightmare was right at the bottom of her list of places to visit. No matter what the subject she hung on every word in class now.
Kelli was still confused about her own reaction to what had happened. By rights she should be outraged at the way she had been treated. Instead what she felt was more akin to relief. The only way to describe her lapse was laziness; she couldn’t avoid it or rationalize it away. Everything in the secure area, from the regulations to the classes to the sometimes overzealous enforcement of those rules, it all had to serve some purpose. She was sure of that, even if she couldn’t understand the reasons. That might be the answer, let them do their job, the men who ran the Center, let them teach her what she needed to know in the manner they wanted instead of trying to analyze it all.
Her practiced ear caught the sound of the corridor gate opening. Along with the others she lined up to present herself to the approaching Warden. Out of the corner of her eye she looked down to make sure her knees lined up with the woman on her right. She was responsible for her own bearing, but they all shared equal liability if any one of them was out of position. One of the recurring themes in the lessons was that they all cooperate and help each other meet the high standards demanded of them.
Kelli recognized the Warden that stopped in front of their cell. It was Robert Kincaid, Cathy’s husband and master. They had met once briefly in the cafeteria after she and Cathy had eaten lunch together. She felt his eyes examining her carefully.
“Kelli will collect the bedding. Stand up and approach the door.” The tone of his voice gave no indication he recognized her.
Warily she stood up and walked toward the cell bars. Mindful of the usual boundary in approaching the cell bars she stopped at arm’s length. He hadn’t been specific as to where she should stand.
“Turn around and take a step back toward me.” She complied, waiting for his next order. Instead he knelt down and reached through the bars to fasten leg chains on her ankles. “Now face me,” he told her.
Kelli turned to look at Robert. She glanced up at his face once before quickly dropping her gaze. It only took one look to convince her there would be no special consideration from him. Turning around gave her the opportunity to stand facing him with her feet apart, lifting the chain off the floor. She had almost forgotten that particular requirement. When standing still all guests must keep their legs apart to the limits of their restraints.
She watched while he unlocked the door with the set of keys on his belt. So much for her theory that the cell doors weren’t actually locked shut.
“Step out into the hall.” He stood to one side to let her pass. “Go to the far wall and wait. Do not turn around.” Kelli heard the door shut behind her. There was no cart in the hallway. She had never been assigned this chore before and wasn’t familiar with the procedures.
Just as he took hold of her arm a commotion broke out at the far end of the dorm section. “What the…?” He started to ask. It sounded like an argument, or a fight. Kelli couldn’t believe anyone would be so foolish as to fight right in front of a Warden. She risked looking up at him, unsure what she should do.
“C’mon,” he told her as he pulled on her arm. She trailed behind as he headed toward the cell where the noise came from. Inside two women were in the middle of a fight, while the other two knelt in one corner, obviously terrified at being unwilling participants. Kelli saw Robert reach behind his back and take out a set of handcuffs. She thought he would use them to subdue the women inside but instead he fastened one cuff on her wrist and pushed her back to the adjoining cell, where he locked the other cuff to the bars. “Stay here and keep out of the way.”
This cell had three women, all kneeling in a perfectly straight line. They had to be scared as well, Kelli realized. She held onto the bar with her shackled hand.
“Enough!” Robert yelled. “Stop this right now! I want quiet!” Kelli couldn’t see but it must have worked since the yelling ended abruptly. “You!” She saw him pointing, “Diane, stand up and come to the door, now! Don’t look at her, do as I say.”
Diane? Was it the same Diane who had been assigned to her for orientation? Kelli couldn’t believe she would do something like this.
Robert’s belt had two carriers in the back. She saw him reach back and take out his other pair of cuffs. She knew from Matt’s uniform that all Wardens carried two pairs. Now she could see why.
She still couldn’t see if it was the Diane she knew. “Stop! Turn around, put your hands behind your back, take a step backwards.” That was a familiar routine Kelli had gone through herself many times. She heard him fasten one cuff on a wrist. The surprise came when he pulled Diane’s hand through the bars. He reached in and brought out her other hand and locked her wrists together, immobilizing her against the cell bars.
At that moment the hall door behind Kelli flew open and four Wardens came in at the run. When he saw the reinforcements Robert unlocked the cell door. As the men passed by they looked at Kelli but didn’t stop. Her heart leapt when she recognized Matt at the end of the line. There was a moment of surprise on his face as he followed the rest of the team.
It didn’t take them long to clear the room. Kelli watched as they took out all four women in handcuffs and leg shackles. Every one of them was blindfolded. The last one, escorted by Matt, did look like Diane. Kelli hoped they would go easy on the bystanders. She had no such sympathy for the other two. The Wardens would find a suitably severe punishment for both of them.
Robert shut the cell door and returned his extra set of cuffs to his belt. “Do you know anything about this incident?” He asked Kelli the moment the corridor was clear.
“No sir. I am acquainted with the female you restrained but I do not know the others.”
He pointed to the floor in front of her. “Stance.” Looking down she realized she had forgotten the chain between her ankles. Quickly she corrected to the proper position.
“Don’t forget next time.” His warning sounded pro forma, as if he wasn’t paying attention.
“Yes sir.” She had to be more attentive to details, no matter what was happening.
He was still staring at the far exit. Robert must be getting an update from the control room. Kelli knew about the earplug radios since Matt had one. He had warned her never to mention them under any circumstances. She waited patiently.
He went to a point halfway down the hall and stopped. “Everyone here, listen to me. There has been an incident. None of you will discuss it or mention it to anyone else. You will not talk about it among yourselves either. The women involved will be discouraged from exhibiting such poor behavior in the future. Unless you wish to join them you will forget what happened here.”
He walked back to Kelli. “Your cart is ready.” He released the cuff fastened to the bars but didn’t free her wrist. At the same time he examined the occupants behind Kelli. None of them had moved a muscle.
He used the cuff as a lead chain, dragging Kelli after him as he went to the same door the crash team had used. He never let go of her while he retrieved an empty bedding cart waiting in the outside hall. Not until the door and security gate were closed did he take off the handcuffs.
“You know the routine. Start at the far end, collect the bedding. Do not turn around. If you see anything that doesn’t belong, stop and tell me immediately.” He gestured for her to proceed. Kelli took hold of the cart and began pushing.
At the cell where the fight had taken place she had to fold up the bedding herself. Robert watched her work but stayed out in the hall, where he could keep an eye on the rest.
It was nice to be doing something, even if it was simple housekeeping chores. The leg cuffs had a shortened connecting chain which made it more difficult to walk. She had to take short, halting steps to make any progress. At least she didn’t have to kneel on the hard floor, waiting for the morning collection to finish.
Mindful of sore knees she tried to work as fast as possible. The entire time Robert stayed behind her. Twice he stopped her so he could inspect blankets. She had to fold them again when he was satisfied there was nothing hidden inside. Kelli had no idea what he was looking for. None of them had any possessions at all. She couldn’t imagine how anyone could smuggle anything larger than a speck of dust into the cells.
What had driven Diane to lose her temper? She must have known what would happen. Kelli’s own infraction had been minor and they had put her in that horrid chair for days. Fighting was a serious offense. The consequences were ones Kelli hoped she would never have to face. Mindful of Robert’s warning she was careful to keep her feet apart while she piled the bedding on the cart. Details, she told herself, don’t forget the details.