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Author's Note: A Prequel to "The Long Way Down". Like many prequels, this account may be more enlightening if you save it until you've read the original.
Nevertheless, you are welcome to make this tale your first introduction to this most fascinating universe.
As always, this story is dedicated to those who like secure straitjackets and powerful women. Derivative works are welcomed, but please acknowledge your inspiration.
The time for the end had arrived.
Holding down the red safety button with a click, Serena slowly began to push the heavy lever toward the back of the console. As she looked on, the power readout behind the lever slowly crept higher and higher, until she confirmed with a smile that it had finally achieved its maximal output.
Two meters beneath her feet, secured within the inky blackness of a cavernous torture cell, swung a helplessly bound young woman. Still waking from the sedation of her recent medical examination, the prisoner had not yet reacquainted herself with the unfortunate details of her condition.
It was nine full weeks ago that she had been handed over by trial into her current world of darkness and sexual torment. Of the specifics of her restraints she could remember very little. Only vaguely did she remember being forced and sealed into the tight black stimulation suit, a suit that for nine continuous weeks had been mercilessly dispensing carefully measured electric current into her loins. And only vaguely did she remember the inexorable fastening of the full-body straitjacket that now enveloped her, securing her to the pneumatics suspending her high above the padded floor.
But now, as the circuitry in her suit reacted to the signal from above, the dazed captive grew aware of an alarming change. Swaying helplessly, she found her torment increasing to more than she had ever imagined possible. No matter how she bucked or struggled or twisted, she could gain no respite as the pulsing activity between her widespread legs edged her closer towards yet another shuddering climax.
Serena traced her finger lazily around the control console's intercom knob. Sometimes when she was all alone in the control room, she would listen in on the muffled pleas and moans of the condemned, imagining herself in the place of the doomed prisoner. What if, in a moment of weakness, she were to make a bad decision and find herself not an agent of justice, but instead its object? What would it feel like, she wondered, to be rendered helpless under the full authority of the government -- made to submit to a sexual punishment so intense that prisoners emerged from it a primal shell of their former selves? As she closed her eyes, her breathing quickened, and her other hand began to wander.
But as she was about to turn on the intercom, she relented. No, she had to exercise discipline; no upstanding woman like herself should be entertaining such depraved thoughts. Actually desiring sexual torture? Sighing, she inserted the console key at the base of the lever and turned it until the system locked with a clunk. It was time to go home.
Satisfied the red safety would no longer depress, and that no amount of bystander sympathy would free the lever from its current setting, Serena powered down the lights. As the door closed, the room was illumined only by the dim blue lights of the console computers as they worked away on the prisoner enclosed below.
Then one afternoon, while doing inventory, Serena found the suit.
By all means it should not have been there; in fact it was an offense to Serena's meticulous management of her division. Without fail, every time she received a shipment, she would personally pass the wand over it to record the suits' radiosignatures and confirm the shipment count. In fact, knowing she was nearly out of the CT suits, Serena had already scheduled the next two hundred to arrive that evening. Yet here was this straggler, mocking her: a single flat cardboard box bearing the words, "ONE COERCION AND TRACKING SUIT, FEMALE. To be handled or applied only by government order."
Serena hurried back to her desk. No one else was supposed to have access to the supplies. Was someone stealing? What other counts were off? Returning with her wand, she walked it through the supply room from one end to the other. Looking at the device for the final count, she saw the tallies she expected, except for something that both relieved and intrigued her: the count for the female CT suits was still zero.
Clearly, then, there was something wrong with the box. Contemplating the familiar warning she had seen on the box every day for the past five years, Serena was unsure whether it was her place to investigate further. At this point, however, she was too curious to stop. Besides, she rationalized, she probably ranked highly enough that she would be forgiven for going beyond her duties in this exceptional circumstance.
She opened the box with particular care and tilted it. Out slid a neatly-folded bundle of black rubbery fabric, no different than what she had seen many times before. Holding the suit out before her, she let it unfurl. Unlike the regulation tracking suit that she herself wore, she made note of the typical gray collar and sealing tab of a female CT suit -- the female prisoner's distinguishing mark.
Well, maybe it looked like the real thing but lacked the internal workings? Gingerly tugging down the zipper, she inspected the inside of the suit for the nearly invisible flexible circuitry. And indeed, in addition to the usual joint position tracking sensors, this suit was studded with an intricate pattern of additional contacts -- especially below the waist. As far as she could see, it was the real deal.
Serena sighed. A defective item. For something as high-profile as this, she'd probably have to complete a whole stack of discrepancy paperwork. But as she reached to zip the garment again, something caught her eye.
In the small of the back, on the right side where the primary transmit antenna circuit was, there was a bubble in the material that interrupted several wires. Now that she knew what to look for, she was with some difficulty able to find a second smaller defect in the secondary transmit circuit. Whoever was mixing the polymer that day must have been inattentive. No wonder this suit had never been counted; it had no way of making itself known to anyone. As far as transmitting went, this CT suit was completely off the grid.
A perverse idea formed itself in Serena's mind. Gathering up the suit, she ran her hands gently along the miniature contacts inside. What she held in her hands was a very special thing. She wasn't sure yet what to do with it, but she was sure she should hold on to it. The neatly folded suit went back into the box.
And the box went into her duffel bag.
That night, with the box hidden deep within her desk drawer at home, Serena had the first of many wild dreams.
Part Three (added: 2012/03/09)
SEEKING REFUGE from the hot morning sun, Serena edged further underneath the overhanging eaves of the lonely elevator. Aside from the crunching of gravel and the faint pounding of her heart, no sound was to be heard; on this long Founder's Day weekend, the only personnel tending to the military base and prison would be a skeleton crew. While she waited, she shielded her eyes and looked back. Though it was usually packed, today the vast parking lot was only sprinkled with cars. Further in the distance, there was nothing but multiple lines of tall barbed-wire fencing, walls, and then miles of desolate wasteland.
Serena clutched her duffel bag tightly. After smuggling the defective suit from the base three weeks ago, she had spent the first few days on edge, expecting government agents to materialize at her doorstep to cart her off for stealing government property. But slowly she had become more bold. A week ago she had dug the suit out from her drawer to look at it and once again feel the rubbery polymer in her hands. The past two nights she had even carefully slipped into the precious garment to spend the night reveling in its tight embrace. But without the proprietary wireless power that the suit required, any ecstasy she experienced in the suit was necessarily by her own imagination and manipulation.
Naturally Serena had considered having someone rig up a duplicate power source at home. But for someone who had no valid reason to do so, the request would have just raised too many red flags. Moreover, once she sealed herself into the suit and activated it, there would be no way out of the suit, short of the usual destructive deactivation. If her makeshift power proved to be a dud, there would be no second chance to fix it. With this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that was not a chance she was willing to take.
For that reason, Serena had concluded, the suit would need to return to its home at the base. She had long anticipated this particular weekend. During this weekend, while the rest of the country ate and celebrated, Serena was going to wander a nearly empty underground base living out a prisoner fantasy that had slowly grown to preoccupy her life. For four days she would be sealed into a partially defective suit originally meant for prisoners. For four days she would be unable to escape square mile after square mile of unforgiving wireless power while it pushed her to her limits and tormented her to distraction. And then on Tuesday morning, as everyone else trudged in from their long weekends, she would finally free herself from the suit, crawling home to a few days of vacation she had wisely requested in anticipation. And like all its discarded brethren, the deactivated one-in-a-million suit would be destroyed, and no one would ever be any the wiser.
The sudden slam of a car door interrupted Serena's thoughts. She waved her keycard over the sensor and stabbed once more at the button, but today the elevator would not come fast enough. With a sigh Serena recognized the silhouette of the approaching chief security officer. Ever since she shared a few classes with Serena in college, she had begun acting as though they were best buddies. This was decidedly not so; worse yet, it was plain inappropriate for a more junior officer.
"Good morning, Ma'am!"
"Good morning, Christina." Serena hoped she would pick up on the lack of enthusiasm.
"I'm surprised you're here this weekend. I mean, my being here I understand, but I would have figured they would have someone cover for all the higher-ups."
The elevator car finally arrived -- thirty seconds too late, thought Serena as she rolled her eyes -- and the two began their descent into the subterranean base.
Part Four (added: 2012/03/09)
As the heavy metal door of the robing airlock clicked shut behind her, Serena took a moment to calm herself. Though she had been through the robing procedure every working day for years, this time she felt different. And well she should -- for this time, she was aiming to perpetrate a fraud.
When, during her planning, she had realized she would need to return the suit to the base, Serena had found herself faced with a challenge. How could she get past the robing station, yet end up wearing the right suit? The whole point of the sealed robing protocol was to ensure that each worker was sealed into a tracking suit that would remain intact until she left the base. Serena hoped that the solution she had brainstormed would work. If it didn't, there wasn't much in the way of an excuse that she would be able to offer a judge. She was ready for four days of being her own quasi-prisoner; she wasn't so sure yet about the genuine experience.
Now under the watchful eye of several observant cameras, she strode down the narrow, brightly lit antepassage, her footsteps clattering in the tight space. At the end of the passage was mounted a panel, to which she began to present her eyes and fingerprints for scanning.
Five years ago, as an officer recently transferred to the border base, Serena had taken comfort in the vigorous assurances that in the actual robing chambers, all workers' privacy was respected: specifically, that there were no hidden cameras. All the occasional comments she had heard on the subject suggested that even officers far more senior than she seemed to believe that story. Her next step depended on their being right.
The door before her slid open. Upon locking herself in the private robing chamber and stowing her street clothes in the duffel bag, Serena withdrew the precious illicit garment. As she had done many times before with her tracking suits, she worked the clingy fabric slowly up her legs. But this time, as she pressed the inseam gusset against her crotch, she caught a subtle glimpse of some of the myriad small contacts clustered throughout the suit that would make her weekend a memorable one. She could feel subtle additional contacts as she ran her hands over her newly-suited thighs. Eagerly she continued with her dressing, sliding her arms into the tight sleeves.
Reveling in the enclosing snugness of the suit, Serena began working the back zipper as far up as it would go towards the collar. From her duffel she now pulled a small length of black duct tape; she used this to pull the unsealed collar tight, paying special attention not to disturb the careful paint job she had done on the original gray collar. She let her hair back down over this temporary solution; this deception only needed to hold together for a few minutes.
And now for the decoy. Serena reminded herself to speed things along; if she stayed too long, the automated reviews of the logs would definitely draw attention to this anomalous robing session. Opening the dispenser to reveal the tracking suit she should have been putting on, she yanked the zipper on the empty suit up to the collar and quickly fitted it into the sealing clamp that was attached to the wall. Here was the point of no return; after sealing herself out of her allocated tracking suit, Serena would have to leave this room either in the stolen suit, in her street clothes, or naked -- and in any of those cases, there was at the very least an awkward story waiting for her.
Giving herself no chance to rethink her decision, she slammed her hand down on the sealing button. After a brief electric humming, she could see a small wisp of smoke rise from the collar and zipper, now fused shut. A beep from the wall confirmed that the tracking suit had begun to transmit data.
Nervously gathering the activated suit into her bag, Serena studied herself one final time in the mirrored wall. To her eyes, her collar looked convincing; she looked the same as she would on any other day. She hoped that in the next room it would appear the same way for the cameras that would admit her to four days of ecstasy.
Serena lay on the soft padded floor, her arms and legs widely outstretched. In her position she could scream all she wanted, but there would be no one coming in to her aid; the walls were soundproofed, the doors tightly bolted, and the electronic keypads engaged.
Having fooled the automated cameras, the devious officer was now safely ensconced in the place she had chosen to begin her prisoner's adventure: her own takedown room. Not only would she benefit from the slightly padded floor and soundproofing, this place was also among her favorite in the whole base. In this room, Serena would toy with the newly convicted with great relish; then, at her command, a swarm of sleek transport and restraint agents would descend methodically, securing their prisoner into inescapable restraint. It was always a good show, but a bit short: thanks to extensive practice and no small amount of enjoyment on the agents' part, the convicted never stood a chance.
Now it was her turn to try the role of the prisoner. Pleased with the spot she had chosen on the floor, Serena sat up and reached for the handheld suit control unit. She rechecked her programming: in addition to sealing and activating the suit, the unit was to instruct the suit to give one minute's delay before initiating an hour of its mildest stimulation. From some recent not-entirely-authorized testing on her prisoners, she estimated that this should frustrate her enough to set the mood for the weekend. From there she would have plenty of time to ramp things up. To prevent her from changing her mind, she instructed the suit to deliver painful shocks to its occupant if, during that time, it ever sensed any movement out of a spreadeagle posture.
Assured that everything was ready, Serena pulled off her makeshift duct-tape collar closure. Aligning the sealing clamp carefully with the zipper, she took a deep breath and hit the sealing button. A quiet sizzle announced the beginning of her captivity. Mentally counting down from sixty, she walked briskly to her desk, threw the unit in the back of her drawer, and locked it. She left the key right on the table, but no matter: with the suit about to keep her on the floor, the control unit might as well be a million miles away.
After grabbing a pillow she had left on the desk, Serena rushed back to her position in the middle of the floor. Resting her head comfortably, Serena closed her eyes, spread her limbs wide, and continued her countdown. The weekend's enjoyments would begin in thirty-nine, thirty-eight, thirty-seven ...
... two, one, zero. And then--
Over the next several seconds, her heart began to sink. She waited another minute, just to be sure.
Heartbroken, and on the verge of tears, Serena sat up again. This was anticlimactic--literally. Apparently the suit was more defective than she thought. Fetching her desk key, she retrieved the control unit. Unit in hand, she reached back to free herself from the suit. At that moment, a sudden electric shock surged through her shoulders.
Gasping, the suit's new prisoner dropped to the floor.
Part Five (added: 2012/06/18)
"What's the matter, ma'am? Why the sudden urgent call?" The security officer poked her head in the door.
"Come in, Christina. Please close the door." Serena leaned forward in her chair, hands clasped, attempting to look as dignified as possible. After she had staggered back up from her earlier shock, she discovered with relief that the suit allowed her near-complete freedom. Nevertheless, as several more painful trials had confirmed, any attempt to reach backwards was invariably rewarded with a sharp shock. There was definitely something about it that the suit did not like.
"Have a seat, Christina. I'm glad you happened to be here today, or else I'd be in a bind. So I've, um, discovered a weird problem with my uniform. You used to work on these things, right? You must know a lot about them?"
"It's been a while, but, sure, ma'am."
Serena fabricated the most innocent story she could think of. "So, basically, nothing seemed out of the ordinary until until I reached back to scratch an itch. And then all of a sudden I got this really painful shock. Do you have any idea what's going on?"
"That's definitely unusual. May I?" Christina knelt by Serena's side, examining the suit carefully. Incredulously, she concluded what Serena already knew. "Ma'am, um, somehow you've wound up wearing not a normal uniform, but a coercion and tracking suit. You know"--lowering her voice almost to a whisper--"a prisoner suit."
"Are you serious? Get it off me!" Serena did her best to feign surprise, jumping up from her seat in mock disgust.
"I'm serious! It seems someone has painted over the collar to make it look like a uniform. We'll get it off you as soon as possible. But it might take a while--that's kinda related to why you're getting shocked."
"What do you mean?" In false indignation, Serena continued tugging at the alien suit. After her earlier display, she decided it wouldn't be believable just to sit right back down, so she began to pace as Christina explained.
"You see, after a CT suit is activated, it replies to the activating control unit by transmitting its serial code. Without that code, the unit wouldn't know how to properly address any subsequent commands." She picked up Serena's handheld control unit and pointed it at its owner. She looked down at the screen amusedly. "Just now I tried to query the suit, but it didn't respond with its serial code. This almost never happens." She fiddled with the unit and tried again, without success.
Serena realized she knew why -- it was the defective transmit antenna -- but she wasn't about to volunteer this knowledge. Nevertheless, she did find one thing intriguing. "Okay, so if the suit never was fully activated, then why is it still shocking me?"
"Before it receives any programming, CT suits default to certain safety measures. One of those is to keep the prisoner from reaching backwards. Suppose a prisoner managed to get hold of a control unit and tried to unseal herself; she would never be able to get the unit close enough to the sealing port to manage it. There are a few other triggers. Did you try running, for instance?"
"Well, I wouldn't recommend it. Anyway, to get you out of there I'm going to need to figure out that serial code." From her pocket she produced a small device and began typing into it. "It shouldn't be too hard. I'll just have to look around in the database for suits that never got registered and pick the right one."
Some more tapping and clicking ensued. "Ah. Here's one from a few weeks ago. This is probably it. Let me try this code and see what happens." After typing briefly, she pointed the control unit at Serena.
Serena was rewarded by a sudden pleasant tingling between her legs.
"How's that? Did you feel anything?"
"Christina! That tickles! That's hardly appropriate!"
Christina smiled. "Well, what, did you want me to shock you instead? Alright, we'll have you all squared away in a second."
Serena breathed a sigh of relief, glad that someone had tamed the renegade suit. She watched the security officer's fingers fly expertly across the keypad of the control unit.
"... And ... voila." Christina's smile widened.
A crippling pain swept through Serena, worse than anything the suit had dealt her yet. Her eyes teared up. Dropping to her knees, she extended her arm pleadingly toward her friend.
"Chrs--aaaa! Stop it! Stop it!"
Over her pleas and sounds of pain, Christina spoke firmly. "Ha, that was only the mild setting. Serena, I'm not going to ask you a second time: On the ground now! Spreadeagle!" She pointed to the middle of the spacious padded floor.
In disbelief, Serena crawled over and quickly complied. In a moment she was back to staring at her ceiling, as she had been some twenty minutes before. The electricity subsided. Christina towered over her, still pointing the unit menacingly downwards.
"You know, I find it curious that though usually you try to avoid me, as soon as you're in trouble I'm suddenly your best pal. By the way, when I picked up this handheld control unit, I saw the last command you entered on it. You wanted to be a prisoner? You wanted a little stimulation? Well, I think today you're going to get your wish."
"Please, just let me go!"
Eyes still blurry with tears, Serena watched her sometime friend head for the door. "Excuse me. I'm going to go collect a few supplies. You know what will happen if you move. So just stay there and relax, okay?"
Part Six (added: 2012/06/18)
Serena now lay facedown on the floor. Upon returning, her captor had promptly forced her into the standard prisoner hood and gag. The gag was now sitting in her mouth, inflated to an uncomfortably large size.
Hands began to part her hair behind her. A small wet sheet was pressed against the back of her neck, and after a minute, removed. A finger was tentatively dabbed against her neck.
From the door there came a knock.
"Hi girls! Thanks for coming in today on such short notice."
"Hi Christina. No problem, it sounded urgent. How can we help you?" Even through the hood, Serena recognized the sweet voice of Emily; this probably meant her current companion was Rachel. Aside from being inseparable best friends, the two were Serena's most capable transport and restraint agents; in all her takedown routines, she always had them start out on either side of the prisoner.
"Well, girls, I have a little gift all wrapped up for you. I came into work today, and guess who I found enjoying herself in a stolen CT suit."
Serena felt Christina's hands lifting her hair once more, exposing her neck. She was unprepared for what she heard next.
"Oh my god, it's Diana!"
With fear, Serena understood what Christina had done to her. Of all the restraint agents, Diana always caused the most trouble. Haughty and condescending, she was Emily and Rachel's sworn enemy. And she had a small tattoo on the back of her neck.
With her head locked away within the hood, Serena knew there was no way the pair would realize that the captive lying prone on the ground was not their nemesis. In desperation she began to get up, but her efforts were promptly rewarded with another scathing electric shock. Frustrated, Serena screamed into her gag. All that Emily and Rachel heard, however, was Diana realizing she had fallen into the hands of her worst enemies.
"Emily, look at her. She's so helpless! Oh, we are going to screw her over so good!" Rachel was usually the more reserved one, but her voice was bubbling over with devious glee. Then to Christina: "You'll let us, right? Please?"
"Nothing would make me happier. Okay, girls, let's teach her what happens when we misbehave at work. You two zip her into a straitsuit, and we'll figure out what to do from there. I've got to go tend to some things, but I'll definitely check out the recording later. When I get back, I'll teach you how to use the control unit." She swatted Serena's rump. "Have fun, 'Diana.'"
The subtleties of her inflection were lost upon the grinning best friends.
In the midst of a Founder's Day reception, a cell phone began to vibrate. The text message was opened with annoyance: the computer system was always sending alerts for the slightest irregularity.
But this message was different.