Chapter 15: Loose Ends
By AmyAmy, based on an idea by John Hynden
D.C.I. Ridley followed Maeve into the toilet corridor, and she bumped open the door to the ladies’ and dragged him inside by his hi-vis vest. Aggressive. It was as if she were about to devour him. He almost expected her to kiss him passionately, then slap his face. What was this? Some kind of farce?
The door swung closed behind them. The toilet was beige, clean, tidy, two stalls, both with the doors ajar. Behind her was a large mirror above a counter with two basins. Her back reflected in it, along with his own puzzled face. He looked like an idiot, his jaw agape. He closed it and frowned. Noticed the frown. Banished that too. How much better he could manage his life if he could see himself reflected at all times.
“Pay attention Paul, and prepare yourself. Stay calm,” she said. “This is not a trick, and you are in no danger, but it may startle you at first.”
Ridley stopped looking at his reflection and returned his attention to Maeve.
Her clothes melted away, and her entire body, naked and smooth, began to turn black, as if dark oil was welling up beneath glass. The features of her face faded away, to be replaced by glistening wet-look rubber. Her eyes were blank, over-sized almonds, reflective gold, like an old-fashioned astronaut’s visor. Her hair swayed, undulated, fused together into thicker strands, each strand fusing again and again, until it had coalesced into a glossy-black halo of squirming tentacles. Tentacles, or snakes? It was Medusa. But the only part of him that had turned to stone was his aching cock. The overpowering scent of her, distinctive and erotic, disoriented him with sexual hunger, like the onset of a dose of blue. She looked like an angel, a very sexy angel.
The only sounds he could form were stunned exclamations of amazement that weren’t worthy of being called words. He tried to stay quiet instead of making an idiot of himself, but who wouldn’t be at a loss when faced with this? Something impossible.
Her fashion-illustration proportioned legs were all curves, tapering into needle heels and pointed toes, heels that were a natural part of her, with no sign of boots or shoes. She was utterly naked, and yet there was no skin, she was formed from seamless glistening black, like liquid glass. They were the same proportions she’d had since he walked into the Burger Bar. Her body hadn’t changed its shape, and yet it was completely different. She walked towards him, seeming to glide, even as her hips kicked form side to side, her balance inhumanly confident, gliding, despite the balancing on almost nothing. No human, and no robot could move like that.
“Indistinguishable from magic,” he said. “From fucking heaven.”
He’d sensed something was wrong about her, but he would never have guessed it was this. Who would? When you looked at her and sensed something wrong, the human mind didn’t naturally guess that it was dealing with something impossible.
“As you know, having seen me naked before, I wasn’t always like this,” she said. “In fact, it’s a recent thing, and in a way, I have you and Patrice to thank for it. So, you might have guessed, that the business with the so-called fetish attacks, the broken robots, was me, and you’d be right. There are reasons, but we can talk about them later. Let’s just say that it was self-defense.”
And as quickly as she had changed before, she changed again, fading back into Maeve, or the almost Maeve that he’d been talking to before. He could see how the trick worked now. Her clothes weren’t clothes, they were simply a different texture and color, a few small ridges and bumps here and there. Her skirt created from a pair of membranes that formed between her thighs, one at the front, and one at the back, that could vanish at a moment’s notice, sinking back into those smooth, curving thighs, as they had done a few seconds ago.
Ridley stepped back and bumped against the door. Had somebody dosed his coffee with LSD? No. He couldn’t deny this. It was real. She was right. She couldn’t have shown him this in front of anyone else, and he would never have believed it unless he’d seen it first hand.
The pink skin of her face returned, but he could remember how it had been, and it was obvious now how smooth it really was, too smooth to be skin. Even heavy make-up couldn’t create such a flawless effect when seen close up.
The black snake-like things were still splitting and splitting, dividing back into hairs, and regaining their ‘normal’ coppery color.
“What the?” he sputtered. What had he been thinking? An angel? Had he been temporarily out of his mind? It had to be some kind of drug or mind control. And it had worked, not just close up at the table, but from right across the room.
“So now you know what I am. We can talk about what it means later. For now, I need you to look after my sister. I haven’t done anything wrong, but I don’t know if it’s a good idea for me to face the corruption investigation just yet. Patrice’s sister comes first.”
“Is that what the stuff in the bottle does to you?”
“No. That stuff, it’s just garbage. Poison. Maybe it’s gone bad with age, but I think everyone’s been chasing a myth with that one.”
“The board… If you don’t show up, then they’ll really get suspicious.”
“I just need a little time, a couple of days, perhaps not even that.”
“It’s not as easy as you make out. We both know how the machinery works.” At first the words came out cracked, his throat tight. He was amazed he could say anything that made sense at all. Part of his mind was reeling, his mouth running on autopilot.
“Then you’ll have to jam up the works a bit. You can do that, can’t you?”
“What? What do you mean? I’m just a D.C.I.”
She tilted her head to one side, examining him in a very un-Maeve way. There was something cold and calculating about it.
“Just a D.C.I. you say? Weren’t there rumors you would get the Super spot any day now?”
“I haven’t got it yet. Abness would have to go up first. And if I end up on the wrong side of a corruption probe, I definitely won’t.”
“We just need to find the real villains then.”
“If Paddy was telling the truth-”
“-her name was Patrice. And she didn’t know even half of the truth to tell,” she said. “But if you can get me back at work, he’ll take another run at me, won’t he, our weasel?”
“You’ll be in danger.”
“No. Not me. It’s the people around me I need to worry about. My family, Brian, Sarah, you…”
She stepped forward. A movement so fast, it was as if suddenly, she was just appeared there, in his face. “All this. It’s not enough. I can do so much more now. I want go after the real problem, not a few corrupt police. But our weasel comes first, has to come first. He owes Patrice a debt that no court can settle.”
“The death of a senior officer won’t go unremarked.”
“Ah, so it is a senior officer. I thought so. But who’s to say he’ll die? I haven’t really worked out how I’m going to deal with him yet, but death? Death is too good for people like that.”
“Just be careful. Really careful. This is a delicate situation.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to wreck your chances of promotion. As long as you’re on my side. You are on my side, aren’t you?”
“As if I would dare deny it.”
She laughed, then went on talking as if it was all business as usual. “I’ll go out the back. You leave normally. Maybe that will help with your deniability. I doubt anyone in there would be able to pick me out of a line-up anyway.”
Ridley looked at the tiny window to the right, there wasn’t room to fit a person’s head through it, let alone their shoulders. “The back? There is no back way out.”
“Trust me,” Maeve said. “There is, if you’re me.”
After he’d bolted back into the corridor, he thought of several questions he should have asked her when he had the chance.
Even if she really was still Maeve, should he trust her?
Yes, she’d shown him something she could have kept secret. Months ago, he’d thought if anyone had the smarts and the guts to unravel the corruption in the division, she did.
Could she handle Abness? Maybe he was thinking too small? Underestimating her. Maybe she had what it took to do more than that.
* * * * *
Brian didn’t look back as the hospital doors hissed closed behind him. Bright lights flooded out through the glass into the car-park, casting a long shadow of his shape. He had no car, no keys, no phone, and the taxi-rank was empty. Everybody called a taxi on demand now, but there still ought to be a couple of taxi-bots waiting, playing the odds. But maybe they knew the usual times of discharges, and ends of visiting times, and only showed up when they were likely. If he was really lucky, they monitored the discharges automatically.
After five minutes waiting in the cold of a British summer night, he gave up and headed for the stairwell that would take him down to street level. At worst, walking would warm him up, and maybe he needed a good walk to clear his head.
A voice came from the darkness by the wall. “Brian?” It was Maeve. She was no more than a dark shape, almost invisible in the shadows, but her voice was unmistakable, especially now. He could listen to that voice all day, even if all she was doing was reading a shopping list.
“Maeve? Is that you?” he said, feeling stupid immediately, because there was no doubt in his mind it was her.
She wrapped her arms around him in a fierce hug. Her skin was warm compared to the chill air.
“I know it sounds creepy, but I was waiting here, watching you. I didn’t want to come out into the light,” she said. Her voice was deep and sweet, reassuring, like returning home and finding the lights on and the smell of cooking, everything safe and warm.
“You’re hiding. What for? I mean… I saw you. That was you wasn’t it?”
“Yes. Did I scare you?”
“I was afraid I’d never see you again.” He crushed her against him, returning the hug. His fingers slid across the smooth, yielding surface of her skin. It was just like he’d always dreamed. She was so warm and alive. Solid. Real. And in rubber… No. He had to remember, it wasn’t just a suit.
She pressed her cheek against his. “I was worried you wouldn’t want to see me, would think I was a monster? That I wasn’t myself anymore.”
“Maeve. You’re still you. Still my most precious thing. Never doubt it.”
“Brian,” she whispered, and kissed him. Her lips were soft, against his, a delicate sweet taste that left him wanting more. She smelled of coffee and something else, mango? No, it wasn’t that, but some fruity-flowery scent that seemed familiar.
“You’re the only thing I can rely on. But I’m worried. I think there’s something wrong with me.” He tried to make it sound like a casual observation, but it came out more like a confession.
She leaned back, holding onto his shoulders, staring into his eyes, as if searching for something. In the almost complete darkness, her silver blue irises caught the light like mirrors. They didn’t look exactly human, but despite that, he could sense the love behind them. Though he could barely make out her face, there were tiny clues in her motion, the way she held onto him, a tension in her breathing, she couldn’t bear to hear the pain in his voice.
“No. Wrong with you? How?” She gave a little shake of her head, so familiar, so Maeve, and yet … maybe better somehow?
“I think if a normal man went through the things… Saw what I saw… they would be traumatized or something. You and that… Patty? You were carving each other open. And the tentacles… Your hair… And that glowing stuff in your bathroom. I can’t explain how it never bothered me that much. I was kidnapped. Patty put a bomb up my backside, and fed me that weird black slime. By rights I should be in a straight-jacket, bouncing off rubber walls, or something. Even at the start of this. Something took over your body, and you showed me, and I’m fine with it. Doesn’t that seem strange?”
“Maybe you are traumatized. I’m no psychologist? Did they give you a counseling? They’re supposed to. Either the hospital or the division trauma unit.”
“I feel fine. And they really would think I was mad if I talked about any of that. But now you’re here… Got a bit of a stiffy going on. I know I should feel bad, but I just want to hold on to you. Am I weird? Am I a creep? Some kind of freak?”
“It’s probably not you. Not your fault. It’s me.” She left a long pause. “I do things to the people around me. You swallowed something that came out of me, right at the start. That time… with Sarah. I’m not sure what it does, but maybe we’re connected, and maybe that’s a good thing, or maybe it means you’ll never be able to be normal again? Do you hate me?” She winced. “You probably should.”
“I don’t. Could never… Like you say, maybe it’s not my decision, but it feels like it is, so-” He cursed, a succession of jumbled words. “It’s hard to get my head around the logic of it.” He sounded tired, didn’t want her to think she was exhausting him. “Sorry. I meant that to be more upbeat.”
Maeve tipped her head forward, pressed it against his chest, her hair covering her face. Normal, human-looking red hair. But it was dark. Could he really be sure it was how it used to be? If it it wasn’t exactly the same, it wasn’t a mass of swaying tentacles either.
“Who can really say what love does to the mind?” Her voice was deep and sultry, it made his gut vibrate. “I might just have a knack for choosing men who like rubber.”
“Look, I don’t feel like I’m the victim of a love potion, or anything.”
She stepped away from him, her smile caught the light, bright white, the only thing clearly visible among the shadows.
“I wanted to see you home, help you get into your flat, but they kept you in longer than I expected.” She gave a little sigh. “There’s somebody that needs my help and I can’t leave it any longer. You understand, don’t you?”
“I get it. You’re the hero. I’m just a princess that needs rescuing, or in this case, a little hand-holding, but heroes have important hero work to do. They can’t spend all their time babysitting princesses,” he said.
Maeve laughed. “Sorry. I’ll meet you later, at your place.” She held up her empty hands. “Sorry again. Can’t call you a taxi either. No phone. In fact, that’s the next thing I have to fix.”
He slapped the empty pockets of the borrowed trousers he’d got from the hospital. “You have any money?”
“Yeah. I asked a guy in Burger Bar for a loan. He was so busy drooling over his shoes that he handed over the contents of his wallet, cards and all. I’ll drop it in at the division later, after I’ve borrowed enough from you to pay him back.”
“Ah,” said Brian, mock serious, “I see how this is going to be.”
“Hey, I’m sure they can get me a new card couriered out in no time at all.”
“Yeah,” Brian said. “Can you spot me the cash for a taxi?” But Maeve was already gone.
* * * * *
Maeve found an internet cafe. They were a rare breed these days, but there was a certain kind of person who still had a use for them, and it appeared that tonight she was one of them.
She contacted him with Patrice’s login, left a simple message.
“I have your bottle. I want my sister. Give me a location for the hand-over.”
She checked the site an hour later. The reply was pretty much what she expected.
She watched the meeting place from a distance. It was dark, and she was far away, but these were not obstacles. Whoever he sent to make the exchange would never see her until she wanted them to. Not that she expected him to keep his end of the bargain. They wouldn’t bring Jessica. The goal was almost certainly to grab Patrice and take her back to their lab.
They would be expecting Patrice to show up soon. So she probably ought to make the effort.
All she had to do was let Patrice’s memory take control of the part of her that decided her shape. Bleached blond hair, several inches off her height, minor differences in her features. It wasn’t like this person would know exactly what Patrice had looked like anyway, which was to the good, because her impersonation of her was distinctly rubbery.
She waited at the dark corner, at the back of the buildings by the canal. There were no cameras in sight, probably a black spot. It wasn’t a wise place for a woman alone to linger, but it was so quiet, so deserted, that that any danger would be extremely infrequent, even if it was extreme when it happened.
Maeve had “borrowed” a long coat from a woman getting out of a taxi down at the busy end of town, so at least her slick skin wouldn’t give her away.
A white tradesman’s van drove past.
A few minutes later, it came around again. It stopped in front of her and wound the driver’s window down.
There was a man in the driver’s seat, dark hair in dreadlocks, pale skin with bad acne damage. He was wearing some clear glasses that probably had some reality augmentation display on them. To all appearances, he was alone. If he had accomplices, they were in the van.
“Where is she?” Maeve said. “Where’s my sister?”
“She’s in the back.”
“This isn’t right. I’m going to smash your bottle if this isn’t right.”
“No, no. Calm down. Hold your horses.” He held up both hands. “Look. I’m safe. I’ll open the door from here, and she’ll come out. Then you can hand over the bottle. Ok?”
Maeve feigned nervousness, glanced around, looking for attackers she knew weren’t there. “Anything funny and I smash the bottle.”
“Just stay calm. I’m not going to trick you.”
Maeve put a little fear in her voice. “Alright. Let her out.”
She slapped on the side of the van, “Jess, are you in there?”
A woman’s voice answered, “Yes. I’m here. Paddy?”
“Why isn’t she in the front?” Maeve said.
“Cameras,” the man answered.
The back doors of the van clicked, and swung open.
There were clues in the way the van sat, the way it had moved on its suspension, other clues she’d picked up from banging the side panel. Everything was telling her that the back of the van was not filled with burly thugs ready to spring out and overpower her. Interesting. What was their plan?
Patrice’s sister Jess, Jessica, stepped out of the back of the van. She was wearing tight jeans and a flowery top with little capped sleeves, it hung down around her thighs like a short dress, flat slip-on pumps on her feet. Her cheeks were sunken, dark rings around her eyes, her hair dry and frizzy, but there were no visible wounds, no obvious injection marks, no glaring signs of abuse.
“Jess? Jess? Are you alright?” Maeve said. Patrice was almost there in her head, almost present. But she could never be anything but a facsimile.
If anyone was going to see through her disguise, it would be her sister, well… Patrice’s sister… but it was dark and there were no street-lights here, that was in her favor. If she moved the way that Patrice moved, and spoke the way that Patrice spoke. Body language was a better disguise than a perfect copy of her features.
“I’m fine Paddy. Just give them the bottle and we can get out of here. Please.”
“Are you alright? Have they done anything to you?”
Maeve had a plastic carrier bag, in which was a large glass bottle she’d dirtied up a bit so it might look old, if you were half-blind, and it was dark, and you didn’t really check, or remember what the real bottle had looked like. She handed the bottle, still wrapped in the bag in through the driver’s window.
She turned around and Jess was staring at her, a terrified look of relief on her face. “Thank God Paddy, I didn’t know if they’d ever let me go. I was so scared.”
Jessica ran to her, grabbed her in a desperate hug. The woman’s body was cold, shaking like a leaf, her fear real. Maeve felt the needle tip of a syringe touch her back. It would glance off if she resisted it. Instead, she softened her body enough to admit it. Jessica rammed the plunger down, administering the whole dose.
Naturally, the drug, whatever it was, had no effect. Maeve had no human cells, no circulation system to speak of, and a biology that in general terms had nothing in common with the biochemistry of Earth, so it was her expectation that a drug created to affect something so specific as a human brain would do nothing to her.
There was a puzzle though, had they filled the syringe with black, or with purple? Or if they were being a bit edgy, yellow? She didn’t know whether to collapse, or to stand ready to take orders. Jess moved her hand away from Maeve’s back, bringing the syringe with it. The translucent plastic tube was stained purple.
Of course, black was expensive, precious, they wouldn’t waste it unless they had a good reason.
Maeve let the tension out of her body and slumped, expecting to fall back against the van. Instead, Jessica caught her, breaking her fall and lowering her gently to the ground. Obviously, Jess was under orders. She was probably under the influence of black, but Patrice was still her sister, and she hadn’t been given instructions to let Patty hurt herself as she fell.
The driver hopped out. “Help me load her in the back,” he said.
Jessica grabbed her ankles, and the driver took most of the weight, lifting her under the arms.
“Fuck, this bitch is heavy,” he said, as if anyone was listening.
He climbed in the back of the van and with Jessica’s help, dragged Maeve inside. He climbed down and closed the doors, locking both Maeve and Jessica in. It was dark in the back, with no windows, or lights, dark, and cold. A bulkhead had been made between the driver’s compartment and the load-area with thick plywood, bolted in place with heavy steel brackets. It would be impossible for a normal man to break it, let alone a woman.
If Maeve was inclined, she could probably put her claws straight through it and into the driver, but that would be a waste. If her revised guess was right, he was doing exactly what she wanted.
The floor of the van had also been covered with plywood panels, which was probably a lot nicer to lie on than the cold steel beneath. The probably wouldn’t have lavished such effort on the van if it was intended to move people, more likely they wanted to ensure their precious drugs had a comfortable ride.
Jess braced herself in the corner, and they moved off.
* * * * *
When the driver opened the van’s doors, they were in a locked garage. He and Jessica carried Maeve’s limp, motionless body upstairs. It seemed that the driver had no other accomplices to help him. That was disappointing, she’d been hoping to catch the whole crew that had been recorded in the videos. There was no mistaking the driver, no doubt it was him, even though he’d been wearing a baseball cap and a hoodie in the video, his face hidden.
He dumped her on the floor of an upstairs room. By their heartbeats, breathing and the smell, she sensed there were two other female captives here besides Jessica, and no men besides the driver. She would probably find all the evidence she could wish for. And if she waited the others might show up. The syringe had been large, and the dose excessive. They wouldn’t expect human Patrice to wake up from that for hours.
Despite her time in the force, Maeve had never seen the colors administered by injection before. It had never occurred to her that it was possible. Obviously, ingesting them simply allowed them to flow into the bloodstream, and that was where they did their work, like so many other drugs. It was convenient to take them orally, or via other orifices, and so people usually did.
Even with her eyes closed, Maeve could see indistinctly, though perhaps sight was not the right name for it. Whatever it was, she could tell that the driver had his back to her.
He pointed to a corner of the room. “Chain yourself up there,” he said to Jessica. “Use the padlock to lock the collar around your neck and fasten it onto the chain. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir,” Jessica said.
Silently, so smoothly that she didn’t even stir the air, Maeve stood up and let herself change. It was so much nicer to use her real face. How had she ever managed without her tentacles? She had already learned to vary their length, had practiced striking accurately at targets up to ten feet away. With time she would better that distance, she was sure.
With the first shot, she wrapped one around the driver’s neck, winding it around twice. She yanked him towards her. His hands clawed at his throat, trying to pull the taunt black strands free. She whipped another tentacle around his neck. It curled round with a wet snap and bound the man’s wrists against his neck. It seemed as if he was throttling himself, a fate better than he deserved.
But she mustn’t let him die.
Jessica screamed, an abrupt kind of sound that began and ended with an odd precision. Her face was a mask of horror. She cowered back into the corner, dropping the chain with a clatter.
Maeve yanked the driver backwards with a sharp contraction of the tentacles, overbalancing him. He weighed as much as her, maybe more, but with her balance and strength she could drag him around like a little dog on a lead. His legs kicked uselessly, scrabbling for purchase on the bare floorboards.
She glanced around the room and soon found exactly what she needed. There was a small eye-dropper bottle of black sitting on a nearby table. She pulled the driver back towards it, picked it up, and holding his forehead still with her right hand, she administered a few drips of black into his eye. He tried to blink it away, but it was useless, there was no way he could keep it out entirely.
After a few moments she said, “Stop struggling.”
He obeyed, so she let him go. It wasn’t as if he could do anything to her even if he wasn’t under the influence.
“Stand still,” she ordered.
While he stood frozen like a department store mannequin, she unfastened the over-sized buttons on her coat and shrugged it off. It felt so pleasant to be free of the heavy scratchy covering.
She flexed her glistening black perfection, admiring the reflection of her big gold eyes in her mirror-finish arm.
Jessica screamed again. A longer more plaintive effort than before, more like a wail.
“Calm down Jessica, be quiet,” she said. Of course Jessica fell silent immediately.
Black didn’t give its victims a choice about whose orders they would follow, though there was a certain amount of conditioning involved. The first person the victim saw would always have the strongest influence, and repeated dosing could reinforce it.
She would be unwise to try Jessica’s loyalty against the driver. There had been weeks for him to program her to respond to him almost exclusively. He would be burned into her mind, and long term use of black might already have destroyed her independence altogether. That remained to be seen. They might have been sparing with it, due to the expense, she could only hope.
“Turn to look at me,” she said.
Jessica and the driver both obeyed, staring at her as if she were a goddess. She didn’t need the black to do this to people, but it felt different using the drug on them instead of feeding them her own secretions. It was less intimate, but more cruel, somehow. And he deserved as much cruelty as she could muster, and the memory of Patrice needed the poetry of it.
She stood motionless in front of them for a while, examining the room and considering. There were two women crushed into tiny cages and cabled up for drug production, pink and purple. Their minds would be long gone, comatose, and there was no hope for them. If they were taken off the drug precursor feeds, they’d die anyway. However, they were powerful evidence of illicit drug manufacture, and the loss of two fully functional factories would be a blow to production in the city that would take time to offset.
It took around twelve weeks of a carefully sequenced drug program to turn a healthy human female into a drug factory. Young women with a functional womb were required. The drug engine that developed lived inside them, like some kind of vile parasite fetus. It was a parasite that eventually killed its host, and destroyed itself, either by necessity, or design. Only the thing’s creators knew which.
Who manufactured the engine seeds, was a question that the task-force had failed to answer so far. It seemed certain they were not made in crude ‘labs’ like this one, but in some giant corporation’s high-tech facility. Maeve suspected Hanley-Muller, but it was possible that they had genuinely tried to suppress the drugs, and that a rival company, perhaps Lucky Mountain, had filled the gap they’d left.
“When will your friends be back?” she asked.
He answered almost normally, not in a zombie monotone, though there was something missing from his voice, some spark of volition absent. “In a few hours. Before dawn for certain.”
“How can I locate your employer?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know. He only contacts me when it suits him. I have a phone that was sent to me, and there is a web-site.”
As she’d expected, it was just like Patrice. There would be no way to trace back to the weasel in the division, though mole would be a better name for him. Why, specifically, had Ridley called him a weasel? It was likely just a whim, and meant nothing, but possibly it was more than that.
The question now, was should she take out this lab and the people running it? Or should she allow it to keep operating, and try to follow the connection to the real source of the problem? It was a conundrum she’d been struggling with, even before she arranged the exchange.
If they let Patrice’s sister go, there would be questions from the boss, but if she brought the task-force in to roll all this up, Patrice’s torturer would be alerted, would increase his security, change his web-site, and otherwise cover his tracks. He might also take further revenge against Jessica, or other members of Patrice’s family, under the mistaken impression she was still alive to suffer from it.
Without a body to show people, Maeve had little chance of convincing anyone beside Paul that Patrice was actually dead.
Though she hated it, the best course was not to roll-up the lab, but to allow it to keep operating. She could get the driver to come up with some excuse as to why Jessica wasn’t around. In addition she could keep a close eye on her, and if anyone was sent to mess with her, they might prove an additional source of information. Though that hope depended on Jessica being fit to return home, which was far from certain.
If it came down to instinct, she would have killed the poor women in the cages immediately, quick and painless. It was the best they could hope for now.
Her first thought was to ask the driver’s name. No, that would make him a person, and she couldn’t afford to get squeamish over what happened to him. He was a violator, deserving of punishment, that was enough.
“What is your role here?” she asked him.
“They call me the cook, but the drugs I make aren’t cooked, they are grown. I make and care for the cows, maintain their tubes and make sure they are clean and don’t get sick, process the liquids they produce into usable product, manufacture pills and potions. I also look after the money and give the orders. The others are simply muscle, and they do as I tell them.”
“Where do the implants come from, for the … “ she hesitated, not wanting to use the word he’d used … “cows?”
“The boss arranges their delivery.”
“Are they difficult to put in?”
“Yes. Very difficult. If you do it wrong you can kill the cow and waste the implant.”
“What did you want that bottle for? What’s in it?”
“I was asked to perform tests on both women and men. We don’t know what it is, but the boss believes it might be used to make new cows without using the implants, for any color, even the black. Those cows could also make the same liquid. The implants are expensive, hard to obtain, and difficult to use. It would be big advantage in this business. We could have dozens of cows, as easy as finding a body.”
“How much does a black implant cost?”
“Six-million or thereabouts. But I don’t handle the implant purchases in this operation.”
Which suggested he had, in a previous situation.
“How does your boss know about what the bottle can do?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t know where the bottle came from either. He doesn’t share his secrets, only what I need to know.”
Six-million for one implant? Poor Patrice had seriously undervalued that bottle, if it did only a fraction of what they hoped. But if her instincts were right, it would never have done what they hoped, was something else entirely.
“What have you had Jessica doing?”
“She’s been on the black, working as a low-level dealer. She doesn’t come here normally, we have a place where the dealers and zombie-whores sleep. Safe. Deniable. All the dealers are on black, so they never try to skim.”
“What were you going to do with her?”
“She was to become cow number three while her sister watched. Blue implant is in the fridge, ready to go in. I wouldn’t have chosen her, she’s too small and won’t last well. A waste of money. But I have orders from the boss.”
Maeve’s stomach churned, though she no longer had an actual stomach, the feeling of nausea was all in her mind, a memory, nothing more. “Of course you do,” she said, out loud. “Why do you follow his orders, if they don’t make sense?”
“It’s easier to do what he wants unless it creates a serious risk. He has helped me make a lot of money, but I don’t trust him. He will try to dispose of me one day, possibly soon. He’s already too paranoid. Obsessed with loyalty. I know the sort. If the tests succeeded that would probably be the trigger for my assassination. He wouldn’t want anyone else to know about the secret.”
“Don’t speak again unless I tell you to,” she said.
She’d known about how the drugs were made in these back-street operations, but knowing it, and seeing it first-hand, were different things altogether. Was this also how Lucky Mountain made their drugs? Did they disappear unfortunate women and cover it up with some all-too-plausible story about a suicide or running away? Their drugs were legal in some countries and they would need to make them in bulk. How many women did they have? Were they lined up one after another in rows of hundreds? Not metaphorical objects, but actual objects, mindless, nothing but factories for the drug.
The irony was painful. She was also a factory for drugs, but far from passive.
Maeve pointed to her crotch. “Come here and drink. You’re very thirsty, and you will need to lick very hard to get your drink.”
She relaxed back on the floor. The cook crouched down, then crawled towards her on all fours, coming like an obedient pet. It was a pity that he disgusted her, not physically, but as a human being he was an abomination. He had to lie on his belly like a worm to lick her. She hadn’t intended it, it was simply more practical to lie down, rather than straddling his face while standing, but the ghost of Patrice appreciated the position it put him in, like a snake, or a maggot.
It was a guilty pleasure, using him this way, but the orgasm was real enough. It was surprising she could still have them, but there it was. Memory, like the nausea.
He continued to lap at her long after her first orgasm. The liquid she fed him was likely stronger than the black. For now, she had no idea how long its effects would last. It would require careful observation.
She dug the tip of her finger into the back of his neck and a tiny part of her split off and burrowed into him. She would always know where it was. If she wanted, she could kill him with it, where and whenever she desired.
Perhaps in future, she would be able to split off larger parts, long term, and use them to continually re-drug and remote-control people. It would be useful, though there were moral concerns. Somehow she couldn’t bring herself to get upset over using this monstrous drug cook though. She would keep him controlled as long as he was useful. After that, she’d make sure the task-force brought him in.
If she made a habit of making people into puppets, she would be no better than the cook, or his master, or Lucky Mountain. But did the human rules of good or bad apply to her now?
She was being absurd even questioning it, of course they did. Even the weakest person had a choice to be good or bad. If she was strong, that simply made it easier for her to choose to be good. While the weak might find their choices limited, surely hers were wide open?
After the second orgasm, she told him to stop.
“Every time you get an erection, the pain behind your eyes will be so bad that you’ll have to go and lie down,” she told him. It was the least she could do really. It might impact his effectiveness at work, so even that might be too much. She would see.
There were memories from the past that offered more complex possibilities, but to tap into them might not be a good idea. She had the sense that there was a limit to the lifetimes that could fit into a human mind. If she tried to stuff too much into her head, she would quickly wear away the person that was Maeve. Simply letting those alien ideas in at all was enough to change her little by little, dredging through them wholesale and unearthing all the details necessary to perform such brutal ‘magic’ would be even more destructive.
She couldn’t escape it, tapping into the true power of her body would always come with a price, eating away little pieces of herself. Was it inevitable that she would end up alien, so removed from the people around her that they meant nothing, and simply no longer figured in the decisions she made? Or was there a way around it? A way to remain human, without keeping all those memories tightly locked away?
That was one question that the archive of her history couldn’t answer, something she’d have to discover first hand.
She pushed the eagerly licking driver away.
“Now get off me, and unlock Jessica. It’s getting time for her to go home to her mother. She’ll need somebody she trusts to look after her when the black wears off.”
* * * * *
In orbit, the cloud of orange dust surrounding the freeze-dried lump of red bio-mass came alive at the touch of the sun. Each little particle twinkled, and began to drift towards its sisters. Patty might be dead, and the alien body might have been absorbed by its siblings, but it didn’t need them. Life and death were meaningless from its perspective. It would be better if it had an active B-E field to work with. The traces left on the lump of frozen flesh weren’t much, but they were better than nothing, a starting point…
* * * * *
Izzy sat by Flora’s hospital bed, intent on every detail that gave a clue about her health. What had happened to her since she’d been taken? She still hadn’t said.
“You’re too hard on her. She rescued me in the end,” Flora said. She still had an oxygen tube, but she was sounding much less wheezy.
Izzy hissed in frustration, “You wouldn’t have needed a rescue if it wasn’t for her mess. Besides, it was her boyfriend who rescued you, not her. She was nowhere to be seen.”
“He said she was there, and it’s not whether she succeeded or failed. Was there ever a moment that you doubted she’d risk everything to get me back?”
“I…” Izzy sighed. “Alright, point taken. But it was still her fault, and I’m not letting her off the hook that easy.”
“It wasn’t a very nice experience, but it’s opened my eyes. I was taking things for granted.”
“It’s a relief that you can say that much, after what happened. I’m glad you didn’t end up with PTSD or something.”
“I’ll be out in the morning. You don’t need to stay here. It’s not like we have much to talk about. I know you’re only here because this was a special situation, and well… I have noticed… you find me exhuasting.”
“No, no, no. Not that. Of course, I should have visited more often, but… Mum. Even now, I can feel her disappointment. Mi-mi had that same tone too. I mean, how dare they? I have my life, and what I do with it is my business. Always looking down on me. They have no right.”
“Yes. It’s all your secret business. So how would we know whether what you’re doing is making you happy? Maybe what upset them about you was that secrecy, not what you were doing? And you never talk to me either. ” Flora said.
“That’s because you’re a flake Flo. You believe in God and aliens, and ancient astronauts, all at the same time.”
“Thanks. Now I remember why I didn’t come to see you. But at least I told you those things. Oh, and don’t forget the healing power of pyramids and the banana diet?”
Izzy couldn’t help but smile. “I guess you can also see the funny side.”
“We only argued about those things because you take them too literally. We’re surrounded by wonderful magical forces. Other people. Life is created in the world of imagination.”
“Life is created in women, but it can be so short, sometimes.”
Flora nodded, silently acknowledging Izzy’s tiny concession.
“I’ll miss Mum, but like we keep saying, we’re ready,” Izzy said, rubbing her eyes clear of gunk.
“I had faith in miracles, but as it turns out we had Maeve, and Brian, and they’re real, people we could rely on all along. Not the kind of miracles you were hoping for, but...” Flora gave a small smile. “I had dreams at the old ruined church too. Isn’t that odd? But it can’t be an accident that it came to something in Maeve. It’s part of a plan we can’t see yet.”
Izzy sighed. “There is no story, no plan. It’s all just chance, and all the meaning is invented by people, simple human beings, afterwards, to explain things, to impose something rational on top of stuff that just happened, stuff that has no pattern, no morality, no meaning at all.”
“Can’t you see a little magic in life? How do you function as an artist? I’d have thought you, or all people would look for more interesting reasons?”
“Reasons? Well all know is… Even if I never said… Sure, I resented Maeve for deserting us as soon as she could. How could she leave the island and go somewhere so ugly? So full of prats? We’re part of the island, and it’s part of us. We ought to stay there, people need to grow up and stay there, live their lives there, or else it can’t live either.”
Flora smiled. “I agree with some of that, but I think the island would do just fine without us. Will do just fine, if it comes to it.”
“And Maeve? How could she be whole, here in this dirty city that stinks of piss? Where the yuppies drive past the homeless in their prestige SUVs? But almost losing you, even if it was her fault… She’s our precious sister. I don’t want to lose her completely. I could have done more. Should have.”
Flora laughed. “Speak for yourself. She comes back to the island, sometimes. She never left us completely. Maybe if you’d made her more welcome she would have come back more often?”
“You might have a point, but I can’t help it if I treat her mean. It’s my way. Tough love.”
“But I was thinking, maybe I should stay here? You can move in with Mum. It’s time I grew up a bit. I want to see something outside of our sheltered little garden? At least Maeve did that.”
Izzy made a noise of horror. “Me, move back in with Mum?” She cursed in a casual way, a long string of expletives. “Well, I guess I have to face up to it. You’ve looked after her more than your fair share. When she’s gone, I’ll regret I didn’t spend enough time with her, so I should probably thank you.”
Flora smiled. “Yes, you should. But you won’t.”
Authors Note (July 2017)
John Hynden proposed an initial idea for this story to me after reading The Building. He was interested in the idea of a heroine who was taken over by rubber but didn’t surrender to her desires. He saw it initially as a conflict with a demon, and already had a story along those lines, but wasn’t happy with it. For reasons that escape me, he was convinced he could better realize his vision through my work, rather than his own.
For my part, I wanted somebody to review and critique my story, an editor, and somebody to bounce ideas off, and John’s objectives were a close match to something I was already working on at the time. I thought we could pursue both our goals together. I was wrong about that. We ended up pursuing something that neither of us had expected, but I think it has turned out to be worthwhile.
When actually faced with alien ideas intruding into my work from outside, I found myself struggling with characters and events I didn’t care about, and that could not be conveniently bent to serve my unconscious objectives. But that was the task I’d set myself. I couldn’t claim I hadn’t anticipated difficulties along those lines. It was hard work that I didn’t always enjoy at the time.
There was an appeal to those alien ideas; I was determined to produce something different to that which I might have made alone. To create a story under those circumstances, I had no choice but to re-learn to write, deliberately and consciously, instead of instinctively. I couldn’t rely on my unconscious to give me a plot that matched my deeper intentions. Time and again I found what I was trying to do at odds with what I actually wrote, or the relentless editing turned the words stale and dull. I hope I got past that in the end, but it’s certainly not always ideal.
It's taken since 2015 to get this story to a point where I think it’s fit to be seen. Regarding the time it’s taken me to write it, struggling at every step, in terms of words per minute, it’s been slower than I could have imagined, and the final story is also far longer than I had planned. If there is any part of it that seems wrong to you, or disappointing, please forgive me, as I worked the sections again and again, until I reached the point where I felt further effort was as likely to make it worse as better.
I’ve had to re-learn everything from scratch, and re-write over and over. I’m optimistic that the effort I’ve put in developing new skills will bring rewards in the future, but it perhaps I’m not quite seeing the benefits yet. There are many things I like about this story, but it probably lacks the qualities that could make it popular with the typical erotic story reader, if there is such a person.
Throughout the slow working process, often a part of the story would be improved, then made worse again, then improved, then cut entirely, then written again from scratch, then changed again. It was not a quick process. I’m certain I could make improvements to it even now, but that would probably push its completion into 2018 and stop me from working on other things. It feels as if it has reached the point where it’s time to call it done.
It was supposed to be a quick 6,000 word short. It ended up at least a hundred-thousand words more than that. As ever, I failed completely at containing the scope. Nothing new in that respect. As for the plot, I may have strayed so far from John’s intent that I failed to deliver much of what he wanted. He asked for an intimate, personal story, centered around Maeve’s humanity, her relationship with Brian, and situations where she struggled to conceal her appearance and avoid humiliating discovery. He wanted a very complete, and unambiguously positive ending. I didn’t deliver many of those things. Also, I don’t think he was expecting me to throw in Maeve’s family, Hanley-Muller, drug-dealers, fights with police robots, a violently insane antagonist, or a noir-style plot of jealousy and betrayal, mixed up with an action-oriented super-hero style. The plot just kept on getting more and more complicated.
Ultimately, the historical relationship between Maeve and Paul grew so burdensome, and contrary to John’s goals, that I split it out into its own story, Together Is Not An Option. You can properly enjoy that story without reading this one, or vice versa, I believe. They ended up being quite different kinds of things, and a reader that likes one might not like the other.
Adding more detail in character descriptions and transformation scenes might have pleased some readers (and John). Had I chosen an omniscient narrator point-of-view, I might have been able to do that, but I was determined not to resort to head-hopping, or weird point-of-view violations to shoe-horn in descriptions, even if I would have loved to get carried away with them. Even as it is, I think there may be an excess of convenient mirrors. Alas, I could never write an omniscient narrator story, but I think that is an area where John may show us intriguing solo works one day. I believe he’s also interested in visual story-telling, in collaboration with others (not me) so keep an eye out for that.
For much of the work, I couldn’t get inside Maeve’s head very well, and didn’t like her much. Eventually we came to an understanding, and I was able to live with her. Maeve’s journey doesn’t follow the genre convention for stories like this. She changes from a human to something with inhuman qualities, but despite all that happens, she continues to value the human part of herself. Not in a way that compromises both aspects of her existence, but by trying to pick the best of what she was and what she’s become, and choosing to reinforce those things. She doesn’t complain that parts of her are lost, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t miss them.
Demons are human too in their way, in stories, products of the human mind. Supernatural creatures in fiction are nothing more than simplified versions of people, with all the complicated contradictions and obligations stripped away. In contrast, Maeve does her very best to hang onto her contradictions and obligations, perhaps even accumulates more.
Some keen observers may have noticed that despite the story being set in the UK, the spelling used is American. I originally wrote it with UK spellings, but I guess that most readers are in the US, and that UK readers are more familiar with US-style spelling than the reverse, so I have gone over to the dark-side. Sorry. Some of my stories have Australian spelling, which was probably the worst possible choice.
I’d like to thank John for his limitless enthusiasm, his ideas, and his determination to get the best story he could. He pushed me to change things that otherwise wouldn’t have been fixed, and provided feedback and other help reviewing the work, again and again.
I’d also like to thank A Pensive Pen and Rbbral for their help in reviewing versions of this story.
John Hynden’s Note
Amy asked me to write something about my experience of the work, and I truly must say that she is the most patient and understanding person anyone can asked for.
Originally, I am attracted to the premise of ladies wearing shiny black latex. The thought of living latex, bonding with female characters really was my fetish combination between shiny latex and symbiote concepts from the comic world.
So, my search for stories took me to sites like grometsplaza, mcstories and literotica. While reading these stories, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy with some stories. Some depict enslavement while some see latex as a means to change one's personality to be a bimbo, a dumb and lustful creature that needs sex. Others depicted sex in a manner that I did not feel right about when reading it.
As much as I love erotica stories, I felt that there should be a female author out there, who can write erotic stories in a manner that excites the readers as well as respecting the female characters of the story instead of demonizing them. I truly do not want latex to be a medium that depicts submissiveness or subjugation of the female sex. Rather, I want latex to be seen in a different light, to showcase that women who wear latex are beautiful and they can be who they want to be without being forced or transformed against their will.
On one fateful Halloween night, I was reading through a story of Amy's, The Building. The way she depicted the rubber engulfing the host and turning into something else really caught my attention. Furthermore, given her forum comments, I hoped she would have the same objectives as me to shed a new light on the treatment of women in sex, as well as using latex to empower women rather than to objectify them.
The encounter with Amy was wonderful and I felt that it was fated. I had an idea that involved a female protagonist who accidentally makes contact with a living latex goo. The latex goo would slowly change her, but her humanity would never fade away. She would have a boyfriend that loved her no matter what she became *spoilers*, but at the same time she should have the urge to have sex as part of the alien instinct she gained. It is a mixture of corruption and a reversal story, where the protagonist overcomes the corruption, and uses her dark latex powers for good (in a twisted way).
It has been a long journey. Sometimes, the scenes, plot and ideas that I had in mind have pushed our collaboration to the limits, to the point that I felt that I was at fault for being an annoying person, just contributing ideas. I was a demanding collaborator, and I hope Amy can forgive this aspect of my behaviour.
At times, I got that feeling that she will get mad and stop the collaboration. The way she persevered in writing this story is truly remarkable. I feel guilty for asking, pestering her to follow my ideas, but she was writing it, and she knows the art of writing better than I. One thing I have learned from this is that we must respect and trust the author when it comes to writing. It might not fulfil certain specifics, but he/she is trying his/her best to make sure that the story is accessible to everyone and not just only me/the collaborator.
After a long period of time, Amy has produced and written a story that is beyond my initial thought and imagination. It touches the aspects of latex, erotica and depicts a motivated, conflicted, but kind heroine, who lands herself in sexual trouble, but she overcomes it with dignity without becoming a slut/bimbo/object.
This is a truly erotic story that combines sex and adventure, as well as depicting the triumph of latex as empowerment rather than domineering/submissiveness.
For that, I hope the readers will enjoy and love the story that Amy wrote with her dedication and passion. In the end, I hope Amy will sell this story commercially. I am convinced it will ignite something different in the erotica world, and my guts tell me that it can be made into a feature film.
Do send Amy and I some reviews for the story, we will really appreciate it. If any erotic writers seek collaboration in ideas, do keep in touch with me in the forum/mail.
To Amy: Thank you so much in realizing this story. I know I have said many thanks in the past, but I truly am grateful and feel I matured throughout this writing journey.