TDWP: The Devil's Mistress Ch. 2
They stayed for awhile, until it seemed to Andrea that Miranda was growing restless. "Are you tired?"
The older woman shook her head in the negative.
"Then perhaps you'd like to see some of what we do here?"
"Aside from buying old ladies and their offspring?"
Andrea inhaled at the sharpness behind the tone, but she refused to respond in kind. She was merely glad to see that Miranda had not lost all her spark. If she had, well... Andrea would have had to seek out the perpetrators and destroy them. Not that she did not intend to do so anyhow.
The brunette opened the door. "Come with me, Miranda and see the sights."
- TDWP -
It had been a very long time since Miranda had been toured around a facility as extensive as Andrea's, but the experience was by no means a new one. However, the tour was a unique one. The brunette did not offer endless chatter describing every little detail. She said, early on, "You can access the basic information via your neural interface when you want to know more." Then she guided as they walked, drawing attention to features she thought Miranda might find interesting, but otherwise letting the older woman absorb the details on her own.
Miranda noted the immediate presence of a blonde, who followed them. At first she thought the woman might be a bodyguard, but she noted the professional attire, the tablet in her hand, the attentive expression that was constantly on her face. She even took notes of Andrea's comments. Otherwise, people flowed around them, busy at their occupations. Andrea watched them all with what appeared to be an easy gaze, but it was one that missed nothing.
A redhead passed them and Andrea said, "Lisle, please have Cassandra come see me immediately once we arrive at my office. I expect it will be in twenty minutes."
The blonde peeled off from them, long enough to chase after the other woman, but as Andrea continued on, Miranda followed her. Lisle found them, much farther ahead on the tour, but without apparent need to call ahead.
They finally made their way to an opulent office, walking past an empty assistants desk. Lisle took position there, while Andrea led Miranda into the workspace. The brunette indicated some soft seating. "Why don't you have a seat? Are you thirsty? Hungry?"
Miranda considered. "I could use something to drink, if you have it."
"Hard or soft?"
"Water will suffice."
Andrea stepped out for a moment and spoke to Lisle, then returned. "It will be a few moments, but you'll have a glass in your hands presently. I spy some paperwork on my desk, if you don't mind me taking a few seconds to address it?"
Miranda arched a brow. She was well aware that Andrea did not need her permission and was acting solely from ingrained courtesy. She might have been tempted to press, but was honestly too emotionally wrung out to play the game. Still, she wanted to see this, to see Andrea at work. She was curious.
The younger woman's grin was quick and oddly affectionate. And then, it was gone, and seriousness cast its mantle upon her. Andrea turned and focused on her work. Then, after a few moments, Lisle arrived, handed a glass of water to Miranda without comment, then approached the desk and whispered into Andrea's ear.
The brunette turned slightly, cupped the woman's face, and kissed her lightly. "Thank you." Lisle, then went back out to the assistant's desk.
Miranda, eyes narrowed, lifted her glass to drink. And was mildly surprised to find that the taste was familiar; her favorite.
She sipped and observed, knowing that Andrea was granting her this time to absorb and contemplate.
Then the redhead arrived. Cassandra. The young woman looked diffident, a change from the confident walk Miranda had perceived previously.
Andrea spoke without looking up. "626. State Feature 17 Status in your protocol."
The woman blushed furiously, but began without any hesitation. It was almost mechanical. "Feature 17; Status, On. Nympho - Enhanced; Modified level 5. Hours passed since last application: Seventy six. End."
Andrea finally looked at the woman. "By my count that is four more hours than our agreement. 626 is that correct? Reply."
"626 you are now on 24 hour leave. You will go to the discipline room and speak to Jason. He will apply 8 strikes with a paddle, which is 2 for every excess hour past your prescribed wait time. Have Jason assign three playmates and spend time with them. You will write me a report on why it is bad to ignore your protocol limits and have it delivered to my email in 48 hours. Come here and kiss me, and then go."
A series of emotions flickered across the redhead's gaze, but the one that had most impact was the look of relief upon her face. Cassandra's response was immediate. She crossed the empty space to where Andrea sat. The brunette turned and received a long, warm, and deep kiss. Then, without further comment from either of them, Cassandra left.
Andrea called Lisle in. "Please assign a therapist to Cassandra and see that a schedule of appointments is implemented for the next six weeks. She can't go on like this."
Both women's expressions reflected a stern concern. When Lisle exited, Andrea dropped the paperwork in her hands and pinched the bridge of her nose. She turned to Miranda and saw the questions in her eyes. "Cassandra, like you, was kidnapped and forced into her current situation. Her former boss wanted her for more than just her work ethic, and when she refused him, he made her fiancé an offer that he couldn't refuse. I purchased her at an auction when the man's assets were seized for fraud, embezzlement and tax evasion. If my own ordeal taught me anything, it was to recognize those that were not introduced to this life willingly."
Miranda's grip on her glass tightened, as did her expression. Andrea's gaze was piercing. "More, you can not ignore your protocols. You must know them. You must adjust for them and accommodate them. Or you will suffer. The suffering is part of the basic design, but not necessary for most to function. Ignore your protocols for too long, and there will be irreparable repercussions; mental dysfunctions, physical deterioration, death. None of which are mild, Miranda. I've seen slaves die painfully, blood from every orifice. Though, not often willingly. The protocols can be denied by command. It is... a terrible punishment to witness, but effective in setting an example to others." Her gaze turned hard and uncompromising. "I am well aware that you have the willpower to deny your protocols, but I warn you now, I will not allow it."
Miranda's features slid into a nearly impassive mask, but Andrea still caught the flash of disbelief. "4289. Utilizing your neural interface, state Feature 17 status in your protocol."
It was an automatic response, this time sounding even more mechanical as the words floated through the speakers. "Feature 17; Status, On. Slut - Enhanced; Modified level 7. Hours passed since last application: Seven. End." Miranda's features turned crimson.
Andrea leaned back in her chair. She ignored the flare of anger directed at her and said, "It is interesting to me that your previous owners," she used finger quotes, "... left their options open. The Slut setting gives a great deal of flexibility. It can be downgraded or upgraded by procedures and commands almost all the way to Nympho, depending preference. Perhaps they weren't sure what they wanted. Either that, or they were warned about the Nympho setting and did not think they could handle you."
Miranda looked startled, then barked a short laugh. Andrea smiled slightly and rested her hands comfortably on her armrests of her executive chair. "If it makes you feel better, my setting is currently Slut - Enhanced; Modified level 3. That's just two levels above the Slut - Wench setting. It means I have a high libido, a certain level of agree-ability, which is just a shorthand way of saying I am statistically more likely to say yes to an offer of sex, and I have a spiral of need, which rises the longer I ignore it and causes the agree-ability index to rise also. Wench by itself is the lowest on the scale. It's merely a libido enhancement. Very few of us who are female ever get that low a setting. Most owners opt for the Slut every time, partly because of the flexibility of the command set. Mostly because it's a damn fantasy thing."
Miranda's laugh this time was more of a sniff, but she knew. She understood. Andrea continued. "The enhanced option, tells us that there is more to the list; bio-toy options (some of which are implants, others of which are interfaces), pain options, that sort of thing. Those will be subcategories of Setting 17 and each of those will have their own settings. That tells me your so called owner is a kinky person or expected to have you perform a variety of sexual tasks; which means you will definitely need to meet with our physical therapists to line that all out and discover which toys are most compatible and what your tolerance levels really are. I will also schedule appointments with a counselor. Both of those are standard procedure, anyway, but I guarantee, you want professional assessment Miranda, even if you find it disconcerting. More, I don't want you suffering needlessly. I will have Lisle forward a list of acceptable and available playmates with compatible settings."
Miranda turned away, unable to look at Andrea at that moment. The younger woman decided to let the silence hold, knowing that her ex-boss had plenty to think and swear inside about. So she opted to focus on work, as much as Miranda's presence would allow, anyhow.
- TDWP -
They were interrupted by a petite woman, sporting short spiky pink and blue hair. Her blue eyes sparkled with happiness and she might as well have been wearing a cheerleader outfit, given the enthusiasm she was exuding. As it was, she was stunningly youthful looking. Were it not for the fact that her breasts obviously belonged to an adult and her eyes held a maturity that spoke of decades rather than years, Miranda might have been tempted to think of her as a teenager. Miranda shifted, as she watched the way the woman uninhibitedly kissed Andrea. Then, as if she had the right, she slid into her employer's lap and brought the shoebox she was holding with her. The only saving grace was that she didn't bounce. Her voice, however, was perky enough to make up for it, "It's here! It's here!"
Andrea's hands slid comfortably around the woman's body. "That is good news Jay. Told you." That got her another steaming kiss. Andrea grinned. "So don't keep us waiting. Open it up!"
The small woman emitted a gleeful sound and popped the lid of the box off, then laid it to the side in one smooth, quick motion. She stared down into the box and then grinned even more, if that were possible. "Oh. Andy. It's beautiful."
"Show Miranda," Andrea said, with a slightly mischievous glimmer in her expression. "I like the colors."
The young woman twisted in Andrea's lap, but did not get off. Instead she lifted the item out of the box. It was a shape that had been around for ages, formed in what appeared to be clear crystal, with streamers of gold and a soft cerulean and shimmers of glitter. The woman smiled at Miranda as if she'd always known her, as if they'd even been properly introduced. She positioned the item, to demonstrate. "Attaches, just so. It'll buzz on command in the interface. I've been waiting for ages to get this back from the lab. They were supposed to have it done last week! But you know, parts and pieces... Ordering from distant lands. We really have to get us a company that just makes the chips, Andy. Then we could do even more specialization and get past the limitations of only being able to fine tune programming."
"It will be tuned for their owner, but will give their partners great pleasure too," Andrea said. She stroked the woman's hip, a pleased expression on her face. "Nice design Jay. I especially like that curve. It's gonna hit in all the right places."
The woman beamed. "Thanks, Andy! Yeah, I'd say, give us a chance to test it out and we can have the specs ready for the market in... two weeks."
Jay's grin turned positively wicked. "We are talking a thorough testing."
"One week, Jayden."
"I'd say you were no fun, but that would so be a lie. Okay boss. One week. Come help us try it out?"
Andrea gave it some serious thought. "Not this time."
"Rats." Jay slid off Andrea's lap and leaned in, pressing her whole body against her boss. Andrea's hands cupped the woman's buttocks and squeezed lightly as they kissed.
When they pulled apart Andrea offered a warm smile, "You are making me regret missing out."
"You know it. But next time, luv. Always a next time."
"I look forward to it. Now. Go. Do your job."
"I'm so buying you a t-shirt that says Best Boss. Any day now."
"I'd rather a mug. Out!"
Jay's laugh could be heard down the hallway as she exited.
Andrea could practically feel the frost in the air. She was a third of the way to being able to ignore it. She had turned back to her work, had started opening a new file.
"Do you sleep with all of them?"
Andrea smirked, but ignored the question in favor of an explanation. "When I found Jay, they had finished her upgrades and had just added features. It was... an impressive list. I remember looking at the file, thinking, what kind of owner would put someone through this, but there was no owner listed. When I asked the auctioneer who was selling this girl, he said, no one. She was selling herself. Her parents, you see, were not available. She had brothers and sisters to support, but was too young to get a legitimate job. The only way to keep them out of the foster system was for their grandparents to take them, but they had little income. Her idea was to attempt to provide for them. She tried other things first. Obviously. But... nothing pays like the slave trade. She went into debt as soon as she signed the first waiver. It was all in the hopes that she would find someone willing to pay. She did. I was not the first owner. Her first contract had completed and they were finished with her when she turned twenty. She had opted for a much, much longer contract for the second round. She wanted it to be her last round, you see. She was trembling so much when they brought her in for examination, I thought she would fall down and die on the spot. After all, it's a crap shoot, isn't it? I was not the only one bidding, but I was the last one standing." Andrea offered a grim smile. "I learned from the best how to always get what I want."
"I do sleep with many of them. Not all. It's not practical, and I have staff. But while others think of ownership as a right, I think of it as a responsibility. As soon as my name is on those papers, I am the one who pays the taxes, must insure their care, must care. For if I don't, who will? It also serves the secondary purpose of attending to my own protocols. My people follow my example, so I try to set a good one. If it involves being more personal than one might see in other businesses, well, that's the nature of the beast. Can I do less than offer everything I am?"
"I don't know what to say, Andrea."
"I don't think there is any need to say anything, Miranda. What is, is. I'd say it's just business, but you know it's not. I know it's not. It's personal. It's very, very personal. And we either accept that, or..." Andrea shrugged. "I choose to be happy, you see. I choose it. And I make that choice for some of them and try to offer it to as many of them as will take it."
"Are you making that choice for me then?"
"Could I ever?"
"You tried in Paris."
"Yes. Well. We see where that got me." Andrea's smile took the sting out of her words. Then she waved her hand, "I suppose we'll have to leave that one up to time."
- TDWP -
The morning passed eventfully. Miranda watched as people swept into and out of Andrea's office and often her arms. They attended an energetic meeting, one that bordered on chaotic, but somehow managed to end up quite profitable. The more she observed, the more intrigued she became. Andrea's management style appeared to be loose, but the older woman had come to the conclusion that it was more a case of iron fist in pillowed glove. Not velvet, for that would not have been soft enough, but Miranda was well aware that the fist was absolutely there.
Andrea used it, not necessarily harshly, but with a deft firmness that eventually started causing shivers down Miranda's spine. The woman she had thought of as the fat, smart girl once, was something new and fascinating and very, very stylish; almost orgasmically so. It wasn't just her clothing, which she wore well. Or the power, which practically rolled off of her in waves. It was more. It had always been more, she realized. And she was reminded of it, every time they went for their short perambulations. She had become aware of the sleek glide of Andrea's walk, the supple movements of her body which exuded warm sensuality.
She still recalled the day Andrea had stepped into her office in those Chanel boots. The start of that walk had been then, she thought. But Andrea had been her assistant and there were definite limits to what Miranda would allow herself to feel.
She was having a hard time setting those limits at the moment. One might even call it an impossible quest. Every time someone else slid into Andrea's arms, male or female, she felt a rush of pure sensation through her whole body, which inevitably, eventually concentrated in a flush warmth in her center. Unaccountable jealousy, envy, and want mixed precariously in her. She would catch Andrea watching her, and her skin would heat from the attention.
It wasn't until there was a lull in the activity that Miranda realized that not all of Andrea's motivations were clear. The brunette had paused, and looked at her, then looked again. Then she had tisked.
Miranda wasn't sure what she'd done to earn that particular sound. She had been very careful. She was cognizant of Andrea's warnings and had begun to take to heart each story that the younger woman would tell her. She had understood their purpose, both as instruction and warning not to judge before she understood. She was striving not to, but had years of habit ingrained in her. It was not so easy. Yet, the time with her ex-employee had helped.
Andrea had mentioned the choice she made to be happy, which led Miranda to the choice she felt she could make. She chose to act as if this were part of her job and she were there as who she had been, as if she were more than what circumstances made her; perhaps as an advisor of some sort. The acting had lent credibility to her posture and that had caused others to move around her with respect. She chose to act as if circumstances were moderately in her control and had arrived at the conclusion that it must be so, or at least, Andrea was allowing it.
"You're tired," the younger woman said as she stood up.
The older woman's first impulse was to deny it, but everything about the day had been about the delivery of truth, sometimes in painful measure. She was loathe to break the pattern and feared that her tongue might do damage to the fragile line of communication they seemed to be developing. She was highly aware that Andrea expected Miranda to sharpen her verbal sword, else why had she warned her. Indeed, there were times, she had been so tempted.
"It has been a long morning, and..." She was going to say she hadn't had any coffee. It had been days since she'd had a cup. She missed the flavor, was not sure why she had not missed the subtle high.
"Yes. I know. I've been selfish." Miranda blinked at Andrea, as the younger woman brushed a silver lock of hair away from her eyes. Her fingertips barely brushed her scalp and Miranda felt the tingle of them anyway. The younger woman smiled pensively. "I should have sent you to physical therapy hours ago, but I was... enjoying your company."
"I hardly did anything, Andrea."
"You say my name the way you do and your presence... I had forgotten how soothing..."
"Oh. Now I've offended you."
"No. Surprised me. As I recall, you trembled before me." Miranda's body shivered at the nearness of her owner. Yes. She must remember that was their relationship now. Yet somehow, there was more, had to be more.
"You were the queen of your world Miranda. Of course, I trembled. And you made me crazy. You made all of us crazy. But... I drew comfort from your strength. When you weren't slicing me apart that is..."
"I hardly drew the knives today." It was the closest admission that Miranda gave that she understood she was hard, was difficult to deal with. It had been part of the play, part of her role. Part of her.
She did not know if it still was.
"You see the world very differently than I, Andrea."
"Mm." The hum was so close to her ear, as if the younger woman could not resist smelling her. So odd. Yet, Miranda wanted to take in the scent that tickled her senses too; there was something uniquely Andrea in the air. She was so close, that Miranda could feel tears gathering at the edge of her eyelids. She wanted her.
She had always wanted her.
"You either must touch me. Or you must stop. It is too hard for me right now." Blunt, but true. Fairness, between them.
"Oh." The word was a puff of air, a gasp of surprise. Miranda realized that the other woman hadn't realized how close she'd been. She felt a frisson up her spine and her eyes widened as Andrea's lips passed by her own without making the distance or connection.
Andrea stepped away and Miranda felt the loss much more deeply she could have explained. She was grateful, however, that the woman did not apologize. That too would have been too much.
"Lisle?" Andrea called, without taking her eyes off of Miranda.
"Yes, Andy?" her assistant replied pleasantly, suddenly available. How did the good ones do that? It was something Miranda had yet to fathom; only to appreciate.
"Have you set Miranda's appointments yet?"
"Just one. In about an hour."
"Take Miranda to the cafeteria and get her some food. Miranda, eat what Lisle sets before you. Your metabolism is higher now. Eat the damn carbs." Andrea stepped even farther away and Miranda felt a little breathless. The young woman sat down at her desk and looked at them both, then turned away to do something, anything. Miranda knew that activity well. Without looking at them again, the brunette said, "You may go."
And they did.
- TDWP -
The cafeteria was a pleasant surprise. Industrialism had be sacrificed in favor of comfort and pleasure. It felt practically cosy, though it was a large space. The effect was mainly a decorative one, but also because of how the eating areas and the social areas were distributed. Miranda noted that there were rooms that broke off from the cafeteria space, perhaps conference lunch rooms, but a check of the schematics (a benefit of her interface that she was growing quickly appreciative of) indicated that some of those rooms had other, more intimate purposes.
Not that she lingered on the idea of it very long. Lisle found them a quiet, almost secluded place, and food was delivered fairly quickly. The portions were meaningful and the editor thought she surely wouldn't have been able to finish it all. As soon as she put the first forkful into her mouth, Miranda realized she'd actually needed the food, and the distance. The meal's warm solidity helped to quell the rising sense of displacement. Andrea's command was hardly necessary, as she ate everything on her plate without qualm. She had been, she now realized, quite hungry.
Lisle was a good hostess, providing a kind of bulwark of something tentatively familiar, yet being stranger enough to let Miranda's thoughts be her own. She was also very professional in her demeanor, giving away no sense at any time of impropriety; though she did once let her eyes glide over Miranda's form appreciatively. She even ate with Miranda, providing not only company for the dining experience, but also demonstrating the safety of it.
It wasn't until the plates were cleared that she even spoke. She said, "Is there anything else I can do for you?" The words themselves were not what colored Miranda's cheek, but the delivery of them. It took a few seconds for her to reply, because her first impulse was to say yes and that had taken Miranda aback.
"Thank you. But I believe you mentioned a previous engagement. Perhaps a restroom would be available? I would like to freshen up before the appointment."
Lisle smiled easily, apparently not put off or offended. "Of course. Let me show you the way."
- TDWP -
Not too much later, Miranda found herself in another office; one papered with diplomas and certifications and decorated in wood and green tones. It was there that Lisle left her. "You're going to be in good hands. The best." Lisle had looked directly into Miranda's eyes while saying that. Her expression had been very serious. "They will take care of you. When you're done, just tag the interface and let me know."
"I shall." The young woman offered a beautiful smile, which was hard not to return. Miranda resisted the impulse to grab onto the young lady just because she was mildly familiar. However, doctor's offices, no matter how benign the individual, were not places she felt comfortable in and she could guess, if she had been able to read it without the neural interface, that everything in the paperwork on the walls said that she was about to be in the presence of a professional. Then she wondered if that were the purpose of the ostentation. Reassurance by proxy; a sort of, this person knows what they are doing, signal. She immediately wondered what their story might be. Now Andrea had her doing it.
Fortunately, Miranda did not have to wait long.
A strikingly beautiful redhead swept into the office, doctor's vestments covering classic fashion, clicking across the floor in black Manolo Blahnik Mary Janes. That was when awareness really hit, as Miranda became aware that she had been surrounded by people dressed as well as might be found in her own Runway. She, however, had spent the bulk of the day wearing a simple shift and no one had looked at her strangely or commented or caused her to feel out of place when she was at Andrea's side. No one had run their eyes over her with anything less than understanding.
"Well, aren't you the silver-fox, Miranda," the woman was saying. "Of course, you always were. And a simple rejuvenation does wonders, but you've had quite the set of upgrades, so, my god. You'll be knocking them dead in no time at all once we get you squared away. We'll be going over the whole of what been done to you in a bit and run a physical just to get your baseline. I have to mention that I love your magazine, but I'm guessing from the paperwork that someone has taken the fashion wars far too seriously. I look forward to seeing the payback."
It took a moment to process. "You know my work." The words rose through both her lapel pin and the speakers on the desk terminal.
The redhead did not seem to find the double speakers dissonant. She smiled easily and extended a hand. "Like many, I live vicariously and escape through the wonders of fashion. I may not be able to wear it all, but I surely enjoy looking." Miranda surprised herself, allowing the handshake to be a firm one. "I'm Dr. Addison Montgomery. I'll be your physician and overseeing your care for the time foreseeable. I've had a chance to look at a few files, and I convinced Andy to let me do some discrete digging for your other previous medical data, just in case. Much of it won't apply, but some will and we doctors like to have a full set of information to work with to begin with. We can be pretty sure that any data retrieved will be confidential as medical security is fairly stringent, but I've got our best hackers handling the details there. I had a chance to speak with your daughters, both lovely girls. You're an awesome mom. They love you loads. And I'm sorry about how you ended up here, but glad to have a chance to meet you." She finally let go of the older woman's hand and said, "I thought we might take a few minutes to get to know each other." She sat down across from the editor.
Miranda was slightly taken aback. "You've seen my daughters..."
"Andy thought you might like to know the same person was handling their care and this way I can keep you in the loop a little more easily. I need to let you know that in a few minutes, I'm going to be calling Andy and have her state a few commands to you. Nothing horrifying, just we want to get the full list of your features and upgrades. The paperwork is never complete. I did run a print off. Andy tells me the interface is active, if you'd like to take a peek."
"It seems redundant."
"It would be, I think. Once you hear it, you'll probably remember it all." Dr. Montgomery tapped the side of her head. "One of your upgrades is memory. You've got quite a storage capacity. The persons who did this to you seem to have had some very bad plans for you and wanted you to remember it all."
"I had come to that conclusion." Miranda decided to take the doctor at her word. "Are you ... have you... had similar experiences?"
The doctor shook her head. "Andy contacted me because one of her finds was pregnant and it wasn't an easy one. The woman wanted the baby, despite its... beginnings. She had heard that I was the best. The timing was right. I thought it might make a nice break. She flew me in, I saw what she was doing and told Andy that if she wanted me to stay, I wanted a full facility. She didn't even blink. Gave me the ticket and let me write it, and make the major staffing and management choices."
"I can see, Dr. Montgomery, how it might be hard to argue with that kind of incentive."
"Hard? Try impossible, although I might have resisted if Andy had been the one doing the asking. Oh, and call me Addison."
Miranda sensed the story there, and perhaps the real reason for the doctor's presence. It might be something to explore later. "You sound very busy, yet you have time for me?"
"Miranda Priestly, for you, I'd make time, even if I were still in the States." Addison smiled warmly and the smile was returned.
- TDWP -