Sunday, August 20, 2017

Teaser Two

     [I didn’t expect to do this, but the torrent of email demanding “just a little more, Fran” of Innocents, despite the two or three months that will surely elapse before I publish it, is too much to ignore -- FWP]

Monday, 09/11/2028, 07:15: Gloucester, VA

    “Unacceptable, Teacher.” Takahara’s tone was adamant. “You must recover her.”
     “Unacceptable!” The voice that until then had been modulated as evenly as any corporate manager’s became more piercing than any shout. “We will not accept the loss of so valuable a property. You must find her and recover her. Will the constabulary not assist you?”
     “Sir,” the woman who went by ‘Teacher’ said, “the sheriff was emphatic. His indulgence toward us does not extend to active measures.”
     There was a brief silence on the line.
     “That, too, is unacceptable. Half a million American dollars per year should buy more than mere tolerance. But that is not your affair. I will dispatch a remediation squad immediately. Have accommodations ready for a team of four. Expect them to arrive tomorrow, around mid-morning.”
     “I will, sir.”
     “I expect to be kept apprised of all developments.”
     “Of course, sir.”
     The connection broke. She returned the handset to its cradle and sat back.
     I couldn’t have expected any better. I was afraid of much worse. I have to find her.
     The facility was in more danger than the mere loss of revenue. Fountain’s escape put its true purpose in danger of discovery.
     That must not happen. It would mean life sentences for Sculptor and me at minimum. We would never see sunlight again.
     But what about this squad? Will they be tasked to assist the search for her, or to re-educate the sheriff? Perhaps both?

     The team Takahara would send would not be skiptracers. They would be enforcers. Yakuza soldiers. Men selected for their lack of conscience quite as much as for their martial skills. They would act without compunction.
     Their duties might extend to discipline.
     She began to fear far worse than a life sentence.

Monday, 09/11/2028, 07:35: Heading North

     They ate in silence. Sokoloff watched Fountain as closely as he could without staring.
     The girl ate daintily and with a curious exactitude. Her bites were minuscule, smaller than any Sokoloff had ever seen. She seemed to be striving to minimize the width to which she must part her lips. She seemed not to chew her bites but simply to roll them around her mouth for a few seconds. She swallowed each morsel completely before taking another.
     She never touched her fork. She ate solely with her spoon.
     She remained silent throughout the meal. Sokoloff forced himself to remain silent as well.
     When they’d finished and Sokoloff had cleaned up, he donned a T-shirt and jeans, rummaged through his clothes for something for her to wear, selected a gray sweatshirt and a pair of gray sweatpants, turned away and urged her to put them on. The sweatshirt was slightly too small for him, yet it swaddled her like a collapsed party tent. His sweatpants were just as oversized for her, but fortunately the drawstring waist and elastic ankle openings sufficed to keep them on her. He fretted over her exposed, tender feet but could find nothing for them except a pair of thick white athletic socks that were obviously too large. They would have to serve.
     He was about to shepherd her into his truck for the ride north when the odds of observation and unpleasant questions occurred to him.
     “Fountain,” he said, “I have to drive us back to where I live. But I don’t think you should ride in my truck with me. Do you think you’ll be all right back here alone?”
     She’d returned to his daybed and sat with her hands in her lap. Her expression was curious but compliant. “I will, my lord.”
     My lord again? Good God.
     Wonder what it’ll take to get her to call me Larry.

     “All right. Don’t be scared when you feel the trailer start to move. I’ll keep us as steady as possible, but if we hit a bump or have to go around a sharp corner, just hold on and it’ll straighten out in a moment. I’ll get you something to read while we’re on the road.”
     He shuffled through the shallow pile of reading material he’d brought, found his paperback of The Fellowship of the Ring, and handed it to her. She peered uncertainly at the cover.
     “Have you read it?”
     “No, my lord.”
     “Well, it’s a good story. Anyway, I think you’ll like it better than my martial-arts magazines.” He laid a hand on her shoulder. “I’m going to get in the truck and get us moving. We’ll be on the road for about eight hours. Just relax, read, use the bathroom if you need to, and don’t worry about anything, okay?”
     She inclined her head, murmured “As my lord commands,” opened the book and set to reading.
     He opened the trailer door, halted, and glanced back at her. Her eyes were fixed on the book. Her expression was one he’d seen before: a rigid look of resolve, the sort which among men heading into combat speaks of fear sternly repressed. It sent a pang through him.
     She has nothing to be afraid of. For now, anyway.
     Fountain, I don’t know what you’re about, where you belong, or what’s been done to you. I sure as hell don’t know how to fix whatever’s wrong, but where we’re headed there are people who will. Till then, just hang on, girl. Hang on tight. I’ll get you there.

     He exited and closed the door gently behind him.

     Fountain could tell that her new lord was troubled, but not why. Her training had included the inculcation of an alert sensitivity to a master’s emotional state, but the indicators she had learned to recognize—those that spoke of pain, tension, anger, fear, sorrow, pique, contentment, or joy—were absent from her lord’s face, body, and manner. He seemed rather to be confused yet determined, though determined upon what she could not tell. To compound the mystery, it seemed that she was what confused him.
     That must not be. I am his. His pleasure, contentment, and rest are my task.
     But until she grasped the reasons, she could not be certain what measures to apply.
     Perhaps I am his first. Teacher said that some masters take a while adjusting to their first acquisition of a slave...that there might be a time of “settling in” before my lord can relax enough to make assured and proper use of me. I must be patient. Watchful and patient. But until then?
     Until then, I will do as he has commanded. No more and no less. He said to relax, read, use the bathroom if I need to, and not to worry about anything. I will do, and not do, as he commanded.

     She fixed her attention on his book and strove to read.

     Sokoloff pulled into a thruway rest area at about half past noon, locked the truck, and went back to the trailer. The girl in his trailer had weighed on his mind. He’d been continuously conscious that she was back there, unrestrained and unprotected. Inadvisable even for a normal adult, for a disoriented young woman—in many ways, a child—to ride in a trailer under way could only be justified by the likelihood that were she to ride alongside him in the cabin of the truck, some busybody would notice and take an unhealthful interest.
     He found Fountain as he had left her: sitting on his daybed with his book in her hands. She appeared to have read perhaps thirty pages in the five hours they’d been on the road. As he entered, she set the book aside and stood. He fought back an impulse to cringe.
     She acts as if I were royalty of some kind, or maybe a commanding officer.
     “I’m going to make lunch, Fountain. Are you hungry?”
     “I am, my lord.”
     He suppressed his urge to inquire into her locution and pulled open the door to the fridge. It was nearly empty. A couple of slices of deli ham, a large block of cheddar cheese, and a quarter of a loaf of bread were all that remained of his provender.
     “Hm. How about a ham and cheese sandwich, then? More like a cheese sandwich with a little ham on top, actually. Grilled or not grilled? I’m afraid I can’t do any better until I get us home.”
     As he bent to extract the fixings, he felt a gentle caress trail along the back of his shoulders. He straightened and turned to find her standing right behind him. Barely a hand’s breadth separated them. Her eyes were bright and fixed on his. Her lips were slightly parted. Her hands remained upraised.
     “My lord must not be afraid,” she murmured. “Fear is beneath him. He is a roaring lion, a giant among pygmies. Lesser men will always make way before him, as is his due.”
     She raised her hands to his face, and her lips to his.
     The kiss was as delicate as it was unexpected, a dance of lips upon lips, gentle yet seductive. It spoke silently of incredible things: acceptance without conditions, devotion without limit, and an offer of herself, all she was and would ever be, that asked nothing in return.
     His arms went around her by instinct. She pressed herself against him. She moaned softly and rubbed herself against him along the length of her torso.
     Desire surged and leaped within him. He grimly forced it down, reasserted his self-command, captured her shoulders, and pushed her away as gently as he could. Her eyes compressed in dismay.
     “Is my lord displeased?” she whispered.
     His mouth opened, but no sound issued forth. Tears pooled in her eyes. She tried to drop to her knees. He tightened his grip on her shoulders and kept her erect.
     “Fountain...” He coughed and shook himself. “Uh, thank you for the compliments, but...well, I’m thirty-two years old. That’s a little old for you, isn’t it?”
     Despite the tears about to fall, she smiled. “My lord is the perfect age. He always will be.” She put her hands outside his. “May I dare to hope he thinks the same of me?”
     Great God in heaven. What can I say to that?
     He was still groping for words when she stepped back and swiftly pulled off her sweatshirt.
     For a second he stood mute, stunned into paralysis by the perfection of her body. Hers was a form out of fantasy. Smooth, finely shaped shoulders. Breasts full, high, and visibly firm. A torso that curved fetchingly into a narrow waist, below which only the faintest of abdominal curves could be seen. Hips as delicately feminine as the rest. Hairless, completely unblemished skin that glowed with the vitality of youth.
     She put her fingers to the waist of her sweatpants and made to slide them off. In a panic he took her hands and pulled them tight against his chest. The look of woe returned to her face. He repressed an impulse to cringe.
     “Fountain...” The right words continued to elude him. He groped for her discarded sweatshirt and urged her back into it. Her eyebrows drew together as she lowered her eyes.
     “My lord does not approve.”
     “No, it’s not that!” He clasped her hands and pulled them to his chest. Her gaze rose to meet his once again. “You’re beautiful. Perfect, even. It’s a privilege—a blessing—to look at you. But...well, this isn’t the time or the place.”
     Or the person, but I have a feeling I’m going to have a hard time getting that across.
     Her face lit with a radiant smile.
     “I understand, my lord. But do not be afraid. You are the master. No challenge can withstand your lightest touch. When the time and place are proper, I will be ready.”
     She seated herself at his dinette table, set her folded hands on the table, and said no more.
     He shook himself and set to fixing them sandwiches.

     Fountain’s consumption of her breakfast had left Sokoloff wondering. Her approach to her sandwich was more unusual still. She waited until he’d picked up his sandwich, then did exactly as she saw him do. She nibbled at it so delicately that each bite seemed barely a crumb. It was as if she were struggling not to chew, or to make it unnecessary to chew. He slowed his own consumption so as not to leave her eating alone.
     When they had finished, Sokoloff cleaned up as swiftly as possible. He struggled to avoid looking at Fountain while he worked. His hand was on the door latch when she spoke again.
     “My lord?”
     “Yes, dear,” he said through a gravel-crusted throat.
     “Forgive me this presumption, but are you truly not displeased?”
     He winced, turned to face her. “Truly, Fountain. I just have to get us going.”
     “When we met,” she said, “your movements were graceful and assured. Now they are stiff and hesitant, as if something has troubled you. Is there nothing I can do to ease you?” Her voice fell most of an octave. “I am proficient in a number of methods.”
     He released the door latch, stood with his arms at his sides. He could not explain his urgent need to be back in the cabin of his truck.
     “Fountain...” He paused to swallow. “We’ve known each other for less than eight hours. There are a lot of things you don’t know about me. I appreciate the thought, but...well, let me get us to where I live, get you settled in, and we can talk about it then, okay?”
     The few seconds of silence dragged past like as many hours.
     “As my lord wishes.”
     “Thank you, dear.”
     He yanked the door open and bounded down the steps.

     He appears not to understand. I am his. For him there is no improper time or place. So I was taught.
     The masters to whom Fountain had been presented for evaluation had not hesitated to use her as they liked. The memories still seared her in recollection.
     How could he not understand? He is a master. And so much more than any of the others! Yet they understand from birth. So I was taught.
     The ones who approached me before he intervened would not have hesitated.

     Until then she had spent no time reflecting upon her own reactions. Would she have resisted those others? She had not been evaluated by a group of masters simultaneously. She would not have known how to cope with the demands of three at once. What if they were to disagree? What if they were to quarrel over her?
     I was fortunate to escape such a test.
     But to what divergent fate had she escaped? Was it one for which she had not been trained?
     She had never entertained the possibility that a master might need to be trained, as she had been trained. It went against all the lessons she had received and all the assumptions behind them. Yet this...Larry, who had protected her and taken her in, and to whom she had willingly, even joyfully bound herself, seemed confused, almost embarrassed by his acquisition.
     I will be patient. I will remember my lessons. I will be his from dawn to dusk to use as he pleases. I will not doubt him.
     He did not doubt me.

     She returned to the daybed, took up the book, and struggled to read.



dw said...

OMG. Please do not stop writing this.

MrGarabaldi said...

Hey F.W.P ;

Wow, this is going very well, thank you :) Keep on going

JWM said...

What else to say? It's on the List.


Dystopic said...

Yup. I'm hooked on this story. Keep the posts coming!

daniel_day said...

I am most distressed to hear that my Japanese professor is involved with such a group. Chikusho!