Governor Sally Donaldson could not have felt more anger, more of her inborn Celtic wrath, more of her basic human indignation as she read the report from her department of environmental affairs. When she had heard at the meeting of the northern states’ executive working group that understaffed administrations like hers should keep careful watch for wildcat building projects, she had thought the worry overblown. Clearly, however, the problem existed, and posed a much greater threat even than she had heard described at the meeting.
Confidential: Governor’s Eyes Only
To: Governor Donaldson
From: Gregory Simas, Director, Environmental Affairs and Land Use
Rumors of a construction crew on St. Hillary reached my desk last week, and I sent a ranger up to investigate. He unfortunately got snowed in for three days, well off the grid, but he reached me this morning with the news that he had found a large, fortified compound, which out of understandable caution he didn’t approach closer than five hundred meters. He had no idea, of course, what to do about it except to return home and let me know. It seems pretty clear to me that this is exactly what they were talking about at the working group. I’m ready to consult with you, and to help implement whatever plan you and your staff decide on to deal with the situation.
Had the federal executive briefing them at the working group said anything about fortified compounds? Sally couldn’t remember.
She definitely knew that when she had decided to run for governor on the basis of youthful leadership being necessary for a youthful state like Madison, carved from the previously uninhabited wilderness, no one had informed her that fortified compounds might spring up there. Prosperous, energy-efficient townships had been the phrase that had probably won her the election—a phrase so familiar to her now that she dreamt of them, with their adorable main streets and their smiling, increasingly more lightly clad inhabitants.
On her huge, mostly bare desk in the big home office of a governor’s mansion that was really nothing more than a slightly gussied-up prefab luxury home, her secure phone buzzed. Sally picked it up, expecting to see the name Rhonda displayed on its face. Her chief of staff constituted fully half of the tiny group of people who had her number—the other being Sally’s administrative assistant. For all intents and purposes, however, only Rhonda called the governor’s secure phone; as chief of staff, the steely-eyed, hyper-protective woman, three years older than Sally and six inches taller, demanded that every important matter come through her office before moving up to the governor’s desk.
To Sally’s frowning surprise, however, her phone said Unknown Number.
“What the hell?” she asked the empty office. It was nearly midnight, so none of her staff was on duty. She could expect Rhonda to be up, at her own apartment in brand-new Madison City’s one luxury complex, but a malfunction in the state government’s secure communication system didn’t seem worth bothering her chief of staff in the middle of the night.
Sally almost picked up the phone and answered the call, but she tapped the Block button instead. Presumably the security people would notice that someone had gotten through on the secure line and figure out what had happened. She sent the issue to the back of her mental queue, pending further annoyance. She told herself that if it happened again she would mail Rhonda and say that the matter needed dealing with immediately. Otherwise she might look indecisive, if it turned out that something serious were going on, and the governor hadn’t done anything.
She sighed at that thought, and returned her attention to the report on her laptop screen.
Her phone buzzed again. Sally glanced down, sure now that it would be Rhonda, having just received an alert from security about the previous call, letting her know that the situation would receive a swift resolution.
A text message, from another unknown number, had popped up onto her screen, a fact that alarmed her all on its own, because Sally had turned all her notifications off.
Don’t block us again, Sally, the text said. When your phone rings, answer the call.
Sally’s lips parted, and she felt her heart rate increase. On some basic human instinct, developed long before electronic communication, she looked around her office as if to discover who might be watching her from the shadows of the campfire. But the campfire was a desk lamp, and the physical security of the mansion of the governor of Madison wouldn’t permit anyone to hide behind the curtains.
No, because the lurkers of today are much more sinister for all that they’re unknowable miles away, Sally thought.
The phone rang, despite having been set to silent, with an old-fashioned princess phone tone that Sally didn’t even have, she thought, on her personal phone. For a moment, the flippant part of her brain tried desperately to make a joke—Okay, now you’re just showing off.
She stared at the phone—the secure phone. Unknown number had been replaced by a name that made her heart pound.
No, it didn’t make sense. Her first real boyfriend, currently living in the remnants of California as far as Sally knew, a fellow law student who had become a small-town attorney, wouldn’t want to call her in the middle of the night—even if he had somehow learned the number of her secure phone. So the person at the other end of the phone wasn’t Joe Barrila, but someone who knew about Joe Barrila.
Sally’s face went very hot. She tried to reason with herself that knowing about Joe didn’t mean that they knew about why she had broken up with Joe. She didn’t succeed: if it weren’t actually Joe calling her, she couldn’t think of another reason someone would dredge up the name unless they meant to send Sally a very specific message.
Unless they wanted to make sure Sally knew they had somehow, strange as it seemed, found out about the pictures Rhonda had assured her no longer existed.
She picked up the phone and tapped answer, then held it to her ear, though she always took calls on speaker, walking around her office as she pulled and pushed the levers of power in her brand new state. Madison might be tiny in population, but it held vast tracts of untouched land—currently frozen, to be sure. Given the way the world was going, though, that land would very soon blossom into prosperity.
“Good decision, Sally,” said a deep voice on the other end of the line.
“What—” the governor began, desperately trying to put righteous fury into the monosyllable.
The man on the phone interrupted her, though. “Hush, sweetheart,” he said, making the blush surge back into her face with the simultaneous menace and belittlement embodied in his sweetheart. “I think you know what we have. Or, you know the tip of the iceberg of what we have, where you’re concerned. The pictures from Joe Barrila’s phone are a good place to start, though, don’t you think?”
Sally felt her forehead crease very deeply. Part of her almost said she would deny it, would claim they were faked, but something about the totality of the man’s access to her—the hacking of her secure phone, the apparently effortless overcoming of Rhonda’s efforts to quash the photos—stopped her.
“What do you want?” she demanded, proud of herself for sounding more angry than she did defeated.
“Several things,” the man said dryly. “We’ll start, though, by having you take off all your clothes.”
Sally’s jaw dropped as she felt the blood rush to her face in a scorching wave. The instinct to look around came over her again, much more strongly now. Sally felt certain, somewhere in her monkey brain, that the man must be nearby, maybe hanging outside her office window somehow—maybe behind the half open door that led to her bedroom.
“I…” she started, but had nothing to say after that. She had spoken in hope that the anger would carry her through into a furious denial, and perhaps the throwing of the phone across the room before she alerted her security detail. But even in speaking that, her voice sounded desperate, questioning, pleading. She remained seated at her desk, turning her eyes from side to side in a vain attempt to puzzle out the horrible mystery.
How could this happen? she demanded of the universe. I’m the fucking governor of the great state of Madison. The great, new, bright, promising state carved out of the wilderness and ready to receive the migrant masses into a green, energy-efficient, egalitarian paradise.
“I know,” said the voice at the other end of the phone, “that despite the pictures you let your boyfriend take, you’re not used to stripping in front of men’s eyes, when they tell you to take your clothes off, so I’m going to be patient, Sally. But you are going to get naked for me now, in your office, and you’re going to get naked in the future, too, whenever I tell you to. Your life is going to be different now in some very important ways.”
Sally’s lips had remained parted as she listened. Now they worked silently for a moment as she sought words that might retain some shred of authority. Finally she resolved to keep her voice as steady as she could, and got ready to speak, her eyes fixed on the wood of the desk in front of her. It should have served as some sort of galvanizing symbol of her office and her power, but thanks to Madison’s commitment to responsible land use the administration had sourced it in plywood, and it made her feel the bizarre weakness of her position instead.
I’m the youngest governor in the history of the country, and the pictures of me doing what my law school boyfriend told me to do, for fun, when we were high, will land me back out on my ass.
“I don’t understand,” she said, slightly pleased to hear the firmness in her tone. “Tell me what you want, and I’ll see what I can do about it.”
The man sighed deeply and theatrically, then spoke in a slow, patronizing rumble that made Sally’s breath catch in her throat.
“Sally, I told you what I want. I want you to take all your clothes off. It looks like, from these pictures, you don’t mind getting naked and being a naughty girl. The date stamp seems to say that was only two years ago. I know you’re a governor, now, but I’m the sort of man who understands that a dirty girl is a dirty girl, whether she’s a law student or a chief executive.”
Sally felt her face working, her brow furrowing, her cheeks twitching. Above all, the heat, from her neck to her scalp, seemed almost unbearable.
“I’m not,” she whispered into the phone, the weakness of the words only making the shame stronger.
The man ignored her denial completely. “Let me help you get started, Sally,” he continued. “Stand up and go to the center of your office. You can put the phone on the coffee table, in speaker mode. Turn on the floor lamps. Then stand in the middle of the great seal of your great state on the carpet, and take off your t-shirt. I can see you’re not wearing a bra, but that’s fine with me.”
Sally in fact had on only her favorite gray college t-shirt, red flannel pajama bottoms, and black nylon panties. She had been about to go to bed when she had gotten the notification that Greg Simas’ report had come into her secure inbox. She tried to focus on how the man at the other end of the phone could see her, on what she would tell Rhonda to alert her chief of staff that they needed to tear the office apart to find the answer. Rhonda knew about the pictures, at least, even if she didn’t know what they showed. They would get to the bottom of this, find this guy, and end this threat.
“I’m starting to get impatient,” the deep voice said. “Why don’t you go ahead and check the Stateshare Cheatsheet for me, since it seems like it’s going to take a while to get you out of your clothes, Sally.”
Sally felt her eyes widen in alarm as she put the phone down almost unconsciously, tapping the speaker button, and turned to her laptop. The Cheatsheet, a rumor mill for northern state governments, was bookmarked on her computer desktop.
We’ve just heard tonight that there may be some very interesting images of a highly placed northern-state executive about to drop. Stay tuned!
“Oh, God,” Sally whispered. “Who are you?”
Eric Saarinen smiled at the image of Sally on his computer screen, streaming from the state-of-the-art 360-degree camera installed in her office ceiling. The software controlling the tiny, nearly undetectable camera could use the image feed to construct a high-probability angle on practically anything in the room, too; Eric could use his mouse to zoom around the governor’s office exactly as he liked.
Installed by a nano-drone, like the microscopic sensor currently registering a high degree of sexual arousal between Sally Donaldson’s thighs, the camera would self-destruct the moment it was disturbed. A very good cyber-security analyst might find it and realize he had located the source of the video feed, but he would be much more likely to find one of the hundred or so other, larger devices the Pretorian Guard had installed in Sally’s office first.
None of those devices actually transmitted any information, though all did a good job of pretending to do so, beaming encrypted-looking data streams in the direction of a very suspicious-looking box securely planted in the apartment of Rhonda Mayfair. The governor’s chief of staff, after all, did work for a shadowy conspiracy, so Eric didn’t feel any guilt on that score—especially since Rhonda happened to work for the wrong shadowy conspiracy, from his point of view.
“You don’t need to know who I am, Sally,” he said into his headset. “You just need to know that I have a very good view of you, and I would very much like to see more. Get up and do as I’ve instructed, right now, or Stateshare is going to learn that the northern state with the naughty high-level administrator is Madison.”
Indeed, the whole of Governor Sally Donaldson presented a highly appealing sight, whether in her pajamas or in the adorable dark business suits she favored when conducting her state’s business. Petite and slim, with fiery red hair and lovely blue eyes, Sally had won the hearts of her citizens as much with her beauty as with her intelligent policies and compassionate attitude. Rhonda and her superiors had found a winner when they set out to dominate the new north via the apparently low-stake but in truth vitally important electoral politics of Madison.
Eric had the camera in close-up on Sally’s face, now, so he could see with perfect, digitally enhanced clarity how the conflicting thoughts and feelings danced across her face. Fear, predominantly, in her widened eyes and flared nostrils, and a hint of anger in her tense cheeks. But the movements of her sweet little mouth, the protrusion of the pink tip of her tongue, told a story much more in line with the number in the upper right of Eric’s computer screen: 7.
On a scale of one to ten, calibrated to the sexual responses observed since the Guard had begun gathering data on Sally Donaldson six months ago, the young woman’s bodily reaction to Eric’s degrading instructions currently stood at a healthy 7. To put it in less technical terminology, Sally had gotten wet at the idea of stripping naked in front of an unknown, unseen man who had the ability to ruin her life.
The time would come when Eric would call the girl’s attention to her need for the degradation he planned to inflict upon her in the service of saving civilization. For now, however, both his purpose and Sally’s future happiness depended on her being allowed to deny the warmth in her panties and the dampness that her deeply hidden but extremely wanton sexuality had brought about in their gusset.
“I…” she tried one final time, the deceptively complicated word going no farther than it had the previous time Sally had tried to express herself, at least for the first three seconds after she said I.
Eric glanced toward the bottom of his screen, where a much more granular readout of the data constantly flowing into the Pretorian Guard’s algorithms occupied an ever-moving two-inch-wide ribbon. The Institute, partner to the Guard in every such operation, delivered the algorithms and maintained them.
They also assigned assessment teams to high-value targets like Sally Donaldson, and Eric saw that Sally’s lead assessor, Nora, had started to type a message. On his own instinct that giving the young governor a little time to feel just how complicated a package her mind’s and body’s reactions to the stranger on the phone constituted, as well as wanting to see what Nora had to tell him, Eric let the silence go.
Nora: Spin this out. Look at skin temp
Eric smiled as he followed the assessor’s suggestion and saw that although the humidity between Sally’s legs hadn’t reached a level close to peak, her skin temperature had risen past anything previously observed. The governor’s shame had taken very firm hold of her, its grip even stronger than Eric had hoped.
That development presented a chance at making a good deal of progress in this first session with her, but it also carried some risks if it went too far. Spinning this moment out made all the sense in the world.
“I…” Sally repeated, her voice barely audible despite the excellent microphone in her phone and its enhancement by the even better one in the ceiling.
“I know how hard this is,” Eric said, adopting a much gentler tone.
On his screen, Sally’s forehead furrowed deeply between her perfectly shaped red-gold eyebrows. The number in the upper right went to 8.
“I don’t…” Sally tried, visibly frustrated, and apparently all the more so because she had managed to get a second word out but still had nowhere to go with it.
“I know you don’t want to, sweetheart,” Eric said, backing off the tenderness just a little and adding a hint of steel to his voice. Sally started at the term of endearment, and then bit her lip in a manner so unconsciously wanton Eric felt his cock leap in his jeans. He clenched his teeth slightly, his personal self-reminder not to fall for a target, but damn, one couldn’t deny that the governor of Madison was an objectively pretty wonderful girl of the kind with whom, in real life, he wouldn’t have minded starting something.
“No…” Sally said, shaking her head. “I mean, I don’t, but…”
Eric saw one of the lines that ran along the bottom of his screen rise sharply. He nodded to himself as the icon by Nora’s name showed she had started to type again, almost certainly to call his attention to that same yellow line, the skin galvanics that presaged resistance—the defiance that came, according to legend, with Sally’s red hair.
The resistance I’m looking for, Eric thought, feeling his mouth quirk with the special pleasure of dominating an intelligent, strong-willed girl. Plus, dominating a young woman whose house has Governor’s Mansion on a big sign out front comes with its own unique enjoyments.
He nudged her further, watching the yellow line continue to rise.
“But what, sweetheart? Did you mean to say that you don’t know who I think I am?”
A flash from the text window.
Sally stood up at her desk. Eric’s smile broadened a little at the sign that her subconscious had begun to work very much in his favor. The young governor thought, of course, that she had stood up in order to feel more in charge of the strange, troubling situation. In fact, the bodily impulses that had caused her to rise to her feet had a great deal to do with the rising humidity between her thighs shown by the blue line at the bottom of Eric’s screen.
“No,” she said, though her face told him that indeed she had meant to say those precise words or something very much like them. “I meant…” Her blue eyes narrowed, and her little breasts heaved distractingly in the college t-shirt, their nipples tenting the gray fabric enticingly. Eric wished he could get his hands on her sweet little body tonight, rather than having to postpone Sally’s first in-person sexual training until the situation had time to develop further.
But good things come to those who wait, he thought, doing his best to ignore the hardness between his own thighs. Sally Donaldson will be very ready to serve me, the first time I take those little nipples between thumb and forefinger—the first time she kneels for my pleasure and learns to take a cock deep in her sweet, soft mouth.
Sally’s file, despite the naughtiness of the pictures her law-school boyfriend had taken, showed a girl who had kept her sexual innocence nearly intact. The assessors’ report, authored at the Institute by Nora, indicated the cause and the effect in a few incisive sentences.
Sally is an alpha-plus, in Institute terminology: a repressed submissive whose mind recoils from her sexual needs unless intoxicated in some disinhibiting way. Her conduct with her boyfriend showed that quite neatly: under the influence of mild recreational drugs, she seems to have tried very hard to maneuver her first sexual partner in such as a way as to dominate her. His inexperience insured that beyond taking the pictures he had little idea of how to gratify her desires—probably in fact little interest in doing so. In turn, Sally, disgusted with herself upon the return of her inhibitions, broke up with him, telling herself that he had demanded she do the (to her) shameful things in the pictures. She has not had a sexual relationship since, or—in the period since we began to gather continuous data—engaged in any identifiable auto-erotic practice. Our best estimate says that her sexual experience consists of egalitarian intercourse with that boyfriend on perhaps four or five occasions.
‘Egalitarian intercourse’ represented the assessors’ term for what Eric would usually call vanilla. Sally didn’t know what it felt like, for example, to kneel before a man and take his hardness between her lips when told to do so… or to bend over the side of her bed and reach back to spread the cheeks of her pert, well-whipped bottom so that her dominant lover could get her ready for butt-fucking.
Yet, Eric thought, watching the yellow line of her galvanics and the blue line of her pussy’s humidity both go up as if in a wicked partnership to undo her.
“I meant to say that I don’t intend to let this idiotic joke go any further,” Sally said. Fire flashed in her eyes, to the extent that those sweet blue orbs could manifest such irate heat. “I will pay you whatever you need. I have connections who will supply the funds, and—”
“Check the Cheatsheet,” Eric interrupted in a hard, matter-of-fact tone, clicking Publish on the post he had ready in a window on the left side of his screen. The editors of the Northern State Press didn’t even know who wrote their infamous gossip column; they just knew how much advertising revenue it generated.
This just in, the top of the blog now read. Madison is the state, and the issue seems to go way up the food chain.
On the video feed, Eric watched Sally’s face go pale after she had refreshed the page. She cradled the phone against her face, the crease in her brow seeming almost painful.
“You…” she tried, now. “You can’t. Please.”
“I just did, sweetheart,” Eric said. “And it will only inconvenience me a little if I have to destroy your career to teach you a lesson.”
This wasn’t true, strictly speaking: it would pose a serious problem for the Guard’s efforts to save civilization if they failed to develop Sally Donaldson as the asset they needed in Madison. Eric knew, however, from the data on his screen, that tonight’s lesson had started off well. The chance of failure looked remote.
Sally needed to feel, though, that she had no choice, and this last nudge accomplished that perfectly.
“Please,” she repeated in a whisper.
“Go to the center of your office and stand on your special rug, Sally. Put the phone on the coffee table and turn on the floor lamp so I can see you better. Then take off your shirt. Once your clothes are off we can talk about business.”