“You must admit she is exquisite, general.” A pudgy, bejeweled hand gestured with a flourish toward the woman who was just beginning to kneel. “Note how she sinks into the pose with such fluid grace.”
Supreme General Augustus Bron, head of the Iron Guard of Trao X39, showed no outward reaction as he gazed down at Senator Flavius Rue’s new Earth pet, who’d folded her torso over her legs until the long, ruby-tinted nipples of her firm white breasts just grazed the polished stone floor. Her long red hair was arranged in a single plait decorated in jewels, the length of the thick braid ending just between the dimples atop a perfect pair of buttocks.
“She’s just as obedient in the bedchamber.” The senator leaned in, chuckling. “I hired Otto to train her. He’s the best, you know—skilled with a lash but generous with rewards. His system of molding these little Earth females is simple but effective. I’ve but to point to my cock and my little Lliana all but rushes to service me with her mouth, or turns to offer me her sweet pussy or ass passage.” He snapped his fingers and the girl looked up. “Would you like me to show you, Augustus?”
Bron could tell by the senator’s tone that he was eager to display his pet’s training. For a pompous politician, whose complacency had resulted in a paunch and declining approval ratings, the acquisition of an Earth Pet was as stimulating to his image as it was his libido.
But Bron was in no mood to see Senator Rue pawing this doe-eyed creature, even if she was now rendered acquiescent. He politely declined.
“No?” Flavius Rue could not hide his umbrage. “Perhaps the rumors are right, then, that some of you military types prefer the lean, hard backsides of young men…”
Now General Bron did react, fixing the senator with a withering stare.
“Mind your manipulative insinuations, senator.” The words were spoken quietly, but the deep timbre of Bron’s voice carried a weight of authority that had the politician shrinking in his chair. “Do not mistake my refusal for anything other than distaste at playing the voyeur to an old man and his leashed plaything.”
The senator seemed to realize his mistake. “I meant no offense,” he said. “‘Twas a jest, and nothing more.” He snapped his fingers again and the girl approached. Bron could now see that her outer labia were slightly parted, the metallic cover adhering to her clit visible through the slit.
“I could remove her pleasure shield,” the senator said hastily as he rushed to mitigate whatever damage he feared his earlier comment had caused. “I could let you sample her.” He paused. “I don’t mind sharing, and I’d wager she’ll change your mind, General Bron.”
He waited for a response, and when there wasn’t one, the senator clapped his hands. “At least let her entertain you by pleasuring herself. Down, Lliana,” he ordered, and the redhead dropped to a nearby cushion as her master stood and walked over. She looked up at him, her legs spread wide, an expression of adoration on her pretty face. As the thick fingers grazed the shield designed to react to his touch alone, it unfolded and came free. She moaned, and Bron wondered how much stimulant had been injected for the little human to react so eagerly to her repulsive captor.
“I know it is my touch you crave,” the senator said. “But for now it pleases me for you to touch yourself for the amusement of our guest.”
Lliana’s eyes met Bron’s as her fingers moved between her spread thighs. Her denuded labia were splayed, revealing the inner folds of her pussy. He could see they’d been tinted with the same pigment as her nipples, and as she worked her freed clit with nimble fingers, the ruby flower of her sex engorged and glistened with her arousal.
Senator Rue smiled as he retook his seat beside General Bron, his jaw slack as his gaze darted now from the Earth Pet bucking against her own hand back to his guest.
“Please… please!” The girl was looking at him, her eyes desperate. The dilated pupils confirmed to Bron that she had indeed been drugged. She was suffering with her need to come, and he felt revulsion at the man beside him, and at the system of trading technology with Earth for human females.
“You may take your fulfillment.” The senator smiled, looking over at Bron as if he expected… what? Praise for allowing a drugged woman to have a moment of pleasure? But Bron could not voice his condemnation; even if he did not care for the senator or the system they both served, he recognized that he was part of it. What’s more, the political pressure to acquire an Earth Pet himself was becoming greater with each passing day.
“I don’t know why you are so reluctant,” the senator said as if reading his guest’s thoughts. “You’re already marked as an elite, General Bron. You’re the first serious contender for Senator Primus’ seat in years. In fact, I daresay he’d be losing to you had he not just gotten his own Earth pet. Have you not seen? They’ve been all over the InfoBoards.”
“Yes, I’ve seen.” Bron recalled a report that morning that showed the dark-haired, sharp-faced Senator Primus holding the golden leash of a naked woman with a cascade of brunette hair and upturned tits with gold-plated nipples. The female had just come out of training, and after her debut, the senator’s poll numbers had shot up thirty percent. On a planet where sexual prowess was on par with military acumen, his opponent had gained an edge with the former. Bron knew he could not afford to lose this election; as distasteful as the idea of slavery was to him, he realized that he may have no choice. The issue of his heterosexuality—seen moments earlier as a bad jest by the senator—could become a veiled allegation that stuck if he did not procure what every man on the planet secretly coveted.
“There’s a shipment coming in next week,” the senator said. “I can see that you get your pick.” He laid a hand on Bron’s arm. “As one of your chief backers, I urge you to put aside your reticence and avail yourself of this opportunity. If not for yourself, for the party.”
The end will justify the means.
“Very well,” Bron said. “Let me know when they arrive. I’ll make my pick.”
The senator clapped his hands together gleefully. “Oh, well done!” he said. “I knew my Lliana would convert you. What man would not want what I have?”
Bron stood. At his feet, the senator’s Earth pet, her ivory thighs still spread, looked up at him with sad eyes. He turned away and left without another word.
Maria Perez. Sophie Emerson. Tameka Johnson. Ani Jai. Kim Woo.
Five women, all from five different backgrounds and five different ethnicities, all exceptionally beautiful, all vanished.
Phaedra Ellis pivoted her desk chair to the side and leaned back, staring at a map on the wall. A photo of each woman had been pinned to her last known location. To the left of the map was a rectangular piece of paper with the word ‘LimeLight’ written on it. Underneath were pictures of several men. Tabs bearing each man’s name were affixed to the map, each representing an office of the LimeLight modeling agency. The company had recently expanded internationally, and was now responsible for the careers of several top models. But it also was the common link between the missing women on Phaedra’s board, as well as—she discovered—missing women in France, Australia, Sweden, and Japan.
All had submitted portfolios with LimeLight, but despite their beauty had not gotten a call back. And all had gone missing within six months of meeting with one of the men listed on Phaedra’s wall, or one of the men heading up the international offices.
Phaedra had discovered something else, quite by accident. All of the men heading up the agency had government ties, either with the U.S. or with their own countries.
She was onto something. She could feel it. Her editor at the Weekly Banner had given her leave to work on a story about the disappearances, and as she glanced at the computer screen, she felt a mixture of pride and anxiety.
Model Mystery, her expose read over a subheading that declared, Women’s disappearances raise disturbing questions about possible abductions, cover-ups, and possible involvement by elite corporation.
The story looked to be huge, but as she glanced at the television suspended in the corner above the right of her desk, Phaedra frowned. Lately, another stunning technological breakthrough had been dominating the news cycle. Metalaskin, a product of Pinnacle labs, had been released with great fanfare the week before. Phaedra tapped her pen against her desk as she watched a CNN anchor breathlessly describing how the lightweight coating adhered to human skin, allowing full mobility while protecting the body. It would, an expert being interviewed confirmed, replace body armor for police officers and allow biologists in the field to get closer to dangerous animals without risking injury from attack.
Metalaskin was the second big tech release from Pinnacle labs; two years earlier, the FDA had approved a breakthrough mesh that miraculously adopted all the qualities of surrounding flesh when applied over wounds, even allowing for the growth of epidermis over the newly grown subdermal layer.
Suddenly, the small Wisconsin lab no one had heard of was a publicly traded multi-billion-dollar corporation with more developments rumored to be in the works. But their research and methods remained top secret, generating an air of mystery. Another mystery, and one that Phaedra was eager to explore was the connection Pinnacle CEO Dimitri Koskovic had with Alexander Greer, the CEO of LimeLight Modeling. Both had been seen together at fundraisers, and while the friendship may have been coincidental, Phaedra’s gut told her there was some connection between these powerful men and the missing women who smiled down at her from photos on the wall.
But that angle would have to wait. For now, the story on the disappearances would have to be enough. The men she believed connected to the mystery would be a follow-up piece. She looked up at the television screen, imagining herself sitting in the guest spot, explaining how her hard work and journalistic instinct had led to the discovery of these women being held at…
Here the fantasy ended. She had no idea where these women were, and it haunted her.
The tinny strains of the Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up interrupted her thoughts, and she scrambled to find the source of the music. Her cell phone was under several layers of papers on her desk, and by the time she finally found it, Adam had hung up. She knew what he wanted, even before she played the voicemail.
“Hey, baby. It’s about 7:45 and I’m just now finishing up with work. I know you’re busy with that story, but I was wondering if you wanted to go down to Costello’s for a bite to eat.” Silence. “Um… okay. I’ll just wait to hear from you. We don’t have to go to Costello’s. If you want to go somewhere else, just tell me where. Okay, bye.”
She smiled. Adam was the most amenable boyfriend she’d ever had, never putting up even the slightest resistance to anything she wanted. For instance, he hated Thai food, but never told her until their fourth visit to Thai Heaven, where she noticed for the first time that he’d not touched his meal. He was crazy about her; she knew that, but sometimes it was frustrating to discover they had different tastes in food, wine, or even music because he subverted his own needs just to be by her side.
Sometimes after work she’d go out with a few girlfriends for a drink and listen with amusement as the conversation turned to what they called ‘guy trouble.’ Usually it was just bitching about how the women wanted to do one thing and the men another. Phaedra could never relate. She’d always had a strong personality and had come to realize that weaker men seemed to like the comfort that came from just going along to get along in a relationship. This made for lackluster but reliable arrangements, but none had ever evolved into marriage. Ultimately, predictable was boring, she realized. Not that it mattered to Phaedra, who relied on work for excitement. She didn’t think the man existed who could give her the same thrill as a front page story.
She messaged Adam: Sorry. Working late. Dinner tomorrow?
She waited. Sure, came the reply. But I’ll miss you. Sad face emoji.
Phaedra didn’t do emojis. She pushed the speed dial number for the corner pizza place, more than content to do her final edits over something covered in Canadian bacon and cheese.
She showered while she waited for the delivery boy, then changed into one of her favorite faded music festival t-shirts and hip hugger jeans before sweeping her damp brunette hair into a ponytail.
“You need a makeover,” she said, glaring at her reflection in the mirror.
Phaedra knew she was attractive, although not what men would call a knock-out. She was blessed with a lean, shapely body sustained with little more than three short yoga workouts a week, but even so tended toward a natural look, shunning makeup on most days. On girls’ night when her friends weren’t bitching about the guys, they were scheming new ways to attract them. Phaedra grew annoyed with talk of the latest diets, the latest waxing techniques, the latest sale on undergarments that pulled and tucked and boosted women’s bodies into whatever was most pleasing for men.
“Fuck that,” she said to her reflection, and smiled. Strong women didn’t jump through hoops, and she was a strong woman.
The doorbell rang, and her stomach growled at almost the same moment.
“Perfect timing,” she said, walking to her purse for the cash. Through the window she could see the Gino’s Pizza delivery van in the street.
The ringing came again.
“Hold your horses! I’m coming!” She fished out a twenty and walked to the door. “You’re a little early,” she said as she opened it. “I’m not even…”
She didn’t have time to finish her sentence. Phaedra didn’t see the man who shoved his way in and grabbed her. She was only aware of the sensation of strong arms that pinned and turned her. There were two men; that much she was aware of because the one who put the bag over her head started barking orders to the other.
“Get the drive. Grab any files.”
She opened her mouth to scream, but a hand covered the fabric over her face stifling her. Phaedra was hauled to standing, her back slamming against a hard male chest. She struggled, but as soon as she started knew it was in vain. The man was large. She felt something work under the hood, something thin.
“Hope you enjoy this,” the man holding her said. “It’s a new inhalable sedative developed by Pinnacle labs, made with ingredients supplied by some distant neighbors.” He laughed just as Phaedra felt a puff of something into the hood, just under her nose. The next breath she took sent her swirling into oblivion. “Good stuff, huh?” the voice said, falling away. “I hear it’s gonna be huge…”