Anya was still shaking, but was no longer sure whether to feel terrified. She couldn't make any sense out of what was going on.
She'd nearly fainted, for the second time, when the door to that awful room had opened again, and that same man came in who'd been there before -- she couldn't make out his face at that distance, but she could tell by the gray hair and the way he walked -- followed by another man. She'd been sure they were about to start the whipping, or whatever was going to be done to her here, and she still didn't understand why. She'd tried as hard as she could to get pleas for mercy past the gag, but couldn't produce anything remotely intelligible.
But instead of staying in front of her to whip her, the gray-haired man had reached up to unlock her hands from the bar overhead, while the second man started scraping away the sand from around her feet. When he spoke to the first man, she recognized his voice: the commandant, that man who'd spoken to the group Anya had been arrested with, when they first got here after their trials. She could only suppose he'd given her a reprieve for a reason as mysterious as the reason she'd been in this room to begin with. Neither man said anything to her directly, and their conversation was solely about the practical matters of releasing her restraints. When they removed the gag she wanted to ask them what was happening, but she was afraid of making them mad and getting into an even worse situation.
She'd bent over when the gray-haired man told her to, and tried not to cry out when he pulled those things out of her butt and vagina. She could tell she was going to be sore down there for days. But it was better, much better, than being whipped.
The commandant had arrived with her normal chains, and the collar -- it had felt so weird being without that, and the waist chain, after all this time -- and he'd put her back in the bondage she was accustomed to.
Neither of the men had brought a leash, but she followed them when the commandant said to, because she just wanted away from that place. She still had a nagging suspicion they were leading her to something still worse, but overall she just felt relief.
After a couple of turns, they came to a door, and behind it she was astonished to see an ordinary office. She'd almost forgotten such places existed. And then they took her through a second door to an inner office, and a third door, to the side.
There was another prisoner sitting in a chair facing away from the door, next to a long table, and a man in a suit in another chair, who had been looking at the woman but now looked up to see Anya. She couldn't make out his expression.
Anya came closer and suddenly stopped breathing. She could see who the prisoner was now. It was Retchell!!
Anya clamped down on any expression her facial muscles were trying to make, any smile, any sign of joy. She had promised herself that she would never look like she knew Retchell in anyone else's presence. She had understood that that was the rule from the moment Retchell had told her that she loved her -- in Russian! Retchell knew the Russian words somehow! To keep her face frozen, Anya thought about whipping, about Kalina whipping her, how much it hurt, about how terrified she'd been when the police stormed into their meeting and started rounding everyone up. And she looked away from Retchell, to the man in front of her.
She felt sure Retchell had somehow got her out of that awful room. Retchell could do anything!
And then Anya recognized the man in the suit, not from his blurry face, but from his mannerisms. She had seen him so many times, but only on television. And on posters.
What in the world, she wondered, could the president be doing here?
The president looked past Anya, and said in that very
familiar voice, "Get her a chair." Anya watched in amazement as the commandant
scrambled to pull a chair away from the wall and set it next to Retchell's. Then
the president looked at Anya and made just the smallest gesture with his head
and eyes, but Anya understood it, and sat down, biting her lip.
Rachel forced herself to breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. The rest of her concentration was focused on keeping her face immobile. To that end she thought about Mandy. Mandy screaming. Mandy dead. She allowed only a tiny part of her mind to run on in the background, to say: It's Anya! She's here! It worked!
Rachel saw the president's eyes light up the moment Anya came in. Yes, Rachel thought at him, take a good look. She's even better than you imagined, isn't she? Tinier than you expected? Is this enough contrast for you, against my body type?
Rachel felt positive, now, that the president had instantly decided: Yes, this is the girl I want.
It occurred to Rachel that getting Anya here was one success, now complete with the president's reaction to her, but it had to be followed by one more. Rachel could easily visualize Gerov not even bothering to tell Anya what was going to happen to her. He might think it was a really funny joke to do this stuff to Anya without explaining. Anya might simply wake up in that immobilized state Gerov had described, without understanding what was going on, without understanding why her body wasn't working, or even without knowing that she wasn't in the prison anymore.
The hope Rachel had begun feeling was based on knowing her future. She knew that the doctor was going to do some sort of medical procedure on her. She knew -- nobody had to tell her this, it was just the way the world worked -- that that procedure might fail to work quite as effectively as the doctor had probably assured the president that it would. She knew that, if it did fail, she would be at the president's residence, somewhere, maybe in... she'd forgotten the name of the capital, or maybe she'd be out in the country somewhere. But she would not be in this inescapable prison anymore. She knew, in sum, there was a tiny possibility, as there had not been before, that she could end up free. From knowing that tiny possibility came the hope.
Anya had to know all that. If she just woke up as a mannequin, she would freak. She would feel the terror of being in such a bizarre circumstance without understanding. The panic in her mind might even be so severe that her body would fail. She could die. But even short of that, the trauma could leave her a mental vegetable, or certainly with some mental illness. She'd literally go crazy.
But what, Rachel wondered, do I do? I can't just say chummily, "So, Dimitri, tell her what's in store." The president isn't going to take orders from me. Especially if he does think leaving Anya in the dark would be a splendid joke.
Rachel brought her mind back from her worries, realizing the president had been speaking to Anya. She tried to keep track of Anya's reaction to whatever he was saying.
Beside her, she heard Anya gasp. But whatever he'd said, it was way too brief to be the explanation Rachel was hoping he'd give. Anya was gasping at something else.
Out of the corner of her eye, Rachel could see Anya's face go hot red.
The president said a couple more words to Anya. Rachel heard a tiny moan from Anya's throat.
It was natural, now, after that reaction, for Rachel to look at Anya. If she didn't, Gerov would be wondering why she wasn't.
Anya was looking towards Rachel's lap. Anya started, obviously forcing herself, her face growing still redder, to open her legs the way Rachel had hers.
Blinking in amazement at herself, Rachel realized that, in the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions since Anya had come in, she had entirely forgotten just how she was sitting. While waiting for Anya, Gerov had made Rachel, despite the awkwardness caused by the slipchain, fondle her own breasts for a few minutes. And then, with that evil smile again, he had ordered her to put her middle finger inside her, as far as it would go.
At least he hadn't minded her doing it gradually. She had gritted her teeth while she was getting it there; it was painful, skin rasping against skin in her completely dry vagina, and she'd thought perhaps instead she should just force it in there quickly, like ripping off a Band-Aid. But at last her finger was all the way in. To keep it in past the second knuckle, she had to keep her wrist bent, her palm facing upward, with her other fingers splayed out on either side of her labia.
He'd had her rotate her hips, to bring it all up into better view. And now Anya could easily see it from where she was sitting.
With another moan, Anya opened her legs, and bent her hand around, middle finger extended. Anger flared up in Rachel again when she saw Anya's labia were red, looking scraped. Did they just finish raping her out there? she wondered.
It was hard for Rachel to imagine what Anya was thinking right now, though that fierce blush was a good clue. Though Anya had been walking around naked longer than Rachel had, Rachel felt sure Anya had been much more shy about her body before coming here than Rachel had ever been.
And then it came to Rachel, as Anya finished inserting her finger and sat there miserably: Here's my chance! Luckily, she thought, I've already been displaying the attitude I need right now.
She looked at the president, snorted contemptuously, and said, "What, aren't you going to tell her why she's doing this? I thought that was the whole point, when you made me do it. You want me to be thinking about what it will be like when you just started putting me in all these poses and I can't do anything about it. How's she going to be thinking about that? You haven't told her!"
Gerov glared at her, and Rachel feared she might have misjudged and ruined everything. But she saw the expression change in his face when the second thought crossed his mind: Wait, though, she's right, I just wasn't thinking.
Behind her, Rachel heard the general stir, and in another second he would probably have warned her about speaking to the president in that tone. But Gerov held up his hand and gave a tiny headshake, and the general subsided.
Gerov, with that little smile of his, began speaking in Russian to Anya. Despite Anya's fear, she managed, in a shaky voice, to ask him some questions -- probably a lot of the same ones Rachel had asked.
It seemed strange to Rachel to hear Anya in an extended conversation with someone -- Rachel had never witnessed that before. She'll never be able to do that with me, Rachel thought with a pang of regret. But we did have, she reminded herself, one very short conversation once that now means everything in the world to me.
Rachel kept a close watch on Anya's face. A look of terror grew on it at one point, probably after she got the full picture of what was going to be done to her. But the terror seemed as though it washed away in two stages: Once after she quickly looked at Rachel and then away, and Rachel made the guess that Anya had grasped that she would be partnered with Rachel, that they would be together the whole time. The second stage of terror's retreat, it seemed to Rachel, might be a matter of that same realization dawning within her that Rachel had come to: that she might have some reason to hope. At least that was what Rachel thought she saw in Anya's face.
Rachel looked away with a hidden sigh of relief. Okay, she thought, I've done what I had in my power to do. It's out of my hands now, but I think Anya is ready.
Gerov blinked, as if he'd just reminded himself of something. He spoke a few words in Russian, and then said, "Stand up."
Rachel and Anya both stood awkwardly, each keeping her finger inserted.
Gerov snorted. Again Russian followed by English: "No, take you finger out. Stand back to back."
Okay, thought Rachel, he wants to see that height difference. Rachel half turned, and jumped slightly as she felt Anya's buttocks nudge the backs of her thighs.
Gerov grinned. "Yes, it is like you said."
Yes, I get it, Rachel told the president in her mind, you want to pose two very different girls having sex.
For the first time, Rachel suddenly had a clear image flit through her mind of an erotic pose of herself and Anya together, as enforced by Gerov. The image was gone before she could explore it in detail, pushed away by a strong resistance within her to picturing closely what lay in her future. Feeling hope was all very well, but she knew that the reality was that she was soon going to feel more helpless, more de-humanized, and more humiliated than she had the power to imagine right now. The embarrassment of submitting, on fear of punishment, to keeping her own finger plugged into her vagina, gave her only the faintest shadow of knowledge of what it was going to be like to be physically unable to remove her finger, despite the absence of anything other than her own body preventing her.
But the image of herself and Anya, so brief and so soon suppressed, had turned on the faucets between her legs. She felt tingling there.
Again Russian, followed by English. "Face each other."
Rachel turned, and found herself looking down into Anya's eyes. Anya's eyes in turn locked with hers, needing encouragement and support.
Gerov said something now only in Russian.
Anya colored intensely again, and looked up into Rachel's, seeking permission and support.
Rachel gave her a tiny nod, for whatever it was, hoping the president couldn't see.
Anya inched forward and took Rachel's breast in her mouth -- obviously that had been what she'd just been ordered to do. She actually had to stand up on her toes to reach it, and Rachel slouched just slightly to help. Rachel felt the suction, watching Anya's cheeks hollow as she sucked, and thought at Anya, it's okay, it's okay, do what you have to do. Rachel silenced the sigh that tried to break out of her at the sensation, the sight of Anya doing such an impossibly intimate thing. If it was my free choice, she thought, I wouldn't let anyone but Anya do this. I hope she knows that.
It's one more thing Gerov has in mind for us, she thought, after we're frozen. After he makes us mannequins. Something we have to do.
If this is his fantasy for us, thought Rachel, I can live with it. Feeling Anya's lips on her flesh, feeling Anya's tongue, probably unintentionally, brushing against her nipple...
I could live with that, thought Rachel.
At another sharp word from Gerov, Anya suddenly backed away, looking frightened, her lips pressed together in anxiety.
Gerov looked past them at the general, and spoke to him. The general responded, with a questioning look, and seemed to be objecting. The president gestured with his head towards the men standing behind him, those immense, expressionless bodyguards.
The general expelled a breath and, apparently, gave in. He came towards Rachel and Anya.
Oh shit, oh shit, thought Rachel, now what?
To her astonishment surpassing in degree any such feeling she'd had before, the general began unlocking Rachel's restraints: the handcuffs first, removing then the metal bands she'd lived with since her arrival. The hobble chain, the waist chain. And finally the collar, that ultimate symbol of her captivity, leaving her, for the first time since being in Alina's room, weeks ago, utterly, completely naked.
And then, he did the same for Anya.
It clearly wasn't something the general wanted to do. No doubt he intensely disliked Rachel and Anya being in the president's proximity without any restraints at all. The president had simply reminded him of the presence of the bodyguards. I know that's enough for me, thought Rachel. I'm not about to challenge those guys.
And Rachel doubted seriously that Anya was much of a threat.
Rachel heard the tiniest voice inside her saying, "It's over, they're letting you go!" She ignored the voice. There was no possible reason why that would happen; it was just pure, unbridled wishful thinking.
Following another command, the general saluted and left the room. Rachel saw that the doctor apparently had left earlier. Other than herself and Anya, no one was left other than the president, and those two big, hulking bodyguards.
Gerov looked at Rachel and Anya now. Rachel didn't see a smile, but his eyes seemed to dance. To Rachel, he said, "Sit."
The bodyguards seemed to shift menacingly. They probably automatically became more protective when the president was alone with an enemy, Rachel thought, assuming she really merited such respect. Rachel quickly sat, Anya doing the same beside her.
He spoke in Russian then. Anya voiced an inarticulate sound of amazement, and turned towards Rachel, and did one of the last things Rachel would have expected: she turned towards Rachel and sat in Rachel's lap, facing her, putting her legs around Rachel's waist. Even then, sitting atop Rachel's thighs, Anya's eyes were below Rachel's. They were wide, unblinking, and immovably fixed on Rachel's. Rachel uncertainly put her hands on either side of Anya's waist, and looked questioningly at Gerov.
The president said, in English, "I know they make girls do sex sometimes. You and her, did you ever make love together?"
A lightning bolt shot through Rachel. She was unable, even in her thoughts, to complete a sentence: Does he...? Are we...? Suddenly she desperately wanted to know what kind of expression had crossed her face. Have I screwed it all up now? she wondered. Does he know now? She decided, tentatively, that whatever amount of shock she had betrayed would probably have seemed natural under the circumstances. You don't ask two women if they have had sex without astonishing them. Rachel realized that she hadn't answered him. Looking at him, she gave him a tiny headshake, not trusting her voice.
He spoke in Russian, and Anya gasped and spun her head around to face him. Again, Rachel felt that the reaction didn't betray the real internal thoughts. Only amazement at the question.
From Gerov, in Russian followed by English: "You both make love with each other now. I will watch." He chuckled, and went on in English: "When you were touching yourselfs, that was for you, to see what you will feel when you are my mannequins. This is for me, so I can remember later. When you cannot move, I will look at you and remember when you could." He said sternly, but still with that evil smile, "Make it very real. Make it look real, make it sound real. Give me things to remember."
He has no idea, thought Rachel, none at all.
This is really happening, she told herself, trying to convince herself. Everything I imagined, surprising myself at first, but later knowing it was what I wanted more than anything else.
This will almost certainly be the one time, the only time Anya and I will ever be able to do this. But one is more than zero.
Rachel looked into Anya's eyes. Beautiful eyes, beautiful face. Looking back at her with love. Rachel had already dealt with her own disbelief at what she was feeling. At an earlier time, she would never have imagined another woman being the love of her life. But no one else had ever occupied that position in her heart. Only Anya.
Just minutes ago, she thought, I thought I'd never see Anya again. And now, she marveled, I'm sitting here with eighty pounds of sweetness and sunshine on my lap.
The president said impatiently, "Do this! Now!"
We can do anything we want, absolutely anything, thought Rachel, and he won't know it's because we want to! He'll think we're doing something that humiliates us because he ordered us to!
Still Rachel hesitated, because she wanted to engrave this moment forever in her memory: the instant before she kissed Anya. She could never repeat it, so memory would be all she had.
She knew she wouldn't be allowed to prolong the moment any longer. She leaned forward, and Anya did at the same time. Their lips met.
Rachel had thought her old self, her heterosexual self, might rear up at this moment. Fantasizing is one thing, an inner voice had told her, but when it really happens, you'll see how alien it is to you.
It didn't feel alien at all. It was just the way Rachel had imagined. It seemed to Rachel that Anya's lips fit against hers perfectly, as if designed that way.
The world seemed to wrap itself in a cocoon around them, shutting out all who wanted to harm them.
Rachel opened her mouth, moving it against Anya's, nibbling at her lips. Feeling Anya's breath coming into her, and then returning it to Anya.
Anya had not known at first what to do with her arms, but she put them around Rachel now. Rachel put hers around Anya, tightened them, drawing her closer.
Rachel heard soft sighs and moans, and realized half of them were her own.
Still kissing, running her hands up and down Anya's back now, and flicking her tongue against Anya's. Feeling Anya's breasts flatten against her own. Those big, cushiony breasts that belonged to her, though the rest of her body would never have hinted at them.
The excitement that had burst into being when Anya had swung into her lap, moments ago, grew stronger, pushing out all other emotions.
Rachel had one last perception of the president breathing hard, before her senses left the man alone and focused only on Anya.
Both of them with hips moving now, bodies moving rhythmically against each other, moaning more loudly.
The guards in this prison, Rachel thought, can't even imagine a feeling like this exists. They think the sensation of shooting off their stuff into one of a woman's holes is the high point of all existence. They can never reach this place where Anya and I are now, she told herself. Ever.
And suddenly Rachel was aware of the tapping against her back. Tap-tap-tap. Pause. Tap-tap-tap. Pause.
Each tap, in the sequence of three, in a slightly different place. Each done by a different finger. Anya's three middle fingers, giving the signal, tapping out the three little words. I -- lahvv -- yu, I -- lahvv -- yu.
No one behind Rachel to watch. A private signal, that only Rachel could read.
Anya tightened her arms and legs around Rachel, opened her mouth wider, moaned louder. Or is that me moaning? wondered Rachel. I'm losing track.
She could feel Anya's sex pressed against her stomach, so warm where it touched, so cool afterward from the wetness.
Rachel felt increasing separation from the world of pain, the world of abuse, the world of assault on her being. In this world, there was only herself and Anya.
She slid her right hand down Anya's back, down to her buttocks, reaching underneath, feeling the wetness on her fingers now. And then twisted her wrist, lining up three fingers on Anya's inner thigh, underneath her, hidden from the president's view, and tapped her fingers in that same rhythm Anya had used, one -- two -- three, I -- love -- you. She could feel Anya's lips against her mouth twitching upward. She moved her fingers back to Anya's sex, strumming softly on the lips, reaching up inside.
Anya backed her stomach away just slightly, enough so she could reach down in front of it to Rachel's sex. Softly touching, exploring.
Both of them rubbing harder now, not wanting it to end but knowing the president could decide to stop them at any moment. Carrying each other higher, higher still.
Anya drawing in sudden gasping breaths, a different sound from her masturbation climax, her body tensing.
Rachel's orgasm overtaking her without warning, shaking her, warming and freezing her, electrocuting her, driving the wind from her, drowning her, as she felt Anya tighten her grip on her convulsively, and squeal in a way again removed from what Rachel had grown accustomed to hearing at the end of the wet rubbing sounds from the next cell.
Now the drifting downward, the snowflake descending, landing softly in its resting place.
Rachel in possession of her faculties once more, looking into Anya's eyes.
The president spoke, startling Rachel as the sound reminded her of his presence. His voice was nasty. "Now you are friends. You will be together a long time."
I want that, Rachel thought. Oh, how I want that. He doesn't know how much.
If we can never make love again, thought Rachel, that is fine. If I can never move on my own again, I will always remember the last thing my body did on its own. And the memory will stay fresh as long as I live.
Gerov called out, "Karozki!"
The general looked in. Rachel and Anya both hurriedly each pulled their hands away from the other's crotch.
The president spoke briefly to the general, who nodded and backed out of the door.
The president, Rachel saw to her lack of surprise, looked very flushed. And you don't even understand what you just saw, she said to him silently. You think two women put on a hot show for you at your command. And you think you're going to have power over us. You're nothing. Anya and I are the world. You can't touch us.
Gerov spoke to Rachel now. "That was very nice. Now you have your last minute as humans, before you are mannequins."
Rachel caught the president's eye and looked at him pointedly.
He got the message. He spoke at equal length in Russian. So Anya would know.
I'm ready, thought Rachel. She looked into Anya's eyes. You ready, honey?
Anya, her lips tilting upward just barely at the corners, barely perceptibly nodded her head.
The doctor entered the room. He carried two hypodermics.
Anya let out a squeak at the sight, and leaned closely against Rachel, her eyes wide. She must, Rachel thought, have had an experience like this before.
Rachel said softly, "Anya, okay, okay." She had no idea whether the word would translate, but it had crept across the language barriers into common usage in so many cultures that it seemed worth a try.
Anya calmed, and Rachel could barely make out a softly whispered, "Okeh, Retchell," before the doctor approached. He jabbed one of the hypos into Rachel's buttock first, then a moment later, the other into Anya's. Rachel felt an odd taste in her mouth, then dizziness. Her heart began pounding, as she realized she might never move again. Then the world went away.