Prelude – The Long Game – Part Three
Quartet for Two Men and Two Women Andante Dolorosa
by Nick Lucas and Dee
“Good to see you away from Downing Street, for once.” Sir James shook his guest’s hand warmly. “Lots for us to talk about I know, but let’s get comfortable first.”
He gestured to a big armchair to one side of the fireplace and, after Alistair Forbes had settled himself into it, he pushed a humidor across the table that separated their chairs.
“My weakness,” Miller smiled. “I am old fashioned enough to only smoke Davidoff Anniversaire cigars and occasionally Sullivan and Powell cigarettes. Please do try a Davidoff; for me they still stand peerless above all the other cigars in this world of ours.”
Alistair Forbes shook his head but smiled back at his host. “I have my share of vices, but smoking is not one of them. But I am not an ideologue either, so please smoke yourself. However, I will have Scotch; I recall you keep an excellent single malt Sir James.”
Once he had poured his guest a whisky and had refilled his own glass, the diplomat sat down and lit one of his massive Davidoff’s. The younger man watched with a slight grin playing on his lips. He despised his future father-in-law but he was still pragmatic enough to know that you could not fault his taste in the finer things of life. He also had his uses. Diplomacy was an art and Miller was an artiste, even if he was a little tiresome.
“One major topic on the agenda this evening, I suppose,” Sir James said when his cigar was well alight. “Your marriage to my daughter.”
“Indeed, yes…and thank you for not raising the topic when we met earlier. Not a subject that should be discussed when people with flapping ears are around us.”
The diplomat laughed softly and nodded. “Correct, my friend; it’s far too complex and a still rather ‘delicate’ business. But now… are we agreed that the ceremony will take place on June 15th at the Cathedral?”
“Yes, most of the arrangements are actually in place. The PM will be coming and will serve as my best man, and the Archbishop will officiate. Maybe even more important than their participation is the fact that the event will be covered by both terrestrial and satellite television…and we have a live feed going to the States, which the PM views as being incredibly important in view of your posting as Ambassador in Washington, and with him wanting me to follow you out there and kick start Reformism in the colonies. We could both use a high profile over there, so a broadcast of the wedding is a real bonus. I have our men working on trying to get coast to coast coverage; with the new-found interest in Reformism over there, it’s not impossible that we’ll get a big audience, even if many of the viewers will be watching so as to heap scorn on us. But that’s fine with me, as long as they become more aware of what’s happened this side of the Atlantic.”
“Yes, getting the Yanks to recognise Reformism as their future as well as ours will take a lot of doing.”
“I think so too. It’s a bigger challenge than even the first Reformists here faced when they became a political influence. But the original guiding lights over here were the people who lit the fire that is now burning its way round the world. They are the ones who will really be remembered as reshaping societies everywhere.” Forbes was not really interested in the history of the movement that had catapulted him to fame and fortune, but he was careful to pay his respects to the pioneers of Reformism whenever he could, especially to the right audience. “The other thing Sir James…the thing that’s really been worrying me, is how your daughter’s training has been going. We know the rest of us will play our roles extremely well but she has never been asked to do what you and I and all our colleagues do on a daily basis. Will she be ready in time?”
“Oh I think so,” the older man replied with a slightly smug expression on his face. “I gave the redoubtable Miss Freeman three months in which to train Mena, even though I knew she’d have longer in practise. But I reckoned the more intense her training was, the more likely my daughter would be to crumble into accepting it.”
“And has she crumbled?” Forbes raised a questioning eyebrow, wondering if that was really possible.
“Again, I think so. No, cancel that…I am sure she has. Our assault on her resistance to reformism came from two different directions. Miss Freeman has put her through one of the most intense periods of Maiden training imaginable, and I myself have gradually destroyed her self-belief and her hopes for the future. Miss Freeman has worked on my poor daughter virtually non-stop for sixteen or seventeen hours a day, week in, week out, seven days a week. God knows how many hundreds of hours of sermons she has listened too, most of which Miss Freeman made her learn by heart, punishing her pretty drastically for the slightest mistake when writing them out later. I have seen the piles of sheets of A4 paper, all covered with Mena’s writing, all copied out from memory. All learnt and written out, time and again, so that she really does learn all about the love of the Reformist’s God.”
“And your contribution, Sir Charles?”
“Mine was less brutal in some ways…definitely more subtle. I had to make quite sure that Mena was shown that her future existence was going to be very different from that which she had thought it would be. I had to explain why there could be no years at the Sorbonne, no idle life on the Continent for someone like her. And I had to persuade her that, instead of that rosy future, she had to face up to the fact that there would be no escape from Reformism, no escape from Maiden Training, no escape from marriage, and no escape from the physical restrictions already being imposed on her.”
“How did you persuade her?”
“Oh…having got her initial agreement to marry you, which was after her first proper beating by Miss Freeman, I pointed out that she was the youngest of a long aristocratic line of nobles who had served the kings and queens of this country with unquestioning devotion, regardless of the dangers to themselves. The Miller family has five words in its motto – ‘Ad Serviendum Deo et Terram.’ So I had to persuade that her that it was her historic duty ‘To Serve God and Great Britain’ like so many of our forebears have with distinction. Perhaps a year ago she might have laughed at that concept, but, after just a few months of rather intensive Maiden Training, she didn’t laugh at anything and her mind was open to my words…she has had no second thoughts about her future since. After that it was just a case of showing her how truly powerless she was and that, if life was going to improve, to become at least tolerable in the future, perhaps, as your wife, even enjoyable, she had to allow her life to be run totally by those superior to her in order to do her duty properly. In other words, men, and especially you and me, my dear Alistair.”
The Ambassador drew on his cigar with relish and went on with his explanation.
“I had some useful tools in my quest to show her how powerless she was. Possibly the best was physically the smallest; that tiny clever little chip she agreed to have implanted in her body. I don’t really know anything about the medical side of things but the doctor concerned tells me that by implanting it where they did, tucked away under the Vagus nerve, they made it virtually impossible to remove. Implanting it was simple apparently, just like injecting a tiny solid object as opposed to drugs or whatever else. What was so clever was that, tucked under this Vagus nerve, even the most skilled surgeon would cause hideous damage to the central nervous system if he tried to dig out that chip. So Mena has it in her body for the rest of her days and I explained that to her, of course. So now, if she ever tried to run away from her duties, we can haul her back in within minutes. Also, apart from being able to track her 24/7 if she leaves any area she is limited to alarms sounds all over the place. If she was to appear at any port or airfield, she’d be picked up by the police before she had gone a dozen yards, no matter where she is. I think I convinced her that there was no escape.”
“Yes, I gather the new generation of chips are wonders of miniaturisation…and cunningly versatile. Is it true they can administer a form of punishment as well?”
“Not a tracker chip like the one inside my daughter, it doesn’t have that facility as it doesn’t have its own power source. Again I don’t understand the technology but, by not making it reliant on batteries, it is far smaller than any other chip, and, of course, it continues to work for as long as its host remains alive. The punishment chips are a bit bigger and are self-powered, I believe. Of course, if it amuses you and you think it worth the expense there is absolutely no reason why you could not have one implanted into Mena after you are married. It would be quite legal to do so, I gather; the woman’s responsible male can do anything ‘within reason’ to make sure she is well behaved.”
Forbes laughed at Sir James’ suggestion, as though dismissing it. But that was far from the case, as he added ‘Punishment Chip’ to his mental ‘To Do’ List.
“I’ll arrange for you to have total access to Mena’s current chip well in advance of the wedding of course. You’ll need it as, if you are travelling around, you’ll have to alter the area into which she may go. It’s really very simple.”
“Thank you.” Forbes finished his drink but, when offered a refill, shook his head. “Thank you, but no. I have to limit my alcohol intake these days. The so-called gentlemen of the Press are always plying me with booze, so I have strict rules about how much I drink. Now, back to Mena; how else did you persuade your daughter that she had no alterative than to accept becoming my wife and being kept on a short leash from now on? Not that I ever intended to give her much choice.”
“By pointing out she was a UK citizen, and in the UK, subject to UK laws, and not allowed to leave the country without my permission, which she was not going to get. Ever. By reminding her that she is a minor and even when she was a lot older, she would still be totally under my control under UK laws. So, if she did not agree to get married like a good little Reformist Maiden in a fuss-free ceremony I would be forced to take action in order to persuade her of her own foolishness. Five years National Service for starters, especially in one of the less pleasant jobs – scrubbing floors for sixteen hours a day or working in the steam laundries – might persuade her to be more compliant with my wishes. And, if that wasn’t enough, further years of ‘voluntary’ National Service, or even incarceration in an enclosed convent for the rest of her life. Although she was unable to say anything when I put those alternatives to her – Miss Freeman keeps her muzzled nearly all the time – it was plain that my threats had hit home. To the degree that her excellent guardian says that, when allowed to speak or write something other than those endless sermon copies, she is always begging to be allowed to marry you, my friend. And as soon as possible.”
“That sounds wonderful…but do you really trust her, Sir James?”
“Of course not, my friend. She is clever and, although she may be temporarily beaten, given a chance to kick back at us I have a nasty feeling that is exactly what she would do, which is why I would advise you to continue her training long after you are wed, and to make sure she has a really strict and job-centred guardian.”
“My feelings exactly. Now I ought to go; the PM has some plans which are going to be hard to sell to the Public. So it could be that we are in for another All-Nighter.” Forbes got to his feet. “I will send you the running order for the wedding service as soon as the Archbishop has got his arse in gear and has agreed to my suggestions. I am sure we’ll see each other very soon. And many thanks for the talk and for the superb Scotch.”
After he had seen Alistair Forbes to the elevator, Sir James walked back to his study and sat down behind his great Victorian desk. Puffing at his cigar, he realised that he did not like the young Director of Information, but he was sensible enough to admit that he admired his ruthlessness and apparent total lack of compassion. But, thought the diplomat, he is going to the top so hitching the Miller family to his wagon was a very good idea, regardless of his personal opinions. Mena would see that one day when she was the first lady.
“Only one way to go…and that’s up,” he said to himself as he stubbed out his cigar butt with a triumphalist gesture.
Mena had no idea what was happening at first. The day had started normally with her being removed from her sleeping gown, placed on the toilet, naked apart from her mittens, and, of course, muzzled as always. Next came the humiliating time when she was cleaned and bathed with, for the only time each day, her hands liberated from mittens and gloves, but with her wrists strapped to the sides of the bath. Those bindings Mena did not mind, because it meant that for a few glorious minutes, she could stretch and flex her fingers, slowly making them work again properly after hours of immobility. The first attempts to get them moving again always hurt but that was a form of pain that Mena did not mind, for it meant the nerves were still alive and the tendons still functioning in her hands. Also, by concentrating on her hands, she could forget the way she was washed with a coarse flannel and even with a scrubbing brush, if her guardian was in a bad mood. She could take being pushed underwater so that her hair could be washed, and even ignore the bath water being drained about her, until she sat in an empty bath, waiting for Miss Freeman to use the spray attachment to the taps so as to rinse her hair for a final time, and then to do the same for her shivering body.
Dragged out of the bath, gloved and mittened again, Miss Freeman unlocked her muzzle and dragged it out of her mouth without much care. Mena, eyes lowered, remained mute, for she knew well enough what it would cost her if she spoke while her teeth were being cleaned. She just stood on the tiled floor, shivering pathetically until the muzzle was rammed back in again and relocked; only then, when the Allen key had been removed, was she dried prior to being dressed.
But this morning, to her surprise, Mena found her vision cut off totally as a blindfold was tied down around her head and over her eyes as soon as she was dry. As she was attempting to understand what was happening, a second pair of hands grabbed hold of her upper arms, hard fingers digging into her flesh. Then she felt a sudden pain in her left bicep, a small, localised pain, but one that made her scream into her muzzle, half in shock and half because of the simple distress it caused her. Her silent cries were redoubled as it seemed to her that someone was forcing liquid fire into her arm, and it was then she knew that she was receiving an injection; a large one of some drug whose makers had not been overly worried about the pain it caused when being injected into someone.
The strong hands held Mena upright as the drug took hold of her, making her feel briefly light-headed, and then slightly sleepy. As she was fighting the effects of the drug she heard Miss Freeman’s familiar commanding voice coming to her as if from a great distance.
“I’ve good news for you, my girl. Today you wed the man of your dreams. In just a few hours time you will become Mrs Forbes, the charming wife of the government’s Director of Information. Tonight, I feel certain, you will lose your virginity and you will truly be Mr Forbes’ possession for as long as it pleases him to keep you as his chattel.”
The guardian chuckled quietly to herself before continuing.
“I am sure you are by now well enough trained to do your part faultlessly during the public parts of the ceremonies to come later today. But Mr Forbes and your Father want everything to be guaranteed perfect. So you have been injected with a new drug which I am told is highly effective. Put simply, it allows you to move around and to have control over your motor functions; you’ll find you can curtsey and kneel and stand immobile as well as ever. But what it does is to deprive you of any desire to move. In fact it will deprive you of your freewill. So, in order to take part in the ceremonies you will need direct orders or I am afraid you’ll just stand around as you are now, incapable of moving. Now, let’s just see if it is as good as we have all been told it is.”
With complete lack of interest, Mena sensed her guardian moving away from her. The young woman just stood where she had been left, disinterested in what was happening.
“I’ll test her now, Sir…if that is all right with you?”
“Yes, go ahead. Be interesting to see if the stuff is as good as it’s been cracked up to be.” Her father’s voice came to Mena but, in her languid state, she did not feel any emotion on realising he must be watching as she stood there naked, except for blindfold and mittens, somewhere in front of him.
“Mena, what I say next is not an order. It’s just a friendly request…a suggestion, if you like. Mena, I’d be happy if you would take three steps forward, please.”
The young woman felt the hands that had held her arms so securely loosen their grip, but she stood still, unmoving as if no one had spoken at all. If she had looked into her mind, she would have seen that the guardian’s words were not important, and so she had no need to move. She had not been told to move.
“Well, Sir, it seems that your daughter can‘t move when just politely asked to do so. So shall we see what happens when we use the ear plugs.”
“Please, Miss Freeman, carry on.”
Her mind misty and barely able to take in what was happening, Mena vaguely felt a solid mass being pushed firmly into each of her ears, and what felt like sticking plaster holding them in place, but she could not see a thin cord running from each plug to a small white box that Miss Freeman firmly taped to the flesh under her left arm pit. Had she been more conscious of what was happening, Mena would have been aware that, as soon as the plugs were in place, she was left without hearing, her world now soundless as the plugs’ noise-cancelling signal over-rode any external sounds.
Miss Freeman walked back to her employer and showed to him the control box in her hand.
“This is just temporary, Sir. When I am dressed for the ceremonies, I’ll have a small throat microphone as well as the control box. When I want Mena to do anything, I will just turn on the controller which will send a signal to her ear plugs, so as to metaphorically wake her up. I will then instruct her verbally as to what she must do. Because of the microphone being against my throat, what will seem like a whisper will get through to your daughter as clearly as loudly spoken words. My mantle will hide any lip movement and help stifle any sound of my whispers. So no-one should be aware that I am talking to Mena and that she is moving solely because she has been ordered to do so.”
“It sounds very efficient, as always. But does it work, Miss Freeman…does it actually work?”
“We will see now, Sir.” Miss Freeman flicked on the switch on to top of the box she carried, and spoke softly into the small microphone grill at the front of the device. “Curtsey, and hold it for a slow ten…then rise.”
As the switch was turned on by her Guardian, Mena’s vacuous reverie was broken by a viciously loud whistle that seemed to echo through the centre of her brain. As it died away Mena heard Miss Freeman’s voice and, without any hesitation or apparent thought, dropped into a deep curtsey, which she held for a long count of ten before rising again. As she stood upright again, she fell back into the warm fog she had experienced before the command, and remained motionless in front of her father and her guardian, and the junior guardian who had been hired for the day.
“Very effective,” Sir James said with a wide grin. “Looks like it does exactly what we were promised.”
“I hope so, Sir. Before dressing your daughter, I’ll take her through the whole ceremony at the cathedral, and also when she is to be presented to the Prime Minister in front of the television cameras. I’ll make quite sure that our precious rehearsal time isn’t wasted, Sir.”
Mena did not really remember much of her wedding day beyond the dense, confusing fog she which engulfed her for a lot of the time. Afterwards, when the drug had worn off, she did not really remember the agonising whistles exploding inside her head that drove away the fog so brutally for a few seconds, nor could she recall Miss Freeman’s insistent voice as she gave her the stream of orders, all of which it seemed she had obeyed faultlessly.
As she married Mr Forbes in accordance with Reformist tradition, her muzzle remained in place all the time, her father making the vows on her behalf, before handing her over to her new husband. But Mena proved to be a perfect bride, enveloped in the most ornate gown seen in the cathedral since the Reformists came to power, every move and gesture she made being graceful and perfectly timed – her faultless display being aided by the two top-up injections she received during the rather long day.
Only when the seemingly endless ceremonies were concluded and calls for her to be brought in front of the television and press cameras were finished, did the effects of the drug start to very slowly fade away. Realisation that she was married slowly dawned on her, even if the fact that she had been guided through the whole day by the remorseless commands of her guardian remained mainly buried in her subconscious. Very gradually, she recognised that she was sitting in a luxurious bedroom, still wearing her wedding gown, her face hidden behind a mantle which allowed her to look around her. What she could not do was rise, as someone had passed a broad belt across her lap and around the back on the chair on which she sat.
As she was trying to piece together her day but finding it a task beyond her, the door to the bedroom swung open and Alistair Forbes swaggered into the room, with a broad smile on his first
“Good evening my loyal little wife. I trust you enjoyed getting married…first and last time for you, my girl.” He quickly took off his dinner jacket and threw it over a familiar looking armchair near the door, before he did the same with his bow tie. “I hope you are feeling fully aware of things again now…because I do want you to be totally awake by the time Miss Freeman comes in here.”
He walked to the table next to the bed and poured himself a glass of water from the cut-glass carafe standing there. Draining it in one long draft, he returned to stand looking down at his silent wife.
“I need to tell you one or two things. Firstly, you and I are now a team, and the Prime Minister is expecting great things of me so I expect even better things of you.” He laughed and reached out to remove the mantle from Mena’s face. He looked at her for perhaps half a minute, one hand holding her under her chin. “Amazing…quite amazing…regardless of everything, you are still a very beautiful young woman Mena…really very beautiful indeed.”
He let go of his wife’s face and went to pour himself some more water. As he sipped at it, he told her what was planned for their immediate future.
“Your loving father flies to Washington tomorrow and we follow in his footsteps next week. During that time you’ll be incommunicado as it were, locked away in this house, recovering from all the usual strains of your wedding day my dear. Then when we do leave, we are going to be the acceptable face of Reformism in the States. I will glad-hand whoever we need to get on our side and you’ll generate some really great publicity by doing a little minor PR work. But before you get the idea that freedom is coming your way little Mena, there are one or two things you should know dear. First, Miss Freeman will be staying in the UK, but I have procured for you a new guardian, someone who I am assured makes your Jen Freeman look like a furry little kitten. She will have control of you 24/7 when I don’t need you all to myself…and she knows that she can do what the hell she likes to keep you in line. If she wants to hang you up by your toes for a week for rising from a curtsey one second early, that is fine with me. On top of that, you will be confined to the Embassy, unless I need you somewhere else. You will live under the eyes and ears of CCTV every waking moment, and I or your guardian will inspect those tapes every day. One twitch, or wrong word, and you, my girl, will live to regret your foolishness.”
There was a knock on the door and, after Forbes had called “Come in!” Miss Freeman entered the room and dropped a curtsey in front of Mena’s husband.
“Please get up, Miss Freeman. And remove your mantle if your wish. I was just explaining to my wife how sad we are that you can’t come with us to Washington.”
Rising with considerable grace and lowering her mantle to reveal her handsome features, Miss Freeman pulled a face. “I am sorry too, Sir. But Sir James is my employer and he has lent me to the Prime Minister, who wants a young relative training as a Maiden. It would appear I have managed to get a good reputation as a trainer of Maidens; something I suspect I owe to you as well as to Sir James.”
“Your reputation is well earned I am sure. But now is the time to welcome Mena to her new status as my wife. I want her to understand from the start where she stands and her place in our relationship. I feel she should say goodbye to her Maidenhood with sorrow and perhaps a few tears, and that then she should be shown exactly what happens to wives who don’t please their husbands.”
Miss Freeman nodded. “If I may say so, you are starting out on marriage in the correct manner, Sir.”
“Thank you…now, you have all you need?”
“Yes, Sir…the armchair and one of the new paddles.”
“I have heard about them, but I have never seen one.”
Miss Freeman nodded and went across to the armchair, picking up the paddle that lay across its arms. With a slight curtsey of respect, she handed it to Forbes.
“Apart from the colour, it looks much like the old ones,” he commented as he inspected it.
“It may look similar. But it is 100% new and 100% more effective. It’s made of carbon fibre, cross-woven I am told…it is very strong and its handle will never snap as you got with the old plastic paddles as they grew old or if they were carelessly used. The handle is also rather more flexible which means the head hits its target faster than with the old ones. Plus it is a little heavier, most of the extra weight being in the head so it lands harder than before. I gather it is to be called ‘The Professional’ and it will, at first at least, only be sold to experienced guardians or their registered employers. And it will also be issued to convents, again if there are experienced guardians there, although they are called keepers in the order, I believe. We do not want the foreign anti-Reformist press saying we have produced a new super weapon simply for abuse I suppose. That might happen if it were to reach the hands of inexperienced guardians who got carried away and did more damage to their charges than they planned.”
“It sounds formidable.” Forbes turned towards his wife, stepping forward to undo the broad strap that held her to the chair on which she sat. “Now, my dear wife, Miss Freeman is going to welcome you to marriage. I will just watch, as I prefer to leave such things to the professionals…using professional devices. Now get up so that Miss Freeman may undress you. Then, Mrs Forbes my sweet little wife, you may mount that armchair over there. I gather you are well acquainted with it and how you present yourself to the paddle – legs spread, head down, or so I am told. As for me, I’ll just sit here and watch: I have a strong feeling that I will enjoy the next half hour or so.”
He sat down on the chair recently vacated by Mena and smiled at the Guardian.
“Miss Freeman, my wife is in your hands. Please introduce her to being a wife, and allow her to see what will happen if she strays from the straight and narrow in the future.”
“It will be my great pleasure, Sir.” Miss Freeman smiled and they both watched Mena move silently towards her future, no longer a maiden, but a dutiful Reformist wife.
Reformism Interrupted is continued in Overture – Let the Games Begin – Part One Atlantic Crossings.