Audrey Songbird: Concept 10

Tick… Tick… Thump… Thump… A moment, a murmur, a frame, a flutter… Arching, dancing, a weaving of bodies… To be posed so provocatively with a man, it felt so… Incredible…

“Hold!” shouted the alchemist as he tapped a wand to the imprinter’s golden key. Instantly, it began to spin in a counterclockwise fashion, a high pitched whistling resonating from the device’s inner lattice. Tick… Tick… Thump… Thump…

I was being suspended in midair above Marius, his hands firmly pressed against the small of my back so that my body curved like a wooden bow. Using my arms to steady myself, I had craned my neck just enough for our lips to touch. All that remained was to hold the pose until the imprinter could do its job.

Tick… Tick… Thump… Thump… I could feel the tip of his member twitching provocatively along the contours of my ass. If I so much as lost my footing, then it would force its way inside. If I were to slide backward even a centimeter, then it would fall forward and instead worm its way into my sensitive slit. The muscles and tendons of my body were screaming in agony, yet my cock was in heaven, fueled by the combination of heat and musk which surrounded us on the bed which was our stage.

There was an audible click, and the high-pitched whirring suddenly stopped. “Release!” I fell onto my side, Marius and I letting out a collective sigh of relief. Thump… Thump… Gradually the blood rushed back into my extremities, though the tension in both my chest and my cock remained.

Keep it together, Audrey…

The alchemist slipped his wand into the pocket of his robe and walked over to the finished tapestry. While it needed to be trimmed down and colored in, its recreation of the scene was more perfect than anything I had seen before. I watched from the corner of my eye as the alchemist rolled the tapestry onto a scroll wheel, sealed it, and prepared the next one.

“Need a break, Audrey?” asked Marius.

“I dunno; do you?”

“Not a chance.” He was clearly getting into it as much as I was. Helma directed us into the next pose. Laying flat on my back, I brought my right leg upward before stretching it across my chest, my foot next to my head. Marius rolled onto his stomach, grabbed my ankle and aligned his chest with my own, his cock rubbing sensually against mine.

“Hold!” Another click, another whir, another gasp of ecstasy. Tick… Tick… Thump… Thump… When it felt as though my body would quit, another rush of energy would pour across my body and propel me ever further. Soon the discomfort I felt had become a pleasure all its own, and it took all I had to prevent myself from moaning outright.

“Release!” The finished tapestry was stored and one more blank canvas erected in its place. This final scene would be perhaps the most taboo. Marius grabbed my other leg, crossing both behind my neck and wrapping his arms around me. He then stood up, my pussy balanced precariously over his dick, mine now wedged tightly between our chests, tip hovering but a hair’s breath away from our mouths.

For a split second, nobody in the room dared move a muscle. Keep it together… You’re a professional, dammit…

“H-Hold!” Tick… Tick… Thump… Thump… Tick… Tick… Thump… Thump… And then… “Release!” It was over just like that.

Helma clapped her hands together. “Excellent job, especially that last bit. Go get something to drink and then hit the showers. I swear I could smell the two of you from here.” She turned on her heel and began to walk toward the alchemist.

“Boss, wait.”

She turned. “Audrey…?”

“I can… I can go further than this.”

“You’ve done enough for one night. Take a break.”

“Let me do this!” Again, there was silence. I soon realized my temper and made to restrain myself. “What I mean to say is, please give me this chance to prove myself, madame Lede.”

I was waltzing on thin ice, and we both knew it. Were she to come forward and hit me across the face, I would not have been the least bit surprised. Instead, she let out a sigh and looked over to Marius. “Well, what do you say to that?”

Marius let out a chuckle. “I suppose I have no choice but to earn my pay on this. Very well, then! Let us see how this plays out!”

“Alright, you heard the man, people! Fetch some more canvases from the stockroom!” There was a flurry of movement as the staff went about the necessary preparations. Helma pressed her fingers to her temple, took a breath, and returned to her chair.

One of the staff members approached Marius and began chanting a contraception ritual. Almost on instinct, I brought my hands together in front of me.

“No can do,” chided Helma. “Procedure requires a third party to administer the seal.”

“Oh, right.” Lowering my hands, I spread out across the makeshift bed. Was this really the right idea? Well, no use backing out now… Holy fuck, am I horny…

The alchemist again shouted, “Keep clear!” as he realigned the imprinter with a new, fresh canvas. Lanterns were adjusted for optimal brightness and the stage props rotated about fifteen degrees. Marius positioned himself at one edge of the bed, and I took the other. Helma lifted her right hand in the air.

“Action!”

Like a bolt of lightning, my body surged forward. I grabbed Marius by the shoulders and pulled him atop me, my legs tightly anchoring themselves around his waist. His eyes widened for just a brief moment before he too gave into his carnal desires. Our lips locked, tongues meshing in a fit of passion, saliva dripping down our chins.

“Hold!” With each passing second, the heat of our bodies would magnify almost exponentially. Sweat dripped down our respective limbs, and I wondered to myself if it would show on the finished product. “Release!”

With another shot now behind us, the time had come to raise the stakes. Pivoting my ass toward the camera, I lowered my aching slit onto Marius’s manhood. Our bodies connected fully, and it felt so damn good I nearly screamed.

“Hold!” I fought to remain still, but the urge to move became too powerful to ignore. Slowly my hips began to roll against his own, our hands groping every inch of skin within reach. “Hold, dammit!”

I no longer cared about getting a proper shot. All eyes in the room were now on me, and all I truly wanted was to make jaws drop. My movements became faster, more erratic. I shifted sideways so the imprinter could get a glimpse of my cock, which was even larger than before. A surge of magic was rapidly collecting inside of me, yet I was already too far gone to do a thing about it.

“Audrey!” Helma stood from her chair, her glance alternating between our perverse sexual display and the unfinished tapestry. Though I tried to catch a glimpse, it rested just out of my field of vision, and I had far more important things to worry about for the time being.

Sliding my legs onto Marius’s shoulders allowed me to bend both of our heads down. Together, we began to kiss and suck along my tip, a thick precum staining our lips. The staff rushed frantically to swap out canvasses, though it was clear there would be no replicating a scene like this.

“Fuck, Marius…!”

“Fuck, Audrey…!”

“I’m gonna…!”

“I’m cumming, babe!” Just like that, a rush of semen poured from him into my womb, watered down only by the contraception magic. My orgasm, on the other hand, was more powerful than anything I could have imagined. With a throaty howl, I unleashed a torrent of wind magic, my cum pouring out like ropes of thick slime; coating our bodies, the bed, the surrounding floor, and even dripping from the ceiling.

“Holy shit,” breathed Helma as she finally took a step forward. “Will somebody get these two some towels, dammit!?”

“Y-Yes, ma’am!” Marius and I were splashed down with warm water and given towels to dry off with. A thick stench of sweat and semen lingered on our bodies regardless, and all around us the excess fluids had begun to solidify. We quickly put on our robes and sat down across from Helma.

“Looks like somebody got a bit caught up in the mood,” she quipped sarcastically.

“Yeah… Am I going to have to clean that up?”

“I’m going to make this your one free pass, but if there’s a next time, I swear I’m gonna gag that… thing!”

“Er… my penis, boss?”

“I’ve never seen someone blow a load like that! All the ejaculation spells in the world couldn’t hold a candle to what you just pulled!”

Probably best not to bring up the whole possession thing, I thought to myself. Though for what it’s worth, things could have ended a lot differently had she been around… Could all of this have been a part of her plan as well…?

“Audrey? You’re spacing out again…”

“Oh! Forgive me, what were we talking about?”

“For fuck… just forget it,” sighed Helma. “On a different note, I would like to take a moment and go over the results of our little test run. Surely you could spare a bit a time for that, right?”

“Y-Yes, boss.” Seems I really put my foot in it this time.

“Good girl. Let us start with this first one here.” Slowly, she unrolled the first tapestry, tracing her fingers along the lines of blue which had been cut into the page. “It truly is a marvel of magical engineering when you stop to think of it. With this, we should be able to produce dozens if not hundreds of duplicates.”

“Wait a minute; did you say hundreds!?”

“Once these are cut to size, we can use the imprinter’s one-to-one lens alignment to create perfect replicas. They’ll need to be colored, although in subsequent iterations of the product…”

“Boss…”

“This is wrong,” Marius interjected. “Should something this ever hit the mainstream, the need for producers would be cut in half overnight.” Somehow, he’d managed to take the words right out of my mouth.

Furrowing her brow, Helma began to tap her fingers against the armrest of her chair. “Is that really your concern to begin with? Talent is, and has always been, subject to the whims of a fickle populace. Or would you rather that it be you who becomes obsolete?”

Wow… That was… harsh. Marius simply grunted his disapproval, leaning back in his chair with arms folded over his chest. Helma responded in kind as she rolled up the tapestry, moving on to the next one.

“Take a look at the creases here.” Minor indentations were littered across the page, as if the intensity of the light had been lowered slightly. “While far from perfect, it would seem the device was able to pick up on a few of the more subtle details.”

“Is the device capable of bending light itself?” I asked.

“It doesn’t need to. As light bounces off your sweat, it creates a contrast with the rest of your body. That contrast is more noticeable with every pass of the imprinter. One could call that the device’s party-piece. Of course, one must be careful not to cut completely through the canvas itself. Even with a cotton base, the maximum time limit is somewhere around ninety seconds.”

“Fascinating…” My interest continued to grow with every sample, but it was the final tapestry which really surprised me. “What’s the deal with this one, boss?”

“I told you that the device cannot capture movement very well. The vibration effect you see here is from its attempt to capture the movements of your hips.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it, ever.” Slowly, I traced my hands along the lines, feeling how shallow they were compared to the rest. The deepest and darkest lines were perhaps those of my face, which were contorted in an expression I had never before seen.

“Got something to say, Audrey?”

“I just… I can’t believe the person staring back at me…”

“Like you weren’t really you anymore, right?”

“Yeah…” My thoughts drifted back to those final, fleeting moments of ecstasy. I had been consumed by my own lust to the point that it felt almost infectious. The idea of spreading lust to an entire room of people crossed my mind, and I shivered in fear. I am not that kind of girl…

“It’s getting late, isn’t it?” Marius turned to me. “Shall I walk you home?”

“Thank you… Well boss, I guess I’ll see you when I return?”

Helma nodded. “We’ll pick up where we left off at a later date. Both of you take care, now.”

Once the two of us were out in the street, I found myself taking Marius’s hand. “You were really cool back there. Thanks for saying what I couldn’t bring myself to say.”

“Wanna tell me what happened, darling?”

“It’s just… earlier today, Karissa came to me about it. She was terrified of things to come, and I just wasn’t able to reassure her…”

“I was afraid of something like that. Audrey, I’m sure you’re no stranger to how this all works. As times change, we have to change with them. Those who can’t are going to be left behind, and it’s on them if they do.”

“I know that…”

“For what it’s worth, we can go through life asking questions of those changes and learning how best to orient ourselves around them. In doing so, we face our fears and become steadfast in who we are.”

“Admittedly, that’s rather profound of you. Thank you, Marius.”

“Though you cannot save everyone, your heart is definitely in the right place. Also, don’t worry so much about Karisa and the others. I’ll try to take care of it all while you’re gone.” He leaned in to kiss me one more time as we were approaching my tenement. “Sweet dreams, darling.”

I cleaned my body one more time before slipping into my bed. With all the excitement of earlier, I had completely hit my limit and almost immediately slipped into darkness. Though Astertis was nowhere to be found – and thank goodness for that – I could almost swear I heard her laughing somewhere above me while I wandered through the mazes of my dreams.

When next the sun graced these lands, a new journey would commence, and all I could hope for was the truth to be revealed – about my history, and about my body.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Audrey Songbird: Concept 09

“I hope you know that you’re putting me in a real bind here, Audrey.”

“Yeah, I know. I’m really sorry about this.” I was standing across from Helma Lede, executive agent for the modeling agency of which I worked. Debuting at the young age of sixteen, she went on to make a modest career of it before retiring at thirty-six. Now in her early forties, she prided herself in teaching the next generation. For all the talents my body possessed, they were null and void if not for Helma’s exemplary marketing skills.

Though the years had not been too kind, she still managed to hold her own in the looks department. She went to great lengths to preserve the silkiness of her hazelnut skin, and her auburn hair was shaped upward in a youthful pixie-cut. Her ears had been altered to look more pointed, and each lobe was fitted with a gold ring large enough to slip one’s finger through. Gazing lower, I could make out the creases where her tube top and shorts had been painted on – a specialized material just thick enough to conceal her womanly secrets from view.

She was lounging across from me in a thatched hammock suspended from the ceiling of her office, her bare feet pushing against the edge of her desk, causing her body to sway back and forth with each movement of her legs. “Soul searching is one thing, but do you really need a whole three weeks to do… whatever it is you’re off to do?”

“It’s a four day trip each way, boss. That realistically gives me just under two weeks to get things done. Plus, I need to touch base with my grandfather…”

“Alright, alright; no need for the drama. Everyone should have a chance to go home now and then. Only next time, try to give me a bit more notice?”

“I understand. Thank you so much for this.” I stood up, making my way toward the door when she cleared her throat.”

“I didn’t say we were done. There is still the matter of that incident you had a week ago.”

Shit. It wasn’t that I had somehow forgotten; it was that I truly had no desire to bring it up considering the memories of what happened were not my own. Astertis had deposited them deep into my subconscious as a kind of going-away gift, yet I knew if I tried to invoke them, the ensuing assault on my senses would likely result in a mess. It certainly wasn’t a thing that my boss needed to witness.

“You listening, Audrey?”

“Right… Continue?”

“As I was saying, your sudden break from tradition managed to put a nasty tear in one of the costumes. While I can overlook something like that, what I cannot overlook is your sudden enthusiasm to jerk off one of our recruits during the middle of a scene.”

“Boss, with all due respect-”

“No, allow me to explain. There have been comments about you by a few of our clients. Apparently, you’ve taken a habit to… cleaning yourself following the end of a session like some kind of dog. That’s not exactly what I would call professional, now is it?”

She had a point. While it hadn’t truly been my fault given the circumstances, I probably should have handled things a bit better. Taking a deep breath, I knelt down with my hands locked firmly together. “I was wrong, boss. Please forgive my sudden departure from your teachings.”

The heartfelt plea seemed to satiate her, for she smiled and walked over to help me up. “At ease, darling. Identifying the issue is but a first step. If you find you need a bit of help, Auntie Helma is here to offer you… let us call it a rehabilitation program.”

Ah, crap. She always gets this way when a new project crosses her mind. “R-rehabilitation?”

“There is something of an untapped market on the flip-side of the talent industry. Acts of a more explicit nature, while in high demand, can be something of a struggle to produce for reasons that I’m sure are not lost on you, Audrey.”

“Y-Yeah,” I nodded. “I wasn’t really in favor of it myself…”

“Might I ask what changed your mind?”

“Call it a spiritual journey of sorts…”

“Sex as spiritualism; I like it. Now then, though it has taken a bit of doing on my part, I finally managed to secure a pass from local counsel to launch a sister agency. They were even kind enough to lend us a new toy for the occasion.”

“Come again!?”

“You’ll understand when you see it.” Helma led me to a shelf on the far side of the room where a black box had been covered with a clear sheet I recognized as hardened sap. The box, however… “Do you know what this is, Audrey?”

A glass lens had been fitted to each of the box’s four sides. Two of them were placed opposite each other and identically sized, though the other two varied with one larger than the other. Sensing my inherent confusion, Helma lifted away the sheet.

“What you are looking at is a new piece of alchemy called a vision imprinter. The current design is a tad simple, but here’s how it works. Light passes through one of two lenses into a specially crafted lattice crystal. When magic is applied to the crystal, that light is amplified and forced out the other lens. Do you get the idea?”

“I suppose I do, but why the differently-shaped lenses here?”

“Think of it as a scaling tool. Light which passes through the smaller lens is then magnified threefold once it passes through the larger lens. It takes a lot more magic to power the lattice, but the effect is phenomenal when done properly.”

“Does that mean you’ve already tried it out, boss?”

“Indeed, I have.” She pulled a scroll from the lower shelf and handed it to me. Unrolling it revealed a meter-long, full body tapestry of one of my colleagues in what appeared to be blue ink. However, when I traced my fingers across the page, it felt as if the lines were somehow etched or cut into the paper itself.

“The precision of it… could a device like that really create something like this?”

“It certainly is not without its faults. Take a look at her face. The imprinter can make three passes in a single second, but it takes more than one hundred passes just to create a sufficient level of detail. Very few models can hold a pose like that for more than thirty seconds. I would say you are one of the exceptions.”

“Is that why you want me for this… new agency project?”

“Consider it a mutually-beneficial partnership. You can get your rocks off while I get a bit of research done on behalf of the counsel, as well as a tidy profit. What do you say to that? Are you in?”

Normally I would have said no, chosen not to get involved. Unfortunately, a part of me knew that if I did so now, it would only raise more questions. Then there was that other part of me, the part which had been freshly awakened by the meddling of my bastard grandmother.

“Alright, boss. I’m in.”

“Splendid! By the way, since you’re off the clock starting tomorrow morning, you can join me at the shoot we’re performing later this evening.”

“That’s a little much, isn’t it!?”

“I’m not asking you to perform this time around. Simply observe the process and give a bit of insight as to what might be improved upon. I mean, you are a practitioner of the White Arts too, are you not?”

I couldn’t help but sigh at her insinuation. “I understand, boss. I do owe you, after all.”

“Good girl. You may leave now.”

“Thank you.” Letting myself out into the hall, I slumped against the opposite wall for a second to collect myself. What were you thinking, Audrey!? There’s no way I can do something like this! Why did Astertis have to get me involved!?

Suddenly, out the corner of my eye, I noticed somebody was watching me. When I turned my head, however, she had darted back around the corner. Curious, I made my way over to her. “Are you alright, Karisa?”

Karisa Parth was a mousy girl in her late twenties who served on the agency’s production team. She had this bookish, nerdy aesthetic to her which would have seemed out of place to the casual observer. That said, she was one of our most talented illustrators.

“S-Sorry for spying on you, Audrey.”

“No, it’s fine. Was there something you needed from me?”

“Again, forgive me for eavesdropping but… Did madame Lede show it to you…?”

“Do you mean the vision imprinter?”

“Yeah… that.” She had a sketchbook against her chest, and I watched as she began to grip it tighter.

“I wouldn’t worry about it much. You’re a lot faster and more colorful than some machine.”

“That is… I mean… Could you come with me, Audrey…?” She then led me into an empty production room she knew would be relatively soundproof. “Listen… The truth is, I don’t trust myself…”

“What do you mean, exactly?”

“It took me years to reach my current level, and this contraption manages to usurp all of that in a manner of minutes! So what if it can’t capture color yet!? Give it another year or two and… and…!”

“Karisa, calm down. It’s going to be alright.” I placed a hand on her shoulder. “When sculpture became the ‘in’ thing, it only served to make paintings that much more valuable. Think of it this way: when everyone has a copy, it’s the genuine article that’s one-of-a-kind.”

“Audrey…”

“Come on, surely you’re better than this?”

She hesitated a little before pressing her hands into a nearby table. “This here is my domain, Audrey. I could have done a hundred other things, but this is the path that I chose. Being able to own it allows me to dictate the terms surrounding it. For something or someone to encroach on that is unforgivable.”

“A device still needs a user, Karisa. If said user lacks the experience or perspective necessary to the craft… How about this? Why not train yourself to master the alchemy?”

“…I can.”

“Huh?”

“I’m already versed in the process. I haven’t told madame Lede, but I can perform the imprinting process faster and cheaper than her machine can.”

“That’s amazing!” I exclaimed. “If you’re that talented, why not bring it up with her before tonight’s performance?”

“I mustn’t! I mean, if the counsel were to find out, they could seek damages for unauthorized reproduction. I’d be throwing my entire career down the drain. So, until it can hit the mainstream, I’m afraid that mum’s the word…”

“Forgive my ignorance on the subject…”

“It just isn’t fair, you know?” Karisa began to make fists with her hands. “The son of a bitch who brought the device into the agency even had the gall to criticize my medium. It didn’t matter that he had no idea I was an illustrator, you just… You just don’t do that!”

“Karisa…” How can I help her…?

“Don’t worry about me.” She reached up to wipe a tear from her eye. “Being able to air out my grievances was enough. So, thank you.”

“You’re a friend, Karisa. I wanna do right by you. Therefore, when I attend tonight’s shoot, I’m going to look into a few things on your behalf. If I know the boss the way I think I do, then I know she’s not one to be deceived by common trickery. Audrey Songbird is on the case!”

“You… really mean it…?”

“Of course!”

Karisa did her best to put on a smile. “Again, thank you… I’m going to get back to work. Take care.” With that, she set off into the hall, and I made my way home. A bit of me-time was necessary in the wake of what was to come. I just hoped that Cass wasn’t having as many issues as I seemed to be.

* * *

A few hours later and I found myself back at the agency with a satchel over my shoulder. I made sure to pack the essentials – some water, a change of clothes – not that I had much inclination to make use of them. Helma spotted me almost immediately, motioning for my approach.

“I see you’re right on time. You’re on good terms with Marius, aren’t you?” Marius and I had only worked on a small handful of projects together, though never anything like this. His build was firm, strong, perhaps a little bulky. His pointed ears appeared far more natural than the augmented ones of my boss and his skin a tad lighter.

“Always a pleasure to do business with the beautiful Audrey Songbird.”

“Fantastic!” Helma clapped her hands together. “Marius, please brief Audrey on the process and show her around. If you’ll excuse me, I have some prep work to attend to.” She made her way across the room toward a man in white scholar’s robes. That must be the alchemist…

“Shall we get started?” asked Marius.

“Yeah… Let’s do that.” He took my hand and brought me behind a partition used for changing.

“So what brought you into the fold, sweetheart?”

“Oh! I just needed to expand my horizons a little. I’m still not exactly sold on the idea…”

“It’s a lot like diving into an ocean versus diving into a pond. There’s anxieties to be had in both, but if you can manage one, surely the other will follow. For now, just have fun with it.”

“Right, right…” I grabbed the water from my satchel and proceeded to gulp it down. First the body swap and now this…

“Hey, do you want me to grab you something else?”

“It’s fine, Marius. So, does it get any better the second time around?”

He paused a moment before saying, “If I’m in good company, then there’s no pressure. That said, all the new faces are making it harder on me.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, in what way?”

“You have to make a good first impression all over again.”

Before I could press further, I was interrupted by Helma crying out, “Where the hell is Jeanette!?”

“I’ll go check on her!” announced a staff member. The alchemist frowned, whispering something in Helma’s ear.

“Does that new first impression have anything to do with the new methodology?” I asked.

“That isn’t any concern of mine, if I’m being honest.”

“I see…”

“Where burning the candle at both ends here!” shouted Helma.

Suddenly, the staff member returned, his face deathly pale. “Ma’am, it’s terrible! Jeanette appears to have collapsed in her dressing room!”

“She what!?”

“It seems she was fighting an illness over the past few days. We’ve called for a doctor, but there’s no way she’ll be able to perform tonight!”

“Motherfuck…”

“With all due respect, didn’t something like this happen a few weeks ago?”

“That’s right… Attention, everyone! I’m announcing a moratorium on tonight’s proceedings until we can figure out the cause of this sudden outbreak. I want a full inspection of the facility. Call in some experts if need be.”

As people began to scramble, my eyes were again fixated on the alchemist. He was putting away his equipment, and it almost looked as if he were scolding the boss. She was trying her best to retain her composure, though I could tell things were going downhill fast.

“I’ll do it!”

“Are you serious?” Marius mumbled next to me. Helma raised an eyebrow but said nothing.

“I promise there won’t be any incidents this time. All I want is a chance to set things right. Please, boss.”

“You have a lot of nerve, Audrey… Very well. Marius, get her ass into a robe on the double!”

“Yes, ma’am!” He shut the partition and turned to me. “I really hope you know what you’re getting yourself into.”

“What choice did I have? Just tell me what’s on the agenda and I’ll make a miracle happen.” With that, I began to disrobe in front of him.

“For starters, you and I are going to be naked.”

“I understood as much. What next?”

“If you want the blunt truth, I’ll be pressing my blunt object into you over the course of the shoot, Audrey.”

Talk about mincing one’s words… “Alright, that much should have been understood as well.” I was halfway into my robe when I reached for my water. “It can’t be any worse than folding myself up all the time.”

“Audrey, have you ever had sex while a third party was watching?”

I hesitated. “How about I save that answer for after the shoot?” Taking a long drink, I did my best not to blush, which only served to stimulate the man’s curiosities. The bulge in his robe was large enough to rival my own. On second thought, this actually could be kind of fun.

“Places, people!” Helma was on the war path, barking orders left and right. Props were put into place, and chalk marks were etched into the floor to mark the boundaries of the imprinter’s front lens. A tapestry was placed six feet away, aligned carefully with the larger back lens.

The alchemist took a golden key from his pocket, placing it in a notch at the top of the imprinter. “Everyone, please keep clear! This boundary right here is now a kill zone!”

Is he serious about that? Just what the hell kind of contraption needs a buffer area? Before I could inquire further, Helma approached with a makeup tray. “Thanks you for letting me do this, boss.”

“Audrey, are you one hundred percent okay with this? Once you’re up there, you cannot waver from your role.”

“I’ll be fine.” It doesn’t help that I really could use a good fuck right now…

Helma’s strokes were quick and professional, and with that, the time had come. Marius was already sprawled across a bed, ready to put on a show unlike any other. Therefore, it was only natural that I try and do the same. Silence fell across the room, and Helma placed her right hand in the air. Three… Two… One…

“Action!”

TO BE CONTINUED…

Audrey Songbird: Concept 08

When next I attempted to communicate with Astertis, there was suddenly no trace of her in my head. A part of me began to worry that her bodyswap technique had successfully placed her in Cass’s body, though a thorough examination of my friend revealed all was as it had been. As for Josa, he had no idea about anything going on behind the veil, so we decided it best not to stir the pot. Nonetheless, I couldn’t hide my growing irritation and needed to do something about it.

The local tavern was a great place to take the edge off. I found myself returning night after night, effectively blowing my pay on what amounted to little more than a few short-lived elations. After the fourth such occurrence, Cass took it upon herself to tag along, insisting that I had cast aside all vestiges of moderation. Despite my protests, she wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“What will it be, ladies?” asked the tavern’s host.

“Two beers and a backroom table please,” answered Cass. With a nod, the man escorted us between the crowds, an aroma of tobacco hanging visibly in the dim candlelight. We removed our coats and took our seats, Cass stretching her arms over her head. “So before you ask, I want you to know that the archives were empty.”

“What if we copied the reference serials of the ones you found originally? Couldn’t we seek out other libraries in the region?”

“You misunderstood me, Audrey. The archives were empty, as in completely gone.”

The sudden sharpness of her words made me flinch. “Excuse me?”

“There’s no longer any evidence that those records existed. A sweep of the Guild Index reveals the same serial numbers yet a completely different series of volumes. Perhaps the most perplexing issue is these placeholders look as genuine as any other official document. If we were to juxtapose the two data sets, who could truly say which one was the forgery?”

“Hold on. If that’s the case, then could the Ishtarte cult story be just another ruse?”

“Though it isn’t at all likely, I cannot deny the plausibility of such a thing. Astertis would have needed advance knowledge of my intentions to browse the archives – something I told you essentially on a whim. Had the records been altered, she still would have needed a physical proxy in order to do the swap. If we take that into account, then it would make far more sense for the switch to have been done later, which implies they were in fact the real deal. Even so…”

“Jeez, all of this is making my head hurt. Where are the damn drinks?” I waved to the host, who was gradually making his way over. “One of these days, I swear…”

“So sorry about the wait, ladies; here we are!” The man set down each on a thatch coaster before bowing and leaving us to our discussion. Out the corner of my eye, I could see a few curious glances cast our way, but the tavern was thankfully far too noisy for anyone to really intrude upon our conversation.

“Enough about that,” sighed Cass between mouthfuls of frothy liquid. “Were you able to turn up anything on your end?”

“The local academies offered up even less, sadly to say. Of course on my way out, an old professor of mine did raise the suggestion of inviting me into the Clerical Order. That makes… fourteen attempts now? Obviously not all of them were from her, but you get the idea.”

“You know, if they’re going to twist your arm like that, the very least you could do is to humor them, right? When all else fails, just finding information on that wind spell would prove beyond a doubt that everything Astertis said was true. Isn’t that alone worth the cost of admission?”

“The answer is still no, Cass. I’m not joining the Order.”

“Why not, though!? Think of what’s at stake here!”

“Cass, do you what aversion therapy is?”

“It’s a behavioral conditioning technique, right?”

“Yeah, and it’s a punishment for those who break conduct during initiation.”

“Wait, seriously?”

I traced a finger around the rim of my glass, a chill arcing its way down my spine. “If you want to go three months without being able to do… that… then be my guest. I sincerely doubt that even Elder Theory would be able to deconstruct that kind of seal.”

“That’s taking celibacy to an altogether different level… Okay then, time for Plan B.” She took another sip of her beer and I did the same. When she was finished, she cleared her throat and leaned in closer. “Rumor has it some of us in Vayne aren’t above accepting protection money from their targets.”

“…You can’t be serious. Wait, you tell me you didn’t!”

“Shh! Not so loud! There has been a job or two where things didn’t pan out as intended. I didn’t ask for money so much as for information. You’d be surprised just how far such a transaction can be manipulated.”

“Does this mean you have, like, actual informants?” I raised an eyebrow.

“Admittedly, some of them aren’t the brightest, and some only put up with me because they think it will increase their chances of getting a night in with me. If there’s anything I’ve learned from our line of work, it’s to never underestimate the power of the male gaze.”

“You know what, Cass? Sometimes I really worry about you.”

“Oh, my eccentricities are adorable and you know it.” She leaned back in her seat. “Besides, I really don’t see you coming up with anything better at the moment, so don’t be a hater, you know?”

“Actually, I did a bit of soul searching yesterday and came to the realization that if I really wanted to fact-check the plausibility of her memories, I could just as easily plug them into the World Cipher. So for what it’s worth, I might head back home a while.”

Had Cass been taking a drink at that moment, she very well might have done a spit-take. Much the same, however, the sound of her hands hitting the table and our glasses clinking certainly turned a few heads. “Have you lost your damned mind!? You really think the Capital is going to let you just walk in there and have a day of it!?”

“You don’t have to shout either, you know! All I’m saying is that Granddad used to spoil me rotten as a child, so there’s no reason he wouldn’t volunteer himself to be my proxy.”

“Did you even stop to think about what will happen when he sees his ex-wife’s memories being transcribed into the cipher matrix?”
“There isn’t anything saying that a proxy has to be allowed in the room during the process.”

“Audrey, be realistic!” She downed the last of her glass, her other hand gesturing to the host for one more. “This kind of procedure could take several days to fully accomplish. Do you really think that your grandfather won’t – at one point or another – wonder what series of traumatic events has afflicted his darling princess?”

“You know, you use the weirdest analogies.”

“Just answer the question, dammit!”

“Okay, I get it!” I finished my glass just as the host returned with two more. Once he was out of earshot, I continued. “Obviously if he finds out, he’s going to try and protect me from the truth. Worst-case alternative would be to impose an astral link on him instead and to search for the answers that way. It turns out Astertis was good for something other than just pissing me off.”

“Audrey… would you really go so far?”

“What other choice do I have?”

“I understand,” sighed Cass. “In that case, why don’t I accompany you? While I wouldn’t be allowed in the Cipher, I would at least be able to browse the registry while I wait.”

“That actually does sound a bit nice, but is Kiene really going to be okay with giving us both paid time off? Also, what of Josa? You two haven’t been able to spend any time alone since he returned.”

“Oh, that old stick-in-the-mud still owes us time for that one job we did back in the summer. You know the one.” She was right, of course; I did know the one. I shivered once more, impulsively reaching for my glass and gulping it down.

“As for Josa, I’m almost positive that if he truly suspected us to be naked in a hotel room, bodies contorted around each other, his manhood would outperform that of a stallion.”

I ended up spitting all over my side of the table. “What is wrong with you!?”

“You know you love me, Audrey. Here, let me help you.” She pulled out a handkerchief and helped wipe up the mess I made. “All that I want out of this is for you to have confidence that you aren’t facing this alone. With all of this going on, you’ve not been able to really clear your head, and frankly I was a bit worried.”

“Cass, I don’t really know what to say to that but… Thank you.”

“That’s what friends are for.” We finished our drinks and made our way from the tavern. The night was cold, and I was thankful for the roaring fire I’d left burning in my apartment. I grabbed a few more logs on my way inside, checked the vents one last time, and crawled into bed. In no time at all, the alcohol had me knocked clean out.

I found myself transported – back into that classroom, back into that traumatic memory. It played out from start to finish, and as soon as it was over, I could hear that familiar voice calling out to me. “Is it true what they say, when they say that bitter medicine tastes better the second time you drink it, my dear granddaughter?”

“I wouldn’t know, for fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

“So it seems you are learning. Forgive my absence these past few days, Audrey. There was an errand to be dealt with, and it ran a little longer than expected.”

“Funny way of saying the incident with the archives was your handiwork. So how did you do it? Last I checked this entire ordeal started because you lacked a body of your own, or was that too a fabrication?”

“I can assure you that no ruse was in play. I cashed in a favor, nothing more. Although, I would sacrifice far more if it meant assuring the success and well-being of my dearest granddaughter.”

“As if I’m going to believe that shit – more importantly, how are you able to interface with others while trapped inside my head?”

“Audrey, Audrey, Audrey… didn’t they teach you anything here?” She walked across the dreamspace, drawing images on a chalkboard.” Let us say that you used an astral link to escape your body. Now, if your body were to be moved while you were outside of it, how would you return to it?”

I hesitated. “If the mind and body are connected, then wouldn’t breaking the projection return you to your body on its own? I mean, I don’t really get it otherwise…”

Astertis drew a line on the chalkboard, connecting a round cloud with a figure of a human. “Consider this to be an astral link in its purest sense. You can move about in tangible space as much as you like and always return to the body your soul is bonded to. There are a few limitations such as needing to sustain your body, but having your body taken out from under you isn’t something to worry about… most of the time.”

Then riddle me this: how were you able to push me out of my body in the first place? Hell; how was it that I ended up inside Cass when she isn’t even remotely related to me?”

“Oh, how lovely! Since we’re in a classroom setting, why don’t we turn this into a mock exam?” The woman drew two more humans and two more ball-shaped clouds. She labelled two of them with an A and one with a B. She then copied this drawing on the other side of the chalkboard; only this time, two lines were marked with a B. “Please explain to the class the mechanism outlined in this diagram, Miss Songbird.”

“Tch…” These games of hers were really beginning to piss me off, though as I stared between the two scenarios, I began to understand the method to her madness. “Are you telling me that my soul became identical to Cass’s own?”

“Full marks! Valedictorian! You make me so proud, Audrey!”

“Oh, for fuck sake!”

“You were responsible for all of it, you know.”

“Huh?”

She began to smile from ear to ear. “It was Cass who opened herself to that causality in the first place. The ritual she had initiated was one to duplicate a person’s astral link. She would have succeeded too, had it not been for the interference of someone with the same link.”

“Then the reason I became bound to her…”

“Correct again! The reason you became her spiritual bosom buddy is because for just a brief moment, Cass Wintermare became Cassdrey Winterbird! Winterbird? Songmare? You get the idea.”

I found myself falling to my knees under the weight of this new information. So Cass’s astral link mirrored my own, allowing me to reside in her. However, if my astral link were to mirror Cass’s instead…

“You must be wondering, ‘Could I be locked out of my body?’ It turns out the answer might surprise you…”

“Just stop!” I shouted. “Get out of my head and leave my body alone! You can have it when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!”

The woman’s smile quickly faded. “If you truly wanted that outcome, I could arrange it effortlessly. The sooner you open yourself to my reason, the sooner all of this will become second nature.”

“I will never be like you, you fucking witch!”

“Seriously, is that the best you can do?” Astertis chuckled before drawing something else on the chalkboard. “Allow me to probe into some of your deeply held beliefs. Enlighten me, what is the reality of the dormant self?”

A wave of nausea gripped me from head to toe, sweat pouring down me. “Just shut up…”

“What does it mean to truly pursue one’s ambitions? What is transcendence? How does one achieve their truest form, their truest potential?”

“I said SHUT UP!” Suddenly, my eyes were open and I had returned to my own bed. My chest was pounding, my arms and legs having gone numb from the anxiety.

“Oh dear, it would seem our time is up! I won’t be joining you again for quite a while, so please enjoy your trip to the Old Capital! Say hello to Audrano for me!” With a final, sadistic laugh, she faded from my head and disappeared.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Real Talk: “Characters and Motives”

Note: This post will contain spoilers for “Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid,” “Danganronpa,” “The Devil is a Part Timer,” and “Lucky Star.”

As much as we like to tell ourselves that the people around us make no sense, this is rarely the case. A person tends to be molded by what they know, what they feel, and what they can trust. If we wanted to be more technical, we can refer to this as the use of appeals (logos, pathos, ethos) to determine the core of a person’s judgment (look up the “Rhetorical Triangle” for more information).

A good bit of care must go into conveying the judgments of fictional characters, due to the nature of us to take after them (and if you need any proof of that, simply look to all of the comparisons between “Harry Potter” and the Trump Administration). When we witness a character navigating a scenario, we often compare our own ideals and even our own actions to theirs. There’s a deeply-held desire among readers to resonate with at least one character in any story.

There are times, however, that a character might deviate from what the reader considers to be a rational thought process. Critical thinking tends to lead us toward the realm of two distinct possibilities: the first being that the character is privy to a knowledge that we have yet to be given, and the second being that the writer has inadvertently forced the character’s hand somewhere along the line.

If that sounds a bit too harsh, then allow me to clarify – there is nothing wrong with a character contradicting themselves when the story calls for it. That as it may, such contradictions must absolutely be accounted for before the story can move at all forward. Failure to do so leads to a drama that feels manufactured, one which detaches and disengages the reader. So, let us talk about two series in particular wherein the latter unfortunately takes the helm. Read more

Rhiannon: Draft 05

“Attention! This is a Code Yellow alert! Please return to your homes until the situation has been resolved! Attention! This is a Code Yellow alert! Please return to your homes until the situation has been resolved!”

A veil of red and blue had been cast across the city on that chilly autumn night. Police roadblocks could be seen along every major avenue, a last-ditch effort to apprehend the elusive Durham Anthony. It didn’t take long for his mercenaries to crawl out from the shadows, prompting an all out war of attrition. We, the Faulkner ASB suddenly found ourselves caught in the middle, targets in a dangerous game to which the conduit shards had become the spoils.

This had all started back on Wednesday afternoon when a mysterious message was sent to the metropolitan police department. Normally, such a bizarre gesture would be disregarded; this one, however, had been addressed by Durham himself, and it foretold of a weapon capable of targeting every ESPer in the city.

Perhaps more cryptic were the conditions surrounding his threat. For reasons unknown, he had demanded that police keep a respectable distance from our little ASB group, and that failure to do so would result in a swift and immediate execution of the weapon’s go-code. We were interrogated and had no choice but to reveal the circumstances of the conduit shards to local authorities. They sympathized with our plight and offered to help in any way they could, but we knew damn well that during the heat of the moment, the six of us would be on our own.

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“A Sister’s Web”

Ding-Dong! The sound of the doorbell echoed throughout the house, alerting its occupants to the presence of a delivery man. Rachel was the first to answer, having spent the better half of her day lounging around on the living room couch. When she saw the size of the package in question, she couldn’t help but to raise an eyebrow.

“Brother! I think it’s for you!” She politely held the door open while waiting for her younger brother Isaac to come out of his room. Isaac quickly signed the proper forms, thanked the man, and lifted the box to his chest. Whatever it was, it must have been heavy. Rachel then shut the door, watching as Isaac haphazardly sidestepped across the living room en route to his humble quarters. Curiosity getting the better of her, she decided to follow him.

Whether or not they were willing to admit it, the two had always been rather close. Rachel was pushing twenty-four; Isaac recently had turned twenty-two. Both still lived at home, rooms looking opposite each other through a small hallway, doors normally shut for privacy. Even so, the two would spend time together every so often, playing games or watching movies. They didn’t always like each other, but they were still family nonetheless.

Rachel sat on Isaac’s bed, tapping her foot against the floor as she watched Isaac wrestle open the top of the box with a sharp house key. “So… What is it?”

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Real Talk: “What’s on My Phone?”

It is no exaggeration to say that I personally am addicted to smartphones. Much of my free time is spent researching new models or customizing the ones that I own. I tend to buy a new one every six to twelve months, which allows me to try out all sorts of hardware and software combinations. When a phone is no longer my “daily driver,” I will either repurpose it, give it to a family member, or have it destroyed for security reasons. Needless to say, I now know quite a bit about how they work.

I’ve always wanted to do a “What’s on Your Phone?” post, though I wasn’t sure how well it would mesh with the fundamental nature of this blog (most of you would rather have more fap material, I’m sure). The reason I’m deciding to do one now is because I feel I can make it educational, and that would put it in line with some of the other posts I’ve done (such as the “How to Hypnotize” post I made last year).

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