Callback note: This chapter features an appearance by Angela, the main character of Doppelgänger. It also references events that took place in that story. While it isn't necessary to have read this story, it does provide reference and knowledge concerning events that transpire over the next few chapters of Edge.
Jenna’s body ached all over as she fought for awareness through a haze of arousal and thick, groggy fog. It was dark and she had no idea where she was. She rubbed at her eyes, heard Kara groan, and finally, she found the strength to sit up. A wave of relief washed over her as she realized that they were no longer in Lain’s torture chamber. They were in the back of Jenna’s car, outside, but no longer near the cabin.
“Kara?” Jenna said, shaking her naked friend.
“Hmm?” Kara replied, sleepily.
“Are you okay?”
“Fuck,” Kara hissed, sitting up and looking around in confusion. “Where are we?”
Jenna shook her head, swiped up her HUD and took stock. She assumed that one of Lain’s thugs had driven the car somewhere and left them. The map showed them well outside of the city, still, parked in a secluded field.
“Anywhere is better than… that,” Jenna said.
“You… are you alright?” Kara asked.
Jenna nodded, settled back in the seat and said, “Erin, take us to the shop.”
The car started up and hummed, bumping along over the uneven field until it pulled out onto a dirt road and accelerated.
“Jesus Christ,” Kara swore, “What the fuck was that?”
“Not any church I want to be part of,” Jenna said tiredly.
She stopped her recording and submitted it to the server, watching as Kara did likewise.
“I honestly do not feel bad about blackmailing this guy,” Kara said, slumping in the seat.
Jenna had to agree. She rested her head on Kara’s shoulder and said, “I’m sorry… for what I had to do back there.”
“It wasn’t up to you,” Kara said, finding her hand, “Sometimes, this game sucks.”
“All the fucking time,” Jenna said.
Jenna and Kara found Leanna laying on a couch in their makeshift headquarters. Jess lay sprawled on another, dead to the world.
“Shit,” Leanna exclaimed, taking stock of their exhausted faces, the bruises on their bare tits, wrists, and ankles, “What the fuck happened to you?”
Jenna shook her head, which was surprisingly clear of fuck fog. Apparently, even the Recoder effects could be quelled by a long session of torture and forced orgasms. The two of them collapsed on the couch, blessedly free of the belts for the next three days, and now at rank thirty-one. They heard Leanna bustling about in their improvised kitchen, and a moment later she brought them each a steaming bowl of soup.
“Thank you,” Kara said wearily, cradling the steaming stuff in her hands.
“Tough challenge, I take it?” Leanna asked.
“Let’s not talk about it,” Jenna said, “Any news on my contract, or this Recoder thing?”
Leanna nodded, “The contract is a pretty standard slave arrangement, but it’s perpetual. If you agree to it, you’re essentially giving up your human rights. Harder owns you.”
That was not the news that Jenna wanted to hear. In one day, she’d have to decide if she was going to sacrifice herself for the good of the other girls, or try to fight back. Unless, there was another option, like getting Harder to fuck himself.
“There is some good news, though,” Leanna continued, and Jenna raised her brows, “Harder is an emotional fuckhead. Either he didn’t know about the rule, or he’s just such an egotistical prick that he thought he could get away with it.”
“What?” Jenna asked, setting her bowl aside.
Leanna grinned, “The belts are one of the primary means of control for the game. Stealing one is a big deal. Think about it. If a player ditches their belt, they have to be given a new one. If they ditched it of their own volition, that means forcibly tracking them down and getting them back in line. If someone stole it, and the player reported it and came back to the game willingly, that’s good on you and bad on the thief. It means dispatching an Enforcer, like the one you met, and that is something that is, apparently, frowned upon. You have the right to submit a penalty request.”
Jenna was shocked. She had rights?
“What does that mean?” she asked.
“Whoever is in control will decide the penalty, of course, but you can submit the request,” Leanna explained, “The rules don’t go into any more detail.”
“I’ll do it,” Jenna agreed, “What about the Recoder? I don’t know how long I can live like this. If I’m not having constant orgasms, it just builds up until it feels like I’m going to die.”
Kara put her arm around Jenna’s shoulder.
“I have something on that, too,” Leanna said, “It took some searching, but I found one reference to it by name and one case that sounds like something similar.”
“Go on,” Jenna said, hopeful.
“A few months ago, someone put out an ad, looking for experts in gene manipulation. He’s been searching for someone to cure an ailment that sounds a lot like what you described. He called it ‘artificially-created, overwhelming arousal,’ and the ad is still open. Apparently, he hasn’t found the expert for it, yet. The other reference I found in a message board. It was submitted only a few days ago. It’s from a user calling herself Not-eNerd, and it was published on a conspiracy bulletin board, asking for information on something called a Recoder.”
“Is there any way to contact her?” Jenna asked.
“I already did. She’s local, and we’re going to meet her tomorrow.”
“Thank you!” Jenna said, throwing her arms around the other girl.
Leanna stroked her back kindly and said, “Don’t worry, honey. We’ll figure this out.”
Jenna, Kara, and Leanna waited at a picnic table in a local park, enjoying the summer sun and attempting to appear as though they had normal lives. A frightened-looking girl approaching drew their attention. The girl wore glasses and her blond hair spilled loosely over her shoulders. She wore a slinky white top with cut-off sleeves and a sexy miniskirt. The girl looked familiar, and Jenna’s eyes widened as she approached. She knew her. Kara perked up, next to her. The girl, nervously, joined them at the table.
“Angela?” Jenna said.
“Jenna? Kara?” Angela replied, equally surprised.
“You look… different,” Jenna said.
The Angela she knew from school had been a very quiet girl, who dressed like a nun and kept her hair pulled up into a bun.
“I’m a little different, since school,” she said, and there was a trace of sadness in her voice as she said it. She shook her head, brightened, and said, “You’re the last people I expected to see.”
“What do you know about the Recoder?” Jenna asked bluntly.
Angela’s eyes shifted about nervously and she said, “Were you followed? Are we safe?”
“Safe?” Kara asked.
“Have you heard of a company called DomCo?” Angela asked.
Jenna and Kara shared a look. They had. Recently. In fact, the news this morning had told the tale of a shocking turn of opinion on the part of Father Lain, who had declared that he would be turning away from the fight against the new legislation, in order to focus on his ministry. He had, “faith in the members of Congress to make the right decision for their country.”
“I…” Angela began, then lowered her voice, “I found something, recently, but I don’t know what to do with it. When your friend,” she nodded toward Leanna, “reached me, it was the first time I’d heard confirmation of it on our side.”
“Our side?” Jenna asked, confused.
“Nevermind,” Angela said, waving a hand, “Look, I don’t know enough about DNA, chemistry, or biology, but I have some papers on something called an Anti-Recoder. There was this place, somewhere I went, where that company had used a Recoder on a bunch of girls to turn them into some kind of slaves. I thought it might be useful here, so I brought it back.”
“Back?” Kara asked.
Angela shook her head, “If I told you, you’d think I’d lost my shit,” she said.
Kara laughed and said, “Fucking try me.”
“Can we… go somewhere else?” Angela asked, looking scared.
“Let’s take a drive,” Jenna suggested.
The four of them piled into Jenna’s car, and when Jenna directed Erin to start a route out toward the countryside, Angela immediately became very animated.
“Full self-driving?” she asked, “I didn’t think anyone had actually done it yet! Is that AI based on a neural net? Is it reactive? Limited memory? Theory of mind? Is it actually self-aware?”
“Um, I have no idea,” Jenna admitted.
“Fascinating!” Angela exclaimed, “Is it purely voice control, or do you have some sort of alternative interface?” she began looking around the dash, examining the console.
“The Recoder,” Kara prompted, “You were telling us about the Recoder.”
Angela, reluctantly, pulled her attention from the car’s computer screen and shook her head.
“Sorry,” she said, “There was this guy, Dale, he was my dad, only not really my dad. He was… it doesn’t matter. He’d managed to crack some kind of anti-Recoder treatment to counter the effects of whatever a Recoder does to people.”
“It makes you… it makes you want to be a slut,” Jenna said, “like the only thing that matters is getting off, and you feel like you’re going to die if you don’t.”
Angela flushed and seemed as if she had something to say, but then she stopped and nodded.
“Someone used one on me,” Jenna admitted.
“You?” Angela asked, “DomCo?”
“No. Someone else,” Jenna said.
“I have a call,” Leanna said suddenly, “I think it’s him! The guy!”
They fell silent and then Leanna was speaking to someone, the call happening in her Halo earbud. Angela looked at her strangely, but then figured she must have a hands-free.
They could hear only Leanna’s side of the conversation, but she was excited, saying, “Yes… Yes… It’s true… Of course… Uh-huh… Okay. We’ll see you there.”
She ended the call and looked happy.
“Take us to this address,” she said, tapping and swiping, and a moment later an address appeared in Jenna’s Haloes.
“Erin, can you take us here?” Jenna asked, tapping at the address as Angela cocked her head curiously.
“Guidance altered. Initiating Route,” The AI complied.
“What’s all the?” Angela, asked, making little tapping motions at the air, “And how did you know what address she was talking about? She didn’t even say anything! Are you all aliens or something? Cyborgs?”
Kara couldn’t help but laugh at how serious the girl seemed in her question, but then she stopped laughing when she saw that Angela was, actually, very serious. And scared.
“No!” Kara said, “Angela, are you alright?”
“They’re called Haloes,” Jenna said, “They’re smart lenses.”
“Haloes? Those things are at least five years from market,” Angela said, “I’ve been following the development. How did you get them?”
“It’s… a long story,” Jenna said, “and I wish I could tell it to you, but I can’t.”
Angela laughed and said, “Boy, I know that feeling.”
As they drove, Jenna felt more hopeful about her future.
Enjoying Edge? You can pick up the full novel, containing 30 chapters in the shop right now! The updated edition also includes the bonus story, The Penalty for Failure.
Curious about Halo technology? Read Love, Lust, and Erin. This story is available as a free read on the site. You can also pick up a copy in the shop.
To learn more about Angela and The Other Side, read Doppelgänger. This story is available as a free read on the site. You can also pick up a copy in the shop.