Dollinger knocked on the door to Dr. Smith's office.
Dollinger poked his head in. "They're out in the waiting room. Scared, of course. Are you ready for them?"
"Yes, yes of course. Everything is always ready. Tell me about them."
Dollinger flipped through the first of two file folders. "The girl is Lisa Harkness. 18. Cheerleader at Southside. Athletic, very pretty. Great body. Grades in school. . . um. . . " He turned to a second page. "C average, some better, some worse. Major in. . ." Dollinger snorted, " `Domestic Arts.' Several school activities. Big circle of friends. Good fit for what you wanted."
Dollinger opened the other folder. "Robbie Berman. Also 18, also Southside. Kind of nerdy, short, but cute in a way. Grades: all A's. Elected to Scholarship Club but never goes to meetings. No school activities. Shy, keeps to himself. Was in one class with her. . ." He flipped another page, "Two years ago. Biology. She F'd it. A for him, of course. No evidence they're acquainted with each other any more than that."
Smith nodded. "Good, good. I will go talk to them now. You go on to the observation room." He lumbered awkwardly out of his chair and headed for the door.
Dollinger said, "Professor. . .?"
Smith shook his head. "Doctor, please. I have no academic rank."
"Doctor. . . Nobody can find out, can they?" He constantly fretted about his role in the experiment.
"Nobody has seen you, have they? The subjects are blindfolded, are they not?"
"Sure, but. . . you know, they must have seen the guys who blindfolded them."
"I do not hire local help for the acquisition of subjects. Those men who acquire the subjects and bring them here do not know what it is for, and know nothing about the subjects except that they have been pointed out to them. After the acquisition they leave and do not come back. The subjects themselves do not know where they are. And they do not see you or any of the staff except myself."
"So are you safe?"
"Safe? I do not know what that means. I will die sometime, as will we all. Perhaps in prison, for breaking one of their silly laws. It does not concern me. The research is important to me."
"But what's the point if nobody knows about it? How will it `Expand the base of human knowledge' like you're always saying?"
"The results will be published after my death. People then can make of it what they will. I feel the experiment will genuinely help in understanding more about human nature. That is the only reason I am doing it."
Dollinger shrugged. "You're the boss."
"Yes." Smith patted his pocket to make sure the gun was there
as he left the room.
Lisa and Robbie sat in chairs on opposite sides of the room, not aware of each other except as the second source of frightened breathing in the room. In addition to the blindfold, each had their wrists handcuffed together behind their backs. Lisa had her knees pulled up and was trying to disappear into the soft padding of the chair. Robbie leaned forward and jumped at each sound.
Each jumped convulsively and tried to withdraw their heads turtle-like into their shoulders when the door opened. Dr. Smith pulled his gun out, and removed Robbie's blindfold first, then Lisa's. Lisa said, "Who the hell. . ." before her eyes grew big at the sight of the gun. Robbie drew in his breath.
Dr. Smith approved at once of the choice of subjects. Lisa was in fact uncommonly pretty, and obviously took care to look that way. She was 5-2, with long, straight blonde hair, wearing a tight, low-cut white sweater-like short-sleaved pullover shirt that revealed the cleavage between her full, high, rounded breasts, a denim vest loosely over it, and a short pleated skirt ideal for showing off her legs. Her makeup was skillfully applied to a statuesque face with a cute nose and big, gorgeous eyes. She might have passed for 21. Robbie, on the other hand, looked 14 or so, a skinny 5-6, rumpled dark hair, prominent nose, and the beginnings of acne. He was dressed in rumpled jeans and a T-shirt with a rock group on it. The doctor said, "You may call me Dr. Smith. I am running something of an experiment here, in which you will be participating. If you will stand and turn your backs to me I will unlock the handcuffs."
In a moment both kids stood rubbing their wrists. Lisa looked slightly relieved that this sounded like something with an official sanction from figures of authority, but Robbie was unconvinced. He asked uncertainly, "Wouldn't you have to have our parents' permission to use us in an experiment?"
"No permission is needed for this experiment."
Lisa sniffed. "I don't think that's a real gun."
Smith half-smiled and pointed the gun towards a cork-board on a wall of the room. There followed an explosion, nearly deafening in that confined space, and a tiny cloud of vaporized cork surrounded a new black hole in the board.
Lisa had dropped back into the chair with a stifled shriek. Robbie was breathing harshly.
"I assure you it is real. Everything that happens to you here will be real. Remember that. Nothing will be pretend." He paused. "That is very important."
He gestured with the gun. "Now. . . Please stand up, Lisa. . . I want both of you to take off your clothes."
Lisa gasped. Robbie stared uncomprehendingly. After a few moments he said, "Uh. . .Where?"
Smith indicated the room. "Right here. Now."
"What --- BOTH of us?" Lisa was shaking her head in horror.
In a tiny, quavering voice, Lisa asked, "Are you going to hurt us?"
"I? I will not hurt you, no. But I insist that each of you start taking off all clothes --- Now." The gun was in plain view, pointed in the air like a starter's pistol.
Robbie paused with his hands on his shirt collar, still needing a further impetus. A glare from Smith took care of it, and he pulled the T-shirt over his head, and sat to take his shoes and socks off with trembling fingers. Lisa still hadn't moved. Smith pointed the gun slowly towards her, and she quickly shrugged off her vest and kicked her shoes into the corner.
Smith watched with approval. Robbie kept his head averted as he pulled down his pants, sneaking peeks at Lisa out of the corners of his eyes. Lisa moved as if in a trance, bending at the waist as she pulled her shirt off, then unfastening the button that held her skirt and letting the garment drop to the floor at her feet. She hesitated again, and another wave of the gun was needed to prompt her to unfasten the snaps on her bra. She let it drop to the floor, revealing breasts just as big as her bulging shirt had promised. She closed her eyes and wrestled her panty-hose slowly down her legs, and finally, with a last hesitation, pulled down the panties that had been underneath and let them drop. She sat in the chair again, her knees drawn up and her arms folded across her breasts, shivering as if the room was cold. On the other side of the room, Robbie stood with his hand and forearm hiding a huge erection, obviously still stealing glances at Lisa while pretending not to.
"The necklace too, Lisa. And Robbie, your watch."
She reached up to unhook it. In the same tiny voice she asked, "How do you know my name?"
"You were chosen for the experiment because you fit certain requirements. We will move into the next room and I will explain what the experiment is. Come along," he said, opening the door to the Experiment Room.
They started to follow him, but stopped dead in the doorway. It looked nothing like what they were expecting.
It was a very small room, about five feet by six, but that was hard to tell: it looked enormous because of mirrors on every wall. The floor was very softly padded. Robbie depressed it tentatively with his toe.
Smith waved the gun to urge them to enter the room. "Sit here, Robbie. Sit cross-legged, if you would." Robbie stumbled towards the indicated place in the center of the room, and dropped to the floor, biting his lip, his butt hitting the padding with a soft thump.
"Now you, Lisa. I will help you. You must sit in Robbie's lap, facing him." She made a face. "As you sit down, you must couple with him."
"What does that mean?"
"Ah. Terminology. You must take his penis into your vagina."
All the breath went out of Lisa. "You're. . . you're sick. This is all sick. Please, I want to go home. Please, let me go." Tears were rolling down her face.
"Do it now please, Lisa. You cannot leave. And you must stop crying. You must be able to pay close attention to what I tell you. First you must stop crying." He leveled the gun at her again.
She looked down at Robbie. Tears were still flowing, but the gun scared her into the effort to pull herself together.
Robbie's eyes had grown enormous, and he reached up to help Lisa sit. She slapped his hand away, and hesitantly she straddled his crossed legs and lowered herself towards him. It was a difficult process, getting Robbie inserted: Lisa was dry and tight, and Robbie's swollen penis had to fight its way in, a quarter-inch at a time. Smith knelt next to them, making sure they were fully coupled.
"Now, each of you put your arms around the other, and cross your wrists just below the shoulderblades. Put your legs around the other also, and cross your ankles." He watched as they hesitantly complied.
"Now don't move from that position, either of you. I will make sure he is still inside you, Lisa, when the experiment begins."
Lisa was paralyzed with fear. She felt an urge to get up and run, but the memory of his demonstration of the gun's overwhelming power convinced her that she could only survive if she did exactly what he said.
Robbie was barely aware of Smith's presence. Ever since he had been in a class with Lisa, she had been one of five or six girls who served in his masturbation fantasies. Real life could not possibly be like this, he thought, but here she was, her bare buttocks fitted smoothly and heavily into the curve of his lap, her beautiful thighs pressed into his side, her much-imagined breasts no longer theoretical but presented right in front of his eyes. And --- her warm vagina closed around his throbbing penis. He had never imagined having the nerve to speak to her, and now he was inside her, an impossibly intimate degree of physical contact. He looked in the mirror that showed him an image of himself and her together, naked, their arms and legs around each other, flicking his eyes frequently towards her to get a look at her actual, physical, smooth-skinned self.
Smith had reached towards one of the mirrors, which turned out to be the door to a small closet. He pulled a number of things out of it: padded metal cuffs, belts, metal bands. As the two teens watched in horror, he sat beside them and fastened padded handcuffs around each pair of wrists, then similar pairs of cuffs around their ankles. Whatever tiny chance they had had of getting out of what was coming was now gone. It was a thought you could read in their faces.
Smith put a wide leather belt around Lisa's waist, cinched it tight and padlocked it closed, and then did the same for Robbie. Both teens eyes bugged out at the sight of their next adornment: for each of them, a metal collar that locked snugly but not uncomfortably in place around their necks. Each collar had a complex shiny yo-yo-like object about four inches across attached to it, from which hung a circle of thin chain. Smith arranged Lisa's collar so that the "Yo-yo" was at the back of her neck, and then draped the chain in a loose circle around her neck, afterwards doing the same for Robbie. He then opened up each yo-yo: each had a side that swung open, revealing a tiny, complex maze of gears inside, and several rolled-up lengths of chain. Smith pulled on the end of one chain and started unwinding it from within Robbie's yo-yo, pulling it down to attach to the handcuffs on Lisa's wrists; pulled another chain all the way down Robbie's back, fed it through a ring on Robbie's belt, then back up to Lisa's handcuffs, attaching it to them. Pulling one last chain out of the yo-yo, he unwound it down Robbie's back, pulled it through another ring in the back of the belt and attached it to the cuffs on Lisa's ankles. He repeated the entire process with Lisa's yo-yo, and finally closed each yo-yo with a satisfying snap.
He sat back, checking to see that everything was in place, and cleared his throat. Two heads turned towards him.
"Now, it is absolutely essential that you pay close attention to me." He paused significantly. "Your lives may depend on it."
He looked, and saw that he indeed had their attention.
"You must understand first that the outcomes possible in this experiment are very real. To summarize, you literally hold your partner's life in your hands. And feet." He allowed himself a tiny smile at his tiny joke.
"This device," he went on, indicating the yo-yo's on the backs of their necks, "Is a chain-reel, like the reel that winds in the string on a fishing pole. It is actually a reel for several chains simultaneously, as you can see. It is partly mechanical and partly electronic. At the moment it is not fully activated; it will not be engaged until the experiment begins. But you may test it now to see how it works. Each of you, pull on one of the chains that leads up to the reel."
Robbie tried it first, twisting his hands in the cuffs to grasp one of the chains and give it a pull. It unwound easily with a series of clicks. As soon as he stopped, the mechanism gave out a different kind of click and quickly reeled the chain back in. He tried again. Pulling it out took almost no effort, but the rewind mechanism, which engaged almost the instant the chain stopped moving, was very strong; he couldn't stop it from rewinding to its original position. Behind him he felt chains hanging from his own collar acting similarly as Lisa pulled on them.
"You understand so far? Good. Now the experiment will begin in just a few minutes and last for two hours. You can keep track of the time on these clocks." He pulled two digital displays out of the cabinet and clicked the mirror-covered door closed, and placed one clock on the floor behind Robbie for Lisa to see, the other behind Lisa. At present each clock said 2:00:00.
"When the experiment begins, the reels on your necks will acquire one additional feature. You see the chains that go around each of your necks, coming out of the reel? Each time one of the other chains, such as the two leading to your wrists and the one attached to your ankles, is pulled out, the device will reel it back in as you just saw --- and the device will also reel in the neck chain a proportionate distance. That is, any movement of your wrists, either upward or downward, and any movement of your ankles outward from your partner's back, will cause the chain around your partner's neck to shorten. A small movement will shorten it only a little; a large movement will shorten it quite a lot. At the moment each of these neck-chains has about twelve inches of slack in it. That gives you some time to learn about the mechanism, to learn how to avoid engaging it. Obviously, preventing its engagement requires that you remain as motionless as possible. To help make you aware of its operation, it will make a slight beeping sound for each link it takes in."
Lisa looked terrified. She stammered, "I --- Is --- Do you mean I have to stay completely still or I'll be choked?"
"Not you. If you do not remain still it is your partner who will be choked."
Robbie spoke up, his voice barely audible. "But what happens then, if one of us starts to choke?"
"The experiment will continue. When I leave this room and close the door, the experiment will begin one minute later. It will continue until the two hours have elapsed, or until one of you is dead, whichever occurs first."
They stared at him open-mouthed. Lisa's lips were quivering.
"Now, there is a safety factor of a sort, to prevent one person who is choking from taking immediate revenge on the other. There is a sensor that measures the amount of tension in the chain. When the tension reaches a certain level, that is, when the chain is tight enough, the other reel will automatically lock for five minutes. At this point the clock you are looking at will begin counting down that five-minute period. At the end of that period your reel will re-engage. You should be aware that if the choking person is still alive at that point, he or she may try to kill you to save his or her own life. You may try to prevent this by killing that person first, as the choking person's reel will still be engaged during the five-minute period, and the chain may be further tightened. There is a further sensor in the chain that measures the person's pulse, or lack of it. If one person dies, the other person's reel will lock permanently and the experiment will end. The survivor will then be taken home, or near home --- blindfolded, of course. Neither I nor anyone else will interfere in the outcome before death occurs or the time limit expires."
"What happens if neither one of us --- dies?"
"Then you will both be taken home."
Lisa whispered plaintively, "Please, I can't do this, I can't --- do --- this."
Unperturbed, Smith asked, "Does either of you have any more questions?"
Neither spoke. Smith got up then, and walked towards the door.
"Wait," Robbie shouted in panic, "Is there any way out of this? Please, you just can't. . . we'll do whatever else you want, anything else. . . Please."
Smith shook his head briefly. "Does either of you have a question about the experiment?"
Both were silent, breathing hard.
"Very well. As I said, the experiment will begin in one minute."
"WAIT." "Pleeeeease." The shouted entreaties were coming from both of them.
Smith was accustomed to it. He shut the door.