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The black saloon came to a halt by the security gatehouse. The tinted glass of the driver's window slid smoothly downwards. From the gatehouse a uniformed guard emerged and approached the driver. After a brief exchange of words he nodded to a colleague still in the gatehouse and the high black metal gates began to part.
The vehicle had two occupants in addition to the driver - a hulking figure whose grey suit did nothing to hide his powerful muscular frame. Seated in the rear was an older man whose elegant and immaculate dress spoke of discrete wealth. Next to him was a young woman, perhaps in her late twenties. The woman was exceptionally beautiful, her short cropped blonde hair framing a face of pert prettiness. Her slim body was complemented by a well cut blue business suit. She looked uncomfortable however, her shapely legs crossed away from her male companion and her hands frequently smoothing her short skirt down over her thighs as if willing the garment to be a little less revealing.
The reason for the woman's discomfort was an all too common one. For much of the past year Miss Melanie Jones had been conducting a passionate affair with her employer. Of course she had known all along that Edward Steele was married and that he had no intention of changing his situation. However, the lack of prospects for the relationship was not the reason that she had recently broken it off. Rather it was Mr. Steele's sexual proclivities that had forced her hand. Although he was a more than adequate lover, Melanie had soon discovered that his tastes ran well beyond straightforward intercourse. For some reason that she couldn't imagine Edward seemed to enjoy binding her more than he enjoyed making love to her. What had started as `harmless fun', with Edward tying her wrists with a scarf, had soon progressed to bizarre and frightening levels.
Perhaps what worried Melanie more than anything that she was subjected to, was her own reaction to this cruel treatment. She had quickly become aware that her climaxes were intensified when she was restrained and recently the mere thought of being tied up or gagged caused her to be become aroused. She had finally decided that it had all gone too far when Edward had stripped her naked, hogtied her with brutal efficiency and then locked her in a metal trunk. Some of his staff had then carried the trunk out into the grounds of his palatial house (one of three) and left it there overnight. When the same staff released her late the next day Melanie was shivering, soiled and in agony from her bonds. She had told Edward soon after that she could take no more. Although she had fully expected Mr. Steele to angrily dismiss her there and then, he had actually seemed quite indifferent to her decision and had made no reference to her employment. So it was that for the past two weeks she had continued to work as his PA despite a chasm of cold reserve between them.
Melanie had not heard of the Human Response Laboratories before Mr. Steele had asked her to book a meeting with them. However, they seemed to be expecting her call and a date and time were readily agreed . She had been slightly surprised to be asked to accompany Edward to the meeting and the forty minute car journey had passed in a series of awkward silences punctuated only by Edward's desultory conversation with Max, his bodyguard and driver.
It was something of a relief to leave the car and walk with the two men towards the large doors of the main entrance to HRL. Inside the building they were greeted by another security guard manning a reception desk. The guard issued them with lapel badges and made a phone call to summon their host.
As the trio waited in the lobby, Melanie looked around at the stark facility. From the outside it had looked like any modern office complex, but inside it was so sparsely furnished, and so deserted, that it seemed more like some top-secret military base. From the reception hall a featureless corridor extended into the distance. It was from here that in a due course a man wearing a white coat approached them.
"Mr. Steele, how nice to meet you again" he greeted them.
The two men shook hands and then Steele introduced Melanie to the scientist.
"Dr Perry, this is my assistant Miss Melanie Jones."
Perry offered Melanie a weak handshake and a rather unctuous smile. She was surprised to find that Edward had met the man as she had never heard his name, or that of his organisation, mentioned before she had arranged this visit. As was his habit, Steele didn't introduce Max to their host. The bodyguard seemed to not care, and he ambled behind the group as Perry lead them along the main corridor.
Melanie surveyed Dr Perry and judged him to be in his early fifties, much like her erstwhile lover. But whereas Edward had kept himself in good shape (and enjoyed the good fortune to have kept a full head of hair), Perry was round-shouldered and thick-waisted. With his thin greying hair combed across his bald pate he looked every inch middle-aged.
They stopped at an unmarked door and Perry swiped a plastic card through a reader to the right of the frame.
"Knowing of your area of interest I've set up a little demonstration for you." said Perry.
Once inside the door, Melanie realised that they were in some kind of large laboratory, brightly lit and with walls lined with work benches and storage cabinets.
However, it was what stood in the middle of the floor that caused Melanie's breath to catch in her chest. Standing bolt upright, and securely bound to a metal post, was a naked woman. As Perry motioned the visitors to gather around the startling exhibit, Melanie felt her face begin to flush and beads of sweat form around her neck and under her arms. She was also acutely aware of a rising warmth in her loins as she forced herself to look at the unfortunate girl. The girl was around Melanie's own age and build but was a brunette; her wavy chestnut hair gathered into a simple bun on the top of her head.. Wide leather straps at her ankles, knees, waist and neck held her secure and her arms were fixed behind her. Her mouth was filled by a painfully large ball-gag and saliva trickled from one corner of her lips.
Melanie tried to stop herself from trembling and concentrate on what Dr Perry was telling them.
"…this is bondage at it's most basic. It's pleasing enough to look at but the limitations are obvious. Our volunteer is not really fully immobilised and we can only keep her here for a couple of hours before things begin to get messy. If we want a more severe and long-term restraint then clearly something else is needed."
It was at this point that Melanie noticed that brunette was not the only exhibit that Dr Perry had laid on for them. Some four feet behind and further into the lab was another woman - or at least Melanie assumed that it was a woman. Bound to an identical post was a human figure entirely encased in dark rubber. As the group moved towards her Dr Perry was explaining the features of this new captive.
"…this young lady is restrained by a tight-fitting rubber body suit, a hood and a heavy leather corset. She's fitted with rectal and urinary catheters and has both breathing and feeding tubes…"
Melanie thought her legs might give way under her as she studied the complex of tubes that emerged from the woman's head and lower abdomen and ran to fitments in the metal plate beneath her feet. It was all horribly reminiscent of one of Edward's little `experiments' whereby he had bound her from head to toe in plastic film and thick packing tape leaving only a tiny nose tube for her to breathe through. Edward had left her like that for hours and released her only when she was on the point of wetting herself. The poor girl in Dr Perry's lab didn't even have that as an end-point to her suffering, as the scientist took delight in pointing out.
"…this means that she can be maintained in this state for many hours. The only limitation is temperature control."
`Temperature control!' that was a polite way of putting it, thought Melanie bitterly. She remembered vividly the awful suffocating heat that had built up in her after only a short period of her tape bondage. More than once she had almost fainted within her terrible cocoon. What this poor woman must be enduring inside her rubber prison did not bear thinking about.
"The body is unable to dissipate energy in the normal way and soon begins to overheat. In this case we have a flow of cooled air from the ceiling ducts to try to minimise the problem…but even with this we could not extend containment for more than a few days." continued Perry.
A few days! Melanie swallowed hard and tried to fight down the rising excitement inside her. The thought of such severe and prolonged bondage was at the same time both terrifying and exhilarating. Her knees felt shaky beneath her and she was horribly aware of the gathering dampness between her legs. Was this why Edward had brought her to this strange place? To rekindle her desires in this direction? If so it was certainly working! Melanie admitted to herself that, if Edward suggested it right now, she would probably agree to go back to his house and submit herself to his whims once again. For the moment, however, her priority was to try and act normally and to take in what Dr Perry was telling them.
Perry now lead the group to his next demonstration, beyond the rubber clad maiden. At first sight this seemed to consist of nothing but a featureless white obelisk, about 8 feet high and a metre square. However, at the touch of button on a console to the side of the structure, its white panels slid upwards to reveal a glass tank filled with a clear liquid. Floating, suspended in the fluid was another naked young woman. The girl, who might have been in her late teens or early twenties, was anchored to the bottom of the tank by short chains which ran from cuffs around her ankles to lugs on the floor of the tank. Her arms appeared to be pinioned behind her back, but otherwise she was unrestrained. A bundle of two or three plastic tubes emerged between her legs and then looped behind her to exit from the tank's open top into a panel on the ceiling. The girl's pale, frightened eyes watched Melanie from behind a full face mask. Another thick tube (or perhaps a bundle of smaller tubes - Melanie couldn't be sure) connected her face mask to the outside world and presumably kept her supplied with air.
"This is a different approach…" began Dr Perry.
"Here we are using liquid immersion to solve our heat dissipation problems. This is just plain tap water, but we have experimented with a number of other liquids. By varying the temperature of the water we can keep the subject comfortable…"
"Or uncomfortable!" Edward interjected with a smirk.
"more or less indefinitely." concluded Perry.
Edward Steele, who had remained nonchalant thus far, now tapped a finger on the glass tank enthusiastically.
"So this would allow long-term restraint?"
"Not as long term as we'd like…" said Perry, shaking his head. "Although water solves the overheating issue, it creates other problems. Long term immersion causes the skin to swell up and then slough off - that was why we tried other liquids. But we were unable to find anything that didn't cause deterioration. This method would be good for maybe…three weeks."
Edward fell silent and shook his head pensively. Max had shown no reaction to any of the exhibits and was now looking around the room with bored indifference, as if a seeing naked women in bondage was an everyday event.
"Our final experiment in this series…" said Perry "…involves using a gel formulation."
With this he walked over to a second obelisk which completed the row of four bondage demonstrations. Once again the casing was winched away to reveal an identical glass tank with a young women suspended within it. Melanie was immediately aware, however, that this tank did not contain water. Whatever was in it was only semi-translucent and the effect was rather like looking at someone frozen in a block of ice. The same thought occurred to Edward Steele.
"Is it ice?" he asked.
"No." replied Perry. "Although ice has many of the properties we were looking for. This is a synthetic silicone based gel which was our first attempt to develop a novel compound specifically for long-term human storage."
"Does it work?" asked Steele bluntly.
"Almost." replied Perry with a sardonic smile. "We got quite excited about this when we first developed it a few years ago. It conducts heat in the way we needed, and it doesn't degrade the skin."
Melanie felt a wave of nausea wash over her and she wiped sweat away from her brow. She desperately wanted to sit down, or at least to lean on something as she fought to comprehend how this could be happening. This company, or whatever it was, had apparently been working for years to develop ways of subjecting women to bondage for increasingly long periods of time. Who could be funding such research? And who could possibly want the results? For Melanie there was also the horrible realisation that bondage - what she had thought of as a peculiar quirk of her ex-lover - might actually be a major industry with God-knows how many devotees.
"So what's the problem?" asked Edward.
"It's just not rigid enough…" replied Dr Perry philosophically. "…the subject is able to move slightly and over time their struggles disrupt the gel and it becomes more like a syrup. However we felt we were near enough with this compound to justify further effort to perfect our techniques. Modestly, we feel that we've now done that and I'd like to show you the results."
Dr Perry lead the group back to the corridor and down it a considerable distance until they came to a pair of elevators. He pressed the call button between the two and instantly the doors of the left-hand shaft opened. When all four of them were in the car Perry pressed the button marked `B' on the control panel. The doors shut and the elevator began its descent.
Melanie had been glad of the walk to the elevator as it allowed her to work some of the shakiness out of her legs. Once inside she gratefully leaned against the internal paneling, enjoying the cool of the metal surface against her face. She took several deep breaths and tried to compose herself. Obviously this place was some kind of perverts paradise and Edward had brought her here either to embarrass her or to try to seduce her again. All she had to do was stay calm, try not to show that it was getting to her, and they would soon be back in the limo and heading for the office. Melanie was still acutely aware of her own physical arousal. The gusset of her panties was now wet through and she was glad she had worn tights today. She blushed and cringed inside as she thought again about the journey home. Would the wetness between her legs soak through her undergarments and produce a tell-tale damp patch on the back of her skirt? Or, worse still, would her humiliation be marked for all to see on the back seat of the Lexus? As soon as they got back to the office, she told herself, she would resign and put an end to this once and for all.
The elevator took only seconds to reach the basement level. The doors opened, but when Edward moved to step out Dr Perry called him back.
"Sorry, not quite there yet!"
With this he selected a key from a bunch dangling from his waist band and inserted it into a lock below the elevator's control panel. He turned the key through ninety degrees and instantly the doors closed once again and the elevator began to descend once more. Dr Perry turned to his passengers and smiled in response to their quizzical looks.
"Security I'm afraid folks. We are going to a sub-basement level that can't be reached without the right authorisation. It's not shown on any plans of the building. If you don't have this key you wouldn't know it existed."
For the second time the elevator stopped and the doors opened. This time Dr Perry lead his guests out into a smallish room in which a number of technicians and scientific types were sat at computer consoles. Perry approached one of them.
"Jim, this is Mr. Steele and Miss Jones, who we discussed earlier."
The technician stood up and nodded in recognition but did not extend his hand. He was clearly junior to Dr Perry and seemed cowed by the older man's presence.
"Would you accompany us into the storage facility…" added Perry.
It was clearly a command, not a question and the younger man followed Dr Perry to the far end of the room where a large metal door was set into the wall. Perry took another key from his bunch and inserted it into a keyhole to the left of the door. His assistant produced a key of his own and fitted it into a matching receptacle to the right. Perry counted to three and they turned their keys simultaneously. The metal door rumbled slowly open revealing a dark void beyond.
It was with considerable trepidation that Melanie followed the men into the inner chamber and was at once aware of an unnatural chill in the dry air. Dr Perry hit a switch that activated some small, rather dim, lighting tubes on the left hand wall of the new room. As Melanie's eyes became accustomed to the low-level lighting she began to appreciate the size of the space they now stood in. It was a gallery of perhaps 15 metres width and at least 60 metres in length - it was difficult to tell in the gloom. The ceiling was high and almost featureless. To the left was a smooth wall broken only by the lamps and by a series of rectangular panels of no obvious purpose.
To the right hand flank of the gallery were a series of large objects of identical but mysterious design. Melanie looked at the nearest one uncomprehendingly. It was a huge block of dark material, measuring perhaps 2 metres by 1 metre on the nearest vertical face that it presented. It appeared to extend back at least 3 metres and was apparently supported by the large metal frame in which it stood. Melanie was reminded of the strange black monolith in the film 2001. Pivoted about it's middle and lain on it's back that was what the objects in the gallery looked like. On the right-hand pillar of each supporting frame was a computer terminal, also blank.
Gesturing to the first block in the room Dr Perry spoke with all the pride of a parent for a gifted child.
"Gentlemen, this is the result of our researches. We call it Plastiglass, although it's neither plastic nor glass. Please feel free to touch it…"
Melanie joined the Edward and Max in approaching the block. She timidly touched the surface, then tapped on it with her knuckle. It was smooth and cool to the touch like glass and yet it didn't feel quite as hard, as if a fingernail or a sharp object might scratch its surface.
"Now if you'd stand back a little…" continued Perry, "…I'll show you how we use it."
Perry hit some keys on the computer terminal attached to the frame of the block they had been examining. The monitor screen sprang to life, displaying green characters on a dark background. Perry typed a series of commands and the block began to come alive. A light appeared at it's furthest end; unseen motors hummed and the whole structure began to rotate about its horizontal axis. Within moments the slab was standing upright before them. As the light, now at the top of the edifice, grew in intensity the visitors were able to appreciate the significance of what lay before them.
The slab was translucent, like a huge crystal, and trapped at it's core was a woman. She seemed to float in its centre like a prehistoric insect cast in amber. She wore no shackles or fastenings yet she hung quite symmetrically, her legs parted and her arms a little away from her sides. Set in the Plastiglas with her were a number of tubes and wires. Her nose and mouth were covered by a small mask from which some pipe work traveled towards the back of the slab. Catheters were in place between her legs and a large number of fine wires terminated in electrodes distributed across her body. A slightly thicker cable was attached to a small terminal on each of her upper thighs. Throughout the block ran a matrix of fine, metallic looking, pipes.
Most shocking of all, the woman was completely hairless. Both her head and body were unnaturally smooth, giving her a waxy, unreal appearance. Melanie clenched her hands and licked her dry lips as she struggled to comprehend what was before her. The warmth of arousal she had fought against earlier was now replaced in her abdomen by the chill of fear. If this was real, and not some hideous practical joke, then it went well beyond sexual perversion and into the realms of criminal insanity. She took some comfort from noticing that even Max seemed surprised and was giving the terrible spectacle his full attention. Clearing her throat Melanie managed to speak for the first time since they had arrived at HRL.
"Is she…alive?" she stuttered.
"Oh yes! Very much so." replied Perry enthusiastically, "And she's in excellent health".
Perry typed some more on the computer console and the characteristic trace of a heart-beat appeared on its screen.
"All vital signs are monitored from the control room we passed through. We record pulse, blood-pressure, brain activity, the lot. The devices you see attached to her thighs enable us to sample blood gases, electrolytes, sugars - everything that you'd monitor in an ICU facility."
Edward Steele was still unruffled and had a more basic question for the scientist.
"Can she move?" he asked bluntly.
"Not much!" replied Perry with a smile. "She can move her eyes but that's about all."
"So how can she breathe?" asked Max, breaking his brooding silence.
"An excellent question…" said Perry. "Jim, you're the expert here, would you like to explain?"
The younger man looked taken aback at being invited to speak and coloured a little. He cleared his throat.
"Our early experiments showed us that you could achieve respiration without expansion of the thorax as long as a positive pressure was provided and an enriched oxygen content. The downward travel of the diaphragm and compression of the viscera allow sufficient inspired volume to give gaseous exchange. In practice a little thoracic expansion is achieved due to the compressibility of the breast tissue…"
"What Jim is saying…" cut in Dr Perry, "…is that we force air into her lungs so she doesn't have to worry about breathing."
"Can she blink?" asked Edward watching the woman's unwavering gaze.
"Another good question…" nodded Perry. "The eyes were an area that gave us great problems initially. Unfortunately the cornea requires exposure to the air to remain properly oxygenated - that's why some contact lenses have vents in them. What we've done is to protect each eye with a plastic bubble which is ventilated with fresh air. As this air is filtered to remove dust particles, we decided that the blink response was unnecessary. Thus the eyelids are fixed open using an acrylate-based adhesive. On the subject of the senses I should point out that she can hear us. There are miniature headphones in her ears and a microphone in the control console."
"So you've done it." murmured Edward appreciatively. "Absolute immobility…total dependency…"
"We'd like to think so," said Perry. "…the plastiglas sets hard, rigidly enclosing the body. The mouthpiece we've designed immobilises the tongue, avoiding the danger of it being bitten or swallowed. Each subject is carefully prepared before encasement. We administer a thallium compound to induce permanent hair loss, and the body surface is disinfected. We use high dose antibiotics to clear bacterial growths from the digestive tract. Once encased, the subject is supplied only with sterilised water and nutrients. Muscle tone is maintained by electrical stimulation. With these precautions we believe that we can maintain the body in optimum physical health indefinitely …"