“You’re serving peppers?!” exclaimed Tasia Spiro in shock, seeing the plates Lucienne Christophe had placed out on the table. The fine wooden table, carved by Lucienne’s grandfather, had four plates laid out, each on a fine china plate flanked by 100% silver cutlery and a crystal glass. On each plate sat a green bell pepper, cut in half, inside which was minced beef with white cheese snowed on top. Baby potatoes and asparagus were also arranged carefully on the plate, a perfect side dish in the mind of Lucienne.
“Don’t be fooled by its appearance,” chided Lucienne, smiling as she looked at her lover. Both women had dressed up, wearing dazzling cocktail dresses with Tasia’s being black and stopping well above her knees while Lucienne’s dress was in blue with sequins, plus her skirt was a bit longer. The women were also wearing full make-up; Lucienne going with a red shade of lipstick while Tasia went with something more pinkish. Lucienne had simply combed her hair behind her ears and given it extra bounce with curly tips; the effect was as if her brownish-red mane was almost eating her head. Tasia meanwhile had done her hair up with a curling iron, giving it a wavy look and kept it more consistent with her ears simply sticking out between strands. Both women were in heels and had on diamond necklaces and pearl earrings, pantyhose not being a big thing for either woman thus they weren’t being worn.
“Yeah, like the fact that it’s French beef mixed with special herbs and like six different kinds of cheese will really impress people,” sighed Tasia, shaking her head in exasperation. “Whatever, it’s too late now to get something else. They’ll be here in a couple of minutes at best. I forgot to ask, are you ‘spiking’ the wine?” Spiking the already alcoholic wine was an odd term, but in the world of Tasia and Lucienne that meant adding Type-7 sedative to it, the drug being capable of turning people into living statues with no memory afterward of their time in stasis.
“No, I was actually going to suggest something else for a game tonight,” remarked Lucienne, indicating a small wooden box that sat on the edge of the table.
“Don’t those give Erika the shivers?” asked Tasia, worried.
“I’m sure we’ll be able to relax her when we explain everything,” Lucienne assured her lover just as the apartment bell rang. Lucienne’s building was a higher class one than most; instead of an intercom buzzer there was a doorman and individual doorbells for every apartment.
“I’ll get it,” announced Tasia, smiling as she moved towards the door. Lucienne, standing near the table, was about to say something, but she was interrupted as Tasia had suddenly started concentrating. For some, concentration just meant focus. For Tasia Spiro and, likewise, Erika Stone, it meant stopping the world, literally. Thanks to almost daily practice Tasia had mastered her ability to the point where stopping time was done so quickly there was no apparent slow-down; it was more like flicking off a movement switch. Lucienne now stood fixed by the table, her arms raised slightly with her right above her left, her right hand’s fingers more extended than her left’s, her lips parted.
“Sorry, but it has to be done,” cooed Tasia, moving over to Lucienne and giving her a quick kiss in apology, but not reviving her. Following the contact Tasia moved to the front door and opened it, getting greeted by the sight of Erika Stone and Mary Hamilton, standing stiffly silent and beautiful like a pair of elegant mannequins in a window display.
Erika was a knock-out, wearing a pink dress that was cut so high on her legs that underwear was almost a must, the outfit was also strapless thus making it one of the least covering pieces of clothing ever when it came to what to wear on the body for a formal occasion. Erika’s blond hair was styled in an intertwined ponytail on the right side of her head, resting on her tanned shoulder and woven with red thread. Mary meanwhile was in dark green, her dress a neck-wrapper with plenty of cleavage and her hair done up in an extravagant ponytail, the tips of her locks curling up just like Lucienne’s. Both women wore flats, carried small handbags made with real gold and had more rings on than Tasia even owned. Mary’s left hand was frozen reaching for the buzzer, her right hand down at her side with her bag in it while Erika held her Prada handbag in front of her with both hands, down low around the crotch area. “You both look gorgeous,” offered Tasia, giving both waxwork-still women a peck on the lips before heading off.
Tasia traveled out of the building and made a quick stop at a high-end grocery store that was open and quickly grabbed some phyllo and lemon custard, leaving cash for the food on the manager’s desk before rushing back to the apartment. Returning home, Tasia ignored the three frozen women and got to work in the kitchen, managing to follow her old family recipe for making Galaktoboureko pie without breaking her time-stopping concentration. Once the dish was ready, save for baking, Tasia put it in the oven, set the timer dial and casually hid the unimaginative dessert Lucienne had prepared, plain vanilla ice cream with nuts and chocolate sauce, in the freezer as it was too wasteful to dump. Once done, Tasia returned to the front door and, lifting from behind, carried both Erika and Mary inside while holding them around their waist. Closing the door and leaving the unmoving pair just inside it, Tasia moved to stand beside Lucienne and casually let her focus slip.
“Oh!” exclaimed Mary as time suddenly started once again, nearly falling forward. Erika merely smiled, knowing what had occurred, while Lucienne gave her lover an annoyed glance.
“It's so nice to see you!” offered Tasia, moving towards the pair and giving each woman a hug and a kiss. One would expect a European peck on the cheek, but the two couples were very close and open to experimentation, considering themselves 'modern,' thus there was no jealously when lips touched. Lucienne moved to join in the greeting and soon Erika and Mary were properly welcomed.
“Dinner's ready, and dessert is-” began Lucienne.
“Cooking, it'll be ready in a bit,” finished Tasia, winking at her lover as she finished. Lucienne shook her head but didn't even sigh. Lucienne was known for making simple dishes with fancy ingredients in her cooking while Tasia always felt her traditional Greek cooking was better as it was easier to add impressive ingredients. Food was one thing Tasia and Lucienne would never agree on.
With little more to do the couples sat and began to eat after clinking their glasses of wine. Erika asked a question that mirrored Tasia's earlier inquiry about fortifications to the drinks and then the small talk began. Erika related about how she'd acquired a new cellular company in South America, boosting her own enterprise's hold in that region of the world while Mary mentioned they were working on a version of Type-7 that could get FDA approval as the threat of an overdose was a serious concern for them even if the option wasn't something that would be sold in drug stores. Lucienne then discussed non-top secret bits of the International Temporal Enforcement Agency a.k.a. ITEA or IT, an organization she'd help found and was the head of in spite of only being thirty-one. Since Stone Enterprises, Erika's mega-company, provided the agency with several resources including travel packages, she was already privy to a decent amount of their intelligence.
“JB and Cassandra are still dating huh?” remarked Erika as she finished her pepper. “He's a trooper, that one. Most guys give up when their proposal is turned down.”
“She did let him down fairly gently,” added Tasia, recalling the event well. “They definitely love each other. It's an old school crush that goes back to when they first met with Lucy. That was what, nine years ago?”
“Feels like an eternity,” sighed Lucienne, thinking wistfully about her past. At twenty-two she'd attempted to join Interpol with her friend from college Jean-Baptiste Odilon, better known as JB. During their first year they'd met Cassandra Flick, a serious but still somewhat sassy Brit, and they'd become instant friends. JB ended up in Eastern Europe for a few years while Cassandra and Lucienne had stayed in their respective countries of origin. The trio had met up a few times over the years but it wasn't until Erika Stone had first started an international crime spree that Lucienne and Cassandra had been reunited. Over a year had passed since then, Lucienne becoming one of Interpol's youngest section chiefs only to give up the position after a few months to help form IT. Tasia had likewise given up her own Interpol career to be a top IT agent but being the members of a special and secret organization had many perks, if not a large bank account.
“Well, this was delicious,” smiled Mary, finishing her food and licking her fork almost suggestively. “I've been meaning to ask, though: what's in the box?” The mysterious box Lucienne had brought out had been sitting on the table the entire meal with no one even mentioning it.
“A special game I paid a couple of technicians to whip up for us,” revealed Lucienne with a smile, picking up the box and opening it so her guests could see inside. There were four small green rectangles that looked like simple computer processors along with four compact black bricks that were clearly remotes.
“Are those?!” gasped Erika, suddenly alarmed.
“Not exactly,” offered Lucienne as Tasia motioned for Erika to calm down. “These are special. First of all, they run on a charge. As soon as you remove the chip from the slot it holds twenty-four hours of power before it shuts down. Second these chips first work like a blank; meaning you can put one on and nothing will happen. The remotes are also special, they can be coded to control all four chips or to a specific one as each has a unique signal. The remotes also use very simple commands, almost like a television remote, except for the timer function. They're safe; you don't have to worry. We tested them out with Hui and Miranda last week.”
“I don't know...” fretted Erika, all the same. The Paradise Foundation had once turned her into a walking weapon that had seriously damaged her internally, nearly killing her, so ever since she'd been afraid of the insidious mind-control devices that were simply known as ‘chips’. Their ability to turn any person into a remote-controlled mindless robot didn't sit very well with her.
“Here, maybe this will help,” offered Tasia, taking out a chip and a remote. After fiddling with the larger device for a moment she slid it towards the only non-redhead in the room, granted that Lucienne’s hair was a bit browner than the other two, and placed the green chip on the back of her own neck. Unlike most chips, which had a needle in them that froze the victim’s voluntary movements via Type-7 injection after the point touched the neck, the green chips were designed to be easier for a person to self-apply without freezing themselves accidentally. Lucienne proceeded to do the same, sliding a keyed remote towards Mary.
“Go ahead, give it a go,” offered Lucienne, standing. Erika didn't move, staring warily at the remote she'd received, so Mary picked hers up and pointed it at Lucienne.
“Okay, let’s try this setting first,” suggested Mary, pressing a button on the remote. Immediately Lucienne moved to sit down again, moving almost exactly in reverse to when she had gotten up.
“Go ahead, give it ago,” offered Lucienne again, standing once more. Mary and Tasia immediately burst out laughing. “What?” asked Lucienne, confused and raising her hands. Lucienne then suddenly froze with her hands spread away from her body as soon as Mary had pressed the ‘pause’ button.
“Okay, that's great,” remarked Mary, glancing over at Erika. The blond was now smiling and stood, as did Tasia.
“So tell me again how long the battery lasts?” asked Erika, pointing the remote at a beaming Tasia.
“Twenty-four hours,” stated Tasia with a wink. Erika pressed a button and Tasia suddenly started repeating the statement, the wink as well.
“Wow, we can loop them?!” shouted Mary in surprise. Tasia continued to answer Erika's question.
“Yeah, but that has to be hard on her eye,” mused Erika, hitting play.
“Twenty-four hours,” finished Tasia, winking and then rubbing her eye. “Go ahead, play around. The channel changes whom the remote controls as each chip has a unique signature like a hand-held radio. There's also a combo to put the control on a timer where you freeze after it expires and unfreeze when it goes on again, another option to enable vocal commands and even a randomizer button.”
“This is truly excellent,” whistled Erika, and then pressed ‘mute’. Tasia continued to mouth words but no sound came out and, even more unusual, she didn't seem to notice. As the Greek moved to step towards Erika the billionaire suddenly pressed ‘pause’ and the muted woman froze, her right leg forward with her arms at her side, her lips open in an unknown word.
“So, are you alright with it?” asked Mary, touching her lover's free hand with her own.
“Yeah, I mean, we can trust them and they did say it had a limited charge,” agreed Erika, motioning towards the box on the table. Putting their own remotes down, Erika and Mary proceeded to chip themselves and picked up the remaining two remotes.
“Numbers are on this piece of paper,” revealed Mary, holding up a note from inside the box. I took chip 3, you've got chip 2.” Glancing down at their remotes Mary and Erika made the adjustments so their controls were set for each other.
“Here, we should really give them a chance,” suggested Erika, picking up Lucienne's remote and heading towards Tasia. Mary smiled and pressed fast-forward, watching Erika suddenly run over to Lucienne and quickly place the remote in her right hand before hurrying over to put Tasia's remote in Lucy's left hand. Mary hit pause as Erika finished with Lucienne, the blond freezing as she touched Lucienne's wrist, bent over slightly.
“This is a first, usually I'm one of the frozen ones,” observed Mary, skipping around the room in delight. After giving each woman a kiss Mary then changed her remote to target Tasia and pressed ‘play’.
“... so why don't you, oh,” continued Tasia, before noticing the changes. “Poor Lucy, she's still frozen. I should really fix that,” suggested Tasia, checking her remote and then pressing ‘play’. Lucienne looked down and smiled, moving away from the now motionless Erika.
“Are we going to keep playing around or do you want to try something specific?” asked Lucienne, crossing her arms.
“Oh shit, I forgot!” Tasia suddenly exclaimed, quickly hitting ‘pause’ again and freezing Lucienne in her tracks.
“What's wrong?” asked Mary, only to be put on pause herself as Tasia hastily changed channels and froze the other guests before rushing into the kitchen. The pie the Greek had been baking was now cooked, albeit a bit darker than ideal, so she quickly pulled it out and set it down to cool before returning to the dining room. Tasia then gathered all of the remotes and put them down on the table, setting one to the master setting and pressing ‘play’.
“Oh!” exclaimed Erika, almost stumbling forward as everyone turned to look at Tasia, who smiled.
“Well dessert needs time to cool, so why don’t we play a little time-based game?” suggested Tasia; Lucienne was smiling and nodding after she realized what game her lover was thinking of.
“Time-based game?” asked Mary, as confused as she was when she’d been paused a few moments ago but now for a different reason.
“The ‘record’ button on the remote, when combined with the numbers, determines how long a person will remain frozen and then not frozen, in terms of seconds. It loops constantly until play is pressed again. Usually we set it so one of us is frozen for a minute and the other isn’t, then when the timers overlap its vice-versa. Essentially we take regulated turns in playing with one another.”
“Sounds perfect!” exclaimed Erika, eyeing the remotes hungrily. “Let’s do this in teams based on couples!”
“My thoughts exactly,” agreed Tasia with a nod, preparing the remotes as she spoke. “I figure ten minutes will be enough time and then we can eat. So five times each, any objections?” No one complained with Tasia’s suggestion and thus the remotes were prepared. “Okay then, here… we… go!” With a dramatic voice Tasia pressed the record buttons for a second time on two remotes, the first two keyed in for Lucienne and herself with the other two for their guests. As Tasia was still able to move as was her housemate it was clear who’d been frozen first. Erika and Mary were both smiling but standing neutrally, their arms at their sides and their gazes fixed on where Tasia had been standing.
“Alright, let’s start with something simple,” suggested Lucienne, taking Mary’s arms and beginning by raising them above her head before placing her hands on top of it, then tilting her noggin slightly to the side.
“How boring,” sniffed Tasia, instead wrapping her arms around Erika’s waist and dragging the blond over to the side couch, sitting her down with her arms above her head. As Lucienne attempted to bend Mary forward and as Tasia reached down to touch Erika’s left leg both suddenly froze and their living mannequins promptly laughed and moved away.
“This is great!” squealed Erika in delight, standing up Tasia and moving her arms so she was hugging herself. “I never would have guessed evil mind-control chips could be this much fun!”
“Back when the concept was first made it was just designed to let people go beyond their limits and rest easily,” pointed out Mary as Lucienne was being posed to be like the Thinker statue, sitting in dining chair. “I can’t believe how beautiful she looks. Who’d of thought Lake’s Twelve was realistic in their depiction of Interpol agents by casting Caitlin Sigma-Smith as an Interpol agent?”
“They’re ITEA now, don’t forget,” reminded Erika as she lifted Tasia’s left leg so it was standing on the couch she herself had just been sitting on. Mary opened her mouth to reply but promptly froze, her timer’s period up once more.
“Wow, a classic pose, I need to top that,” remarked Lucienne, standing up while Mary looked over at Erika, her right arm gesturing and her left at her side. “Actually, want to trade?” Lucy then suggested.
“Why not?” shrugged Tasia, moving way from the beaming Erika whose hands had been poised to do something to Tasia’s face. Tasia quickly got to work, sitting Mary down and posing her legs so they were crossed seductively, an empty wine glass placed in one hand. Lucienne meanwhile put Erika in a bit of a more compromising position, sliding the woman’s hands down the top of her own dress so it appeared that she was feeling her own breasts.
“Sometimes I feel blessed that we know so many hot women, and that we’re fine with the occasional sexy game,” commented Lucienne, reaching out and stroking Erika’s soft face which was currently plastered into what was almost a leer.
“Yeah, I’m glad we have such an understanding relationship,” agreed Tasia, bending down in front of Mary and looking dreamily into her seductress eyes. It was right then, naturally, that their minute elapsed and they froze in place while their recent dolls unfroze.
“Aw, she looks so cute,” cooed Mary as she put the glass in her hands down, looking at Tasia’s pose with a smile. Turning around to look at Erika, Mary then couldn’t help but laugh. The blond had moved her hands from her breasts to Lucienne’s back and was kissing the frozen woman full on the lips. Startled by the laughter Erika let go and stepped back, causing Lucienne to wobble and fall on her back, her hands still posed reaching out into the air as if to touch Erika’s face.
“Sorry, did you not want me to…?” asked Erika, a bit embarrassed by her actions.
“No, go nuts, I know who you really love,” assured Mary, proving her point by turning back around and pressing her own lips against Tasia’s. Erika just smiled and then decided Lucienne looked good on the ground so she walked over to join her lover. The duo proceeded to stand Tasia up straight and grind against her, Erika rubbing Tasia’s rear while Mary groped her breasts, both women running their tongues around the Greek’s face and neck. This ended up using the last of Mary and Erika’s time and they froze in the middle of the act, much to Tasia’s amusement.
“Man, the best things always only happen when I’m frozen,” complained Tasia as Lucienne stood up and nearly laughed.
“A bit insulting though,” mused Lucienne, a bit annoyed that she’d been knocked over in favor of her younger girlfriend.
“Aw, poor Lucy, you want to strip them?” asked Tasia with a mischievous look in her eyes.
“Too early for that; maybe after dessert,” decided Lucienne, walking over and turning Erika around so the frozen blond was facing her again. “Lets see you ignore me now,” grinned the IT chief, sliding her hands up the bottom of Erika’s skirt while giving her a long kiss. Tasia meanwhile sat Mary back down and then hopped on top of her, wrapping her arms around the woman’s neck and giving her a kiss as well. Once again the two redheads froze, both still lip-locked with their mannequins.
“Now this is fun,” moaned Erika, feeling Lucienne’s hands down below.
“You’re telling me,” gasped Mary, running her hands down Tasia’s sides. The guests’ minute flew by, neither really changing much, Erika freezing while holding Lucienne’s wrists and leaning back in pleasure while Mary was stroking Tasia’s hair longingly in between kisses.
“This is turning into less of a game and more just like swinging,” giggled Tasia, moving Mary’s hand from her face and standing up. “Change partners?”
“Yeah,” agreed Lucienne. Tasia proceeded to plant her own lips on Erika’s mouth, standing her back up straight first, and even wrapped her left leg around the blond’s right. Lucienne meanwhile quickly moved so Mary was sitting on top of her instead, freezing right as she tried to wrap the younger redhead’s arms around her neck.
“Mmmph, I love Greek,” Erika gasped after parting lips with Tasia a few seconds after unfreezing. “Oh darn, our game is almost up.”
“Yeah, but we can play more afterwards,” pointed out Mary as she rubbed Lucienne’s firm breasts while going into a cowgirl position.
“True, but interrupting isn’t a lot of fun,” complained Erika, rubbing against Tasia and feeling her up intimately.
“I guess we could always--,” began Mary a few seconds later, but she never finished as by then their minute was up, most of their chance to talk squandered on feeling up their hostesses.
“Oh, this feels great,” Tasia practically screamed, enjoying Erika’s touch against her breasts once she unfroze. “Okay, this is our last round before dessert, lets make it good,” insisted Tasia. Lucienne merely nodded and managed to pick up Mary, then standing her up and placing her beside Erika. Working together the two mobile redheads posed their mannequin-like friends so they were embracing one another, their lips meeting open-mouthed. Just as Tasia prepared to move Erika’s right hand lower, holding it by the fingers, and Lucienne was lifting Mary’s hands so they were touching the blond’s neck, the pair froze once again.
“Mmm, how sweet of them,” smiled Erika after parting lips with Mary.
“Want to do the same to them?” asked Mary, looking down at Tasia with a grin.
“Actually I had something else in mind,” remarked Erika, stepping away from her frozen friends. “I don’t want to stop for dessert so why don’t we just skip it?”
“What do you mean?” asked Mary. Erika merely winked and moved over to the table where the remotes were sitting. “Oh no,” gasped Mary, shaking her head.
“Oh yes,” giggled Erika, looking for the correct device that was coded for Lucienne and Tasia. “Let’s just freeze them and go nuts. I’m sure they won’t complain later.”
“Come on Erika, be fair,” chided Mary, moving to stand next to her lover. “They invited us over, let’s play their games and eat the food they made for us.”
“Awe, don’t like playing pranks?” asked Erika, finding the correct remote and holding it up. “Too bad, I found it. Now then…” Mary raised her right hand in objection as Erika began to lower her right finger to the pause button but neither completed their action, both freezing as per the timer.
“Hey!” exclaimed Tasia, annoyed when she awoke and saw what Erika and Mary were planning on doing. “Okay, that’s just rude!”
“Well, let’s deal with it then,” insisted Lucienne, quickly clearing for the remote controller of herself and her lover and pressing ‘play’, ensuring they wouldn’t freeze again. Tasia meanwhile found the ones coded for their naughty guests and pressed ‘pause’, freezing them both indefinitely. Or, at least for the next 24 hours.
“Can we even play this game with them again if they’re going to be like that?” sniffed Tasia, clearly upset.
“Look, you serve dessert, I’ll hide the remotes and unfreeze them when we’re ready to eat,” suggested Lucienne. Nodding, Tasia went into the kitchen while Lucienne did as she said, gathering the remotes and placing them in the box save one, which was set to a master setting. Following this, Lucienne posed both women so they were sitting at their places and even refilled their wine glasses. By then Tasia had returned with dessert and placed were placed in front of their stiff mannequin guests.
“That’s that then,” hummed Lucienne, pressing ‘play’ while hiding the remote under the table.
“Oh, silly me,” groaned Erika, shaking her head, realizing she’d been found out. “Sorry about that, I wasn’t quite ready for the games to end. This really does look delicious, Tasia.”
“Thank you,” bowed Tasia, blowing Erika a kiss afterwards. With that everyone began to eat their dessert.
“Any other good gossip at work?” asked Mary as the four ate, savoring the taste of the Greek pie.
“Marika’s latest project is a flop,” remarked Lucienne. “Well, I guess that isn’t really gossip. She tried to build a Uranus generator mock-up but apparently we just ended up freezing time for a while with no one aware that it had happened. If it wasn’t for the safeguards it might have never worn off.”
“Thanks, that’s a real bright topic to bring up during dinner,” groaned Tasia shaking her head. “You know Suzanna Ortiz, that little cutie with my team? She just started dating our range-master Will Volt.”
“Likes the gun nuts, huh?” chuckled Erika, taking another bite of her pie. The conversation then continued on the topic of the latest in-house IT hook-up. Due to the secretive nature of the organization, fraternization wasn’t discouraged; given that almost no one else would understand what they did for a living. Lucienne’s long-standing and well-known relationship with Tasia was also another reason for a lack of anti-fraternization rules. It was estimated up to about twenty percent of the agency’s personnel were having some kind of relationship with someone else internally; though the only formal couples were Dieter and Marika, who were married, as well as Lucienne and Tasia, Hui and Miranda and Cassandra and JB. Suzanna and William were the latest couple but they most likely wouldn’t be the last.
“Wow, that was great,” gasped Erika, leaning back in her chair and rubbing her stomach. “I’m sorry I nearly made us skip it.”
“No problem,” offered Tasia, smiling. “So why don’t we--,” Tasia began, then her voice cut off when she suddenly froze, her hands clapped together as she looked at her guests. Mary and Erika were both rigidly smiling and looking at the gorgeous Greek; Mary held her wine glass to her lips, a drinking still-life.
“Why don’t we let Lucienne play with you all for once?” laughed Lucienne, standing and removing the chip from the back of her neck. During dessert she’d secretly adjusted the control device to only target the other three. “I’m thinking of making a Lucy sandwich…”
The End - of the party - Time for a truly epic tale of deceit and Revenge