Sunday, February 19, 2012

Neal Stephenson knows how to party some more

Back in January I posted an excerpt from Neal Stephenson's SF novel The Diamond Age. That one was all about a kinky MC-fueled orgy. Today I'm sharing another scene from the same book - this one about kinky sex as well, though the MC is less overt. This scene is more about getting into another person's head deeply enough to turn their kinks against them.

Here's the setup: our heroine Nell has gone to work for Madame Ping's brothel, but not as a prostitute. She's a scriptwriter, creating and modifying role-play scenarios to feed clients' kinks. And today she's been presented with a problem. Colonel Napier has been a customer for many years, using a BDSM scenario to work out his guilt over sending soldiers to their deaths. Lately, however, the game just puts him to sleep; so Nell has to find a new way into his hindbrain. When she does, she goes in so deep that he actually reveals state secrets. And if that isn't juicy enough by itself, she turns a bit to the dark side and uses her control to answer some personal questions. Napier knows more than most about the hacker group CryptNet and the shadowy Dr. X; and Nell isn't shy about picking his brain. After all, it's laid out so neatly in front of her. How could she resist the temptation to become a temporary MC'er?

The scene begins with Nell watching the role-play from a giant monitor in another room. Just for the sake of clarification, no one involved here really belongs to CryptNet.
     [The actress] pressed another button, which caused Colonel Napier's body to go limp. She and a maid wrestled him into a dumbwaiter and moved him down to a lower floor, where, after descending via the stairway, they tied him to a rack.
     This was where the problem came in. By the time they had finished tying him up, he was sound asleep.
     "He did it again," said the woman playing the role of Miss Braithwaite, addressing herself to Nell and anyone else who might be monitoring. "Six weeks in a row now."
     When Madame Ping had explained this problem to Nell, Nell had wondered what the problem was. Let the man sleep, as long as he kept coming and paid his bill. But Madame Ping knew her clients and feared that Colonel Napier was losing interest and might shift his business to some other establishment unless they put some variety into the scenario.
     "The fighting has been very bad," the actress said. "He's probably exhausted."
     "I don't think it's that," Nell said. She had now opened a private voice channel direct to the woman's eardrum. "I think it is a personal change."
     "They never change, sweetheart," said the actress. "Once they get the taste," they have it forever."
     "Yes, but different situations may trigger those feelings at different times of life," Nell said. "In the past it has been guilt over the deaths of his soldiers. Now he has made peace. He has accepted his guilt, and so he accepts the punishment. There is no longer a contest of wills, because he has become submissive."
     "So, what do we do?"
     "We must create a genuine contest of wills. We must force him to do something he really doesn't want to do," Nell said, thinking aloud. "What would fit that bill?"
     "Wake him up," Nell said. "Tell him you were lying when you said this wasn't a CryptNet operation. Tell him you want real information. You want military secrets."
     Miss Braithwaite sent the maid out for a bucket of cold water and heaved it over Colonel Napier's body. Then she played the role as Nell had suggested, and did it well; Madame Ping hired people who were good at improvisation....
     Colonel Napier seemed surprised, not unpleasantly so, at the script change. "If you suppose that I will divulge information that might lead to the deaths of more of my soldiers, you are sadly mistaken," he said. But his voice sounded a little bored and disappointed, and the bio readouts coming in from the nanosites in his body did not show the full flush of sexual excitement that, presumably, he was paying for. They still were not meeting their client's needs.
     On the private channel to Miss Braithwaite, Nell said, "He still doesn't get it. This isn't a fantasy scenario anymore. We've been drawing him in for the last several years. Now he belongs to us, and he's going to give us information, and he's going to keep giving it to us, because he's our slave."
     Miss Braithewaite acted the scene as suggested, making up more florid dialogue as she went along. Watching the bio readouts, Nell could see that Colonel Napier was just as scared and excited, now, as he had been on his very first visit to Madame Ping's several years ago (they kept records). They were making him feel young again, and fully alive.
     "Are you connected with Dr. X?" Colonel Napier said.
     "We'll ask the questions," Nell said.
     "I shall do the asking. Lotus, give him twenty for for that!" said Miss Braithewaite, and the maid went to work on Colonel Napier with a cane.
     The rest of the session almost ran itself, which was good for Nell, because she had been startled by Napier's reference to Dr. X and had gone into a reverie, remembering comments that Harv had made about the same person many years ago.
     Miss Braithewaite knew her job and understood Nell's strategy instantly: the scenario did not excite the client unless there was a genuine contest of wills, and the only way for them to create that contest was to force Napier to reveal real classified information. Reveal it he did, bit by bit, under the encouragement of Lotus's bamboo and Miss Braithewaite's voice. Most of it had to do with troop movements and other minutiae that he probably thought was terribly interesting. Nell didn't.
     "Get more about Dr. X," she said. "Why did he assume a connection between CryptNet and Dr. X?"
     After a few more minutes of whacking and verbal domination, Colonel Napier was ready to spill. "Big operation of ours for many years now - Dr. X is working in collusion with a high-level CryptNet figure, the Alchemist. Working on something they mustn't be allowed to have."
     "Don't you dare hold back on me," Miss Braithwaite said.
The picture at the top of the post is of Dita Von Teese. Unfortunately, I've had it so long that I don't remember where I found it.

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