The technician gave him a final thumbs-up after testing the radio link between Rob's neck plug and the device. Like most people, that's what Rob called it, not liking the way his mouth has to work to say its full name. The guy flipped a few switches to activate the thing, closed the cover, then left.
Rob slowly scanned the room, looking at every detail. It was large, much larger than any normal bedroom, and all the walls were hung with black velvet drapes. The center of the room was occupied by a huge circular bed, fully ten feet across, and covered with a thick satin comforter. He was seated at it's 'foot', opposite the large bookcase-like headboard. "Impressive," he decided. "So much attention to detail, getting the mood just right."
Ignoring that thought, he scanned the rest of the room. A large hot tub occupied one corner, not too far from the built-in bar. In the opposite corner were some tables, padded for comfort, which could be used for massages, among other things.
In a third corner were some standing dividers, blocking off his view of the walk-in closets and the bathroom. The hot tub corner was completely glassed, with french doors opening out onto a balcony which gave one a magnificent view of downtown, the river, and the ocean beyond. The city lights gave that corner of the room a faint blue-white sheen which reflected off the ceiling. The only other illumination came from the half-dozen candelabra, containing three dozen lit red tapers, giving everything else in the room a yellow glow.
He knew why he was here, knew what would happen, as did everyone else. The script had been read and approved by all. It had to be, since this was a full test of the device, only the second one since approval was given to link more than two people into one scene. Even knowing that, he was still excited, anticipating what would come. He watched the far wall, looking at where the door was concealed, waiting for her to appear.
Doreen pushed open the door and stepped into the velvet-lined room. Fighting her nervousness, she closed her eyes for a second and took a deep breath. No, not part of the script, but necessary for her. It was allowed. The script was flexible that way. Scanning the room, she saw everything Rob had, except that she also saw Rob.
Tall, well-built, blonde and sexy, he wore a thick black kimono and little else. He contrasted well with the pale yellow of the satin behind him. Gathering her courage, she stepped into the room.
[ Dr. Feldan monitored the thought traces of the five subjects under his purview. He could do little, as others controlled the devices and their inputs and outputs, and still others carefully monitored the physical and mental reactions of the subjects for the purposes of this test. His responsibility was to the long term mental health and stability of these five. There were at least another two dozen subjects, he knew, but they were not his concern. He watched carefully, noting all the tell-tale slips and jolts indicating the state of awareness of each of his five, and the level of mental stimulation provided and accepted.
Bored, he began to think of the history of each of them in turn, as he checked the individual sets of readouts. Being the best, he was handed the oddballs, the special ones, the cases needing more care and attention than the rest. He accepted this as normal, since this was the way it had been throughout his career. ]
Several thousand miles away, Janet also walked into the velvet-lined room, admiring the blond adonis sitting on the big round bed. She knew she was sitting comfortably in a recliner in her livingroom, and if she concentrated hard enough, she could feel the coolness of supple leather under her bare skin. The device was somewhere behind her, attended by two technicians. The plug in her neck tickled for a second, then the sensation was gone. Somewhere else, researchers, doctors, psychologists, and many others were studying and monitoring the physiological and psychoreactive outputs from the sensors attached to each of the participants. All this registered only as the merest background thought as her attention returned to the room. She also knew the script, but that only enhanced her reaction to the situation. She clenched her thighs, feeling a warm dampness beginning to spread between her lips.
In yet another city, Brian watched the lady enter the room. She looked at him for a second, smiled, then walked toward the bar. He admired her beauty, this lady of ladies, elegant yet sensual, almost regal in her bearing, seemingly untouchable until she turned and let her lips move into that slow, seductive smile again. He knew the script, but he was sinking deeper into the holo/dream sequence, becoming less and less conscious of anything other than living this unfolding fantasy.
Raymond and Yvonne sat side by side in separate chairs, attended by technicians, both wired to the same device. They were the only couple hooked up to a single machine in this dream run.
He watched the lady walking across the room, staring at her beauty, the way her chestnut hair glinted and sparkled in the candlelight, the way her split gown showed occasional glimpses of her tanned leg and slender thigh, and the way it bulged in front, hinting at the hidden treasures within. He was already deep in this fantasy, following along as though he were the principal, the device feeding him all the correct actions and responses, making him feel he was in charge.
Yvonne was even deeper under the machine's control. All her actions and feelings were now those being fed to her. She was a little nervous, yet still very excited. Small thrills ran through her every time she glanced at the blonde beauty on the bed. Soon, he would be all hers. Soon. She stopped at the bar and opened the bottle of champagne she found half buried under the ice in the sink. Pouring two glasses, she looked at the man on the bed, smiled again, and headed for the hot tub.
Don (or Estevan in his professional life) felt a tickle in his neck, then the image of the room faded, returning him to his studio for a few seconds. Behind him, he heard some quiet muttering, interspersed with curses. The view of his studio, with the two active holo cameras in the corners, faded again, and he was back in that room. Getting up from the bed, walking easily in that tall, athletic body, he headed towards the lady who was waiting for him and holding out a glass in invitation.
Rob took the glass being offered to him by Doreen. Taking a sip, he savoured its light, crisp taste and the tickling of all those bubbles bursting on his tongue and in his throat. Shrugging out of his kimono, now only dressed in a loose swimsuit, he stepped into the water. It was warmer than he expected, but not uncomfortable, and quite pleasant as he slipped in up to his neck. He looked at Doreen who was looking back at him, another of those sensual smiles on her lips.
Doreen watched Rob as he slipped out of his robe and sank into the water. His lightly tanned body was almost godlike in its perfection - lond hair, beautiful strong face, broad shoulders, bare, sculpted chest and stomach, and long strong legs. There were only hints of his hips and bottom inside his last article of clothing, and hints of something else in front, something she knew would be hers before the night was over. The script said so.
Janet, now standing beside the hot tub, took a sip of champagne. The taste was strange at first, then quickly took on the more familiar crispness she was used to. She shrugged off her robe, leaving herself dressed in a white one-piece swimsuit, the brightness contrasting with her deep tan and the darkness of the rest of the room. She had given up on normal consciousness now, allowing the device to feed her everything, living a waking dream, just as she was supposed to. Nothing intruded into that world - not the technicians, not the feel of the chair, not the slight chill of the draft flowing from the air conditioner, not even the pains from her body. The machine blocked out all those sensations, just as it was supposed to.
[ The doctor thought first of Janet, the most delicate of them all. She was still physically strong, with well-toned muscles and healthy heart and lungs. The illness was taking over though, and would eventually reduce her body to a helpless shell. Hers was the most delicate and fragile mind, constantly near the edge of a breakdown. She was too young for that to happen to her, but it had. Knowing that the sick bastard who deliberately gave it to her was dead now, the state giving him a lethal injection, did little to help. He wished they could find the ones who had forged that medical certificate for him, the one stating that he had received the complete immunity package.
If these tests are successful, for both her and the device, she would receive a two-person unit. This would allow her to finally enjoy the company of her husband, the husband she dared not touch because of the slight chance she could pass it on to him. In the dreamworld, there is never any risk because there is never any physical contact. He is scheduled to be included in the next test of the device. ]
Brian watched the lady step into the water beside him, sinking quickly to her waist. She played with some controls for a second, and jets of bubbling water began churning the water in the tub. Those jets were warm, and the bubbles caressed his skin, sometimes tickling, sometimes caressing. He liked the look of her well-shaped and obviously firm breasts, covered only slightly by the daring garment she wore. Her nipples stood out a little, creating small bumps in the thin fabric of the suit. His mind ran back to the script for a second, and he came back from full immersion in this fantasy, once again realizing that this body he was feeling was someone else's, either now or sometime in the past. He'd been through two recording sessions himself, and had replayed one of his own in a regular single-person test. It had been the weirdest experience of his life, reliving something he'd already done, feeling it for the first time, yet also being able to recall memories of what it had been like. The device began soothing those extraneous thoughts and feelings, relaxing him again, allowing him to slip back into the fantasy.
[ Next, the doctor thought of Brian. He was older, definitely the oldest of his subjects at fifty six. Independantly wealthy, decent looking, and a pleasant gentleman, he was painfully shy and retiring, unhappily living out his life alone. Perhaps it was the pain of burying two wives that had done this to him, but he no longer enjoyed the company of family or friends. He hoped that by living inside other people, sharing their thoughts and emotions, Brian could overcome the mental blocks that had grown over the years and rejoin the land of the living. ]
Raymond relaxed into the water, letting the jets and bubbles caress him, sighing contentedly. Closing his eyes for a moment, he simply enjoyed the warmth soaking into his body.
Yvonne, sitting beside Raymond in real life as well, reached out with her toe to stroke the calf of the man resting in the water beside her. The touch was exciting, another small thrill tingling a little throughout her body. She could feel herself getting a bit wetter inside. He opened his eyes and looked at her, slowly letting a warm and tender smile emerge. She could see the building lust in his expression, yet knew there would be no rush. They both wanted this to be slow and gentle. She smiled back, letting a little of her excitement show in her eyes.
[ Raymond and Yvonne were another special case. Husband and wife, both were in love, and both were tender, compassionate, and, well, randy. Their jobs forced them both to travel a great deal, so they spent up to six months of the year separated, sometimes up to two months at a stretch. Doing so was very hard on these two, as their libidinous natures craved physical contact on a very frequent basis. Remaining faithful to each other was a mental and physical strain on both them and their marriage. If they both tested out well with the device, each would receive a portable unit. They could then be together in the dreamworld as often as they wished. By all accounts he'd heard so far, it would be as good as being together in the flesh. They were assigned to him because they would be the only husband and wife team to use portable units. ]
Don could feel the woman's toe touching him, running up and down his lower leg, the intimate caress exciting him a little more. The smile she returned, both seductive and excited, hinted that more would follow. The feel of the water disappeared for a second, replaced by that of the chair he was lying in. Just as suddenly he was back in the water. He silently cursed about having been forced back to reality. Trying to lose himself again, he cleared all thoughts from his mind, the device aiding him, letting him recapture the dream.
[ Don was another special case. There was no medical, psychological, or sociological reason for him to need the device. He had applied to become and been accepted as a test subject for other reasons. The corporation definitely wanted his good will, and was willing to go to the expense of including him in the tests as long as he signed all the waivers. His influence as a poet and painter of international renown could greatly enhance their likelihood of being accepted by governments and organizations around the world should he come out of this with a favourable experience. ]
Doreen relaxed deeper into the water, letting it cover her up to her neck, then tilted her head back and floated with nothing but her face and the tips of her breasts showing above the waterline. One hand on the seat below and one on Rob's thigh held her in position. When she felt his hands cup her head, she relaxed her arms, depending on him to keep her afloat.
Rob held her head in his hands for a moment, feeling her let go, seeing her eyes close, knowing the trust she had in him. Drawing her closer, he touched his lips to her forehead, her eyes, her cheeks, and then her lips - touching, but not truly kissing, simply caressing her skin and her lips with his. He drew her closer yet, until her head was resting against his shoulder.
Janet could feel those lips touching her face and her mouth. She parted her lips slightly, breathing deeply, trusting him with her body. She felt him move one hand under her neck to hold her, and then his other hand caressed her body, from her shoulder, down her arm, over her hip and down her leg to her knee. It then moved up the inside of her leg, lightly touching her skin, up to near her mound, then switched to the other leg and trailed down to her other knee. Following a mirror-image path, it returned to her shoulder and began to lightly caress and stroke her face.
All these touches created tiny sparkles of excitement inside her, slowly increasing her passion and desire.
Brian was enjoying the feel of this lady, sensing the trust and faith she had in her partner. On one level of his mind, he knew he was feeling the physical sensations and emotions of another person, yet on another level, he accepted the fact of her trust as something both earned and given freely. Touching her body was a thrill and he was becoming aroused even without being fully immersed in the holodream.
Raymond leaned forward and kissed the lady, caressing her throat with his hand. She tasted sweet, and her lips were soft. His tongue tasted a lingering hint of champagne in her mouth. She responded to his kiss with a soft sigh and a caress of his lips with her tongue. She was cool and sweet and delicious, and he wanted more of her.
Yvonne began to tease his lips and tongue with her own. She could still taste champagne, but didn't know if it was from him or her. Floating there, relaxing in the heated and bubbling water, she felt completely at ease, having no fears while being held by this man. His lips were sensual and warm, and his tongue daring. The hand which had been caressing her throat now included her upper chest and shoulders in their wanderings, adding his touches to that of the water. She shivered in anticipation.
Don watched the scene from his split personality, fighting against the machine's control for a while, enjoying his first real taste of living in another's body while still being himself. Eventually, he thought, either he would be pushed out or pulled completely in by the device. At that moment, he was a presence watching the dream unfold in his mind.
Rob/Raymond continued to caress the woman, kissing and teasing her with his lips, occasionally leaning back to admire her beauty. And she was beautiful. Her long dark brown hair floated and twisted around her head, pushed this way and than by the random flows of water and bubbles, looking almost reddish in the subdued yellow light. A lighter tan shaded her skin, flawless and clear, with pink lips, a slight flush on her high cheekbones, and the memory of two glittering dark brown eyes set wide in her oval face. Once again he kissed her, unable to keep from touching this beauty for more than a few seconds.
Doreen/Janet/Yvonne savoured the taste and feel of that kiss, returning it with the growing desire she felt developing inside. Not yet a need, it was still building, yet it was still affecting her emotions and reactions. Her breasts felt like they were swelling slightly, and she could feel the tension in her nipples, erect both from her arousal and by the slight flutterings of coolness as the fabric wetted then steamed in the cooler air. The heated water was helping to warm and soften her lower lips, with her own moisture spreading all around the inside of her labia.
His hands wandered over her sides and stomach, slowly drifting down to the juncture of those perfectly formed legs. For a time, he was content merely to fondle and kiss the woman of his dreams. Kisses of love, and of lust, tender, not yet hard and passionate, were bestowed and received. The curves of her body, the taste of her lips and tongue, the velvet feel of skin contrasting with the slickness of her suit, all served to excite him further.
The touch of his hands, the kisses he gave, sent electric thrills through her body. A feeling of heat and passion ran through her for a few seconds, then slowly faded back into warmth and tenderness as his caresses continued without change. Her body was responding to her thoughts and feelings - one part getting wetter, two others swelling and straining against the constricting material. She waited, almost impatient with his slow seduction.
Before his hand wandered too far down, he reversed its direction, moving to instead run his fingertips over and around her breasts. He could feel her beginning to squirm as his light touching continued. When she seemed almost ready to break their kiss, he slid down the straps of her suit, first the left, then the right. With a gentle motion, he ran his hand down her chest, pushing down her top, and ended the motion by cupping the bottom of her breast.
She felt her nipples stiffen as they were exposed to the cool air. Tingles ran from them, light and ephemeral, yet very much real, and definitely noticed. He broke their kiss, and she began breathing a little heavier. A jolt of sensation caused her to gasp, as his tongue and lips began toying with one nipple. A deep breath and a slight moan later, he moved to the other one.
Don jerked back to himself with a jolt. The sight of his cameras, with their unblinking little red indicator lights, was not what he wanted to see. The residual taste of that second nipple in his mouth, the memory of its texture and coolness, the heat from just below making itself known, was what he wanted. The touch of her naked flesh, her beauty, her willingness, her trust and faith, was what he wanted. Not the austere lines of his studio. For several minutes, all he heard were the muffled noises of the technicians working frantically somewhere behind him, out of his sight. Just as suddenly, he was back.
Her kiss was becoming more passionate, more demanding. He could feel her getting hotter, as his own libido began to take over. Everything he touched felt smooth, satiny, and so soft and warm. With one hand he was holding and squeezing her bottom, one cheek at a time, and with the other he squeezed and toyed with a breast. She felt good, felt right, like a woman who wanted him just as much as he was starting to want her. Even in the swirling water, the heat from her groin was making itself felt. He broke the kiss to gasp as he felt the brushing of her groin on his member, right through his suit.
A little playfully, she began to rub her crotch against the bulge in his shorts. With her arms around his chest and her legs bent and spread on either side of him, she was wide open and ready for anything. She felt a twitch, and smiled through her kiss. Moving her bottom around slowly, she rubbed him with her lower lips, her mound, her thighs and her bottom cheeks. There was a hardness developing that felt good against her intimate parts. Resuming their kiss, she once again ran her hands up and down his body. The feel of his muscles, rippling and moving beneath her fingers as his torso twisted and turned, excited her as much as the touching lower down did. He felt good to her, and she knew he would feel much better soon.
His mouth slipped off hers, running a trail of kisses and licks along her jaw and down to her neck. He began teasing and tickling all the sensitive spots he remembered. There were quite a few, and she was soon squirming and wiggling in his lap. That excited him even more. With both hands, he grabbed her bottom and pulled her into him in a slow, pulsing rhythm. The tiny whimpers and moans that accompanied her heavy breathing let him know she was enjoying his attentions.