"Julia have you got a minute?" Sylvia Atterbury called from the door of her office. Julia Fain sat down at Sylvia's invitation. "I need to talk to you about something. It's a little bit embarrassing."
Julia felt she knew what was coming.
"I wondered if you had got any further on regarding taking on a sponsorship? You know how important the Party see sponsorship as a way of delivering a stable society where men have the appropriate supervision. It's not their fault that their decision making is weaker than women's but you know the Party feels that women have a duty to step up and make things easier for them if possible."
Julia sighed. It wasn't that she was opposed to the idea. It was more that she hadn't felt the need and she hadn't got around to it.
"The PM has asked for a review of all senior staff, identifying their sponsorship status and while I know you're fully on board with what we are trying to do, there's always a worry about the Civil Service these days. I mean all that trouble over Brexit when it turned out some departmental staff were actively going behind the Government's back to Brussels....". Sylvia turned towards Julia with a 'please take this as an instruction' look on her face. "It really would be helpful if you could see your way to putting a sponsorship arrangement in place before I have to let the PM have my response."
"Well, Minister," Julia thought she had better be formal. "To be honest, I haven't had a live-in relationship with a man -- or anyone else, come to that - for a while and I haven't felt the need. I mean the tax break would be good of course and some help around the house would be useful but I quite like having the place to myself and I don't want to have to spend time managing a sponsored male when there's so much here that needs doing here in the Department."
"That's admirable Julia, but it will cause a problem. There's no point in being highly effective at what you do if people are wondering whether you're really on their side or not. I'd like to be able to tell the Cabinet Office that at least you have it in hand and there's some prospect that you'll have a sponsored male by the end of the year. Sometimes, when we are ambitious, we have to take on things that don't fit exactly with our plans."
The most annoying thing about what Sylvia had to say was, thought Julia, that she was right. If you wanted to get on in Government once upon a time you only had to show you were dedicated to following the rules and providing absolutely impartial advice to Ministers. These days, though, the expectation was that you were there to get what the Minister wanted to be done, done. Even so, it was all very well for Sylvia, what with all the work going on around the Department, Julia just felt that she didn't have time to find a man to take into sponsorship.
After she had finished with Sylvia, Julia went looking for Henry. He, she knew, would be able to pull together the things she needed. "Can you dig me out a DOSA Sponsorship Introductory Folder? I need to have a look at it."
Henry nodded. The Department of Sponsors Affairs had a lot of problems but they were good at the bureaucracy. The information pack that they had produced to introduce potential sponsors to the processes and benefits of sponsorship was comprehensive. He knew where to find one. In fact, he'd been looking at one during a quiet morning a week or so back, thinking life would be easier if he could find someone that would take him on. He had tried raising the idea with one of the administrative team leaders who had just started in the Department. She had started off uninterested, until she had realised that he was serious about it, at which point she had been quite scornful. He wondered why she wanted it. She'd always been rather dismissive of the idea of sponsorships in conversations around the office. "Why should we throw of the yoke of the patriarchy in order to have them hanging around our ankles," he had overheard her saying only a week or so before. It was a shame, Henry, thought, she would make an excellent sponsor. In the days before New Order he had known many women who he knew were well able to take the lead in a relationship. Sadly most of them had been women that took the lead on a professional basis but Henry fancied that he knew a naturally assertive woman when he met one and Julia seemed to combine a clear sense of knowing what she wanted and expecting others to help her get it.
Henry pushed thoughts about Julia to the back of his mind. Day-dreaming about her as a sponsor would not, however, Henry told himself, get her the things she had asked for
The information pack Julia had asked for was quite detailed. There was a colourful leaflet outlining the main features of the sponsorship program and its benefits to the sponsor and to wider society. The tone was rather chatty but then it was targetted at individual sponsors rather than anything more 'corporate'. Then there was a detailed list of the items that could be claimed for under the programme including structural work for accommodation, security measures if needed and the costs of training for the sponsor. There was a long schedule spelling out the sponsor's responsibilities, including reporting requirements to Government. The last piece of paper, besides the ten page application form, was an explanation of how it was possible to transfer a sponsored male to another sponsor; something Henry hadn't realised was allowed. Henry looked at the pile of papers. There was a wide array of colours, sizes, fonts and designs. It wasn't any wonder that sponsors got confused, Henry thought, but he wasn't about to propose that DOSA consider a branding programme. One thing he had learnt over the last few months was that nobody in the management of the Department was in the least interested in unsolicited suggestions from any man, himself included.
Chapter 5: Borough or Burrow?
Henry was heading to Southwark. It was the first time in a very long time that he had been to this part of London. He was on his way to the appointment that Julia and Jane had arranged for him with Raven Courten and she hadn't changed her place of business from the one that he was already familiar with.
In his dark suit, white shirt and tie, he looked like so many other businessmen in this part of London would once have done. These days though, dark suit, white shirt and tie was more likely to be the dress of a businesswoman and he felt rather conspicuous. He was carrying a briefcase. Once it would have held important papers; these days it rarely held anything more interesting than his lunch but he carried it just the same. Today though, it was carrying something that he guessed none of the other pedestrians had; the leather rabbit face mask that he had always worn for his sessions with Mistress Raven. Jane hadn't suggested that he bring it but somehow, to Henry, it seemed the right thing to do.
He knew where he was going but even so, he paid close attention to the streets. It wasn't uncommon for a street to be re-designated "Women Only" or "Males Only If Accompanied" overnight and he didn't want to attract the attention of a patrolling Male Control Force officer. They seemed to appear by magic as soon as the slightest transgression was committed! A group of five women were coming towards him. He stepped back to let them pass. They took no notice of him.
Not far from Borough Market, Henry found the familiar door. Raven's dungeon was in the basement of a Victorian office block. The building was served by an old-fashioned metal cage lift. On previous visits, Henry had felt that sliding the metal barred doors shut to allow him to descend was a fitting precursor of what was so often experienced below. This time the clank of the closing doors reminded Henry of the sound of the padlocks closing on heavy iron fetters.
The lift stopped and he got out. Turning to the right he saw the blank door that led to Raven's rooms. He rang the bell on the door. A buzz from the lock indicated he could enter and he found himself in the reception area that he had so often entered with a dry mouth and racing pulse in the past. Jane was sitting behind the desk, looking out from behind a computer screen, neat and business-like in appearance apart from the vivid orange streak in her dark hair. "Bunny," she said with a smile. "How nice to see you again." She gestured towards a glass panelled door. "If you could go through, Mistress is expecting you."
Raven Courten's room -- a parlour, I suppose you might call it, Henry thought -- was comfortably furnished; a place where she could both work and relax. She was lounging on a couch in a black silk dressing gown, a pile of papers beside her on the floor, a fine porcelain tea cup balanced on the arm of the couch. From somewhere in the room, Henry couldn't tell where, the recorded sound of a live performance from some avant-garde jazz pianist tried to compete with the hum of the building's air-conditioning.
As on every one of their previous encounters, Henry said nothing but instead waited for Raven to acknowledge his presence. He wasn't sure what of the protocol. This wasn't a professional appointment with a dominatrix but, given who he was meeting, it didn't feel like a normal business meeting either.
"Well, Henry it is nice to see you again. I hope there wasn't any embarrassment at work."
"Err, no. No."
"You seem uncomfortable."
"It is a little strange."
"You can kneel. If you like. If you think it would help."
That was so typical of Raven, Henry thought. She so rarely told you what to do. Your submission was your own affair, almost independent of anything she did. "What do you think you should do, Bunny?" was one the things she was most likely to say.
"Thank you. Yes." Henry dropped to his knees and at once felt more at ease.
"Is your mask in there?" Raven, perceptive as ever, extended one talon-like, purple-varnished, fingernail towards Henry's briefcase.
Henry bit his lip and nodded.
"I thought it might be. You can put it on, if you want."
Henry fumbled with the catch of the bag and pulled out the leather mask. He fitted it in place on his face, the long ears that sprung form the top flopped foolishly as he looked up towards Raven.
"There. I'm sure you are more relaxed now."
Curiously in spite of the fact the he knew he looked absurd in the mask, Henry had to admit that he was.
"Well, it is very convenient you being available. It will save a lot of time, I am sure. If nothing else," Raven Courten gave the grin that Henry had come to associate with worrying possible developments, "you know the consequences of causing any disappointment in our work together."
"Yes, Mistress," Henry said, huskily.
"Oh dear. Talkative as ever! You do know that your input isn't actually needed to this process don't you? Of course you do." She leaned over to an intercom that was balanced on the back of her sofa and pressed a button. "Jane," she said into the intercom, "could you bring a gag in for Bunny, please."
Henry stayed on his knees. He heard the door behind him open but he knew better than to turn towards it. He heard the tap of heels on the floor behind him and saw Raven nod. There was a blur of orange as the gag was brought down in front of his face and pulled backwards into his mouth. The strap was fastened tightly behind his head. He gave an involuntary splutter, earning a raised eyebrow from Mistress Raven who seemed to be saying, "Come now, surely you expected that?"
Instead she said, "If you could drop your trousers and your underpants."
Henry did as he was told. He had often been naked in Raven's presence -- well, except for his mask -- but this was somehow even more humiliating. His private parts hanging exposed below his jacket, shirt and tie, his buttocks exposed as well; he felt in some ways more vulnerable than he had in the past when he had been completely stripped.
"And this, Mistress?" He heard Jane say.
"Yes, I think so," Raven replied and a moment later Henry felt himself pushed forward and a thick plug pushed into his anus. He squawked into his gag. As he recovered his kneeling position he caught sight of himself in a mirror on a side wall. The gag was an orange plastic carrot rammed into his mouth and between his buttocks stuck on the end of the butt plug that was penetrating him was a ball of cotton fluff giving him as authentic a rabbit's tale as could be imagined.
"Thank you," Raven said and the tapping sound of Jane's heels receded. "Now, Bunny, I want you to pay attention."
Henry knelt up and turned towards Raven. Straightening his back made him feel the plug in his arse more and he grunted into his gag. Raven frowned but consulted her papers and started to describe how she planned the event for Sylvia's team. "The session will be very interactive. I want the participants to appreciate the benefits of having a well-trained male at their disposal and after all my efforts, I think I can claim that you fall into that category."
Henry had to agree with her. There had been plenty of times when he had felt the cut of a riding crop from Mistress Raven for failing to perform some task to her satisfaction but, as he came to think about it, the punishments had got fewer and further between and had been replaced by something else, a sort of affectionate tormenting that had been completely absorbing for him. He could see her crop laying casually across one arm of the couch, easily within reach and behind it, on a small table beside the room's only window, the nipple clamps that she seemed to take so much pleasure from in administering them.
"Bunny, you're just not listening."
Henry tensed. That was not the sort of reaction you wanted to hear from Raven Courten.
"It seems that you have lost some of your ability to focus over the last few months. Come here." She parted her dressing gown and pointed between her thighs. "Head there."
Henry obeyed. Raven pressed her thighs together and draped her dressing gown over his head plunging him into darkness.
"Now there should be no distractions." No, thought Henry, only being able to breathe. "As I was saying, this is how we will run the event...."
Chapter 6. Demonstration
The session that Raven had planned was going well. Henry was being used to provide demonstrations. Each of the participants -- Jennifer had made sure that all areas of the Department were represented -- had been told to bring along one of their male staff to practice on.
That had been Julia's first problem. Normally her choice would have been Henry. While he had been out on loan to Raven in Southwark, Julia had rather missed him around the office. Of course, as a man, you couldn't rely on his decision making ability but he did have a lot of knowledge about how things worked in the Department. And, Julia thought, in spite of all the changes he had always done what he could to make sure the Department ran smoothly and there had never been any suggestion that he resented her being promoted over him.
So while his judgement might have been suspect Julia had always relied on his input. Now, though, because of his absence, she was missing his fund of useful data and she had needed to push her team harder than usual. They hadn't appreciated that and when Julia had wanted someone to accompany her to the course nobody came forward.
So, working on the premise that while a volunteer might be worth ten pressed men then if there aren't any volunteers you just to press harder, she had made it clear that she was planning to rethink the number of administrative positions in her team. Suddenly she was overwhelmed with offers. Andrew Garfield, previously the manager of national business support programmes, and now a statistical officer in the department, was chosen but even then Julia sensed his attitude was one of sullen acceptance. It compared badly with the accepting loyalty she had become used to from Henry.
"Ladies, welcome," Raven Courten announced. She gestured to the row of desks lined up across the room, "Please take a seat and have the male you've brought with you squat down on the floor in front."
Henry, Julia noticed, was already sitting down on the floor beside a white board at the front of the room.
"Now, as you know today's session is going to explore different male management techniques that are appropriate for use within a sponsorship framework. I have brought along some of my colleagues. As I explained to the Minister, the state has now taken on many of the roles that myself and my colleagues carried out. This may not have been obvious to you. The response of many males is, I am sure, helpful to New Order's overall objectives but you can also take advantage of the techniques that we use with your sponsored male, or even, as we have here, your workplace subordinates."
There was a grunt of complaint from one of the men in the front row. It earned him a kick in the ribs from the woman behind him and Raven smiled with approval at the woman's response.
Julia wasn't sure about this. The whole idea of sponsorship seemed a lot of trouble. She had read the information pack and while sponsorship certainly conferred a lot of benefits -- mainly financial as far as she could tell -- it also carried a lot of responsibilities. Sponsors had to make sure their males followed the curfew rules and the other movement and assembly orders and had to guarantee their ident cards. While the extra money involved in sponsoring a male might come in handy, she didn't really need it, so she wasn't really sure that what she would get out of the arrangement would be worth the effort.
"Now for the first of our sessions today," Raven went on, "I'd like to introduce Melanie X who used to specialise in sessions revolving around sexual denial and has been following the Government's proposals on a possible Male Chastity Program.
A striking looking Nigerian girl with the darkest of skin, an afro hairstyle that harked back to the blaxploitation movies of the 1970's and a bright yellow tank top with floor length skirt to match, took the microphone from Raven. She was softly spoken and had slight lisp as she explained. "Now you will know the Male Chastity Programme is to keep these boys pure and make sure that they can't get up to any of those silly games that are just so distracting for them. We know that male sexual arousal contributes to poor male decision making and the MCP will help to limit that. That is about as far as the Government programme goes but there is more in it for sponsors, as I am sure you will realise."
Melanie turned towards Henry and gestured that he should kneel up. She picked up a steel chastity cage from the table at the front of the room. "Are you wearing one of these boy?" she asked him.
"You want to show these ladies how your pee-pee is all locked up nice and safe?"
Henry was pretty sure that this was not a question requiring an answer so much as an instruction to drop his trousers. He did.
Melanie continued. "Now assuming you're his keyholder as part of a sponsorship you have fine leverage over his behaviour, because you can control when he is allowed to get that thing out. Plus, you have just the best way to make sure he's conforming to the respect agenda. So, I know Henry here is very fond of ladies' legs so if he's got his cage on and I'm wearing my skirts up here," she lifted her skirt until her legs could be seen from her platform soled shoes right up to the middle of her ebony skinned thighs. The effect on Henry was rapid. His eyes widened and a moment later, as his cock evidently began to swell, he obviously became aware of his constricted cock and lowered his eyes. "Good boy!" enthused Melanie.