The Golden Apple (IR Convention Part One)

Fanged rattled the bars of his prison, a man-sized birdcage, to no avail.“It’s important to have a sturdy, well-built enclosure,” Madame Raison Detre explained to Tessa Fields. “Have the bars sunk into the floor. No spot-welding.”“I’ll remember that,” said Tessa as she calculated just how many cages she could fit into her basement-cum-dungeon.

“I have a firm in Manchester that constructs them to order. I shall send you the link.”

“Thanks, Madame.”

“And thank you, Tessa Fields, for organizing such a wonderful event.”

Tessa walked away, leaving Fanged to his fate. She looked around and smiled. After all the planning, preparations and effort, The First Inraptured Convention was off to a fabulous start.

The location was idyllic. A luxury resort on the secluded shoreline of Lake Michigan. The late summer weather was ideal, warm and breezy. And the ballroom was filled with HypnoDommes from around the world taking advantage of their followers and admirers.

Booking the facility had proved little challenge, once she got the property manager on the phone. She “explained” the situation to him and was able to negotiate a very reasonable price. Plus she had him throw in the Presidential Suite for her gratis.

Tessa continued to circulate around the ballroom.

In a corner a Gary knelt before Mistress Candice and kissed the toe of her boot.

She overheard part of a conversation that Pug and LustyPoet were having by the punchbowl.

“No you misunderstand me,” said Pug. I am not saying The Inraptured Convention is step one in an International HypnoDomme Conspiracy to Rule the World. What I am saying is that if there were an International HypnoDomme Conspiracy to Rule the World, that this convention would be a good place for step one to begin.

“Okay,” said Lusty. “Glad you cleared that up for me.”

She passed by Matty who stared at her chest and said “Boobs.”

A young blonde woman grabbed her arm. “You’re Tessa Fields, right?” she said excitedly.

“Yes,” Tessa stared at the woman. She looked familiar, but she couldn’t place her.”

“I just want to say this is most awesome convention ever. Milo’s been tweeting me invitations to Inraptured and The Waffle House for months now,” the blonde said. She glanced around the room. “I’ve never been able to stop by, and now I am learning about all the fun I’ve been missing.”

“Yeah, erotic hypnosis really is a blast,” agreed Tessa.

“Uh, huh, hypnosis is cool and all, but financial domination,” her smile grew wide. “That’s the real turn-on.”

A light went on in Tessa’s head. She recognized this woman, a model.

“But don’t you make tens of thousands of dollars a day, just doing photo shoots?” Tessa asked.

“Sure, but there’s just something hot about getting into a guy’s head, twisting him all up, and then making him hand over his cash,” she laughed.

“I think you’re going to fit right in, Kate.” said Tessa.

Along the far wall, Shelle Rivers sat at a booth with a banner that read “Come Live on My Farm”

“I’m confused,” said Steven. “Is this a real farm you are talking about or just a metaphor?”

Shelle smiled and giggled. In her delightful Southern accent she said, “You’ll just have to sign-up to find out.”

Tessa was headed for the stage when Amalgam stopped her. He held up a shiny, round ball. “This was rolling on the floor.” He handed it to Tessa.

She inspected it more closely, It wasn’t a ball it was an apple. A golden apple. With an inscription that read:


“Seems someone knows their Greek Mythology,” said Tessa. “According to legend, I guess I should pick someone to decide who gets the apple. I think I know the perfect person to make the choice. He’s probably been entranced by more HypnoDommes than anyone else.”

“Wombat!” cried out Tessa. “Has anyone seen Wombat?”

“Just a moment, Tessa,” said Goddess Marquesa. “I’ve been using him as a footstool.”

Marquesa stood up. “Coming up out of trance now. Wombat…1…2…3…4…5. Awake now!” She snapped her fingers.

“Rodimus, can you go “rescue” Wombat?” asked Tessa.

“Sure thing.” Rodimus made his way over to Wombat and guided the still dazed man back to Tessa.

“Wombat, good news, I’m going to let you decide who’s the most ‘Hypnotic of All.’ We’ll do it first thing tomorrow morning. That will give you some time to come up with a winner.”

Wombat bowed slightly. “I am honored, Tessa. Thank you for the privilege.”

HypnoDommes began to form a circle around Wombat.

“Don’t you just love the color blue?” asked Darla Diandra.

“Look at my shiny nails,” said Goddess Zenova.

“No, look into my eyes,” sang Mistress Zaida.

“Rodimus, I think you’d better get Wombat to a safe place,” said Tessa.

“Okay, I’ll take Wombat to his room and watch over him. But I could probably use another hand.”

“OK, Rod, you scoot and I’ll send some help,” said Tessa.

While Rodimus skillfully navigated Wombat through the gathering throng of HypnoDommes, Tessa went in search for assistance. She found Me-chan chatting with HRH Princess Sapphire Rain.

“Excuse me Sapphire, but I’m going to need to borrow Me-chan for a bit.”

“What for?” asked Me-chan.


“Rodimus is guarding Wombat. Keeping away the HypnoDommes. I just need you to help out Rod. It’s only until tomorrow morning when Wombat chooses the winner of the Golden Apple.”“Um, no offense Tessa, but I’m just a chatroom moderator, plus I really didn’t come here to work,” replied Me-chan.“Yes, I understand Me-chan, but circumstances change and I do need you to lend a hand to Rodimus.

“Sorry, count me out.”

“Don’t fret Tessa, I’ve got this,” said Sapphire.

“Oh Princess, please don’t make me do this,” whined Me-chan.

“Oh don’t worry, Me-chan. I’m not going to make you do anything.”

“You’re not?”

Sapphire smiled. “Nope. By the time I’m done with you. You’re going to beg to be allowed to help.”


“Shhh”, said Sapphire and she pressed her finger to Me-chan’s lips. “Now listen to me and listen well. And begin to fall under my spell. Deeper, deeper and deeper still. Twisting your mind to my will.”

Me-chan’s eyes glazed over. He was already lost in Sapphire’s words.


* * *

Tessa located Conrad in a dark corner where he slouched against the wall tapping away on his smart phone.“So, Conrad, you’re still unable to go into trance.”“That’s right,” he said, not looking up from his phone.

“Then you are the perfect person to hold The Golden Apple until it’s awarded tomorrow.”

“I could. But I’m awfully busy tweeting these #GamerGate links,” Conrad said gravely.

Tessa reached out and grabbed his hand, causing Conrad to lookup. Their eyes met. “Oh, I am sure you can multi-task.”

“Well, I suppose.”

“And maybe we can try a trance.” Tessa said coyly. “It would be quite a coup. To be the HypnoDomme that finally puts the notorious Conrad under.”

“Er- that’s not necessary. I’ll guard your apple.”

“Such a proper English gentleman.” Tessa handed Conrad the apple and kissed him on the cheek. “Thanks, Conrad.” And then she was off.

Conrad inspected the apple. “Gold sure is heavy.” He slipped it into his jacket pocket and returned to tweeting.

“Hi, Conrad,” said David.

“Hi, David. How’s it going?”

“Mistress Carol controls me.”

“So I’ve heard.”

“Yeah, I’m way down to rabbit hole now. Anyway, I heard you got the job guarding The Golden Apple.”

“News travels fast,” Conrad said dryly.

“I got to thinking, that’s a pretty big responsibility. Maybe I could offer you some help,” said David.

“So if I let you assist me with the apple, what’s to stop you from just handing it over to Mistress Carol?” asked Conrad.

“Nothing at all. She certainly deserves it. I am under her control,” explained David.

“I think you might have mentioned it before.”

Conrad slipped his hand in his pocket to confirm the apple was still there.


“Tell you what, David, thanks for your proposal, but I think I can manage it on my own.”“OK, Conrad. I’m going to go find Mistress Carol. She controls me, you know.”David wandered away, as Jon walked up.

“How’s it going, mate?” asked Jon. “I thought as a fellow countryman, I should offer my services to help protect The Golden Apple.”

“Jon, every time I turn around, you’re under the spell of new HypnoDomme. You aren’t really someone I can count in this case. No offense.”

“None taken. You got me there, Conrad. It’s Madame Violet now and she is deep in my head.”

“Just try to stay out of trouble.”

“Too late for that,” said John as he left.


“Hey there, Roger Moore,” said Milo.Conrad sighed. “You know, all British men don’t sound alike.”“Sure they do,” replied Milo.

“Fine. What can I do for you?

“Thought I’d see if you need any help guarding the apple.”

“You too?! If you got a hold of it, you’d hand the apple over to Sapphire?”



“Well, I’m not just going to just give it to her, but if she asks…”

“Yeah, I’m sensing a trend here.”

“Does that mean you don’t want my help?”

“I’ll muddle through somehow. Besides there are bigger issues.”

“Bigger issues than who is the most Hypnotic Domme of all?” Milo asked incredously. “Wow, your priorities are all screwed up.”

“Does the Judgment of Paris mean anything to you?”

Milo looked blank.

“The Goddess of Discord. Helen of Troy?”

“I’ve heard of Helen. She was nice.”

“American schools are doing a remarkable job,” muttered Conrad.

“What’s this got to do with the apple?” asked Milo.

“The last time there was a Golden Apple to be awarded it ended in the Trojan War.”

“And?” said Milo.

“I’m just worried that someone’s trying to start their own little HypnoDomme Civil War.

“You’re just being overly pessimistic.”

“Someone has to be.”

Dogboy ran up to Conrad and Milo.


“No. you can’t help guard The Golden Apple!” shouted Conrad. “Bad Dogboy!”

Dogboy scampered away while whimpering.

“Hi guys,” said Tenker.

“No,” said Conrad.

“No?” asked Tenker.

“No!” said Conrad.

“But you haven’t even heard the question,” complained Tenker.

“Don’t need to.”

“And it’s not even for you, it’s for Mr. Minderbinder.”

“Oh,” said Conrad.

“Heh,” said Milo. “Ask away, Tenker.”

“I saw you managed to get Kate Upton to show up.”

“I accept your thanks,” said Milo proudly.

“Yeah, I’m not really much of a fan. What I wanted to know was if you had any luck inviting Norwegian Supermodel Vendela?”

“I know she’s your favorite, Tenker, but she’s on the runway in Milan this weekend. Sorry.”

“That’s okay, Milo. Thanks for trying.”

“Hey, Tenker, sorry about snapping at you,” said Conrad.

“That’s okay, you can make up to me.”


“You can let me help you guard The Golden Apple.”

Conrad sighed and walked away muttering, “Why did I even bother coming?”


* * *

“Why did I even bother coming?” muttered Me-chan.“What’s that?” asked Rodimus.“I said ‘Why did I even bother coming?’ Right now the world’s most alluring and dangerous HypnoDommes are down in the ballroom, doing whatever they want to the subs and I’m stuck up here on guard duty.”

“I see.”

“And why does Wombat even need guarding? If a bunch of HypnoDommes wanted to entrance and enslave me. I wouldn’t want a guard. Bring it on, I’d say.”

“You make a good point. It seems pretty quiet. I’ve got things under control. Why don’t you go down and have some fun?”

“Thank, Rodimus. I will. I’m goi—”

Me-chan’s face when blank.

In a monotone voice he spoke, “I am HRH Princess Sapphire Rain’s slave. She has instructed me to guard Wombat and remain here until she gives me further instructions. I hear and obey HRH Princess Sapphire Rain.”

Me-chan went silent and stared into space.

Rodimus chuckled. “This never gets old.”

After a few minutes, Me-chan regained consciousness. “Why did I even bother coming?” he muttered.

Rodimus stifled a laugh.

“I thought you boys would be down in the ballroom for the big party,” said a sultry voice.

Rodimus looked up and tried to catch his breath.

Diamond Diva Princess was shimmering brightly in the hallway. A black designer dress hugged her perfect body. Her hosiery and shoes dazzled with encrusted diamonds. A platinum bracelet covered with jewels adorned her left wrist.

“D-Diamond Diva Princess,” Rodimus stuttered. “This is an unexpected honor.”

“Yes it is,” she replied dismissively. “I could say that I felt bad for you boys stuck up here, not having any fun. But that would be a lie. I don’t care about you at all. But I do care what you can do for me.”

“Meaning no disrespect, but financial domination isn’t really my cup of tea,” said Rodimus.

The Capitalistic Blonde stood before him. “But even now you find yourself dazzled just being in my presence. Imagine what will happen when I penetrate that muddled mind of yours and turn you into my hypno-junkie.

“Your weak will is no match for my natural charisma and super magnetism, drawing your closer to your ruin, like a moth to the flame.

“Find yourself yielding to my siren’s song and being dashed on the rocks of financial destruction.”

Rodimus stood silent. The spell was complete.

“Now, I’ll take your wallet.”

Rodimus mindlessly complied.

She withdrew cash and credit cards and then dropped it to the floor.

“Sweet dreams, drone.” She snapped her fingers. Rodimus’ eyes closed and he slumped to the floor.

She turned her attention to Me-chan. “You’ve been paying attention?”

Me-chan nodded slowly.

“Perfect. I’ll take your wallet, too.”

Me-chan handed it over.

“And the keycard for Wombat’s room.”

Me-chan complied.

“You’ve done very well, drone. Now dream of me and all the ways you burn for me.” She snapped her fingers and Me-chan collapsed on the floor. She stepped over his unconscious body and used the keycard to enter Wombat’s room.

Wombat was in bed and heard the door to his room open.

“Diamond Diva Princess, I presume?”

The blonde beauty appeared in the doorway, “I am impressed, Wombat, that doesn’t happen very often.”

“I detected the heady scent of Chanel No. 5, and reasoned it must be you.”

“Then you must know why and I here and how pointless it is to attempt to resist me.”

“Yes, Princess, I am quite familiar with your methods and goals.”

“Good, then prepare to mindlessly obsess over me and my gloriousness. Your will slipping way. The desire to give to me growing. To need to give everything to me, even though all you will receive in return is my scorn and contempt.

“Even now realizing that your old life is over. Replaced with a new existence of subservience to me. That is your destination, and that is your desire.”

“Yes,” replied Wombat. “That is my desire.”

DDP scoffed. Men! So predictably weak and malleable.

“First, where is your wallet?” she demanded.

“Top drawer of the nightstand,” replied Wombat.

DDP retrieved the wallet, but it proved empty save for a Massachusetts driver’s license and a Cambridge Public Library card.

“Wombat, was someone here before me?”


“Then where are your cash and credit cards.”


DDP sighed. That’s the trouble with drones. Mindless. Getting information is like pulling teeth.

“Wombat, explain to me why you have no money here and why you left it ‘home.’”

“I thought it best to pre-pay all my expenses on this trip. And then leave my money at home. Safer that way,” he said in a monotone.

“Not really.” She leaned close and whispered in his ear. “When you get home, you’re going to experience an irresistible urge to call me, and then we’re going to have the most marvelous time as you go shopping for me.”

“Of course,” agreed Wombat.

“Marvelous! Oh and tomorrow morning you will, of course, choose that I be the recipient of The Golden Apple.”

“Yes, Princess.”

“Good night, Wombat.” She snapped her fingers and Wombat descended into sleep.

In the hallway she stepped over the still unconscious bodies of Me-Chan and Rodimus. She dropped the keycard on the floor. “Later, losers.” And her heels clicked down the hallway.


* * *

Me-chan woke up to a pair of black boots. His eyes moved slowly upwards. Fishnet stocking. A tuxedo with an improbably low-neckline. And a top hat. Goddess Kasha was decked out as the super-heroine Zatanna. She smiled down at him.“It’s time we had a little chat, Me-chan.”“About what?” he asked nervously.

“Oh, I think you already know, treasure.”

“No, I—”

“You’ve fallen in love with me,” said Kasha.

And as Me-chan heard the words, he felt his something warm inside his heart. He knew Kasha spoke the truth.

“In fact, you’ve really fallen for me, haven’t you, treasure.”

“Yes.” His heart was pounding.

“It was inevitable. You couldn’t just help but fall in love with me.”


“And do whatever I want or command?”


“Good treasure. Give me the key card.”

Me-chan picked up the card from the floor and handed it to Kasha.

Kasha giggled. She extended her hand and brushed Me-chan’s cheek. “Did you ever expect to fall in love with a Goddess.”

Overwhelmed with desire and devotion, Me-chan could barely speak. “No, Goddess.”

Kasha smiled at him, and his body convulsed with pleasure.

“Such a lucky treasure. Now sleep for Kasha.”

Me-chan slumped to the floor.

Kasha entered Wombat’s room.


* * *

Rodimus awoke in the floor. “Crap.” He saw Me-chan out cold and the Wombat’s keycard on the floor.He reached for the card and the heel of a boot landed on the back of his hand.“Ow!” he cried.

“Ow?” asked an enticing voice.

Rodimus looked up and saw Zusa. A too-tight, green t-shirt and torn skinny jeans showed off all her curves. Black ankle boots (one on the back of his hand) with silver buckles and silver hoop earrings completed her look.

“I mean thank you, Zusa.”

“Better,” Zusa smiled and removed the heel of her boot from the back of his hand.

Rodimus grabbed the card and scrambled to his feet.

“I’m sorry Zusa, but you shouldn’t be here. Tessa asked us to keep folks away from Wombat.”

Zusa laughed. “You really think you can stop me from doing whatever I want?”

Rodimus swallowed hard.

“I don’t want to get into any…”

Zusa ignored him, pulled out a compact and began to fix her hair.

“…kind of dispute it’s just that—”

She blew into her compact and a puff of silver powder surrounded Rodimus. He was instantly frozen in place with a look of horror and surprise on his face.

In his unmoving hand he still held the keycard.

“I’ll take that,” said Zusa. “Now don’t go anywhere,” she laughed. “I’ll be back in a jif.” And she laughed and entered Wombat’s room.


* * *

Zusa sat on the edge of the Wombat’s bed.“You know I live in Arlington. We’re practically neighbors, but you’ve never come to visit. It’s enough to hurt a girl’s feelings,” Zusa pouted.“I am beginning to see the error of my ways,” he replied.

“Excellent,” said Zusa and she flashed a dazzling smile.

She produced an antique gold pocket watch with chain and held it before Wombat.

“Ah, Zusa, you are a traditionalist.”

“Sometimes the old ways are the best.” She leaned forward, placing her empty hand on his chest and the watch began to sway.

Softly she said, “Now watch the watch and listen to my voice…”


* * *

Tessa placed the toe of her left boot under his chin and lifted. Their eyes met. In his eyes she saw weakness; in hers he saw power. On his face she recognized the look of fear mixed desire. A most delightful combination.“Enjoying yourself, my pet?”His head was heavy. Speaking was difficult. “Yes, Mistress,” he said in an Australian accent.

“Good boy.” She rose from the couch.

He gasped.

Tessa towered over him in four-inch heel boots imported from Italy. She wore a custom-made black cat suit, designed to accentuate and display every curve of her body. A green jewel suspended from a silver necklace graced her lovely neck.

“And now my dear pet, the real fun begins. First you’re going to—”

There was a pounding at the door.

“Ugh! Could they have possibly picked a more inconvenient time?”

She looked at her kneeling captive, and snapped her fingers.

“Don’t go anywhere, pet. I’ll be right back.”

He went blank, and she went to the door.

Tessa opened the door to find Wombat, muss-haired and glassy-eyed.

“Oh, Tessa. I–”

Tessa crossed her arms. “This had better be important, Wombat. I am quite busy at the moment.”

“It’s—” Over Tessa’s shoulder he spied the half-naked, well-muscled blonde man kneeling on the floor. “Hey, isn’t that the fellow from those Thor movi—“

“You didn’t come here to discuss the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” Tessa said sharply. “What do you want?”

“They came and hypnotized me. They all want the apple. I don’t know what to do,” cried Wombat.

“Who came to see you?”

“DDP, Kasha, Zusa. There may have been others. I’m not really sure.”

“I probably should have expected this.” Tessa giggled. “But I can’t really blame my HypnoDomme sisters. It’s what we do. Fish gotta swim, and birds gotta fly.”

“But what are you going to do?” asked Wombat.

“I promised that you would choose the winner of The Golden Apple. The convention has been a big success so far. I don’t want to do anything to upset that. So you’re just going to have to deal with whatever suggestions they implanted in your mind and just make a decision.”

“But that’s it. I can’t decide. It’s not that I don’t want to. So many of them inside my head. All their voices. Each so controlling. I just can’t.”

Tessa frowned. “I am unaccustomed to having men tell me they can’t.” The frown slowly became a smile. “But I quite experienced in providing the proper incentive and motivation so men are able to tell me that they can.”

“Oh, Tessa. Don’t hypnotize me,” Wombat pleaded. “I don’t think my poor brain can take any more.”

“Hypnotize you?” Tessa furrowed her brow. “Whatever gave you that idea? I’m not going to hypnotize you.”

“You’re not?” asked a puzzled Wombat.

Tessa’s eyes lit up and her smile broadened. “Of course not. I wouldn’t even know where to start.”


“You certainly couldn’t be hypnotized by just listening to my words and the sound of my voice.

Even now your thoughts aren’t slowing down…winding down. Your head isn’t feeling light…and airy…and empty…”

Wombat tried to speak. But the words wouldn’t come.

“You’re not feeling completely and totally relaxed without a care in the world.

“You’re not utterly fascinated with my every word. You’re not even close to dropping into a deep hypnotic sleep.”

Wombat couldn’t move. He couldn’t look away.

“And you’re certainly not going to fall into trance at the count of zero…







Tessa snapped her fingers. Wombat’s eyes slammed shut.

There was nothing but darkness.


* * *

Tessa stood on the stage of the ballroom before the assembled conventioneers.“For day two, we’ve got some great programs lined up. Goddess Lycia will have some tips on lipstick inductions. Ellechemy has a session on how to make Hypnotic Chastity just a bit more intense. And Hypnotic Haylee will be holding court on how get in touch with your Inner Dark Domme.“And before all that we’ve got a fabulous breakfast buffet courtesy of The Waffle House, Mistress Pancake and Tenker.

“But first, it’s time for the awarding of the Golden Apple. Wombat has narrowed in down to three worthy candidates.

“Finalist number one: The Capitalistic Blonde, Diamond Diva Princess!”

DDP stepped on stage. She wore an ivory cream dress with little seed pearls along the collar.

“Hello, drones!” She said in a breathy voice.

In reply half a dozen wallets flew out of the crowd and landed at her feet.

“Finalist number two: She puts the Goddess in Goddess of Love, Kasha!”

Kasha appeared on stage dressed in gold and veils like some Middle or Far Eastern deity.

“Hello, treasures!” Kasha said sultrily.

“Matka Ichcha Sac Sampad Kasha,” replied the crowd.

“Finalist number three: She uses words to make men into her personal playthings. It’s Zusa!”

Zusa emerged on stage, in her Evil CEO best: Black blazer over a low-cut white blouse, black micro-skirt, matching stockings, and stilettos

“Hello, toys!” She said in a provocative voice.

Shouts came from the crowd. “Zusa controls me!”

“And now Wombat, we await your decision,” said Tessa.

In his head he heard DDP’s voice, then Kasha’s, and Zusa’s. Each alluring voice demanding the apple for herself. Each hypnotic word echoing in his mind, twisting his will, shredding his resistance.

And then a new voice, Tessa, commanding him to make a decision. The voices grew louder and he grew weaker. His heart pounded and the room spun.

“Wait!” A shout came from the crowd. “This is all a mistake!”

“Who said that?” asked Tessa.

“Sounded like Hugh Jackman,” said Milo.

“He’s Australian, you arse,” said Conrad as he pushed his way to the front of the crowd.

“Milo, silence!” commanded Tessa. “Conrad what’s this all about?”

“The inscription on The Golden Apple. We got it wrong. Here take a look, but be sure to rotate it all the way.”

Tessa took the apple. The inscription appeared the same. She turned the apple and a new word appeared.


She ran her fingers over the engraved letters.

“How did we miss that before?”

“A combination of things really,” explained Conrad. “The inscription does make sense if you didn’t see “Subject”. And we all know the story of the original Golden Apple, so the visible inscription had a sort of logic to it. And of course you have to turn the apple to read the whole thing.”

“Well this changes everything,” said Tessa.

She turned to Wombat, who was sweating and shaking and still trying to come to a decision.

“Wombat, I can think of no one else who deserves this.” She handed him the apple and gave him a hug. In his ear she whispered, “I release you from my spell.”

“Thank you, Tessa,” said Wombat weakly.

“Wombat! Wombat!” The crowd began to chant.

MzDominica had made her way to the stage and took Wombat by the arm. “Wombat, dear, you look so tired. Let’s go back to my room where you can relax.”

“Tessa, Should we try and protect him?” asked Rodimus.

Tessa thought for a moment. “It’s his apple now. He can do what he wants. Plus it’s not like you guys did such a bang up job last time,” Tessa teased.

Rodimus and Me-chan smiled sheepishly.

“Okay everyone, let’s go get breakfast,” Tessa said to the crowd.

Slowly all the HypnoDommes and HypnoSubjects filed out of the ballroom until only Milo and Conrad remained.

“Well, Michael Caine, you certainly took your sweet time with that one,” said Milo.

“What are you on about now?”

“Creating some drama by waiting till the very last moment to come forward. I thought poor Wombat was going to have a stroke.”

“I didn’t wait until the last moment. I just got back. Do you know how hard it is to find an engraver in rural Michigan? On a weekend?”

“Wait, what?”

“I’ve spent the last eighteen hours trying to find someone to engrave the apple,” said Conrad.

“You mean “SUBJECT” wasn’t part of the original inscription.”

“You catch on fast, Jason Alexander.”

“Jason Alexander?” Milo mouthed silently.

“I realized from the very start that The Golden Apple was going to be nothing but trouble.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. HypnoDomme Civil War. I guess I’m not the only one with an overly active fantasy life. But that must have cost you a pretty penny. Inscription rush job on the weekend. Way to take one for the team.”

“Well I didn’t exactly have to pay…”

“Conrad! You put the whammy on some poor, unsuspecting engraver?”

“And she’s cute, too. We’ve got a date tonight,” beamed Conrad.

“Well all’s well that ends well. That’s what I always say,” said Milo. “Let’s go get waffles.”

“That’s insightful. Perhaps I should have that engraved on the next apple.”

“Pfft,” said Milo.

“There’s no proof that this has ended. We still don’t know who was responsible for The Golden Apple. She or he is still out there. And we have no idea what they might try next,” Conrad intoned seriously.