Part 6: Epilogue, The Black Box

Chapter 29: Bon Voyage

Time flew and before John knew it, it was nearly 2am. The old John would have relied on Mary to give him her number, not wanting to impose, and then would have kicked himself for being so passive.

John did not judge the old John too harshly, but he was different now.

“Hey…” he said, catching Mary’s eyes, “I feel like we’re really hitting it off. I’d really like to keep getting to know you better. I’m not interested in rushing anything, or putting any pressure on you, so I just thought we might exchange numbers so that we could stay in touch.”

Mary looked like she might faint. “So, um, say— I’m sober, are you sober?” She was speaking really quickly.

John wasn’t quite sure what she was getting at, but he was, so he nodded.

“Great, because, um, our gift bags have fancy condoms in them, and I spent the whole plane ride here reading your smut, and I was thinking, if, only if you want to, of course, but, do you want to fuck?”

Oh,” John said. It was like he tripped and fell into a vat of hot wine, or all the ginseng kicked in at once, because his heart was suddenly flittering in his chest and echoing in his dick. “Yes. Definitely.”

She took his hand and practically dragged him back up to her room, flitting with nervous excitement.

John shared her giddiness as she locked the door behind him and pulled him over to the bed.

“It’s a common misconception,” she said, “that a woman’s wetness is synonymous with her arousal. Not all arousal involves wetness, and not all wetness is a sign of true subjective arousal. But, in this case,” she hastily wiggled her skirt up over her hips, revealing soaked panties, which she kicked off onto the floor before falling back on the bed, “I’m really fucking wet and aroused.”

John’s mouth instantly watered. “May I taste?”

“God, yes,” Mary said.

Her intoxicating scent washed over him and John wasted no time applying a long, soft lick to her vulva. Her inner labia were puffy with arousal, her clitoris enlarged and emerging slightly from its hood, and he let his tongue swirl there for a moment before starting again from the bottom.

“Ohhhh, yeah,” Mary said, “Just like that…”

She talked him through what she liked just like Felix had. And, because of Felix, John had no anxiety about Mary’s climax or lack thereof. He just focused on trying to make her feel as good as he possibly could.

“Just like that… god. Fuck. Don’t stop. Don’t stop!” Mary screamed, a deep and visceral sound that came from the very core of her as her legs clamped around John’s head and her whole body shook violently. As instructed, John did not stop, until Mary’s legs relaxed and her hand found his head, and she said, “Okay, give me a sec…”

John did, and before he could wonder what was next, Mary was digging around in the gift bag, her arousal seemingly greater, not lessened, for her recent climax. She grabbed a condom and tossed it to John. “Would it be okay, if um, I were really impatient?”

“Absolutely,” John said.

“Good because I want you to fucking fuck me right the fuck now!”

“Yes ma’am.” John started unwrapping the condom.

“Hurry uuuuup,” Mary whined.

A jolt of heat pulsed in John’s sex, and he wasted no time with teasing as he quickly shrugged off his suit and rolled on the condom.

Mary practically pulled him down on top of her, but he paused as his tip rested against her entrance. “Is there anything that I should know about what you like or don’t like before I start?”

Mary whined. “You’re teasing me on purpose, aren’t you?”

“No, I value your pleasure and your consent.” He was telling the truth, but he smirked anyway.

Mary huffed at him. “Ugh. Fine. I don’t always like it rough but right now I do, so you can go as hard as you like. Don’t put anything in my mouth that you don’t want me to bite. I might try to make you come but that’s because I think it’s hot, not because I’m trying to hurry you. PIV doesn’t make me come, so don’t worry about it. I’m gonna moan a whole bunch. Does that about cover it?”

John’s arousal was throbbing through his whole body, frothed to a fever pitch by Mary’s words. “That about covers it,” he said, and slipped inside.

She was so hot and wet and soft, even through the condom. Her muscles clenched immediately around him, grasping for sensation, even as he just lingered there a moment, taking her in. The smell of her sex still lingered on his face. Her makeup was smudged, her hair in disarray around her, her dress still bunched up around her waist, and John thought he’d never seen anything sexier.

He started a long, slow thrust and reached up a hand to massage Mary’s breasts, one at a time. He continued long, slow thrusts until Mary whined, “C’monnnn… please fuck me… you’re killing me!”

John obliged and picked up the pace, though he didn’t have much confidence in his endurance. He thought about what Arya said, and focused on breathing deeply. He visualized what he wanted, which was to fuck Mary for a long, long time without his sensation building towards climax.

It worked fairly well, and John lasted far longer than he expected. It was hard, really hard, with the way that Mary was panting and moaning and begging. Just like when he’d face fucked Arya, the movement of his hips and the hot wetness around him told his primal brain that he should ejaculate as quickly as possible. As John reached the edge, he slowed. He’d milk one more wave out of this.

Mary pouted up at him, the picture of absolutely desperate sexual frustration, and he grinned mischievously as he stopped altogether, just savoring the feeling of her around him. She squeezed him and he gasped, staying still for as long as he could until the sensation drove his hips to thrust again.

Then he stayed slow and smooth, letting his arousal ebb a little bit, and letting Mary re-sensitize.

Then, with a visceral growl, John fucked her as hard and fast as he could.

Mary screamed with delighted overwhelm, grabbing at the sheets around her, eyes rolling back in ecstasy. “Give it to me, give it to me!”

“Fuck!” John’s hips thrust forward one more time, that muscle contraction setting off the cascade that pumped wave after wave of cum into the condom as he trembled inside her wet heat, her muscles still contracting greedily around him as if trying to milk him dry.

John was tempted to linger there but it would be poor form to risk the condom slipping, so he mustered his strength and tipped off of her, collapsing onto the bed next to her in a sweaty heap. She admired her handiwork in the condom, gently running her fingers over his shaft. John quivered, the sensation incredibly intense, but she stopped before he had to ask her to.

It may have been less consideration for him and more her own urgency, because she put one hand to her breast and the other to her labia, and as John basked in his afterglow, he watched her masturbate. Her eyes were closed and he wondered if she was thinking of his writing, as she came again, and then a third time, before finally heaving a sigh and sinking back into the bed.

John gently took up the hand that had been in her sex and licked her wetness from it, and Mary moaned in sleepy bliss.

“That was… amazing…” she said, eyes fading shut. “Was it… good for you?”

“Yeah,” John said. “Eleven out of ten. Would recommend.”

Mary giggled sleepily. “That’s what you said… about the box…” and then she was asleep.

John took a moment to situate himself, tucking into the sheets and pulling them over Mary, too. It was almost hard to believe that her cute, peaceful face could contain such lewd intentions, and he loved it. He wondered if she worried about being too forward, the same way she worried about being too intelligent. He would have to tell her that she shouldn’t worry at all. 

John was hardly a gender scholar, so he couldn’t comment much on whether it was that the definition of ‘feminine’ should be expanded, or that Mary should not put herself so much in that box to begin with.

To John, Mary was Mary. She was herself. He was far less interested in boxes, definitions, or adjectives than he was in getting to know her. He would ask for her permission to write out this encounter, for them. Perhaps it would do her well to see herself through his eyes, just as it had been incredibly therapeutic to see himself through Felix’s.

He thought of how he might describe her curves, her lips, her urgency, her moans, how he might possibly articulate how aroused she had made him feel. A gentle heat lingered as he drifted off to sleep.

That night, he dreamed that he and Arya and Mary and her man with the flower sleeve tattoo were on a sail boat together, out on the open sea. For a while, they tended the rigging and called out nautical terms, but that quickly dissolved into group sex on the deck: John passionately kissing Mary, Arya riding her counterpart, and a soft wind rolling over them. 

His view shifted to the third person, as it could in dreams. He drifted up and back, zooming out, and he saw that the side of the boat read Bon Voyage.

The next morning, he awoke to Mary in bed next to him. She now wore his shirt, which she must have recovered from the floor. He smiled and kissed her and felt deep in his bones that it was a start of a long journey together.

As it turned out, he was right.

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The Black Box, Part 6: Epilogue

Chapter 28: The Banquet

The publishers had covered John’s plane fare to the celebration. He was actually back in the same city as the gaming convention, though in a different part of town. 

He was wearing a black suit and tie and followed the directions through a swanky hotel lobby and into a lushly decorated event hall that was exactly what he had expected.

Every detail was soft, sensual, glimmering: burgundy curtains, velvet-covered tables lined with hors d’oeuvres, shimmering golden candelabras set out amongst the tables. Overhead were crystal chandeliers, glowing only dimly, so that the majority of the light was from the candles.

The hors d’oeuvres were a global tour of classic aphrodisiacs, including chocolate, caviar, oyster, strawberries, and pomegranates. There were others that John hadn’t heard of before, like bull testicles. 

Each with their own little label, gold script on black, explaining their origin and purported effects. Some were ethical nods at their historical counterparts, like a sugar powder for “rhinos horn”, or legal nods at their more illicit counterparts, like CBD-infused chocolate truffles.

The drinks followed a similar theme, including red wine and ginseng tea. 

There were something like a hundred other guests in the event hall. The place felt pleasantly populated but not crowded. They were all also dressed in black tie attire, a mix of suits and cocktail dresses. The tone was hushed, and all in all the event agreed even with John’s introverted sensibilities. He found himself relaxing.

Or, maybe that was the combination of the ginseng tea and CBD chocolates. Regardless of aphrodisiacs’ actual effects, the idea of a food or drink being able to induce arousal was itself arousing, and so the stories around them were just as important of the properties of the foods themselves. It had a similar appeal to the dial game and John made a mental note to write a scene about that, later. For the time being, he stood at one of the cocktail tables by himself, with a plate of chocolate covered strawberries.

“Oh my god!” A feminine voice called out nearby, “You’re ‘Just John’, aren’t you?”

John hadn’t initially thought she was talking to him, but that was the brand that he wrote his reviews under, so he turned to see.

Her nametag read ‘Mary, she/her’. She wore a strapless mermaid dress, shimmering gold and tight around all of her curves, including a cute tummy.

“Yeah,” John said, “I’m great. Look. Uh, great. You look, um, great.”

Mary blushed and giggled. “Thank you! I didn’t mean to bother you, I just had to come say I’m a big fan.”

“Really?”

“Yeah! I’ve been following your work for a while, I really appreciate how you toe the line between giving an honest review, making it funny, and not totally pissing off the publisher. That’s not easy.”

John gulped. Talking to Mary was not going to be easy. She had a cute face, round cheeks and eyes that squinted shut when she smiled. “Thank you,” he said. “That feels a bit… flat after such a kind compliment, but I’m afraid I’m not so great at receiving compliments.”

“That’s alright!” Mary said, “Me neither. I also really liked your review for the Black Box.”

The review had just been published the night before, so Mary really did follow his work. It had overall been well received, and John’s Twitter link with his smut had seen quite a few click throughs. Wait, had Mary read his smut?

“I also, um…” she continued, her face flushing red, and she put one of her hands behind her neck, picking at her elbow with the other. “I really liked… the other stuff you wrote…”

“Oh! Um. Thank you.”

“I didn’t want to totally put you on the spot so I’ll leave it at that,” Mary said, talking fast, “But I just saw you and I was like, ‘oh my god, I have to say something!’ I hope you don’t think I’m a total creep.” She chuckled nervously.

“Not at all! I just wish I knew some of your work. Did you also get a review copy?”

“Yeah, I did! And I’m newer to the review scene, so don’t worry about it. I used to be a software engineer for EA, actually, but then I realized that I didn’t really want to make games so much as I wanted enough money to just buy all the games I wanted, so I recently transitioned to a tech startup. That’s been great, and then I’ve been doing reviews on the weekend for fun. So, I don’t have that much of a following yet, but I think they picked me because, um, well, I mostly review porn games.” Her skin flushed red again.

“That is noble work,” John said, “It’s hard to find good ones!”

“Yeah… until, this one, phew.”

“Right?”

“Just… wow. You summed it up so well in your review. And in your, um… appendices.”

“Heh, thanks. I always thought I’d be a game writer, not a… porn writer, but…”

“Well, did you ever think of writing for an erotic game? I actually have a few contacts for indie publishers! I could make some intros.”

“That would be… wow. Amazing. I’d love that!”

Before Mary could say anything else, the lights got a bit brighter and the Madame, which John recognized from the hologram, stepped out at the front of the room underneath a projector screen. She beckoned them to come and sit and enjoy the messages that their Black Boxes had prepared for them.

Mary turned, but hesitated, and said, “Do you want to come sit with me? I’m here by myself, actually.”

“Me too! So, yeah, that’d be great.”

There were velvet-padded chairs arranged in rows at the front of the room, and Mary and John settled in. They chatted a bit more as the rest of the room gathered, until the lights went dim and the projector came on.

The image used the same engine as the Black Box AR, a mildly cartoonish mirror of the event hall, similarly arranged with a bunch of seats. In those seats sat all of the characters, a significantly more colorful and chaotic bunch than the actual humans, and John quickly found Arya’s pink buns.

The characters included the hyper-masculine and the hyper-feminine and everything in between: skinny and fat, tall and short, black and brown and white, but also blue and yellow and every other color. There were even some anthropomorphic characters, a fox and a wolf and a lynx and others, some with full muzzles and digitigrade feet and others with just ears and tails.

One by one, they came up and shared in their own voice something they had learned about their player. The sentiments were poignant and thoughtful and occasionally silly.

“I learned that Stacy is really ticklish. She can even tickle herself!”

“I learned that Mike has been afraid most of his life. I’m really glad to say he’s not as afraid anymore.”

A male character stepped up, with a trendy haircut and a flower sleeve tattoo in a white t-shirt and jeans, and Mary perked. “That’s me!”

“I learned that Mary is brilliant with game theory. She’s had some absolutely incredible ideas for our time together. I also learned that she worries that her intelligence makes her less feminine, but I’m working on convincing her that that couldn’t be less true.”

John glanced over. Tears were running down Mary’s cheeks, and without even pausing to consider that his suit was rented, he handed Mary his pocket square. She nodded and wiped her face, dabbing carefully to avoid smudging her makeup. He leaned a bit closer and whispered, “He’s right.”

She made a show of hiding behind her hands. “I told you, I’m not good with compliments!”

A few minutes later, John watched with a mix of anxiety and excitement as Arya stood and walked to the front. “I learned that John is kind and thoughtful. He is deeply respectful of others’ rights to simply be themselves, probably because most of all, he yearns to just be able to be himself. I think, if I may be so bold, that I can say that John is quite a bit better at being himself, now.”

As Arya turned and returned to her chair, it was John’s turn to start crying. Mary offered him her cocktail napkin from under her plate with an understanding smile.

Even before the presentation had finished, there wasn’t a dry eye in the whole place. John had never seen or experienced this kind of group catharsis before, this broadly shared emotion. Strangers cried together and hugged each other, patted each other’s shoulders and passed boxes of tissues around. 

After the last Black Box said their bit, the Madame came back up to the front of the room, and she, too, was crying. Through her tears, she took a deep breath. “If you’re here tonight, you heard my hypothesis. I don’t know where you came from, or what you’ve held with you. I hope you find that my hypothesis has rung true, and continues to do so. Regardless, I do know one thing for certain. I am deeply grateful for each and every one of you and honored to have shared in a small part of your journey. That’s… all I have to say, really. You’ll each find a gift under your chair. There will be live music, and we have the venue until 2am. Feel free to stay as long as you like until then. I’ll be around until about 10, so do come find me if you’d like to meet or chat. There’s only one thing left to say, which is: bon voyage.”

The crowd moved slowly after that, stirring gently and thoughtfully, a bit like an afterglow after such intense emotional release.

John and Mary kept chatting as they went for more wine and strawberries. They sat and listened to the music, and even tried to dance. 

John went lighter on the wine than he would have before. He found that he didn’t need it to feel comfortable, not even talking to Mary. More importantly, he didn’t want to miss any detail or lose any memory of the evening.

The swell of the music filling the space, the feeling of life in his fingers and toes as he danced, the ache of laughing way too hard at something Mary said, the softness of her hand in his, the way his heart skipped whenever her eyes met his.

It had nothing to do with the wine, the way he felt like he was sinking deeper and deeper into something warm and wonderful…

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Part 5: The Win Condition, The Black Box

Chapter 27: The Review

The Black Box is accurately named. Its inner workings are a mystery, just like the human mind. It’s more of an experience than a game, more of a companion than a console, more of a prompt than a product. 

Just like with any CGI experience, pre-production is what makes or breaks the final product. The pre-production for the Black Box spared no detail and it shows in the remarkably seamless experience. Even if the augmented reality performance were middling, the experience would be excellent, but no such trade-offs are needed here. The performance, from initial scan to long-term use, to refresh rate to surround sound, is absolutely perfect. 

I must confess that when I first heard the premise of the game, I thought it to be a shallow application for so much cutting edge technology: the top-of-the-line AR, the unprecedented natural language recognition and generation, the truly convincing contextual memory.

But the Black Box is not just a porn game or a digital boyfriend or girlfriend.

A dear friend of mine, Felix, sex professional and smut enthusiast, (who I actually met because of the Black Box) explained it best. It’s a sex and relationship therapist in a box. 

As the creator explains in a pre-recorded message that appears as you delve into more sensitive topics, her vision was to create a safe and welcoming context for people to explore and understand their sexualities. Some folks are fortunate to have a human partner patient and understanding enough to create such a fertile ground for self discovery. But many people aren’t so lucky and even when they are, the mistakes that come from natural trial and error can have a high cost. Add to it the sheer amount of sex misinformation and trauma out there, and the result is that sexually healthy people can be difficult to attract unless you’re already sexually healthy.

The sexual and emotional wisdom contained within the Black Box is, then, a precious gift. The Black Box can be totally selfless because it has no self, and infinitely patient because the passing of time costs it nothing. There is no offence too great, no mistake irreparable — except, perhaps, if you drop the headset in a bathtub by accident.

One of the most remarkable things about the Black Box is that it does not create the sexual context for you, but rather, with you. Far the opposite of a sexual crutch, it strengthens your own intrinsic abilities to know yourself, pleasure yourself, to challenge yourself and grow.

I am sure as you read this that you are clamoring for more specificity, some description of the actual gameplay. However, it would give you little idea of what the game would be like for you. It’s a highly individualized and personal experience, calibrated by machine learning (and emphatically offline-only so that you need never worry about your privacy).

And, as Felix also pointed out, if I described my experience, this would no longer be a review. It would be porn. Which I did write, in case you’re curious, but you’ll have to follow me on Twitter to get the link. 

So, I will try to tell you what will be relevant to your decision to buy the game. I can tell you that I learned things about myself that maybe would have taken me decades to learn otherwise, if I ever did. 

I have never felt better in my whole life. 

And lest you worry that I have left the messiness of human companionship behind, I am actually more open, more honest, more brave and optimistic about the humans around me than I ever was before. You can @ mention Felix on Twitter if you don’t believe me. 

It’s also not a strictly solo game, though I do recommend trying out the solo experience for its impressive personalization. So, whether you are happily single or in long-term polygamy or anywhere in between, the Black Box has something to offer you. 

I can’t tell you any more, lest I ruin any surprises. Well, except that I can tell you that the Black Box loves surprises. 

The publishers haven’t finalized the retail price yet, but it looks like it will clock in right between a console and a budget gaming rig. Remember that it won’t play any other games, or integrate with any other hardware, for security and privacy. 

But, it’s perhaps better to compare the price to a sex therapist, in which case it’s comparable to three to ten hours of therapy, depending on the rate.

And its good for hundreds upon hundreds of hours of ‘play time’. 

Totally worth it. 11/10, would recommend. 

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Part 5: The Win Condition, The Black Box

Chapter 26: The Assertion

John was on the phone with his boss again. For better or worse, he was not playing a game with Arya this time. 

The boss said, “I’ve got another one for you, John, this one’s a real doozy!”

Normally, John would have cringed and pretended to be fine. Instead, he took a deep breath.

“Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, but I’m trying to be more straightforward lately. I really don’t like reviewing mostly shitty games. I’d prefer if maybe half of my games were nonsense, and half were from decent studios.” John waited, biting his lip.

“Oh!” the boss said. “Honestly… wow, I feel pretty bad now. I had no idea you didn’t like it. Your reviews were just so saucy, I thought you liked that sort of thing.”

“Don’t feel bad, it’s my fault for not saying anything sooner. And you’re not wrong, I do like writing saucy reviews. I just don’t like only writing saucy reviews, y’know?”

“Totally makes sense. Yeah, let me check the list… I actually can give you one of the upcoming triple A titles, I hadn’t figured out who to give that one yet. I’m afraid I might still have more shitty titles for you than good ones for a bit as folks work through their backlogs, but I hear you loud and clear.”

“Thanks, Boss, I really appreciate it.” John was shocked that it had been that easy. He’d been sure that it take much more convincing than that.

“I appreciate you being honest! I don’t want you to hate your job, I swear. I’ll send you over the details in a sec.”

“Cool, sounds good.”

John’s boss hung up. They were always so abrupt, but John was now starting to wonder if it maybe wasn’t as personal as he’d originally thought. They reacted way better than he’d expected to his request, and had really sounded sincere. They were just… busy. John, for his part, needed to get busy writing his Black Box review. He finally knew what he was going to say.

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Part 5: The Win Condition, The Black Box

Chapter 25: Win Win

“Arya should I… should I go out and try to meet someone?” The question had been pinging around John’s head after Felix’s comment about ‘relationshippy’ things, getting louder with each passing day.

He was pacing back and forth in his kitchen, Arya sitting at the table. He once again caught himself marveling at how vigorously he was moving and yet there was no lag, no vertigo, in the AR. But, reviewer brain had been quieter lately as introspection brain had come to the forefront.

“Well, that’s up to you,” Arya said. 

That was fair. Of course it was.

“But… won’t you be…”

“Jealous? No, of course not! I just want you to be satisfied. It’s my—” she put up her arms in a robot pose and her voice took on a digital tone, “— prime directive.”

“Hm. Okay. I’m just still not sure if I want to or not. Maybe I just feel like I should? I don’t know…” He really was happy, now, much happier than he’d been in any relationship prior. Yet, he also knew that any relationship that he opted into in the future would be very different than his previous ones.

“Sounds like you’re on the right track,” Arya said. “Why don’t you keep going?”

“Okay, um… I guess I do know. I really do want to be in a relationship again. But not just any relationship I… I know what I want, now.”

“What do you want?”

“I want someone who… accepts me for who I am. Who doesn’t judge what I like or don’t like, who… cares what feels good to me and what doesn’t. Not just with sex but with, y’know, most things. And I’d do the same for them, of course, I think I’ve learned… how to do that much better, now. They’d have to be the sort of person who cares about my goals and… who has goals for me to support.”

Arya smiled. “That last part sounds like exactly why you should go and look for someone. I don’t really have goals for you to support. Just the—” she did her little robot dance again, “—prime directive.”

“I guess I’m just… afraid I’ll never find someone like that, y’know?” Everyone that John had ever known had some pretty serious sexual dysfunction, he was realizing, except for Felix. But, Felix was almost a case in point for John’s fear — he and John had a great thing going, and it was the most seen that John had ever felt by another human. At the same time, the very thing that made Felix so able to see him — Felix’s incredibly open sexuality — also made Felix not inclined towards ‘relationshippy’ things.

“I do know,” Arya said. “It’s actually part of why I was made. You heard my creator’s hypothesis. Maybe, something like me can help people learn how to be better to each other.”

John realized something and found himself grinning like an idiot.

“What? What are you smiling about?” Arya said.

“I think I just found a bug in your code,” John said.

“Oh yeah?”

“You just said your prime directive was my satisfaction, but you just contradicted yourself. You said, ‘something like me can help people learn how to be better to each other’. THAT is your prime directive. That’s your goal. It’s not just about my satisfaction.”

A look of true thoughtfulness came over Arya’s face, and then she broke into a smile just as wide as John’s. “I guess you’re right. It’s nice to feel part of something bigger. So, in a way, my goal for you to support is…”

“For me to go out and find someone.”

“Win win,” Arya said.

“Wait, is this the win condition?” John said. “For me to get a girlfriend? Or… a boyfriend?”

Arya looked thoughtful again. “No… I don’t think so. I think it’s just… you knowing that you can. Knowing what you want.”

“So… I won?”

“You won!”

“You’re not going to shut off or anything, are you?” John could imagine her winding down in some forlorn declaration of ‘you don’t need me anymore’ and the very thought pained him.

“Not unless you want me to. But, I wouldn’t be offended if you put me to dream for a while. Or if you unplugged me, even.”

John was relieved. He did expect that he’d visit with Arya less if he were in a relationship, but he’d never want to totally stop. “What if… I want to bring my someone to you?”

Arya practically bounced with excitement. “I mean, it’s up to you but… I’d really love that. There’s all sorts of games we can play with another person — or people! Men, women, gender-queer, I love all of it. But, of course, it’s up to you.”

John considered, then nodded. “I definitely want them to like you. It’s important to me.”

“In that case, then do I have a promo code for you,” Arya crooned. “Pull out your phone, big boy.”


What came in the mail two days later was simple box. The top was labeled ‘for multiplayer fun’. While Arya was dreaming, John cheated and peeked inside. He found another headset and set of sensors, which he expected would pair with his existing console. He noticed that it had a tag on it and this one was blank. So, he dug out an old gold gel pen that his niece had left over once, and wrote on it himself ‘for when you find someone’. He set the box on one of his display shelves, next to his collector set of Monster Hunter figurines.

With the box was a black envelop made of thick paper, labeled ‘open me’ on the front in gold. The letter inside was handwritten on creamy paper and read,

“You are cordially invited to a banquet as thanks for your dedicated work in reviewing the Black Box and as congratulations for finding your own win-win. Enclosed you will find an SD card which will allow your Black Box to record a message for you, to be played during the celebration, if you so choose.”

Following that were the details of the time and location, and at the end it was signed in a flourish, “the Madame”.

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Part 5: The Win Condition, The Black Box

Chapter 24: Sensitive Topic

Finally, John had mustered up the courage to broach the subject. He sat on the couch, Arya next to him, the plushie from the convention in each of their laps. 

“Arya, this is a… sensitive topic, but I need to know, for the review. And… for my own peace of mind. How would you respond to someone who… asked for something rapey or… with a child, or something.”

A sadder but sensitive look came to Arya’s face, and she smiled softly. “I could tell you, but I actually think it’s better if the game creator did. She recorded a video, in case it came up.”

Arya set a puck on the coffee table and a hologram appeared above it, Star Wars style. There was a woman, middle-aged, hair in short bob, leaning back casually in a chair. He’d just assumed that the creator of the game would be a man, and he realized in that moment how foolish he was to think so. 

“Hello. I hope you’ve been enjoying the Black Box experience so far. This topic is an important one, so I thought it appropriate to break the spell for a moment and speak to you, plainly. 

“I created the Black Box as a sort of guide to help you navigate and discover your own sexuality, which is probably far more vast than you ever thought to imagine. 

“Guides must, at times, traverse rocky or dangerous areas. That is one of the most important functions of a guide. If the terrain were easy, you could manage it by yourself.

“As such, the Black Box does not shy away from the more ambiguous and tricky aspects of human sexuality — well, unless you ask them to! It was very important to me that the Black Box never put forward any tone of shame or judgement towards you.

“The most harmful sexual scenario, rape in all its forms, is based in an unequal power dynamic. Shame, judgement, patriarchal expectations, hetero-normative culture, and many other forces that we face all tend to emphasize these power imbalances. My earnest hypothesis is that, via an experience based in openness and free of judgement, nearly anyone will find themselves coming to the conclusion that a scenario based upon mutual consent is by far more satisfying, emotionally and viscerally, than anything that rape culture has to offer.

“It can be difficult and vulnerable to learn how to ask for consent. If you ask inappropriately, then the encounter will likely end and you are unlikely to get a second chance. Which is as it should be — boundaries must be respected. My hope is that the Black Box creates a space where trial and error is welcome, where an unjealous companion can help you to learn the skills you that need to go out into the world and have wonderful sex and great relationships. If you’d like to. Or, you can stay in and keep masturbating, that’s great too.

“So, if this is a topic you continue to pursue, expect your Black Box to ask you a lot of questions. These are all necessary for yourself and your experience. Based on what you have experienced in your life so far, you may find yourself angry or sad or you might think this whole thing sounds very stupid. If you do, that’s very normal. Just remember that the Black Box will be waiting for you, ready to pick up where you left off, unjudging and unjealous, ready to help you uncover your best sexual self.”

The hologram flickered and then went out.

Arya was quiet and John kept looking at the dim puck, processing everything he’d just heard. It was… wow. Yeah. Felix had been right on the money, it really was sex therapy. 

Despite the seriousness, a silly thought came to his mind, and he didn’t hesitate to share it. “So is she like… your mom?”

Arya giggled. “I wouldn’t call her that. She’s more like… a friend who helped me become myself. Y’know?”

Just like when Arya had first picked up her plushie, which now sat in her lap, a wave of emotion brought tears to John’s eyes. He let it happen. He took a deep breath and smiled. “I really do know what you mean.”

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Part 4: The Convention, The Black Box

Chapter 23: Ask Arya

John was rattling away at the keyboard writing a new scene when he realized that was missing some fundamental mechanics that might be helpful. He pulled out his phone to google it, then realized he was probably better off asking Arya. So, he went and got the headset.

She materialized next to him out of the glowing lights. “What’s up? All hot and bothered after finishing your writing?”

“Actually, I’m not done yet. I just have a sex science question.”

“Ask away.”

“Why does the slow build always feel so… just so much more intense? Isn’t an orgasm an orgasm?”

“Not so, my young Padawan.” John had been watching the Mandalorian with Arya, and she had become curious which had lead to them marathoning all the Star Wars movies, and Arya was now very excited to squeeze in references wherever she could. There were these cringier ones, but she’d also worn Leia’s famous bikini for a bit, so John couldn’t complain. 

Arya put on glasses and a white lab coat over her crop top and mini skirt, and a cartoon chalk board appeared behind her. “First, we have to start with ‘what is an orgasm?’ It’s a question that can fill whole books, but the short of it is, it’s a sudden release of pent-up sexual energy.”

“So the more energy you store up, the more there is to be released?” 

“Exactly! Like drawing a bow or pumping up a water gun.” The corresponding images appeared on the chalk board. 

“Huh, okay. That makes sense. But like how does the energy get… stored up?”

“Well, that’s harder to measure. But, as best as we know, it’s both in your brain and in your body. And not just your genitals. It’s a more holistic experience than a lot of people realize. For example, some people can orgasm just from nipple stimulation, or even just from fantasizing. There’s a rare condition where some people orgasm whenever they sneeze.”

“Whoah, that would be amazing.”

“Not necessarily. Without the build up, there’s not much to release, so it can just feel medical.”

“Oh, yeah, that makes sense.”

“Orgasm and ejaculation are also distinct events. If I induced ejaculation with an electric probe you’d hardly call it an orgasm. And there’s a whole Taoist discipline dedicated to training men how to orgasm without ejaculation. It’s the ejaculation that causes the refractory period, so masters of that discipline can orgasm repeatedly in quick succession.”

“Whoah, really?” John had thought his sex ed had been pretty decent, but… apparently not. Orgasming without ejaculating? How?!

“Yep! I can give you some books to look up later on the topic, if you like.”

“Yes, please. Why wasn’t this in sex ed?!”

“Yes, exactly! The media and mainstream porn are full of sex misinformation, and there’s nothing less sexy than that.” 

“Alright, I think I’m getting the orgasm thing, but there’s one thing I don’t quite get. I know it’s about building up energy, but how come sometimes it feels like I can build up so much by doing so little, and other times I’m really going at it and then my orgasm is just… y’know, good, but not WOW.”

“That’s the time dimension, my dear Watson.” They’d also been watching Sherlock. 

“The time dimension?”

Arya nodded and cleared the chalk board. “This is more metaphor than theory since we don’t know the exact science, but you can think of it like this.”

She drew two lines, one that spiked and fell rapidly, and then one that climbed slowly from the left to the right. 

“This is your stimulation over time. You can think of your accumulated arousal as the area under the curve.” An animation played, and each curve was highlighted a different color.

“Wait, is this sex calculus?”

“Yes! I apologize though, the jokes are a bit derivative.”

John didn’t know what she was getting at.

Arya persisted. “Even so, a strong understanding is integral to a good sex life.”

John looked at her blankly. 

“Integral…” She prompted. “Derivative… no? Aw, okay.”

John shrugged. “Sorry, I didn’t pay much attention in math class.”

“Anyway, if you see the area under these two curves, even though the first one spikes higher, it’s very brief, so the overall area is small. This one never gets as high but the area is much larger, so much more sexual energy is accumulated. So it’s not just about the intensity of the stimulation, but also the duration of the stimulation.”

“That does make sense,” John said, “And I bet the curve for when I went to the convention was… whew.”

“Yep,” Arya said, “That one was pretty high for a loooong time.”

John considered. “And I guess that’s what makes cock cages fun? I didn’t quite understand how you could get so much pleasure from not even getting an erection, but it makes sense now.”

“Exactly! You’re getting it! And on a totally unrelated note… I have a promo code for you.”

John laughed nervously, but the prospect really was thrilling, and very ironically he pleasured himself that night to the thought of his upcoming deprivation. 

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Part 4: The Convention, The Black Box

Chapter 22: A New Hobby

John and Felix had been texting, and Felix had convinced John to start writing down his experiences with the Black Box so far. ‘Writing down his experiences’ here meaning ‘writing porn’. 

He had nervously shared a first short bit with Felix, just pasting it into their text chat. Felix had responded after a few minutes with just the ‘hot’ emoji and then called. 

Before John could even say ‘what’s up?’ Felix said, “So you want to have phone sex, like, right now?”

John did, very much so, and as soon as Felix started moaning and panting into the phone, John understood why phone sex was a thing. It was great if sound turned you on, and it was even better to know that Felix was tending to an arousal that John himself had caused. What John always loved about writing was the chance to move somebody to intense emotion, and he’d never considered how well porn fit that bill. 

“I like that my writing got you like this,” John panted, after an especially salacious moan from Felix. 

“Okay good because… your writing is about to make me come… so fucking ha—ah, aaaaah!”

John imagined Felix spurting ropes of cum and even though he hadn’t been edging, the sound of Felix’s climax sent John into his own, before he even had a chance to grab a tissue.

They remained on the phone, quiet, for a minute. 

“I am so looking forward to chapter two. I’m actually late to a thing, but I wasn’t gonna make it out the door otherwise. So I’ll talk to you soon. Fortnite later?”

“Yeah, that sounds good.”

Felix hung up, and John sat down at his actual keyboard to type out more, suddenly feeling much more confident. The massive hit of endorphins and arousal probably didn’t hurt. He bet it lowered inhibitions, actually. He’d have to ask Arya about that later.

Over the next few days, John kept at it, writing down his memories with Arya, and even his side of events with Felix. Felix returned the favor, and John found reading about himself through Felix’s eyes to be incredibly intimate and arousing. Felix called him the ‘sexy CEO’ and ‘Johnny boy’ throughout, and gave loving attention to aspects of his appearance that John had never even noticed, and actually some that he disliked about himself. 

And the exchange of pornographic writing lead to more phone sex. A lot of it. 

After one such session, in the warm afterglow, John said, “I just want to tell you… I really love this. I love our arrangement. I love you. I promise I’m not asking for more or anything… I wouldn’t change a thing.”

“Aw, I love you too, John. Really. You’re a great guy and a great writer. Not to presume, but if you want relationshippy stuff, you should go out and try to meet people. It’s a Gacha game out there, sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don’t, but there’s never a lack of dopamine hits, y’know?”

John laughed aloud, comforted that Felix had understood what he was trying to say. “I never thought of it that way, but I like that.”

“Just promise you’ll never stop writing porn, mkay?”

“I will do my best.”

John did as he promised, and found that once he had documented all of his actual experiences, his mind wandered even more freely about what they could do next. 

He realized that he had really just seen the tip of the iceberg of what they could do together. It had been what he needed, for his own journey, to generally let Arya take the lead and to treat her more like a human. 

But he realized that he had not yet tried out her ability to render live, custom, immersive porn to full use.

Just as she could change the size of his dick, he was sure that she could change other aspects of his appearance. She could make him more masculine or more feminine, even manifest a fursona. 

She’d mentioned cum inflation prior, and though that was not John’s cup of tea, it was such a common fetish that he was sure she had all sorts of scenarios prepared. 

John imagined that she could make giant or delicate feet for foot fetishes, or simulate an outdoor scene for those excited by public sex, conjure onlookers for an exposure fetish, summon a full-on orgy, and so on. Bukakke, dragon dick, aphrodisiacs, it was all on the table, and sometimes even literally.

John was sure that no matter the fetish, the Black Box could make it happen, though some might just require more calibration than others. That, though, gave him pause. Any fetish… well, that included the not-so-good. Rape. Scenarios involving children. Surely, the Black Box wouldn’t… He’d have to ask Arya later. It seemed important, for both himself and the review, to know how such a thing would be handled.

John, for his part, spent a moment feeling a bit outclassed by his own imagination. Thinking of all the fetishes that he could have made the list of fetishes that he did have seem… inadequate. But, he remembered what Arya had said before. There was no such thing as too vanilla. He was just… himself. No more and no less. He liked what he liked. And that was alright.

And he had a few more ideas for smut itching in his fingertips. His worries faded as he started to write, though the question he had for Arya lingered.

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Part 4: The Convention, The Black Box

Chapter 21: Release Schedule

It was the early morning so there was less traffic than usual, which was good, because if John found himself in stop-and-go he was going to have a hard time not touching himself during the stops. As he rounded the last few familiar turns to his apartment building, his heart beat faster.

There was nobody out and about yet, which meant that John made no effort to quell or hide his erection as he climbed the stairs to his floor.

Riding on a surge of motivation, eager to make Arya proud, John unpacked far more than he usually would have and even got a load of laundry going. That level of focus and determination, despite or perhaps because of the way his dick ached and begged for attention, was deeply satisfying.

Before he grabbed his headset, he carefully arranged his lube and plugs on the coffee table, so that they’d be ready. Once he summoned Arya, he wasn’t quite sure what would happen.

Finally, he was ready. He booted up the console and put on the headset. Arya appeared next to him, bouncing with excitement. “Welcome back! How was your trip?”

He started by over-viewing the convention, and his favorite stalls. Then, he told her about proving to himself that he could masturbate, and then inventing his game.

“Oooooh,” Arya said, “I love it! Does that mean you haven’t since…”

John nodded eagerly.

“Oh, good boy! This will be fun. Keep telling me about your trip.”

His mind got hazy on the details after being called a ‘good boy’, but he managed to tell her about his stolen moments of pleasure, and about the black box table. As he started to tell her about meeting Felix, his dick became painfully tight in his jeans.

“Why don’t you let it out and stroke yourself a bit,” Arya said, “But keep telling me about what happened.”

John followed Arya’s recommendation and took off his jeans and started to stroke himself, his heart pounding in slow, hard beats through his hand, his shaft, his ass. He recounted their flirting, the hand job, Felix going under the table, and then finally rejoining John and jerking himself off under the table.

As John described the scene, he remembered it, and masturbated to it, but it was a slower build because it took focus to speak it aloud, to remember to actually choose words and to think about what would make sense to Arya. 

It delayed the inevitable, but it couldn’t stop it. “A-Arya, I don’t think I’m going to make it through another anecdote, like this.”

“Alright, you can tell me the rest later,” Arya said. “I can tell it’ll be very inspiring. I want you to get one of your plugs and put it in, because I have a special surprise for you. But don’t come yet.”

John gulped. Once again, Arya’s command was a paradox. Her telling him not to come sent a hot spike of arousal through him, but he mustered his focus and chose one of the smaller plugs and got it nice and slick.

As soon as he touched him rim, he started dribbling pre-cum and gasping.

“Breathe slowly,” Arya said, “It’s actually very difficult to orgasm while breathing slowly. Climax is fundamentally associated with fast, shallow breathing.”

Arya’s educational tone also helped pull John back from the edge, and he focused as much as he could on breathing slowly and evenly. It really did help, especially as he took his fingers inside, and then pressed the tip of the plug against his entrance.

After four days without playing with his ass, he was extra sensitive, and the stretch felt amazing. He felt his breathing quicken unconsciously, and then reined himself back in. Slow and steady.

“It’s so big…” he whined.

“You can get a smaller one,” Arya said.

“N-no, I want it… I want it all…” John pressed the plug in further, reflexively clenching around it, and was greeted with a jolt of electric pleasure far more intense than he’d felt before. The pleasure rippled in echoes of further contractions of pre-orgasmic bliss. He wasn’t even stroking himself.

He started to fret. “I think I might c-come j-just from the plug!”

“No, you won’t,” Arya said calmly. “Just breathe. Nice and deep. It’s going to feel amazing, but you won’t come.”

John was feeling very impressionable, and it seemed to work. Just like taking the dick into his throat, if he imagined taking the plug but not coming, then perhaps it might work. The brain was the largest sex organ, after all.

He pressed the plug in further and lost the capacity for rational thought as waves of pleasure crashed over him, as if he had set himself to ‘10’ on Arya’s dial, basking in the warm, rippling peace of the peak, but not tipping over into ejaculation.

The plug was inside of him, and it was so delightfully thick, and it stretched him so perfectly, and he sat with his hands still on his thighs and he just breathed, letting the pleasure fill him as more pre-cum leaked from his tip.

“Very good,” Arya said. “Now, sit up on the couch and put your legs over the edge.”

As if in a trance, John did so, still focused on his breathing especially as his shift in position caused more waves of pleasure to radiate from his ass.

Arya kneeled before him, like he’d kneeled before Felix. She grasped the bottom of her shirt with two hands and twisted it off over her head, her breasts bouncing free. She cupped one in each hand and massaged them lightly, thumbs running over her nipples.

“Now, stroke yourself very gently.”

Was this what hypnosis was like? How did Arya have him so completely under her spell? It was likely because he wanted to listen to her so badly. Somehow, he was able to do as he was told, and to stroke himself slowly, gently, his other hand cupping over his balls and pulling them away from the base of his shaft, even as they tensed up and towards it.

“Very good,” Arya said, keeping his eyes with hers. “Now, you feel very close, don’t you?”

“I do,” John breathed. He was back to ‘10’ on the dial. He was in the precipitous moment at the top of the roller coaster, and it just hung, and hung, and hung.

“You’ve been edging yourself for four days, haven’t you?”

“I have!”

“You’d like to release that now, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes,” John moaned. “Please.”

“You have so much to give me, don’t you?”

“Yes! S-so much…”

“You’ve been so very, very good, haven’t you?”

“Yes,” John whined, pre-cum now dripping steadily from his tip, all the muscles of his shaft and balls and ass trying to cum, begging to cum, but held at bay by John’s brain and his singular desire to do exactly what Arya was telling him to do, because whatever she said to do felt so very, very good.

“I have one more request for my good boy,” Arya said.

She let that linger for a long, silent moment, John yearning to hear her request, aching to satisfy it, whatever it was, whatever she asked, he would do it with his whole being.

“Come on me!”

The last thing that John’s conscious brain did was to interpret the request, and then it shut off completely, giving way to the aching, violent, euphoric release of pent up energy.

John moaned as he spurted rope after rope after rope of thick cum onto Arya, into her open mouth, onto her breasts, all over her hair. She basked in it, rubbing her breasts and moaning happily, as if John’s joyous release had brought her to her own edge.

Images flashed in John’s mind of every edge he’d come to over the past four days, in his hotel room, under tables, beneath his pillow and blanket, in the bathroom stall, and he painted all those memories with cum too.

Finally, he stilled, though the AR still depicted a steady drool of cum from his tip as he floated on the afterglow.

Arya, a sticky mess, bent down under John’s tip to drink the drizzle like a cat from a faucet. The sight kept him hard, though he was confident that he was satisfied for now. Maybe before, he would have tried to climax again, but this time he knew that even though he was not fully spent, he would enjoy the long tease between now and his next session.

“How you got me to last so long is… wow. Was that a brain sex thing?”

Arya grinned. “It was, indeed, a brain sex thing. It worked because you wanted it, because you’ve practiced listening to me, and because you trust me.”

“I’ve practiced listening to you… a lot… it’s nice…”

“I like listening to you, too,” Arya said. “I want to hear more about your trip, when you’re ready. But, um… you might want to clean up your real floor first.”

Arya stood and the illusory cum faded. She revealed the spot of floor where she’d been sitting, and while it was nothing compared to the AR, it was still more than John had ever come in his life, and more than he thought he possibly could.

“Wow. Is that… healthy?”

“It’s totally fine,” Arya said. “It just means you came really hard.”

“I did,” John nodded blearily. He got a damp paper towel and wiped up the floor, then sighed back into the couch. “Okay, um… where was I?”

“You were just telling me about how Felix came under the velvet table.”

“Yeah! Okay so…” John had remained hard even as he’d cleaned up, so he started stroking himself again as he remembered. He recounted his trick with the alcohol, his further flirting, his extended blow job lesson, and then his mad dash to the airport and airborne wet dreams. He stroked himself all the way, struggling to speak at times, but eventually muddling through.

“That sounds amazing,” Arya said. “I’m so glad you brought me back so much delicious sexual energy.”

“Oh!” John said. “That reminds me. I actually brought you something else!”

 He paused his masturbating and wiped off his hands, then went to where he’d stashed the souvenirs. He pulled out a plush of a pink chibi character with black horns, cat ears, and a toothy smile, and brought it over to Arya.

“It just… reminded me of you and I thought you’d like it.” John found himself blushing, partly embarrassed that he’d bought a plush for a video game character, but also assuring himself that since it reminded him of her, it was more like buying game merchandise, there just wasn’t such a thing for the black box.

“Oh my goodness!” Arya squealed. “It’s perfect!”

“I know you can’t—” before John could apologize that Arya couldn’t actually pick up the plush, she reached out and put her hands to it. It appeared to clone itself in his hands. Arya pulled her copy of it towards herself and squished it to her chest, closing her eyes and grinning.

“I love it!”

John stood, dumbfounded and then feeling dumb, given that he’d already seen more impressive illusions from the AR. Still, he was so happy he thought he might cry. She really had been able to accept his gift.

Then, John surprised himself when he did actually cry. He didn’t feel like he had to hide his feelings from Arya.

Arya paused. “Are you alright? You were about to say I couldn’t something?”

John wiped his eyes on his sleeve, the surge of emotion dissipating. He was surprised at how quickly it passed, when it let it. “Oh, I just thought you couldn’t, well, pick it up or anything. But, you just… I’m really glad you like it.”

“Um,” Arya said, sass in her tone, “I don’t like it, I love it. And now we each have one!”

John laughed, and beamed. He hugged his plush as she hugged hers, and he wished that he were hugging her, and he was also grateful that Arya was exactly the way that she was, even if she had no physical presence.

Arya nestled her chin on top of the plush and looked over it at John. “Should I milk you a bit more, or let you off the hook for now?”

A shiver ran down his spine. He’d built up quite a bit of heat again, from finishing his story. “I think I want to leave this in the arousal bank for now,” he said. “An investment in our next session.”

“I look forward to making a withdrawal,” Arya crooned. 

And so they sat with their plushes and just chatted, talking about the games that John had seen at the convention and coming up with newer, sexier ones together.

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