Chapter 8

A Ministerial Visit

By the time Bernard had been freed from his bondage, made to undress, and taken back to the cages, the others were already installed in the cramped confines of their padlocked wire boxes. They looked up sullenly as Liu Wei pushed Bernard towards the open door of the one empty cage on the bottom row. Liu Wei responded with a crack of her bamboo cane across the front of the nearest cage. The other occupants returned their heads to the bowed position that they were expected to maintain.

With Bernard locked inside his cage, Liu Wei left.

“You the smart-arse in the qipao?” the man in the cage above him hissed.

“Shut up,” another urged. “You know we’re not supposed to speak.”

“Yes, there will be trouble if they hear you. Keep quiet,” a third responded.

Bernard didn’t know what to do but, when the man above him didn’t continue his questioning, Bernard felt able to keep quiet. Looking up he could see the man’s naked buttocks criss-crossed by the wire frame of the cage. Between the wire framing, he could see that the man bore the welts of repeated beatings. “I’ve had to put up with a lot here,” the man muttered quietly so only Bernard could hear. “Don’t think I’m going to put up with that sort of th…” He stopped suddenly.

Bernard heard a noise from the corridor outside. Voices, some of them English, some of them Oriental, warned of women returning to the room.

Bernard watched as Madam Chao, Tsai Linn and Liu Wei came in with a group of three western women. “So, Minister, these are the resources to be used for the JUMIST training programme.” Madam Chao pointed towards the cages where Bernard and the others were held. “Perhaps you can let us know when you expect our trainees to be arriving?”

“I’m sorry?” the woman addressed as Minister seemed to be confused by the request. “Is that not already in hand?”

“No, Ms Daniels,” Madam Chao responded. “We have our facility here and our resources. Contracts all signed but no trainees. We understood Government was anxious to make progress, but so far nothing.”

Ms Daniels turned to the other two women with her. “Can someone tell me what’s going on? We’ve announced this policy, the funding is in place, Sunrise have obviously invested in being ready to carry out the programme. Why don’t they have any trainees?”

The slim dark-haired woman nearest to her looked embarrassed and took some papers from her briefcase. “It’s been a problem with the Department of Learning and Skills. They think it’s their domain and they’ve been blocking….”

Daniels interrupted. “If you think I’m taking this to the Prime Minister or even worse to Dobell-Bull to get it solved, you’ve got another think coming. Let me make it quite clear. Home Affairs, my Department, — your Department — is responsible for this programme. We are only going to reduce the levels of absconding, curfew offences, and other dissident male behaviour if we improve the ability of women to deal with the men in their care. That’s our responsibility, not Learning & Skills. Get it sorted. I want whatever applicants you’ve had screened sent on the programme as soon as you can.” She turned back to Madame Chao. “My apologies, Madam Chao, I had no idea that this had happened. If there are any further obstructions please come to me directly.” She scowled at her two aides, convinced that they had failed to stand up for the department adequately in the various implementation discussions. “You will have an initial batch of four trainees by the end of the week.” She ignored the dark-haired woman’s attempts to object. “And we will have a review of their progress one month after that. I think you said that was the time needed to see if some improvements could be made?”

Madame Chao nodded. “Thank you, Minister. I am encouraged. Now, perhaps I can show you thow we accommodate males here.” Liu Wei led the group towards the cages.

Tsai Linn, keen to show how well prepared things were, scowled at the way the men were staring blankly out at the group of women inspecting them. “Attention,” she barked, slapping a bamboo cane against Bernard’s cage inches from his face. “Don’t think you will have no work to do! Slaves with no work get wrong ideas. Busy makes happy, so we will make you very happy indeed!”

Tsai Linn walked up and down the row of cages haranguing the occupants. From where Bernard was crouched in his cage, he could only see the hem of her skirt, her calves, ankles, and dainty feet in their high-heeled court shoes. He had always had a thing about women’s feet and his mind needed little prompting to take him off into fantasies of worshipping Tsai Linn’s feet and ankles.

Suddenly another blow from the bamboo cane to the front of his cage snapped him back to reality. “Hey! New boy! You pay attention when Mistress speaks! You spend time dreaming, you find you end up with stripey back, quick-quick. Understand?”

“Yes, Mistress,” Bernard responded respectfully, keeping his head bowed as required, a position that still allowed him to contemplate Tsai Linn’s delectable ankles and feet.

Florence Daniels took great interest in the slave cages, complementing Madame Chao on the care she evidently took over security. “Not so much security, Minister,” Madame Chao responded. “Little chance that these males would defy me by trying to escape. More important is to remind them of their status. If you are kept in cage, you must be slave. If you are slave, you must obey your mistress. We try to make things simple, then slaves know what they are.”

“This must help. If you can help our young people with these simple ideas, then I am sure this scheme will be a success.”

“It will be, I assure you, Minister. We base our scheme on traditional approaches used in China. We give the trainees simple goals to aim for. A good structure to their learning. They know when they are doing well. All those with them know when they are doing well. This encourages them, so they learn better.”

As Madame Chao finished speaking, a stunningly beautiful Chinese girl wearing a black silk qipao appeared in the doorway to the slave cage room.

“This is who our trainees will aspire to be like. Mary Tang, Minister, is one of the most highly regarded practitioners of our method – Kòngzhì Rén . You can see she is black qipao.”

“Oh, her dress. Yes, it’s very beautiful.”

Madame Chao shook her head. “It is,” she said, “but is also indication of status. Black qipao is highest level in Kòngzhì Rén .”

“Ah.” Florence Daniels kept thinking she understood what was going on but then kept discovering that she didn’t.

Mary Tang made her way along the length of the cages to join the ministerial party. Bernard could just see her from his crouched position. She carried a thin black whip in one hand. The other hand sat loosely on her hip, inches above the end of the slit through which Bernard could catch the occasional glimpse of the girl’s thigh. Her jet-black, straight hair hung loosely to her shoulders framing a face that carried an expression of innate superiority to all around her. She was, Bernard thought, in her early twenties and was possibly the most desirable woman he had ever seen. She stopped immediately beside his cage, her black high heels inches from his face, blocking out his view of the rest of the room, the tail of her whip snaking down, right in front of the bars of his cage. As she turned, he saw the bright red leather of the shoes’ soles – Louboutin’s. Bernard had spent so long being conditioned to respond to the classic trappings of the dominant female that it was all he could do to stop himself from moaning quietly. Recognising, though, that the very least that would result was to have a ball gag jammed into his mouth, he wisely held back.

Madame Chao and the Minister were soon deep in conversation. Florence’s aides occasionally interjecting, asking for points of clarification or stressing their enthusiasm for the successful outcome of the project – a response to the Minister’s earlier disapproval.

As far as Bernard could tell from his position, crouched uncomfortably in his cage, Mary Tang didn’t say a word.