Supply and Demand

 

By Daphne

 

 

The truck bumpily rolled down the gravel road, dirty windows masking the identity of the driver. Dry autumn leaves kicked up in a swirly storm behind the tires as the truck approached the gate of a warding chain link fence. A uniformed man stepped out of a small guard house, approaching the driver's side window, the truck squealing and grunting as the engine came to idle. A brief conversation of unknown content exchanged between the two men. The driver passed a clip board out to the guard who flipped through a few pages in review, before returning it to the truck cab. The guard looked the truck up and down before retrieving a round mirror attached to a long arm from within his booth. He circled around the truck, boots crunching the gravel, while he passed the mirror under the perimeter of the vehicle. He paused at the rear of the cab, inspecting the latches and locks that secured the twin rear doors of the trailer. The guard seemed to be considering asking for the doors to be opened so that the contents might be inspected, but instead, resumed his orbit of the truck with his underside mirror. When he came back around the front of the truck, he returned to his booth, and facilitated the opening of the gate. The truck's engine hissed and squealed as it dropped into gear. The large tires groaned and lazily rolled into service, the crush of gravel heavy beneath. The driver's hand gave a wave out the window to the guard who tipped his hat in reply as the truck bumpily passed through. The gate closed behind the truck, while the guard presumably returned to whatever magazine he might have been reading.

It was difficult to tell through the binoculars that magnified the vision of her wide emerald eyes. She lowered the device, letting it hang around the neck of her sweater while she worked to keep the long tresses of her golden blonde hair from her face as it billowed in the chill autumn breeze. She squinted her eyes, following the truck as it bumped along the road on the inner side of the gate. As it got smaller and smaller, she lifted the binoculars back up to her eyes. The truck approached the old factory, slowing down and turning in a wide arc. She thought she detected the faint sound of beeping as the truck shifted into reverse and slowly began the blue collar art of lining up with a loading dock with little more than wide side mirrors and a little finesse at the steering wheel. Evidence this might not be his first trip, the driver lined the rear of his trailer up snugly against the loading dock, and there the truck sat idle. Whatever mysterious contents within would most certainly be unloaded next.

You might be wondering what is so suspicious about a truck delivering its load to a factory, or what is so out of place about a guard post and seemingly heightened security about incoming cargo? And why any of this might spark the curiosity of a blonde teenage girl on a blustery autumn day? She too pondered these very questions as she returned to her bike. It was covered in light brush so as not to draw any unwanted attention from any passersby while she facilitated her reconnaissance. Picking away a few stubborn wet leaves, and giving the seat a good drying with the sleeve of her sweater, she mounted the bike and pedaled away. She squinted her deep green eyes against the crisp air, biting her lips as the questions continued to gnaw at her long after she passed the sign that warned:

DANGER: ABANDONED FACTORY AHEAD. TURN BACK.



Back at the Ivy Ridge Academy for Girls...

"And class, I want to remind you that the topics for your investigative research projects will be due at the end of the week," Mr Anderson announced to the groan of several in his journalism class. "...that includes you too Miss Meadows," he added, noting that she hadn't seemed to have heard him. She seemed busy alternating between looking out the window and jotting things into her journal that popped into her distracted mind.

"Hmmm?" Dawn slowly gained awareness of the extra attention she was suddenly receiving from her professor and now the entirety of the girls in her class. "Oh!" She exclaimed feeling her cheeks stain a deeper shade of pink following whispers and poorly masked giggles at the expense of her poorly timed daydreaming. "Yes, ummm..." was all young Dawn could muster, which whisked the mask off the giggles and left her classmates laughing from the bottoms of their flat well toned bellies.

"Girls," Mr Anderson warned in a tone, and the laughter trickled off obediently, with only few uncontrolled chuckles struggling to get in line. Passing his gaze over the skyline of the classroom, he waited until he was satisfied his girls were once again acting like ladies. "Miss Meadows, please see me after class."

"Oooooooooooo," the girls' choral group effort scandalously translated as 'you are in trouble!'

"Young ladies!" the warning came with a stronger undertone this time, bringing a swift end to their gasping gossip. "The rest of you are dismissed."

The sound of twenty pairs of pantyhose clad legs uncrossing filled the silence, while more than half of those followed with stocking toes wiggling in search of discarded dress flats, low heels, and mary-janes that were lost at various intervals of the punishingly long lecture. The bottoms of dress shoes scratched with friction against the ancient wooden floors of the classroom as the girls stood from their desks. A montage of smoothing out skirts, pulling tights to be taught, adjusting sweaters for balance, and the irresistible urge to give a quick fix to their luxurious hair happened with an almost tired routine.

The classroom emptied quickly, leaving only the single blonde student sitting at her desk, poorly hiding the nervousness of her fidgeting. She pulled at her tights, and curled the reinforced toes of her nylons which curiously had not yet found their shoes like all the other obedient girls.

"Miss Meadows, you want to discuss what's in your notebook?" asked Mr Anderson with his hands folded in his lap. He leaned back against a nearby desk, waiting for an answer.

"Not really," replied a sullen Dawn, emerald eyes unsure whether they wanted to be downcast or gazing out the window.

"Perhaps it's something interesting happening outside on the campus?" Mr Anderson asked walking over to the window. Adjusting his glasses, he slid his hands into the pockets of his slacks and surveyed the school grounds. The trees were breath taking this time of year.

"No... it's not that," mumbled Dawn.

"Well something has you jotting things down in that notebook of yours like you are possessed, and I'm loathe to admit that it is my lecture," he continued with some self deprecating humor. "So why don't you tell me what it is that you are working on?"

Dawn, pulled her notebook closer to her, an unconscious act of protection. She said nothing.

"Okay, we can skip that, and we can instead visit the Head Mistress's office. No doubt Mrs O'Neil will be disappointed by the run you have in your tights," said Mr Anderson with a bit of resigned nonchalance as he wearily stretched, his gaze never leaving the fiery autumn view of the campus skyline.

Dawn reflexively tucked her feet below her desk at the sound of his veiled threat. Her pulse quickened while her face stained pink in conjunction. She leaned over, her long golden hair spilling down around her face in molten silkiness. The tips swished across the floor boards while her fingers touched at the nylons encasing her feet. She found the run in question and her face scrunched up in frustration while her eyes belied the accompanying fear of her carelessness.

"Perhaps if you kept your shoes on during my 'punishingly long' lectures, you might not be going through quite so many pairs of pantyhose, Miss Meadows?" speculated Mr Anderson. "I can't say from experience, but I get the impression that they are a finicky delicate garment that require a girl to be careful about the way she carries herself. Especially with the old floorboards in this school."

Dawn placed the palms of her hands on her thighs, feeling the texture in the microscopic stitching of the form fitting gossamer garment encasing her long lean legs. She felt humiliated having Mr Anderson speculate on her pantyhose. They were her undergarment for goodness sake! Visible, true, but still! The LAST thing a girl wants to discuss with her teacher are her nylons! Their utter existence is ridiculous. The saddle of putting them on, and wearing is enough without the unwinnable war of learning how to navigate the perils of the natural world everyday without ruining the unforgiving things! The only solace a girl can hope for is that you don't feel the urge to point out how poorly she is doing at that expectedly basic task. Please! She already knows the fool she is for prancing around in the blasted garment, with little regard for her feelings on the matter.

"I do know how our esteemed Head Mistress feels about the subject. What is it that she says? 'I have a vision for the girls who come through these hallowed halls at the Ivy Ridge Academy' I believe it goes?"

"Please Mr Anderson," Dawn suddenly pleaded, her fingers clenching at the hem of her uniform skirt. Once again her fate was being decided over her tights. How many times could she possibly endure this peril?

"Let's talk about the notebook, then maybe you can go change into a fresh pair of nylons while I clean the chalk board. I'll pretend I never noticed your little infraction," posed Mr Anderson.

Dawn had little option but to comply. Nobody asked a girl how difficult and unfair it was to keep her nylons run free, but they certainly had ideas about how to handle a girl who could not manage that very basic concept. Dawn often wondered if the pantyhose companies somehow conspired with the School Board to make their lives miserable while secretly rising profits. One thing was for sure, nothing keeps a growing girl's self confidence down like making her feel like a fool by telling her when, where, and how to wear tights. The sad part is that they all march around doing as they are told, never questioning why. They simply do their best to avoid sharp corners, and a million other things that nefariously seek to snag and run their poor pantyhose. It's just expected of them, and they seem to leave it at that.

While Dawn's mind wandered over the more existential threats of being a teenage girl at a private school, Mr Anderson returned to her desk, ready to discuss the contents of her notebook. Her reluctance, having hit a snag, resulted in her turning the notebook toward her persuasive teacher and folding her arms across her chest. Reflexively, she crossed her legs in defiance, but the act, the motion, the sound reminded her of the unwanted attention to her hosiery, and immediately she uncrossed them, suddenly unsure what to do with them.

"What is this place that you are referencing here?" Mr Anderson inquired with his hand under his chin. If he noticed Dawn's fidgeting discomfort in her own body, he showed no sign of it. "I see you've drawn up some crude schematics... and these... are these landmarks?"

"What?" Dawn was pulled out of her wallows about growing up over the sound of her professor's questions as he flipped between pages, tracing his finger over lines as he read her notes. "Let me see," she continued, growing more engaged. "This," Dawn said, tapping the tip of her finger nail on the sketch "is the place that I've been... investigating," she added, looking for the correct word.

"Investigating?" Mr Anderson parroted, the temperature of concern rising in his voice. "What for? This manufacturing plant has been shut down for years. It was abandoned... let's see, well, years before you became a student here, that's for sure," he speculated.

"Exactly!" exclaimed Dawn, now very much engaged. "That's what I kept reminding myself every time I went there!" she added.

"Every time? Wait a minute. You've been to this place? Is that what these sketches represent? How many times have you gone here?" Mr Anderson's questions began piling up with 'grown up concern.'

"...Ummm... about six or seven times now since the semester began," confessed Dawn a bit under her breath. "But that's how I know that it is NOT abandoned! At least not lately!" she added, enthusiasm renewed.

"Explain," Mr Anderson folded his arms over his chest, 'grown up concern' growing concerning.

"Well, here you can see," Dawn obeyed by turning the page, and pointing at a rudimentary log she had created. Dates, times, and a collection of scattered details in a list. "These are the trucks that have delivered shipments to the factory."

"What kind of shipments?" pressed Mr Anderson.

"I haven't figured that part out yet..." answered Dawn, putting her hand to her chin, flipping back and forth between the pages of her notebook as though consulting clues.

"I see... well... that's probably for the best. I'm certain I do not like the sound of you sleuthing around like this. You could have been hurt doing this stuff Miss Meadows," Mr Anderson had sounded on the verge of intrigue by her investigation, a quality that she had admired about him. It was the reason that his class was her favorite. He helped fan the flame that was the flickering investigative journalist inside her. But just as quickly, he shut down that little fantasy. Like all the other adults around here, he warned of danger, and what she should be focusing on instead.

"But I want this investigation to be for my journalism project this semester," pressed a determined Dawn.

"Out of the question, Miss Meadows," Mr Anderson shut her down.

"But!" she petulantly cried.

"I've made myself clear. Now why don't you go change out of those run stockings and come up with a more suitable topic before Friday's due date," he advised.

"Mr Anderson, I hardly think that matters!" Dawn argued, her voice on the verge of tears before he cut her off.

"Miss Meadows, if you want to have a future in journalism, you had better learn the importance of following rules. And the first one is: managing your appearance. If you can't do that, the only headline featuring you will be "Ivy Ridge Academy Girl Expelled: Finds New Use For Her Pantyhose As Hostess at Local Restaurant!"

Dawn bit her tongue, feeling the pressure of the grim career options before her. "Fine..." she grumbled, packing up her belongings. She fished around the floor for her shoes while Mr Anderson returned to the blackboard and began erasing the day's lesson.

"Keep your tights in good repair Miss Meadows and you will have a long career in journalism. Your legs will open a lot of doors for you. It's one of the advantages I try to remind you young ladies that you have in this industry!" he called over his shoulder with a chuckle.

"Oh yeah, how lucky we are to have to wear pantyhose everyday..." mumbled the sarcastic blonde teenager as she shuffled out of the classroom in her dress flats.



Back in the dorms...

Dawn closed the door to her room and slung her books upon her bed, shirking her sweater off and hanging it over the back of her chair. She unzipped the back of her skirt and let it pool around around her ankles before gingerly stepping out from it. On her way into the bathroom she wedged her thumbs into the waistband of her pantyhose and began peeling the clingy garment off. Reminder of the run that had formed in the foot, she took little care her with her actions, and reveled in the elation and frustration every girl experiences: Elation over the act of being free of a pair of stockings and the celebratory act of crumpling the wrinkled garment into the trash. Frustration over the realization that victory is fleeting. More pantyhose will be expected, required, demanded... all at her expense of course!

Dawn rolled her eyes at the existential ridiculousness of it all before shutting the light off in her bathroom, yanking the covers open on her bed, and crawling in. With a second yank, she cocooned herself in comforting warmth, and with her blonde hair spilled out in a puddled mess around her, she closed her eyes and tried to sleep. All the while her dreams were filled with dangerous factories, the frustrations of growing up, anxieties about responsibility, the daunting task of coming up with an alternate journalism project by Friday, and most bizarrely of all, the perils of pantyhose.



The next morning...

Fingers of blonde hair and a small mound were the only evidence that a teenage girl existed beneath the warmth of the comforter. Sunlight crept in through the small gap that was left open for air. A small hand reached out, light catching the painted nails as they curled around the edge of the blanket. Slowly, begrudgingly the hand pulled it down revealing a messy blonde head, creamy white skin, and squinty, blinking green eyes. She changed her mind, pulled the blanket back over her head, and let out a huge yawn. Finally she relented and pulled the blanket back down. With a tender groan, she swung her long bare legs over the edge of the bed. A slight gasp escaped her lips as her feet met the cool hardwood floors. Pushing herself up, she yawned again while scratching her smooth flat belly. Her bare feet smacked and shuffled as she made her way to the shower in a zombie like fashion.

The hot water was heavenly, refreshing the terrifying mess of her chaos inspired "sleep hair" and bringing the pink to the surface of her smooth skin. As she felt herself slowly return to life, she reached for a retinue of products, each one designed to make her smoother, healthier, prettier, and smell more irresistible than the day before. Or so the commercials said! Either way, the routine made her feel better, and so she hummed away as the mirror steamed up from the heat of her shower.

Dawn wiped her hand over the wet mirror, clearing a streak of glass so that she might get a look at herself after her long hot shower. They were always so much better this time of year, when the cold autumn winds were chasing the brittle leaves around the campus. Wearing a towel tucked under her arms and one wrapped up around her hair, she inspected her face in the condensation speckled mirror. Her emerald eyes searched up, down, left, and right for blemishes. When she happily found none, she checked again before applying a little bit of make up to give her that little bit of polished confidence.

Stepping out of the humid bathroom, she bristled at the swift temperature drop to her bedroom. Opening a dresser drawer, she retrieved a bra and underwear. Letting the towel fall from beneath her arms, she swiftly slipped into her undergarments, teeth chattering from the sudden exposure. Turning her attention to her closet, she shuffled through the hangars and compartments, searching for an outfit. It was Saturday, so she had a tiny celebration inside herself that she would not have to wear her dreadful school uniform today (while making a gagging motion with her mouth).

It seemed to be the perfect day for jeans and a sweatshirt. Isn't that what every girl hopes for? It seemed especially so after troubled dreams, Dawn had decided to stick with her convictions regarding her journalism project. While Mr Anderson had disapproved of her investigation of the abandoned factory, Dawn reasoned she had simply invested too much time, research, and surveillance at this point to give up now! She would go there today, and this time she would get inside. Once she did that, she would get to the bottom of the mystery as to why all the security and deliveries to a supposedly abandoned factory!

Grabbing the jeans and sweatshirt, she carried them to the bed then hesitated. She heard Mr Anderson's voice in her head. He had councilled her on her seriousness of being a real reporter. At some point she would have to decide if she wanted to be a reporter that people took seriously. "And if you do, then you need to understand the expectation to dress the part," he had advised. What he didn't discuss, or seem sympathetic to (nobody seems to be!), is how imbalanced and unfair that "expectation" is for female reporters.

The jeans and sweatshirt were the correct outfit for investigating a not so abandoned secured factory, but Dawn was serious about wanting to be a real reporter. So she returned them to her closet, and selected a skirt and dressy top in exchange. It was a cute outfit, consisting of a short flowy skirt, orchid in color and a delicate spaghetti strap top in a similar lighter shade. They matched nicely with the color of her bra and panties. It was the incorrect outfit for sleuthing the factory in question. This much Dawn knew, as was evidenced by the conflicted look on her face. But she wanted to be taken seriously, and so she began the gradual justification of simply accepting the "expectations, requirements, and demands" as just part of being a girl. Worst of all, that included one missing ingredient, Dawn realized as she looked at her new outfit lying out on the bed.

Turning, she marched back into the bathroom and found a gangly pair of nylons hanging up to dry from a previous hand wash (goodness the amount of time, effort, and money put into the awful things!). They were purply pink, reminiscent of Daphne Blake from Scooby Doo. Dawn lifted the wrinkly garment from the towel rack and held them up in front her her face with barely concealed disgust. It was Saturday, she was sleuthing, if ever there was a time where she should be free of these wretched things! But Mr Anderson had made things clear. Dawn wanted to be a reporter and that meant putting on tights. It was frustrating, unfair, utterly pointless, infuriatingly impractical, and as Dawn held them up, doing the math she realized worst of all, it's also very DANGEROUS! Seriously! A skirt and pantyhose are very inappropriate to go sleuthing around in.

The very definition of a fool is that Dawn was conscious of all these things as she rolled the legs up into her hands with tender practice, gently slipping her pointed toes in one foot at a time. She carefully unrolled them up her shapely calves, over her knees, then up her long thighs in alternating pulls. Continuing, she dragged them snugly up and over her hips, smoothing out the waistband on her tummy. Afterwards she grasped at the material around her knees and pulled at any remaining sag, making sure they were taught and smooth all the way up her legs. If it were not for the creases at her ankles and behind her knees as she moved, you'd swear it was her skin that was orchid and not the magic of pantyhose.

Dawn returned to her bedroom and completed her outfit, zipping up the back of her skirt, shirking into her top, and slipping into a cute pair of mary jane flats. She looked at herself in the mirror and saw a very beautiful girl, ready to become a reporter. Not the one she imagined, but the one "expected, required, and demanded."

The thrum of the bicycle tires reverberated on the pavement as they spun round and round, wet leaves sticking for a rotation before being flicked away by a cool gust of wind. She pumped the breaks when she neared her
destination: a large and open pumpkin patch. The field was populated by scores of the plump orange things, running up and down the vines. Halloween had come and gone, and this place was like a hidden gold mine for the iconic autumn symbols, yet not a soul wandered the patch plucking the biggest, the roundest. Not a soul wandered the patch at all, save the careful steps of a slender sleuth in her dressy mary-janes.

It made for muddy uneven traversal, but the seemingly secret pumpkin patch bordered the southern fence of the abandoned factory. It would be from this point that Dawn determined she would make her infiltration. The air was
cool, exaggerated by a gentle breeze that elicited goose flesh on her bare arms and shoulders. The wind made play of her short flowy skirt, and it was difficult to discern whether her cheeks were red from chill or when her hemline swished to expose the top portion of her orchid tights! It wasn't the first time she regretted her choice of attire and as she noted the mud splotches dotting her ankles and calves, she sighed, realizing it would unlikely be the last.

After a trying passage through the uneven muddy patch that involved exaggerated steps and  teetering balance with outstretched arms, she reached the silver intertwining links of the forbidding fence. Crouching down on her knees in the dirt, she reached into her bag, her fingers wrapping around a pair of wire cutters. Immediately she felt a surge of guilt wash over her. She had stopped by the general store earlier to make the purchase. As she stood in line, she felt the cashier cast a sideways glance at her, and her heart hammered in her chest. She felt certain the woman would shout "gotcha!" at any moment. The moment passed and the cashier resumed her bored expression with a pop of her bubblegum. Dawn didn't even wait to accept the change from her $20 bill before snatching the bag and making a guilty getaway with her scandalous purchase.

It was the type of tool a hoodlum would use when engaging in mischief. Certainly not the type of thing a girl of her pedigree would be carrying around in her bag! To think, her acting like a common criminal! And yet here she was with the very tool that hoodlums would enlist for their misdeeds. She tucked wild locks of blonde hair behind her ears that seemed happier to be dancing to distraction in the wind while she lined up the metal tips. Peering over her shoulder she checked for judgment from her pumpkin audience, but she only found plump and orange silence. It was as glowing an endorsement as she might find, and so she held her breath for concentration, and the hope to steady her nervous hands. With a "here goes nothing" attitude she gave the tool a squeeze and heard a little "snip!"

Wow, that was... easy. Easier than she imagined. She bit her bottom lip and waited. Her imagination constructed guards running toward her through the mud, to drag her away screaming. Or worse, a shock that would pulse through her body and stop her little heart, bringing an untimely end to her adventures. But no such disasters came to pass. She steeled her courage and lined up the tool for the next wire in the link. "Snip!" went the cutters, "Snip!" they went again. And again. And again. And on and on until she had cleared a Dawn Meadows sized hole that she could slink through on her hands and knees.

She slid the hoodlum's wire cutters back in her bag and made herself as small as possible. She winced as she imagined catching her hair, skirt, or her infinitely delicate nylons on the sharp exposed ends of the sliced metal links. Frustrated whimpers escaped her lips as she felt each pull of resistance while she passed through. Blindly she would work her slender fingers to gingerly coax the fabric free without too much fuss each time a part of her caught. An apologetic plea for mercy etched on her face as she negotiated her release.

When she successfully passed through the inside, she let out an anxiety filled sigh. She licked her hands and rubbed at the mud speckles on her tights, frowning at the frustrations of such physical challenges in such inappropriate attire. Once again it was unfair, but it did not appear anyone was going to be sympathetic to these girl troubles any time in the near future, so she decided to grin and bear it.

Drawing herself back up to her feet, she dusted herself off and made herself as presentable as possible. She was inside the fence. The investigation was in motion. Now was not the time to be screwing things up. She moved quickly and quietly toward the looming factory, looking for the best point of ingress.

After sneaking up and down the south side of the factory, she found a ventilation shaft that might do the trick. The trouble was that it was several feet above her head, even with her arms up, on the tips of her toes, fingers wiggling. Trying not to be discouraged, she recalled a series of debris that she had encountered along the factory wall. It was a collection of wooden pallets, a rotting barrel, and other less identifiable objects. Alone they would not do the trick, but if she hauled enough of them over, stacked together, they might just be enough to reach that vent.

And so she began the arduous task of dragging together the rag tag group of junk. It was a celebration of derelict debris and gave the little meat on her arms all the work she could handle. Who knew being a girl detective could leave you so winded? Wiping the back of one dirty hand across her forehead, she panted and grinned as she surveyed her handiwork upon completion. It was crude and structurally unsound without question. But she had crafted a junk hill that would allow her wispy body to scamper up and reach the lofty ventilation shaft to gain entrance to the factory.

Flexing her tired hands, she reached for the best handholds, and pulled herself up, careful where to place her feet in their mary-janes. Climbing in the short flowy skirt proved to be easier than expected, mainly because it bunched up around her hips. Less pleasant was the generous view of her orchid colored pantyhose and the matching panties hinted at beneath. It was difficult to take pride in doing what was "expected, required, and demanded" of her as a female reporter when she felt the cold wind on her exposed bottom!

Once she reached the top, she was red faced and out of breath (was it the exertion, or the humiliation?). The tip of her nose was level with the bottom of the ventilation shaft. Her green eyes crossed to focus on the rusty screws in the corners of the grate, inches from her face. Sticking her tongue out the side her mouth (for concentration), she reached into her bag, fishing for that little screwdriver she had packed just in case. At the same time, she decided that she had had it with the results of the wind, the climbing, and her swishing orchid skirt: Just because her pantyhose reached her tummy, did NOT mean she had to SHOW them all the way up to there! Trying to balance on just the flats of her mary-janes and a little extra effort on behalf of her lean leg muscles, she let go of her hand hold on the junk mountain and chased the rioting hem of her skirt with her hand.

At first sign of trouble, she should have focused her position, but modesty is important to a girl, and you don't go showing your backside to the world, even if you are wearing tights! The hastily stacked junk collection began to revolt against its creator, beginning with a groan, growing into a creak, and releasing in a loud crash. Dawn's green eyes went wide, realizing too late what was happening. She reached with both arms in a panic, grasping at the edges of the vent. The hand that was in her bag never made it free, and so it smacked uselessly against the wall, fingers grasping, frantically trapped inside. Thankfully the other hand reprioritized its negotiations with the hem of her recalcitrant skirt and latched onto the grate, fingers curling around the vent for all they were worth.

As if the collapse of her great junk heap were not enough, the "difficult not to notice" cacophony seemed to draw some unwanted extra attention taking the form of a distant radio squawk. Oh no! The sound was approaching even as Dawn felt the fibers of her arm burning as she dangled above the ground. Her fingers were giving up one at a time on her, and despite how fervently she pointed her toes at the ground, she still could not reach. Before the unknown terrors of that radio rounded the corner, her last finger gave out and she dropped several feet to the ground with an "umpf!" ...and one very sore ankle... oh, and a thigh, and a hip... not to mention one very sore bottom. Ouch! Falling hurts! Rubbing at her sore parts, the squawk of the radio loomed impossibly close and jolted Dawn's panicked concentration. She would be discovered any moment!

And so her body simply reacted. She swooned. Her arms, palms face down on the ground, simply folded. The bones gone out of them. Her upper body slumped to the ground, blonde hair a pool of molten gold collecting around her porcelain face, and bare shoulders. Her green eyes fluttered, once, twice, then remained closed, eyelashes intertwining as her red lips parted ever so slightly. Dawn's chest gave the faintest tremor as her breath came out in a gentle rasp.

"This is patrol... Yeah, I've got something here on the south wall... Affirmative... You are not going to believe this one..." the radio squawked.

"I told you you were not going to believe me."

"But you are always making stuff up just to get me to relieve you of your post."

"Well, clearly I wasn't making this up. Now help me with her legs." The guard with the squawking radio spoke to his newly arrived backup as he reached under the bare arms of the unconscious blonde girl.

His partner pondered the order as he observed the girl's long crumpled legs.

"What's the problem? Would you rather I get the legs, and you take her under the arms?" asked the first patrol guard, his patience wearing thin with his more timid coworker.

"No, no, I'm fine," replied the hesitant guard. He slid his hands under her legs and when he reached the back of her knees, he lifted gently. As her body raised up, her feet tipped downward, swaying with the pull of gravity. The underside of her thighs slid back and forth in his hands proving to be a challenge as he tried to compensate for the unexpected physics. It must be the nylons on her legs he thought. He had never carried a girl in nylons before this moment. Why would he have ever thought to contemplate the logistics?

The guards hoisted her up between the two of them, one at her feet under the knees, the other up front at her head holding her beneath the arms. Her head lolled to one side, face a mystery behind a swaying curtain of lush blonde hair. Her forearms dangled and rotated around the elbow joint, wrists limply jostling her fingertips to twitching life as they carried her. Her mid section sagged low to the ground as they moved. They were considerate enough to keep her bottom off the ground, but the swish-y swaying style of her skirt left it bunching at her hips, the backside hem left dragging lazily on the ground. The shy guard tried not to notice, but found himself curiously wondering in his mind... Hmmm, I didn't know that pantyhose had a thicker dark section at the top?

Passing through a secure entrance into the factory, the guards carried the drooping girl down a series of hallways, parting a shredded curtain of smoky plastic that lead into a room. They nodded to each other before giving her a hoist extra high in unison in order to hover and place her body gently down upon a table surface.



Sometime later...

The beginnings of sound formed. It was like learning what sound was for the first time. Did it sound like it was coming from underwater? From faraway? Did each new thing need a category? A name? It took so much effort to focus on all of these questions, and yet there seemed to be such a short supply on both focus and effort! It needed to be budgeted for sure, because there were other new sensations developing. Touch, smell, and the beginnings of sight were sprouting up, all vying for attention, reporting back on their finds, expecting feedback. It was a lot to handle all at once. Especially while confusion was the feeling that was in large supply, and comprehension was in demand. Sadly, comprehension was nowhere to be found. It was best to tackle one thing at a time.

There was a frigid sensation on her backside. She way leaning against something cold? The sound of an overhead exhaust was blasting away in an overbearing assault on her newly returned hearing. I can't quite make out my surroundings. Everything is chopped up in slices. That does not make sense. Wait... what's this? Oh! My hair is in my eyes. There... that's better! Now let's see... counter tops, some sort of science instruments, ceiling lights on the wall... wait... what? Why would ceiling lights be on the wall? And why are the counter tops, cabinets, and science stuff all mounted sideways? Who would do something so strange? I don't... ohhhhhh... I'm lying down! That makes much more sense now. Ugh... that hurts my head. I need a minute... whew... everything got dizzy for a moment there.

Dawn's senses were returning in varying degrees of quality and competence. She was sorting her head out the way a fork pokes at a plate of tangled spaghetti. A sound caught her attention. She gently tilted her neck in the general direction, fluttering the sleep out of her long lashes, while letting the light become friendly with her blinking green eyes. There was a man working at a table. He was dressed in some sort of uniform. Sort of like a... police officer... but not so official. Security guard? Yes, that sounds more right. He was hunched over a table... what was he doing? What's that sound? That smell? Focus... okay, I think he's eating. That smells like a... turkey sub, with lots of mayonnaise... gross!

The guard sensed movement, and dropped his sandwich on the crinkly paper, turning to face Dawn. She turned her neck and face away to avoid detection, pretending to be asleep. Too late!

"Hello?" the voice of the guard sounded strange in the room. Hearing a human voice sounded strange. She said nothing, remained still. She kept her chest from heaving up and down, but could he see the pulse racing beneath the skin on her neck? Please let my hair be covering that! "Hello? Are you... awake?" His voice asked again. It seemed that he was not about to give up or buy her act.

Dawn slowly tilted her neck back in his direction. She looked at him with one green eye, the other masked behind a curtain of blonde locks that hid half of her face. It wasn't words that she replied with as much as sounds, murmurs, whimpers, and groans. Her voice was still arriving.

"Easy now, Miss. You took a nasty spill back there. Are you hurt?" The guard asked, gesturing at her with his hands. She seemed to contemplate the question. It was such a strange question to be asked by a stranger, and stranger still to not immediately know the answer. She requested a report from her body and awaited the results. Muscles twitched, joints tested... everything seemed fine, just a little slow and disoriented... no... wait... yes... definitely a little sore. Ouch! She tried to prop herself up on her elbows, wincing from the effort.

"Hey, hey, slow down, Miss! You don't want to move too quickly, just yet," the guard exclaimed. His hands reached out as if to caution her, and she flinched from the anticipation of his touch. He detected this, and immediately withdrew, stepping back, understanding that he had not considered the reaction to his actions. He folded his hands in a sign of good faith, and shrugged.

"Sorry about that. I did not mean to startle you, Miss. My name is Charlie," he said with an awkward smile, while hooking his thumbs into his belt loops and rocking back and forth on his heels. Dawn chose not to speak yet, unsure if she even could, or what her voice might  sound like. But she did relax a little from his polite and apologetic tone. She adopted a sheepish look on her face, pulling the hair that masked her and tucking it behind her ear. She cast her eyes downward, feeling a little guilty for making the guard feel threatening. Her mouth opened to speak, then she paused, hand going to her neck. She cleared her throat, gathering herself for a moment.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be rude," Dawn finally spoke, offering an apology. She wasn't fully aware of the details of her situation, but she knew it was always best to be polite.

"Not at all, Miss. After that fall, I'd expect you feeling a bit shaken up," Charlie smiled, trying to offer a bit of understanding to the girl's apprehension.

"The fall..." Dawn sampled the phrase, trying it out on her tongue, submitting it for recollection. She remembered clambering up a teetering pile of junk. Her fingers could just reach the rusty grate on the ventilation shaft. She was almost there, that darn skirt causing trouble, mixed with a little wind, and some good old fashioned girlish clumsiness... and down she went. Ouch! It hurt just to remember. It still hurt... it must not have been that long ago she thought, body aching. There had been a squawking radio while she had sat on the ground, stars spinning round her head. It had been a guard coming to catch her in the middle of her foolish blunder! She tried to work out what to do... what was her next move? But those damned spinning stars, she could not see straight! Suddenly her eyes had crossed and her head felt light. Next her palms were sinking through the ground, or the bones had gone out of her arms. Maybe both? Either way, she was falling. She winced, expecting the collapse to hurt, but it was strange... she never felt that part. She heard that squawking radio. It must have been right on top of her, when a smothering darkness claimed her senses. And then... there was the sideways room... I mean... waking up on the cold metal table. That's where I am now, she reasoned.

"Are you okay?" Charlie asked, noting the glazed look in her green eyes.

"Hmmm?" Dawn replied, giving her head a little shake which caused her hair to spill back around her porcelain cheeks. The motion brought a dizzy spill, and she took a deep breath to steady herself. Realizing he had asked her a question, she focused on Charlie. She looked at his belt, looking for something... the squawking radio. He didn't have one. So he wasn't the guard who found her... maybe? But here he was, and here she was. Where was she? Where am I? She thought. Damn this dizziness!

From her position propped up on elbows, she swiveled her head, looking around. The room looked like some sort of makeshift lab. Carlie's lunch was at a counter top work station, and there were various scientific tools occupying other surfaces. Beakers and jars dotted shelves, but she could not make out the writing on the labels. She was lying on top of a stainless steel table. Looking down at her feet, she saw the toe seam of her orchid tights. It was such an everyday sight, even ordinary. The type of thing she might think "Oh goodness, it's crooked again" and she would fuss with straightening it out on her foot. But this time, it left her with a feeling of unease. She wiggled her toes against the reinforced nylon, stirring her memory, and she felt not better, but worse. She remembered getting dressed that day, and all the details that led her to the top of that teetering junk pile. She even recalled the graceless tumble she took, landing very unladylike on her bottom. And during every bit of it, she recalled her mary-jane flats snug on her feet. Right on up until the moment the darkness claimed her, when cotton filled her head.

She looked from her stocking feet to Charlie, and felt herself get a little queasy. It wasn't so much the act of taking her shoes off that left her feeling ill at ease. It was the idea of how she ended up on this chilling stainless steel table. It was the realization that hands had touched her body without her knowledge or say. She traced her fingers over her spaghetti strap top, the hips of her short swishing skirt, and finally, tested the texture of her tights beneath her fingertips. What appeared to be an outfit that was cute and ready for reporting in the mirror mere hours before, suddenly felt grossly inadequate, and she longed for jeans and a thick cozy sweater!

Thinking of those hands carrying her, handling her, her body draped in someone else's care without her being aware of it, filled her with dread. She imagined her unconscious body being deposited on the sterile steel tabletop, and those mystery hands taking the time to position her right. Perhaps one of her legs had draped over the side of the table and they took the time to lift it back up? Had they folded her bare arms over her gently rising and falling chest? Had the straps of her shirt slipped down over the side of her exposed shoulders, and they took the time to slide them back into place? In all the fuss, had her flowy skirt bunched up around her hips, and they courteously draped it back over her thighs to protect her modesty? The what ifs proliferated like popcorn in her wild imagination. She convinced herself that none of them were true, except the fact that she was looking at her stocking clad toes. The unavoidable horror was that regardless of what her imagination concocted as real or not, there was evidence of the contrary staring her in the eyes. At some point during her unconsciousness, someone had taken it upon themselves to relieve her of her mary-jane flats, and leave her in her stocking feet. In a hundred scenarios it could be considered an act of comfort or kindness. Minus permission or awareness however, and those phantom hands on her body, were nightmarish. Dawn felt queasy.

"Where am I?" asked Dawn, eyeing Charlie's hands suspiciously.

"What's that? Hmmm? Oh... well... you are inside the factory on Donner Road, Miss," replied Charlie, politely enough.

"Donner Road... I thought... I mean... that factory... isn't that factory the one that's been abandoned for years?" Dawn inquired, offering up a confused look on her face for good show.

"It is! I mean..." Charlie seemed caught in a lie he could not quite find his own way out of. He was a slow man, clearly not used to this line of questioning, but he was nice enough. There was a tender politeness to him. "Say, what's a nice girl like yourself doing around an abandoned factory, anyway?" Charlie's tone took on a suspicious nature as he attempted to turn the table's back on this clever girl. What made things more uneasy was the way his eyes lingered and his hands gestured at Dawn's pantyhose clad legs when he used the phrase "nice girl like yourself."

Perhaps not such a simple man. The tables had turned unexpectedly, and Dawn found herself on the defensive in their little back and forth interrogation. She underestimated his intellect, and found herself at a disadvantage with her outfit. The unwanted reference and attention to her hosiery that seemed to implicate "the kind of girl" she was left her feeling reduced.

"I... well... I was... I mean... I... was taking a walk. It was a fine autumn day!" Dawn built up defensively. She drew her knees up to her chin, wrapping her arms around her shins, trying to appear smaller. The act worked except for the fact that the back of her flowy skirt draped out like a sheet on the table, revealing the rear of her upper thighs, and a portion of her bottom.

"This is private property Miss," replied Charlie, noting her recent wardrobe challenge.

"I know... I mean, I didn't know... I mean... I understand that now," Dawn tried explaining herself.

"I didn't know they did that," Charlie pointed at Dawn's hip section.

"What?" replied Dawn, confused, looking around for what he was pointing at.

"That," emphasized Charlie. "Those things you are wearing. The way they get dark at the top. Like you are wearing shorts over your... you know... your... and how the dark part, the shorts, those are attached to the flimsy part, the whats you call them? The panty-hoses?"

"What!? Oh my God!" Dawn gasped, grasping, fumbling with the back of her skirt, skidding over the top of the table, adjusting her sitting clumsily as she tried to make sense out of Charlie's confusing explanation. In his humiliatingly primitive words, he had observed the "interesting" nature of the upper support section's thicker material on pantyhose, and how he perceived that they were a pair of shorts worn over her panties! And worse yet, he didn't even know the proper name for "pantyhose!" Which made all the more sense that he had NO idea how rude or embarrassing it was to discuss a woman's hosiery, especially when she is wearing them, and ESPECIALLY the private parts! They are an undergarment... please be respectful!

"I'm sorry Miss, I did not mean to offend. I just didn't see the practicality of a nice girl dressed up in those, you know whats, snooping around the backside of this factory," Charlie apologized in way of explanation.

Dawn felt herself getting redder by the second. This could not be happening to her. "It's... for my work. We have to wear tights because... well... it's expected, it's a requirement. Really it's more of a demand if you want to stay in the industry. So... I just sort of... accept it," sighed Dawn not believing that part of her big investigation involved having to explain to a man of all things, why she wears pantyhose. It was like a nightmare of hilarity.

"So they help for work. Is that why they have those dark toes? It's like the color of those shorts up top, but covering your painted toes," observed Charlie.

Dawn's eyes grew wide, and she curled her toes as far under as she could, willing them invisible, and when that didn't work, she covered them with her hands, protectively. This seemed to only pique Charlie's curiosity. Dawn sighed again.

"They are reinforced toes. They... it's like an extra layer of protection where you need it most. Pantyhose are for support, confidence, polish. They help a girl feel like her best self (vomit! That's a marketing line sold to girls by some man) but it's not that easy. It takes care, grace, and well manicured nails to make it to the end of the day in a pair of run-free pantyhose! Each new day presents new challenges and perils for your pantyhose. Most days end in failure, and they get peeled off and discarded in the bathroom trash," Dawn explained, looking down at her feet in shame. The very words made her feel like a fool. It was a system that had girls chasing an unattainable, unsustainable image of what they should be, decided by what they should wear. And instead of calling out the ridiculousness of it, girls simply accept the burden. They pluck, prune, and paint themselves into an ideal, because those are the rules. A whole world of girls clumsily perform the ritual of putting on pantyhose in all manner of climates and work environments because some man demands it. And the joke is on them. The pantyhose will not provide the support they need. The runs will leave them humiliated and looking like a fool in public. And then they will discover that in truth, yes "there ARE in fact things that beat a great pair of L'eggs! (or so the old marketing slogan went)" But they will return to their dresser the next morning. After all, there is a whole drawer dedicated to the skinny wrinkled things, all balled up in a tangled mass of nylon. God willing there is a run free pair to be found and they can be pulled, stretched, and freed from the others. The existential contemplation of it all overwhelmed Dawn.

Charlie listened to her explanation fascinated but clearly not understanding or appreciating a girl's plight. How like a man, thought Dawn, feeling infuriated. As he continued to pay more interest to her leg-wear than herself, she noticed something on his belt. What's this? Some kind of key card? A makeshift lab in an abandoned factory was one thing, but the existence of key cards was something all together else. What were they hiding here? A plan began to form in her sleuthing mind.

"Say, Charlie... what exactly is going on in this 'abandoned' factory out here on Donner Road?" Charlie drew back, his suspicions setting off again. He eyed Dawn warily, considering her question. "It's okay, you can tell me. I'm a 'good girl' remember?" she pressed when she saw him doubting her intentions.

"I dunno, Paul wouldn't want me talking about that. Especially to the girl we brought inside," replied Charlie, looking down at his boots.

"Paul, huh? Is he your partner? Is he the one with that squawking radio?" asked Dawn, curious if this might be the other guard, the one who found her. Charlie nodded.

"You know about the radio?" he asked, raising his eyebrows. Dawn nodded, adding a smile for good measure. It made her eyes twinkle like emeralds and put dimples in her cheeks. Her teeth were gleaming white.

"You bet I do! That thing really squawks! And boy does Paul like to talk on it. He's always barking orders isn't he?" Dawn tried to appeal to Charlie's good nature. Charlie nodded in agreement, chuckling and returning Dawn's smile. He liked seeing her smile.

"He's always bossing me around! He's not my boss, but he talks to me like he is. He thinks he can, just because he is smarter than me. Well I'm a guard like him. I've got a security card like him!" Charlie barked, defiance building in him.

"That's right, you do, Charlie! I noticed your security card too! It looks mighty impressive. The higher ups must really trust you with something so important," Dawn continued to play to his ego.

"Yeah, Paul is a big bully. He made me carry your legs when we brought you inside. Then he yelled at me because you were slipping and sliding, but I told him it wasn't my fault. It was the stretchy slippery things on your legs," Charlie continued venting about Paul. "He tried to get us to switch, but I liked the way they felt, so I said no!"

Dawn worried that she was losing Charlie's concentration, so she tried to keep the conversation on track. "Charlie, do you think I could borrow your key card?" she said, tucking her hair behind both ears, and appealing to him with big innocent green eyes. She even shrugged her bare shoulders in exaggerated humbleness.

"Oh! I don't know about that! I could get in real trouble for that. They said this card was a big responsibility, but I told them I could handle it," Charlie hesitated despite Dawn's earnest request. He fidgeted while looking at her legs. Dawn noticed this, and swallowed, considering her actions. Mr Anderson had schooled her on the realities of her chosen industry. Make peace with wearing nylons, and learn how to open doors with them. Was this one of those moments he had hinted at? She had always believed that good journalism came from fact finding, and good old fashioned sleuthing. But Charlie refused to see her as anything more than a walking talking pair of tights. If he was going to reduce her to such trivial things, then she might as well live up to the reduction!

Swinging her hips around, she dropped one leg off the end of the table, while crossing the other over the top. It was an iconic feminine pose, highlighting long and pointing legs. Better still, it was a marketing campaign designed to sell pantyhose by the truckloads. Dawn Meadows had nothing if not fantastic legs. Her nylons accented, highlighted, and shouted every angle, curve, and smooth line of her legendary lower half.

This got Charlie's attention. The only problem was, Dawn didn't exactly know what to do from here. To a fault, she was the good girl. If sitting like this was sexy, to her it was "just the way that feels right to me." If wearing pantyhose got her extra looks and caused car accidents, well then "whatever floats your boat. I'm glad SOMEONE is enjoying me having to wear these ridiculous things!" She focused all of her energy on becoming a great journalist... seduction was an art that sort of fell to the wayside for someone as naive as Dawn Meadows. Hopefully Charlie would be easy. He was already objectifying her, so at least that was a (revolting) start.

"Charlie... I um... I see the way you are looking at my legs. Would you like to touch them? I mean, would you like to... um... feel what my pantyhose feel like? I um... I didn't want to tell you... but I wore them here... um... today for you. I know it might come as a surprise, but I thought maybe you could... um... tell me what you like about them?" Dawn did her horrifically awkward best to flirt with Charlie, and appeal to his baser interests. It was cringe inducing, but she hoped it would work.

"Really? I... wow... I didn't know... I mean... wow... I would love the chance to feel them again! I know I could carry you better now that I know how they slip and slide against your skin. I didn't know they would do that, but now I do. So, I could be real careful. I know how delicate they are. I wouldn't want you to have to get a new pair. These purple ones look really pretty on you," Charlie was overjoyed by the kindness Dawn was showing him. The sound in her voice made her feel a little bad for toying with him. But that emotion was overshadowed by the actual real fear she was also feeling. She was playing a dangerous game that could go very wrong for her if she was not careful.

"Well, you don't need to carry me, I mean, I think I'm feeling a bit better after that nasty spill I took before... um... thanks to you!" Dawn hastily added the praise for Charlie while also dismissing his intimation at carrying her again. The thought of his hands on her again gave her chills. To avoid this, she rapidly uncrossed her legs, and slid her bottom off the edge of the table, feeling the tips of her toes touch the floor. Gingerly she flattened her soles on the floor, which was cold through her thin stockings, but her legs held her up firmly with only a slight bend and wobble at the knees as she got her bearings. Smiling to reassure Charlie, she smoothed out the hem of her orchid skirt, doing a little curtsy for dramatic flair. This exaggerated feminine etiquette played well for Charlie, and he let out a laugh. Dawn eyed the security card on his belt, then looked over his shoulder at the door of a closet located in the corner of the room. "Why don't we talk over there," pointed Dawn.

Charlie turned his head toward the closet, and seemed to understand what Dawn was intimating. He smiled, nodding his head. Charlie gestured for her to go first. Dawn knew why he did so, and it left her feeling a little nauseous over the thought. She swallowed, and forced a smile before traipsing in front of him, accentuating her steps to exaggerate the femininity of her legs, feet, and hips. Knowing his eyes were on her from behind made her face burn with humiliation, but she kept up the facade. I need that key card, she kept telling herself.

When she got into the closet, she noticed it was full of cleaning supplies, all on a series of shelves, and some stacked on the floor. When she turned, Charlie was right there. "Oh!" she gasped, not quite prepared for him to be so close. It was unnerving. "So, will you tell me about the activities in the factory now, Charlie?" she purred with her best act.

"Ummm... okay... but you gotta promise not to tell. Especially Paul. He always reminds me that he helped me get the job, and that I had better not screw it up, because it will make him look bad," replied Charlie.

"Girl Scouts Honor!" Dawn said with a mock serious face, holding up her hand making a girl scout symbol for her promise.

"But first," Charlie interrupted, and suddenly, Dawn felt his hands around her waist. She was hoisted up, and her bottom was dropped back on top of a stack of boxes. Her hands grabbed at the hem of her skirt to keep it under control from the sudden motion.

"Charlie!" she gasped. "What the heck!?" her green eyes were wide with shock.

"You said you wanted me to touch your legs. You told me that you wore your tights for me today," he replied, his hands closing in over her knees. The touch made Dawn's hips seize in panic. She tried to hide it, but it was involuntary.

"I... I... I..." Dawn stammered, not sure how to reply. She had set up the situation, but not truly understood what she was doing, or the consequences of her actions. She simply froze as Charlie caressed her knees, smudging the nylon between his thumbs and her skin. Dawn simply bit her lip and nodded in agreement that she had indeed said those very words. Her heart was hammering against her rib cage with ferocity, but there was no getting out of this one. She simply had to do her best to control the near hysterical sobs that burst from her lips every time his hands strayed up toward her thighs. She frantically fought him with her hands, hiding the tears rimming her green eyes, while she tried to control the spiraling situation by repeatedly leading his hands back to her knees and below. Perhaps she could entice him with the curves of her calves? She showed him how her tights creased at her ankles and behind the knee, and laughed about reinforced toes as she wiggled them playfully. Charlie seemed content with this sort of "PG" rated activity, and Dawn sighed deeply in desperate relief. This was NOT the sort of door she reckoned that Mr Anderson had been speaking about opening in his lesson.

While Dawn endured her unexpected field work, which she luckily kept under control, she managed to get Charlie to open up about what the heck was going on here in the factory. It was the only thing that kept her from screaming at the top of her lungs, running out of the room, all the way back to her dorm room, peeling off her pantyhose, burning them, jumping into a scalding shower, and scrubbing herself clean and pure again!

According to Charlie, the trucks coming in were bringing in chemical supplies that were being used to create a formula CXSE-V1. It was a first attempt at a hallucinogenic drug created by a young hot shot lab PhD student named Harvey Moore. He had been commissioned to create the drug after bragging about it in a local bar one night. It all started out as a silly experiment in the lab, that grew into more and more of a passion project. While blowing off steam after an unfortunate string of failed results, Moore was drowning his sorrows in more than a few pints of ale, and began running his mouth to a table of nearby gentlemen. They took a keen interest in Moore's drunken bravado about his "big plans, and brilliant mind." They too had plans of their own, and as it turned out, they were not gentlemen after all. There were actually staking out rich people's houses in town, looking for ways to rob them blind, and score a big payday for themselves. Most people would have thought Harvey Moore's ravings about creating a fantasy drug that could control people through their senses was NON-sense. But this crew of nefarious cretins smelled opportunity. So they commissioned Moore to finish his lab work in a location they would set up for him. It had to be private, off the books, under the radar, no public attention. This was to be hush hush. And it was... until a lone security guard named Charlie blabbed all of this to a young sleuth with long legs who REALLY knew how to use them.

The problem was, where was the evidence? Was Charlie just some wack job security guard who liked to tell crazy stories? Dawn managed to get him to reveal that there was a terminal on the manufacturing floor, where they were going to produce the new drug. Great! That was where she would be able to get her evidence for the crime. All she needed was to access the terminal, download the incriminating files onto a thumb drive, get them to the local newspaper... and instant justice! This lunatic PhD student Harvey Moore would be going to prison along with the rogue's gallery of would be thieves that were bank rolling his crazy science experiments.

Charlie told her that she would need his security key card to access the door leading to the manufacturing floor, which was a secure area due the very illegal nature of what they would be manufacturing. Not only that, but she would need Paul's security key card as well in order to open the door. It was a two key system to prevent any unwanted intruders from snooping around in the secure area. This operation must be REALLY illegal for security to be that tight!

"Which is why I can't let you go there, Miss," confessed Charlie, unable to look Dawn in the eye. He felt really bad about it, but he just could not give her his security card. It was simply too dangerous. Besides, she would never convince Paul to give her his card, so there was no point anyways. Dawn slowly nodded her head in gradual understanding as she slid off the stack of boxes where Charlie had plopped her unceremoniously. She placed her hands behind her back, slowly backing out the closet. When she passed outside the door, with Charlie still inside, she sprung to action, shutting the door and grabbing a mop handle, and wedging it in place. This firmly sealed the door shut with Charlie trapped inside. From the small rectangular window, Dawn held up Charlie's security card between her well manicured fingers. His eyes went wide as his hand went to his belt. She tricked him! She stole his card! He lurched at the door, palms smacking against the glass. Dawn grabbed the hem of her skirt and gave another curtsy, this one a little more mocking. It was her little revenge for having to deal with his grabby hands in order to get information. Charlie began shouting something to Dawn, a warning of some type but she had already turned and was nearly out of the lab area. She felt a twinge of guilt over the way she played Charlie. Despite his lecherous nature, he was a kind and simple fellow. This moment of conscience caused her nearly to turn around and release him but then she happened upon her mary-jane flats sitting on the counter top near the shredded plastic entry curtain. The memory gave her the creeps, and she suddenly felt a lot less bad about leaving Charlie locked up. Grabbing her shoes, she slipped them back on her stocking feet (where they belonged!) and fled the room. Gotta find this Paul fellow and relieve him of his security card...

Paul was watching old reruns on a black and white television in what was a crudely established office. It was unlikely that he was supposed to be engaging in such activity given the responsibilities of his job, but it appeared he took no such issues with his liberties at work. As Dawn peeked in from around the threshold of the door, she saw a rectangular belt radio standing on the desk nearby. Paul must be the one with the "squawking radio." He was the one who found me. If Charlie was the kind and simple one, then Paul gave off the aura of a double crossing snake, and a mean one at that. Dawn's pantyhose fetish routine was unlikely to work on Paul the way it had played for Charlie. To try such a foolish option would likely bring a mighty unpleasant end to her little investigation. The very thought made Dawn sick with fear. While listening to Paul laugh at the poorly written dialogue of his television program, Dawn scanned the contents on hand in the office. It was mostly mundane everyday stuff. Nothing useful for the task at hand. There was one thing though. Hanging between two nails on the wall just inside the office, was a large and crude looking wrench.

Dawn was not a violent girl, but she reasoned that Paul would have no such hang ups about doling violence out on her. Thus she deduced she would besmirch her squeaky clean good girl reputation this one time and give Paul a smack with the wrench that he would not soon forget. Walking on the tips of her toes, she entered the office, never taking her eyes off of Paul's back as he reclined in the office chair, feet up on the desk. He seemed engrossed in the television, but the fear of him rearing on her at any moment was enough to keep her heart hammering strong. A monster size lump filled her throat, and a field of wild butterflies fluttered in her tummy! Flicking her eyes for only a moment to where the wrench hung on the wall, she gingerly lifted it up and silently made her way up behind an unsuspecting Paul. Just as she raised the heavy wrench above her head (it took both of her hands with shaking arms) the radio squawked to life, nearly causing her to scream at the top of her lungs from the pressure built up within her.

*CRACKLE*

"Paul! Do you copy!? You need to watch out! That girl we found! She's!"

*CRACKLE*

Charlie's voice came through the radio all of a sudden. How!? He must have gotten free from the closet and gotten to a radio!

The sound of Charlie's voice hollering over the radio caused Paul's feet to slip off the end of the desk, and nearly turned his chair over with him in it! His boots were scraping on the floor for purchase as he turned around to see a skinny teenage girl wielding a wrench too large for the meat on her arms. He opened his mouth to shout some strangled threat at her but she had already squeezed her eyes shut and swung down for all she was worth. The wrench connected with a nasty smacking sound and Paul was down for the count. Dawn was no murderess (she lacked the strength to deliver that kind of blow) but Paul would certainly wake up with one hell of a headache. He crumpled to the floor while his television program played on.

*CRACKLE*

"Paul!!! Do you copy!? That girl is coming your way! She's a spy! She's gonna try to steal your security card! Don't let her get away!"

*CRACKLE*

"Yaahhhgrrhhh!" Dawn savagely swung the wrench again and smashed the squawking radio in a primal fit of rage. She had had just about enough from that radio. Feeling the rage seep out of her, and a little bit more like herself, she let the heavy wrench drop, doing a little hop with her feet when it almost landed on her toes. She reminded herself that she might not have much time. Charlie might be here any minute if he had gotten free! Dawn searched Paul's belt for his key card. Looking at his unconscious face she let out a tiny "I'm sorry!" in way of apology for hurting him. When she found the card key, she snatched it up, and made quick on her exit from the office. Then she began her search for the entry to the secure area.

There were several long hallways Dawn realized as she crept along one after another. In ways more exhilarating than performing her boring outside surveillance, she now felt like she was engaged in real sleuthing. There was something exciting about sneaking around the factory, knowing danger could be around any corner. How fast could she run in a skirt and flats? Would it be enough? Would she get away? And would she get a run in her tights? The questions and her imaginations proved how immature she still was at all this. Her concerns were all girlish in their focus with how she looked during her sleuthing. The realization humbled her, and she suddenly felt pangs of doubt in her aptitude for this line of work. Don't doubt yourself, Dawn. That's just what your detractors would want. Having given herself a stern pep talk, Dawn carried on with her slinking. The access door had to be around here somewhere...

Believing in herself turned out to be the right call, because with a little more time, Dawn rounded a corner and came face to face with a very secure looking door. There were two electronic panels, one on each side of the door. Fishing out the two security cards she had acquired, Dawn approached the door and gave one a swipe. An error code beeped, and a red light blinked. Must be the other one, she thought. Dawn swiped the other card and was pleased to see green light accompanied by a pleasant chime. Scurrying over to the opposite slider, she swiped the alternate card and received the same affirmative response. The door beeped and groaned as air pressure released and  the door dragged open.

Dawn peered past the threshold feeling a slight bit unsure of herself. Somehow she was aware that a wisp of girl like herself had no business entering places secured by doors like this. She again scolded herself for her self doubt, determining that, her size, physique, and inexperience  would not determine her accomplishments. Scary criminals would be brought to justice, their nefarious schemes thwarted, and she would be the girl to make it happen. Riding that inspiration, she found the courage to step within the manufacturing floor. This was the factory proper. It was filled with conveyor belts, hooks and pulleys running in a network across the ceiling, multitudes of heavy machinery, vats, rows and rows of pallets stacked high with crates stamped in strange Chinese writing. There were barrels with wording in languages she could not even begin to guess. This all must have come in on the trucks I observed over the past few weeks. It did not look like production had begun yet, but all the bones for a criminal operation were in place. 

Aside from herself, the place appeared to be void of other humans. This was a relief, but also strangely frightening due to the sheer size and openness of the main room. Careful not to snag a run in her tights, Dawn navigated the labyrinth of rusty paint flecked machinery in her search for the terminal Charlie had revealed to her. She had a thumb drive tucked into the waistband of her pantyhose that she was going to store all the evidence on. Assuming everything Charlie described was true and if she could prove it, the wealthy people of the town would have her to thank when she prevented them from being robbed. Not to mention thwarting a budding mad scientist and his wacky ideas about controlling people through some sort of hallucinating mind control drug. Seriously, where do these people get their ideas? There must be some evil scheme manual for bad guys, she thought, shaking her head and rolling her eyes.

After sneezing for the sixth time from all the soot heavy in the air that harassed her sensitive nose, Dawn spotted a desk with a terminal on it in the distance. Determination renewed, she navigated her way over to the simple wooden desk, and the grime covered terminal. It was near one of the conveyor belts and surrounded by a jungle of hanging ropes with metal hooks attached. This must be some kind of sorting or shipping portion of the facility she thought, before admitting she had no idea what she walk talking about "Why would I know anything about the way a factory works?"

Pulling out the swivel chair from the desk, she noticed the chunks missing from the cushion. Even the chair was old and broken down like everything else in this place. Sitting down, she was careful to sweep her skirt under her bottom so as not to snag her tights on the unwelcoming chair. Wiggling the mouse, she prepared to comb the hard drive for incriminating evidence. When the screen began to glow into life, a blinking cursor inside a login window was reflected in her emerald eyes.

"Password protected? Charlie didn't say anything about a password!" Dawn could not believe her rotten luck. She nearly got herself molested by that simple creep and he didn't bother to mention a password would be needed!?

Don't panic, you can figure this out Dawn. She looked up and off into space as she pondered, fingers hovering over the keyboard, ready to take action. Furrowing her brow, she tried to think, what would it be?

*CHARLIE* she typed.

PASSWORD INVALID. TRY AGAIN. TWO ATTEMPTS REMAINING

"Yikes! That wasn't it. Only two more tries!? Sheesh!" Dawn felt the pressure mounting, sweat was beginning to form on her brow.

*PAUL* she typed

PASSWORD INVALID. TRY AGAIN. ONE ATTEMPT REMAINING

"Oh come on!" Dawn grumbled. How was she supposed to know this? They always made this look easier in the movies. One more attempt? Then what? I'm locked out and have to answer stupid password retrieval questions in my email? Dawn rolled her eyes at the thought. How ridiculous. Okay, one more guess... what would it be? Let's see... oh! What was the name of that drug the crazy scientist guy is trying to create? Charlie said the name...

*CXSE-W1* she typed

PASSWORD INVALID. ZERO ATTEMPTS REMAINING

"Oh no! It was V1! Not W1! Dammit! I couldn't remember. Please just give me one more chance! I'll get it right this time, I promise!"

ACCESS DENIED

"Okay, I get it" Dawn put her face in her hands feeling really bad about her anticlimactic investigation when a blaring klaxon shook her from her revelries. The screen began flashing

ACCESS DENIED

The conveyor belt burped to life and the rope system with the hooks began rotating, swinging and swaying as they moved.

"Whoa! Did I do that? I didn't mean to start up any of the machines. I tried the passwords three times. Obviously I didn't get it correct. I'll just be going now," Dawn began to feel nervous with all the hook ropes circulating around her. She kept peering over one shoulder then the other, paranoid one was going to poke her!

Turns out she had a good reason to be paranoid. When she turned her attention back to the computer monitor blatantly reminding her that she had failed her access attempts, one of the hook ropes swung up behind her and the sharp tip yanked up on the rear waistband of her orchid colored pantyhose!

"HEY!" Dawn yelped in surprise as she was hoisted up into the air unceremoniously. It happened so fast her feet were yanked right out of her mary jane flats. "My shoes!" Dawn cried pathetically as she was wisked away. The pressure on her hips from being lurched and carried by the waist of pantyhose was enough to make her eyes cross and elicit a agonizing groan from her lips. Clearly not a use the garment was intended for. The machine, however, showed little regard for her situation or plight.

"Where are you taking me!?" Dawn inquired as she found herself zipping along the ceiling path of the rope system. When she received no answer from the machinery, she folded her arms across her chest for comfort, and a look of fearful concern began to etch itself into her face. She began to feel genuinely worried. The ongoing ride through the factory only increased in discomfort as the strain of being hooked by the waistband of her pantyhose tugged with immense pressure on her pelvis. Yet despite the undesirable dangling, she equally prayed that the famously fickle garment would hold her weight so as not to tear and drop her screaming to a what would be an all too real enactment of the "Humpty Dumpty" fairy tale! Saving money by buying L'eggs pantyhose out a plastic egg at a drugstore suddenly felt like a stupid choice!

After what seemed like an agonizingly bouncy, dangling, tugging, stretching, and rebounding jostle through the factory, the rope transport system eventually ground to a halt. It appeared that she had reached her destination. The rope swayed back and forth as did Dawn by the miraculous maintaining of her pantyhose waistband. She stretched like a rubber band, groaning with each bob, but the fabric held strong. Dawn looked around warily as a multi jointed mechanical arm attached to the ceiling maneuvered toward her. On the end of the arm was a rectangular box, with a ball tipped metal rod sticking out of it. The technology was reminiscent of some sort of science fiction contraption. Possibly something that would launch a signal out into space or something like that? A yellow light began to glow on the side of the box, as a buzzing hum vibrated from within the unit.

"Good evening, Miss. Charlie here. I see you have met our security protocol drone," his voice crackled over a crude loud speaker system. Dawn jolted in surprise upon hearing Charlie, looking around in fear. Security protocol drone? Does he mean this mechanical arm pointing at me?

"The drone is programed to activate in case of a security breach. In this case: the unauthorized access of a secure terminal or too many failed login attempts. Default priority is to locate the breach and neutralize," Charlie's voice explained in crackled poor audio quality. Dawn listened to his words, not quite comprehending the explanation. But as he spoke, her eyes were drawn to the metal rod with the rounded steel tip. The more she thought about it, the way it was pointed rudely in her face by the inconsiderate metal arm, that incessant growing hum and vibration, the more she began to reconsider her thoughts for its use. It occurred to her that, while some science fiction stories have technology like this to send communication, other stories feature tools like this to zap poor characters into oblivion!

Based on Charlie's words, Dawn wiggled on her hook, lifting her legs, amusingly in their futility, trying to get away. She pointed at herself in a "you mean me?" gesture with one hand, while the other, she held up palm out in a "wait, please, no!" pleading gesture. There must have been a camera monitoring up her actions, because Charlie chimed in via the grainy loud speaker.

"I'm sorry, Miss, but we can't afford a security breach. I tried to warn you, but after you tricked me, you were in too much of a hurry. I do not want you to worry. We will dispose of you humanely," assured Charlie.

"D-d-dis-dispose of me?" Dawn could barely speak the words. The very idea left her shaking like a leaf. "But you can't just... I mean... you can't... I... I didn't mean... I won't talk... Please just... I'm sorry I... Just give me one more chance. I... I'll do anything! I'll... I'll... visit everyday after school, and I will be sure to wear pantyhose, whichever kind you like. I'll be sure they are your favorite. Just let me go, and I won't tell anyone about this. I'll forget everything you told me about the robbery plot, the drug manufacturing, EVERYTHING!" Dawn rambled, stumbled, bargained, pleaded, and plain begged with all her flailing mind could concoct.

"Oh Miss... that is very kind of you to offer. I knew that when I met you, you were a good girl. Even after you tricked me. I'm glad that I was right about you," Charlie's voice sounded appreciative through the squawking box. "But you need not go through the trouble. This machine will simplify all that nonsense you promised," he continued. The hum and vibration of the metal prong was reaching a fever pitch. "This security drone, once fully powered, will zap you clean out of existence. Well... that's not entirely accurate. It will remove all the moisture out that little body of yours and leave behind a pile of salt. But just so you don't have to worry, it will leave those orchid color pantyhose you are wearing too! You promised me pantyhose, and you are keeping your word. It's too bad they get to stick around while you get zapped, but security protocols are what they are..."

"Wait! NO!!! PLEEEEEASE!!!!!!" Dawn's voice rushed with anguished plea for a second chance only to see the round metal tip of the prong sizzle to life. It was a blast of pastel light that bathed her slender body in pulsing waves. Her face adopted an exaggerated expression shock, eyebrows leaping up, eyes bulged wide, mouth open in a horrified scream. Her luxurious golden blonde hair rose to life, dancing about like a nest of wild snakes. Her legs shot straight, the reinforced toes of her pantyhose pointing with agonized shock, crackling right down the very tips. She felt the pulse wave through her body in bathing warmth that began as uncomfortably tingly and rapidly becoming a raging boil. Her back arched, seized from the shock. It was too much for her little body to handle.

Dawn did not understand how this could be happening to her. She did everything she was supposed to do. Mr Anderson had explained to her how she needed to dress if she wanted to be taken seriously as a reporter. She had followed the rules. She dressed the way that was expected, required, and demanded. Pantyhose were supposed to open doors for her, not get her zapped! But she had not followed the rules, not exactly. Mr Anderson had warned her not to follow this investigation. And she had foolishly tricked Charlie, teasing him with her legs, with no regard for consequence. She had foolishly toyed with a secure terminal with no regard for security measures. That was how she found herself hanging on the end of hook facing a piece of science fiction technology. And it was good that it was by the waistband of her pantyhose too. It was an important lesson for Dawn Meadows to learn very early on in her perils. She had gotten one small detail wrong about the woeful tales she often told of "girl vs hosiery" problems. If she's not careful it's not the pantyhose that fail to make it through the day, ending up in the trash. Sometimes... it's the girl.

As Dawn's slender body was fried by the pastel blast, she was soon reduced to a powdery ghost of herself. That same horrified expression, that agonized arched pose etched in grainy salt with wrinkled and billowing pantyhose. Gravity took care of the rest, and she sprinkled down little by little, piling up on the conveyor belt below. Budding hopeful reporter, or pile of salt? There one moment, then zapped out of existence. Her shrunken orchid tights gently floated down, draping over the top of the salt pile. She had misjudged the simplicity of one dangerous security guard. After making promises and mismanaging the power of tights, she probably should have played that game a little more carefully. She promised Charlie her tights, but never imagined things would turn out like THIS! Talk about making a girl feel unnecessary! Couldn't he have just asked her to peel them off and hand them over? Reducing her to salt feels a little over the top! In the end, it was a supply and demand issue. The pantyhose were required... the girl? Not so much...

Looks like CXSE-V1 is going into production. Rich people, hang on to your belongings! Or better yet?... don't...



THE END

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