The Sorceressí Apprentice

- by Xaltatun of Acheron

Author's note: 

This work is copyright 2000 by Xaltatun of Acheron (A Pseudonym). It may be posted on the Internet to any free forum, provided it is not modified in any way, and provided that this notice is included in its entirety. It may not be sold, or included in any compilation that is sold, or posted on any forum that requires a fee for access, without my written permission. My permission will require payment, terms to be negotiated. For purposes of this notice, sites guarded by Adult Check or similar packages are considered pay sites. Posting on any site must include this copyright notice.

Adult Content Warning - this story contains adult themes, including non-consensual bondage/slavery and forced sexual acts. If you are under the lawful age for such materials (18 in most jurisdictions) or if you would find such material offensive, please go elsewhere.

This is one of eight stories in the series entitled "Ponygirl Transformation." I may write others later, but eight is it for now.

Ponygirl Finds Her Place

Kinder and Gentler

The Sorceressí Apprentice

Raw Material

Ponygirl by Choice

The Politics of Ponygirls

Ponygirls on Vacation

Bluebird Grows Up

Acknowledgements. The setting and several of the characters are taken from two works by Sir Thomas (A pseudonym). "Adventures on the Hoof" and "Ponygirls, Inc" are both copyright by the Academy Club. Used by permission of Sir Thomas. These works are both for sale, and should not be available on the net, except for a short excerpt on Sir Jeffís ponygirl web site. They may be ordered in the US from Quality SM, and in the UK from the Academy Club.

The character of the lobo-ra has been changed substantially. This is partially to motivate the biotechnology theme, and partially for other reasons.

The character of Sharon, in the story "The Politics of Ponygirls" was originally modeled after Rhianna Summers, a character created by Leviticus (a pseudonym). She had to be changed because his series took a major turn that rendered the plot in these stories infeasible.

In neither case should you infer anything about the prior stories from this one. The authors named above have substantially different objectives for their stories.

There are a number of hidden references throughout to obscure (and some not so obscure) science fiction and fantasy stories. This is a game that some authors play. Should you care to look, have fun finding them.

Safety Warning. This story may contain descriptions of practices that are decidedly unsafe, either in general, or if performed by someone without adequate training. There are a number of good books available on safety in the BDSM scene. Iím not going to point out which practices are safe, and which arenít. Any practice is unsafe if performed by someone with inadequate training and experience, or if performed when not paying attention. Please think before you act. Donít make yourself a candidate for a Darwin award.

Science Warning. In common with most science fiction authors, if I need it, I invent it. Just because itís described, donít assume it exists. On the other hand, just because youíve never heard of it, donít assume it doesnít. There are only two universal laws. If you believe in a limitation, itís yours. Yesterdayís impossibility is todayís research news, and tomorrowís consumer product.

OK Ė now on to the story -------

This one takes place shortly after the events in "Kinder and Gentler."

Chapter 1.

I had just finished inserting a card into the server on my workbench, when a thought occurred to me. "Stephanie, why havenít I seen any male lobo-ra?"

"We. Thought. You. Did. That."

If I had been a cat, that tone would have driven me right up onto a cabinet, back arched and hissing. As it was, I spun around in total shock. "Me???"

Stephanie took a deep breath. "No, not you personally. You havenít been here long enough, for one thing. You, generically. The big people. Someone in this demented community. To keep us under control." Steph sounded halfway between totally shaken and boiling mad. Donna was looking at her in shock.

"Steph, what the heck?"

Stephanie took a couple of deep breaths, let them out, and stretched like a cat. Back under control. "Lemonade, there havenít been any male lobo-ra born for a long time. The youngest is 80."

Iím afraid my jaw dropped. "ThatísÖ awful. Youíre dying out?"

"WeÖ think so. And we donít know why." Now that she wasnít mad, she looked like she was about to cry. This was so totally unlike Stephanie that I was still shook. However, crying I could deal with. I picked her up, and cuddled her to my shoulder. She cut loose with deep, racking sobs.

We made a bizarre picture. The room was a typical computer jockís workshop. Table, computer components, a couple of working PCís, network stuff. Manuals lying around. After that, it quit being typical exponentially.

First, Iím not the typical computer nerd. Iím 5í7", blue eyed, with lemon yellow hair, hence my name, Pretty Lemon. Iím afraid the pretty is wishful thinking, however. My hair is my best feature. I look like a prototypical tomboy, which I am. The capture team blew it when they took me; marketing figured theyíd take a loss if they put me up for auction. So I was given to Alice to experiment with alternative training methods.

When Iím not doing the computer stuff, cooking or cleaning Aliceís apartment, Iím a ponygirl. Stephanie is my rider, although I suspect that sheís going to give me to Donna pretty soon. Stephanie and Donna are lobo-ra. The name means wolf-rider.

They are the smallest of the human races, even smaller than the people formerly known as pigmies. They used to be fairly widespread, but they have been pushed out of areas inhabited by the big people Ė thatís us. Theyíre the source of the legends of the leprechauns, the dwarfs, the elves, and numerous others. They seldom grow over about two and a half feet tall, and 50 pounds.

I used to think that they had a manual somewhere, "How to be cute." Then reality set in; itís just impossible to buy clothes in those sizes that arenít for cute little five year olds. I still think theyíve got a manual; they certainly play the part well.

Stephanie thinks that she owns me. Girl who acts like a pony that talks certainly thinks so. But girl who acts like a girl knows better. Alice owns me. Ownership is registered on the books of the International Ponygirl Consortium, under the number on the livestock medallions in my ears. I havenít hacked into the IPC yet; there isnít much point since everyone who counts knows about it. Thereís nowhere to go.

Stephanie trusts me about as much as she trusts any of the big people. She knows that I would nuke this place if I could. If I didnít have a jail cell waiting for me outside. If I didnít like several people here. If I wasnít having the time of my life both with this computer project, and as a ponygirl. And if I wasnít learning bundles from Alice.

But itís still a close call.

After Stephanie calmed down, she told me the story. Most of it I already knew. The lobo-ra had been dying out for some time; fertility was way down and falling. When old Farnsworth found one of the last tribes in Wyoming, he made a deal. As it turns out, lobo-ra are absolutely natural animal trainers. He was in charge of this madhouse of ponygirl enthusiasts; he saw them as the answer to his prayers for riders. When they found out that lobo-ra males could get big people females pregnant, and that the result was almost always a lobo-ra, it looked like a match made in heaven.

There were a few problems. Nobody noticed that all of the lobo-ra big people crosses were female for a long time.

Unfortunately, the Board was very good at ignoring anything they didnít want to deal with, like morals or scruples. Or the welfare of the lobo-ra. In mitigation, they didnít have a clue what the problem was, or what to do about it. However, fessing up that there was a problem would have defused the situation, rather than spawning another paranoid conspiracy theory. If it was a paranoid conspiracy theory. I just didnít have any data. Time to get Alice in on it.

Alice is a 5í5" redhead. Weíre about the same age, 26, which is also Stephanieís age. The major difference is that Alice is nuts. In a real, literal, technical sense. Sheís a multiple personality. The shrink that got her operational decided to use the committee model, rather than the integration model, so sheís still an MP. Some of her personalities are odd, to say the least. Some of them can do things like clairvoyance, telekinesis, and teleportation. Others got her around some of the nastier things in the ponygirl training program. Another one of them is a ponygirl; Silence is Golden.

When we got Alice into the picture, she did her typical Alice thing.

"Youíre absolutely right that we need some data. Report back to me in about a week on what you found."

"Who, me?"

"Yes, you. You should have enough clairvoyance by now to track down whatever there is to track down. This complex isnít that big. Or havenít you been practicing?"

"UhÖ"

"Yeah, right. Wrap up, finish the dishes, and have Donna put you down for the night."

I headed for the kitchen.

Chapter 2.

Once I wrapped up, Stephanie, Donna and I headed across the executive housing area toward the Big Cheeseís apartment. The livery pony was placidly waiting for us outside. I drove.

I should probably say something about the livery pony service. It was one of Aliceís better ideas, and the one that swung much of the board onto her side. Before that, they used to put the ponies down when they got too old to be ridden, or to be shown. Lots of people didnít like the idea, but somehow, here as anywhere, not liking something hadnít led to a feasible solution.

Part of Aliceís bargain with the board was that I would spend at least two thirds of my time as a ponygirl. Most of the rest was spent either on the computer project that was the official reason for my having privileges that most of the ponygirls didnít, or doing personal work for Alice. That is, cleaning, cooking, laundry and sex. Alice had a highly creative view of two-thirds.

Stephanie headed up to Leoís apartment to pick up his French maid díjour. Donna and I headed into the cellblock where he kept his personal herd of ponygirls. Weíd gotten there just about the right time. Jack was putting down Thunder and Lightning. Neither Rainbow nor Bluebird was present, which was expected. Stephanie would bring one of them down shortly.

Thunder and Lightning were a matched pair of stunning, 5í10" blonds. They were his running team, and were winning fairly often in competition.

In the ordinary course of events, Donna couldnít have put a pony down for the night. She simply didnít have the heft. However, she normally did me, since I cooperated. I didnít see any reason for Jack to manhandle me around when I could get Donna to do what needed doing. So I stripped off my street clothes, and lay down on the mat. Girl who acts like a pony flowed into control.

Donna put on the leg binder and arm binder. I brought my legs up so she could clip them to the arm binder in a hogtie. She put the ball gag and bridle on me, and then the hood. Then the restraining straps and the pillow under my head, and I was done.

I spent a few minutes in the background considering that final scene, and my mistressí orders. I finally came to the conclusion that there werenít any hidden agendaís that would come back to bite me. There was certainly a hidden agenda, but it looked more like Santa Clause or the Tooth Fairy was working on it.

Sleeping in tight bondage is an acquired taste. Its one I acquired my second day here, since it looked like I would spend the remainder of my life doing it. We slept.

I came awake when Jack and Joanne entered the complex. They started at the front of the block, with Lightning and Rainbow. Looked like I was going to be last. I was beginning to get the hang of letting girl who acts like a girl run in the background, while girl who acts like a pony ran in the foreground. So I considered ways and means of running the search Alice and the lobo-ra needed.

In due time, Jack popped into my cell. He reversed the bondage, and pretty soon I was loose on the mat. He swatted me on the ass, and I crawled into the bathing room on all fours. All during training, I had to carry the ball gag in my teeth during grooming, and woe betide me if I dropped it. Once I became the property of a community member, that rule was dropped.

The usual morning grooming ritual was for Jack to position me straddling the toilet while he cleaned me out, enema and douche. I hadnít had a normal bowel movement since I came here. I wasnít certain my body still knew how, although I guess it took several years for that set of reflexes to deteriorate past functioning.

Next was the shower. I showered sitting down; the showerhead was only four feet from the floor. When I was done, Jack dried me off. He took his time at it, using a hair drier on my hair, armpits and sex, and big, soft terrycloth towels on the rest of me. He was good at it; girl who acts like a pony preened. One of the ponygirlsí little luxuries. He finished up by brushing my hair out and doing it in a single braid.

I stuck my two cents in, and asked, "Whatís my schedule for today, big boy?"

"Nothing you need to know about in advance, Lemon Drop." He knew it was girl who acts like a girl talking. Girl who acts like a pony could also talk, but it would never occur to her to ask about what was going to happen.

When he was done, he held out the bridle. Girl who acts like a pony took the ball gag between her teeth, and he buckled the rest of it around her head. She crawled back to the mat in the cell, and dropped flat, spread eagle. He began with the boots, and then the arm sheaths. These were interesting. They looked like shoulder length gloves, but they had plastic fittings inside that forced the hands out at a 90-degree angle. They also had a hinged steel rod up the side. He swung the arms together, and the rod locked. Now her hands were up by her shoulders, sticking out.

He got her up on her feet. She stepped into the bustier. He laced it up, taking a couple of inches off of her waist in the process. When it was tight, he zipped it to keep it from loosening. Then he clipped her elbows to fastenings on the bustier.

The penultimate part of her accouterments was the collar. This was higher in front than in the back, about five inches to two. The front was rough on top. She tilted her head back at about a 45-degree angle as he buckled it.

The last part was the two dildos. He put the front one in while she was standing in front of him, looking up. This went into her sex. The top expanded with a special tool so it wouldnít fall out during the day. The bottom had a bright red ball on the end. It looked like her sex was ball gagged.

The other one went in while she was kneeling, head down on the mat. It was thinner, and had a curved rod sticking out. He put it in until the rod nestled between her ass cheeks. Then he used a special tool to expand the head so it was seated properly. It also wasnít going to come out. Then he swiped his remote against the bar code on the antenna.

He led her over to the display stand, and positioned it so she was backed up against the pole. "Make a leg." She went down onto her right knee like an elevator. Jack guided the rings on the back of the bustier onto the pole. A slap on her left leg, and she brought it out behind her. He mounted the headrest with a bolt.

This procedure was also different from training. In training, they would have lifted her on and off of the stand. They also would have locked her ankles to the base of the stand. Jack and Joanne didnít bother. After the ponies were broken, the only reason for the manhandling was to reinforce the sense of who was in control. All the ponies in this cellblock knew perfectly well who was in control, and werenít about to mess with standard procedures and lose their privileges.

Jack wheeled the stand into Thunderís cell. The other four ponies were there, yakking it up to beat the band. He attached her funnel, and poured in eight ounces of mash. She started sucking at it greedily. Ten minutes later, he came back, and removed the funnel and her ball gag. Girl who acts like a pony who talks joined the conversation. Talk time extended until their first working session. Then it was over for the day.

Girl who acts like a girl wouldnít join the conversation unless both Thunder and Lightning were absent. Rainbow and Bluebird were Leoís mistresses. They knew a fair amount about what was going on in the community. Thunder and Lightning were standard ponygirls with no special privileges. It simply wasnít fair to them to discuss things that they had no hope of ever participating in. Thunder and Lightning knew what they were missing, but they had come to terms with it.

When they were absent, the talk turned to community matters, rumors and other interesting tidbits. Rainbow and Bluebird were vicarious participants through Leo. Sometimes Jack or Joanne would join the conversation when they were chewing over a particularly juicy tidbit.

Today, Stephanie and Donna got in early, and had Bluebird and Pretty Lemon saddled up. The saddles were three pieces. There was a carbon fiber back plate that fit over the shoulders and back. It focused the weight on the shoulders, and kept the torso from shifting. Then the saddle itself was installed on the back plate, between the shoulders. The arms were unhooked from the begging puppy pose, and folded across the back, under the saddle. They looked like they were carrying it, although they actually supported no weight. Finally, there was another plate that covered the back of the saddle and the arms. The two riders used a wand hidden in the saddle to read the bar code from the antenna nestled between their poniesí ass cheeks.

Stephanie rode Bluebird, and Donna rode Pretty Lemon out of the cellblock and down the corridor. Most days, Steph would ride Silence is Golden, but today Alice had other things to do. They headed toward the wolfridersí compound. Pretty Lemon was being trained to take part in the Wolf and Ponygirl show, one of the more popular entertainments in the compound. She was a long way from being ready yet. Bluebird wasnít part of the show, but being there for training and rehearsals was a treat, since she would probably never see it in the normal course of events.

Pretty Lemonís specialty was down on the books as dressage. That was a laugh. If it werenít for her height, she would be a runner; she had the build for it. But at 5í7", she was right at the bottom of the Classic category, and would be overmatched by the bigger girls. Like Thunder and Lightning. Dressage had turned into dance in the compound over two years ago, right after the earthquake, when Alice had made her move. It wasnít a planned thing, the community had simply gone ape over the rather simple dressage routine they had dreamed up to honor several community trainees that had helped out.

Todayís session was pure, unadulterated practice. Stephanie tied Bluebird to a handy tree and took out her bit, and settled in beside her. There were three junior ponies, and six wolves with riders. They worked to one of the moodier pieces from the Ring cycle. The training styles couldnít be more different. The ponygirls got filled in on the choreography even though they would be controlled by voice, rein, knee and shifting balance during the dance proper. Nobody told the wolves anything. After all, they were, well, wolves.

Part way through the practice, Stephanie got up and left. She came back with a little man. Darned if he didnít look like a leprechaun. They sat down by Bluebird. Bluebirdís eyes went wide.

"Weíre not going to talk about this, right?" Bluebird stamped twice, meaning yes. Then she looked back at the show. It was more interesting, anyway.

Eventually, the practice was over, and most of the participants left. Donna brought Pretty Lemon over, and took out her bit. They talked for a while. Eventually, Old Tom asked:

"Well, talk is cheap. Whatís the next step?"

"Now that I know you, I can track your seed. See where it goes. See whatís done with it. I wouldnít get your hopes up. Things have been going wrong for your people for a long time. Weíre simply the latest episode, maybe the last. And sixty years ago, there werenít very many ways of separating seed that would make boys from seed that would make girls. So while it might be gratifying to find someone sorting your seed, and throwing the ones that will make boys away, I wouldnít count on it being the whole story. I suspect weíre going to have to look deeper. Lots deeper."

"And whatís going to get you to look there?"

"The chance of getting these livestock tags out of my ears!" she growled.

"Well, that does seem to be a solid motivation. I could wish it was a desire to help us, but one will do as well as the other."

They bid each other good day. Steph and Donna put the bits back in Bluebird and Pretty Lemonís mouths, and rode them back. When they got back, Jack and Joanne unsaddled them, put them on their stands, and put the funnels with the mash in their mouths. Bluebird promptly went into that special pony state where she was aware of time in the small, but completely oblivious to time in the large. She watched Jack and Joanne when they came in her field of vision. She watched Lighting running in the trotting booth across the way. She swallowed her mash, and felt it fill her stomach with a delicious fullness. And she was content. She watched time pass, and thought nothing of it.

Pretty Lemon, on the other hand, promptly got down to work. Girl who acts like a pony sucked on her mash very like Bluebird. Girl who acts like a girl, however, had gotten an inspiration on the way home. It seemed that it would be a lot easier to check Old Tomís seed to find out if there were Xs and Ys. Both before and after. If she could do it, it would save a lot of work trying to track down equipment that might or might not exist, might or might not be in use, and that she hadnít a clue about.

So she consulted with the part of her that handled clairvoyance. It was completely capable of using three dimensions locally, and ignoring distance globally. Rotating frames of reference, for example, rotating disk drives, didnít phase it. She could read them as if they were standing still. And scale meant absolutely nothing to it. She already knew it could handle similarities.

She asked it if it knew about DNA and chromosomes. After a moment, it said, "This?" She got an impression of twenty four pairs of immensely complicated strings. Many times over. And all the copies werenít exactly identical, which surprised her. The Sunday supplements hadnít said anything about that!

"Yes, that." She asked it to take a look at Jack and compare to hers. Jack had twenty three pairs and two singletons. And one of his singletons matched one of her pairs. The other singleton was kind of small. And the matched pairs had lots of little mismatches with hers. She had found the X and Y chromosomes.

She went back to Old Tom and looked at his chromosomes. Twenty three pairs and two singletons, just like Jack. And they matched off, although there were more differences. She looked at Stephanie. Twenty four pairs. And at Donna. Twenty three pairs and two singletons. Huh? That wasnít supposed to happen!

The shock brought her back to the real world. Although she remembered a whispering comment from her clairvoyant part. "Real world? Hah!"

Chapter 3.

This I would have to chew over. And talk over with Alice. And probably do a lot of research. I withdrew and let girl who acts like a pony have sole ownership of the body for a while.

By now, youíve figured out that Iím also a multiple. Unlike Alice, it was totally artificial. Alice split me as part of ponygirl training, although she didnít make the split manifest until the end. She decided to do it when she discovered that the worthless girl she had been given as practice material was a hacker. I fit into one set of her plans like the dildo fit into my cunt. So she made me a multiple in hopes that I could develop some psychic parts. It seems to be working out.

Not that Alice was natural. Multiple personality syndrome is always artificially induced. But in Aliceís case, it had been induced by her father, who was a prime sadistic bastard. Like a lot of people, I believe in the essential goodness of the universe, and believe that evil is a purely human construct. He was the kind of person that made me doubt that belief.

Eventually, Joanne came into my cell. "Time to get to work, Lemonade. Alice wants you over there." She maneuvered me off of the display stand, and took the gloves and bustier off. Girl who acts like a pony left, and girl who acts like a girl came to the foreground. Joanne left the cell, and I took off the collar, bridle and ball gag, and boots. Then I got dressed.

While Alice gives me somewhat of a choice, I usually dress conservatively. Pushup bra, low cut white blouse, mid thigh length black leather skirt, mesh stockings and 5" heels. Conservative for here, anyway. I left the two dildos in, and didnít bother with panties.

Rainbow was on her stand as I left. I waved at her, and she whinnied back.

The weather was great for a brisk walk to Aliceís apartment. But then, since the Executive block was in a huge underground cavern, the weather was always great. Or at least the same.

When I got there, I let myself in. The outside lock on Aliceís apartment is about two feet from the ground, perfect for Stephanie and Donna to use. There was no big people lock visible. We both used TK to lock and unlock the door. It tended to spook the rest of the apartment holders in the building, so they ignored it as best they could.

Nobody home. A quick check showed that Alice, Stephanie and Donna were in the training cellblock, working with the ponies. Three different ponies, which indicated that Donna was being given more responsibility. Sheíd left a note on the fridge. Laundry day. Water the plants. Also the dinner menu. I started the laundry and straightened up the apartment. When I finished up, the plants had been well watered. They were, after all, just houseplants. I headed for my workroom. I figured on doing some preliminary research on reproductive biology, genetics and biotech while doing the rest of the laundry.

An hour of checking the net was definitely enough. Maybe the heroes of a science fiction epic could learn an entire new science in an afternoon. I wasnít Richard Seton. I needed to take it in rational size chunks, with time to assimilate. Folding the laundry was the perfect counterpoint. Then I put the roast in the oven and got to work on my official project.

I was in the middle of updating the disk capture programs to handle yet another completely unnecessary variation on a Unix file system when Alice came in. We gave each other a hug with a kiss that promised all kinds of things for future delivery. She reached under my skirt, and swiped the antenna on my ass plug with the bar code reader on her remote.

Steph and Donna were still in the training arenas, working another pair of ponygirls.

She looked at me. "Well, have you figured out where to begin?"

"Actually, Iím done with phase one. If thereís any conspiracy, itís completely redundant. Donna is an XY female. And I canít see anyone around here doing that artificially."

That was one of the few times I have ever seen Alice look stunned. And one of the even fewer times that Iíve done it.

"Howíd that happen?"

"Damn if I know. I downloaded the beginning of an education on stuff off the net. Itís on our main file server. I figure that either of us could produce that effect if we knew how. Otherwise, more research."

Alice checked on the status of dinner. "Well, Steph and Donna wonít be in for another hour. Iíve had a hard day. You can keep my cunt warm while I check on the download."

She plopped down in front of one of her systems and spread her legs. I put my head between her thighs and started licking. She was already moist. Keeping her cunt warm wasnít one of my favorite activities, but it sure beat some of the anal sex the men gave me at times. The whole point of the exercise was to keep Alice in a mild, pleasurable state of sexual arousal, without moving toward orgasm. The hard part was keeping me in a mild, pleasurable state without either losing it and sucking her off toward orgasm, or getting frustrated. And you know how frustrating not being allowed to be frustrated can be. She might have me get her off at the end; she might not. Totally depended on her whim. So I used my tongue slowly and languorously on her clit, and tried to monitor her state to keep it as even as possible.

After about a half hour, she said, "Finish me off, Sourball. Do yourself if you want. Then finish up with dinner." We both came in about ten minutes. Then I went.

She wandered into the kitchen as I was using knife work to teach the carrots about their submissive nature.

"Now, how did you ever figure out about Donna? Mamma wants to know."

So I told her. This time the expression was a stunned grin. Twice in one day. She flopped into a chair and went internal for a while.

"This has real potential."

"Doesnít it just. As far as I can tell, itís still a megabuck project to read a significant part of the genetic code, and the gene surgeons are still wandering around in the dark, shooting at shadows. They havenít a clue about how to fix a specific gene, in each and every cell."

We looked at each other. Two minds with a single thought. Another cash business. Reduce the ponygirls to a sideline, albeit a profitable one.

This time our hug and kiss set a definite delivery date.

The four of us spent the evening as usual, divided between work and play. Iíd say horseplay, but that would give the wrong impression. Then Steph took Donna home, and Alice took me to her bed. She locked me into my bed collar, and then we went at it hot and heavy. The arms of Morpheus didnít claim us, mostly because we slept in each otherís arms. Morpheus didnít have any room to make a threesome of it.

That bed collar was a joke. By now, it was partly ritual, and partly something we did so we could claim that Alice wasnít leaving a pony loose at night without supervision. It was still hard to keep a straight face. You would need a race timer to tell which of us could pick that lock faster. (For the record, Alice could, but it was close).

Chapter 4. Time passes with a 9.5

We got the hacking equipment set up so we could read anything off of any disk, anywhere. Also most backup tapes. We could also rewrite it if needed. One of the more interesting ways of injecting e-mail into the system was to insert it directly onto the server disk. We could also put a viewpoint just about anywhere.

We got the biotech set up. This was harder, a lot harder. The technology wasnít hard at all, early on we got gene readers and writers set up. Knowing what it meant, and what to change to do something, was the real bear. I used Thunder and Lightning as test cases. They started running away from the competition without breathing hard. Leo was happy, Jack and Joanne were puzzled, and Thunder and Lightning were developing a smug look. I figured the dears deserved it; they didnít get much else.

I made the same changes to myself. The extra strength and stamina didnít hurt at all in the wolf and ponygirl show.

We figured out what was with the lobo-ra. It wasnít good. News at 11.

We wrote a budget for the computer we figured we needed for running all this stuff. Then we deleted the file. Neither of us wanted to find out if "die laughing" was more than a figure of speech.

So we got the automated teleports set up, and started snatching obsolete, but still functional servers on their way to the landfills. The shrink circuit started talking about "idiosyncratic acute unreality syndrome." The Internet started filling up with jokes about the leprechauns, elves, rats (pick one) becoming computerized. We started being a bit more cautious.

I found myself thinking seriously if there was a sysadmin out there we could snatch, run thorough ponygirl training and then use to run the heterogeneous supercomputer we had built. That brought me up short Ė was I buying into the mindset around here? Aaaakkk. It seems I was. I did some research, and gave Alice several dossiers. She had three snatched. She handled them personally, like she had me, except she didnít do the multiple personality setup.

Leo added four more cells to his personal cellblock. He also had a conversation area for us ponies added to the end; there simply wasnít room in one of the cells for eight (or nine if Silence joined us) ponies on their stands for the morning yak fest.

One managed to fast track, so we had our first sysadmin in four months instead of six. Cloudburst was another 5í10" blue-eyed blonde, a spitting image of Thunder and Lightning. When Leo saw her, he promptly moved me down one cell so he could install her next to them. Like me, she was overjoyed to discover that she would be working with her computers. Unlike me, she almost attacked Alice when she discovered that she had been kidnapped expressly for us. The sight of four hypersonic prods defused the situation, and she decided that it was a step up in responsibility Ė our computer was huge.

Finally, it was approaching show time.

Chapter 5. Pretty Lemon learns that sometimes you get what you wish for.

The Board had scheduled our progress report on the new acquisition system for the next month. The report on the Lobo-ra was scheduled for the month after that. Donna was not happy with either Cloudburst or me. She winced every time she saw either of us move.

Finally, she decided to talk to Alice about it.

"They arenít ready for a Board presentation."

"Why do you say that?"

"Have you ever looked at them move? Theyíll make a horrible impression, and they have to make part of the presentation. You donít have to use Pretty Lemon, but Cloudburst has to make part of the pitch. She has to keep the equipment running. And if she has to get up from sitting on her heels, Iím afraid sheíll fall on her face. Literally."

"I know what you mean. What do you want to do about it?"

"I keep itching to use my prod."

"WellÖ yes. Theyíre ponies, and youíre their trainer. The fact that theyíre playing girl wonít change that without Board action. What did you have in mind?"

"Oh, and you do have to do the Lemon. I promised her sheíd have an opportunity to impress the Board. I wasnít thinking of this at the time, but its first up."

They discussed ways and means for some time.

I had no idea anything was up. I was on one hand and my knees in front of an equipment rack, replacing an interface card when I heard a lobo-ra come up behind me. I replaced the cable, turned on the server, and rose to my feet.

"That was one crappy movement, Lemon. You almost fell over twice. Get back down there and do it right, this time."

I must have looked like a stunned ox. "Huh?"

I heard the whine of a prod being turned on. I froze. Big mistake. The whine went up in pitch, and then it felt like my thigh had been dipped in boiling oil. I screamed. Level two on the hypersonic prod is designed to hurt enough to make just about anybody scream. Itís expected. Not screaming would be taken as a sign of resistance; I didnít want to find out if Iíd learned enough from Alice to conquer the chair before it conquered me.

"Down. Now."

I got down.

"Another crappy movement. Back up and do it over."

I went to get up.

"Stop. What do you think youíre doing?"

I froze, which turned out to be the right thing this time. "Starting to get up." Iím afraid I wasnít very polite about how I said it.

I heard the prod go up to level 2, and then back down. "Iíll ignore the attitude this time, Lemon. Not next time. Youíre off balance. Now move your ass about two inches to the right."

Donna spent the next hour working me from standing, to kneeling in front of the cabinet, to putting my hand on the interface connector. By the end of the hour, I was sweating like a stuck pig. I was also getting up and down with about half the effort I had been putting out before.

"Enough for today, Lemon. Thatís a huge improvement, but itís still not good enough. Alice recorded this, the before and after is on the server."

As I left the room, I heard Donna say, "Cloudburst, you jumped up when I started with the Lemon. That was one crappy movement. Now, get back down there and do it over."

I stuck my head in Aliceís workroom. "Huh?"

"You tell me. Think about it for a moment."

I thought. "Oh. The Board meeting."

"Got it in one. You need to make a good impression. Females are always judged on grace and deportment before anyone looks at whether what they are saying makes sense. Thatís true everywhere, although more so here than some. When we played three wishes, you asked for respect. The fairy godmother department is out on vacation; youíll have to earn it yourself."

"Hold dinner until Donna gets done with Cloudburst. If I want you, Iíll buzz you."

I headed for the kitchen. It was actually Cloudburstís day for household duty, but she was otherwise occupied.

We discussed the Board presentation over dinner. The discussion went better than I expected; I was no longer worried about making a fool of myself. I knew Iíd make a good impression; Donna would see to that.

Chapter 6. Board Meeting

The big day dawned. At least, I suppose it dawned somewhere. Itís kind of hard to tell when youíre blindfolded in a concrete cellblock in a cavern. With everything else, thatís actually one of the things I miss most. Iíd like the chance to see sunrise and sunset at least once more before I die.

The boardroom was actually one of the community rooms in a building in the Executive block. People sat at small tables arranged around the walls. Leo was at one end. Cloudburst and I sat on our heels at Aliceís feet. Rainbow and Bluebird circulated around the outside, serving refreshments. They looked pretty in their French maidís uniforms. Leo had been having them do that for some time, he was softening the Board up subliminally.

The board dealt with a few things, and then it was show time. Alice gave the executive overview. She had much of the board looking thoughtful.

My part was show and tell. Weíd put laptops on each of the tables. I used the clairvoyant viewpoints to show several of the girls that the capture teams were investigating for the next wave. Then I showed them how to hack in to acquire medical records, driving records, credit records, and a couple of dozen other things that were supposed to be private.

We hit the last girl just right. She was at the end of her bedtime routine, in the kitchen pouring a glass of milk. She drank it down, made a face. Then she slumped to the floor, out cold. I had teleported knockout drops into the milk carton earlier while she was out.

"And this is what weíre proposing for our new transport system." She vanished from the floor. Their viewpoints shifted to a warehouse area in the caverns. One of the capture crews came on screen. They picked the girl up and put her in a transport box. A forklift trundled up, and she was on her way to orientation.

The expressions on peopleís faces were priceless. They ranged from stunned to thoughtful. "Itís that easy?" one of them blurted out.

Alice took over. "Not really. Weíve left the police with a locked room mystery. After the meeting, the Lemon will teleport out and clean up the evidence." More gaffed fish looks.

"You mean she can leave the complex?"

"Yes, any time she wants to. Sheís been able to for the last six months."

One of the board members got right to the point. "This makes a debate on giving her community membership kind of pointless, doesnít it? Leo?" She turned to the director.

"I take it thatís a motion to grant Pretty Lemon full community membership, for activities in the service of the community?"

"Yes, it is."

"OK. Do I hear a second?"

Someone else seconded it before Alice had to.

"Any objections?"

Nobody spoke up.

"Motion carries. Congratulations, Pretty Lemon. I take it Alice has filled you in on the procedure?"

"Yes. Itís mainly orientation to duties, procedures and all that stuff. I keep Pretty Lemon as my name?"

"Exactly. I presume you want to stay on Aliceís staff as one of our programming consultants? God knows we need one. You do keep the name. There are enough conservatives around that they want you easily identified."

"Yes. Iíd hate to not have my computers any more. In fact, if you insisted on that, I would probably do what Bluebird did, and take a rain check. And I like the name. Itís the only way Iím ever going to be pretty." That broke the tension.

The discussion turned back to the topic at hand. I fielded several question. Eventually, it got to equipment, budgets, and all that stuff.

"Cloudburstís responsible for keeping it running. She can fill you in on the details of whatís needed. Cloudburst, youíre up."

Cloudburst came up and did her presentation. I went back to Aliceís table and pulled up a chair. Then I signaled one of the maids for a drink. Bluebird delivered it. Alice reached over and took the livestock tags out of my ears. I had arrived. Somewhere. Exactly where I wasnít certain.

Cloudburst did well. The board demonstrated that it was on top of things. They appointed someone from facilities to find someplace to put the equipment, and report back next meeting.

Cloudburst came back to our table. It looked like she was headed for a chair. I pointed at the floor. Alice made a small motion toward her prod. Cloudburst sat at our feet, paying great attention to making her movements flow.

Leo had seen the byplay. "Lemon, I think I need to give you some responsibility to settle you down. Iím going to put you in charge of the computer staff. I hate to do this to Alice, but youíll have Cloudburst, and the other two. Rainmaker and Flash Flood?"

Alice looked thoughtful. "Leo, will you marry me?"

Leo looked stunned. "Hey, Iím the one whoís supposed to propose!"

"Well?"

"Yes."

Alice shouted, "Yeaaahhh" and ran over, kissed Leo and sat down next to him. "Since youíve just gotten rid of my herd, I want Rainbow and Bluebird as wedding gifts."

"Theyíre yours. But why, love?"

"Youíre going to be the most single-minded guy around when it comes to who is your sexpot. You donít need them for mistresses any more. And frankly, I like them too much to want to break them back down to ordinary ponies with no special privileges. I can use a couple of housekeepers."

The meeting ended about then, and turned into a social hour. Since this was one of the scenarios I had discussed with Alice, I had brought some props. I pulled a bridle and ball gag out of my bag, and told Cloudburst, "Open up." She was still stunned enough at the turn of events that she opened up without a fight.

I put the ball in her mouth, and tightened the bridle around her head. "Go help Rainbow and Bluebird serve drinks, kid. Iíll talk to you later."

She got up, still paying attention to her balance and posture. Iíd actually brought two bridles. If the board had been stubborn about my community membership, Iíd have joined her, gagged, bridled and serving drinks. Youíve got to handle the contingencies.

I circulated around, pretending that I knew what I was doing on the networking thing. Fortunately, most of the board members were more interested in discussing how it worked, and what could be done with it, than they were interested in me as a person. The rest were interested in gossiping about Leo and Alice. It was a great party.

Alice went home with Leo. I guess a proposal and acceptance in front of the Board constituted marriage.

Chapter 7. Rainmaker and Flash Flood.

I headed home to Aliceís old apartment. Stephanie and Donna were waiting. They wanted to know what happened.

I took the bridle and gag off of Cloudburst, and sent her out to the kitchen for light refreshments. Then I gave them the highlights. Both Donna and Stephanie looked thoughtful.

"Are you my new mother?" I looked at Stephanie in shock. It had never occurred to me that she was still emotionally dependent on Alice. Although I should have known, they kept the relationship from us ponies.

I picked her up and hugged her. "Steph, I donít know. Youíre still Silenceís rider. I think youíd better sleep here tonight, and weíll settle whether youíre part of Leo and Aliceís family, or part of mine in the morning. Or however long it takes."

She stiffened a moment. Then she relaxed and snuggled up. It hadnít occurred to her that Alice marrying Leo meant that she now had a father as well. And the father had another daughter. And his late wife had been named Stephanie. The soap opera was beginning.

Then Donna fixed me with her eye. "Well?"

"Donna, youíre still my rider. I can no more get rid of girl who acts like a pony than Alice can get rid of Silence is Golden. But Iím going to be awfully busy for the next few days."

Stephanie took Donna home. I took Cloudburst to bed, partly to settle her down, and partly to cement my control. I was going to have to find a key for that lock, since Cloudburst couldnít work it by TK. If I couldnít keep control of three ponies without needing the chains, straps and locks, I was in deep shit.

The next few days were busy. I had to work with facilities to get the equipment relocated. Stephanie moved in with Leo and Alice. Donna moved in with me permanently.

Jack and Joanne were overworked. Seven to nine ponies (depending on whether Alice or I were in the cellblock) was a bit much for only two trainers. I located two more trainers, guys who were leaving their teams. Bert and Charlie had very good reputations. When I asked them why they were leaving, it turned out that they had been having doubts about whether what they were doing to the ponies was right. They had decided to get out. Not the best strategy, but the only one available.

I explained what the herd in Leoís cellblock was doing. They looked intrigued. Then I pointed out that Alice and I, and to some extent Leo, were actively working on solutions to the moral problems involved in our lifestyle. So I ran them past Alice, Leo, Jack and Joanne. Alice and Leo bought it, Jack and Joanne looked relieved. The only problem was that they were going to be on my payroll. Leo increased my budget to compensate.

Donna and I moved Rainmaker and Flash Flood into two of the empty cells in Leoís cellblock. We still hadnít told them anything; they probably thought that they had been sold. I told Bert and Charlie to play it as if there wasnít anything odd going on until they groomed them the next morning. Then fill them in on the basic rules about talk time.

I also arranged for Thunder and Lightning to be worked early, so that Rainbow, Bluebird and Cloudburst could fill them in on the rest of what was going on. The trainers dropped in on that conversation, which they did occasionally when Thunder and Lightning werenít present. Having eyewitnesses to a Board meeting was the closest any of them ever got to the power center. It beat the rumor mill hands down. And it probably did more to convince Rainmaker and Flash Flood that we were quite serious about them.

Iíd gotten heartily tired of the ass swipe bar code readers. Having Alice lift my skirt and read my code díjour into her remote while we were doing our greeting hug was amusing. In fact, it was mildly arousing, but having both Stephanie and Donna pull my skirt up and swipe the first time they saw me that day was just irritating. So I redesigned the remotes.

The ones we used now had multiple buttons, and were connected over the internal network. The trainersí had up to ten buttons; Leoís had five, Aliceís had four, and mine had three. The trainers would swipe when they installed the anal plug in the morning; then none of us had to do it again.

Since the saddles were individually crafted, I fixed them, too. I couldnít do much about the carts; they were a shared resource.

I gave Cloudburst a remote with two buttons, and a prod permanently set on level one. She never had to use the prod; just seeing it was enough to reinforce her authority as team leader.

Rainmaker and Flash Flood were dears. They were matched 5í10" blondes, almost the spitting image of Thunder, Lightning and Cloudburst. Once they got it into their heads that they were going to split their time between keeping the monster running, being my household and sex slaves, and being good little (well, not so little) ponygirls, they shaped up nicely. The thing Alice had done to settle me was to take all three of my roles with equal seriousness. I was never allowed to think that being a ponygirl or being a sex slave was any less important to her than writing her programs and designing the new capture protocols. I didnít think I should do any less for my girls.

Donna started putting a finish polish on them as runners. I gave all three of them the same metabolic boost Iíd given Thunder, Lightning and myself. I fully intended to show them, and I fully intended to have them win.

Eventually, things settled down. There was enough time for girl who acts like a pony. Donna jumped on that immediately. I spent a couple of mornings in the marching booth, and then had saddle practice. When we got back to practicing with the wolf and ponygirl show, it felt just like old home week.

Chapter 8. Second Board Meeting.

The lobo-ra were the scheduled subject of the next meeting. This time, Donna approved of my deportment. Iíd gotten a good dressmaker to put something together that matched my hair and eyes, and spent quite a bit of time learning how to move while wearing it. Honing myself as a tool to impress people was something that would never have occurred to me from my hacker days.

Since Iíd noticed that Rainbow and Bluebird were a bit overworked during the meetings, I brought all three of my darlings. Alice and I had coordinated their outfits. We had them in cocktail waitress dresses; with pretty little white aprons and the usual mesh hose and five-inch heels. The tops had a concealed quarter bra and an open front. They had bells on their breast rings and their livestock medallions. The outfits were topped off with a bridle and ball gag. Cloudburst came along to handle the visuals while I talked. She was dressed in her usual working uniform, a black leather skirt that came down to mid thigh, pushup bra and white low cut sleeveless blouse, mesh stockings and five inch black pumps. The bridle and ball gag were in her bag, for after the meeting when she joined the other maids.

This time, I gave the executive summary. The news wasnít good. I divided the lobo-ra into two groups, the old lobo-ra, and the new lobo-ra.

The old lobo-ra were goners. I had a pretty good idea of what the problem was, genetically speaking. I had absolutely no idea of how to fix it. Some of the genes that made the lobo-ra unique were absolutely incompatible with big people genetics in a double dose. We couldnít even clone them, since somewhere they had picked up a gene that caused the fetus to reject in an old lobo-ra mother. With a big people host mother, either the fetus would miscarry, or it would kill her.

The bottom line was that if I fixed it so they could breed, they wouldnít be the wolf riders any more.

The new lobo-ra were related to the old lobo-ra in the same way that a mule is related to a horse and a donkey. Even if they werenít all females, I didnít think they could breed.

However, the news looked up from there. For starters, we could simply clone them. The upside was that the procedure was simple. The downsides were that the children wouldnít be related to their mothers at all; this could cause problems. It also fixed the genetic diversity at whatever we had on hand whenever the supply of old lobo-ra sperm ran out.

A harder, but more effective, alternative would be to build artificial sperm with randomly chosen chromosomes from the lobo-ra library. The children would have their big people chromosomes from their mothers, exactly as today. And the genetic diversity, even on the lobo-ra side, would be quite a bit higher.

Both alternatives had a huge socio/political problem that made kidnapping girls, training them as ponies and selling them look absolutely mundane. Somewhere down the line, lobo-ra would come out of the gene lab, and nowhere else. At that point, it could be argued that they were an artificially created species. Their continued existence wouldnít be under their control. Genocide is an ugly word.

So I told the board I had dumped the genetics problem out on the net. I had prepared a paper on "Genome Sequence of A Leprechaun Colony" by Pretty Lemon, of Leprechaun Genetics, Inc. for one of the respected journals that ran several April Fools articles at the appropriate time. I had put the entire genome on a web site, in standard format. And the only usable reference in the April Fools paper was the reference to the web site.

I was fully prepared to seed some of the newsgroups with pointers, but it wasnít necessary. Some researchers had checked, looking for more fun, and found that it looked legitimate. The more they looked, the less it looked like a spoof. There was simply too much of it, it was too consistent, and it crosschecked. The novel genes coded for what looked like legitimate proteins. They were having a real hard time understanding how anyone would bother with that level of detail for a hoax.

I had joined the discussion as myself, Pretty Lemon, under a PGP key. Several people had tried to join the fun by faking my signature. You canít fake a PGP signed signature, but I stomped them flat, anyway. One turned out to be a 24yo grad student, 5í5", athletic, brown eyes and raven hair. It was now her second day in the chair; I had no intention of letting her off the easy way, even though I had her tagged for my staff. The rest were either guys, or otherwise not good raw material. I simply trashed their computers, leaving tracks to my old identity as Sally Bananas. Let the Feds stew a bit.

The board was horrified, until we went over how I was covering my tracks. Same techniques we were using on the Internet recruiting project. So far, it seemed to be bulletproof.

Then I gave them the good news. We could establish a profitable sideline in genetics research and advanced medical procedures. And with a little tinkering, we could improve our product enormously. They asked how. I asked which ponies were winning the races. I had improved Leoís two, my three and myself.

One old horseman with a twinkle in his eye allowed that I would have to prove it. I had this feeling I was being had.

"Uh, how? I donít think youíd understand the genetics."

"Course not. All I understand is form and finish times. If youíve got yourself supercharged, you should be able to win at just about any length."

"Not against Leoís two and my three Ė theyíre three inches taller and just as supercharged!" Iím afraid I squeaked.

"Oh, I can understand that. But you should be able to walk away from the rest of the field at just about any length, now shouldnít you?" I had this premonition that I was going to become very familiar with the trotting booth. My three were trying to suppress the giggles.

The thing was, I had the undivided attention of the entire board. They might be out of their depth at one thing or another, but they knew ponygirl racing. We set the first race for about two months time. I insisted on the need to build some conditioning, and my tormenter blandly agreed.

"Take your time, girl. As long as you, your trainer and your rider are setting a reasonable training schedule. Theyíll know when youíre ready to race. I want an honest result."

The board meeting broke up without dealing with the lobo-ra. I hadnít really expected it to, but I had hopes. They were very good at postponing things to tomorrow. I think they had studied too many vital statistics with asterisks.

Cloudburst put on her ball gag and bridle, and trotted over to join the service crew. The conversation at the party was about handicapping ponygirl races.

When we got back to my apartment, I found Stephanie and Donna waiting up. There was another lobo-ra who I didnít know personally. My look tipped them off.

"Not good, right?"

"No, Steph, not good. The board weaseled out of dealing with the problem. I havenít given you the details because I hopped someone would come up with an answer."

"So, what do we do?"

"I could wish you lobo-ra had a council. What to do is something you are going to have to deal with. I can suggest, but youíre the ones with the wolves jaws on your throat."

Several expressions chased themselves across Stephanieís face. "That bad?"

"Worse. There are worse fates than death, and Iím not talking about gang rape."

Steph left with the other lobo-ra.

"OK, what arenít you telling us?" Donna was more than somewhat pissed. Sheís more dominant than Stephanie, but sheís only turned 19. Since lobo-ra didnít mature at the same rate big people did, I didnít figure she needed to deal with it now. But I also donít believe in lying.

"Lots. But letís let your council sort it out first. I hate to say youíre too young, but you are. Theyíll be in a better position to know what to tell people."

"What council? Iíve never heard of one."

"The one Stephanie was very carefully trying not to tell me about."

My three pets were very quietly kneeling in a row, right knee down, left foot on the ground and left knee forward. Hands behind them. Perfect form. Now, I donít require that kind of position behavior, its not one of my kinks. They knew when to take themselves out of the conversation. Clever girls.

"Flood, go rustle up a snack. In the dining room in ten minutes. And take that bridle off. Rain, Cloud, youíll take the spare bedroom tonight. Too late to take you over to your cells."

"Donna, something else happened tonight that is really in your domain. I got mouse trapped into running a race in a couple of months. And winning."

Donna stared at me. "Conditioning you for a race will take a lot of time. You might want to consider going full time for the duration."

"Might be fun, but I canít. You know that."

"OK. How about 8 hours. You do two on the running machine in the morning, an hour break, and two on the track. Then do your day, and do two on the running machine at night. You might consider staying over in the cell so you can start early."

So we organized it.

Our snack was good. We all hit the sack. Flash Flood was very good in bed. We went up and down several times before I curled up next to her and went to sleep. We could hear Rainmaker and Cloudburst doing the same thing in the next room. As usual, Donna ignored our athletics.

Chapter 9. Running Practice

The next couple of months were hectic. I got over to my cell in Leoís cellblock early. Bert got me harnessed, and put me on the running machine. It had been several months since I had to deal with that piece of mechanical inevitability. Fortunately, girl who acts like a pony was incapable of developing any attitude toward it, or it would have gone to the slagheap. Muy pronto. But my energy output and endurance began going up, and kept going up.

After the running, Bert put me on my stand, fed me my mash, and left me to digest for a while. Then Donna would take me for either an hour of running practice, or for a practice session with the wolf and ponygirl show.

The interesting thing about running practice is that a lot of it wasnít running. Most of it was form. There were three major types of running, in a variety of lengths. I could be ridden, or I could pull a light sulky. Or a heavy sulky. The difference was that a light sulky was for a lobo-ra; it had the same fifty-pound weight limit that being ridden did. The heavy sulky was for one of the big people. There wasnít a weight limit, just good sense. Although there was a 150 pound limit for formal racing.

For a riding competition, I would come up to the starting line, and make a leg. When the starterís pistol went off, I would come up on my left leg, bring my right forward in a standard march step, and then begin the run. Form counted. Lost style points were added to the run time in seconds.

At the end of the run, we would turn left off of the track, and make a leg in front of the judgesí stand, in order of finishing. Perfect form at the end was still important, but usually only the tail end of the field did it. The front runners were too worn out to be able to handle it. However, the fact that form counted for up to ten seconds meant that there was absolutely no point in trying to kill your pony to finish first. If she collapsed in front of the judges, you lost ten seconds. That would knock the first place finisher right out of the money.

So I had two lobo-ra doing the training. As my standard rider, and my foster daughter to boot, Donna would either ride or drive me. The other lobo-ra was training her. Jockeying was not simple. If you think it is, try riding a ponygirl going around a curve in pony boots at a full gallop, while you are checking whether someone is behind you, and whether one of the inner lanes is clear enough to move over. Or whether the right lane was clear to pull out and try to pass on the straightaway. At the same time, judging how much your pony had left, so you could get to the finish line with enough reserve so your pony would get at least a five on form.

Sulky racing was not the same. While the sulkies were balanced to put as little weight on the pony as possible, they still had inertia. And they took a much longer footprint on the track. A ridden pony was much more maneuverable than one pulling a sulky. Both the pony and the driver had to have a different set of reflexes.

Fortunately, the rules worked in my favor in one major respect. The enhancements did three things for me. They let me go faster on distance running; they gave me a slight edge in a sprint, and they enabled me to recover faster. I never got less than a nine at the stand at the end of the race, because I could go all out across the finish line, and then recover enough while slowing down and making the turn to face the judges that I could hold a reasonable facsimile of good posture. Being sure of a nine, while the rest of the field would be hanging in with fours or fives, or else so far back that even the full ten seconds for style wouldnít help, was a major advantage.

We didnít bother training for the heavy sulky class. There wasnít any point.

After a month, my trainers figured they had gotten me to the point where competition would be useful. I started out with a week against Thunder and Lightning on Leoís private track. They won, of course. We expected the three inch height advantage to count, and it did. But I found out that they had been slacking off. They were finishing up with fives on form, and even though they pranced across the finish line ahead of me, I won on form points a couple of times.

Were they pissed? Youíd better believe it. But at their trainers, not at me. What Thunder said to Joanne the next morning wouldnít bear repeating. The next time I saw them in competition, they were finishing up with a flat ten oh.

We rearranged my schedule again for public competition. Since the races were mostly in the afternoon, I blocked out my morning for people type work, and got into harness around noon. The races were over by four. I spent one session on the running machine, and then home at around six thirty. It put a crimp in my day, but I still got things done.

The track was in use most of the day. It was like a typical horse racing track, but smaller. The inner lane was exactly a quarter mile in length. One end had straight on and off sections. The racers went counter-clockwise, so the on section was on the right, and the off section was on the left. To finish up in front of the judges stand required a left turn from the off section, across the on section. The finish section in front of the judges was just over the on lanes.

As usual in horse racing, the starting line varied, but the finish line always stayed in the same place.

Donna put me on the card twice on most days. Once in a riding race, once in a sulky race. We changed distances every day, and moved up the competition classes regularly. Donna wasnít trying for an all-out effort at this point. She was working on acclimating me, and herself, to real competition conditions. By the end of the week, I was in the senior class. That is, with ponies that stood a reasonable chance of winning the once a week senior competitions, or the monthly major events that included much more than just straight out racing.

We had worked out the strategy for the actual race. Get out in front, and then set the pace at something that they could match, but couldnít beat. Hit the finish line first, and get to the judges with at least a 9.0. Donna would have preferred a 10.0, but there simply wasnít time to train for it.

In a horse race, the ponies are lined up behind a mechanical gate. When the gates open, the horses are free to come out. The gate is pulled off the track before the field comes around again. With ponygirls, there is no gate. The starting line was white chalk across the track at the right place. We came out, and went down on one knee exactly on the line. The right knee had to be on the line, and so did the left hoof.

The race started when the starter fired his pistol. This next maneuver was the one time in the race where the ponygirl acted without her rider or driver prompting her. At the shot, every ponygirl came driving up using her left leg for power, and swung her right leg forward into a perfect high step. Then the right leg came down, and we were off. At that point, the riders or drivers took over control. That first movement was drilled into the girls until it was totally automatic. From the stands, we looked like the best trained chorus line you ever saw.

This race was a mile, which meant four laps around the track. We started on the outside, and moved ahead right away. The strategy in a race is to move to the inside; otherwise the greater lengths on the curved parts of the tracks will kill you dead. At a mile, you want to go at a fairly steady pace until the end, where you can finish at a sprint if necessary. We changed that. Donna had me sprint at the beginning, so that I could move several lanes inward immediately. We managed to get to the inner lane before we ran out of straightaway. From there, it was no contest. She simply set the pace we had agreed on. When one of the other ponies attempted to pass, she had me speed up until it dropped behind on a curve. Then we slowed down to the pace again.

On the final straightaway, Donna decided that we didnít need to sprint. The next pony was too far back. We went over the finish line two seconds before the next pony, and got a 9.0 on final style. While that was cutting it close, it was enough to win. Starting and racing points were almost always even. You expected the same number of points; you lost them for flaws.

The horseman who had gotten me into this at the meeting called that evening. We had a mutually enlightening discussion, the first of many.

Chapter 10. Meeting with the council

About a week after the meeting with the Board, Stephanie got me together with the lobo-ra council. Most of them were in their forties or fifties, part of the first wave of lobo-ra to be born to big people mothers. For a non-existent council, they were certainly obvious. They brought old Tom along, even though I had specified keeping him out of it.

I went over the whole nine yards. Nobody was happy, but it fit too well with what they could see going on. Old Tom summarized it.

Well, missy, it seems that us old ones are goners. If our race continues, it will be because the gods have smiled on us."

"Thatís about right. Iíve moved something in that might make their smile more likely, but Iím not holding my breath."

"Let us die out. We canít compete with you big people. Iíd rather live on in history, than live on the fringes."

"I see your point. I donít like it, but Iíll respect your wishes."

"Now for the young ones. Youíre certain that you can hold the bodies together?"

"Yes." No need to say more.

"Well, then, the problem is to find self-respect as a race for a people that needs someone elseís magic to survive. I expect itís a matter of power. You have it, we donít."

I didnít like the look of that at all. Trouble is, he was absolutely right. Made me want to believe in labor unions.

"Well, maybe a general strike to get the Boardís attention."

We discussed strategy. Boy, was the board going to be in for a shock.

Chapter 11. Black ThunderBolt.

Black ThunderBolt was on her display stand, seething. Sheíd been doing a lot of that lately. She had built up her rage in orientation, and had stoked it in the sleep deprivation chair. Sheíd learned the hard way that she had to make a show of compliance, but her rage was with her, and it was eating her from within.

Her trainers didnít really care. This was one of the standard reactions to being captured and trained as a ponygirl. In due time, it would burn itself out, and they would build something from the ashes. The ones who went through the rage were never quite as satisfactory as the ones who didnít, but she would still fetch a good price at auction.

Pretty Lemon didnít want that to happen. She had a use for the ThunderBolt, and she didnít want to see any of that potential burned out in futile rage. So she came down to the cell where Black ThunderBolt was confined.

She did her usual thing. She talked to the trainers. She walked around the captive girl, making comments and asking questions. Eventually, she was satisfied that she knew the Boltís reactions as well as she could in an hour. So she walked up to the stand, looked the ThunderBolt in the eye, and said:

How do you like my hair?"

The three trainers in the cell stood there in momentary shock, but it was nothing to the Boltís. Lemon had her hair in a pony cut; she was one of the two full community residents that did that. Both of them spent part of their time as ponygirls, although no one could require it of them.

It was a remarkable lemon yellow in color, cascading down her back in waves, somewhat like a ponyís mane. Sheíd done something to the top, a sprinkling of white with brown highlights. It looked like nothing so much as a lemon meringue pie.

"Iím Pretty Lemon. You really thought I didnít exist, didnít you?"

An inarticulate cry of despair escaped around the red ball gag tastefully stuffed in the Boltís mouth. "Well, I do. And you lost all of your choices when you mocked me over my own name. Maybe we should have called you the Mocking Bird. But Black ThunderBolt suits you better, I think. That black hair is absolutely marvelous."

She looked at the Bolt for a moment. "Remember, life has handed you a lemon. You really do have a choice. You can suck on it, and go sour, or you can make lemonade. Youíre going to become a ponygirl. You have the potential to be an absolutely marvelous one. Marketing is already trying to figure out who to offer you to."

"You donít have a choice about becoming a ponygirl. Thatís going to happen. Your choices come down to being a black thunderbolt blazing across the sky, and thundering down the racetrack, or being a damp little spark, soon extinguished."

"Remember, a ponygirl is a girl that acts like a pony. You will never be a real pony. You will never have hooves. You will never swish your tail to swat flies. You will never go thundering across the plain on your own four hooves. But you will be a girl who acts like a pony. People who look at you will notice that your reactions are those of a pony, not of a girl."

"Breathe in and out."

Black Thunderbolt took a deep breath, and let it out in a sigh.

"Again. Thatís better."

"Remember, suffering is optional. Now sleep."

Pretty Lemon drew her finger down the Boltís face. She closed her eyes, relaxed in her bonds, and slept. For the first time since she had been here, her face was relaxed, at peace.

Four months later, Black ThunderBolt was marched into the last cell of Leoís private cellblock. Thunder and Bluebird watched. The rest of the ponies were either out, or being worked.

The next morning, during grooming, Bert explained about the talking rules. Black ThunderBolt wept openly. She had thought that she would never talk again, and she missed it deeply. The yak session was an eye opener. All eight ponies were there. She learned that two of them belonged to the Boss, two of them to his wife, and three of them belonged to Ė Pretty Lemon. It shook her, badly.

Cloudburst noticed her distress. "Cheer up. Iím not supposed to tell you what the Lemon wants you for. She wants to tell you that herself. But youíll like it. Guaranteed."

"You know?"

"Of course. The three of us are the administrators of the goddamn biggest computer complex you ever saw. In fact, the only reason weíre here at the same time is to say hello to you. Otherwise, one of us should be on watch."

Soon, the yak session broke up, and Black ThunderBolt was back in her cell. The Lemon popped in.

"Letís take this gag out. Remember me?"

"Youíre Pretty Lemon. You came in at the beginning of my training, and made it quit hurting."

"Yes, I did. Iím one of the weirdest people you will ever meet. Iím called the Sorceressí Apprentice when people think I canít hear them. Right now, what I need is a geneticist. If you accept, youíll have tools you could only dream of outside. If you decline, Iíll erase this memory, and have you put up for auction. I really have no use for a standard ponygirl. Iím too busy to spend a lot of time showing them. All of mine are a lot more."

"Thereís got to be something wrong. Iím dreaming. I donít want to wake up."

"I take it that means you accepted. OK, hereís the scoop. Youíll be a ponygirl part time. The rest of the time, you will either work on one of the genetics projects, or be my personal household and sex slave. Keeping me happy rotates among the four of you. Thatís not hard, by the way. All I really want is my apartment cleaned, laundry done; meals cooked for whichever of us are there at the time. And plenty of hot, lesbian sex. I know youíre more het than bi, but you donít have an option there. Your trainers will provide all of the het sex you want."

"Cloudburst is your team leader. Not that she can do much for your assignments, sheís a computer sysadmin, not a scientist. But she does have a prod, restricted to level 1, and she does have a remote with your anal plug on it. Sass her all you want, but if she says jump, youíd better be in the air before you ask how high."

"Youíve already met your trainers. Your rider is my foster daughter, Donna. Sheís just as merciless as any other lobo-ra when it comes to form."

"Lets get you changed to street clothes. Youíll work out of my apartment. That means youíll be in my apartment more than the other three ponies, so youíll be responsible for meals when Iím there during the day. The other girls will take the evening meal, unless you really, really like to cook."

"First lesson. You donít need two strong men to get you on and off of your display stand. Youíve already noticed that Bert didnít lock your ankles down. In fact, the only thing that keeps you on this stand is your inability to deal with the bolt on your headrest. Now, I just take the bolt out. Bring your left leg forward. Now your right. Stand up. Watch your balance so you donít bind the rings. Good."

"Next, Iím going to take the puppy paws off, and the bustier. You take off your collar, your bridle, and your boots. Good. You leave the dildos in."

"Street clothes are over here. Your uniform is a push-up bra, low-cut white sleeveless blouse, and black leather miniskirt; mesh stockings and five-inch pumps. Panties are optional. Same as my other ponies when they are in girl mode. Of course itís sexy. This place was originally created as an overage teenage maleís wet dream. Deal with it."

"Thereís a bunch of technology thatís so far off the map it might as well be magic. One of the items is that there are several doors that will recognize you. Your cell door, and the cellblock door are two of them. The door to my apartment, and the building itself, are two more. There are some others Iíll show you when you are ready."

We left the cellblock, and headed down the street to my apartment. She negotiated the doors adequately, although the knob two feet off the floor spooked her for a moment.

I showed her the workroom and the rest of the apartment.

Epilog.

The internet acquisition program took another couple of years to get into full swing. Eventually, we were making our 600 girls a year as volunteers, although most of them were surprised at what they had volunteered for. People donít read their mail real well.

Black ThunderBolt managed to solve the Lobo-ra fertility problem; Old Tom and his people are still contemplating where, if anywhere, they fit into this world.

Sheís also got a genetic analysis sideline going thatís making us boatloads of money. Weíre keeping it somewhat low profile because we donít want to drive anyone out of business. When she discovered that we could do real gene surgery, she almost fainted in shock. Then she discovered that meant Alice and I could do it. Sheís working on setting up the programming so it can be automated.

As it turned out, my horseman had an ulterior motive for making me run that race. It was so obvious that I still have it on my list of "things I should have known without being told." He was a horseman. He was interested in improving the breed, and I donít mean getting me into his bed. Discovering that we could tinker with the ponyís genetics was his dream come true. Its taking a while to set up, but marketing is quietly enthusiastic about the possibilities of improving the average quality of the product to closer to the outstanding ones.

Alice is still working on transforming the community. Iíve come to terms with it myself. Iíve got my hands full running the computer complex. Having four beautiful slave girls at my beck and call is this butch lesbianís wet dream.

I finally became a full participant in the Wolf and Ponygirl show.

Life could be better, but this will do just fine.