The Politics Of Ponygirls
- by Xaltatun of Acheron
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 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
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 -------
Chapter 1. Board Meeting.
Leo was going slowly nuts. This was worse than the creation of the miniature class ten years before. The trouble was, the time schedule was ridiculously short. He was having the organizational time of his life, but he was getting more and more certain that they wouldn't be ready on time. And that would be politically catastrophic.
It had all started when his wife and the Lemon had their latest brainstorm. At the time, he thought it was a great idea. He still though so, but couldn't they have waited a bit? Like a century or two?
His wife Alice, also known as the Sorceress when people thought she wasn't listening, was the possessor of a number of off the map technologies. Pretty Lemon (also known as the Sorceress' Apprentice) was the person who took them and made them into something useful. They were both nuts, in a very specific clinical sense. But they were also highly functional. They could both use these technologies directly, by shear will power (or something). Everyone else depended on computer-controlled machinery dedicated to very specific tasks.
Their current project was a set of direct connections between the main communities. The problem to be overcome was that most people lost it when a teleport happened too close to them. There was something in the general unconscious that got very upset when the bedrock facts of three-dimensional space were revealed to be nothing more than Mother Nature trying to keep things separated. The mechanical teleports were very useful, but the fact was that only about two percent of the population could use them. The rest had to do it under some kind of anesthesia, which made it kind of useless for commuting. Not to mention the effect on the other commuters.
The solution looked like a commuter tunnel. The tunnels went from a security checkpoint in one of the communities, to a central transfer hub. The main communities were all connected this way. The beauty of the system was that the Arizona community was only about a kilometer from the hub by tunnel. So was the German community. So was the English community. The hub was buried in a mountain somewhere. Alice, the Lemon, and a couple of others from other communities knew where.
The beauty of the system was that most people didn't notice the weirdness, at least on any psychological level that would cause trouble. A fairly large minority did, but they were overcome by a nameless dread by the time they got to the security checkpoint. They simply refused to use the tunnels unless they were anesthetized. A relatively small minority found them fascinating. A few of these would eventually learn how to use psi powers themselves.
The International Ponygirl Consortium (which is what the governing body of all of the communities styled itself) decided to hold a celebration of the opening of the tunnel system. The American community was the obvious location; it was the largest.
Leo and the board had agreed; as the first truly international event it would be a major political coup. One they were in desperate need of; the US was no longer the unquestioned leader of the world, and he was suffering from some of the side effects.
They had about three times the registrants they had expected. Even when they tried to winnow them by explaining that the accommodations were going to be primitive at best, the registration forms still kept pouring in. And they all wanted to bring their favorite ponygirl for the races.
Housing wasn't an issue. They were doubling and tripling up their own people to free up apartments; the visitors would just have to share apartments, also. The problem was cells for the ponygirls. They simply didn't have enough. And those they couldn't double up, not without causing grave problems.
And they didn't have the time to build more ponygirl cells. They also didn't have the resources; a ponygirl cell was a fairly complicated affair, standardized after long experience. The payback time on the investment was measured in decades, not months.
So Leo had bucked the problem up to the Board. Alice, the Lemon and Old Tom were in attendance. None of them were regular members, but they had enviable reputations for thinking out of the box.
The boardroom was one of the community rooms in the Executive apartment block. Normally a restaurant, it was furnished with little tables, not the huge central table that most people associate with a committee meeting. They simply didn't have the resources for rooms that would be seldom used. The members were scattered at different tables, mostly facing Leo and Alice at the front of the room. Not that Alice had anything to do with running the meeting. She simply thought that being snuggled up in Leo's arm was one of the better ways of making committee meetings bearable.
The Lemon was at the far end of the room. Old Tom was sitting cross-legged on her table. As a lobo-ra, he was only 2'6", and tall for the race. Two of the Lemon's ponies cum slave girls were sitting on their heels at her feet. One, Black ThunderBolt, was a brilliant geneticist. The other, Cloudburst, was the team leader of her computer ops team. She wanted them both where she could get at them if needed. At her feet was close enough, and was also sufficiently symbolic to keep the more conservative members of the board from going ballistic.
The tables were far enough from the wall for the serving staff to circulate. The staff was Alice's two ponies, Rainbow and Bluebird. She had gotten them from Leo as a wedding present, and used them for domestic staff. She also showed them locally although neither was a regular prizewinner. The Lemon had added Rainmaker from her own staff. Both the Bolt and Cloudburst would join them after the meeting. Flash Flood was watching the computer complex.
They were dressed in classic cocktail waitress uniforms made of black leather with a white apron. The tops had a built in quarter bra, sufficient to hold their breasts up while exposing the permanent rings just below the nipple. They had little bells attached to their breast rings and the ponygirl ID medallions in their ears. The skirts came to mid thigh. They wore mesh stockings and five-inch heels. They also wore a bridle and ball gag to complete the ensemble. Both the Bolt and Cloudburst had their bridle and gag in their bags, but were otherwise dressed the same.
The classic bondagette would have had her uniform locked on. Neither Alice nor the Lemon bothered. None of their ponies was going to cause that kind of trouble. Not bothering with locks was a sign of who was in control; rebellion had either vanished long since, or had been stored for a more propitious time.
Alice was a 5'5" redhead. She kept her hair in a pony cut. That is, it was short on the sides to emulate a pony's fur, and long on top and down the back to make a mane. This was standard for the ponygirls. The only full community residents that wore their hair that way were Alice and Pretty Lemon; and for exactly the same reason.
Alice was a clinical multiple personality, with complete social control. One of her personalities was the ponygirl Silence is Golden. She was one of the stars of the Wolf and Ponygirl show. Alice showed the typical physical development of the ponygirl in good condition. Well developed back, hips and legs, with comparatively poorly developed arms. Her arms were actually better developed than most of the ponies, since she used them. They didn't.
Pretty Lemon had a startling head of hair exactly the color of a lemon. She was 5'7", and a blond by definition, since she clearly wasn't brunette, redheaded or raven tressed. A couple of years back; she had changed her hairstyle to have a sprinkling of white hair with brown peaks on top. The effect reminded people of a lemon meringue pie.
Half the women in the dome were looking for her hairdresser. The rest of the ones that cared had figured out that she had fixed her own genetics to get the effect. They were right. A few had approached her, and now sported otherwise impossible hairstyles. The one woman who had asked her why was told, "I'm a lesbian. I like to get eaten." Needless to say, she had her pubic thatch decorated the same way. It even tasted like lemon meringue.
So far, none of the board had come up with a solution. They were still admiring the problem.
"Well, we could dump the sale trainees somewhere for the duration. That would free up the 350 cells in the training block."
"Not good. We'd be lucky to get half of them sufficiently back on track afterwards to be salable. We'd have to destroy the other half." None of the board liked that one little bit. Part of the reluctance was commercial; after all, most of their cash income came from their ponygirl sales. To their credit, a fair number were balking at either the notion of killing up to 150 girls, or of cheating them out of their chance to be quality. Quality spelled a better life after sale, on average. Quality got looked after. Mundane was more likely to be abused. They also had firm, if unenforceable, contracts with most of them that they would be trained and sold.
"What about the community trainees? We could release them for the duration."
"There's only about sixty of them. That's not enough by a long shot. We need at least two hundred cells. And it wouldn't be good to interrupt their training, either."
"Well, that'll do for starters, anyway. Keep it on the option list, it should fit with anything else we come up with."
After more talk, Alice finally sat up.
"Hey folks, maybe its time to bite the bullet on this one."
"Which bullet? I've got a whole bandolier full."
"The one about giving the community owned ponies a career path, and eventual absorption into the community when they are too old to be raced."
There was a dead silence. Then babble. Eventually, Leo rapped for silence.
"Honey, explain how it would work, and what it has to do with this problem?"
"Well, it's a trade. In return for a complete commitment to the community lifestyle, they would get a number of privileges. I'm thinking of days off and vacations, but we can work out the details later. What we get immediately is that the commitment means that they wonít cause problems, we can relax security for them, therefore we can move several of them into one cell for the duration, and free up another hundred or so cells."
Another dead silence. Then a couple of members signaled for the floor. Leo gave Elaine the floor.
"How do we know they mean it? And how do they know we mean it?"
"Elaine, most of your senior trainers can read the girls well enough to tell the difference between yes, no and doubtful, regardless of what they say. If it's doubtful, ask the Lemon or me. I'm not sure of how we convince them we mean it, though."
"That should work." I signaled for the floor.
"Remember the lobo-ra strike last year?" It was a good example; I had set it up myself behind the scenes. It was the reason Old Tom was sitting on my table. The lobo-ra had gotten official recognition for their council, an absolute vote on anything affecting them, and equal say in anything affecting the relationship between the community and the outside. They had also gotten control of their reproduction process, including selection of the host mothers and their offspring's genetics. A very nice package that had gone a long way to stabilizing the relationship between what were two closely related, but separate species of human.
"The ponygirls don't have the organization. But Alice and I will personally commit to making it happen. And the ones we ask will remember the strike. You can use that for the argument."
One of the more hidebound conservatives blurted out, "You and what company of marines?"
"Buster, Alice and I like it here. This is home. We make enough waves just being ourselves. You haven't seen anything yet. Just remember a hamburger."
"A hamburger. What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"I doubt if you could figure it out. But some of the people that have strings on you can. If you make trouble, we'll hit you so hard you'll think your head is on a gimbal. And I won't guarantee to leave you dentless."
He sputtered for a while. "Oh, shut up before I turn you into a toad."
"Could you do that?" Leo said interestedly.
"Not immediately. The Bolt would have to work out the genetic program. Turning a large human into a small amphibian would take a while."
Black ThunderBolt decided to hand me a straight line. She looked up at me, and said, "Could I, mistress? Please?"
I patted her. "We'll see." She pouted for a moment. "I only see one problem. How to fit his intelligence into a toad's brain."
"Shouldn't be much of a problem, honey. He doesn't have that much. What he has should fit."
He shut up to the sound of poorly suppressed laughter.
The meeting broke up shortly afterwards. Cloudburst and the Bolt made to put on their bridle and ball gags. I rested my hands on their shoulders. "Stay, kids. I see Elaine coming over." They settled back down.
"It sounds like a good idea, but how do we test it?"
"Well, we've got a highly atypical sample of five right here. Cloudburst?"
"I need to think. If I had a convention budget, and a vacation to see my family every year, I'd really have to consider it."
"I think I can swing the conventions, if they're the ones I'm thinking of. You'd have to stay in character as Cloudburst, of course, which should be enough cover. Family visits will be a lot harder; its not just you, honey, that's major security."
"Well, if you promise you'll work on it?"
"Absolutely. This is for everybody, not just you."
"Ask me in the morning. The answer will probably be yes."
"Same thing as Cloudburst. I've got more responsibility here than I'd have in fifteen years out there. If I get the convention budget and family visits, I'm in. Besides, I actually like being a ponygirl, if that makes any sense."
"Never know it by the amount of bitching you do."
"Hey, this is a quasi-military outfit. You know that bitching is the enlisted man's right."
I had to laugh.
"Ok, kids, time to go do the server bit." They put on their bridles and ball gags, and started circulating.
I motioned Rainmaker over, and took out her ball gag. "What do you think?"
"I overheard Cloudburst. I'd prefer to be out of here. But since that's not an option, I'll deal myself in. I'll reserve an out option, but only if it becomes generally available."
"Tell me more. I'm not quite certain I understand the qualification."
"Well, I'm willing to make an unconditional commitment - as long as the circumstances don't change. Things change around here. If a complete opt-out option becomes available, then I want to reserve the right to take it. Not just to vanish over the horizon some day."
"I can live with that. So I take it you're in?"
I popped her ball gag in, and called Rainbow over. Rainbow basically said the same thing.
Bluebird surprised us, but I should have expected it.
"Do I still have that rain check on the full community membership?"
"I'd forgotten about that. I assume so. You earned it, I don't know of any reason to cancel it."
"Well, if Rainbow gets the time off and vacations, I'll probably take the membership. Either way, assume that I'm in for the full commitment. Let me talk to Alice before telling you if I want to cash in that rain check." She thought for a moment. "Actually, I'll probably take the membership. If Rainbow wants to be stubborn about it, I'm not going to support her. I still need to talk to Alice, though."
Elaine headed over to where Leo and Alice were standing, and talked to them briefly. Alice caught Bluebird's eye, and gave her a high sign.
Before we broke up, Leo told us he had decided on an announcement schedule. Day after tomorrow, two meetings, of two shifts each. The first meeting was the entire training staff, all lobo-ra, all community owned ponies, all community trainees, and all owners. The second meeting was for everyone else. He wanted a preliminary head count the next day.
We jumped the gun just a little, and told Thunder, Lightning and Flash Flood the next morning. Thunder and Lightning almost fainted. For them, it was a huge jump; they were basic ponygirls with almost no special privileges. They all accepted.
As it turned out, doubling up the ponies simply wasnít practical. The commitment stayed, however. Nobody wanted to even think about what would happen if the Board withdrew it.
Alice and I came up with a workable alternative. Weíd been very gingerly approaching the notion that teleportation dealt with time as well as space. We absolutely, positively didnít want to go there, but we figured we needed to find out if anything was going to blind-side us. Both of us could see how to do time travel. Both of us were scared shitless to attempt it. We thought the result would be worse than teleport fugue.
But what we did find out how to do was time dilation. We found out how to make time run faster or slower in a restricted portion of space. It had the same problems as teleportation squared. Space looked totally bizarre, and people tended to go crazy around it. We could handle it. Other people could handle it if they were anesthetized.
We blocked out an unused cavern that wasnít connected, and installed special equipment to make time run slower by a factor of several thousand. About two weeks before the event, we cleared five of the seven cellblocks. We gave the ponies a couple of hours worth of sleepy gas, and teleported them in. Even we werenít crazy enough to walk through the interface. Then we moved as many community owned ponies into them as we could. This gave us another 250 cells in the main and Executive domes. Together with the cells vacated by the community trainees, this proved adequate, with some space to spare.
It also freed up 25 training crews. This let us assign the community trainees to VIPs, and use the training crews for the rest of the crowd.
It worked perfectly. We restored them a week after the event, and their training went on without a hitch. We disassembled the time warp, and then tried to figure out what to do next time.
Chapter 2. Itís a Raid!
I was driving along, heading toward my fatherís ponygirl hideout, when suddenly I came awake. I had passed four cars and a van on this quiet country road. I had barely noticed them. Except that they all had four people in them. And the people had all had that indefinable air that said cop. Or at least some kind of security.
Iíd lived all of my life with security of some kind. I knew the breed. Daddyís household staff was essentially slaves; since the Consensual Slavery Laws, they were really slaves, and sported collars. Our household security was as much to keep trouble away as to keep internal trouble down.
This wasnít usual for this time and place. Our ponygirl hideout was highly illegal. Not that ponygirls were illegal per se, but these predated the legalization, and were unregistered. You couldnít get a properly registered ponygirl of this quality.
I decided to take another pass around and see what happened. I went past the turnoff, and suddenly the first car sported a red flasher. Oops. They were cops, and they were after me and mine. I hit the panic button in my purse. A moment later, my cell phone rang.
The panic button triggered an alarm in the security section of the Arizona Community. The computers traced it down, and triggered a couple of viewpoints. As usual, they were in the right area, but they werenít looking at the right things. Sam started scanning.
"Security. Whatís shaking?"
"I think daddyís place is being raided, and Iíve got a cop on my tail."
"Thatís those three cars and a van that just turned off to Jeff Donaldsonís place?"
"Yes. Oh my God, theyíre really raiding it."
Looks like it. Another party coming up the back door. OK, got you. Youíre the one in the red Ďvette with the cop on your tail?"
"Ok. Hereís the plan. Next turn to the right, about a quarter mile. Another quarter mile, turnoff into an empty picnic area to the left. Thereíll be a breather mask on the picnic table. Go, girl."
Sam hit his own panic button, and then got down to work. He had to get a breather mask with a couple of minutes of sleepy gas onto that picnic table before she got there. A twist of the joystick, and selection of package # 6. Press the button. It appeared, just like a computer game.
"Ok, kid. Youíve got about a minute. Get the mask, get back in your car, and breathe deeply. Weíll pull you through as soon as youíre out."
Goddamn, I hated this. But when all else looks impossible, go for the miracle. Itís always worked for me playing bridge. I spun out, killed the engine, and scooted to the table. There was the mask. Back to the car, slide into the seat, put the mask on, and trigger it. Pray, real hard.
The sleepy gas entered my bloodstream, I felt myself slump down. Then the world around me turned real weird. It felt like I was in two places at once. Then I was only in one, but it was the other one. Sort of like a funhouse. It was an amusing puzzle. How could someone be in two places at once? I giggled, and then fell over the rest of the way.
A minute later, the mask ran out of sleepy gas, and I came to, slumped across the seat of the car. When I pulled myself up, I was no longer in the picnic area. I was in some kind of enclosed warehouse. The phone rang again.
"Security here. See you arrived safely. Thereíll be a guard along in a minute. Heíll explain the setup." Security hung up.
I got out of the car, stretched and looked around. Yep, a warehouse. Or a cave. There was a row of squares painted on the ground, about sixty feet from each other. I could see square 5 off to my left, and square 7 to my right, so I must be on square 6. As I looked around, square 8 got a very bizarre look to it, and then a box appeared out of thin air. Curiouser and curiouser, to quote Alice. I resisted an impulse to investigate.
A big, beefy guy, dressed in blue jeans and a leather jacket, came up driving a golf cart.
I owned up to it.
"Hop in. Youíre a week early. Youíre supposed to have a guide waiting at the security checkpoint. Sheíll explain everything. The brass is already working on handling the mess."
Well, this was looking up. This guy was just as obviously a security type, but he very obviously wasnít after me. I hopped in, and he turned around and headed back the way he had come.
Eventually, he stopped at a tunnel opening. "This is the tunnel to the main dome. Thereís a security checkpoint here. The thing to know about them is that the residents all have implants that tell the checkpoints if theyíre authorized. So all this looks like is a nook in the wall with a couple of guards. Everyone else just walks by."
"You donít have an implant. So you need to stop at the checkpoint. As long as you walk right up to the guard station like you own the place, you wonít have any trouble."
Well, Iím about as dominant as they come. Walking up like I own the place comes as naturally as breathing. "Fran Donaldson. Iím supposed to meet someone here?"
The guard checked his system. "Yep. Green Rivers will be a bit late; they had to pull her out of something else when you arrived. Put your hand on the plate, here."
I stuck my hand on the plate. It didnít look like anything happened, but it suddenly felt like something was staring at it.
A chunk of plastic popped out of a slot next to the guard.
"This is your ID. Carry it on you at all times. It works like our implants at the checkpoints. It also serves as a credit card."
I looked at it. It was a completely blank rectangle of plastic. I must have looked puzzled.
He grinned. "They tell me itís got your DNA pattern in it. A scanner checks that it matches the DNA of the person carrying it, and then reads the authorizations embedded in it. Itís absolutely useless to anyone else except for your identical twin. And we have ways of dealing with that."
"Youíll get another ID later, when the big shots figure out what to put on it. Right now, theyíre still thinking. Ah, that looks like it could be Green Rivers."
A young woman walked toward us. She was about 6í1" in her heels, which looked to be about 5". Brunette, with long hair arranged like the ponies at our place. Low cut sleeveless white blouse, probably pushup bra, black leather miniskirt, mesh stockings and mid-calf black leather boots with 5" heels.
"Hey, Shelly. So they decided to call you Green Rivers. It suits you."
She grimaced. "Bob, you know Iím supposed to forget Iím Shelly for the duration."
"Yeh, but with all the trainees running around loose, I like to twit them about it."
"You and everyone else. This Fran?"
"Yep. Youíre hers for the next couple of weeks. You got the background?"
"Of course. First thing they shoved at me when they let me out of my cell last week."
I decided to take over. "Hi, Green. Iím Fran. I like that outfit. Iím surprised you donít have a herd of drooling males following you." I grinned.
"I like it too. But itís quite conservative Ė for here. You look like you would go well in leather."
"I like leather, but I wound up here without my wardrobe."
"I heard. Weíd better go; the brass is expecting us in the crisis room as soon as we can make it. Iíll fill you in on the way."
We headed off down the tunnel.
"Normally, this would be a briefing, with visuals, and the rest of it. But since itís just us, Iíll give it to you straight."
"About me. Iím a community trainee. Most of us spend a few years doing ponygirl training when we grow up. After all, ponygirls are the cash crop, and we grow up around them. When we turn 18, the boys go into a three year training class, and us girls become ponygirls for two years. Then we go into a one year class. After that, we join a training team for a few years. Then most of us go on to other things, marriage, kids, and other kinds of work around the community. Some of us stay on as career trainers."
"Iím in the middle of my two years as a ponygirl. This place is a madhouse, preparing for the Gymkhana. Weíre short just about everything, including cells for the ponygirls our guests are bringing with them. So they kicked us trainees out of our cells, and told us we were your guides. We go back after this is over to finish the experience."
"For the next couple of weeks, youíre essentially my owner. You can do anything you want with me, except damage me, try to get me to tell you anything that would affect the security of the community, or ditch me and go off on your own. You can even race me if you want; Iím trained on heavy sulky, and you look like youíre under the weight limit."
I was kind of startled at that. I looked at her speculatively. "Anything? Can I keep you as a pony?"
"As much as you want. Just donít try wandering off on your own without me in girl mode. Housekeeping is moving my tack, display stand and a bucking rack into a spare room of your apartment right now. They think they can get a trotting booth in there as well."
Weíd gotten out of that tunnel, and were going through the main dome. She obviously knew where we were going. We got to an office building, and checked in at the desk.
"Fran, Green, Leo and the crisis team are in room 306. Head right up, theyíre expecting you."
We went up an elevator, and found room 306. It was a large, open room with round tables and chairs scattered around the walls. A well-built redhead showed us to a table.
"Normally, protocol is that Iíd be kneeling or sitting at your feet. But right now, I have to show you how the system works, and I canít do that if I canít get to the equipment."
I looked around. There was a big wall display; it showed daddyís place in an overhead plan view. The police locations were outlined in red. It looked like they hadnít staged the raid yet.
The redhead sat down next to us. "Iím Alice, Leoís wife. Iím called the Sorceress when people donít think I can hear them. Right now, it looks like they are still settling in, and will start the raid in about twenty minutes. They think they havenít been spotted. Leo wants to cut this short. Can you get your people to come out now?"
I grabbed my cell phone. "Outside cell phones only work in the warehouse area. Use this." She handed me a phone. I punched in the number. Jeannine answered. Green pulled up a display of the inside; I could see Jeannine on the phone. She was a pretty little blonde dressed in a short tunic and not much else. She had a collar around her neck with her name engraved on the front. Iíd worked on that collar quite a bit; it set her off nicely.
"Fran, is that you? We were worried something had happened when you didnít get here."
"Hang on. Something did happen. The FBI is about to stage a raid. Get the ponies on their stands, and prepare to go out the door in ten minutes. Thatíll get you out before any rough stuff starts."
Jeannine was tough. She stared at the phone for a second, and then said "Shit." She headed toward the back in a dead run, and started issuing orders. I had to hand it to our team; they got three of the ponies onto their display stands in six minutes flat. The other three were already there. Jeannine and the other girl put on some more clothes, and they were out the door in ten.
Green Rivers had put up another big display showing the front of the building and the FBI command post. My people came out with their hands up. The resolution was good enough to see the stunned look on the FBI team leaderís face. To his credit, it passed quickly.
Jeannine told him that the only people left were the six ponygirls in their cells. They didnít need to damage the property by staging any kind of assault.
They went in and gave the place a thorough search. They found the cellblock with the six ponygirls in their cells. Jeannine had left the cell doors locked; she didnít want anything to happen to them accidentally.
"Leo wants them nailed down while he gets the political pressure on their bosses. Suggestions?"
"Why donít I just call? That should shake them up more than a little. If youíre going to put pressure on to squash the raid, I should think that they would like some notice so they can avoid being squashed with it."
This security system was something else. I could see every spook shop I had ever heard of salivating over it. Each of the FBI team now had an icon displayed with their info. The team leader was the guy I thought it was. There was a redhead named Sharon from another office; she was an undercover operator who played a submissive. She sure didnít look submissive at the moment. Probably a switch. I found the second in charge, and got his phone number. I needed to leave both the team leaderís and Sharonís phones clear for the political pressure coming through.
I punched in the number. His phone rang.
Chapter 3. But, it was such a nice raid.
Wilburís jaw had dropped when they came out, hands up, ten minutes before he had planned to start the attack. He recovered quickly. We searched the place, and found the six ponygirl cells. The doors didnít yield to anything we had; we werenít prepared to shoot out the locks just yet.
I chased the other agents out of the cellblock; they were upsetting the girls. When they were out, the ponies calmed down. They looked cute on their display stands. I had seen a couple of film clips, so I wasnít surprised.
Weíd been hearing of this organization for quite a while. Just bits and pieces, here and there. Nothing to put anything together. Their security was very, very good. And it had gotten better. This was the first concrete evidence that there was anything other than moonshine.
This raid was supposed to be for unregistered slaves. We had questioned the ones here, and their documentation was totally in order, except for the address. That wasnít a crime. Finding the ponygirls was totally unexpected. They were undocumented, which was a crime. But we didnít have them on the warrant.
We regrouped in one of the main rooms to consider what to do next. Then Terryís phone rang. It startled us. Our phones shouldnít be accessible during a raid. A firefight was not the time to have to tell a telemarketer to go to hell.
The caller was Fran Donaldson, who was the ownerís daughter. I had the feeling that this situation was now going according to plan: someone elseís plan. Terry put the phone on speaker so we could all listen in.
After a bunch of huffing, Fran lost her temper. "Look, idiots. Iím trying to save your bacon. I appreciate good security work too much to want you people back doing the FBIís equivalent of pounding a beat. Youíre about to get major political interference. Both of your AICs have already gotten calls from people they canít ignore. So I want to put you in the picture as to what we want, and what we donít care about."
It would have still gone around and around like two attack dogs circling for position, but then my phone rang. A moment later, Wilburís rang. My boss wanted to tell me that there was major political pressure to make this not have happened.
"I know. Weíve got the principals on the phone here. Unfortunately, theyíve both been trying to establish dominance for the last fifteen minutes, and nobody has said anything useful. If we could just get them together with you, we might have something."
There was a click. I heard someoneís voice on my phone saying "Wish Granted."
"Alice here. I couldnít resist; Iím sometimes known as the Sorceress. I switched us onto a conference call with both AICs, Fran, me and the managing director of this mess, Leo."
"Howíd you do that?"
"Donít ask, honey. If I told you, you might think you needed to do something about it."
A manís voice came in. "Leo here. Let me put a bunch of stuff on the table, then we can pick at it."
"First, some facts. Of the six ponygirls in those cells, four are our product. Two are from other vendors. The three youngest have contracts with us specifying training and sale. The other three are off the street kidnaps."
"Since weíre in the US, we want to bring our operation into compliance with the Consensual Slavery Acts. Thatís not going to be easy, itís going to take a lot of negotiating. Our first step was when we required our locally owned ponygirls to talk during morning grooming. That maintains their voices; the brain areas tend to deteriorate if they donít talk for more than a couple of years."
"Our second step is that we havenít done any kidnaps in the last year, and havenít done very many in the prior two. Our entire intake currently has some level of informed consent. Not very much, in some cases, but some level."
"Weíre taking a third step right now. My understanding of the Consensual Slavery Act is that it requires maintaining the slave in condition for reabsorption into society in a productive manner. Thatís just getting off the ground."
"The next item is that we are having a major international Gymkhana here in another week. Itís an absolutely ideal time to get people together and negotiate. Send anyone you want. From the data I have, I would suggest Sharon. Sheís got the background to really critique our operation in ways other people might miss."
"Now, on this raid. I really only want two things. First, that it not get into the news. Second, that you put the support people back in place. Ponygirls are like racehorses. They need a support team. We usually have a five person team for ten girls. Plus one lobo-ra. Thatís direct. Then we have others behind them. I wouldnít be surprised if the support ratio gets up to 1:1 when everything is counted."
"Last. This raid was conducted in a highly professional manner. The fact that it flopped was due to circumstances completely outside of their control, based on a situation they had never encountered. If thereís any way to do it, Iíd give them whatever award they would normally get."
We talked it over, and made plans. We put the four slaves back, and the strike force left. I stayed behind for a day to observe the operation.
Fran left orders that the staff was to tell all six ponies that they were to talk during the morning grooming. She only expected two of them to succeed, however. The other four probably had been ponies for too long. In the event, a third managed to, although her voice was badly slurred. It would improve with practice.
Chapter 4. Cloak(room) and Dagger.
"What the heck is a ponygirl?"
"Uh, a girl who rides a pony?"
"Canít be. I wouldnít have gotten eight calls from constituents about it. Girls ride ponies all the time."
"A girl pony?"
"A filly. Same problem. These constituents arenít the horse crowd."
"I suppose we will have to investigate."
"Got it. Send McWhip."
"That loose cannon?"
Well, heíll be out of our hair."
"Youíve got a point. And if thereís anything we need to do about it, he can take the heat while we figure it out."
Chapter 5. Logistics.
"Fran, thereís something I need to ask you. Nothing personal, we want a quick report from everyone whoís been through a teleport."
"That was bizarre. As in funny, like a funhouse. The one two squares over while I was waiting was also neat. I never knew space could do that. If itís possible, Iíd like to see some more."
Alice made a note. "Thatís great, Fran. Most people come unraveled if theyíre conscious during one. Thatís why we do the sleepy gas. If we had known that, security would have just told you to pull over, and transferred you straight. Lots simpler."
I noticed that Green was looking at me like I had grown two heads. Now that the crisis was over, I didnít think I needed Green to show me how to run the system. I pointed at my feet. "Down. Now."
Green slid off her chair, and sat on her heels at my feet. Well trained.
Alice smiled. "If you could see your way clear, Iíd like you to work transport at the beginning. Most of the visitors will be coming in by tunnel, but a hundred or so groups will have to come in by teleport. And having someone dominant with plenty of social position will come in handy."
I agreed. She called someone named the Lemon over and asked if she could borrow the Bolt. The Lemon agreed. I looked confused. At least, the Lemon made sense. She was 5í7" without the heels, and had this amazing mane of lemon yellow hair. It was done up with a topping of white with brown tips. I wondered if her full name was Lemon Meringue.
"Hey, ThunderBolt." This woman with a mane of jet black hair came over. She was about 5í5" without heels. "This is Fran Donaldson. Green Rivers is assigned to her for the duration. Have Green show you where her apartment is, and then show her the view system. Also the teleport system." ThunderBolt looked surprised, but all she said was, "OK."
We headed out the door. The rest of the crew seemed to be breaking up as well. Green led us to another tunnel. ThunderBolt looked mildly surprised. "Youíre in the Executive Complex?"
Green said, "Yes. Surprised me, too. There are six apartments available there, for late arriving notables. They decided to move her into one of them because she arrived early. I guess itís appropriate since sheís going to be working for us for a while."
"Now that I think of it, weíve got two empties in our building. Whatís the address?"
She gave it. "Oh, good. Youíre in one of the empties, right opposite the Lemon." Green looked startled. Then it passed. "Weíve got several empty cells downstairs." She looked at Green thoughtfully. "No, better not. Leave them for ponies that need them."
We went through the checkpoint. Apparently, my pass worked ok, because we werenít stopped. Up an elevator. The Executive residential block was another cave, but it had smaller apartment buildings, with bigger apartments. It was good to see that rank still had its privileges.
The building had four floors, with two apartments on each of the upper three. The bottom had eight cells for ponygirls, presumably owned by the apartment residents.
"Most of the cells in this building are available, because the Lemon uses Leoís cellblock for her herd. Thatís because Leoís and her herds have a highly unique arrangement, and we donít want them mixed with the rest. It would cause nothing but trouble. So if you want to bring one of your girls, we can make arrangements."
The apartment was sumptuous. It was a four bedroom that had been set up for a master bedroom, a bedroom - workroom and a room for Green Rivers. Greenís room contained her stand, a pad, a trotting machine, and a bucking rack. It didnít contain a grooming room or a chair. She would share the same bathroom as the rest of us; the chair should be unnecessary. Also cabinets. The apartment had a large sitting room, and the usual kitchen and bath. The bath was huge. There was another room, currently unused.
I was in the bedroom Ė workroom. The master bedroom was reserved for my parents, which suited me just fine. There was plenty of space. The bed was in one corner. One wall contained a massive closet and the usual girl things: dresser, makeup mirror and so forth. The other wall contained a long workbench, with several computer screens. I could see moving in here permanently, not that there was any chance of that.
"Whatís the eating schedule? Or is there one?"
"Suit yourself. Ponies usually get fed around here every three to five hours. Residents seem to prefer the three meals concept."
I was getting famished. "Green, set up a quick meal. Whatever residents normally do for a lunch for me. Whatever you need for yourself and ThunderBolt. In here in ten minutes." Green trotted out to the kitchen.
I worked with ThunderBolt to get the computer system down pat. The viewpoints were easy; they worked off of a map for large scale positioning, and then moved around with a joystick. You could save locations. You could also save people, and have a viewpoint come up on them wherever they were. That shook me a little. Then it dawned on me that it was probably the system that had allowed security to home in on my panic button so quickly. I asked ThunderBolt, and she confirmed it.
I looked in on my ponygirl haven. The Feds were just packing up to leave. Sharon looked like she was staying. Our staff was back, and beginning to get the ponies back on schedule. I could leave that for the moment.
Next was to look in on home. I needed the map for that. It didnít look like there was any problem, but there was no sign of mother. Dad would be at work. The maids were there, but they didnít look all that happy.
I called in. Our head maid answered with relief in her voice. "Thank God youíre OK, Fran. They took your mother away, I donít know where. And I canít get a hold of your father."
"Right. The Feds raided the ponygirl place. I think things are getting straightened out. Iíll call if theyíll be home for dinner. Meanwhile, pack my things for a two week stay. Go heavy on the leather, indoors only. Iím not going outside"
She looked relieved, something to do that almost made sense.
I called out to the ponygirl place and asked to speak to Sharon. "Its Fran. Do you know where they would have taken mom and dad? OK, Iíll talk to the AIC. Do you have his number?"
I got his number, and gave it a call. A viewpoint came up automatically. Looked like a senior executive ought to look. Competent, no nonsense. He answered the phone.
"Itís Fran Donaldson. Iím trying to track down mom and dad. I understand from our maids that someone came out and took mom somewhere, but they have no idea where. And they canít get in touch with dad."
"I expect theyíre over at the Federal lockup, being processed."
"How do I get them out? Or is it in progress?"
"No, thereís no release order, as far as I know."
"What needs to be done to get one?"
"Letís see. The maids at your place are adequately documented. The maids at the ponygirl place are also. Weíve agreed to sweep the ponygirls under the rug for the moment, pending negotiations. So there doesnít seem to be any grounds for holding them. The strike force leader should take care of it when he gets in."
"They just left five minutes ago. How long will it be?"
"Couple of hours. Iíll get someone on it right away."
"Thanks. Itís been a pleasure working with you."
"I wish I could say the same. How do I get in touch with you if I need you?"
"Let me check." ThunderBolt reached over and punched a button that said "security."
"Security. How may I help you?"
"Black ThunderBolt here. We need to give the man on the other end of this line a contact number. He needs to be able to call Fran. Apparently Leo didnít give him one earlier, and I donít know why."
Security gave him a number, and then a second internal number, and told him the outside number was changed regularly.
Green came in with lunch. It was delicious. I didnít know that they taught ponies to cook. It turned out that they didnít, Green was simply a good cook.
Eventually, everything got straightened out. It took a couple of hours. The maids got my stuff packed about the same time the Feds let mom and dad out of durance vile. I told the maid to take the suitcases out on the lawn, and get at least fifty feet away. Then I called transport. They set up the teleport and arranged for it to be delivered. Efficient people.
I called dad when he got home, and filled him in. Also told him I would be staying here for the next week, and Iíd see them when they teleported in. He said, "Teleport?"
"Didnít they tell you the transport system?"
"No, they just said it would be taken care of."
"Humph. Sounds like that means I will take care of it. Theyíve got me working on that process. Hereís the drill. Clear a space on the lawn with at least 50 feet clearance. They tell me 20í is fine, but since weíve got the space, I want to use it. Iíll teleport in. Then we move you, mom, and baggage into the center of the circle. The hard part is that you have to be anesthetized. Most people go stark, raving bonkers when they are too close to a teleport. I seem to be immune, but we donít know about you and mom. So weíll use sleepy gas, or something of your choice. When youíre out, weíll teleport you in. Then we go to the apartment. Iím already in it; the master bedroom is just waiting for you."
"Iíll take care of bringing our ponies in. There are vacant cells beneath the apartment. Just tell me which one you want. Letís see. Hereís the contact number. Security tells me they change it regularly."
I asked Green if there was any entertainment around here.
"Might have the Wolf and Ponygirl show tonight. Thatís real good. Otherwise, not very much besides the television."
"Wolf and Ponygirl show?"
"Its great. Lets see. Yes, in about an hour in the arena."
"OK, get a light dinner, and weíll see it."
It turned out to be excellent. It was somewhere between dance and ballet, except that it was done with wolves and ponygirls and their riders. Someone had a talent for choreography that was totally wasted out here.
What surprised me was that I thought I recognized Alice and the Lemon. Green Rivers confirmed my suspicions Ė two of the ponies were the women I had worked with this afternoon.
When we got back to the apartment, I demanded an explanation. It turned out to be one of those political things. In most cases, residents and ponygirls were kept rigidly separate. Alice, Pretty Lemon and to some extent Leo simply didnít do it that way. Alice and Pretty Lemon were residents who spent part of their time as ponygirls. I suspected there was a reason that Green was very carefully not mentioning. The Lemonís herd, and part of Leoís herd, was ponygirls who spent part of their time as girls. Black ThunderBolt was one of the Lemonís herd, and was probably in her cell in Leoís cellblock at the moment.
I looked at Green speculatively. "Green, how are you on lesbian sex?"
"Canít say itís my favorite, but Iím trained to do it. And I think I do it well."
"OK, youíll spend the night with me. I canít say that itís my favorite either, but it sure beats spending the night alone."
In the event, she was better than good. She was an intense lover. I wanted to take her home with me. Sigh.
Chapter 6. McWhip.
We spent the next couple of days settling in and getting the transportation planned. They gave me a list of people to be transported. I made calls, explained the procedure, explained why we were doing it that way, and made arrangements and appointments. A couple of scheduled visitors cancelled, which seemed to make everyone happy.
One day, a new name appeared on my list. Senator McWhip, with a note to call Leo immediately. It seemed that the shock waves from the raid had coughed up a Senator. Leo seemed to think this was a very good idea Ė he could do his politicking at a higher level. But since McWhip wasnít one of us, we needed to make contact. He was still totally in the dark, and was flailing around trying to find us.
I was getting the hang of the system pretty good by now. I found him in the Senate Office Building, in his office. I got the system to trace his private outside line, and then called him on it.
He stared at the phone like it was a snake. I expect that he simply never gave the number out to anyone. Then he picked it up. Brave man.
"Hello, Senator McWhip? Iím Fran Donaldson. Iím calling about your ponygirl investigation."
"Yes?" he wasnít giving away anything.
"I believe you want to talk to the primary vendor of ponygirls in the U.S. They want to talk to you, also."
"That sounds like itís right. Go right to the top, eh?"
"Well, thereís actually an international organization, the International Ponygirl Consortium, that is one step higher. But the US organization is about as big as the others put together, and the IPC is like any other international organization Ė itís the creature of its members."
"So, what can you do for me? And how do I know you are connected at all?"
"Well, Iím Jeff and Lenore Donaldsonís daughter. I thought you knew me. We have a six ponygirl herd that I can take you out to see. We just need to set up an appointment."
"Hey, Jeffís little girl. Itís been what, five years?"
"About that. Iím through college now."
"I didnít know he was involved in this."
"Youíd be surprised at who is involved. Iím at the vendorís site now, setting up transportation for a major international event in a couple of days. You popped up on my work list this morning, with an urgent note from the managing director. Why donít you give dad a call? Just give me a couple of minutes to call him first, or heíll deny any knowledge of ponygirls."
We hung up. I called dad, and explained I was putting McWhip in touch. McWhip called dad in fifteen minutes, and everything got squared away. He wanted to go out to our place, so I made an appointment.
I wanted to take Green with me. I called Leo, and explained. He thought a minute, and then decided to come himself, with a security guard. He had one that could take a teleport jump. Green was also invited.
Transport got my car from wherever they had stored it, and put it in one of the squares. We got in. Leo and Green took a whiff of sleepy gas. Space did its thing, and then we were on a deserted road near where we needed to be. I turned it on, and we headed out.
We got there at the same time as McWhip, with staff and security, and another car with two of the FBI agents from the original raid. I got a big hug from McWhip, which told the minions exactly which way the wind was blowing. They all relaxed.
I showed him Greenís ear tags. He was fascinated. His staff guy said that they didnít meet the requirements of the act. He said he knew that, but they were evidence of some kind of intent to act systematically. Whatever that meant.
We went in, and looked at the six ponies in their cells. He was enchanted. Well, he should be. That begging puppy look is designed to be unutterably cute.
The staff guy asked if we had paperwork. Leo told him point blank that there wasnít any on three of them, and that the file copies of the indentures on the last three didnít meet the requirements of the Act. Thatís what we needed to work on.
McWhip was talking to Green about ponygirl racing. It turned out that he was a race fan. Racing anything that moved. He didnít care, as long as there was some question of which would get over a finish line first.
I explained the arrangements, and he said he would bring his wife and daughter. When we got back, I arranged for an apartment. Surprisingly, the one in our building was still available. I also arranged for our two ponies. I should have done it sooner.
Chapter 7. Preparations.
I got our ponies through the day before the rush began, and managed to convince mother and dad to come early as well. That got them settled before my rush day. Green took them out to see the Wolf and Ponygirl show. They were enchanted.
There were about a hundred groups to bring through. At one per hour, that would take twelve days. We had to do a lot better than that. One per 4.8 minutes should do it.
Most of the team operated out of their apartments or out of the executive offices. The three of us who could handle teleports operated out of a curious little hole in the wall. Which is exactly what it was. They had drilled a gallery off of the main dome that went exactly nowhere. It had a series of workstations set up along the wall. The major point was that it was over fifty feet in all directions from anywhere people would be, so it was ideal for a teleport terminus.
We kept tabs on all hundred groups as a unit. When it looked like a group was well enough organized to get themselves, their ponies and their luggage to an appropriate spot, and use the sleepy gas, then one of the other people talked them through on a cell phone, and then pushed the button. The arrived on one of the teleport stages in the warehouse, where their greeter was already waiting.
For the terminally disorganized or for the relatively few real VIPs (like Senator McWhip), Alice, the Lemon or I ported out to help. Alice and the Lemon could handle the entire teleport themselves, so they just sent them our way, and came back when they arrived. Since I had to use the mechanicals, I arrived with the group I was helping. So I helped the greeters, and beat it to a safe spot where I could be teleported back to the workstation.
For a wonder, it worked.
We had gotten the Senator into the same apartment building I was in, so I imposed on mom and dad to help get him and his family settled.
Chapter 8. Meetings.
By the time I got back, I was beat. My parents were out with the McWhips. They had taken Green along. I found that I was scheduled for a meeting bright and early with a lot of big shots. Leo, the Senator, the FBI agent, someone named Horst, and someone named McNab. Also Alice, the Lemon and several other people whose names I didnít recognize. The title was "Regulation S Compliance preliminary discussion."
Since Pretty Lemon was on the invite, that gave me an excuse to stick my head in her apartment, ask about it, and possibly cage a meal before collapsing.
So I did. She took one look at me and said, "Cloudburst, get a snack for the lady. Make it substantial." Cloudburst headed for the kitchen.
"Its exactly what it sounds like. Weíve got to get this place specifically, and all the US owners, up to speed with the Consensual Slavery laws as fast as possible. Youíre included because youíre doing grad work in Political Science, youíve been a contributor, youíve met the FBI chick, and youíre an owner. Thatís more than enough reasons. And you wonít argue with the agenda, which most of the owners will."
"Horst is the German community leader. McNab is the English community leader. The EC is beginning to make noises along the same lines, they want to get out ahead of the gun."
Cloudburst came back with a plate loaded with sandwiches and stuff. It was delicious. I complimented her on the meal.
"Hey, I got them so they can run the computer complex. They decided to become gourmet cooks on their own. One I heartily appreciate." Cloudburst simpered nicely. It looked like she had been practicing.
"Well, yeah. We had to eat each otherís cooking. And listen to the bitching. Learning to do it right was easier."
"Fran, I checked out your two ponies. Their form sucks. I know you canít do much about it, but you should know. Youíre going to have problems in the heavy sulky youíre signed up for." That was Donna, to the point.
"I figure youíll lose at least fifteen, possibly twenty form points. Thatís just for your pony. I donít know about your form as a driver."
First I had heard that my form also counted. "Damn. That race is in two days. What can I do?"
"Well, Iíve got a list. I figure we can get at least five of those points back. The rest are a lost cause in the timeframe. If you want to get the rest of them back, youíre going to have to learn how to train them right."
"Huh? I thought you people were the major trainers?"
"We are. Just because its instinctive with us, doesnít mean that you canít learn. Itís just going to be harder."
"Instinctive? Iíd never heard that."
"Like walking or talking. The instincts make it all but inevitable, but we still have to learn it. Since we learn it as adults, we know exactly what we do and why we do it. We can teach it."
"I never imagined. How much and how long"?
"How long? Two to three months. How much? No idea."
Pretty Lemon said, "Check with the business office. Theyíll put a time and materials together, and then gouge you on markup."
"Iíll have to talk it over with mom and dad, but I think youíve got a deal."
I said my goodbyes. As I was leaving, I heard the Lemon giving her herd orders.
The next day occurred on schedule. Iíd given myself plenty of time, in case I had to get Green up. As it turns out, I had to. Dad had put her down in approved fashion, hogtied on her mat. I woke her up, got her out of the rig, and chased her into the bathroom. "Shower, then girl mode. Get me breakfast while Iím cleaning up."
She showered, and then I showered. She had a tasty breakfast for both of us when I got out. We caucused. I needed to leave Green for my folks; they needed her more than I did. I found out where the meeting was.
Just enough time to check on the ponies. I poked my head in, and found the training team hard at work. Our two were already on their stands, sucking down their mash. I waved. Dreammaker batted her eyes. She wasnít going to try to whinny with mash in her mouth.
Over to the meeting place at the executive offices in the main dome. Same room as before, the restaurant with the tables arranged against the walls. Two ponies I didnít know, and two I did, were circulating serving food and drinks. They were dressed in leather versions of a cocktail waitress uniform, except for the bridle and ball gag. The two I knew were from the Lemonís herd. I found out later that the other two were Rainbow and Blue Waters, both from Leoís herd.
What surprised me was that the meeting worked. There was a very frank discussion of recruiting, training, sale and conditions both in the communities and with private fancierís herds. That later meant me. Then a discussion of legal requirements. That meant mostly Sharon and me; McWhip simply wasnít that up on the details. Horst and McNab weighed in with the EC view of things. They were shocked when they realized that we really hadnít been doing kidnapping for three years. They wanted our system, yesterday.
Leo explained that there were two problems, one very hard, one negotiable. The hard one was that some components were in critically short supply. They were hand made; there were only two people in the world that could make them. Both in the room, as it happened. Horst might have another who could be trained.
The other problem was political. Any national security agency would sell their collective mothers to get it. We had a hard and fast rule against using it for any form of espionage, either industrial or political. If it ever got out, the reaction would destroy us. Totally.
Leo decided to hold an all US owners meeting in three days. Horst and McNab got it expanded to include all EC owners as well. That was almost everyone.
Chapter 9. Training.
I beat it back to the apartment complex after the meeting. I was just in time to find Donna taking Dreammaker out to the track to check out the heavy sulky. One of the trainers was with her as driver. The trainer headed back; I was drafted as driver. Made sense.
She watched as I got her secondary harness on, and hitched up the sulky. I took it all the way to the starting line without comment. The Donna took out the starters pistol, and fired it.
Two steps down; she stopped us. We tried it with the sulky three more times. She stopped us each time.
Then, she had me unhook Dreammaker from the sulky, and started her out solo. I had never seen solo, and neither had Dreammaker. Donna made it very clear that she was to turn at ten feet and come back.
Starters pistol. I almost expected Donna to throw it down on the ground and stamp on it. However, she simply pointed at the starting line. Dreammaker marched up and knelt on it.
"Fran, you want to learn training. For today, all you are going to do is a running comment on what you see Dreammaker doing, and all flaws in her form."
"Dreammaker, you will not listen to Fran. You will tune her out completely." Dreammaker whinnied and stamped her foot twice.
The next hour was intense. Donna went through that start motion by motion. She had Dreammaker do it piece by piece, fast, slow, backwards, stop in the middle and reverse. I had to describe what I saw happening. Donna would correct me by pointing out what I missed. Twice. The third time, if I missed it, I got hit with the prod.
That startled me so much I almost balked. I was an owner, not a pony! Then I heard the whine go up to level two, and I started my comments going. Donna shut off the prod.
By the end of the hour, Dreammaker was coming up on the start as smooth as silk. Donna called a halt. "An 8, possibly an 8.5 on the start. Much better than the 4 we started with. Take her in, put her on her stand, and get her fed. Trotting booth next, then another session this afternoon."
We scheduled it.
"Between now and then, I want you to watch at least two practice sessions. And make notes. That wasnít entirely horrible for a first session, but your eye needs improving. Drastically."
I got her on the stand, and relayed Donnaís orders. Then I headed back upstairs. Mom and Dad were up, and were finishing breakfast.
They were surprised that I had already put in a four-hour day. Dad harrumphed a bit about my attending the policy meeting, but he didnít argue, especially when I pointed out that there was an all owners meeting in a few days. He got real interested when I told him what Donna was doing with Dreammaker. They headed to the track, taking Green with them.
I spent some time playing with the computer setup. I wanted to see if I could get a spare viewpoint on some of the ponies. I remembered Donnaís assignment. I found that I could. Then I went over what Donna had done with Dreammaker. My one and only biology course was way behind me, but I remembered a little about musculature and bones. Time to hit the internet.
Then the hour was up, so I came back down to see Dreammaker put into the trotting booth. Donna was there. She was looking at Dreammaker trotting with single minded intensity. I came up, and Donna asked me what I saw.
After a moment, I saw it. Movements that should have been freely swinging were being pushed. I told Donna. She walked over to the controls, and changed the settings. The trot speeded up slightly. Dreammakerís movements flowed better.
We went through that exercise at all of her paces. Donna made slight adjustments in each one. In all cases, she was running easier.
In the third session, she had Dreammaker pulling a cart instead of the sulky. I found out quickly enough what that was about. She got in behind me, and we spent the next hour on rein work. She told me to use the whip for the forward speed signals, rather than the standard voice commands. After the first two strokes, she told me to stop.
"Fran, that whip work was atrocious. And there is no excuse for it. I want you to practice an hour a day until you can tickle her ass without leaving a mark. Practice on something else first. Tin cans, playing cards, it doesnít matter. But the go faster strokes should not leave a mark. Ever."
We spent some time associating the anal buzzer with the go faster commands. Eventually Dreammaker got it, and began moving faster with just a touch of the button.
The fourth session was all about making the final turn to the judges stand. Donna only worked on Dreammaker part of the time. She worked on me the rest. I had no idea that I could gain or lose points by how I got out of the sulky to stand behind Dreammaker facing the judges.
Eventually we were as ready as we would ever be.
Donna transferred Dreammaker down to a cell in the arena in the morning. She rode, I walked. The visitorís cells came with a stand with an adjustable pole. I mounted Dreammaker on her stand, and gave her a mash ration. She sucked it down slowly. It was obvious she knew there was a race on. She could hardly have missed it; Donna and I had talked enough about it in front of her.
I pushed her stand out to the harnessing area on the track. I got her off of it without mishap and got her harnessed to the sulky. We were at post position eight, in a field of ten. I had this awful suspicion, so I made certain that she marched up to the starting line in exquisitely good form. And I paid attention to how I got into the sulky and lay down. As it turned out, I was right. They were judging us on form approaching the starting line.
I started focusing on the race. Darned if I didnít feel Donna behind me, holding that damned prod. No way she was there, but it helped my focus wonderfully.
The starterís pistol came exactly as it should. A total surprise, but yet with the flow of inevitability. Dreammaker rose up and leaped forward. So did the other nine ponies. Well, they tried. The two on my right made it with perfect form. The field on my left didnít. A quick check showed that the pony in lane 7 had stumbled, so I moved over.
I decided to try to get out ahead of the field, so I buzzed Dreammaker to get her to speed up. The honey remembered the non-standard signal, and shifted gears. That got us to the third lane before the turn. A quick check. Nine and ten were right behind me. We went around the first turn, with the inner two lanes pulling out a bit. The field was falling behind. I managed to get Dreammaker into the second lane. Nine and ten flew past me. I didnít worry, they were local ponies, and worked out daily with a lobo-ra. No way I was going to win over them, donít waste time trying. Then there was a slot open on the rail, and I moved into it.
Thatís the way we finished. Fourth out of a field of ten at the finish line. I pulled Dreammaker over to the judgeís stand, and the dear totally surprised me. She hit the line with what looked like perfect form. I paid attention to my form as I got out and stood behind her.
A moment later, the final postings were up. We got third place. We more than made up the two seconds at the finish line on form.
We peeled off of the judgeís line in order, and went back to the harnessing area. She went down on one knee perfectly. I took off the extra harness and took out the bit. Then I did something I had been thinking about for some time. I held a sugar cube in front of her face. Darned if the dear didnít grin. Then her tongue shot out, and she picked it up and swallowed it. I held out the ball gag, she opened her mouth wide, and I installed it.
Mom and dad hadnít come down, so I marched her back to the visitors cell. Donna was waiting for me. We saddled her, and Donna rode her back while I walked.
On the way back, we ran into Sharon. She wasnít looking too happy.
"Hey, Sharon. Whatís the long face?"
She whirled. "Oh, Fran. Iím being blocked. Thereís stuff I need that I canít get to. And nobody will help." She looked like she was about to cry. Switches will do that to you every time. Or at least, some will.
"Now, I distinctly heard Leo say you had access to anything you needed. Come on up to the apartment and weíll check it out."
I headed toward the tunnel to the Executive housing block. "I canít go there. My pass wonít allow it."
I stared at her in shock. "Sharon, get your dom part in control. NOW!" She shifted to something much more self-assured.
"Good. Thereís the guard station. Letís deal with it."
We marched up as if we owned the place. I handed the guard my ID card. He stuck it in his reader. "Ms. Donaldson, what can I do for you?"
"Ms. Samuels seems to have an authorization problem. I distinctly heard Leo say she was to be given access to anything she needed for her investigation. But it doesnít seem to have happened. Can you tell me why?"
"Hum. Well, her access has been restricted by order of the Chief of Security. Potential conflict with the security of the community."
"Well, I can see why he would think so. Sheís an FBI Special agent." His eyebrows went up. Then he relaxed a bit.
"Letís call Leo." I pulled out my cell phone, and punched in Leoís emergency number.
"Leo here. Oh, hi, Fran. Can this wait a couple of minutes? OK. Call you back in ten."
"Leo will call back."
We watched the next race start off. It was a five-mile riding style endurance race. More suitable for a marine forced march than ponygirls, but then, these were in spectacular condition.
Leo called back when they had gotten off to a good start. He approved the access upgrade. We waited for it to come through.
The guardís eyebrows shot up, "Well, class 2 access to the Executive block. Personal authority of the Managing Director."
"What does that mean?"
"Well, there are certain buildings she canít go into. And it means my boss is pissed as hell. If he wasnít, that "personal approval" code wouldnít be on it."
"Is one of the restricted buildings the one with the Lemonís apartment?"
"That wonít do. Thatís also my building. I think we need to talk to your boss directly."
He gave me his code. I punched it in. He got huffy right away.
"Hey, slow down. From what you said, I take it you havenít looked at the complete dossier?"
"No, just the job title. Letís see. Hum. I see. OK, Iíll approve, with restrictions. Put your phone on speaker." I did.
"Ms. Samulson. I apologize for taking a shortcut and not looking at the complete picture. Iíll approve most of the accesses Leo wants. There are some I wonít approve, but I think that youíll have enough to do a professional job. Letís see. Youíve got unrestricted access to the main dome, the residential dome, and the Executive dome. Restricted civilian access to the Training Block. All restricted means is that you canít wander around without an escort until you can demonstrate you know your way around. Also unrestricted access to the data net when in the company of Ms. Donaldson, or one of the senior members. Otherwise, youíve got standard civilian access. Iím going to change that. The list is Leo, Alice, Pretty Lemon and Ms. Donaldson. I think they know what you need to know."
Sharon looked shocked. Then she brightened. "Thank you."
"Thank you, Miss Samuelson. What I donít need is a feud between me and the managing director."
"By the way. Fran, would you happen to know Senator McWhipís daughter?"
"Carrie? Sheís got the reputation of being pretty uncontrollable. Whatís she done now?"
He told us.
"Oh, my. Her parents canít control her either."
"Just what I need. Iím awfully temptedÖ but thatís lady or the tiger. Well, hope springs eternally."
"For cover. If youíre thinking what Iím thinking, Iíll mention it to the Senator when I see him."
"Would you? Iíll make the reservations."
He hung up. We headed up the tunnel and elevator to the Executive block.
Donna took Dreammaker to her cell. The training team got her on her display stand, and gave her a funnel full of mash. The last we saw, she was contentedly sucking it down.
Sharon and I headed upstairs. Mom and Dad werenít home; I didnít expect them for a couple of hours, until after the races at least.
I gave her the Cooks tour: Sitting room, bathroom, kitchen, Blueís room, my bedroom and workroom, the master bedroom. There was another unused room. I looked at it speculatively.
"Iíd need to check with mom and dad, but Iíd like to move you in here. OK?"
She grinned, "If I canít use the comp except with you present, it makes it convenient."
"Well, I guess food is next." She headed for the kitchen. I frowned after her. Then it dawned on me. Let it develop until it was ripe for discussion. I headed into the workroom and sat down at the table.
She came in with a tray for one. Time to discuss relationships.
"Sharon. Listen to me. You are NOT my submissive. We donít have a contract. And we wonít have, because I have no real use for a switch. Iím too dominant."
I think that some piece of you has interpreted the last few major interactions with me as a dominant taking care of her submissive. Sorry about that, but Iím not going to tone down. If it pleases you to act as a submissive around me, Iím going to take some advantage of the fact. If it doesnít, itís not going to bother me at all."
She had sunk to her knees. "Iím going to set a few rules and expectations. No negotiations, because you donít have any contract to act submissive."
"Rule 1. Get your ass up on the chair. NOW."
She got. Then she stared at me with wide eyes. "Youíre acting according to the general BDSM rules we mostly share. BUT, we donít have a contract. If we had a contract, and you were one of my maids, then what you did would have been appropriate. Maybe. But you made two mistakes. Tell me what they were."
She frowned. "I didnít ask you what you wanted."
"Thatís one. If we had established expectations, what you did would have been correct. As it is, you should have asked. Whatís the other one?"
She frowned some more, "I didnít get any for myself?"
"Exactly. If it pleases you to get me a snack when I want one, Iím not going to argue. It pleases me to be served. But you arenít under the BDSM rule set."
"Rule 2. All household tasks around here will be taken care of by Green Rivers. Itís her job. It isnít yours. You rank her. Period."
"Rule 3. There is no rule 3."
She looked thoughtful. "OK, I think I can live with that."
I reached for my phone. "Housekeeping" I muttered. Then "No, dammit, I did it again." I punched in the code for dad.
"Hi, Dad, I want to move Sharon Samuels into the spare room. Yes, sheís the FBI agent that was on the swat team. Leo wants to give her full access, and security wants someone to keep an eye on her. We compromised; Iím one of her minders. Itís simply more convenient having her here."
"Well, of course. Sheís a cute chick. If she wants to share my bed, Iím not going to say no. But Iím also not going to push it. Iíd be just as happy with Green, I know thatís in her job description."
"OK, youíll meet her when you get back. You want what? I just told her that was Greenís job. OK, Iíll ask, but Iím not going to change the order. If she wants to, OK."
"He wants dinner on the table, right? OK by me, just ask him for the menu."
"She says its ok Ė whatís the menu. OK, Iíll pick one. What time? OK, Have fun."
She looked at the menu and the time. "Iíd better get the roast going." She headed for the kitchen again.
I called after her. "Set the table for four. Green is serving. Not you."
I arranged the transfer of her stuff with housekeeping. It got here in an hour. Seems housekeeping really wanted more apartments.
We got down to the computer. The first thing I wanted to do was pull up Dreammakerís acquisition file. When we found it, we both laughed outright.
"That pony of yours must be in hog heaven."
"Sure seems like it." Dreammakerís file showed that she really wanted only three things out of life. Running, bondage and sex. She had almost killed herself twice with self-bondage. She absolutely loathed having to have a job to support her hobbies. Her apartment was a mess, it seemed that she also didnít care for housekeeping. Or cooking. Or laundry.
The other thing it showed was that she had badgered the poor man into disclosing a lot more than he usually did. I wouldnít be too surprised if the file was enough to make the indenture she signed valid under the grandfather clause.
We got a lot done. About a half hour before mom and dad were due home, she headed for the kitchen to do final prep on dinner. I headed out to see if anybody was home across the way. ThunderBolt was in.
I asked her to set up a surveillance program on Sharon, per Security. I didnít want them seeing it first. She set it up, and said sheíd have to tell the Lemon. I said I never expected otherwise.
Next, downstairs to the McWhipís apartment. The Senator and his wife had just gotten in. His daughter was nowhere in sight.
We chatted. I told them about Sharon. He liked the resolution. Then I asked him if he had heard the latest on his daughter. He hadnít. I told them. The look they gave each other suggested that sainthood was nowhere in sight. I mentioned that Security had it up to here with dear Carrie. They looked at each other again.
"Whatís Security planning on doing?"
"Well, sheís just one word away from discovering how a ponygirl feels. From the inside." This time the looks were of unutterable relief.
"The Security chief. Yours. Or mine. Security insisted on putting me on the list."
"Whatís the drill?"
I called security. "I believe you have a training pickup out on Carrie McWhip? Yes, I know itís on hold. Whoís on the release list? The Senator? OK."
I handed him the phone.
"Do it." He handed it back to me.
"And call me when itís done. I think we want to watch the first stages."
Security said it was in progress. They would call both of us.
A few minutes later, Orientation Planning called. They wanted to know what we wanted to do to her. I said, "Huh?" They explained.
"Senator, they want to know what we want done after she finishes training. Do we want to just scare hell out of her? Do we want her packaged and delivered to someone specific? Put up for auction? Kept as a community trainee? Kept for internal use?"
"Fran, Iíd love to have her put up for auction. But I donít think I can get away with it. Tell you what. Lets set it up for delivery after training. If we donít get around to specifying, will you accept her?"
"Hum. Well, I may have finished my trainerís training. She would be good to work on. I donít care about her; she exhausted my patience a long time ago. And if a miracle occurs, then we can release her."
"Iím not holding my breath. Sheís on parole for four different sentences. Nobody wants to jail her."
I almost asked for the docket numbers. I stopped just in time. This would make great practice for Sharon. Scare the hell out of her, what this system could do.
"But why do you think we want to watch?"
"Well, two reasons. First, sheís your daughter. Regardless of how fed up you are with her, I think you need to. Second, remember the two things you donít want to look at the manufacturing process too closely?"
"Sausage and laws. I see. We all need to see sausage made."
"Thatís why youíre here, Senator."
Chapter 10. Dinner.
When I got back downstairs, Mom and Dad were home, and everybody was looking either confused or exasperated. I fixed Dad with a look. He had been trying to give Sharon orders. As usual, he backed down first. It had to be mild hell when your daughter out-doms you.
Letís get it going. "Green, have you ever done high style serving?"
Turned out to be no. I knew Sharon had.
"Sharon. Your job is to coach Green. You will coach her until she serves the roast to mother. Then you come back here and SIT DOWN. She will serve you. You will not touch any serving dish. Have I made myself clear?"
They looked stunned for a moment. Then Sharon rose to the occasion, and motioned Green into the kitchen. She followed. Dad held the chair out for Mother, and we sat down. Green came out a moment later, and put the first course, including the roast, on the sideboard. Then she cut it, and started serving it. Sharon had switched into dominant, which was the whole point of the exercise.
We got the dominance hierarchy straightened out. Then I explained about Carrie. "Sharon and I are going to watch her go through Orientation and the first stages of training. If you want to, you can, but itís not required. The McWhips will join us. So itís going to be a late night."
They decided to opt out. They didnít want to know how sausage is made. I could understand that, from a couple of hints I had been given. The rest of dinner was a pleasure. We discussed the races. They congratulated me on my third place. I put the credit squarely on Donna, first, and Dreammaker, second.
Then I shared what I had found out about Dreammaker. We all got a chuckle out of it, including Green. It seems she knew several girls like that, who had decided not to come out after their trainee period.
Chapter 11. Orientation.
We were all feeling mellow after dinner. Good service and good conversation will do that for you. My phone rang. It was the McWhips. Carrie had come home before being snatched. I called Orientation Planning. They were ready whenever she showed up. Seems Security couldnít wait; they had the Orientation team on alert.
I picked up my prod, and headed downstairs. The Senator opened the door. They were in the middle of a screaming match. I just said hello to the Senator and his wife. Then I pulled out the prod, and stunned Carrie. She went down without a struggle.
Just then, security showed up, and wrapped her up. They put a leather belt around her waist; it buckled in the front, and had several rings in back, including two big ones in the center, one on top and one on the bottom. Then they got cuffs on her wrists and ankles, and locked the wrist cuffs to her belt. A hobble chain, an outside gag and a collar completed the ensemble. She wasnít completely immobilized; but she wasnít going anywhere fast enough to matter. Not with that hobble.
She came to, and glared daggers at me. I looked at her while I flipped my prod in my hand. "Carrie. Everyone has totally lost patience with your antics. Youíre going to absolutely love being a ponygirl. If you go with it, youíll come out the other end with a possibly interesting experience. If you resist, youíll never come out the other end. All that will be left will be the pony. Your choice."
One of the security goons pulled her up. She wilted. I hit her with a level two prod. She screamed, but she stayed wilted. A few more hits with the prod, and eventually she got the point, and started walking where her leash was headed. Somewhere in there, she had shit her panties. Pity. We didnít bother cleaning her up.
We got to orientation about fifteen minutes later. The orientation team had gotten there, and had lined up an interesting assortment of stuff on a table. The team leader was named Molly. She motioned us to the back, where we could see, but would be out of the way.
The security goons hauled her over to a square platform with a hollow metal pole in the center. They just picked her up, and set her down over the pole. They made certain that the hobble chain was at the back. She came down with her feet planted. The security goon brushed the back of her thighs with a level two prod. Her feet came back, and they set her down with the rings in the belt over the pole. One of the goons grabbed her ankles, and clipped the cuffs to short chains at the back. She was on her stand, and wasnít about to get off.
Not that it stopped her from trying.
Molly waited patiently, arms folded under her breasts, and looked at Carrie as if she had found a new species of insect under a rock. Eventually, the insect ran out of steam. Molly reached over and took off the gag.
That started her up again. Molly looked at her.
"At this point, Iím supposed to offer you some water so you donít dehydrate. It may be several hours before you get more water."
She kept at it. Molly walked over to the table, and picked up a big red ball with a bunch of straps attached to it. Carrie shut up.
"Open up." Carrie kept her mouth closed. Molly cranked her prod up to level three, and stroked her thigh with it. Carrie arched her back and screamed. Molly popped the ball gag into her mouth on the high point of the scream. Then she calmly fastened the straps. When she was done, Carrie was well bridled. The ball had a rod horizontally through the center. It also had a hole front to back that came a quarter inch above the rod.
She was still struggling. Well, the procedure said she should feel a level one prod. Molly cranked her prod down to level 1, and stroked a breast. Carrie quit struggling and looked shocked.
"Honey, that was a level 1. I think youíve already felt level 2 and 3?" Carrie nodded.
"Letís start this over. Do you want some water?"
Carrie nodded. Molly picked up a glass with a bent straw, and put the top of the straw through the gag. Carrie sucked on it. She drank about half of the glass.
"Done?" Carrie nodded.
Molly removed the glass with the straw.
"Now, at this point, I would normally gag you. However, youíre already gagged. From this time forward, you will not talk. Any attempt to talk will be punished severely. You will not say another word during your entire training period, and you may not say another word for the rest of your life. Understand?"
She picked up something that looked like a dentistís headstand. It bolted to the top of the pole. She pushed Carrieís head back to a 45-degree angle, and clipped her bridle to the stand.
Carrie looked scared. Good, things were now back on track.
"The next procedure is to remove your clothes." Molly picked up a dressmakerís power scissors. She cut Carrieís pantyhose precisely around the cuffs. She pulled her pants, pantyhose and panties out from under the leather belt. Two more precise cuts up the outside of the legs, and they came off like a shed snakeís skin.
Molly wrinkled her nose, put on a pair of plastic gloves, rinsed Carrie off, and wiped her down.
Then she pulled Carrieís shirt out from under the leather belt. Two precise cuts up the sides, and two more precise cuts up the sleeves to the neck left the shirt and the bra in two pieces that just fell off. Carrie was now naked.
Molly searched Carrie for any jewelry. She removed an ankle bracelet and two pairs of earrings. She cut off a necklace with a metalworking tool. It looked expensive. She looked at the people in the back. One signaled to her, she tossed it.
"Now, for the tags." She swabbed a red goop on her ears. "Antibiotic." Then she took up a punch and put a hole in each earlobe, high up by the cartilage. The punch created a neat sixteenth inch hole. Carrie screamed into her gag; that punch hurt.
Molly picked up one of the tags. It was a small circular piece of metal with a hole in the center. It had the number assigned to Carrie by the International Ponygirl Consortium engraved around the outside. She inserted a hollow post through the hole, and then put the assembly into the hole in Carrieís ear. A back plate completed the assembly. Then it was crimped with another tool. The tag was now one with Carrieís ear; it would not come off without tools.
She did the same thing to the other ear. Then she hung a little bell off of each ear. Usually, she did earrings, but she felt that Carrie deserved something a little special. It might remind her of her condition when she was trying to hold her head steady in the chair. She didnít like screamers. Most of the girls coming through these days knew what they were getting into, at least in a general way. They were easy to work with; she enjoyed chatting with them until she gagged them right at the end of the process.
The final step was to put rings in her breasts. These were thick, permanent rings that pierced the breast about an inch below the nipple. She smeared on a topical anesthetic, and then did the piercing in a highly professional manner.
Done. She wrapped a blanket around the girl, and wheeled the stand out into the corridor.
Molly and her crew cleaned up the setup. We trooped back to our apartments.
Outside the door, a scared girl contemplated her future.
Chapter 12. Surveillance System.
On the way back, I had a brainstorm. "Senator, Iíd like to kill two birds with one stone. Or possibly a whole flock."
"Yes, the surveillance system in this place has some interesting implications. Starting with serious national security exposures, and going on from there. I think you need to see it, since you will need to figure out how to deal with it so it doesnít cause problems. So Iíd like to invite you up to our apartment so we can go through it."
Mrs. McWhip asked, "And see the next step on Carrie?"
"Exactly. Thatís one of the things I intended to show you. From my workroom."
We got back. Mom and Dad had gone to bed, and had put Green down. I swore. To myself. Well, lets get her up. "Senator, have you ever seen what we normally do for security with the girls when they sleep?"
He hadnít, obviously. So I showed him, and got Green up. Once Green was up, she headed to the kitchen and fixed us a snack. The rest of us headed to my workroom.
I started by showing them exactly where Carrie was at present. Which was being pushed through the corridors on her stand. I left a screen tuned to her.
Then I had Sharon find the docket numbers on each of Carrieís suspended sentences. She started by looking shocked; then she started looking intrigued. We went on for a while; looking at various things we thought would be interesting. The Senator never got involved with actually running the system; he just asked one of us to look at something. Then he got down to cases, and started having us check on all kinds of things. I stopped him when he tried to go out of the U.S.
We wound up looking at lots of things that he thought were locked down tight. By the time we were done, he was looking very thoughtful.
Mrs. McWhip brought us back down to reality. It was getting rather late, and she had seen enough. Carrie was now firmly planted on her chair. The Senator came up for air.
"I thought this was going to be just about the Consensual Slavery Act. Now itís got national security written all over it."
"And it gets worse. I want you to have dinner with Pretty Lemon and Black ThunderBolt about Leprechaun Genetics. Thatís got biotech written all over it."
"Iíd heard of them. Nobody knows how they do what they do. Lots of very frustrated researchers out there."
"It comes out of the same box as this. And teleportation."
"State, Customs and Immigration."
We said goodnight, and the McWhips left.
I looked at Sharon. "Itís been a hectic day. Iím not up for a night of wild sex."
"Iím not either. All I really want is the friendly feel of someone in my bed."
Green chimed in, "Well, it looks like this sleeps three."
"Itís a deal."
I woke up to the sound of the shower. Both Green and Sharon had abandoned my bed. Green was obviously keeping her ear cocked, because she stuck her head in.
"Sharonís in the shower. Probably about ten minutes."
"OK, find out what she wants, and put something together for breakfast. You should know what I want by now." We got organized. By the time I got out, Sharon had begun to put together an investigative list. We caucused over breakfast. She decided to do the races, check conditions and talk to owners today, and finish putting her list together.
"You know you can stay afterwards for a while. Iíll be here for several days after. One to handle transport, and a couple more for working my pony with Donna."
Since I knew about the days off, I decided to start with Dreammaker today. The other pony was one of the ones that couldnít talk. When I got downstairs, the training staff hadnít gotten to her. I got her up and started the grooming process. Then I told her about the days off. You could have knocked her over with a feather. When I was done grooming her, I chased her out, got her dressed in girl mode, and took her upstairs.
Mom and Dad were up, and just finishing breakfast. I asked about their plans. It turned out that they just wanted to hit the races and the dressage competitions, and then go to the Owners meeting.
"OK, hereís what I want to do for today. All you really need is someone to boss around. Dreammaker will do that just fine. Even though itís her day off, she really doesnít have anything else to do."
Both of them looked at me. "We talked about her history last night. All she really wants to do today is to look around. Sheíll run errands for you with no problem Ė today. Once we get her documented, sheíll undoubtedly take off on her days off, but today she really doesnít have anything else to do.
"Sharon and I are going to be on the platform with Leo tonight. She needs to do quite a bit of investigation, and we both need to put together a presentation on what is needed to bring the owners into compliance with the CSA. And I want Green for that."
I called the McWhips. They were going to hit the races as well, and maybe talk to a couple of owners. The Senator decided to add himself to my party once I explained what we were going to be doing. His wife decided to take their trainee and hit the races herself. I suggested that she might like to join Sam and Lenore, and she agreed.
It was an intense day. We hit the races as the most likely place to meet owners. The Lemon had gimmicked my handheld so I could access their system. She hadnít gimmicked Sharonís the same way. I got a list of US owners that were present, and we started working the crowd. My third place yesterday got lots of attention. I blamed it all on Donna, who was Pretty Lemonís trainer. Sharon worked out a system for interviews. The Senator was invaluable. He was an easily recognizable public figure that reassured everyone that nothing disastrous was going to happen.
In between, we watched races.
Once the races were over, we headed back to the apartments. The McWhips joined us for dinner. The talk was politics, ways and means. The two trainees and Dreammaker chipped in, which bothered my parents a bit. It didnít bother the Senator at all. Being a slave under the CSA didnít keep anyone from voting. We worked out what we wanted to say. Then it was time to head back to the small arena.
Chapter 14. Showtime.
The small arena was packed. Leo, the Senator, Sharon, Horst, McNab and I were on stage. Leo led it off with admirable brevity. He pointed out that we were all in deep shit if we didnít get it together. Horst pointed out that the EC was making noises about something similar to the Consensual Slavery Acts, and the European contingent needed to get out ahead. McNab agreed with Horst. The Senator said he was dedicated to making the situation work with a minimum of pain for all concerned. Then it was show time.
Sharon and I had agreed to double-team it. She would do legal requirements; I would bounce examples, problems and solutions. The central issues were documentation and mainlining.
The talk rule was kind of obvious. Ponies who had been silent for too long were discussed at length. Then Horst threw out the problem of ponies that did not understand the local language. I made a note. Two of ours were from a different vendor, which might be a problem. I had noticed that I had to deal with them pretty much non-verbally but hadnít thought it through.
We got through it. Lots of people looked very thoughtful.
The next morning, Sharon wanted to go over acquisition. In depth. I thought it was a real good idea. The sooner we could get valid indentures, the fewer problems the owners would have going forward. So I set it up. Turns out I had beaten the head of Marketing to the phone by a couple of minutes. That killed most of the day. I shouldnít say killed, it was work that had to be done.
The next day, I kicked Dreammaker out of her cell again, got her into girl mode, and told her we were taking Fast Shine home. She would come back with me. By the way, did she speak Spanish? It turned out she did. So I had her try it on Fast Shine. The pony looked confused, then overjoyed. Finally, someone she could understand. So I took out the ball gag, and told Dreammaker to tell her about the talk rule. She tried. Only about half the muscles worked. I gave her a hug until she steadied down, then I had one of the trainers start packing up Shineís stuff. I made Dreammaker help. Finally, we got the platforms organized, with Dreammaker pushing them, Fast Shine in front, the tack hitched in back.
I called ahead, and then had us teleported into the middle of the exercise arena. Seeing Dreammaker in girl mode startled everyone. I called a complete staff meeting, all four trainers, all six ponies. I had Dreammaker translate for Fast Shine. It was quite a meeting. It turned out that Fast Shine didnít even know she was in the U.S., just that she couldnít understand anything. I explained the Consensual Slave Act, and that they would all get days off, beginning as soon as we could get clothing. They wouldnít be allowed out of the complex until we had them properly documented, however. If they couldnít figure out anything to do, I was certain the training staff could.
Chapter 15. Cloak(room) and Dagger II.
"Heard McWhipís back."
"Yep. That was the most masterful bunch of doubletalk Iíve ever heard. Never thought he had it in him."
"What was that Technical Corrections bill he mentioned? Never heard of it."
"Neither did I. But two constituents have already called supporting it."
"Oh, God. Not again."
"Heard a rumor his daughter decided to become a ponygirl."
"Probably with an assault weapon pointed at her."
"Whatís a ponygirl?"
"Iím afraid weíre going to find out."
Chapter 16. Sharon.
The end of the Gymkhana arrived. Time to put everyone back. This was easier than getting them here; we could trust staff to get them on a teleport stage, properly sedated. I worked it, mostly to get problems resolved with the VIPs. Alice and the Lemon were on call, but we didnít need them.
The next day, Sharon, Dreammaker and I were the only visitors still there. We kept the apartment; it turned out it had been empty. There werenít that many takers for the apartment across from Pretty Lemon. Somehow, I understood why.
Sharon had been holding herself together by sheer willpower. She came unraveled at breakfast. She tried to out-submissive Green. I kicked her ass for her. It turned out that she had been getting more and more submissive for some time. Her undercover work had hurried the process along. The only way she was able to be dominant enough for the FBI was around other agents; they helped ground her. Staying dominant around me was almost impossible.
Eventually, she settled down. I told her to assume that nobody could wave a magic wand and fix it. Given that, what were the top three things she thought would hold her life together while she got herself back functional. That got her thinking. Eventually, all she could come up with was some kind of safe haven where she had a dependable anchor. But she didnít know what.
I looked at her speculatively. She could solve a couple of problems for me.
"Iíve got a proposition. You donít seem to think Iíve got two heads. In fact, I think we hit it off fairly well. If I stuck an indenture in front of you, would you sign it?"
She practically collapsed at my feet.
"GET YOUR ASS BACK UP IN THAT FUCKING CHAIR!"
I donít think she teleported. At least, I didnít see space warp.
"Tell me why I want you. If you put anything even mildly altruistic in there, Iím going to whap you one." I took out the prod.
"As a maid?" she looked like she was going to break down again.
"Well, sometimes. When Iím home, motherís staff does for me just fine. I hate to take one of them with me when Iím traveling, so you can expect to be my traveling maid. But probably not in uniform, and not under that name."
"I know a lot of BDSM people."
"Well, maybe. Contacts usually come in handy. So itís on the list, but itís not really central. Another?"
"Almost. Asking you to betray departmental secrets is out of bounds. But FBI is simply another form of security, and I can always use a good security person. Another?"
"I know this place?" She was beginning to get clearer.
"Good one. Iím going to come back here for a training course. I could do for myself, but I would really rather not. And I really donít want to take one of motherís maids. They know you, you know them."
"Really, though, the reason I want you is that you are several cuts above the usual run of servant. Sure, Iíll use you as a maid on occasion. I like to be served, and if thereís no one more suitable, youíre it. But I couldnít even begin to train any of motherís maids for what you did with the system. I can tell you to do something, within reason, and expect you to either get it done, or come up with a coherent list of resources you need to do it."
"You need a stable environment to put yourself back together. Iím willing to supply it for you. When you think youíve got yourself together, and youíre ready to move out, weíll discuss it. We can dissolve the indenture any time."
"Iím not going to stick one in front of you right now. Tell me why."
"Uh. Oh, Iíve got a prior commitment. I need to wrap this up."
"Exactly. You can trust that I will be here, well, at home, when you wrap it up. Hand in your resignation, head down, and weíll sign the paperwork. You donít even need to clean up your old life, just have everything in order so my people can tidy it up and finish paying bills."
She began to cry, so I held her until she finished. When I let her go, I saw the highly competent person who had probably been there before the undercover assignments had ruined her.
"One more thing before you go. Think about this. When you sign, I want to register you with the IPC. Tell me why I want to do that."
She looked real startled. Then confused. Then she confessed she didnít have a clue.
"There are a number of reasons. One is that you get ear tags instead of a collar. They can be concealed by jewelry. Another is that Iíll see you get the metabolic boost. I intend to get that for all my ponies, and keep them up to level."
"Your primary assignment is going to be assisting any of the owners who want it on compliance. For that, it will be very useful if you know what one of our ponies does from the inside. That doesnít mean the six-month training course here. A lot of that is to get their head pointed straight for a lifetime of full time pony bondage. You donít need that. What will be useful is getting the daily routine solid. Then Iíll train you for dressage and cart, as time permits. Iíve got no intention of ever racing you, and I will probably never show you."
She laughed. "That should be fun."
"I thought you might like it."
She headed for the workbench, and started putting her report together, making notes of issues that needed to be resolved, and holes that needed to be investigated. She was going to be an incredible addition to my staff.
Chapter 17. Golden Spitfire.
Iíd just gotten back from the advanced trainers class when I got the call.
"Ms. Donaldson. This is Marketing at Ponygirls. When can you accept delivery of your new pony?"
Iím afraid I was baffled for a couple of seconds. Then it dawned on me. "Thatís Senator McWhipís daughter?"
"Yes, it is."
"Can you hold her for a couple of days? And send me the training records, please."
We had just moved into the new ponygirl complex on the estate, and were getting everything moved from the old complex and settled. The new complex had twenty cells, a number of arenas and a track. The stands werenít big enough for a match, which suited us. Mom and Dad thought the extra cells could be used for boarding other peopleís ponies.
The training record arrived. It was midway between what I had feared, and what I had hoped for. It had taken four three day sessions in the chair to get her head pointed in some approximation of the right direction. After that, she made reasonably steady progress, with sessions in the chair becoming farther apart and shorter. Unfortunately, she hadnít finished the process of conquering herself. I was tempted to ask them to keep her for another three months.
I got Dreammaker and the staff together, and we made some plans.
She arrived the next day, nicely packaged, together with her tack. I wasnít present. Normally, itís a good idea for the pony to see her owner when she comes out of the packaging, but this time, I wanted to do it a bit different. I had Dream stand in for me. My training staff got her tack stored in her new cell, and got her onto her display stand without incident. Dreammaker did the welcoming incident up proud. About all Carrie got out of it was her new name, Golden Spitfire.
It suited her. The golden came from the beautiful golden blonde hair. It exactly complemented her complexion and her eyes. None of the three was what she had started with. Leprechaun Genetics had done a complete makeover on her, at my request. She knew about what had happened, she could hardly have missed it, except possibly the eyes.
The next morning, Dreammaker groomed her, told her the household talk rules, and told her that if she so much as thought about asking for release, she was going to get chaired for four days. She was going to talk to the owner first.
After grooming, Dreammaker had chased her into girl clothes. "Same talk rules, kid. Youíve got an appointment. Talk to me about anything you want except your future. Your owner will tell you that."
She walked into my office, Dreammaker following. Her expression of shock when she saw me was priceless. They hadnít told her word one about where she was going. All she knew was that the staff around her spoke American English. Dreammakerís presence could have tipped her, but she hadnít been paying attention to the racing card. Dreammaker stood behind her with her prod out, but turned off.
Once she got over the shock, she looked both scared and relieved. She sat down. I donít think she noticed the other woman in the room.
"Golden Spitfire. I think the name suits you. So does your new look. Youíve got a choice. The Consensual Slavery Act mandates it." I handed her a clipboard.
"Thereís an indenture with my name as owner, backdated to when you began training. Thereís also a release form dated today. Both are waiting only your signature. You can sign neither. You can sign both. You can sign only the indenture. Iím going to tell what will happen for each choice."
"The woman behind you to your left is Marshall Stevenson. If you chose not to sign either form, or if you sign both, she will take you to begin the four suspended sentences you have against you. They will run sequentially. With time off for good behavior, you should get out somewhere on the far side of forty. And you will not serve them in a country club. Your record is too bad to warrant that."
"If you sign the indenture, but not the release, you will go back to your cell, and become one of my stable of ponygirls. I will condition you to not ask for your release." I saw the Marshall nod slowly. Gold started. "I intend to race you, and you will win your share of races. The normal working life of a ponygirl is about twenty years. When you are too old to be shown, I will give you your release. I have no use for a ponygirl that I canít show."
"What that means is that, regardless of your choice, you will be out on the street in about twenty years. The difference is that the prison system still does not do very much to insure that you will be able to support yourself after release. On the other hand, the CSA requires that I return you in condition to become a productive member of society. That tends to be interpreted rather liberally, but I take it very seriously. Dreammaker can tell you exactly how seriously I take it Ė she had asked me to put her down. I wonít do it. Her career choice is to become an advanced trainer. Iím going to send her out for the course in a few months, after things around here settle down."
"Why did you change the way I look?"
"Donít you like it?"
"I could be obnoxious, and say no. However, I do like it. I agree with you. It suits me. But that still doesnít tell me why you did it."
"Several reasons. One is that you are the daughter of a famous politician. He doesnít need the flack of having a number of wealthy and influential constituents seeing you in ponygirl races. If you choose prison, you donít need the flack of being known as the daughter of a famous and somewhat controversial politician. And because I thought you looked better that way. The owner to pony relationship wonít give you very much chance to know me well, but you will find out that I like beauty. All of my women have custom designed collars that set them off very well."
"Iím certain youíre familiar with the story of the minstrel and the kingís horse? No?"
"It happened this way. The minstrel offended the king. He ordered the man executed. Painfully. The minstrel said, "Wait, oh, king. I can teach your favorite horse to sing." So the king gave the minstrel a year. He started spending a lot of time around the stables."
"A friend asked him why he had done that. "You know you canít teach a horse to sing." "
"A lot can happen in a year. I could die. The king could die. Or the horse could learn to sing."
I looked at her, and handed her the pen.
She looked at me. She turned and looked at Dreammaker. She looked at the Marshall.
She smiled, "Maybe you can teach this pony to sing." She signed the indenture, and gave me the clipboard. We had reached an agreement.
Time passed. About five years of it. Golden Spitfire developed into a good, midlevel racing pony. She was never going to win the big races, but she won her share of the ones the next level down. Her discipline record improved. She only had to be chaired twice in the first year, once in the second, and not thereafter. She got her BA via the Internet. She made her career choice, and was making steady progress preparing for it.
It was her fifth annual meeting with her owner for career planning.
"It looks like youíve learned to sing."
Golden Spitfire looked confused. Then she laughed. "You know, Iíd forgotten all about that story."
"Iím going to tell you something. When the Marshal went back, she recommended that the court change your sentences to run concurrently, rather than sequentially. Thatís the more usual practice anyway. With time spent as a pony slave counted, including the training time at Ponygirls. So youíve finished two of them, and the other two will be over in the next two years."
She looked unutterably relieved. "So I can be out of here in two years."
"I thought that might be it. You havenít been giving your racing everything youíve got; youíve been slacking off."
She looked startled, like she had been caught out, then rebellious. Then she gave a big sigh. "Why should I? Youíre the one who put me here."
"It was a joint agreement. I was simply the one with the stunner. Five minutes later, and security would have stunned you." She looked a bit startled.
"As far as a reason goes, you have to find that for yourself. My reason for giving everything is that, win or lose, I know there are no "I could have tried harder" excuses. I simply like to win, and that is that."
"You are a good midlevel pony. You win your share of races, but they arenít the big ones. Until just now, I would have said that you werenít championship material. You may or may not be. But neither of us is going to know until you start giving it everything youíve got."
"Two years from now, Iím going to hand you your release form. I would have anyway. You can sign it, or give it back and tell me you want to be a career pony. What happens after that depends on whether you correct your attitude about giving it your best shot, no holds barred."
"If you decided to take your release, Iíll help bridge you into your outside career. Regardless. But if you havenít changed your attitude, thatís it. I donít make friends with slackers. There may or may not be a friendship there when we no longer have an owner and pony relationship. But you wonít have a chance to find out. If you change your attitude, weíll have a chance to find out."
"If you decide to hand it back to me unsigned, there are three options. If you havenít corrected your attitude, Iím going to put you up for auction. If you have corrected your attitude, but you still arenít championship material, Iím going to sell you. But we will work together to find a suitable new owner that you will be happy with. If you develop into championship material, Iíll keep you. I own and race ponygirls because I like racing ponygirls. And I like winning."
"This pep talk might be enough to get you going. I could kick start you with three days in the chair for slacking off. But Iím going to offer you an inducement. If youíve corrected your attitude by our next career planning session, Iíll put you on part time. Youíll have girl mode every day, except on the run up to races. Think about what you want to use it for."
"Now get your ass out of here and back to your cell before I decide to chair you anyway."
In the next year, she certainly tried. She won several races I would have thought she would have no chance in. And the last two were races that once would have been beyond her. I would never have entered her in them.
So when our next career planning meeting rolled around, I asked her how she thought she was doing.
"Not very well."
"Up to a point, I agree with you. You certainly havenít got the attitude change solid. On the other hand, Iíd say youíre well on the way. Youíve been winning races where I would have said you had no chance. Iíve even entered you in races that were over your head, and youíve either won them, or done quite well."
"So, I canít give you the reward I promised you. You havenít earned it. Quite. But I want to give you some reward. Suggest something."
"Iíd like to go to some parties outside. I canít now."
Whatís stopping her? "Oh, right. You want the curfew relaxed. Negotiate your days off so you can pick them. And someplace to store a wardrobe. Unless theyíre the kind of party where our street uniform would be acceptable."
"Youíve got it. Iíll add one thing. You also get to discuss your racing assignments with me. That means you can pick some youíd like to be in. Of course, that means youíre going to have to start looking at the field and learning how to handicap."
"That sounds like fun."
"One more thing. Iíll be monitoring your behavior at parties. If you get wild, youíll be chaired when you get back. That doesnít mean you have to act like Miss Wallflower. I named you Golden Spitfire for a reason. But watch your step."
In the next year, she steadied down. She wound up fairly popular at parties. She even got herself into several charity races with normal athletes. We had to do quite a lot of training for that. Solo for ponygirls isnít even close to a normal track event. The start is different, the end is different, and the uniform is different. So are the shoes. But it was very good advertising.
She got back into touch with her parents. The new look startled them, but they were happy to have a daughter that they could be proud of.
I expected our next career planning meeting to be the last. She surprised me. I handed her the clipboard with the release form.
"Youíve earned it, Gold. Iíd like you to stay, but if you want to leave, I expect we may wind up friends. If you decide to leave, you should know that your parents have set up a trust fund. It isnít the worlds biggest, but it will keep you going in moderate style if you keep a low profile. You can do whatever you want, as long as that isnít living the high life on the Riviera or Rio de Janeiro."
She looked at it. "Is there any such thing as a free ponygirl?"
I stared. Then I laughed. "There are several. But they are all in the Ponygirls community. Pretty Lemon acts as owner for training and races. I expect what you want is to keep racing, but get the tags out of your ears."
"Exactly. I donít know how to do it."
"I donít either. The basics are pretty clear. We can put a trotting machine in your apartment. I donít know that we need to work you daily to maintain form; two or three times a week should do it. Youíd need to go full time for a week or so before major races; that should get you back used to your display stand. And we still havenít filled up all twenty cells, so there should be one free. The big difficulty will be to get the owners on line. Arizona is already doing it internally, so the IPC shouldnít have any problem, except with the big international show. Unless nobody bothered to tell them, which is a distinct possibility."
"The real question is: why you want to keep racing?"
"Itís the only thing I have ever done well. Except raise hell. And look where that got me."
"Iíll run it past the stewards. Assume you canít have it. Whatís the next choice?"
She took a big breath. "I think Iíd rather race. The tags arenít causing as much grief as I though they might. And some of the career options after no longer being able to compete are interesting. Like trainer."
"Tell you what. Lets go with that while I do the politicking. Either way, Iím going to sign you up for the advanced trainer's course. If you stay with me, youíll get girl mode part time when you finish it; I canít afford to lose an advanced trainer just because some silly rule says you have to be in your cell on your stand to drink your mash."
She handed the clipboard back to me, with the release unsigned.