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 may contain adult themes, including a rather cavalier attitude toward sex. 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.

OK - now on to the story -------

A story of the Dodecahedron...

Chapter 1 - The Taking

Chrissie enjoyed her early morning jogs through the park. Birdsong and peace melded into the feel of her legs pumping, her breasts bouncing slightly, and her breath singing in her lungs. She raced around a curve, and almost fell over a woman who was letting her poodle crap all over the jogging path. She swerved to avoid the poodle, and ran straight into the woman’s waiting arms and chloroform pad. The woman put Chrissie down, none too gently, and inserted anesthetic nose plugs into her nose.

The poodle finished its job. The woman picked up Chrissie, and put her into her car trunk. Chrissie slept on as the car wended its way through traffic, blending invisibly with the rest of the cars on the street. After a few miles, she pulled through a gate into a wooded estate.

She lifted Chrissie out of the trunk, and hauled her into her playroom, where she put her onto a padded table. “Let’s see,” she said to herself. “First things first. Do I want her to watch, or do I just want her to discover what’s been done to her? Let’s let her watch this time.” So saying, she picked up a ball gag and deftly inserted it into the sleeping girl’s mouth. “Now, we tie her down and take out the nose plugs.”

“Mmmuuumf!” Chrissie started making noises as she came awake.

“There, there, it’s not going to be all right in the morning. Just calm down and let me get you undressed.” So saying, Lady Donna picked up a dressmakers sheers and proceeded to cut off Chrissie’s jogging shorts and panties. Her tee and bra came next, followed by her shoes and socks.

“Well, lookie here,” she waved the rags in front of Chrissie’s face. “You certainly aren’t going to need them.” So saying, she walked over and dropped them into a gas brazier. “Fire is so pretty, don’t you think?” she asked, rhetorically. “Let’s get the branding iron started.”


“What the fuck! They know I’m not to be disturbed!” So saying, she picked up the house phone. “This had better be important!” she snarled into it.

“Yes, mistress,” the voice on the other end quavered. “Master Jack called and said there would be an emergency meeting tonight.”

Nuts, she thought. What a way to screw up my day. Well, maybe a day of letting my victim terrorize herself will be an interesting change. “Start preparing for it. I’ll be up in a while.”

“What to do?” she mused. Suddenly she brightened. “This ought to be interesting. Let’s see. Plastic gloves and the cryptasthesia cream.”

“I bet you want to know what I’m going to do to you, don’t you, dearie?” she cackled. “This is going to be so amusing. I’m just going to rub this cream into your feet, ass and hands. Then I’ll let you run loose in here until I torture you to death tomorrow.”


“Tisk. I didn’t ask you for your opinion. That’s why you’re gagged. It’s so boring when you’re allowed to talk. You all say the same things. I’d paralyze your throat, but then I couldn’t listen to you scream. I do so like screams, especially when they begin to taper off at the end.”


“Another opinion, I presume? Oh, well, it really doesn’t matter if you learn better. You won’t be around long enough for it to make a difference. Well, that’s that. Time to release you.” So saying, she unclipped the straps and stepped back smartly.

Chrissie came up off the table in the flowing motion of a well-trained athlete. “YIIIIII!” she screamed as she landed on her feet. “AIIIEEEE!” as she fell to her hands. More screams as she fell face down on the floor and then tried to roll around, thrashing. She stabilized on her knees, and then sat. “EEEEIIII!” She came back to a kneeling position.

“Oh, my. You do learn fast, don’t you?” Lady Donna said. “Well, let’s finish this up. There’s a floor toilet over there.” She pointed. “Just squat and let loose over the hole. Food and water are here.” So saying, she picked up a pair of bowls with the word “FIDO” on the side, and put them on the floor. “I’ll just add a can of dog food, and then you’re all set until tomorrow. Enjoy yourself looking at the tools of the trade. Image how they’ll feel when I start in on you.”

“Well, duty before pleasure, as my mother used to say. Remember, you’re on candid camera.” Lady Donna turned and left. The solid door closed with a CREEAK of hinges that reminded Chrissie of a coffin nail. The snick of the lock sounded awfully final.

Chapter 2. I play an ace. It gets trumped

I eventually came back to some semblance of composure and took stock. She’d certainly been liberal with that damned cream of hers. My hands, feet and ass hurt when I tried to use them. How much? Let’s try it out. OUTCH! Just pressing my fingers together hurt like the blazes. My ass hurt when I tried to sit down. Not really critical; the last thing I needed was to sit on my ass and suffer. I also couldn’t lie down since she’d gotten my breasts and shoulders. My heels hurt when I put any weight on them, but the front of my feet didn’t. Walk on my toes and don’t touch anything? It couldn’t be that simple.

It wasn’t. I tiptoed over to look at the brazier. That iron was starting to glow. Well, silly, turn it off. When I tried to grip the valve, my hands felt like I’d stuck them in the fire. I asked myself, “Self, what can I do about this?” Myself answered, “Try self-hypnosis.”

Now, that was an idea. What I use for self-hypnosis is more of an internal discussion than anything else. I find out what piece of my unconscious controls what I want to do, and begin negotiating. Eventually, we reach an agreement. It’s very useful for punching through the wall at the end of a race. I like those gold medals and winner’s cups. Its agreement is very simple. I can’t do overdrive in training. It’ll only do it when it matters. If I try to push myself past the ideal training point, it will make me suffer. It seems to believe you can get lots of gain without any pain. It seems to work.

There is an old saying, “Never put your enemy in a situation where they have nothing to lose. They will fight like a cornered rat.” My internal resources were ready to deal. It looked like berserker mode would do me best, full steam ahead, hysterical strength. Rip the bitch limb from limb. I reached an agreement with myself. Myself wanted me to review my martial arts. I was puzzled a moment; I didn’t think Tai Chi was very useful for fighting. I was disabused of that notion real quick.

I practiced a while, making sure that any observer would think I was crazy. I remembered her remark about being on camera; I didn’t want her to catch on that I was preparing to take her out when she reentered the room.

Then the room started to spin around me and broke up into the most amazing montage of colors. I found myself floating in utter blackness. I could hear my heart beat and my breath come in and out. Sounds just died out without an echo.

I have no idea how long I was there. After a while, the light show returned, and I found myself lying on the floor in a room with a pair of men. They were dressed in white tunics and sandals, and had some kind of pretty, plaid collar around their throats.

“Well, Chrissie, I see you got here all right,” one of them said.

“The chemical Lady Donna used on you has been flushed out of your system,” the other one added.

“We need to put this collar on you, and then you go to orientation,” the first one said.

“You and what regiment of marines?” I snarled. They may have gotten rid of the chemical, but the adrenalin was still pumping away. I wasn’t in any mood to deal with these clowns.

“No marines. You can cooperate, or not. It’ll happen anyway. If you cooperate, you can have a nice vacation while we process you. If you don’t, you’ll spend the next few days, or weeks, in a cage. Your choice.”

That wasn’t worth discussing. He was wide open, so I attacked. Or rather, I tried to. I barely got my balance shifted to move toward him when something invisible grabbed my arms and twisted them behind my back. Something grabbed my head, and pulled my hair up. The collar the first guy held floated toward me and went “click!” around my neck. Then whatever was holding me let go, and I dropped to the floor.

“We allowed that, as an exercise in futility,” the first guy said.

“Cooperation will be rewarded, struggling will be punished. Severely,” the second guy said.

“We really don’t have any time budgeted for playing games.” The first guy said. “Are you ready to cooperate?”

“I don’t see I have much choice,” I muttered.

“Such enthusiasm,” the second guy said. “Well, come along to orientation.”

Chapter 3 - Orientation

Orientation was a big, bare room with a pretty, nude brunette sitting on her heels near the far wall, facing the center. She was so still I thought she was a statue.

“Hi, I’m Tina. You’re?” the statue said.

“Uh, I’m Chrissie.” I said as I sat next to her. “What is all this?”

Tina laughed. “You’re on the Dodecahedron. I’ll bet you’ve never heard of it.”

“Dodecawhat?” I said. “You’re right, I’ve never heard of it. First I got kidnapped, then I got tortured a bit, then I’m here with a pair of clowns that act like comic opera thugs.”

“Well, if you were kidnapped, then they are probably going to hold you for ransom. I’m a sex slave. My previous owner got tired of me, and sold me here.”

“Sex slave?” I’m afraid my voice squeaked. “Ransom? What is this place?”

“Somewhere on the far side of weird is all I know of it.”

Just then, another one of these guys in the white tunics and collars walked into the room pushing a naked woman with her arm twisted behind her back in front of him. “Sit!” he told her.

I started. The naked woman was my captor. As soon as he released her arm, she whirled and started in.

“Why you miserable pile of dog shit, what do you think you’re doing to me. I demand you return me at once, and thank you’re lucky stars that I don’t sue the balls off of you - if you have any.”

The man smiled. “A very pretty tirade, but not very original. You never learn, do you?” Donna’s voice rose in a howl of anguish, and she clutched at the collar that adorned her neck. Her screams took on a new note as her hands suddenly jerked from her throat.

She collapsed on the floor, and her screams changed to sobbing. She looked up, like she was going to say something, and then screamed again. This went on for several more times.

“She’s demonstrating one of the functions of her control collar”, the man said. “Right now, she’s being trained to not talk. Every time she attempts to say something, the collar gives her another jolt. And it’s not being gentle. Is it, Donna?” he asked, cruelly.

Donna screamed again. “See, she tried to answer me, and she got another jolt. It’ll be tuned off eventually, but if she keeps trying to talk now, she may get permanently conditioned, beyond her rather limited ability to work it through.”

The man turned on his heel and exited the room, leaving me speechless.

“Uh, Tina,” I said experimentally, “What would happen if I killed her? Right here and now?”

“They’d probably stop you in mid-leap. I don’t think you’d like the aftermath,” Tina said. “What did she do to you?”

“She’s the one that kidnapped me. She was going to torture me to death and leave the remains to torture the police a bit. She also let her dog shit on the running path.” I’m not certain which I was more upset about.

“Oh, my,” Tina said. “I suppose you can ask them if you can have her.”

Another man walked into the room. He was decorated in the same ubiquitous white tunic, sandals and checkered collar. I made a note to look up the designer. If I couldn’t have Donna, maybe the world would be improved by removing whoever created those abominable patches of clashing color.

“Ok, people. I’m here to fill you in on a bit of what is going on here. Listen up, this won’t be repeated. Donna here,” he gestured at the figure that lay panting on the floor, “is demonstrating one of the functions of the control collars you are wearing.”

“I’m going to demonstrate two other functions of the collar. Pure pleasure and pure pain. Chrissie, I’m going to use you as a demonstration.” I felt like I’d been dipped into boiling oil seasoned with Jalapeno peppers. The pain was so bad I almost couldn’t scream. Then the pain left in a wave, and was replaced by pure pleasure. It was so intense that it made a running high seem like deep depression. Then that receded, leaving me thoroughly wrung out and swaying.

“If I may ask?” Tina asked.

“Yes, you may. We have a little time while they are recovering.”

“Why did you do that to them? Actually to Chrissie, I think I understand about Donna.”

“Well, Tina, demonstrating this is part of orientation. I pick the victim based on who I think needs to learn from experience, as opposed to who can learn from seeing someone else go through it. I would have used Donna, except she’s still being conditioned not to talk. Chrissie tends to be in her head a bit much; she could use a dose of reality. Do I need to repeat the demonstration with you?”

“No, sir.”

“Good. Since the rest of you are back with us, let me continue. These collars have a lot of other functions. You may become acquainted with some of them personally. If you behave yourselves, you won’t.

“You’re going to a place we call Eden. It’s a holding area. You’ll be there until we want to do something else with you. It’s actually a pretty nice place, and if you follow what the supervisors tell you, you can have a very pleasant time.”

“Eden is pretty much self sufficient. You will have to spend a few hours a day working in the gardens growing your own food, but other than that, what few needs you have will be supplied. The only thing it isn’t supplied with is an overabundance of males. It’s pretty much a henhouse, although if you do want a male, they’re available.”

“The thing you can’t do is escape. Escape is literally impossible. The control collars enforce it. You’ll be punished if you try, and you won’t succeed.”

“The three of you are here for different reasons. Donna made her old environment too hot to hold her, so her associates paid us to take her off of their hands. It remains to be seen if she can learn enough to make herself useful, or if she will wind up in front of a pony cart, or in the medical research pool.”

“Tina was a sex slave. Her previous owner got tired of her, and sold her to us. She’s getting a vacation before we put her through touchup training, and sell her.”

“Chrissie was kidnapped by Donna, here. We’re handling her disposal so Donna’s former associates don’t appear in the matter.” I stared at him. “In other words, we’re holding her for ransom. We will negotiate with her parents. Otherwise, it’s a vacation for her, unless her parents don’t pay up. In that case, the most likely result is that she will become a sex slave. Really intelligent sex slaves are a specialty item, and they cost. We’re one of the few places that can train one without ruining her.”

“Any questions?”

“Eep.” Donna got a real weird look on her face.

“Good. You’ll notice that Donna tried to say something, and blocked herself before the collar had a chance to punish her for it. Not speaking wasn’t a conscious decision on her part; the block is now in her unconscious. It’ll dissipate in a few days unless we reinforce it. I’ll turn off the collar when she arrives in Eden. As long as she doesn’t piss one of the supervisors too badly, she will regain the use of her voice in a couple of days.”

“Follow me.”

We got up and followed him down a corridor, and then another, and then another. Suddenly, the world seemed to take an indescribable twist, and then we were in another corridor, lined with rock rather than wood paneling. The sun showed at the end of the passageway.

“Ok kids, out you go. There is a supervisor waiting for you when you exit. You won’t be able to come back in here until it’s time for you to leave. Chrissie, you’ll be able to talk with your parents during the negotiation.”

I felt relieved. We walked out of the passageway into the sunlight.

Chapter 4 - Welcome to Eden.

The green hills, blue lake and brown path before me looked like a bucolic picture postcard. The black, star filled sky with two things that didn’t look very much like the sun looked like something else again. Wherever we were, it wasn’t home. Somehow, I didn’t think we were in Oz, either. Crisp, clean air filled my lungs.

“Welcome to Eden, girls.” I jumped and spun around. The speaker was clearly in charge. She was maybe 5’6”, brown hair in a nicely kept pageboy bob, one of the ubiquitous multi-colored collars, a white tunic and sandals. Another pretty, bucolic picture that had me itching for a camera. The businesslike whip at her belt leant an air of authority, not that she needed one.

“Surprised you, didn’t I?” she chuckled. “I like to startle the new girls, it gets our relationship off on the right foot from the start. I run this chunk of the Dodecahedron, at least, as much as it needs running. Mostly, it doesn’t. Once you get into the routine, you’ll find it remarkably easy. Let’s see. Clothing next.”

I was surprised how much that white tunic and belt helped. The day just seemed that much brighter. The sandals seemed awfully familiar. Yes, I recognized the maker’s name.

“You miserable, flea-bitten bag of rotten flatulence, this has gone just far enough! You get me out of this before I take you miserable hide off inch by YYYYYIIIIIII!” Donna writhed on the ground. Silently.

“Tina, answer me a couple,” the supervisor said. “You think you could take her in hand without affecting your attitude?”

“Affecting my attitude?” Tina asked. “Oh, you mean obedience?”


“I’ve punished other slaves before when mistress wanted me to.”

“This won’t be exactly punishment. I want you to train her to like being obedient.”

“Now, that would be fun.” Tina looked like a shark examining a hapless swimmer. “What do I use for inducements?”

“Your imagination. I mean that literally. Pleasure is a soft color; pain is a harsh, red color. Imagine it applied to the appropriate body part. You’ll get the hang of it. Oh, one other thing. Don’t try it with anyone else; it won’t work, and you’ll regret it.”

Tina looked at her new toy. “On your feet, now!” Donna didn’t move. “YYYYIIIIII!” She was suddenly on her feet, panting. “Kiss my foot, bitch!” Donna stared at her like she was crazy. Another scream split the air. Donna fell to the ground, her head just inches away from Tina’s foot. “Kissy, kissy, now.” Donna flinched as she tried to back away. “Now, that wasn’t such a good idea, was it? Just bring your head forward, now. That’s a gooooood girl. Use your tongue to play with my toes, that’s very nice.”

I stared as Donna lay there on her stomach, licking Tina’s foot. Enthusiasm developed over the next couple of minutes, until she started moaning. Tina kept her at it until she arched her back and came with a scream of pure pleasure. “Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Get up, now.”

Donna lay there, not moving. Tina looked at her in speculation. Suddenly, her face got a look of concentration, and Donna began to rise from the ground as if she was a marionette being pulled on her strings, her face a study in contrasting ecstasy and disgust. Eventually, she stood before us; feet shoulder width apart, hands clasped behind her, back arched and a patently false smile plastered on her face.

“You didn’t really have to go through all that, now, did you, slave?” Tina asked.

Donna didn’t answer.

“I asked you a question, bitch!” Tina growled. “Answer me now!”

Donna didn’t answer again. AIIII! Donna screamed.

“I’m waiting, bitch.”

“No.” It sounded like Donna was forcing the answer through clenched jaws.

“No, what, bitch?”

“No, mistress.”

“That’s better,” Tina purred. Donna squirmed a little as if she was being petted. Her smile became a little less faked. “But you can put some more words between ‘no’ and ‘mistress,’ now, can’t you?”

“No, I didn’t have to go through that, mistress.”

Tina frowned. “What’s this ‘I’ shit?”

Donna turned white. “This one begs her mistress’ forgiveness, mistress. It won’t happen again.”

“Much better,” Tina said. Donna let out her breath and then stretched in place, a look of ecstasy on her face.

I stared at Tina and Donna in shock. Eventually, the shock passed.

“Are you going to do that to me?” I asked the supervisor, shakily.

“Not that way, no. And not if your parents ransom you. You’re intelligent enough to cooperate, she isn’t.”

“But... How?” I still wasn’t very coherent.

“Through the collars, of course. Tina’s collar is reading images directly from her brain, and translating them into sensations that Donna is feeling. Sooner or later, Donna will get tired of being yanked around, and she’ll start obeying orders. Then she’ll start looking forward to having orders to obey, and finally to having someone to order her around.”

“Well, kids. As much fun as this is, let’s get going. I’ve got more to show you before you settle in.”

We started on down the path, Donna following Tina two steps behind her and to her left, as if she was on a leash.

Chapter 5. The Meadow

The path opened into a largish meadow. I stared. There were young women everywhere. A group on one end seemed to be playing volleyball; another group was playing basketball, or at least playing at it, since there was only one basket. Another end was dominated by a cooking pit and hearth.

Then I noticed the six girls leashed to a hitching rack. At least, they looked like they were leashed. When I looked closer, I saw that they were more or less rigged out as ponies. They had hooves and tails! Their arms were twisted behind their backs, elbows together and forearms sticking straight up. Or maybe it was front legs? They seemed to have hooves instead of hands. Four of them were even colored like ponies, with various horse-type colors. All of their heads were encased in bridles. What I had taken to be leashes were actually reins; at least, they came from the vicinity of the mouth. I must have gaped like a fish.

“I take it you’ve never seen ponygirls before,” our supervisor said to me.

“Is that what they are?” I said, wonderingly. “I’ve heard the term, but I’ve never seen one.” She led the way over. When I got closer, I saw that there seemed to be two varieties. The four that had pony-type coloring had real coats, hooves and manes.

The other two had normal skin and wore boots that forced their hands and feet into the semblance of pony hooves. Their hair was cut to simulate a mane, but it wasn’t real close. On the other hand, I saw one of the ones with boots swish her tail like it was part of her. Then I noticed that five of them had real pony style tails, but one of them had what looked like a monkey’s tail.

“What’s the difference?” I asked.

“I’m glad you noticed that, Chrissie,” she said. “The four with real hooves are ours; they stay here and they are ponygirls full time. The other two will go back to Earth sooner or later. That limits what we can do with them. If we changed them as much as we do ours, they wouldn’t be marketable. They also wouldn’t be very happy about it.”

“I’m surprised you care,” I said, somewhat bitterly.

“That’s a natural reaction after what you’ve been through. We’re a very paradoxical people in a lot of ways. Happiness is up to you. We’re not going to go out of our way to make you miserable, but we’re not going to bend over backwards to please you, either. Remember that, it’ll save you a lot of grief.”

“As far as our four girls are concerned,” she continued, “they tried to join us. Our induction procedure is very stressful. Their minds broke under the stress. This is all they’re good for now. You’ll see a number of other people in similar situations. Sometimes their minds heal somewhat, and they can be given more responsibility, but mostly they don’t. This way they’re useful. Think of them as ponies rather than as girls, and you’ll get along fine.”

We’d gotten up to the hitching rack. “Take your time and look them over. We’re not in any real hurry.”

I did. The four girls with real hooves also had real manes, just as I thought. I looked at one closely. The hair on her head was fairly short and thick, like a pony’s coat. The mane stood straight up, in a strip about an inch wide. It started at the hairline on her face and came down the back of her neck to about the bottom of her shoulder blades. Now that I was closer, I could see that they also had pony ears. They came up to a point, and swiveled to pick up sound.

Her arms, or I should say, front legs, were fastened behind her, elbows touching and pointing upward. I looked at the front hooves curiously. They seemed to be fairly normal horses hooves, hair and all. Suddenly I realized what was wrong with the proportion.

“She can function on four feet?” I asked.

“Certainly. In fact, you’ll see them in four-footed mode later today. We shift them after they’re done working.”

I switched my attention to one of the ponies with the boots.

“Introduce yourself to her.”

I walked in front of her. “Hi, pony, I’m Chrissie.” She whinnied at me. Then she reached up with her head, nuzzled me a moment and nipped at my ear. I jerked back and stared at her. Then I burst out laughing, that was so like a horse! She gave me a pixyish grin and then did a real Heehaw!

“I see you like each other. She’s General Jinjur.”

“Complete with hatpin, I presume,” I said.

That got another Heehaw and a puzzled expression. Then the supervisor broke up laughing as well. “So that’s where the name comes from. It certainly fits!”

“I take it you’ve been around horses before?” she asked.

“I had a pony until I went off to college. Then I didn’t have enough time for her. I miss her.” I really did. Sometimes she was the only one that understood.

“How’d you like to work Jinjur this afternoon?”

“Huh?” I’m afraid I stuttered. “I’d like to. But...”

“What? You’re afraid of Jinjur just because she’s a girl that acts like a pony rather than a real pony? Treat her like a pony and you’ll get along just fine. That’s what she likes.”

I pulled myself together. “Yes. I would like that.” Now that I made up my mind, it felt right. I heard Jinjur stomp her hoof twice.

“Hear that? She wants you.”

I reached over and nuzzled her cheek. Then I froze as something tickled my leg and started coming up under my tunic. I leaped back and saw Jinjur’s tail in front of her. She gave a delighted laugh. I stared at her and then broke up laughing too.

Chapter 6. Work Shift

CLANG. CLANG. “That’s the lunch bell. You’re in the afternoon shift so you get lunch first.”

While I’d been playing with General Jinjur, the lunch crew had set lunch out on the tables. I headed over and fell into line. A fairly compact little blonde with a whip on her belt eyed me.

“You must be Chrissie,” she said. “I’m the afternoon shift supervisor. You can call me Amanda. Grab something and we’ll talk.”

I stared at her. Oh, right, she’d said I was on the afternoon shift. This was the boss. “OK.”

She smiled. “Grab a tray and we’ll talk.”

Lunch turned out to be vegetable soup and roast beef sandwiches and raw fruits and vegetables. I filled a tray and looked for Amanda. She was right behind me. We found a likely looking piece of ground and sat.

“I’ll bet you’ve got a dozen questions, haven’t you?”

“I guess. What’s the deal?”

“You’ve been told you’re here until your parents ransom you or they fail to, right?”


“Well, mostly you do whatever you want, within the general limits. Your dossier says you’re fairly smart; I shouldn’t have to spell out the rules in detail. Everybody works on one crew or another. The afternoon crew starts after lunch, does some basic agriculture and harvesting and does the evening meal. That is, harvest, prepare, cook, serve and clean up. The rest of the time is your own. You’ll take General Jinjur out with a cart for the harvesters.”

“Uh, right. I hope somebody shows me where the carts are.”

“I’ll do that. This is a real amateur show; the average stay is around two weeks. We get four or five new girls every day. Most of what I do is training. One word of warning. Eden is for women who don’t cause discipline problems. Give me any problems, and you’ll be somewhere else that you won’t like nearly as much.”

Uh, right. “I’ll be good. I promise.”

“I expect you will. Well, dump your tray, grab a carrot and meet me by the General.”

Carrot. Ponygirl. Right. Put carrot in ponygirl. I held up the carrot, and General Jinjur stretched out her head. CHOMP! I almost jumped. Damned if she didn’t grin while chewing. She demolished it in four bites.

“Bring her over here,” Amanda called. “Stay in back, use the reins.”

I unhooked her reins from the rail. “Back girl, steady, there, stop.” Then I shook one of the reins to turn her. “Giddiap.” She walked off to the cart, lifting her legs to a perfect horizontal on each step. I pulled on the rein to guide her between the shafts. “Good girl.”

It took me a moment to figure out the hitch. It turned out there were two straps on each side that buckled to her waistband. One set buckled her in front, the other in back. Once she was buckled in, there was no slack. While I was working on Jinjur, Amanda had hitched one of the other ponygirls up to a chariot. Amanda led the rest of the crew, including the other four ponygirls, down one of the paths. The path opened out onto a pretty little patch of farmland, with fields of vegetables, corn and wheat. I thought I saw a vineyard and an orchard. As we went down, Amanda passed out assignments. Several of the girls hitched up the ponygirls to cultivators. Some went on to other tasks. The rest of us headed for the apple orchard. Red apples gleamed from the trees. Amanda spent a few minutes getting the picking crew organized. We loaded the first batch into my cart, and then she led the way back down the path to a small building I had seen on the way here.

General Jinjur pulled up in front like she’d done it before, and Amanda opened the door.

“Now, Chrissie,” she said, “be very careful in here. It’s our food warehouse.” I stood in the door and looked. There was some kind of dark, translucent barrier a few feet in front of me. “Don’t touch that barrier. If you do, the results won’t be very pretty, although you won’t be in any state to care about it.”

“Uh. What is it?”

“Magic. Or high technology. Unless you know the incantation or the technology, there’s really no way of telling the difference. Everything behind there is in a state of preservation.”

“I’d like to give you some more responsibility,” she continued. “If you want, I’ll put you in charge of this. It’s going to be more work for you, but you may enjoy it. You’ll also have full responsibility for General Jinjur.”

“OK, I think. But why me?”

“Most of the girls here are slaves. They’re here for vacations, or safekeeping while their masters are off somewhere, or something. It really wouldn’t be fair to them to give them additional duties. You, on the other hand, aren’t really on vacation. Having some responsibility will probably settle you a bit. It also lets us see how you handle things.”

“OK. What do I do?”

“Remember what the other supervisor told Tina when you came in? About visualizing what you want to do?”

“Yes.” This sounded interesting.

“I’m going to enable something similar for you. Imagine that you can see past that barrier. You’ve got a screen in your mind that can look anywhere.”

“Huh?” Well, try. I imagined what the other side might look like. “Yipe!” Suddenly, my vision switched to a row of bins that held carrots. “Carrots? Why carrots?”

“Why not carrots? We grow them; you eat them. Anyway, look around further.”

I looked. The storehouse had lots more stuff than carrots. Fruit, vegetables, grain. There were even three sides of beef hanging on hooks.

“You’ve got that part. Here’s the rest. Imagine one of those boxes of apples out on the cart, and put it on one of the shelves with the rest of the apples.” I did. “See that button in your mind’s eye?” It jumped out at me. I almost jumped. “Push it.”

I imagined pushing it. Suddenly, it seemed like that crate of apples was there. I wasn’t imagining it. I walked out to the cart. Yes, a crate of apples was missing. This was spooky.

“Well?” Amanda said. Oh, right. Finish the job. I closed my eyes and concentrated on moving crates of apples. I was surprised at how quickly it went.

“Good job, Chrissie,” she said. “How do you feel about it?”

“It’s neat. What would happen if I tried to put myself in storage?”

“Nothing bad. It’s some kind of time slowdown. A minute in there is a couple of days outside. Someone would have to help you out; our stuff doesn’t work in the warp.”

“Oh, well. I assume there are some limits on what I can do with it?”

“Well, yes. You can look anywhere around Eden, but you can only teleport stuff into the warp and out. That’ll work from anywhere in Eden as well, but you’re to use Jinjur to move stuff. Don’t want either of you to miss your exercise, now.”

“That sounds too reasonable, somehow. So I assume I go back to the orchard for the next load of apples?”

“You got it, kid.”

When we finished and got back to the clearing, Amanda got the rest of the crew started on dinner. I wasn’t done with the General yet, however. The next task was water and flour. The water barrel mounted on a set of wheels with shafts. I hitched Jinjur to the shafts and followed Amanda down to the mill house. This was next to a pretty little stream that led into the lake, with one of those overshot water wheels you only see on picture postcards.

I had to empty the barrel, rinse it out, and fill it. Meanwhile, Amanda took the wheat I’d gotten from the storehouse and made the millstones do their thing. I’d only heard of stone ground wheat. Here was the real thing. I was impressed. When they said self sufficient, I guess they meant it.

When we got back, the rest of the crew had dinner well under control. Putting the ponygirls out to pasture was my next task. Amanda had me hitch the General up to a chariot, and we led the rest of the ponies down another path to a fenced meadow. When we got there, we took each of them and released their front legs from where they were pinned behind their backs. In four footed mode, they barely came up to my waist; more like large dogs than ponies. That didn’t stop them heading into the pasture. I filled up their food trough and closed the gate. We walked back.

“Amanda, something about them puzzles me. How do they pull that much? I’m sure I’d have been wiped out, but Jinjur didn’t seem to notice it.”

“Gene modifications, mostly. It’s not that the muscles are stronger, but all the systems that get oxygen in and wastes out have been improved drastically. They’re not as strong as a horse, but they’ve got more endurance. They’re faster than anything else on the planet except some of the big cats. And those can’t do any real distance.”

“Another question? Is Jinjur’s tail for real?”

She laughed. “That gets a lot of people. Yes, it is. General Jinjur is a full time ponygirl. Well, just about full time. Her tail is part of her, but it’s also removable.”

My jaw dropped. “Part of her but removable? That’s ... incredible.”

“I think so too. That level of genetic engineering is way over my head. It has to be removable since she’s on Earth most of the time. She has to be able to function as a human occasionally. It’s part of the law there.”

It must have been my day for surprises. There were two horses in the clearing! No, they weren’t horses. They were ... centaurs? They looked like somehow they’d merged one of the ponygirls at the hips with a horse at the shoulders. What had fooled me initially was that they were bent over so their heads were aligned with the other girls’ heads. I’m afraid I stopped and stared.

They were well worth staring at. Their coats came up to the neck, but the head, arms and breasts were normal flesh. They both sported long hair, tied back in a ponytail. The brunette had her arms tied behind her, crosswise. When I looked closer, I also saw the hobble on her front feet. The blonde didn’t seem to be under any restraint. Their heads looked quite a bit larger than normal.

Amanda broke the spell. “Startled you, did they?”

“I didn’t think centaurs existed.”

“Well, they didn’t. These are still works in progress. The brunette’s arms don’t work right, and she tends to get weird and wander off, which is why the hobble. She’s ok when she’s being ridden. Mostly, they’re the ecology team for the face.”

I looked harder. Oh, right. They were both wearing these plaid collars. “I suppose that means they’re hooked up to some kind of data bank?”

“Got it in one!” she exclaimed. “They’ve got a few other things, but they don’t have full access.”

I whistled. “Hey, Jinjur. Come here, girl.” She trotted over and snarfed up the sugar cube I held in my hand. I put the bridle on her head and led her out of the meadow. She went up to two footed mode nicely. I harnessed her again, and we went to move stuff for cleanup. Garbage had to be hauled to the compost heap near the fields, and the dishes had to go down to the river to wash. Then I put her back in the meadow for the night.

“Amanda, doesn’t it get cold for them to be out all night? Especially the two without coats?”

“They’re weatherproof. It’s another one of those genetic changes. I’m told that they would be comfortable with a wind chill of 20 below.”

“There’s days I wish I had that.”

“When you get out of here, call marketing. I’m sure they’ll quote you a price.”

I stared at her. Oh, my. “You do that?”

“Within limits, yes.” She paused. “That particular modification is restricted to non-military applications only.”

Chapter 7. Negotiations

Nadine called me over. “Time to talk to daddy. Let’s find someplace comfortable.” We found a tree in a little clearing off the main path.

<You’ll be able to talk directly to other people on the circuit. That’s how we hook into the phone system from here.> I almost jumped out of my skin. I heard her clearly, but her mouth was closed.

“How’d you do that?”

<The same way you can, now. Visualize me with a phone, and say something internally.>

<Like this? > I asked.

<Got it!> She said.

Something occurred to me. This was all too easy. <You’ve been enhancing my visualizations, haven’t you?>

<Of course. Trial and error takes too long.>

<Let’s get this set up. I’ll show you where he is.> Suddenly, a window opened in my mind’s eye, and I could see into my Father’s office. He was behind his desk, as usual. There was a very professional looking brunette sitting there as well.

<Who’s she?> I asked, kind of unintentionally.

<Probably police.> Nadine said. Another window opened in my mind’s eye. It showed a dossier. She was FBI Special Agent Dorothy Watson. How do I close this? Oh, right. Push the close button.

Nadine winced. <Oops. I showed that to you, didn’t I? Sorry.>

<Well, let’s get the show on the road.> The phone on daddy’s desk rang. He picked it up like it might bite.


“Good Morning, Mr. Eggstrom,” another voice, male, cut in. “I’m Harry, speaking for Exchange. We need to discuss ransoming your daughter.”

“How do I know you have her? How do I know she’s alive?”

“Hi, daddy,” I said. “I’m on the line too.”

Daddy jumped slightly. I moved my viewpoint so I could see what he was looking at. “Oh, my. My hair does need brushing,” I said. Suddenly, it fluffed out and settled down nicely.

“Sorry about that,” Nadine said. “I should have prepped her better.”

Daddy quit staring. “Where are you? Or can’t you tell me?”

“Nowhere I’ve ever heard of. The sky is black, with stars and three suns. This place is called Eden. It’s a girls only outdoor camp where we grow our own food. There are ponygirls and I saw two centaurs last night. I’ve heard them call it the Dodecahedron. There are bits of technology lying around that I’ve never heard of.”

“That’s unbelievable.”

“Well, ask the FBI chick. She knows about us,” Harry said.

“I’m afraid it does exist,” Dorothy said. “Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s not on Earth.”

“Oh, well. What are you going to do to her if I don’t pay up?”

“You will never see her again. That’s absolute. There are any number of things we could do, ranging from putting her into our biological experimental material pool to recruiting her into our organization. Mostly, it depends on her, and on what we need at the time. What we usually do is train them as sex slaves, and sell them.”

“Absolute power,” Eggstrom said, disgustedly.

“Oh, hardly. We’re not under the delusion that we speak for God. We know our limits rather well, actually,” Harry said. “We’re wandering. How much are you willing to offer for her?”

Daddy looked disgusted again. “Unfortunately, I can’t. I’m really sorry, but I had to declare bankruptcy last week. There’s no spare money until the court gets done with me.”

“Oops. We didn’t know that. Humph. Can you give our financial wizard permission to look at the books? Mallory might be able to come up with something that would free up cash quickly.”

“Go ahead. I’d love to find some ready cash, myself.”

“Additional cash will cost you. The first cut is on our dime, the next cut is on yours.”

“Done. Some percent of something is better than nothing. What do you need to look at?”

“We’ll do the digging. All we needed was permission. Mallory will call you later today or tomorrow.”

“That fast? What about Chrissie?”

“We’ll keep her until this is resolved. You can assume nothing bad is going to happen, unless she acts up. So far, she’s been a very well behaved young lady.”

“Chrissie? Well behaved?” I tried to look innocent.

“Maybe the object lessons sunk in.”

“I’m not going to ask.”

“Just as well.”

“Before you hang up,” Dorothy interjected, “What can you tell me about the kidnapper? The backgrounder on you people says you don’t do kidnapping, you only serve as middlemen.”

“That’s correct. In this case, you needn’t waste your time. The original kidnapper has been taken care of. You’ll never see him, her or it again.”

Chapter 8. Field Trip

Birdsong filled the air as Sea Breeze moved under me at a trot, her mane flying in the wind, her arms tethered behind her. Driving Rain trotted next to me, and General Jinjur kept pace at my stirrup. It was just too perfect; I kept looking for that damn poodle.

“Rain, I still can’t believe this is happening,” I looked down and told her.

“So, what’s straining your credibility this time?” she asked. Her voice had a very odd sound, like a combination of base and soprano. I expect it had to do with a mismatch between her vocal chords and her much larger lungs.

“Why me? A week ago I was going to be trained as a slave girl if I wasn’t ransomed, and now I’m on an ecological investigation. It just doesn’t make sense.”

“You still haven’t figured this place out, have you? It’s actually simple. They blew it when they tried to hold you for ransom. They didn’t check first, or they would have done something different. Probably just dumped you somewhere where you would be found and returned; you’d never have heard of this place. However, they did, and your father couldn’t pay, so, strange as it seems, they feel a slight, barely discernable moral obligation. Besides, you’re too smart to make a good slave girl, and you’d make a horrible ponygirl. So, you either find something useful to do, or you wind up in the biological research pool. That would be a waste.”

I shuddered. “It sure would. What do they do there?”

“Mostly try out various modifications until they get it right. Sea Breeze was their third attempt at a centaur, and you know what’s obviously wrong with her. I’m their fourth attempt. They still haven’t got it right; we’re both neuters, even though we look female. You wouldn’t have to worry too much; you really have to screw up before they try to turn you into a toad.”

I must have choked. “Turn me into a toad?”

She laughed again. “Yes. I hear it goes back to the very beginning of their genetic experimentation program. Someone really ticked Pretty Lemon and Black Thunderbolt, and they’ve been working on it in bits and pieces ever since.”

“I don’t think I want to meet them! Still, why me?”

“There’s something they need checked out. The surveillance system has its limits, and although it pains me to admit it, neither of us is exactly the brightest bulb on the string. They want somebody on the spot with the smarts and training we don’t have. Also, it gives them more of a chance to see how you react to a bit of pressure. Maybe you’ll like being the field ecologist. There are worse assignments.”

Chapter 9. Why does it always have to be snakes?

I’d been practicing with the surveillance system and the part of the Dodecahedron map they gave me access to. Several locations were noted on the map for investigation. They were all clustered.

“Whoa, Nellie!”

“Who’s Nellie?” Driving Rain asked. She stopped anyway, because I’d pulled Sea Breeze to a stop.

“Just a phrase. What do you know about that road?”

“Road? Oh. I don’t remember it, now that you mention it,” she said.

It was about six feet wide, with ditches on each side, and totally clear of vegetation. There were still parts of the world that would have regarded it as a very good road, at least if it was wider.

“It’s not much of a road, but it’s not on the map, and it doesn’t show on the surveillance system.”

“Oops. It looks like the shit hit the fan.”

“I hope not, but I can’t raise anyone. Hopefully, they saw us vanish when we entered this thing. Let’s get out of here!”

We turned to go back.

They were pretty. I have to say that. All done up in red and gold scales, with a scattering of green stripes. Otherwise, they looked like your classical dragon. Long, thin cylindrical body, short stubby hind feet about two thirds of the way back, two tentacles coming out of the body about a third of the way back, and a head like nothing I’d ever seen before. It looked kind of like a cross between an alligator and a pit bull, with more brains than either one would have. They were erect, arranged in kind of an S curve, with the back legs on the ground. The tentacles were long, ropy things that split into smaller tentacles on the ends. It didn’t need much intelligence to figure that they would be quite good at gripping things - the things they were gripping looked suspiciously like weapons.

“Uh, sorry, sir. I didn’t know we were intruding. We were just leaving.” It sounded lame, even to me.

They didn’t buy it. One of them pointed to the road. The others brandished their whatever’s. We trotted ahead of them.

This, I thought morosely, was getting repetitive. Whatever they were, they had the same whatever it was cream that Lady Donna had used on me. I was standing on my toes in a stall in a barn; bridled, bitted and otherwise naked as the day I was born. Well, not quite. I still had that collar, and my hands were bound behind my back, hands on opposite elbows. General Jinjur was two stalls down, looking quite glum about the whole thing. I didn’t know where Driving Rain and Sea Breeze were; the stalls here were too small for centaurs.

My internal resources were still quite willing to turn off the pain, and go into berserker mode, but I didn’t see what that would buy me. I had no idea what the snake’s vital points were, or even if they had any. I also wasn’t trained to use my feet as lethal weapons. The restraints on my arms seemed to be steel, not leather.

My collar seemed to be useless. I couldn’t communicate. The surveillance system seemed to work, but it showed that I was in the middle of a nice, grassy glen with a small herd of deer. I couldn’t teleport. If it would do anything else for me, I didn’t know about it.

The social situation was bizarre in the extreme. There were a group of humans walking around loose; or I should say, two groups of humans. One of them tended us; the other group interacted with the snakes. My tender was a nice young woman about my age who insisted on treating me like a pony. Well, that was reasonable, considering the situation. In fact, I was taking mental notes in case I ever got out of this and managed to keep General Jinjur.

The snakes were acting like snakes. They tended to slither around rather than anything I could call walking. Those hind legs seemed to be mostly good for keeping them upright; they weren’t very useful for locomotion. They seemed to like to wrap themselves around tree trunks and branches. Watching a conversation between an human standing on the ground, and an intelligent snake draped over an overhead limb with it’s head hanging down was good for a morning mind-blowing.

The snakes could talk, but I couldn’t understand them. The humans could, all right. The language the snakes used among themselves wasn’t the same as the one they used with the humans. And the one they used with the humans didn’t sound the same as the one the humans used with them. I’d turned the whole thing over to the back office in my mind, and let it work on it.

The body language was fascinating. I couldn’t read the snakes, but I didn’t need to. The humans’ body language was very easy to read. This was not a happy bunch. The snakes, surprisingly, didn’t seem to be anywhere near as aggressive as the humans, but the humans were clearly afraid of irritating them too far. I had the distinct impression that everybody regretted the alliance, but had no idea of how to disengage without a bigger disaster.

I’d been here for about a month. Ester had started on me right away. The first day, she’d trained me to whinny and march. They had a road around the village she used for conditioning. She would ride one of the ponygirls, and the others would run along behind her, with me bringing up the rear. It was accomplishing one thing. I developed a real sense of humility about my running! These girls could run rings around me without working up a sweat. That’s not an exaggeration. Ester would drop back to check on me, and then go back to the front on the other side of the column. Like I said, rings.

It bothered me for a while; I wasn’t getting any better. Eventually, the truth dawned. These people didn’t have whatever it took to give me the modifications. That was someone else, and they were hiding from them.

The other thing that bothered me was the rape. They had this gizmo that they harnessed me to horizontally, like I was on four feet, except that I wasn’t. Then they stuck a ring in my mouth and went at it. I had to get Ester off with my mouth while Terry took me from behind. Then they reversed, with Ester using a strap-on, and taking me in the anus. All the time I had to whinny on the stroke. Did I like it? Hell, no. Did I get aroused? Yes, but I didn’t like it. I got the point of the ring gag, however. Even if I’d been in the mood to cooperate, I might have bitten Terry’s penis (or my tongue) when I came!

“Hi, Running Breeze, it’s work time.” She startled me; I hadn’t seen her coming. I whinnied at her.

“Good girl. Let’s just get your reins on, and go into the work circle.” So saying, she clipped a pair of reins onto my bridle, and backed me out of the stall. I let myself shift into demi-pony mode, and marched out to the working ring. Demi-pony mode was a compromise. The first time she’d worked me, it had been a disaster for both of us. I wasn’t in any mood to cooperate. She’d used the pain wand at her belt a number of times. It hadn’t been pleasant. I could have turned off the pain, since there didn’t seem to be any real damage, but I suspected that then there would be something else. So I had a long talk with myself about it.

Myself wanted to create a ponygirl subpersonality. I hadn’t known it could do that! The concept sounded fascinating until I started exploring the details. Eventually it admitted that once it created the subpersonality, she was going to want to have control regularly, and I couldn’t make her go away again. That meant I’d have to become a ponygirl for some amount of time, until she was ready to translate on her own. It also couldn’t reshape her if it made a mistake.

So we compromised. Demi-pony was a compartment of my own personality, as if I was playing a role in some demented drama. She was now cool with the forced sex, although I wasn’t. I still intended to have their heads for it, and I was counting. There just wasn’t any point in letting myself stew. Letting Ester stew, now, that was an idea. Maybe with carrots and scallions. And lots of salt. Oh, well, I probably wouldn’t get quite that Biblical, even if I got the chance.

Today’s practice went well. I let myself relax into the role. She marched me around the corral, tugging on the reins and giving me one word commands and crooning complements when I did something. Today’s new lesson seemed to be standing when my reins were dropped. Standing was easy enough as long as I stayed in demi-pony mode.

She dropped the reins in front of me. “Stand.” Then she walked away! I tried to follow, and discovered I couldn’t. I was rooted to the ground like my toes were nailed. A quick check with myself showed that myself knew exactly what she had done, and could undo it whenever I wanted. That part was chortling to itself, and taking notes!

So I stood there, watching the flies and wishing I had a tail to swish at them.

Myself finally reported back on the language problem. They were using American English with lots of sound substitutions. One of the nice things of working with myself was that it frequently did the obvious. It finished the job; now I could eavesdrop. Unfortunately, that didn’t tell me a whole lot I didn’t already know. They were not a happy family. However, there didn’t seem to be any way I could exploit that.

Things were looking grim. I could either give up and let myself be turned into a ponygirl, third class, or find another approach that I could implement while standing on my toes in a ponygirl stall. I finally decided to ask myself if it knew how the collars worked, and if it could unblock them.

The answers were “kind of,” and “no.” That was better than I expected. It told me that it could maybe do a little of the surveillance thing, and move some small stuff around, but even that much was likely to drive me up a wall. The worldview was simply incompatible with the way I thought the world worked.

<Oh, really?>I asked myself.

<Really. Would it bother you very much to know that time and space are really illusions?>

I had never thought about it. I poked around a bit. <I don’t think so. Why?>

<Well, it bothers a lot of people. Most of the collar facilities kind of ignore space.>

That was a totally weird thought. I poked around myself a bit more.

<I don’t think so. At least, if I can continue living here in ‘normal’ space and time. It might be fun to visit.>

<I think you’re right. Let’s try.>

Clairvoyance turned out to be not that different from the surveillance system, except that the surveillance system did it lots better. One thing I discovered fairly quickly was that the space around me felt different in some indescribable way than the space farther around me. I asked my internal resources about it. It took a while for it to figure out what the difference was.

<There seems to be a machine over there that’s projecting a belief about what this part of space looks like. It’s quite powerful, and the machine in your collar is quite stupid.>

<Well, can you get around it?>

It thought that was a wonderful idea. I sighed. Sometimes myself was just a mite short sighted. Of course, it could say similar things about me.

Ester marched me into another room in the barn. This room had lots of leather harness straps hanging from the walls. She flipped my reins up to a ring hanging out from the wall, and then proceeded to harness me.

The harness started with a waist belt. She pulled it tight enough that I thought I was going to be cut in two. Then she buckled the wide part of a triangular piece of leather to the front of the waist belt, and pulled the narrow end through my legs. The strap attached to the end got buckled to the back of my waist belt. The triangle had two cutouts. I could feel her finger probing my asshole and my sphincter through the cutouts. She adjusted it until she liked the position, and then tightened it.

The next piece was a complicated set of straps that she draped over my shoulders. The front part dropped down from my shoulders to a horizontal strap, and then crossed between my breasts in an X, and then dangled from there. She pulled the back part underneath my arms, and then buckled it tightly enough that I had a little trouble breathing. The front and back straps fastened to the waistband. When she was done, there wasn’t any slack anywhere. That harness might just as well have been bonded to my skin.

Next she took some thin leather straps, and buckled them between my bridle and the shoulder straps of my harness. Once she tightened them, I couldn’t move my head. She finished off the ensemble with blinders on the sides of my bridle, and a leather piece on my nose and above my eyes. The result was definitely tunnel vision. I checked with one eye and then the other closed; I’d lost a good part of my binocular vision. I also couldn’t see very much above me.

She unhitched my reins from the ring and guided me out to the yard and over to a chariot affair. The checkreins made my body one unit; if I wanted to relieve the pressure on my bit, I had to turn my entire torso. My legs naturally followed. She backed me between the shafts, and then looped the reins behind me. Damn. Nailed to the ground again. Not that there was any point in wandering off, but it would have been nice to have the option.

She hitched my waistband to the shafts and tightened the straps. I found I had no slack at all. If I moved, the chariot moved.

Next was starting, stopping and turning, all in slow motion. She had me use a march step for this part, as if I was on parade. Everything felt different. The chariot didn’t weigh me down much; she had it balanced so it had a dead weight less than some backpacks I’d carried. What was different was the drag on my waistband, and the additional weight on my toes and calves. We practiced for a while, and then she unhitched me, unharnessed me and put me back into my stall. Damn. I was definitely becoming a ponygirl. The only good thing about the situation was that I was pretty certain I could dump the conditioning on a dime. Hopefully, they were being lulled into complacency, not that I could see any reason for them to be on guard against me.

Chapter 10. Escape

The next morning, I discovered I could “see” the compound clairvoyantly. I could also see the illusion being projected by their device. In fact, I could see both of them at the same time, somehow overlaid on each other. This caused me to think. I’d seen this effect before when I was moving stuff into and out of the storage shed.

Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I overlaid an image of myself onto an image of the meadow where all the girls were, and looked at it. There was no button. Well, try anyway. I imagined myself in the other picture, just like I was a basket of apples.

When I came out, I stumbled and fell. Amanda turned to check what the fuss was.

<Hey, Chrissie, where have you been?> she said into my mind.

God, that was the most welcome sensation I’d had. <Captured by aliens.> I sent a picture.

You should have seen her jump. Then she froze for a moment. I had the distinct impression she’d just broadcast a red alert.

The next couple of hours went by in a blur. My bondage came off, I got a new tunic and sandals, and I wound up in a conference room somewhere else, with several higher-ups and another bunch of aliens. This bunch I’d heard of; I’d always thought that the bigfeet were fiction. They weren’t; it turned out that they came from a planet around the star Sirius. That raised more questions, like how they’d avoided getting cooked during the red giant phase. It didn’t seem to be the right time to ask. Oh, well. Five more, and I’d be even with the Red Queen.

They pumped me for all of my impressions. Eventually, they got a piece of equipment lined up that showed what was really there. The bigfeet all looked amused by it. A guy named Leo looked pissed as hell, and a redhead named Alice looked intrigued by it all.

Eventually, Leo asked for an explanation.

It seemed that this group of snakes was essentially a group of teenagers acting very brave, or very foolhardy, by trying to get into and back out of our system alive.

“That doesn’t sound very brave to me,” Leo opined.

“Well, you’re level 3 aggressive. They’re level 4. From their viewpoint, they just stuck their heads into the lion’s den, and are hoping to get back without becoming a menu item.”

“Level 3?” Leo asked.

“That’s you. You have things like murder and wars. A member of a level 4 species would have to be seriously deranged to consider killing another sentient in cold blood. For comparison, the loser of a battle in a level 2 species could expect to be at the victory banquet - as the main course.” Leo looked a bit green at that.

“Where does that leave you?” Leo recovered.

“Our species is a level four. There’s variation within a species. Some of your people would feel right at home with a level two, and others with level fours. We’re personally more than normally aggressive for our species. Why do you think we’re out here? The reason we deal with you is that you have fairly good self-control. You already knew about the various aliens lurking around your system, and were ignoring them.”

“Makes sense,” Leo said. “What do we do about this bunch?”

“Well, we’ll shut down their generator, walk in and say ‘Boo!’ They’ll be overjoyed to see us. Then we sort out penalties and reparations with you and their authorities. The big question is how your people will respond.”

“I think they’ll be happy the axe has fallen,” I said. “None of them looked that dangerous. Just out of their depth and putting up a good front.”

“Sounds likely,” Leo said. “Penalties and reparations it is. By the way, what the heck is that generator? How do we turn it off?”

The head Sirian laughed. “It’s the equivalent of a, how do you call it? A ‘game console’ for a race that sees by clairvoyance. We’ll just trigger the parental controls.”

“They’re clairvoyant?” Alice asked, interestedly.

“No, they’re not,” the Sirian said. “That’s a real good point. How did they get it, and how did they know they needed it here?”

The adjudication team took a couple of days to arrive. There were two Slissi and one Sirian. Then it was story-telling time for a few days. They had a device that crammed their language into my poor, suffering brain, so I could understand a lot of the testimony. I found the whole procedure fascinating. I also found that General Jinjur had a couple of weeks in girl mode stacked up. I didn’t even know she was allowed to act like a girl part of the time!

Adjudication, alien style, was fascinating. There were no lawyers or advocates. Everyone told their story. The ‘spiritual specialist’ they brought along verified if anyone was lying, and occasionally contributed ‘spiritual’ intent behind actions.

Then they got around to Ester and me. They started out by trying to make like Ester had done something wrong by training me as a ponygirl. I wasn’t having any. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but I didn’t have any grudge against her for it. She was doing her job, she did it well, and it helped me look at things from General Jinjur’s point of view. Their spiritual specialist verified that there was an agreement to do that Where Such Things Are Agreed To. That ended that.

On the other hand, I wanted her head for raping me. I knew it was part of the program, but I didn’t like it one little bit. They bought that one, but I wasn’t allowed to have her head. That would be repaying a level four karma (personal power) with a level five (loss of livelihood), so I’d just be stuck with paying her back at level five in another lifetime. What’s even worse is that it wouldn’t erase the rape karma!

The trouble is, I couldn’t rape her in return. She’d done two years as a ponygirl while learning the training business, and she had the sexual morals of an oversexed rabbit on steroids. Not only that, where she came from, that was the standard sexual initiation for their young women! I needed to think about an appropriate payback.

Then they got down to why I was there in the first place. Holding me for ransom was another level four, but it was at a fairly abstract level of “how the system worked.” Nobody owed it to me individually; the Dodecahedron owed it to me (and a number of others) on some kind of conceptual/collective level that I didn’t pretend to understand. To erase it, Leo’s crew would have to do something effective toward eliminating the concept of kidnapping for ransom from the human collective consciousness.

Leo wanted to know who was going to enforce it. To be more accurate, his diatribe included comments like “not even if all hell freezes over,” and “over my dead body.”

“Well, this is a hard lesson when it’s not part of your background. We don’t need to ‘enforce’ it. Your spirit knows that the debt exists, and it will ensure that you repay it in some lifetime or other. All we do is make it known, so that the participants can do what they need to without causing other problems for other people. You can choose to do it now, or you can choose to do it later.” Leo didn’t look any too happy about that, but he shut up.

“So, what do I do about Chrissie, she’s the one here and now.”

“Well, what does she really, truly want to do? You took away her ability to express herself in the manner she was preparing. You owe it to support her in doing something she wants to do with her life.”

Leo looked at me speculatively. “Well, Chrissie, what do you want to do?”

Alice chimed in, “The dream you couldn’t possibly fulfill, so you told yourself to forget it, it was impossible.”

I stared at them. “Just once in my life, I’d like to go shopping in the bazaar on the seventeenth planet of Arcturus.” Oh, God. Did I really say that?

They all laughed. The spiritual specialist said: “That’s got it. She wants to be able to wander around out among us. Unfortunately, Arcturus 17 is a gas giant; you wouldn’t like it there. But the principle is sound.”

“Hey, Chrissie, take me along!” exclaimed Jinjur. “I’ve always wanted to see an alien racetrack.”


“Hi, Daddy.”

My father looked at the phone as if it had bit him. “Is that you, Chrissie?”

“Sure is. Everything finally got straightened out, and they’re letting me come back now.”

“I thought they’d misplaced you somewhere.”

“Close enough. Whatever passes for interstellar cops are hauling the miscreants away, even as we speak. I’ve got some reward money for helping break up the mess. It was looking kind of fraught for a while there, however.”

“It sounds like you’ve come out ok. That’s quite a relief. Did they tell you they straightened out my financial mess?”

“They mentioned it. Since it wasn’t necessary to get me back, you owe them for it. Not a huge amount, just a couple of dozen hours of work on one of their financial/political problems some time.”

“You know,” he said, reflectively, “that does feel right. What about you?”

“I’ve got a career now. All those aliens made me itch to go out and explore.”

“Aliens!” he squeaked. “Oh.” He came back down. “You did say ‘interstellar’ cops, didn’t you? That’ll make the tabloids happy.”

“Won’t hurt them to print the truth for once.”

“Interstellar exploration. Damn, that makes me wish I were thirty years younger and still thin. This is unbelievable. My daughter gets kidnapped, and now she’s Darlene Dauntless, Daring Denizen of the Interstellar Deeps.”

I laughed. “That’s what’s truly ironic about it.”

“Well, let me call your mother before you call. I can expect you for dinner?”

“Of course. Give my best to mommy.”