A Slave Girl of Freehold
By Xaltatun of Acheron (A Pseudonym)
This work is copyright 2001 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. It could also prove highly disturbing if you think our current socio/political worldview is the only one that exists. 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.
There are currently four stories in the Freehold series:
1. A Slave Girl of Freehold
2. A Ponygirl of Freehold
3. The Field Ecologists Ponygirl (sequel to A Ponygirl of Freehold)
4. Delivery Ponyboy
Some additional background on Freehold, in particular, how it happened, is in the story The Curtain Falls, The Curtain Rises, the end of the Ponygirl Transformation series.
The name Freehold has no relationship to any other use of the term by any other author. No connection should be assumed, either derivative or as a base for parody.
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. Most large cities, and some not so large ones, have organized BDSM groups that will usually welcome a newcomer. Im not going to point out which practices are safe, and which arent. 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. Dont make yourself a candidate for a Darwin award.
OK - now on to the story -------
Here I am, kneeling at the workstation in my room, and the computer has just asked me how I got into this situation. Itís a question I would rather not look at. But if I want to avoid being frog marched onto the boat when my sentence is up, I had better. I prefer walking out and waving goodbye to being slung out on my ass. Itís much less embarrassing.
The White King told Alice to "Begin at the beginning, go on to the end, then stop." Unfortunately, that begs the question. Where is the beginning?
I suppose it began when my sister took a whip to one of the municipal taxi ponygirls. And then I stood up for her, and tried to get her off the hook she had so neatly impaled herself on.
I sputtered to a stop. I had tried entreaties, bribes, threats of my fatherís wrath, and, if truth be known, sex. I had asked for a competent attorney. The ambassador had simply sat there, and waited for me to run down.
"Miss Stone. In all the babble you have flung at me, there are two issues that I can explain."
"First, your father the Senator has been apprised of the situation. There is nothing he can do; he has no leverage in this situation. This may not seem possible. He is, indeed a powerful man, but Freehold will not brook interference in things that it regards as fundamental. Freehold will not allow visitors to commit crimes and then leave."
"Second. You have asked for an attorney. I could get you one, but it would be a waste of money. Freehold law does not operate on the adversary system. All an attorney can do is investigate the facts, and explore possible remedies. The facts are not in dispute. Nor is the analysis or the remedy."
I stared at him. Iím not used to being in a position where I cannot apply leverage. It leaves me feeling, well, little.
"But. What can we do for Amy?"
"Nothing. The system will have its say. It may help you to know what the charge is, and why the sentence will be what it is."
"Your sister has been charged with using at tool with which she has not demonstrated competence. She has also been charged with not knowing the whip signals we train our ponygirls on for situations when we cannot use voice commands. Sheís also been charged with non-consensual inclusion of a person in a sexual game, specifically, sado-masochism.
"I could probably get the second charge dropped by pointing out that there was no intent to use the whip signals in the first place. But thereís no point. The only effect that charge will have is that she will have to learn them, and pass a test on them. Since she is probably going to start her sentence as a ponygirl, she will learn them anyway from the ponygirlís perspective. Since the first charge insures that she will have to learn how to use a whip properly, intersecting the two should be trivial."
"The third charge is, in fact, the critical one. Freehold does not regard sadism or masochism, as currently defined, to be an issue. It does regard the non-consensual inclusion of someone in a sado-masochistic game as a criminal offense, demonstrating a very low level of social responsibility.
"The first charge demonstrates a low level of personal responsibility. So, she will be placed in a position that is appropriate for both. In other words, she will probably become a ponygirl, and start in the municipal taxi service."
"That seems like a warped sense of justice."
"Justice, in the sense of symmetry, has nothing to do with it. The fact that she assaulted a ponygirl has nothing to do with her becoming one. Her demonstrated lack of both social and personal responsibility is what lands her there. The symmetry is more apparent than real."
"I donít understand."
"At this point, you donít need to. Letís leave Amy, and go on to you. Tell me what you are charged with."
"Uh, something about trying to help Amy avoid responsibility for her actions?"
"Exactly. If you had the wisdom to have kept your mouth shut, we would be having this conversation in my study rather than in the Hall of Justice."
I must have looked like a landed fish. "Thatís just bizarre."
"Well, it must seem so. You are the daughter of a politician in the mainland political system. Lie, cover up, spin-doctor and evade runs in your blood. Making someone face the consequences of their actions is the least likely thing you would do. In truth, there was absolutely nothing you could do for your sister. Anything you did would land yourself in a tar pit. Which you have done."
"What are they likely to do to me?"
"Iím not absolutely certain. The level of social responsibility demonstrated by your actions is noticeably higher than your sisterís. And your level of personal responsibility has not been called into question. So itís unlikely that they would start you off as a ponygirl. Probably personal slave, but thatís just a guess."
"So, just roll with it?"
"That seems to be best. I can tell you one more thing. Freehold is absolutely adamant that everyone has the chance to advance. That is, to demonstrate higher levels of responsibility. Iím not allowed to tell you how that works out. You will have to ask someone at the appropriate time."
We left the interview room to see the judge.
From my point of view, the trial was a farce. Obviously, Freehold thought that the procedure was appropriate. The judge sat behind a desk with a data console. His clerk sat next to him. The three of us sat in widely separated chairs. I noticed two man-mountains positioning themselves behind Amyís chair. I also noticed some equipment on a back table. I doubt that Amy noticed; she was seething.
The clerk called Amyís case. The judge stated the complaints. Amy denied everything. The judge had the surveillance shots displayed. They showed exactly what happened. The picture quality wasnít Hollywood, but it was adequate. Amy looked shocked. I was shocked, I had no idea that they had that level of surveillance.
He asked Amy again if she had anything to say. She started a tirade. Pure, vintage Amy. After a minute, the judge nodded to one of the bruisers behind her chair. He put his hand on her neck. She shut up with a startled "eep."
He looked at me. "Miss Stone. Do you have anything to add?"
Mother didnít raise a complete fool. "No, your honor. The facts appear to be as stated. I donít have enough knowledge of your system to determine if the charges correspond to the facts." I shut up.
He looked at me and nodded. "Ambassador?"
"The second charge appears to be redundant, your honor."
The judge looked at his readouts. "It certainly seems so. Your suggestion?"
"I believe that the additional requirements are comparatively minor. I would suggest leaving them in, but making them optional."
The judge looked at his readout again. "So noted. Anything else?"
"No, your honor."
The judge looked at Amy. "Rise and face the bench." She didnít move. The bruiser behind her hauled her to her feet. By the neck. He still had hold of it.
"You are given seven years to correct the deficiencies in your social and personal responsibility ratings. If you succeed within this time, all rights as a visitor will be restored at the time you succeed. If you fail, you will be removed from this island at the end of seven years. You will not be allowed to return."
"You will start your reeducation as a ponygirl, most probably in the municipal taxi service."
She started to struggle. She never had a chance. The first bruiser shifted his grip from her neck to her waist. The second bruiser put his hands inside her pants, front and back. The first bruiser pulled up. They shucked her like an ear of corn. Then they reversed position, and the top came off with the sound of ripping cloth. The one behind picked up a bunch of chains and cuffs from the table, and fastened her arms behind her back. Then he silenced her with a ball gag and bridle. He added a collar as the last touch. Then he let her go.
She tried to kick one of them. Without arms, all she managed was to fall on her ass. They hauled her up. She tried again. Same result. They hauled her up again. This time she stood there. One of them snapped a leash on her collar and led her out.
I shut my mouth. I noticed that the other bruiser was standing behind my chair.
The judge looked at me. "Miss Stone. You appeared startled."
"You certainly didnít waste any time in executing the sentence."
"Not at that level of responsibility. There is no point to it."
He called my case. He read the charge.
"Miss Stone. Do you have any comments?"
"No, your honor. The facts are as stated."
He looked startled. Then he smiled. "Ambassador?"
"No, your honor. The facts are as stated. The charge appears to be correct."
The judge faced me again. "In your case, your personal responsibility appears to be substantially higher than your social responsibility." The way he emphasized "appears" had my complete and undivided attention. I had the image of a yawning cavern under my feet, just a misstep away.
"This gives me the opportunity to do something for you. You will start out as a personal slave. Your lack of social responsibility mandates that. However, you can be assigned to the Ambassadorís household. That, and your personal responsibility rating, will give you the opportunity to have experiences more in keeping with your social and political standing than the run of household duties which a personal slave normally is assigned." Again, the way he emphasized "opportunity" had my antenna out and quivering.
"There will be a number of behavioral tests. All of them will not be announced or explained in advance."
"Personal slave training is done in classes. The next one starts in four days. If you had a lower personal responsibility rating, you would spend the next four days in confinement. At your perceived rating, I can offer you the opportunity to continue to enjoy the hospitality of the city, as long as you give me your word to report for personal slave training at the appointed time."
I stared at him in shock. I had been expecting to be shucked like my sister, and lead away in chains. "I accept, of course. May I ask a question?"
"If I had refused, would my personal responsibility rating have gone down?"
"Very perceptive question. Yes, it would have. Can you tell me why?"
"It seems that responsibility needs to be exercised; itís not like a certificate on the wall."
"Excellent!" he made a note on his console.
I stood. I had the feeling that the big bruiser was now farther back in the room.
"You are given five years to correct the deficiencies in your social and personal responsibility ratings. If you succeed within this time, all rights as a visitor will be restored at the time you succeed. If you fail, you will be removed from this island at the end of five years. You will not be allowed to return."
"You will start as a personal slave. The court accepts your personal bond that you will report for training at the designated time. If your training proves satisfactory, you will be assigned to the Ambassadorís household."
"Case closed." The clerk held out a card. It had an address and time on it. It had some other information on the back.
I left with the ambassador. He offered me a lift back to my hotel. I accepted, of course. Right now, I was completely disoriented. We left the building.
His ponygirl was tied to the hitching rack. She was still hitched to the cart he used. It was suitable for two adults. He asked if I would like to drive.
I shuddered. "No, thank you. Iím certain that she can handle traffic much better than I can drive her."
He smiled. "Tell her your hotel."
I did. She nodded. He unhitched the reins, and we got in. He gave them a flick, and she started maneuvering the cart away from the rail and into traffic. We talked, but what it boiled down to was: keep your nose pointed in the right direction, and keep moving.
We got to the hotel, and I got out. He moved to the middle of the cart, and said "Home." The girl began moving the cart.
I entered the hotel lobby. First things first. Since Amy had been sent down, either they had checked her out, or I would have to do it. Go over and talk to a clerk. Admit to being embarrassed, that usually gets people on your side.
The clerk checked, and Amy was still on the hotel room. She didnít quite know how to handle it; apparently the justice system took care of these details. Loose end left for me to either tie up or trip over. She called her supervisor. He called his manager. She asked me if I had a docket number. I pulled out the card the clerk had given me. There it was. She punched it in, and that took care of Amy.
"Maíam, as long as youíre here, Iíve got kind of an odd question. I also got convicted. Iím out on personal recognizance until Thursday." She set up a leave date for Thursday morning for me. Efficient. "I believe there is some kind of advancement training system? Could I get access to it?"
She started playing tunes on her chord board. She asked for my ID. I gave it to her. Then she asked for the docket number. I gave it to her. She played some more tunes. Then she smiled, and told me how to access it.
I headed up to my room. Next thing was to get to daddy before the Ambassador. Not that I thought the Ambassador would tell him anything I wouldnít, but I should be in first. I didnít want to give anyone the impression I was slacking off on facing things. I punched in daddyís private office phone number. His secretary put me right through.
"Hey Sandra. I wasnít expecting you to be able to call. The ambassador said youíd be put down promptly."
"Well, Iím out on personal recognizance until Thursday morning. Thatís when I have to report."
"Oh, this is interesting. Tell me about Amy first."
"They put Amy down to ponygirl. They took her off about an hour ago; sheís probably at their training center now. I got put down to personal slave, but the next class doesnít start until Thursday. If I keep my nose clean, I get assigned to the Ambassador."
"I donít understand."
"I donít completely understand either. But they seemed to think that it was a good thing for me. He can probably explain it to you."
We talked about a few other things, and then hung up. Mother next. She took it well. I guess she had been prepared to not talk to either of us for years. I resolved to call her Wednesday night.
The next thing on my list was the computer. The chord board was out in plain sight; I just hadnít had a clue about what it was for. I stuck my card in the slot. This time the menu had an additional item: Citizen Training. I used the touch pad, and a new screen came up.
"Good Afternoon Sandra. Do you know how to use the chord board?" There were Yes, No and Refresher buttons. I pushed No. I hadnít a clue; it didnít look like any computer keyboard I had ever seen. It looked more like somebody had taken the two ends of an accordion and randomized them.
It started training. The computer was cheerfully ruthless. That suited me; the sooner I learned how to use it, the sooner I could get into something else useful. The computer called a halt to practice when it thought I was getting tired. It suggested a practice schedule. In three days, I developed a fair facility with the thing. That didnít mean I could use it efficiently; I was still spelling stuff out that had assigned chords. It would take quite a while to master the entire vocabulary.
Besides chord board practice, I enjoyed myself. Good food, seeing shows, sunning myself. There was no point in denying myself things I didnít expect to be able to do for the next four or five years.
Thursday morning dawned. I finished packing, had a light breakfast and checked out. I made certain I was wearing nothing I would regret losing. I took a municipal ponygirl taxi to the address on the card. Getting in was a comedy routine. Almost without exception, the new class was composed of either ex-ponygirls coming directly from their stable, or miscellaneous miscreants shipped over from confinement. They didnít know what to do with me. Eventually we found the line where the other fifteen class members were queued up.
I introduced myself to the supervisor. He checked. "Good. Youíre on time. We donít get very many entrants out on personal recognizance."
"Thatís what the judge implied."
"Shed those clothes. Weíll supply what you need." I shed them. He pointed to a wastebasket. I dumped them in and joined the end of the line. Most of us got a tunic and sandals. The ex-ponies got high-heeled pumps instead of sandals. I suspect that their feet couldnít take flats until they adjusted. We all got a leather collar with our name on a plate on the front. It was riveted in back.
Training was split into several parts. One part was position training. We had to learn ten positions, and get them down acceptably. They ran from kneeling to various ways to stand.
Another part was housekeeping. We were drilled on the standard housekeeping chores, from cleaning through cooking and laundry. Also how to keep a closet, lay out clothes, elementary style matching, and grooming. It seemed to be funny at first, until I realized that everybody was having trouble with some of the tasks. Being upper class, I was having trouble with more than most. The only thing that saved me was the computer. It had a housekeeping class, and it kept pace with what I was being taught. Iím not certain I would ever have learned how to fold a fitted sheet without its clear, straightforward diagrams and step-by-step instructions.
The third piece was deportment. That was equally difficult. I was used to running things; I had to learn how to be a servant. It brought delineation of responsibility into sharp focus. It also brought home the exact level of responsibility expected of a personal slave. For the ex-ponies, it was a step up. For the rest of us, it was a major step down. What brought it home was that under most circumstances, I had to request permission to use the crapper. The only difference between the others and me is that the instructors expected me to be able to do more complex tasks that took longer. A higher personal responsibility rating didnít give me any less supervision.
Another piece was personal hygiene. I was surprised by some of the stuff in it, but I had less trouble than most. The ex-ponies had it the toughest. They had spent the last couple of years, and sometimes longer, not having to worry about where they evacuated. They actually had to be toilet trained all over again. I would have been embarrassed out of my mind, but they seemed to accept it.
Eventually, it ended. As expected, I got assigned to the ambassadorís household. The rest had been put up for auction, and were told their assignments. They didnít get to see the auction; it had been done on the net. All the owners had supervisor ratings.
He came to pick me up personally. As trained, I knelt in front of him, hands clasped behind me, head down. He picked my head up to where we could lock eyes. Then he laughed, told me to get up and follow him. He had his personal ponygirl there; she got us back to the embassy with her usual efficiency.
He started me off on the personal tasks I had been trained on. Once I had gotten his preferences down, he started me on office tasks. Each task was introduced by the appropriate courses on the computer. A lot of them were quite interesting, since he didnít have me do anything by rote. That may have been ok for folding sheets, but if I had to compose a letter for his signature, I had better know both the administrative department it was going to, and the subject matter it covered. In depth. That was one intense year. There were times when a single letter took a weekís worth of study. The ambassador never let up; I could expect an impromptu quiz on just about any piece of office work.
By the end of the year, he had turned over a fair amount of both his office and his personal routine to me. That didnít mean that I escaped evaluation. That went on constantly. It did mean that I didnít need specific orders to do something. He was bridging me to the next level.
When the level exam came around, I passed handily. I was now a household slave. That meant I could ditch the collar. I could also wear normal street clothes unless the household required a uniform. The Embassy did, but it was common to just about everyone; it didnít mark me as special. It also meant I started working outside of the embassy quite a bit. To start on it, I had to take courses on how to handle ponygirls, and also on the municipal map.
Then the computer told me I had to take the deputy supervisorís course. I hadnít known there was such a thing. Supervisor was several major steps above where I was; I didnít need to get there in order to finish the sentence.
These courses are part of your sentence. You failed to discharge your supervisory responsibility toward your sister correctly. Granted, there was no formal designation, but you did feel enough of a sense of responsibility to take action supposedly on her behalf. That is one of the parts of supervisory responsibility.
I looked at that. I had a bad feeling about this. I asked if I would have to supervise Amy.
That would seem to be the best way to bring the lessons to bear.
I asked about the curriculum. I got hit with a list of courses that looked like it would take me into the next century. So I asked for a recommendation of where I should start.
At least half of these courses are basic supervisory psychology. Since you have been supervising servants from before you were here, you should be able to pass most of them with little trouble. You should start on accessing records pertaining to Amy and her performance reports.
So I signed up for that course. Then I talked to the Ambassador. After verifying my curriculum, he confirmed my worst fears. She hadnít taken a new course in almost a year. She was spending all of her computer time playing games and chatting. We discussed strategy for motivating her.
I went through the records course quickly. It wasnít that different from most of the office work I had been doing. The differences were content, not form. Then he gave me access to all of the Embassy ponygirlsí records. Some of them surprised me. His personal pony, for example, was a career ponygirl.
She had been a minor criminal on the mainland, and had fled here, without knowing what the deal was. Once she got settled on the municipal taxi service, she realized that she wouldnít be able to make full citizen; she just didnít want that level of responsibility. If sheíd really been interested in housekeeping, sheíd have gotten married back on the mainland, and kept house. So she decided to stay a ponygirl. I canít say I blamed her.
I wondered. I asked the computer if Amy could apply for immigration if she intended to stay a pony.
Of course. The seven year limit only applies to visitors. If she decides to immigrate, it will make absolutely no difference to her status, except that she will not be kicked out five years from now.
Somehow, I didnít think it would be wise to mention it to her. Wise for my advancement, not hers.
When the Ambassador and the computer thought I was ready, they transferred Amy from the municipal taxi to the Embassy stables. She was assigned as my personal pony. That didnít mean that I was the only person on staff who could use her. It meant that the stablemaster had to check my schedule before assigning her to anyone else. They didnít tell me first. Typical.
While all this was going on, I had my regular staff work, and other special projects. Right now, I was learning the Freehold customs and immigration system. That meant I had to spend quite a bit of time over there.
I usually took a pony and cart, unless I expected to be there for several hours. Then I took a taxi so that one of our ponies wouldnít have to stand there, swishing her tail, for hours on end. So I simply asked for a pony, and walked down to the stables.
It had started out like any day. When I woke, I used the computer to check my mail. Then I plunged my head into my feeding bowl, and snarffed up breakfast. The stable lad led me out of my stall, sent me through the milker, and switched me to two footed mode. The next thing should have been to be hitched to a taxi, and get my assignment to a taxi stand.
It never happened. Instead, my reins were tied to the back of another taxi. One of the supervisors told me I was being reassigned to a private stable. She got in the taxi, and we took off.
Now, if this was a romance, I would have been blindfolded, and it would have been years until the hero showed up to rescue me, and I found out where I was.
But this was Freehold. The only thing we ponygirls did was haul things around. We were it in the haulage department. Freehold did not have cars, vans, trucks, hovercraft or anything else of the sort. So, while they didnít tell me where I was going, I had absolutely no trouble identifying it when we got there. It was the Embassy. It wasnít the most popular destination, but I had been here before. I suspected that things were looking up.
She handed me off to the stablemaster, and headed off to wherever she was going next. The stablemaster replaced my collar, and handed me off to one of the stable lads. He switched me back to four footed mode, and put me in a stall. This was my new home for a while. I checked the bowl, looking for something new. Nope, same old ponygirl treats.
The stable lad came back.
"OK, Flowers. Youíve got a passenger."
He unlatched the gate, and I trotted out of the stall after him. He switched me back to two footed mode, put my harness on, and hitched me to a cart. I waited for my passenger.
The next thing I knew, Sandra was walking toward me. She was dressed in an understated version of the Embassy uniform. I stared at her in shock. I hadnít known she was here. Nobody had told me. Mom and Dad certainly had to have known. She looked just as stunned. Then she walked up.
"Hi, Flowers. Take me to the Immigration building down at the port." Then she unhitched my reins, and got in. I felt the pattern of tension that meant she had looped them over the front of the cart. That was one of the standard signals that I was in control of the affair; she didnít want to drive.
My training took over, and I took off. Driving in Freehold traffic took all of my concentration. Not that Freehold City has anything like the traffic of other cities I have known, but it also doesnít have any distinction between street and sidewalk. Also, they planted trees and grass wherever they felt like it. The effect is pretty. I thought it was one of the most beautiful cities I had ever seen. Right now, I wished they had paid more attention to traffic planning.
When I got us there, she looped my reins over a hitching rack and went in the building. I stood there, swishing my tail and thinking about the situation. What she was doing was an absolute puzzle. The Ambassador had told me that they would send her down for trying to bail me out of the situation. It sure didnít look like it. On the other hand, what was she doing here? It was like she hadnít expected to see me, and then she had.
She came out, unhitched my reins, and told me to take her back to the Embassy. I headed back out into traffic. When we got there, the stable lad unhitched me, took off my harness, put me back in four footed mode, and put me back in my stall. She was there, leaning over the front.
"Oh, good. Youíre back. Weíve got some stuff to talk about. Official, not personal."
I stared at her in shock. Then reality asserted itself. If she was official, that meant I might get some answers.
"Iím youíre new supervisor. The stable staff is still in charge of everything having to do with your life as a ponygirl, running the stable, your assignments and so forth. That doesnít change. You can think of me more as a trainer, although that isnít really close. I know nothing about training ponygirls."
"Uh, I though they sent you down."
"They did. Iím still serving my sentence. I entered one level higher than you, and I got a major level promotion. Since my personal responsibility was never called into question, Iím doing things that are not normally part of this level. That doesnít mean Iím out from under. If the Ambassador says jump, Iíd better be in the air before I ask how high."
"How close am I to a jump?"
"Not at all. Youíre dead in the water. You are on track to being taken out of your stall and slung out of here on your ass in another five years. Iíve seen a few. You go onto the ship naked. The shipping company isnít going to give you any clothes, so you go off the ship naked. It isnít pretty. Especially since theyíre likely to arrest you at the other end for indecent exposure."
Iím afraid I almost went into shock. I actually swayed on my hooves for a moment.
"Oh, shit. I was afraid of that. What do I have to do?"
"You tell me. Everything you need to do to get moving is right in front of you. You donít need any equipment or permissions you donít have."
More shock. She was supposed to help. "What!?"
"If you really, really canít figure it out, ask again tomorrow. Iíll tell you then. But itíll be on your record. Not that itís a major item, but you canít afford too many minor items. If you figure it out, Iíll know. There are steps that will be real obvious to you."
I stared at her.
"Iíll see you tomorrow. It looks like the stablemaster wants to talk to you."
She left. The stablemaster came over, and went over the local ground rules. They werenít that different from the municipal taxi, other than they expected a slightly higher level of deportment. Embassy, and all that. As a politicianís daughter, it made sense.
I had four more trips out that day. One with Sandra, three with other Embassy staff members. Sandra didnít treat me any different than she would have treated any other ponygirl.
That evening, I went to put on the VR helmet to do my usual run of games, chats and mail. Then I stared at it in shock. What was this obviously expensive piece of equipment doing in a ponygirlís stall? Iím sure they could have figured out a cheaper way of keeping us happy.
I put it on, and called up the main menu. There it was. Citizen Training. I had used it once, to study the municipal road system, over a year and a half ago. I still used it to check on changes. But I hadnít used it for anything else.
I went in. There was a list of courses, none of which looked in the least interesting. There was also a checkbox labeled "Advisor". It was off. I toggled it on.
Good evening, Amy. I see you are with us again. Do you have any questions?
"Uh, Iím not certain where to start."
Thatís actually not the worst place to start. Confessing oneís ignorance lets you get it out of the way so you can actually learn something.
"But, what does folding laundry have to do with anything?"
Thatís actually one of the job requirements for the next step up.
I stared at it. "What is the next step up?"
Personal slave. It is one major step above ponygirl.
"And Sandra started there?"
Yes. She took all of the courses specified for the level. She did satisfactorily.
We discussed curriculum. It suggested I sign off of the course work. I did, even though I still had time before lights out. Then all of the chats came up. Oh, shit. I really, really didnít want to deal with them. Then reality hit again. I wasnít ever going to join them again. There was simply no time. So I composed a polite note of apology and posted it to all of them, and then cancelled them. The VR multi-person games took more work. I had to withdraw in an orderly fashion; I really hated it when players just vanished. I terminated most of my mail correspondences the same way I had with the chats, except more personally.
When I signed on the next morning, my recommended course list had changed. Some of the more boring stuff had vanished. It had been replaced by other courses that looked marginally more interesting. I asked why.
We liked the way you terminated the chats and games. You could have simply dropped them. Instead, you took the time to do so in an orderly and appropriate manner. Without being told. Both your social and personal responsibility levels have risen as a consequence.
That one comment probably meant more to me than most of the complements I have ever received.
My first passenger was Sandra. She said, "Good going, kid. Take me to Customs and Immigration at the waterfront." She got in, and I maneuvered my cart and passenger out into traffic.
In addition to everything else, I had been going through some of the Freehold government departments that interfaced with the Embassy. They were quite willing to do the Ambassador a favor and allow me to do so. Having a mainland politician who actually understood how Freehold operated was something they regarded positively.
At this point, my study was Customs and Immigration. That was one of the departments that interfaced quite closely with the rest of the world; after all, everyone from outside came through this building. It was the first piece of Freehold anyone ever saw. I had been working with one of the planners on exactly why the process was laid out the way it was. Some of the pieces were ruthlessly efficient.
The ambassador had gotten two calls. One was from the Senator. He had managed to get his schedule clear to make a visit. He wanted to see how his daughters were doing. The other was from the supervisor in charge of the Customs and Immigration operation. The woman who normally did the Visitors orientation was out sick, could he see his way clear to having me fill in? This was unusual, to say the least. One government did not normally ask a citizen of another government to handle a fairly critical, if routine, function. But then, Freehold was not normal.
He said yes. Then he told me about it. I was not really on speaking terms with choice those days. Especially when it was the Ambassador speaking.
"Will the Senator be staying with us?"
He said yes. The head housekeeper was already readying one of the guest rooms. So I called the stable, and told them that I needed the larger cart for Joyful Flowers. Sheíd managed to solve the problem I gave her yesterday in fine fashion. It was way too early to tell if that was all it was going to take, but the signs looked hopeful.
When I saw her, I congratulated her, and then had her take me to the C&I building. Checking the setup and discussing last minute details with the supervisor took a few minutes. She would normally have filled in. She would be in the room anyway, unnoticeable in back, just in case she was needed or I messed up. Freehold did as little as possible by chance.
Then the boat came in. There were around a hundred visitors, and maybe a dozen immigrants. Immigration was a different lecture; there were very different requirements. Daddy came down the portable stairway in the middle of the crowd. Trust a politician to project the common touch, even if there were no constituents present. I waited until the queue formed for the initial identity check; and then went to meet him.
He saw me coming.
"Hey, Sandra, I didnít know theyíd let you loose to greet me!"
"Loose? When the Ambassador says frog, I go ribbit. Heís killing two birds with one stone. Heíd probably have sent me anyway, but Iíve got something else to do here." I stepped back for effect. "You look great. A couple days on the ferry seem to have agreed with you."
"Being away from my pager will do that. Whereís Amy?"
"Tied to the hitching rack in front, waiting for us and your bags."
He looked a bit glassy-eyed, the he rallied. "You know, I should have expected that."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. I still donít really understand the ponygirl system. Even though it works. She just got transferred from municipal taxi to the Embassy yesterday. If she was still in municipal taxi, I wouldnít have been able to reserve her."
"Howís she doing?"
"Physically? No problems at all. Sheís amazingly healthy, but then, all the ponygirls are. Something certainly seems to agree with them. Working on getting out of here before sheís tossed out? Not good at all, but her supervisor thinks she might have gotten through to her yesterday."
The line had moved up.
"Got to run. Talk to you after the orientation lecture."
The orientation room was filling up. I noticed someone I hadnít expected to see. Princess Jeanette.
"Introduce me to your father. Then I want to talk to you while the show is running."
Dad had come in, so I made the introductions. She made noises about a trade treaty. He mentioned extradition, she laughed. They both knew there would never be an extradition treaty, but he had to mention it for formís sake. I picked up the final list from the Customs desk. There were six names flagged for special attention.
I stepped up to the podium. The room fell silent. Princess Jeanette and the section supervisor sat in back, watching.
I started the pitch. Most of it was choreographed. "Welcome to Freehold." I ran through a bunch of PR stuff, and then started calling names. The first three on my list were frequent commercial visitors. They took the precaution of retaking the visitorís exam every three months just to make certain they hadnít forgotten anything. They left.
The next three had been here once before. "Youíve been here before, but you need to retake the test. You can go into the testing room now, or go through the orientation lecture." Two of them showed intelligence. They stayed for the lecture. The third one headed into the testing room. She was the one with the just discovered criminal record that she had not declared. The door closed behind her. I heard a muffled thud. I hoped she enjoyed being a ponygirl.
I started the show, and left the room with the Princess. She got right to the point.
"Sandra, have you considered immigrating?"
Iím afraid I stared. "I thought I had a couple more years before I needed to think about that."
"Actually, we did too. But your evaluation board met last month, and your ratings have gone up. Substantially. Youíre due for a double jump, which satisfies all of the requirements of your sentence except one. And you may have done that yesterday."
"Amy. Yes, that needs to percolate a bit. If she has actually decided to get herself going, sheíll be all right. Sheís pretty determined when she finally makes up her mind."
"I thought so when I reviewed the file. Sheís got no interest in government, however, so we really donít care about her. The system can handle her adequately. You do."
"I thought I was too far behind to reach the top."
"Thatís mostly a carefully fostered illusion. When you get high enough for the Prince or Princess courtesy title, youíre at the top. We do what weíre suited for and what needs doing. Rankings within that are mostly for show. You should be able to reach that ranking within a decade. Granted, thatís a decade behind where I am, but others will get there later than that."
"Well, think about it. The offer will remain open, even if you chose to return to the mainland and then come back. Of course, that could lose you some ground."
She turned and went back into the Orientation room. I followed. That was the Princess to a T.
The show ended. I fielded a number of questions. The only hard part came when some guy started asking mainland newsie type questions. I looked at the Princess. She signaled with her finger across her throat.
"Sir, Freehold strongly suggests that you turn around and leave on the boat you arrived on."
He sputtered. What probably made up his mind was when two of the man-mountains that C&I employs walked up behind me and looked at him. That ended the questions. Almost everyone trooped into the examination room. The newsie stared at the man-mountains, and decided to cash in his return ticket immediately.
The Senator had done his homework, so he finished the test with an exemplary score. As people finished I welcomed them personally, and showed them the door out. Usually, we didnít have ponygirl candidates in the visitor crowd; the criminals tended to come in through Immigration.
Everyone finished up. I snagged a porter, and had the Senatorís bags loaded into the Embassy cart. The Princess said she was coming with us to the Embassy; the Senator would ride with her. Oh, by the way, arrange for Amy to be able to talk to her father.
Joyful Flowers was staring at dad as if she had seen a ghost. When I told her to head back to the Embassy, she almost balked. Then she guided the cart out into traffic, and did her usual excellent job of getting us there in one piece, undented.
I stopped the stable lad from leading her away, and called the stablemaster over.
"Her father is in town from the mainland. Princess Jeanette has given orders that she is to be able to talk to him."
The stablemaster looked startled. We talked about arrangements. The stable lad lead Flowers away, she didnít need to know about them until they happened.
Sandra had left me hitched to the rail in front of the C&I building. Iíd been here before with her, and a number of times when I was with the Municipal Taxi Service. Then, I hadnít been hitched, taxi ponygirls just stood at the taxi stand until someone needed them.
Part of my training had been in standing, either hitched to a rail, or with my reins grounded. This doesnít sound like that big a deal. Just try standing in one place for eight hours. Without either fidgeting, or going insane. They taught me isometrics for the physical issues. Thatís not exactly correct. They taught me the necessary muscle movements to keep my body supple in the two positions I would be in for extended periods of time.
The mental adjustment was a lot harder, but like everything I was trained in, inevitable. I was taught a special state of mind that was just waiting. It was close to pure awareness, but not quite. Iíd heard of pure awareness in some spiritual studies I had brushed against, and then avoided. This state kept me aware of my training. Otherwise, I could have had someone come up to use me, and I would have just ignored him.
So I stood, hitched to the rail, and watched what was going on around me. Time passed, and so did people. The boat came in. People went in and out of the building. Eventually, a crowd of people came out carrying baggage. Iíd seen it before, when I was assigned here for the taxi service.
Sandra came out, talking to two people. Oh, Shit! One of them was daddy! I went into shock for a moment. Well, longer than a moment. Dad went off with the other woman, Sandra had luggage loaded into the cart, and then she told me "Home."
I was still in shock. Then my training reasserted itself, and I came to. Throwing a tantrum wasnít going to help at all in getting off the island in any type of style. I had an order, so I headed out into traffic.
I got us to the Embassy without mishap. Sandra had a porter unload the cart. She stopped the stable lad from leading me away while she talked to the stable master. It seemed that someone named Princess Jeanette had ordered that I could talk to dad. Then the stable lad led me back to my stall.
I got to talk to dad later that day. Just seeing him helped immensely. I hadnít realized how much I missed family. Finally, he asked point blank exactly why I had done such an idiotic thing.
Well, that was Dad. You could cover up only so long with him. So I took a deep breath, and told him. Iíd always wanted to boss people around. And I also liked to hurt people. It wasnít something I was proud of, but it seemed to be part of me. And I knew it wouldnít do him any good if people knew, so I kept it suppressed.
He looked shocked, then thoughtful. "Well, that certainly explains a lot. I canít say youíre wrong about the political ramifications. Talk to Sandra about it."
Huh? "What on earth does Sandra have to do with it?"
"Sheís your supervisor for the Freehold side of things. I have no idea whether she can do anything, but she should know."
He left. At least, it was out on the table. The relief was incredible.
Sandra dropped by later that day. "Hi, Flowers. Dad said you had something to talk to me about."
So I explained it. "Thatís possibly useful for me to know. What do you want me to do about it?"
"It seems Iím blocked on the mainland side of things. At least, if I want to avoid hurting Dad politically."
"Thatís probably true, but Iím not an expert."
"So, is there any possibility on this side?
"Good question, Flowers. I donít know. Iíll have to do some research."
She left, and I looked at it. It looked like whatever happened, the next steps were from where I was.
I checked with the computer that night.
Itís good you are looking at this. Please tell me the primary charge against you.
Not exactly. You can do better.
"Playing with the ponygirl?"
Better. Thereís one more item.
"Oh, she didnít agree to it."
Exactly. The charge was non-consensual sado-masochism.
"So, what is the arrangement on the Freehold side?"
Iím not allowed to discuss that until you fulfill one additional prerequisite. Iím also not allowed to tell you the prerequisite.
I stared at it in shock. Then I thought. One secret prerequisite. That sounded like I might have to immigrate first.
So I asked.
Exactly. This information is not available to visitors.
Could I immigrate now? And what would that do to my sentence?
You would have to take the course and pass the test. The time limit only applies to visitors; it does not apply to residents. Other than that, it has no effect whatever.
I went on to other work on the comp. I figured that talking to Sandra was the next step on this line. I noticed that the computer had added the immigration course as an elective, with Consent of Supervisor as the prerequisite.
Sandra came by the next day. She gave me two additional tidbits. One was that professional dominant was a recognized career choice. The other was that if you had a registered career choice, you tended to be assigned to someone in that general field, as a kind of apprenticeship. Thatís why she had been assigned to the Ambassador.
I decided to apply for immigration.
Sandra said, "Iíll approve if you insist, but Iíd prefer that you do a psych evaluation first."
"Itís hard to know if something is really part of you, or if itís closer to the surface, and can be dealt with. The evaluation will tell you. Then itís your decision."
I looked at that for a while. I had a suggestion from my supervisor, and I didnít have a good reason to not do it. "OK, Iíll do it."
"Youíll find it on the menu. Itís going to take a while; the computer is not the most efficient tool for this. On the other hand, some of this is going to be needed for professional dominant anyway. And if it does nothing else, youíll have a much better memory."
That cheered me up. At least, she didnít have me totally off track.
Dad stayed for two weeks. I got assigned to take him around as much as I got assigned to Sandra. He gave me a big hug when he left, and told me to do well. I donít think he expected to see me again.
There was a new course on my list. "Emergency Psychotherapy for Supervisors."
I asked if this related to what Amy would be doing.
Of course. It is not absolutely necessary that you take this, since I will be guiding her through the process.
Right. "However, I need to know about it. I may have to offer support."
I opened the course. It was quite candid about the techniques working only part of the time. Part was much better than not at all if help was not available.
The basic technique was regression and redecision. The outline looked straightforward. The assumptions were anything but. There was an examination of how people made major life decisions. Another one on ramifications. Various hypnotic patterns for tracing back to the original decision. What to do if the regression went into a past life.
Some of the material in there looked fascinating. I could see applying it to myself.
"Is there a personal use version of this course?"
Yes. It is normally taken sometime after achieving a supervisor rating, but it is available at the citizen level.
"Please add it to my curriculum."
It appeared with "Consent of Supervisor" and "Citizen" as the prerequisites. Then it got marked "Approved" with Princess Jeanetteís override code. Oh, my. That looked like a direct order. I was going to have to talk to the Ambassador about my schedule.
It turned out not to be that bad. The course consisted of a number of exercises. Each one was to be done daily, for fifteen to twenty minutes until I could do them reliably. Then I was to go on to the next one. Half an hour I could juggle. And it had a lot of overlap with the Emergency Psychotherapy course.
That evening I got to my course list. "Personal Use Psychotherapy" was on it with an imposing list of prerequisites, none of which I could manage in any reasonable time. Then two more items added themselves: "Override Requested Ė Sandra Stone" and "Override Requested (Foreign) Ė Senator Stone". A moment later, another one came up: "Approved Ė Princess Jeanette."
I stared at it in shock. One of the gods of Freehold had gotten interested in me? Then the next shock intruded. Daddy was marked "Foreign." Sandra wasnít. Well, that I could check quickly.
"Why isnít Sandra marked as Foreign?"
Your sister has been offered immigration. She is expected to rise to Princess rank if she chooses to pursue it. Accordingly, for certain limited functions, she is being treated as a resident of Freehold.
Oh, shit. Well, that explained a lot. The fast track leads to the hot seat.
Back to the course. It turned out to be a series of exercises. Each one was to be done until I was able to do it successfully almost all of the time. They were carefully marked as to the order I needed to take them. I couldnít make out the logic, but then, I didnít need to. It allocated fifteen minutes a day.
Amy and I didnít keep pace. She had a more specific version that was aimed directly at resolving the sadism, if possible. She had the VR helmet, which acted like a form of biofeedback device. She could also use time she was otherwise wasting just standing in her stall. She got to the gallery of her memory faster than I did.
Once I got there, it proved incredibly useful. How it worked, I have no idea. Effectively, I would rise out of my body, and then somehow I could see my life as a series of rooms, one for each day. I could walk back and forth, and examine anything in them. And I never got hooked into the feelings involved. They were there, but they had no ability to command me. All by itself, being able to go back and review conversations and meetings proved a gold mine.
The next major step was to use the gallery to trace threads. This proved useful for tracking down experiences where I didnít remember the date. But it was more useful for tracing reactions. The first time I tracked down a particular irritation was a revelation. The thread ended with a specific incident when I was two.
Then I had to learn how to deal with it. Obviously, I had made an incorrect choice. But that was layered into many other choices throughout my life. Unraveling it was a major project. Once I did, changing it was almost trivial. I was told to block out several hours. I had no idea why, but I did.
It was just as well. The change was almost instantaneous. The ripple effect as everything it affected changed took time. Lots of time. I was totally out of it for three hours.
Not only did the irritation vanish, but also a lot of other things changed in the next few weeks.
I had done three changes by the time Amy was ready to trace down the sadism. The thing was, as a ponygirl, she didnít have a use for most of it. It was like we had the same distance to go, but I had places where I could stop and consolidate before pressing on. She had to go the route in one step.
Eventually, she was ready. We had arranged with the stable master to block out her entire day. The change knocked her out for six hours. But the sadism was gone. I never asked her for details; she never volunteered any.
She decided not to immigrate at this time. Without the sadism, she felt she had options on both sides that she wanted to look into. I had to agree with her; that was the outcome I had hoped for.
Two months later, she got her jump to personal slave. I led her to the training building personally. I was no longer her supervisor.
I had gotten my double jump to Citizen (Foreign Equivalent) a few months previous. My sentence ended when Amy got her jump; I could now leave if I wanted. Frankly, I didnít want. Vanity played a bit of a role; I liked the sound of Princess Sandra, even if it would be eight to ten years before I would hear it.
Amy went though the personal slave training in fine style. Sheís now the young woman kneeling by the Ambassadorís desk. I stayed on at the Embassy, formally as a State Department employee, informally as a candidate for Freehold immigration, sometime. Both the State Department and Freehold figured the ambiguity was to their advantage.
Life in the fast lane was certainly interesting. One morning, I got a request to come down to Justice. Someone was asking for the Ambassador. Someone had been caught spying. Something associated, and I spent some time pulling files.
There was a non-descript young woman in the interview room. She started right in. I cut her off.
"You were caught in a restricted area. Those areas are clearly marked, and are also explained in Orientation. You cannot make a credible claim that you didnít know where you were; the surveillance system has a complete record of your activities."
She looked shocked. "Lets look at excerpts." I showed them to her.
"We should have known about this."
"Your supervisor knows about it. Freeholdís surveillance system is hardly a secret."
"Youíre trying to tell me that I was set up?"
"Yes. What do you know of Freeholdís legal system?"
What she told me was a joke. She knew nothing about it. I explained it to her as best I could. She looked shocked again.
"Clearly, you were set up. This smelled so bad when I got the dossier that I decided to check further before interviewing you. Thatís what the delay was, not usual bureaucratic inefficiency. You supervisor has sent at least ten agents here before you. He knows exactly what is up. I suspect itís his way of getting rid of subordinates that might challenge his position."
"Now, hereís what usually happens. The justice system makes an estimate of the personal and social responsibility rating of the miscreant. The person is started at that point in the Freehold system that is most appropriate for that rating. They are given a time limit to raise their responsibility ratings to the equivalent of Citizen, which is the lowest rating that does not require some form of direct, personal supervision or other restrictive structure.
"What makes that difficult in your case is that the charge is espionage. That really doesnít correspond to low responsibility ratings at all, unless itís an internal Freehold affair, which this isnít. I would expect that you would be required to raise your social responsibility rating to something corresponding to One World. Thatís not impossible, but itís an absurd result in an individual case. I have no idea what the judge will do."
"Now, you need a couple of additional facts. One is that ponygirls get an interesting metabolic boost. If you manage to leave after that boost, you will be ineligible for competitive sports of any variety. Freehold will register you with the world sports authorities."
"The second fact is that the reason Freehold remains independent is that we are backed by the Dodecahedron. Your supervisor knows this. The only reason heís still alive is that he has managed not to cross them directly. Iíve already sent this set of dossiers upstairs."
I checked my readout. The status had changed while we were talking. The case was now on hold while the Syndics of the Dodecahedron considered it.
"Youíre in luck. Princess Jeanette referred it to the Syndics of the Dodecahedron. Itís on hold until they resolve it from their end. That shouldnít be too long; they donít let these things fester. Meanwhile, why donít we discuss Freehold? I suspect that youíve got lots of questions from your stay here that I can answer."
We talked for a while. Eventually, my display updated.
"We can now go talk to the judge. The Syndics have acted. Your supervisor, and the executive two steps above him, has been executed. Its officially an action against the Dodecahedron."
We went to the waiting room, and the case was called. Different judge, same setup. She sat in one chair; I sat in another. The two walking mountains moved into position behind her chair. Ponygirl capture stuff was laid out on a table.
The judge called the case. He asked her for her input.
"The facts are as stated, you honor. I donít have enough information on your legal system to tell if the charge is consistent with the facts."
He smiled, made a note. "Envoy?"
"The Syndics have decided that the espionage was aimed at their interests. Accordingly, the charge of espionage against Freehold may no longer be appropriate."
He looked startled. Then he started checking the file. After a few minutes, he said, "The statement about the Syndics is correct." He thought for a moment.
"Please rise and face the court."
"Most of your actions in this case arise out of an external espionage plot against the Dodecahedron. They have already rendered their judgment. They do not, as a matter of policy, act against lower echelon agents operating under reasonable orders, as long as those orders were not being exceeded. Since they have not acted against you, the conclusion is inescapable that you did not exceed your orders."
"The record does not show any actions which would cause Freehold to reevaluate your provisional personal and social responsibility ratings. Accordingly, I will dismiss the charges."
She sagged in relief. Then she followed me out.
I told her, "Weíre going to the Embassy first. You need to check in with your department." My ponygirl was still hitched in front of the Ministry of Justice. I had brought a two-person cart.
I flicked the reins, and my girl moved the cart into traffic. I never supervised the ponygirls; they knew their jobs or they wouldnít be in the Embassy stables. Something else had occurred to me.
"What did they tell you about the Freehold advancement system?"
"We couldnít use it. We would be severely punished for asking."
"Right. Part of the setup. That is the only way you can advance. Period. Your predecessors are in freight, if theyíre lucky. If they arenít, theyíre on a farm."
"Oh, my god!"
"Exactly. Sentences are set up so that anyone with an average amount of intelligence, drive and integrity can finish them with an adequate margin. But they have to use the advancement system."
"What do we do?"
"You call home. Iím going to file a request for reevaluation with the Justice system and with the Princess I work with. Then Iím going to assume that they tell me to go to hell, and plan on locating each and every one and talking to them personally."
Iíd gotten my ponies fed and settled in. Iíd put the helmets on the five that used the advancement system. Two of the others were on the stupid end of stupid. The third was a puzzle. Iíd had to kick his ass for apathy a few times, but otherwise, he looked too good for freight. He just refused to use the system. Iíd quit expecting him to ask, and I wasnít allowed to kick his ass into getting started.
Time to check in myself. I wouldnít have anything else to do until I took the helmets off of the five. I fired it up, and then I swore. There was a message with a Princess level priority code. This I didnít need. Well, I could always send it back and ask for it in fewer, shorter words that made sense.
I read the damn thing three times. When it sank in, I swore again. This explained my puzzle. Heíd been lied to about the advancement system. And that was just obscene.
Well, time to do something. "Steel River, get your ass over here! I need to talk to you."
He struggled to his feet, trotted over and looked at me.
"What part of talk donít you understand?"
"Itís a word. What were you told about those fucking helmets?"
"Iíd be punished if I asked about them."
"Well, you were lied to. The truth is exactly the opposite." I stared at him.
He stared back.
"Youíre supposed to ask me about them. Either you ask me right now, or I kick your ass and put one on you anyway. UNDERSTAND?"
"Uh, may I use the advancement system?"
I smiled. "You certainly can. Get your ass back over there, and Iíll show you how it works."
I got one of the spares from the wagon. "I put it on your head, and turn it on. I take it off. It will teach you how to use it. Simple." The kind of simple I liked.
I checked status. It had already started to teach him how to use it. Good. I could send the message back to the Princess with a done. One more problem out of my life.