Pyramid Scheme

By Xaltatun of Acheron

This work is copyright 2000, 2001, 2002 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.

Story codes: (MF, FF, pony, SF, little sex)

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 seven stories in the Freehold series:

1. A Slave Girl of Freehold

2. A Ponygirl of Freehold

3. The Field Ecologist’s Ponygirl (sequel to A Ponygirl of Freehold)

4. Delivery Ponyboy

5. Carriage Team of Freehold

6. Escaped Ponygirl

7. Pyramid Scheme

Stories 2 and 3: Ponygirl and Field Ecologist form one story and should be read in that order. Story one leads into story 4, although there isn’t any real continuity of plot.

Carriage Team of Freehold, Escaped Ponygirl and Pyramid Scheme form a sequence, to some extent based on events at the end of Delivery Ponyboy. You do not need to read them in sequence, but it may help fill in gaps.

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. I’m not going to point out which practices are safe, and which aren’t. 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. Don’t make yourself a candidate for a Darwin award.

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

What has gone before.

Running Flame and her three companions, Fast Fox, Rippling Stream and Sparkling Brook, have been left to their own devices in a little villa in the Ancient Egypt enclave, while her owner, Prince Andy and his valet, Steel Rivers, have gone elsewhere. She decided, after some time standing in the hot sun executing flies with her tail, that enough was enough, so she broke out of ponygirl bondage (using hidden releases in her hoof boots) and began to get the place organized.

Eventually, a pair of slaves shows up, injected into the situation at spearpoint. Frank had been a drug runner who had a potentially fatal falling out with his gang, and Bonnie was the daughter of a visiting anthropologist who had been enslaved by the locals when her father unexpectedly died. They got the villa squared away; the cistern filled with the three ponygirl (well, two ponygirls and one ponyboy, to be depressingly accurate) power pump, and spent a pleasant day watching the locals build a pyramid.

That night, everything has been arranged to Running Flame’s erotic satisfaction.

Chapter 8. Betrayed

My head ached abominably. The straw I lay on scratched as I tried to bring my hands up to cushion my aching head, and the collar around my throat chafed and jerked my movement to a stop as the chain tightened with a twang.

What! I came fully awake and moaned as muscle aches and a queasy feeling just short of utter nausea joined my headache. What was going on? I managed to open my eyes, which just confirmed through a bleary film that I seemed to be in one of the stalls in the slave kennels. I must have been drugged, not that the knowledge was likely to do any good.

I considered going back to sleep, but somehow I summoned up a reserve of strength. Or maybe just perverse stubbornness: whoever had done this was going to taste my wrath. Before I sent them to, what was the Egyptian god that judged the dead? Ma’at? Whatever. A couple of deep breaths cleared my head somewhat, and I tried to think out what had happened.

The last thing I had remembered was going to sleep on one side of Frank, with Bonnie on his other side. I’d put the bar across the door, so either they’d done me in, or something else had happened. I groaned again as the headache intensified. Damn my dislike of strategic thinking. Well, either I could stay here, or I could break out and chase the miserable traitors to their lair.

The question was: how? I felt for the quick release studs in the hoof boots, and found them. However, they didn’t release. They stayed exactly where they were, as solid as if they’d been welded in place. I moaned again, quietly. Damn Bonnie. Somehow I knew that Frank wouldn’t have been clever enough to disable them.

I tried to relax, and the headache receded enough for me to think a bit. I’d escaped from the Old South Plantations, how? Oh, yes. I focused my bleary gaze on the wooden walls that separated the stalls, and finally found a protruding nail. My arms felt like lead as I twisted the lock around the nail, until I was finally rewarded with a light pop. Then I twisted around until I managed to catch the zipper on the nail, and pulled it open. One hoof boot off. Now that I had a hand free, the second one came off.

I tried to back out, and was jerked up short for my troubles. Oh, right. That damn slave collar. The key should be right behind me. I twisted to look. Yep, it was hanging on the wall, completely out of reach. I tried to brush it down with my tail, but I couldn’t quite make it. I collapsed in the stall, just about ready to cry in frustration. The straw dug in. The straw? I grabbed a bunch, aligned the stalks, and twisted a couple around it to tie them into a bundle. Then I assaulted the key with my tail. It fell to the ground, and I collected it.

Insert. Twist. It didn’t work! I twisted it around until it sunk in that it was the wrong key. I felt like breaking down and crying. Instead, I thought back to my prior escape. I hadn’t had the key, had I?

No. I’d used the nail. I worried the nail out of the partition, and picked the lock.

Success! It seemed like my headache was going down, and I wasn’t feeling queasy any more. I got up and checked the other stalls. As I half expected, Fast Fox was in one, and the twins were in the big stall. All three seemed to be breathing, but they were still out cold from whatever the bastards had used on us.

Damn again. The twins would be useless, but Fast Fox would be invaluable. I supposed the next thing would be to reconnoiter and see if the perfidious duo had run, or if they were still around somewhere I could turn the tables.

It looked like they’d run. At least, I knew how. There was a hidden door in the cellars that lead to a tunnel. I had no doubt that it went into the complex that centered under the pyramid. At least, if I could trust Frank’s carefully prepared spontaneous confession, which I had reason to doubt. Whatever. I tried to block it with a cabinet, although I had my doubts that it would work because the door opened into the tunnel, not out into the cellar. At least, it would make a clatter if they tried to come back through.

It did seem that they had left the food. A couple of fruits and some water helped immensely. The terminals we’d been using were nowhere in sight. I suspected that they were probably at the bottom of the well, or in the cistern, or some other place that would render them useless. Fortunately, I didn’t think I’d told either Bonnie or Frank where the rest of them were. There should be another helmet and another one of the experimental units.

They were exactly where I’d left them, under one of the seats in the carriage. I took out the last of the experimental units, reserving the helmet either for an emergency or for Fast Fox.

Good morning, Running Flame. What can I do for you? One of the standard openings. At least, it was working.

“HELP! Fast Fox and I were drugged last night. Frank and Bonnie seem to have vanished.”

That’s not good. Do tell. One moment.

The words changed slightly.

What is your situation?

I described it again.

How did this happen?

“Stupidity on my part. I trusted those two bastards.” I described how I’d been taken in.

I will leave the evaluation to the review board. Yeah, right. What a relief. Frank and Bonnie appear to be in a room in the port. Prince Andy and Steel Rivers seem to be in no present danger. I’ve put a monitor on them to insure that they come to no harm.

What is your evaluation of the likely course of events?

It’s asking me? “They’ll escape from the enclave on a ship?”

Then what?

It should know I’m no good at this, I wailed silently to myself. Prince Andy comes back and we go back to Freehold, of course. Oh, shit.

“I don’t think they know about what Justice can do, so they need to keep Prince Andy from finding out what’s happened. Someone is going to come and kill us. Soon, so they can cover the lack of communications.”

Possibly. Or they plan on killing the Prince and Steel Rivers, and taking you for slaves. Keep the communicator close. We will keep you informed if anything happens you need to respond to. Meanwhile, just keep on as if nothing has happened.

“All right. I don’t think I need to stir from here until the Prince arrives. Or doesn’t. We’ve got food for that long, but I’m short one helmet. Well, I’m short three, but I only need one right now.”

I’ll see about replenishing the equipment. Anything else?

“I think I’ve pretty much recovered from whatever they gave me, but I don’t know about the other three.”

It’ll be taken care of before you get back to them. Anything else?

“I don’t think so.”

Whoever I’d been talking to vanished from the virtual screen, and the advisor reappeared.

Is everything satisfactory?

“For the moment. Are there any messages?”

There was a message from the Prince, now woefully out of date. I wrote him a message describing the situation. I figured he would be able to get more information about what else was going on faster than I could, anyway, so I went a bit light on suspicions, and heavier on things he might want to know about our condition.

I sent it off, and decided that course work was so low on my priority list that it was practically invisible.

So, back to the stable. By the time I got there, all three of the ponies were awake. The twins didn’t look like they knew anything unusual had happened. If they’d noticed that Frank was missing, it hadn’t occurred to them that it meant anything, which was just as well. Fast Fox, on the other hand, was standing on four hooves in a stance that made me just as happy that I wasn’t the one who had put him back where he belonged. And that he wouldn’t be able to do anything to me before I had a chance to explain.

I walked up behind him, and he glared at me.

“Hey, big guy. Do you want to calm down so I can tell you what happened, or should I just put you in the pump room and let you heat the water as it goes by?”

That confused him enough that he got a laugh, which is what I intended.

“So. Why did you put me back in the stable?”

“I didn’t. Bonnie drugged us and put both of us back here. She and Frank escaped to the port. Justice is keeping close tabs on the situation.”

He stared at me while it percolated. “Shit!” That expletive said it all. “So, let me out of here.”


“What?” Fortunately, he kept his voice down.

“Big boy, you’re a ponyboy until the review board decides otherwise.”

“So are you.”

Please. Ponygirl.”

“Forgive me,” he said, more than a little irony in his voice. “Well, it was too good to be true. What’s on the schedule for today?”

“You emulate a big shot.”


“Blessed are they that go around in circles, for they shall be known as wheels,” I quoted one of the proverbs.

“Oh, well. I suppose it’s better than staring at this damn wall.”

“Frankly, if you could figure out a way of getting Sparkling Brook onto the system without just cramming her head in a helmet and telling her she’d be flogged if she didn’t learn something, I’d give all three of you more study time.”

I thought for a moment.

“Now that I think of it, would you stay in the back garden if I put you there? More important, do you think the twins would stay there?”

“It’s fenced, isn’t it? They should stay there if you tell them to.”

I noticed he didn’t say he would stay, but I decided not to challenge him on it. He’d already had a rougher morning than any ponyboy should have.

I found one of the halters and put his head in it, and then tried to unlock the collar. The damn key didn’t work! I swore at it for a minute while Fox stared at me, and then slapped my head. The key from the stall they’d had me in worked, all right. They’d just swapped them. I led him out to the courtyard and filled the water trough, and then I brought the two blondes out. I watched their heads bobbing in the trough, manes fluttering in the light breeze for a moment. I put a selection of native fruits into the other trough, and waited until they’d had their fill. Then I hitched them to the windlass, and watched them start refilling the cistern.

I wouldn’t have claimed life was good, but at least the current problems had been dealt with.

Chapter 9. Payback.

I spent some time exploring the rest of the villa. If I remembered correctly, one of the rooms was a Roman style bath, currently empty, complete with massage table. I’d ignored it originally as being of no earthly use without water. Now it looked like I had too much. Keeping my three ponies busy was more important than my wearing a hair shirt when I didn’t need to. Or so I told myself, grinning.

A little hunting found the stopcock. I turned it, and watched the water jet out of the bamboo pipe and puddle onto the bottom of the pool area. It was cold, which actually wasn’t surprising, now that I thought about it. The cistern was shielded from the direct sunlight. Pity this place didn’t run to hot water, though.

That thought made me look at the ceiling. There was a hole in it, like the one in the kitchen. And a set of leather straps near it. Warm water! It almost made me glow with anticipation. I tried to get whatever it was focused, but the target under the hole stubbornly refused to warm up. I was doing something wrong, somewhere.

So I trotted up the stairs to the roof to look at the apparatus. Both solar heaters were curved bronze mirrors in wooden frames. I twisted the mirror above the bath around until something kicked loose from that same useless science class that had seen me taking an even more useless wilderness hike. The damn thing needed to be adjusted every day because the Sun was never in the same place twice.

I ran it back and forth again, and this time I looked. There was a line of glazed bricks that went right through the center of the hole, and the image of the Sun wasn’t on it. That, I thought I could handle. I studied it a moment, and then adjusted the height to bring the image where it should be.

Then I went over to the one over the kitchen, and made a much smaller adjustment.

Back down. Now the target plate in the bath had warmed up. Time for some more exploring. If there was one hidden room down in the cellars, then there might be more.

It wasn’t really that hidden, either. Now that I was looking, the door was rather obvious. I pushed it in, and found myself in a dungeon. A real, not quite modern fetishist’s dungeon. I’d had to deal with one of them on a previous assignment, so the St. Andrew’s cross that dominated one end of the room didn’t surprise me. Neither did the padded horse, or the leather implements that decorated the walls. The cages didn’t surprise me either, but the body in one of them did. Bad housekeeping; the charnel smell was not pleasant.

I took a good look at the implements with which the former inhabitants of the villa had amused themselves, and then left, closing the door firmly behind me. I also added “body, 1, legal disposal of” to my to-do list.

It was heading on toward noon, so I decided to release my ponies from their circular lack of reasoning and give them a couple of hours in the garden. That didn’t take all that long. I brought out a platter of fruits and veggies, and set it out for them to chow down. They went after it with every evidence of enthusiasm. Fox, as usual, studiously ignored me, but the twins butted me in the stomach a couple of times as they went past, earning a good scratch behind the ears and a ruffle of their blond manes.

I settled down to watch them for a while. One of the twins came up and plopped herself down in front of me, cat fashion. “How do you file a complaint around here?”

“You must be Sparkling Brook,” I said. She looked at me funny at the apparent non sequitur, but then bobbed her head up and down. “Yes, I am.”

“I thought so. I’m still having trouble telling you apart. So, what do you want to complain about?”

“You’re out, and we’re not. And there aren’t any proper grooms. And this stable is worse than the last one, and …” she ran down.

“I figured you had to be Sparkling Brook because your sister would have known how to find out the answers.” I shut up to see where she’d take that. Apparently she didn’t take it very well, because her tail lashed back and forth for a minute while she put it together.

“You must be talking about those stupid helmets you put on Fox and sis. What are they?” I tried to avoid falling over in relief. Finally, she was asking about them.

“Access to the system, sugar. You ought to know how to use it, didn’t you grow up around here?”

She looked at me in utter disbelief. “You mean that ponygirls get to use the system? I can play games and talk to my friends? Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

“Sugar, you had to ask first. That’s one of the rules. It’s also the advancement system. It’s your choice as to whether you take courses or you simply ignore it.”

“All right. Show me how to use it tonight. I assume it’s tonight? But what is going on around here?”

“If I’ve still got three helmets, you’re on. As to what’s going on, you’re part of Prince Andy’s carriage team. The Prince goes to the enclaves, so …”

Her eyes got real round. “We’re in one of the enclaves?” she burst in, excited. “Which one?”

“Ancient Egypt. The last one was Old South. There’s a monastery and then Gor scheduled next.”

She wrinkled her nose at that. “I’ve heard about Gor. Why don’t they get rid of it? I thought Amazonia sounded neat, though.” Amazonia? Oh, well, put it on the list to ask the advisor about. “But what is going on?”

“To answer one of your questions, the enclaves don’t have proper ponygirl facilities. We have to make do. And this one is worse than most. They almost didn’t give us any staff, and then they ran off last night.”

“So you’re trying to fill in.” She nodded as if she understood. “One of my sisters was always trying to do that. On and on about behaving responsibly. I absolutely hated it.”

“And decided not to do that,” I said into the sudden silence.

She sat up straighter. “Huh? How’d you know that?”

“Good guess, sugar. Think about it.” I tried to look bland, and with the amount of acting I’ve done, I can get bland enough that even a rock will figure out that there’s stuff I’m not saying.

She gave me a sharp look, got herself onto all four hooves, stretched and trotted off, tail in a U shape behind her.

The terminal at my belt beeped. I thumbed the on switch, and words only I could see formed in the air above it.

Frank and Bonnie are in the tunnel, headed your way. They’ve got standard Freehold pistols; they should be coming out in about half an hour or so.

“Any suggestions about how I should handle it?”

I’ll stun them when come through the door. I’ll also close the tunnel entrance so nobody can follow them down this branch. You handle it from there.

“I presume that handling it doesn’t including killing them.”

According to your dossier, the review board would probably take a dim view of that action.

“Well, there are some arm binders handy. I can always use more help on keeping the cistern full.”

Arm binders?

“You miss so much when you lead a virtuous and upright life. There’s a dungeon in the basement. Now that I think of it, one of the cages comes complete with a corpse. I need some advice about what to do with it. It’s attracting the rats.”

Me, virtuous and upright? I tell anybody you said that, they’d die laughing.

“Then don’t. The review board might not like it.”

Talk to you later.

He hadn’t said what to do about the corpse. He also hadn’t said how long they’d be out when he stunned them, so I headed to the tunnel entrance, and moved the cabinet I’d used to block it out of the way.

Then I went to the dungeon and picked out a selection of equipment. I hesitated a bit between regular ball gags, ring gags or those leather padded dowels that enthusiasts thought were ponygirl bits. I finally decided on ring gags; they were safer than ball gags, and the so-called ponygirl bits were just amusing; they’d find out how the real thing felt soon enough.

I had time to spare. I settled down outside of the storage room and thumbed on the communicator while I waited. The words hovered in the air: two minutes or so. Move back a little more; you’re still in range of the stunner.

I moved back one more room and looked at the communicator. This time it showed me a picture of the two of them walking up the tunnel. Frank was wearing pants and a sweatshirt, Bonnie had on pants and a sleeveless top. Both of them were wearing sneakers. I shook my head. Well, the gloves were off, I suppose that neither of them saw any need to go around like the unwashed heathens. Bonnie would look good in anything tighter than an army tent, but I thought Frank looked better in the short skirt. It displayed his muscles better, and was nowhere near as distracting as tight shorts.

Enough woolgathering. The dynamic duo found the door the way they had left it, and walked cautiously around it, guns held ahead of them. I nodded. They weren’t professionals; that stance might look good on the 3v, but nobody properly trained used it.

Then there was a very low sound, more felt than heard, and the two of them just collapsed like they were puppets and someone had cut their strings. I almost collapsed as well, but managed to get myself together and walk in, carrying my payload.

I rolled Bonnie over first, and slid the leather under her arms. I inserted her hands into the glove, and then buckled several of the straps. The top straps went under her arms, over her shoulders, and then buckled to the top. Tightening them properly could come later.

Then I did the same for Frank. By the time I finished, he was stirring. The stun hadn’t lasted all that long. I shoved a ring gag in his mouth, and tightened the strap around his head, and then I tightened the straps on the glove.

“What the …” That was Bonnie’s voice as she came around and discovered that her arms were pretty much useless.

“Open up, sweetie,” I said as I put a knee into the small of her back. “I’m going to install a ring gag, and I don’t want to break any teeth.”

She clamped her mouth shut. Why do the victims in the scenario have to act so predictably? I didn’t bother with the nose thing. I just put one of my thumbs on a nerve point. She arched back and screamed fit to wake the dead. When she tried to draw a breath, she discovered that her mouth had been nicely propped open with the ring gag. I finished buckling it and let her head down while she panted, recovering from the pain.

Then I stripped off her trousers and panties, taking her sneakers in passing. I added a hobble to her adornments; I had no idea if she kicked, or was even trained to, and I wasn’t in the mood to take chances.

She looked like she was done, but now Frank was twisting around, trying to get his arms free and making garbled noises through the gag, which did nothing to suppress the sound. Well, that wasn’t its function. I pushed him over and unbuckled his belt, then I pulled his pants and drawers off, again taking his sneakers in the process.

A leather collar and leash finished the process. My two captives still had their tops on. That was easy enough to correct. Bonnie’s came off with a satisfying rip of abused cloth. Frank’s was made of sterner stuff, but yielded to some determination and a few grunts from the wearer.

I picked up both leashes and pulled. The two of them stumbled clumsily to their feet, inhibited by the hobbles. I yanked them behind me. In a few minutes, they were tied on opposite sides of one of the crossbars below the cistern, stumbling around in a circle. I thought briefly about taking off the hobbles so they could walk better, and then decided against it. It wasn’t like the water level in the cistern was a crisis.

I looked at the mechanism thoughtfully. Five slaves would unbalance the thing. I’d put the twins back on later, and then see if Fast Fox would let his penis cheer him up.

Chapter 10. Reorganization.

That was a pretty good scuffle, if I did say so myself. In fact, I was feeling better than I had since I offed that politician in Central Europe. I wasn’t entirely sure why she’d earned the ire of my mysterious superiors; there were entirely too many possible reasons, some of which might have been offensive enough to earn her a fast ticket to her next lifetime. I took a moment to examine my reaction, and then I relaxed. Part of it was personal pique, of course, but the rest was irritation with their involvement in the drug trade. I shrugged. If there was anything I was ignoring, the interrogators would get it when I turned in my final report.

Meanwhile, this mess still wasn’t finished. I can’t say I wanted to go back to being a ponygirl in harness, but that was my permanent position until the review board chose to say something different, and the last thing I wanted to do was make waves, at least waves that would rock the review board.

I wondered. Was there any way I could trust Bonnie to cook and clean without one of her delicious dishes coming with a delicate seasoning of arsenic, or the local equivalent. And Frank wasn’t half bad as a groom. I just wanted them to know they couldn’t get away with anything before they went to the training stables.

Either someone in authority could do it, or they couldn’t. Either way, I would learn something. I sat down next to the slowly filling pool and pulled out the communication unit.

What can I do for you today, Running Flame?

“I’ve got a problem with Bonnie and Frank. I’d like to use them as a cook/housekeeper and groom, but after this last mess, I don’t know how I could trust them. Is there any way of making certain they don’t rebel?”

I’m transferring you to Justice.

The letters in the air shifted after a moment.

We could do that. There are certain capabilities we don’t advertise, and that require higher level authorizations. Prince Andy could authorize it, and since he is your supervisor, you need to talk to him.

“Thank you.” I hate runarounds, but this wasn’t one. He was absolutely right, and I should have started out with the Prince anyway.

So I put a report together for the Prince together with my suggestion that our situation would be improved immeasurably if I could use them rather than have to keep them under duress.

My communication unit came back an hour or so later with the Prince’s reply.

Congratulations on capturing those two.

Well, it wasn’t like I’d gone out after them, but still, the praise felt nice.

I agree that you need more support, but the situation here is still too delicate for me to get it locally. I’m still not certain who is in charge, or more precisely, whether the entire society has been taken over by the drug runners, or if there is still a valid power structure.

I’m instructing Justice to put both of them under remote restraint. They won’t be able to escape, or to do anything that would cause you harm. Please remember that remote restraint is a computer system, and that nothing of this kind is perfect; you will still have to take precautions. Also, remote restraint does not keep them from arguing with you, or keep them from taking action that they think is in your interest, but is actually not.

Keep up a reasonable guard, but you shouldn’t have any trouble.

You should, by the way, know that they can’t lie to you. The advisor will have details of the protocol to use.

Good Luck. My schedule calls for me to be back there in about five days. We may get one of my associates to you in another two; make sure there are rooms prepared for her.

It took me a while to figure it out. Who hasn’t read the occasional deal with the devil story, or stories about clever people weaseling out of a supposedly airtight set of constraints?

Then the note about their inability to lie caught my eye. Was I supposed to interrogate them? Well, considering the problems the Prince was running into, that did seem to be advisable.

“I suppose,” I said as I lounged around the pool after dinner with Bonnie and Frank, “that you’ve got a few questions.”

“I know I have,” Frank growled. “I’ve had an opportunity to kill you about five times. Then I just forgot about it. Spooky.”

I grinned at him. “Yes. Somewhere, there’s a computer with your name on it, that’s doing something incomprehensible. If you just relax and accept it, you next few days here will be fairly pleasant. Not a vacation, mind you, but I’m easy to get along with as long as you do your jobs. If you keep trying, it’s just going to get more and more bizarre. And remember that this particular system has quite a bit of experience.”

“I believe you,” Bonnie said from the depths of her couch. “Making dinner was an absolutely miserable experience until I focused in on just doing a good job.”

“You did your usual marvelous job, dear.”

She snorted. “It could have been better.”

“So?” I shrugged. “Anything could be done better, and you usually do get better if you keep at it.”

“Besides,” I continued, “we’re about to shut down the entire drug operation here, from one end to the other. The restraint system doesn’t claim to be perfect, but there’s no way you can escape. There’s also no way you can lie to me, so don’t even try.”

“That’s unbelievable,” muttered Frank, who was clearly having a hard time with this.

“So? What color is the wall?”

“It’s kind of reddish, with some blue and green and …”

“Tell me it’s a very intense yellow.”

“It’s … mostly reddish.” He sounded a bit shaky.

“And what did I ask you to say?”

“Uh. I don’t remember!”

“Exactly. I don’t know how it works, but it’s the same system the interrogators use. And they’ve got the reputation of being able to squeeze truth out of a stone. What I want to know first is how close to the top you are to the drug operation.”

I was met by silence. “Bonnie?”

“Damn you. We’re in charge of local security.”

I kept at it for a while, drawing out details of the operation. They went from resistant, to resigned, to quietly gloating over details they were happy with. Occasionally, my communicator would pose a question, or suggest a line to follow. Clearly, Justice was on line and following the interrogation with interest.

Finally, it was over. Not that I thought I’d gotten everything there was to get from those two, just for the night. It was time to get to pleasure.

I shrugged out of my gown. “Last one in’s a rotten fish!”

I got two huh’s for my trouble. Then a hand clapped me in the back, and I tumbled in just in front of Frank. I hadn’t quite forgotten that all he had to do to disrobe was pull the knot on his skirt, but he’d recovered faster than I thought. Bonnie splashed in a moment later.

Half an hour later, we splashed out, toweled each other off, and trooped into the bedroom.

“Sorry about this, kids,” I said, “but I’m not taking chances.” I pointed to a pair of bronze collars lying at the head of the platform, dangling from bronze chains. Bonnie made a mouth at me, and then snapped one of them around her neck, shot the lock and handed me the key. Frank shrugged and did the same. I hung the keys on the other side of the room and blew out the lantern. Once again, Bonnie and I assaulted Frank, but this time he was ready…

A while later, I pulled up the sleeping furs and lay down, my two captives curled on either side.

Chapter 10. Next…

The next morning I woke up, two warm bodies curled up next to me on either side. As I stretched, I reflected that this was immeasurably better than yesterday. In fact, I wondered how I was going to top it. Well, time to get everyone moving. I shook the two sleepyheads awake, and gave them a moment to discover the bronze encircling their necks in a gleaming grip. Then I unlocked them and sent them to get the day started.

I had Bonnie play maid, getting me all made up and dressed. She had a ball braiding my mane and tail, and then doing a magnificent job on makeup. After that, she managed to get a hot breakfast ready by the time Frank came back in from getting our three ponies up, fed and harnessed to the cistern pump. Well, he had two of them going around in circles; Rippling Stream was hitched to the taxi, ready for Bonnie’s shopping expedition to the village. I saw her off and sat back to watch what she did as Frank went back out to attend to some of the minor problems that had occurred over the months this villa had been unoccupied and open to the elements.

Bonnie arrived back, in a clatter of horseshoes, taking the corner into the villa at a full trot just like she’d done two days before with Sparkling Brook. Rippling Stream panted slightly, sweat gleaming on her skin, as she cooled down from the run. Bonnie flipped her reins to Frank, and walked in front, letting the ponygirl nuzzle her looking for a sweet.

I figured Bonnie had to be some kind of wizard trainer; she certainly hadn’t known to do that yesterday! Well, they were identical twins, what suited one probably would suit the other.

The rest of the day went swimmingly. I finished the interrogation, getting more details for Justice, and answering a lot of questions from Prince Andy. The whole organization had been laid out for our perusal. Well, not the entire organization, but most of the political part on this side. As Prince Andy thought, the local culture was simply riddled with it. Withdraw it and it might fall apart for lack of a management structure. I shrugged mentally. That was Prince Andy’s problem, and welcome to it. The nobility got their fancy titles and privileges solving this kind of problem.

The major shock came that afternoon as I reclined in the garden at the back of the villa. Frank was making himself useful trimming back bushes, pulling weeds and otherwise making it presentable. The three ponies were at the other end, lying spread out and talking quietly among themselves. So I pulled out my communicator, and logged in.

I see you are back again.

“Of course. Anything I need to deal with?”

You have messages from Prince Andy, the review board, and Princess Annabelle.

Princess Annabelle? I looked at her message first. It just said that she’d be arriving the next day, with a carriage, one maid and a mixed team of four ponyboys and ponygirls.

The message from Prince Andy just said that Princess Annabelle would be arriving, and confirmed me as the hostess. Annabelle’s maid wasn’t capable of running the household, so I was to carry on.

The message from the review board confirmed my position and told me they were satisfied with my performance as a ponygirl, and to start studying for the next levels. If I did well, I could expect to be transferred to the immigration sequence from the correction sequence.

“What’s that about?” I asked the advisor. “I thought the next step was personal slave.”

It normally is. You may be confused about social responsibility being linear.

“It isn’t?”

Mostly it is. The scale is constructed of steps that logically follow each other. However, someone can function at far below their basic social responsibility level because of personality problems or other factors. When those factors are cleared up, they normally advance rapidly. In your case, those factors contributed to your job as an assassin. Now that you’ve cleared the personality quirks that underlay it, you’re ready to advance. The review board sees no reason for you to go through the personal slave or household slave levels. Those levels teach certain attitudes to authority and responsibility, as well as concentrate on personal responsibility. There has never been any question about your personal responsibility rating; what you need to do, you do well, or you learn how. The other content, while useful, is mostly not necessary for living a reasonable and responsible life. The parts you do have to know to function in Freehold society are in the immigration curriculum.

“So, what do I do next?”

Keep the villa going, study, and hold yourself ready to support Prince Andy and Princess Annabelle. One of them will discuss longer range goals with you. You need not expect to be pulling Prince Andy’s carriage when he leaves.

You may need more stalls in the stable.

More stalls in the stable? I had eight, well seven standard and one double. If I needed more …

Humph. Well, this did look like the end of my career as a ponygirl. However, looks can be deceiving, as I was to discover shortly. But that’s another story.