This work is copyright 2000-2004 by Xaltatun of Acheron (A Pseudonym). It may be posted on the Internet to any free forum. It may be reformatted to match the forum's look and feel, and the forum editor may make minor spelling and grammer corrections. Otherwise it must be posted in its entirety, including these notices. It may not be sold, or included in any compilation that is sold, or posted on any forum that requires a fee for access, without my written permission. My permission will require payment, terms to be negotiated. For purposes of this notice, sites guarded by Adult Check or similar packages are considered pay sites. Posting on any site must include this copyright notice.
Adult Content Warning - this story contains adult themes, including non-consensual bondage/slavery and forced sexual acts. If you are under the lawful age for such materials (18 in most jurisdictions) or if you would find such material offensive, please go elsewhere.
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.
There are fifteen stories in the series entitled “Ponygirl Transformation.” At this point, I have no intention of writing additional stories in this series, although I thought that before Engineer burst on the scene. The stories are listed in order of the series timeline, although there are a few overlaps and several continuing characters. The first three set necessary background, the next three cover one formative event from three different viewpoints.
1. Ponygirl Finds Her Place
2. Kinder and Gentler
3. The Sorceress’ Apprentice
4. Raw Material
5. Ponygirl by Choice
6. The Politics of Ponygirls
7. Ponygirls on Vacation
8. Bluebird Grows Up
9. Unregistered Ponygirls
11. Suzie’s Ponygirl
13. Engineer (in preparation)
15. Segue to Freehold (in preparation)
Acknowledgements. The setting and several of the characters are taken from a series of books by Sir Thomas (A pseudonym). “Adventures on the Hoof” and “Ponygirls, Inc” are both copyright by the Academy Club. Used by permission of Sir Thomas. These works are commercially available, and should not be on any web site on the internet, except for a short excerpt on Sir Jeff’s ponygirl web site.
Some of the characters and settings have been changed, either due to the different legal environment in the United States, my partially successful attempt to make the setting more consistent, and in one case a simple error of memory that got woven into the plot too deeply to back out by the time I discovered it.
In no case should you infer anything about the prior stories from this one. Sir Thomas has substantially different objectives for his stories.
There are a number of hidden references throughout to obscure (and some not so obscure) science fiction and fantasy stories. This is a game that some authors play. Should you care to look, have fun finding them.
Now on to the story...
Chapter 1. What do you do with a Genius?
Chapter 2. First Trip Outside.
Chapter 3. First Training Episode.
Chapter 4. Loose Lips and all that.
Chapter 5. Susi becomes a ponygirl.
Chapter 6. Auction.
Chapter 7. Leslie and Linnet Meet Team 146.
Chapter 8. Linnet Learns Her New Duties.
Chapter 9. Diana Meets her Ponygirl.
Chapter 10. Excessive Enthusiasm Gets Its Just Rewards.
Chapter 11. The Best Plans are Laid.
Chapter 12. College Interviews.
Chapter 13. Larry and Linnet Meet a BDSM Society.
Chapter 14. How did a String of Sex Workers get into Here?
Chapter 15. Amanda and Connie face a hard choice.
Chapter 16. Official interest.
Chapter 17. Amanda and Connie start training.
Chapter 18. A Ride in the Forest.
Chapter 19. Alice tries to salvage Connie.
Chapter 20. Mistress Melanie’s Stable.
Chapter 21. Space Aliens? Huh, What?
Chapter 22. Pilot Project.
Chapter 23. Amanda starts improvising.
Chapter 24. More School Daze.
Chapter 25. Linnet Closes a Chapter.
Chapter 26. Boris Badinov and the Space Aliens.
Chapter 27. More Planning
Chapter 28. Recruiting an Academic.
Chapter 29. Linnet Gets Her Reward.
Chapter 30. Amanda’s Ponygirl Stable
Chapter 31. Connie flames out.
Epilog. Another Ride in the Forest.
In the first new Arizona Community story from my pen in over three years, Larry Thompson is assigned to go out to Engineering school. We discover in short order that one of the soon to graduate ponygirls, Linnet, has the same psi powers as Alice, so she’s assigned to Larry, and Larry has to learn how to care for a ponygirl, in addition to his already heavy study load preparing for engineering school. He starts training with Raindance, and then his twin sister, Suzi, puts her foot into it. We get to see Suzi “volunteer” to start her two years as a community trainee ponygirl, and then see Larry put a new ponygirl through orientation. Time passes, and Linnet finishes the second part of her training, and is ready to be sold – or so she thinks.
Larry and his mother discover an odd situation at the auction where they are to pick up Linnet, and they wind up with a community trainee for his sister, Diana. They get the two ’girls situated in their cells with their training team. Linnet learns that she’s going to be working closely with Larry on his project, and Diana gets some practice in hitching a ponygirl to a chariot and driving her. The perpetrator of the odd situation gets her comeuppance.
Larry does his interviews for engineering school. His possession of a ponygirl gets him an apartment with the rest of the sexual oddballs, not that he’s complaining about not having to spend the first year in the dorms with the rest of the freshmen!
Larry and Linnet put on a “magic” show for a local BDSM society, and they wind up breaking up a ring of unlicensed prostitutes that haven’t paid their dues to the shadowy organization that provides STD control to sex workers. (It’s the Arizona Community, through a couple of proxies, which is how he got involved.) In handling that, they discover a couple of their client’s daughters caught in the dragnet. Neither of them is in particularly good odor with their parents (or anyone else, for that matter) so Larry makes them an offer they can’t refuse. He’s going to use them to try out a new method of initial ponygirl training.
The way they handled the prostitutes gets them noticed by the police, and they reach a deal. Amanda and Connie begin training in parallel with trying to bring their grades up. They wind up coming along nicely, so Larry begins taking them out for morning exercise by teleporting to various unsettled places and riding them. Diana, riding her ponygirl, joins them on occasion.
Alice shows up to try to help Connie, who is having a bit of a problem, and the police ask for assistance with a rather weird looking casualty of a gang war.
Connie and Amanda spend spring break at the Spring Nationals as ponygirls, being shown. Apparently they pass muster, because the powers that be decree a pilot project. Amanda joins the training team for the pilot, while Connie has to stay behind to pull her grades up. Amanda gets her first girl to train by herself, and she does quite a bit of innovative work on her. Pretty soon, she has to leave to return to school.
“Amanda,” Dale said, “you seem to be a bit amused by the point about isolated communities tending to be cults.” Dale Trevalan was the associate professor for her introductory sociology class.
“Well, I know people from two very isolated communities. I wouldn’t call either one exactly religious in any conventional sense. Both of them seemed to be more societies than cults in the sense that they had their own internal cohesion, and didn’t refer to the outside world for reasons to do what they did.”
“That seems to be a contradiction,” he said. “the very notion of isolated would seem to preclude anyone else knowing anyone from there.”
“Except by either wild coincidence or intentionally going out after them. In my case, it’s wild coincidence, combined with family contacts. One of the two is actually a student here and my family has business contacts with his community; they sent him out because they needed some expertise that they couldn’t create internally. In the other case, it’s because he holds her indenture.”
The professor frowned at that. Amanda grinned to herself; it was fun jerking his chain. His political opinions made him so predictable on certain things.
“Could you share any insights?”
“Well, the first community does not want to be openly discussed, so I’m not prepared to say much about it. I may say a few things if the subject comes up. It’s one weird place; I spent my summer interning there for a certification I need elsewhere. The other one is in the literature, though. In fact, it’s not only on the reading list, but the person I know is mentioned in the book. She’s the one they called Donna.”
“You don’t mean the one they all called the pony girl?” one of the other students interjected.
“That’s her, all right, although she’s going by the name Linnet now.”
A fairly mannish woman towards the far end of the table shook her head. “Can’t possibly be…”
She’d be pretty if she dressed right, Amanda thought to herself. “Can’t be what, Josette?”
“Linnet of the Larry and Linnet show.”
“That’s her. The ponygirl.”
“Damn. I rode her instead of interviewing her!”
“She rides well,” Amanda agreed blandly.
“Where did we take a left turn into hyperspace?” another of the students asked.
“Things do get weird when you’re dealing with cults,” the associate professor noted. “If she’s really Donna, the author would like to get in touch for a followup. They seem to be stonewalling her.”
“So Doctor Z isn’t admitting he lost one of them?” Amanda laughed. “From what Linnet says, I can see why he might be a bit defensive. I’ll ask Larry if she wants to be contacted.”
The butch lesbian at the end of the table frowned at that.
“You seem to be amused at the assignment,” Dale said to Amanda at the beginning of another class session.
“Well, I think the author was a bit naïve about the possibilities.”
“He’d probably have been totally outraged by the SlaveGirl commune,” another student put in as Josette nodded in agreement. “How is Donna handling it?”
“Linnet, please!” Amanda laughed. “She’s growing out of the unquestioning part of unquestioning obedience to men. In fact, she’s also grown out of the obedience to men in general part. She’ll do anything Larry tells her, but she certainly discusses it with him! I’d say they’ve got a fairly modern joint decision making process, except right at the end.”
“Why hasn’t she gone the rest of the way?” Josette asked.
“Partly because he owns her indenture,” Amanda said as if it should have been obvious. Then she clarified: “Mostly, though, it’s because she feels that the last step would rip up too much, possibly including their relationship and her legal obligations. She’s quite comfortable with Larry having the last word; I think she wants to retain some kind of a link to her childhood, and that’s the one she’s chosen.”
“I thought he covered that rather adequately,” one of the boys said.
“Oh, Linnet wasn’t the one I thought he was naïve about. It’s the other one.”
“Are you going to tell us about it?” Dale asked.
“I suppose I can say a few words,” she said. “It’s male dominant in the sense that women’s concerns are seen in the context of men’s concerns. They’ve separated casual sex from long term pair bonding, and the dress code has to be seen to be believed!”
“They go overboard on the sexual attractiveness thing. Until I interned there, I thought we overdid dressing sexy, but they’re so far over the top it’s unbelievable. If a woman isn’t attracting male attention, she’s not being appropriate, and if a man isn’t attracting enough female attention to get laid regularly by other women than his wife, he’s got real problems in the dominance hierarchy.” She giggled internally at some of the expressions. “On the other side, the men don’t, and I mean don’t, push themselves on the women. The fact that the average woman in her 20s and 30s is a lot stronger than the men might have something to do with that.”
She thought Josette looked puzzled, but one of the guys broke in with: “Women aren’t stronger than men.”
“Oh?” she said blandly. “Come over here so we can arm wrestle. I want to show you something.”
A couple of minutes later they’d rearranged themselves across a corner of the table, and had their arms in position. Suddenly the guy grunted as he exerted himself trying to push Amanda’s arm over. Her arm, however, didn’t budge. Then she slowly pushed his arm over and finally laid it flat on the table.
“How’d you do that?” he asked.
“Gene mods,” she answered as she unwound her tail from around her waist and flirted it at him on her way back to her chair.
“How do I get that mod?” Josette asked.
“It comes along with being a ponygirl. You want it, you sign a 20 year indenture.”
“I don’t think I want it that bad,” Josette said as a couple of other students grinned.
“If they’re that promiscuous, how to they tell which kids are whose?” one boy asked.
“They have a target for the number of babies each quarter, and Community Services simply tells them who’s going to be bred to who for each scheduled child.”
That comment was met with a stunned silence.
“Well, it’s not quite that bad,” Amanda clarified. “They maintain a roster of women who are in a stable relationship that want a child, and do some kind of matchup and personality projection for the quarter. Then the selected women get a choice of how they want to do it. It ranges from artificial insemination through dinner and sex through letting it happen if the selected mate is already laying her regularly, and on to a heavy-duty forced breeding scene.”
“That’s certainly different,” the professor said when he noticed that a lot of the class had glazed eyeballs.
“That,” Ginny Sanders said as she relaxed with the glass of white wine in her hand, “was an excellent meal, and excellent service. I suppose it’s fortunate I don’t need a maid, or I’d offer to buy her from you.”
“Thank you for the compliment,” Larry replied.
“I have to agree,” Dale Trevalan said. “I know that students vary, but I didn’t expect either cuisine or service at this level from someone in our engineering school.”
“I know what you mean,” Amanda agreed. “I’d be casting covetous eyes at Jenna if Father’s staff wasn’t just as good.”
Larry looked at her askance for a moment and then grinned. “It’s just as well you live next door, then, isn’t it?”
“It was your suggestion,” she sallied back.
“I suppose,” Larry said, “now that we’re done with dinner, it’s time to get to business. I’m afraid that Amanda wasn’t totally clear on what your plans were for Linnet.”
“I don’t know that I have any for Linnet specifically, other than to interview her for a followup book. What I’m more looking for is an angle of approach to the rehab project, and Bess, sorry, Linnet, is the only avenue I’ve come up with so far that hasn’t been blocked.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have anything for you,” Linnet said. “When I walked out, I didn’t leave a forwarding address.”
“I know. Officially, you died. They’ve even got a death certificate and an autopsy certificate.”
“Oh, really? That is interesting.” Larry reached for his phone. “I think we may be able to give you a crowbar. No promises, but Linnet does talk about wanting to see her relatives occasionally.” He punched a couple of buttons and listened. “Hi, Ted. Larry. Got two things for you. First, the two people I’m having dinner with? Do a background on them. They may have a business proposition. Also, the asylum Linnet escaped from didn’t want to admit they’d lost an inmate, so they seem to have forged an autopsy report and death certificate. Yes, whatever can be dug up for leverage. I don’t think she’s at all happy with the place, and she does have some vacation coming. Yes, I think we’ve got another tour scheduled in a couple of months. Like to keep our audience happy, guy.”
“Asylum. I like that.” Linnet mimed a scowl at him. “It’s probably more accurate than rehab center, though.”
“What was that about?” Dale asked.
“What’s the term? Due Diligence? If we forward your proposals to the Managing Director, it’ll help a lot if Security has its ducks already lined up. On the other thing, Linnet has done quite a bit of work on a high priority Board project, not to mention generating a lot of goodwill elsewhere. If she wants to take a sledgehammer to that rehab center, I think a lot of people will at least think seriously about it rather than rejecting it out of hand.”
“Hence the request to follow up on that discrepancy,” Ginny said. “Is there any possibility that I could get in on the action?”
“I suspect so, but there’s one major proviso. Find a fiction writer for Linnet’s part in your book.”
Ginny looked a bit rebellious.
“I really would advise you to take that seriously,” Amanda said. “I had a long talk with a couple of people with the rather interesting names of Boris Badinov and Natasha Fatale about something Larry had done, and whatever he carefully isn’t saying about your chances of living a long, productive and happy life if you break secrecy just got doubled.”
“You talked to Boris?” Larry said, surprised. “You weren’t supposed to know what he does.”
“You were off premises when he found out about it, I was available and I’m known to be an associate of yours.”
“Humph. So that’s what that directive was about.”
“I’m getting the impression this might not be as simple as it seems,” Ginny said. “Well, it won’t be the first time I’ve covered up embarrassing things before to get a story. It’ll just be the first time the story I had to cover up was interesting rather than simply sordid.”
“Speaking of embarrassed, I haven’t heard from Dale in a while,” Amanda said a bit cattily.
“Embarrassed?” Dale said.
“Yes. You’re trying not to show that you’re being affected by sitting with five very sexy babes, four of whom you think are off limits for one reason or another, and the fifth is rather obviously attracted to your host, who you don’t want to compete with for career reasons. So you’re covering up your embarrassment.”
“Now that’s not nice,” Ginny said.
“But it’s accurate,” Amanda said. “Both of you want entrée to Larry’s home community, and I’m just showing one of the ways it’s different. You’re both giving off all the signs that you’d love to throw off social inhibitions and get laid.
Her contemplation of the expressions chasing themselves across both Dale’s and Ginny’s faces was suddenly interrupted.
“Ooff!” she said as Connie dropped into her lap. “There’s a blonde in my lap! Why is the blonde’s tail playing with my twat?”
“Unless those two are really inhibited, L & L are going to be busy shortly,” Connie replied, running a finger along Amanda’s jaw. Amanda signaled to Jenna behind Connie’s back, holding her thumb and finger in a circle and closing them. A minute later, Connie felt circlets of steel on her wrists, and then the circlets wrenched her arms behind her back, coming together with a definite clack.
“What!” The pinioned blonde exclaimed.
“I’m just going to give you that for which you have waited so long,” Amanda said, as she slid the zipper on Connie’s skirt. “Up you go.” Connie obediently stood up as her captor’s hands stripped the skirt from her body. Then Amanda wriggled out of her skirt and motioned to Jenna. She lay back as Jenna approached with a bowl and a spatula.
“Down, girl,” she told Connie, and watched the blonde head dive into the strawberry and whipped cream covered mound.
Linnet, she noticed, was heading around the table. Ginny stopped her. “Unzip me,” she asked. Linnet slid the zipper on Ginny’s dress, leaving it puddled at her feet as she continued toward the obviously aroused Dale.
“Amanda,” the associate professor in charge of her Financial Reports class said. “Give us a run-through on the quarterly cash flow statements for the Acme Widgets case study, with particular attention to the debt situation and the uncertainty in sales forecasts.”
Amanda stood up and threaded her way to the front of the room. Today, she wore a conservative female junior executive’s working formal outfit. It hadn’t changed that much in close to a half century, outside of the typical up and down of skirt lengths, shifts in fashionable heel heights and fussiness of costume jewelry. She’d been wearing it for this class since it began; the biggest advantage was that the jacket came to just about mid-thigh. Without the skirt, the jacket by itself would be just on the current edge of propriety. It did, of course, make most of the students think she was currying favor with the teachers. She didn’t care in the slightest about that; the other advantage more than outweighed it. She doubted that more than two or three of the students knew she had a tail.
She put her laser pointer on a stand and keyed in the presentation. This class was about to get unstuffed in a real hurry.
“To start off with,” she said as her tail curled out from under her jacket and picked up the laser pointer, “we should look at the net cash flow after baseline expenses on line 5.” She highlighted the line in question with the pointer without taking her eyes off of the audience.
She definitely had their attention, but somehow she doubted it was on line 5 and its rather hazardous relationship to the debt service obligations on line 18.
The professor recovered his aplomb swiftly. “You will notice,” he said, “that Amanda has managed to capture everyone’s attention. That is, of course, one of the things you need to do for an effective presentation. However, I don’t think she’s managed to focus your attention on the financial statement.”
“Ah, but I have focused their attention on one of the major problems with Acme Widgets,” she responded. “This laser pointer is a special version that emits a directed chirp at 80 kilohertz, about one octave above where bats do their thing. Unfortunately, their marketing department’s sales forecast misestimated the size of the target market, since using it effectively requires both a tail and a rather unusual set of auditory abilities.”
“And what is the size of the actual market?” one of the students asked.
“At the moment, around four,” Amanda answered. “It might go into the low hundreds, but that depends on several factors not under the marketing department’s direct control.
“In turn, moving to line 10, we can see that the projections for the Augmented Laser Pointer product are not only highly speculative, but rather overly enthusiastic. Rolling that up…”
“I think that went rather well,” the professor said. “Questions?”
“Is the tail another of Acme Widget’s products?”
“Actually, no. It’s a product of a sister company, Acme Biophysical Transmogrifications. They sell into a number of different markets, and have specialized pricing policies for each market. To answer the other obvious questions, the laser pen was modified by an engineering student here at the university to do what I said, and I am field testing those rather unusual auditory abilities for Acme. They work quite well so far. I can place objects in the centimeter range to an accuracy of a couple of centimeters using ambient sound.”
“I presume,” another of the students said dryly, “that the other three sales opportunities are in the development department.”
“It’s really hard to say,” Amanda answered him. “It depends on how the Bat Ears product does. If it takes off, a sonic equivalent to a spotlight would be a useful adjunct.” She gestured with the laser pointer as if she was holding a cigar. “However, there are a number of, let us say, unresolved political issues with the possible target markets.”
“This,” said the graying man behind the cluttered desk in the state executive offices “would be a pleasure if it didn’t promise to be a monumental headache.”
“What’s hard about shutting down the SlaveGirl Commune Rehabilitation Center?” Linnet asked.
“Oh, there’s nothing hard about shutting it down. Recovering those funds for the budget will make a lot of people happy. What’s hard is doing it so nobody notices until it’s all over.”
“Why is that a concern?”
He looked at her in puzzlement. “Oh. Since you grew up there, I suspect you don’t have a feel for how practical politics works.”
“You got that right. I grew up with the men giving the orders, the women obeying, and everything worked. At least if the men had two functioning brain cells and didn’t interfere with our getting the job done. This is so complicated I don’t see how it manages to function.”
“Just take it for granted that we want as few ripples as possible. If I could make it, and all the people in it vanish one dark night, believe me, I would. Since I can’t, I’m open to suggestions.”
She leaned over the desk. “What I’m thinking about is shipping as many of them as possible to the Island.”
“Why would they want to go?”
“Specifically, to the neo-Goreans.”
“Neo-Goreans?” He inserted a query into his terminal and studied the result for a few minutes. “There does seem to be a certain community of interest there.”
“There’d be more if they hadn’t been screwed over for four years.”
“What about the rest of them?”
“Push them out, and provide some support services. I’m told there are a lot of people that would be more than happy to help other people adjust if they got some money and didn’t have to deal with a lot of paperwork. We can provide minimal oversight to insure that nothing gets lost in the cracks.”
“What about the others?”
“I’ve got some wizard class shrinks lined up that are willing to do a small amount of pro bono work off the books. If anyone needs their palms greased, I’ve got some people that owe me favors that can call in favors from Leprechaun Genetics.”
“Leprechaun Genetics?” He sat back a moment. “Oh. Fancy cosmetic stuff. That ought to work; everyone’s got some relative they’d like to do a favor for that would love a better look, and that’s one thing that’s so far off the books nobody will look for it.
“What about the staff?”
“Dr. Z takes the fall. Let me put it this way. I’m personally pissed enough at that over credentialed incompetent nincompoop that by the time I’m done discussing things with him, taking the fall will look like the easy way out.”
She let her tail express a question.
“It won’t be the first time in history that the man responsible for the mess got the ax, but it’s different enough to be refreshing.”
Linnet and Ginny Sanders walked down the quiet tree-lined street on the outskirts of the university medical center. Linnet wore her usual black leather miniskirt and white blouse, and carried her tail wrapped around her waist. Over time, she’d found that people tended to take it for a rather eccentric belt. Ginny wore a tasteful outfit with blouse, slacks and around 2 inch heels. The only noticeable thing about her was the rather largish shoulder bag, which actually carried her camera, recorder and other implements of the working journalist’s trade.
They paused outside the unmarked building that Linnet had called home for the years between when her commune had been shut down, and when she had indentured herself to become a ponygirl.
“Carrie,” Linnet called across the lobby to the attendant behind the desk.
The attendant looked up at her in puzzlement. “Bess?” she asked in surprise. “You’re back? Where did you vanish to?” She frowned at Ginny. “You know that she isn’t welcome here!”
“I’m back for a little while anyway,” Linnet smiled at her. “I’m going by the name Linnet now; the people I’m with would have to look at the files to find my old name, which is just as well. Is Dr. Z in?”
“I’ll check,” she said as her well manicured hands flashed across the touch screen in front of her. “He’ll be a couple of minutes,” she said. “You’re certainly looking different! I almost didn’t recognize you.”
“I’ve changed a bit in the last couple of years,” Linnet said. “I’m definitely thicker from the hips down, and most people think my breasts are a bit bigger, although that’s not true. If anything, they’re actually smaller. I’ll bet,” she smiled, “you haven’t noticed the biggest difference, though.”
“You’re dressing sexier,” Carrie said. “I like the effect, though I suspect Dr. Z will not be happy.”
“You ver raized as a zex toy. You vil need to learn to prozect neutrality.” She wickedly imitated his accent. “Believe me, where I live now, this is almost a walking advertisement for the chaste life. That’s not it, though. What was that idiot book they made us read? Oh, yeah. Think Purloined Letter.”
“Poe?” She frowned. “You’re saying it’s right in front of me, and I’m not seeing it?”
Linnet let the tip of her tail twitch, and then unwound it from her waist.
Carrie leaned over the desk in startlement. “You’ve got a tail!”
“I sure do,” she agreed blandly. “Like the effect?” She wrapped it back around her waist in the other direction, the long hair at the base falling along the side of her skirt like a fringe.
“I thought that was a belt,” Carrie said accusingly. “I suppose that was the idea, wasn’t it?”
“Of course. It does simplify things if I’m not causing traffic jams just walking down the street.”
“I suppose I should get your file updated while we’re waiting,” Carrie said. “You said you changed your name?”
“Formally it’s Linnet 4, but most people think of me as Linnet Thompsen.”
“We’re a small and very isolated community, with only a few thousand people. Around twenty years ago they decided that having several people with the same name was confusing, so they made a rule that babies couldn’t have the same name as anyone living in the community at the time. Other people who share a name were given a number to distinguish. I doubt if one person out of ten actually remembers their number, though. I got named Linnet in a different program, and when I joined there were already three Linnets. So I’m Linnet 4. I use Thompsen as my family name because Larry Thompsen holds my indenture. They supposedly dropped last names at the same time, so formally, he’s just Larry, but his parents are Thompsen, so it more or less works out.”
Carrie shook her head. “Just a minute. You said indenture? I don’t see a collar.”
“Full term unlimited, with livestock endorsement. I don’t have a collar; the livestock endorsement means they could stick me with ear tags instead.” She shrugged. “If you really want it, my IPC registry number is on the ear tags. I do have a collar I use when it’s just not worth the hassle to explain.”
“Could you step back, I want to see you again,” Carrie asked.
“Sure.” Linnet stepped back and unwound her tail from around her waist.
“Right. We always did call you the pony girl. I expect the data droids will want the number, whatever it is.”
They chattered a bit more as Carrie updated the file. Then she frowned at her display.
“It says Dr. Z is tied up all day. I suppose you want to see your kinfolks?”
“Of course,” Linnet said. “They’re still on premises?”
“You’re the only one we’ve ever lost. Someone’s going to have to open the security doors for you, though.”
“Oh, that won’t be necessary,” Linnet said, giving Carrie a cheerful smile. “Security doors know better than to give me any hassle.” She and Ginny walked toward the door into the main facility.
“Hey, she’s not authorized,” Carrie called after her.
“That’s all right,” Linnet called back. “She’s with me.” She waved her tail at the scan plate mounted in the wall. The door obediently opened in front of her, leaving a startled attendant staring as her tail waved a saucy goodbye.
She walked down a remembered corridor to one of the study rooms.
“Hey, Clyde, Anna, how’s it going?” she asked as she walked in and spotted her brother and youngest sister.
A young man halfway down the room stiffened and turned slowly. “Bess? Is that really you?” Anna, she noted with amusement, had also stiffened but didn’t turn to look at the disturbance.
“It is! Where the heck have you been?” he asked as he swung his chair out and sat reversed.
“Out and about, guy,” she said. “How do you like the tail?”
“Tail?” he said as he spotted the organ waving at her side. “It figures,” he continued disgustedly. “We always did call you the pony girl. How did you manage to get that thing?”
“Legitimately, as it turns out. I signed an indenture with people that make real ponygirls, and the tail comes with the training course. It’s not quite a horse’s tail, but now that I’m used to it, I like it. There’re lots of things I can use it for.” She grinned wickedly and ran her tongue over her lips.
“Let’s get back to work,” a woman said from the side of the room.
“Go screw yourself, uh, Jeri,” Linnet told her after recognizing her. “I’m talking with my family, and you’re not invited.”
“Look, I don’t know who you are, but…”
“I told you to go screw yourself. You need help?” She reached theatrically into the air and plucked out a long, black object that she tossed at the officious woman in one smooth throw. Jeri plucked it out of the air by reflex, and found herself holding a large dildo. She stared at it in shock as several of the other people in the room gasped trying to stifle laughs.
“You’re in charge here. I know the song and dance. You came here, what, four years ago as a gung-ho grad student with sky high recommendations. Now you’re what, a hall monitor? Either you’ve got the guts to see there’s something wrong here, or you’re useless. And if you’re useless, get the hell out before I throw you out on your ass.”
“Yeah, right. The world’s greatest authority on cult rehabilitation. Four years into the project, and he still can’t tell the difference between a cult and a society? What’s he got to show for it? One subject vanished, a bunch of fake paperwork to cover the disappearance that’s going to come back and haunt him, and the rest are so screwed up it isn’t funny. That over-credentialed nincompoop’s time just ran out. He’s lucky it would be political suicide to talk about this in public, or he’d have most of the state legislature and the DFCS down on him. They don’t like the size of his budget, and they like spending money for no results even less. The writer who did the original story wants a follow-up, and he can’t afford it. He’s history, one way or the other.”
Jeri looked back at her, face frozen, and pushed at a button on her phone to no avail.
“You can quit that, girl. I turned off the security system before I walked in. Nobody’s listening to your panic button.”
Linnet turned back to the rest of them. “Most of you probably remember Ginny. She’s here to do followup interviews for another book. It’s up to you whether you want to talk to her or not, but I’d appreciate it if at least some of you would. And don’t let the security people interfere with her.
“What about…” her brother nodded to Jeri.
“Don’t go overboard, but don’t let her interfere either. I’d like it if she decides to cooperate on her own.”
“And if she doesn’t?”
“Try not to leave too many marks.” Linnet walked out the door with a flirt of her tail.
“Of course,” she stuck her head back in, “you could teach her how to use that thing. She may not know how.”
Linnet looked at the uneven rows of people balancing their trays on their laps. As soon as the last people had cleared the serving line, she called for their attention.
“By now, I suppose everyone’s heard six different rumors about what’s going on. Basically, this place is going to get shut down shortly, and we’ve got planning to do. Before I begin laying out options, though, I want all of the women in the room to do one thing.
“Think about whether you’d prefer to be sitting on the floor next to your man. Don’t do it yet. If you’re clear that you’d prefer the lifestyle of being subservient to your men, and that’s your decision, not something that you do because it’s expected, go for it. On the other side, if you’re staying on the chairs because you think that’s what’s expected of you, and you’d prefer not to, sit on the floor. This is about you. We’re going to be talking about the rest of your life, so if you’re clear, good, and if you’re not clear about what you want to do, that’s ok too.”
Linnet stopped and looked at them. Several of the women slid their chairs back and sat on their heels on the floor in the posture that had been standard in the commune. Then a few more sat on the floor. A couple of the first group got back up. Finally, it became obvious that the movement was over.
“I did that because I wanted to clarify some things. One thing that is rather obvious is that most of the women in this room aren’t absolutely clear that they want to go back to the way we were. So, let’s get to options.
“How many of you have heard of Gor?”
Most of the hands went up, and Linnet chuckled.
“Well, we weren’t an official Gorean commune, but I should have expected that most of you would know about it. Next question: Where is it?”
After a couple of minutes, she held up her hand. “I should have known that they’d have anything to do with Gor blocked. It’s on the Island, of course.”
She chuckled at the startled looks. “A few years ago, some of the neo-Goreans got some money together and decided to set up a community on the Island run according to classical Gorean lines. They found a section that nobody else had grabbed, and started to settle on the south side of the river. At the same time, there’s a female superiority group on the north side of the river, and they’re looking daggers at each other across the river mouth where they have to land people and supplies.
“The reason I bring this up is that a lot of what we did in our commune meshes very well with the neo-Goreans. We didn’t dress our women in those barber pole tunics, and we never went in for erotic dance, but all in all, there’s quite a bit of commonality.
“The other thing about them is that they’re long on enthusiasm, and short on practicality in farming. Most of them aren’t really clear on which end of the horse should be pointing away from the plow. They’re going to run out of money sooner or later, and what you know will be invaluable to survival. I’m not telling any of you that you have to move there. It’s completely your choice. Surviving for the first few years after the money runs out isn’t going to be easy, but it’s the only viable option where you can get back to what the commune valued.
“I’ve already told them that I have no idea how many of you will decide to join them, but a completely off the wall guess will be about a dozen couples. Think about it.
“Most of the rest of you will move into the world outside, whether you think you’re ready or not. We’ll set up some transition facilities, but expect that you’re going to be thrown off the deep end and expected to swim. We’ll try to set up something individual for each of you who want to take that option.
“Finally, there are a few of you that have been so totally screwed up that you probably couldn’t survive outside of an institution. I’ve got some competent therapists lined up, and there are some other options.
“Well, that’s it. Dr. Z is off the premises, there will be a new administrator, and you have a week to think about it.”
“Well,” Larry said as Linnet walked into their apartment, “how was your vacation?”
“As if you didn’t know,” she said, sagging onto a couch. “Right now, I want you to harness me and ride me for hours! I’ve missed you so!”
Boris Badinov cleared his throat. “I take it we’re all ready to get this nonsense underway?”
Boris, which rather obviously wasn’t his real name, sat at the head table in the Community’s emergency room. Colonel Ilia Ivanovich Spaski, which was his real name and rank in the Russian Federation Army, was a medium tall ethnic Russian, which is to say, built like a bear. He was on a tour of duty in a place that had no official name, no official location, and which had functions that would have surprised most of the people that knew of it.
“Past time,” Natasha Fatale replied. Natasha, which likewise wasn’t her real name, was Boris’ counterpart from the European Union. They were two of the military intelligence officers that served on a committee that likewise had no name and no official existence, but which was charged with keeping certain unspecified technology from disturbing the precarious international balance of power. Over the years, they had picked up a number of duties in addition to sitting on technology that was too hot for the current state of civilization to handle, but which was too intriguing, or possibly even useful in a real pinch, to simply bury and walk away from.
This particular duty was one that they hadn’t been assigned officially, for the simple reason that no one in their right mind thought that space aliens existed outside of the supermarket tabloids and various overheated corners of the internet.
“Alice, what’s the status on our uninvited guests?” he asked.
“Several new items,” the Sorceress answered. “First, Larry reverse engineered a couple of their artifacts, and now has a prototype artificial gravity generator working.”
“Let’s put that one on the back burner,” Sun Tzu suggested. “I don’t see that it has anything to do with the main issue we need to handle today.” Sun Tzu, which also wasn’t his real name, was the member from the Pan Asian Federation, and had declined to follow his Western colleagues’ penchant for using silly names as aliases. Most of them agreed that if he wasn’t clearly the best strategist on the committee, he was definitely in the running.
The rest of the committee nodded their heads in agreement.
“Second, we’ve finally located their main base.”
“In the Himalayas, I presume?” Boris queried.
“Of course. The problem was building a scanner that would find the molecule they use instead of DNA. Once we did that, then we had to use it. It’s a big planet, and fortunately they were pretty much where we thought or we’d be at it into the next decade.”
Sun Tzu shrugged. “That’s what robots are for. How much do we know?”
“Since we located them, we put our computer wizards on it to see what they could dig out. Pretty Lemon will report on that.”
Pretty Lemon was a fairly nondescript woman whose name derived from her startling head of lemon yellow hair, which she’d had gene modified to show patches of white with brown streaks on the top. As she put it, she did like to get eaten. At one time, she’d been on the ten most wanted hacker list; now she was in charge of the Community’s computer staff.
“We’re going slowly nuts trying to unscramble the tech and protocols they use internally for communication,” she reported with a grin which indicated that she, at least, was enjoying the trip. “Fortunately, they’ve got several internet connections scattered around the world, and they have to convert to our protocols for that. We can play our usual games with them any time you’re ready. As far as we can tell, whatever they’re using for their own communications is not the same as ours; they don’t seem to have detected any of our probes, and we’ve been watching them on the distance viewer for the last month. Rather obviously, they haven’t detected that, either.”
“Let’s see them, then,” Simon Bolivar asked. His alias indicated he was from one of the two South American federations.
The screen at the far end lit up, showing a room with a number of the gray furred aliens working either at tables or at various pieces of equipment whose purpose was not immediately obvious.
“This seems to be the command center,” Alice said. “They’ve got an infirmary. I’d suggest dropping our wounded guest there and seeing what develops.”
“Shouldn’t we ask them first?” Paul Revere queried. Surprisingly, that was his real name.
“Great Lenin No!” Boris roared. “If we talk first, someone is going to think we’re holding hostages.”
“Didn’t think of that,” Paul said. “Let’s see the infirmary.”
The scene shifted. “That sure looks medical,” he said. “Drop him on the table and see what they do.”
Alice got an abstracted look for a moment, and then the gray furred alien popped into view on one of the tables, looking not much the worse for his sojourn in the time warp.
“I don’t like that wince,” Simon commented.
“Now that you mention it, I don’t either. Teleport fugue, maybe?”
“Could be. They’re alien, after all.”
“If that really is teleport fugue, then it means they don’t have teleportation,” Sun Tzu said.
“Or if they do, it’s not in general use without precautions.”
They watched the scene for a few minutes as the aliens in the room noticed the new arrival and started dealing with their injured comrade. They shifted back into the control room, and saw that the activity had picked up there as well.
“Admirably well organized,” Sun Tzu said. “Let’s open contact.”
“Before we do,” Pretty Lemon said, “who are we?” She got a few stares. “I mean, sooner or later Boris is going to have to give them a title. At least, if they’re close enough to us to be comprehensible, and somehow I don’t think ‘Boris, speaking for Boskone’ will do.”
Alice laughed. “It’s probably closer to the truth than anything else, but I see what you mean. How about “Custodians of the technology cache?”
“Keepers of the Balance of Power?”
Pretty Lemon entered a command into her keypad and sat back to watch the show. The screen split to show Boris in one corner. At the same time, a chime sounded in the alien’s command center and one of them bent to look at a display. He suddenly sat down and stared at it, then he turned and said something. The activity in the room stopped and then shifted into a new pattern without any hesitation. Another window opened on the wall, showing a head shot of one of the aliens.
“You are?” an obviously synthesized voice said.
“Boris Badinov, the current chairman of the control committee.”
“Control committee for what organization?” The alien’s change of expression undoubtedly meant something.
“That is, of course, the question. We’re a completely ad hoc organization charged with monitoring the use of technology that might affect the rather precarious international balance of power. Officially, we don’t exist because the technologies we monitor don’t exist either. Our members are military officers from the intelligence organizations of a number of the major power blocks.”
“Technologies such as teleportation? I presume that’s what you used to return our staff member. We’ve heard rumors, but we’ve never been able to track them down.”
“That’s one of them. The technology we are using to insert this message stream into the internet is another that, to the best of our knowledge, isn’t even rumored to exist.”
“What you are saying is that your servers are untraceable.”
“As far as we know. While we have interesting abilities, they don’t currently include omniscience.”
“So, what is your interest in us?”
“If there is some kind of community of interest, I’ve always observed that communication is better than not. Your interest lies in convincing us that your intentions are essentially academic rather than military. Ours lies in preventing your existence from destabilizing the world situation. Beyond that I presume we will either develop other joint interests, or not.”
“Our species is hardly likely to have military ambitions,” the alien said. “There is no way you can verify that immediately, of course. We rate your species as around level 3 on the aggressiveness scale we use, and ourselves as around level 4. The average is 5, with lower numbers being more aggressive. Level 3s with a technological bent have an approximately even chance of destroying themselves in a nuclear war before successfully integrating their planet politically. If they pass that, they still run the risk of causing an ecological collapse. We believe you’ve passed the first hurdle, and are working on the second.”
“I would presume there is a considerable amount of overlap,” Boris said thoughtfully.
“Of course. Most of the members of this study group are somewhat more aggressive than average for our species. That makes them around average or possibly a little below for yours. The less aggressive members of our species would not be capable of coping with your society. It does make for interesting times here in our base, of course.”
“Well,” Alice said after they closed the connection. “That went rather well.”
“So it did,” Sun Tzu replied thoughtfully. “They certainly present a picture of a study team. The question really is how we verify that picture, especially since we might not be able to tell what’s a weapon and what isn’t.”
“It comes down to the fact that we don’t know their language,” Pretty Lemon said. “We’ll crack their internal communication protocols sooner or later, and I rather think sooner from the progress we’ve made. That only gets us so far though, and linguistics simply isn’t one of my areas of expertise.”
“I’d be surprised if it was,” Boris said. “You don’t have any real call for it. We’ll have to contract out for expertise.”
“Which brings up budgets and supervision,” Natasha commented.
“A half dozen academics with support shouldn’t be much of a problem to get a budget for. Security will be more of an issue.”
“What if we put it under Leprechaun Genetics? Make it a project to build a direct brain translation interface for human languages, and I bet it would have a lot of sales potential.”
“And put the classified operation on the side,” Natasha said. “I like that. It gives you a perfect reason for secrecy and also gives the academics something they can publish papers on.”
All sorts of strange things have happened. If you want to see some of the threads neatly tied up, just trot on to the next exciting episode of Engineer.
If you enjoyed this story, please e-mail the author and let him know. He likes to hear from his loyal fans,and it gives him some motivation to keep writing this stuff. Of course, if you're a publisher and you'd like to buy some of these stories, please let him know. The starving author in the garret makes a great story, but it sucks in real life.