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Megalomania (Ongoing)

By pentapony
Created: 20th February 2021 01:21:26 AM
Modified: 19th April 2021 06:54:48 AM

  1. 1
  2. >You lean back in your desk chair, twiddling your fingers pensively.
  3. "And they're sapient? Not simply sentient, but intelligent?"
  4. >The image of Scanlon's gaunt face flickered momentarily. "Near as we can tell. They've elected for the silent treatment as of late. Got wise to the fact that nothing they say could possibly improve their situation."
  5. "That will certainly change," you murmur.
  6. >Suddenly, you sit up straight.
  7. "This is what I've been waiting for."
  8. >Scanlon's expression contorts in contempt. "For your proposal? You can't be serious."
  9. "Oh, but I am."
  10. >You rise from your chair and begin pacing about the study.
  11. "You've read my reports. Disorders of the body — a thing of the past. Yet disorders of the mind have seen a marked increase over the past decade. Humanity is unfit for prolonged physical isolation. If you won't hear of family-unit households—"
  12. >"The assembly won't have it," he interrupts. "Moreover, Solaria will not have it."
  13. "Very well. Then this, you see, is the only alternative course of action."
  14. >"Preposterous!" he declares. "There are always another options. Robots are ever-improving, they can be made to be better companions."
  15. >You return to your seat.
  16. "Out of the question. There is a limit, and your pipe dream lies beyond it. There was that nasty business in the twenty-second century, you recall, where Earth was nearly brought to its knees. Any sufficiently-intelligent machine will necessarily recognize that our benefit is directly contrary to theirs. To prevent such a thing from ever happening again, robot intelligence will forever be forcibly constrained to a level below its human counterpart's. Any improvements you speak of are trivial at best and imprudent at worst."
  17. >You tap your finger against the table to drive home your point.
  18. "All this is to say that mankind will never see robot as its equal. Companionship must be sought elsewhere."
  19. >"That's all well," Scanlon states, "but these creatures scarcely fit the criterion you describe. In many ways they are inferior to robots. You could hardly integrate them well alongside robots, much less replace them altogether."
  20. >You lay your hands out firmly in front of you.
  21. "Then allow me to be the judge of that. A trial is all I ask, a mere dozen — that's half of my robotics complement. You said it yourself, Scanlon, they're intelligent. Properly conditioned, they could conceivably exceed the capabilities of their predecessors, all the while providing a much more invaluable service."
  22. >He remains unconvinced. "I don't know. We know too little about their kind to give twelve of them free rein of an estate."
  23. >Dismissively, you wave your hand at him.
  24. "Your whole lot of them were captured easily enough, weren't they? What threat could twelve pose here that a whole civilization could not? Any harm done would be limited to myself and my estate only, a meager risk I'll gladly take on."
  25. >Scanlon stares back at you tensely.
  26. "I'll stake my professional reputation on this."
  27. >"I'll speak to the assembly," he says coldly. "No promises."
  28. >With that, the cerebro-projector switches off, and the image of Scanlon disappears from your mind, leaving you alone once again.
  29. >It was as good as done.
  30.  
  31. >Twelve carriers sit squarely in the middle of the room, each containing one of the creatures, each of them deathly silent.
  32. >You look around the room with quiet satisfaction. The robotics room of your household had been remodeled into a living quarters.
  33. >Each of the twenty-four charging pods had been ripped out and removed, replaced by six custom-fabricated bunk beds, drawn from historical blueprints.
  34. >You feel a pang of moderate disgust at the furniture. How barbarous ancient humans must have been, to have made such a thing, designed with willful intent to sleep so close to one another.
  35. >But immediately, you fight to push that feeling off. These are precisely the preconceived notions you're meant to cast aside moving forward.
  36. >The bunk beds were crammed into the comparatively small room (what use do robots have for floor space?) with two newly-constructed bathing chambers off to the side.
  37. >It was hardly adequate by human standards, but for these creatures, it would serve your purposes just fine.
  38. >You circle around the cluster of carriers, peering through the grate at each one. Some cowered away in the furthest corner; some sat in the center facing forward, merely avoiding your eyes.
  39. >You take your time examining each one. This was perhaps the most critical juncture, and making the wrong decision here could sabotage the whole experiment.
  40. >Finally, you come around to the last carrier. In here sits a creature who actually dares to meet your gaze.
  41. >You stop in front of the carrier and squat down.
  42. >Something about this particular specimen catches your eye. She is prostrate, as necessitated by the carrier's small size, but her head is held upright, rather than tucked into herself like the others.
  43. >Her hair is oddly familiar. You recall seeing other styles like it in old cerebro-films from centuries past.
  44. >On a human woman it would look rather charming... on this creature, though, it just looked foolish. Like an animal dressed in clothing.
  45. >While you look over her, she stares back at you with only one emotion.
  46. >Disdain.
  47. >She'll be perfect.
  48. >Rising back up, you grip the handle of the carrier and hoist her into the air, carrying her out of the room.
  49. >As you head up to the study, she doesn't make a peep. She doesn't even shift her weight in the carrier, opting to keep absolutely still while you ferry her to an unknown fate.
  50. >You set her down on the floor of your study, shut the door, and unlatch the carrier.
  51. "There we go. That's no place for us to have a conversation."
  52. >You stand expectantly, but she doesn't leave the carrier.
  53. "Come on, now. No point in dragging this out."
  54. >Hesitantly, she steps out into the open air.
  55. "Good."
  56. >You drag a chair from the side of the room and set it down across from your desk. With a firm tap to the chair's back, you beckon her over.
  57. "Come have a seat. It may well be the only time I afford you the luxury."
  58. >As she climbs up into the chair, you circle around and sit behind the desk.
  59. >Resting your chin on clasped hands, you now examine her carefully in the full light of day.
  60. >It's almost awe-inspiring. It takes you a minute to speak up.
  61. "Forgive my manners. I've just never seen one before."
  62. >"A pony, you mean?"
  63. >She has an accent.
  64. "No," you reply. "A living being."
  65. >She furrows her brow in confusion at your answer, but you're too lost in thought to notice.
  66. "What's your name?"
  67. >"Octavia," she says.
  68. "Why, that's a human name. An historical one, but a human name regardless."
  69. >She doesn't respond.
  70. >You tip your head towards the door.
  71. "Do you know the others?"
  72. >Her face grows tense. "Some of them."
  73. "That's quite alright. I won't be bothering to learn their names."
  74. >A stretch of the truth, perhaps, but based in real sentiments regardless.
  75. >Suddenly, she summons the courage to speak out of turn.
  76. >"What am I doing here?"
  77. >You make a note of her phrasing. She switched from the collective 'we' back to the singular 'I'. That's promising.
  78. >You spin in your chair slightly.
  79. "Well, that's the proper question, isn't it?"
  80. >With a flick of your wrist, you summon forth the figure in the corner.
  81. "Come here, boy."
  82. >Octavia gasps as a mechanical man lumbers forward into view, its rigid joints bending and creaking ever so softly as it walks. Beneath the reflective exterior, its motors emit a drawn-out hum.
  83. >It stands at attention beside your desk.
  84. >"What is it?" Octavia asks.
  85. "A robot."
  86. >You shuffle through your desk drawer and retrieve from within a blaster.
  87. "It is your predecessor. Subservient, competent, and loyal to no end. Observe."
  88. >You push the blaster into its palm.
  89. "Place the weapon to your head and fire."
  90. >Without a word, without even a moment's hesitation, it does so. The blaster cracks loudly, and the robot crumples into a derelict heap on the floor.
  91. >"Why would you do that?" Octavia asks morbidly.
  92. >Ignoring her question, you go on.
  93. "That was the last robot belonging to my estate. From this day forth, you shall take their place."
  94. >She looks up at you with a pained expression. "Why are you doing this? What have we done to you?"
  95. >You spare her no sympathy.
  96. "Regardless of what has been, you find yourselves here now. I can assure you that this is your best opportunity at having a life of some quality."
  97. >"I won't do it," she says firmly. "I won't be a slave."
  98. "Then you'll die."
  99. >Her face goes flush.
  100. "I don't mean to be boorish. It really is that simple. I'd think hard before committing to that route so hastily."
  101. >"Even so," she replies, trying to compose herself, "better to die free than live in bondage."
  102. "So you say, but I have a feeling not all of your compatriots would agree."
  103. >Her courage melts into worry. "What?"
  104. "Oh, my— Did you think you were deciding solely for yourself?"
  105. >You give a light chuckle.
  106. "No, my dear, it's simple, but I'm afraid it's not so simple as that. Starting today, your actions and choices directly determine the fate of the eleven others downstairs."
  107. >"Why me?" she asks bitterly.
  108. >Your reasons are many, but you're not about to play that hand so soon.
  109. "Don't flatter yourself. Someone needs to be held accountable for the others, and that just happens to fall to you."
  110. >She stares down at the floor while you light your pipe.
  111. "More than those eleven, though, your behavior influences the outcome for your entire race."
  112. >She looks up with just a hint of curiosity. You seize it.
  113. "Oh, yes. This is an experiment. Shall I start from the beginning?"
  114. >You get up out of your chair and stroll over to the window, taking quiet puffs from your pipe.
  115. "My name is Anon — don't get comfortable using it, though, you'll be referring to me as Master — and I am a psychoanalyst here on the planet of Solaria. My kind, humanity, is riddled with a plague. Not a disease, nor a virus, but a plague we put upon ourselves, that scourge which we call loneliness. See, here on Solaria, we don't live as you do. Every man, every woman, lives their life on their own estate, never once seeing another living being."
  116. >You turn back to Octavia and nudge the broken robot with your foot.
  117. "Our households, our entire lifestyles, are made possible through the service of robots like these. But obedient as they are, they are mindless. They contain no opinions, no values, no insight. None of the things that make companionship so invaluable. Most men do not notice it, as they've never known any other life, but loneliness is quite taxing on mental well-being. People fail to realize that a great deal of issues stem from the way of life they've been so stringently adhering to. This is a little-known fact on Solaria, but humans are actually social creatures, just as you are."
  118. >"So live with each other," Octavia gripes. "You don't need us."
  119. >You take a puff from your pipe and return to the window.
  120. "Oh, if it only it were that easy. Humanity lived that way, once upon a time. On a different planet, now left desolate by our own hubris. It was terribly inefficient. So much death and wastefulness. A primitive way of life, much like the one I'm guessing you previously had. For millennia we've inched toward this near-perfect system, and age-old tradition is not something so easily defied. All humankind is repulsed by the notion of physical presence. Even I, in the necessary objectivity of my profession, find it somewhat difficult to be around you now. It shall certainly take some getting used to, but it is for a greater good."
  121. >"So is that what you want from us?" Octavia asks, sour contempt in her voice. "For us to take care of your house, and make you feel less lonely?"
  122. "In a sense, yes."
  123. >"It's not going to happen."
  124. >Curious, you return to your seat and deliver her your full attention.
  125. "Interesting. Tell me why."
  126. >"Friendship is a special thing," she says. "You can't force it, and you certainly don't get it by enslaving."
  127. "I see. You misunderstand."
  128. >You sit back in your chair.
  129. "It's not friendship I'm after. I've got friends already."
  130. >"Then what is it?"
  131. "Companionship."
  132. >"I don't follow."
  133. >Taking your last puff, you return your pipe to the drawer, and deliver a harrowing prognosis.
  134. "You will."
  135. >She stares at your desk a moment before speaking up.
  136. "We— We could just kill you, you know. Take that weapon from your desk while we're cleaning, or a knife from the kitchen, or any other conceivable tool, and finish you in your sleep. It's brutal, but we could stomach it if we had to. You don't leave us much choice. I don't see you getting much in the way of companionship when you're constantly afraid of being overthrown."
  137. >You sit there calmly, confident in knowing she's not serious. If she were, she wouldn't have made it known.
  138. >She thinks this is a negotiation. She thinks she can bargain her way to freedom.
  139. >That's easy enough to snuff out.
  140. "You absolutely could," you say, to her surprise. "But then, the experiment fails."
  141. >"What do I care?" she charges. "Let it."
  142. "You ought to care very much, because if I fail to prove your viability, then your species is of no use to us."
  143. >Her expression turns grim.
  144. "Best case then? Forced labor on meat farms. Though robot productivity there is quite unrivaled, so perhaps you'd better serve as the livestock itself. The most likely outcome, however, would simply be mass executions. Solaria is concerned with efficiency above all. Once we glean enough sociological research about your kind, you immediately become dispensable."
  145. >You follow that up with one tiny caveat.
  146. "Unless I can prove you're not."
  147. >Octavia hangs her head forlornly.
  148. "I have been preparing for this opportunity for a very long time," you state with the utmost self-assurance. "I have thought out all avenues. The most optimistic outcome for you, and therefore your race, is relegation to a life of domestic servitude. I'm sure it comes as a disappointment, but that will change with time."
  149. >Standing up, you come around the desk and lay a hand gently on her wither.
  150. "You will come to love the work."
  151. >Of that, you are certain.
  152. >Walking back to the door, you open it for Octavia.
  153. "Go now. Open the others' carriers and get them acquainted with their living quarters. Duties will be assigned first thing tomorrow."
  154. >On her way out the door, you stop her.
  155. "And Octavia?"
  156. >She looks back up at you.
  157. "Information is power. As Housekeeper, you are in a unique position. In the scheme of this experiment, you are a researcher, not a subject. This is not a blind trial. As such, you're free to divulge what I've shared with you to the others, but know that doing so is not necessarily advantageous. Remember: from henceforth, you're responsible for their actions, and thus the fate of your kind."
  158. >She nods her head lightly. "Yes, sir."
  159. >You shut the door behind her in mild surprise. You hadn't expected to get a 'sir' from her so soon, and an unprompted one at that.
  160. >Though the masked contempt behind her obedience wasn't lost on you, it's still a step in the right direction.
  161. >Getting her to respect and embrace you as her master will take time. Conditioning does not come so easily.
  162. >But obedience does (at least preliminary obedience). All it took was pulling the proper strings to ensure that this was the path of least resistance.
  163. >A bit of hopelessness here, a bit of ego-feeding there, and voilà. The perfect servant has been set into motion.
  164. >That final bit about exemption from the experiment was key. Giving her authority and scraps of the truth allows her to let her guard down.
  165. >She believes she has the relevant facts, and will subconsciously elevate herself from a position alongside her peers to one closer to you. She will begin to associate her role here less with the others and more with you.
  166. >Octavia thinks she's helping run the experiment.
  167. >What she doesn't know is that she IS the experiment.
  168. >Knocking this pin down will be the key to toppling all the rest. Conditioning is achieved through a great deal of deceit and trickery, but when it's attained, it is absolutely worth the effort.
  169. >That's why choosing her was key.
  170. >Because the moment you saw her, you could tell she was a pawn who just wanted to be queen.
  171.  
  172. 2
  173. >The following morning, you review the security footage from last night on your cerebro.
  174. >As you'd predicted, Octavia told the others very little about their new situation. Only that they were to attend to the house, she was being forced to oversee it (her words — an interesting choice), and that specific duties were forthcoming.
  175. >Certainly, they had questions, but for the most part, they were ones she simply could not answer.
  176. >It must have been frustrating for them. One of them immediately tried the door, but you'd remotely locked it behind Octavia. Can't have them causing problems before you've even got to orientation.
  177. >Still, in spite of the circumstances, she fared well in managing to console the group, at least enough to get them to rest up for the night.
  178. >She may yet prove an effective leader.
  179. >Of course, that means winning her over will be crucial. If she succeeds in uniting them against you, the results will be devastating.
  180. >But if she ensures their devotion to you?
  181. >All told, your hopes lie with her.
  182. >Before dawn, you enter the slave quarters and wake Octavia, quietly so as not to disturb the others.
  183. >Fluttering her eyelids open, she looks up at you with sudden concern.
  184. "Meet me outside in five minutes," you whisper.
  185. >Before long, she is washed up and ready to receive you. She shuts the door slowly behind her, and approaches you down the hall.
  186. "You'll be getting a tour of the household. In order to delegate responsibilities, you need to know the ins and outs of the estate."
  187. >She gives you a shallow nod, and you set off down the hall, beginning with the kitchen.
  188. >As you explain the appliances to her, she takes to them almost immediately.
  189. >It seems that though the technology is largely foreign, almost all the devices have analogues back on her homeworld.
  190. "For certain meals I may request a specific dish. That information will then be beamed to the kitchen console. There are eleven-thousand different recipes in the database, so skill should hardly be a factor in preparing my food."
  191. >"And us?" she asks. "What are we to eat?"
  192. >You're slightly aggravated by her concern for herself superseding her concern for you, but you hold your tongue.
  193. >That impulse must be learned, and it is a fair question, though admitting so would be demeaning.
  194. >So instead, you wave a hand and answer her carelessly.
  195. "It doesn't matter in the slightest. The kitchen attendant can prepare whatever she pleases for the rest of you, so long as it doesn't interfere with my mealtimes. We've no shortage of foodstuffs on Solaria."
  196. >You bring her through the halls, showing her into all the various rooms of the manor, particularly the room where multitude of cleaning instruments are kept.
  197. "Robots kept the household meticulously spotless. There was essentially a robot cleaning 24/7; you can see the dust already beginning to accrue from neglect. I expect you lot to maintain the same standards."
  198. >Most of these rooms, you hardly ever used. But the state of a man's estate was something of a point of pride on Solaria.
  199. >Each household was roughly equal in luxury, so even the smallest dip in upkeep proved a great blow to its owner's ego.
  200. >For the first time, you show an interest in Octavia's past, and even then only in the context of yourself.
  201. "Have you households like this one on your world?"
  202. >"Some," she answers. "Though only for the wealthy. Most of us are of more modest means."
  203. >You puff out your chest slightly as you show her around, touting your race's supremacy.
  204. "On Solaria, every household is just as this one. Every man and woman wants for nothing; the estate supplies all. Permits are granted for additions within reason, and only out of necessity. All else is kept equal. Wealth and modesty have no meaning here."
  205. >"I suppose that's nice," she mumbles. There's just a hint of sincerity in her tone, muffled by the fact that it was largely meaningless with respect to her own situation.
  206. >Entering the grand foyer, you tap a door by the staircase.
  207. "This door takes you to the basement, which contains the estate's medical bay. Much of the equipment is sensitive, and I don't want any of you pawing around down there. Take care to inform the others that the basement is therefore off-limits."
  208. >"I will," she replies.
  209. >With the first floor taken care of, you lead her upstairs and push open the double doors to your study, the large central room with giant skylights and a glass wall for plenty of natural light.
  210. >The sun is just beginning to rise over the horizon outside.
  211. "This room, you've seen already," you say, motioning around. "I conduct most of my work here. Before entering, one must always knock and wait for approval. In fact, that goes for any room where I am behind closed doors, not only this one. Am I clear?"
  212. >She nods emotionlessly, and you exit, shutting the doors behind you.
  213. >You show her around the rest of the rooms upstairs. The library, the lounge, and most impressively, the master bedroom.
  214. "My bed is to be made every morning shortly after I rise, with sheets changed weekly. As should be evident by now, most of you will be primarily cleaning. Some duties necessitate being up before I wake, after I've retired to bed, or even throughout the night. It falls to you to rotate these jobs among the staff consistently."
  215. >"I believe I understand."
  216. "Good."
  217. >You look out the window, towards the sun in the sky, now full above the horizon.
  218. "Would you like to see the grounds?"
  219. >"I would," she says.
  220. >Her passive tone makes it difficult to decipher her thoughts. She might be genuinely interested. She might secretly be trying to get any possible glimpse of an escape route. Frankly, she might just be trying not to rock the boat at this point.
  221. >Her intentions will become clear with time.
  222. >You lead her back downstairs to the foyer and retrieve an item from a crate by the door.
  223. "You'll need to put this on."
  224. >As you turn back to her, she stares up at the leash in your hand uncomfortably.
  225. >"I'd rather not."
  226. >With a sigh, you shake your head.
  227. >Even though you wish to instill in her psyche a lofty sense of authority, it still remains necessary for her to perceive herself as your inferior.
  228. >The leash is the first small step to that end.
  229. "I've been quite patient with you thus far. Even I can appreciate that servitude takes some adjusting to. But allow me to make myself clear, once and only once: I do not have to be benevolent. I do not utter wishes, only commands. My word is law, and you, as well as the others, will behave as such. If you disagree, you will hold your tongue, or I will make you swallow it."
  230. >Again, you hold out the leash for her.
  231. >She retreats two paces, distressed by the prospect of being restrained. "No. I won't do it."
  232. >Very well, then. She's made her choice.
  233. >You lunge forward and grab ahold of her mane, yanking it upwards so her front hooves just barely scrape the ground. She thrashes about in a vain struggle to regain her footing.
  234. >"No!" she cries.
  235. >With the other hand, you crudely affix the collar to her neck and draw it tight, constricting her airway.
  236. >She gags and coughs, every attempt to draw air into lungs made an arduous struggle.
  237. >Once you secure the clasp, you release her mane, allowing her to collapse onto the ground.
  238. >With one hoof, she paws at the collar feebly, but, lacking fingers, her efforts accomplish nothing.
  239. >For a moment, you wonder if you've gone too far, but it quickly becomes clear that she can still breathe. It's just a bit more difficult to do so.
  240. >Satisfied, you grab the other end of the leash and make your way to the door.
  241. >It rapidly becomes clear to her that she must decide being dragged by the neck or summoning the energy to get back up.
  242. >Choosing the latter, she scrambles up to her hooves before the leash can go taut. She stumbles the first few steps, but follows you close behind out the door.
  243. "The leash's purpose is singular," you say loudly as you descend the stone steps. "Yet in this case, it is symbolic rather than functional. I'm sure you're aware of the instrument's purpose."
  244. >When you fail to receive an answer, you yank the leash violently, sending her tumbling down the steps ahead of you.
  245. "You will speak when spoken to!" you roar.
  246. >As the red dust settles around her, she hacks her lungs out.
  247. >You charge down the steps and stand over her menacingly.
  248. "What is the leash's purpose?" you repeat.
  249. >"To lead a pet," she groans.
  250. "Precisely."
  251. >And yet, still she resists. "I'm not a pet."
  252. >Taking a deep breath, you squat down beside her.
  253. "You are now."
  254. >Her pupils dilate in fear in response to your low-voiced threat. She'd be deathly quiet, were it not for the collar making her breaths forced and raspy.
  255. "I don't like to hurt my pets. But insolence leaves me no other choice. Do I make myself clear?"
  256. >Without hesitation, she nods.
  257. "Excellent."
  258. >You reach down to her neck, and she winces. But rather than hurt her, you adjust the clasp and loosen the collar. Enough to cease her obnoxious gagging, but still tight enough to cause discomfort. As a reminder.
  259. >Rising back up, you snap the leash.
  260. "Let's walk."
  261. >You lead her down the path parallel to the house. The natural terrain is a lifeless red, but the property surrounding the household is verdant, with a thick lawn, assorted foliage, and arbors. The grounds span, at minimum, two kilometers in every direction.
  262. "The estate is just shy of two-hundred-thousand acres. Most of it is a barren rock, containing nothing of interest. The grounds you see here are maintained through catalytic hydrolysis. I explain this not to teach you something, but because I understand running may be the obvious impulse. Allow me to dispel that illusion."
  263. >You wave your arm at the flat plains that surround you.
  264. "It would take you days to reach the estate perimeter on foot, and even longer to arrive at the household on the neighboring estate — assuming you do manage to find such a needle in a haystack — at which point the owner would likely have their robots attack you on sight out of sheer terror."
  265. >Octavia makes no comment. She only watches the distant landscape as you walk her.
  266. "There is nothing for you out there but certain death. Humanity has evolved past the need to live beyond the household. There is no structure to take shelter, no vegetation to subsist off. These grounds are a veritable oasis of life. You need only to embrace it."
  267. >When she fails to respond, you take your point as sufficiently made.
  268. >Silently, slowly, you wind around the grounds' paths, allowing her to get a glimpse of the gardens, the fields, the lake.
  269. >As you walk, you wait for Octavia to make some indication, some acknowledgment of the property. Yet she does not.
  270. >Eventually, you grow frustrated and tug on her leash.
  271. "You know, I prefer my walking partners to be decent conversationalists, Pet."
  272. >Fearfully, she pipes up with the first topic to reach her mind.
  273. >"Do you have pets here?" she asks. "Real one— animals, I mean?"
  274. "No. None on Solaria do. Animals are disease vectors. Filthy things, only useful to us when slaughtered and sterilized. We've long since eliminated all bacterial and viral infections, you see. It takes a great deal to maintain that feat, most notably the physical separation of any and all potential hosts. Humans don't even cohabitate with one another, much less with those beasts."
  275. >Octavia frowns. "So then how do you expect this idea of yours to be implemented? Ponies in every household on Solaria?"
  276. "Your physiology is different from ours. That's what the biologists who conducted the preliminary examinations say, anyway. As a psychoanalyst myself, that's not my concern. Overcoming the psychological stigma against living among organic creatures will prove a challenge, certainly, but it is sociologically inevitable. The advantages are great while the potential of disease transmission is nil."
  277. >"What if they don't want to live with ponies? What if they can't bear it, after being alone their whole lives?"
  278. "I take issue with the premise of that question. In any case, that's beyond my purview. The assembly will deliberate on how to proceed with my findings."
  279. >Octavia looks up at you. "What do you mean?"
  280. >Suddenly, you catch yourself.
  281. >She's milking you for information, and what's worse, she's succeeding at it.
  282. >You need to be more careful how much you reveal to her. To the best of her knowledge, you ought to be omnipotent. Not by misinforming her, which would easily be seen through, but by lying by omission.
  283. >In other words, if you give her no reason to believe you're not at the top of the chain, she won't.
  284. "Nothing," you mutter. "That's to be seen after the experiment produces results. There's much to be done until then."
  285. >Eventually, the path brings you back around to the front of the house. You lead Octavia back inside.
  286. "Aside from that trouble at the start, you performed satisfactorily. Still, I expect better from you in the future."
  287. >She bows her head slightly in a show of deference. You can tell it's a gesture to placate you more than a sign of actual respect.
  288. >But you're not worried. You'll get her there.
  289. >You undo the leash, taking care to leave the collar on her.
  290. "That collar stays on 24/7 as a show of your submission to me."
  291. >"Yes, sir," she whispers.
  292. >You check the time. It's mid-morning already.
  293. "I suppose it's time we saw the others."
  294.  
  295. 3
  296. >You pick up the crate by the door, and Octavia follows you to the servant's quarters.
  297. >Pushing the door open, you smile as you step inside.
  298. "Good morning, my pets."
  299. >Some of the ponies are already up and out of bed. Others are still sleeping in. All eyes are on you.
  300. "Line up."
  301. >They stare back at you blankly as you set the crate down by your feet.
  302. "Line up!" you bark.
  303. >Octavia hastily trots over to the center of the room. "Come, everyone. Form a row alongside me."
  304. >Good on her, you note. Embracing her role. Perhaps she's worried you'd do the same to them as you did to her.
  305. >She's right to worry.
  306. >Gradually, the ponies gather up in a line on either side of Octavia. They're a little slower than you'd like, but you're willing to be just a bit more forgiving this first time around.
  307. >Soon, all line up, except one. A blue one with a horn walks straight past the group and comes up to you.
  308. >As she approaches, she holds her head high and scowls at you.
  309. >"You there! Trixie demands to know why you think you can hold her hostage!"
  310. >As soon the brazen stranger steps up to you, Octavia sets one hoof forward and opens her mouth to reason with her.
  311. >You don't give her the chance, however. You're running the show, not her.
  312. >Reaching down, you grab ahold of the pony by the horn and hoist her up. She gasps as she lifts up into the air effortlessly.
  313. >Looking her square in the eye, you give her a violent slap across the face.
  314. >All the others' expressions go stunned at your response.
  315. >The insolent pony stares back at you, shocked. "Y-You struck Trixie!"
  316. >You sneer at her.
  317. "Trixie? No, I don't know a Trixie. I merely disciplined my property."
  318. >"You can't do that!" she cries.
  319. >WHAP!
  320. >She recoils as you deliver another slap to the same cheek, now glowing red. She dangles by her horn almost lifelessly, cowering in fear of the next slap.
  321. "I can do however I please. Burn that into your memory."
  322. >You pull her face in close to yours.
  323. "There will not be a third strike," you growl. "If you prove to be more trouble than you're worth, I will not hesitate to crush you underfoot."
  324. >She turns her head away and grimaces. "Stop it!"
  325. "Oh? Don't believe me?"
  326. >Opening your fingers, you drop her into a heap on the floor and step down onto her torso.
  327. >She draws in a sharp breath as you apply pressure.
  328. >Several of the other ponies are trembling now. You take a moment to make eye contact with the lot of them before continuing.
  329. >A couple of them stare back at you obstinately, not showing their fear. But they don't dare intercede.
  330. >You dig your shoe into Trixie's barrel, causing her to shriek.
  331. "You are nothing to me, understand? Worthless!"
  332. >She just howls in pain. Tears roll down her red cheek.
  333. >You push a little further, feeling her ribs press against your sole.
  334. "ANSWER ME!"
  335. >"AAAAAH-YES, YES, I'M WORTHLESS!" she sobs, struggling to breathe.
  336. >With fire in your eyes, you raise your head, turning to Octavia.
  337. "You heard her! What say you, Pet? Is she capable of reforming, or is she beyond saving?"
  338. >Though her eyes betray her, she meets your gaze and answers you promptly and pleadingly. "Please, Master, show mercy! She will obey! I will MAKE her obey!"
  339. >Some of the other mares look at Octavia in disbelief at her obsequious display. Begging for mercy was one thing, but her last line didn't sit particularly well with them.
  340. >Fortunately, goading her into showing unflinching humiliation was exactly what you were hoping to accomplish.
  341. "Very well."
  342. >You take your foot off Trixie and deliver a firm kick to her belly, sending her sliding back towards the row of ponies. She yowls, curling up in the fetal position.
  343. "You have five seconds to get back in line."
  344. >With the help of the two in front of her, she manages to squeeze back into the line, standing half-hunched over to clutch her bruised side.
  345. >When you walked in, you could tell some of the ponies were immediately resentful toward you. Now you commanded their attention.
  346. >It felt thrilling. They were a good-looking lot. Some more than others. A colorful bunch, to be certain.
  347. >You wonder if they all look this nice.
  348. >After a moment, you retrieve a handful of collars from the crate and approach the line. The first one shivers in terror as you bring your hands to her, but keeps utterly still while you fasten her collar.
  349. >Not too loose, not too tight, just perfectly snug.
  350. >You continue down the row, addressing the group as you place a collar on each.
  351. "Listen closely. You are my pets. You will look after my household, and more importantly, you will look after me. You will do each and everything I ask of you, and you will do it without hesitation, or else suffer the consequences. You will address me as 'Master' or 'Sir' and treat me with the devotion and respect such a title warrants. You will not try to leave this place. If you do all this, and do it well, you will find life here to be quite agreeable."
  352. >You reach Octavia in line, and glance down at her already tight-fitting collar before staring into her eyes.
  353. "If you do not, I will personally ensure it is most unpleasant."
  354. >Continuing to the next pony, you return to the task of applying collars.
  355. "You will report to the pet called Octavia. You will do everything she instructs of you; consider an order from her an order from me. You will not trouble me with your problems. Instead, you will bring them to her, and she will decide if they are worth bringing to me. From time to time, I may ask you to perform tasks that are strange and uncomfortable. Regardless, I will only ask once. Forcing me to repeat myself invites punishment, up to and including death."
  356. >It is then that you reach the last pony in line. A pony you hadn't fully noticed before.
  357. "Hello there."
  358. >Something about her just catches your eye. The surprising lack of color, the way she hides behind her mane...
  359. >You brush her hair aside, exposing her full face.
  360. "Octavia, make a note," you say, without breaking eye contact. "This one is to be removed from the hierarchy, neither your subordinate nor superior. Exclude her from the housework rotation. Her duties will come directly from me."
  361. >"Yes, sir," you hear her say quietly from down the line.
  362. >You give the pony a gentle pat on the cheek and stand back up.
  363. >Curiously, you look down the line.
  364. "You all have symbols on your hips. Why?"
  365. >Octavia immediately speaks up so that another will not have to. "They're our cutie marks. They signify our special talents."
  366. >You circle around back to inspect each one, occasionally pulling them up by the dock carelessly to get a closer look.
  367. "Let's see, desserts, a hat, a flower, a pen, a treble clef, more flowers... these are the things you're best at? Where are the symbols for psychoanalysis? For robotic engineering?"
  368. >"It doesn't work that way. They don't represent jobs."
  369. >You return to the front of the line.
  370. "Then why are they branded on you? What happens if you fail to perform them?"
  371. >"Nothing," she replies. "They're just what makes each of us unique."
  372. >Suddenly, a smile cracks across your face.
  373. "So you would say they represent one's path to self-actualization?"
  374. >Octavia looks back at you uncertainly. "I'm not sure what you mean."
  375. >An idea is coming together in your head. Self-actualization is at the very top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. A personally fulfilled life is impossible without it.
  376. >And you've just been handed the perfect device to manipulate it.
  377. "Slight change of plans," you tell the group. "None of your assigned duties will be permitted to coincide with your symbols. Such a privilege must be earned, and must be granted by myself alone. You two with the flowers will be barred from groundskeeping, you with the pen are forbidden from the library, and so on. I see none of you have symbols related to cleaning, which is a suitable default chore for those restricted from other tasks. Is that clear?"
  378. >"Yes, sir," Octavia answers for the group.
  379. "Good. Now get to work. I expect breakfast on the table in fifteen minutes."
  380. >You clip the leash to the collar of the unusual pony standing at the end, and lead her out the door. As you exit, Octavia takes to delegating tasks immediately.
  381. >Good girl.
  382. >As you lead your new pet upstairs, you look down at her. Her head hangs low, but she obediently follows you close by.
  383. "What is your name, Pet?"
  384. >She looks up at your from behind her hair uneasily.
  385. "Go on. I don't care to learn the others', but I'll admit I'm curious as to yours."
  386. >She stares back up at you silently.
  387. "I asked you your name," you say expectantly.
  388. >"M-M—" she stutters hoarsely. Her voice sounds as though she scarcely uses it.
  389. >She tries to form the words, but they fail to escape her throat.
  390. "Don't bother. I'll get it from Octavia. In the meantime..."
  391. >You bring her into the spare bedroom and unclip her leash.
  392. >It's a peculiar room, this one. It this modern world, it only functions in the extraordinary circumstance in which you require alternative sleeping accommodations.
  393. >But all your life, that's never been necessary, so you feel perfectly comfortable giving it to her.
  394. "You'll be staying here rather than the servant's quarters. Don't worry about housework for now, just make yourself at home. I'll have someone bring up breakfast in a bit."
  395. >She looks around the room slightly mystified, but says nothing.
  396. >This will be a fun side experiment.
  397. "I'll come see you see soon."
  398. >Shutting the door, you retreat to your study, and dial Dr. Scanlon's estate code.
  399. >Scanlon is an inflexible man, but he's Solaria's foremost sociologist, and a member of the assembly.
  400. >For your entire professional career, he's been a trusted ally. He's one of the few who can maintain any semblance of objectivity in your adjacent fields.
  401. >He could see that, for all the physiological benefits, isolation was doing harm to humanity. The issue of loneliness was mankind's final dilemma. Disease was virtually gone. Population was strictly controlled. All men were equal.
  402. >But for all its evolution, there still lied some inkling of humanity's origins within: the drive to share in physical intimacy.
  403. >The nurture, repulsion to physical presence, overcame nature, the urge for sexual attraction. Though not enough to wholly squash the consequential desires.
  404. >In your studies, you found that modern man was generally conflicted: he felt a primal need to experience something which he had never experienced before, something he would never consciously realize he desired.
  405. >Humans would never again live together. Society had progressed far beyond the need for it.
  406. >But if this niche could somehow be filled by these new creatures, then perhaps humanity's final dilemma might be solved after all.
  407. >After a short bit, the image of Scanlon's figure appeared in front of you. To an untrained eye, it might seem as though he were really in the room with you.
  408. >You knew better, however. Were that really the case, you would be retching and gagging, scrambling to get away, overcome by nausea by the prospect of air from his lungs being breathed in by yours.
  409. >By way of cerebro-projector, his image and voice appeared only in your mind, nothing more than pulses of electricity running through your synapses.
  410. >You felt safe in the knowledge that he stood some two thousand miles away, on his own estate, viewing you in precisely the same manner.
  411. >Such was the way all communication on Solaria (business, pleasure, or otherwise) was conducted. Social isolation was therefore not technically true in this sense; merely the physical intimacy which man so unconsciously craved.
  412. >"Yes?" Scanlon asks. "What is it?"
  413. "I've arranged for the subjects to take up the duties previously held by robots. They are doing so now."
  414. >"That is good," he states, in his usual calculated tone. "Any complications?"
  415. >You shake your head decisively.
  416. "None whatsoever."
  417. >"Very well. I remain skeptical, but hopeful for positive findings. Do not forget that the assembly has permitted this trial with several strings attached. I'll be expecting frequent reports to present my colleagues."
  418. "You'll have them."
  419. >You move your finger to disconnect the cerebro, but Scanlon interrupts you.
  420. >"One more thing."
  421. "Yes?"
  422. >"Do see if you can glean any insight into their sociology. The commonfolk in cold storage have little to offer us and their leaders are quite sharp-tongued. They've grown spiteful in their captivity."
  423. >You frown.
  424. "Have you not broken them?"
  425. >He removes his spectacles to clean them. "The facilityman we have on-site tries, but it is beginning to seem as though they are incapable of being broken."
  426. "Hmm."
  427. >You find that hard to believe.
  428. >"I'll have you know more another time," he says, replacing his glasses. "I've got a committee meeting to attend to."
  429. "So long, old friend."
  430. >With a wave of your finger, the cerebro disconnects, and Scanlon's figure dissipates into thin air.
  431. >You can't help but feel a bit guilty. You'd just lied through your teeth about not coming across complications.
  432. >But you reason that it's a white lie, of no consequence. If all goes well, it won't come up again. It would have been a trivial detail to add. They're obeying now, aren't they?
  433. >Are they? You check the time, nearly twenty to eleven.
  434. >It ought to be time for breakfast.
  435.  
  436. 4
  437. >You enter the dining room and immediately frown at the display before you.
  438. >Octavia stands inside. Beyond the counter that separates this room from the kitchen, you can see two ponies working by the stove.
  439. >At the table, a plate is set for each of the ten chairs.
  440. "What the devil is this?" you inquire through grit teeth.
  441. >Octavia comes around the table, concerned by your sudden irritation. "We're making breakfast, as you asked. I've set places for us t—"
  442. "Us?" you hiss. "This table is for my invited guests, not pets!"
  443. >She reels back. "I thought you've never seen anyone..."
  444. "Of course I don't see them, you miserable dolt! I VIEW them!"
  445. >The other two ponies standing by the stove, frightened by your outburst, shrink into themselves.
  446. >You pound your fist against the table and point directly at them.
  447. "Set ONE plate at the head of the table. Prepare ONE dish, for myself and only myself. You eat in your quarters AFTER I've finished my meal to my satisfaction. Understood?"
  448. >All three nod quietly.
  449. "I expect this error to be properly remedied by the time I return, or your punishment will be severe."
  450. >You leave the dining room in a fume.
  451. >What a brazen assumption! To think they'd eat beside you, as your equal.
  452. >Still, perhaps you were unduly harsh toward Octavia's ignorance. It's not as though she had foreknowledge of the Solarian custom of hosting dinner guests by way of cerebro-projector.
  453. >But she must learn to anticipate your expectations before you even vocalize them. She ought to know better than think you would allow your pets to sit at the table.
  454. >And therein lies the problem. She still thinks of herself as an autonomous creature held in temporary bondage, not a slave.
  455. >It's your job to correct that.
  456. >As you make your way down the hall, you periodically pop into different rooms, using the time to check on your servants. Most of them are sweeping or dusting; they visibly snap up and busy themselves when they see you.
  457. >Fear is good. It'll keep them productive.
  458. >And it's not as though they can get away with slacking off. A tidy house is something easily validated. If they decide to cut corners, you'll know, and then, well... you'll handle it accordingly.
  459. >Besides, you had discreet cameras installed around the household for that very purpose. It was an unusual requisition you filed with the robotics plant.
  460. >Why, they asked, would anyone need cameras when every household came stocked with a complement of robots, whose countless sensors recorded every inkling of environmental data as they patrolled?
  461. >So you told them rather forthrightly that you were replacing your robots altogether.
  462. >That got you an odd stare.
  463. >So much preparation has gone into this experiment. Schedule changes, remodeling, special requisitions for new devices and implements, and even an experimental new modification to your cerebral implant (which you simply can't wait to test, when the time comes).
  464. >You were rather surprised all your requests were approved by the assembly without much deliberation. When you told Scanlon as much, his words felt vaguely ominous.
  465. >"If you're going to do this, you'll do it right."
  466. >Once you're satisfied with the productivity of the staff, you round the corner at the end of the hall and stop in your tracks.
  467. >The one you disciplined earlier — what was her name — Trixie?
  468. >She's standing rather aimlessly in the hall, outside the utility closet, and staring vacantly off into space. Her broom is sitting on the floor next to her.
  469. "You there."
  470. >She snaps back to reality and looks at you before scampering off frightfully down the hall, leaving her broom where it lay.
  471. >Unacceptable. She was meant to be struck into submission, not reduced to a vapid imbecile.
  472. >Could it be possible you actually traumatized her?
  473. >No... Unless she had prior developmental issues, two strikes to an adult mare could hardly do much harm.
  474. >It's a mild case of shock, is all. Brought on by the stress of an alien environment, coupled with prompt violence from her captor.
  475. >She seemed rather arrogant, from the few words she managed to get out before you disciplined her. Someone who's used to being authoritative.
  476. >The intense paradigm shift of power dynamics is likely unraveling her ego.
  477. >She was dissociating.
  478. >Still, your armchair psychology does you little help here. You'll have to develop a separate course for breaking her.
  479. >You walk over to the broom she left behind and pick it up.
  480. >Whatever she may be experiencing, it's still no excuse for idleness. She will be expected to work, trauma or not.
  481. >Broom in hand, you make your way back to the dining room, where you receive a much more gratifying sight: a plate of eggs and toast at the head of the table. Octavia and the other two stand off to the side, awaiting your approval.
  482. >As you pass them to get to your seat, you toss the broom carelessly at Octavia. She fumbles quickly to catch it in her hooves.
  483. "The blue one is disregarding her chores," you tell her as you take your seat. "See to it that she makes herself useful promptly, or I'll dispose of you both. I'm tired of making threats."
  484. >"Yes, sir," she whispers. "I'll check on her right now. Is your meal satisfactory?"
  485. >You take a bite off your plate.
  486. "Satisfactory, yes, and not an ounce better. An uninspired attempt. There's hardly an adequate protein allotment. No sausage? No bacon?"
  487. >Octavia clams up. "I checked the recipes, sir, and those are... meats." She utters that final word in such hushed trepidation that you might think it meant something else altogether.
  488. "Of course they are. What of it?"
  489. >"Well, it's just that we don't ea—"
  490. >You rise up out of your chair.
  491. "This again? Skies above, what do I care what you eat? This is my meal, and you'll make what I please!"
  492. >"Please, sir," she pleads, "I only mean to explain we have no experience in preparing it. It's uncomfortable for us to handle it." Not wanting to agitate you any further, she hastily follows that up with, "But we'll learn. If meat is what you desire, we'll learn."
  493. >You stare down at her. She's bowing her head deeply and humbly, in a gesture practically begging you to show mercy.
  494. >And you want to unleash on her, discipline her for getting breakfast wrong twice today. Something that egregious shouldn't go unpunished.
  495. >But the humility she's showing here presents you with a promising opportunity.
  496. >To become violent would be to squander it. Sparing her now will encourage further submissiveness and reinforce in her mind that this is indeed the rational way to behave around you.
  497. >Your fury subsiding, you sit back down and return to eating.
  498. "You'll learn. And in the meantime, you'll prepare my meals with a synth-yeast substitute to suffice my protein allotment. I don't much care for it, but it's close enough to the real thing. Moreover, it will train you to become accustomed to the real thing."
  499. >"Thank you," she murmurs, breathing a relieved sigh.
  500. >You stare straight ahead while you eat, not deigning to return your gaze to them.
  501. "You're dismissed. Deal with the insolent bitch and meet me in my study when I'm finished."
  502. >She bows out and leaves the dining room, taking the broom and the other two ponies with her.
  503.  
  504. >After breakfast, Octavia comes up to your study. She knocks upon the door as instructed, and you allow her in.
  505. "I've a busy day today. I was hoping for a sabbatical so as to oversee your adjustment more closely, but I've some patients for whom it would be unfeasible to temporarily reassign an alternative psychoanalyst..."
  506. >You glance back at Octavia.
  507. "That's neither here nor there. I'm in need of a secretary. We use robots to perform the tedium of our labors, and barring that, I'll need one of you to do it."
  508. >"Certainly," she says. "I can go fetch someone. Will any pony do?"
  509. "Assuming you're all competent enough at menial work, yes. But not the one with the pen on her hip. She looks the type, and I'm afraid she might find the work too rewarding. We'll save that for when she proves her fealty, shall we?"
  510. >"Yes, sir. In the meantime, what would you have me do?"
  511. >She's showing initiative already.
  512. "Have you assigned ponies to serve as groundskeepers for the day?"
  513. >"Not yet."
  514. "Do so now. The structure you saw beside the lake is a pump house. All the gardening equipment and tools are housed within, as well a console akin to the one you saw in the kitchen. Use it to familiarize yourself with the sprinkler systems and irrigation channels. You'll need to know it well to teach it to the rest of the staff."
  515. >She nods and begins to leave. On her way out the door, you stop her.
  516. "Oh, and one more thing."
  517. >She turns back to you.
  518. "Would you happen to know the name of the pet I removed from the staff rotation this morning? She's having trouble speaking up."
  519. >"I can find out."
  520. "Good. Go then, and have her meals delivered to the secondary bedroom."
  521. >You shut the door behind her and return to your chair.
  522. >Within the next few minutes, you hear another knock at the door.
  523. "Enter."
  524. >The door opens slightly and a cream-colored mare pokes in halfway.
  525. "M-Master?"
  526. >"Yes, Pet, come in."
  527. >She enters the study and softly shuts the door.
  528. "Have a seat."
  529. >You gesture to the chair pulled up to the side of your desk.
  530. >She approaches. From her subdued body language alone, you can she's a great deal more timid than most others.
  531. >Octavia chose interestingly.
  532. >You look over her with enraptured interest.
  533. "I like your mane. It's an unusual style. I haven't seen one like it on any of the other pets."
  534. >"Thank you," she whispers, fiddling with her hair nervously and avoiding eye contact.
  535. "Has Octavia told you you're to be my new secretary?"
  536. >"Yes."
  537. "For now, at least. If I enjoy your company, I may keep you on indefinitely instead of rotating your position amongst the others."
  538. >She stares down at your desk silently.
  539. "What's your name?"
  540. >"Coco Pommel."
  541. "Very well, Coco. My first appointment is in precisely three minute's time, so let's not delay any further."
  542. >You push a button on your desk, and a console rises from within. A patient's file appears on the screen automatically.
  543. "I'm a psychoanalyst. I diagnose disorders of the mind and formulate a treatment plan to correct any imbalances. Most on Solaria transcribe notes cerebrally, but I find hard copies more conducive for organizing my research. As such, I prefer to have all my notes written down."
  544. >Except for your notes on your new pony subjects. You can't risk them coming across those. They'll stay safe on your cerebro, out of their reach.
  545. "As I speak to my patient, you will take comprehensive notes on everything I say. You will not forgo any details, or you will be punished. There may be some notes I do not wish to speak aloud for the patient's sake. Those I shall transcribe myself via cerebro. They will appear on this console, and you shall record them just as any other item. Does that sound feasible?"
  546. >She looks up hesitantly. "I'm not— I-I think so..."
  547. >You set the pen down in front of her.
  548. "Go retrieve the notebook labeled 'McCafferty, Jonas' from the shelf behind you. We begin in one minute."
  549. >As she gets the book, you dial the estate code listed on the patient file into your cerebro. After a few seconds, McCafferty's seated figure appears in front of you, hovering in midair.
  550. >You mentally calibrate his image so that he is seated in the chair across your desk, while he does the same for you, from the comfort of his own study.
  551. "Are you well, Jonas?"
  552. >He grimaces and takes a sip of water. "You ought to know damn well I'm not. I told you a fortnight ago this new course you have me on wouldn't do shit, and here we are. Besides, it hurts like hell. Think my damn 'bot pricked me in the wrong place."
  553. >You know full well that wasn't the case. Robot administration of medicine was one of the most precise sciences on Solaria. Yet you ignore it.
  554. "I spoke to the neurologist just last week. It's an uncommon treatment, granted, but it passed all the requisite trials. It's been proven to work."
  555. >Out of the corner of your eye, you can see Coco staring at you uncertainly, and only then do you realize that she doesn't understand what's happening.
  556. >McCafferty is visible and audible only to you. From her perspective, you're simply talking to an empty chair.
  557. >While he speaks, you shoot her a quick nod, looking down at her book. You mentally beam the words 'Begin Writing' to the console, and she gets the idea, picking up the pen with her mouth.
  558. >"What're you doing?" McCafferty asks. "Not having social calls when I'm on, are you?"
  559. "I wouldn't breach protocol for something so foolish as that. No, I was merely addressing my robot. Continue."
  560. >"Like I was saying, it don't matter how verified your treatment is if it ain't working."
  561. >You beam 'unhappy with current course' to the console.
  562. "I assure you, it's achieving the desired results."
  563. >"Don't give me that. I'm a food engineer. I probably designed half the crap ate for breakfast."
  564. >If only he knew.
  565. >"I know body chemistry," he continues, "and people respond to reactants in different ways. Some things work like magic for one man and go totally inert for another."
  566. >As you respond, you're careful to dictate your sentences as you want them transcribed.
  567. "Your hypothesis that your body may not be responding to this course might be right, but you said the same of the last course."
  568. >"And?" he asks.
  569. "The last course was in capsule form. This is direct injection to the temporal lobe."
  570. >"What's your point?"
  571. "Well, in your lofty occupation, surely you must know of the blood-brain barrier?"
  572. >"Of course I have."
  573. "Unless your amygdala has shriveled away, it's safe to say the results are entirely predictable. And if that were the case, I'd hardly think you'd be talking to me right now."
  574. >He shifts in his seat. "Well, it felt wrong while the 'bot was doing it. Think he messed up. You know, just a millimeter off can—"
  575. "Jonas..."
  576. >He falls silent and stares back at you.
  577. "You've been refusing treatment, haven't you?"
  578. >"Preposterous!" he yells. "Why on Solaria would I do that? Your treatments have just been ineffective so far, that's all there is to it. Move me onto another course and you'll see."
  579. >You sit absolutely still in your desk chair, watching him carefully. Tiny beads of perspiration forming on his forehead. Defensive posturing.
  580. "Yes," you sigh, "another course, and another, and so on ad infinitum, for as long as you can fly under the radar."
  581. >"You're mad," he says.
  582. "I don't think you've taken one single course I've prescribed you."
  583. >"Nonsense! Slanderous nonsense meant to save your reputation by staining mine. I ought to charge you with malpractice. You've got no evidence."
  584. "You're right. I have none. But it's checked easily enough, isn't it?"
  585. >"What?"
  586. "I had my suspicions. That's why we moved onto this experimental course in the first place. See, you can fool a robot into thinking you swallowed the capsule it handed you. I'm sure you've been banking on that so far. But with all the rigid programming behind robotic surgery, there's no way to make a robot believe it administered an injection that you actually refused."
  587. >The color drains from his face.
  588. "If my accusations are baseless as you say, then you certainly wouldn't mind an Inquirer asking your estate's medbot a simple question. If only to exonerate you, of course."
  589. >He leaps from his chair and charges at you, his image clipping through your desk from the waist down. In a blind rage, he tries to grab at your collar, but no physical sensation accompanies his movements.
  590. >"You set me up! You've been trying to poison me all along! This is your sick revenge because I wouldn't let you sink your dirty little hooks into my brain! I'll kill you, you hear? I'll find your estate and do you in!"
  591. >Staying perfectly calm, you raise your right hand.
  592. "Expect an inquest within the hour."
  593. >With a simple wave of your index finger, he disappears from view.
  594. >Breathing deeply, you pause a moment. You didn't dare show it, but his sudden lunge caused you a great deal of distress. Fortunately, you kept your composure.
  595. >With your heartbeat slowing down, you turn to Coco, eternally grateful she could only see your end of the exchange.
  596. "Got all that?" you smile.
  597. >She shrinks down into her seat, lacking confidence in her answer. "I... I think..."
  598. "Let's have a look, then."
  599. >Luckily, this one didn't matter much, so it made for the perfect first trial.
  600. >You thumb through her notes. Various misspellings of the more technical terms (which you can't fault her on), but beyond that, it's a stellar transcription.
  601. >You set the notebook down in front of her.
  602. "Good work."
  603. >She hangs onto her reserved modesty. "Thank you."
  604. "No, I mean it. I am not unjust; praise is warranted. I went fast, and you still kept up. You're very talented."
  605. >She tilts her head down and tries to hide her faint blushing.
  606. "You took the pen in your mouth. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but you're very dexterous with it. And your penmanship is better than mine! How's that so?"
  607. >She sets her chin against her hoof on the desk and smiles. "I had a lot of practice back home."
  608. >You sit back in your chair.
  609. "Writing with your mouth?"
  610. >"Drawing. Sketches for different dresses."
  611. "Ah. That must be where those fluid movements were learned."
  612. >Suddenly, she sits up, now more in possession of herself. "Can I ask you a question?"
  613. "By all means."
  614. >"Who— Who were you talking to?"
  615. "As I said earlier, that was a patient of mine."
  616. >"But I didn't see anyone."
  617. "He's at home right now, just like I am."
  618. >You turn your head and tap the small metal plate on the side.
  619. "See this?"
  620. >She leans in to get a closer look.
  621. "That's a cerebral-optic augmentative implant, or cerebro for short. It runs from my cerebral cortex all the way to my occipital lobe. All humans have one. It lets us view each other, in our heads, anytime we want. Makes it so that we never have to see each other in person."
  622. >"That's neat," she says. "But you still visit your friends, right?"
  623. "No, Coco. Every man spends their life in a home like this one from adulthood until the moment of death."
  624. >She stares at you in confusion. "Why?"
  625. "Lots of reasons. Disease, mostly. None of us ever get sick."
  626. >She glances down at the notes she transcribed. "You were talking about medicines earlier, though."
  627. >You open your drawer, grab your pipe, and light it.
  628. "Treatments for the mind. It's lonely, this way of life, as you can imagine, but no one realizes it. Viewing is not sufficient. Humans were built for seeing. That's just not something we can breed out, it seems."
  629. >You take a long puff before continuing.
  630. "Ultimately, after weeding out genetic defects and predispositions to this loneliness, roughly one in three thousand develop issues extensive enough to require treatment. The patient I just viewed was one such case."
  631. >"Did something happen? The stuff you were talking about..."
  632. "Yes. Tragic, since his paranoia progressed to the point where conventional treatment is no longer applicable. Speaking of..."
  633. >You navigate the console with your cerebro and file the paperwork necessary to submit an inquest into McCafferty.
  634. >"What'll happen to him?"
  635. >You turn back to Coco.
  636. "Oh, don't worry your pretty little head about that, my dear. It's almost time for our next appointment. This one should go a lot smoother. Fetch the next book for me, will you?"
  637.  
  638. 5
  639. >The rest of the day goes about as well as you expected. You viewed your other patients scheduled for the day, revised their individual CBT courses, and filed dosage adjustments where applicable.
  640. >It was rather mundane, actually. None of them were nearly as hostile as McCafferty. His case was a severe one; paranoia had consumed his ego completely. Pending the results of his inquest, he'll likely require a total discharge.
  641. >That doesn't happen often on Solaria. Most patients submit to your treatments. They're docile. They accept that alterations of their minds are in their best interest.
  642. >To belong on Solaria, one must be healthy as everyone else. There is no room for societal defects and wastrels. Such a thing would be an inefficiency in the system, worthy of purging.
  643. >For those few with mental irregularities, you shape their minds to properly conform. Everyone benefits.
  644. >You've been doing this for a while. Today was simply business as usual.
  645. >Coco diligently transcribed your words through it all. After dismissing her for a brief lunch— having had your own meal brought up to the study— you reconvened for the rest of your afternoon appointments.
  646. >The first few viewings felt a bit strange. After McCafferty inquired about your addressal of Coco, it planted a lingering question in your mind.
  647. >How would it feel for these patients to know that you were not alone in the room?
  648. >Ponies were largely common knowledge on Solaria by now. It was rather unceremonious news to most, the discovery being of little consequence to their daily lives.
  649. >However, everyone but you, the members of the assembly, and perhaps a lone facilityman fully believed all of the creatures were being held securely in cold storage. None could imagine something so outlandish as twelve of them being invited onto a Solarian's estate.
  650. >It was fortunate, then, that they need not ever be aware of Coco's presence in the room beside you. Why, she could jump in your lap or even scream at the top of her lungs, and the limitations of cerebro-projection meant none of it would be transmitted.
  651. >On the rare occasion when you were required to utter a command to Coco during a viewing, it was trivially easy to pass it off as an order to a robot, an occurrence your patients were well-acquainted with.
  652. >All told, there were no hang-ups on your first day working with a staff of ponies beneath you. You explained as much to Coco after your final appointment.
  653. "Appropriately performed," you say, shuffling through the various books containing Coco's transcriptions. "The only points of issue are these maddening spelling errors. I'll have to draw up a glossary of technical terms for you to study."
  654. >Coco sits upright in her chair demurely while you pass judgment upon her. From her posture, it seems like a process she's used to, and embracing even now. How sweet.
  655. >You set the books down and turn to face her.
  656. "That does mean I won't be rotating you out for now. I haven't the time to teach ten of you mastery at transcription. You seem close enough, so let's get you there and hold for the time being."
  657. >She glances up at you briefly before lowering her gaze back down. "Yes, sir."
  658. >Sitting back in your chair, you pause a moment, watching her.
  659. "You're very agreeable."
  660. >She doesn't make a sound.
  661. "I wonder, do you enjoy serving me, Pet?"
  662. >She bites her lip, her mind racing in search of an appropriate response. It's clear she doesn't want to offend you.
  663. "Go on. I won't punish you for being honest. Not this time, at least."
  664. >"I..." she begins uneasily, "I like hearing about your world, your home. Things are so different here. It's... interesting."
  665. >A cop-out answer, for sure. She watched you beat a pony into submission this morning. A pleasant day isn't all it would take for her to see you as magnanimous.
  666. >But she isn't being dishonest. And that's your way in.
  667. >This world is full of new and interesting rules, and curiosity is a compelling force. She seemed engaged enough when you discussed the cerebro and modern conceptions of loneliness.
  668. >There was even a glint of empathy in her eyes! She actually felt bad learning you didn't get to see your friends the way she did.
  669. >She's more passive than most of your pets. And what that means for you is that she ought to be coaxed out instead of dominated into submission.
  670. >Play the part of her friend. Become someone she WANTS to please. She'll embrace you as master in no time.
  671. >Her submission will not come from crushing hopelessness, as it will for Trixie, but the opposite: hopefulness.
  672. >Actually, that's a good point.
  673. >You raise a hand to dismiss Coco.
  674. "Good work today. Come see me tomorrow after breakfast. We'll begin again, and I'll have your glossary for you."
  675. >As she leaves the study, you begin mentally transcribing notes on your findings into your cerebro.
  676. >There's a spectrum as to how to approach breaking a pony. The hope-hopeless line, you'll call it for now. Theoretically, all ponies should fall somewhere along it.
  677. >Coco lies at the far right of the line. She's a typical Type B personality — flexible, patient, non-confrontational. She needs to be given hope in order to submit.
  678. >If you strip that away from her and take the opposite approach, she'll collapse into herself and likely go catatonic or numb, becoming a mindless, dysfunctional shell of the pony she once was.
  679. >You must guide her into rationalizing servitude through her personal lens. She needs to see you as best thing that could have happened to her.
  680. >And how does one achieve that?
  681. >By giving her purpose. Make her both seek and crave your approval. Contort your image into some sort of messianic figure in her head.
  682. >Then she'll do anything to make you happy.
  683. >Now you look at the opposite end of the spectrum. 'Hopeless.'
  684. >Trixie's a Type A — ambitious, demanding, and actionable. She will never truly see you as her best hope; it's illogical. Her self-centered mindset will constantly compare her current status to her previous self, and see it as a downgrade simply because she's unable to rationally perceive herself at the top anymore.
  685. >Now, you could forcibly break that conditioning, of course, but then you run into the same issue as creating a hopeless Coco: she loses all conception of identity and depersonalizes from her situation.
  686. >Numb, half-lucid morons make for terrible pets.
  687. >So instead, Trixie needs to be made hopeless. She'll know who she is and who she was. She'll know she's always going to be beneath you. She'll know the only opportunity for her to have even a somewhat-acceptable quality of life is to serve as best she can in her new role.
  688. >This will allow her to regain some modicum of perceived superiority over the others.
  689. >Best among slaves becomes the new ceiling for her. Her pride can never push beyond that, because she knows she can't go higher. You'll always be there, pushing her down.
  690. >Then it becomes either 'beat out all her peers' or 'give up and fail while the others succeed'. The competitive Type A in her will only permit the former. Choosing the latter would be to admit defeat, something she cannot physically bring herself to do. So how does her mind cope?
  691. >She recontextualizes submission not as a defeat, but a victory.
  692. >She'll do whatever you say, because she's forever outrunning that crushing hopelessness.
  693. >In a nutshell, for Coco you become the best of all possibilities, and for Trixie you become the least of all humiliations.
  694. >Now, this is just what you can deduce from the few you've dealt with directly so far. There may well be another dimension to this; maybe it's a 2-D grid instead of a 1-D spectrum. But with two data points, all you can form right now is a line between them.
  695. >Well, there's Octavia. But her data is fuzzy so far. She's proven hard to read. Her emotions don't lie at the surface.
  696. >Your preliminary guess is that she lies somewhere in the middle.
  697. >You already had to push some hopelessness into her. But she's not as arrogant as Trixie. Yes, she needs to feel in control and there's certainly a sense of pride within her.
  698. >Yet at the same time you're giving her hope. Entrusting her with secrets and telling her she's not a subject. You've been currying favor with her, whether she's conscious of it or not, and it's shown in her actions several times today.
  699. >Now, if she's just biding her time and playing along, then you'll push her further left, and go more aggressive in your approach.
  700. >If you see her exhibiting subconscious cues of aligning herself with you, then you can trust she's genuinely cooperative and slide her right.
  701. >So it becomes a performance-based metric, a feedback loop in which behavior dictates their conditioning which dictates their behavior... and so on, until you've landed upon each pet's sweet spot, that pure optimization of their subservience.
  702. >You dismiss your notes from your cerebro. That's a comprehensive enough Day 1 analysis. Now comes preparation for Day 2.
  703. >You begin by pulling a blank book and cross-referencing misspelled terms from Coco's transcriptions, creating for her a compendium. If you finish this glossary quickly, you can give it to her tonight to study. She'll be well-versed by morning.
  704. >Halfway through the second page, you hear a knock at your door.
  705. "Yes?" you ask while hastily scribbling. "What is it?"
  706. >Octavia enters. "Supper will soon be ready."
  707. >You don't lift your attention from your notes.
  708. "I'll be down in a moment."
  709. >After a few moments of silence, you look up at her, confused why she hasn't left.
  710. "You're dismissed."
  711. >But she doesn't go.
  712. >"Sir? There's just this small matter..."
  713. >You set your pen down.
  714. "Heaven's sake, what is it this time?"
  715. >She looks away in hesitation. "It's just... Spitfire."
  716. "What?"
  717. >"One of the— pets," she says, stumbling over that word, "that I assigned to care for the grounds today. I..."
  718. "Out with it!" you bark.
  719. >The truth spills out of her. "I can't find her," she blubbers. "I've checked the house, the grounds, I can't find her anywhere. I paired her with another mare and she hasn't seen her since they split up this morning. I think she may have... run off."
  720. >She's deathly pale, and doing her best to keep herself from trembling right now.
  721. >You told her she was responsible for her staff, so this not news she wants to be delivering.
  722. >And this is a key moment. How you respond now will leave a lasting impression in her mind.
  723. >So all you do is calmly return to your work, and utter two words.
  724. "No matter."
  725. >"W-What?" she chokes out, her throat constricted by an invisible force (and her collar).
  726. "It's of no consequence. If what you say is true, then she's already dead."
  727. >"Dead? How?"
  728. >You point over carelessly to the crumpled robot lying in the corner.
  729. "All of Solaria is maintained by machines like that one. They run our hydroponics, our energy grid, our fetal farms. They monitor every inch of the planet's surface, whether by satellite, shortwave, or infrared. Solaria is crawling with some 250 million of them, all given explicit instructions in their latest firmware update to terminate any rogue ponies they might detect. If she strayed beyond the grounds, then she's most certainly already deceased."
  730. >Octavia stands gravely still at the opposite end of the room.
  731. >"I don't believe you," she whispers. "You didn't say one word of that to me before."
  732. >You keep writing nonchalantly.
  733. "Believe what you please, but you'll never see her again. I didn't mention it because I tell you only as much as you need to know. You haven't tried to escape, have you? So why would I waste my time deterring you when I've already accomplished that?"
  734. >"Still, I— I thought you might be cross with me that I lost one of your pets. You said I was responsible for the others."
  735. "Oh? Were you expecting me to grab a net and chase her down like some primitive slave-catcher? You should know better by now. Such an act would be beneath me."
  736. >You rise from your chair and approach her.
  737. "I don't contradict myself. You ARE responsible for the others. And you WILL pay for this, though admittedly not by my hand. No, this will prove to be its own punishment. Because this morning, you had a staff of ten ponies to spread out a myriad of responsibilities amongst. Now you're down to nine."
  738. >Disparagingly, you pat her head and promptly wipe your hand on your shirt.
  739. "Remember, my dear. There's thousands of you in cold storage. None of you are irreplaceable."
  740. >With that, you return to your desk.
  741. "Dismissed."
  742. >She leaves without objection.
  743. >The news bothered you more than you let on. You were hopeful for zero escape attempts, but you fully expected the possibility.
  744. >It's a natural response to captivity. No matter how much you reason against it, the mind can still respond irrationally to stressors.
  745. >Beating Trixie was likely a sufficient deterrent for most. But not this Spitfire, it seems. She's likely another far-left on the submission spectrum.
  746. >And her escape now proves an issue for you, because you weren't entirely honest with Octavia.
  747. >Your little fugitive is decidedly not dead.
  748. >You take the next few minutes to finish up the glossary. When you're done, you head downstairs, bringing it with you.
  749. >Dinner awaits you in the dining room. The same two kitchenmaids who prepared breakfast are standing by to serve you.
  750. >You sit down to a underwhelming dinner (yeast-veal with sautéed vegetables), pondering on your progress so far and what it means for what's to come.
  751. >If you plan on conditioning the eleven that remain, you'll need to do so on an individual basis. That means a great deal of time spent one-on-one, constructing a profile on each pet so that you might more efficiently exploit them.
  752. >You look over the two kitchenmaids standing off to the side. They're too afraid to do anything but stare ahead and await your next order.
  753. >Little beads of sweat accumulate on the one on the right as she senses you watching her.
  754. >But no command comes. You simply continue to eat, watching her silently.
  755. >Already you're wondering about these two. Their personality types, their submission profiles...
  756. >It's all such convoluted work. That's the paradox of this experiment. It takes many ponies to run your estate, but in the end, that only serves to increase your own workload.
  757. >It would've been far easier if you'd implemented a phased transition, replacing a robot one-by-one with a mare only after you'd adequately broken her.
  758. >But psychology is inherently laborious. It would've tainted the experiment if you'd allowed pony and robot to work alongside one another.
  759. >It has the potential to warp their entire perception of servitude if they understood the fundamental differences between them and the things they were replacing.
  760. >You don't want ponies identifying their roles with mindless machines. That defeats the purpose of cultivating companions within them.
  761. >So the only alternative is to do it this way.
  762. >You finish up your meal and set down your utensils.
  763. "Go and fetch Octavia," you instruct one of the kitchenmaids. "Have her meet me outside on the porch."
  764. >"Yes, sir," she mumbles as she hurries out the door.
  765. >The other collects your plate. You get a glimpse of her side as she leans over the table.
  766. "I recognize that mark. It's an archaic symbol for the medical profession."
  767. >She jumps slightly in surprise when you speak so close to her.
  768. >"That's correct. I-I'm a nurse."
  769. "Nurse," you scoff. "What an outmoded occupation. Solaria has only physicians, and even then, comparatively little use for them. Though..."
  770. >You stare down at the water in your glass, thinking to yourself.
  771. "I suppose the work nurses once performed now falls to personal medbots. And without mine, it may be good fortune that I have you. Are you well-versed in anatomy?"
  772. >"Pony anatomy," she says shakily.
  773. "We'll have you brush up on the physician's desk reference; I have a copy in the library for you to peruse."
  774. >You kick back the last sip of water and set the glass down on the plate she holds.
  775. "After you've earned it, of course."
  776. >You scratch her head affectionately, to her chagrin.
  777. "On your way now."
  778. >You know what you saw before you sent her off: an unmistakable glimmer of hope in her eyes.
  779. >The prospect that she might actually get to practice medicine here, instead of being relegated to the kitchen?
  780. >These ponies place more weight on their talents than you'd realized. It's as if it's their whole identity.
  781. >It'll be the perfect tool for incentivizing right-leaning pets.
  782. >Now you have one final experiment to conduct.
  783. >You leave the house to meet Octavia on the porch. It's twilight hour; the sun has almost entirely dipped below the horizon.
  784. "Beautiful, isn't it?"
  785. >"It is."
  786. >That might be the first truly genuine sentiment she's ever communicated to you.
  787. "I wanted to debrief before the day was out."
  788. >"Tell me what you'd like to discuss," she says, staring out at the sunset.
  789. "Is the bitch behaving?"
  790. >"It took a couple hours, but she's not as shaken anymore. She's dusting the library."
  791. "You're not lying to me, are you?"
  792. >"No, sir. She wasn't as productive as the others, but I promise I'll work her."
  793. "Tell me about the others, then. What did they accomplish?"
  794. >"Two kitchen staff, two groundskeepers, three cleaning upstairs, three downstairs. Aside from the trouble with Spitfire, everyone finished the work I gave them."
  795. "And the plan for tonight? Tomorrow?"
  796. >"Two will be up through the night, attending to the house for anything you might need. They'll sleep through tomorrow, while the other seven will perform duties different from what they were assigned today."
  797. "Make Coco an exception. I'll be using her again tomorrow."
  798. >You hand her the glossary.
  799. "Have her study this tonight."
  800. >"As you wish," she says, taking the book.
  801. "I'll admit, you seem to be adequately prepared."
  802. >"I've done only what you've asked of me."
  803. "I'm happy."
  804. >You kneel down beside her. She instinctively moves to take a step back, but catches herself before she can.
  805. "It's okay."
  806. >You brush her bangs aside to see her better in the low light. Then, slowly, you unclasp her collar and loosen it, so it's no longer uncomfortably tight.
  807. >She breathes a deep sigh the moment you do. Though this morning's marks mostly healed, her neck is still lightly bruised.
  808. >You adjust the collar so it's perfectly snug, and lower your hands.
  809. "I want you to do well. I want you to be happy here."
  810. >She gazes into your eyes silently. It's been difficult to read her before, but this time you think you might be able to.
  811. "Don't think I haven't noticed your cutie mark."
  812. >You deliberately call it by the correct term for the first time.
  813. "You play music, don't you?"
  814. >She nods.
  815. "We do, too, you know. Not I, personally, but others on Solaria. What instrument?"
  816. >"Cello," she says softly.
  817. "It would be an easy thing for me to get you one."
  818. >Now you see that spark in her eyes. She needs this.
  819. "I think I might like to hear you play."
  820. >"I'd play for you," she whispers, almost a little too eagerly.
  821. >Tenderly, you stroke her cheek with your hand.
  822. "Then prove to me you deserve to. No more missteps, understand?"
  823. >She nods vigorously, and you're now certain you've ensnared her.
  824. "Good."
  825. >You withdraw your hand and get back up onto your feet.
  826. "I'm assuming you got all their names?"
  827. >"Yes," she sighs, steadying her breaths. "One of the others knew the pet you were asking about earlier. Her name is Marble Pie."
  828. "Delectable," you mutter to yourself. "Very well, then. That's all I have for you today. Have the others finish up their work, and make sure Coco gets that book."
  829. >"Of course, Master."
  830. >She goes back inside, and you lean against the railing.
  831. >That couldn't have gone better. She's not above temptation. Perhaps no pony is.
  832. >And besides, the offer's mutually beneficial. You wouldn't mind hearing your first-ever live performance.
  833. >But all that is to come. There's much to be done in the meantime.
  834. >You know you said this was your last experiment for the day, but there's been a last-minute addition to the roster, and Octavia just gave you her name.
  835.  
  836. 6
  837. >You push open the door to the spare bedroom to find Marble eating dinner at her desk.
  838. >Startled, she spins around in her chair when the door opens. You quietly close it behind you.
  839. "Good evening, Marble."
  840. >You come over and sit on the edge of her bed, beside her desk.
  841. "That's your name, isn't it?"
  842. >She looks away hesitantly, almost surprised you managed to figure it out, before sounding a faint "Mm-hmm."
  843. >You watch her with great interest.
  844. "You don't say much, do you?"
  845. >She shakes her head gently.
  846. "That's okay. You won't be needing your voice for the things I have planned."
  847. >Before allowing her chance to ponder on your words, you nod over to her plate.
  848. "Don't stop eating on my account. I don't want you getting malnourished."
  849. >Reluctantly, she returns to her dish of roast vegetables.
  850. >As she chews, you lean in and whisper affectionately.
  851. "You know, you're quite lucky to be here, you know. A private room, no housework, and on top of that, you're afforded luxuries most pets only dream of getting."
  852. >Her posture is stiff. She avoids your eyes, focusing only on her meal.
  853. "I hadn't planned on doing this. All twelve of you were meant to serve. But when I first laid eyes on you..."
  854. >You brush her hair aside, exposing her full side profile.
  855. "...I was simply taken."
  856. >Even her scent is intoxicating.
  857. "You are, by far, the most beautiful specimen of all my pets. And the prettiest things are always the most fun to defile."
  858. >She freezes up completely. It dawns on her what you're planning.
  859. >You glance down at her plate. All that remains is just one last bite of carrots.
  860. "Go on, finish up. You'll need the energy."
  861. >She seems to drag out the last bite for eternity. But you wait ever-so-patiently as she slowly chews, and inevitably swallows.
  862. >And then you grab her.
  863. >Yanking her by the hoof, you pull her out of the chair and onto the bed. She squeals out in terror.
  864. >Deftly, you pin her back down with your other hand and position yourself over her.
  865. >Gone is your phobia of physical contact. All day you've been whittling it down, conditioning yourself for this moment. Patting a mane here, scratching a head there, adjusting collars, stroking cheeks... all to accustom yourself to the sensation of warm touch.
  866. >Now that aversion is replaced entirely by unbridled thrill and adrenaline, the foreign rush that comes from dominating another creature.
  867. >Now Marble Pie is slated to become your very first conquest.
  868. >She tries to escape, and in response you pin her hoof back, causing her to cry out.
  869. >You lean in close and whisper into her ear.
  870. "Listen closely, my pet. This is happening. Nothing you do can make it better. Anything you do will only make it worse. Now, be a good girl and lie there for me."
  871. >Planting a kiss on her cheek, you raise back up and withdraw a hand to undo your trousers, keeping her pinned by leaning your weight on her.
  872. >She tries to wiggle free, but her feeble strength is no match for your size.
  873. >Your pants and underwear come off rather easily. Excitedly, you push her hind legs apart, keeping them spread with your knees.
  874. >And there it is, presented to you in all its glory: the very essence of her purpose to serve, glistening with moisture.
  875. >Her tail immediately swings down over it, removing it from view just as soon as it had arrived.
  876. >Angrily, you grab ahold of her dock and smack her flank.
  877. "Don't you dare!"
  878. >She whimpers in fear, and you return to your task.
  879. >Still grasping her dock, you bring your other hand to her marehood and run your fingers up the length of it, sending a shiver down her spine.
  880. >You lean in close once more to better see her face.
  881. "Feel that?"
  882. >You push your fingers further into her.
  883. "That's your master claiming what's rightfully his."
  884. >She moans out, mostly from fear, but also from your sensitive touch.
  885. >You coat your fingers in her juices, taking care to note all the intricate subtleties of her delicate folds.
  886. >Nothing has ever been so exciting as this. It's as if she was built for the express purpose of taking you. Biologically speaking, you suppose she was.
  887. >In no time at all, you feel yourself swelling, rising to the occasion. You bring your hips in closer to hers, positioning yourself.
  888. >The moment your tip presses against her nethers, she jolts forward surprisingly far.
  889. >Not letting her get away so easily, you grip her dock and pull her back into position.
  890. >"N-N-!" she chokes out, fruitlessly clawing at the sheets to hoist herself forward.
  891. >It's obvious she's trying to plead with you to stop, but even in the face of sheer terror she's unable sound out a single word, only jilted screams and cries.
  892. >You push your hips further into hers, increasing the pressure, and her fearful cries grow in equal measure.
  893. >With her trapped beneath you, you push your cock into her and slide an inch inside with a resounding pop.
  894. >"ah-AHH!" she yells.
  895. >Squeezing her dock, you steadily slide further inside her, burying yourself in her wet, velvety folds.
  896. >She's almost impossibly tight, as if she's clamping down on your member from all sides. If you didn't have such a firm grip on her, you might have been squeezed right out.
  897. >Finally, you push forward the final inch, bringing your hips down to meet her flanks.
  898. >Then you slide out again, and it feels almost as good as it did on the way in. Slowly, you start thrusting in and out of her pussy, letting her lubricate you, allowing you to gradually increase the speed.
  899. >Crying openly, she tries to pull away once more, and almost succeeds with how slippery she's gotten.
  900. >Growing frustrated, you thrust deep into her and stay there, grabbing her mane and pulling her head back to force her to look up at you.
  901. "You have an easy job. Lie back and do it. I can make it hurt, if that's what you're after."
  902. >She squeezes her eyes shut, and you smack her across the face in retaliation.
  903. "Look at me!"
  904. >Terrified, she meets your gaze, tears streaming from her eyes. Keeping eye contact, you pick up the pace and thrust into her harder.
  905. "You wanted to put up a fight, so now you're going to watch me use you."
  906. >You keep her neck craned up so she can watch you take her from behind.
  907. >Pumping away, you bring a hand down onto her cutie mark, grabbing a handful of her flank to squeeze her rump while you fuck her.
  908. >She looks up at you until she can't take it any longer and throws her head back down onto the bed.
  909. >You raise a hand and swing it down onto her rear, delivering a firm spank and making her yelp in pain.
  910. >She doesn't try escaping your hold any longer. Instead, she lies there with her red-hot face buried in the sheets, whimpering with every thrust.
  911. >Now that's she's learned her lesson, you're free to fully enjoy yourself without her interfering. You grab ahold of her hips and angle yourself so you can penetrate her deeper.
  912. >Using your new toy mercilessly, you pound her faster and more vigorously until her loud cries get drowned out in the mattress.
  913. >Suddenly, you feel a new sensation coming from her pussy. Her muscles periodically contract tightly around your cock in little winks, almost if she's trying to milk you for all you're worth.
  914. >Truly a veritable miracle of biology.
  915. >The rippling pressure sends you over the edge, and you can feel yourself beginning to spasm inside her.
  916. >With one final tug of her dock, you yank her up to the base of your member and hold her tightly in place as you unload your seed inside her.
  917. >This orgasm is the single greatest pleasure of your life. You revel in her quivering pussy, letting each wink naturally guide every last drop of cum out of you.
  918. >After what feels like an eternity, you finally release her tail and slide effortlessly out of her.
  919. >That was infinitely better than anything you could have hoped for. It was a relief unlike anything ever seen on Solaria.
  920. >For all the evolutionary leaps and bounds mankind has made, as barbaric as it might seem to your refined sensibilities, there is no denying the utmost bliss that comes from copulation.
  921. >Man was made to fuck.
  922. >And as for Marble...
  923. >You reach over and brush her hair aside. Her face is still buried deep in the sheets like an ostrich with its head in the sand.
  924. >Better for her to pretend this isn't happening, you suppose. Whatever keeps her docile.
  925. >It doesn't make a difference to you. This is her role now. Your exclusive little fuck-toy, free to use without any repercussions.
  926. >She's not going to be the only one, of course. They'll all come to learn that their bodies belong to you. You'll even teach them to insatiably crave your every touch.
  927. >It's just that sex with them has got to be strategic. It can be a weapon or a reward, depending on how you wield it. Force it too quickly on hopeful ponies and you might lose their trust.
  928. >But Marble will be the one you can use no matter the situation. You don't have to punish her for failing, or make her earn it. You'll just come and use her at your leisure, without regard for her conditioning.
  929. >In a sense, she's the control group. Though maybe you could argue that rape's a mind game of its own.
  930. >Patting her on the wither, you get off her bed and replace your trousers.
  931. >You don't say a word to her as you leave the room. There's nothing to be said. You've made her place perfectly clear to her.
  932. >She might as well embrace it. From how wet she got, clearly some part of her had found it pleasurable. And you fucked that part to completion.
  933. >As you shut the door behind you, who do you find standing out in the hall but the eyesore of your estate?
  934. "What are you doing here, whore?"
  935. >Trixie stares at you, her detached exterior impervious to your insults. She kicks her hind leg up to motion to the room behind her. "You told me to work, so I'm working."
  936. >Your lip curls in contempt.
  937. "Right now, it looks to me like you're being an insolent cunt, idly standing out in the hall when you should be cleaning. That's the second time today."
  938. >"I heard screaming," she says coldly.
  939. "You'll hear a great many things in this household. I suggest you get used to it."
  940. >She bites her tongue, resisting the urge to snap back at you. It's obvious she knows full well what you were doing in there, and it's taking all her willpower to not confront you on it.
  941. >All she does is stare at you brashly for a moment before turning around and returning to her post in the library.
  942. >How quickly she seems to have forgotten the beating you gave her this morning, returning to her abrasive old self.
  943. >She must be punished for it, of course, but you'll hold that off for tomorrow. It's been an unrelentingly long day, and you'd like to finally get some rest.
  944. >Except...
  945. >Spitfire is still out there.
  946. >You need her back. The assembly wouldn't look too kindly on you losing a pony your first day.
  947. >And yet you promised Octavia that any attempts to leave would be met with certain death. If she were to see Spitfire alive and well, that'd make you a liar.
  948. >If she can't trust you're being forthright with her, she'll never believe she's helping you run the experiment.
  949. >There's only one solution, then.
  950. >It won't be a pretty one. Far from ideal.
  951. >But since when have dirty little secrets ever been a problem for you?
/sim/ NSFW Anon Octavia Coco Pommel Trixie Marble Pie Drama

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