The Planet Ericpotsdam: Tales of the Transfer
by YFNR

Part 2

I write science-fiction stories with a bondage slant. If you want to read BDSM sex and torture scenes linked by a little bit of story line, then I am not the author for you. In particular, this story starts slowly, and it has sections which are more concerned with plot than with chained women. Be patient. By the end there will be thousands of women in the story securely in restraints.

You may wish to read Village Visit before you read this story, in order to better understand the culture and people of Potsdam Village. Several characters from that story will re-appear in this one.

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Final Preparations and Start

Carianne and friends, Potsdam Village

Carianne Eisen wandered from room to room through the house where she had lived in Potsdam Village for all the eight years of her life. The books and knick-knacks were gone from the built-in shelves. The pictures were gone from the walls. The bed frames and much of the other furniture had been disassembled and taken away, leaving just mattresses sitting on the floor and overstuffed couches and chairs that were too bulky and heavy to be easily hauled. The closets were almost empty. The only intact part of the household was one corner of her bedroom, where a large dollhouse still held her rag dolls.

Supper was being served on a little folding table, because both of the regular dining tables were gone. The food was canned beef stew, heated on a charcoal grill, because the stove and the icebox were gone from the kitchen. Carianne sat down at the table and said "Daddy, I'm worried. Pookie and Piffalyn are depending on me. The Village Transfer Volunteers didn't pack their house, or their furniture, or anything. We are leaving our house behind. We aren't going to leave their house behind, are we?"

"No, Carianne. We have space saved in our last wagon for Pookie, and for Piffalyn, and their house, and all of their stuff, and especially for you. You don't think we would leave you behind, do you?"

"But what if you need Pookie and Piffalyn's space for something that somebody has forgotten? Pookie and Piffalyn may not be important to some people, but they are really important to me. They are depending on me. Are you absolutely sure that they will come with us?"

"I tell you what, Carianne. If you are really, really worried, maybe you can bring them along yourself. I wasn't sure if we would be able to bring our old garden wagon along. I'll bet that you could put Pookie and Piffalyn and their house in that, and pull that to the warp gate, and bring them along yourself."

Carianne's mother Pauline gave her husband a dirty look. She thought that her husband was being a vicious tease. The trip to the warp gates on the University of Southern Minnesota campus would be over 70 kilometers (40 miles) long.

Carianne did not notice her mother's expression. She thought this proposal over, and then she smiled. She said "Thank you, Daddy. I know that Jodie and Wendy and their friends from down the block will be walking. I guess that I can too. If I have the garden wagon, I can do it myself, and nobody else can take the space on the wagon away from me. Now I can be sure that I won't let Pookie and Piffalyn down."

Her father answered "Perhaps you should start getting in shape for a long hike. I know that Jodie and Wendy are taking practice hikes already. I will talk to their parents. They can start taking you along."

"Thank you again, Daddy. I'll start going with them tomorrow." With a much more relaxed expression on her face, Carianne began to dig into her stew.

- - - - -

That evening Carianne's parents peeked in on her after her bedtime. She was sleeping on a twin-bed-size mattress on the floor in a corner of her bedroom, because her bed frame had already been packed. She lay on her side, with one arm tight around Pookie. Piffalyn was leaning against the wall beside Carianne's pillow. Pookie had been a present for her second birthday, and Piffalyn for her third birthday; Carianne could not remember ever going to sleep without her rag dolls.

Pauline Eisen was a typical Potsdam Village woman who accepted the authority of her husband. She wore bracelets and a waist chain and a collar all locked on 24/7, but they usually weren't connected to anything during the day. On this evening she had a bone to pick with her husband Curt before she would be willing to let him secure her for the night.

When she was done in the bathroom, she stood in their bedroom doorway wearing a bathrobe and looked down at Curt, who was already on their king-size mattress. She asked "Why are you being so mean to your daughter? An eight-year-old girl can't really walk that far, especially if she has to pull a wagon for the entire distance. Jodie and Wendy are teen-agers, much older girls."

He pointed at her side of the mattress and answered "Nude. Bed. Now. Position." She realized that he was exercising a Potsdam man's privilege of being unreasonable. She sighed, slipped her bathrobe off, lay down beside him on her stomach, and placed her arms behind her back.

Curt began to lace her forearms across her back into a sheath. When he was done, each of her hands was gripping her other forearm near the elbow, all covered in silk and leather. She couldn't protect herself from whatever attentions her husband chose to impose.

While he tightened the laces, he told her "Pauline, you are a good Potsdam woman. Even when we have an argument, you accept my control. Thank you. That makes me responsible for your happiness, and also for our daughter's happiness. I could never double-cross either of you."

Then he began to give her an explanation. "The thing that bothered Carianne most wasn't just her worry about grown-ups leaving Pookie and Piffalyn behind. It was that she couldn't do anything about it.

"She has only a grown-up's promise that they will come along. You and I gave her a bunch of promises about what she would be doing with her best friend Mary, and all of those promises were shot down when her friend's parents divorced and moved out of Potsdam Village. So she knows that grown-ups can't always keep their promises, not even the grown-ups who are her parents.

"She also knows that grown-ups don't always care about things that are very important to little girls. She saw the attitudes of the guys on the packing crew toward her dolls and their house. And so she has been desperately worried.

"Well, now I have shown her a way that she can do something about her worries herself. She doesn't have to depend on grown-ups keeping promises. I think that she is very happy about that.

"We will save space for her, and for Pookie and Piffalyn and their house, in our final wagonload. If Carianne poops out before reaching the warp gates, we will be ready to pick her up and bring her along. But Carianne is a very determined little girl. I'm glad you didn't tell her that she couldn't go the distance; she might have believed you. Now I think she might surprise you and go the distance on her own."

Pauline answered her husband with a smile. She squirmed onto his chest and gave him a kiss. He hugged her and kissed her back. She relaxed. Things were right in her world.

She preferred to sleep with Curt's arms around her and her own arms wrapped up securely across her back. She had felt that way ever since the day that they married (and truth to tell, even for a little while before that). That was how she would spend the coming night. Her husband loved her, her husband loved their daughter, and she could be happy.

- - - - -

Three cute blond girls stood in the hot morning sun wearing sleeveless blouses, athletic shorts, and gym shoes. One of the three was in a bad mood. She turned to her older sister Wendy and grumped "I finally made it to thirteen years old. I am a teen-ager now. I thought that I would start training at the Pony Girl Foundation Farm wearing real locks and chains, not just play around the house wearing little girl's toys. And now we are all busy with the village relocation. We've got real locks, but dressage training and sprint races have been canceled. There's nothing but distance work. And to top it all off, today we have to do a short haul with a little eight-year-old girl. What is the point of a short haul when the goal is longer and longer distances?"

Wendy smiled. Her younger sister Jodie obviously had not thought about all of the implications of the changes in their training program. Both girls were hitched to carts, and each cart was loaded with 70 liters of water as ballast for training, in bottles and small tanks. The water in each cart weighed more than either of the girls.

Not too far away, their father was giving a final quiet briefing to Carianne, who was hitched to her garden wagon. She would be hauling just six liters of water, in a case of half-liter plastic bottles, plus her dollhouse with her two rag dolls. Jodie and Wendy could not hear what their father was saying.

Wendy expected to be the leader of the day's training hike. When her father was done talking to Carianne, Wendy announced the day's goal, thereby making it official. "We are going out on the west trail as far as McGonigle's farm, where we will take a quick break. Then north on Inner Radial as far as Triggsby Street, and back home again. Marching speed throughout. Everybody ready? Forward, ho!" And she led out.

By the time they reached McGonigle's farm, Jodie's attitude was a bit different. She caught her breath and said "Phew! Hauling the extra weight on this cart down a dirt track is tougher than I thought. I thought that Ingrid McGonigle would be here to help us, and she isn't. Now what are we supposed to do?" Always before on training hikes, one girl had pulled the cart while the other one rode. A quick break had been an opportunity for the girls to change places. That obviously would not work when each girl had her own cart and both carts were loaded with water.

Wendy answered "The light is finally beginning to dawn on you, isn't it? The McGonigles have put a time-stamp clock on that fence post and found another job for Ingrid, so we have to stamp our own cards. But you and I are each locked to our carts as if we were grown-ups. Our arms are held across our backs by two pairs of Irish-8 cuffs each, and nobody around here has any keys. We can't reach the time cards in our breast pockets. Hauling a cart down a dirt track is hard work in hot sun; we have loads of water we could drink, if only we had some way to transfer it to our mouths. It seems that the only person who can help us is just eight years old. I'm glad she has been able to keep up with us."

Carianne smiled. Her hands had been locked behind her back by toy handcuffs, and she had left those handcuffs on while she followed the other two girls all the way to McGonigle's farm. She told Wendy "Your dad said that I was allowed to undo my cuffs if you asked me to, and that I should help you if you asked nicely."

Wendy asked "Could you give each of us a drink of water?"

Carianne answered "Get down on your knees!"

Wendy was a bit surprised by Carianne's definition of the word 'nicely', but she knelt down and begged "Please, Carianne, be kind to your friends and grant them the gift of some water."

Carianne was surprised in turn by Wendy's response. She had asked for Wendy to kneel so that she would have an easier time squirting some water into the taller girl's mouth. But now it seemed that she was in charge, since she was the only girl that could get her arms free.

She decided that she liked that. So she undid her toy handcuffs and put them on her cart. She picked up one of the half-liter bottles on her cart, gave Wendy about two thirds of it, and drank the last third herself. Then she turned to Jodie and demanded "Get down on your knees!"

Jodie felt grumpy all over again, but she didn't have much choice if she wanted a drink, and she was very thirsty. So she knelt down.

Carianne waited. After a few moments Jodie realized what she was waiting for, so she said "Please, Carianne, some water please please?" Carianne gave her about half of another bottle.

Then Carianne put her cuffs back on and called "Forward, ho!" She headed north on Inner Radial Road. Wendy and Jodie followed her. Eventually she called for another water break, took her cuffs off again, and split another half-liter bottle among the three girls, all on her own authority. She kept a solid march tempo for the entire hike.

Excerpt from a Briefing Meeting for the Bicycle Brigade

" . . . so that, in essence, is what we will be doing. We will range ahead of the main body of villagers to act as traffic cops and prepare the transit campgrounds for occupation.

"Some of you may be concerned about what your women will be doing. Our next speaker is helping to organize one possible solution to that problem. Gentlemen, this is Charles Carter, one of the leading members of our local Gorean Society. Charles, the podium is yours." The Bicycle Brigade leader stepped away and sat down.

"Thank you, Mike.

"The solution that we are organizing applies to anybody in the village who needs transportation for a woman who is not otherwise committed or taken care of. I expect that some members of the Bicycle Brigade will fall in that category.

"I am well aware that most Potsdam Village women will be otherwise committed. Some of them will be handling the horses or tractors pulling their wagons. Some of them will be taking care of small children. Some of them will be riding on or in wagons, many in family groups. I expect that many of you in this room who are high-school age will see your girlfriends going with their parents. The pony girls, and pony women, will of course be walking and pulling their carts. And I see a few gals in this room who will be pedaling alongside their guys as part of the Bicycle Brigade operations.

"But I do not think that these possibilities cover all of the women who will be going. For the rest, the Society is organizing the Gorean Girls Transport Project, the GGTP.

"The girls who make the trip with us will do so under Gorean slave-girl rules, as taken from the classic books by John Norman. They may be free wives and daughters at other times and in other places, but not when they ride with us. Preferred clothing is camisks, second choice is sleeveless slave-girl tunics with short skirts. Please don't put your women in planet-Earth skimpies like bikinis or short shorts, as that would ruin the mood. We are trying to make the whole operation as Gorean as possible. The event should be more fun for all concerned that way.

"Leg shackles with half-meter chains are essential. The exact design isn't critical; wide cuffs, narrow cuffs, fancy silver, rusty iron, padded or plain, whatever. The girls will stay in those shackles for the entire trip, so we won't need keys. Cuffs can lock with Allen bolts, or fancy pin-tumbler locks, or whatever else you choose to use.

"However, all of the shackles do need to have half-meter or 18-inch chains. And all of the girls have to be wearing collars with linking rings that a coffle chain can be attached to. The arrangements for securing the girls in our carts will be designed around those requirements.

"Slave bracelets are at your option. We'll keep your girl in them for most of the journey if you ask us to. But they do need to open with standard handcuff keys, or standard Darby screw keys, or a standard Allen wrench. The girls may need to be able to take care of their own needs during rest stops, if another girl with hands free isn't available to help them, and we don't want the extra complication of individual keys for each girl on the carts.

"We want to be able to match the total number of carts, and the space in those carts, with the demand for this service. Advance reservations are therefore required. There will be a sign-up sheet at the back of the room after this meeting if you wish to reserve a space. Because you are in the Bicycle Brigade, the village government will pay the fare for your women.

"That's about it. Any questions?"

Sophie Carlsen and her boyfriend Jack Cliburn, at her home in Potsdam Village

Jack Cliburn had been invited to stay overnight at his girlfriend's house. He kissed Sophie, brushed his teeth, undressed in the guest bedroom, and stretched out on his back on the bed that was built into the wall. "I wonder what she will be wearing, and I wonder how her parents have this bed set up tonight," he said to himself. Then he put his hands and feet into the holes at the ends of the bed, gripped the handles inside the wrist holes, planted his feet on the pedals inside the ankle holes, waited thirty seconds to allow the handles and pedals to warm up from body heat, and then squeezed the handles and pushed the pedals.

With a whirr-clunk, clamps closed on his wrists and ankles to trap him in a spread-eagle position.

The mechanism was automatic, precisely built, and very ingenious. To trigger it, eight individual finger grips, two thumb buttons, and four foot pedals (two for each foot) had to be squeezed or pushed simultaneously. Bimetallic thermostat elements in the handles and pedals had to be warmed to approximate body temperature. It was therefore just about impossible to trigger the mechanism using anything except human hands and feet.

For a moment, nothing else happened. Jack lay in bed, trapped in place, and waited. Then a panel in the wall slid toward the foot of the bed, and the clamps on his hands released.

The panel slid about halfway along his chest and stopped. Sophie looked back at him through the opening in the wall. By tradition, the girl chooses what to wear in a courting bed with no input from her parents. Sophie had chosen to wear nothing at all.

The first Potsdam Village courting bed had been built for Eric Potsdam's daughter soon after the village was founded. The idea had spread. Many houses in Potsdam Village soon had similar beds, some more elaborate than others. The one in the Carlsen's house was one of the fanciest models, with a wide variety of function settings.

By tradition, the parents choose how to set the mechanism of a courting bed with no input from the girl. The first time that Jack had stayed overnight, the wall panel had slid down only as far as his neck, and a look-but-don't-touch screen had blocked the resulting opening. Several months later there had been a time when the panel slid all the way past the foot of the bed, but the wrist and ankle clamps had remained locked on both Jack and Sophie, keeping them apart. This time their hands were free, but their ankles remained trapped with most of their bodies still separated by the sliding panel. They could kiss, and caress, and generally make out, but that was all that was permitted.

So they turned toward each other and began to be as intimate as the bed would allow. Sophie liked having Jack's hands caressing her breasts.

After one extra-passionate kiss, Jack said "You know, love, it's a shame that we have to leave this built-in courting bed behind when the village moves. That will happen soon, now. We'll never get a chance to - "

His comment was interrupted by the distinctive sound of the municipal fire siren, warbling up and down. Counting the number of warbles wasn't easy. A few moments later, the bell in the tower of St. Bartholomew's Church began ringing in a pattern of four groups, each of four bongs. Jack stopped and listened intently. A few moments later came the muted sound of a more distant factory whistle, blowing four groups of four short toots. Sophie heard the sounds too. She exclaimed "Four groups of four is the we-move-tomorrow signal!"

Jack said "Yup. This is our last night in this courting bed." Then, to the surprise of both of them, the wall panel separating them started to move again. The space between them was soon entirely open.

Jack asked Sophie "Did the clamps on your ankles come unclamped?!

Sophie answered "No." Then her eyes popped wide open as she thought about the implications of this question, and she said "Did yours?"

Jack said "Yes." He pulled his feet out of the holes in the footboard of his bed and rolled over on top of her. Her ankles were trapped far enough apart that she could not close herself against him, nor could she have rolled away even if she had wanted to. Suddenly there were no restrictions on their passion.

- - - - -

Two bedrooms away, Sophie's father Sam tightened the ratchets on his wife's ankle tie-down straps just one more notch. Sophie's mother Arlene lay with her body stretched under gentle spring tension between four screw eyes in the floor at the corners of her mattress. She could squirm, if she wanted to, but the springs would inevitably pull her arms and legs back to a spread eagle.

Sam said "I wonder if Sophie will realize that we re-set the courting bed because this time, we actually want her to get pregnant. We'll soon have a world to populate, and we need her unborn children."

Arlene answered "Did you ever think about the futures of unborn children when you were eighteen and thinking about sex?"

Sam smiled and said "I suppose not."

"Neither did I, to tell you the truth. Now it's different. Thanks to modern medicine, you and I should still be fertile. With a world to populate, we shouldn't quit at just two kids. So please, loverboy Sam, enjoy me. Enjoy my body."

So Sam did. And Arlene lay in her gently-tensioned spread eagle and enjoyed being enjoyed.

- - - - -

Back in the courting bed, Jack moved from on top to alongside Sophie and huddled close. After both of them had caught their breaths, he said "I wonder what would happen if you stuck your hands back in the courting-bed traps and triggered the mechanism again. That might make the separator panel close again, but maybe not. Are you willing to take the gamble?"

"You want to take me again, with me stretched out helpless this time, don't you."

"Yup. I'm willing to bet that that is the way the bed is set to function. I don't think that your parents would want to lock us apart after this."

"When you put it that way, I've got to agree with you. Here goes nothing." Sophie reached into the wrist traps on her side of the bed and squeezed the triggers. The traps closed and locked on her wrists. Then a small drawer in the headboard on Jack's side unlocked and popped open.

The drawer contained a key and a clasp with a small diamond that had once belonged to Jack's grandmother. Jack had been planning to use that diamond as his engagement stone. He had not known that his own parents had given it to Sophie's parents for safekeeping when they realized that a night together in the courting bed could lead to an engagement at any time.

Jack used the key to lock the clasp onto Sophie's going-steady collar. He observed "I guess we're engaged." Sophie smiled. She knew that in most towns, the girl has to say yes in words before the guy can put a diamond on her. But in Potsdam Village, a girl can say yes just by sticking her hands into the wrist traps of a courting bed.

The headboard drawer also contained a battery-powered vibrator. Neither Sophie nor Jack got much sleep that night.

Rhonda Wilson; Wednesday night and Thursday morning

Rhonda Wilson stood in the middle of a vertical girl-confinement hoop in the apartment she shared with her husband Bryan in Potsdam Village. She waited for whatever would happen next. She was blindfolded in black leather. Her body was naked, arms and legs stretched in a standing spread eagle. Her wrists and ankles were secured to the hoop by black leather suspension cuffs.

Bryan paused to admire the lovely young brown-haired woman who had agreed to marry him a year earlier. He was about to put her through what they called a "mix-up". The first item in the mix could be a smack with a riding crop, or a rib tickle, or a gentle caress and kiss, or a belt lash, or a tongue reaching for her clitoris, or a vibrator applied to her breasts. It could also be an inversion, because the hoop could pivot and support her upside-down. He could tickle the bottoms of her feet while she hung inverted. She expected that all of these things would happen to her before she was released. She had no idea which one would happen next.

The next thing that did happen caught them both by surprise. The village fire siren, and the church bells, and a factory whistle, all began to sound in four groups of four. Bryan listened, and shook his head, and said "Rats! It's the moving-tomorrow alarm. It will be a big day. We'd better quit playing before we even start, and get some sleep." He removed Rhonda's blindfold.

As her husband released her from the hoop, Rhonda commented "What a let-down! We usually build hormone levels a lot higher when you put me on this thing."

Bryan answered "Yeah, but we need the sleep this time. I'd bet that there are people around this town who are making the opposite decision right now, using courting beds and screw eyes in the floor and other built-in stuff which will have to be left behind. We're lucky that way. This girl hoop collapses and is portable. We can take it with us, and set it up again on planet CBQ 4960, and have our fun another day when we won't need to wake up early next morning and move."

"But do we have to quit cold turkey? My hormones are halfway up. It will take me forever to get to sleep."

"Okay, then, we'll try a move that I have heard about but that we have never ever used. It's called 'missionary position' ". He lay down on their king-size mattress and said "Comm'ere, baby." Soon afterwards they both reached satisfactory peaks, which fell away into deep sleep.

They woke up next morning thoroughly refreshed. Bryan dressed in a cotton T-shirt, close-fitting shorts, and leather bicycling shoes. He ordered "Kneel, Rhonda", and she knelt while he padlocked a Turian-style polished stainless-steel collar with an attached coffle ring onto her neck. He put her engagement and wedding rings into a zippered pocket on his shirt. For the next few days, Rhonda would be a Gorean-style slave and not a wife.

She put on a sort of modified apron. The bib area was so long that it reached down past her crotch. The V-neck exposed her throat down to halfway between her breasts. The lower part of the apron was wide enough that it could have been tied all the way around her thighs for a loose fit, but if it had been tied that way, it wouldn't have been tall enough to reach all the way up to her hips or down to her knees. Bryan asked "Is that thing Gorean?"

Rhonda answered "Yes, it's in the books. It's a Turian camisk." She pulled the bottom part back between her legs, lifted it up around her hips, and tied the ends together in the front of her abdomen. She continued "It's wide enough on top to hide my boobs. It leaves my back bare, but there is less peek-a-boo at the top of my legs than a regular camisk. I don't want peek-a-boo at the top of my legs."

Bryan said "I guess it follows the rules, then. If it's Turian, then it matches your collar. Right now you've got to help me, Rhonda. Help me get this stuff in our cart."

The cart was canvas, supported by lightweight metal hoops over a wooden base. It had rubber tires and a steel center girder, which transmitted the towing stresses when the cart was coupled into a train of other similar carts. It was just wide enough for their king-size mattress, which they piled on top of the two layers of boxes, suitcases, and storage chests that they had packed over the previous days. The bondage hoop was stored in front of the mattress, together with other lightweight folding furniture. The Wilsons were young and had no children; this cart was big enough to carry all of their important possessions.

Rhonda wore no restraints during the packing. They finished just in time. A large steam-powered tractor came down their street on rubber caterpillar treads, looking like a cross between a bulldozer and an army tank, already pulling a tender of fuel and water and two other carts of personal belongings. Bryan helped the tractor crew couple up to both the cart he and his wife had just packed, and also to another similar cart belonging to one of their neighbors. When the tractor and its cart train pulled away, the only things that the Wilsons had left were each other, and the clothes they were wearing, and his backpack, and his bicycle with its luggage bags slung over the rear wheel and a small camping tent rolled up behind the saddle. Rhonda faced their old apartment, waved, and said "Good-bye."

Bryan said "It's time to get into a Gorean mood." He moved behind her, grabbed her wrists, and handcuffed them behind her back. He pointed down the street and ordered "Move it! Trot!" He got onto his bicycle and followed just behind her, matching his pace to hers. She slowed down after a few blocks. He told her "I said Move It!" and smacked her butt with a riding crop. Not too surprisingly, Rhonda trotted faster again.

Within fifteen minutes, they reached the Lincoln Elementary School grounds where the Gorean Girls Transport cart would be loaded. Several other gals were already within the two-meter-high fence that surrounded the girls' playground.

Bryan leaned his bicycle against the fence, pulled a set of leg irons out of one of the saddlebags that were mounted over the back wheel, and put them on Rhonda's ankles. Each cuff was made from two half-ovals of ten-millimeter steel rod. The ends of the half-ovals were flattened and drilled to accept a welded linking ring at one end and a padlock on the other. The linking rings attached the cuff ovals to each other and also to the cuff connecting chain. This was an inexpensive design, but when it was installed with good-quality padlocks, it was quite secure. Bryan used excellent-quality padlocks.

He escorted Rhonda into the fenced playground, released her from her handcuffs, and kissed her good-bye. He rode off, heading for the start of the bicycle trail that ran parallel to the hoverway between Potsdam Village and the University of Southern Minnesota campus. He was assigned to mark driveways and parking places at Randall Farm, where the villagers would spend the night during their journey. He would reach the farm on his bicycle, do his assigned job, and have his little camping tent set up hours before anybody in the main wagon train arrived.

Rhonda looked around. She had attended Lincoln School from first through sixth grades. She had been confined within that playground fence during six years of school recesses. The girls' playground still looked the same as she remembered it. She decided to use the swing set for one last time.

But some things weren't quite the same. Almost half of the other girls in the playground were wearing real slave bracelets - not toys - in addition to their ankle shackles, and of course that had never been true when Rhonda was a child. When she tried to ride a swing, the chain between her ankles kept dragging across the playground surface. She had never worn ankle shackles inside that fence before.

A transport cart was already parked just outside the fence. It had a bench seat for the driver and for a guard or two in front. Behind this seat two benches faced each other down the length of the cart. A ramp down to ground level was attached at the back. A pair of big beautiful Clydesdales was harnessed in front, waiting patiently.

Rhonda didn't have to wait long. Within fifteen minutes after Bryan left, a young man wearing a blue jacket and a yellow ball cap stood at the gate of the playground, snapped a slave whip, and started to shout. "Over here, now, and line up! Sophie Carlsen, Rhonda Wilson, Irene Smith . . . "

Another guard in blue and yellow stood by the playground gate with a pile of clip-studded coffle chain at his feet. As the girls passed out through the gate, he clipped their collars together. The orders kept coming:

"Up the ramp and into the cart!", emphasized by another snap! of the slaver's whip.

"Shove your boobs into the back of the girl in front of you!

"Spread your legs!"

Whap! "Ow!" from one of the girls.

"I said spread them, all the goddamn way!"

One of the guards passed a steel bar into the back of the cart and between the girls' legs at about knee height. The driver leaned over the back of his seat and guided that bar downward into a mounting bracket near the floor. The other guards folded the loading ramp up, put the back end of the bar into a bracket on the ramp, and locked the entire back of the cart up securely. Then they unclipped the coffle chain from the girls' collars and stowed it in a bin along the left-hand edge of the cart behind one of the girls' seats.

Still more orders: "Rhonda, sit on the right-hand bench! Sophie, sit on the left! Irene, on the right! The rest of you girls alternate!" Within a few moments, two groups of ten girls were sitting facing each other. Each girl was wearing a set of ankle shackles with a connecting chain that wrapped around the steel bar in the middle. None of the girls would be leaving the cart until they were released. Eight of the girls were still wearing the handcuffs that their guys had put on them when they were delivered for this journey.

Rhonda said "It seems we'll be riding together, probably all the way to the warp gate. We might as well become acquainted. I'm Rhonda Wilson. I have been married to Bryan Wilson for just over a year now. He's an apprentice metalworker. He's riding in the Bicycle Brigade today, so he's having me go in this cart. I had a job cleaning houses in Potsdam Village. How about you?"

The girl sitting across from Rhonda said "My name is Sophie Carlsen. I just turned 18 and graduated from Potsdam West High School. I have been accepted at the University of Southern Minnesota, but I guess if I get to go there now, it will be to the Planet CBQ 4960 campus. Last night my boyfriend Jack became my fiancÚ . He's also riding with the Bicycle Brigade. My dad is a lawyer, working for the village government, helping to organize the big move right now. My mom is bringing some friends along in our passenger wagon, and our stuff is all packed in freight wagons, so Jack and my dad agreed that I should ride the Gorean transfer cart. I'm glad that things have worked out this way. It didn't seem right, somehow, that a newly-engaged girl should ride with her Mommy and Daddy."

The girl sitting next to her began "I'm Irene Smith. As to how I've come to be here, that is a bit of a story. I suppose that you could call it a consensual kidnapping." She looked across the cart, apparently expecting the next girl to introduce herself.

But her closing words caught the ears of all of the girls at the front of the cart. Rhonda said "You can't quit there. Tell us your story!"

The moment was interrupted by shouts and police whistles sounding up and down the street. Irene answered "I'll tell it when things settle down. I think that we are getting underway now."

And sure enough, a few moments later the driver of the slave wagon shook his reins and called "Gee-Haw!" The big Clydesdales leaned into their load, and the wagon joined a stream of other wagons, mainly horse-drawn, that rolled down the street, turned left at a corner several blocks down, and began their journey away forever from Potsdam Village on Earth.

The Group that Left on Thursday

Susan Nicholson at the border of planet-Earth Potsdam Village; What Susan Saw

Susan Nicholson sat in the front of her Conestoga-style wagon on Thursday morning and watched the horse-drawn traffic from Potsdam Village flow onto the hoverway. She had not traveled on a hoverway since she had married and moved to the village years before. And of course during every previous hoverway journey, she had traveled by air-cushion vehicle, not in a horse-drawn wagon.

The important roads in Potsdam Village were hard-paved with asphalt or cement, in order to stand up to the villagers' wheeled vehicles and horses' hooves in all kinds of weather. The hoverway network that tied the rest of the nation together was mostly paved with crabgrass, (except for some arid areas in the southwest), which prevented the underlying soil from blowing away under the fans of the air-cushioned vehicle traffic. The roots of the crabgrass tied the soil down strongly enough to resist damage by horse-drawn wagons, as long as the tires were broad and the weather was dry. Susan's wagon was bigger than most of the other wagons and carts, and it had broader rubber tires than most. The rubber tires looked a bit peculiar on a Conestoga wagon. Susan glanced upward. Fortunately the sky showed no hint of additional rain, and there had been little rain for several weeks. A quick sprinkle that morning was just enough to help to keep the dust down. Travel conditions were ideal.

Susan's husband, Robby Lee Nicholson, drove their other wagon, a buckboard with his tools, pulled by their other team. He was a farrier; his job was tending horses's hooves and horseshoes. He needed to stay mobile and keep those tools handy for emergency repairs as the wagon train moved out.

The Nicholsons' wagons were among the first horse-drawn vehicles to leave the town, immediately behind the ranks of tractor-drawn vehicles. However, the Nicholsons expected to be among the last to arrive at the Randall farm, the halfway point where the villagers would spend the night. As the journey began, the Nicholsons paused at the patch of asphalt which marked the end of the village's paving, where Robby Lee waited for possible customers. With so many wagons pulled by so many horses, some loose shoes at starting were inevitable. Some breakdowns later on the road were also inevitable. Robby Lee would go as tail-end Charlie of the first day's march to deal with these breakdowns.

The only cloth on Susan's body was a tan triangle dangling from a string around her hips and covering her crotch in front. She also wore metal wrist cuffs linked in front by about 25 centimeters of chain, ankle cuffs with a half-meter chain, and a flat black metal collar with gold trim. She had often worn the same things ever since she had married and moved with her husband to Potsdam Village. Her husband saw no reason for her to wear anything special just because their entire community was relocating to a new planet. She had maintained a vegetable garden in their back yard while wearing this outfit. Surely she could also drive the team of horses which pulled their Conestoga-style wagon the same way.

Many Potsdamer men had other ideas about what was appropriate for their women on this occasion. Susan noticed:

-- one wagon with a hammock slung fore-and-aft. The hammock was made of fine-mesh netting, or open-weave fabric, depending on how these words were defined. The woman in the hammock lay face-up with hands cuffed over her head to the front and feet cuffed to the back. Other than the hammock, she appeared to be nude.

-- one wagon with a sign on the side for the Gorean Girls Transport Project. About twenty women sat in this wagon in benches down both sides, facing the middle. They all wore camisks and collars.

That wagon paused to allow Robby Lee to check one of the horse's hooves. During the pause, Susan recognized the driver as an acquaintance and asked "Who are you transporting?"

"Women, mostly for Bicycle Brigade members. Their men are out ahead preparing the way for everybody else. These women get to travel like Gorean slave girls, shackled into the wagon. "

"That's probably the best way to do it. A motorbus or a wild-West stagecoach wouldn't be in the true Potsdam Village style."

"Yup." Robby Lee Nicholson finished inspecting the hooves of the Clydesdale pulling the wagon, and it moved off.

Behind it came:

-- one wagon with a seat across the back, just wide enough for two women. Four women were sharing it, all wearing loose peek-a-boob vests, short shorts, and metal-strap bondage fiddles. Two of them walked behind the wagon, attached to it by chains from the fiddles. While Susan watched, the wagon paused and one of the riding women changed places with one of the walking women.

-- many wagons each with a woman sitting on the seat in front, alongside her husband or owner. These women were often restrained in various ways. One common arrangement was with arms reaching back and wrapped around a horizontal bar that acted as a seat back, plus hands tied to each other in front across their bellies. Another was essentially what Susan was wearing, wrist and ankle cuffs linked with chains that were long enough to allow the women to help with the work of the big move.

-- many wagons with women in no restraints at all. They needed to be unrestrained, for a variety of reasons. Babies and small children need attention. Baggage that has worked loose may need to be tied down again, tighter. Men may have other responsibilities and may be unable to handle the reins full-time. Big move or no big move, the business of living must go on.

Some of the women who wore no restraints also wore no clothing. Others wore bikini bottoms, or short silky see-through slave dresses, or camisks, and some had the privilege of wearing T-shirts and blue jeans. All of the women wore whatever chains and whatever clothing their men wanted them to wear.

- - - - -

Two by two, the wagons came down the asphalt road from old Potsdam Village. At the broad patch of asphalt which marked the end of the village's paving, several Bicycle Brigade members were directing traffic. Following these directions, the stream of wagons shifted formation and continued down the broad hoverway four abreast.

The journey continued at a steady march tempo. On the Gorean Transport cart, Irene began to tell her story.

Irene's Story

"I have lived for my entire life just outside Potsdam Village. My family visited the village several times during your annual Tourist Days, but never at other times. I was curious about the lifestyle, I wondered if I would like living it, but I couldn't just wander in to see what it was like when you weren't on exhibit for tourists. We didn't know anybody who lived there. Outsiders weren't normally very welcome in your town.

"I finally did meet somebody who lived in Potsdam Village. I met him in, of all places, Urbana, Illinois, at the University of Illinois. His name is Joe Schottky. We met at a freshman mixer. Meeting me solved his transportation problems to and from campus, because I had a hovercar, and of course a personal hovercar is much more convenient than taking buses and trains. We could both visit home more often.

"There wasn't any instant magic between us. At first we were just friends who went back and forth from campus together. But we chatted, and I began to think that I liked him, and eventually he invited me to visit his family. His mother wears leg shackles, full-time. She spends her time cooking, and cleaning, and generally keeping house, and entertaining other women, without using any of the robotic assistants that ordinary people have. She isn't isolated in her home, even though she is locked into the house and the fenced-in back yard much of the time. A group of women exchange visits. Her husband often takes her to visit some other women's houses and be entertained there.

"It seemed like a weird life style to me at first. I mean, why would any woman willingly wear leg shackles with a forty-centimeter chain 24/7? Even if those leg irons are gold-plated, with pretty jewels? It took me a while to begin to understand it. Everything that made that house a home was something that she did. The food was cooked by her, not by a robotic system. The family photos on the wall were put there by her, and she had taken many of those photos herself. Not only that, but she developed them herself, using vintage-1900 chemical photographic processes. Most of them were black and white photos, not color. It takes a real artist to make good photos in black and white. She got an immense amount of pride from being self-sufficient and doing it all for herself.

"All of her relationships with other people are with people, not video images, 100% face-to-face.

"My ordinary life outside the village began to feel rather flat. I tried cooking like Joe's mother, and I made some good cakes, but it all seemed rather pointless when we could buy cakes that were just as good at the local supermarket. Besides, our family house had robotics that could do the same job. Making cakes without robotic help was fun, but it was also a lot of extra work. I wasn't sure that I wanted to live my life that way.

"Joe began to ask me out on dates on campus. I realized that I was falling in love with him. If I wanted him, I would have to accept the lifestyle. Yes or no, Joe or modern gadgets, putting the options that way made the choice pretty clear.

"Joe is a take-charge kind of guy. I remember one trip home when I was planning to go straight through. That's what I told my car to do. Joe told it to stop at a McDonald's when we were about halfway there, and the car followed his orders, not mine. It was my car. Its computer could tell the difference between my ideas and Joe's definite orders, just from our tones of voice. It did things his way. That did not make me angry as I thought it might. I realized then that I had begun to submit to his authority on an emotional level.

"And then a few days ago the plague reached the USA and the president announced the imminent closing of the hoverway system. If we wanted to be at home to help our families when the plague reached us, we had to leave the university right away. So we did. My major was history, which wouldn't be much help in dealing with the plague. The entire department lost most of its students and closed down. I didn't know if I would ever get to go back to school, so I crammed all of my stuff into a couple of trunks and carried it all with me.

"Joe proposed during our trip home, quite casually. I said yes. He told me not to unpack, to stay ready to go with him on short notice in case the Potsdamers got permission to emigrate to CBQ 4960. He thought that there would be very little delay between getting legal permission to go, and going.

"My family lives in a sprawling one-story ranch house. Late last night Joe came out on a horse-drawn wagon and knocked on my bedroom window. I cracked it open. He shoved it all the way up and grabbed me under my armpits and pulled me through and handcuffed me and ballgagged me and shackled my ankles and loaded me onto his wagon. Then he rode off with me into the nearby woods. He kneeled down in front of me, and held out a ring, and asked me to marry him again, as traditional as you please this time. Except I couldn't say yes because of the gag. So I nodded my head.

"He put the ring on me and drove the wagon around to the front of the house. Then he undid the gag and the chains and ordered me to stay limp. He tossed me over his shoulder, carried me to my own front door, and began ringing the doorbell. Eventually my dad answered.

"Joe told him that the village would be moving 'tomorrow' - that is now today, of course - and that he was kidnapping me and taking me with him to a new planet. He didn't know when, if ever, we would be able to come back. So he set me down and ordered me to kiss my parents and my kid brother good-bye. While I was doing that, my mom cried a lot, and he got the trunks crammed with all my stuff and loaded them onto his wagon.

"If I had screamed when I was pulled through the window instead of saying yes in the woods, then my dad would have protected me from Joe and I wouldn't be here now. So I guess I consented to my own kidnapping.

"As morning broke, Joe took me to his family's house in Potsdam Village, still in my pajamas. He ordered me to use the bathroom, and he warned me that I might not get another chance any time soon. Then he locked me back into the handcuffs and leg shackles that I am still wearing. He cut my pajamas off me and burned them in the living room fireplace, as a symbol, he said, that my old life was gone forever. He dressed me in the camisk that I am still wearing. He took me to the school yard where the Gorean slave girl shipment was being assembled. And here I am.

"Could one of you please scratch my nose? It itches, and I can't do anything about it while I am locked in these handcuffs. You are lucky, getting to ride with your hands left free."

Sergeant Olaf Kroitzer, Iowa Highway Patrol, at the intersection of Hoverways 4 and 67

Sergeant Kroitzer had been running south on H-67 in a Highway Patrol cruiser. These cruisers have extra-high-capacity batteries that enable them to continue in service for quite a ways when the hoverway induction power system is switched off for any reason. (Traffic accidents sometimes cause power failures). He was keeping his speed well down to conserve power, and also because of the risk of finding stopped civilian vehicles that had run out of power on the hoverway.

When he reached the H-4 / H-67 interchange, he found a group of people who had clearly arrived on bicycles. He realized that they must have pedaled down the bike path that paralleled that stretch of H-4. They were standing around the hoverway ramps, setting something up. Sergeant Kroitzer had had no briefing about anything like this at the start of his shift. He stopped to investigate.

All of the people in the group were wearing unusual baseball caps. The caps had white brim tops and white side panels, and dark-color front and back panels in red, or blue, or green. None of the caps had sports-team logos or any other identification. The people were also wearing backpacks, and there were saddle bags slung over the back wheels of their bicycles. They were taking things out of this luggage and setting them up.

Using a friendly smile for openers, Sergeant Kroitzer started a conversation by asking "Hi! What's up?"

The apparent leader of the group of people answered "The people of Potsdam Village are moving to the University of Southern Minnesota campus. We're preparing to move to planet CBQ 4960 as soon as we have permission. We need to warn other people who may wish to use H-4 that the reasonable, proper, and customary speed adopted by the majority of other vehicles will be much slower than they are used to. Safety first, you know. If I remember rightly, that is one of the primary goals in the mission statement of the Highway Patrol."

"How fast will you be going? You can't slow the entire hoverway down to bicycle speeds of perhaps twenty kilometers per hour. "

"No, much slower. More like five kilometers per hour, infantry marching speed. Many of our people will be walking the entire distance, and the horses can't pull their heavy loads all the way there at a trot, much less a gallop. We here are just part of the higher-speed advance team."

Sergeant Kroitzer could not believe what he was hearing. "You really have people who are going to be walking for miles down a hoverway? All the way from here to Minnesota?"

"Yes. Our village lawyer figured out that it would be legal, under these circumstances. He mentioned a court case, where the Iowa Supreme Court decided that the legal speed for hoverway travel is what is reasonable, proper, and customary, as adopted by the majority of other vehicles on that stretch of hoverway. This usually means that the vehicle computers form a network and decide together how fast is safe. But right now with the induction coils switched off, there are essentially no computer-controlled fast vehicles on this hoverway. Our horse-drawn vehicles are definitely the majority of other vehicles on this road at this time. So what is reasonable, proper, and customary for us defines the correct speed for this hoverway. And that is about five kilometers per hour. I'll admit that it all sounds like the kind of argument that a lawyer would come up with. But I can also make a practical argument. There are about fifteen thousand of us on this road now. If you want to arrest us and take us in, where are you going to put us?"

"Fifteen thousand people?"

"Look over there, down H-4. You can see the start of the big parade just coming into view now."

Deciding what to do about this was well above a sergeant's pay grade. Kroitzer took his police communicator from his equipment belt, told it to "Contact Headquarters", and watched for further developments.

The bicyclists set up electronic beacons at the entrance ramps for H-4. These beacons would warn hovercar control computers not to guide the cars down those ramps. The highway patrol used this type of beacon routinely for marking detours, but those beacons weren't supposed to be available to ordinary civilians like these bicyclists.

Sergeant Kroitzer told his shift captain at headquarters about the beacons. He sent video images of the parade from his helmet cam. The shift captain passed the word up the chain of command. Eventually a group of senior officers held an e-meeting to decide how to treat this unique procession. The legal staff of the Patrol had to be called in to discuss the villagers' claims that their marching speed defined the reasonable and proper speed limit for Hoverway 4 at that time. The decision making process took several hours.

Sergeant Kroitzer kept watching the big parade. The first ranks were ponygirls in rather skimpy clothing, pulling carts, usually in teams of two to a cart. Most of the carts were loaded with camping supplies, and most of the ponygirls who pulled them had their hands restrained behind their backs in various ways. Sergeant Kroitzer smiled as he watched them go by. Ponygirl training clearly made girls stay slim and kept them in good shape.

A few of the pony carts carried girls who rode instead of walking. As Sergeant Kroitzer watched, one cart pulled out of the traffic flow, and the girl who was riding changed places with one of the girls who was walking. None of these girls had their hands restrained. Apparently these girls would be responsible for feeding, watering, and otherwise tending to other girls who couldn't help themselves during rest stops.

Behind the ponygirls came mechanical tractors, powered by internal combustion engines, or steam boilers, or by electricity stored in ultra-high-capacity batteries. Each tractor pulled anywhere from two to ten small wagons, which were loaded with freight or with villagers riding as passengers. After the tractors, more passenger and freight wagons rolled by, pulled by teams of horses. This final group was the largest. Many of the women on all of these wagons had their arms strapped or chained in ways which showed off their figures. Sergeant Kroitzer kept smiling.

Orders finally came down from Highway Patrol headquarters. The message relayed by the watch captain was "This parade does not have official approval. Collect your squad. Move down to the next interchange ahead of the parade, and put a police-tape barrier across it. Arrest everybody on the first cart or wagon to continue on the hoverway past that barrier, both passengers on it and anybody who is pulling it. Threaten that the same thing will happen to anybody else who crosses your barrier. We will be sending reinforcements as needed to make the threat stick."

Sergeant Kroitzer immediately protested when his captain relayed these orders to him. "Uh, Sir, I really don't think that would be a good idea. I will need to see a signed copy of that order in writing before I carry it out."

"Just why do you need a signed written order here?"

"If I follow it, pretty soon Julie Anderson of Channel 84 News will shove a microphone under my nose. I will need something to show her when she asks me why I arrested an eight-year-old girl. Not to mention her passengers, who are rag dolls. Besides, highway patrolmen don't carry handcuffs that are small enough for rag dolls. I suppose that I could put a pair of cuffs around the dolls' waists and chain them together. If I have a signed written order, Julie will quit bothering me and find whoever signed that order to ask the same question."

"You are saying that an eight-year-old girl is leading this parade?"

"Yessir. You can see her on the video that I made with my helmet cam."

"Hmmm. I'll get back to you. Don't do anything yet."

Once again messages were relayed up the chain of command. This time the buck was passed all the way up to the Governor of Iowa. He had other problems on his mind. He was more concerned about a demonstration in progress just outside his residence in Des Moines, protesting the shutdown of the hoverway system and demanding immediate delivery of medicines that could control the symptoms of the plague. There was a report that the plague had skipped forward to St. Louis, and that it had already spread north from there as far as Keokuk, Iowa. The state government needed to organize medical services and other measures to be taken. The governor decided to get the problem of Potsdam Village off his own desk as quickly as possible. Having a little girl lead a 70-kilometer march was clearly a violation of the child protection laws. He ordered Children's Services to investigate and make appropriate arrests. And he passed the message up to the Iowa legislators in Washington DC for possible Federal action.

Children's Services had no vehicles which could operate on the hoverway system when the power induction coils were turned off. The Highway Patrol needed to get their cruisers recharged, and then pick up and transport Children's Services investigators to the head of the parade. The resulting delays meant that nothing could be done to stop the parade until the next morning.

Carianne Eisen kept up a brisk marching pace as she led the population of her town to their overnight resting place at Randall Farm. Nobody had told her that an eight-year-old girl could not do that. She felt that she couldn't let herself fail. Pookie and Piffalyn were depending on her.

Charles and Betty Randall, and Moses Potsdam, at the Randall farmhouse, Thursday Afternoon

Betty Randall answered her doorbell. The person at the door was tall, with a full head of gray hair and a gray mustache. After a moment she recognized him as Moses Potsdam. He had left a horse tethered to a hitching rail in her front yard. He said "Hi! Well, I made it. These weary old legs can't handle a saddle the way they once did. How are things going?"

"Terrible."

This reply caught Moses Potsdam by surprise. He took a closer look at Betty, and realized that she was deeply upset about something. Her eyes were reddened by crying. So he asked "What's the matter?"

"The plagues have reached my old home town of Portland, Maine. My mom and dad got so sick, so fast, that they called yesterday to say good-bye. They looked and sounded horrible on the phone. This morning I got another call, from their old friends and next-door neighbors. Both of my parents were dead within 24 hours. Some people seem to have more inherited resistance to the plagues, and some people have less. My mom and dad had hardly any. Besides losing them, I'm scared for me. What do you think my chances are?"

"They would be a lot better if you joined my village and moved to CBQ 4960. I'll tell you a secret that would be big trouble if the word were to leak out too soon. We plan to close the warp gates as soon as the Potsdam villagers are all off Earth."

"Are you actually inviting me to join your harem, or something?" Betty was past 50 years old, and at least 20 pounds overweight, and her hair had begun to turn gray. She imagined herself in a harem costume and thought that the image was ridiculous.

Her husband George walked into the room and said "You aren't for sale into anybody's harem. I'm keeping you."

Betty turned to her husband and smiled bravely. She asked "Are you willing to try primitive farming, Potsdam Village style, with horses and all that, for me?"

"If I have to." He turned to Moses Potsdam and asked "Do I have to?"

Moses answered "No, or at least not right away." Then he explained "When my dad founded the village, he had a strict rule about not allowing post-1900 stuff in. We started bending that rule even before my dad died, allowing some early-twentieth-century items like radios. Now with this plague loose, we've had to wrap the rules into a pretzel. Some of our villagers are coming behind computer-controlled diesel tractors, or electric tractors, because we didn't have enough steam tractors or enough horses for everybody, and nobody is making Stirling-engine tractors now. So the way we're interpreting our rules, you can bring your modern farm machinery and use it until it breaks down. We won't allow replacements, but you could buy enough horses to run a farm on CBQ 4960 by the time you needed them. And you must have some horses already. If you didn't, then what would you use that hitching rail out front for?"

George smiled. "Four horses. Great riding horses, all of them. Three of them are fillies, my favorite is unfortunately a gelding. You do have stallions of riding-horse breeds, don't you?"

"The one I'm riding will be excellent for that once we are on our new planet. You could swap some of the colts for big sturdy plow horses."

Betty asked "Will George need to keep me in chains?"

"Naah. We're not all bondage freaks. Just most of us. I know a gal who does very pretty engraving. Her name is Jane Morrison. You could have her and her husband make you a steel bracelet that would allow you to blend in better. You wouldn't have to be chained to anything. If you want, you can even have the bracelet made so you can take it off any time you want to. I expect you won't want to, very often, though. Many Potsdam Village women wear similar bracelets."

"How much time will we have to pack?"

"Until Saturday morning. But I expect that most of your packing will be done this evening. I'll send a team of Potsdam Village house strippers. They have gotten very good at their job lately."

Betty Randall looked very relieved. She said "Thank you. Thank you very much. Can I invite you for supper this evening?"

"I'll be sure to be back for that. Right now I have to say hello to my people. The head of our parade down H-4 should be reaching here now."

The Eisen Family, at a parking spot on a field at Randall Farm, Thursday evening

Carianne Eisen stood in a parking spot in a farm field that was marked by two small stakes with white rags fluttering from their tops. Her hands were behind her back, and she was still attached to the garden cart that carried her doll house and her rag dolls.

A row of similar stakes marked the edges of a strip of ground that was being designated as a temporary road. A stream of wagons came down this road and pulled into their own parking spaces, which were designated by pairs of stakes on either side of this road. Carianne's parents were riding in one of the first wagons to arrive.

"Hello, Mom and Dad. It took you a while to catch up with me."

"We were right behind the ponygirls, with the other wagons pulled by tractors," her father answered. "All of the horse-drawn wagons were behind us. Did you stay in the ponygirl part of the parade all the way here?"

"Yes, I was the leader. Since the ponygirls were the first group, I was the very first person in the whole parade."

"So nobody was in front of you? No horses, or village patrolmen, or anybody? Nobody to set the marching pace?"

"Not in the parade. The Bicycle Brigade must have gotten here first and placed the marker stakes. Mr. Potsdam got here on horseback before I did, and he signaled where the parade should turn off the hoverway. I guess I'm the one who set the parade pace. There were ponygirls right behind me who were complaining that their legs were tired. I knew we couldn't slow down, though. The whole parade would have had to slow down behind us."

"How are your legs feeling? Are you up to helping your mother prepare supper?"

"I'm fine. I could keep on going, if I had to. Standing here waiting for you is worse than walking was. Could you officially release me from my handcuffs?"

Carianne's mother answered "Did you really keep them on all the way here?" She appeared to be both surprised and concerned. Her nine-year-old daughter had been more severely restrained than she was. She had had 50 centimeters of chain between her cuffs, and they had been in front of her, not in back.

Carianne replied "Not really. But there is a difference between undoing them myself at rest stops so that I could help other older ponygirls who were wearing real key-locking cuffs, and getting released officially by my Daddy so that I don't have to put them back on again."

Her father understood the game she was playing. He pulled out his key ring, found the key to Carianne's cuffs, and used that key to release her. Unlocking her toy handcuffs without using a key would have been cheating.

Soon afterward Carianne was assigned to turn the hot dogs and stir the baked beans on the family's portable grill, while her parents set up the camping tent for the night. All around them, other families were doing the same things. Her mother commented "The place smells like a parking lot before a big game for the Hawkeyes. This has to be one of the biggest tailgate parties ever held."

Report of Investigation by June Carlsson MPH, Field Investigator for State of Iowa Children's Services

Date of Interviews: Friday, 10/6/80

Purpose of Investigation To confirm or refute the possibility that a child might be abused by residents of Potsdam Village, based on a report by a highway patrolman. The villagers were parading down a hoverway between their homes and the campus of the University of Southern Minnesota. According to the report, an eight-year-old girl was being compelled to walk at the head of this parade for 70 kilometers over two days, while pulling a cart. I reached the parade head on the morning of the second day.

Methods and Approach Personal Interviews with the alleged Victim and Victimizers.

Location of Interviews In the parade, on the eastbound lanes of Hoverway H-4. I was transported by Sergeant Nicholas Kawai of the State Police. Sergeant Kawai drove his police cruiser on the westbound lanes and dropped me off. I crossed over the center divider on foot and found the alleged victim at the head of the parade, confirming the bare facts as stated in the report.

First Interview: Alleged Victim

-- Name: Carianne Eisen.

-- Age: eight years old.

-- Observations: Child wore shorts, a T-shirt, athletic socks, and athletic shoes suitable for hiking. Clothing was appropriate for a child under the circumstances and was in good condition, with no signs of neglect. Child was strapped to and was pulling a small garden cart which carried several bottles of water and a doll house, with two rag dolls. Her hands were cuffed behind her back. She was marching at a brisk pace. I invited her to stop, and she refused, saying that the entire parade would have to stop behind her. She invited me to walk along. I interviewed her while we marched together.

-- Interview Results: Child's motives are a mixture of reality and childhood fantasy / role playing. Her family and friends are really traveling to the USM campus, which is the warp-gate site for access to planet CBQ 4960. Most if not all of the villagers in Child's home town do plan to emigrate to CBQ 4960 as soon as legal permission is obtained. The coach of the ponygirls who are at the head of this parade really did appoint Child to lead the others. At the same time, she feels responsible for bringing her rag dolls along: direct quote "Pookie and Piffalyn are depending on me." She is determined not to let her rag dolls down, and she is proud of her ability to take care of them while leading the entire parade.

Her village has an active ponygirl club for older teen-agers and adults. She is interested in the activities of this club, but is too young to participate. The cuffs that held her wrists are toys. She demonstrated that she could take them off if she wished, and she stated that she did so during rest stops and lunch breaks when helping older girls who wore real cuffs. But she would not march with her hands free: direct quote "That would be cheating."

Child does not feel stressed by the length of the hike. Direct quote "Its just walking. I've been walking since I was less than two years old."

Second Interview: Gaining background about Potsdam Village ponygirls

-- Name: Maria Ernsberger

-- Age: About forty.

-- Occupation: Coach of the Potsdam Village East High School Ponygirls

-- Observations: Subject was encountered by the side of the hoverway with two parked ponygirl carts and four teen-age girls. One of the carts was loaded with camping supplies, intended for use in campgrounds en route while the villagers wait for approval to transfer to planet CBQ 4960. The other cart was empty, except for some first-aid supplies. Subject had been riding on it.

Two of the teen-age girls appeared to be injured. One had twisted an ankle, and Subject was helping her wrap it in athletic stretch wrap. The other girl had a severe leg cramp.

When I arrived and introduced myself, Subject said "Oh good! A solution to our problem." Subject assigned the two healthy girls to the loaded cart, harnessed them, and released the arms of the two hurt girls from their handcuffs. She positioned herself in front of the first-aid cart, and said "Do me!" Both hurt girls limped over and worked on her. Within a few moments she was wearing one of the handcuff pairs herself and was strapped at her waist and over her shoulders to the right front of the empty cart.

Then to my surprise she pointed to me with her nose and said "Now do her!" At that moment one of the girls was standing behind me. She took my arms and handcuffed them behind my back before I could react. I understand that the handcuffs that they use are a type called "Irish-8", which pins wrists very close together. I was soon strapped to the left front of that cart.

Subject gave more commands: "Girls, get aboard the cart. Sharon, massage your leg where you got the cramp. Help Katharine if she needs to re-wrap her ankle with Ace stretch bandaging. Let's move out!" The other two girls, the healthy ones, pulled the other loaded cart back into the traffic flow on the hoverway.

I suppose that I could have protested my apparent kidnapping at that point. But the person who organized that kidnapping was held just as securely alongside me. I realized that the cart we were attached to was serving as a sort of ambulance for ponygirls, which was certainly a worthwhile purpose in this parade. So I helped Subject pull this cart, which now carried the two injured girls. I thought that I might win her confidence by doing this.

I was right. After a few minutes Subject turned to me and said "So, you really do care about young girls. You aren't just a bureaucrat who is sticking her nose where it doesn't belong. What do you want to know?"

-- Interview Results: Over the next few kilometers we pulled the ambulance cart together. We ranged through the ponygirl formation while Subject checked other girls and other carts - including Child and her small cart - for possible fatigue symptoms, injuries, or mechanical breakdowns. Subject had expected that she would have to pick another ponygirl or ponygirl team to lead the parade when Child became tired, but that never happened.

Subject told me about ponygirls in Potsdam Village. This is important background for understanding the behavior of the Child who was presumed to be abused.

There is an active ponygirl culture in Potsdam Village, a culture which can reach females of all ages. For prepubescent girls there are toys, which the girls can easily escape from if they choose. When a girl becomes a teen-ager, she can join the Ponygirl Society chapter at her middle school and begin to train with real locking equipment. The Society also has chapters in the three Potsdam Village high schools. None of this is mandatory, but there has never been a shortage of volunteers.

Training leads to competition, in several forms, for example:

- Solo races for teen-agers involve two-wheel carts which are ballasted according to a handicapping formula that allows smaller, younger girls to compete with bigger, older girls on something approaching even terms.

- Despite the name, binary races involve teams of three girls. One pulls the chariot for a lap around the track, one rides and drives, and one helps in the pits with the change-over after each lap when the puller and the driver swap places. Fast running speeds and fast pit stops are both critical in winning binary races.

- There are several types of dressage events, where the objective is to move gracefully in a prescribed manner. While pulling the hospital cart alongside me, Subject of Interview demonstrated several paces that ponygirls must learn in order to do well at dressage. Dressage events are scored by panels of judges, similar to Olympic diving or figure skating .

- Dressage also includes events during which the pullers are blindfolded and must navigate in formations or on obstacle courses based only on audible cues and on cues from their drivers' reins. No words are allowed in the audible cues, only tongue clicks and cue-whip snaps and similar sounds. Girls are rarely struck with cue whips. A driver who accidentally or deliberately strikes her puller with a cue whip must swap places with her and do a penalty lap around the track as a puller, with the whipped girl allowed to get as much revenge as she wants.

Teen-age ponygirls are allowed to mix with boys as part of their ponygirl activities only under carefully controlled conditions. The first-string members of the football teams for all three Potsdam Village high schools are commonly brought out of the locker rooms at the start of games by riding in pony chariots. First-aid carts, like the one that Subject and I were pulling, are commonly held ready on the sidelines during football games and other sporting events to deal with any injuries. Ponygirls perform in parades that include boys as band members and as marching drill teams. The ponygirls march in formation, or they pull carts with bass drums, or calliopes with compressed air tanks, or other instruments that are not often used by marching bands. Subject paired up with her (then) future husband under those conditions; she was pulling a cart with the special narrow grand piano - only four octaves range - that he was playing during an annual Village Foundation Day parade. They dated after the parade and have been together ever since.

The Ponygirl Society also sponsors events for adults. Boys are allowed to join the society at age 17. They learn how to handle pony carts and take care of ponygirls under careful adult supervision. Women are only rarely drivers after they reach age 20. Subject has spent as much as a week at a time as a ponygirl herself with no adult responsibilities, while her husband controls her and feeds her and bathes and grooms her and takes care of all of her needs, including her most personal needs. She has to set aside her entire taking-charge I'm-the-coach persona for a while. She finds this type of event to be very relaxing and refreshing.

This is the type of culture in which Child who was presumed to be abused has been growing up. Several ponygirls, from young teen-ager to adult, have lived as her neighbors.

Third Interview: Child's Parents

-- Names: Curt and Pauline Eisen

-- Ages: About thirty.

-- Occupations: Banker and housewife

-- Observations: My interview with Maria Ernsberger lasted for about an hour. Afterwards, she directed the cart we were pulling to the center divider, where we paused. At her instruction, I was released from the cart, and the girl who had had a leg cramp took my place. I was told how to find Child's parents, who were on a cart of their own pulled by a blue farm tractor, with a chain of five carts linked behind the tractor carrying their household goods and some similar goods from one of their friends. With this information, I had no trouble in locating Child's parents.

I found Curt wearing a business-casual outfit, looking like a prosperous banker. Pauline was wearing a bare-midriff top, a miniskirt, and broad highly polished stainless steel cuffs and collar at wrists, ankles, and neck. A padlock held wrists and a loop of chain to a belt at her waist, in front. The wrist cuffs were linked by the loop, about 50 centimeters of chain, so her wrists would not be completely freed even when they were not padlocked to her waist. The parents sat on a seat on the front of their leading cart. This seat was wide enough that it could have accommodated both of them and their daughter, the Child for whom this investigation was being carried out.

Curt was feeding his wife half of a submarine sandwich, holding it to her mouth for each bite. He was eating the other half of the sandwich himself.

-- Results of Interview: Parents had consulted with Maria Ernsberger before the parade began. Ms. Ernsberger kept watch over Child from the start of the parade, and would have sent her back to join her parents if that had been necessary. Parents' tractor and carts had enough extra capacity to carry Child and her rag dolls, if that had been desirable.

Parents spoke with Child during the overnight encampment after the first day of parading, which covered about 40 km. After a day of marching and these conversations, neither Ms. Ernsberger nor Parents saw any need to deny Child her desire to lead the parade for another day.

General Conclusion

Child is a proud, spunky, determined eight-year-old girl. She is strong enough and has enough endurance to march for 70 km while leading a parade and pulling a small cart. She was not being abused.

I could have tried to obtain and execute a Child Protection Warrant to pick her up and put her into custodial care. Any such action would have damaged her pride, separated her from loving and supportive parents, removed her from support by, and socialization with, people she trusts and understands, and surrounded her with strangers who think differently, all to no purpose. That action would have been child abuse.

Recommendation

Take no action based on child-abuse allegations. Child is not being abused.

The head of the Potsdam Village parade has now crossed the state line into Minnesota. Since Child is not being abused, there is no reason to alert Minnesota Child Protection Services to this situation.

Final Comment

State Police Sergeant Kawai picked me up at the state line after the interviews and drove me home.

End of part 2

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