I came to my senses with a start and quickly analyzed my surroundings. It was daylight and seemed like midday. Quiet, distant sounds of nature reached my ears. It was pleasantly warm with a gentle wind blowing across… my naked body? I was in a meadow surrounded by tall oak-type trees laying on the grass. Buck naked. What the hell?
Actually that wasn't completely true. I had some sort of metal anklet on my right ankle. It was just bent and closed around my ankle; if I had some metalworking tools I could take it off. I shook my leg, it didn't feel too heavy, but my leg didn't feel as heavy as it normally did either. Weird.
The sky was more blue than I had ever seen it. The air was fresh and clean, mountaintop clean, not a trace of any smoke or pollution on it. It was a glorious clear day.
I remembered where I was before and it came back to me. Of course this was a dream. I remembered laying down in my bed, feeling strangely sleepy for 10 PM on a Tuesday night. I curled under the covers and snuggled the pillow, naked as always, knowing that Jules would be climbing into bed beside me when he got home from work around 5:00 AM. Maybe he'd be up for a little exercise when he got home, maybe he'd just want to sleep. Whichever was fine with me. We did enough of both to keep me quite happy. And then I woke up here.
As the breeze rolled across my naked shoulders I thought to myself how real it felt. The air was crisp and cool, cool enough to be noticeable but warm enough that my lack of clothing would not be a problem. The grass was rich and firm under me, the sun warm on my skin. All I need is a picnic lunch and Jules for dessert and this could be the sort of dream hot memories were made of. I looked around but no picnic basket and much more sadly no Jules.
There were no signs of life or civilization around me. If I had a hike in front of me at least I was equal to it. I was tall, about five-foot-ten, no fat at all on me but solidly built from the martial arts and exercising that I did. Straight dishwater blonde hair halfway down my back. I wasn’t a stick, had never been one. At least when I had to walk back into civilization I’d only be embarrassed because I was naked but not because of how I looked naked.
Up in the sky, I heard it, a faint keening cry, animal-like, what you would expect a pterodactyl or some huge bird of prey to sound like. I looked and barely made it out: High in the sky, large wings, a single bird heading across the sky far, far above me.
"It's a tarn." I heard a voice say. It was male and sounded as if it were right at my shoulder. It sounded like the holo-doctor from Star Trek Voyager or the never-seen "Charlie" from "Charlie's Angels". I jumped at the nearness of the voice, fortunately didn’t scream, then looked all around me. There was no sign of anyone anywhere near me. The twittering of birds and animals in the trees in the forest that surrounded the meadow I was in, the rises and falls in the meadow far too shallow to hide anyone who could have said those words so loudly and clearly to me. Tarns, they were from a science-fantasy series that I had read, but that had been a few years ago and I couldn't quite remember what it was.
"Tarns," the voice repeated. I knew that as crazy as it seemed it was coming from inside my head: No one was around me to speak them. "Big, ugly birds. Ravens with a thirty-foot wingspan and the attitude of a pissed piranha. Able to bite people clean in half because they feel like it."
"Who are you?" I asked, out loud just in case. Yup, I was dreaming. Voices didn't come from nowhere.
"Well, nobody. Or maybe I am you," it started, sounding a little smug, "depends on how you look at it."
It came back to me, the science-fiction series. The collar on my ankle made sense now and it was not good. Not good at all.
"Yes, you're on Gor,” the voice inside my head confirmed, still smug. “Counter-Earth. The planet behind the sun. You got it in one, tootsie!"
I laughed. It was an extremely long, something like 30-book, series by some New York college professor. Some people in Europe genuinely try to live the lifestyle described in the series. Wow. It was interesting planetary fiction, yes, but the author went on and on (and on and on and on and on) about how happy the female characters were to be slaves. Bullshit. Yep, the fiction side of the planetary science fiction. It seemed to me that every female in the series was a textbook case of Stockholm Syndrome.
It hit me that I had said that to someone within the last few weeks but I couldn’t remember who.
Then again, Dr. Norman, the author, presumably has market research since he was in it of course to sell the books (or these days, e-books. Damn political correctness anyways) and knew who his audience was. From some reports it wasn't an overwhelming percentage male. I shrugged and laughed inwardly at that. Opposition research was all the book series was at the time to me. And the actual story arc of the Priest-Kings and Kur and the travails of Ar and the adventures of Tarl Cabot was a decent enough story. But you had to wade hip-deep through a huge lot of Stockholm Syndrome to get to that stuff.
It came back to me who I had been talking to. Terrence Wrienheld, someone in the outer loop of my circle of friends. I think he, at least at one point, had the hots for me but that was about the time I was getting started with Jules. Terrence was kinda nice but had an underlying creepy machismo throwback feel to him. Plenty physical which I appreciated but I had a feeling once you got inside his skin his attitude was all wrong for me and probably for any woman. But that wasn’t a problem: Andrea Haviland, a tall brunette who had a pleasant face and a reasonable body, had the hots for him. She and I had some absolutely stupid moments when she took after me because she thought I was competing with her for Terrence. Once Jules and I were together that mostly calmed down but every time we were around them he was looking a little too long at me. She was too but it was mostly scowling. All of that from as much of a distance as I could manage.
We’d been at a party that Andrea hadn’t been able to go to and the topic had turned to orgasms and the concepts of the “slave orgasm” in the Gor series. Terrence was delighted to have found a female who had read the books and was familiar with the concept. I was a little too drunk to be smart enough to excuse myself to go to the bathroom and throw up and then go home. But my mouth was on free play, all right. The concept was interesting but like everything else about Gor to me didn’t hold up to reality. The girls were slaves and sex was clearly and entirely on the menu for them. The better they were at sex the better things were for them.
The argument went, Terrence put forth, that women were taught to repress and run from their sexuality, that their sexuality, properly stimulated was a weapon that could be used to control women, reducing them to crawling to men and begging for such tremendous orgasms. You literally had to come as if your life depended on it because on Gor, as a slave, it actually did. If you were frigid, or not the most sexually explosive woman that random man had ever seen, you could be fed to the Gorean equivalent of crocodiles for that. And that perhaps really heavy, super-explosive orgasms were possible, when not only were you trying desperately to come as gigantically as possible (to preserve the pathetic male ego of the man who was quite often had tied you up and was raping you at the time), but because the societal norms were reversed and you were free to orgasm gigantically. Indeed had to, so you did.
I told him it was an interesting theoretical question and sure, I’d enjoy a “slave orgasm” as much as any other woman but the societal structures that supported slavery such as described in the books would have to be in place and that would never happen. Besides there were places and times even now, unfortunately, where women are in that situation. They were slaves, including sexual slavery and weren’t experiencing tremendous orgasms. According to the reports it was more like they were being raped to death one way or another. I not quietly called him a fucking asshole then gathered up Jules and left.
Gor was untenable. Fiction. The counterpart for men to Harlequin Romances. But here I was and there was a band of steel around my ankle.
So this was only a dream. So I decided to play along with it.
A worried thought crossed my mind. I looked down at my left thigh, and to my surprise saw what I half-expected, half-feared was there: the floral, beautiful "k", for "kajira", slave girl, that adorned the thigh of almost all of the women in the book series. I fingered it and found the expected gently scarred skin. It didn’t hurt at all, completely healed. Well that is nice, I thought. Generally all the women got this or something equivalent burnt into their skin early on in their Gorean life and at least I didn't have to go through that. Not that the pain that would ensue from that would be conducive to being in a dream. Yeah, wake up screaming sort of stuff. If this were to be a successful dream skipping that was pretty much a necessity.
"Or it could just be a time saving device by the Kur," The voice in my head suggested. Taking a slave girl out of service, it continued, for two months while the scar healed was bad for business. And despite how the books read, getting a really good kajira brand was rather difficult; there was no way to make sure it healed properly. The pretty floral print, that was writer's liberty. The Kur clan that brought you here generally laser-scars the thighs in transit. The female slaves were sedated anyway. No unnecessary scarring, no healing, and ready to go on arrival. Their failure rate due to medical complications from the branding fell from 10 percent of deliveries to nothing. And they all came out pretty well perfect.
Well, ok, I thought, who the hell are you?
"Well," the voice started, then trailed off, "I guess you can say I'm a teaching aid."
I sighed to myself. Mental picture of me, in stilettos, tapping my toes.
"Oh, ok." The voice began. "I shouldn't be anywhere near this forthcoming, but what the hell. I'm supposed to help." It paused for a second -- the mental picture of it was of someone gathering their breath. "The Kur have a business of importing Earth women to Gor for different reasons: profit, trade, to win favors with certain Goreans and every so often Terran males. The Priest-Kings presumably don't intrude because they really don't give a damn anyways. They're still kinda busy right now rebuilding after their internal war and they see it as a way of freshening the stock, so to speak. But the problem was you drop a woman who has never been here before into this sort of society with no language and no context and the failure rate for that sometimes hits thirty percent. And that cut into profits So they developed, well, me."
"I, we, are put into all the women on the clan's transports. We are put here by the Kur to keep you alive and to make you successful on Gor. We are supposed to stay silent and behind the scenes, give you thoughts and come across as intuition. But you are an unusual case. They were worried that you might have a little harder time adjusting to Gor and that rule was relaxed just for you. But folks like you won't have to learn the language, I will translate it for you. And I can translate your thoughts back into Gorean so you can speak it like a native, even change your words into the appropriate idioms for your situation and region on Gor. I can explain things about your situations which will help you adjust faster and react better, making you more valuable and more likely to survive now that you are here."
There's one caveat. I am put into the part of your brain that will be used to store memories starting in about six months to two years from now. I will be here full time at first but eventually the memories you have will overwrite me and I will be less and less helpful until I am completely gone in about three years. But after that long you shouldn't need me anymore anyways."
Why that particular voice? I asked.
"I dunno. You picked it." There was a pause, then in a dead-on Cortana voice it said "Danger, Master Chief! The Flood is coming.", then it switched to Groucho Marx. "And that ain't all I can do, schweetheart!" It then switched to a perfect imitation: "My name is Inigo Montoya. You have come to my planet. Prepare to live."
Enough! I thought loudly, silencing him.
"Another thing--" The voice said, back to its original Voyager Doctor timbre. I am tapped into your nervous system so I can control your reactions in extreme situations, hear things that you haven't noticed yet and see things that you may not have become aware of. Like the four men who are sneaking up on you from your left."
I jumped up with a squawk and turned to my left. Indeed, four men were approaching me from the woods and were a few hundred yards away. Once they saw surprise was gone they abandoned all attempts at silence. One had a rather large net. "A woman-sized net if you ask me." Doc chimed in.
I decided not to run. I had eight years of Judo and Karate training, since I was twelve, but I was stark naked against four rather large men. "They're all large here." Doc told me dismissively. "It's the lower gravity." But keep in mind, I recalled from the books that Gor was smaller so it had a lower gravity than Earth. So I'm much stronger than they realize.
What were their plans, the thought passed through my head, but if this was Gor the answer was obvious. Capture me, probably rape the living daylights out of me, then sell me for the Earth equivalent of ten dollars. "That's pretty much it." Doc affirmed. "But you don't have to be captured if you don't want to be. None of them are warriors. You can take them."
Ok, I thought but the odds looked a bit bad. Then again I have no idea of where I am (a world map flashed briefly into my mind. Large continent, upper half of the world, bright light flashing near the western coast about in the middle of it) I need clothes. As the men closed to about twenty feet and began to circle me, a sigh from Doc: "None of theirs will fit. Besides, by the smell they haven't been near running water in two weeks."
The one with the net swung it around his head. I waited until I saw the giveaway change in stance (how did I know to look for that? “You're welcome,” Doc replied), then dive-rolled to the man at my left. A quick gut-punch, then I grabbed him by the wrist and shoulder. He screamed in pain from the dislocated shoulder he got as I back-threw him on to the missed net now on the ground behind me.
Two of the three remaining drew swords, the third a staff. Go for the one with the staff, I planned, you can use that against the swords. I had a little training with a staff, almost nothing with bladed weapons. So I backed up, pretending to try to edge away, and they followed me, speaking to me. The one on the left called: "So the little she-urt thinks she is a panther girl. All the better." It just pissed me off.
I decided I had gone far enough. I pretended to trip backward. The men of course rushed forward but I was already flinging myself upright. I slid behind the slaver with the staff, and before he could react I had pulled it out of his hands. He got the most incredible look on his face as I swung it as hard as I could to connect at his ear. The staff was solid, maybe an inch and a half thick and it made a tremendous cracking sound and he literally flew five feet before hitting the ground unmoving. But now the hard part began. I now had a staff but there were two of them and they both had longswords.
"Don't fool yourself." Doc warned me gravely. "All they want to do now is kill you." I was hardly trained in staff combat and especially not against swordsmen. The chances of winning this one was not good at all.
"Come quietly little panther girl. And we will not kill you too fast." Yeah, I bet.
"I'm not supposed to do this." Doc began, "but I'm supposed to keep you alive. Can you just let go and let me run things?" I shrugged. Since the alternative was at best getting cut up and probably dying I shrugged and assented.
"Ok." Doc told me desperately. "Just don't get in the way. Just watch, dammit!"
After a second, my body reacted with a volition that was not my own. I barely managed not to react but I didn’t. Using the staff and my exceptional, for this world, strength, I pole vaulted over the two attackers. As I touched down and they were spinning around the staff was coming down on the sword arm of the one on the left. A crack I could feel down to my end of the staff and the flying sword probably signaled the breaking of his forearm. His scream of pain confirmed it. A follow-up strike took him out at the knees to the ground as the scream trailed off and a third strike to the head silenced it. The entire maneuver took less than two seconds. Oh my God, I whispered. It was magic. My judo instructor would go wild! I could get used to this.
The last man didn't seem to be swaggering at all any more. I advanced on him with the staff. He thought about it for a second then dropped his sword and ran. Follow him, I thought, or deal with the other three, of whom if they were moving were not moving very much at all. I decided to chase him. He probably had some form of transportation. I was a fresh arrival to Gor and I ran five miles a day four days a week: It wasn't a contest. I tripped him with the staff and whacked him solidly in the gut to take any remaining fight out of him. "Mercy, Mistress!" He pleased. "Spare my life!" I reached down to his waist and removed the binding fiber from a pouch there, found it to be metal wire wrapped in a cloth sleeve. Doc scoffed and announced it was a cruddy fake of real binding fiber. I kicked his side and he rolled over, meekly putting his hands together behind his back. I wrapped enough of the binding fiber around it to make sure they were staying there then kicked him again. "Get to your feet, asshole." The words that came out of my mouth sounded nothing like that, something about "Rise or I will feed your worthless carcass to sleen!" or something. He understood me just fine and trembling got to his feet as fast as he could. Thanks, Doc. I thought.
“Take me to your camp." I said to him. What came out was “You will take me to your camp and there I perhaps may decide not to end your miserable life immediately." He nodded in terror, continued off in the same direction he had been running.
Their camp was pretty much a disappointment but it did have a few useful things. Riding tharlion, the Gorean equivalent of horses, packs with food, and a miserable amount of coins. I picked through the packs and found the cleanest set of clothes to hide my feminine curves and a cap to cover my long blonde hair. I loaded all of it up onto what Doc assured me was the best of the animals then turned to handle my erstwhile captor who was still tied to the tree where I left him. I did not look pleased. He looked terrified as I approached staff in one hand, a short sword I had found in the other. This was the point, he knew, where the way things went on Gor his head was cut off for picking a fight and losing.
"Please Mistress, I have a wife and two little children! They need their father and what precious little I can provide for them or they will starve!” (Probably true, Doc chimed in) “I am a miserable hunter and lower than dirt. Do not kill me! Please Mistress!"
"Eat shit and die!" I told him. What came out was something to the effect of "I would not soil the pure ground with your foul blood." For half a second I was annoyed at Doc’s translation, then thought 'whatever'. I whacked him up the side of the head with the staff and he slumped in his bonds. I'd hit him hard enough to knock him out for a few hours and give him a concussion but he'd surely live. I untied him and then rode away, leaving his unconscious body where it lay.
So where do I go? I thought. Hell, it was only a dream. I could go anywhere. But even for a dream this one was going on an awful long time and that made me uncomfortable. But back to the question, I have about two weeks of food and transportation, where do I go?
There were four cities where women ruled, unlike most of the planet. Alcaron, about a week's ride to the east, was the nearest best choice. Just before sundown on the third day my travels came to an end.
I was riding through a heavily forested area about a half-day east of Ar, traveling below it, trying to avoid the city itself. Doc told me that was a good thing, Ar was in the middle of a whole bunch of trouble right now. The trail was little more than a ten-foot clearing between the trees. Suddenly I heard Doc cry "Look out!" But it was too late. A net had dropped from the trees and I was fully entangled. The tharlion kept going and struggled free, but I was thoroughly caught. Doc, help me! I thought.
"They aren't going to kill you." The voice replied. "Your life is not in danger. I can't interfere. No can do. You're on your own."
At that time about six spear points were gently pressed into my sides. I stayed still as they unwrapped the net from me, there were about eight of them. "Highwaymen." Doc announced. "If you were male, they'd just rob you and let you go. But you're not, so it may get... dicey."
The net was about halfway undone and the hat had been drawn off my head in the process. My long blonde hair fell out to the catcalls and cheers of the highwaymen. They retrieved the tharlion and all my gear, stripped off all my clothes and made much happy noise at their good fortune and quality of their catch. My hands were bound behind me and I was led off, barefoot and naked to their camp about a quarter-mile off the road. There were no other women there, just me and the eight that had caught me and the two that were left behind to guard the camp. “Cosnians.” Doc announced, by the words and dialect they used. “Probably military deserters.” And yes, they staked me out spread-eagled and still naked, a gag in my mouth, a little way away from the fire. I realized I would be the party favor for that night for all ten of them. I struggled but even with my Terran strength I could not get free. "Yeah, sorry about that." Doc told me as the first one of way too many that night, lust in his drunken eyes approached me. He dropped trou, a rather small prick on such a large male, as he prepared for a treat. "You're a beautiful female." Doc concluded sadly, "and this is Gor."
Continues in part two