Sorry for the long wait between chapters. I'll try to do better.
This is an 'old' chapter: it has been in my head a while. Not that it looks anything like this in my head...
Comment/critiques welcome again at Darkmind@DarkmindWeb.com.
It was a beautiful day. It would be a shame to waste it.
At least, that was Aleshanee's take on her current situation. Oh, sure, she would be careful. No sense in risking herself, or her mind, but the trap was known, and life should be enjoyed. There was no reason to stay inside, or panic. Nothing was going to attack immediately.
So, she stood outside, head back, black hair flowing in the wind, eyes closed, just enjoying the sunshine.
Scent of green, of sand, of the salt off the sea and chlorine from the pool, hints of sawdust, varnish. Aleshanee took a moment to just immerse herself in them, and to feel the warmth on her face.
There would be plenty of time to plan escapes. Right now, she wanted to explore. Besides, she might get to see what escapes didn't work this way, without trying them herself.
Or at least, that's what she would say if anyone asked her.
Aleshanee started with the main door. She wanted to see the entryway again; the mad rush into the building had not given her time to truly appreciate it.
The white sand was messed up, and some of the plants had been trampled on, but it was still beautiful. Shanee (as her friends called her) headed right, out to the shore in view of the dock.
Her shoes in her hand, she walked along the beach, occasionally drawing in the watery sand.
This was a far cry from the reservation where she had grown up.
Truth to tell, that had been Shanee's reason for taking this job. The reservation had sometimes been fun, growing up, but it was a lot of work too. There was never enough money to go around, and too much work do be done. She did her fair share, but had earned her name ('playful') too. She hadn't known or cared what the job was, just that it was away. It was on an island! She had never even seen the ocean before!
Shanee did care about the newly revealed duties. It was why she wasn't out actually playing in the ocean on her first visit to it. But she would worry later, after she got a chance see a bit of what she came for.
The shoreline quickly opened up into a large beach, which ran right up to the edge of the building. With the light behind it, she could see right through to the swimming pool in places. Shanee even saw a couple of the other girls lying out on the pool chairs.
Well, at least she wasn't the only one enjoying the day.
The water was fun, but Shanee soon wanted inland. After all, she couldn't risk swimming, even if she had had her swimsuit with her. So, at the moment it was just forbidden temptation. And the sand wasn't much without being able to swim too.
There was a path leading off the beach, past the resort building itself. It looked perfect, since she was not in the mood to head back just yet.
The beach dropped away quickly as the island widened. The path itself was broad and grassy under Shanee's still bare feet. It ended in a large meadow, with a stream at one end, and a corral at the other.
Well, this was interesting.
The reservation Shanee had grown up on wasn't as rustic as some thought, but there had been a horse ranch for tourists. Shanee had loved horses, and one of her first jobs was helping to care for them. Professionally interested, she walked closer.
There was a stable off one end of the corral. At first glance it looked small, but then the walk up to it was longer than Shanee had thought, and the stable bigger. It was easily big enough to hold a dozen horses.
None of whom were here at the moment of course. She could smell that before she entered. Probably kept away as a precaution so they wouldn't be killed by angry 'employees' this week.
Idly Shanee tried a door, not really expecting it to be open.
Without a sound, the door swung lightly on its hinges.
Well, they weren't to worried about vandalism.
Sunlight filtered in through skylights and windows patterned to look like gaps in the wood, at least when you were not looking at the window itself. There was a scent of fresh sawdust underfoot, and the wood was unpolished. The end feel was of a country barn, new, but well built, and sturdier than it looked.
Certainly much more homey than the metal-sided cement-floored thing Shanee had worked in on the reservation.
Curious, Shanee wandered in. The stable did not hold as many as she had first thought; only about half the space was used for standard stalls. In the other half there was an office, several storage rooms, and mechanical rooms. There seemed to be an underground level too, which surprised Shanee.
Though not as much as some of the stuff in the storage rooms has surprised her. Why someone would want to mount some of that stuff on a saddle... It was beyond her. And Shanee was glad of that.
She walked through the building, to the double doors, and out through them to the corral. From here she could see the stable was not alone; next to it was another, smaller, building. The stable had hidden it from her approach.
The normal corral has sand in it, or at least loose dirt from all the horses' hooves. The solid ground underfoot was the surest sign that this stable was not occupied, even if the grass was not as well trimmed as that on the path. Shanee walked around the corral fence.
Standard post-and-rail construction. The gate would even have to be lifted out by hand, one board at a time. Rustic. What people expect from a corral, from seeing movies.
There was even a grain trough in the corner, next to a water trough filled by a hand pump. Shanee walked over, and tried the handle, expecting it to come up smoothly and start the water flowing, like the other 'pretend' hand pumps she had used which were really motorized, or just plain faucets.
It didn't. There was no creak, though it felt like there should be, but the handle didn't come up more than a half inch.
Shanee put some actual effort into it, and raised the handle all the way, then lowered it. No water came out.
This was an actual hand pump. Unprimed, which meant water had probably never flown through it.
But what was it connected to?
Shanee would have expected an underground pipe to some water tank somewhere, but then the pump would at least be pressurized. Unless the tank was also underground.
But then why wasn't there a automatic pump on it? Surely there wasn't a tank for just this pump. That just didn't make sense. Besides, how would you fill the tank? She didn't see any fill stations.
Maybe it was just for decoration. Entirely non-functional.
She gave it a few more pumps to test. On the fifth, a trickle came out. The sixth was a gush of blackish water into the trough, and the seventh cleared the water.
So, it functioned.
That still didn't mean it was save to drink.
That thought surprised Shanee. Until that moment, she hadn't realized she was checking if she could drink here.
Could she? The water was definitely not from any pipe, and it would be easy to overlook a non-functional pump. But where did the water come from?
Wait a moment; there was a downstairs to that stable, and she hadn't checked the other building yet. She should check those first. Before she tried to drink. All this exploring had made her thirsty.
Shanee first checked the outbuilding. It was a grain shed; no chance of anything there. Just bags of grain and feed. Shanee checked thoroughly.
Next was the stable's anomalous basement. Shanee found the entrance just off the office, in a bit of a corner, but still easy to get to. The stairs were metal, and steep.
At a quick glance, this was the end to her idea: the basement was full of pipes and oversized pumps, gleaming in the harsh fluorescent light. If the building above felt homey this felt like nothing more than a factory: metal, concrete, and paint.
Still, Aleshanee wanted to know what this room did. And all the pipes didn't mean one ran to the corral.
The pipes were clearly marked: "Clean Water", "Sludge/Waste", "Hot", and arrows indicating direction of flow. Tracing it back, the water entered clean from one wall, then split. Half went through a water heater, from which a row of pipes emerged, going into the ceiling, next to clean counterparts. A quick mental calculation showed them to be at the stalls. "Sludge/Waste" entered from the ceiling edge, also under the stalls, and was collected into a large pipe in the center. There was a valve to let clean water into the sludge pipes, and the sludge ran back out the same wall the water had come in.
This was a cleaning system. The stall floors could be washed clean, individually, and the waste water collected and flushed away.
Shanee admired the luxury for a moment. Then she checked the other walls. Nope, the only place the water entered or exited was the one wall.
Which was opposite the side of corral.
The water in the pump was not refilled from here.
Back in the meadow, Shanee pondered. There was no obvious place for the water in the pump to come from, unless you counted the stream.
Wait. The stream... It could replenish a natural underground water source. But no water expert would put a well right next to a stream; the point of the well was to get clean water. So the well would have been dug far enough away for the ground to filter the water.
But if the people placing the nanobots didn't know that, they would just place the nanobots in the stream, letting them feed to the well with the water. They might dump a few in pump itself, just to be sure...
Which would have been in that sludge she pumped out...
So the water in the well should be clean. The nanobots would be in the stream, but filtered by the ground. The backup plan would have been washed away when she ran the first pump through.
She could drink! An unexpected wave of relief washed over Shanee: she hadn't realized just how much she had been worried about the situation she was in.
Or how thirsty she was.
First though, she should get rid of the nanobots. Carefully, she emptied the trough onto the ground, making sure none of it splashed on her.
Then, carefully, she pumped two more pumps through, just to be sure. The pump was primed now; after each pump it ran on its own for a moment. Shanee was sure she didn't want to drink from the trough: she had not scrubbed it clean, just emptied it, but after her next pump she cupped her hands under the spout and drank.
The water was heavenly. Cool and clear, just the way well water should be, it sent a tingle down her throat. Alternating pumping and drinking, she drank till she was full.
Much better. She stood and stretched, checking herself over mentally to be sure she was ok.
Well, she wasn't a sex-starved nymphomaniac.
Pleased with her success, Shanee headed back into the stable. She felt a little braver now; she had outsmarted that creep running this island. She wanted to see just what those store rooms had hid. Maybe she'd do a little 'rearranging' herself...
The first room was the room she had checked: Saddles, blankets. Stuff she mostly recognized, or at least recognized what it had been modified from. She left it alone for now. She wanted to see the other room.
She had briefly glanced into the room before, noticed it was more storage, and left it alone. Now, braver, she wanted to know what it stored.
It was - odd. She wasn't sure exactly what she was looking at, except that some of it seemed to be designed to be worn. The only thing she did recognize was the row of boots along one wall, but even those were off, somehow.
They were tall boots, in two different styles. Half were flat, but oddly shaped. Shanee couldn't see how a foot would fit in them. The others were high-heeled, without the heel. She wondered if you could actually walk in them.
Well, she could always try them on. They were tall, thigh-high at least; she would have to take off her pants to get them on. But no-one else was around, and she was curious.
Shanee's pants went in the corner, next to her shoes and socks that she had been carrying since the beach. On an afterthought, she added her panties to the pile.
Who knew what those boots would try to get into.
It took Shanee a moment to find her size, but she found a pair she could get into. They were tall, easily past her thighs. She put them on, and tried to stand.
She immediately fell over, off balance.
Experimenting, Shanee found she could move around on them ok if she leaned forward a little, or better yet if she leaned on the wall. The horseshoes on the bottoms made a fun clomping noise with each step. She wanted to stomp around in them.
She traced the wall around, having fun stomping, using the wall for balance. Once she grabbed on what she thought was a whisk, only to have it come away from the wall as she fell. Looking closer, it appeared to be a stick-on tail. Shanee tried sticking it to her tailbone.
What do you know? It stuck!
Shanee swished it a couple of times, just to see it sway. The hair against her bare bottom felt good; she could almost see why someone would try this.
Still, how were you supposed to walk in these things?
The next time she fell, she was back near the boots. She wondered if she could use them to stabilize herself; they were definitely tall enough. She grabbed a pair of the weird ones she couldn't figure out how to put a foot in.
Well, they were just right to put a hand in. She slid a pair up her arms, so the top brushed her T-shirt, and found there was a platform to put her hands on in them.
This was better.
Shanee tried clomping around in them a moment, but found herself cramped in the small storage room. The center stable area was better. She was staring to get the hang of this; she could move around fairly easily now. Clomping was getting boring; Shanee wanted to move.
She wandered to the open corral doors, and whinnied. Now there was a place for a pony to run and play.