Megan rarely tired of examining the scenery of an alien world, but she let it go by unnoticed as the floater made its way towards Jason's farm. She watched Sissy closely.
Sissy, for her part, had all her attention on the cube of Jason's image. She cradled it, kissed it, and overall on the surface she appeared content with it. While obviously it could never take the place of Jason's actual, physical presence, it did, as Megan had seen before, keep Sissy occupied when she couldn't be with him. It surprised Megan a little that the cube was still working, after all this time. Megan doubted Sissy had ever been away from Jason for such an extended period before.
Megan was still amazed to be making this trip at all. After Dion had returned to a puzzled Megan's room a number of hours after abruptly leaving it -- she didn't know how long it was, but she'd had enough time to fully test the toilet, and to struggle with her bonds until her wrists and ankles were bleeding -- he had led her, still naked and chain-hobbled, her hands still trapped behind her, down a succession of hallways and eventually out a door to the waiting floater. She wasn't worried that she was being led to her death, or torture, or anything else unpalatable. Dion had radiated an amazement equal to her own the whole time, and Megan decided that anything he thought was a bad idea was probably good for her.
Megan was cautiously excited to be leaving Olympus, and brushed aside any self-consciousness about being nude. They had passed a few men along the way out of the building, who had been surprised and had given Megan long, intent looks, since everything was out there to be seen, but it was Megan's impression that some signal from Dion had encouraged them to move along.
As they waited by the floater, another man had led Sissy out the door. Sissy, as soon as she saw Megan, broke into a huge grin, and said, clearly, "Sisss-sy!"
Megan's jaw had dropped. It was the first time Sissy had said the entire word. Megan had wished she could hug her, but her hands behind her twisted uselessly in the cuffs. Sissy's attention was soon recaptured by the cube. Sissy had, of course, been excited to see any friendly face at all, but there was one face more important to her than any other.
So much potential! thought Megan. All of Janica's genes, therefore all of her intelligence. A potential never realized. Potential squashed by the men who ran this world.
Megan started thinking again about escape -- she had thought she would never leave Olympus, but here she was, on the outside. Not through her own efforts, but if they kept allowing her any degree of freedom similar to this, they could make a mistake. Megan vowed to keep an eye out for any opportunity, and to take it. I can't take all these women home with me, she reminded herself, or probably even any of them. But our people will come back to this world, when I tell them what I know. Sissy will have a life on Earth. All of them will.
Dion had put the floater down at the very edge of Jason's farm. Megan recognized the barn and the farmhouse. In the distance, in a field, she spotted Jason, about a hundred yards away.
Dion pushed the door open. It's time, Megan thought, her heart heavy. As unready as Megan felt to lose Sissy -- it seemed very likely she would never see her again, unless Megan could escape -- Megan leaned towards the cube-absorbed Sissy, and gestured with her chin in Jason's direction.
It took Sissy a few seconds to get the hint and look in just the right direction, but there was no mistaking the instant she saw Jason. Letting loose an overjoyed squeal, Sissy bolted from the floater and took off towards Jason at a dead run.
I love you, Sissy, thought Megan, brushing a tear away with her shoulder. This isn't the kind of life I want for you, but I hope you are always as happy as you are right this minute.
Megan bit her lip. Happy. That was what Dion had said. The women here were happy, content, satisfied. And who was Megan to...
No!! Dion is a smooth talker, Megan told herself, and he got me muddled and confused, for a time. But only for a time. These women have to be rescued, and these men have to be stopped from doing this to anyone else.
While watching Sissy take a flying leap at Jason and wrap her arms and legs around him, Megan said to Dion, "You don't want to go over there and explain?"
"I'd need to take you with me. And wouldn't that be awkward."
"I guess that's right. He thinks my name is Martin."
Dion let out a genuine laugh, the first one without a smirk. He closed the door of the floater and, lifting off from the ground, reversed course and headed back to Olympus.
Megan had been waiting for this moment for another reason, beyond wanting to restore Sissy to the place where she was happy. It represented to Megan, as far as she could determine, the end of any leverage that might be exercised against her. She was sure they wanted something from her. She had no idea what it might be, but she was alive, they were being nice to her, and they were giving her a certain tiny amount of freedom. There had to be a reason. They couldn't put pressure on Megan now by threatening Sissy, having let her go. Admittedly, they could go get her and bring her back, but if they intended to use her in such a way, why release her to begin with? That left only Janica, the real Janica, as a possible pressure point against Megan, and Megan, much as she still tried to deny it, did believe Dion when he said Janica and the others were dead. If she were alive, Dion would have said so, because the gods had to know Megan would do whatever they wanted her to do if it meant she could spare Janica any pain, and for that to work Megan had to believe Janica was alive. If Dion had claimed that she was alive, Megan would have made him prove it, and the gods knew that too. The fact Dion didn't make such a claim had to be because he couldn't prove it. Her sister must really be gone.
Megan wondered why she didn't burst into tears, if she felt Janica's death was beyond doubt. But Dion, it seemed, had been right. Megan really, really didn't want Janica to be living in a place like this, to live with the memories of the experiences she had had. Janica, from what Dion had told Megan, had suffered enough while she was alive. Megan, as empty as she felt at losing her sister, did feel relieved that the suffering was over.
Megan suddenly remembered that night long ago, at home, when her mother had had Janica over for dinner, celebrating Janica's first visit home since she had graduated from the Academy. Megan, all of twelve years old, sat in awe of Janny, freshly commissioned as a second lieutenant, sitting there at the table in her sparkling Space Force uniform, and Megan had peppered her with questions inspired by absurdly romantic ideas of what service in the Force would consist of. Janica had done her best not to laugh at the stupidest of the questions. Megan had listened with fascination to the answers, but what excited her most of all was simply the honor of Janica paying attention to her. Megan had built up a larger-than-life image of Janica during her extended absences from home, and now here she was, letting Megan into her world!
Gone now. Janica was gone.
Megan found she did need to brush some tears away.
To cover her sudden access to emotion, Megan decided it was time to try to pierce the veil of mystery as to exactly what was going on. They wanted something, and were trying to get it by kindness because, in releasing Sissy, they had apparently discarded the idea of doing it by threats. "So what's the plan?"
Dion gave her a sidelong look. "Excuse me?"
"What do you want out of me? You've got me. You want to use me for something. You use all women for something. What is it?"
"Ah." Unexpected by Megan, he smiled. I'm glad you finally asked, the smile seemed to say. "I was going to tell you when we got back. You remember I'm in charge of entertainment, right?"
Oh, right, thought Megan. Dionysus. God of fun. Well, boozing and fun. She hadn't really expected that to be relevant to the conversation. "What's that consist of? What do you really do? You seem to be an important person here." Megan was remembering the authority he seemed to exercise on their walk through the building.
"Well, entertainment is important. Sometimes, as one example, I stage wrestling matches between specially trained dollies, either on a stage or in mud. They go on until one is unable to extricate herself for a specified amount of time."
Megan curled her lip in disgust, and then her eyes shot open suddenly. That, she realized, had probably been what was happening the night she invaded Olympus. She recalled the shouting, something like cheering, the source of which she had avoided and never identified. If everyone had been watching a wrestling match, that probably explained why the rest of the building had been deserted.
("No, Dion, do not tell her about the fights." That referred to another of Dion's occasional stage productions, in which full-bodied clones, driven to pharmaceutically-inspired rage, fought to the death with fists and fingernails; alternatively two clones in dog form would fight each other, with sharpened teeth as weapons. "She would be horrified and infuriated, and it would create resistance to the treatment." Dion had seen the point this time.)
Dion went on, "And I organize the races. Horses, or dogs. Sometimes amateur races, where local farmers bring their own girlimals, and we also have our own stable of horses and kennel of dogs specially trained for racing. A lot of money changes hands."
It occurred to Megan that for the women involved to understand what was expected of them in a race, or in a wrestling match, it must have been another part of the sleep-training -- which in turn meant that the original Aurora crew members had been forced to model the behavior. Two, perhaps three of the crew, the ones who'd been surgically turned into quadrupeds, had been forced to race against each other, most likely inspired in the usual way -- threats of torture to one of their crewmates if they didn't perform to the best of their abilities. And similarly with those who had modeled horses. Megan was glad, once more, that the crew were gone now and didn't have to remember that humiliation.
And Megan couldn't miss where this was leading. Her blood ran cold. She glared at Dion. "So I'm supposed to do something like that?"
"Oh, no. In your case something new, something different from what we've done before."
That failed to make Megan feel any better. "Some new twist you came up with?" Even without hearing it, Megan felt sure she'd better make her escape before it was put into action.
"Well, Mens is actually in charge of the project, but the original idea was mine."
"Yes, the god of mind and consciousness. He handles all of the theory and research on psychological conditioning. The dream-teaching, the imprinting of dollies, all of that type of thing."
"Mens was a female deity."
Dion looked at Megan and grinned. "So the books say. We just say the Greeks were wrong about that." He guided the floater to a landing at Olympus, near the door they had left from.
"So what's the idea?"
"I'm not allowed to say. But I can tell you that it will involve something you will actually want to do."
Megan almost laughed out loud. "That sounds pretty damned unlikely. Unless you're talking about letting me out of here to fly back to Earth, there isn't anything you could come up with that I could possibly want to do." Yet it seemed to fit, in some mysterious way. Unlike the case of the Aurora crew, there appeared to be no plans to torture someone Megan cared about to force her cooperation. The only such person alive was Sissy, and Megan reminded herself once more that if they'd meant to use Sissy against her, they would have held onto her.
"I assure you, you'll feel differently." Dion gave her another smile. The return of the smirk. He reached into a pack beside him. "Drink?"
Megan loathed the drinking process, once more involving Dion holding out a bottle with a phallic-shaped nipple for her to drink from. But she was, once again, too thirsty to refuse, and any refusal could only be temporary anyway. She gritted her teeth, then opened her mouth for the nipple.
After a few swallows, she suddenly felt sleepy. She wasn't under any illusions about the reason. Shit, she thought, they drugged me.
Her last memory was of leaning against Dion's shoulder.