The sea was an even deeper blue than the tropical sky, but the breakers kicked up by the recent storm that pounded against his island's reef in billows of sparkling white only sent ripples across the lagoon. The sun was warm on his back as Greg Barstow walked along the beach in his usual garb of ragged cutoffs and sneakers. His self-imposed exile might be lonesome, but at least here he was safe, as safe as he could be anywhere on Earth, He opened his mind to the currents of thought that surrounded him, expecting only weak flickers of sensation from fish and other aquatic creatures that occupied the calm waters of the lagoon.
What he found was something else, an elemental scream of fear from a mind as human as his own! It was weak, disjointed, from a mind facing extinction, and it came from just beyond the reef. Even as he listened the mind flickered, lapsing into the faint buzz of unconsciousness.
"Hold on," he sent, but there was no response to his call. Even as he probed for the strange mind, Greg was sprinting down the beach toward the dock that housed his boats. It was only the work of a moment to launch his small inflatable Zodiac skiff with its tiny but powerful outboard motor, and then he was arcing across the blue waters of the lagoon toward a break in the reef.
With the faint beacon of the other's mind to guide him he fought the battering waves, quickly locating the other craft, It was tiny, even smaller than his own, a Fiberglas dinghy nearly awash, kept afloat only by foam compartments in the bow and stern. The body that sprawled limply across the single seat was deathly still, he would have thought it dead but for the faint pulse of its mind. He forced his skiff between the dinghy and the breakers, only a few yards before it would have been crushed against the coral reef by the giant combers.
Greg hitched a line to its bow, revving his outboard to drag it away from the reef. It was touch and go for a few seconds, and then they were clear of danger. A few more minutes and they were back inside the lagoon, gliding across the still waters to the shore. Ignoring his dock, he drove the skiff at full throttle straight for the beach in front of his cabin, As soon as his skiff grated against the sand he was over its side, pulling the dinghy with its motionless occupant up on shore. As he had guessed from the brief mind touch, the castaway was a girl. No, not a girl but a woman he realized as he carried her ashore. She was clad only in a revealing bikini, her deeply tanned skin reddened by exposure to sun and wind, and he guessed that she was only a few years past her twenty birthday. She lay utterly limp in his arms as he carried her up the path to his cabin, but her breathing was strong and regular and he guessed that a modest amount of food, water and rest would soon see her up and about.
She moaned weakly as he massaged soothing oils into her reddened skin as she lay on his cot, but didn't wake until a little later when the smell of cooking food reached her sleeping mind. She gazed about wide-eyed, as though trying to reconcile her present surroundings with memories of drifting in a tiny boat.
His cabin might be small, but it had all of the amenities, including a small but modern kitchenette in one corner. Then she looked at him, as though studying his appearance. Greg knew what she was seeing; a man who looked to be in his mid-thirties, of about middle height and weight with blue eyes, his hair medium brown, a couple of shades darker than her own.
"I'm Greg Barstow, the man who rescued you. What's your name?"
"I'm Bambi. "She sat up, smiling sunnily up at him. "Are you my new Master?"
The answering smile froze on his lips. "Your... your master?"
"My Master sent me away. He... he told me to go away, to get lost." Her full lower lip quivered. "I got in the little boat, and rowed until I lost the oars. Do you think that he will be angry with me?"
"I don't think that you need to worry about your... your master. He can't find you here. You'd better have a bite to eat, and then we'11 talk some more."
"All right, Master." She swung her feet to the floor and stood up, staggering slightly until she caught her balance. Walking gracefully over to the table, she stood behind a chair and looked questioningly at him.
"Go ahead, sit down and eat. I'11 fix you something more substantial than soup and tea after your stomach has had time to get used to taking in food."
He studied her mind as she ate delicately but ravenously. The only clue he could find to her identity was her name, Bambi, That and the conviction that she had to belong to someone. Her only memories were of an island much like his own, but with a large house and landscaped grounds, a dozen or so servants, and a god-like figure who owned her and whom she served in every possible way. Of her life before she came there, or how she came to be the way she was, there was no trace.
Scanning more deeply, he was able to make out mental scars, seams where her memories had tiny gaps. He thought that he might be able to put her mind back the way it had been before someone refashioned it, but it would take time and effort. Oh, well. He had time, plenty of it. This had been one of the main reasons for his self-imposed exile, accepting the crushing burden of loneliness so that he wouldn't be tempted to tamper with people's minds like someone had done with hers.
Bambi sighed as she finished her soup, and pushed her chair back, standing before him with head bowed.
"What does my Master desire?"
"I'm not..." Greg paused, unsure of just what to say. This was no time to confuse her, and insisting that he wasn't her master would only set up new conflicts in her mind. "Why don't you take a shower. I'm sure that you would feel better with your hair shampooed and the rest of the salt off of your skin. The bathroom is right through there." He indicated a door in one wall.
Bambi headed eagerly toward the promised shower, reaching behind her to unfasten the top to her bikini as she went. By the time that the bathroom door closed behind her, the bottom was on its way to join its fellow garment. A few moments later, the sound of rushing water was overlaid by a melodious voice caroling a currently popular song.
While she was in the shower, Greg spread out a map of the surrounding ocean and its islands on the wooden kitchen table. Judging by her memories Bambi had floated in her little boat for at least five or six days, tossed by the recent storm and broiled by the tropical sun. She'd been incredibly lucky; the storm that had driven her to his island had also provided her with just enough fresh water to keep her alive during her ordeal.
The map showed ocean currents, giving both speed and direction, and he soon narrowed her most probable origin to a loose string of four or five islands. He had heard from the crew of the tramp steamer that brought his supplies that a rich American had an estate on a nearby island, but wasn't sure which one it was. He would have to check that out the next time they came by. It had been a couple of weeks since their last visit, so it wouldn't be much longer than that before they returned. He had better radio them to bring some clothes for his guest... No, on second thought that wouldn't be such a good idea after all, it might be smart to keep her presence a secret for now. He certainly didn't want her erstwhile master to come looking for her...
"There, Master, I'm all washed."
"You certainly are." Greg smiled at her words, appreciating the picture she made. "But don't you think that you should put your bikini back on?"
"But, why?" She looked puzzledly at him, her smile fading. "Don't you like the way I look? Anyway, it's still all wet."
"Never mind, you're just fine the way you are, but I'll bet that you are tired." He gently nudged her mind. "Why don't you lie down and take a nap?"
"I guess I am." She smothered a yawn as she stretched out on his cot, "So tired..." She wriggled a couple of times to get comfortable, then dropped into an easy sleep.
He deepened her slumber until she was completely entranced, then pulled a chair over by the head of the bed. At first his mental probe found no point of entry into her thoughts and memories, so he scrolled backward to the earliest memories she could access. He watched them replay as the plane she was riding in landed on a smooth strip of ground. It was as though she had just awakened from a deep sleep, with no memories from before that time. She was met by deferential servants who escorted her to an imposing mansion and brought her before the man who would be her master.
"Your name is Bambi," he told her, and she shivered with delight at the thought of having a name of her own. At his command she disrobed, proudly displaying her body for his inspection.
"Excellent," he said, as though to himself. "Well worth what she cost. Oliver, show her where she is to stay and teach her what her duties will be."
Greg fast-forwarded her memories through the months that followed, watching as she served her master's sexual and other needs, and those of his guests, both male and female, singly and in groups. Her last memory of the island was of the day when she annoyed her master by spilling a drink in his lap...
"Go away, damnit! Get out of here, you stupid bitch. Go on, get lost!"
Fleeing in terror from his (to her) godlike wrath, she stumbled sobbing down a path to the shore. Seeing a tiny boat, she climbed aboard and pushed off, rowing with all of her might toward she knew not what. Her only thought was to get as far away as she could, following her Master's shouted command. When her strength gave out she slumped in the bottom of the boat, not caring when the oars slipped from her grasp and floated away.
Returning to her earliest memories, he poked and pried at them, seeking any point where they connected to something earlier. There was no way he could change her motivations unless he could reach the memories they were anchored to. All that he could do without that leverage was to overlay her compulsions with new commands, leaving her confused and unhappy, prey to the tension of conflicting desires. He scanned the instant when she awoke on the plane, unraveling each faint strand of thought that made up her compulsions.
There! A tiny break in the flow of memory let him follow it back, back to a voice that told her what to remember, what to forget, what to think. Just the words, and the thoughts, with no sound to home in on, but it was enough.
"You will live for your Master, die for your Master, and his wishes will be your only desires. You will do what he commands, and you will strive to please him, try to do what he wants even before he tells you what it is that he wants."
There was more, but it was all along the same lines. Commands to forget what she had been, who she had been, what her life had been up to that time. Commands for her body to remain in a constant state of eager readiness for sex in any form. As long as the compulsions were in force she had no past, no life beyond that urgent need for sex, and could conceive of no life but the one that had been forced upon her. Greg scowled angrily, erasing the commands as he came across them, releasing her mind from its constraints until at last he had done all that he could for her. Not many of her memories had come back; she still didn't remember her name, where she had been raised, or what her family had been like, but the compulsions were gone as though they had never been, replaced by a few simple directives to ease her transition to normalcy.
"Wake up," he told her. "It's time to get up."
"Greg? Yes, you're Greg, but who am I?" She sat up, still unconcerned that she wore no clothes. She felt a surge of sexual heat, of desire for him, for any man or woman, but it faded almost as it was born. " I'm not Bambi, but who am I? What's my name?"
"I don't know. I couldn't find a name in your memories. You'1l have to pick one out for yourself. What would you like to be called?"
"One of the cooks on the island was named Elizabeth. She was always kind to me. Would it be all right if I call myself Betty?" She looked to him for reassurance that she was doing the right thing.
"It's up to you, but Betty is a very pretty name and it suits you. Choose it if you want to."
"I will! Betty. I'm Betty!" She smiled triumphantly, jumping to her feet with almost childish delight and running into the bathroom to stare at herself in the mirror before dancing back to face Greg. "I'm Betty, and I'm pretty!"
"Yes, you're very pretty. Now, about something for you to wear..."
"Pooh! It's too warm for clothes. You certainly know what I look like without them, and there's nobody else here." She hesitated for a moment. "There isn't anyone else here, is there?"
"No, there's nobody else here, and there won't be for another couple of weeks."
"Wel1, then! There's no reason for me to wear clothes.
Greg shook his head in defeat, realizing that she needed to assert her independence after being controlled for so long. Anyway, it wasn't as though he didn't go unclad when he felt like it, alone here on his island.
The next few days were an idyll of tropical days and starlit nights as Bambi, now Betty, laughed and played and swam in the sheltered lagoon, chasing after the jewel fish that swarmed in its calm waters. Greg joined in her play, knowing that her battered mind was healing with every day that she relaxed and enjoyed herself, Finally...
"Greg?" She looked up at him from across the table where they were enjoying a breakfast of pan-fried fish fresh-caught just that morning.
'Yes?" He looked back at her, smiling, but seeing a trace of worry in her blue eyes.
"What if my... my old master comes looking for me?"
"We'l1 handle that problem when and if it arrives, but I don't think there's much danger of that happening."
"All right." Betty looked back down at her plate for a moment, but didn't resume eating. "But what if he does?"
"You're really worried, aren't you? All right, you've got a point. I was waiting until you were stronger, but I think that you're there already. What we're going to do is strike first, before he has a chance to do anything." Greg pushed his chair back from the table. Going to a wall cabinet, he got out the map that he'd studied when she first arrived. Pushing dishes aside, he spread it out before her.
"Here's our island, and this is the way the currents must have brought you. Do any of these islands look familiar?"
"I don't know... , that's the one! I remember that funny looking point. That's where the dock is, and the landing strip is right along here. The house is right in the middle of the island, and the rest of the buildings are over there." She pointed out features that she hadn't consciously remembered before looking at the map.
Greg carefully memorized her words and the mental pictures that went along with them. When he was sure that he had it all, he rolled up the map and returned it to its case.
"All right, here's what we'll do..."
The next morning, even before the sky to the east showed a tinge of gray, the two of them pushed off from his dock in a somewhat larger version of the inflatable skiff he'd used to rescue her. Nosing out through the opening in the reef, they were soon skimming over long swells, heading into the constant wind and current that swept this part of the sea. Greg had added a jacket to his usual garb of shorts and sneakers, and Betty had wrapped a length of cloth around her body in unconscious imitation of a Polynesian sarong.
The seas grew higher as they traveled, until the craft was rising to the crest of each swell, then crashing down into the trough on the far side. Betty crouched in the bow, laughing with delight as the spray lashed her bare skin. She'd soon discarded her sarong, stowing it in the compartment under her seat.
The morning sun was still low in the sky when the island that was their goal rose into sight over the horizon. Greg throttled back the powerful outboard and slowly crept closer, coming up on the least developed side of the island, constantly scanning his surroundings for any sign of the mental activity that would mean that they had been seen.
"All clear so far," he told Betty as their craft slid easily up onto the beach of a tiny cove on the crest of a breaker. They jumped out, pulling the craft higher on the sand, and Betty reluctantly wrapped her sarong around herself. There was no coral reef on this side of the island, and the waves beat against the shore in a constant thunder of spray and foam. "Now, let ' s find one of the workers."
The native plants soon gave way to more ordered growth. Greg followed a soft mumble of mental activity to where a gardener was tilling the soil around the roots of a newly planted shrub. His mind quickly yielded up a more complete map of the island and they left him still working, completely unaware that anything out of the ordinary was happening. Nor would he be aware of anything else unusual, Greg had made sure of that with a set of implanted commands. They encountered other workers as they proceeded toward the house and each time Greg repeated the process, each time learning more about the workings of the island estate.
They circled the house, making sure that they had reached everyone who was working outside before walking up to the kitchen entrance.
"Bambi?" The woman who turned to meet them was at least as large as Greg and heavier, with ebony skin and tightly curled hair that was turning iron gray. "It is you! You didn't drown like Mr. Curran said! But why did you come back?"
"I had to, Elizabeth, but I'm not Bambi any more. My name is Betty. I named myself after you. This is Greg. He freed my mind from what had been done to it, and we've come back to make sure that it doesn't happen to anyone else."
"Praise the Lord! If you can do that, I'll do anything I can to help. This place has been a nest of vipers for too long."
"Hey What's going on..."
The man who burst in on them was fat and arrogant, dressed in what looked like some kind of uniform, He hurled himself at the smaller man before Greg had time to react, but before Greg could seize control of his mind there was a loud clang and the man crumpled to the floor, stunned.
"Thanks, Elizabeth." Greg grinned at the older woman, who stood triumphantly over the man with a cast iron skillet in one fist.
"That's Oliver, the Master's personal servant," Betty gasped, her face contorted in a grimace of revulsion and hatred, "He was the first one who..."
"Well, he won't be doing it any more." Greg went into the half-conscious man's mind, making quick and sure adjustments to his pattern of thoughts. Oliver got unsteadily to his feet, looking blankly at nothing in particular. "He won't remember even seeing us, though he may wonder just how he came by that knot on his skull. "Oliver!" He spoke in a commanding voice. "Take us all through the house. We need to meet everyone who is here, except Mr. Curran. We'11 take care of him later."
"Yes, sir." Oliver's voice was without emotion. "As you command, sir."
The sweep of the house didn't take long, and soon they were gathered outside the door to the master bedroom suite.
"Nobody will take any notice of us from now on," Greg told Elizabeth, who had quietly insisted on coming with them, "Now for the Master,"
Oliver opened the door, holding it for them to pass through. The bedroom was kept at a chilly temperature by efficient air conditioning, and the owner of the island was a huddled lump under a mound of covers. The first he knew of his visitors was when Greg roughly shook him awake. He sat up abruptly, a plump middle- aged man with thinning dark hair. He glared at them with unconcealed arrogance.
"Huh? What? Who are you, and what are you doing here? Oliver? Why have you let these people in? Get them out of here, right now!"
"Don't bother to shout at your man," Greg told him. "He isn't listening."
"Who are you? What do you want? Nobody comes to my island without my permission. At least you brought back my Bambi toy. I suppose that you want some kind of a reward for bringing her back to me."
"I'm not your Bambi toy any more! My name is Betty, and I don't belong to anybody but myself."
"No, she isn't your toy, and you won't be replacing her with another one like her, either." Greg frowned as he studied the older man's thoughts. "You don't even know how you came by her, do you?"
"Of course I do. I paid a half a million for her when I bought her from... from..." His words stumbled to a halt as he realized that his mind held no memories at all of her seller. "What have you done to me?"
"That's not my doing. Apparently your supplier wasn't taking any chances of being tracked down. Interesting, that could mean that there's someone beside me to worry about. All right, you can go back to sleep now." Greg made a few changes in the man's mind as it hovered on the brink of sleep. "You won't remember any of this, but you won't have any desire to own another sex toy slave, either. In fact, your life should be quite different from now on."
He turned to Oliver.
"Call everyone on the island to a meeting on the front verandah. I have things to te11 them, and guestions to ask."