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!"
.... There is more of this story ...