by Doreen DaBinett.

        Logram looked up long before a brief knock sounded and the door to his office swung open. He had been expecting a delegation from the moment he had made his announcement earlier in the day; but he had not expected them to arrive this quickly.

        'Have you got a minute? I think you know why we're here.' Denise said, as she edged her way into his office followed by three others, including his own companion, all of whom were Gen.

        Biting back a sigh, Logram smiled as he indicated the chairs lined up against the far wall. 'Take a seat all of you.' He waited patiently as his visitors pulled the chairs forward towards his desk and then sat down. 'I take it that you've come to discuss my announcement?'

        'Yes, we have.' Denise glanced around at her fellow Gens before she said, 'we think you're being a little precipitate.'

        'And why's that?

        'Logram, I know you want to push this thing along as quickly as you can, and we understand that, we do…but truthfully, I — we — in fact… I know I am speaking for all the Gens, when I say we don't agree with your analysis — or your decision — on this occasion.'

        'Denise, we can't hold things back any longer. We have to prove to Ryan that we trust him. If we don't, then how long do you think he will put up with things as they are at the moment?'

        'Look, Logram, none of us deny that Ryan has worked harder than most to assimilate everything you've taught him. The renSimes that he's been serving say he's already every bit as good as you.'

        Logram laughed out loud as he shook his head ruefully. 'You don't have to worry about my feelings my dear, I am well aware that young Farris is far, far better at giving transfer than me. In fact, he has learned quickly and efficiently everything that I have been able to teach him; and during all this time he hasn't uttered one word of complaint. What more do you expect from him?' He glanced around at each of the Gens before he went on, 'in fact, I believe that if we don't show him that we now trust him, then how much longer do you think he'll continue to cooperate with us?'

        'We know what you're saying Logram, we really do, but quite honestly all of the Gens — and not just us — believe that this is all happening far too quickly.'

        'Too quickly?' Logram threw his hands and tentacles into the air in despair. 'It's been three months since he disjuncted. How much longer can we expect him to wait for our trust? Shen it! The man's a virtual prisoner, and it can't go on like this.'

         'Twelve weeks is not a long time, not when you take into consideration that the safety of everyone both here, on the farm, and at our safe houses depends on him.'

        'Are you trying to say that I am not taking that into consideration?' Logram demanded — frustration and a touch of anger entering his voice for the first time.

        'No, of course not. We are saying that as always you're relying too damn much on being able to zlin!' Gynon stated.

        'Look, I fully realise that Gens can't zlin; that you have to rely on any number of outside components to help you make your mind up and come to a conclusion. But if you were able to zlin, then believe me when I say that you wouldn't be sitting in front of me now saying any of this.'

        'Maybe not. Maybe you're right, because if we could zlin we, too, would be taken in by him — just the same as you and all the other Simes are.' One of the other Gens said.

        'Look. All I am giving him is the freedom to walk around the farm on his own, nothing more.' Logram zlinned all the Gens, then shook his head slowly as he said, 'there really is no way that I can convince any of you, is there?'

        Denise bit her lip as she confessed, 'no I guess there isn't.'

        'And that being the case, there's really no reason why we should continue this discussion. Look, I hate to pull rank, and you all know that I very rarely do so, but in this instance…' He hesitated for a few moments, then went on, 'all I can do is ask that you trust me over this.'

        'So, you won't reconsider and leave things as they are for another few months?' Denise begged.

        'No, I won't — I can't. At the moment Ryan is cooperating fully with us, but I sense that he's beginning to get restless. He has to be allowed the freedom to move around, unrestricted, at least within the confines of the farm.

'Look, my dear, as you all know, one day soon I am hoping to be able to hand over the running of this farm — this new Householding if you will — to Ryan Farris. Of course, I'll look after the general administration and day to day running of the place in the beginning, but in all other respects Ryan will be in ultimate control…he will — in essence — be our Sectuib.'

        The Gens sat and stared at him in silence till Denise finally said, 'And that's your final word?'

        'It is.'

        'Very well.'

        Suddenly another voice spoke up, 'But, Denise…'

        'Marcus no! Logram has brought us this far. If he's this certain that he's right about this, then we have to trust him. Agreed?' She glanced around at her fellow Gens who each slowly nodded their heads. Denise stood up. 'Thanks for your time, Logram. We all felt that we had to put our objections on record.'

        'Yes, of course.' Logram stood up and watched as the delegation of Gens filed out of his office — zlinning them as they walked down the corridor — well aware of the doubts that still assailed each of them.


        Ryan Farris wiped the smug expression off his face as he zlinned the Gen's approach. The door to his room stood open and the two renSimes who had been stationed outside his room had now been withdrawn. He waited as Denise approached his room and then stood uncertainly in the entrance. 'May I come in?'

        'Of course; as a matter of fact I've wanted to have a word with you for some time now, but there's always been others present,' he confessed with a warm smile.

        Denise walked across the floor and sat down in the chair nearest the door.

        'I suppose you've heard the news?' She asked softly.

        'I take it you're referring to Logram's announcement concerning me?' Ryan said quietly.

Denise nodded her head.

'I also take it that you aren't in agreement with him — am I correct?'

        'Yes, you're right. To be honest, neither I, nor any of the other Gens believe that you're fully committed to us — not yet.' She challenged openly.

        Ryan sighed. 'Well, before we take that premise any further, may I first offer you my sincere apologies for the way I've treated you in the past? My only excuse is that I was brought here initially, as you know, against my wishes. I'm sorry to say that I decided to take my hostility out against you. I really am very sorry, indeed, for that.' He paused and then said softly — and with as much honesty as he could muster, 'I don't expect you to accept my apologies of course; but perhaps in time you'll come to realise that I'm being totally frank.' He smiled at her again, his eyes capturing hers as he said, 'can we at least call a truce?'

        Denise stared at him he seemed to be utterly sincere. Could she have been wrong in her reading of this man?

        Ryan could zlin her confusion at his words which were so out of character for him; but she could not zlin him, and to her limited senses his sincerity was clear, both in the expression on his face and the open stance of his body.

         'Please don't make me beg…forgive me.' He forced the words out as he held out his right hand in the Gen manner then fought to keep the triumphant look off his face as she shyly reached to take his hand. 'Thank you Denise.' Carefully he extended his tentacles and wrapped them gently around her wrist to enforce the candour of his words, before he, once again, released her.


        For the remainder of the month Ryan made no move to go further afield than the borders of the farm. Neither did he ask to accompany any of the expeditions that were travelling to the various towns in their vicinity to either buy or sell crops or other wares, or make contact with the friends or relations of some of the Simes who had joined them over the months.

Of course, Ryan dearly wished to know who these people were and where they lived. It was information that, he had little doubt, would prove to be important, once he had escaped from here. But he also knew that to show an undue interest in these things now could also be his downfall. No, at the moment he had to play the role he had chosen for himself; for while he could fool his fellow Simes easily enough, as he had realised in the beginning, the Gens were not so easily duped. But with luck, Denise — if he could win her over — might well prove to be his greatest — albeit unwitting — ally.


        As the month finally drew to a close, Ryan lay on his bed and went over the previous day's events. He had taken transfer from Denise as usual, but this time she, and not Carris, had spent the Postsyndrome hours with him — and it had been everything that he had expected it could be — and then some.

Yes, he was certainly looking forward to taking her home, and when he did he would build a holding shed just to accommodate her. That way there was no possibility that any of the Gen studs would get to her — including his brother — who had always tried to take his toys away from him in the past when they were children. Back then it hadn't really bothered him when Dermott did this, because nothing that he owned had seemed to be that valuable to him and could easily be replaced but now… His eyes flew open and he sat up on the bed. Since when had Denise become valuable? She was nothing more than a Gen. What was the value in that? He Killed a Gen every month didn't he? At least he used to Kill…but now…

Leaping out of bed, he walked naked across to the small window and stared out at the few stars that he could see through the pane of glass; as his mind ranged over any number of things that he got pleasure from here at the farm.

First there was transfer with Denise and the time they spent together afterward. Second there was the companionship of all the young Simes and Gens who intermingled with each other and ran around the place unrestricted in their movements. And thirdly, there was the transfer that he gave to his fellow Simes.

In the beginning it had seemed a strange and alien thing to do, to give transfer — to take selyn from docile Gens and pass it on to others of his kind. Now, it was something that he looked forward to, almost as much as his own transfer.

On top of that he didn't suffer from any of the hundreds of small irritating things that had plagued his life in the past. Logram still maintained that this was due to him being a Farris and the fact that he was having proper transfers now and was not resorting to the Kill…but if that was so...

He frowned. Surely one of the things he had been looking forward to — was still looking forward to — was Killing Marcus. He had been waiting so long, and he had promised himself this Kill — a reward for his endless patience. But how long was it since he had really thought about that in any depth? Too long!

Indeed, truth be told, he wasn't really interested in Killing anyone now, not even Marcus and that just wasn't natural, it was perverted and unclean. A Sime was born to Kill — fact! A Sime longed for Killbliss when he drained the life from a warm breathing body and took that life into himself to sustain him for one more month — fact! A shudder ran through him at the memory — and when it was over a Sime would also find himself holding a lifeless corpse in his tentacles, the dead eyes staring up at him in horrified accusation…

What was wrong with him? Was he ill, or had this place begun to turn him away from being a real Sime into a… no he wouldn't even say the word. The word was dirty, it was unnatural, it was… Returning quickly to the bed he lay down and pulled the single cover up around his ears and willed himself to forget.


Logram smiled at his fellow Channel as he sat down facing him behind the large desk. 'Thank you for coming. I wondered if you'd like to get away from the farm for awhile Ryan? Nik has asked to go and see his parents on the outskirts of Boston, and Cook has asked us to fetch an order of herbs from the same town. Maybe you'd like to do that for us while he is visiting? Of course you don't have to go…' He said, as Ryan appeared to hesitate.

'Of course, I'll go. I'm just surprised that you're prepared to trust me like this.' He said honestly.

'Well, needless to say, we've got to trust you some time. It might as well be now.' Logram confessed at once.

'Who else will be going with us?'

'No one, just you and Nik. You'll have to make an early start in the morning, and you can arrange between yourselves to meet up later in the day to return here.'


Logram could not keep the look of triumph off his face as Nik and Ryan finally rode up to the farm. 'They're back!' He stated quietly, satisfaction evident in every word.

Denise, who was standing at the window beside him, gave a sigh of relief as the two men dismounted and walked their mounts towards the stables. 'Yes, they are.' She smiled across at the Channel and then challenged him. 'Be honest, Logram, you were just as worried as me about whether Nik would come back here on his own.'

'Oh, no, not really. I…' then seeing the look on Denise's face, he smiled and went on, 'well— perhaps I harboured one or two doubts… but it was a chance we had to take sooner or later. It paid off, didn't it?'

'Yes, you have the luck of the devil, Logram. I just hope it continues.' The Gen murmured as she walked towards the door, a smile of relief on her lovely face.

'It will, Denise, I'm sure it will.' He paused and then went on, 'Just one more thing before you go...'

She hesitated with her hand on the door handle, 'Yes?'

'How are you and Ryan getting along now? Carris mentioned that he didn't spend his Post transfer time with her last month and I wondered...?'

Denise laughed softly, 'As a matter of fact, I think Ryan and I are coming to an — understanding — nothing more.'

'But it might come to something more, given time?' The Channel pressed hopefully.

'You're a devious man Logram Farris. If you're hoping that I might be another link in the chain that will bind him to this place — then don't hold your breath. I doubt very much that he sees me in that light. I simply give him satisfactory transfers, and now provide him with sexual relief, nothing more.' She admitted bluntly and then grinned at him as she said, 'take my advice, don't hold your breath.'

'As always, Denise, you underestimate your worth.' The Channel said quietly. 'Satisfactory transfers indeed! Young Farris must count himself lucky, indeed, to have someone like you.'

'You're a born optimist, do you know that?'

'Maybe. I always live in hope.' He smiled wryly as he moved away from the window to sit down. 'I'll see you at dinner tonight.'

The door closed behind the young Gen. Logram flopped down into his chair and ran his tentacles through his hair. “Ryan has returned!” He whispered the words to himself. “Shen it, Logram, the chances you take!” And he shook his head and closed his eyes in relief.


Ryan stood at the gate that lead to the orchard and stared out across the fields. Since his trip to Boston with Nik, and his safe return, he had felt a distinct change in the attitude of a majority of the Gens to his presence. The Simes, of course, had long since been won over. As he had anticipated, the Gens had taken much longer. Yes, he had been wise not to jump at the chance of freedom when it had been offered to him. Now, he could bring his plans to fruition in his own good time.


Another month slipped silently by, the harvest had been gathered in and the fruit had been bottled for winter, while the vegetables had been stored underground. More Gens were arriving, brought by the families of the Simes who had already joined them. Gens had to be fed no matter what the weather.

By now, Ryan had got into the rhythm of life on the farm, and had even joined in with the others when they had discussed the naming of the new Householding.

By the end of the evening they had narrowed it down to three names and a vote had been taken. The winner by a large margin had been fairly obvious to Ryan, even before the vote — Probity — the House of Probity.

Logram had pointed out that it had a good ring to it, and meant everything that the new House stood for: fairness, honesty, honour integrity and justice.

Ryan had been careful to keep the sneer off his face and cynicism from his voice when he cast his vote; and had met Denise's sweet smile with one of his own.

Then, a few days later, Ryan's chance finally came.


'Come in Ryan.'

The Channel entered the office and smiled as he saw Logram kneeling on the floor, as he picked up a pile of papers that had slid off his desk when a sudden breeze had blown through the open window.

'Want a hand with that?' Ryan asked obligingly, but Logram stood up shaking his head ruefully as he placed the papers back onto the desk and anchored them with a large green stone that he had commandeered as a paperweight.

'My fault, if I hadn't been daydreaming, I might have prevented that.' Logram confessed.

Ryan grinned at the Channel as he asked, 'I understand you wanted to see me?'

'Yes, yes I do. Fancy a glass of trin? I was just going to pour myself one, when that happened.'

'I'd love one, thanks.'

Moments later the two men sat facing each other across the cluttered desk, glasses of trin in their tentacles.

'You seem to be settling in now, Ryan.'

'Yes, I guess I am. Although I have to admit that I still find some things difficult to accept.' He said, honestly.

'Yes, I can understand that. I'm sure it'll all seem a lot easier, given time.' Logram said with a warm smile.

'I'm sure it will.' The younger Channel agreed carefully.

'I was wondering if you would like to undertake a little job for us?' Logram said. Before Ryan could reply, he rushed on. 'We require someone to go to the outskirts of Preston, pick up two Gens and escort them back here. Think you can do that for us?'

'I don't see why not.' Ryan said at once, hardly daring to believe his luck.

'I'll be sending a couple of our most trustworthy renSimes with you, but unlike you, they can't mask Gen fields, so most of the work will fall on your shoulders, I'm afraid.'

The young Channel sipped his tea. 'No problem. It'll make a change to get away from here for awhile.'

'I'm sure it will.'

Ryan studied the older Sime for several minutes before he decided to make his suggestion. After all, nothing ventured — nothing gained as the old saying went. 'I was wondering about Denise,' he finally said. 'She was telling me the other day that she has seen nothing of my world except for the farm, of course.'

'Yes, that's true. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future we can do nothing about that. In time, perhaps, it may become safe enough for our Gens — on occasion — to travel around the area under escort, but at the moment…' He shrugged his narrow shoulders.

'Exactly. Which is why I was wondering if you would allow me to take Denise with me to Preston?'

The older Channel sat forward in his chair, his eyes wide with surprise. 'Preston?'

'Well, not Preston, itself. You did say that the Gens will be waiting on the outskirts of the town, did you not?' Logram nodded his agreement. 'Then I can mask her field easily…'

'Denise can do that for herself. She was, after all, Householding trained. But it seems an unnecessary chance to take…'

Ryan managed to look suitably disappointed. 'It was only an idea.' He admitted softly. 'I thought she might enjoy the change of scenery.'

'I'm sure she would. However, I don't really think…' he paused then said, 'taken a liking to her, have you?' Logram tried to hide his eagerness as he spoke his thoughts aloud — and failed dismally.

'She's a lovely young woman. We're always so busy each day. We rarely get time to just talk to each other.' Ryan admitted with a smile, 'I just thought… but never mind. I'm sure you're right and…'

'No, let me think about it. Perhaps have a word with Denise, herself and see what she thinks about it,' Logram said quickly. After all, this was the very thing he had been hoping for. If Ryan and Denise were to fall for each other and in time have children… but no, he must not rush things. Nature must take its course; but a short time together away from the day to day work on the farm and the Householding, could only be a good thing for both of them; and might well draw them closer together.

Denise had been only too eager to take up Logram's and Ryan's suggestion. A few days later the small group from Probity set out for Preston. Although it had been agreed that Denise would not go near Preston itself, but would wait for them to return at the Old Mill, where Logram had taken shelter when he had been fleeing the militia — having been rescued from public execution by the Sectuib in Zeor, Jordan Farris; and his friends.

        Ryan was amused at the excitement Denise displayed as they made their way across the open countryside; and he felt almost sad that she had of necessity been living in virtual purdah on the farm since leaving her home world — Earth.

        Of course once he had her safely back at the Farris Farm, her freedom, such as it was, would be even more curtailed than it was now. He pushed the unpleasant thought firmly to one side. She was a Gen, and as long as she served him in transfer, she would be allowed to live. What more could any Gen expect from life? Indeed, most did not even get that much.

He smiled to himself as he thought of the future. For if she cooperated fully with him, then she would be afforded several little luxuries — a bed with a proper mattress, more than one set of clothes — after all females, even Gen females, liked such things — and she would not have to endure the attentions of any other male save himself. He glanced across at her lovely profile.

Indeed, with Denise at his beck and call he might even consider marrying the girl that his mother was so keen to thrust upon him. Perhaps he could use that as a bargaining chip to keep the Gen for his sole use. His mother, unlike his brother, was not a fool, and would see the sense behind the arrangement and once it was accepted by her…

Suddenly her voice interrupted his thoughts, 'Ryan are they mountains I can see on the horizon?'

'Yes, that one there is the highest peak in the Hollow Mountain range which is why you can see it from here.' He replied at once. 'A lot of Wild Gens take refuge there.'

'Yes, I've heard that. At one time Logram was considering contacting them to see if we could take in some of them as volunteers.' Denise stated.

'Not a good suggestion!'

'Why not?'

'They're Wild Gens, Denise; wild being the operative word. They're just not civilised. They're used to fighting and murdering people, they don't understand anything else.'

'That's only because of the way they're forced to live. No doubt you would be the same if you were chased from place to place by people who just want to Kill you!' She pointed out logically, and then said quietly. 'Simes Kill Gens to live — and Gens murder Simes to live! To be perfectly honest with you, Ryan, I can't see where the difference lies. I think — in this case — we'd both have to be very careful who we call “civilised,” and who we don't.'

'Perhaps.' He said noncommittally.

Denise sighed before she said, 'maybe one day I'll be able to visit the Hollow Mountains and the area around there.'

'Why the shen would you want to do that?' Ryan blurted out before he could stop himself.

'I'm an archaeologist, didn't I tell you that?'

The Channel stared across at her for a moment before he said honestly, 'if you did, I don't remember it.' He acknowledged to himself that, in the beginning, he had virtually ignored most of what she'd told him — mainly because she was only a Gen, and therefore little better than an animal.

She shrugged her shoulders before she went on almost wistfully, 'Rolf and I were both from Householding Frihill. He was an archaeologist, too. He intended in years to come, once things had settled down on the farm, to go on several digs in the area. Hopefully, I might have been able to go with him, but if I could not, then he would bring back anything that he found and I would catalogue it.'

'I didn't realise that Gens from Earth were educated that well.' Ryan admitted, feeling slightly jealous that Rolf had been able to share an interest with Denise that he quite clearly could not.

'Everyone on Earth — both Gen — or Sime — has a good basic education. Many are educated well above that level. After all, ignorance is not conducive to enjoying life or having an interesting career is it?'

The Channel stared straight ahead of him as he absorbed her words. On his own world, children were not educated, what would be the point — since most — once they established, did not live long enough for it to be of any benefit to them? While even amongst Simes, the vast majority could not read or write, although many, if pressed, could just about sign their name.

What would it be like to live on a world where Simes and Gens were educated, and were not ignorant? Where they lived side by side… was it really possible for such a thing to happen? No, of course not, it was merely a daydream. Yet, Denise said that on her world it was true, and Logram had said the same. Were they both prevaricating? No, that just wasn't possible; he could tell at once if they were lying.

'Why did you leave such a perfect world and come here?' He suddenly demanded to know, keeping the sarcasm out of his voice.

She laughed abruptly, 'I never said it was perfect.'

        'What's wrong with it?'

        'Lots of things. We have robberies and murders — unfortunately both Simes and Gens sometimes indulge in these things. We even have off-world terrorists.' She paused then said, 'do you remember Marcus telling you about the history of our planet? How, in the beginning, everything was chaos, and later Simes and Gens lived separately — although there was a lot of raiding across the borders on both sides? Around this time Householdings came into being, and much later still, the Tecton was formed.'

        Ryan nodded his head.

        'Well, even today in the modern world, some Simes would dearly love to revert back to the old ways. Not quite the same of course, they realise now that they could no longer keep Gens like cattle to be bought and sold. But they would really like to make us into second-class citizens.

'It will never happen, of course. The population of Earth is far too large, and no one would put up with it, not again. Neither side would survive a civil War. Simes and Gens now work side by side, intermarry, have families…' Her voice trailed off as the words awakened many memories, and she wondered how her own family was getting on.

        Ryan stared across at her as he zlinned her sadness. 'I'm sorry if my foolish questions have upset you.'

        'No, they haven't. I was merely thinking about my parents, that's all.'

        'Because you won't see them again,' Ryan said almost harshly.

        'No, I don't suppose I will.' She forced a smile onto her pale face as she went on, 'Of course, I accepted the fact long ago that I would have to leave them behind. When I threw in my lot with Logram and decided to come here the dye was cast. But it's not as bad as it sounds, after all, Probity is my family now.'

        Suddenly Dan broke the mood as he called out, 'the Old Mill is less than half a mile away on the left.' He and his brother, Bewt, were riding behind them.
        'I'll leave Bewt with you while we go and fetch the other Gens,' Ryan informed her, as he led the way to the Mill.

        'That's not necessary. I'm not worried about being left on my own.' Denise said at once. 'Logram told me where to hide.'

        'If you're sure...?'

        'I am. Don't worry about me Ryan. Really, I can take care of myself,' she smiled across at him.

        'If you say so,' he said dubiously.

        'I do.'

        'Very well. We'll be back for you before night fall.' He promised, and the three men rode away.


        It was growing dark when Ryan arrived back at the Old Mill, two renSimes riding behind him. Dismounting, he entered the building to find Denise sitting on the remains of a stone wall, waiting for him. Turning quickly she realised he was there and jumped to her feet as she confessed. 'I didn't hear you ride up. Did everything go according to plan?'

        He smiled briefly in the darkness as he replied softly, 'oh yes my dear, it most certainly did.'

        Glancing passed him to where the two renSimes were standing beside their own mounts, a frown touched her face as she asked, 'where are the Gens? Did something go wrong?'

        'I reckon they're probably half way back to Probity by now with Dan and Bewt.'

        'But…I don't understand...'

        Ryan laughed briefly. 'It's really quite simple. Let me explain. I gave our two friends a rather generous choice. They could return to the farm with the two Gens, or I would have them all arrested by the militia. I also sent a message to Logram. If he makes no attempt to rescue you, then I will leave him and Probity in peace — for the time being at least.'

        Denise felt her face drain of blood as his words finally sank in and she stared across at him. 'We were right about you!'

        The young Channel laughed out loud and nodded his head, and then realising that she could not see him in the gathering gloom. 'Yes, you were, and I have a proposition for you, too.'

        'I don't want to hear it.'

        'Oh, I think you will want to hear it, Denise. It's quite simple, really. If you give me your word that you will do exactly as you are told and will make no attempt to get away from me, then I will leave your precious House of Probity undisturbed.

'If, on the other hand, you give me any trouble, then I guarantee that I will have the place raised to the ground and all your friends whether Gen or Sime will be destroyed. The choice is yours. You have till we get to my home to think about it, then I shall want your decision.'

        Grasping her arm he pulled her outside where the first Moon was just rising in the night sky. The two renSimes both dressed in military uniforms got back onto their horses as Ryan tossed her up onto his own mount and stepped into the saddle behind her.

        In the beginning Ryan had not intended to make any bargains about the safety of Probity with either the Amiz brothers or Denise. It had suddenly come to him that if he could get the Gen to cooperate with him, rather than fight him every step of the way…life would be a lot easier. For he had little doubt but that he would have enough to worry about convincing his mother and family to accept what he wanted to do, without having to fight the female Gen every step of the way as well.

        Of course, once things had settled down and his mother had agreed to his decision with regard to Denise he would take steps to rid his world of the House of Probity once and for all. Logram and his followers would all die — he would see to that personally. The Gens would either be auctioned off or would join Dermott's breeding program.

        Denise, riding along in front of Ryan Farris, held firmly in position by him, felt both cold and numb. If the Channel was telling the truth and he had indeed sent the Amiz brothers back to the farm with the two Gens, she could well imagine the turmoil that would ensure when they arrived there.

Of course, she had little doubt but that Logram, if he had any sense at all, would make immediate arrangements to leave the farm and move elsewhere. She recalled several places that they had visited and dismissed before they had settled on the farm. Even Logram must now realise that they could not trust Ryan's word that he would not attack the Householding at some time in the future.

Indeed, she had little doubt that he would do just that, once it suited him to do so. All she had to do was to try and buy them some extra time, which meant she would accept Ryan's offer. She would play along, she would cooperate…and when the time was right...

She forced her thoughts to the back of her mind, for although she knew that Simes could not read minds, she did not intend to give Ryan any opportunity to read the emotional turmoil that now churned around inside her, and perhaps guess what she intended to do. Oh, yes — Ryan Farris, Denise's lip rose up in an angry sneer. She would play him at his own game, and he would regret the day he foreswore his promise to the House of Probity.

A smile suddenly touched her lips, as she realised what he had obviously not considered. For the past few months, since his disjunction, the young Channel had been giving transfer to many of the renSimes who were now joining Probity. To suddenly stop doing so would mean bouts of entran that would be more painful than anything he had ever endured before.

Her mirthless smile widened. When this happened, as it would, he would of course have no recourse but to turn to her — who else could he turn to? She lifted her chin and straightened her shoulders as the idea took hold. For she would find some way to use his vulnerability to further her own ends. There had to be some way to escape from the Farris Farm and get away from this man...and she was determined to find it.


        When the Amiz brothers arrived back at Probity with the two new Gen recruits, but minus Ryan Farris and Denise, Logram had immediately called a meeting of every member of the Householding.

Standing at one end of the large dining hall where everyone was gathering the Channel stood like a statue, frozen in position. His companion, Gynon, stood alongside him a worried expression on his face as he created a bubble of peace around his friend.

        'Calm down, Logram, please, none of this is your fault.' He whispered.
'Not my fault!?' The Channel turned to stare down at the Gen as he demanded, 'if not my fault — then who is to blame?' His tentacles grasped the air silently.

        'All of us, Logram — every last one of us.' Lorne, another Second from Earth who had been listening to the conversation between the two men suddenly declared.

        'Not true. Denise knew that he was too good to be true, she said as much on more than one occasion, as did all her fellow Gens — you included Gynon. No, don't try to deny it. I was just so eager to have him join us that I closed my mind to all the signs that I should have been aware of — that I was aware of — but chose to ignore. What an arrogant lorsh I am. I'm not fit to run this Householding. Lorne, I'm…'

        'Stop it, stop it right there. Do you intend to throw everything that we've worked for away, Logram? Well, do you? If you walk away now, who will take over? Are you considering that?' The Second demanded. 'And don't look at either me, or Val. We may be Seconds like you, but neither of us are Farris Channels and neither do we have your range of experience. It'll be years before we do.' He admitted frankly.

        The Channel closed his eyes as he acknowledged that what Lorne said was true. If he did not carry on, then who would do so? Straightening his back he drew his tentacles as far back into their sheaths as they would go, and stared with icy calm around the room at the gathering Simes and Gens who were whispering amongst themselves.

Then squaring his narrow shoulders, and taking a deep breath, Logram began to address the sea of faces before him.


Ryan rode up to the door of the large family house and dismounted. At this time of day, the family would all be eating their evening meal. It was a ritual that had been started by his great grandfather and his mother still insisted on practising. Not because of the meal itself, because food as a consideration was not important to the average Sime, but it did give them all an opportunity for dialogue between themselves.

Strangely he had been looking forward to this moment since his capture. Probably because it would be a pleasure to see the disappointment on Dermott's face when he realised that Ryan had returned. But now that it was actually upon him, he did not feel elated — far from it — he felt empty inside. What the shen was he doing here?

He watched in silence as Denise slid down to stand beside him. He then dismissed the two Simes. Once they had moved away, he turned to Denise, took her wrist and then quickly made his way to his own suite of rooms at the rear of the house, pulling her along behind him.

Opening his clothes cupboard he pulled out a clean suit and began to change. For he knew full well that even his unexpected return would not excuse him in his mother's eyes if he turned up at the dinner table wearing dirty clothes.

'I'll make arrangements for you later,' he said glancing across at Denise. 'In the meantime, are you prepared to give me your word that you will not make any attempt to leave this room? Remember, my dear, I can tell if you're lying to me,' he warned as he glanced at himself in the mirror before dragging a comb through his thick black hair.

'And if I don't give my word?'

'Then I'll call one of the servants and have you taken to one of the Gen sheds for the night. The choice is yours.'


All conversation stopped as Ryan entered the dining room, a small grin of triumph crossed his face as he realised that not even his mother had zlinned his approach. Now that was something he had not been able to achieve in the past! The tedious exercises he had practiced with Logram seemed to be paying off, he thought smugly.

'Where the shen have you been?' His mother demanded at once. She rarely swore, so it was a sure sign of her agitation that she did so now. 'I've had the military out day and night searching for you!'

'I don't think anyone here would believe me if I told you,' he said honestly. 'However, mother, if you will wait till we are alone, I will endeavour to explain.'

She stared at her elder son for several moments then nodded her head slowly, 'very well, I look forward to hearing your explanation, and it had better he a good one. Now, take your place at the table, Ryan.'

'I reckon he's been courting,' Dermott suddenly informed the table facetiously as he strove to hide his disappointment at his elder brother's sudden return. 'What happened then, did she turn you down? So, come on tell us, who is she, bro?'

Ryan grinned as he zlinned his sibling's animosity towards him as he replied softly, 'believe me when I say, I can guarantee that it's no one you know, Dermott.'

An hour later he took his seat in his mother's office feeling at a disadvantage as he always did when alone in his mother's presence. Since he was young he had never been able to lie either to her or his father, and he knew that he could not do so now.

'Well, Ryan? I'm waiting.' She said as she leaned her elbows on the desk, her fingers laced together as her tentacles danced between them. Her dark eyes studied his face.

Marshalling his thoughts into some sort of order he began his narrative. In every detail he told her the truth, leaving out only the location of the farm, and the names of the people he had met there. As the story drew to a close he waited with trepidation for her reaction. It was not long in coming.

'And you expect me to believe this…this pack of lies Ryan? What do you think I am — a simpleton?' She spoke almost in a whisper, a sure sign of the calm before the storm, as Ryan well knew.

'I've told you the complete truth mother — zlin me!'

'I have. So where exactly is the location of this farm?'

'As I explained mother, I can't tell you that.'

'Won't tell me — you mean!'

He nodded his head briefly.

'And this Gen female, you say it's in your room?'

He nodded again.

'Why isn't it in a holding shed?'

Ryan took another deep breath before he once more began to speak, realising that this was going to be much harder than he had expected. Indeed when he had gone over all this in his mind back on the farm, it had seemed the easiest thing in the world to argue logically with his mother for what he wanted to do. But here, sitting opposite her like this, it was a different thing entirely. Still he had to try. Quickly he lined up his reasons and his arguments before he once more began to talk.

'And you expect me to agree to all this?' You must be crazy — have you fallen on your head or what!?'

'Mother you can zlin how healthy I am. Using this one Gen, I don't need to Kill, I really don't. It means we'll have at least another twelve prime Gens a year we can sell — think of the extra profit. On top of that I feel so much better that I might even consider taking a wife…' He studied her reaction closely as he dangled the bait in front of her. His not bothering to seek a wife had long been a bone of contention between them.

She snorted inelegantly before she said, 'Even if I agreed to this wild scheme of yours. No wife would accept having a Gen female as a rival for her husband's bed!'

'There's no reason she should even know about it.' He said quickly and then stopped suddenly for he had almost said — “like father kept all his liaisons from you!”

'Do you honestly believe you can keep such a thing secret around here? Apart from all the renSimes gossiping away like a bunch of old women, what about Dermott? He's not exactly known for his tact and diplomacy is he?' She demanded. 'Besides, let's be honest about this. Knowing my youngest son — and he's very like his father you know — once he realises that you are keeping this female Gen for your own edification, he's going to want to sample it, see what it's got that makes it so damn special, at least in your eyes.' She paused and then went on, 'I can zlin that you don't like the idea of that, Ryan. So, let me tell you here and now, I won't have the two of you fighting over a shenning Gen female! Do I make myself clear?'

'Yes, mother.' He hesitated wondering whether it was wise to bring up a subject that all his life had been taboo, but then decided that he had to. Biting his lip he said softly. 'I know you once found yourself in a similar situation, mother. Please I beg you, help me now and understand how I feel.'

For a few moments mother and son stared silently at each other before Mary Farris sighed and leaned back in her chair closing her eyes. 'I've always wondered whether your father told you about Thomas.'

'I was fifteen when he told me. He was drunk on ale and shiltpron, and he was angry at you for some reason. I've never mentioned it to anyone else you know, not even Dermott.'

'Thank you.' His mother drew a deep breath in through her mouth and expelled it through her nose before she went on. 'It was a very different situation between Thomas and I than it is with you and your Gen. We…loved each other…really loved…your grandfather found out and beat me with a stick. I still bear the scars on my back. After that, he locked me up and waited till I was deep into Need before he forced me in with Thomas. I Killed him, of course.'

Ryan could zlin her sadness even after all these years. So taking his courage in both hands, he tried to explain. 'I… er… I don't love her mother, and I can't Kill her. She really is un-Killable.'

'I get the feeling that you're fooling yourself, Ryan, and I don't want history to repeat itself.'

'It can't, mother. As I said, she can't be Killed.'

'Do you realise you are already referring to this Gen as a person…”she can't be Killed” you say… All Gens can be Killed!' She looked earnestly at him as she leaned forward again. 'If one or more Simes draw selyn from it, and then you — deep into Need — were put in with it. Do you honestly believe that it would survive?'

'Would you really do that?'

Two identical pair of eyes stared at each other before Mary Farris' eyes dropped and she shook her head before she said softly. 'If I had to, to save you… then yes, I would do it.'

'Mother, please, let me at least try this. If it doesn't work out…'

'If it doesn't work out then we sell her, only not for breeding, but for a prime Kill — agreed?'


'Good. Then for the moment at least all that we have discussed tonight, will remain between us. But know this Ryan — this so-called Householding — it cannot be allowed to go on indefinitely. It has to be wiped out, Ryan, as any other disease is purged from the land.'

'I know that, mother, but I have given her my word.'

'Gens are merely animals. Promises made to them are not real, Ryan. You can't be held to account.'

'I realise that, but I do require her cooperation, at least for the time being. She must believe that I mean what I say.'

'Very well,' Mary Farris shook her head almost sadly, 'but Ryan, just don't make the mistake that I made. Never forget — not even for a moment — that Gens are nothing more than food. Otherwise, years from now, you'll learn to regret it if you do.'

'I won't forget — I promise.'

To be continued… (Part 3)

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