By Doreen DaBinett

        As Ryan, and his brother Dermott rode up to the main house the Sun was just setting. They were returning from visiting Reynold's Farm. While his younger brother had been negotiating business with their host, his twin daughters had entertained Ryan. Mary Farris had long ago decided that one of the twins — and she did not really mind which one — would make him an excellent wife; and so true to his word to his mother, Ryan had reluctantly gone courting.

        Stepping down from his mount Ryan tossed the reins to one of the stable boys. He was glad to be back, having considered the entire day a complete waste of time. The girls were undoubtedly young, malleable and good looking, but apart from that, they had nothing to recommend them to him at all. In fact, the thought of marrying one of them and spending his life with them sent a shiver of distaste down his back.

        'N'vet…' Ryan turned to stare at the stable boy his eyebrows raised in query. 'Annie said she must see you as soon as you got back, N'vet.'

        'Did she indeed, what about?'

        'She didn't say N'vet, but it… er… it sounded urgent.'

        'Very well. Where is she, in the kitchens?'

        'No N'vet, at the new holding shed.'

        'Very well,' dismissing the boy with a flick of one tentacle he turned towards the new shed that housed Denise.

        'Don't be too long, bro or you'll be late for dinner,' Dermott reminded him ominously, as with a brief laugh he, too, strode away to get changed.

        Ryan had chosen Annie — who worked in the kitchens — to tend to Denise's food or other wants during the day while he was working or away. She did not have to enter the shed, but would merely push the plates and dishes through a small serving hatch beside the door. Like all the other larger sheds, there were no windows in any of the walls; the only light coming from a glazed glass panel high in the roof. However, one of the few luxuries that Ryan had provided for Denise was piped water, which enabled her to bathe every day.

Turning the corner of the shed he was surprised to see Annie sitting on the floor beside the locked door, looking dejected. The insulation he had used in the construction of the shed had of course stopped him from zlinning her presence until he had turned the corner and she had actually come into sight.

She jumped to her feet as soon as she zlinned his approach.

'N'vet. It's the Gen,' and she pointed towards the door with one tentacle.

'What's happened?' He demanded as he quickly fished the key out of his pocket and inserted it into the lock. All of the general holding sheds had only bolts on the outer doors, but Ryan had insisted on using a lock and key on this one, so that neither Dermott nor any of the other male Simes could gain entrance to his Gen when he was not there.

'I brought its midday meal N'vet. Normally, it pushes its used plates back through the hatch. Today, it didn't do that. I called out, but got no reply. When I looked through the hatch I could see it lying on the floor. Its been there like that all day — not moving.'

Ryan pushed the door open and strode into the dark interior of the small shed, the heat hitting him as though he had just opened an oven door, and with the same intensity. 'Why didn't you inform my mother?' He demanded picking up Denise's limp body and carrying her outside into the cooler evening air.

'I did, N'vet.'


'She said it's only a Gen, so it wasn't necessary to panic. Anyway she didn't have a key so I was to wait until you came home.'

'Shen!' Ryan almost snarled the word as he loosened the Gen's clothing and examined her. 'Go fetch some ice in a bowl, and hurry,' he instructed as the Sime girl scurried away. This was entirely his fault, Ryan decided as he waited impatiently for Annie to return. Denise was suffering, quite simply, from heat exhaustion. He had seen it happen before to other Gens when the temperature during the day had risen, and the heat inside the sheds had become unbearable. Some had even died from it.

Annie arrived back with the bowl of ice and several wet towels. Ryan quickly used the ice and the towels to best advantage, relief rushing through him as he felt her temperature begin to lower. Several moments later Denise opened her eyes and stared up at him.

'Where? What? Oh, no! I thought I'd been having a nightmare, but I'm really…' Her voice faded away as she suddenly rolled over and was catastrophically sick onto the hard ground, before she again fainted away.

Ryan quickly moved her to one side, well clear of the mess. Annie stepped forward and used the remainder of the water in the bowl to wash away the mess.

'I can't understand why she didn't run a bath, and cool herself down in that way,' He observed angrily.

'One of the irrigation pipes burst this morning N'vet. The water to all the sheds has been off all day.' The renSime informed him quickly.

'That explains it. Thank you, Annie, you may return to the house now. Please inform my mother that I will not be taking dinner with the family tonight.'

The young renSime blanched at the message she had to deliver, but knew better than to argue with her young master as she scurried back to the house.

Moments later Ryan picked up Denise's limp body and carried her through the back entrance into the house and up to his own set of rooms.

Pushing open the door he continued cursing himself for his undeniable stupidity in not considering just how hot the shed would get during the day. Indeed he had been far more concerned that the renSimes who worked around the place would not be able to spend the day gawking through windows at his Gen, than to consider her comfort and safety.

Quickly he laid the Gen on his bed and removed her clothes leaving only the wet towels to hide her modesty — for all the good that would do her in a Sime household — he thought wryly, as he moved to open the windows and the glass doors that lead out onto the balcony, allowing the gentle evening breeze that had just sprung up, to enter the room.

Drawing a chair up to the side of the bed he sat down and saw with relief that her faint had now turned to a deep sleep. Closing his own eyes, he steepled his fingers, his tentacles moving restlessly between them as he waited for Denise to wake up.

For a brief moment his thoughts turned to his mother as he wondered if she would dare to come to his room to complain about his non-appearance at dinner. But then dismissed the notion at once, for he doubted she would wish to enter into yet another argument with him about his Gen and what had happened today. One that she knew, this time, she would undoubtedly lose.

In the six weeks that had passed since he had returned home, his mother had tried everything she could to cajole him into making a decision as to which female he would marry. Indeed, she had sent him to visit two other females apart from the twins, and her patience was undoubtedly beginning to run out. Ryan sighed. He would have to choose. After all, at the end of the day he really had no choice, not if he wanted to keep Denise.

He opened his eyes to look down at her, she was very beautiful, for a Gen. Why, why did he have to qualify everything he thought or said about Denise with the words — “for a Gen” — he wondered almost despondently. Perhaps it was his upbringing? Perhaps it was just the simple undeniable fact that Simes and Gens really weren't equal?

Indeed, no one that he knew of amongst either his family or his friends ever considered Simes and Gens as equals. How could they be? Gens were either hunted down like wild animals or were bred on farms like this one, simply to feed a Sime's hunger, and for no other reason.

How many times since his changeover had he wrapped his tentacles around thin Gen arms before he drew the life from them, felt them fight to live as he drew and drew against their resistance, till he finally looked down into their accusing dead eyes? Of course, with Denise he would not have to face that ever again, for she was un-Killable.

He paused in his ruminations, yes she was definitely un-Killable, no one could know that better than he. But the question was — was it natural? Should a Gen continue to live after they had served their purpose? He studied Denise's sweet face and suddenly felt cold as he thought of her lying dead in his arms…

Yet, even so, his mother was right — when he married — how could he really expect his wife to accept Denise? Even if he agreed never to have sex with her again, his wife would still look upon the mere fact that he kept a Gen for his own personal use as an affront to her, as indeed it was. No, when he married, Denise would have to go. Then there would be no more taking transfer.

No more transfer. The three simple words seared their way into his brain and his tentacles emerged from their sheaths to freeze in the warm evening air; because no more transfer quite simply meant only one thing — he would have no alternative but to return to the Kill. A cold sweat broke out on his forehead. Shen it to hell — he couldn't go back to Killing again, he couldn't, but what choice did he have?

Shock suddenly ran through him as he realised what he had just said to himself — “he couldn't go back to Killing” — when had he suddenly decided upon that option?

Denise opened her eyes to find herself looking up into Ryan's dark confused ones. 'Hello.' She whispered the word, relieved to see him sitting there.

'Hello yourself,' he smiled back at her. 'Feeling better?'

'Yes, what happened?'

He told her. 'I'm sorry about the water, about everything, but it won't happen again, I promise. I'll give Annie a key. First thing in the morning I'll have the window in the roof altered so that you'll be able to open it day or night, and I'll have fans installed to circulate the air.'

'Instead of going to all that trouble, why don't you just let me go, Ryan? Your life would be a lot easier without me in it. We both know that.'

'Yes I do know that, but I can't do it. I need you Denise, I can't live without you.'

'What are you saying?' She whispered the words back at him hardly daring to believe... 'that you love me?'

'Love you?' He laughed bitterly, 'No. I don't love you…of course I don't love you, but I do need you.' He sighed and lowered his head into his hands, his tentacles running through his thick black hair in frustration. 'You may remember that I told you, my mother wishes me to marry.'

'Yes, and she's right. If you're to lead a normal life you should marry and have children, even if it means…Killing again. Let me go, Ryan. Set me free — please.'

The Channel gave a brief laugh, 'If only I could. But you're forgetting about entran. I don't know what I'd do if you weren't there to help me. Shen it! I've never felt any pain like that before in my life!' He confessed with a shudder as he remembered when he had had his first bout of it just ten days after leaving Probity.

Not really expecting it, although Logram had warned him that it would happen if he stopped giving transfers to the renSimes, he had honestly believed that his body was convulsing and that he would die from the excruciating pain.

Only with Denise's expert help had he lived through it, and he still suffered from it, although not to the same degree. But what would he do if she wasn't there? The consequences did not bear thinking about. Yet, if he married he would have to get rid of her. What alternative was there?

A germ of an idea suddenly entered his mind as he wondered, what if he hid her away somewhere far from the farm…but where? Even if he found somewhere, who could he trust to guard her? On top of all that, there were other questions to that had to be answered…

'What would happen if I Killed again?' Ryan suddenly asked.

'What do you mean, “what would happen”?' Denise repeated.

'Will I still get entran, or will it stop?'

'Truthfully, Ryan, I really have no idea,' Denise confessed. 'Logram might know. In fact, if he doesn't know I'm pretty sure he could look it up in one of his books for you.'

'Could you teach a Sime what to do for entran?' Ryan demanded, desperately seeking answers to all these questions, and a possible way out of his dilemma.

'No, because I'm not really sure exactly what it is that I actually do for your entran, I just do it. It's sort of — natural. So, I don't think that a renSime could do it for you. I may be wrong of course, because I'm not an expert on these things. Again, Logram would know if anyone would. I'm sorry, Ryan, but I really can't help you. I wish I could.'

The Channel zlinned the truth in her words and sighed out loud as he said, 'So, I'm back where I started. There's really no way out for me is there?'

'Apparently not.'

A sneer appeared on the Channel's expressive lips as he suddenly stood up and strode up and down the room. 'Of course, I was forgetting, you say that Logram can help me, but I've got Logram and you to thank for all this in the first place haven't I?'

'Logram meant for you to stay at the farm, Ryan. If you had done so, then you would never have suffered from entran, and you would not have all these problems,' Denise pointed out gently.

'Shen and shid! I have to get away from this room. I can't think with you lying there.' He strode to the door and then turned back to face her as he said quietly, 'Remain in this room and you will be safe, leave it…' He left the words hanging in the air as moments later, the door closed behind him.

For a long while Denise lay there and considered the consequences if she did indeed get up and leave the room. She just knew that what Ryan said was true. If she was found wandering around the house as she tried to find a way out, she had little doubt but that his mother would take the opportunity to have her disposed of in the quickest and most efficient way possible… by having one or more of the renSimes attack her.

In some ways the idea of death was not repugnant to her, for in so many ways she was actually enduring a living death right now; for by no stretch of the imagination could this existence be called a life. Locked up in a small confined space day after day, only being visited when Ryan needed either her selyn or her body; and there, too, lay another fear. Sooner or later she would fall pregnant — unless of course — she was extremely lucky, and even her luck would run out eventually.

Oh, yes she knew that she was more than just “fond” of Ryan. She had long ago accepted that unpalatable fact and consequently had always kept her emotions under a tight rein when sharing his bed. Luckily, he had never taken the trouble to zlin her deeply on those occasions, probably because he did not want to become too closely involved with her emotionally. So she had been able to hide her true feelings from him.

Of course, under normal circumstances, the thought of having his baby would have filled her with delight, but he had openly confessed on more than one occasion that he didn't have deep feelings for her — he only needed her. So what would happen to any child of theirs?

She had little doubt but that Ryan's mother would insist that it be sent away to another of the Farris farms to grow up, totally unaware of its true parentage. Indeed, Ryan had told her on one occasion that Dermott had often got female Gens pregnant. The Gen, along with her progeny, had been sent away from the farm well before the birth.

Only one thing kept her here, not only in this particular room, but in this particular place… and that was her promise to Ryan, and his to her, that if she caused him no trouble then he would leave Logram and the House of Probity in peace. She had to trust his word, so she remained.

Tossing the wet towels to one side she pulled up the single cover on the bed, and closing her eyes fell into a restless sleep.


A week later Ryan stopped his horse on the crest of a hill and squinted his eyes against the glare of the Sun as he zlinned the surrounding countryside, ascertaining that there was no one in his immediate vicinity.

His mother had decided, only yesterday, that either he or Dermott should make the journey to the Genfarm several hundred miles to the east, which was run by his cousin Simon. Several days previously, they had received notification from him that he had captured a group of Wild Gens that he thought might suit the new breeding program that his Aunt Mary had initiated. He also said that while he could not leave the farm himself, if Dermott or Ryan could fetch the Gens, he would supply a number of trail hands to help control them.

Ryan had immediately jumped at the chance to get away from his family for a few weeks. For since he had left Probity to return home, he had had no time to himself to really think about his future now that so many things had changed, and he had Denise to take care of his needs.

Yesterday evening, he had taken transfer from the Gen. During the long hours from midnight till dawn, when he had finally left the farm, he had been undecided whether to take her with him. His mother had said that Denise would be safe while he was away; and whatever else he might think about the matriarch, he had never had reason to doubt either her word or her integrity.

Having done this same journey to his cousin's farm many times in the past, he knew he could be there and back again well within three weeks — in plenty of time to take transfer once again from his Gen.

By Noon on the first day, bearing due east, he had reached the shore of Lake Tyre a vast inland sea, the edges of which were dotted with many large and small islands, some inhabited and some not. By boarding one of the many vessels that sailed to the various small villages and ports along the shores of the sea he could cut his journey time by several days, so it was worth the extra money involved.

The small vessel he chose to board set sail on the evening tide. Ryan was not a good sailor and was pleased to see that the water was quite calm, although a brisk wind blew up as soon as they left land behind; one of the sailors informed him that the Captain expected some rough weather before morning.

Three hours into his journey and the brisk wind was now blowing a full gale.

'N'vet, the Captain suggests you go below,' one of the sailors informed him as he hurried past. Ryan sighed as he moved to obey the command.

During the next few hours the storm got worse, the huge waves tossing the small boat around like a leaf in the wind.


Michael closed the door of his small house behind him and stared up at the storm clouds scudding across the pale blue sky as they rushed towards the distant horizon. The storm last night had been vicious, but it had left the countryside to his left clean and fresh. It was always like this after a gale of such intensity.

Breathing huge gulps of the ozone laden air into his lungs, Michael turned purposely towards the beach on his right. Hopefully, the sea had been kind and he would find many treasures washed up along the rocky shore.

Bending automatically, he picked up various pieces of wood suitable for burning on his fire and tossed them above the waterline, to be collected later.

Further along he came cross several small barrels, and reading the words written on them, he ascertained that they contained various other useful items. These were a find indeed, and a smile broke across his young face as he rolled them quickly away from the sea, in case the water might reclaim them once more.

Stopping his self-imposed task for a brief moment he turned and stared out to sea at the white-topped waves that still rushed towards shore. Obviously a ship had come to grief on the rocks that protected the string of islands along this piece of coastline, he decided.

Yet, even as the thought manifested itself in Michael's mind it began to rain yet again. He stopped ruminating and turned once more towards home. As he did so, he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye further along the beach.

Standing still he focused his attention on the bright yellow material he had seen moving in the wind. Michael knew that most of the seamen who sailed these waters wore waterproof cloaks of just this colour. Indeed, his father had often worn just such a cloak, and it was still hanging behind the kitchen door.

His eyes narrowed as he tried to ascertain whether it was just a cloak lying there on the beach, or if there was someone actually inside it.

Pulling the collar of his own dark wool cloak up around his ears as the rain now ran down his neck, he set off at a trot towards what now appeared to be a body.

Stopping several yards short of what he ascertained was a man he called out. 'Are you all right? Do you want a hand?'

'I'm fine. Stay back.' The reply was immediate.

Ryan, who had been lying on the sand for some time as he tried to recover from his time in the sea, froze with shock as the boy approached him, for inside the long Sime cloak was most definitely, a Gen.

Ryan tried desperately to gather his wits together; because apart from Logram and his people, he had never before met a Gen on this world who displayed no fear at all when faced (for all he knew) by a Killer Sime. Unless of course the Gen assumed that Ryan, too, was a Gen!

Surely even a Gen would not be that foolish? Still, foolish or not, what was the Gen doing on this deserted beach he wondered as he staggered to his feet and acknowledged to himself that he had never been quite so exhausted in his life before. But hours of fighting the wind the rain and the sea, had all taken their toll.

'Can I help?'

'No! I said stay back!' Ryan ordered harshly. Thankfully, it was only a matter of days since he had had transfer with Denise so he was not in Need. But even so, after the shock of being shipwrecked, Ryan did not want to subject himself to a Wild Gen's terror, so he consciously refrained from zlinning him deeply…

'Look, friend, the rain may not bother you, but I want to get under cover, so if you want to join me fine, but if not…' Michael shrugged his shoulders expressively as he pointed back along the beach. 'My home is at the far end of the bay. It's up to you,' turning on his heel, the Gen began to hurry back along the beach in the direction he had indicated.

Ryan watched him for several seconds and then having pulled the yellow waterproof cloak around him more tightly he reluctantly followed the slight figure.


Michael filled a couple of kettles with water and placed them on the trivet beside the fire before he turned to look over his shoulder at the rain drenched figure that now stood in the open doorway of his house.

'Well, come in — if you're going to,' Michael ordered brusquely. 'Either way, close the door. You're letting all the warm air out.'

Ryan stared at the young man as he squelched his way over the threshold and pulled the door closed behind him. Surely the Gen must realise that he could be facing a Killer Sime he thought — for in any Gen's eyes that was exactly what he was. Besides which, what were the odds that a Gen, and not a Sime, would be washed up on this island at the height of a storm?

For another brief moment Ryan wondered what would happen if he suddenly unsheathed his tentacles and waved them in front of the youth's nose. A smile touched his sensitive lips at the picture that that conjured up, before he quickly pushed it away again.

The Gen was now bending over the open fire poking at the embers before he placed another log in position, his back to the Sime. Ryan took that opportunity to inspect his surroundings. The house was built of rock and wood, and the room he now stood in was both warm and welcoming.

The floors were wooden and several homemade pegged rugs were strewn here and there across the wide expanse. To one side a scrubbed wooden table stood against one wall with several chairs placed against it, a large pink shell was placed in the middle of the table, apparently as an ornament.

A large wooden cupboard stood against the facing wall; while two wooden rocking chairs were placed one on each side of the fireplace, and these were covered with several brightly coloured cushions.

A number of watercolour paintings adorned the walls, but what really drew Ryan's attention, more than anything else, were the two small windows that let the light in from outside; for while they had the usual wooden shutters in place, they also had extremely expensive glass windowpanes.

The Gen was young and appeared to live alone — so how could he possibly afford such luxury?


The question pulled him back to the present and Ryan nodded his head as his eyes swung back to study the Gen who was busy pouring the boiling water onto the crushed herbs in a large pot.

He was young, shorter than Ryan, and very slim for a Gen. His hair was perhaps his most surprising feature; it was short and curly and was a deep dark red. If he had been talking about a female, Ryan would have said she was extremely pretty. But this was not a female, and young as the lad undoubtedly was, the Channel had no doubt at all but that the Gen would hate to be told he was pretty!

Almost tentatively Ryan took the opportunity to zlin the youth then drew back because of the strange field that immediately enveloped him; indeed, he had never touched anything quite like it before and he immediately wished that he could make lateral contact, but knew that he could not. For nothing was more certain to make the youth go berserk with fear than for a Sime to ask if he might touch him with his tentacles. No matter how politely the request might be couched!

'By the way I'm Michael — Michael Travis — and you are?'

'Ryan… Ryan Farris.' The Channel said as he accepted the herb tea, wishing it was trin but grateful just the same, as he wondered if he was wise to use his real name. He realised at once that he had no cause to worry; for it was immediately brought home to him that the Gen had never heard of his family. Ryan was not sure whether he should feel shock at this revelation, or relief.

'Take your cloak off and hang it behind the door.' The boy ordered brusquely as he walked to the cupboard and began to remove various items from it that he placed onto the table as Ryan obeyed the order; a smile crossing his face because a Gen was giving him orders.

'Sit down, why don't you? You make the room look untidy standing there.' Michael observed, as he disappeared through another door and returned moments later with a large stew pot, which he placed onto the hook above the fire.

'How long have you been living here?' Ryan asked as he lowered himself into a rocking chair and sipped the hot herbal brew. Realising that Michael was used to being in charge of a situation.

'All my life. I was born here.'

'And your parents?'


Ryan stared at the young Gen over the rim of his cup with commiseration before he said, 'How many other families live on the island?'

'Just me.'

'Indeed, so how far are we from the mainland?'

'Not far. You can see it from the top of the cliffs.'

'I take it you have a boat, then?' Ryan asked, wishing he could shake the answers out of the young Gen.

'No, I don't.'

'Really? Why not? Surely you…'

''I'm Gen. The mainland is controlled by Simes.' Michael said calmly, almost as though he was explaining something fundamental to a child, 'so I don't go there. I'd be crazy if I did wouldn't I?'

For several minutes an uneasy silence fell until Ryan decided to drop his bombshell as he said softly, 'I'm one of them… Sime that is.'

'I know you are.' The Gen replied calmly, with no hint of fear in his voice.

It was Ryan's eyes that opened wide and not Michael's, for he had expected many different replies, but that certainly wasn't one of them.

'I take it you are aware that Simes Kill Gens?' The Channel asked almost conversationally.

'Yes, I know that, too.'

'Well, don't you think you're a little foolhardy to be sitting here facing me and…'

'I would be if you were in Need but you're not, are you?' Michael interrupted, his head on one side as he studied the Channel.

'How the shen do you know that?' Ryan blurted in surprise.

'My mother died when I was fourteen.'

'I'm sorry to hear that,' Ryan murmured, wondering what that had to do with anything, 'but I don't understand…'

'My mother was Gen like me, but my father was Sime.' Michael interrupted him to say. 'They fell in love before my mother Established. When she did Establish, neither family would accept them as a couple. So my father took her and fled to this island where they set up home. They lived here for the rest of their lives.'

'But surely your father knew that he stood every chance of Killing your mother when he took transfer from her?' Ryan demanded.

'Yes, of course. Mother told me that she loved my Dad and while she wanted to live, if she had to die at the hands of a Sime, then she wanted it to be with my father, while giving him life. But by some strange quirk of fate, she didn't die, she lived.' Michael paused and then went on. 'I Established when I was twelve. At first, just after my mother died, my father was frightened to use me in place of her in case he should inadvertently Kill me. He even tried to leave the island, but I went after him.'

'You were either very brave or very stupid,' Ryan murmured as he absorbed the story.

'I was neither. He was my father what else could I do?' Michael sighed and then went on, 'he died last spring.'

'And you've been living here alone ever since.'

'Where else would I go?'

'Good point. But just a minute, you said your name was…Michael Travis?' The youth nodded his head. 'I can remember hearing a story about a Luke Travis who ran off with a Gen some twenty-five years or so ago, his father tried to stop him but without success. When my father spoke of it, he said it was the scandal of the day.' Ryan stared across at the Gen, 'Travis are a very wealthy family.'

'Yes, so my father told me. Father had some money of his own and brought that with him. It was not really enough, but it helped him to build and furnish this place. Apart from that, he and mother made many trinkets from shells and driftwood and he sold them over on the mainland. On top of that they grew their own vegetables and father fished the sea to feed my mother and then me. The island also abounds with rabbits — and he would lay traps.'

He looked across at Ryan then shrugged as he said, 'I know that makes you feel uncomfortable because you don't eat flesh, but father couldn't afford to be so squeamish. Living here on the island the vegetable crop would sometimes fail due to our atrocious weather, but he still had to put food on the table.'

Michael studied the Sime sitting opposite him before he went on, 'As a matter of fact, as you've probably smelled already, there's a fish stew in the pot that I have cooking on the fire. If it bothers you too much, you can always go into the other room. Either way I'll prepare some vegetables for you to eat later.'

Ryan grinned, 'Unlike many of my kind, preparing and cooking meat or fish doesn't really bother me. My family runs a Genfarm, and we found out generations ago that Gens are more healthy if they have plenty of protein in their diets; which is why we feed them meat or fish at least four times a week. Even the smell doesn't worry me, as long as I don't have to eat the stuff.' Ryan laughed briefly before he went on, 'but don't bother with any vegetables for me, I'm not really hungry.'

'It's no bother, and you have to eat. My father said that that was where so many Simes go wrong. They try to exist on our lifeforce alone, and it's just not enough. It's why so many of them die young — usually from illnesses brought on by vitamin deficiency.'

'How did your father die?'

'He drowned while fishing.'

'So, you do have a boat.' Ryan said with quiet satisfaction.

'Yes, I still have to rely on fishing.' He smiled as he got up and stirred the large pot. 'We used to have a cow. I had plenty of milk and cheese but it took sick and died a short while back. Luckily I still have a dozen or so hens, but they run wild now and I have to search for their eggs.'

'You do realise that one day Simes from the mainland are going to come here, either by chance or by design, and they will Kill you.' Ryan pointed out quietly.

'Yes, I realise that. But father made a hiding place deep underground for mother and me for just such a contingency. I always keep it well stocked with food and water.'

'That's good, but even if they don't find you straight away, they'll still ransack your home and leave you with virtually nothing.' The Channel stated.

'I know that, but what else can I do?' Michael asked almost philosophically.

Ryan remained silent for he had no better alternative to offer.

Later that night when they had both eaten their fill and cleared away the debris from the table, Ryan made the request that had been nagging at him all evening.

'I've been wondering if your father could have been a Channel,' he suddenly blurted out.

'What the shen's a Channel?'

Simplifying things as best he could Ryan explained what the word meant.

'And you reckon that you can tell if he was or not simply by touching me with your tentacles?'

'I may be able to,' Ryan said at once. 'It all depends on how much selyn he was able to take from you.'


'Your lifeforce.'

'Okay, go ahead.'

'I won't hurt you.' Ryan said as he moved closer and unsheathed his tentacles watching the youth's reaction as he did so.

'You hadn't better,' Michael said lightly, 'I'll kill you if you do.'

'I beg your pardon?' Ryan's eyes opened wide as he absorbed the words and the threat implicit in them.

'I said, I'll…'

'Yes, yes, I know what you said; but what do you mean, you'll kill me?'

'Just that. According to my father if anyone tries to take my… selyn and hurts me doing it, then I can either shen them or squeeze their tentacles just about…' His hands moved to touch a spot on Ryan's arms to demonstrate, and the Channel jumped back to safety under full augmentation.

'Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all,' he said quickly drawing his tentacles back up into their sheaths as far as they would go.

Michael chuckled as he shook his head, 'Now you know just how a Gen feels at a time like this don't you? Come on, don't be a coward, Ryan Farris. I'll let you touch me, just be careful that you don't hurt me, that's all.'

'I'm not a coward, Michael, but I'm not a shenning idiot either.'

'You don't trust me.' It was a statement of fact.

'Not hardly!'

Ryan sighed, 'My father used to say that there can be no greater trust than that shown between a Gen and a Sime when the lifeforce — what you call selyn — is offered and taken. Like between him and my mother.'

'You mean at the time of transfer.'

'Transfer?' Michael considered the word for a brief moment and then nodded his head as he said, 'if that's what you call it, then yes — at the time of transfer.'

'But I'm not taking your selyn, I merely want to read your field, nothing more.'

'Good— then do so, don't be afraid, Ryan, trust me,' and he held out his arms invitingly.

The Channel moved closer wondering if he really dared to trust this Gen. Shen it, he had never in his life been afraid of any Gen. A Sime was stronger, quicker, far more agile; indeed, he could drain the life from a Gen before the Gen realised what was happening to him…and yet…a shiver of fear ran down his back as he unsheathed his tentacles and before he could change his mind, he settled them into position on the cool Gen flesh zlinning him deeply. Moments later, he removed them again and stepped back, relieved to do so, and to find that he was unscathed.

'I'd say your father was a Second or possibly even a low First.'

'A Second, what does that mean?' Michael demanded and Ryan explained as best he could.

'So does that make me a Second, too?'

'Not exactly — no.' Ryan acknowledged to himself that he knew very little about Gens and their capacity to serve various Simes. In fact, if he was brutally honest with himself, his ignorance was truly astounding.

'So what does it mean for me?' The Gen pressed inquisitively.

'Well, as far as I could zlin, your capacity would appear to be in excess of what your father took from you.'

'And that means—?'

'I think it means that you might be able to serve an average First, but unfortunately I'm not an expert on all this. I was being taught, but chose to leave long before my education was complete.' He confessed.


'Why? Well, that's a long story. I might try to explain it to you one day, after I've explained it to myself.' He admitted wryly.

'Sometimes, you know, my father would suffer from sweats or aches and pains that would double him over in agony.' Michael informed him tentatively.

'Did you do anything to help him at those times?'

'I tried. If I touched him or rubbed his arms or tentacles it seemed to ease it somewhat. When my mother was alive, she would do the same for him. Why — do you know what caused it?'

'I'm not really sure. As I said before, I was learning all about these things from someone who knew a great deal more than me, his name was Logram; but then I left so I don't know all that I should,' Ryan said honestly. 'Sometimes I wish that I had stayed and learned the lot. Sometimes simply not knowing enough, can be even more frustrating than knowing nothing at all.'

He hesitated and then said, 'If your father had been transferring selyn from himself to other renSimes and had then stopped, I would have said that he suffered from entran. But since he did not do that... then in your father's case his secondary system was virtually unused, and even when he took transfer from you, I would imagine that your selyn only went to fill his main system. So I don't see how he could have suffered entran. But then again maybe he did, or if not— that then something else that I don't know anything about.' He shook his head almost angrily, 'I'm sorry I can't tell you more. I just don't know anything more.'

'Can't you go back to this Logram, and learn more?'

'I could, but it's not really as simple as that. To go back now would mean giving up my entire life as I've lived it for years; and I'm not really ready or prepared to do that right now. I may never be ready to do so.' Ryan sighed as he stretched his arms and tentacles then said. 'But talking about Logram has given me an idea,' he went on to explain all about the House of Probity to Michael.

'Let me get this straight. You're suggesting that I leave here and go and join this Probity — right?'

'Why not? You know that you can't really stay here — it's just not an option. Sooner or later the Simes from the mainland are going to come here, you're just lucky that they haven't been here already.'

'I don't see why not. Father said we were safe here and…'

'Yes, you were safe when your father was here. If anyone came here, you could go into hiding and he could speak to them, and in all likelihood they would simply visit and then leave. But if they come here now, and find the place deserted, do you honestly think they will just leave the house and all your possessions intact?'

'No. I suppose not.' Michael admitted judgingly.

'When the winter storms come, as they will, how would you cope without a roof over your head?'

'Yes, but it hasn't happened yet; and besides, it might never happen.' Michael pointed out hopefully.

'And it might. Face facts, Michael, and don't be an idiot Gen.' Ryan suddenly grinned broadly as he said, 'Look on me as your guardian spirit — your mother did tell you stories about the lucky spirits didn't she?'

The Gen nodded, his red curls bouncing up and down on his head.

'Well who knows — perhaps I was sent here for a purpose.'

'And what purpose is that?' The youth asked, dubiously.

'To take you to the House of Probity, of course,' Ryan said with a wry chuckle as he remembered a certain conversation he had had with a Channel from Earth about how members of the Farris family would sometimes find themselves at the very heart of destiny. Of course, the Channel probably hadn't mean anything quite like this — helping Michael to find a new life for himself — but perhaps it was a start!

'That hardly seems likely since I don't believe in either spirits or deities.' Michael informed him straight faced.

'Well neither do I, but it's as good a reason as any other to listen to me isn't it?' Ryan retorted at once.

'I suppose.'

'So, what do you think, shall I take you there? Remember Michael, once I leave here, it'll be too late to change your mind.'

'Well my father always used to tell me, “never make an important decision late at night, sleep on it first and then decide”.'

'Sound advice. He was a wise man.'

Michael smiled at the Channel and then nodded his head slowly as he said, 'indeed he was.'

That night as he lay on the large bed that had belonged to Michael's parents, Ryan found his mind drifting back to Denise. What was she doing at this moment in time, was she… he cut off the thought as he stared into space realising suddenly, that in actual fact, she was probably doing nothing at all. She was, after all, a virtual prisoner in the small shed he had built for her.

Denise had no one to talk to since no Sime would lower themselves to speak to a mere Gen. She had no books to read, even if she did have such a luxury, she had no light to read them by for she was not allowed a lamp or a candle.

Indeed, even when he visited her at night she could not see him, while he could zlin her by her field. A frown touched his face as he tried to imagine himself in her position. A groan left his lips. What had he been thinking about keeping someone like Denise — a bright lively intelligent creature — under such conditions?

He shook his head, for on top of all that, even during the day she could not see outside. Four bare walls and a single bed — that was her entire world; how could anyone, even a Gen, be expected to live like that forever?

Of course, all the other Gens on the farm lived a similar existence, but then again, their life expectancy was not very long, and most of the time they were drugged anyway.

Jumping up off the bed Ryan walked through the silent house towards the main door. He zlinned that Michael was fast asleep in his room. On reaching the door, he silently pulled back the bolt and stepped out into the cool night air.

The storm of the previous two days had finally blown itself out and the night was clear and bright, the sky lit by the twin Moons and the multitude of stars twinkling far above his head.

Taking a deep breath, Ryan automatically zlinned his surroundings, then satisfied that he was, indeed, alone on the island, he set off along the wide stretch of beach; watching the white-topped waves as they surged up the sand only to be pulled back once more and swallowed into the restless sea.

Almost against his will his mind returned once more to Denise and her plight, as he admitted, finally, that he only had one real alternative, unless he wished her to remain his prisoner forever. He had to return her to Probity — There, he had finally admitted the truth to himself.

A quiet satisfaction settled over him as he accepted the inevitable and turning he began to retrace his steps in the soft sand back to the house. Yes, he would return Denise to Probity and Michael, too — providing the Gen had the sense to go with him.

He paused to think about the time he himself had spent at Probity. It had not been all bad — as he was the first to concede — and by taking the two Gens there he had an ideal excuse to return there himself and not lose face. Perhaps he could also borrow some of Logram's books… there was so much he didn't know about Simes, Gens and Channels, and no one should live in ignorance least of all… he cut off the thought once more. Why was it so important for him to do this? It was a question that, for the moment, he could find no answer to within his own mind.


The next day shortly after dawn Michael walked into the main room to find that Ryan had the fire burning brightly in the grate, while a pot of tea was brewing nearby. The Channel was sitting in one of the rocking chairs reading a child's book that he had found on the shelf above the cupboard.

Ryan glanced up at the Gen as he pointed to the book with a tentacle, 'You know, I had this same book when I was a child.'

'Yes, my mother said it was popular on the mainland,' Michael said as he moved to pour out the tea. Then, walking to the cupboard he carried a bowl with four eggs in it back to the table. 'I wouldn't normally eat this many eggs for one meal, but since I'll be leaving here today…'

'You've made up your mind then?' Ryan interrupted as he placed the book on the floor.

'Yes. After all I only remained here, because truthfully, I didn't know where else to go,' he confessed as he reached down a small cooking pot and began to break the eggs into it before beating them with a fork and placing them on the fire. While they cooked Michael took a large fruit out of his store and handed it to the Sime who automatically began to eat it.

The Gen grinned down at him, 'My mother also used to say that if anyone wanted proof that Gens and Simes were meant to live together; then the fact that Simes only bother to eat so well when they are close to us, proves the point.'

Ryan had agreed with him and then went on to say, 'I'm afraid you'll only be able to take one or two items of value with you. We can't really carry very much.'

After breakfast Ryan helped Michael to tidy the place, and to put everything of value that he could not take with him into the underground cave that his father had dug out; for as Michael had pointed out optimistically, at some time in the future he might be able to return and retrieve them again.

'Once we get to the mainland, I'll have to find a blacksmith to get a collar and chain for you,' Ryan explained as they worked.

'Oh, yes, I've just remembered.' Michael said as he disappeared, only to return once more but this time carrying a metal collar, chain and shackles. 'My father had to use these to bring my mother here.'

'I take it he explained to you about how Gens and Simes live on the mainland?'

Michael nodded quickly. 'Yes, he thought it best that I understand exactly how things are over there. After all, if anything had happened and I had to flee the island I wouldn't have stood much of a chance if I didn't know everything, would I?'

'Did he, by any chance, tell you where to go when you got there?'

'Yes, he said to make for the Hollow Mountains. He left me a map, too.'

Having made such an early start, it meant that by lunchtime they were ready to leave. Michael had packed two bags to take with him; one had his clothes and the other a few small items of sentimental value that had belonged to his parents.

Ryan watched as the Gen closed and locked the door then stood, staring at the house for several seconds before he finally picked up the bags and led the way to the far end of the beach.

Once there, Michael dropped the two bags and made his way between the sand dunes to where he had left his small rowing boat. Ryan moved to help him pull it down to the water's edge. Less than an hour later they arrived on the mainland at the bottom of the cliffs.

Pulling the boat up above the high tide line, they entered one of the many small caves that Michael's father had told him about, where they hid the tiny boat from sight.

'I don't suppose I shall ever use it again, but then again…'

Moments later Ryan quickly locked the collar around the Gen's neck and then attached the chain and shackles. 'I'm sorry about this, but it is necessary,' he said quietly, then wondered why he had felt impelled to apologise to the Gen. After all, once he had delivered Michael to Probity he had to go to his cousin's farm and collect the Gens that were to be used in his mother's new breeding program. Did he intend to apologise to them, too? The idea was ridiculous.

He zlinned the Gen walking slightly behind him, He could sense the Gen's melancholy at having to leave behind everything that he knew and held dear. Quickly Ryan stopped zlinning him, not wishing to intrude on the young man's emotions or feelings.

Suddenly, almost out of the blue, he began to wonder why he hadn't told the Gen about his mission to collect the Gens? Could it possibly be that he was ashamed? The answer had come unbidden into his mind, but nevertheless it seemed to be the logical explanation.

A short time later and Ryan had picked up a pair of horses from one of the staging posts that his family often used, and they set off in the direction of Probity. Ryan knew that he would draw attention to himself, because Gens were not allowed to ride. He also knew that no one, not even a member of the military would dare to challenge any Farris about such a transgression. A smile moved across his face as he imagined his fellow Simes shaking their heads, as they muttered amongst themselves that Ryan Farris — as always, was a law unto himself.


A slight frown crossed Ryan's face as the two men rode up to the front of Logram's farm. He had been zlinning the place for some time and was not really surprised when he could zlin no Gens in the vicinity, and assumed that they were in hiding at the approach of strangers, as Logram had ordered them to.

However, as they got closer to the entrance he was surprised that he could zlin no Simes, either. The place appeared, to all intents and purposes, to be completely deserted.

'Is this it?' Michael called, and Ryan nodded his head as he dismounted tossing his reins across his saddle.

'Not very welcoming are they? Where is everyone?'

'I've no idea. Get down Michael. We'd better take a look around, see if we can find any clue as to where they are.'

'Perhaps they've gone out for the day.' The Gen suggested as he climbed down, rubbing his hindquarters, for he had never ridden a horse before.

Ryan grunted as he conceded, 'Well the Simes might be out, but the Gens? I very much doubt that.'

It took only a few minutes to ascertain that the farm was locked up and empty.

'So, where are they?' Michael asked yet again beginning to look worried, as well he might.

'Truthfully? I have no idea.' Ryan confessed.

'So, what do you suggest we do?' The Gen demanded as he stared across at the Sime.

Where the shen had Logram and the rest of Probity gone to? Ryan wondered as he desperately zlinned the area yet again, even though he knew that the exercise was futile, because no one was here. Obviously, Logram and the others had not trusted him not to tell the authorities about them and had fled. And could he really blame them?

Indeed, for all he knew they could have been gone for some considerable time. Now this was something he had not even given a thought to happening. Shen and shid — his luck was really out this time.

Closing his eyes he shut down all his senses as his mind ran over everything he still had to do. First, he had to find somewhere for Michael to go. Second, he had to go and collect the Gens from his cousin's farm and thirdly —he had to return to Denise and decide what he should do with her now that he could not return her to Probity: unless he could find out where they had gone, of course.

Unfortunately, this time he could not get the military to help him search as he had often done in the past, for fairly obvious reasons. Which meant, of course, as his brother was so fond of observing, he was well and truly stuffed!

Biting his bottom lip angrily, Ryan walked silently back to where they had left the horses, and stood there staring at the hazy horizon where he could just make out the tops of the distant mountain range.

Suddenly Michael's voice broke into his reverie, 'Well, it's obvious they've gone from here. The question is, where do we go now?'

Ryan stepped up into the saddle before he looked down into the lone Gen's green eyes as he confessed honestly, 'Truthfully, Michael? I have no idea.'

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