(NB: This is the fifth in a series of Chapters surrounding the life and times of Ryan Farris who first appeared in A New Beginning: the Sands of Time Part Nine; chronicling the major points in his rather colourful and adventurous life read, and hopefully, enjoy. Previous installments may be found through the COMPANION IN ZEOR index page.)
THE FARRIS FACTOR 5
By D DaBinett
Denise found to her chagrin that she felt far more vulnerable when left on her own for any length of time in her cell, than when Ryan was actually with her, and as far as she was concerned the small shed was, indeed, a cell.
She found this even stranger because on Earth she had always been self-reliant, and confident of her own place in the world. But as she was now only too well aware, this was not Earth. This was a world where Gens were considered as being on a par with cattle.
Indeed, Gens were only tolerated and allowed to live for a short length of time because quite simply they provided a source of food in the form of selyn for the resident Simes. Selyn they could not live without.
Consequently, when Ryan informed her that he was going to pick up a party of Gens from his cousin Simon, and would be away for the best part of three weeks, a feeling of despondency fell on her that she knew would not lift until he returned.
Of course, the real problem was that she had nothing whatsoever to do to occupy herself during the long hours, which meant she simply sat all day, and then, all night, too, with nothing but her own thoughts to keep her company; and these were dark, indeed.
Denise had long ago acknowledged to herself that she already had deep feelings for Ryan Farris. However, she also accepted the unpalatable fact that he did not reciprocate those feelings. Indeed, he was even talking about marrying a nice Sime girl of his mother's choosing!
A silent sigh escaped her lips as she pushed the food around on the plate. The Channel had been gone for three days now, but to her it felt more like three weeks. She saw no one, not even Annie, who pushed her food through a small hatch beside the door. She had tried to open a conversation with the Sime girl but to no avail. So she spoke to no one, and consequently she felt like she was slowly going out of her mind. After all as she would be the first to acknowledge, food for the mind was just as important as nourishment for the body.
Another day dawned and she spent the whole of the daylight hours lying on her small bed and staring up at the small patch of blue sky that she could see though the window in the roof. As the day drew to a close, the patch of sky slowly turned to an even deeper blue until finally night fell once more.
Her evening meal arrived and she ate it automatically, not because she was hungry, how could she be hungry when she had had no exercise, but simply because it at least gave her something to do; and she had now begun to tell the time by the meals she received.
As the minutes slowly clicked away she wondered yet again why she had ever come to this planet in the first place? Although she also knew that with Rolf at her side it had all seemed so very different, a romantic adventure to be lived to the full.
Then Rolf was no longer there. At first she had thrown herself into helping Logram to fulfil his dream and that too had been enough and then when Ryan had arrived
she sighed out loud as she looked up at the stars through the skylight in the roof.
For a while she had allowed herself to daydream of how life would be for her and the new Channel. How stupid she had been; for Ryan had turned out to be even worse than her worst nightmare scenario; and now here she was trapped, perhaps forever in this...
Realising that she was allowing herself to fall into a fit of melancholy and depression she quickly pushed the unpleasant thoughts to one side as she conceded that waiting for the long night to pass, was perhaps the hardest thing of all.
Suddenly she sat up and swung her feet to the floor as she heard the door being unlocked. Was Ryan back already? Perhaps he couldn't stay away from her for so long? And who was she kidding?
However it was dark, the middle of the night, so who but Ryan would be visiting her now?
The door finally swung open to reveal a dark figure outlined against the even darker sky outside the shed.
'Ryan?' She whispered hopefully.
'Sorry to disappoint you, but my esteemed brother won't be returning after all.'
'Won't be...? What do you mean
'I was the last time I looked in the mirror,' the Sime said, with a short laugh of derision.
Denise ignored the words as she asked, 'What do you mean Ryan won't be back?'
'What's the matter Gen, are the words too difficult for you to understand?' he asked sarcastically, as he stepped further into the room which, because of her field, was as bright as day to his Sime senses.
'Where is he? What's happened to him?' she asked, wishing she could see his face to determine if he was serious or was just playing an unpleasant game with her. Ryan had warned her about his brother.
'Here,' he tossed across a basket that landed at her feet with a thud. 'Unless you're particularly greedy, there's enough food there to keep you going till you're a long way from here.'
'I don't understand. Does Ryan know you're doing this?'
'Hardly since he's dead.'
'What did you say!?' Denise stared at the dark figure in horror as her legs gave way and she sat down abruptly on the side of the bed.
'Look, Gen, since you obviously don't have the intelligence to comprehend what I'm telling you, I'll try to explain it more simply. Ryan won't be back... ever! Which means you can either stay here, and since your protector is no longer here, at least not in the flesh, you can then wait for my mother to either hand you over to our new breeding program, or take you for her own personal Kill this month.' He paused a slight smile touching his lips before he went on, 'now if you don't like the idea of either of those two things then you can come with me right now, if not well the decision is yours.'
'And where, exactly, will you be taking me?'
'I'll take you several miles away from here and let you go, hence the food.'
'And why would you do that?' she asked suspiciously.
'Why? Didn't my dear departed brother ever tell you what a kind and thoughtful man I am?'
'No, he didn't.'
Dermott laughed again. 'Well, never mind, but if you're coming then get your shoes on and let's go. My patience is wearing extremely thin, and I might just decide to Kill you right now, instead.' He left the threat hanging in the air.
'And why don't you try to do just that?' Denise taunted under her breath as she pulled on her shoes and placed her comb and several other small personal items that Ryan had given to her, on top of the basket.
'Well, I have to admit the idea has merit, but while I can fool most Simes, my brother and my mother can always tell if I lie to them.'
'You said that Ryan's dead!'
'And, he is. But my mother is very much alive, and as Ryan may have told you, she can dream up some very unpleasant punishments if her orders are not carried out to the letter. Unfortunately she gave her word to my brother not to harm you while he was away; and believe me when I say that she would have kept her word but now that he won't be returning... all bets are off!' He left the threat hanging in the air.
Denise felt that something did not quite ring true about what he was telling her, but since she was too shocked about Ryan's death to enquire further, and the thought of escaping this place was sweet, she decided to accept what he was telling her at face value. After all, what else could she do?
Denise had no coat or cloak to put on so she plucked the single cover off the bed, folded it like a shawl and wrapped it around her shoulders before she picked up the basket, and walked out of the shed.
The Sime immediately sprang up onto his horse and, grasping her arm, with his tentacles he pulled her up in front of him holding her in place with his other arm wrapped around her waist.
Moments later he rode away from the farm heading towards Preston. For about an hour as far as Denise could estimate time they rode steadily down the cart track until he suddenly stopped.
'Jump down,' he ordered briskly, and taking the basket from her hand he tossed it down to the ground.
'Where am I?'
'A long way from the farm. Just don't try and go back there.'
where shall I go?' She asked almost desperately, staring around at the barren landscape.
'I don't care, just as long as I don't see you again,' he turned abruptly to ride away.
'Wait a minute. You'd better tell me where I am and where I can go, because if you don't, then I might have no alternative but to return to the farm,' Denise threatened, aware that for some reason known only to himself Dermott wanted her well away from the farm and preferably dead but not, it seemed, by his hand. 'Either that or someone will catch me in the next hour or so, and I just might tell them that I'm part of your new breeding program, and your mother will give them a reward if they return me to her and I will tell her that
'All right all right you've said enough.' The Sime almost snarled before he said ominously, 'Of course I could just Kill you and leave you here.'
'Yes, you could try to do that, but if you succeeded you'd still have to lie to your mother about Killing me,' she reminded him.
The Sime snorted and then snapped, 'If you keep going straight down this road you'll eventually come to Preston. If you want my advice give the city a wide berth. When you reach the other side of the city you'll see a mountain range right in front of you on the horizon, that's Hollow Mountains; it's honeycombed with caves, and your kind hide there. Good riddance!'
Turning the horse he galloped away without another word, leaving Denise all alone at the side of the road.
For a brief moment she almost wished that she were back in the safety of the shed. But if Ryan were dead, then how long would the shed have remained her refuge?
Pulling herself together, she decided to get off the main track because horse riders or carts could come down here at any time.
Picking up her basket, she struck off across the field before she eventually turned parallel to the track and headed in the general direction of Preston, intending to give it a wide berth as Dermott had counselled her to do.
As she stumbled along over the field that had once been ploughed up but was now overgrown, she remembered the old deserted mill where she had waited for Ryan, not expecting him to return with two of the militia. She had a rough idea where the mill was located, and if she could find it again she could take refuge there, before she set off once more on the long trek to Logram, Probity and home if she could remember the way.
There was an old adage that she had often heard spoken on Earth be very careful what you wish for and she had been wishing for some time to be as far away from that miserable shed as possible, and now it seemed that her wish had come true, with a vengeance.
Glancing towards the horizon she saw that a single finger of Sunlight was just starting to pierce the stygian darkness, for this planet's satellites had long since disappeared behind a bank of cloud, and she wondered yet again whether it would be safer to travel during the day or wait for night to fall again before she commenced her trek.
The problem, of course, was self-evident. Simes could zlin Gens by day or by night. Although at night she might not encounter quite so many of them: simply because even Simes, or a vast majority of them, would stay close to home and family during the long night time hours. At least they did on Earth and she could only hope that society here ran along similar lines; at least as far as family life was concerned.
On top of that, the noise of horses' hooves or the rumble of a cart would carry much further at night than they did during the day. Perhaps night travel was the better course of action after all?
Denise sighed out loud for she knew that either way, a lone Gen travelling through Sime territory by day or night was in constant danger of being discovered, and there was little she could honestly do about that. Of course, she was able to hide her own field, but that was not the only criteria to be taken into consideration. After all, they might not zlin her, but they might just see her before she saw them, and perhaps approach her to investigate why a young female was travelling alone!
Once the Sun had begun to rise high into the sky and the new day had begun in earnest, Denise started to look for somewhere she could hide till nightfall.
Thankfully, she had already spotted several outcrops of rock, sticking up like miniature mountains out of the sandy soil that surrounded them. Making her way to the nearest one, she dropped her basket down and began to scout around for clumps of vegetation or anything else she could pile on top of her to help hide her field from passing Simes.
Of course if she was awake when they passed by she could shield herself, but if she was asleep
then she would require every bit of help that she could find.
Satisfied that she had done everything that she could to hide her presence, she quickly laid the bedcover on the ground and wriggled her body between two large rocks and a rocky overhang pulling the vegetation and branches over her as she settled down to wait.
During the hottest part of the day, Denise was both hot and thirsty. Dermott had only put one small bottle of water into the basket, so she had to ration herself.
Delving once more into the basket she found the small fan that Ryan had given her, and quickly used it to good advantage, laughing grimly as she thought that the Simes wouldn't have to zlin her field to discover her whereabouts, they would see the clouds of steam rising up from her hot, perspiring body.
At some time during the long day she finally fell into a fretful sleep, jerking awake every hour or so to look around and wonder where she was. Finally the Sun began to drop once more towards the far horizon and she welcomed the cool evening breeze that immediately sprang up.
Closing her eyes she listened intently but could hear nothing save the incessant buzzing of insects. Denise had already eaten one of the slices of bread that Dermott had placed into the basket. It left her only two more slices, both of which by now were probably hard and stale.
Like most Simes, he had not thought to wrap them up or spread anything on the bread to help keep it moist, neither was there any cheese to accompany it, save for three round pock marked green fruit things at least she assumed that they were fruit, they could just as easily be vegetables.
Sighing she picked one of them up, smelled it, licked it it was tasteless and then dug her firm white teeth into the rind as she attempted to pull the peel off to get at whatever flesh was underneath the skin. After several attempts she finally succeeded, the inside was soft and pulpy and very bland but it was food, and as such she could not afford to turn her nose up.
Once the Sun had disappeared beneath the horizon and darkness settled across the land, Denise set off again staying parallel to but well clear of the cart track, and keeping her ears as wide open as she could as she listened for any sound carried on the cool crisp night air.
The wooden shutters covered the window openings and after a few seconds of disbelief, Denise stood on tiptoe to look through a crack in the shutters. Her worst fears were instantly confirmed: the room was empty. What had she really expected? After all it would have been foolish for Logram to have stayed here knowing that Ryan could send the military at any time to destroy them all. So he had uprooted the entire Householding and had taken them
She quickly found a way into the farmhouse through a broken door at the rear of the property, scratching her arm on a nail as she did so. It took only moments to search the place and decide that it was, indeed, deserted.
Entering Logram's office last of all, a wave of nostalgia swept through her; how many times had she sat in this very room to drink tea with the Channel and discuss the day's events?
Glancing around her eyes alighted on a map on the wall. It was one of the first maps that Logram had been able to obtain when he had first arrived on the planet; and the indigenous Simes had told him that it was surprisingly accurate for such an old map.
Since then of course he had obtained many more maps, far more accurate than this one, which was probably why he had not bothered to take it with him.
Opening the shutters on the office window she used the light that flooded in to examine the map more carefully looking for any clue as to where Logram and her friends had gone, but of course, she found none.
It seemed that her only alternative was to call at one of the safe houses on the outskirts of Boston or Preston to see if they had any news. She knew the addresses, but that did not mean that she would be able to find them; surrounded as they undoubtedly were by other houses filled with Simes.
She sighed it was an impossible task she had set herself. She had been lucky in getting this far, but how much longer would her luck hold?
Carefully she removed the map from the wall and folded it to a more convenient size for carrying, for she had little doubt that it would prove useful.
Tonight she would stay here at the farm in one of the safe areas down in the cellar that Logram had had dug out for the Gens to hide in case of emergency.
On her way to the farmhouse she had noticed that the fields of fruit and vegetables had already been harvested, presumably to take with them. Slipping out side once more she searched the nearest field for any vegetables or fruit that might have been overlooked. She found several root vegetables amongst the dirt at the side of the field, together with some bruised but edible fruit under the trees that she pushed into her basket and carried back to the house.
Once inside the house she hurried down into the sanctuary where she washed both the fruit and vegetables and prepared some of them to eat for her supper before she settled down to sleep for that night and the best part of the next day.
The following evening, feeling well rested and fed, she packed her basket with as much of the prepared food as she could carry with ease, and then set off on her way to a safe house in Boston.
Boston was, of course, much smaller than Preston and she hoped that she would therefore find it easier to reach the safe house that was situated on the outskirts of the small town, hopefully and with luck undetected by the other resident renSimes that lived close by.
However, she also knew that if there were too many Simes in the vicinity and she could not reach the house safely in Boston, then there would be little point in switching her attention to the larger town of Preston.
Indeed, she might well have to abandon her original idea altogether, and do as Dermott had suggested and make for the Hollow Mountains.
However, having heard some of the tales about the Wild Gens who inhabited the place from some of the renSimes who had come to join Probity, it was not a prospect that she truly relished.
Having handed the horses over to the hostler, Ryan booked a room for the night, and led the Gen upstairs by his lead. The room was not of course up to the standard that the Channel was used to, but was the best that this place had to offer.
Having finished his inspection of their surroundings Ryan suddenly grinned broadly as he observed. 'This is the first time I have ever shared a room with a Gen that I did not intend to Kill.'
'Thanks.' Michael stood in the middle of the room staring around him before he observed. 'My father told me about the shackles that they have in these places, but I can't see any here.'
'They're behind the curtain,' Ryan said as he flicked a tentacle in the general direction.
'Ah, and there was I thinking that there was just another window behind there,' Michael confessed as he walked towards the two beds before he lay down on the nearest one with a sigh of content.
'I should by rights use the shackles on you,' Ryan murmured as he stared down at the Gen. 'If a servant were to enter unannounced
'Then they'll be in for a surprise won't they?' Michael said with a yawn.
'We don't want to court trouble,' the Channel pointed out, 'not if we can help it.'
'Are you serious?'
'I said, are you serious? Because if you think that I'm going to lie down on a hard wooden floor while you, who doesn't really have to sleep all that much, lies on one of the beds! Then you'd better think again my friend because it just isn't going to happen.'
Ryan felt himself bristle at Michael's tone, he had never in his life been spoken to like that by anyone, least of all a Gen. 'I could insist.' He said almost threateningly.
Michael smiled, 'Yes, you could; but it wouldn't get you very far.'
'Are you taunting me Michael?' he asked in surprise.
'No, merely warning you.'
'Look you may be more intelligent than the average Gen, I'm willing to give you that. You might also be unafraid of Simes, with just cause, I'll concede that too. But you are still only a Gen, and if I decide you'll be shackled to the wall for the night to ensure our safety, then believe me when I say you will be shackled to the wall.' His voice was soft and ominous.
Michael got slowly to his feet his eyes narrowed and his arms loose at his side his hands balling up as the two men sized each other up.
'You know, Ryan, I'm not joking when I say that I know how to kill a Sime.' The young Gen said softly as they began to slowly circle each other.
'Tell me, Michael, do you really want to Kill me?' Ryan demanded, as one eyebrow rose.
'Of course not!'
'Then, why make the threat?'
because I don't intend to be shackled to a shenning wall by you or anyone else. I'm a man, not a dog!'
'As far as my fellow Simes are concerned Michael you're a Gen, which is lower than a dog.' He paused momentarily and then went on, 'I was raised to think the same.'
'And I thought you were different from the others, it seems I was wrong.' Michael said almost sadly.
Ryan sighed, 'I was brought up on a Genfarm Michael, and from birth I was taught to look upon your kind as nothing but food to be Killed for my nourishment and pleasure. Then, I met a man called Logram who is not from this planet but who teaches me not to Kill; and a woman who is able to meet my Need time and time again, and not be Killed while doing it.
'Then finally I meet you; a Gen from my own world who befriended me, and who I have grown to both like and respect.' Ryan stopped and then went on almost hesitantly as he met Michael's eyes steadily as he went on; 'now you threaten to kill me because I tell you that we will both be safer if you are shackled to the wall for the night
do you really want to settle this dispute between us by fighting to the death? One of us will surely die, if we do.'
'No, of course I don't! Oh, shen it to hell, you're right of course, someone might just come in and see me lying there,' he acknowledged angrily. 'Come on then fasten me up before I change my mind.'
Ryan grinned as he pulled the mattress off the nearest bed and carried it over to the wall where he laid it on the floor for Michael to lie on. 'There's no reason you shouldn't be comfortable,' he stated, before he began to fasten the shackles on the Gen's ankles and wrists then tossed him the key as he said, 'you'd better keep that, in case we have to leave here quickly.'
'What if this mythical servant comes in and sees me lying on this mattress won't he think that that's wrong, too?' Michael demanded as he sat cross-legged in the middle of the mattress and stared up at the Sime.
'Perhaps or perhaps not; after all not all Simes are unkind to the Gens they have bought for the Kill.' Ryan informed him wryly. 'My mother does not allow cruelty to any of our Gens. Indeed, unless they actually deserve punishment they are well looked after, especially considering the way they are treated on other Genfarms.'
'Why's that? I mean, you're only going to Kill the Gens anyway, so why bother to be kind to them? It seems a bit of a waste of time to me.'
Ryan smiled. 'My father always used to tell me that a Gen who is treated with kindness makes a far better kill when the time comes. He or she comes to hand easily, and when they finally realise that you intend to Kill them, the fear they flare into the ambient is exquisite, indeed.'
Michael stared up at the Sime, unsure whether to be alarmed or not. 'You know, I've just realised that you've been somewhat kind to me. Perhaps I should be worried?' And he cocked his head on one side as he awaited a response.
Ryan laughed out loud before he murmured, 'Perhaps you should, especially after your threat against me just now.'
A short while later the Channel ordered a meal to be sent up for both of them, asking for the Gen to be given double portions of everything.
'So tell me, where do you intend we look for this Denise?'
'Truthfully? I don't know.'
I see, so what do you intend to do if you can't find her in time?' Michael demanded as he chewed another mouthful of food and stared into the Channel's dark eyes.
'In time? You mean, before my transfer is due?'
The Gen nodded his head.
'I shall have no alternative but to buy a Gen from the military.'
'You intend to Kill again?' Michael demanded in surprise, for Ryan had told him how difficult he had found it to disjunct.
'But you can't do that, Ryan,' the Gen stated quickly, 'I mean, supposing you can't give it up again? Do you want to go on Killing for the rest of your life?'
'You know I never thought I'd ever admit to this, but no I don't. To be honest with you, since my disjunction I have suffered hardly any of the illnesses and allergies that plagued me before. But if I can't find Denise in time, what choice do I have?'
'You have me.'
'Shen and shay, no I don't. I refuse to Kill you.'
'But you won't Kill me. I've given transfer that's what you call it right? I've given transfer to my father since I was in my teens. Why can't I do the same for you, just till you find this Denise again?'
'I zlinned you on the island if you remember; you have neither the capacity nor the speed to satisfy me.' Ryan pointed out at once.
'Maybe you were wrong. I mean you weren't exactly looking to see how much
selyn I was carrying, were you? Come on have another look.'
Ryan sighed, 'It's a waste of time, but if it'll make you happy,' he knelt down in front of the Gen and waited as the youth fearlessly extended his arms.
Moments later the Channel released the Gen and retracted his tentacles.
'Well, come on, don't keep me in suspense.'
'I'm surprised,' the Sime confessed at once. 'I remember Logram telling me that sometimes a Gen with potential can increase the amount of
ah selyn that they carry simply by being in close proximity to a Channel who is rated higher than them.'
'So what does that mean exactly? Can I serve you or can't I?'
'Not at the moment no; but you are very close to me now, very close indeed. In a month or two's time perhaps but...'
'Can't you make do with what I've got just this once?' Michael asked quietly. 'You don't have to gorge yourself every time do you?'
'I'm frightened to try.'
'What does that mean, exactly?'
'Look, Michael, I have to be honest with you. According to Logram I am already what he calls a First. But, unfortunately, I am not fully trained. At this moment in time I feel that I can stop myself before I strip you completely of all your selyn, but I can't guarantee that. For all I know it's nothing but the beginning of Need talking, making me feel that I can do this without Killing you.' He shook his dark head in frustration. 'Which means I can't take transfer from you; I really daren't do it.'
'Nonsense. I trust you Ryan, of course you can do it.'
'Stupid Gen! You just don't understand what I'm trying to tell you, do you?' the Channel snapped back.
'So, make me understand.'
The problem, of course, was that Ryan himself, did not really understand all the ramifications of what Logram and the others had taught him during his time at the house of Probity. After all, he himself had not really been paying full attention. So how could be possibly explain a Sime's nature, and the dangers that that involved to Michael?
The Gen, however, kept on and on at him to explain, and in frustration he finally did his best.
However, in the final analysis he still stuck stubbornly to his original decision. He would buy a Gen to Kill when the time came, and although a strange fear almost a loathing at what he must do filled him at the very thought of Killing another Gen, nothing that Michael could say to the contrary would dissuade him from that resolution.
Indeed, he knew that he only had two chances to try and stay clear of the Kill. Find Denise, or find Logram, in the faint hope that the Channel could teach him how not to kill Michael in transfer. Unfortunately, as Ryan would be the first to concede both ambitions, for the moment at least, seemed rather forlorn and completely beyond his grasp.
Why was the Gen struggling like this? All Gens knew that they had to die didn't they? Desperately the Sime held on more tightly as his prey tried even harder to escape; shen but he was as slippery as an eel.
Then a string of profanities escaped the Sime's lips as firm white teeth bit down into his arm, narrowly missing his tentacle sheaths and entering the hard muscle of his forearm where thankfully they could do very little harm but nevertheless the pain was still intense.
Giving up all pretence that he could subdue the Gen without harming him, the Sime began to fight in earnest as he ordered the Gen to keep still but was ignored. What did he expect? That the youth would sit passively by while his life force was drained from him? A bark of laughter left his throat as he realised how ludicrous that was.
Finally in sheer desperation he took the Gen in Kill position and his prey tossed his head from side to side trying to avoid the final contact. But the Sime was well aware from previous encounters that a lip to lip contact was not strictly necessary, merely convenient, as with a grunt of satisfaction his lips came to rest on the Gen's vulnerable neck near the carotid artery feeling the blood of life pumping through, and he immediately began to draw his selyn.
At first everything was fine, the young Gen's speed and capacity appeared to meet his own, then just as suddenly, it didn't! Desperately he drew against the resistance faster and deeper, terrified that the sparkling source of life would run out before he had taken his fill
then a scream of pure frustration left his mouth as the youth slumped in his arms, he was dead
his emerald green eyes wide open and filled with accusation as he stared up at him.
Outraged that he had been thwarted at the very last moment the Sime's eyes searched around desperately looking for yet another Gen on whom to slake his need, but without success...
then he began to scream and scream again as he felt firm hands resting on his shoulders and he was unceremoniously pushed down to lie flat on his back.
'Ryan! Ryan! For shen's sake wake up damn you!' Michael shook the Channel again and again.
'What the..!?' The Channel opened his eyes and found himself looking up into the eyes of the youth he had just killed, but he now knew that they were Michael's eyes and he was alive alive not dead. A wave of relief ran through his body as he pushed the Gen's arms away and got shakily to his feet. 'Oh, shen, you're alive!' He laughed hysterically, 'it was just a dream!'
'Yes it was, and it must have been a whoozie of a dream, too,' the Gen said at once. 'You frightened me for a minute there. You were screaming out loud and it looked like you were fighting someone.'
'I was! It was you! In fact, I thought for a while that I'd killed you,' the Channel confessed wryly.
'Well, calm down, you didn't.'
Ryan turned to the Gen and grasped his shoulders as he took a deep breath and shook his head ruefully as he said, 'The last time I got one of those dreams was in the run up to my disjunction.'
'Do you think there's some significance?' Michael asked as he sat down on the bed and stared at the Channel.
'I don't know.' Ryan stared at the shackles and the key lying on the mattress as he observed, 'you certainly undid those quickly enough.'
'I thought you were going crazy,' the Gen said with a laugh. 'Are you sure you're okay now?'
'I wouldn't exactly go that far,' Michael murmured and then pressed, 'so come on, tell me what was the dream all about?'
'I told you before. I Killed you.' Ryan admitted and then went on, 'truthfully it was a real nightmare and I haven't really had one to rival it not since my changeover.'
'So you've had nightmares before?'
'Haven't we all?'
'Speaking for myself? No, I can't say that I have.'
Ryan turned to stare at him eyes open wide. 'You've never had a nightmare?' Michael shook his head. 'Then, believe me, you're lucky.'
'So are you going to tell me about it?'
The Channel sighed out loud. 'I already have. I attacked you. I killed you end of story.'
'And that's all there was to it?' Michael sounded disappointed.
'Isn't that enough? What more do you want to know?' the Channel asked testily, and then went on. 'Some people do say that if you tell someone about a dream before breakfast it just might come true.'
Michael laughed softly. 'If you say so.' Slowly he returned to his mattress to lie in the middle of it as he asked, 'are you going to try and get another hour's sleep before dawn?'
Ryan shuddered, 'I don't think so somehow, but don't let me stop you.'
Michael yawned, and making himself comfortable, lay down, obediently closing his eyes as he did so. Moments later he was fast asleep.
For several minutes the Channel watched the Gen sleep peacefully before he finally shook his head. Then, climbing to his feet, he stretched his arms above his head before he finally walked across to the window and drew back the curtain to stare out into the darkness.
Denise looked up through the Gen-net at the Simes who surrounded her. It was, after all, her own fault that she had been captured, she had simply been incautious and she had no one else to blame but herself.
But travelling so far, first to the old Mill and then all the way to Logram's farm, and finally almost to the outskirts of Boston only seeing the odd Sime in the distance had made her careless. She bit her lip angrily, glad that at least her captors did not look as though they intended to Kill her straight away. With luck she might still get out of his predicament in one piece if she bided her time. She could only hope.
'Shen it, but this one has a ripe field zlin it Brigs!' One of her captors called out. Quickly Denise closed down her nager as the other renSime zlinned her.
'You going senile on me Fren? Its field is practically zero! I'd say it was newly established except it seems a bit too old for that
'But I could have sworn
'Hardly worth bothering with at all,' Brigs laughed and then said sarcastically, 'perhaps we should give it to you this month, seeing as how you think it's so ripe.'
Seconds later Denise was released from the Gen-net then shackled by ankle and wrist she was tossed into the back of a cart and driven away from Boston, towards Preston. After a few moments she pulled herself together and turned to where she saw that another Gen female was lying alongside her. 'Where are they taking us?' she whispered.
Her fellow Gen answered, but to Denise's surprise she could not understand a single word. Speaking more slowly she asked the same question again, hoping that the young woman would realise that she had not been understood, and would, in her turn, speak more clearly.
Again the reply was indistinct. What was the matter, she wondered. After all she had spoken to many renSimes at the farm, and many did, indeed, have dreadful dialects but she had never had this much difficulty before. Perhaps they were each speaking a totally different language? After all, even on Earth a vast number of different languages were still spoken.
Denise tried once more, and this time was more successful as the female said slowly, 'Auction at Preston,' then she closed her eyes and fell silent again as if the effort to speak at all was too much.
'Is something wrong?' Denise finally asked the young woman shaking her urgently.
Denise felt like kicking herself. Of course she should have guessed that they had probably drugged her, no wonder her words were so slurred and she had so much difficulty in articulating them.
For several hours the cart banged and clattered its way along the tracks and rough terrain on its way to Preston. Denise felt every bump, and often glanced enviously towards her travelling companion wishing that she, too, could escape into sleep, even if it was drug induced.
Suddenly the cart rolled to a halt amidst a lot of shouts and screams.
What the shen was happening, she wondered, as she stared into the darkness and wished that she could see what was going on outside the cart. Perhaps a wheel had come off or there was trouble with one of the horses? Even as she dismissed the thought the cover was pulled off the top of the cart and a face peered down at her.
'Janay is that you, are you in there?' A voice called out anxiously.
Denise struggled to sit up as she stated, 'There's two of us in here, but my friend is drugged and I don't know if her name is Janay.'
Moments later the owner of the voice jumped down into the cart, grunted words to the effect that it was Janay and then began to release the two women before he called to someone outside the cart to give him a hand in lifting her out.
Once her own shackles were removed and she was left, more or less, to her own devices, Denise scrambled over the side of the cart to stand on the hard ground rubbing her eyes. After several seconds her night vision at last came into play and she glanced around at the three renSimes lying dead on the track, before her eyes turned to study her rescuers.
There appeared to be almost a dozen Gens, both male and female, many holding wooden cudgels, while one of them had Janay who was still unconscious slung over his shoulder. Suddenly, in silence, they all began to move off.
'Hey, wait a minute, please!' she called out quickly.
'What do you want?' The nearest Gen demanded to know. 'Spit it out, girl, this road is well used by the Simes so we can't stand around here talking all night.'
'Where am I?'
'She'd better come with us Isi. Leave her here to her own devices and the snakes will pick her up again before morning,' another voice joined in.
'He's right girl, you'd better follow us,' Isi stated, and they all began to walk off again heading across open country.
Running to keep up with them Denise managed to catch up with one of the women and asked quickly, 'Where are you all going?'
'We're heading for the mountains, where else?'
'The Hollow Mountains?' Denise panted, falling into step with her.
'Ain't no other range near here,' the woman replied at once, turning her head to stare at her fellow Gen quizzically.
Denise ignored the stare as she went on, 'You all live there?'
'Do you mind if I come with you?'
'You're a Gen. You're free to go where you like, just as long as the Simes aren't around,' and she gave a harsh laugh.
'My name's Denise,' and as she spoke she held out her hand much as she would have done on Earth.
Her fellow Gen stared at the outstretched hand for a moment or two and then ignored it as she said, 'I'm Kyla.'
'The man who rescued us, is he related to Janay
her fiancé, or her husband perhaps?'
'I don't know what a fiancé is, but Ben ain't no husband, he's her brother.'
'I thought they must be close, since he risked his life to free her.'
'Best if you save your breath instead of asking fool questions, we've a long way to travel before daybreak,' Kyla called over her shoulder as she increased her speed in an effort to keep up with the men.
Denise, not wishing to antagonise the young woman, fell silent and concentrated on hurrying as quickly as she could across the uneven ground without falling over.
The Sun was already high in the sky when they came to the outskirts of the small town that the Channel had been making for.
'Why are we stopping here Ryan?' Michael demanded as he slid down off the horse and stood vigorously rubbing his own hindquarters. The Channel had told him that riding would get easier with practice, but he was inclined to believe that this simply was not true!
'I saw a notice a few miles back it said there was an auction here in this town today, beginning at 3:00 p.m.'
'An auction? Livestock you mean? Surely you're not thinking of getting rid of the horses?'
'Hardly, we're going to require their services for some time to come.' Ryan said at once.
'They're auctioning Gens, Michael. Prime Kills.'
'But I thought you said you were going to buy one from the military?'
'I intended to, but I've been thinking about that. My family have close connections with the militia. If I try to buy a Gen from any of their outposts it could just get back to my mother, and I wouldn't put it past her to put a price on my head and get the military to haul me back home.'
'You really think she would do that to you?'
'I'm certain of it. I know my mother.'
'So where do you leave me while you go to this... meat market?'
'Meat market, I don't think I've ever heard it called that before.' Ryan said with a chuckle.
'You know, I don't think it's anything to laugh about. After all, you turn your nose up when I talk about eating a good rabbit stew. Yet, buying Gens from an auction for the sole purpose of Killing them while you eat their life force
well I can't really see where the difference lies. Except I kill an animal and you Kill a person. Now I'm inclined to believe that Killing a human being is a lot worse than killing an animal. Perhaps you'd care to tell me if I'm wrong about that?' Michael said, with a sneer.
'All right, you sanctimonious lorsh, I get the point. Now you tell me, if I don't buy a Gen from the auction today, are you prepared to die when the time comes? Because the time will come, Michael, sooner or later my Need will become so acute that I will attack you in Kill mode!'
'I know how to defend myself.'
Ryan laughed out loud. 'Oh, yes, and normally I'm sure you can kill a Sime quickly and efficiently; but this won't be normal, Michael. It'll be hell for you, for me, for both of us.' he stepped closer to the Gen and stared down into his eyes as he went inexorably on, 'for all your expertise in killing Simes, it is still only a theory for you. Tell me, how many Simes have you actually killed... nine
ten... or is it, perhaps, none? On the other hand, Michael, I'm used to Killing; indeed, I have done it for most of my adult life both quickly and efficiently. When the time comes ,I won't hesitate to take your life. Can you honestly say the same?'
'I'm no murderer!'
'Exactly.' The Channel sighed as he went on softly, 'unfortunately I have come to realise that I can no longer say the same. I'm a Sime. I am stronger and faster than you can imagine
and believe me when I say that you wouldn't stand a chance. Now tell me, Michael, and I leave the choice entirely up to you, my brave friend. Do we go to the auction today or when the time finally comes, as it must, do we face each other in the ultimate test? You or him Michael you or him?'
'You want me to choose?' Ryan nodded his head quickly once up and once down. 'You're a bastard do you know that?'
The Sime nodded once more his face sober as he tried to read the young Gen's expression without having to zlin him. The Sime part of him wanted the Gen to turn down his offer to buy a Gen as he contemplated what a Kill Michael would be! While the Channel part almost cringed away from the thought of Killing the Gen, who had become closer to him than anyone else in his life
except, perhaps, Denise.
'All right, you bastard, you win. Go and buy your Gen sacrifice, and I hope it chokes you.'
'All living creatures must eat Michael. In the past, when you've eaten the flesh of a rabbit or fish that was placed before you, did you stop for one single moment to consider that a short while before, it had been living and breathing, before its life was taken merely to sustain yours?' The Sime paused and then went on softly, 'after all consider this: You do not have to eat flesh to live. You could survive on vegetables and fruit. I on the other hand cannot.'
'I said you've made your point, dammit. Now shut up and go and do what you have to do.'
'We'll leave the horses at the next hostelry we come to.'
'Hey wait a minute, are you intending to take me with you?'
'Yes. It wouldn't be safe to leave you alone, even in a room at the hostelry.'
'Won't the people at the auction think it strange that you would want to buy a Gen when you already have one in tow?'
'Most of the people attending the auction will probably already be in Need or approaching Need, and I doubt they will give me little more than a passing glance. In fact they will zlin at once that I am not, at the moment, in Need, and will therefore assume that I am buying for someone else. Besides, you have no reason to worry about them, Michael, because I will hide your robust field from them. Now hurry, I want to be there before the auction starts.'
'Why get there before?' Michael demanded as he and the Sime stepped up onto their horses and set off in search of a hostelry.
'Because I wish to pick out a Gen before the auction begins.'
Michael stared across at him curiously as he asked, 'You're only buying a Gen to Kill, so why does it matter which one it is?'
For a brief moment the Channel wondered whether to honey-coat his answer, but then decided that the Gen was entitled to know the unvarnished truth. 'Normally I would look for a Gen with the most spirit, one who like you, is prepared to fight for his life to his last breath even as I drain every drop of... selyn from his body.'
'You should not ask a question if you are not prepared to hear the answer. Or would you rather I lied to you? Are you such a child that I have to tell you a fairy tale rather than the truth?'
'No, of course not,' Michael paused and then asked, 'you said normally you would look for such a Gen; what does that mean exactly?'
'It means that this time I shall be looking for a Gen who preferably is docile and compliant.'
'You want a farm bred Gen.'
'If possible, yes. But I doubt I will find such a one at the auction, but I shall do my best.'
'You are persistent. Very well I will tell you. This time I don't want a Gen who is frightened of me yet is also defiant because it feeds the Need in me. And this time I don't want a Gen who talks back to me, either.'
'Yes, I can understand that,' the Gen said softly.
'No, I don't think you can. I am a predator, and therefore, a killer, but more than that I actually enjoy the Kill. I feed on a Gen's fear,' he hesitated momentarily letting his uncompromising words sink into the Gen's consciousness before he went on. 'I know that I have no choice but to Kill. It is, after all, the nature of a Sime. But this time I don't want to enjoy the fear as well.' A shudder ran through his body as he finished speaking and considered his own words.
Suddenly he sat up straighter in the saddle as he pointed with a tentacle and said, 'If I'm not mistaken that's the hostelry I've been looking for. Dermott and I stayed there a few years ago. I'll stable the horses and buy you some food, and we shall be in town within the hour.'
He looked across at the Gen. 'You had better dismount, and walk the rest of the way. It will give the stable boys one less thing to gossip about to the other guests.'
Surreptitiously, Ryan zlinned his fellow Gen as he stepped down off the horse, as he wondered what the boy had made of his uncompromising words, but surprisingly, for once, he was met by a virtual stone wall.
It was not the first time this had happened to him. Indeed, several of the Gens at Probity had had just such an ability, as had Denise; but they had been taught to do so by Logram, and Michael as far as Ryan was aware, had certainly not been that fortunate. Had his father taught him, perhaps? It seemed unlikely. But if not him, then how had the young Gen suddenly developed the ability? And was it something that he was actually aware of doing
or was it not? Indeed, Ryan thought silently, it was something to be looked into further, when he had the time.
Link to Part 6