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The Sime~Gen fans have been doing "Interactive Fiction"- participating in the creation of characters, background, story plots, and the overall direction of History in the several thousand years of Future History we are developing in the Sime~Gen Universe.
I started doing "Interactive Fiction" with my Kraith Series, the Star Trek series I did for fanzine distribution in the 1970's. At one point, I had over 50 Kraith Creators - people creating characters, background and stories for that alternate universe split off from Aired Trek.
To get Kraith's basic premise, I just extrapolated from what Gene Roddenberry had done in the First Season of Star Trek. He had begun by inviting famous science fiction writers, like Theodore Sturgeon, to contribute to aired-trek. If you haven't noticed, all television fiction is "interactive fiction" - it's just that the audience doesn't get to do the interaction. You have to be a member of the script writers' guild or such organizations to be invited to "pitch" a script, to sit in on the creative sessions where the direction of a show is determined. I didn't like being excluded, but I saw no reason to complain about that. We could do for ourselves what "they" were doing for themselves. Why crash their party? We could have just as much fun as they were having. Maybe more? Yes, definitely more.
I saw what Gene had done, and I realized that there were other science fiction authors whose work belonged to the pattern he was assembling. For Hollywood reasons, he wasn't able in successive seasons to keep using famous novelists to supply script ideas, so I finished the job for him. Since Kraith was to be a fanzine product, it was illegal to make any money from it (which we didn't - the publishers lost lots of money on it before it became self-supporting, though just barely) because of Star Trek's copyrights. Therefore, we couldn't pay professionals to come contribute. Therefore we had to do it ourselves. At that point, I was already a professional, having sold Operation High Time in 1968. But I will never outgrow fandom.
So I took (without her permission) Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series concepts, twisted them through my own creative mind, added them to GR's vision of the Trek Universe, and generated the Kraith Premise that launched a thousand stories (well, maybe not a thousand, but certainly millions of words!). I structured the plot of this giant, sprawling epic so that anyone could write a Kraith story, send it in, get an official number to fit it into the chronology and publish it. The "official numbers" allowed readers who encountered the stories scattered over the dozens of Trek fanzines to reassemble the stories into their internal chronological order and read the whole novel. Eventually, we helped by reprinting all the stories in Kraith Collected. We did require authors to rewrite manuscripts to bring the material into line with the established premises of the Kraith Universe, and to upgrade the writing craftsmanship as much as the writer was able.
And - Kraith was featured, with Jean Lorrah's NTM Universe, (which Jean admits came into existence as a fanzine because of her encounter with my nonfiction paperback Star Trek Lives! in 1975) in an article in the New York Times Book Review, November 16, 1986 by Camille Bacon-Smith (whom I met at Lunacon through another Trekfan, Judy Segal.) NTM is one of the components in Jean Lorrah's New York Times Bestseller Star Trek novels for Pocket Books. And Jean Lorrah was a Kraith Creator.
That article by Camille Bacon-Smith became a Ph.D. Thesis, the very research project which I had suggested in Star Trek Lives! needed doing to prove my various points - most importantly, that people who write television fanfiction for fanzines are making a rare and important, a truly vital, contribution to society. The core of that contribution is the invention of interactive multi-media fiction. This is a social revolution easily parallel in social terms to the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution and now the Information Age.
Camille's thesis then grew into a book on Star Trek fandom, Enterprising Women, Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth, which came out in 1992 in hardcover from The University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, and immediately swept through the field like a storm. It has a large amount of material on Kraith and its effect on Star Trek fandom. It is a very scholarly but readable work examining the peculiar hallmarks that make fan fiction so special. It's as readable as Alvin Toffler's , and I think just as "important" a contribution.
One of those peculiar hallmarks is this element of the shared-universe and interactivity - where the reader gets to determine the course of the story. Which is what Andrea Alton has accomplished with this story, "Partners" and the subsequent Icy Nager, and all that I hope will come of that. With Trekfic, the mutli-media aspects have started modestly, transforming a television show into written narrative (long before Manhattan began publishing TV novelizations!) and into still pictures drawn by passionately dedicated artists. What Andrea and the other Sime~Gen creators seem to be doing is to transform a written commercial narrative into interactive web-based multi-media fiction - or at least fiction that needs pictures, sound and narrative to be most effective. But it's more than that, for fanzine stories tell kinds of stories that commercial fiction can't tell. Reading both, you get a story view you can't get from either alone.
Camille has gone on to become a famous commercial fantasy-sf novelist in her own right with a series of titles from DAW Books which I have reviewed in my column in The Monthly Aspectarian.
When I started writing House of Zeor, as I said in Star Trek Lives!, it was with an eye to proving my theory of why Star Trek, (that most despised of all types of fiction, a television show) had generated such fervor among its fans - the like of which had never been seen before from any sort of fiction. The fervor that Kraith created in the fanzines wasn't enough proof though it had exactly duplicated (on a much smaller scale) the excitement that aired-Star Trek had developed. I had to do the exact same thing again, only this time in the commercial fiction arena. I did.
We are here on these interlaced websites, trying to bring to you the key contributions that have made this Sime~Gen universe the fascinating and energizing hobby that it is for so many diverse folks - an interactive fiction where the reader's input counts, where any reader can write some of the stories, and on the Listserve, participate in discussions that actually create new background. One such discussion should be posted at Tecton Central. It's on the Sime sleep requirement.
A study of Star Trek: The Original Series, the Six Volumes of Kraith Collected (which may still be available at least as used 'zines at cons) and Sime~Gen will reveal many aspects of interactive fiction in a shared universe context. The distinctive difference is that these fictions are not based on games but on Literature.
Sime~Gen's eight professionally published novels, two professionally published short stories, and millions of words of fanzine publications, constitute a blending of television and the novel which is ripe for explosion into web-based productions with sound, animation, hyperlinks, and interactive contributions by the readers to a "story-arc" universe that resembles Babylon-5 or Dallas more than Star Trek: The Original Series.
There's an important distinction to keep in mind here.
Sime~Gen is a commercial fiction Universe. The fiction we publish in the fanzines is fan-fiction, and not intended to be Commercial Fiction.
The distinction does not refer to the quality of the writing, the craftsmanship, the meticulous attention to detail, or the level of Art, the philosophical thinking, the thematic maturity or complexity.
It refers to the INTENDED AUDIENCE'S EXPERIENTIAL BACKGROUND. It is what Camille Bacon-Smith terms "high context" interaction.
So whether a story is "fan" or "commercial" depends not on any property of the fiction itself, but only on the intended reader. It most certainly does not refer to the quality of the writing, for many of our interactive contributors are professionals in commercial fiction. And some have gone on to become professionals. Commercial fiction is a totally different field from fan fiction.
You all know that the Doubleday Sime~Gen hardcover, First Channel, was Jean Lorrah's first commercial novel, though she'd been a professional in nonfiction for years prior to that. You may not know that she originally conceived that novel as a fanzine story, but I told her to write it as a commercial novel instead. It never existed in fanzine form, however Jean's DAW Sime~Gen paperback, Ambrov Keon, is based on some of the stories she did for Ambrov Zeor first. We intend to bring you those proto-stories soon.
Jean was the first of the fanzine contributors to this interactive universe to turn pro, and the list is still growing. Andrea Alton, as I've mentioned, has sold commercial science fiction. Kerry Lindemann-Schaefer (who has sold stories already), Mary Lou Mendum, Cheryl Wolverton (who has sold Romance novels already) and Cherri Munoz are a few I have my eye on to become interactive contributors to commercial Sime~Gen soon along with Andrea Alton.
To join this small crowd, all you have to do is love this universe with enough passion and dedication so that you're willing to learn the background and possibly the entire profession of writing. Note: to sell a script to your favorite television show, you aren't required to love the show. They don't refuse to produce scripts or stories just because the author didn't love the show. We do. To us, love of the material is the only qualification that counts. Everything else can be learned.
In our fan fiction, we play with this universe as if we were all living in it. And so in fan fiction, at least the fiction in the paper-printed fanzines, we have assumed that anyone reading these stories knows the background, has probably read all but a couple of the books, and is already fascinated with this universe.
In commercially published novels and stories, the assumption is that any reader encountering the work is seeing Sime~Gen for the first time or hardly remembers their last encounter and probably doesn't care that they've forgotten. All the background necessary to the particular story is presented in a minimum of detail, in order not to bore or swamp the barely-interested reader. This of course drives the curious fan to distraction because of all the unanswered questions.
In the fanzines, those questions are answered in exhaustive detail.
So as far as I'm concerned, Sime~Gen isn't "just the professionally published novels" nor the fanzines. It's both, interlocked, interwoven, hyperlinked, and shared with living Folks.
The difference between Kraith and Sime~Gen is that Kraith was a single episodic novel with a highly delineated story arc just like the one used by Babylon 5. Like B-5, and unlike Trek itself, Kraith has a single, overall, pervasive philosophical statement, an envelope theme, that the writer has to adhere to in order to get an official place in the story-arc. And no contribution is allowed to derail that story arc but only to support it.
Sime~Gen on the other hand is a Universe not a Series. Stories in it can be based on any theme, expound any philosophy, explore any kind of event-situation plot, and be presented in any style whatever. To become an "official" Sime~Gen story, the author must only base the story on the established background and place it carefully in an appropriate spot in the overall history.
Prospective contributors to Sime~Gen should note one other important fact here. Neither in Kraith nor in Sime~Gen do the contributors use other authors' characters. While the background is interactive and shared, the characters tend to be original to each of the authors. Borrowing characters is something we allow only by permission or in collaboration, and both Kerry Lindemann-Schaefer and Andrea Alton have expressly denied such permission. This makes it harder to write Sime~Gen than the average TV spinoff fanzine story.
And though our door is open to anyone who wants to write Sime~Gen fiction, we do expect contributors to be willing to rewrite to our exacting specifications - sometimes four or five times, which can take years. But it does teach the writing craft, as "Partners" and the connected works by Andrea Alton so well demonstrate.
"Partners" has to be regarded the same way as my story, Lortuen, as a prototype story - one which Andrea later turned into the novel which became on rewrite Icy Nager - the novel posted on the Householding Zeor website for download.
As with all our fanfiction, you should regard "Partners" as "alternate Universe S~G" - but save it for rereading especially if you're interested in how "Interactive Fiction" may evolve as a web-based product. I'll tell you why in a moment.
At the time Andrea wrote this short piece, she didn't really have total command of the craft's tools, so when I sent the submission draft back to her with some suggestions to polish it, she didn't really understand what I was saying to her about it. Because the manuscript was already so beautifully executed, I had sent the rewrite request couched in writers jargon - assuming I was dealing with a seasoned professional fictioneer. I had to translate before she could catch on to what I was talking about - but she caught on faster than anyone I've ever dealt with before.
In a remarkably short time, she'd sold her first novel, Demon of Undoing, to Baen Books in paperback, proving my point. It's a good read - scratches the Sime~Gen itch and satisfies Trek-want too, and is totally original with all kinds of wonderful possibilities.
Now you can find more of Andrea Alton's non-Sime~Gen fiction at http://www.quickbookstop.com which is supposed to be open sometime in January '97 - I'm not totally certain of the capitalization on this Link. Try also Quickbookstop.com
You're going to love "Partners", and these characters will haunt you. Bookmark this site now if you don't intend to download as I've advised you above. You'll want to save this story along with Icy Nager, the novel.
And here's the reason: I've decided that the background Andrea has hidden behind this story and only partially revealed in the novel, will become part of the main canon of the Sime~Gen Universe.
However, as Gene Roddenberry and Marion Zimmer Bradley taught me, and as I learned by studying Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Katherine Kurtz, C. J. Cherryh, and even Fletcher Pratt, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein, there has to be a very tight patterned linkage between the background and the foreground of a story for it to carry an emotional impact.
I never met "Fletcher Pratt" but the others on the above list are people I have known in a variety of contexts besides just reading what they've written. For personal anecdotes and the ways that these personal relationships have affected my writing and Sime~Gen, check the front page of Tecton Central . You'll find more famous names who influenced me farther down that front page under Intimate Adventure.
Gene kept saying, "Don't establish more than you have to in order to tell this story." And MZB kept saying, "Don't throw in everything and the kitchen sink and call it a plot." Marion had a sign over her desk she used to contemplate on hard days: Nobody Ever Told You Not To Become a Plumber. Meaning that there are easier ways to earn a living than writing novels. Because plumbers who are good at plumbing only plumb once - writers do it over and over and over, and sometimes the better you are at writing, the more you tend to do it over.
So here in these fanzine stories, we have material that you should regard the same way that I've asked you to regard Lortuen and Sime Surgeon - as prototypes that will be mined for material. However, this work is still in progress so you can't see how it will come out yet. When you read the final product, the prototype material will become the vital links in a chain of thinking, and you will hold in your hand the kind of writing lesson that Marion Zimmer Bradley gave me in the 1970's - several drafts of a single work so you can see how and why things got changed.
I personally have accepted Andrea Alton's new approach to the transfer/kill problem that Rimon Farris solved one way, and Hugh Valleroy another. This third approach will be much harder to handle dramatically, and in my current thinking, it belongs to the later stories, those involving Klairon Farris and Yone Farris. Yone Farris and his descendants face a situation very much like the one Andrea tackled to such good effect in Demon of Undoing. So in these fanzine stories, you have the early beginnings, the root and foundation, the history of a transfer methodology and philosophy that must remain vigorous, well practiced, and out of the History Books for centuries yet to come as the rest of the Sime~Gen world becomes ready for it.
What will happen when we turn this new transfer method loose in the Sime~Gen Galactic Civilization, I don't know. But I'm eager to find out! Judging from how well Demon of Undoing turned out, I think Andrea has the writing talent to manage it.
Evan Trandolphic dropped his saddle bags on the ancient sagging bed and looked around the shabby rented room. Junking was not a profession which paid well enough to let a man have his own home. This room in Mrs. Porat's Boarding House was the closest thing to a home he had.
He was an old favorite of hers and her warm welcome always gave him a sense of home-coming. But this time the sense of belonging had been fleeting, swept away by the restlessness he'd been experiencing all month.
He moved to the battered bureau to put his clothes away and stood a moment, studying his reflection in the spotted mirror hanging above it.
His black hair wan too long, and curled at the collar of his shirt. There were shadows under his deep blue eyes. He touched his nose with fine boned fingers. It was not quite as straight as it had been before this last trip across the Border into Gen Territory. He tilted his head from side to side a moment or two before deciding finally the asymmetry added a certain masculine toughness to a face that had embarrassed him on more than one occasion by looking too young. He smiled ruefully at his reflection as he turned away to shove the empty saddle bags under his bed with a booted foot.
He was close to Need but he felt at one and the same time both a strong yearning and repugnance. It was because last month's Kill had been so unsatisfactory he told himself. The free government Pen Gens had always satisfied him before, but last month something had been very wrong. He'd actually had to force himself to the Kill. Unknowing he wiped at his mouth in a gesture of disgust. That had never happened to him before.
He would get over it, he told himself grimly. He had to get over it. Life would be insupportable if the Kill became something to be dreaded rather than a pleasure. It was just that it was the first time since Rafe he assured himself, and the memory of that golden, tingling pleasure had been so sharp in his mind that of course a Pen Gen would not be appetizing.
His thoughts ground to a halt and a feeling of depression swept through him. He tried to shake it off. What was past was past. It was hopeless anyway you looked at it.
Even if he could live in Gen Territory with Rafe (which he couldn't. It was death for any Sime to be found over the Border;) Rafe was dying of a new kind of tuberculosis. And if Rafe came across the Border In-Territory even if he wasn't dying, it was sure death for him. Not just because he was Gen but because he was Icy Nager, the Unkillable Gen, who came In-Territory and freed captured Wild-Gens and took them back across the Border. There was a huge price on his head offered by the owners of the Prime Markets, those places where Wild-Gens were sold.
He paced moodily to the window and leaned on the sill. He'd never gone mooning around over a Gen before and he'd had some pretty fine Kills in the past. But never a Kill where the Gen lived, a smug inner voice reminded him. Never a Gen who wanted to give him what he Needed to live. Never a Kill as good as what he'd had with Rafe.
From his window he could just see the distant rise of the Chotoal Mountains. He found his eyes were searching for the twin peaks that marked Five Mile Pass. On the other side of that pass, in the foothills that marked the beginning of the Whitewater Plain, was the Border town of Three Oaks set between the Loyalhanna and the Crooked Rivers. Somewhere in that Gen town, perhaps in the jail working on the monthly reports ... or maybe walking down the street with a half a dozen idolizing boys trailing after him was Deputy Rafe Merryweather, Icy Nager, the Unkillable Gen.
Evan's reverie was broken by the feel of wetness trickling down his arms. He glanced down to see ronaplin flowing from the lateral sheaths. Disgustedly he pushed away from the window and grabbing up a towel wiped himself off.
He stood a moment, handling tentacles jingling the loose change in his pockets. Junking this year had been more profitable than usual. The metal dealers in Renault had paid him a good price for the metal he had brought in. And here in Lasker was a Prime Gen Market.
At the thought Need rose up in him, strong and urgent. He would go now, he decided, and find a Kill that would make him forget Rafe.
He clattered down the uncarpeted three flights of stairs to the main hall and met Mrs. Porate on her way up to bring him a cup of trin tea.
"Evan!" she exclaimed in surprise. "Need came on you awfully sudden."
"Yes," he said a trifle shortly, but he didn't want to stay and talk.
She let him go, but as the door shut behind him she walked into the kitchen shaking her head, wondering what in the world he could have been doing which had gotten him into such a state. He was normally such an unpressured boy ... full of good humor and always joking. Even in Need he could manage to say something funny. But something had happened to him while he was away on this trip. She'd sensed it as soon as he'd arrived on her doorstep.
Once outside Evan plunged into the Saturday Marketing crowd, threading his way with Sime dexterousness among the busy shoppers. He detoured around groups of women standing in doorways and on corners gossiping while their younger children played around them in wild games of tag.
Older girls stood solemn and silent trying to follow the Quick Speech of adult Sime conversation, Evan waved at friends among the men collected near the smithy and hardware stores, discussing the crops and weather. The entire town was a pastiche of busy fields lending a glow of color to the grey winter afternoon, while the undercurrent of Sime emotion highlighted passing conversations.
He came to the government Pens, and went on by. What he sought wasn't going to be found there. The Market was just ahead of him. Things were quieter in this part of town, where others, in Need like himself were tense and irritable, overly courteous to each other and careful to keep their distance.
He stopped at the entrance to the enclosed Prime Market. He could see the most enticing of the wares seated within sight of the gate, chained far enough away from each other so their fields didn't overlap.
He was assigned a guard, standard practice to keep an over eager Sime from taking an unpaid for Kill, and he moved slowly among the fearful or defiant figures, feeling their nagers. His Need heightened as his sense of anticipation increased moment by moment. He was getting closer and closer to what he wanted, had to have. Just as the excitement was becoming unbearable he realized he'd made the full round of the Pen. What he was searching for wasn't there! Raging in disappointment he nearly turned on the Gen-Dealer, blaming him bitterly for not having what he wanted.
Sympathizing with his disappointment the Dealer said "Son, this happens occasionally. Buy the one that's closest to what you're searching for and take it to the District, where you can work it up to the right pitch for you."
Evan was disgusted by the notion. He had never much cared for the District; a place of sleazy dives and sordid pleasures of the sort which involved mistreating one's Gen.
By the time he reached the street again the conviction was growing in him that what he wanted would be there. He was augmenting slightly, on the edge of hunting mode. Adults looked up from their conversations, startled, and stepped aside for him. Children yanked their younger siblings out of his way as they saw the tense, fixed expression on his face.
He came to the edge of the District and hurried down the nearest street plunging through the door of the first establishment he came to, zlinned their Gens, rejected them and was gone on to the next. Somewhere between one dive and another he shifted into full hunting mode, his world now full of shimmering, scintillating life fields, he stalked hyperconscious through place after place. The emotions of the high-field Gens pounding at his nerves keying him up tighter and tighter and yet he could not find what he wanted.
Gradually he came back to duo-consciousness to find himself standing in front of the boarding house, while Mrs. Porat talked soothingly to him from somewhere on his left. There was a deep ache in both arms and looking down he saw his ronaplin glands swollen to twice their normal size and his laterals drawn up as tight as possible within the sheaths.
He turned dead eyes on Mrs. Porat. "I'm all right now," he said. Which was a lie and they both knew it, but at leant it showed he was rational again.
Slowly, moving very carefully lest he lose the fragile control he had over himself he mounted the three flights of stairs to his room.
He sat down on the bed holding his hands tightly together. A sturdy roundback chair in one corner shook him with sudden familiarity. In the Three Oaks Jail Rafe had habitually slouched in such a chair.
Evan had a sudden vision of Rafe's head bent over a book, his long, rawboned face slight with interest, goldy brown hair catching the light from the overhead oil lamp. At that moment ronaplin flooded down his arms and his laterals flicked out, straining towards Rafe's phantom. With a soul wrenching howl Evan went into hunting mode.
A long time later he came to himself, screaming Rafe's name and tearing at the wall. He was ripping the lathe apart and the floor was deep under a layer of powdered plaster. Slowly he brought his hands down, leaned against the wall and surveyed the wreckage. "Rafe, Rafe," he whispered in agony, "What have you done to me?"
Outside, in the hall, Mrs. Porat was hovering with three stalwart boarders at her back.
Shakily, Evan opened the door, which, oddly enough, considering the state of the rest of the room, stood untouched. He regarded Mrs. Porat and the other Simes with deep hollowed eyes. "I'm fixed on a Gen I can't have," he said, forcing himself to make that explanation because they deserved to know why he was behaving so irrationally.
"You'll die if something isn't done," Mrs. Porat said in concern.
"Help me," Evan pleaded into that sympathetic silence hanging onto the doorframe as his knees threatened to buckle.
"A Channel might help you," Mrs. Porat said reluctantly.
The stir of repugnance that statement caused from the other three Simes ran like red hot ants over Evan's already supersensitive nerves. He felt his lips draw back from his teeth in a feral snarl. The emotion ceased.
"Where can I find a Channel?" he asked Mrs. Porat.
"There's been a lot of complaining about a Householding Seodre buying land out by Soddydaisy. Do you know where that is?"
"You can't go empty-handed," Mrs. Porat said practically. "Jon, you go saddle his horse. Merg, wrap a blanket around that Gen we brought for him, Sten, you're at the most stable part of your cycle. You help Evan down the stairs. I'll pack your bags. Move!" she said to her henchmen.
In a very short time Evan was on his horse, riding for Householding Seodre, with a high-field Gen on the saddle before him. It was very strange, Evan thought how he could ever have been satisfied with a pen-Gen. The drugged nager was so savorless compared to Rafe's.
He tried not to think of Rafe because whenever he did, it was to remember Rafe running his selyn rich fingers over Evan's tentacles, an incredibly exotic feeling.
It was a long ride and even as he was feeling himself edging into attrition he still did not want the Gen snuggled up against his chest.
By the time he reached the borders of Seodre he existed in a fog of pain. He became aware of voices. Concern in the fields he could vaguely sense. This had happened once before. Rafe had come to him then. He had found him again. With joy Evan let himself slide willingly into those strong Gen hands, felt the once experienced never-to-be forgotten willingness and warmth of friendship enfold him.
He reached out and felt his laterals entwined (entwined?) but before he could focus on the alien sensation hard lips met his and he drew savagely, without fear, knowing he couldn't hurt Rafe. And in the midst of the Kill the feeling of strangeness hit him full force. The nager was wrong. Completely wrong! It was not Rafe pouring life into his tattered nerves. He tried to yank away in overpowering revulsion but something held him.
He stopped drawing, flatly refusing to take more of this tainted non-Rafe into himself and then shen hit him, lifting and slamming his body against the earth as if he'd gotten in the way of a lightning bolt.
Mild, compared to what it could have been had he succeeded in ripping his laterals loose from the Channel's hold, it nevertheless caused his body to arch violently up in a spine snapping convulsion as every muscle contracted at the same time. He spasmed several more times until finally the tremors were shaking only his arms and legs and finally faded away. Then and only then did the Channel loose his hold and sit back.
Evan opened dazed eyes. Above him hung an anxious, sweat drenched face, thin, long and absurdly youthful. "How old are you?" Evan blurted.
The Channel's wide mouth reshaped into an engaging grin, though his dark eyes were still apprehensive. "I'll be seventeen in three months. And I'm old enough to know you've got a very bad problem."
"Yes, that I have," Evan replied, exhausted. A sharper, sarcastic answer lingered in his mind, an answer that would have brought a bellow of laughter from Rafe.
He got to his feet with the help of the Channel and looked around him at the small group of people watching him and realized more than half were Gen. It was surprising to see so many manifestly intelligent Gen faces this side of the Border.
The pen-Gen wider awake now was sheltering under the maternal arm of a Gen woman and looking up at her in a wondering way.
"I'm Hajene Tindael, Second in Householding Seodre," the Channel said, gently reclaiming Evan's wandering attention.
Evan ran a critical eye over him, this his first good look at a Channel. The boy had the typically slender Sime build, a little shorter than Evan's six foot height, with a shock of dark brown hair and deep brown eyes, a long nose and ears that stuck out on either side of his head. He was dressed, as were the others, in Householding Seodre's charcoal grey with orange flashings at sleeve cuffs and throat.
A square built, gold haired Gen, rather shorter than Tindael and a year or two younger stood protectively close to the Channel.
"This is my Companion, Richard ambrov Seodre," Tindael said when he noticed Evan looking at the boy. He placed a hand on his Companion's shoulder in an unmistakably possessive gesture as he spoke. Richard's innocent blue eyes were interested as he returned Evan's gaze. He nodded cheerfully.
I've fallen among Babes, Evan thought in dismay. How in the world are they going to be able to help me?
Evan caught up his horse's reins as they conducted him through the wooden gates of Seodre and into the life of the small Householding.
The place was built like a fort, with wooden outer walls and stone and sod buildings. The courtyard was in the process of being paved with slabs of granite from the nearby mountains and flowers of all kinds were planted in pots tucked into pleasant sunny corners. A mixed group of Simes and Gens were planting young trees along one side of the court in what was obviously going to be an arbor. On the other side women and children were laughing and calling to each other as they washed laundry.
The mixture of fields inside that place blended pleasantly to lay like balm over Evan's lacerated nerves. He paused a moment to soak up that rich complexity of nagers like one of the plants soaked up the sunshine. A child came up to him and shyly offered to take care of his horse. With a smile he handed over the reins and followed Tindael towards the main hall.
"We are a very new Householding," Tindael remarked as he led Evan down a newly laid path. "We've only been here a year. "We're a daughter Householding of Melain," he gestured toward the west. "Melain was getting so big we decided to split up and come here where there is room for a Householding. They're rather sparse in this part of In-Territory, you know."
Evan was only half listening. He ached, Shuven, how he ached. Every muscle and bone in his body was hurting and he wasn't very interested in the history of Seodre anyway.
In a small whitewashed room he was handed a glass of liquid. "Fosebine," Tindael said and then with some authority, "Drink it up, you'll feel better." Evan handed the empty glass back and crawled into the bed under the window. He woke hours later feeling much better and was taken to meet the Sectuib.
Evan was relieved to discover that Sectuib Kuran Korkell was a Channel of middle years, slightly stooped with smiling hazel eyes, he greeted Evan cordially and waved him to a seat in his small cluttered office on the main floor. His nager reached out, warm and caring.
Prepared to be standoffish, Evan found himself liking the older man. He relaxed into the comfortable chair and took the cup of trin tea offered him.
"You apparently have had a highly unusual experience. Nothing short of a Transfer with a Companion would be likely to put you in the kind of position you find yourself. Would you like to talk about it?" Kuran asked him quietly.
Oddly enough, Evan did want to talk about it. To no one else had he dared confide the story of how two years before a Gen had come across him trapped in a mine, and had helped him. He in turn had not revealed to the Raiders coming hard on the Gen's trail where the man was hiding.
Then, two months ago he had been captured by Gen-Territory Gens. Sick from abuse and sure of death by attrition he had been delivered into the hands of Rafe Merryweather, the Gen who had helped him two years previously.
Once more the Gen helped him. They were on the way to the Border to let Evan go when they tangled with Genrunners. Both of them were shot. But Rafe refused to abandon him when he could have and in return Evan went to bring back the Gen Border Patrol to rescue the children since that was what Rafe wanted. By the time he had found Rafe again, the Gen was ill, but he did not know the Gen was out of his mind with fever, so when the Gen wanted to go to the Border, Evan took him. They never made it. Need overcame him while they were still on the Genside of the Border and he had been forced to take Rafe.
"Rafe offered his life," he stressed to the Sectuib, "Because my holding tentacles were too badly hurt to hold a struggling Kill. Rafe was a big man; if he had panicked he would have been able to free himself ... but he chose not to ..." Evan's voice trailed off as he relived the astonishment of that giving.
"A natural Companion!" Kuran exclaimed, his dark eyes reflecting the regret heavy in his eager. "With the right kind of training ... Too bad he died, the Sime race is desperate for such as he," he ended mournfully.
"But he didn't die!" Evan replied joyously.
Sectuib Kuran looked at him with something close to awe on his face. "He is still alive? My boy, you have taken part in a miracle. To think that an untrained Gen ..." A desire so intense in anyone else it would have been called greed, flared through the Channel's field. "Shen and Shid!! What I wouldn't give for that man!"
Evan curbed the sudden hot impulse to leap across the desk and squeeze the Channel's throat. Rafe was his!
Kuran sheepishly apologized. Evan made a dismissing gesture with the tentacles of one arm and relaxed again. "I know I was fixed on Rafe at the same time, but ... I thought that passed once a Kill was made," he said in puzzlement and desperation in his tone. "Why can't I get fixed on any other Gen?"
"The problem lies in the fact that you and Rafe obviously like each other. Let us say that each Gen and each Sime have two built in hooks; one physical and one emotional.
"The physical hook of course is the Sime Need for selyn and the Gen production of it. But in a Gen the production of selyn is closely attuned to his emotional state, so that Gens utilize both the emotional hook and the physical hook when giving up selyn.
"When a Gen does not wish to release selyn and it is forced from him ... this results in severe nerve damage and the Gen dies. This is the most common experience between Sime and Gen.
"When a Gen freely gives up his selyn, the Gen lives. But this means the Gen is using both hooks equally strongly. A Sime can get by with a simple desire for selyn. When the Sime is not attracted to the Gen emotionally, nothing happens. However, if the Sime becomes emotionally attached to the Gen then all four hooks are in play and in effect a bonding takes place."
"You mean I'm pair bonded with Rafe?" Evan asked, horrified.
"Fortunately it is not as bad as you feel it is." Kuran replied chuckling a little. "Should either of you suffer a change of feeling for the other, the bonding dissolves."
"What if he dies?" Evan got out hoarsely,
"From the Kill?" Kuran asked puzzled. "I don't see why he should panic, he ..."
"No, no. What if he should die from something else? What would happen to me?"
Kuran steepled his tentacles and fingers in front of his face. "You might never break the bonding."
"Is Rafe in some kind of danger?" Kuran asked.
"He's dying of a new kind of tuberculosis." Evan said wretchedly.
"We can cure that," Kuran said quickly. "If he comes here to Seodre, it won't be any trouble at all."
"The passes are blocked," Evan said. "There is no way I can get to him until Spring. What do I do in the meantime?"
"The best I can do for you is offer you a Channel's service ..."
"What! Take selyn from a Cha ..." Evan started indignantly.
"It won't be easy ... for either of us," Kuran said dryly. "You will probably shen at least once during each Transfer. That will be as hard on me as on you. I'm afraid taking selyn isn't going to be much pleasure to you until you get this Rafe back. The only good thing about this situation, is that your Gen won't be suffering the pain you suffer. If he does give selyn to another Sime he will merely be dissatisfied."
Kuran stopped; picked up a pencil and played with it a moment. "We would be glad to have you both if you decide to join Seodre. There really won't be many other places you can live together, you know."
Evan uttered an involuntary chuckle. Rafe? In-Territory? Rafe would be mortally tempted to exercise those peculiar Gen-running talents of his if he found himself In-T with a base. There wouldn't be a Wild Gen left. In-Territory was safest with Rafe Out-Territory. "What good would he be to Seodre if he's locked into a relationship with me?" he asked, still chuckling.
"Children," Kuran said succinctly. "And then there's the training he could do ... Oh, we could find lots of ways of using his talents." There was a dreamy wistfulness to the other man's dark eyes.
Evan laughed outright. He had a good idea of the kind of reply Rate would make to the suggestion he be used for stud.
A few days later Evan broke out in an itching rash. The inside of his arms from waist to shoulder were covered with red bumps that swelled every time he came close to a Gen. Kuran clucked sympathetically over this physical manifestation of Evan's inner misery, made notes, and gave him a paste to spread over the afflicted area which kept it from itching at least.
One day in late spring Evan lay in his room at the Householding, sick and shaking from the slamming muscle contractions he'd endured. This transfer had been the worst ever, in spite of everything Kuran could do for him. From where he lay he could just see the tips of the mountains.
He pulled himself to his feet and staggered to the window. By craning his head he could just make out the two peaks which marked Five Mile Pass. He moved painfully back to the bed and fell asleep.
When he woke he pulled his saddlebags from under the bed and began stuffing his meagre belongings into them. The snow would be nearly gone from the passes by now. He had four weeks to find Rafe and talk him into coming back with him. He refused to think past that point.
A week later he was standing on the crest of Gillis Hill, pack on his back, staring down at the Gen town of Three Oaks. It was night and the ambient Gen nager in that place outlined every building in a ghostly illumination.
Gen figures carrying lit torches were running here and there between the buildings.
"Now," Evan murmured to himself, "What could they be all stirred up over?" The crowd finally seemed to be converging on a small wooded area at the edge of the river.
Curious, Evan ran down the hill to join them. As he ran he rolled the sleeves of his Out-Territory style shirt down over his tentacle sheaths and buttoned them at the wrist.
The ambient nager of the mob touched him with its ugliness and he flinched, slowed, but didn't stop until he reached the Gens. On the outskirts of the crowd he walked up beside a plump, over-dressed lady standing in a wagon bed so she could see over the heads of the people.
"What's all the excitement about, Ma'am?" Evan asked in English, raising his hand to his hat and pulling it a little in respect ... a movement which also left it down over his face.
"They've cornered a Sime in that strand of scrub oak," she shrilled excitedly, her double chins wobbling, "But they can't get anyone to go in after the monster. Oh! Look!" She pointed excitedly at several horsemen riding into the torch light. "Sam Chow and Fred Reddle have come back with the SimeKiller ... Sime-Side Rafe. He'll take care of that filthy monster for us. He's not afraid of anything." She gave a gusty sigh. "He's such a hunk of man ..."
In spite of the situation, Evan found that last comment exquisitely humorous. Face twitching in an effort to keep the grin off his lips, he touched his hand to his hat again and moved away.
Quietly he edged his way into the circle of men gathered around a broadshouldered man on a buckskin stallion. His spirits soared as he came within the familiar clear, astringent field that was Rafe.
Not even the cold anger in that field had the power to dampen Evan's happiness.
Rafe was saying clearly, "You want me to kill a child? Is that how you think I earned the snake belt of a Sime-Sider? By killing children? I won't have any part of this!"
"Why not?" shouted a man from farther back, out of the torch light. "They are more of a danger here to us than they are Sime-Side!" The mob roared it's approval of those words.
"I am not a hired assassin!" Rafe shouted back, naked fury in his voice. Cold grey eyes swept the crowd around him and they fell back a step and went sullenly quiet.
"I bring back your husbands, wives, children from the other-side of the Border. I do it because I can. Because no one else can do it. I don't do it for money! I don't do it because I enjoy killing." He raised his voice so everyone could hear him. "If you want to murder your own kids, do it! But I won't become the town's hired executioner!"
"Not wise, Rafe," Evan murmured beneath his breath when another well remembered nager intruded into the ambient. The stocky figure of sheriff Ted Baker pushed his way through the crowd until he reached the buckskin stallion.
"It's Bobby, Rafe," he said loud enough for everyone to hear him.
Rafe's face and nager contracted with pain and grief.
"If you don't give him a quick death," the Sheriff continued, "They'll set the break on fire. Consider it a mercy killing, Rafe. It's better you do it quick, than having them beat him to death like they did the Spears boy last year."
"Yes, I guess it is," Rafe agreed bitterly. He bowed his head a moment and suddenly there came a lift to his nager and Evan knew that Rafe remembered he had given selyn to a Sime once and lived.
No! a voice inside Evan howled in panic. That selyn is mine! Evan pressed his lips tightly together. The words could never be spoken aloud, especially not here, he thought with a quick glint of humor. He was ashamed that months of bad Kills and worse transfers had turned him into such a coward that he would even think of condemning a young Sime to death b>
Transfer interrupted!dn't want to face another Channel transfer.
Rafe looked around at the mob. "All right, I'll do it." The ugly note in his voice cut off any jubilation. "Which one of you brave Sime hunters is going into those woods to back me up against a twelve year old?"
There was a long uncomfortable silence as men shifted from one foot to another and looked at each other out of the corners of their eyes.
"I will," Evan said from behind Rafe, beating Ted to it by seconds.
Rafe jerked and his nager thudded with shock. Evan, using Rafe's field to insulate himself from the ugly mob ambient got the full impact. Shen! I've got to stop scaring Gens, he thought, wincing.
Slowly, the big man turned around, staring at him for a long moment. His moon shadow fell across the Sime's face. His nager stilled until it revealed absolutely nothing. "Very well, Stranger. You can come with me. You do what I tell you to do, is that understood?"
"Yes," Evan replied and joined Rafe as he reined in his horse by the trees, and dismounted. The mob backed away giving them plenty of room.
Rifle in hand Rafe moved quietly into the trees, with Evan close on his heels.
Evan remembered he was trying to play the part of a clumsy Gen tripped over a few branches as if he couldn't see in the dark and even went as far as to step on a twig that snapped loudly under his foot. Rafe gave him a puzzled glance but said nothing as long as there was a chance they could be over heard.
Three steps into the trees and the thick mass of overhead branches blotted out the moonlight. Rafe stumbled and swore under his breath. "I can't see a blasted thing!" he muttered.
"I can," Evan murmured beside him.
"What the shenning hell are you doing!" Rafe whispered savagely. "You trying for an early grave or is this some new form of insanity you've cooked up: What are you doing on this side of the Border?"
"I've got good reasons for being here, Rafe. I'll tell you about them later." He lay a fine boned hand on the Gen's shoulder turning him irresistibly, "The boy is over there."
Rafe pushed Evan in front of him and gripped the Sime's shoulder. "Lead," he said quietly.
Like a terrified wild thing the boy crouched under the deadfall, huddled up as small as he could, straining his eyes into the blackness all around him, waiting for them to come and get him.
He was sick and trembling, sweat ran down his face and fear robbed him of air and he panted. In earlier times the night would have frightened him with its concealed, half-understood mysteries. He would have let his imagination run wild populating the dark with all kinds of monsters until he was deliciously afraid and pulled the covers up over his head. But not this night. This night the darkness was a refuge and he knew where the monster was. He was the monster.
He could hear the mob clearly, voices came to him with a preternatural clarity, so he knew when Rafe arrived. He heard Rafe's protest and his capitulation. Now he waited for Rafe to come and find him.
Everyone he'd ever known was out there, waiting to kill him. It wasn't fair. He hadn't wanted to turn Sime.
He whimpered a little as a roar went up from the massed people outside his hiding place. Twelve years old with his world collapsing around him.
He wished his mother had lived. He wished his father was here. Futile wishes he knew. They wouldn't have wanted to protect him any more than Aunt Dory and Uncle Michael did.
He heard something coming towards him through the trees, and stiffened in mortal terror.
"Bobby?" It was Rafe's deep voice. "Bobby," Rafe called again. "It's me, Rafe. It's all right Bobby. I'm not going to hurt you. My word on it."
"Mr. Merryweather?" Bobby's voice was high with strain. "Help me, Mr. Merryweather."
Then Rafe was there, crouching down beside him.
"I'm turning Sime, Mr. Merryweather," Bobby choked through the tears streaming down his face. "You going to shoot me?"
Rafe put one large warm arm around the narrow shoulders and pulled the boy to him. "No. I said I was going to help you and I am." Tenderly Rafe smoothed back the boy's hair with one large work hardened hand.
"I don't want to Kill anybody!"
"You won't kill anyone. There is a way for you to live without Killing anyone. Trust me, Bobby."
Evan moved out of the shadows and squatted down on his heels in front of them. Bobby shrank back.
"This is Evan," Rafe said. "He's not going to hurt you either. But he is going to touch you and find out how far you are into Changeover. Be still now and let him do that."
Rafe spoke warningly in Simelan, "Don't use your tentacles, Evan. It'll send him right over the edge."
Evan's ventrals and dorsals were already instinctively out, bunched up around the tightly buttoned shirt cuffs. He acknowledged the good sense of Rafe's remark and pulled them back into the sheaths, a little embarrassed. Fortunately, it was too dark for Bobby to have seen the betraying movement under his sleeves.
Evan reached out his hands, and Bobby shrank from the Sime touch, sensing something was not quite right.
Lightly, Evan ran his finger tips along the boy's arm judging the height of the bulges under the skin. Invisible to Gen eyes the new tentacles were shining like tiny pale grey coils within the tough membranes forming now just beneath the skin. "I'd say he's still several hours away from Changeover. There's nothing to do but wait. What are you going to do, Rafe?"
The boy twisted his head in Rafe's sheltering arm, trying to study his face in the dark, mutely asking the same question.
"They want a death," Rafe said calmly, "We'll make them believe they have one. We are going to make them ... (he jerked his head in the direction of the mob) think we killed Bobby."
"And what if they want to bury him?" Evan asked sardonically.
"They won't," said Rafe, his nager a blend of grimness and sorrow. He picked up his rifle, pointed it skyward and pulled the trigger. Evan leaped up, yelling, rattled the bushes, tramped back and forth through the underbrush. Bobby gave out a few blood curdling screams. Rafe fired another shot. Evan rattled the bushes a little more. Silence.
Not a sound could be heard from the mob waiting outside the trees.
"Really Evan," Rafe said admiringly, "I didn't suspect you had so much acting ability. All right. Now we need a blanket, ... Evan ... No. I'd better do it."
"I'll go," Evan said with a reckless glint in his blue eyes, Rafe would have been profoundly uneasy to see had it been lighter. "You'll trip over something and break your neck."
"No!" Rafe exclaimed, and his field reached out briefly, keeping the Sime from leaving.
Patiently, Evan waited until Rafe's field shifted, knowing it was a reflex on Rafe's part and that the big Gen didn't know he was doing it. Rafe would be profoundly embarrassed to think he could stop another man from doing something just by feeling strongly about it. Rafe had too much respect for personal freedom to be easy with that kind of power over another.
"I can take care of myself," Evan said, amused by the other man's concern.
"Aye, just don't make any mistakes. That's an ugly group of people out there right now."
"You're telling me?" Evan said mockingly as he moved off through the trees.
"Crazy Sime," Rafe muttered after his retreating back. He remained tense and poised for some kind of commotion that would tell him Evan had been found out.
A loud shout of jubilation went up from the mob. Evidently Evan had given them the news. A crunching through the underbrush and Evan was back carrying a rough blanket smelling strongly of horse.
Quickly they wrapped it around Bobby and then, without saying anything, Rafe took out his knife, rolled up a sleeve and sliced into his arm.
Evan hissed in surprise and reached out a hand to stop him.
"There has to be come blood," Rafe said mildly at the Sime's concern.
Shaky from the Gen's pain Evan nodded his agreement and sat back, trying not to watch the thin plume of escaping selyn as it lightened the air above the cut, while Rafe let the blood drip on the blanket.
Finally Rafe twisted a bandana around his arm to stop the bleeding. Evan moved over and angrily did the thing up properly, muttering in Simelan about shen-shid fool Gens and the possibility of infection.
Rafe listened with amusement and when Evan finished fussing, he pulled his shirt sleeve down, picked up the boy and walked out of the dark tangled woods, in Evan's wake. "Damn it, Bobby ... go limp!" he ordered as they reached the edge of the trees.
A shaking giggle from the boy but he did as he was told.
At sight of them the crowd surged forward, calling to each other, torches waving in the light,
Rafe confronted them boldly. "Well?" he called, "Who's going to claim the body?"
There was no answer. In all that crowd no one spoke. A woman's voice was heard saying timidly, "Michael, shouldn't we ...?"
"Quiet, Woman, he's no more kin to us ..." a man's deep voice growled back roughly.
"He can be thrown on the town dump with the rest of the Sime monsters," a voice shouted.
"No!" Rafe bellowed back. "I knew this boy and he's not going to be thrown like trash on any dump!"
"You knew him when he was human!" a woman's voice shrilled out of the darkness. "He's not human any more and ..."
"For his lost humanity then!" Rafe shouted, his voice thick with fury. "I'll bury him fitting and proper on my own land!"
The crowd made way for him as he went to his horse carrying his pathetic burden. No one noticed the slender stranger disappear into the night.
Evan was waiting for Rafe on the road leading to the Gen's ranch by the time Rafe's horse made the turn-off. "You can unwrap him now, Rafe. There's no one in five miles."
Gratefully Bobby stuck his head out from under the stifling folds.` The scent of horse, never bothering him before, was making him ill.
Evan paced easily along side Rafe's horse as they went down the road to Rafe's house. In front of the door Rafe put Bobby down and the boy stood shivering a moment and then staggered for the bushes beside the house and was disastrously ill into them.
Patiently the two men waited until he was able to trudge across the wooden porch and enter a long low comfortable room. There was a fire smoldering in a huge fireplace and Rafe went over to coax a few flames out of it and laid on another log. Evan picked up Bobby and laid him down on the couch in front of the fire. A heavy wool blanket lay folded at the foot of the couch and he pulled it over the boy. "Rest," he told him. "You're safe now."
He stood up and Rafe was standing in the middle of the room scowling at him. "What are you doing here, you damn fool Sime?"
But Evan didn't pay any attention to the words, only the emotions behind them. He simply stood, grinning. Slowly, an answering smile lit the Gen's face. That special smile that Rafe reserved for a favored few. Then the Gen stepped forward, arms wide and hugged the Sime with a strength that would have crushed a Gen Evan's size. "Well," he said. "Well ..." and pounded Evan on the back.
He was hugged and pounded in return with a force that staggered him.
Finally they stepped back. "Man, what do you mean scarin' me half to death the way you did in Three Oaks. I nearly fell off my horse!" Rafe said.
Evan grinned, crookedly. "I know." He glanced at Bobby's pale face staring at them. "We shouldn't be throwing so much emotion around. It's not good for the boy."
"Come into the kitchen," Rafe said instantly, "I'll make some tea."
Rafe busied himself a moment in the large kitchen looking for a special container. Then with it in his hand moved to the stove where the water was already boiling.
"What kind of strange Gen concoction are you planning to force on me?" Evan asked eyeing the tea box warily.
Rafe glanced around with a grin. "It's called Trin tea."
"Where did you get that?" Evan exclaimed, much delighted.
"Oh, here and there ... on one of my travels. The question should not be where I got it, but how do you people manage to swallow it. It makes great horse liniment."
"It's probably the way you brew it. Only one spoonful, you're not making coffee, you know. Read the instructions."
Rafe turned on him in mock exasperation. "They're in Simelan ... and how in the world do you expect me to read these squiggles ..."
"Idiot Gen," Evan said fondly. "That's a date you're pointing at."
The tea made to Evan's satisfaction they brought it into the other room and set it down on a low table in front of the couch. Rafe lit a lamp but kept it turned low, afraid the light would disturb the youngster. "Bobby," he said sitting down in a chair he drew up beside the couch, "This is my friend, Evan Trandolphic."
Bobby got a good look at Evan's face in the light and pushed up on one elbow in panic. "He's the Sime you had in the jail last winter!"
Gently Rafe pushed him back down. "That's right. He is a Sime and he is here to help you."
"No! Mr. Merryweather. ..."
"Bobby," Rafe said firmly, "He's the only one here who has the slightest idea of what it's like to turn Sime. He'll tell you what to do and what is going to happen."
Evan drew up a chair so he could sit at the foot of the couch. Carefully he unbuttoned his sleeves, rolled them up so the boy could get a good look at his tentacle sheaths.
Bobby's eyes got big. The slender, dark haired man, who looked so normal now had grey tentacles wreathing his forearms.
Evan smiled reassuringly and began telling him what was going to happen. What it was like to be Sime. Gave him names for things he could already dimly sense. Rafe sat beside him, calmly drinking tea and nodding from time to time. Acting as if having someone turning into a Sime in the same room with him was the most natural thing in the world. Somehow it made it easier for Bobby to accept what was happening to him. He gradually relaxed and began paying attention to what Evan was telling him.
A sudden pain hit Bobby and he groaned, pulling his arms up to his chest. "Give me your hands," Evan told him. "No, Rafe ... don't touch him just yet."
Reluctantly Bobby pulled his arms out from under the concealing blanket. Evan moved closer and ran a tentacle across the clearly visible membranes. "It's almost time. When the next spasm hits, clench your fists and snap them open, the way I showed you."
Bobby moaned and tossed restlessly as the pains in his arms got worse. He sobbed aloud and the Sime said, "Now, Bobby, now!"
Intolerable pressure ... sudden release. The tentacles broke through and fields and other Sime perceptions broke over his mind in a dizzying collage of indecipherability. The boy whimpered as his once familiar world disintegrated into alienness.
Rafe gently wiped his arms and tentacles free of blood and clear fluids. His sleeves already rolled up, in the most matter of fact way, held out his arms.
Bobby saw Rafe not as a man but as a golden shimmering man outline of purest light. He wanted ... he ... NEEDED the pulsing golden life force. He had to have it! Instinctively he reached out, laterals and handling tentacles fully extended. Rafe bent his head, the fifth contact point was made.
Afterward Bobby lay replete, content. He had thought taking selyn would be horrible. But it hadn't been icky at all. In fact ... it had been nice. Drowsily he decided he liked taking selyn. He fell asleep.
Rafe and Evan withdrew into the kitchen again and Evan poured them both out a fresh cup of tea.
"Noticed something when Bobby was taking transfer," Rafe said, sitting down at the table tiredly. "He has a deeper, faster draw than you have, Evan. I feel drained."
Evan sat down opposite him suddenly frighteningly aware of how little selyn remained in the Gen. The boy had drained him to his danger point, and he, Evan, hadn't seen it. He'd been all wrapped up in his own agony as he watched Rafe pour what was his into someone else. What could he do if anything happened to Rafe? "He's a channel, Rafe. That's the only reason he would have a draw equal to a full grown Sime." He hung his head in shame. "I should have been checking you both. If he had drawn just a little more from you ... You came awfully close to dying, Rafe."
Rafe slowly pulled on his lower lip. "Can't see that you could have done a whole lot to stop it," he said after a moment. "The boy had to have it." He took a sip of tea and leaned back in the chair, his calm grey eyes studying the Sime. "I gave away what was yours."
Evan shot him a startled glance. "Where did you pluck that thought from?"
"Your face is mighty easy to read, Evan. I'll tell you something; I didn't enjoy it the same way I did with you."
Evan grinned, but shrugged it off. "We saved a Channel. That should be worth everything."
"It should be, but is it?" Rafe replied, mocking them both for being less than perfect.
They grinned at each other in complete understanding.
Evan leaned back, stretching out his legs.
"You haven't been eating right," Rafe said suddenly. "You're thinner than the last time I saw you."
"I haven't been hungry."
Rafe chuckled. "Yes, I seem to remember it takes a Gen with an appetite to get you to eat."
Evan looked down into his half filled cup, wondering how to say what he had come all this way to say.
"What brings you back here, Evan?" Rafe asked finally.
"A Gen with an appetite," the Sime grinned crookedly at his friend.
Rafe sat quietly drinking his tea, patiently waiting.
Evan sighed and ran one hand and all four tentacles through his black hair. His eyes met Rafe's wide grey ones honestly yet ruefully. "It's awfully hard to say, Rafe."
"Start at the beginning," was Rafe's advice.
So Evan told him about the first Kill he'd had when he came back In-Territory, how he didn't enjoy it. How he would have died of attrition the next month because he didn't want any Gens' selyn and how the Channels at Seodre had been forcing it into him all winter. And what Sectuib Kuran had told him about curing Rafe's illness.
The spate of words came to an end and they sat in silence. Rafe was thinking and Evan was staring intently at his hands.
Finally Rafe said, "Is it that you can't Kill anymore?"
"No. I don't want just anyone's selyn ... that was alright before ... And if you don't want ... you can't Kill."
"And this selyn you do want ... is it mine?"
"Yes," the word was barely a whisper.
Rafe reached out one large hand and picked up a dorsal tentacle, It curled around his fingers and he pulled gently on it. "Last winter we told Commander Edlin we were partners. It's not a good thing to lie to the Border Patrol."
"Are we partners, Rafe?" Evan said raising his head to look at the big Gen.
Rafe held out his tea mug. "To us."
Evan smiled and touched his mug to Rafe's. "To us and our uncertain future ..." They grinned at each other, the same reckless glint in both their eyes and drank.
A young, obviously Out-Territory raised Channel, a large glowering Out-Territory Gen with an unCompanion like spikiness to his field, and an In-Territory Sime could not hope to pass totally unremarked through Sime Territory. Word gradually spread and the three found it more and more difficult to steer clear of people.
When they turned towards Householding Seodre there were a lot of knowing eyebrows raised and rumor quickly confirmed they were a new, if stranger than usual, addition to the colony.
By the time Seodre's wooden gates closed behind them, all of Lasker knew about them and were discussing Rafe's nager and the state of his companion Simes' fields in avid detail.
The children exchanged more prosaic physical details but with no less interest than their parents, and like their parents it was Rafe on whom their attention centered.
Inside Seodre a youngster rapped once on Kuran's open door and breathlessly relayed the news that Hajene Evan was back with an Out-Territory Gen and a young Sime, who Tindael thought was a channel.
Kuran's eyes lit up and he left his desk immediately. He met them as they were coming up the walk to his office surrounded by curious children and accompanied by young Tindael.
"This is Sectuib Kuran," Evan said hastily to Rafe, as the Channel came towards then.
Kuran held out his hand to Evan, "Glad to see you back, my boy. You look much better. And this must be Rafe." He saw with approval that the big Gen did not flinch from taking his proffered hand. "And this?"
"Hajene," Bobby murmured shyly, trying to hide behind Rafe.
"Out-Territory?" Kuran asked Evan, who nodded. "Well, well. Come in, come in," and shepherded them down the flagway to a vine covered terrace, where there were some tables and chairs. Already girls were placing drinks at one table and another girl was bringing sandwiches on a large tray.
After a while Bobby went off with Tindael and in a few days was more at home there than when he had been living on his uncle's farm in Gen-Territory.
Kuran started Rafe's treatments the next morning and the Gen responded so well that Kuran pronounced him fully healed in two weeks.
Shortly after that happy news the time came for Evan's next transfer with Kuran. Rafe was present, standing almost protectively over Evan as Kuran made the fifth contact point. Evan had the easiest channel transfer he'd ever experienced though it was gristly enough to Rafe's jaundiced eye.
Both Evan and Kuran were pleased and both were buoyed up by the knowledge it was for the last time.
Kuran was then faced with the task of convincing the big Gen that he was far from well yet. The disease had taken a lot out of him and his body needed time to build itself back up.
While the weather remained cold and the ground wet, he succeeded, Rafe and Evan spent several hours each day in training, learning the duties of Companion and Sime. They enjoyed the lessons and managed to pose questions that occasionally shook up their teachers.
But as soon as Spring planting started Rafe grew restless. When he and Evan were due for a lesson they were more likely to be found shoeing horses in the smithy, or creating an intricate wrought iron railing for a balcony, or plowing, fixing fences or training horses.
Only once did Kuran remonstrate with them and while the reply he received was courteous, the underlying emotions were such that he didn't bother making a second attempt. It occurred to him as he was walking back to his office that he was not used to dealing with such a strong willed, but above all, self-confident Gen as Merryweather and the best way to handle him might well be to leave him to his own devices.
One afternoon Rafe and Evan asked to speak to the Sectuib. Kuran heard them in the reception area talking to Marjoreth who had had strict orders to see he wasn't disturbed for a couple of hours. He put down his pen and came to the door of his office to motion them to come in.
They settled in the chairs in front of his desk, Rafe's curiously refreshing nager filled the room, but there was an underlying tang of unease in it ... like he was waiting for something bad to happen.
Evan started. "Hajene, we appreciate everything you've done for us, but we think it would be best and safest for the Householding if we left soon."
"Safest?" Kuran raised both eyebrows. "You have not told us something I should know."
"Yes." A bald statement, unrelieved by explanation.
"We have already remained far longer than we should have," Rafe said. "We'll leave in the morning."
"Isn't this rather sudden notice?"
"It can't wait any longer," Rafe said uneasily, "I have a feeling ... it might already be too late."
Their minds were made up and it was no use arguing with them. Kuran stood and held his hand out. "You know you will always be welcome here."
It was only an hour later the four Raiders came to the gate and demanded entrance.
Surrounded by unfriendly Householders they were permitted into the compound and dismounted in front of the main hall. The four were united in their arrogance and distaste for being where they were.
Kuran came out to meet them and blocked their way into the main hall.
"We understand you are harboring an enemy of the Sime people," the foremost said to him with calculated insult.
"Who are you?" Kuran replied easily, ignoring his manner.
"We are agents for Ragnor Morrisey. We're here to get Ishnar Nager," the Raider proclaimed.
"I know of no one by that name," Kuran replied motioning urgently behind the Raider's back to a youngster to warn Evan.
"We know he is here," the second Raider was saying. "If you don't turn him over to us Morrisey will close down this Householding for harboring illegal Gens."
"There will be a large fine to pay as well," said another.
"You'll have to sell all your Gens," said a fourth, eyeing a group of women and children, speculatively.
"It would hardly come to that," Kuran said with mild irony that was lost on the Raiders and led the way into a small bare conference room, "Gens must be licensed as you say ... but it so happens ..."
"The Gen does not belong to him, he belongs to me," Evan said harshly from the doorway. He carried a coiled whip, the Simes' favorite weapon, in one hand and a dagger was in a sheath on his hip. "What is it you want with him?"
The leader of the group turned on him, all pretense gone. "There is a reward out for him and we mean to have it."
"Bitten off more than you can chew and you'll choke on it," Evan retorted.
"Unlicensed Gens are repossessed," the second Sime said.
There was a sound of a rifle cocking at the far window and at the same time a frigid Gen field filled the room. The four Raiders turned, held where they were by the force and menace in it.
"Stand still," Rafe growled unnecessarily. And his eyes were colder than his nager, a man ready to kill. "I'm from Out-Territory," he snarled. "And I'm not to be sold or bought. I am not to be taxed or licensed. I am a free man and the first one to say differently gets a bullet between his eyes."
Silence from the four Raiders, who looked a little white and shaken.
"Now listen to me close," Rafe said. "Kuran doesn't know who I am, or at least he didn't until you came. He had no idea he was harboring Ishnar Nager. I am leaving here, now. If I hear anything has happened to him or to the Householding I'll be back. Understand?"
Three Raiders stared at him hypnotized. The leader was made of sterner stuff. "Ragnor Morrisey is not a man to go up against, Korkell," he said, turning to the Sectuib who was leaning against the wall. "He'll see you have more trouble than you want or can handle. Turn this vicious Gen over to us before ..."
A rifle shot shattered the smooth plastered wall not far above the Raider's head. "The Sectuib is the wrong man to be talking to. You tell Ragnor that Ishnar Nager is a friend of Householding Seodre. If he moves against them I'll come looking for him ... and you. Ragnor knows me from way back and he knows I'll do it. So you tell him."
The Gen left the window, his frightening field slowly faded away. Evan backed out the door in the other direction. But when the Raiders tried to follow, they found the corridor and the garden outside the window both guarded by angry and determined Householders, almost fanatical in their desire to see that Rafe and Evan went free. Against the weight of emotional and physical obstruction the four Raiders decided to wait a while.
Meanwhile Rafe and Evan were saddling their horses. Rafe was saying, "You don't have to come with me Evan. There's nothing up ahead but trouble."
"We're partners, remember? And partners stick together don't they?" Evan replied while he was tying a sack of grain on to his saddle.
"Besides, we knew this was going to happen. It was only a matter of time. At least you're well now." Evan gave a final tug on his saddle cinch. "Where are we going?"
"We'll try to make it into the mountains. If we make it that far there will be time to figure where to head." They swung into the saddle and galloped out the back gate and across Seodre land to where the purple hazed mountains rose up against the sky.
Ragnor Morrisey and his men were not the only ones to have discovered or suspected who Rafe really was. They were merely the first.
Rafe and Evan were scarcely off Seodre land when a group of local farmers coming towards Seodre from the Southeast and a gang of Raiders coming from the North picked up their trace and threw themselves wholeheartedly into the chase. It wasn't long before the entire country was roused.
Cornered near Drowingate, Rate was forced to kill a few and after that some of the enthusiasm waned. Most of the farmers dropped out after two days when their quarry proved elusive so that it was the professional Raiders who finally cornered Rafe and Evan in a dead ending canyon in the foothills below the Chotoal Mountains.
Rafe and Evan fought fiercely; Evan was using a sling shot with as much deadly effect as Rafe's rifle. But the Raiders had slings too and when Rafe ran out of bullets, Evan went down under a brutal hail of stones."
That deadly rain only stopped when the big Gen threw himself across his friend's body. And when the Raiders closed in Rafe held them off with his nager, the only weapon left to him, besides his knife. And he used it with great effect.
That golden but icy cold field, snapped and crackled with hate and rage as he stood over Evan refusing to be defeated. When at last he grew so weary from his own wounds that he was swaying on his feet and his field intensity dropped he still managed to slice up a few of his enemies with a long, well honed knife, before they overwhelmed him.
A collar and chain was fastened around his neck, his hands chained behind his back and then he was drugged into insensibility. His field was his greatest weapon and no Sime wanted him awake enough to use it. And then they brought both of them back to their camp.
Rafe came out of a fuzzy greyness, in which he could hear voices but did not comprehend what they were saying, to a sharp edged awareness. The transition was a gradual one and long before he felt like opening his eyes he knew there were Simes close by and that he was laying on the ground with a blanket thrown over him, His hands and feet were free. There was a collar and chain around his neck.
"I know you are awake Ishnar Nager," said a pleasant urbane voice. "Do not try to feign unconsciousness with a Sime, it's a waste of time."
Rafe opened his eyes. About six feet away stood Ragnor Morrisey, a triumphant smile on his face, flanked by the four Raiders who had visited Seodre.
"Ah, that's much better," said Ragnor. "So, we finally meet face to face, Ishnar Nager. How strange it will be not to have to worry about your predations on my Prime Holding pens. You will, in fact, be in a Holding Pen. My star attraction. It's only fair, after all. You have cost me quite a bit of money over the years. I plan on making up every penny showing you off around the country. Perhaps I'll even use you for stud. You may even learn to enjoy our association together. Now, Ishnar Nager, there is no need to turn sullen in the middle of this delightful conversation,"
Rafe had closed his eyes and turned his back pointedly on the speaker.
"Don't you even want to know what shape that singularly odd Sime who was with you, is in?"
"Where's Evan?" Rafe asked turning over and making no attempt to mask his sharp edged worry.
"He's around ... somewhere. Trussed up, as you are."
"He's alive then?"
"I believe he may still be alive. Is that so Afreedo?" Ragnor asked turning to one of the Raiders at his side. "The other of this strange pair is still alive?"
Afreedo grunted an affirmative.
"Need?" Rafe asked.
"Close to it, I suspect," Ragnor said, inspecting his fingernails. He sent Afreedo and the others away, sat down on a convenient boulder, being careful to remain out of Rafe's field. "How is it that the great Ishnar Nager, enemy of all Simes and a Genrunner, has what can only be regarded as a remarkable concern for the Need of a Sime? Feeling your emotions one comes to the astonishing conclusion you have a certain amount of ... shall we say regard? ... for this Sime."
Rafe pulled himself up to a cross-legged position and looked at the Gen Dealer. "You are not mistaken," he said levelly. "Evan and I are friends."
"But how can this be?" Ragnor opened his rather cold eyes wide and spread out his hands.
"I'm not sure myself," Rafe replied ruefully. "We just seem to spend a lot of time getting each other in and out of trouble."
"You can not imagine how disappointed I am to discover the great Ishnar Nager is the property of another man. I had intended that honor to be solely mine," When Rafe made no response Ragnor continued. "You fought well for him. What did he promise you?"
"You were not listening. I did not fight for Evan. We fought together. He is my friend."
Ragnor snorted derisively. "And how long do you think this friendship would last after he went into Need? Do you think his 'friendship' would keep him from Killing you?"
"No," Rafe said, taking the wind out of his sails. His smile was more genuine and the warmth in his grey eyes matched the change in his field. "But our friendship would make him fight hard to keep from doing so. It doesn't matter anyway. I give him my selyn freely."
Ragnor got an ugly look on his face. "I should have suspected it. You are working with the Householders. You are one of those shenning Companions. They are behind this! Trying to drive me and others like me out of business so they can force the rest of us to go to them. They'll be the only ones with Gens ... I see it now. A plot!"
A wave of impatient derision from the Gen stopped Ragnor's tirade in mid-spate.
"Evan and I discovered this for ourselves. The Householders had nothing to do with it," Rafe said.
"And yet ..." Ragnor said, caught up in a sudden vision, "You will be the perfect weapon to raise against the Householders. With you as an example of the channel's insidious corruption of our society I can destroy them."
"It won't work," Rafe said promptly, sickened by the idea. "I will deny everything. Can you possibly believe no one could read the truth in my field?"
"You can be drugged," Ragnor said thoughtfully.
"A drugged Gen is not a very convincing example, however."
Ragnor put his chin on his hands and studied the chained Gen. "Suppose I offered to let Evan go ... if you would share the Kill with me?"
The abrupt change in subject surprised Rafe, "For how long?"
"You are mine. For the rest of your life, of course."
"What I feel for Evan can not be transferred along with my selyn to someone else," Rafe replied, pinpointing with uncanny accuracy Ragnor's innermost thoughts. "Friendship doesn't work that way."
"Could we not become friends?" Ragnor asked pensively.
"Not this way."
"Alas, ... there is no other," Ragnor said softly, almost to himself. There was a queer look of regret on his features as he got to his feet and walked away.
Rafe rolled onto his back, one arm across his face, trying desperately to think of some way to free himself and Evan. Most of his worry was for Evan. The Sime had augmented without restraint in their flight from Seodre, depleting his selyn reserves with scarcely a thought.
He hadn't needed to worry, Rafe thought in agony. I was right by his side ... then. And Evan had been injured. Healing was a further drain on the selyn reserves. Evan must be very close to Need.
And now they were captured, Rafe told himself wretchedly, and there was a good chance Ragnor would simply murder Evan rather than let them have transfer together. It was clear to him already that Ragnor considered him his particular property and Simes did not share their Gens.
Think, he demanded of himself fiercely. Think! You are a Companion of sorts. You can influence Simes just by wanting something bad enough. It was clear Ragnor was not used to being around Companions so he did not ... know ...
Rafe was on his feet shouting for Ragnor.
When the Gen Dealer came over Rafe was in a state of cold fury. He said, "Feel that nager. Do you like the touch of it, Ragnor?"
"You know I don't. It's like being in a Kill room with a dozen rattlesnakes."
"If you harm Evan, this will be my field whenever you come close to me, for however long we are together. Do you think you will enjoy our association, Ragnor?"
"You are not the first Gen to hate me. And you won't be the last. It won't bother me when you are low field, you know," the other replied uninterested.
"And who is going to make me low field? I do not choose to give up my selyn to anyone but Evan, Ragnor. I choose!"
"Hah!" The Gen Dealer snorted in disdain. "That's a likely story."
"A wager," Rafe said, eyes glittering dangerously, "I'll wager you can't take my selyn if I don't want you to. If you win, why you have my future obedience in this matter. I'll be yours every month if you so wish. If you lose ... I give Evan transfer."
Ragnor thought about it a moment. "Done," he said and threw himself at the Gen moving at low augmentation.
However, Rafe had been prepared for some such move and met the outstretched Sime hands with a quick separating chop with two stiffened hands. He let the Gen Dealer crash into him only pivoting on his right leg as the weight came against his chest allowing the man to bounce off to his left. He brought his right hand, already open and ready blindly down at the Sime's body and rammed stiffened fingers under the exposed ribs, but Ragnor was moving faster than he was and it was not the killing blow he had intended. It was over in a second, Ragnor stood outside his reach, one hand holding his side.
They stared at each other as the Raiders formed a circle around there, Ragnor came at the Gen again. This tine he was at full augmentation, too fast for the Gen to react.
Rafe did not resist. He let himself be grabbed and stared into Ragnor's face, just inches from his own, as the Sime grabbed his forearms in a bone crushing grip. Ragnor had a full half second of triumph before Rafe's strong hands came up around the Sime's arms and squeezed.
The watching Simes took a step back as the wave of pain hit them.
Afraid he would kill the man, Rafe let him collapse to his knees and loosened his grip slightly. "Tell them to bring Evan. Now, Ragnor."
"Do it!" Ragnor gasped. "Do whatever he tells you!"
Evan was brought, unbound and while Rafe held the Raiders at bay with the victim in his hands, Evan released his collar.
Three horses were saddled, two with provisions and with their hostage, Rafe and Evan rode out of the Raider camp.
Three miles up the mountain Rafe let Ragnor go.
"I'll get you for this!" Ragnor blazed as Rafe unchained his hands.
"You'll try, I have no doubt," Rafe said easily, the cold nearly gone from his field in a way that baffled Ragnor, who had never met him when he was not in a dangerous state.
"Let me give you some advice," Rafe said to him. "Find yourself a Gen ... or ask one from the Householders and have it channel trained. That's the only way you'll ever have what Evan has with me. Evan and I are partners, but more than that, we are friends. It would never be the same between me and any other Sime the way it is between Evan and I."
And on that word, the two of them galloped away, leaving Ragnor staring after them. They vanished into the mountains and though Ragnor and his men spent weeks hunting them ... never caught a trace of their fields.