Sime~Genô Novels 
 

Sime~Gen: To Kiss Or To Kill  
By Jean Lorrah 

 

(c) copyright 2003 by Sime~Gen Inc. All rights reserved.  

Chapter Two

Reason to Live

Jonmair sat on the thin mat that lined her wooden bed, wishing she had a book, some sewing, even cleaning supplies to scrub the already-clean floor of her narrow holding cell. Something to do, so she wouldn't have to think.

It was three months since her parents had handed her over to the Gendealer and collected the bounty. Jonmair's first terror was long past - she would not be killed at once. But all she had to do most of the time was think.

It had finally sunk in: she was Gen, and her remaining lifespan was numbered in weeks, perhaps days.

There was no one to blame. A third of all children of Sime parents established as Gens, and no one could predict which ones they would be. It was a mere whim of fate that she was in that one-third, and not in the two-thirds who at maturity changed over into Simes. All she was good for now was to provide a Sime with the life energy to survive for another month. All the years it took a Gen to mature, just to keep one Sime alive for as long as it took the moon to go through its phases.

Some Simes believed that it was not a good system - Jonmair had heard the Householders' claims that it was economic and ecological folly to use a Gen only once. Out west whole territories were collapsing because, despite Gens being bred to Gens on vast Genfarms, there were not enough to go around. But that couldn't happen here in Gulf Territory, with its healthy climate and wealth of resources.

But then, she would not live to see if it did.

Jonmair stared at her naked arms. They would always be so. She would never have the convenient, efficient tentacles that graced Sime wrists, never have Sime senses, speed, strength, or balance. Who would want to live as a Gen? She would not fight her fate. When she was chosen, she would go with her head high, proud to provide life to a Sime in Need.

Nevertheless, when the lock of her cell door turned, her stomach gave a lurch of fear. See? she told herself. That is what it means to be Gen. But she forced the fear away. If this is my time, I will not be dragged kicking and screaming. I will go with outer dignity, no matter what Simes may be able to read in my nager.

"All right - come on now," the penkeeper told her. "Got customers lookin' fer somethin' special today."

He hooked a lightweight chain to the collar around her neck, but Jonmair did not resist.

At least she would not die like the pitiful Pen Gens. Jonmair was a Choice Kill, a self-aware Gen who would provide an extra thrill to whoever chose her. Her price would be high, far beyond the tax assessment that permitted each citizen to claim an ordinary Pen Gen each month. She would go to someone with wealth and prestige.

Two other female Gens were brought out and herded toward the display chamber. One of them was a Wild Gen, an illegal rarity. The Choice Kills were not permitted to talk to one another, so Jonmair had not been able to find out even if the Wild Gen knew enough Simelan to tell them her story.

Jonmair's parents had always prevented her from staring at Householding Gens. She had never had a good look at a mature Gen before. This one was not old - not as old as Jonmair's mother, she was sure - but she appeared to be older than Jonmair. She had the fabled Gen physique, rounded flesh on arms, legs, hips. Her breasts - obvious, like those of a pregnant Sime woman, although she was not pregnant - seemed almost obscene. If I lived, would I develop into something like that? Jonmair wondered.

Partially healed whip cuts showed that the Wild Gen had fought her captors, perhaps tried to escape. Now, though, she was pale and empty-eyed, plodding in the direction she was prodded without protest or even care.

The other Gen was young, like Jonmair, but she had succumbed to her Genness. Tears streaked her face, and she snuffled loudly as she stumbled through the corridor to the display room. She shied away from Old Chance, the penkeeper, and toward the other Gens. Jonmair whispered, "You're going to be killed no matter what - so act like a human being!"

Chance shoved his whip between them. "Shut up!" he said to Jonmair, threatening to hit her but not doing so when she looked calmly back at him and did not answer. The frightened Gen scrambled away from both Jonmair and Chance. As they entered the display room she cowered as far from the customers as her chain allowed.

Jonmair stood tall. While the keeper prodded the other Gens into place, she mounted the platform and looked at the two customers.

Both were Sime, of course. They were male, one old, one young. Only female Choice Kills had been brought out. Were these jaded Simes who bought their Kills a month early, used them as sexual playthings, and then killed them at the end of the month? Her stomach clenched again - she had been counting on a quick, clean death.

At least one of these Simes, the younger one, was in hard Need of selyn. He would have no interest in a woman until after he had killed. And the older man did not even look at the Gens as they entered - his attention was all on the younger Sime.

So was Jonmair's - she had seen him somewhere before, and yet she did not know his name.

"Dad, this scheme won't work!" the younger man said wretchedly.

"We won't know until we've tried, will we?" his father replied. "Baird, nothing else has helped. I wonít let you give up. I want you to be happy - and I want grandchildren."

"It's an old wive's tale!" Baird protested. When he turned away from his father, it brought him to face the three female Gens. Incidentally, the move placed him under the skylight, where the light emphasized his strong features.

Something stirred in Jonmair's breast, choking her heart for a moment with the sheer beauty of the man in contrast to the pain he was feeling. Now she knew him: he was the man who had saved her little sister the day before her life changed forever. The one who had stolen her mother's Gen.

So it was exactly three months. Not only was he in Need again, a state every Sime suffered every month, but an emotional weight lay on his shoulders that Jonmair could not fathom, but recognized - she could not for the life of her have said how.

Baird was taller than his father, but his clothes hung a bit too loose, and she could see in his corded forearms that he lacked some of the flesh even a Sime should carry. She remembered the haunted look in his eyes that day in Norlea's square. Whatever had troubled him then had worsened in the past three months. Both Need and stress caused Simes to virtually stop eating. Living on selyn alone was possible for a considerable time - but it was not a healthy option.

What Jonmair saw in Baird's eyes now was the dull overcast of chronic pain. Emotional pain, she guessed, for other than weight loss he showed no sign of physical illness.

"I can't do this," he protested to his father again.

"You won't be able to help yourself. Old Chance has heard the same wisdom I have, Son - we're both sure this will work for you. Now ... pick one of the Gens."

Stiffly, Baird studied the three females. Jonmair could see that even on the ragged edge of Need, he was only looking, not using the Sime senses that would tell him so much more. Gray eyes moved from the Wild Gen to the cringing frightened girl, and then came to rest on Jonmair.

"Zlin them!" Baird's father said in annoyance.

Both Jonmair and the frightened girl had grown up among Simes - both should have been equally accustomed to Sime tentacles. It was only the tiny moist laterals that Baird allowed to slip out of their sheaths on either side of his wrists - the delicate sensing organs that allowed Simes to read a Sime's or a Gen's field of life energy, and any emotions carried in that nager.

In the same order as his gaze had moved over them, Baird extended those vulnerable organs toward the Wild Gen, then the crying girl, who cringed as if they had touched her. But when they turned toward Jonmair, she ... felt something.

No, she couldn't feel anything except her own emotions. She was Gen, blind to the shifting ambient nager. She would never have the senses that Simes relied on to know the world.

Yet ... it was as if she sensed his Need, his frustration, his despair - and her heart went out to him.

Baird gasped, and withdrew his laterals.

But his father had been zlinning, too. "That one!" he said to the keeper, pointing to Jonmair.

"Good choice," agreed Old Chance.

"No," Baird whispered, but there was no conviction in his protest.

"Yes," said his father, smiling in satisfaction. "It'll set you up, Son." Then to the keeper, "You understand the agreement?"

"Yes, Tuib Axton!" the penkeeper replied confidently. "If it don't work, you pay only for the Kill."

As father and son left, Old Chance came over to Jonmair. A strange sense of unreality settled over her. This, then, is the day that I die. At least I feel Baird Axton will do something worthy with the life I give him.

Attendants led the other Choice Kills out of the display room. Chance looked Jonmair up and down, not zlinning, and nodded. "Listen, Gen - you got a chance don't come t'most. You do right by me, and by that young man, an' you kin stay alive fer months, mebbe years. You understand me?"

Jonmair didn't, but the only way she dared respond was, "Yes, Tuib Chance." What could he mean, stay alive? Baird Axton was going to kill her, and that would be the end of it.

Chance took Jonmair's chain and led her from the display room through a different door, into an area of the pen she had never been in before. "You ever seen a Kill?" he asked.

"Yes, Tuib Chance." She dared not elaborate, explain that she had seen this very man kill before.

"Good, good - 'cause yer gonna watch Tuib Baird take his Kill today. An' yer not gonna get all upset and scream and cry and ruin it all - you understand?"

He gave a tug on the chain that almost pulled her over, but Jonmair managed once more to gasp, "Yes, Tuib Chance."

But she didn't understand, not at all.

The section of the pen Chance took her into now was completely different from the utilitarian holding cells. Instead of plain painted wood, the walls were white plaster with stenciled green borders. Soft green curtains hung at the window at the end of the corridor. He steered her into a bathroom tiled in green and white, with big white fluffy towels hanging on a lacquered wooden rack.

Chance unclipped the chain from Jonmair's collar. "Git in there and shower," he told her. "Wash yer hair - I want you smellin' real good when thet boy is post - understand?"

Suddenly Jonmair did. It was not her life that Baird Axton was to take today. It was her virginity.

No! something inside her protested. I don't want to live on for a few weeks or months, offering perverted pleasure to men who get some kind of kick out of sex with Gens!

Chance, of course, zlinned her change of mood. He leaned close to her, saying, "Listen, Gen - you give me no trouble so far, so I been treatin' you good. You don't cooperate today, don't expect to be handed over fer a nice clean Kill. You spoil this, an' I'll sell you straight into Shandy's place. You know what goes on there?"

Cowardice was indeed inevitable in a Gen. Much as she wished to defy him, Jonmair felt a bolt of fear strike through her at the idea of Shandy's place. She didn't know the whole of what went on there ... but she did know it was frequented by the most jaded of Simes. They never took simple Kills, but tortured Gens into quivering objects of pain and terror, making death a welcome release.

Whatever she might have to do with Baird Axton, it would not involve torture. Nevertheless, she swallowed down bitter shame as she responded, "Yes, Tuib Chance. If you please, Tuib ... what am I supposed to do?"

"Good girl," Chance told her, as if she were a skittish horse. "I'll tell ya - but scrub down first."

It was the first hot shower Jonmair had had since being taken from her home. When she closed her eyes, the feel of the water, the smell of the soap, brought back unwelcome memories of the life she had once known, the future she had once thought was hers.

My parents didn't trust me not to try to join the perverts in the Householdings, Jonmair thought sadly. And for the thousandth time she wondered, had someone informed her that she had begun to produce selyn ... would she have run for Householding Carre and pled for sanctuary?

Maybe I would have run for the border, came the thought that had cycled through her mind ever since her parents had handed her over to Old Chance. But she knew the futility of that idea. Here in Norlea, the nearest boundary with Gen Territory was the Mizipi River - how could she possibly have gotten across?

Ever since the founding of Householding Carre, Gens who found out that they had established selyn production had made the coward's choice of trying to reach the Householding, even if it meant a life of perversion. Little wonder her parents had not risked such shame to their family.

Still ... they could have told me it had happened. Maybe it wouldn't have seemed so bad, coming from Mama or Dad. At least they would have acknowledged that I was still their daughter, that I was still ... human.

The shower spray hid her tears at the thought, but Old Chance would not let her linger once the soap was washed away. As he prepared her for her destiny, he told her a story she had never expected to hear: Baird Axton, that outward example of the perfection of Sime manhood, had almost become a Householding pervert himself!

Baird, it seemed, had fallen very ill as a boy. In last-ditch desperation, his father had taken him to Carre, for the one thing that made people tolerate the Householders was their healing ability ... although some people feared their powers might be due to the forbidden magic of the Ancients.

The channels had indeed healed Baird, but at the cost of instilling their propaganda. The boy had told his father that he wanted to live without killing. Tuib Axton was too smart to make an issue of it with a child - but when Baird went into changeover, the process of becoming a Sime, his father refused to take him to the Householding or call one of their perverted channels to his home. When the boy's tentacles broke free and he was presented with a Gen, he did what a Sime was supposed to: he killed it, draining it of life force so that he could be strong and graceful and free.

But instead of being proud to be Sime, Baird was ashamed of having killed. Once he had changed over, he was an adult under the law, and his father could not prevent him from going to Householding Carre the next month, to get his supply of selyn from a channel instead of killing a Gen.

"He learnt," Old Chance chuckled as he roughly toweled Jonmair's thick burgundy-colored hair, "oh, yeah - he learnt what them perverts do. He had selyn to live for another month, but he had no spark, no vigor. Ya gotta kill to feel really alive."

That was what Jonmair's parents always said. If nature had not intended Simes to kill Gens, then Gens would not have that inborn fear that attracted the Sime in Need and capped off the Kill in a way that put the Sime in perfect health and spirits for another month.

Baird Axton, torn between his belief that the Householders were right and the demands of his Sime nature for the Kill, tried to find in Householding methods the satisfaction the channels told him would come if he persevered. Every month he went to Carre for what the channels called "transfer," and returned home replete with selyn, but lacking in life.

As Simes put it, Baird did not experience post-syndrome, the heady sense of health and well-being that a Sime was supposed to get from a Kill. And without post-syndrome ... he had no sex drive.

The Axtons ran one of the finest entertainment establishments in Norlea, called, in fact, The Post. People came to dine, to dance, to gamble, and to sample the variety of delights a Sime could experience at the monthly peak of good feeling. While his experiments with channel's transfer continued, not only was Baird Axton's presence a blight on the customers' enjoyment, but the day came when his experiment in Householding perversion ended in a public scandal.

Jonmair did not have to listen to Old Chance's version of what had happened three months ago: she had been there when the son and heir of one of Norlea's most prominent families disgraced himself in the public square.

#

"What if she knows?" Baird Axton asked his father. "She seemed to recognize me. If that girl is from Norlea, she'll know who I am and what I did."

"Girl?" said Treavor Axton. "It's not a girl - it's a Gen. Stop that shenned Householding thinking! Baird, you'll never be normal till you stop thinking of Gens as people."

"Then why do you want me to have sex with one?" Baird demanded.

"It's the only way I know!" his father admitted wretchedly. "Son - you're my only heir since your sister died fighting the Freebanders." Baird zlinned his father's sorrow, exacerbated by the fact that Elendra had died with Gulf's army, far away, and they had not been able to bury her in the family mausoleum. To make matters worse, she had been dead for over two months, her grave somewhere in the foothills of the western mountains, before they had received the news.

It had come just after Baird's changeover, and made him even more determined to live without the Kill, as his sister had reported many soldiers were learning to do. In the letters she sent to her father, she said they had to do it to conserve selyn ... but in her letters to her little brother she had encouraged him in his intention to live nonjunct.

I am learning to know Gens, little Bear, she had written in her last letter, not knowing her pet name for him was no longer appropriate since he had already reached their father's height. The leaders of this combined army are both Sime and Gen - and the Gens are as human as you or me. You already knew that, Baird, but I could not let myself know it until I fought side by side with them against the Raiders. You've made the right decision, and now I've made it, too. I've talked to the channels. I will not kill again.

She hadn't ... because as it turned out, Elendra died in battle less than a week after she wrote that last letter, leaving Baird the only surviving Axton of his generation.

"You will carry on the family business," his father was saying, "and you must carry on the family as well. This," he shrugged, gesturing at the trappings of the Choice Pen about them, "is private, and will be forgotten. The Gen you picked will go to someone else as a Choice Kill, and I'll see to it Old Chance keeps his mouth shut. Heh! I could report that Wild Gen he showed us, and set him up for shedoni."

Deep into Need, Baird barely controlled a shudder at the mention of the worst of all punishments under Sime law: to be caged as a public spectacle for all to zlin, while dying of attrition - the denial of selyn, of life itself.

But no one would report Old Chance. He was too useful and, Baird suspected, knew too many equally damning things about all his customers for them ever to risk his being questioned by the authorities.

If this insane scheme actually worked, there would be no scandal concerning Baird Axton bedding a Gen. Nothing to add to the scandal he himself had caused.

The shameful scene in Norlea's square was as vivid in Baird's mind as if it were happening today. Even three months later and deep into Need, he felt guilt at what he had done that day - not only taking a Kill in a public street, but stealing that Kill from another citizen ....

The moment he had come out of it, post-syndrome manifesting as burning shame, he had done everything he could to make amends. He had given the woman three times what her Pen Gen was worth, and then he had bundled Zhag Paget into the buggy and out to Carre - where he had handed him over at the gates of the Householding and left as fast as he could, never going near the place again.

Baird's father was delighted to have his son and heir abandon Householding notions, but Baird was guilt-ridden at killing, no matter how right it felt at the moment it happened. The Gens he had met at the Householding were people.

It had not helped his frame of mind, either, when a week after that fateful day his conscience had sent him to see whether Zhag had survived ... and he had found the musician in greatly improved health, playing an entire evening's set at Milily's Shiltpron Parlor. Zhag had not killed, he informed Baird proudly, and was certain that he never would again. He tried to talk Baird into going back to Carre - but Baird, satisfied that he was not responsible for a Sime's death as well, had walked away from his friend and never gone back.

And so he had lived for the past three months, a proper killer Sime once again, trying to bask in his father's approval ... when he completely lacked any joy in life.

It's all the fault of the Householders, he told himself. Their perversion has tainted me. He wanted to tell his father, It's your fault, too! If you hadn't taken me to the channels when I was a child -

- I would almost certainly be dead, he had to admit.

His father had made a calculated decision then, just as he had today. This one was intended to preserve the family. The one when Baird was ten years old had been meant to save the boy's life. The channels had cured him of pneumonia, but a week at Carre had trapped him between two worlds, neither content to be junct, nor capable of disjunction.

His father didn't understand. Baird had broken the most sacred vow he had ever made in his life. It didn't matter that his father was pleased, nor that Norlea's most influential citizens believed that he had returned to the right and proper way of life.

I betrayed myself, Baird recognized. If I cannot trust myself, how can anyone else ever trust me?

#

Dressed in a white silk garment that clung to her form like running water, Jonmair entered the killroom. This one was much fancier than the ones in peopleís homes. Here, too, the green-and-white color scheme prevailed, green stencils on the white plaster, the doors painted green, even green and white ribbons braided into Jonmair's long, thick hair.

Baird Axton's Kill waited, a male Gen with the vacant look of one raised in the Pens. Not a Choice Kill. But then, given the man's flirtation with perversion, he probably preferred a Gen that was more like an animal.

I don't feel like an animal, Jonmair thought - an idea that had come to her over and over since the day she had been taken from her home, no longer considered human. Why do I feel so much like myself?

Because I didn't turn Sime, she reminded herself. I never became fully human. I only think I feel like a person because I don't know what it feels like to really be one. To be a Sime. To zlin. I still feel like myself, all right - like a child who can never grow up.

Nevertheless, she was better off than the Gen that waited, unsuspecting, to be killed. It was a healthy male, dull-eyed only with witlessness, for any drugs would have been allowed to wear off. It must experience its death fully for the Sime who killed it to obtain satisfaction.

The Gen looked up as Jonmair entered. It was dressed in the white cotton yawal of the killroom, a poncho-like garment that left its arms and legs bare. Like Jonmair, it wore a collar, but unlike hers, its was attached to a chain hooked to the wall high enough that it could not reach to loosen it. Not that it was trying.

But Jonmair was grateful for the chain when the Gen gave her a loose-lipped smile and tried to move toward her. Its eyes showed some interest now - in the form of lust. She realized it was a breeder that had outlived its purpose - male breeders were seldom used for more than a few months.

The chain brought the Gen up short. It tugged futilely with clumsy hands, then beckoned her, "Címon, címon." Probably one of the commands it was used to obeying on the Genfarm where it was raised.

Sickened, Jonmair backed against the door where she had come in, just as the other door opened and Baird Axton entered.

His face was even more ravaged with Need, and he was hyperconscious - his unfocused eyes and extended laterals indicated that he was sensing the world only as shifting selyn fields. Once again Jonmair's heart went out to him - he so desperately needed to be warmed and filled with life.

"Stop that, Girl!" Baird said sharply. "You're not my Kill."

Jonmair was surprised, for she was not afraid.

Maybe she just didn't know she was.

But she had also learned in the three months she had waited to be sold into death, that if she imagined a selyn-shielded curtain surrounding her, not allowing her feelings to get out, her field did not impinge on nearby Simes and she dared to think and feel in the privacy of her own mind.

When she drew that imaginary curtain around her today, though, Baird Axton was the one surprised - so much so that his eyes focused on her as if to verify that she was still there. "Are you a Companion?" he asked.

Companions were Gens who lived with Simes in the Householdings, giving them their selyn without being killed.

"No, Tuib," Jonmair told him. "I've never been inside a Householding. But I do know how to keep from interfering with your Kill."

He was too strung out with Need to question her further. With her field no longer distracting him, he turned toward the Pen Gen. The creature stared dumbly from Baird to Jonmair, only puzzlement to be seen on its face.

For the first time today, Jonmair saw Baird's handling tentacles - Simes normally used them nearly all the time. There were four on each hand, graceful tendrils that emerged from wrist openings over the back and the palm. Sime tentacles were beautiful. Not limited like fingers, they could move and twine in any direction, making Simes the most dexterous creatures in the world.

Jonmair had been touched with handling tentacles all her life - her parents' had caressed her, held her, braided her hair. Those tentacles were warm, dry, strong, often comforting. And, most important to Jonmair since she had learned she would never have them, they were the outward mark of Simeness.

She wanted to be touched by gentle tentacles again, not efficiently and impersonally, as the pen workers did, but tenderly, as her parents had once touched her ... before she had proved less than human.

The Pen Gen made no protest when Baird Axton grasped its arms, then wrapped his handling tentacles so that the two were aligned forearm to forearm in an unbreakable grip. Only when that grip was secure did Baird touch the Gen with his delicate lateral tentacles, wet with selyn conducting fluid. When they were securely seated on the nerve points in the Gen's forearms, Baird pulled the Gen toward him.

For the first time, the Gen resisted, turning its face away as Baird sought to press his lips to the Gen's. It was not a kiss - it was simply the most convenient fifth contact point, a grounding to allow the flow of life energy through the nerve-rich lateral tentacles.

With incredible patience for a Sime deep into Need, Baird allowed the Gen to turn its head away. Jonmair marveled, drawn to him even more, wanting to see him satisfied and healed, made whole and happy as a Sime ought to be.

Baird made the connection when the Gen automatically turned back again. It struggled, trying to step back, but Baird easily maintained contact. Jonmair hoped the struggle indicated it was feeling the fear Baird needed to make the Kill work for him.

The creature stiffened, and, that fast, it was over!

The Gen crumpled to the floor as Baird retracted his tentacles and let go. His eyes were closed, and he drew a deep breath as a peaceful expression replaced the pinched look of Need on his face. Now he was even more handsome.

And Jonmair realized that sometime during the process she had let go of the shield about her emotions, so that if he cared to, he could zlin her every feeling.

Baird opened his eyes, looked straight at Jonmair, and smiled. Ignoring the body at his feet, he held out his hands to her. She took them, her heart surging when warm handling tentacles caressed her fingers.

"Let's get out of here," said Baird, and led her through the door by which he had entered. They had to step over the corpse of the Pen Gen. Its empty eyes stared at the ceiling, face frozen in a rictus of fear. It had served its purpose.

And now Jonmair's purpose was to give Baird a satisfactory post-syndrome. She wanted to wipe away the last vestiges of his pain. She smiled into his eyes and followed him to the nearby pleasure chamber.

Here, too, the green and white color scheme prevailed, but Jonmair would not have cared if the place were decorated in orange, purple, and chartreuse. Her eyes were only for Baird Axton.

There was food elegantly laid out on a table covered with a fine white linen cloth. There was the same fresh fruit Gens were fed each day, but instead of the plain gruel and bread that Jonmair was thoroughly tired of, there were light biscuits, cheese, nut butter, and honey cakes. Jonmair would have liked to eat something, talk - get to know this man.

Baird, though, was only interested in Jonmair. When she would have moved toward the table, he picked her up and laid her in the nest of soft green and white pillows spread on the clean white sheets of a wide, comfortable bed. Having her there when he killed seemed to have worked: he began stripping off his clothes without taking his eyes off her.

But Jonmair had never done this before. She felt drawn to him, but not ready to plunge directly into sex.

As Baird fumbled with shirt buttons, Jonmair realized, He's never done this before, either! I'm his first ... and he is mine.

"Tuib Baird," she ventured. "Zlin me - please." He would have to make a special effort to do so this soon after his Kill.

He gasped when she called him by name, but she saw his laterals lick tentatively out of their sheaths. It was safe enough to let him zlin her apprehension now, at least as far as her life was concerned. As to the success of their encounter, though ... had she spoiled it?

Baird smiled, baring strong white teeth, and drew a long, deep breath. He dropped his shirt onto a chair, but did not shed his trousers despite the evidence of arousal that Jonmair could see outlined there. He held out a hand to her. "We don't have to rush," he said.

"Thank you," she told him, letting her genuine gratitude well up as he pulled her to her feet. She could see him relax a little, and her own breathing became more normal.

Baird ran fingers and handling tentacles through her hair - the tender touch she had so yearned for - and in response she put her hands on his broad shoulders, taking strength from him as she laid her face against his chest.

He was warm, and hard in a way that made her feel protected. She slid a hand down his chest, between his dark copper nipples. His arms came automatically around her, and she put her face up, expecting to be kissed.

But Baird's lips did not seek hers. He cupped her face with one hand, while its dorsal tentacles untied the bow holding her garment at the shoulder. In a moment he had untied the other bow, and the dress slithered to the floor. Baird stood back and looked at her - just looked. "Beautiful," he said.

Jonmair had been raised without body consciousness - what use was it in a world of people who could zlin? - but nonetheless she felt exposed and once again apprehensive. When Baird moved to pick her up, she twisted and pushed him down onto the bed instead.

He let her, amusement in his beautiful gray eyes. As long as she was doing something, perhaps he would allow her to set the pace.

If she didn't try to delay too long.

She pulled off his low-cut boots, and then his socks, revealing high-arched well-formed feet. Finally, she unbuckled his belt and unbuttoned his fly. He rested on his elbows, watching her, but she saw the tiny laterals peeking out of their sheaths and knew he zlinned her every feeling.

This may be my only chance to make love, she reminded herself. At least it's with someone attractive and gentle. "Lift your hips," she told him, and stripped his trousers off as if he were her little brother. It left him in nothing but expensive silk underdrawers, tented still with the desire he seemed satisfied to delay assuaging.

For the moment.

Jonmair knew she could not delay long - she was awash in gratitude that he had allowed her this much. But much as she wanted this man, what she wanted was to be held in his arms, to feel even a temporary illusion of safety, for the first time since she had been taken from her home.

She knew, in theory, what the sex act was - but she felt no desire to perform what sounded merely...uncomfortable.

Baird sat up and took Jonmair's hand. "Lie down," he said. "I won't hurt you."

"I know," she replied, letting him guide her to stretch out next to him. Then his arms were about her again, and he gave her her desire, as if he could read her mind and not merely her selyn field.

She reveled in the comfort of his warm, strong Sime body. But after a moment he rolled her on top of him, hands and tentacles stroking down her back, over her buttocks, caressing her thighs. It felt good, his laterals leaving little tingly trails wherever they grazed. Without thinking, she sought his lips with hers, but again he turned his head away, this time saying, "Don't."

Wanting to please him, but not knowing how, she kissed his cheek. That he did not seem to mind, so she trailed kisses down his neck until her face met his hand, which had just stroked up her arm.

Again Baird cupped her face, sliding dorsal tentacles into her hair. But then he pushed her over onto her back again, stripped off his drawers, and drew their naked bodies together. His warm skin the full length of her body made Jonmair more bold. She put her arms about him again, writhing upward, feeling his hot manhood between them. It felt huge, demanding!

He inserted a hand between them. Handling tentacles slithered into places she could not remember anyone ever touching her before. Jonmair gasped in a combination of pleasure and fear. Her heart pounded and her skin prickled.

She wanted to be kissed, but Baird remained stubbornly uncooperative, although the fingers and tentacles of his other hand continued to caress her cheek and hair. Yearning for some more intimate connection, she turned her face and licked at one of his laterals.

He gasped audibly, but did not withdraw the vulnerable appendage. She sucked it into her mouth, lolling it gently, feeling little tingly sparks resonate through her tongue and down into her nerves. Baird trembled. Jonmair marveled in her power at that moment ... and his utter trust.

Both of them were covered with a sheen of perspiration, their bodies sliding slickly - and finally, uniting.

Jonmair let Baird's lateral slip from her lips as discomfort interrupted her pleasure. Why did he have to - ? Owww - he was too big!

Then something inside her yielded, her pain faded to a tolerable level, and she rode out his thrusting until he stiffened in her arms and cried out. When he began to breathe again, panting, he fell heavily on her.

But, zlinning that she could not breathe, Baird quickly moved off her, and cradled her gently. "It will be better next time," he promised.

"It was your first time, too," she said, stroking his shoulder soothingly.

His eyes flew open. "How did you - ?"

"You and your dad were talking about it, remember? When you chose me." She let all her sincerity flow to him on her field, unable to find words to tell him how happy she was that she had been able to free him from what the Householders had done to him.

He looked into her eyes. "You're different from other Gens," he said.

"I'm not a Pen Gen."

"I ... know other Gens who are not," he admitted.

Perverts, Jonmair thought, but did not say it. Could Gens be perverts? She had assumed they could only be used by the Simes at the Householdings, doing whatever the Simes wanted out of fear for their lives.

Is that what I'm doing? Am I fooling myself into thinking I feel something for this man? Chance had threatened her. Did her Gen nature twist cowardice into false desire?

#

Silence hung heavily between Baird and the Gen woman as he realized he had said too much. She was sweet, lovely to look at and to zlin ... and now very confused.

"We should eat something," he said to change the subject. As soon as he said it, though, he realized that he was actually hungry. He could zlin the girl's hunger, too, as they approached the table. Chance kept his Gens healthy, but it was clear from the way she dug in that she had not had such tasty dishes for some time.

When he reached for a honey cake, the Gen put out a hand to stop him. "Fruit and cheese first," she said authoritatively. Immediately, she blushed and dropped her eyes. "I'm sorry," she said. "My mom and dad would always remind each other: you have to get those vitamins and proteins first, not waste your appetite on sweets."

"You're right," said Baird, selecting some melon slices and a piece of cheese. He didn't want to hurt this girl, or even spoil her mood. He wanted her again. Pleasant as it had been, their first encounter had lacked something.

At the end, she had stopped feeling pleasure. He had felt her desire to please him, but her own satisfaction in the encounter had disappeared.

He wanted to bring it back. They had all night. He could try again to zlin what felt good to her - and not get carried away with his own desires this time. Without her participation, he had gotten little more from the final moments of their encounter than he did from his own hand.

No wonder she had known it was his first time.

Replete with selyn, he was able to look at the girl as well as zlin her. She was a lovely creature with a porcelain complexion and a youthful blush across her cheeks. She was not tall, coming only to his shoulder, but she filled his arms nicely.

Even though she was young as a Gen, she had more curves than a Sime woman - lovely soft flesh it felt good to touch. She liked to be touched, and her pleasure resonated in him.

Would it be like that with a Sime woman?

He didn't have to think about Sime women today. He could feast his senses on this Gen, without remorse. She had beautiful hair, soft and thick, falling in waves over her shoulders, over his skin when he held her. It was an unusual color, like fine wine, and her eyes held wine-colored glints in their depths.

Because he liked touching her, he reached across the table and took her hands. Caressing her fingers with his, he used his dorsal tentacles to feed her bits of fruit and honey cake. She licked juice and crumbs from them, and he had a sudden memory of her sucking his lateral - and the amazing jolt of pleasure that had shot through him at that unexpected intimacy! He suspected that if she had kept it up, she could have brought him to climax doing nothing more.

Where could an inexperienced girl get such an idea? She had been virgin - of that he had no doubt. She was such a perplexing combination of innocence and sensuality!

The Gen might have eaten herself into lethargy if Baird had let her, but he didn't. When the edge was off her hunger, he took her back to the bed and began to caress her again. She snuggled against him, soft and clean-smelling, her hands stroking over him as he zlinned that she liked touching him, too.

He refused to lose contact with her feelings this time, holding himself back as he sought ways to arouse her desire. Her pleasure provoked his, perfect reciprocity, so whenever she felt apprehension he backed off to find a new approach. It was harder this time - the memory of her pain the first time haunted her, and he had to experiment, suckling her softly rounded breasts, tickling her navel with his tongue, delving gently into the mystery of her womanhood to locate the secret nerve center that, he had been told, brought women to higher peaks of sexual pleasure than men could know.

Unless men zlinned what women were experiencing.

To his amazed delight, he was able to send her into spasms that proved the stories true - but who cared whose nerves experienced the pleasure when he could share? Laughing with sheer release, he held her close again, enjoyed the way she clung to him, the incredulous joy in her nager.

#

Jonmair could not believe the things Baird Axton did to her. It was obvious he was experimenting, and clear that her pleasure triggered his. If this was how it felt when she could not share his feelings, what must it be like for two Simes to share every nuance?

Well, she would never know, would she?

When her mood shifted, Baird gathered her into his arms again, stroking her - he had quickly learned how much she liked to be caressed. To her surprise, she felt lassitude in his limbs - he was relaxed and sleepy, not eager to proceed to his own satisfaction.

In fact ... he appeared to have shared her own experience completely. Happily, she settled into his arms and fell asleep.

He woke her a few hours later, and made love to her again with even more new-found skill. Simes required far less sleep than Gens - how long had he lain awake, plotting how to bring her whole body alive with pleasure? Jonmair almost thought she might not survive the blissful celebration of life.

And then the dawn broke, rosy light filtering down through the skylights. Baird rose and stretched, gorgeous to look at, young and healthy and full of potential -

But he did not look at her. Instead, he disappeared into the bathroom. When she heard the shower running, Jonmair realized that it was over. He would leave her now, and she would be returned to her holding cell to await her death.

#

When Baird closed the bathroom door, he was cut off from the Gen woman's amazing nager. The lavatory facilities were selyn shielded because the pleasure rooms were most often used by Sime couples. There were, after all, some things one wanted to keep private - especially during romantic moments.

And last night had provided the most romantic moments of Baird's life. He had never even thought in such terms before!

This Gen woman made him feel good - better than he had felt since his changeover, when his father had refused to honor Baird's desire to be taken to the channels at Carre, or to bring one of those channels to their home. A brand-new Sime, driven to the depths of Need by the spasms that broke his tentacles free, had no ability to control his actions. Baird had helplessly killed the Gen his father presented him with - and then sunk into profound guilt and despair.

He had suffered the same emotions when he failed his disjunction attempt so spectacularly in the square in Norlea, and again the last two months when he took what his father and everyone else except Householders deemed a "proper" Kill, privately in the family Killroom.

But yesterday - Yesterday he had felt what a Sime was supposed to feel after a Kill: elation, fulfillment, and sexual desire. For the first time, he had not given a single thought to the drained corpse that only moments before been a living, feeling -

A chill of infinite horror raised gooseflesh all over Baird's body, although the water washing over him was warm. He knew Gens were people! He had made friends among the Gens at Householding Carre during the four months he had tried to disjunct.

And yesterday it was as if none of that mattered - as if he were as thoroughly junct, joined to the Kill, as his father was. It was what his father wanted - but not what Baird did!

Baird knew, as every thinking Sime must certainly know in the privacy of his heart, what his sister had seen with her own eyes and written to him about in the last days of her life: the Kill could not go on forever. As Simes lived longer, healthier lives, it was simply not possible for each Sime to kill twelve Gens each year and have the world not run out of Gens.

But it was more than just an ecological necessity that Simes stop killing. Gens were people, with as much right to live as Simes had. How could Simes, who would not mistreat a horse or a dog, convince themselves that Gens were animals who each existed only so that a Sime could have one more month of life?

And ... how could a Gen, that creature that had spent the night casting her spell upon him, her nager affecting him even as she slept - how could she so betray her larity, making him see the Gen he had killed yesterday as no more than ... a melon? Consume the ripe inside, discard the empty rind.

What was she, this temptress who had so controlled his mind, his feelings, all night long? Certainly not what she appeared - not some local girl with the misfortune to be the one in three who turned out wrong. Even Choice Kills had no such powers over Simes.

The Companions in the Householdings - the special Gens who cared for and gave their selyn to the channels - they had some such powers, but none of them would ever use them to cause a Sime to take a guiltless Kill! So what was that creature he had spent the night with?

#

When Baird emerged from the shower, damp and beautiful, Jonmair had to grasp hold of her shattered emotions to keep from throwing herself at his feet and begging him to stay - if only for another hour!

No. She might be Gen, but she would not be a whore. She drew the imaginary selyn-shielded curtain around her again, determined to maintain her dignity.

When she did so, Baird gasped, staring. "You are a Wer-Gen!" he exclaimed. "Did my father - ? Can you - ?"

He came to the bed and grasped her hand, pulling her to her feet. "Go on," he said. "The sun's up. Turn back."

She would have laughed, except that he was so obviously serious. And ... frightened? Of her?

It was the most absurd superstition, a story for children. How could this well-educated man possibly believe there were such things as Wer-Gens, Simes who could turn themselves into Gens - or were turned by the wizards in the Householdings - so as to provide selyn for other Simes without being killed? She had heard the self-assured Gen Companions of the Householdings referred to that way, but only in jest. No one over six natal years actually believed such nonsense!

Before she could stop herself, before she remembered her place, she asked scornfully, "Do you think if I could turn into a Sime I would be in this Pen, waiting to die?"

"A witch, then," said Baird. "You cast a spell on me last night. I still want you!" He began dressing, quickly, as if his clothes were a protective barrier to ward off her spell. "I can't feel this way! No matter what you are, it's wrong!"

What way? What did he feel? "I was happy to be able to help you," she began -

"I won't have your Gen pity, either!"

In shirt and trousers, shoes and jacket in hand, Baird Axton moved toward the door. "Stay away from me, Gen! I won't have any more of your dark magic. I hope you are really what you say - because then you'll be dead soon!"

When he was gone, the door vibrating from his slamming it, Jonmair sank back down on the bed, wondering what could have gone so wrong. Baird Axton believed the old superstitions, it seemed. Well, many people fell back on such nonsense when things went badly.

But things had not gone badly last night! Why was he so upset? What had she done?

And what was she to do now?

Other than die.

At that thought, Jonmair realized that during the night something had changed. Yesterday she had been resigned to her death, merely hoping that she would go quickly in a clean Kill.

But after what she had experienced last night with Baird Axton ... she now desperately wanted to live!

 

Read Chapter Three

 

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