Zelerod's Doom, 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg 
Jean Lorrah

From Meisha Merlin™ Publishing Inc. 
Sime~Gen™: The Unity Trilogy





Fair Exchange


Valleroy looked up from Ediva and saw Klyd--no apparition this time. He let his relief show, happy with his work on Ediva and glad they could now have transfer.

"Hugh ambrov Rior--how dare you!"

Valleroy controlled his recoil and disengaged from Ediva. Calming Klyd with his nager, he replied, "I was careful--"

Then he saw Klyd's pinched look, his bruised sunken eyes, his trembling fingers--His hands never shake. And how ghostly Klyd's presence seemed. He could hardly feel the need he saw. Absently, Valleroy suggested to Ediva, "Sleep now," and reinforced it nagerically so the renSime drifted off. "Risa, could we have privacy?"

A tremor passed through Klyd's body, but he didn't yield control. As they followed Risa toward the office they'd used that morning, she said, "I've arranged a dinner this evening with Harris Emstead and his officers. We'll show them we're civilized. With you two in good shape, we ought to accomplish a great deal."

Hugh acknowledged the invitation, then asked Klyd professionally, "How did you get into this condition?"

Tightly, the channel answered, "Fibrillation shock on a thrice-burned Companion."

Valleroy winced away from visions of the possible results if Klyd had failed. "Without me there--"

"Risa sent Sergi to me. I'll be all right--"

Hugh stared at Sergi, his sense of violation turning to anger at the Keon Companion. "You touched him?"

"Not nagerically," insisted Klyd. "Sergi knew enough not to make matters worse. He could have learned to work with me once--probably could now--but he hasn't worked with Farrises." He added, "It's strangely terrifying walking around among people who don't know what this means."

He fingered his distinctive black string tie and braided black belt. Once, Valleroy hadn't known what they meant, either, or even that they had a meaning.

Risa said, "How can you expect people to know that means something? Lots of people wear ties or belts like those. You should wear a tag or badge--something that won't be taken for decoration. But never mind that now. Go have your transfer. Then we'll talk." She and her Companion left them in the shielded office.

"It was my fault," Valleroy told Klyd. "These folks seem almost like home after the gypsies, but I shouldn't have let us get separated."

"That's the least of what you shouldn't have done," Klyd answered coldly.

That was the last straw. Bone-weary and totally out of patience, Valleroy rounded on Klyd and let him feel what Ediva had been suffering. In a cold, professional voice, he listed her injuries before he'd worked on her, then added, "And they hadn't the decency to call you to examine her!"

" Hugh--they had no reason to think she required my skills. But you did."

"You were not to be found. Ediva was alone among strangers, hurting--what if there'd been damage to her selyn transport nerves? Think what she means to this world!"

Still cold and hard, Klyd said, "I am thinking! Hugh, what if Zelerod's successor goes junct!"

"I told you," Valleroy replied adamantly, "I was careful. I wouldn't endanger Ediva's disjunction."

"You have no concept of how your field affects Simes. Your touching a renSime is cruel seduction. When Ediva's next need hits, she'll want a Companion, a Gen she can't possibly affect in transfer. No matter which way you turn it, that's cruelty."

Holding his temper, Valleroy fixed his eyes on his shoe tips, and said what he'd said a thousand times and couldn't seem to make Klyd hear. "RenSimes are people, too. Just because you were born a channel, you have no right to deny others what only a Gen can provide. As long as the only trained Gens are trained to serve channel's need, then the only Gens who dare touch renSimes are Companions. If that's cruel, it's your rules that are cruel." He met Klyd's eyes, and added, "Can't you see it would have been immoral of me not to heal Ediva?"

"I see that you think so," Klyd answered heavily. "But you still don't understand junctedness, or how 'delicate' Ediva is. If I can ever make you understand, perhaps you'll have sense enough to keep your field away from helpless renSimes, but right now I can't--can't--cope with it."

No Companion could resist such a plea from a channel in need. Absolutely nothing else mattered when Klyd's field reached out, meshing into a firm grip.

Valleroy focused on the channel, knowing how tenuous Klyd's control had to be to force such a plea from him.

Klyd dropped into the reclining desk chair.

Valleroy sat on the desk, gathering Klyd's hands to examine his lateral tentacles.

He coaxed the small, pink-gray lateral tentacles out of their sheaths and onto his skin, relaxing, remembering good transfers, letting his body respond to need, knowing Klyd's Sime senses would share every nuance of Valleroy's emotions.

Klyd's eyes sagged shut. Valleroy said, "I've a confession to make," not sure Klyd could hear him, but knowing he zlinned intent behind his words. "When the Gen Army attacked us and we were separated--I remembered when we were captured by the Runzi Raiders--how Andle caged you beside me, in hard need but unable to touch me. I didn't know then what he was doing to you. But I do now. I don't think I'd have the strength to go through that again.

"But if Harris Emstead had taken us captive, things wouldn't have been any better. He would probably have me flayed alive right in front of you, not really understanding what he was doing, just seeking military information.

"Klyd, I wouldn't mind dying, but I couldn't stand hurting you. There was a time when I couldn't have believed such a statement. Now, I can barely understand how any Gen can be near you and not want to relieve that--that scream that's coming out of you right now. I can even admire Sergi--if he really didn't work your fields. But I don't trust him anywhere near you. If we don't do this transfer now, I'll do nothing but worry about you--seeing you keeling over dead, or twisted into paralysis--or worse--"

Klyd squirmed away, complaining, "Do you have to dwell on such horrors?"

"Do you have to take such risks?" countered Valleroy.

Klyd's eyes gradually refocused, the strain of ironclad control gone, for Valleroy's work had damped the oscillations in the channel's systems. He showed only the normal symptoms of need as he got to his feet.

Klyd paced. "Look, you've restored my systems. Sergi couldn't have done that, and I know you won't deny me transfer when I ask. But not yet. Not now."

In disbelief, Valleroy asked, "Why not? Klyd, you've got to be at your best for that dinner meeting!"

Klyd paced a circle, never moving away from Valleroy, aching with the suppressed fear of death which was the worst part of being in need. "I'm too upset over what you did to Ediva. Talk about me taking risks! And the mood you're in--Listen to yourself, raking over bad memories. Our transfers haven't been good lately, and this could be the worst yet. I can't even make myself touch you."

Valleroy went cold all over, nerves screaming as if somebody were pulling them out by the roots. If it's that Sergi. I'll--

Klyd closed the distance between them in two strides, and seized Valleroy by the shoulders. "No, no, Hugh. You're the only one here who can stand up to my draw--especially when I'm like this. I don't think I could--ever take a full transfer from anyone else willingly, any more than you'd offer to anyone. I'd rather wait than ask another Companion to partial me. I hate partials and shunt-splices, Hugh. They give me headaches for months."

"You're telling me denial exercises are better?" Valleroy couldn't keep the sarcasm out of his words.

Klyd conceded grudgingly, "We can't get away from each other, but we can't go on like this, either."

"I keep trying to talk about it--"

"But it never seems important before turnover, and afterwards--"

Turnover, the point mid-way through the month, when a Sime had used up half the selyn in his system and began the descent into need. After Klyd's turnover, Valleroy often visualized himself prone at the edge of a cliff, holding Klyd on a rope that just stretched and stretched, taking him further and further away.

"I think," said Valleroy, "philosophy is never important to you. A channel lives from disaster to emergency, hoping for the strength to deal with the next crisis. And a Sectuib--Zeor's bigger now than it was in your grandfather's day. Some day, we've got to take some time--go away maybe--and thrash this whole thing out. We do agree," he grinned, "we can't live like this."

"All right. We'll do it, very first chance. But now," he sighed, "you've got to give me some time."

"You're out of time!" retorted Valleroy sharply. "I'm calling a Companion's Demand on you. If I'm really First Companion of Zeor, you'll heed it."

Klyd looked as if he'd never seen him before, and Valleroy was sure he was hypoconscious, seeing with his eyes alone. In Klyd's state of need, that indicated either supreme control or a severe nervous disorder. Valleroy asked, "In the battle, did you take a blow to the head?"

"No," Klyd answered absently. "You are an officer of Zeor, Hugh, in spite of heading your own House. I can't disobey you. But I don't think you know what you're doing."

But he did. A bad transfer now would be worse than none. So it won't be bad! Valleroy summoned the image he'd had of Klyd when he'd first offered him transfer: valiant, noble, heroic, trustworthy. But perhaps Klyd had always been too foolish to take care of himself, and Valleroy had just not understood. Well, now he did. "I'll control this transfer."

"Yes, Naztehr," Klyd answered reluctantly.

Valleroy took control of the fields, yearning to unload the energy his body produced in such abundance. It seemed, just before transfer, that he was drowning, suffocating in his own selyn. Valleroy had never met another Companion who experienced it this way and long ago had stopped talking about it. He knew his experience was the Gen counterpart to Sime need, but Simelan had no word for it, so he just thought of it as need.

He held out his arms, enticing the channel with his field and waiting for him to raise intil--the condition in which Klyd would not resist taking selyn from the nearest source.

He felt Klyd go hyperconscious, able to sense the world only through Sime senses--a condition called hunting-mode in a junct. But to Valleroy it promised fulfillment, not pain and death. He was serenely confident as, Klyd seized his arms, clutched them with his handling tentacles, and extended his laterals into contact position. They were bathed in ronaplin, the conducting fluid for the invisible, intangible energy, selyn.

Valleroy relaxed as Klyd seated the fifth contact point by touching lips. He had no idea what untrained Gens sensed at this moment that scared them and turned the sensation to pain, the pain juncts craved as the peak of the kill. What he felt was a delightful washing of energy from cells and nerves, balm that spread well-being through him, releasing an upwelling optimism and sense of invincibility.

He could feel Klyd sharing that feeling in the increasing speed of the transfer. He craved more, and sought it aggressively, knowing that this "pushed" selyn into Klyd, rather than requiring him to "draw" it. This was the way transfer should always be.

But then, at the halfway point, Klyd grabbed control. Valleroy became a harmonic string, resonating to a perfect note, but not originating it. It was only a fraction of a second but he tried to regain command, berating himself for slowing beneath Klyd's demand rate. But Klyd wouldn't release control, he attacked as a junct might.

Valleroy's speed and capacity matched Klyd's so closely that nothing Klyd did could hurt. But as they wrestled for control, the anticipated pleasure eluded them both. Klyd's body had acquired enough selyn to survive the month, but his spirit had been cheated of rejuvenation. His handling tentacles left Valleroy's arms, dropping them in mid-air. He shook his head sadly. "I didn't mean to do that. I told you I couldn't--"

But Valleroy couldn't take Klyd's feelings into account. He felt disconnected from reality--as if his nervous system had been packed away in cotton. And he knew from bitter experience that it would stay that way for two weeks, then get progressively worse until their next transfer. It was worse than he could ever remember. "I know why you did that! You're afraid I'd go to Ediva if you made me post! Dammit--I know I can't have transfer with her, but you've got no right to keep me from loving her!"

"Hugh--no! Listen to me!"

"I've done enough listening to you!" He charged for the door, but Klyd caught him half way there. There was no way to counter Sime strength with Gen muscle. He took a deep breath, gathered control of the fields, and turned, forcing Klyd to drop his hands.

"I said," repeated the channel, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that. I couldn't help it."

"Do you hate me that much?" Valleroy asked in wonder.

"No! It's just--Hugh, what you did to Ediva is monstrous! You are so powerful--you frighten me."

"You don't trust me."

"Most of the time I do. It's never how you treat me, only what you believe in. Your beliefs are so dangerous. I know you're not callous, but it's hard to make myself believe it sometimes. Can't you understand that?"

"You honored my Companion's Demand."

"Of course. My judgment might have been wrong. Householding wisdom insists there are times only the Companion can judge rightly. And only the Companion can discern when those times are." He scrubbed his ronaplin-smeared hands together. "Let's wash up, see to Ediva, and go meet Harris Emstead and the officers in Keon."


The large table in Risa's pavilion office had been set with a table cloth, sparkling candelabra, and Keon's best china. As Sergi checked the wine he had ordered from Keon's cellars, Risa asked him, "Why did you disobey me, Sergi? When I told you to help Klyd?"

"I could have hurt him badly if I'd tried to engage his fields."

Risa said, "You act as if the man were made of spun glass, while his own Companion shoves him around--"

"His own Companion," Sergi agreed. "Hugh knows exactly what that brittle Farris strength can and cannot take. Farrises are . . . like copper, Risa. One of the most efficient conductors of energy in existence, astonishingly malleable and resilient--up to a point. But when that point is reached, the slightest stress--and it shatters. I've got the years of training and experience to handle copper. Hugh has it to handle Klyd Farris."

"Well, I hope Hugh handles him into a good transfer, which I suppose you'd characterize as melting down the copper to start over?"

Her husband grinned at her. "Perhaps that's why with you it's like a blast furnace, to produce molten steel?"

They were still chuckling when Harris Emstead and his officers arrived, followed by Risa's and Sergi's son and daughter, Mor and Virena, both freshly scrubbed and dressed in their best clothes. It amused Risa to see Vi playing "grown up," while her "little" brother towered over her and already had the adult grace of a Companion. That will change once Vi changes over. She had no desire to hurry her daughter; Risa had been pushed into responsibility early, so she had given her children the chance to enjoy childhood.

The Gens were hungry, but Risa was determined to wait the full hour she'd allotted the Nivet ambassadors. She poured another round of trin tea and urged Emstead to sample another variety of liquor they imported from beyond Gulf Port. Susi Darley came to the tent flap.

Risa called, "Come in, Susi. Where's your father?"

"Asleep . . . finally," the young channel answered.

Risa started. "Susi, what happened? Is Tan ill?" She knew he hadn't been among the injured.

"No more than usual," the other woman replied. "He augmented in the battle and went into crisis. But he couldn't kill. I finally got transfer into him. He'll be all right in the morning."

But between the two women hung the unspoken question, "What about next month?"

Tannen Darley was one of the many semi-junct renSimes who supported Keon's efforts to disjunct the territory. Too old to disjunct, he had taken fewer and fewer kills over the years accepting channel's transfer most months. But every few months any Sime who had not completed disjunction had to provide his selyn system a real kill, or he would die.

The Pen system was still in full operation; both Keon and Carre knew full well that it had to be left to die of neglect. They never, ever spoke against it despite what their members might feel about raising human beings, drugged out of fulfilling their potential as people, to be killed that Simes might live.

However, Simes who had accepted Householding beliefs with their hearts, but whose bodies were too old to overcome the need to kill, eventually lost the mental survival technique of dismissing pen Gens as animals. One day even the dullest could not be seen as anything but a potential person, and from that day onward, the semi-junct Sime was on the road to an agonizing death.

Risa had watched Verla, her first friend and business partner in Laveen, die that way three years ago. Now Tan Darley, dear friend, staunch supporter--

"Oh, if only we could find him the right Companion!" Susi said wistfully.

"We'll keep trying." Risa assured her, but she had no real hope. There was little chance of finding a Gen capable of providing direct transfer to a renSime and being satisfied in the process, for the Gen's satisfaction appeared to be the crucial substitute for killbliss. There were a few such transfer pairs, but so far no Gen had proved the solution to Darley's need--except those he reluctantly killed.

Susi proffered a sheaf of papers. "You asked for the report on the Raiders."

"Oh, yes." Risa took the documents, but her attention was still on Susi. "Will you be all right?"

"Of course. But since Daddy can't be here, I doubt I could contribute much. There are still people waiting for transfers--"

"Go ahead," Risa told her, not that she had any right to order Susi about. The girl had trained at Keon but had chosen to offer her services as channel and healer to her home town of Laveen. Other channels had followed her example over the years. There was now hardly a community in Gulf Territory without an independent channel or two.

Even the most hardened juncts were discovering that channel's transfer was tolerable when it meant extra selyn for augmentation. And many juncts discovered they were not so hardened after all, as years passed with no more selyn shortages, and Gulf Territory's overall standard of living improved dramatically.

That was what Risa intended to show the ambassadors from Nivet--and her unexpected Gen Territory guests as well.

Risa studied the papers Susi had brought, saying to Emstead, "Please excuse me, Colonel. I believe I have news here of those you were chasing."

She read it through, then summarized in English, "We have twenty-three junct--uh--"

Sergi supplied the English term, "Freeband Raiders."

"Yes, Raider prisoners. Despite everything, none of them has killed. One of Carre's Companions nearly died, but he's recovering. Some fifteen of the Raiders are young enough to change their ways, perhaps live normal lives. The rest we'll turn over to our government for rehabilitation."

"I was hoping we might negotiate that point--" started the Colonel, but was interrupted by the arrival of Hugh and Klyd, followed by Ediva.

Risa couldn't believe her eyes. "Ediva, you shouldn't be out of bed!" she exclaimed.

The renSime had one arm in a sling, and a bandage around her head. Her face was still bruised. "I'm fine now that Klyd's worked on me. I know I wasn't invited, but Klyd thought--"

Risa's gaze went to the Sectuib Zeor. She couldn't believe what she zlinned. He'd had a transfer of sorts, and his systems were back into a normal balance, but she'd never have believed anyone carrying a field like Hugh's could possibly deliver such a rotten transfer." Dare I say you shouldn't have been working?"

"With Hugh's support, it's no bother," answered Klyd. Sliding into functional mode, he walked over to Emstead and extended his hand, Gen style. "I don't believe we've been properly introduced." He recited his name, explaining briefly why his party was in Gulf Territory. Gingerly, the Colonel touched Klyd's fingertips and withdrew.

Risa motioned for Sergi to call for dinner while she made the rest of the introductions and seized the initiative again. "The rest of this report is casualty statistics. Klyd, that Carre Companion was the worst burn, and there were no kills." She made no effort to disguise her pride. "Take a look."

"Thank you." he said, passing them to Ediva, explaining to Emstead that she was their mathematician.

Risa rearranged the seating to compensate for Klyd's condition, putting Sergi on one side of him and Hugh on the other. That still put Sergi's good ear toward Risa, for he could understand her voice better than any other. Then Mor, Emstead's aide, and Emstead between his aide and Risa. A place was set for Ediva on Risa's left, next to Virena.

Sergi opened a bottle of fine wine from North Eastern Territory, the best in their stock, and Risa set herself to keep the talk light.

Klyd, not the slightest bit hungry despite having had transfer, expounded on the different culinary traditions of Nivet and asked the Colonel about where he grew up. Soon he had Ediva explaining Zelerod's Doom, with Hugh supplying words Ediva didn't know in English.

As the main course was taken away by silent renSimes, Ediva reached across the table to scribble on a notepad Emstead took from a breast pocket. Though their alphabets were different, numbers were the same everywhere, and Emstead was beginning to believe what she was proving. Risa, the best bookkeeper in Gulf Territory, couldn't always follow, but she comprehended the logic and had always taken Zelerod's Doom seriously.

As Emstead realized the powerful motivations behind the Householding lifestyle, he began to thaw, perhaps feeling less a prisoner and more a guest.

The talk flowed easily until after dessert. Then Vi politely excused herself--in relief, Risa noticed. The girl was clearly bored by the adult conversation and glad to run off to play. But she had performed perfectly, disarming the gruff soldiers with her petite charm. Risa made a mental note to explain to Vi later how important it was to show their out-Territory visitors the normal family life here.

Emstead, toying with the unfamiliar trin tea, said offhandedly, "I must confess I'm surprised to find materials and even individuals from such far away places here."

There were barbs of fear in his nager. Risa started to speak, but Klyd beat her to it. "You're wondering how we got here despite your patrols designed to keep Simes out of Gen Territory."

The Colonel smiled ruefully. "I don't expect you to reveal military secrets--"

"There aren't any," said Klyd. "But there's a lot of space out there, and very few of your soldiers. Simes can sense them at a distance. It's as easy to avoid patrols as it is to attack them. Raiders attack, we avoid."

"And you trade," Emstead added.

"Among Territories? Of course," answered Klyd.

Risa had the opening she'd been trying for. "I think you can see it's to your advantage to distinguish between Householders and Raiders, can't you, Colonel?"

"Well, to be perfectly honest--"

Risa interrupted, "We don't kill, we don't trade in Gen lives, and we do trade in a large range of goods. This is a trade fair, Colonel! Not everyone's a Householder. Many Simes here do kill. But they don't try to steal our Gens, and they don't attack Householdings or those allied to us because we trade with them to great advantage. Many of them wish they didn't have to kill Gens to live, and children of such people won't ever have to kill because of the Householdings and the channels. This may be the last generation of juncts--killer Simes--in this Territory. But if your army destroys Keon or chokes off our trade, it won't be. Tell me, which way is better for your people?"

"You put a strong case, young lady."

Risa saw her grown-up son smothering a grin, but ignored it. "Colonel, my proposal goes even further. We can also trade with you! There'll be profit all around, and the clearer that becomes to Gulf citizens, the faster the transformation will occur. The Raiding will stop."

"The Raiders we chased in here showed no sign of stopping and no mercy for those they slaughtered," answered the Colonel levelly, but his nager surged with outrage and skepticism. "I must take some of them home for questioning, or I may as well not go back. That group wiped out a small farming community. I wish I could show you what it was like--infants and children crying among the dead bodies, older children hiding--"

"And where do you suppose," Mor put in, his youth making it impossible for him to keep silent in the face of such ignorance, "those savage Raiders came from?"

"From right here!" Emstead spat.

Risa grabbed the report off the sideboard. "Twenty of them were born in Gen Territory." She tried to read the names of the towns, knowing she was mangling the pronunciations, but intent on making her point. "I suspect those are places over by Nivet Territory because that's where they'd flee after going through changeover, and where they met up with the hardened characters who're leading them. They're probably all suffering deep psychological scars from killing family members in First Need. After that, what can a few anonymous faces mean? It's just striking back at those who'd murder them if they could." She softened. "Colonel, they're barely more than children. What do they know of life, except what you've taught them?"

He had no answer. Face white, he just stared at her, nager in turbulence.

"Fifteen of those kids I'm going to keep. There's a good chance they may never kill again. The three leaders and the two older ones I can't help. I'm turning them over to the Territory Government. They'll probably be able to rehabilitate the two. They may kill for the rest of their lives, but they could become honest citizens. The three ring leaders--" She couldn't control a shudder, wishing Sergi's appetite hadn't induced her to eat so much. "--will probably be executed."

"Then let me have them," insisted the Colonel.

"I can't do that," said Risa. "We have laws here."

The Colonel sat forward, thrusting his chin out. "You said you want to trade. What will you take for them?"

Risa gritted her teeth to stop a sharp reply. How could Emstead think that of them? That would make them no better than Genrunners!

Mor said, "Householders don't trade in human flesh."

"They're prisoners of war," argued Emstead. "Also fugitive criminals."

"No," insisted Klyd. "They're victims of tragedy."

Risa said, "I can trade with you."

Klyd reacted, but she held a "bear with me" in her nager, and he subsided warily.

The Colonel leaned back in his chair, seemingly thinking of playing them off against one another. "Let's hear you proposition."

"Pick a few of your men and stay here for the fair--a week at most--and I'll allow you to question the prisoners." She zlinned Klyd, not letting her eyes waver from the Colonel's. Sergi understood and was laughing inside. Her son struggled not to grin openly.

Comprehension dawned in Klyd's nager, followed by a shiver of respect. She was getting Emstead to buy what she couldn't give him as a gift, for the prisoners would verify what Risa had said. Gen Territory suffered mostly from their own cruelty to their children, and the price Emstead would pay for this information was just what she wanted him to do--stay and shop the fair for items they could later trade.

Oh, Klyd Farris ambrov Zeor, you are getting your first lesson on how to run a Territory!

"Done!" said Emstead with the air of one who'd just put one over on an adversary.

The dinner ended on a celebratory note. When Emstead and his aide had been escorted back to their men, Risa curled her tentacles around a glass of trin tea and said, "I wish we could sit and gloat over that little victory, but I'm afraid Sergi, Mor, and I must dash off. We've got a heavy dispensary schedule."

Klyd said, "I'll help."

Remembering his speed and tireless capacity, she knew she could really use him, but--"Are you sure?"

Hugh stepped forward. "At home, I'd certify him fit to work dispensary. I'd like to assist, though."

"Hugh, you're about to fall asleep."

Risa considered Klyd incredibly polite to have sat through the meal with a Companion who had made such a mess of their transfer. And he was finding the gentlest way possible to get rid of him.

"I would be honored to work with you, Sectuib Zeor," offered Mor. "I realize I have a great deal to learn."

"And you, too, are tired," Klyd pointed out. "You have the potential to be a great Companion, Mor, and with your Sectuib's permission I will work with you tomorrow or the next day, when you're rested enough to profit from it."

"I do dispensary best when I'm asleep," Hugh put in. "You've often said so. Awake, I'm a distraction."

Sergi laughed, and Risa couldn't help joining, partly in a relief she could not explain that Klyd had not accepted Mor's offer. "I've said the same of Sergi many times. All right Sectuib Zeor, though I don't usually expect my guests to work all night. We'll tell our controller to rearrange the schedule."


Valleroy woke with a start. Risa was at the door of their cubicle, a happy renSime passing her on his way out while Klyd filled in his report on the transfer.

"Dickart!" Risa greeted. "Good enough?"

"Perfect!" replied the renSime. "Never better, though I honestly couldn't take even him as a steady diet."

"You'd never be asked to," assured Risa. "But I was worried. He's nonjunct."

"Well," temporized the renSime, "I couldn't tell that."

Risa reached up to put a hand on the man's shoulder. "I'm glad. Go see to your wife now."

Risa turned to Klyd. "My report forms slowing you down?"

"Oh, no, once I adjusted to their sketchiness."

She walked over to him as Sergi came in with a tray of glasses in the ubiquitous ornate glass holders, and a huge crockery pot of tea. The aroma brought Valleroy wide awake as Risa looked over Klyd's shoulder asking, "Sketchiness?"

Klyd pointed. "Ours usually require the quantity of selyn here, the speed curve estimate here, and transient thresholds and innates here, if the channel can make it. Then the recipient's quality estimate--" He turned, looking up with a quirked eyebrow as if she'd reacted oddly.

"Let's discuss that later," Risa suggested as Sergi handed out tea glasses. "Sergi and I are going to the Pen in a few minutes, to see to the Raiders the other channels couldn't handle. You can get some rest. Leave the reports for later."

Klyd accepted a glass with two tentacles, holding the quill pen in his fingers. "Oh, I'm not tired."

Clearly. Risa didn't believe that. She looked exhausted. Valleroy strolled toward them, mindful of where Sergi had posted himself so as not to imbalance the fields. "I suppose people who aren't accustomed to Farrises might read the situation wrong. Take my word for it, Sectuib ambrov Keon, Klyd really has been enjoying the work."

"If there's more," Klyd added, "I'd be delighted to help out. And you are to be complimented. I've learned a great respect for you through your people. I'd like to help with the Raiders because they are, in a way, my people. Their presence here is due to the failure of Nivet's Tecton, and Nivet's junct government."

"I understand," replied Risa. "However, I can't help noticing. Your transfer was not as good as it should have been--not surprising considering the circumstances," she added with a glance at Valleroy. It didn't fool him. The woman obviously thought him a clumsy blunderer.

"The best thing to dispel a negative post reaction " Risa continued, "is augmentation. It'll be pretty hot later; if you'd like to go out and run, or otherwise work off some selyn early morning is the time to do it."

Klyd smiled at her. "I've always found that the best cure is work. I'm in much better condition now than I was last night." Valleroy noticed that he made no defense of his Companion; what was the use, with the evidence of his ineptitude still clear for her to zlin?

Risa's eyes went out of focus as she zlinned Klyd, obviously considering him her patient for that moment. "You do seem somewhat recovered. So, if you're not too tired, I could use any help you'd care to offer. Hugh," she turned to him, "I know you must be too tired."

"No--I slept most of the night, as promised."

Risa ignored that, saying to Klyd, "I can't give you Mor for this; he's never seen it done and will observe how Sergi and I handle it. I could assign Korin, though."

"But I've never worked with him," Klyd pointed out. "Forcing transfer on Freeband Raiders requires close teamwork. Hugh and I have been a team for many years." His tone closed the subject. Risa shrugged and invited them to have breakfast before the trip into town.

In Laveen, a group of channels and Companions was waiting for them beside the poles flying the green pennants proclaiming to all juncts, "Here any honest taxpayer can get a Gen to kill." Hugh remembered the first green pennants he'd ever seen--and Klyd's offhand attitude. Now he knew the channel must have been zlinning him for reaction, and he was ashamed of what he'd felt then.

Despite years in Sime Territory, his disgust never abated. If he were Sime, he knew he'd hate himself as much as those Raider kids probably did--and defy the world to punish him for his depravity. Now, though, he had to steel himself to clinical detachment so as not to distract Klyd.

They were greeted by the older man Valleroy had noticed yesterday, the man with the haunted eyes. He was introduced as Tannen Darley, representative to the Territory legislature and owner of the Pen. The pretty young woman who had captured Emstead was Susi Darley, the man's daughter, a nonjunct, fully-functioning channel! What kind of alien world was this, where the Gendealer was semi-junct, and his daughter operated as a channel, independent of any Householding, from a dispensary in the Pen?!

"But this is where people come for selyn, " Susi explained. "It's only logical to have a channel here--makes it easier for people to choose transfer over a kill. Their neighbors don't have to know which they came in for."

"It used to be," her father added, "that most people wouldn't admit openly that they'd accepted transfer. Nowadays, though, many people would rather not have all their friends know when they've been forced to kill."

Valleroy heard the faint edge of regret in the man's voice, and knew he must be one of the latter. But why, then, remain a Gendealer?

"Oh, I still own the Pen, but I don't run it anymore," Darley replied when Valleroy had the temerity to ask. "I'm pitching in this morning because the staff can't handle all the extra work. Besides, it's good politics; my constituents see that when they can use my help, I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty."

Or your clothes, Valleroy noted. Gone was the smartly-tailored suit of the political campaigner; this morning Darley wore a plaid work shirt and denim trousers, obviously put on clean but already spattered with blood.

The stain matched in freshness a similar stain on Susi's otherwise immaculate white apron, beneath which she wore an outfit similar to her father's. Work clothes. Her dark hair, yesterday arranged in shining curls for the fair, was this morning slicked back into a braided coil like Risa's. The severity only served to emphasize her magnificent blue eyes, fringed with thick black lashes.

It struck Valleroy as strange that he should only now realize that Susi Darley had the most beautiful face an artist could ever ask for a model. But she was totally unconscious of her beauty, intent wholly on the business before her--and on her father, whom she was carefully protecting from shifts in the ambient, although the man had obviously recently had transfer, if not a kill.

Risa led them away from the Darleys, into the building complex, a sturdily constructed fortress with thick, defensible walls. Inside, smaller buildings, neatly whitewashed, were set among gardens and small tilled plots. Only the thick bars on the windows proclaimed this a Pen.

The roof of the building they entered was thermally insulated, the walls and windows well-caulked against drafts. And, it was clean--not even the usual odor of packed bodies permeated the Pen. Beyond an office they came to a corridor lined with closed cells. A large lavatory facility opened off the far end, and on either side were medical treatment rooms.

"You can take that one," said Risa. "This will do me."

Klyd nodded, and explored the room briefly. There was a bed, cabinets full of jars and medical implements, a sterilizer, a scale, and a white-sheeted examining table. Light came from nicely designed and maintained oil lamps--not much soot, plenty of bright light.

Klyd took off his jacket, saying, "She gave me the room with heavier insulation. Perhaps this alliance will work. But I'd like to see Carre and the rest of the Territory. It can't all be like this. One thing's for sure--they don't have drought here!" He shoved some papers around on the desk, adding, "Tell them to send in the first one."

The Raider, a stickfigure thin youngster, darkly tanned was dragged struggling all the way by two renSimes who had to augment to match the Raider's furious strength.

"Let him loose and leave us," Klyd instructed.

The woman renSime attendant looked at Valleroy as if asking his permission before freeing the killer Sime. Valleroy stationed himself to Klyd's right and braced.

The renSimes let go and slammed the door. The Raider leaped for Valleroy, for even low-field he carried more selyn than the average Gen. Klyd intercepted and twined the Raider's lateral tentacles with his own, letting the boy take his fifth contact point lip to lip.

An inaudible snap, and it was over, the Raider coming out of hunting mode to stare at Klyd in total bewilderment. Then he disengaged, roaring obscenities. He went for the desk chair, lofting it to sweep the glass-fronted cabinets to destruction, but Klyd caught the chair's legs and wrestled it from the young man's grip.

"If you're goin' a execute me, why'n't just leave me in that cell to rot in attrition?" the boy demanded.

"You're Wanted in Nivet, aren't you?" asked Klyd.

"What's it to you?"

"If you've never Raided out of Gulf, you've not yet broken the law here. With a clean slate, you could start a new life."

The sullen glare told Valleroy what nageric comment the Raider made to that. Klyd called the guards to take him away and sank into the desk chair. "He's one of the leaders. If they free him, he'll be at it again within the year, no matter how fervently he promises not to. He won't live much longer in any case. He's a channel."

"Shen!" swore Valleroy. Junct channels rarely lived long lives.

"Maybe the next one won't be so bad."

She wasn't--though the drill was the same: Valleroy as the target, Klyd intercepting to feed in the unwanted channel's transfer so smoothly the Raider hardly knew she hadn't killed. Since Valleroy had learned what was involved in the junct's satisfaction, a peak of Gen terror coupled to nerve-burn pain, he'd often marveled at Klyd's ability to simulate that without ever having experienced it himself.

Four more young Raiders passed through their hands, Klyd always striving to initiate conversation after the transfer, only twice succeeding.

One of the young men was in love with a woman who'd been treated by Risa and come out crying hysterically, begging him to come into the Householding with her. "She said," he reported, "the fake kills were horrible, but for a chance at life it's worth it. She's pregnant. Maybe that's why she thought transfer was so bad."

"You can do it," encouraged Klyd, "if you support each other." He walked the youth to the door. "Just because you're Sime, you don't have to forsake the love of your children. You can make their lives better, if you work as hard as your parents did--and don't make their mistake."

After the young man had gone, Klyd swore, "Pregnant! Shen and damn!"

Hugh also shuddered. The woman did not yet know she would have to choose between the life of her unborn child and her own disjunction.

After the last of the Raiders had fought through the ordeal, Risa and Klyd, Sergi and Valleroy gathered in the small staff lounge off the building's front office, where they were served muffins with nut butter and honey, tea, and fruit. Sergi ate hungrily, Risa nibbled at a muffin, and Hugh enjoyed fresh fruit such as was rarely available at home. Klyd refused all but the tea.

Sometime during the chaos of the night, one of Keon's members had explained to Valleroy that the First Companion in Keon was partly deaf, the result of a long-ago explosion. Now he reassessed his opinion of the man, understanding why he had said so little at the dinner last night in a room full of strangers. He also noticed the way Risa's comments to Sergi were accompanied by gestures, and how frequently she communicated with him by gesture alone.

Valleroy had intended to get to know this man who was also both artist and Companion, and from the evidence all around them clearly found much more time than Valleroy to pursue his art. But I can't trust him. A day or two of training and he'll think he's a Farris expert. If he tried to handle Klyd--No! Sergi was a professional.

It was easier after transfer to thrust aside foolish jealousy, especially when, his vision no longer clouded by Gen need, Valleroy could see that Sergi was totally devoted to Risa.

Valleroy's fingers itched for a brush or a bit of charcoal as he watched their host and hostess interact. Risa tiny, dark, dynamic; Sergi huge, fair, Gen-graceful. They could not have been further mismatched physically, yet they worked together as smoothly--

As Klyd and I once did, the thought came unbidden.

Valleroy forced it away, letting his artist's eyes arrange a portrait in chiaroscuro. Risa would be easy to draw, with those piercing dark eyes, that stubborn pointed chin. Sergi's features were more regular although his eyes were so dark a blue that Valleroy had not at first been sure of their color. The man's nose had been broken at some time, probably part of the same injury that had impaired his hearing. The slight irregularity was not disfiguring; in fact, it added a certain ruggedness to a face that otherwise might be too soft for his well-muscled body.

The man runs a steel mill, too, Valleroy recalled. Companions might be tough and lean from keeping up with Simes, but only heavy daily work put that kind of muscle on a Gen. He certainly didn't have to do it--there were plenty of Simes and plenty of selyn to let them augment--which meant he worked because he wanted to. What kind of conditions allowed a First Companion so much time for other pursuits?

Plenty of channels, he realized, and plenty of Companions, too. These people were not confined to only those channels born in the Householdings. Susi Darley was not unique, and someone had told him that eight years ago the law had been changed here in Gulf Territory to allow a freeborn Gen to go to a Householding at establishment, provided he had the permission of his nearest Sime relative.

There was even talk of giving Gens full citizenship although the Householders feared that such discussion was premature. Until the Pens were no longer necessary, too many Simes had to delude themselves into perceiving Gens as less than people. It was a bitter pragmatic decision to do the possible, disjuncting the Sime population gradually and letting the number of kills dwindle year by year, instead of yearning after the impossible, attempting an abrupt end to the kill and having the juncts rebel to save their lives.

The Householders here hated the Pens as much as the Householders of Nivet Territory did, Valleroy realized. The difference is, here they are willing to settle for an unpleasant compromise to achieve progress, while in Nivet we accomplish nothing because compromise with the juncts is considered too dangerous.

The Sime-dominated Tecton was as guilty as any junct of seeing Gens as less than people. As far as Valleroy knew, the Nivet Householdings had never attempted anything like the program Keon was implementing with such success. Wasn't that another example of their blindness to Gens as people? While they proclaimed that Householding Gens had to be protected at all costs, their obstinate separatism from the Nivet populace and government meant that every year millions more Pen Gens were "protected" to death.

But now was not the time to bring that up, Klyd and Risa were already disagreeing. Best not to add fuel to the fire.

They had begun by exchanging notes on their cases, estimating prognoses in a professional rapport that wakened Valleroy's hopes for the future alliance. Risa ended with the comment, "Now you can see why we don't require any increase in our Border Patrol."

"Don't? Why, everything that's happened since yesterday only underscores the urgency!" Klyd stopped.

Risa just stared at him.

He elaborated. "What about the war you've caused by letting Emstead question your prisoners? What about the Nivet citizens who'll give their lives in defense of their homes and children because of what those Raiders say?"

Valleroy explained, "Those Raiders speak English. Emstead can play on their Gen upbringing. Risa, you've got them post. If they decide to 'tell Emstead off,' they'll give him information we can't let the Gen Army have."

"I don't believe--you can't have missed what went on here!" exclaimed Risa.

"And you can't see beyond your Territory border!" retorted Klyd.

"Of course I can!" Risa said, leaning over the small table eyes bright with a distant vision. "I've got Emstead in my pocket! He'll go home with stories of what he's seen here and they'll send offers of trade. One of the things we'll offer in trade is to take in their Sime children."

"You're dreaming!"

"If you don't have a dream, how can you make it come true? We've done it before, on a smaller scale. There's no reason it can't work all over! Think of the goods and lives lost to the Gen Border Patrol every year. Once the Gens are dependent on what we can provide, we'll ask for caravan escorts to Nivet Territory. And that's only the beginning. Within two years I'll be sending you my First Year channels for training. You know more about channeling than we do. You'll train some of our brightest youngsters--and we'll train yours in whatever you find here that you'd like to take home. We can accomplish so much more if we cooperate."

Klyd looked at Valleroy, who took a deep breath and tried to burst her bubble gently. "The kinds of functions Klyd has impressed you with can't be learned by any but the Farris channels. We know; we've tried."

She brushed that aside. "Well, there's still plenty of knowledge to exchange. Take a few days after the fair and go down to Norlea. Visit Carre and Gulf Port. I'm sure you'll find much here of value. The few times I've been to Nivet to trade, we've made a good profit."

Klyd leaned away from her fiery presence and said, "If we do that, I want two things in return. First, I want to be present at all of Emstead's interviews with the Raiders. I'll do the field work so his nager won't get to them, and perhaps they won't blurt out too much. And second, I insist you return to Nivet with us--bring Sergi and whoever you'd like--make a similar tour."

"You drive a hard bargain, Sectuib Zeor," replied Risa.

"As do you, Sectuib ambrov Keon," admitted Klyd.

She thought it over. "I'll require a month after the fair to prepare for such an absence. Will you stay that long?"

Klyd consulted Valleroy with a glance and Valleroy assented. He couldn't have hoped for better.

Valleroy held his peace until they were outside the Pen stockade. "You really fooled her. You made her pay you for doing what you really wanted to do!"

"Don't chortle too loudly. We were maneuvered."


Risa watched the door close behind her guests, leaning back in her desk chair. Sergi said, "Risa, I think you did it again."

"Did what?"

"What you did to Emstead--one of your bargains."

"Don't be too sure. Whatever else he may be, Klyd's no fool. He wouldn't have concluded a tricky deal while in such condition. Therefore he didn't feel he was giving anything up to get what he wanted." She zlinned his nager, too tired to shift her gaze.

Sergi hitched one knee over the arm of her chair and put an arm around her protectively.

She answered his unspoken question. "No, I won't have to try to manipulate him much longer--as soon as he sees our interests are in accord."



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