The Story Untold and Other Sime~Gen Stories [Sime~Gen, Book 10]
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by Jean Lorrah
Category: Science Fiction/Romance
Description: Tonyo Logan and Zhag Paget are the stuff of legends. Their music is the soundtrack of the turbulent period after the signing of the Unity Treaty, which mandates that Simes and Gens learn how to get along--together! These three tales span the first first 15 years of the duo's partnership, from their beginnings as struggling musicians to their heyday as superstars, a supreme example of the creativity that happens when Sime and Gen work together. The only question is: will their world survive long enough for the pair to work their musical magic?
eBook Publisher: Wildside Press, 2011 USA
eBookwise Release Date: April 2011
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [137 KB]
Reading time: 80-113 min.
BEST OF FOOLS
"Why do you introduce me as Tonyo?" demanded Zhag Paget's young protege. "My name is Tony."
"That's a Gen name," Zhag replied.
"In case you hadn't noticed, I am Gen."
"I mean, it's an out-Territory name," Zhag explained.
"In case you hadn't noticed...," Tonyo repeated, voice and energy field dripping sarcasm.
Zhag sighed. "It makes you sound like a Wild Gen."
Annoyance resonated in the boy's field as he threatened, "You want to see wild? Dammit, Zhag, I'm me, you don't own me, and you can't change my identity!" Abruptly he got up and stomped out, a frequent response to their disagreements. Was Tonyo used to someone who wouldn't listen?
The Gen went only as far as the woodpile. Zhag picked up his shiltpron and went to sit on the rickety steps of his house. Snatches of melody churned up in his mind, disconnected phrases that would not form a tune. He plucked the notes anyway, knowing that music often soothed away his Gen's annoyance.
Tonyo was chopping wood for the cookstove Zhag had never used--the extent of his "cooking" was to make tea over an oil burner. The Sime had learned to avoid disparaging comments about Gens and sharp instruments. He didn't want to provoke the boy again, but he was relieved when Tonyo carried the wood inside and returned to sit at the other end of the step. Tonyo's nager--the field of life energy that surrounded all humans, Simes like Zhag and Gens like Tonyo--precisely echoed the notes Zhag played.
Zhag let go of the senses he shared with Gens, except for hearing, and zlinned the boy with Sime senses. Perhaps Tonyo's golden field would provide the inspiration to compose something. Anything. Just one more song before he died.
Zhag was prepared to die, but if he were to kill again--
That's need depression talking, he told himself. The loss of creative energy was the worst effect of Zhag's chronically unsatisfied need. When Tonyo was nearby--and not frustrated--he could almost...almost...feel normal.
But normal for Zhag was creating new music, not merely playing at Milily's Shiltpron Parlor. Since Tonyo had joined him, he frequently felt well enough to improvise--as the Gen was doing now, vocalizing variations around Zhag's new riff. But Tonyo had not warmed up his voice. He reached for a note--and missed. His field followed his voice out of tune, a jolt to Zhag's wide open systems. When he next skidded flat, Zhag stopped playing. "Follow your nager with your voice."
"What?" Gen confusion.
"Your nager has perfect pitch," Zhag explained. "You think of yourself as a singer, Tonyo, but it's your field Simes 'listen' to."
"I know that," the boy said.
"You know it, but you don't feel it," Zhag told him. The way I know I will never kill again, but can't feel it--can't trust that I'm not deluding myself.
"Well, I'm Gen!" Tonyo protested. "I can't zlin."
Zhag searched for words. "When you were listening, your field matched every note--before you started singing."
Tonyo pondered. "I was thinking those notes."
"That's it, then, isn't it?" Zhag suggested. "Follow your inner voice."
The Sime played the riff again--then deliberately raised the key. The Gen met the challenge nagerically, but when he tried to follow with his voice, it cracked. He waved a hand. "I know. I'll get it. Play it again."
Zhag did...and Tonyo's voice sailed up the scale, well above his normal range before it cracked again. Unmindful of Zhag's wince, the young Gen laughed. "This is wonderful!"
"Not to me!" Zhag said through gritted teeth. "You're still thinking about your voice."
"But it's my voice I'm trying to improve," Tonyo said with impeccable Gen logic...something that theoretically couldn't happen when he was speaking Simelan. The boy frequently managed to be equally dense in either language.
Zhag had no words to explain what he could have demonstrated to another Sime. "Try again," he said, "and...focus on your field instead of your throat."
Tonyo echoed the riff in different keys, voice and nager in synch until he ran out of his range and again shredded Zhag's nageric comfort. Oblivious to the Sime's reaction, he asked, "What's the rest of the song? Does it have words?"
"There isn't any more," Zhag told him. "I haven't been able to compose since-- For a long time now. At this time of month it's not possible anyway."
"Maybe after your transfer," Tonyo suggested. "When's your appointment?"
"Day after tomorrow."
"No wonder you don't feel creative." Tonyo got up, stretching. "We're out of food." This close to hard need, the boy's hunger made Zhag faintly ill.
"It's market day," said the Sime. "Come on--let's get you something to eat."
Zhag had to wonder how he could keep the Gen. It wasn't so much the risk of having a high-field Gen nearby--Tonyo was as easy to be near as a Householding Companion. But Zhag's earnings at the shiltpron parlor would not pay his Pen Taxes--Selyn Taxes, as they were called since Unity--and also feed a growing Gen. Until there were new laws, Tonyo was here only as a visitor. Since using up his small supply of money, he was dependent on Zhag...unless he became a selyn donor.
It was the obvious solution. Tonyo had donated twice before arriving in Norlea, but donating selyn, the life energy that Gens produced and Simes needed to live, would reduce Tonyo's glorious field. No low-field Gen Zhag had ever zlinned could hold a roomful of Simes spellbound.
They had been performing together for over a month now, drawing more customers each week. Zhag had wangled a raise out of Milily, but not enough to keep his Gen fed, let alone clothed. The denims he wore today were practically threadbare.
In the public forum of Norlea's market, Tonyo kept his nager carefully neutral. Nevertheless, when the boy stopped at a citrus stand Zhag sensed bristling annoyance in Sime customers. Tonyo picked up a lemon--
"You!" It was Zhag the proprietor addressed. "Make your Gen stop squeezing the fruit!"
Feeling outrage rolling off Tonyo, Zhag stepped between him and the vendor, saying, "He's not my property."
Zhag won a smile from Tonyo--but sneers from nearby Simes. One muttered, "Don't look like Householders," for Zhag referred to Tonyo with the pronoun for a male Sime...as, despite protests, he called the boy by the Simelan version of his name.
Zhag said, "Tonyo is a guest in Gulf Territory. Under the law he has the same rights as a Sime."
"Shenned Tecton law!" said a woman in bright calico. "Can't kill Gens anymore, but we don't have to live with 'em!"
Mutters of agreement were backed with nageric static. Tonyo, wide-eyed but with his field under tight control, put the fruit back and edged away.
Zhag shared the boy's consternation: there were always Gens in Norlea's streets. Usually they were ignored, but today the ambient nager rang with hostility. These juncts didn't care where the boy came from--to them he was need denied.
Zhag had not killed for far longer than most Simes, nor did he want to. He had chosen another way two years before Tonyo wandered into Milily's and brought that shining nager to brighten Zhag's ever-bleaker existence.
Simes always gravitated toward Tonyo, but usually it was a positive response. The only Gens his age they saw were breeders on the Genfarms, Companions in the Householdings, or the few living with disjunct or nonjunct families. Until very recently, most in-Territory Gens were raised on Genfarms, sold for the kill as soon as they began producing selyn...and never allowed to learn Gen defenses against Sime attack.
While many Simes wished nothing had changed, most acknowledged that it had to: even by capturing Wild Gens, Sime Territory governments could not provide sufficient kills. Raids across the border brought retaliatory strikes by the Gen army. If nothing changed, eventually all the Gens would be killed...and the remaining Simes would die.
There was a solution: Simes called channels could take selyn from Gens without hurting them, and transfer it to other Simes so they did not have to kill. But for those addicted to the kill--the vast majority of Simes alive today--channel's transfer meant never knowing true satisfaction again.
And...it meant an early death.
Zhag trailed Tonyo through the market. As long as his Gen was near, he could avoid feeling life draining heartbeat by heartbeat. But his comfort was an illusion--he would never draw Tonyo's selyn, unless the boy became a Companion in a Householding. If he were ever tempted to attack the untrained boy...one or both of them would die. What a shidoni-doomed choice: to satisfy his selyn needs, he must give up the musical partner of a lifetime. But he had so little time--how could he part with the one thing that made life tolerable?
Besides, Tonyo had come to Gulf Sime Territory in pursuit of music. The way he told it, when he donated at Keon, the Householding near the north territory border, they had done everything short of locking him in a killroom to make him stay. So he had avoided Norlea's Householding, Carre.
Tonyo stopped at the stand run by the local Genfarm. Here he was waited on by another Gen, a breeder male by the look of it, well fed, strong, and alert enough to total prices with an abacus. The local farm produced healthy Gens. Prime kills.
But those days were over. For now, the Genfarmer could sell his Gens' selyn. But if, as the Tecton wanted and everyone else feared, Gens were made free citizens of Gulf Territory, they would be paid for their own selyn. The Genfarmer would lose his means of earning a living.
Verl, the Genfarmer, was a patron of Milily's--but while he might appreciate Tonyo's performance, Zhag could zlin that he didn't like him acting as good as a Sime.
Tonyo chose the cheapest goods, but still had too little to cover the cost. If Milily would pay Tonyo--
Well, that was not going to happen. The boy counted out his coins, and Zhag handed him as much as he dared put toward Tonyo's keep. The boy understood Selyn Taxes; he knew Zhag was not holding out.
With a frown, Tonyo set aside nut butter and cheese. Zhag said, "You require protein, Tonyo."
"Pasta and rice are cheaper," the boy said. "I'll go fishing tomorrow--cook and eat 'em down by the river, so you don't have to zlin it."
But you'll be gone for hours! Zhag forced down panic. Tonyo's field unconsciously locked onto his own, soothing and steady. "That's...a good idea," Zhag managed.
"We'll talk about it later," said Tonyo, and turned back to his purchase. Their funds would almost cover it now.
Selyn fields reflected emotions, not thoughts--Tonyo was making a decision, but Zhag assumed it was what else to put back. Then the Gen said, "Verl, we're good customers. Let us have this for the money we have, and we'll buy you a porstan next time you come into Milily's."
The worker Gen gasped. To suggest that a Gen buy a drink for a Sime-- Even Zhag was shocked.
"Control your Gen!" Verl said through clenched teeth.
When Zhag made no move to discipline Tonyo, Verl added, "Get away from my stand. I don't sell to Gens or Genlovers!"
Nager hard as diamond, Tonyo began, "My money's as--"
"Your money?!" The furious Genfarmer pulled a whip from his belt. The worker Gen hid under the table, emanating fear--emotion every junct Sime craved.
"Tonyo--don't!" Zhag warned as Simes gathered.
But the boy had had enough. His field drew in upon itself, as if drained from within. Zhag knew what was coming and forced himself to stop zlinning.
Three Simes dropped bonelessly to the market floor.
Verl flicked his whip, caught Tonyo around the upper arm, and sent him careening into Zhag. The musician did not have the mass to hold him, and they went down in a heap.
The Sime sat up, wincing at the pain of Tonyo's whip cut. Tonyo immediately focused inside himself. His pain left the ambient, but blood trickled down his arm, pluming selyn, as he helped Zhag to his feet.
Without Tonyo's brilliant field masking it, the worker Gen's panic throbbed a siren song. A man with an eyepatch knocked the Genfarm table over--but a woman snatched up the cowering Gen. It squealed in terror as Sime tentacles grasped its arms--and then in pain as the one-eyed man tried to tear it from the woman's grasp.
Zhag's attention was torn between the kill about to happen and Tonyo's reaction to it. The boy had grown up in Gen Territory--had he ever seen a kill?
Zhag had to zlin, every sense alert to get Tonyo out of the market alive.
Tonyo froze, nager damped almost into nonexistence. Keep it that way, Zhag willed.
Verl's whip snaked about the Sime woman's arm, lashing her lateral sheaths. Zhag shared her gasp of pain--but she hung onto the Gen's other arm. The one-eyed man slashed the edge of his hand down on a sensitive nerve point.
As the woman bent over her injured arms, Verl flicked his whip back--
The man gripped the keening Gen from behind, tentacles lashing Sime and Gen arms together. Zhag felt Tonyo's relief. He thinks a Sime can't kill from that position!
The Gendealer raised his whip--
The one-eyed Sime pressed his lips to the back of the worker Gen's neck. The keening became a screech--
The whip came down--
Killbliss split the ambient. Juncts screamed frustration.
Zhag howled in despair as pain/fear/ecstasy ripped through his nerves.
Tonyo's skin crawled.
Verl's whip slashed the killer, who dropped the corpse to turn and fight. Other Simes converged, some lashing out at one another, but more turning toward--
Dizzy with denial, Zhag lurched toward the luscious fear borne on the golden field he knew as his.
Another Sime cut between Zhag and his prey. A growl rose in his throat. He knocked the other aside, reaching for the promise of satisfaction denied so long, so long--
Something inside Zhag whimpered. But something else exulted.
His hand found the Gen's arm, tentacles seeking killgrip. Mine!
Zhag's laterals licked out toward perfect terror. Tonyo! He recognized sole satisfaction--as his soul rejected it.
His knees gave way.
The Gen went down with him. Zhag couldn't let go--he needed the selyn, the fear, the pain.
But not the kill! Never again! On a wave of sheer shen, he fell into blackness.
Zhag fell unconscious, pulling Tony Logan down with him. Shaken out of his shock, the Gen realized: with any other Sime, he would be dead--and it would be his own damn fault!
If a Sime attempted to draw selyn from a frightened Gen, the resistance burned out the Gen's nervous system. Zhag had torn himself out of the commitment caused by Tony's fear.
But Zhag's frail old systems could not take many such shocks. Shame replaced panic. My fault, my fault.
Abruptly turned from protected to protector, Tony looked up at converging Simes. I know how to handle Simes, he reminded himself. Their laterals licked out of their sheaths, zlinning him...and that made them vulnerable. Zhag was out cold--he couldn't hurt him any more than he had already done.
Tony slammed the ambient again as he had learned to do at Keon. All around him, Simes fell unconscious.
But those still on their feet were angrier than ever. He had only moments before they were on him--
Tony slung his mentor over his shoulder, wincing at the pain from his whip cut, and sought an escape route.
"This way!" called a voice.
Tony slid through a tent flap that was raised, then closed behind him. As his eyes adjusted, he made out two Sime women, calm, dressed in neat shirts and trousers, no weapons visible.
He laid Zhag down on a grass mat. The older woman exclaimed, "He's unconscious! Greet, run to the pharmacy for some fosebine."
The younger woman dashed out the front of the tent as Tony knelt by Zhag. Their rescuer lowered the front canopy, but there was enough light for Tony to examine his friend.
The musician had the beginning of a black eye, scratches and whip cuts on his neck and hands, nothing that looked serious. But what about internal damage? "Zhag?"
"Stop that!" the woman scolded. "Wait for the medicine. What kind of Companion are you?"
"I'm not," said Tony. "Zhag's been sick, and I'm afraid he's badly hurt." He looked up. "It's my fault. I know how powerful my field is, but I panicked when I saw the kill."
"You're a Wild Gen!" the woman said in astonishment.
"I'm Tony Logan, from Heartland Gen Territory. Can you tell why Zhag isn't coming to?"
"You moved him while he was unconscious."
"They were trying to kill us."
"You they want to kill," the woman corrected. "Him they just want to murder. He may want to murder you, though."
The Simelan word "kill" was reserved for what Tony had just seen in the market--caused not merely by Sime need for selyn, but by the addiction to Gen death agony. Zhag had overcome that addiction, said to be harder to break than the worst drug dependency, long before he met Tony.
And Tony had triggered the craving for Gen fear today, when Zhag was in need. What a fool I am! "It was the first kill I ever saw," he said. "I still shouldn't have reacted. Zhag shouldn't have had to--" he realized that he had the right to say the forbidden Simelan word, as it was what had literally happened, "--shen himself to protect me."
"He'll forgive you for that," said the Sime woman. "It proves his disjunction is true. But then you moved him."
Tony still did not understand, so he just sat back on his heels and radiated confusion.
Sure enough, the woman explained. "Unconsciousness disrupts a Sime's sense of where he is--I can't explain it in Gen terms. Worse than the worst hangover you've ever had. And your friend will have disorientation on top of shen."
"Should I have left Zhag to the mercy of that crowd?"
The woman sighed. "Obviously you couldn't. And you didn't move him far. You're lucky they're fighting among themselves instead of hunting for you."
Tony looked around. Although he could hear shouting, the booth must be selyn shielded. Most of the market booths had canopies, but this one was a complete tent. Again he didn't have to ask. The woman told him, "My other daughter is Gen, as is Greet's husband. But we had the sense to leave them home today."
Zhag moaned. Tony focused his attention on his mentor, knowing his field soothed the fragile Sime. He pushed damp dark hair off the musician's pale forehead.
The frail body shivered, then arched into a convulsion. Tony pulled Zhag's belt off, doubled it, and wedged it into the Sime's mouth so he would not bite or swallow his tongue. The only other thing he knew to do was to examine Zhag's tentacles.