Space Opera by Juxian Tang
I said, my memory blocking methods have nothing to do with mind-wiping."
The Heles' beautifully modulated voice resounded with pride and excitement. A
subtle motion of his tentacle made the black cube where Uranus' body resided
slide around the room.
The scientist was crippled. For all
Victor knew, many years ago the humans had left him dying on a rampaged station
of Heles. He'd survived but most parts of his body were destroyed, only the top
pair of tentacles, the least strong ones, still worked. Uranus claimed it was
the Voices who saved him - took him to a secret place where they carried out
"I thought Voices were
immaterial," Victor remarked.
"Voices are everything and nothing,
everywhere and nowhere, pure intellect and absolute knowledge," Uranus
chanted something that reminded Victor a prayer - and then said in his normal,
skeptical voice. "If you ask me, I'd say Voices are exactly what they are
- voices without bodies. But I owe them my life."
Uranus said Voices made possible the mind-symbiosis
between him and Victor - well, a bit one-sided symbiosis since Uranus' mind was
closed for him while the Heles could look through his eyes and hear through
Victor's ears and, when wanted, grasp some of his thoughts.
What symbiosis gave Victor in exchange
were his enhanced abilities, his steadily improving career ...
"You should trust me, comrade - have
I ever lied to you? The mind intervention will be as refined as possible, and
with your assistance it'll be completely safe. We don't seek to change Radek's
personality since it's his individual qualities that make him interesting for
Stacey lay flat on a high table in the
circle of brighter light. He was still dressed in the grey overalls of the
sentenced and the glossy red mark against his heart made Victor clench
painfully. It was all in the past, he told himself, Stacey was safe. He would
be safe - now Victor would secure it at any price, couldn't lose him again.
He wouldn't think about whether Stacey
agreed for what they were going to do. No one was going to ask him.
"You're right. He wouldn't know. Not
unless you tell him," Uranus explained. He's been in my mind again, Victor
thought acidly. The Heles' tentacles ran over the control panel.
"I surely won't." Victor made a
small laughter. It was a nervous sound, unusual for him, but the truth was he
wasn't sure what was usual for him any more - what was normal. Something was
shaken, something broken, nothing stable in him, after the mock execution.
worry." Uranus' voice sounded placid. "You'll be the same as ever
soon. Don't forget how well I know you, comrade. And so far we never regretted
putting our trust into you."
"I appreciate hearing that."
His voice was like a dry leaf.
"Now let's start. Take this helmet,
comrade, and put it on your friend's head."
The helmet - or, rather, a visor - was
cold and heavy, smooth under Victor's palms. He felt sudden fear about placing
it over Stacey's face. It looked a bit like the shutter of an execution capsule
... or more than a bit. Victor decided he didn't want to elaborate on this.
Stacey's soft red hair spilled around his
face on the white surface of the table and it seemed the only streak of color
there, apart from the blood-red mark on his chest. Even his lips were pale,
compressed somewhat bitterly - even now, even when he was asleep.
Victor put the visor in place, covering
the top part of Stacey's face.
Uranus' tentacles clasped on a similarly
looking but bigger visor, the one that fitted the shape of the Heles' head.
"And what about me?" Victor
asked. "You said you needed my participation."
"So impatient, human ..."
Uranus huffed. "You won't need it. I'll let you into my mind."
Victor felt blood rushed away from his
face. It had never happened before, he didn't even know it was possible.
"Yeah, yeah ... A two-way road. Of
course, you're not welcome walking it two-way, normally," Uranus muttered.
"Now listen. The device is used for memory scanning and for blocking the
chosen memories. We'll look through your lover's mind and choose what to block.
I hope you'll be able to tell what particular memories hinder him to think
positively about joining us."
"We'll look through his
memory?" Somehow this thought seemed to Victor violating, worse than
anything he'd done to Stacey. Stacey would surely hate it more than electric
"The ends justify the means - is it
how you humans say? Sit somewhere, comrade, I'm afraid the mind joining might
affect you, for the first time."
Victor obeyed and watched how Uranus'
thin tentacles flipped over the panel. Reading through Stacey's memory ... He
suddenly felt how much he wanted it; in the last days there were so many things
he turned out not to know about Stacey. Now he had a chance of ultimate
knowledge - all secrets would be eliminated among them.
And not only that! He would have control
over Stacey's memories, would be able to delete painful ones, tormenting ones ...
Maybe, spare him from those nightmares that Victor witnessed so often as they
shared a bed ...
"Just tell what you recommend to
block," Uranus reminded him. "But be sparse; the less we change, the
less the effect with be noticeable for Stacey himself. The less there would be
a chance that his memory would be struggling against the blocks."
"I understand," Victor said; he
felt dizzy with nervousness.
"Then let's start."
He leaned back against the back of the
chair - and in time; suddenly a wave of nausea overcame him, a weird feeling of
disorientation at not knowing where he was. He didn't see the room any more,
had no eyes to see, no ears to hear, no voice to cry out.
"Whoops." Uranus' voice came to
him from nowhere. "Don't panic or I'll have a headache. You don't see
anything because I wear the helmet. You're in my mind, comrade."
It started making sense. It felt strange.
The small beeps of the device Victor remembered sounded different, more hushed
- but he did hear. He tried to move and couldn't.
"Leave my tentacles alone,"
Uranus muttered. "We're here to work."
And at the next moment the black
emptiness in front of his eyes colored.
He didn't understand at first what it
was, some jumbled pictures, fading and mixing together. The execution room?
Something red on grey ... A smiling face of a man:
"It was nice to meet you."
That was when he realized it. He was in
"I'll try to get as deep as
possible," Uranus informed him. "For example the memory that the
Heles allegedly destroyed a Red Cross convoy - I don't think it's advisable for
him to keep it."
Victor understood they made a jump, over
some years, as he saw himself in Stacey's memory, his face surprisingly younger
than the one he used to see in the mirror; and less ... less bitter?
"There is everything," Uranus
said. "Even what he doesn't know himself he remembers."
Victor recalled the scene he saw even
though he hadn't thought about it even once during last two years. The New Year
eve of 2095, the officer party - and he was adjusting Stacey's full dress. He
heard his own husky voice in Stacey's memory.
"I'd rather take it off
"Then do it." Stacey's arms fling around his neck, his lips
pressed to Victor's closed ones.
"Stop it, you fool, they'll be
waiting for us."
"Oh yes, they won't start without
And then Stacey slides on his knees in
front of him, his hands tug at Victor's zipper - and he can't resist any more,
he resigns ...
"We'll correct his other memories
regarding you later," Uranus said. "Now I think we should look for
the real reason of his hatred towards the Heles."
Real reason? Apart from you being cold
Victor knew Uranus picked up this thought,
heard the Heles' laughter everywhere around himself.
"Shangri La," Victor whispered.
"We need him to forget why he got there. He thinks the Empire indebted
The time of Shangri La was difficult to
work with; medicines and virtual world turned it into a mixture that Victor
couldn't make out. But they did block the memories about the murder. Victor
thought it would do good to Stacey, if he stopped being afraid of himself, of
letting out a "murderer" inside him.
They found the information about the
attack on the Red Cross convoy, given at school, and a fiction movie made out
of it. Victor had watched it, too, but it never affected him.
He wondered suddenly what Heles would
find in his memory if they had to scan it.
Or what is they did scan it? Maybe, he
just didn't remember - like Stacey would remember nothing. Maybe, there was a
reason why he'd slipped into the life as a servant to the Heles so easily.
Would it be as easily for Stacey?
Going deeper into Stacey's memory
reminded him of a downward spiral. The orphanage. It was a gloomy place, Victor
thought, with the boys in dark uniform, dull-green colored walls, the
ever-present threat of the flogging post. A few years deeper ...
He gasped in shock.
It was a rape. It was going on for hours;
the faces of the boys rose over him, changed, one after one. But the splitting,
burning pain never went away.
He was spread on the bed, his wrists held
in someone's grip above his head. Victor wondered how old he was then, he
seemed awfully little, like five or six. His arms hurt, twisted cruelly and
bruised. His legs hurt, too, spread widely to accommodate another boy who
entered him. His genitals were swollen and black and blue and it made him cry
out every time one of the rapists touched him there. And there was this
never-ending pain inside him.
His voice was raw. He couldn't cry any
more - and he didn't have tears as well. He just sobbed, not even loudly enough
to make them shut his mouth. But he sometimes tried to beg them, the words came
out incoherent because his lips were split so badly. And as someone reached to
his face to slap him, he tried to kiss their hands.
I didn't know ... Victor felt as if the world was crumbling around
him. He wanted to scream but couldn't do even that, locked in Uranus' mind. He
hadn't known ... He knew the life in the orphanage was hard, the kids were
beaten, maybe, hazed. But this, this ...
He recalled a sudden rigidity of Stacey's
body that came in the most intimate moments - Stacey's occasional flinches at
the touch between his legs. Stacey's self-abandonment as he gave himself away
to Victor. He recalled his own casual cruelty he'd sometimes applied and how
Stacey accepted it. Shame and grief flooded him, a desperate wish to correct it
somehow, to delete these memories.
If there was anything he wanted to block,
it would be this.
"No, comrade. This particular
memories don't contain any threat for Heles."
They moved deeper, to the memories that
Stacey himself probably didn't know he held - about him as two-, three-year-old
child. An adored child, Victor understood suddenly, a loved and cherished one.
His mother was a beautiful long-haired woman who petted and spoilt him
unreasonably. His father was big and dazzling, in his decorated uniform.
Victor suddenly understood what happened,
even before they found it out. Stacey likely had never known it himself - but
Victor knew now. The uniformed people with solemn faces came to their house and
told something to his mother. Then there were covered mirrors, white mourning
clothes and the woman's cut hair thrown on the coffin. Apparently an empty
coffin - Heles didn't return the bodies for funeral.
Then there is her constant silence and
sadness. And then she disappears, vanishes away, like a ghost she'd become
during last months. Strangers come and take Stacey away and he weeps and says
he wants back to his mom and dad.
"They fuckin' died," someone says to him.
What rank did Stacey's father have? There
must have been documents, Victor thought, he could've found it ...
interrupted him. "I think it's what we're looking for. I'm going to block
They returned back. Victor watched again
Stacey's memories about the execution and suggested to block the memory of a
brief attachment he'd felt to Captain Monk.
"It's too personal."
"Okay, comrade. But I don't think we
should touch his memories about thinking you dead. In any case, it should only
make him grateful to us that we saved you. Do you want him to remember how you
"Leave it. It's between us
I want to be able to make it up for him,
"And how he spat to your face?"
He didn't know if Uranus' insistence
angered him or amused him in some cold, scary way.
"Let it be left my best
memory," he said and it was not such a lie, after all.
He saw the time Stacey spent locked with
other members of Intrepido crew, in the cold huge room. And a beautiful
slanted-eyed face titled to Stacey, the stare of light-hazel eyes adoring,
The little pretty slave, whatever his
name was ... Kai. In Stacey's memory there was the warmth of the genetic's thin
body pressed to his as they sought each other's heat, the slight tickling of a
loose strand of smooth black hair against his neck.
Victor wasn't sure why he felt danger.
Was it the feeling of safety he sensed in Stacey when he fell asleep pressed
close to the genetic - the safety Stacey had never seemed to feel in Victor's
arms. Or was it the gentleness of Stacey's touch as he tucked the kid's hair
behind his ears?
"And then you'll be free ..."
"Block these memories,
"Why?" Uranus' voice was not
antagonistic, just interested.
"Because the slave - he is used as a
whore on the ship now. And if Stacey remembers his devotion, it may make him
feel angry with Heles and other crew members."
"It's a valid argument," Uranus
It was just a minor change, wasn't it?
Nothing to think about.
"I think it would be enough,"
Uranus said finally. "Which still leaves it up to you to convince him but
I'm sure now this process will go much easier."
"I hope so," Victor whispered.
The world turned around him as he came round in his own body again.
"An interesting experience, wasn't
it?" Uranus seemed pleased removing the helmet. "I find the possibilities
of mind-symbiosis almost endless."
He said something else, something that
Victor didn't listen to because he was busy pulling the visor off Stacey's
Nothing changed in Stacey's face;
everything stayed as before - the bitter curve of his lips, the bluish shadows
under the eyes, a stray lock of hair. Sleeping, not knowing that we've just
rummaged in his mind and robbed him ...
But, maybe, this loss would make him a
Victor plaited his fingers through
Stacey's hair and leaned down. He didn't care that Uranus was looking, what
hadn't he done in front of his symbiont's eyes? He kissed Stacey's forehead and
thought he wanted to stay like this forever, with his lips pressed to Stacey's
skin, believing that there were just two of them - and everything was going to
But everything was going to be okay,
He entered without using a warning signal. The kid
was in the middle of the room, pacing. His fingers plaited his hair quickly in
very thin, not quite even braids. He saw Victor and stopped on his tracks, his
eyes absolutely void of any expression. Victor felt ill at ease.
It's been two days since Kai's life as
the ship's whore had started; seven or eight clients. The kid's clothes were
clean, his face not bruised. But it was all Victor could say of good things.
"Hi," he said awkwardly.
"I'll be happy to serve you,
sir," the kid whispered. His voice, never loud, was almost soundless now.
Victor saw him pull on the plaited braids. "Please would you wait one
moment, sir, for me to get ready?"
"Don't," he waved his hand.
Kai's hand dropped; something in his
empty eyes changed, a little life appeared there.
I'm not your enemy, Victor thought; I
don't hate you.
The truth was he even felt a kind of
sympathy when he thought about the daily, endless hell Kai was driven into, his
body and mind violated unceasingly.
But Stacey belonged to Victor; no one
could stand between them.
In love like in war - everyone fought for
He promised Stacey to make Kai's life
easier - and he did try, rehashed the visit schedule so that the visits of
crueler humans and Heles fell to different days. It was as much as he could do.
And now Victor didn't even have to be
here; he didn't know what made him. Shame? Guilt? Anyway, locked here, Kai
likely would never know if Stacey remembered him or not. Something still made
Victor feel uncomfortable.
"Why don't you sleep?" he asked
mildly. The kid's eyes grew wider, surprise flashed through the numbness.
"Should I, sir?"
"Don't you want to? It's
The kid shrugged indifferently - and then
his eyes got frightened, worried that Victor could take it as disrespect.
"I'm here to do whatever you want,
Victor didn't know what he felt stronger,
annoyance or pity.
"I don't want anything from
you," he said rather harshly. Maybe, only an indulgence, an
acknowledgement that I've done the right thing making Stacey forget you.
Kai's eyes, shadowed with blue, looked at
him with a harassed, anxious expression. The kid probably didn't notice it but
his fingers pulled on his hair again, twisted the tiny strands so hard it must
have been painful.
"You have to eat and you have to
sleep. You can't be so maladjusted that you can't take elementary care of
yourself." It sounded cruel but a part of Victor enjoyed this cruelty.
"Oh, I can, sir," Kai said
hotly. "My masters sometimes left me alone for days when they had to go
Didn't the genetic feel, like, proud of
"Then snap back into your skills,
"But sir ..." Kai stopped,
looking hesitantly. Victor nodded, permitting him to go on. "If I sleep -
I will miss the signal then?"
At the first moment it didn't make sense
and then suddenly it did. Victor felt a pang of bitter sympathy.
"Sit down," he said and
activated the room computer next to the bed. The schedule was among his files
and he opened it. "You see, there are eight human crew members and
nineteen Heles, seven of them females. You roughly have one or two visits of
humans per day and two visits of Heles, till the cycle ends and starts
The little slave looked intently at the
screen, his hands clenched so tightly the knuckles were white.
"This blue area is your free time.
You don't have to worry, no visitors will come then."
"Ah ..." the kid whispered; his
gaze stayed the same excruciatingly intent. Then he looked at Victor and Victor
realized suddenly he started recognizing Kai's gaze as the kid wanted to ask
"Which of them are humans and which
"Can't you see by the names?"
The kid flinched.
"I can't read, sir."
"Is there someone who still can't ..."
Victor cut himself short. Of course, the boy didn't lie. On the other hand, he
probably didn't need reading for his position.
"Look here." Victor pointed at
the screen. "Perhaps you want me to print it out for you, in different
colors?" he suggested unexpectedly for himself.
It was probably because of his promise to
Stacey; he really tried to make the little whore's life a bit more tolerable.
"Thank you, sir," Kai said
seriously. "It'll be lovely."
Perhaps, Victor thought suddenly, he
could leave the kid some simple program teaching to read. At least Kai would
have something to do, apart from staring at the light indicator and talking to
The thought suddenly softened Victor; the
idea that he found something he could do for Kai, as he'd promised Stacey, made
him feel relief. He sat on the bed, looking at Kai. The genetic shifted
slightly as if Victor's gaze was difficult to endure, then pushed his hair
behind his ears nervously.
A sudden image of what Victor had seen in
Stacey's memory came to him - Stacey touching the kid's hair, with such casual
He probably saw himself in this boy,
Victor thought: both of them used from early childhood, both of them labeled as
unfit for normal society. Only Stacey had broken through and got free, buried
his past in his dreams. And this one would never be free.
He reached his hand to Kai's face, almost
mimicking Stacey's gesture. The kid didn't startle away from him but got rigid,
very still. Victor's hand fell without touching.
"May I ask another question,
"Yes, you may."
"You said Stacey Radek was going to
join the crew. He will be in the schedule, won't he?"
Victor got up abruptly. His eyes must
have darkened so much that Kai looked at him in panic.
How dared he? Fuckin' whore ... After
everything Victor wanted to do for him!
He paced swiftly around the room,
clenched his fists, resisting the urge to hit the boy. Finally Victor took
himself under control. For God's sake ... After everything that happened,
Victor hoped Kai wouldn't hazard to ask about Stacey.
"He will be in the schedule,"
he said firmly. "Don't worry, he will be there. I'm just not sure he'll
want to come here and use something that ... everybody else uses."
It's your own fault, kid, you made me
He expected to see pain in Kai's face but
what he saw was even better. Recognition. As if Victor just said what Kai
The kid's thin, nearly fleshless fingers
started plaiting his thin braids again.
"I know your life is not easy
here," Victor said levelly. "Is it? But there is nothing that can be
done about it. Just get used to it. You know now what to expect, so, you can be
prepared. And although it won't get any better, it won't get any worse as
Tucked under a soft blanket, his palm under his
cheek, Stacey seemed heavy and relaxed like a sleeping child. His hair spilled
over his face and probably tickled but it didn't seem to bother him. It was not
for Stacey but for his own sake Victor wanted to reach and push his hair away,
to see Stacey's face, flushed in sleep and warmth.
He wanted to hug Stacey; to have his arms
full, to hold and cradle - to get convinced once and for all that Stacey was
real, was not going to go away. Holding Stacey would soothe the constant ache
inside him, maybe.
Victor sighed deeply. The dull light
relaxed him as well as familiar setting and familiar smells of his quarters. He
drove away the memories of unnatural sterility of Kai's room and ozone tang in
the air because of too frequent use of the mender. He wouldn't think about it
now, wouldn't think about the kid. He was with Stacey - and it was the only
thing that mattered.
He sat carefully on the edge of the bed
and looked greedily at Stacey's face with those swiftly moving pupils under
I'll fight for you, my dear one, he thought. I'll fight dirty. I want you all
for myself, and this kid with his dove beauty and bare-nerve vulnerability can
take a part of your heart. I can't risk that. You belong to me and I'll do
everything to make it stay this way.
He yanked the collar of his jacket,
caught the air - and then his hand froze in thoughtfulness. He wanted to strip,
wanted to slip under the blanket with Stacey, to spoon against him and cradle
him through his sleep.
He didn't dare ... The thought was bitter
but Victor realized it was true. He touched his cheek, recalled the feeling
Stacey's spittle on it. What if Stacey would hate him? What if despite
everything he and Uranus changed Stacey wouldn't forgive Victor? He felt a
trickle of cold sweat run over his spine and shivered. The tips of his fingers
he touched his temples with were ice-cold.
Stacey sighed deeply, stirred under the
blanket, pushed it away. Victor sat still, looking at him, feeling a feeble
smile curve his lips. Suddenly Stacey opened his eyes and smiled - his pupils,
slightly misty with sleep, brightened as he looked at Victor.
"If you only knew what an awful
dream I had!"
His voice was hoarse with sleep and so
familiar - and Victor realized suddenly he worried about it - what if memory
blocks could change Stacey in more ways than Uranus promised?
He called it a dream ... What if it was
so for Stacey? Hope made Victor light-headed.
"I was going to die ..." Stacey
whispered, his eyes widened. "In the capsule, from the laser gun ..."
"Shh." Victor pressed his thumb
to Stacey's mouth. "It's okay."
"There was a red mark on my chest,
on the overalls," Stacey said casting an involuntary glance at himself.
The uniform of the sentenced was gone at last, he was all soft and naked under
the blanket. "They executed me ... and then I was alive."
Victor knew it before it was coming - and
sadly watched how Stacey's eyes narrowed in recollection. It should have been
expected, right? Stacey was just a bit blocked, not mad.
"So, that was real," Stacy said
as if in disappointment. His body lost its relaxed stance, curled protectively
as he sat up with his arms wrapped around his knees. Victor looked at his face
in the halo of disheveled hair, at his bitten lip.
Stacey was strong, he would get over it,
Victor thought. Someone who'd gotten over the hell of Stacey's childhood would
cope with something like this. Victor knew it; he was proud for Stacey.
"I'm an idiot," Stacey said at
last and fell back on the pillow.
"You're angry with me," Victor
said. He saw remembrance in Stacey's eyes and a brief flash of shame.
"Not so much. I didn't want to die,
Victor let out his breath. Was it
something that Uranus promised him to change?
"You don't have to die."
"Why that?" There was a broken,
nervous note in Stacey's voice. "The Heles decided that I was punished
He still talked about Heles unkindly,
Victor thought, but the instinctive repulsion towards them, Stacey's perception
of them as his enemies must have been gone, right?
"They gave you life," he said
quietly. "Just as they gave it to me."
"But others ..." There was no
accusation in Stacey's voice, just statement of the fact. "They are truly
Monk ... He didn't remember Monk.
"Yes," Victor sighed. "I'm
"Don't be." Stacey rested his
forehead on his palm, twisting a strand around his finger. He'd had this habit
as long as Victor remembered him; but now it made Victor feel somehow
uncomfortable. It reminded him uncontrollable motions of the little genetic, he
Victor dispelled the image with an effort
of will; he had no time for Kai. All he could think about now was Stacey.
"I know you couldn't do
anything," Stacey said. "It's a war. The Heles live by the laws of
war. I don't think humans would be merciful to them. Humans have never been
merciful to their enemies."
Victor felt his mouth go dry, his heart
flutter. That was it! Now he knew he could press, he had to win.
"Heles invite you to join the crew
He saw immediately how Stacey tensed,
curled like a hedgehog, how his face became sharp, unpleasant.
"They invite me? It's something
"They do," Victor confirmed.
"But it's not their invitation you have to pay attention to. I ask
you. I beg you. Do you want me to kneel in front of you? You don't know
what I went through while watching your execution. I can't lose you again. If
you die - I swear I'll die, too."
He meant every word he said; or, at
least, at that moment he was sure he meant it. He watched Stacey who didn't
meet his eyes, looked everywhere but at Victor, sucking on a strand of his
"Think whether it is worth it. Your
death and my death for the sake of nothing but a phantom loyalty - while we can
be together and happy forever."
He'd said it before. But for some reason
he felt it had a different meaning for Stacey now.
"Don't you want to wake up in this
bed with me every morning?" Victor asked plaintively.
He saw Stacey's bony shoulders move
nervously. He waited. Stacey's eyes, raised at him at last, were infinitely sad
but his voice was careless.
"Give me some clothes, okay, Vic? I
can't talk serious things when I'm butt naked."
Victor chuckled, walked to the wardrobe,
opened it. He didn't hurry.
"I feel strange," Stacey said
suddenly. "As if something in my head doesn't work right. You'll think I'm
so scared of dying ..."
"Will I?" Victor smiled
quietly. "I'll accept any of your decision. Just know that if you die on
me one more time, I'll die, too."
"Fuckin' stop talking about
it!" Something broke in Stacey's face, as if Victor struck him. His eyes
were both angry and hurt.
You hurt me, too, Victor thought.
"Neither of us has to die, fox. Just
accept the offer of the Heles. For our happiness together - is it such a big
He took out the black uniform and placed
it neatly on the bed in front of Stacey.
A suffering expression in Stacey's eyes
was difficult to bear - and there was something else, some kind of doom Victor
could see there. It reminded him suddenly how Kai looked when Victor told him
Stacey would hardly want to come.
Stacey looked at the uniform, then at Victor's
own black jacket, reached his hand slightly, about to touch the cloth.
"You know. It wouldn't be me if I
joined," Victor recalled.
Suddenly Stacey reached for Victor's
hands, grabbed them, pulled him closer, looking right into his face with
desperate intensity and feverish hope.
"We can do it, Vic, right? We'll be
in their ranks - but secretly, we can still serve the Empire. And if another
ship is captured, more people sentenced to death, we'll be able to help them.
It'll be our mission, our calling ..."
Victor felt like slapping him, to make
him shut up, not to give himself away. But of course Stacey didn't know about
the presence of the third in this room, of the other one in Victor's head.
So, how about your memory-blocking
theories, Uranus, he thought bitterly. Everything was lost. Stacey babbled
happily about everything they could do if they pretended to serve the Heles but
all Victor could see was the shutter of the capsule fall on his face again.
"Don't panic." Uranus' voice came almost like a salvation. "No
need to get disappointed in my inventions. It's how the method works. As I
said, your lover's personality didn't change. But now he is pretty willing to
You don't know him, Victor wanted to said
"Leave him his fantasies, comrade.
Idealism passes quickly - and I'm sure you'll find the way to keep him out of
harm till them."
"If you say so, comrade
He looked in Stacey's shining eyes,
sensed the tight grip of Stacey's hands - and allowed himself to feel peace, to
"That's what I always meant,
fox," he said leaning towards Stacey. The warmth was overwhelming; the
hardness of the collarbone and resilient softness of Stacey's throat so
familiar. He felt a small gasp Stacey made, his breath that became more rapid.
"What wouldn't we do together ..."
Her body felt like a stone next to him, heavy,
solid and cold. A living stone that breathed, moved, fluctuated. Enormous black
eyes stared at him unblinkingly. Kai tried to forget these eyes - knew nothing
would come off if he didn't; but he couldn't forget - couldn't look away.
Minerva's tentacle was cold and heavy,
too, forced between his legs. Just between his legs, not inside him - and he
was grateful for it. She expected it from him - gratitude. Kai stuck his fingers
into unyielding metal of the bolster, made himself breathe normally, willed his
body into staying still, open as the cold limb kept massaging his balls.
"Sweet human." The tip of
Minerva's other tentacle ran over Kai's cheek. He clenched his hands tighter,
congratulated himself that he didn't flinch. He even managed a smile to her, a
trembling one, but he knew by now the Heles were not so good at reading human
expressions. "Don't we enjoy each other?"
One more tentacle brushed against his
Yes, he was hard. His body reacted to
stimulation in the beginning of their game; but now he couldn't get off - and
panic made it worse. He wondered when she would get tired of being patient,
when his non-reaction to her ministrations would anger her. Would she see his
inability to come as resistance - or even worse, disrespect?
He gasped, letting his fear come out in
this small sound. He didn't know how much time passed, how much of it was left
till the end of Minerva's time; she would want him to climax and thank her
before she left.
Coward, he thought about himself
hatefully. He'd seen enough Heles by now, had been touched in every possible
way. Why couldn't he get used to it? And Minerva was kind to him, she really
Kai pushed his body towards her tentacle
desperately, seeking more contact. Futile hope. The delicate tips of her limbs
rubbed his nipples. He was not sure if it felt good or bad; his body seemed
both raw and strangely senseless.
Close your eyes, you fool, he ordered
himself; do something. Think about something else. He couldn't do it. Not with
her near. Alone, Kai had no problem with fantasies. Touching himself, he
slipped away into another world, a world that was neither his past nor possible
future. A better, brighter world, almost too vague to describe it; but
sometimes it seemed to him he knew what it was. In this world, Stacey was
there, and they both were safe, and Stacey had no reason to despise him.
Under Minerva's intent stare it didn't
work. And Kai couldn't think about Stacey when she was playing with his
"Come on, little human." There
was amusement in her voice and a shade of impatience. "Show me how you
He bit the inside of his lip. There was
just one way; he had to do it.
He moved his legs wider, inviting her,
knowing that she understood and was pleased; he also knew she wouldn't do it
unless he told her.
"Please," he whispered.
"Madam, enter me."
She sighed in contentment. The tip of her
tentacle was slick and slender, thrust into him. It wasn't deep, it didn't
hurt; it brushed against his prostate, making his body clench involuntarily. He
heard her chuckle and stir the tentacle slightly.
The direct massage of his prostate gland
did it. He felt the release build inside him. Minerva's other tentacle wrapped
around his cock and stroked in the same rhythm. Kai gasped, finally coming over
her limb and his own belly. The huge black eyes stared at him almost with
Kai didn't know how many times he'd recalled
Victor's words since the time they had been said.
" ...it won't get any better but
it won't get any worse as well ..."
It won't get any worse; he sought
strength in these words, told himself it was the truth. Victor Gessen, the most
powerful human on Nostromo, couldn't be mistaken.
Sometimes it seemed to Kai he understood
what Victor meant. In a cycle or two Kai got to know what every one of his
visitors was capable of. They couldn't kill him, couldn't damage him
permanently - and, after all, every one of them had just one hour of time; even
It had to be Kai's own stupidity that he
still kept waiting for something to change. What could change? Could he get
accustomed to be stretched from inside by the Heles' tentacles? Start liking
Minerva's rather gentle treatment - she was the only female Heles who came to
him regularly? Oh, Kai knew, deep in his heart, what he waited for. But how
could he admit it, after Victor's words, that he waited for the door to open
and Stacey to come in?
He wouldn't want to, he wouldn't want,
Kai repeated to himself.
Since that night Victor had never come to
him again. Not even in his time in the schedule. The little slip of paper Kai
studied so hard that he could envision it at any moment. The little black worms
- letters - he learned to associate them with people and aliens, those whose
names he knew how to be pronounced and those he created names for by himself.
He knew Victor missed his turn - and he never knew when Stacey's turn was.
As he lay still afterwards and Minerva's
tentacles slid over his body already without demand, just playfully, Kai looked
at the dead screen of the computer at his bed. He tried to make it work; he
guessed it reacted to the lines of human palm or a tentacle - and Kai didn't
have an authorization for it, of course. But he pushed every button he could
find ... he had enough time to pursue these meaningless activities. The
computer stayed dead. Not that Kai would know what to do with it if he ever
could switch it on ...
"Have you got some rest?" Minerva
asked mildly. Her tentacle hugged him around the ribcage just with a hint to
her real force. "Get up then. I want to give you something."
"To give me?" He thought he
must have misunderstood it; but got up, stood in front of the bed, looking at
Minerva who also raised from her reclining position.
"Close your eyes," her little
giggle was conspiring, excited. "And raise your hands."
He did as she told him - and a moment
later something heavy and cold lay around his waist.
Kai thought it was a tentacle and waited
and kept silent - until felt that Minerva withdrew from him.
The weight on his waist stayed - a huge
necklace clasped around his waist.
He thought it was a necklace, although it
technically served as a belt for him - but it was made in this way, huge ovals
of roughly polished grey metal with green stones of three shades embedded in
He'd never seen any of the Heles wearing
jewelry - but if they did, this one might've looked perfectly on them.
He knew the metal; it looked unassuming
but it was grey gold, one of the most expensive metals. He looked up at Minerva
not knowing what to say.
"Beautiful." She raised her
tentacles in delight. "It's yours now, little human."
Kai felt fear suddenly, recalled the last
time he'd been given jewelry, the diamond hangings that locked in his earlobes
not to be open again. "They are yours, tesoro mio," his master
told him then.
He'd never expected to be decorated with
another piece of jewelry in his life.
"Thank you, madam." He'd nearly
forgotten to say that. But she was not angry, felt too exhilarated at the
"You belong to me, human," she
said. "Just as this thing belongs to me. Wear it only when I come to visit
I don't belong to you, he wanted to say.
If he found courage to say that, Kai thought, like he'd said it to Andrews and
others in the hangar, maybe, it would change something, maybe, he would feel
less soiled. But his cowardice took the best of him.
He lowered his head looking at the dull
shining of the stones on his belt.
"But, madam, how will I know when
you come to visit me?" An idea struck him and he nearly gasped in joy. It
could work ... let it work ...
She spread her tentacles.
"Didn't you have that paper with
"I ... I lost it ... madam ..."
"Humans!" she snorted.
"He'd lost it in the locked room! So, what am I supposed to do now?"
"You might ... you might print it
out, from the computer ..."
He knew she looked at him intently and it
made him tremble. The heavy belt around his waist seemed tightening, too heavy
to bear it. Kai made a step forward and caught Minerva's tentacle, pressed it
to his lips.
"Please, madam ..."
She made a gesture imitating a shrug and
then moved to the computer, pushed one of her tentacles in the slit. Kai
clenched his fists to stay quiet. The screen lit up.
"Well, where is it?" she
muttered. "Gessen sent me the last variant ... Ah, here!"
The screen switched off immediately but
she already held a small paper with the tip of her tentacle.
"Now remember - it's me," she
said to him almost gently, her good mood resurrected.
"I'll remember, madam," Kai
Later, alone, he studied both papers,
comparing every sign on them. He wasn't mistaken, there was Stacey's name
there, a new one. Just ... just three days to wait ...
It was unreasonable and Kai knew it;
there must have been cycles before now and Stacey didn't come. But the only
thing Kai wanted to do was to touch the black letters of Stacey's name with the
tips of his fingers.
Even if it were the only way he would
ever touch Stacey ... he still couldn't stop himself from doing it.
I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,"Rick Blaine said and as the titles ran on the
darkened screen of the computer, Stacey rolled his head against Victor's
"You slept," Victor said
"No, I didn't."
"And my right arm went numb because
"I didn't sleep," Stacey
muttered. "'Tell me, who was it you left me for? Was it Laszlo, or were
there others in between? Or - aren't you the kind that tells?' See?"
"I see, I see." Victor giggled.
Stacey had a gift to imitate voices. "You're lazy but you memorize easily.
Otherwise Heles would complain."
"I learn everything Heles want me
to," Stacey said without much enthusiasm. Models of human spacecraft, the
methods of their direction and neutralization ... Uranus had mentioned once
that they might use Stacey as an agent, something connected with Voices' plans.
But it was a long time till then, Stacey didn't prove his loyalty to Heles yet
- so, Victor didn't worry.
"What's wrong, Vic?"
"I told you my arm went
"This one?" Stacey turned
quickly, his fingers slid under Victor's collar, ran over his shoulder. "I
can heal it."
"Why did watching Humphrey Bogart
make you so active? Or is it just an hour and a half of immobility?"
"An hour and a half of leaning
against you," Stacey said, smiling at him.
How could his eyes look so both innocent
and alluring, Victor thought not unhappily.
He cast a glance at his watch; there were
twenty minutes till his shift. Too little time but he'd try to fit in. He
caught Stacey's wrists, toppled him over, forced his knee between Stacey's legs
and smiled down at him. He could bet it was what Stacey expected from him. He
felt Stacey push towards him eagerly but the seriousness of the green eyes
"I'm perfectly okay." He heard
Stacey's chuckle. "I'm just ... completely, shamefully happy."
It was what Victor always dreamed to
hear, wasn't it?
He slipped into the warmth of Stacey's
body, shivered at the immediate, overwhelming pleasure. Looking at Stacey's
face, he thrust deeply. It was bliss.
Completely, shamefully happy ... Well,
Victor's own feeling was not shameful - a bit scary, maybe. As if there was a
balance he had to keep, a thin line he walked. On one side there was a chasm of
the past he didn't want to think about; on the other side ... something even
more frightening, maybe.
It was a feeling Victor had never had
before, fear he'd never known. Two years ago, everything seemed too easy, he
couldn't quite believe Stacey was what he really needed. Now he knew. Now he
would remember: every day - every night of falling asleep in Stacey's arms, every
love-making, every teasing or affectionate gaze Stacey gave him.
He knew what Stacey meant about shame,
though. He'd told Victor before.
"It's like I know with my mind I
shouldn't be so contented. I mean I compromised something very important, what most
men wouldn't survive losing - the Empire. And yet ..." He recalled Stacey's strange, vulnerable gesture
he touched his forehead with, as if it hurt somewhere deep there. "I
understand it with my mind, not with ... a gut feeling." An apologetic
smile Stacey gave him made Victor's heart sink. "You've got a moral
freak for a lover, Vic."
"Then everyone in the crew is a
moral freak," he said. Which
might be well true, of course, especially when one thought about Andrews. But
Stacey was different ... and, maybe, Victor himself was different.
He remembered how Stacey's eyes glowed,
his small mouth curved in an ironic smile.
"Yeah, right. The Heles probably
despise us to no end. That's why they never mix with us, their part of the
crew, I mean. And I've never heard about a Heles who'd serve humans against
their own race."
"Do you care what the Heles think
about you?" Victor
remembered Stacey's laughter, so soft, so intimate in the dimness of the shared
"Not really. Come to think about
it, I don't care what humans think about me any more. Apart from one human,
"I'm glad you understand that at
Victor still feared - couldn't help it -
that very gut feeling that Stacey missed.
"Are your methods really so good
as you say?" he kept asking
Uranus, finding comfort in the Heles' usual smugness.
"You'll always know when it's a
close call. He's gonna get these headaches when he tries to recall something he
shouldn't. Hopefully it'll teach him to stop prying into certain matters."
So far it seemed safe.
He brushed his lips on Stacey's mouth,
swollen with kisses lips - raised on his elbows, slamming into Stacey's body
and watching the dance of pain and pleasure in Stacey's eyes.
"Say it again, fox."
"I'm awfully happy."
"Say more," Victor whispered
kissing him again, biting the lower lip nearly to breaking the skin. "Say
that you love me."
He knew it would be this way. Stacey
never said it.
"I love you, fox. Do you love
Stacey's body answered it, even if his lips
didn't. I should've found something in your past that prevents you from
saying it, Victor thought. His body shook, went rigid in orgasm, merged
closer than it seemed possible with Stacey's. His reached between their
bellies, touched Stacey's cock; and one touch was nearly enough, made Victor
feel his palm getting warm and wet.
He glanced at the watch again.
"Think me a brute but I have to
"Okay, okay," Stacey muttered
sleepily. "I knew you would do it to me."
"I go to the shower, you'll take it
Stacey curled cozily with a pillow in his
arms when Victor reappeared, buttoning his jacket. Victor knew he didn't sleep,
the slits of green followed him whatever he did.
"I wanted to ask you." He was
so deliberate to make his voice sound careless, unimportant. "Your turn
will be the day after tomorrow but if you want some other time, I can change
"Time for what?"
Victor looked at his own face in the
mirror, closed his eyes for a second.
"For visiting the ship's
"Ouch." Stacey threw himself on
his back, his arms above his head. "Do I have to visit her?"
Victor felt joy flood him.
"It's not her," he said mildly.
"Whatever. Is it like,
"Of course, not." Victor bent
down and pressed his lips to Stacey's. "If you don't want to."
He felt the hard hands catch his face and
Stacey's mockingly threatening voice whispered:
"Now tell me - do you go
He could be difficult to overpower,
Victor thought - when he didn't want to be overpowered. But at this moment they
fought on one side.
"Of course, I don't," he said
seriously. "Because I have you."
"And I have you."
He won't come; Kai must have repeated it a million
times - but his stupid brain couldn't master it. Stacey won't come; Kai will
never see him again.
Kai lay on his back, his legs spread
widely to accommodate the man between them, the man who slammed his pelvis
forward, thrusting into him. Over the man's dark shoulder Kai looked at the
place where the wall joined the ceiling, the only place containing some shadow
in his room. He continued repeating his mantra.
Stacey won't come. Kai shouldn't have
been expecting it. It was so stupid to hope for something, how could he dream
to see Stacey in this sordid room? If he were any smart, not like a genetic but
like a human ... oh, Kai would listen to the kind words Victor said to him
But such people as Kai never learned, did
he? He waited ... He caressed Stacey's name with his fingers on the paper and
counted hours. He forgot who he was - the Heles' plaything, their bitch ... and
worse, because Kai pretended he enjoyed it ... At least with Minerva he did,
trying to get into the favor with her.
So many times Kai thought - if only
Stacey knew ... And now it was true; Stacey knew - and he wouldn't come.
Every minute, nearly every heartbeat of
that hour when Stacey was supposed to come - Kai remembered it so well. He felt
like dying ...
If so, why was he still alive, Kai
thought feeling a wry smile crawl on his lips. This smile was not a good
accompaniment to the man's fucking - but the truth was Kai couldn't care. His
own world was more significant and hurt more at the moment.
He waited for Stacey as if he really
believed Stacey would come! A fool; a whore and a fool ... And when the hour
ended and another man entered, Kai found dozens of explanations why Stacey
didn't come. An extra-shift, an urgent business ... every explanation apart
from one true one: Stacey didn't want to see him.
Kai sobbed but his eyes were dry. He
didn't cry much, it could be annoying for his masters. There was just stinging
in his eyes and harshness in his throat. He shivered and made another sob.
Sharp pain pierced his shoulders as the
man pulled him closer, his fingernails flaying thin strips of Kai's skin. Kai
bit his lip right in time to stifle a moan. The man, Kostin - Kai knew his name
because he remembered Victor call him like that when the crew of Intrepido had
boarded the launcher - was not normally cruel. It was Kai's own fault he'd got
on the man's nerves.
He still felt Kostin's hard cock up his
ass as Kostin raised over him.
"What's wrong with you, whore? You
find something funny?"
It was not that, Kai wanted to say and
realized that he still had that lopsided, stupid grin on his face. But his
voice didn't obey him and, anyway, he wasn't sure that he could say anything
that would make things better.
He delayed long enough for the man to hit
him. The blow was numbing.
"Please forgive me, sir," Kai
"You're a bad whore today. I
expected more from you."
Yeah right; more than lying like dead
under him, shivering at the violent thrusts.
"I'm sorry, sir. I'll ... I'll make
up for it."
"You'd better do." The man's
thumb ran over his cheekbone, touched the sore place around Kai's eye that
already started swelling. Kostin's gesture was strangely careful, Kai noticed.
"I don't like to beat you, you know. You have such tender skin, little
He knew what he was supposed to do; so,
he turned his head slightly and caught the man's fingers in his mouth.
"I like when you do it," Kostin
whispered, his voice momentarily hoarse with arousal, as he stroked Kai's cheek
with his thumb. The frictions started again. Kai kept looking into the man's
glazed eyes until the moment Kostin shook and came.
He stay on Kai, though, and Kai knew it
wasn't quite over, knew he had to keep working, sucking on the man's fingers
diligently. The burning memory of Stacey, of Kai's mistake crowded on him
"And you?" Suddenly Kostin
moved, got up on his knees. "You didn't come, did you? Now really,
something happens to you. Are you ill?"
Not only didn't come but wasn't even
aroused, right? It was worth more than one slap; it could cost him a broken rib
or two. Kai sometimes didn't know which ones were worse - those who tried very
hard, like Andrews and Kazarin, to bring nothing but pain - or those who wanted
Kai to get off for them. Taking pain at least didn't demand his participation.
"I'm sorry, sir," he whispered,
not knowing whether to reach for his cock or to curl away from blows.
"I'll do my best if you let me ..."
His voice broke. Whore ... He'd never
hated himself more than at this moment as he so eagerly offered himself - just
to escape a little pain.
The man was silent; no pain came - and no
order to proceed. Kai trembled, uncertain, looking in Kostin's dark eyes that
were intent and kind of sullen.
"If you're unwell, you should see
I see him, Kai wanted to say, as often as
I see you; his tentacles go as deep and stay as long as any others. He felt
hysterical and knew he had to stop it, before he said something irreparable.
But did it matter if he said something?
If this man, not unkind, would hate him as Andrews and Kazarin did? Why did he
care if Stacey ... Stacey hated him ...
The man's fingers locked on his
shoulders, shook him. Kostin's angry eyes stared at Kai.
"Don't give me any shit, whore! I
come here to relax, not to wonder about your moods."
Kai's teeth kept chattering even after
the man stopped shaking him. He smiled uncertainly, reached his hand carefully
and put it on the man's cheek.
"I'm your doll," he said.
"Hit me. You'll feel better this way."
I'll feel better this way. He stayed still, lowered his eyes, waiting.
The man didn't hit him. The hands on
Kai's shoulders let go suddenly - and Kostin shrunk away from his touch almost
"Stupid prostitute! Kazarin says the
right thing, you have no mind of your own ..."
"And what does Stacey Radek say
He said it with his eyes lowered, a
wandering smile on his lips. It was not really a question, rather ... a way to
finish it off sooner.
The pause that followed almost rang. I
won't look up, Kai thought, I won't wonder what he'll do to me. He looked at
his hands that pulled the long strands of his hair. I won't look up ...
He had a feeble mind and no will at all.
He looked up, blinked waiting for a fist to slam in his face. Kostin stood with
his arms folded, his face distorted.
"How can I know what the little
bugger says about you ..." he muttered.
Kai swallowed, looking at him in
disbelief. The man actually answered. And Stacey - Stacey was somewhere there,
Kostin met him, could talk to him ...
"Don't look at me with these puppy
eyes," the man said unhappily. "Makes me feel as if I hit a child.
How about that, Kai - I'll say 'hi' from you to that little asshole Radek - and
next time you show me best you're capable of?"
How about that, Kai ... He hadn't known
the man knew his name - that any of them apart from Minerva did. He felt so
happy he couldn't make a sound for a moment, just stared at Kostin, before
remembering that the man seemed not to like to be stared at. But for once
Kostin didn't seem to mind.
"Agreed, then? What should I say to
How Kai wished sometimes he was not so
daft! If he could find some words, some few ones but that would mean a lot,
would tell Stacey how much Kai wanted his forgiveness, how he knew he didn't
have the right to wait but still wanted to see him. To tell Stacey that even
when his body was used by someone else, in his heart Kai knew no other master
"Please tell him to come here,"
he whispered and repeated. "Please tell him to come."
The slender neck of the bottle clanked softly
against the rim of the glass and golden liquid swirled, filling the capacity.
"They say there is as much chance to
get synthesized alcohol from the Empire traders as from the supply machine -
but at least there is a certain pleasure to pour it from a real bottle,"
Kazarin said with satisfaction. "What do you drink, Radek?"
"Hmm ..." It'd been a while
since he did; there was a prohibition on Empire ships. "Vodka."
"Just a moment." Kazarin deftly
unscrewed the lid from an ice-covered bottle.
"Not cognac, like Commander
Gessen?" Andrews couldn't keep silent, could he? The man seemed already
drunk. "I thought you were similar in everything. Siamese twins, so to
say. But, maybe, less aristocratic habits suit you more."
Stacey raised an eyebrow and looked at the
thin swirls of smoke going to the ventilation duct.
"To another successful
operation?" Kazarin raised his glass. With his peripheral sight Stacey saw
Victor approach them, a big round glass in his palm. He noticed concern in
Victor's eyes - concern that appeared there way too often during those little
clashes with Andrews. What did Victor think, that Stacey was a child incapable
to stand by himself?
Well, Andrews was a jerk. One could just
wonder how they managed to get along passably on Intrepido if Andrews behaved
the same way there.
"He's just envious," Victor said once. "You have more success,
although technically, he joined earlier than you. He thinks it's because you
sleep with me."
"Which is, of course, an
outrageous lie," Stacey
He just couldn't care less about what
Victor called success. More money? But where could one spend money on the ship,
anyway? During the shore leaves - or, maybe, save it for the future as Stacey
knew some men did. It was his own deficiency, Stacey admitted, that he could
never think about future. The present was clear, with Victor near to him, and
sometimes Stacey thought it was all he really wanted.
They emptied the glasses.
"But for you, Radek, it was the
first operation for Heles, wasn't it?"
"He did all right," Victor said
quietly. Sometimes he was just ... overbearing, Stacey thought peevishly; as if
always suspecting that he, Stacey, was made of glass, could break any moment -
or vanish in the thin air. Well, if to be completely sincere, normally Stacey
didn't mind this much attention. He still remembered his terror as, two years
ago, he knew Victor was leaving him and could do nothing to make him stay.
"I never said he didn't do all
right, Gessen. But you know it better than any other whether the Heles are
satisfied with your friend," Kazarin said meaningfully.
Stacey thought he sometimes felt tired -
of animosity, of the hints he couldn't figure out, of Victor's evasiveness.
was an easy operation, Leon," Stacey said mildly. He didn't want to
quarrel with Kazarin - they were quite friendly ...
And the operation was truly easy.
Nostromo had to neutralize a trap put by the Empire. There was nothing
dishonorable in doing it.
Later, Stacey wondered if it was the
reason why a thought of sabotage didn't come to his mind. Really, he could've
balked something and let the humans capture Nostromo, as it had happened to
Intrepido. But he hadn't done anything - and the truth was that he really
didn't want Nostromo to be captured.
How could he want it? It would mean for
Victor to be captured, for other men ...
A traitor with conscience, Stacey thought
And now the crew celebrated their little
victory - at least the human part did.
"The Heles probably despise
us," Stacey suggested unexpectedly for himself. He found the thought of
how the Heles saw them humans painfully fascinating. "They never cloud
their consciousness with poisonous substances."
"Well, they do have other human
vices," Kazarin said with a short smile. "Everybody knows it."
He saw something change slightly in
Victor's face, like a ripple on serene water.
"Speaking about vices ..." It
was another crewmate, completely drunk. "I wish we had some casino here or
"Shut up, Hoover, you already owe
too much to some crew members whose names I don't want to say," Victor
said without turning.
Stacey reveled in looking at him. So
calm, so confident. He recalled Victor on the bridge during the operation, his
face so pale, the line of his mouth so hard. His orders were so fast, his
interaction with Heles amazing. Stacey hadn't known him like that before and
was happy to admire him.
"At least some of us can indulge in
sexual vices now," someone else said.
"Can I buy out your turn,
Hoover?" Andrews asked. His voice was slurry, uncertain.
"It is not allowed." Victor
again spoke without turning. He couldn't see it - but Stacey saw - as Andrews'
face twisted, his fists clenched. There was something so familiar in the man's
grimace, he just couldn't remember what. He touched his head in annoyance,
feeling an insistent pang of pain. But there was no time to think.
"Dodge." Victor obeyed,
fortunately, avoiding Andrews' blow.
The man raised his hand again but was
grabbed from behind and pulled away. Victor's face stayed tranquil, his arms
"I'm not going to fight."
"Sure, Mr. Clean! You don't fight,
you don't visit whores! You just fuck your little bitch senseless every night!
Like it makes you better than I am!"
"Of course, I'm better than
Stacey made a sound of distress; Victor
really could look so condescending when he wanted to. Then he saw Victor touch
his temple and wince and his heart clenched in compassion. He didn't know if
these were headaches, like Stacey had himself - Victor denied it, but he had
that disoriented look sometimes, as if listening to something inside himself. A
strange pause occurred, even Andrews went quiet. Then Kazarin filled Stacey's
"Let's better indulge in our vices
and have another drink."
"By the way ..." Stacey saw a
man make a step towards him. Alex Kostin; they barely knew each other, normally
in different shifts. But now the man obviously addressed to him. "The guy
- the ship's whore - asked me to ask you, Radek, to come to visit him."
In the moment of silence the words
sounded strangely loud. Stacey felt everyone looking at him - and didn't know
whose eyes to meet.
"He asked you to come to him,"
Kostin repeated patiently.
It still didn't make sense. Someone
"Huh! He gets a personal invitation,
doesn't he? I'd never think the kid was dedicated to his work so much."
The situation was intolerably stupid.
Stacey sought feverishly for the right way to react. Was it said as some
offense, as a punch line that he didn't get? He looked at Victor and saw him
turn away, his face strangely shut, his mouth compressed tightly. Stacey looked
back at the others, feeling suddenly as if they crowded on him.
"It's a joke?" he asked.
Kostin stood in front of him as if
waiting for an answer. Andrews, swaying drunkenly, muttered:
"He just wants you to baby-sit him
as you did when we're locked ..."
Victor suddenly raised his head, as if
lashed, his lip bitten. His eyes looked very dark as he watched Andrews.
When we were locked up ... What was it
about? Stacey tried to think about that time the crew of Intrepido spent under the
arrest, in the cold premise, but the memories, barely a month old, seemed
somewhat blurry. It hurt his head to think about it, made him dizzy.
He stepped back, bracing himself; the
people around him, the ones he'd met so many times, seemed threatening suddenly.
Victor got at his side but didn't touch him - supportive as always - but now
Stacey didn't feel protected, Victor was a stranger - like the others ...
He probably was getting sick, Stacey
thought, should have check with the doctor.
Kostin was still in front of him. With an
effort of will Stacey met his eyes and then looked at everyone around slowly,
eye-fucked them. He barely could discern faces, so dizzy he was, but they
didn't need to know it.
"If it's some kind of joke," he
said levelly, "then I don't get it. Good-night, gentlemen."
Not waiting what they could say, he
walked to the door.
said: 'It's a joke?'" Kostin said flatly. His dark eyes looked at Kai with
a curious, intent expression.
Sitting on his heels in the bed, Kai
stared up at him, waiting for something else. But Kostin was silent and then it
came across to Kai. He grabbed his hair convulsively, tugged on it, repeating
Stacey's words. A joke. No ... It didn't make sense, did it?
Of course, it did - Kai just felt too
frightened to admit it.
"Did he say anything else,
sir?" he asked in a dead voice.
"No, he didn't." Kostin
shrugged. "I just pass you what he said."
It's a joke ... Oh God. Stacey said it.
It's a joke that Kai could expect him to come here, to denigrate himself like
this. Stacey, so clean and hard, like a diamond - and Kai expected him to step
into this room, this dirt ...
Of course, it was a joke - and a
tasteless one, after all. Why not to laugh at it? A small giggle Kai made
sounded weird - and he saw disapproval in Kostin's eyes and shut up quickly. He
already was pathetic enough, why to make a show out of it? He bit the inside of
Stacey probably was angry with him for
his request. Oh if only Stacey was angry enough to come here and punish him ...
Kai would be happy. If Stacey came to curse him or hit him - it would be
wonderful, he wanted nothing more. Just to see Stacey, at least once more, just
to see him ...
Well, Stacey hardly hated him; disdained,
Kai felt suddenly that something in him
snapped. Pain and hysterics were gone. He felt totally numb - and he was
grateful for this state of his mind. He wanted it to stay like this - at least
as long as ...
He felt the man's gaze and looked up.
Kostin stood with his arms wrapped around his chest, his eyes locked on Kai.
Kai recalled ... They'd made a deal. Now it was Kai's turn: the best he could
He let go his hair and smiled carefully.
"Sir, let your toy please you ..."
His hand that reached to Kostin's groin
was pushed away violently. Kostin's face became fierce. It's because I ignored
him for so long, Kai thought but he couldn't make himself be afraid. He kept
looking up at Kostin - and the man grabbed his shoulders, so hard that Kai
gasped in pain. The man's enraged face drew close to his.
"My toy ..." Kostin hissed.
Kai wanted to say he was sorry - he was
guilty - but he just wanted to know, about Stacey and everything ... Kostin
shook him, his fingernails wounding Kai's shoulders.
Then he pushed Kai away.
"You stupid bitch."
"Please, sir. I'll be good for
He kept Kostin's gaze - licked his lips,
brought a brash, seductive smile on his lips. He was trained well, the man
wouldn't be disappointed ...
"Get away from me," Kostin spat
and walked to the door. Kai watched with incredulous eyes how he pressed his
hand to the lock. "I don't want anything from you."
He probably heard how Kai laughed as he
walked out - his back flinched. But he didn't return. Kai felt soft meaningless
sounds break from his lips and couldn't stop them. He covered his mouth finally
and muffled himself.
There was no time for it now. He had two
more visitors today; after that ... after that he would be free.
He curled on his side in the bed, with
his hair blanketing his naked body, and waited.
The light was dimmed and Victor came in quietly,
not wanting to wake Stacey up - and met a stare of green eyes under half-mast
eyelashes. Pained eyes; Stacey's face was pale - sharpened and shadowed. But
Stacey's reassuring smile he attempted to Victor was even worse.
"Have you seen the doctor?" he
asked slowly. It was hypocrisy, he knew no doctor could help Stacey.
"Yeah." A gesture Stacey made
imitated unconcern almost perfectly. "I'm already better."
"It's his own fault," Uranus voice sounded in Victor's mind. "He
should stop thinking about things that are blocked. That's simple."
Anger flooded Victor, unfamiliar
hostility to his arrogant symbiont.
"He can't stop thinking about it,
don't you see? Fuck this Andrews! If he says something else to Stacey, he'll go
to the next suicide mission, I can promise it!"
"Shh, Commander. Solve your
problems in some other way, not at the expense of our servants."
He had an answer to that and kept himself
from sending it to Uranus. It was a futile precaution, of course.
"You're angry with me, aren't
you, comrade? Sometimes your emotions are so amusing ..."
"Can you give me some privacy,
There was a small anxious smile on
Stacey's lips. Victor sighed and sat down on the edge of the bed.
"So, you're okay?"
"Fine. Just a hangover, I
"Can you just relax and not think
about anything else?"
"I try." Stacey smiled again.
"It surely gets better when I see you."
"Then I'll stay with you,"
Victor said and unbuttoned his collar. Stacey's eyes became hilarious.
"I knew I could count on you."
You can, fox; always. You can count
that I'll make your choices, do the right things for you.
But they were together, after all; they
were happy. It was the most important thing and the headaches were really not
such a big price to pay. If only Victor could keep others from sharing their
unnecessary memories ...
"I want to kiss you," Victor
He touched Stacey's tongue with his own,
ran in on Stacey's lips. Stacey's mouth was hot and tasted salty and Victor
could see his eyes turn into green crescents as he smiled, licking Victor's
He heard Stacey sigh.
"I wonder why that guy asked me to
come to him. How does he even know about me?"
Again that genetic prostitute ... who
could expect him to be so insistent? The little whore should be dead ...
"If it's true what Kostin
said," Victor said mildly. It was important not to cause any suspicions.
"All the same." Stacey frowned.
"The guy probably has one hell of a life, serving such guys as Andrews and
others. He can't be happy here. I wonder how he got in this situation ..."
"It's probably where he
belongs," Victor said.
"What is his name?"
He wouldn't answer this question, fuck
it, why couldn't Stacey take anything for granted?
"But it's exactly why you're so
attached to him." Sudden
intervention of Uranus' voice made him flinch.
"You said there is another way to
deal with his memories. What is it?"
"I didn't say I could suggest
another way, comrade. I told you to find one."
"But you ..."
"The way I have - you won't like
"Hey, Vic." Stacey's hands
brushed over his temples slightly. "What is that guy's name?"
"Kai," he said.
"I'll probably go to see him in my
next turn," Stacey said almost contentedly. Victor's horrified look made
him giggle. "Not for sex, of course, I don't think he needs another
client. Just to talk. He's probably lonely or what ... he never comes out of
"What is the way you can suggest,
"To delete his memories
completely. Not all, some can stay, his attachment to you, for example. But,
basically, he'll be ... how do you call it? Tabula rasa - and you'll be able to
write there whatever you want. And no headaches - since he wouldn't feel he'd
"It wouldn't work ..." he
whispered aloud, forgetting.
"What wouldn't work?" Stacey's
hands touched his face gently. Victor caught one of Stacey's palms and kissed
it - not so much in a caress but to pacify him, to get some time for the
conversation with Uranus.
"You can't delete someone's
memories and have the same person after that ..."
"You're right, it will change
him. But he won't ask you inconvenient questions any more."
"I don't want to make him into a
mindless doll ..."
"Vic ..." Stacey started.
It suddenly was too much for him.
"Shut up!" he put his palm over
Stacey's mouth, muffled his words, looked into the widened eyes that stared at
him over his hand. He thought that Stacey had never been more beautiful than
now, silent, big-eyed, looking at him in surprise.
"Really?" Uranus laughed. "And I thought it was
exactly what you wanted."
"Don't make a sound," Victor
hissed, leaning towards Stacey.
The soft red hair brushed against his
lips. He kept holding his palm over Stacey's mouth as his other hand slid along
Stacey's body, under the blanket. Stacey was half-dressed and Victor yanked his
clothes in annoyance getting to the naked skin. He felt Stacey tremble slightly
as Victor caught his nipple, twisted it a bit too cruelly. Stacey's eyes, wide,
never left Victor's, his breath hot against Victor's palm.
"Silent," he repeated and
Stacey nodded. Victor took away the hand from his mouth.
There was something not right in what he
was doing, Victor knew. But he wanted to do it this way, couldn't stop - didn't
want to resist his urges. The power he felt over Stacey was intoxicating. At
this moment Victor demanded silence from him; later he could demand more.
He stuck his hand between Stacey's legs,
brought him to erection quickly. Stacey's body was attuned to his touches so
well, it was so easy to play it ...
"Put your arms above your
He saw Stacey swallow uneasily but obey.
There was almost nothing he wouldn't do for me, Victor thought, no order he
wouldn't follow. Apart from joining the Heles, apart from ...
It angered him to think about Stacey's
submissiveness in bed and yet such stubbornness when other things were
concerned. It made his resignation voluntary, made Victor's triumph phantom,
made it all just a game ... But of course it was a game, what else could it be ...
why else would he want Stacey in this position ... surely not because Victor
wanted to break him ... surely not because of this picture he'd seen in
Stacey's memory ... he wouldn't do that ... It was just a game.
He pushed Stacey's shirt apart, pulled
his pants down and looked at his stretched body; raised arms made it look
longish, even narrower. Stacey's eyes stared into his, the eyelashes fell and
rose steadily but his lip was bitten and his chest fluttered a little too
Victor kissed his sternum and his concave
belly, sucked the small hollow of the navel. Stacey relaxed somehow and his
body trembled in excitement, not in anxiety. Victor bit him at his navel hard
enough to draw blood.
He felt Stacey flinch in pain, his teeth
driven deeper into his lip - but he made no sound. Victor lapped on the blood
from the small wound. The taste dizzied and excited him.
When he'd watched the pictures in
Stacey's memory, he'd promised that he wouldn't hurt Stacey ever again. But how
could Victor not hurt him if Stacey accepted it so eagerly - his cock didn't
soften during it at all.
Or, maybe, he just take it, it suddenly
came to Victor's mind, because it's you who does it to him.
He raised Stacey's legs on his shoulders,
spread him wider, freed himself and pressed the tip of his cock against
Stacey's opening. I want to rape you, he thought. What happens to me ...
I don't want to rape you. Please save me, please make it somehow all right for
He felt Stacey's body push forward,
trying to open towards Victor's cock. It was enough. He thrust in, met Stacey's
efforts, and clenched his teeth in the bliss of being inside.
He rocked, watching Stacey's face
distorted in pain, with the eyebrows drawn together. It made Victor's heart
clench and sent pangs of pleasure through his bottom belly at the same time. He
leaned down, adding his weight on Stacey's jack-knifed body - and saw how
Stacey's hand clenched around the wrist of the other as he tried to stay still.
He was not tied, he stayed like that on
his own accord, Victor told himself, thrusting in and out. He never says 'no'
to me ...
"Dolls have their own
merits." The sound of Uranus
voice made him convulse but at the same time Victor realized it added to his
pleasure, in a perverted way. "Dolls you can play with when you want to
and shove in the corner when you're bored. Dolls you can dress in beautiful
uniform and strip in bed. Dolls you can slap ... or fuck ... or kiss ... or
"I love him," Victor thought. "I'll save him."
He thrust in complete silence; there was
no sound coming from Stacey's bitten lips. He leaned forward and touched
Stacey's mouth and felt hardness of his teeth and salt of his blood. This sent
Victor over the edge. He wrapped his arms around Stacey, pulled them both
together and came.
He withdrew his softening cock from
Stacey's wet opening and noticed with sickening feeling the traces of blood on
it. The folly passed. He felt remorse now - and disbelief that it had been him
who'd done it, who'd listened to Uranus' insane words.
He felt like hiding his cock before
Stacey could see it. It was stupid, of course - who knew it better than Stacey
that Victor had made him bleed?
He didn't look at Stacey's, reached to
bring him off. Victor didn't expect it: Stacey moved in a fling, passed from
complete stillness to abrupt motion. Victor's wrist was caught, twisted so hard
it made him yelp - and then Stacey brought it to his lips and kissed it. His
eyes were dark, caressing.
Victor felt his hand sting with pain but
Stacey's lips made it feel better. Pain and pleasure, he thought with amusement
suddenly. It was surely what Stacey meant.
"May I?" he whispered, reaching
to Stacey's groin.
"Well, if you ask so nicely,"
Stacey said in a bright voice.
He thought he planned everything well. He had free
time after the last Heles left and no one was supposed to visit him. So, Kai
got up and walked to the shower.
He knew what he was going to do. Rocking
under the Heles' tentacles thrust into him, he looked around his room,
searching for a thing that he could use. But those few objects he owned were
worthless for this purpose. Then he recalled; it made him feel better - it made
him feel contented.
In the bathroom, on the wall, very low, a
piece of plastic was unbent, sharp-edged; Kai had scratched his ankle against
it numerous times. He hoped it was sharp enough.
He sat in the tub and felt hot water drum
over his body. It didn't actually matter but there was something good in
feeling clean, at least physically. Kai closed his eyes.
He felt peaceful. He wouldn't think about
anything, wouldn't blame himself any more. There was no point - and he felt too
tired, anyway. He'd better remember nice things, wonderful things. The cold
premise - and Stacey's bright voice as he pushed his way through the men:
"'Cause I'm going to take him
Kai knew he'd never been happier than
during that time - having his arm around Stacey's waist, his head on Stacey's
shoulder. He would think about it now.
He reached for the piece of plastic
blindly and sawed his wrist against it. The edge was jagged and it was too slow
and it hurt. But he was not going to give up and he didn't open his eyes until
he felt hot blood run freely over his hand.
His left wrist took even more time, the
plastic was blunted and he started getting weak - and when he finally felt his
tissues rip open, he was exhausted and shivering in pain and not at peace any
more. But everything was done now and he could rest. He slumped tiredly. The
water was still hot but he started getting chilly. It didn't matter, though; it
was just for a little while.
He tried very hard to see nothing but
Stacey's shining face in front of his closed eyes - and finally Kai thought he
Emergency yanked him out of the bed. Stacey, warm
and heavy in sleep, muttered something, as Victor freed his arm from around
him. Victor dressed quickly.
"Where is it?" he asked Uranus silently.
His heart clenched in premonition. The
little whore had finally come to grief. It must have been the fault of some
client - maybe, Andrews had gone too far or some Heles didn't calculate his
strength. It didn't make Victor happy; he didn't want Kai to die ...
Oh well, he certainly wanted Kai to die.
"He's alive," Uranus snorted. "There is Minerva,
Yeah, she was there, dressed as always in
one of her blinding garments. Her tentacles trembled in excitement.
The turtle-cleaners were busy with
cleaning but there still were pools of water on the floor and dribbles of red
leading from the bathroom to the bed.
The genetic was in the bed and the Heles
doctor used a mender and some other devices on him that told Victor it was
pretty serious. Minerva paced around the bed, not coming close enough to hinder
the doctor but never leaving his side either.
"What happened?" The truth was
Victor knew, guessed immediately catching a glimpse of Kai's torn, healing
"The cameras were misted with
steam," Uranus explained. "That's
why we didn't notice it immediately."
"Why did he have to do it?"
Minerva's voice was high, almost shrill. "How dared he? What was wrong
with him that he wanted to do this on me?"
Victor probably could answer it. But he
was not going to. And he was surprised as well. For all he knew about genetics,
they normally were engineered to be very resilient. After all, no one knew to
what kind of misery their master could push them - and it wouldn't do to lose
valuable property. How did it come to Kai's mind to attempt suicide?
How far he must have been pushed ...
Sudden anguish that seized him was a new
feeling for Victor. He might've wished harm to the kid, might've wanted him
gone. But at this moment he thought he would like Kai to have what the genetic
wanted - death. Not the misery of being rescued.
"How could he do it on me?"
Minerva repeated. Her tentacles flew up in an angry gesture. "If I hadn't
been in a hurry, it would've been too late, I would lose him ..."
"You were lucky, Officer," he
said a bit sharper than intended. She gave him a disgusted look.
"You humans are pathetic ..."
"Be careful with racist
pronouncements, Officer. Scientific Officer Uranus hears you."
"We don't need spies among us ..."
she muttered. The doctor moved, stepped away from the bed, and Minerva was
there at once, her tentacles interwoven pleadingly.
"Is he okay?"
"Oh yes, he is," the doctor
said calmly. They used human language for some reason, as Heles sometimes did,
rather out of habit than for Victor's benefit. "He lost a lot of blood but
now he's safe. Just needs a day or two of rest and then he can be used as
Victor winced as if with old toothache.
Well, maybe, it was to the better. There would be no rumors, no discussions;
everything would go as before. And he'd find the way to protect Stacey. To
protect their love.
He looked at the bed suddenly, as if
prompted by something - and saw Kai's eyes open, look at them. He was not sure
the kid recognized them, there was no awareness in his gaze - just pain and
Victor swayed as if pushed in the chest,
made a step towards the bed not quite knowing why. A thick tentacle barred his
way. Minerva's huge eyes looked at him sternly.
"I'll take care of my human,"
she said coldly. For some reason these words didn't make Victor feel good.
The human had wronged her and he had to pay for it.
She had waited for two days, just as Odin, the doctor, told her, until Kai
regained his health. Then she came to punish him for what he'd done.
She'd probably forgive him - forgive her
initial fear she felt at finding him in the bathroom, bleeding, nearly dead, a
crumpled heap of slender white limbs and flood of black hair soaking in red
water ... and his delicate wrists torn in an ugly way, almost to the bones.
What she couldn't forgive was that he dared to encroach on what belonged to
her. The human was hers; Minerva decided it almost since she had seen him for
the first time.
She came without a signal and he was
dressed, curled on the bed, so small that, despite herself, Minerva felt a kind
of pity towards him. His frailty always affected her this way, burned and
enticed her. His hair was loose and his hands clasped under his chin, his
wrists healed, just scarred.
Seeing the traces on his soft skin was
enough to remind Minerva of her anger.
She was enraged and the human, Kai, knew
it. At first he seemed too withdrawn, as if still partly submerged in death -
but Minerva's presence broke through his defenses. She saw sadness and fear in
his darkened eyes.
Normally, Minerva didn't like to frighten
him, enjoyed the thought that she was the only one of the Heles who didn't put
him into this state of speechless terror. But not any more.
"Madam ..." he whispered and
got up on his knees and pulled his t-shirt up. Perfect whore! He always served
her like that - and then he tried to cheat her in the worst possible way, tried
to escape from her!
She didn't wait for him to finish. She
hit him, with the fury unexpected for herself, threw him against the wall. His
shriek of pain was like a balsam to her tight-wound nerves but the sickening
crunch of breaking bones was even better. Hormones sang through her blood,
promising her release.
What always surprised her about this
particular human was how much damage he could take without crumbling. She'd
found him after other Heles, bleeding and torn, and healed him and then played
with him. Now she was going to see what she could do to him.
He dragged himself up into a sitting
position at the wall, cradling his broken arm against his chest. His eyes were
huge and dark with pain. She thought he'd beg now and it aroused her.
But he didn't beg and didn't try to
His hair flowed against his cheeks,
amazingly becoming, and Minerva reveled in him, in his weakness and fear. The
human swallowed convulsively - he probably felt sick with pain. She reached her
limbs to him, almost caressingly, touched his face, moving the dark strands
away from it. He trembled at her touch, as he always did, even when she managed
to make him respond to her ministrations. She raised his face, making him look
in her eyes.
"Why did you do it?" she asked.
His eyes grew even wider, as if he
couldn't quite comprehend what she asked him; his lips didn't move.
"Answer me!" She slammed him
against the wall, breaking some more bones in his body. She knew he was injured
seriously but she had enough self-control not to damage him beyond repair.
After all, she wanted him to live for her.
"For no ... reason ..." His
normally quiet voice was now barely a whisper and some blood rolled out of his
mouth. "For no reason at all."
He lied; she knew it. How dared he? The
creature so terrorized and frail - how dared he not to tell her the truth? She
grabbed the wrist of his broken arm and tightened the coils. His eyes went
darker, became all pupils, and his lips went white. Seeing his features sharpen
in pain gave her unexpected pleasure. His bones were mauled in her grip and
muscles crushed, and Minerva felt the sharp edges of his bones scratch against
her skin, his very hot blood leak over her tentacle.
Kai didn't scream but just because, she
knew, he couldn't take enough breath. His mouth was half-opened. His eyes
started rolling up. Minerva picked him up and threw on the bed. She used the
mender to fix the worst of the damage.
She didn't give him enough time to really
heal - but she didn't want him healed. He had to suffer for his perpetration.
He sobbed convulsively, coming round from a shallow syncope. She hit him in the
face, to get his attention. His jaw broke but it was a small injury, not
endangering his ability to understand her.
"How dared you to want to die on
me?" She made sure he looked at her. His gaze was unfocused and it angered
her that she couldn't do anything worse with him, couldn't hurt him enough for
him to never forget it. "How could you betray me? Have I ever been less
than kind to you?"
Her modulated voice sounded harsh,
distorted with emotions but she didn't care how she sounded. He shivered
gathering his strength to speak.
"Haven't ... betrayed you ..."
"Why did you want to leave me, then?
Didn't you know that I liked you?"
There was an expression in his eyes of
such despair that for a moment Minerva started away. She liked the human for
his mildness, his pliancy to everything she wanted to do to him. She liked him
moan prettily when coming. But now he confused her, with his almost black eyes.
Blood leaking over his chin made his face look wild, reckless. He looked at her
and said, the words muffled, nearly incomprehensible because of the broken jaw:
"And you promised ... never to hurt
How dared he? He accused her of lying!
The human was not stupid, he was mad. She looked at him in disgust and woe. He
was hopeless ... nearly hopeless. But if she could save him, she had to do it.
She would hurt him best she could. It
probably was too late, to teach him - but she would do all she could to put the
fear into him. She raised her tentacles.
It was impossible; he seemed to guess
what she was going to do. He dragged himself up lopsidedly. Blood marked his
face in messy trickles. He touched his broken jaw carefully - and then,
incredibly, there was a smile on his lips.
"Then kill me, madam," he said.
"Just kill me."
She didn't answer - she lashed. Her
tentacles spread him, pinned him to the bed. He choked in pain; she pulled so
hard she tore his ligaments. His clothes were just a flimsy barrier and Minerva
ripped through them. Kai's face, distorted in pain, still had that strange
expression of triumph.
Too bad! She was not going to kill him.
"Where is the necklace I gave
you?" she asked.
He couldn't really answer, wracked with
pain, but he understood her question and pointed with his chin at the bottom of
the bed. She yanked the jewelry from under the mattress. The heavy decoration
locked on his body, his waist so tiny it was smaller than Minerva's neck in her
childhood, since it was the necklace her mother gave her when she was a child.
The grey metal and green stones shone against his pale skin, lay heavily on his
concave belly. She suddenly knew what she wanted to do.
"You think we females can't
hurt," she hissed spreading her tentacles. "We can. I just spared you
until now - but not any more."
She thrust her tentacles into his body,
with as much strength as she could, tearing her way. The hot silk of his
orifices enveloped her limbs as she forced them in - smooth, soft and accepting
- and she felt regret she'd relinquished this pleasure for so long for the sake
of sparing him. He thrashed under her, his frail human body all strained
muscles. She held him too hard, his wrists and ankles were breaking but it
didn't matter, it was nothing she couldn't fix later. She sent her tentacles
inside him violently, feeling his throat contract around her limbs and his
intestines expand with her invasion.
The insides of his body were hot,
clinging - and she liked it so much, liked to be linked with him almost
inseparably, closer than ever, owning him completely.
He couldn't make a sound any more - but
she caught his gaze - wide, frozen in pain. Looking in the human's beautiful
eyes, she started pumping slowly, adding more length of her tentacles inside
She watched him driven to the limits of
his endurance. His outstretched limbs vibrated thinly, slick with sweat, and
his waxen face seemed haggard, akin to dead. She looked at his slowly swelling
abdomen filled with her tentacles and her hormones raged. She had never seen
him any more beautiful.
"You are mine," she whispered
slamming her spare tentacles against his ribcage, the sensation of his broken
ribs sending her over the edge. "No one, nothing will separate you from
The swelling of his belly, skin smooth
and stretched, was so erotic; she caressed it. He convulsed at her movement
inside him; she couldn't take her eyes away from him. That was how she wanted
to see him ... always ... always ...
The thought came to her mind as hormones
overflowed her, making her shudder in orgasm. She could make him hers in the surest
way, could make him what she wanted him to be.
The human would be honored to serve her
in a special way - and he would belong to her fully.
It felt good to wake up with the warmth of Victor's
body in their bed. It didn't happen every morning - and sometimes at night
Stacey had a vague notion of Victor getting out of their bed for some urgent
business. But today Victor was here, turned away from Stacey and hugging the
He wanted to press his lips to Victor's
shoulder, to his smooth back, to fill his hands with Victor's hair but resigned
to waiting, not wanting to wake him after what could've been a long night.
Stacey wasn't in a hurry; after all, they had enough time for everything.
They had enough time - thanks to Heles
and to their ships being such safe things that the normal danger of war was
almost non-present. Their losses in the battles were extremely low. Besides,
Victor was too smart to get himself killed.
Stacey felt light-headed with pride for
Victor; no other human on the ship occupied such a high position - even the
Heles respected him. Stacey hadn't thought the opinion of Heles would ever mean
anything for him; but somehow it did. After all, it was their reality, serving
Heles. It was what let him and Victor be together.
Victor didn't wake up until it was
Stacey's time to get up. He hesitated whether to hug him and finally brushed
his lips against Victor's ear. Unexpectedly, Victor shuddered and gave him
quite a wild look that softened quickly as he recognized Stacey.
"See you in the cafeteria,
He hard Kazarin's voice when approaching
"They say it's the last days we can
use our little whore."
"Why is it so?" Andrews's voice
Stacey recognized at once and didn't know why a wave of anger flooded him.
Andrews was a bastard - but there seemed to be no reason for them to hate each
other. Except that Andrews hated him as well.
Hearing about the ship's prostitute made
Stacey feel uncomfortable. He skipped his turn again - Victor asked him to stay
and he couldn't refuse. He didn't regret it but ...
"They have some plans for him, the
"What plans?" Andrews pouted.
"Do they want to keep him all for themselves? It's not like he's getting
any worse when we use him."
"He's getting worse when you use
him," another man, Kostin, said sarcastically. "Mind you, once you'll
get carried away and the mender won't help."
"The bitch is not easy to
kill," Andrews grumbled.
Stacey stopped in the corridor leaning
against the wall. His hand clenched and unclenched convulsively. Andrews, this
But there was no reason to get so mad, he
told himself. He didn't even know the prostitute guy ...
A sudden image flashed in front of his
eyes, of a big premise full of people - and among them, one cold and lonely,
looking defenselessly at him, his long black hair spilled over his shoulders ...
It was not quite a déjà vu; some
different thing - but how could it be called, when he could see so clearly
something that never happened?
Stacey shook his head and walked to the
"I'll ask Gessen," Andrews
continued. "If they take him away from us, they can let us visit him when
we want at least."
"Why do you hate him so much?"
"Hate him?" Andrews laughed but
it was a humorless sound. "I adore him. If anyone hates him, it's
Kazarin? Stacey who poured himself a cup
of cocoa froze. He hadn't known; they hadn't talked about it, after all. But ...
"I hate all of them," Kazarin said
putting one of his long beige cigars in his mouth. "All genetics."
"I wonder why."
"They are murderers."
The pause was short, then some laughter
"Perhaps. But if it was like that,
wouldn't we all be dead?"
"A genetic killed my brother,"
Kazarin said levelly.
There was something wrong about it,
Stacey couldn't point what. A genetic ... Something that he was supposed to
remember but couldn't. There was something with his head, some emptiness there.
Maybe, he was going mad.
He didn't want to go mad, didn't want to
have to part with Victor. He just started liking it - being on Nostromo,
learning new things ... The headache came as expected. Stacey clenched the cup
too hard and heard plastic crack. He made himself relax just in time before the
cup broke. His hands trembled minutely as he poured the cocoa into another cup.
"Genetics are not aggressive,"
someone said after a pause.
"Well ..." Kazarin's blue eyes
were so bright, looked at them all almost feverishly. "She didn't stick a
knife in my brother's chest herself - but it was as good as if she did it. My
brother fell in love with her - this mindless, pretty doll with golden hair and
violet eyes. She played with Serge - her master told her to make advances, to
give promises, to ask for presents. My brother started gambling trying to buy
her out. And lost everything.
"He committed suicide," Kazarin
added quietly. "His creditors looked for him and he wouldn't get away so
easily if they found him. I pay his debts now, that's why I'm here, among
I never asked why you were here, Leon, Stacey thought.
"And the genetic bitch?"
someone asked. "Did you let her live?"
"It's the other reason why I'm
here," Kazarin said smugly. "The crime against property is extremely
punishable in the Empire."
"You're an idiot, Leon!" Stacey
said hotly, slamming the cup against the table. "You told yourself, her
master made her, what could she do?"
He and Kazarin were friends; maybe,
Stacey shouldn't have ... He saw fury in Kazarin's eyes.
"If it were someone else who said
that, Radek ..."
"But Radek is well known for his
love to genetics," Andrews giggled. "Even though now he seemed to
lose interest in his toy."
"What?" The headache came
again, made him slow, disoriented. He looked at his crewmates; Kazarin met his
gaze with hard expression that made Stacey wonder if their relations could be
repaired after what they both said. Andrews leered.
"You're so humane, Radek, ain't you?
But only when your own interests are not concerned. Why don't you protect your
little genetic friend against Heles now? Because they pay you and give you the
chance to fuck your beloved Mr. Gessen? It makes it okay for them to fuck the
The accusations were ridiculous. Stacey
felt his throat get dry, difficult to swallow. The feeling that he missed
something was overwhelming.
He wanted out of there, to be back in the
sleepy room with Victor, Victor who had the answers to all questions, Victor
who made it all okay.
"I wish I could see how the Heles do
him, you know," Andrews said dreamily. "All those tentacles and stuff
"How ..." Stacey heard the
hoarseness of his own voice and coughed. "How do they do him?"
Don't ask questions when you can get
answers ... Andrews turned to him, grinning.
"Well, I don't know if they have the
corresponding organ but I guess it'll be pretty adequately to call it
He could see the conversation pleased
"Yes, Heles, the Mighty, the high
race with their jelly bodies and sets of tentacles."
"It's not true."
"What is not true?"
"Surely they can. And they do. I
think they want to him at their exclusive disposal, that's why thy take him
away from us."
"But he is human."
"We are humans, too," Andrews
said with sudden spite. "And look how well they fuck all of us. Except his
Excellence, Mr. Proud, Commander Victor Gessen, that is."
Stacey followed the direction of
Andrews's eyes and saw Victor enter the cafeteria, his eyes dart from Andrews
to Stacey. Stacey felt helpless in front of his own anger.
"It's not true, Commander Gessen, is
"What do you mean, Officer Radek?
Before Victor seemed to understand,
before he answer - Stacey suddenly knew everything. It was true - and Victor
had known about it.
"For God's sake, he's human!"
He saw Victor look at his gloved hands,
then raise his clear grey eyes, always so peaceful.
"We can't argue the decisions of the
Heles. Even if we wanted to."
"He is a genetically engineered
prostitute," someone said almost mildly. "He was constructed to be
used this way. And interracial copulation is normal as long as it can be
"What's wrong with you?"
Andrews drawled. "Only a month and a half passed and you started caring?
The bitch would be pleased to know that, I bet. Hey, guys, did you notice how
the genetic whispers Radek's name when he is really, really hurt? He prays for
Radek - he thinks no one notices it and normally he controls himself better -
but if you mess him up well, he slips in that mode when he looks crazy ..."
He couldn't stand it any more. It felt
like a red-hot poker of pain pierced through his brain and Stacey stopped
thinking. He threw the cocoa to Andrews's eyes.
It was not hot and Andrews yelped mostly
in surprise and exasperation - and Stacey didn't give him time to come round,
yanked Andrews from behind the table and slammed him down. His body was trained
for a dirty fight, the heritage of his childhood - he drove his knee between
Andrews's legs. This did make Andrews yell.
"You ... you crazy shit ..."
But the man's fists were inefficient, trying to catch Stacey blindly.
Anger, amplified with pain, was
intoxicating. There was nothing Stacey could see but red. He slammed Andrews
against the table and saw a trickle of blood crawl from Andrews's nose. He
didn't want to make the man bleed ... He wanted to rip him apart ... to kill
him ... A sudden image of a knife flashed in front of his eyes - and blood
pooling on the floor ... and more images that he didn't recognize and that
threatened to drown him. And then - that exotically beautiful face, with long
slanted eyes and shining gaze. A blood-stained t-shirt, long loose hair, small
feet icy-cold. A thrust of pain in his mind was unbearable He punched Andrews
directly in his face.
"Stop it!" Victor's voice was
brittle with anger - and Stacey wanted to stop, just not to cause Victor this
anger, this anguish. But pain prodded him, was stronger than him.
He felt his knuckles split against
Andrews' teeth - and kept hitting even thought the man already stopped
"Get him away from him!" His
upper arms captured. It was a good turn, they should have stopped him before -
his mind knew it. But his body didn't want to stop.
He spat on Andrews's face as the men
tugged him away - and kept struggling against the hands that held him. Through
the red mist Stacey saw Victor's serene face - and felt relieved, felt safe.
Then a fist flew in his face - and red turned black.
He looked at the gloves in his hands. Finest
leather, black and soft. He always found it comforting to feel the thin barrier
between his hands and whatever he had to touch. It was the only protection
The leather on the knuckles was torn.
Another pair wasted. He threw them to disposal in annoyance.
"They still could serve you. You
humans are not thrifty with things," Uranus said contentedly. "I
wonder if you're as wasteful with human lives."
He didn't look at the Heles to
acknowledge his words. Uranus occupied both a place in front of him and a part of
his mind. He felt the Heles touch his thoughts, like delicate fingers running
over the strings.
Uranus was the one who pulled the
strings, Victor thought suddenly. And he - he was just a marionette jerking at
the order of his Heles master. As much a doll as Stacey was ... no, much more.
He recalled how he'd seen Stacey in the
brig, a little while ago - curled in the corner, seeming so small. And yet his
eyes glimmered bright and wary as if he expected an attack.
Victor thought about softness of Stacey's
mouth as he'd slammed his fist against it. Stacey's lip was still swollen. But
he was not angry with Victor, forgave that as he'd forgiven everything else.
"I'm crazy, Vic. It's cheaper to
shoot me than to keep me."
He remembered Stacey's laugher that nearly
broke his heart.
"Oh yes, I am. There is something
with my head. I don't remember things I should. I can't control myself."
It's not your fault, Victor wanted to
say. Yet whose was it? His own fault? The fault of Heles? Of Voices?
"Poor Andrews. He surely has a
reason to hate me."
"He got on your nerves."
"No, he didn't. I ... He was just
talking ..." And then misery
shone from Stacey's eyes at Victor. "The genetic, Kai ... Something has
to be done for him."
Victor felt glad his face was shadowed
and Stacey couldn't see his expression.
"Something will be done. The
Heles want him for something different."
"I don't know," he said. "Trust me, it can't be worse
than it is now."
He realized what a creepy meaning his
words had but felt too bitter not to say them. Everything went wrong. And he ...
He just wanted to be happy with his beloved ... Was it so impossible, so much
to ask for?
It was good at least Stacey didn't know
about his conversation with Uranus.
"What about the prostitute? You
are going to remove him, aren't you?"
"Minerva asked for him as her
sole property for the next eight months."
"She and Vulcan wanted to
propagate for a long time already and obtained a permission but there was
always something coming up."
Propagate ... Victor's mind filled with
recollections, prompted not by his own knowledge but by Uranus. The Heles
didn't carry out their children, but grew the foetus in incubators.
"Were humans ever used as
"As a matter of fact, yes,
comrade. There were tests like this done. It proved expensive and difficult but
by all means possible. Minerva is our best female officer, I think letting her
use the incubator up to her liking is a good means of incentive."
He felt disgust sweep him and tried to shut
his mind before Uranus dipped into it. He still knew he didn't manage to
deceive the Heles.
"Will the genetic even survive
it?" It sounded lamely but
he couldn't help it.
"Obviously. If taken good care of
- which we can provide for him."
Nothing could make him say any of that to
Stacey. He told him sternly instead:
"You are going to stay on the
brig for three days. See you after that."
And now he sat in front of Uranus and
didn't know what to say.
"Three days will be enough for your
buddy to cool down. You humans do have short-tempered personalities. But if he
persists in his violent behavior - if he becomes a danger for other species ..."
Stacey is a danger for himself, Victor
wanted to say.
"There is a way to fix it,"
Uranus said quietly. "You know it. It will make the human less useful for
us - and for the Voices, I believe - but at least you'll keep him. And he
wouldn't harm himself or anyone else."
"Delete his memories ..."
"It's my advice, comrade. You don't
know when he'll snap again. Appraise the danger, consciously."
"Delete his memories." Victor's
mind reeled. "I'll lose him then, won't I? He won't be the same after
"It's better to relinquish a part of
him to keep the rest, isn't it?"
He didn't have to nod, he knew Uranus
felt his resignation. And Uranus also knew that Victor would do it, would obey.
He was an exemplary human, a perfect officer, an honored symbiont.
"I like it when we understand each
other, comrade," Uranus said.
It was entirely his fault.
When everything was over - and he was
strapped to the chair, unable to look away from the screen, he kept repeating
it in his mind. It was his fault, his weakness - he shouldn't have let it
But he got afraid. He feared to lose - to
lose Stacey's thin strong arms around his neck, Stacey's hot body pressed
against his. He was afraid nothing would feel the same way after the mind-wipe,
kisses wouldn't be so sweet, sex so passionate.
And finally Victor lost all this - and
more. They both lost everything.
He remembered Stacey on the bridge,
during the negotiations. They promised usual things - execution for General
Davidson and safety for his wife, daughter and grandchildren - everyone who was
on a yacht that strayed away from Great Cup regatta.
"We don't fight civilians."
He noticed a little movement Stacey made
as Captain Achilles said those words. But Stacey couldn't remember: neither Red
Cross nor his own family ... and the Heles didn't harm his mother, after all,
she killed herself after losing her husband ... and left Stacey for those
terrible years in the orphanage.
It was all in the past; in the present
Stacey controlled himself perfectly. Everything went smoothly. It was going to
be another successful operation.
Davidson hesitated; he didn't want to
die. But everybody knew what decision he would take eventually. Then Victor
heard Stacey's voice, ringing with tension:
"An Empire ship approaches."
Davidson must have sent a SOS signal that
was heard. Or, maybe, it was a trap all the way. Heles tried hard to understand
how humans thought - but humans learned the rules of Heles as well.
"Destroy the yacht."
It was a revenge, of course, but if
humans didn't want to play fair ... Victor was the one who passed the order.
The tentacles reached to the console. And
"No fuckin' way!"
The console in front of the Heles
exploded and two of his tentacles burst with blood and tissues. The scream the
Heles made was deafening but Victor didn't look at him. He looked at Stacey who
kept holding his blaster at ready.
"Keep back or you'll lose them
Oh God ... It was such madness, it
couldn't be happening ... A mutiny ... an attack on a Heles ... Victor felt the
ground give up under his feet. He looked at the black muzzle of Stacey's weapon
- and at his dark, desperate eyes - and knew there was no way back.
"Commander," the voice of Uranus in his mind was urgent,
angry. "What is going on? Follow the order."
"Officer Radek ..."
"No one moves."
"What are you doing, Stacey ..."
He suddenly couldn't continue using rank. Stacey looked at him stubbornly,
turning the muzzle of the gun around.
"You promised me, Vic, didn't ya? We
have to be together in it!"
What kind of promise?
"That if we have a chance, we'll
help our people ..."
What a fool! Anger swept him. Stacey's
pale face blurred in front of Victor's eyes. He wanted to hit him, to slap him
senseless - to shut him up and stop it all before it was too late.
He should have never asked Uranus for a
postponement ... It had been the first time when Victor regretted it; after that
there were countless more times.
"The Empire ship prepares to
fire," someone said.
Uranus' voice in his mind was inarguable.
"You know I won't do it."
"I said 'shoot him', not kill
him. Stop this comedy and fire at the humans'."
He knew he could do it; he was the only
one on the bridge at whom Stacey's blaster was never directed. And even if it
was - Victor knew Stacey would never shoot at him.
He didn't move.
"Do it, comrade." The order slammed in his brain with such force
that it almost made him reel. "You already endangered your position.
Don't aggravate it further."
"What will be ... with
If he could make Uranus promise to leave
Stacey unpunished ... just mind-wiped ...
"Do what I say!"
"Oh fuck! What the hell are you
doing, Radek?" Suddenly Kazarin was at the console, shoved his fingers
into the buttons. The blast threw him against the wall, a huge smoking hole in
his belly. Victor saw how Stacey looked at his gun and then at the dead man,
his face white and empty of any emotions.
And then it happened. Victor could see it
clearly and knew he couldn't do anything. He saw Stacey's face go blank in pain
for a moment as the blaster nearly fell out of his hands. And then darkened,
desperate eyes looked at Victor.
"I killed him," Stacey
whispered. "Just like I killed that boy. Oh God, I remember it. I remember
things ... I must have been mad to get here, I hate the Heles ... they killed
It was impossible, he hadn't remembered
it even till the memory block!
"Leon ..." he repeated, looking
at Kazarin's dead body.
No way, Uranus!
But Victor's body didn't listen to his
mind any more - and his mind was not really his. The reign was taken by Uranus,
Victor's hands raised the blaster, pointed it at Stacey. Stacey noticed it,
turned his gun against Victor instinctively - but there was this surprise in
his eyes, as if, no matter what, he still couldn't believe Victor would shoot
How wrong he was ... Even if Victor
wouldn't do it - Uranus would.
Shoot, fox, he wanted to say. Kill me
before I kill you.
But it was too late.
He pulled the trigger.
He saw Stacey's eyes go wide - and with
incredible effort of will Victor threw the shooting blaster up. Sparkles and
bits of plastic showered the bridge.
"The ship fires at us," someone
The impact rocked the ship, both humans
and Heles were knocked off their feet - and at the next moment Victor felt a
strong arm wrapped around his waist - and the hard muzzle of the blaster
pressed under his chin. Stacey hauled him up on his feet.
"Let's get out of here,
friend-assassin." The voice sounded like from afar, Victor must have been
shell-shocked. The blaster tilted his face up but Stacey's embrace was not
He still didn't know about Uranus ...
"What are you going to do?"
Victor felt his lips ask.
No, don't answer, he wanted to scream, I
don't want to know. It's not me who's asking. But he couldn't - and Stacey
didn't hear, didn't know about his symbiont, didn't know that he held Uranus
in his arms now, not Victor.
"You always said you knew what was
the right thing to do, Vic. Now I'll do the right thing for you. We're getting
out of here."
You won't be able to ... But Victor's
lips were sealed.
"I just need to pick up someone
else," Stacey muttered against his ear. Victor didn't want to know whom he
meant - but he knew - and, therefore, Uranus knew it, too.
It didn't matter, actually; there was no
way Stacey would be allowed to leave the ship, alone or with the ballast, but
misery kept clenching Victor's heart.
"Open it!" The blaster shoved
under his chin, making his head jerk. Uranus obeyed, pressed Victor's palm to
the panel that locked Kai's door. The door opened - and Stacey shoved Victor
in, stepped in himself.
He was in this room of misery again ...
immaculate clean - and the frail, long-braided young man sat on the bed and
stared at them. Victor thought he had never seen more desperate eyes in his
life. More loving eyes - and more unhappy.
He suddenly understood everything - but
it was too late. In Kai's huge eyes he saw the reflection of a dark mass behind
them - and as Stacey started turning back - Uranus, real Uranus, raised his
tentacles and slammed them down on Stacey's head.
He watched how Stacey slid on the floor
and knew now everything was over for real. For both of them.
Something hissed steadily and softly above him. And
the monstrous headache that had haunted him even through unconsciousness ebbed.
Through the thick veil his mind was clouded with some things started making
sense. He lay on something soft - a bed? - and something hard and warm -
"Vic ..." he whispered.
Then something warm and soft splashed on
"You cry ... so wetly ... Kai."
Now he could see - the pale frightened
face tilted down to him, long braid nearly brushing his cheek. The kid's lips
trembled - half in a smile, half in tears.
"Your hair," Stacey said.
Kai's smile became a bit steadier; he
threw his braid back.
Stacey felt as if this gesture opened
some gaps in him - and, unstoppable, memories flooded him.
"I'm sorry," he whispered.
"Oh God, Kai, I'm so sorry ..."
Moving hurt - but memories hurt even more
- and Stacey got up onto his knees, turned towards Kai. He wanted to look in
the kid's eyes, to meet his gaze and take everything Kai would say to him, all
blame and anger ...
"No, Stacey, be quiet, I didn't
The kid's hands with a mender flew up,
trying to stop him. There was no hatred in Kai's eyes - just sadness and
Only it was even worse. Stacey felt
choking as anger flooded him - anger at himself.
"Only a month and a half passed
and you started caring?.. Hey, guys, did you notice how the genetic whispers
Radek's name when he is really, really hurt?.. If you mess him up well, he
slips in that mode when he looks crazy ..."
He knew now what Andrews' words meant. He
couldn't hate himself more than he already did - for not knowing it before.
Anger brought dizziness over him - he
swayed - and was caught in Kai's arms, distressingly gentle.
"Don't hold me ..." Stacey
muttered, struggling. Why was he so weak that he couldn't stop Kai from hugging
him? "I'm no good ... I betrayed you. Hate me."
The terrified expression in Kai's eyes
was haunting, just as the tightening of his arms around Stacey. With his eyes
closed in shame, he listened to the sound of Kai's voice, the same
feather-light, childish voice.
"Don't talk. You aren't well. Lie
down. One of the Heles hit you on the head."
"Should've killed me ..." Words
felt like ashes on his lips - and then soft fingers touched his mouth as if to
prevent him from talking. The gentleness of this touch made him shudder. The
warmth of Kai's arms around him was distressing but he couldn't struggle with
it any more. He caught Kai's wrist and pressed the kid's palm to his lips.
"Kai, I left you ... I didn't come,
didn't try to do anything for you ..."
He could feel thin lines of scars on
Kai's wrist under his fingers - the traces that Stacey knew for sure hadn't
been there before.
"I always knew you would come,"
Kai said quietly.
"Don't forgive me. Don't care for
He was cradled, rocked - and it made him
lose the track of his thoughts, made his words jumbled, confused. Kai's fingers
touched his face lightly, stroked his cheek. Stacey moaned in misery and
wrapped his arms around Kai, held onto him.
"I don't need to forgive you. You
gave me my life, you made me what I am. My life belongs to you. My heart
belongs to you. It's up to you to take it or not - but you're my master of all
Stacey burrowed deeper into Kai's arms,
leaned into the soft touch, lulled away with the soft words. Their meaning
almost escaped him - but not the sound of Kai's voice, not the caresses of his
"Will you trust me again?" he
whispered, catching Kai's hand, intertwining their fingers.
"I trust you, Stacey."
"I'll get us out of here. I don't
know how yet - but I promise you. I'll deserve your forgiveness."
He felt how Kai's hand clenched on his -
and there was such strength and despair in this gesture that Stacey opened his
eyes in amazement. The kid's face was so sad, his eyes full of such grief that
Stacey felt frightened, for once. Kai looked as if he wanted to say something
"It's a lucky thing they put us
together," Stacey said hastily, trying to chase away this expression of
anguish from Kai's face. "I'll protect you, I'll do everything for that,
The kid's hand trembled in his - and then
Kai asked quietly:
"Do you know why they put us
Stacey felt sick and angry and he fiended for a
cigarette but otherwise he found it quite surprising how little Kai's words
disturbed him. He had his arms around Kai and finally the kid stopped shaking.
The touches of Stacey's fingers that smoothed his hair seemed to pacify him.
"I don't want them to do it to
you," Kai whispered tiredly. His lips were soft against Stacey's hand that
he held tightly. "They can do it to me, it's okay - I'm used to it. But
not to you ..."
"Don't worry," Stacey muttered,
"we'll think of something. Nothing bad will happen."
"Really?" Kai looked up at him,
his eyes shining with hope.
"Really." But his heart sank at
this word. "But did they say what they planned to do about you?"
"No, they didn't. Stacey ..."
Kai's voice fell to barely audible and his hands clenched on Stacey's again.
"It's all my fault ... If I didn't want you so much to come here ... I
prayed for it. And now ..."
"Shh, silly." He remembered
suddenly how he had blamed himself for Victor's death, because of the words
he'd said to his lover once. Victor, Victor ... damn you, beautiful traitor ...
"Everything will be okay."
"You don't understand! What they
want to do to you ... you won't bear it ... it's horrible ..."
It made Stacey flinch - the thought what
Kai had been through, the anger at Heles, at Victor, at himself.
"They can't do it, it's
unfair," Kai said miserably. "You're so clean ..."
"I'm not clean." And it was the
Now it was him who cradled the kid and
Kai nestled up to him, his hands holding on Stacey's jacket - and despite
everything, Stacey felt comforted. If only he could hold Kai forever ...
He heard slight hiss of the opening door
and looked up at two Heles who entered the room. Minerva ... and another
officer, male, Vulcan. They didn't waste their time. Stacey glared at them and
kept holding Kai.
"What a touching scene."
Minerva's old-fashioned voice was laced with irony and definitely irritated.
She moved closer to the bed and Kai started trembling in Stacey's arms. Kai's
hands were white-knuckled, clenched unconsciously on Stacey's jacket.
He realized only now that his own arms
held around Kai as tightly.
"Sorry but I am going to separate
you," Minerva said reaching for Kai. "Let's go, my human."
A wave of sickness flooded Stacey at the
sight of the tentacles slithering against Kai's body, the suckers clinging to
his skin. He felt Kai let him go, turn to the Heles - but Stacey himself
couldn't open his arms.
"What's that?" Minerva seemed
astonished. "I told him to go with us, Radek."
Her tentacle reached with a possessive
gesture, touched Kai's face. Stacey acted almost unthinking: caught the
boneless limb, wrapped it around his palm ... An expression of astonishment on
Minerva's face gladdened him - and then he slammed the sharp end of Kai's hair
comb through her tentacle.
The scream she made sounded both out of
the voice modulator and out of her mouth opening - shrill, screeching cry.
Violet blood fountained from the wound, spattering the sheets and Stacey's
hands. He screamed at her, too:
"Bitch! Leave him the fuck
Next moment, Vulcan's tentacle pulled the
comb out of Stacey's hand - and a heavy blow threw Stacey off the bed, slammed
him against the wall. He felt crushed, boneless, his vision blurred. Blood
filled his mouth. He didn't have time to try to get up as Minerva's huge body
towered over him, her tentacles raised in an assaulting stance.
It was the end, he thought - a stupid end
at that; but any end was stupid, after all. It should have all been finished
when they had put him into the execution capsule ...
"Disgusting human ..."
"Don't hurt him!" Kai was
between him and Minerva - and Stacey thought desperately that it was his fault
again he'd brought it on the kid.
The tentacles never went down; Minerva
stepped away a little, cradling her hurt limb. Her voice was derisive but
"I am not going to hurt this
pathetic excuse for a human. Others will do it. I just want you to go with me,
my pretty one."
Stacey watched with dazed eyes how Kai
got up and walked to the door before Minerva. He wanted to scream, to stop it -
pulled himself up - and Vulcan uncoiled his tentacles, slammed them against
Stacey's belly. Stacey hit the wall again as a huge ball of pain burst inside
him. The last thing he saw before losing consciousness was Minerva wrap her
tentacle around Kai's waist.
The human was cuffed to the chair. It was not
because Uranus doubted his power over the symbiont - he could easily have
Victor in control just with the power of his mind. But he intended to focus on
other things; besides, he enjoyed those small, restricted movements that the
"I hope there won't be any
misunderstanding between us, comrade. We don't talk about your resistance to
me. We talk about you not fulfilling your obligations."
The symbiont's face was ghostly pale, his
normally light eyes dark and widened, looking unblinkingly at the screen in
front of him. There was a small trickle of blood sliding over his chin from
under his teeth. Uranus noticed when it appeared - when Victor saw Vulcan hit
his redhead lover.
"You know you deserve punishment -
just as your protegee deserves it. So, punishment it will be."
The human didn't answer. He seemed to
disregard Uranus' words as if they had no meaning - or infinitely less meaning
than what happened on the screen in front of him. Uranus was not going to take
He hit into Victor's brain savagely,
singed the nerve endings, and saw how the face of the human went blank in pain.
Blood ran in a thicker jet from his bitten lips and his eyes started rolling up
as Uranus kept ravaging his mind.
He slumped on the chair as Uranus
withdrew his invasion. There was some damage done to the human's brain but not
too serious. Uranus prodded Victor into lucidity.
"Watch and listen - do both. I'm
sure you can do it, comrade."
There was a tired, bitter expression on
Victor's face as he looked at the screen that showed the empty room and Stacey,
lying in a crumpled heat at the wall. The young human was unconscious, his soft
hair fallen over his face.
"Explain it to me." Uranus
touched Victor's mind again not to let the human slide away from him. "Why
did your friend do it?"
"What?" The human's voice was
so faint, emotionless, a strange contrast with misery that Uranus could savor
in Victor's mind.
"Why did he attack Minerva? He must
have understood it would bring nothing but repercussions for him."
"He was angry," Victor said.
His eyes were locked on the screen with the expression of naked despair.
"Or, maybe, he wanted to show ... the boy, Kai, that there was no need to
be afraid of Heles."
"What a stupid way to act. He just
aggravated his position."
Can his position be aggravated, he read the human's thoughts.
"Don't you think," Uranus
continued enthusiastically, "that it is a curious coincidence that this
human will have to play this role from now on? Didn't you tell me he was used
as a kind of whore during his childhood, in the place for orphaned children
where he grew up? There must be something defective about him if he winds up in
this situation again."
He felt a wave of anger rise from Victor,
saw the human thrash minutely as if he tried to free from his tethers. The
emotions were interesting to explore. His symbiont used to be a man with a
confused mind - Uranus rarely could get from him messages with such purity of
He expected there would be more
fascinating revelations as the time went.
The room was spacious and white, just with a few
cabinets here and there - and three Heles moved freely in it without the danger
to misplace anything. Mesmerized, Kai looked at the stirrups placed in the
middle of the room.
"Well, human." The Heles doctor
glanced at him without interest. "What are you waiting for? Undress."
Kai wanted to fight and run and scream
his heart out - but he didn't. It didn't matter what was going to happen to him
- nothing mattered now, after they'd left Stacey bleeding on the floor in Kai's
former room - injured and defenseless to anyone who would want to hurt him ...
Kai's hands didn't tremble as he removed
"Get up there."
"I'm so happy, my darling,"
Minerva drawled as her tentacles slid against his thighs, moving his legs
apart. She didn't need to force him, he would cooperate - but he knew she liked
handling his body. The fasteners closed on his wrists and ankles, holding his
legs spread widely. They had never needed this kind of preparations to have sex
with him before.
"I waited for it for so long ..."
Minerva whispered. Her limbs brushed against his belly caressingly. "Soon
my child will grow there."
"Just one more thing," the
doctor said. Kai felt something metallic forced into his anus, not painful at
the first moment - but then spreading, stretching him wider as uncomfortable
feeling turned into pain. He refused to scream - not if he could help it. He
refused to think about Minerva's words, too - but it was more difficult.
Kai had told him there would be a signal. But
either it was not obligatory or Stacey's vision was too cloudy to see it. The
door just opened - and there was a black-uniformed man standing there. Stacey
struggled to discern his face, to figure out more than a blurry silhouette and
felt frustrated with the weakness of his mind. Blood left metallic tang in his
mouth and he felt so broken it seemed unthinkable to move.
But of course he had to move. He made
himself get on his knees and lost the balance, landed on his fours. His hair
made an additional veil in front of his eyes. The man moved towards him, and
suddenly Stacey realized that one thought hadn't come to his mind: that it
could be Victor.
It was not Victor. The man came closer
and Stacey saw his polished boots - and then one of the boots was shoved in his
"Don't bother to greet me
standing." It was Andrews's voice that reached Stacey through the beating
of blood in his ears.
He hated the weakness of his own body -
hated the instinctive motion he tried to shield his broken rib with. It was
pathetic. He had to get up, to face Andrews. But he couldn't.
Another kick caught him to his abdomen
that felt bloated and tender after Vulcan's blow; Stacey couldn't help it,
cried out harshly at the piercing pain.
"I think I owe you something,"
Andrews said and Stacey raised his head to see a short thick lead baton in
Andrews's hand - the baton he slapped against his other palm. "I prefer to
pay my debts in time, redhead."
Minerva's tentacles swirled over his body, touched
him everywhere. The suckers pressing to his nipples made Kai shiver. The
stretching of his anus stopped just when he thought it would be torn apart. He
felt opened so widely it seemed he had a gaping wound there.
"You're so pretty," Minerva
whispered. "My child will have the prettiest incubator in the world."
He shivered in pain when his legs were
yanked apart even wider to accommodate her bulk and suddenly Kai understood she
didn't have her usual garment on.
As if hypnotized, he watched how the
folds of her skin move apart and the long cylinder of her ovipositor appear. He
knew now why he needed the speculum to open him - not to damage the tender
tissues of her organ.
He felt as if a spear was slammed through
his guts as she entered him, the cold tip of her organ positioned so deeply
that he seemed to feel it almost near his midriff. He saw her strain and felt
cold spread inside him.
His left wrist was broken. The baton turned out to
be surprisingly heavy and Andrews aimed well. The second or third blow smashed
Stacey's cheekbone and now blood leaked both into his eyes and his mouth. He
didn't try to get up any more - he just couldn't. There was nothing he could do
The blows stopped but Stacey couldn't
stop writhing on the floor, still shivering with pain. Andrews stepped on his
shoulder, keeping him from those humiliating motions. Through the blood that
flowed over Stacey's eyes he saw the man's smiling face lean to him.
"You're a better sport than your
genetic was. I did it to him, too, you know."
Andrews got what he wanted - Stacey
thrashed and spat blood in his face and missed. Andrews grabbed him by the
collar, raised, threw face down on the bed. Stacey screamed as Andrews pulled
his jacket off and the sleeve caught on his wrist. Andrews wrapped the jacket
around his hands, tying them. Then Andrews kept beating him until getting
He turned Stacey face up.
"I should've cut you open, like you
did with Kazarin." He panted; his face was distorted with hatred.
"Kazarin was a million times more a man then you."
Leon ... A madman, a hater of genetics, a
friend ... Stacey knew he wouldn't forget Kazarin - and he didn't need Andrews
to remind him about what he'd done.
"He was a million times more a man
than you," he whispered choking with blood.
Andrews hit him in the face, then smiled
and raised the baton again.
"Whore. I want to look in your eyes
when I beat you."
He'll kill him. This thought in the human's mind repeated persistently - and the
fear, the misery of it was clear for Uranus. But there was also another
thought, which that mesmerized Uranus. Please let him die ...
"I thought you wanted to keep your
little friend alive."
The human's eyes were shadowed with pain.
He looked exhausted. Uranus didn't like how slowly his mind reacted to the
"Sometimes death is better ..."
It was a mere whisper. Blood leaked from the human's mouth. He was so stubborn,
making Uranus torture his mind more, ruin it almost hopelessly.
"Andrews doesn't have a permission
to kill him," Uranus said.
He lost consciousness and came up to the smell of
ozone and hissing sound of the mender over him. Andrews was healing him ... how
The sheets stank - blood, bile and piss ...
he must have pissed himself. Stacey felt the cleaners work on his clothes and
was thankful for it. It was better to go through it clean.
"Baby-face," Andrews whispered
hoarsely as his hand pawed Stacey's face and hair. "Redhead doll. You know
why they sent me to you? To tame you. Not that I mind..." He chuckled.
He pulled Stacey's pants down and fucked
him and it didn't hurt more than anything else in his broken body did - and
Stacey couldn't do anything to prevent it all the same.
Later, Andrews played with him some more,
tightened his belt on Stacey's throat until black and red exploded in his head.
Andrews had to use the mender again after it - and once more after twisting
Stacey's tied arms up until a shoulder joint snapped.
There was another rape after that.
"You're fun to mess up, Officer
Radek. And I like to wipe this haughty expression from your face. You don't
feel so pure any more, do you - with my cock up your ass? I'm your first
customer, Radek, but there will be many more."
Stacey couldn't help it - he laughed.
"What makes you think you're the
first? You're late ... for about thirteen years late."
He still shrieked when Andrews thrust
particularly violently. His mind swam, balanced on the verge of consciousness
as Andrews kept slamming into him. He didn't feel how the man came.
"Good bitch." Andrews spat on
him. Another thing that Andrews owed him ...
Stacey felt the man withdraw - and a few
seconds later another thing entered him, brutal, cold and relentless - the lead
She retrieved the ovipositor slowly while her
tentacles stroked his chest. She had made him weep; Kai hated his tears but
couldn't do anything about it. He hated her for what she was doing to him. He
didn't want it to happen. He couldn't stand it; being a whore, a toy was so
much better ... in comparison to it.
"Be comfortable for my son,"
"Now your turn, comrade
Vulcan," the doctor said.
It was weird - for all the time as the
Heles had used him for their pleasure, as many times as they penetrated him in
every possible way, it was always with the tentacles, never with their penises.
Kai didn't even know if Heles had these organs. Now he knew, could see an
emerging cylinder of almost translucent flesh that came from the hidden vault
on the male's body.
"Fertilize him for me," Minerva
said and her tentacles intertwined with Vulcan's.
Andrews was done. His come was on Stacey's thighs
and his piss on Stacey's face as Stacey lay face down, like a rag doll on the
bed. Stacey tried not to let his teeth chatter but it was about as much as he
"It was actually nice," Andrews
smiled, looking back from the door. "I hope you'll like your other
customers as well. See you soon."
He wanted nothing more than to see
Andrews go, to be left alone; the pain submerged him, so huge that it left
place for nothing else, not even for shame. Stacey just wanted to die.
But if he let Andrews walk out now ...
No, he couldn't think about it, he didn't have strength ... If he let Andrews
go ... he wouldn't have another chance.
"Is it the best you're capable
He didn't recognize his own voice - but
it made Andrews stop.
"What are you muttering,
"You're pathetic, you know. You make
me laugh. You can't even do serious damage."
"I prefer to keep damaging you 'not
seriously' for a long time than to finish you off quickly. You don't get
away from me."
"Coward. Weakling. Slut."
For some reason the last word did it.
Andrews was back with him, pressed his palm to Stacey's neck, drove his face
into the sheets. Stacey heard a short swish of the blaster taken out.
He tried to be prepared; but the slow
burning of his skin, with the blaster set on the lowest level, was beyond
anything he could imagine. He felt his tissues boil and screamed unceasingly.
can't believe how stupid this human can be." Uranus turned away from the
screen in annoyance. Victor's face was like a mask of dead as he kept watching
the scene. "Why did he call him back? Does he hope to provoke him into
killing? Officer Andrews is sensible enough not to do it. He knows we have
different plans for Radek."
"What plans?" There was almost
no sound in the human's voice. Uranus thought with distaste how he could ever
choose for his symbiont this broken, listless thing.
"As long as the genetic is used by
Minerva for her purposes, your friend will entertain the crew. After that,
we'll give him to Voices. They specifically asked for him."
There was nothing new in the human's
face, his silver-grey eyes stayed the same weary, unhappy.
"Oh my, he screams so loudly that I
start having headache," Uranus complained. "And you don't want me to
get a headache, symbiont. It'll probably kill you."
He turned down the sound on the screen to
barely audible and looked Victor.
"My beautiful symbiont ... You
disappointed me so."
The tip of his tentacle tugged the corner
of Victor's mouth, making the human wear a lopsided smile. His eyes looked past
Uranus, never leaving the screen.
"So fascinated with your lover?
Maybe, you'll be able to visit him, later. But you won't be a Commander any
"Make Andrews ... a Commander ..."
Uranus didn't expect irony; he hesitated
whether to punish the human for it but decided it was more amusing this way.
"And he'll sent you all to hell ..."
Angry, Uranus wrecked the human's mind
some more - and then decided he had a more refined weapon than pain.
"Maybe, I'll visit your lover as
well. I like how you humans feel." His tentacle slid under Victor's
jacket, pinched his nipple. "You're soft and warm. Almost as pleasant as
your mind is."
Approaching unconsciousness ebbed quickly and new
pain came when Andrews turned him. The destroyed skin on Stacey's back, at the
contact with the sheets, made him shriek. With unfocusing eyes he looked at the
muzzle of the blaster pointed at his face.
"How about that? Did you like it,
The words were huge in his mouth,
impossible to pronounce.
"A bit ... better ..."
The blaster pressed to his nipple and he
saw his skin blister and swell.
He hit with both his feet, aiming for
Andrews's groin. The sound the man made was rather a gurgle than a scream.
Stacey yelped in pain, getting on his feet, and kicked again, sending Andrews
on the floor. The blaster fell out of the man's hand, rolled on the bed burning
the sheets. Stacey put his tied wrists under the ray, feeling the flame wrap
around his wrists - and yanked them apart with relief; the jacket was cut open.
He jumped for the blaster at the same
moment as Andrews did - and he was faster. His finger moved the setting to the
highest at the very moment he shot. Andrews collapsed on the floor with a burnt
line against his midriff.
"Oh shit ..." The man's lips
moved - and then everything went quiet.
still like me, don't you, comrade Uranus?"
Suddenly the human came back to life. His
voice was just a fraction more animated than before but it gladdened Uranus.
His symbiont could be very amusing if he wanted.
He looked at Victor ironically.
"Don't you take too much upon
yourself, human? To like you?"
"Yes." Victor's eyes, widened
with pain, looked directly in Uranus', the gaze insistent, unfathomable.
"My mind ... and my body ... don't you want to find out how it
"You're a slut, human," Uranus
said imperiously. He'd never noticed it in his symbiont before, had never
expected him to offer his body like that. There was something weird about it.
Perhaps the human went mad with grief and
pain, Uranus decided, after looking at his lover's misery. He started turning
to the screen and Victor's urgent voice stopped him.
"Look at me, comrade Uranus. I can
make you feel good. There is so much you can do to me."
"If you think it'll mitigate your
fate or the fate of your lover ..."
He ran the tips of his tentacles through
the human's dark wavy hair. So soft ... such warm skin. Could Uranus feel
something again, even with more than half of his body destroyed?
There was no time. He knew about cameras, expected
Heles or humans to appear in the room any moment. The mender had to wait till
later. Stacey picked up the blaster and took Andrews's hand by the wrist. The
cut was precise and easy. He donned his cut jacket, clenching his teeth when
the cloth touched his burnt skin - and pressed Andrews' palm to the lock.
humans are an amazing race." Uranus liked the undivided attention he
finally got from his symbiont. Victor's eyes, exhausted and still beautiful,
looked in his serenely. "You hate other races - and yet you are so willing
to prostitute yourselves to whoever pays more. No wonder Voices have written
you down as an unworthy race. In a century or two ... you won't be any
The human didn't seem to be scared. A
century or two must have seemed a long term to him. Or it just confirmed
Uranus' suspicion - humans rarely cared for their descendants.
"You will be no more soon, too,
maybe," Uranus whispered. He didn't want to decide yet what to do to the
human - to let him continue serving Heles, broken as he was - or kill him - or ...
"But before that I'll enjoy your body just like I used to enjoy your
"Don't touch him."
There was something not right about it.
The voice of the redhead human ... but Uranus had switched off the sound ...
and the voice sounded here, not on the screen. He turned abruptly and faced
Stacey Radek, bleeding and swaying, but with a blaster pointed at him, at
"Get away from him."
How could it be ... Just a short while
ago, the human was on the screen, convulsing in pain, and now ... Uranus
understood everything. His symbiont had deceived him, tried to seduce him to
distract from the cameras ... He screeched in anger; the muzzle of the blaster
mesmerized him. Uranus didn't want to die.
"Unfasten him," Stacey said.
"Or what?" Uranus did his best
for his voice to sound calm. "Or you'll kill me, just as you killed your
"Do you think I won't do it?"
"Come on, try then," Uranus
laughed. "You'll kill him by that as well. You hurt me - you'll
hurt him. I'm a part of his mind."
There was a confused, uncomprehending
expression on Stacey's face. And then Uranus' symbiont writhed in the chair and
screamed so loudly it covered all other sounds.
"Kill him, Stacey, he lies! Kill him
now! He's hurting me, make it stop!"
The human accused him of lying ... But
Uranus didn't have time to think how ridiculous this idea was. Stacey pulled
the trigger - and pain sliced through Uranus.
Uranus had been hurt in his life;
especially when he'd lost a half of his body. But this pain was different -
final one - of dying.
His scream sounded in unison with
Stupid human ... As Uranus slid down
slowly on the floor from the cube where his body had been settled, he could see
Stacey's astonished eyes as he rushed to Victor who slumped in the chair. And
even through the agony, Uranus triumphed.
"You should have listened to me,
human. You killed him."
Stacey's face was blank with shock as he
knelt in front of Victor, unfastened his cuffs, shook him as if unable to
believe what he saw. As a distant reverberation of his own pain, Uranus felt
the human's agony as Victor's eyes opened.
"Oh God, Vic, what have I done ..."
"You did right, fox."
"You killed him, human."
"I'm just paralyzed." Victor's
lips were white and the words sounded muffled, said with just a half of his
"You live as long as I live,"
Uranus commented from the floor.
"Go away, Stacey. Run."
"I won't leave you!" The
redhead human was hysterical. "We'll go together!"
How annoying. And pointless. Weak as he
was, Stacey couldn't even get Victor up on his feet, how was he going to carry
Victor's hand clasped on Stacey's.
"Go away. You need to do something.
Take Kai ... he is at the infirmary ... and go to the shuttle. I can crawl,
I'll meet you there."
Uranus knew the human lied but didn't
know if it made sense to reveal it to Stacey.
"You promise?" Stacey's eyes
were dark with grief and yet Uranus knew he would do exactly as Victor told
him, would obey just as he obeyed everything Victor ordered him, a mindless
He knew that of all his memories, this one would
stay with him till his death: how Victor's body hung deadly in his arms, how
Victor talked to him with lopsided mouth. And Stacey also knew he would never
forget that he was the one who'd done it to his beloved. He'd shot despite what
Uranus said. He believed Victor. And he had crippled Victor.
He hobbled along the corridor; pain and
exhaustion threw him against the wall every few steps. He cried out in pain and
muffled the sound into his palm. But he knew he couldn't stop.
door of the infirmary was closed; he didn't take Andrews' hand with himself
and, anyway, the door, likely, wouldn't open all the same; the bastard probably
didn't have authorization. Stacey hit the door with his fist hopelessly.
Precious time was running away - and his strength, too - and soon there would
be nothing left at all.
" ...trust me ..."
He begged Kai to trust him ... so many
promises they all gave - with no way to keep them.
"What do you want, human?" The
door opened suddenly and he shot without thinking, cut the Heles in the middle.
Violet blood splashed on his feet as he stepped over the corpse.
Kai was there. Two other Heles were
there, too. Minerva, astonished, looked at the dead creature on the floor. And
Vulcan was located between Kai's legs. The kid's eyes were dark, full of agony
- and the Heles' tentacle entered Kai's mouth unceasingly, deeply almost to the
root. He saw Stacey and withdrew, the tentacle smeared in blood at hideous
Stacey shot again, kept shooting until
the head of the Heles was separated from his body and rolled on the floor,
spilling blood around. Minerva shrieked.
"You ..." The modulated voice
of the Heles female broke with hatred. "You ... What have you done ... My
"You fuckin' bitch, stay where you
are. I'll be happy to slice your head off as well."
She recoiled to the corner, watching him
as he unclasped Kai's cuffs. The kid's anus looked terrible - unclosing,
yawning, bruised almost blue. There was some jelly-like substance covering
How did they violate him - again? What
horrible things did they do to make him look as he did - shocked - zombie-like?
"Come on, Kai, get up." He
pulled Kai on his feet and for a moment the kid's passivity reminded him about
Victor's crippled body in his arms. He gasped with terror - and at the next
moment Kai straightened, stood on his own.
"What are you going to do?"
Minerva came to life, hissed at them from the corner. "Leave him here! He
belongs to me!"
"Like hell he does," Stacey
whispered with unfeeling lips. He saw how Kai started trembling.
"Stacey ... She ... I ..."
Oh fuckin' bitch! He wanted to kill her
just for the broken note in the kid's voice.
Give me an occasion, he thought.
"Kai, get dressed. Please."
The kid obeyed him, moved as quickly as
"You can't take him away! My child ...
"Shut the fuck up!" The beam of
the blaster dug into the plastic inches away from Minerva. Stacey kept holding
her at the aim as he and Kai walked out. He barely had time to close the door
before Minerva's huge body slammed against it. He shot at the lock and sealed
it. Kai, looking like a ghost, with bluish lips and frozen stare, stood next to
are you going, human? Stay with me."
An unsaid, there was derisive: let's die
together; but Victor found it surprisingly easy to ignore Uranus. The hold of
the dying Heles on his brain was getting weaker - even as with this weakening
Victor's own life oozed away.
But there still was some time. He pushed
his body forward for a few inches more. The right side of his body trailed
"My beautiful symbiont ... There is
no you or me. We are one thing now ... one body, one mind ..."
Uranus must have been mad. Victor
couldn't listen to the ravings of the dying Heles. He crawled to the door and
rolled out. The voice kept sounding.
"One body ... one mind ... a new
born from two old ..."
Uranus' voice ... impossible to
understand where it sounded, in Victor's mind or in his ears ... But it was not
Uranus' voice at all, was it? A voice without body ...
Victor laughed with wry mouth. Was he one
of those chosen humans who was honored to hear a Voice?
"One mind ... one body ..." it
kept whispered to him. "Meld together ..."
"Shut up," Victor said.
The way to the shuttle was down the
corridor; the way to the tech room - up. He crawled up, digging his fingers
into the slits in the plastic of the floor, tugged himself, inch by inch. The
Voice didn't stop talking to him and Uranus laughed in his head.
Another step failed. Stacey felt his feet give up
and would have hit the floor if Kai didn't catch him. For a moment he thought
it was bliss - to stay like this, held warmly and strongly, in peace. Then he
met Kai's sorrowful, intense gaze.
"Thanks, Kai, I'm okay. Let's
"I ... Stacey, I ..."
There would be time to talk later; he
clasped the kid's hand, pulled him. A man stood in front of them in the
corridor. Stacey pointed the blaster.
"Don't shoot!" Kostin raised
his hands in a pacifying gesture. "I won't stop you. I'm not going to stop
Was it fear for his life - or something
else - Stacey didn't know. He just felt grateful that he didn't have to kill
There was no one at the shuttle. Victor
didn't come. Perhaps it was too early, he was on the way ...
But no, Stacey knew it was not that!
Victor lied to him, he wouldn't come to the shuttle. He nearly screamed in
Then he'd go and drag Victor here.
"Kai, the shuttle is piloted
automatically. I have to find Vic ..."
The sound of the comm made him nearly
"Fox ... Listen here. I'm at the
tech room. Do you understand me?"
He felt dizzy with joy of hearing
"Stay there, I'll come for
"No, listen to me." The words
were slurry, nearly incomprehensible. "It's not enough to get to the
shuttle. The point is not to be shot down. I'll take care of it. You ... is Kai
with you? You two go."
No. No fuckin' way.
"Do it, fox. If I don't see the
shuttle start within sixty seconds, I'll shoot myself. Don't bother to come for
my dead body."
"I don't believe you," Stacey
"Believe me." There was a tinge
of irony in Victor's voice. "I'll do it. I never hesitate. Neither when I
betrayed you ... nor when I blocked your memories ... Go, fox."
I'll do it. Stacey knew he would.
He sobbed but tears didn't come. Victor
must have heard.
"Don't cry, fox. Go. Tell Kai I'm
sorry. Tell him."
"He hears you, Vic," Stacey
"I'll take care of everything. Trust
He saw Heles and humans approach, Kostin
among them, and Stacey knew now Kostin would try to stop them, just like all
He pushed Kai to the shuttle, jumped
there, too, and shot at the lock. It would stop them for a little while.
"Stacey, please don't ..."
Kai's voice was tormented but Stacey couldn't listen to his words. He started
I didn't tell you I love you, Vic, he
I know, fox. I know.
Through the viewing port Victor watched
how the little cubicle of the shuttle separated from the ship.
"He left you," Uranus said in his mind.
"He loved me," he whispered.
"Unsanctioned leaving. Prepare the
Victor listened to the mechanic voice and
pushed the buttons. A red alarm signal started flashing in front of his eyes.
Then the system complied, sealing the cannons. They'd unseal them, Victor knew
it; but not yet.
I wanted so much to be with you.
Please, if you forget everything else, remember that, fox. I wanted to be with
you, at any price. Through serving the enemy, through betrayal, through crime.
Through mutilating your mind, my beloved. Through mutilating others.
He knew he would never say these words to
Stacey. The shuttle was just a small dot that moved slowly away.
"You're pathetic, human."
There would be nothing soon. No
never-ending presence of Uranus' in his mind, no remorse.
No shared bed and lazy mornings and his
beloved, so beautiful in his black uniform ... But Victor regretted nothing.
"You'll regret it, human. I
"Unseal the cannons."
He felt the invasion into his mind for
the last time. Uranus, even in agony, tried to own him. And suddenly, with a
splitting effort of will, Victor sent his mind into the consciousness of the
dying Heles. He heard an angry scream Uranus made - and smiled. He got all the
information he needed. The fingers of his left hand ran over the buttons.
started," the mechanic voice said.
"You're a fool, symbiont."
"Not right, Uranus," Victor smiled watching contentedly the frenzied
flashes on the panel. "You have to say 'you're dead'. But we both are
The shuttle was barely visible now and
Victor's eyes refused to see any more.
I have to free you from me, fox. After
all the evil I did to you - before I can do more, before I manage to taint you.
Live for me ...
And you, little whore, love him for
He huddled on the floor listening to the
howl of the alarm and voices screaming behind the door. They had a reason for
screaming, they didn't want to die. They possibly wouldn't, would be rescued.
It didn't matter.
Something exploded in front of his eyes
and he didn't know whether it was the first sign of self-destruction - or the
storming crew - or the last flash of his consciousness because on another
floor, separated from him so far, Uranus was dying.
Victor didn't regret anything.
He closed his eyes - and when he opened them again,
the dark bulk of Nostromo started blossoming with fire. Like in his dream ...
Stacey had thought he'd dreamed about the past, about the explosion of Colonel
McBride's ship - but now he knew: it was what he'd seen.
And like in his dream, Stacey knew he was
losing Victor ... losing forever. And it was his fault.
He pressed his palm to the glass of the
viewing port. The dancing fires seemed so close, as if he could touch them. But
the glass was so cold.
He could've stayed there, Stacey thought,
could've stayed with Victor ... and died with him. And it would hurt less. He'd
chosen life - so, he couldn't cry now.
Behind him, Stacey felt an uneasy motion
of Kai, as if the kid wanted to touch him and didn't dare. A part of him
suddenly craved for this touch, for warmth of Kai's arms around him, for
support. He didn't want to be alone ... He wanted Kai to anchor him, to drag
him away from this sight of the exploding ship.
But a part of him was dying with Victor
now and nothing could change it.
"I killed you, Vic ..." he
whispered. "Just like in those virtual programs ... I keep killing
For a moment his mind reeled towards this
thought: it was just a game, a virtual world, he'd never left Shangri La and
everything that happened to him in past three years was just wild fantasy of
the educators. If only he could believe it ...
He smiled - and this smile took more
strength from him than anything else. He swayed, and at last Kai's arms were
around him, thin, gentle, familiar. Stacey turned and looked at Kai and was
submerged in the warmth shining from his eyes.
"Don't ..." he whispered.
"Don't let me go ..."
Then the solid floor of the shuttle
swirled under his feet - and he slipped into darkness.
Stacey was fast asleep now, tucked under the
blanket. His face looked like made of ice, nearly translucent, his lips pale,
the shadows under his eyes blue. He looked older - sick, Kai thought sitting
next to him, brushing Stacey's hair away from his face.
It was a lucky thing there was a mender
in the shuttle, and Kai had used it just in time. He tried not to let himself
dwell on the state of Stacey's body; he recognized Andrews' touch unmistakably.
At first Stacey was unconscious, then
opened his eyes, almost black, and Kai thought he knew what Stacey kept seeing
even now: exploding modules of Heles ship. Maybe, he would never stop seeing
Kai wished he knew what to say, could
find the words that would have meaning, would reach Stacey in his misery. But
he didn't - so, he kept silent and worked with the mender. Finally Stacey
grasped his hand.
"Leave me now. Take care of
"I'll do it," Kai said softly.
"Let me ... just a little more."
Stacey nodded finally and his fingers on
Kai's wrist slackened but never quite left until he fell asleep.
Then Kai covered him and sat with him,
stroking his hair. He would remember how soft Stacey's hair was, how light and
smooth; it was the memory he would want to take with him.
He didn't hurt; he still felt uncomfortable,
as if his insides were jumbled and his anus too wide open but he didn't want to
pay attention to it. He knew what it was - and he would take care of it later.
But now he wanted to be with Stacey.
He wished there could be more; more
closeness, more touches. But at least there was something he could do. Stacey
would never know about it and so, he wouldn't feel tarnished, wouldn't hate Kai
for it. Kai leaned and brushed his lips against Stacey's temple. Then he got up
and walked out.
The narrow handle of the mender was
smooth, the heavy handle of the blaster was finned to made it convenient.
Perhaps it would work. If not, Kai had to try all the same. He had to try it
now, before Stacey knew anything. Now Kai was happy he didn't have time to say
to Stacey what had happened. He couldn't put it on Stacey, the knowledge that
he'd brought an enemy with him on the shuttle, that he'd let his friend die for
someone who was an abomination, an incubator for a Heles.
Kai bit his lip pressing the palm to his
abdomen, trying to find where this thing was placed inside him. He couldn't
feel it, it must have been too small. Just the residuals of the pain from the
intrusion told him how deep it could be.
He entered the bathroom. Hard bright
light there was what he needed. He sat on the floor, leaned against the wall
and set his feet against the bottom of the tub. It was comfortable. He opened
his pants and raised the t-shirt. It wasn't cold around but he didn't want to
stay naked for some reason.
He sought the place on his belly, chose
it right below his solar plexus. It felt like they'd reached there; maybe, he
was wrong. His braid between his teeth was supposed to muffle the sounds even
if he didn't keep from screaming. Kai took the mender in his left hand and the
blaster in his right. He was afraid. But he knew he would do it.
He felt the cold muzzle of the blaster
pressed to his belly and touched the trigger.
The cry stopped him, broke his
concentration. Kai looked up at Stacey who stood in the door. How foolish ...
he should have locked it ...
"It's not what you think," Kai
whispered. "It's not, Stacey ..."
The expression of betrayal in Stacey's
eyes was impossible to bear.
Kai looked away - and at the next moment
Stacey was on him, and Kai's wrist was captured and twisted. Stacey's fingers
were cruel, hard, as he wrenched the blaster out of Kai's hand.
"You wanted to leave me ..."
Stacey's eyes looked blind. No, Kai wanted to say, I didn't ... "Just like
he left me ..."
The blaster was in Stacey's hands now -
and he threw it away, as far as possible; the blaster was the proof that could
help Kai justify himself.
"I didn't try to kill myself,"
he said desperately. "It was on the lowest level. I would fix it." He
raised his hand with the mender. Stacey's eyes were uncomprehending, full of
anguish. It was breaking Kai's heart. He reached for Stacey's face, touched his
cheek. Stacey flinched as if it burned him.
"Why? For God's sake, why?"
There was such misery in his voice.
"They placed a foetus inside me,"
Kai said. "I tried to remove it."
That was it; if Stacey didn't want to be
touched before, now he would start away from Kai. Kai looked down at the mender
on his lap not wanting to see it. Disgust in Stacey's eyes - it was too much;
it was what he couldn't bear.
"Oh ..." It was a small sound -
and then Stacey's arms were around him, desperate, strong, holding him almost
tight enough to hurt. Kai thrashed - but it was not a struggle, it was
involuntary reaction of his body, shivers racking him. And Stacey didn't let
him go, pressed him tightly, crushing Kai against his chest. His hands flew
over Kai's face and hair, like blind, like trying to make sure he was there,
He trembled; this voice, these strong
arms around him, the heat of Stacey's body pressed to his - he'd dreamed so
much about it. He couldn't give up on it. Sobbing, Kai clung to Stacey's arms,
held on them, and felt Stacey rock him slightly, his hands getting more
peaceful, stroking Kai's hair.
"Please don't do it," Stacey
whispered against his hair. "It'll kill you. We'll find another way. We'll
find a doctor who will do it, safely, please ... Just wait a little
I can't wait, Kai wanted to say, how can
you hold me when this thing is inside me - but he couldn't say a word, just
shook his head.
Stacey's arms tightened some more on him
but it didn't hurt, it felt good. Kai needed all Stacey's strength to hold him.
"You said your life belonged to
me," Stacey said. "You said I was your master. You can't take what
doesn't belong to you. I want you to live for me."
It was madness - Stacey didn't
understand, couldn't want such a wretched creature as him to live ... But what
else Kai could answer him. He nodded.
"Good," Stacey murmured. His
palm stroked over Kai's hair unceasingly. "Good child."
I'm not a child, Kai wanted to say - but
being held by Stacey was so good, his caressing hands were better than anything
"Come here," Stacey whispered.
"Let's go to bed."
The mender clattered on the floor and
Stacey picked it up. Kai kept holding on to Stacey, unclenching his hands just
to let his clothes be pulled off him. He felt the mender used on him but one of
his hands still was in Stacey's.
And then, under the blanket, with the
heat of Stacey's body against his, their arms intertwined and Stacey's hair
against Kai's cheek, he felt safe and peaceful.
As long as Stacey held him, he was safe.
The End of Part 2
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