"Now... I want you to do something, Peter, my boy."
The flickering of the flame and a thin piece of metal his father holds in
pincers, moving it through the fire.
Peter looks at it and somehow he knows what this 'something' is going to be
- and he wishes he were wrong.
He also knows he can't argue with his father - and if he does it will end up
worse for him. Still he prays silently for something to happen. Something...
What? His mother is in her room with a bottle of cognac under the bed. Uncle
Andre is away on a business trip. And the door of his father's study is locked
"Come on, Peter. Take it. You don't want to say you are afraid of a
little pain?" his father smiles. It is not a good smile - it can deceive
strangers but not Peter who knows it too well. His father's voice is like
purring - he doesn't press, doesn't hurry - he just lets the piece of metal get
"Show me you are a man. Show me you are Solana."
Peter reaches and his father hands it to him.
Oh God... It hurts! He cries out, terrified - draws his hand back quickly
and looks at his palm, dark and red and swelling - and feel the tears rise in
his eyes helplessly as he hears his father chuckle above. Not a laughter, just
a short snort.
"Stop it! Men don't cry. You are my son, aren't you? Either you are my
son or not"
Yes, yes, I am! Please don't say that. He shivers. He makes himself stop.
There are no more tears than those that have already come out.
"Good. You know I do it for you, Peter. Everything for you."
Of course, he knows. His father repeats it every time when he has to punish
"Kiss my hand now. Say 'thank you'."
He does. And then his father brings the band into the fire again and says:
"Now take it once more. Prove that I don't waste my time on you."
He woke up feeling the burning in his palm again. But it was not blistered
this time - just a deep outturned cut over it - not bleeding any more but
stinging at every motion of his fingers. He could use this hand, though -
unlike the other one that throbbed with pain unceasingly, the bracelet of pink
puffy flesh around the wrist looking ugly.
The lights were on again. He raised his head and looked around and chuckled
joylessly, feeling this sound inside his head, not hearing it. He remembered.
He knew he couldn't hear the rustle of water any more - the sound he got used
to during the last day, nor the slight humming of the mechanisms somewhere
above. Most of all it reminded him of holo-pictures when the sound was suddenly
turned off. But unlike holos - even unlike the first day when he was
shell-shocked - now he knew it was forever or permanent.
He closed his unhearing ears with the palms of his hands and pressed his
forehead to his knees.
The briquette hit against his feet and he looked up abruptly, shocked at
seeing Simon so close, unable to fight the panic the first few moments.
He shook his head, wanting to say something and realizing suddenly that his
throat was closed, as if he was about to cry, his voice wouldn't come out as he
wanted it to - so, he'd better not to try to talk.
//"Then starve. Bitch!"// Simon made signs when speaking, a
special one for every word. The sign for "bitch" he was going to
learn pretty quickly, Peter thought sarcastically.
Simon walked around the camping place gathering his possessions and although
it seemed he didn't pay any attention to Peter, every time he moved he caught
Simon's sharp, watchful look at him. Simon could hear him, right? A little
later he came up to Peter holding the pain gun, pushed the button several times
//"I don't need this to keep you on the leash. Get up. Walk."//
He saw Simon reach for him, apparently to raise him on his feet, and backed
"I can do it myself."
He did - nearly doubled over with the flare of pain in his chest and belly.
He made himself straighten and walk, though. Simon followed him, just like
yesterday - only now Peter had a hard time making himself not to turn back to
see if Simon was behind and how far.
Simon was there, of course - sometimes Peter could feel it - a hand running
over his ass lewdly - or an angry push when he was not quick enough. The path
was leading them upwards, as before, sometimes slightly, sometimes steeply -
but the ferns around were the same. What if there was no end to it, he thought
suddenly, not knowing if the thought scared or surprised him. An eternity of
ferns. This variation of hell he had never heard about.
And then they saw the clearing. And something else there - something that
made Peter gasp. Something looking like a low hut made of plastic plates -
unmistakably made by an intelligent creature.
Simon gripped his neck and threw him on the ground, the impact reverberating
in his body. He felt Simon stretch along him, holding him down.
The man was smart - and with better reaction then Peter had.
The hut was built on the ground free from ferns, three hundred feet away
from them; the path reached it, turned round it and went farther - and as Peter
looked at the place, he knew he was right - it was human-made - or at least
humanoid. The hut itself was ugly - one could see the door, the windows made of
The door opened and a man came out of it.
He was human. He could be a citizen of almost any planet of the Union - even
of the League. Slight, in his late thirties, with a ridiculous mop of grey
curly hair on his head. His clothes were something that looked like a filthy
loose overall hanging on him shapelessly. He stretched looking around without
much interest. Not seeing them.
Whoever he was - whatever this place was - seeing him made Peter almost
delirious with joy. Everything would end right here. Simon was not so clever,
after all. He should've stayed in the ferns for the rest of his life, not go
exploring. And certainly not to take Peter with him.
As the man made a couple of steps away from the hut and started taking a
leak, Peter felt Simon's hand on his neck suddenly, turning his head forcibly
to face him - and saw him whisper, articulating the words clearly:
//"Stay put,"// affirmed with a jerk on his hair. He felt Simon's
knee pressing on him as the man got up - and wondered what the other planned to
do. If he was going for the gray-haired one... he couldn't really expect Peter
to lie here like that, to pass the chance to get free... no way!
He looked up slightly and saw that Simon didn't move towards the hut at all
- but somewhere back to the ferns - and for a moment another fit of joy
overwhelmed him. He was leaving! To hide in the ferns, just as Peter thought...
He knew he was wrong almost immediately, seeing Simon open the bag and
pocket a few boxes of the stuff. Sure, this much stuff could make him a rich
man everywhere. A whole bag could be too dangerous, too much a treasure to keep
Peter pressed his injured, trembling hands to the ground and took a deep
breath before getting up. He knew Simon would hear him. Simon would be pissed
off in a major way. But there was nothing that would stop him from trying.
Taking the heated piece of metal for the second time was more difficult.
The pain exploded inside him as he got up and dashed towards the hut and the
man. He ignored pain. He didn't know if Simon had already noticed him gone, if
he followed him - but even if so, he still had enough time. He saw the man lift
his head and turn - his wide pale eyes, strangely watery, got huge with
amazement, then with suspicion. He stepped back and pulled out some stocky
baton-like stick from under his overall. Being prepared for unpleasant
business, Peter could understand that... but he would explain.
The bastard should've cut off my tongue, he thought fiercely, starting
talking, hoping to sound coherent even being short of breath:
"Do you speak English? Russky? Union argot?" he rapidly tried the
most common trade-linguas waiting for anything to sparkle in the man's eyes.
"Do you understand me?"
He wasn't sure - there was hardly anything else but tension and doubt in the
man's face. But then the man said something which Peter couldn't read but at
least it might be some way to communicate.
"Sorry, I can't hear you," he motioned to his blood-crusted ears. "
Please, help me! I am a citizen of the League, I got in trouble. Help me
contact the government and you'll get an award, my family will pay a good
ransom for me."
He could swear the man understood him - something shifted in the teary eyes
but he was not sure it was at the mention of money. And there still was this
suspicion - too much of it.
"I know I look like shit," he tried for a reassuring smile and
knew he'd only half-succeeded as the man's eyes narrowed, "but you will be
paid, I promise it, don't worry... my family has the influence..."
And at the same moment the man's gaze left him. He didn't look at Peter any
more but over his shoulder, watching intently, his hands clenching and
unclenching on the baton. He was listening, Peter understood.
Yeah, right. Listening to Simon who came walking out of the ferns now - a
great friendly smile on his face, waving his hand joyfully. He looked and saw
it and felt sick with fear and hatred mixed. For a moment he was short of
words. Desperately he sought eye contact again
"Be careful! The man is dangerous. He is my slave and a criminal...
help me take him!"
The man looked at him again, with a quiet, calculating look in his eyes -
and his lips moved but Peter was not sure if he spoke - he probably just
muttered something to himself. Then he smiled as if finding an answer - and
made a step towards Peter. Slamming the blunt end of the baton in his belly.
He gasped in disbelief - feeling sickening, hot pain spread inside him,
weakening his limbs - and as he fell on his knees, a moment before losing
consciousness, he felt in weird amazement how his mouth filled with thick salt
blood, warm and choking.
* * *
"You say he's your slave," the man stood over Peter's curled body
and although Simon smiled to him with his most charming smile (makes blood
freeze in your veins in six seconds), he still held his pathetic stick at the
ready. "Stay away!"
Simon made another step and stopped, raising his arms in a half-mocking
Still looking suspiciously at him, the man bent over Peter - who bled from
his mouth again, the blow must've gotten a wrong place - and took his right
hand, checking his forearm.
"He doesn't have the brand on him," it sounded like an accusation.
Simon shrugged. The truth was he could cut the man's throat with one movement,
stick or not stick - and that was partly why he let the things go wherever they
could bring them. "He said you were his slave. Show me your forearm!"
He enjoyed showing the man his unmarred arms, both of them. The League
didn't brand their slaves.
"I didn't have time to brand him," he said conversationally.
"I just... acquired him recently."
The man's forehead smoothed a little - disapproval not leaving his eyes,
"You should have bothered to do it first thing. He wouldn't dare to
give you this shit then."
"I will," Simon said firmly - and smiled even wider, making his
voice sound as nonchalant as possible. "But where are my manners? Thank
you for your help!"
"You have the strangest accent - never heard anything like that,"
the man shrugged but apparently didn't make the conclusion Simon was afraid of.
Well, as for him - the man was the one who talked strange - but Simon thought
he would be able to pick up the speech patterns if necessary. "He talks
crazily, too," the man pushed Peter's body with his foot. "I had a
hard time choosing between you."
"I recommend you for choosing me, then," smile.
You should thank yourself, you know. Because if you'd chosen the wrong guy,
you would be lying here on the ground soaking with your blood, man.
"I usually mind my own business," the man said thoughtfully,
barely looking at Simon. "That's why I live here. I have enough of these
problems in the City."
"Well, sorry for disturbing you," Simon smiled again. "I
think we'll just leave soonest."
"I hope so," the man muttered - and continued to stand there as if
waited for something else.
"Simon Kewlene," Simon reached his hand.
For a few moments he doubted that the man would take it - and then he did.
The man's hand was covered in stains, blue, red and black, pale, as if they
had eaten into the skin. He caught Simon's cautious look and said quickly with
a bit of resentment:
"I am an artist. That's why I live here. Loneliness does me good. And
what are *you* doing here?"
"I'll tell you," Simon grinned and added suddenly. "Do you
mind showing me your works first?"
"You can say it's a strange way to work," the man led him into the
hut, his mood changing abruptly. "But it's so perfectly quiet here, just
the machines, you know - and the air... up there you can never feel such air.
When I go to the City to sell my works, I return ill from there. Totally
poisoned. I gather the images in the City - but inspiration... my inspiration
waits for me only here."
He started pulling the cloths away from the canvas when Simon stopped him.
"Let's take care of this poor son of bitch first, okay?" Peter was
still dazed, barely following him into the hut.
"Yeah, sure, lock him here," the man pointed at the small dark
storeroom amiably. "I never owned a slave but there is a convenient bar to
tie him to."
Simon did exactly this, putting Peter on his knees and tying his wrists to
his ankles, with the rope going around the bar that went along the wall.
"Don't go away, shit," running his hand over Peter's cheek and
feeling him shun away half-successfully. "And, by the way, be nice to me.
We didn't settle up yet for you pulling this trick on me," he was not sure
if Peter could understand him.
By the time he came out, Raymond had finished freeing his canvas from the
rags. Colors... Fierce green of the ferns merging with dull grey on the
horizon. Narrow blue of the trenches and brown of the path. And something else
on other pictures. Dirty-green and grey of tall, grim buildings reaching to the
same greyness above them.
"The City?" Simon asked.
"Yeah," Raymond nodded mechanically.
There were people, too - light, dark, in all shades - the mixture Simon had
seen only when Peter visited one of the big metropolises of the Union. But just
humans, for all he could see. Then the pulsating, brilliant red on one of the
pictures caught his eye.
"I finished this for the Commander," Glint smiled almost self-consciously,
pointing at it. "Dunno if he buys it but hope so."
The picture was strange, like everything Raymond did - rough, thick lines
that made Simon think he must've been painting with his hands - and it seemed
to have two backgrounds at once. One of them was of a huge tall construction on
the square apparently in the City - a pale cross-like shape of a man there, a
pool of red around him and a crowd of people beneath. The other one - a
ghost-like pale face, almost featureless, just icy-blue eyes staring from it...
and blood leaking from the mouth.
"I don't know how I am going to call it yet. 'Death of an
insurrectionist' is too long. Maybe, just 'The Block'?" and seeing Simon
shrug, added smiling deliriously. "I thought that guy of yours could be an
insurrectionist - and you a bounty hunter, huh? Don't worry, I won't ask you to
It was a perfect opportunity and Simon could've jumped at it - but he
"He's my slave. And I promised to tell you what I'm doing here - so, I
will. But first of all," he said before Glint could say anything else. And
looking right in the man's eyes, continued, taking the narrow box of the stuff
from his pocket. "Do you always feel the inspiration come easy to you,
He didn't feel sorry for spending the stuff on Glint. He needed the man to
check how it would be received here - if he would have the venue for selling
it... Well, he was sure he would - people were similar wherever they lived.
As a nice side-effect the stuff would relax Glint enough for him to get to
know what he wanted from him. He was walking a fine line; but a dose would make
the man answer all Simon's questions.
He saw acute interest flash in Raymond's eyes when he opened the box and the
little jelly balls caught the light.
"What is it?" a careful voice but his eyes, big and watery, didn't
"Something that will make you fly, Ray. Will make you feel... like
God... omnipotent... blessed... Will make you paint as never before."
He handed the box to the man and saw him reach for the jellies - as if he
was hypnotized. The caution stopped him at the last moment:
"You take it first. Who knows, maybe, you try to poison me."
"Don't you worry," Simon said and put a jelly in his mouth.
He had never used this stuff before. Then, on Aben, it was too expensive -
he and his friends used much cheaper shit, much more deadly. Well, fortunes
changed, didn't they?
He knew the dose was one jelly for the beginners - and could be driven up to
five or six with time... Peter used two or, on a bad day, three.
He felt the jelly melt on his tongue - and as Raymond, making up his mind at
last, reached for the box, Simon turned away slightly, spitting the half-melted
ball on the floor and crushing it with his heel. No time to get blissed out. He
needed his head clear. At least as clear as possible.
"I know... I read about this," half-closing his eyes, Ray said
quietly, "There was the stuff like this on Earth. Making you feel high and
mighty. But they didn't let us take it to the Sphere. Where did you get
Simon felt chilly; he didn't know if it was because of what Ray talked about
- or the stuff was taking effect. He breathed hard through his nose trying to
stay sober - but felt how almost impossible it was. His heart was filling with
unbearable, sudden vibrant joy.
"I brought it from a ship. The League smuggles it... The Union doesn't
like it, of course, but what can they do? Me, I am not from the League, I'm
from Aben. I was enslaved for twelve years but now... now I am free... I won't
let anyone enslave me again... and they will pay..."
What am I talking about?
Why did it seem such a good idea to brag with his achievements? Terror
pierced him when he understood what he was doing - and saw Ray's pale face very
close, his wide eyes staring. Fuck the stuff... If it knocked him off so
easily... But at the same moment he realized that the drug started taking its
toll on the man, too. He nodded to Simon, not shocked with his revelations at
"I knew something was wrong with you," he laughed; a silly small
laugh - but a happy one. "A ship... coming to the Sphere. What we waited
for three hundred years. Why did you come? Did they send you to check if we
changed, if we could return to the society? Does the Earth forgive us?"
"The Earth? There is no Earth any more," but Ray seemed not to
"Some didn't believe in it - thought they forgot about us, that we
would never leave the Sphere. But the Commander was right - and the order...
you'll see our order. We changed... we became good..."
Simon felt like hitting him suddenly - just to make him stop, to swallow
this ridiculous joy that was so difficult to understand - or, maybe, just
difficult for his hazed brain.
"Wait! Tell me about the Sphere."
"Yeah... the Sphere - don't you know? Well, well," Ray suddenly
turned on his heel, rushed to the canvas and pulled out the clean one, dipped his
fingers into the paint.
"I'll show you, beautiful stranger. I'll show you everything you want.
Look at this - it is the Sphere."
The paint was grey and the circle he draw was more oval, compressed from up
"This is the Sphere. And we are here," he drew an arrow towards
the bottom of the circle. "Zero level. The fern lands. The lungs of the
Sphere. And above us," he drew a line inside the circle, "are the
fields. Collective farms as they are called. Farmers work there. The lousy life,
you should've seen my picture 'Death of a farmer' - but someone must feed the
City, right?" he drew one more line, in the middle of the circle and
started drawing some notched landscape over it. "The City. That's where
"Well, one can live everywhere. Except slaves and farmers and workers.
Most people just don't. And, of course, there are rats, too - the
insurrectionists," he continued to draw something on the canvas.
"Living between the levels, in the darkness."
"How can I get to the City?"
"And how did you get here?"
"Followed the path."
"The path is the long way, it goes around the Sphere. But you can take
a short cut. Go straight ahead and you'll see the tunnel. It'll take you to the
level of the fields - and there you can take the elevator. But you'll need the
passport to get to the elevator, because of the farmers, you know, they always
try to escape."
"Do you have one?"
"Yeah, I..." he might be gone too far but he still wasn't an
idiot. His short motion stopped - and he looked at Simon slyly. "Beautiful
stranger... you were right. The inspiration comes! I want to draw you. I wanted
it from the first moment when I saw you."
"Go ahead," Simon nodded. "What was the Sphere built
"A prison," the man shrugged. He took another canvas, tried to fix
it and failed. "For bad guys. 'Take everything you need and leave our
beautiful Earth. And please, please don't come back'."
If they'd sent away all bad guys, it means that the ancestors of Aben and
the League were the good guys, Simon thought with bitter irony.
"The Sphere is self-sufficient... It can't be damaged... it repairs
itself automatically. It is migrating randomly - but it can never land on any
planet. We can live here forever, generation after generation - just to take
care of the ferns and build houses and grow food. At first nobody wanted to
work... there was famine... people killed each other.. and the
"And the Commander?"
"The first Commander, not this one. He set the order. He destroyed
guns... appointed slaves and farmers and others... limited the birth rate... Oh
The man moaned but he didn't seem in pain - rather too excited. His speech
grew so incoherent that Simon wanted to shake him but didn't. He had seen the
signs a lot of times before. His own heart speeded heart but he made himself
forget about it. He was going to leave now.
"No!" suddenly Glint's dirty fingers clasped on Simon's hand.
"Don't leave me! You promised... I'll draw you."
"Sure, Raymond," Simon said comfortingly and raised the man in his
arms easily. "You just need to lay down a little. I'll be with you."
"I love you..." Glint whispered as Simon carried him to the bed.
His arms clutched around Simon's waist - and contracted just once when Simon
took his head between his palms and snapped his neck.
"I appreciate that," he said leaning towards the face with dulling
eyes and thrust his tongue in still warm mouth. The taste was there - sweet and
spicy of the melted jelly.
He felt dizzy and exuberant and at the same time strangely disturbed as he
rummaged through the drawers of the table where Glint's hand had pointed so
carelessly when he mentioned the passport. It was there, an old dog-eared paper
and, after reading it, Simon made a small addition in the line for slaves. Hopefully
he wouldn't have to use it for long - he didn't want to change his name to this
shitty one at all.
He found a neat heap of the banknotes of different nominations there, too,
and pocketed them - having no idea if it was little or a lot, of course, but
hoping that it would do at least for the nearest future. Not for long... the
stuff was the thing he counted on... and he was not wrong counting, he knew
The light cast a trail on the floor when he opened the door to the
storeroom. He saw Peter blink at him - and asked:
"How is it in the darkness when you can't hear?"
He knew Peter didn't understand, noticed how his eyes became intent and
"I bet you missed me, slut."
It was silly, he shouldn't try at having a conversation, not with a deaf man.
He stepped closer and pulled his cock out, pulsing hard, though Simon seemed
not to notice it before:
"Bring me off - and do it carefully - or I'll break your fuckin' neck
just as I did it with that son of bitch..."
"You are high!" Peter's voice was strangely accusing as he dodged
away from Simon's cock - dared to do it. "Go on, fuck up your brain with
"Look who's talking," Simon caught his face, tugged the corner of
his mouth, making him open it, and felt it tear because he couldn't control his
strength. Dazed he watched how red smeared over Peter's face under his hand.
"Fuckin' do it now!"
Blood from Peter's mouth leaked over his shaft as he pushed it in - but
Simon didn't feel it, barely felt anything at all - it seemed he was hard and
yet anaesthetized, arousal bubbling in his head instead of his bottom belly. He
slammed into Peter's mouth, kept slamming, ruining the resilience of his throat
- fascinated to see how familiar defiance gave place to pain in Peter's eyes.
He didn't feel how he came - just heard Peter cough and choke and noticed
that his cock started getting soft. He pulled it out, tucked it without getting
it cleaned and started untying Peter.
A sudden thought came to his mind - a cool and clear one. He took out the
box, grabbed a few jelly balls.
"Open your mouth, scum. I just want to make you happy."
He saw the doomed expression in Peter's eyes. The bitch knew it was a
mistake to take them, knew what the stuff would do to him - and still he
couldn't resist. Simon pushed the jellies into his mouth that was still
bleeding and smeared with Simon's cum, held it covered with his palm until he
saw Peter swallow.
"Now I'll be able to handle you better," he smiled, finished
untying the ropes and pulled Peter up on his feet.
* * *
They left the hut - Simon stopped to throw one of the rags that Glint used
to cover the paintings on his face... he was sure the man wouldn't mind, he
might even like it. By this time Peter was stoned out. He had a bit of a
problem with walking straight and in the direction Simon wanted him - but when
Simon dragged him a little bit by his upper arm, he complied - and not even
winced when Simon twisted his broken wrist inconveniently.
His face was white and his eyes wide open but all expression was smoothened
from it except some kind of amazement. And he kept turning his head around as
if he forgot why he couldn't hear anything. Or as if the stuff gave him his
hearing back. He also seemed to forget constantly that Simon was there - and
frowned every time when he saw him. And he didn't seem to be in pain.
Knowing the effects of the stuff - feeling them upon himself - Simon knew
that Peter would be as soft and pliant as a child now. He thought that he could
do anything to the little bitch now - throw him on the ground, fuck shit out of
him - and Peter would only blink his wide-opened eyes with the pinpoints of
pupils in dark-grey.
For a moment Simon wanted to do it - to lean over him, right on the road,
crush him to the ground with all his weight, cradle his head between his hands
and eat his soft, puffy lips mercilessly - or bite the white lithe column of
his throat. Feel Peter wince under his touches and still stay soft and melting.
No. He shook his head. The thoughts seemed to bring him another hard-on - so
quickly - and he didn't have time for it. He didn't spend the jellies on Peter
to see what a fucktoy he could make. Because now Simon needed to play it right.
And if he played right, he would have as much time to explore everything about
Peter as he wanted.
He remembered verbatim what Raymond said about the tunnel - but the truth
was he had no idea what the man meant. And when he saw it, he felt a kind of
jolt in his chest. It looked like a tube - or a water-tower - of the old kind
that he remembered seeing on Aben; but more narrow, barely two arm's spans,
made of some grey rough material, not metal or stone - something man-made. And
it was tall. Going right up until it was lost in the upper regions.
The entrance of the tunnel was barred with a big sign: "State property.
"Sure, whatever," Simon kicked the sign away and looked inside.
It was dark in there - really dark; the light from outside lit
only a few thin metal rails wielded into the wall.
"Listen to me," he grabbed Peter, trying to shake some attention
into him, articulating carefully. "Go up there. And no fuckin' stupid
things from you - or I'll cut off your tongue and make you eat it."
"No... not my tongue..." at least this much he understood - and
Simon hoped the drug made him suggestible enough.
"Go!" he pushed.
The stuff was making miracles. Peter didn't resist, got in and went up,
swifter than Simon expected - and when he tried it himself, he realized why -
it was convenient. The rails were located just on the right height.
He also didn't feel any fear. The rails seemed to be fixed firmly. Truth was
he kind of enjoyed moving like this, in the darkness, feeling the slight strain
of his muscles and not doubting that he could go on and on like that.
Then he felt Peter move somewhere aside - speeded up and realized they were
already at the exit of the tunnel. On another level.
He took hold of Peter once more and pressed his hand to his mouth. He
couldn't make himself more understandable - he was using the clearest signs
possible. He hoped Peter knew it was up to his slave to recognize and to follow
them. And to suffer the consequences if not.
With the lax body of his prisoner in grip Simon left the dark entrance only
to come to a stand-still in amazement as they entered a new world.
Well, he expected - according to what Raymond told - but still seeing so
many people suddenly, after such a long time of solitude, was kind of shocking.
A panicky thought beat in his temples - that his freedom was over, he would be
apprehended now and sent into slavery... or into death.
No. No, stupid. Everything is going to be all right if you do everything
right. You either risk - or you lose.
The land in front of them was as flat and dull as it could be imagined.
Simon had grown up in the city, had never been in a rural area before - and
neither had Peter, most likely - but something told him this landscape never could
be all natural. It had been created by men and was handled by men.
People everywhere - hundreds of them, bending over the dark greasy land,
gathering green stuff from it and throwing it into big boxes that other men
dragged to the carts. On any Union planet this process would have been
mechanized a long time ago, even using slaves for it would be considered
expensive and unadvisable. Farmers, and slaves, the lowest of the low according
to what Raymond said.
And they were being guarded. Simon looked at those other men standing
upright and motionless, clad in black uniform and small black berets - and with
what looked like weapons in their hands. Crossbows! He wanted to chuckle and
recalled what Glint said about guns. Wished that he had a gun - the pain gun or
a projectile one - any one would make all the difference.
There were other people around, too - a few had cast weird looks at them
when he and Peter appeared from the tunnel - not suspicious, though; they didn't
seem to stand out. There was no uniform kind of clothes for those who were not
guards or farmers, no similar looks. A perfect way to get lost, Simon thought.
And get new life.
He looked at Peter and saw him sway slightly, his eyes half-closed. He looked
phased out - badly - and Simon wondered if the dose had been too big. But even
if it was - he still preferred Peter this way rather than fighting and trying
I could've killed you, bitch, do you know? Could have left you lying
together with Glint's body, rotting slowly in the chilly fresh air of the fern
He saw another vertical passage almost immediately - and that was where most
people were heading. So, he pushed Peter who stumbled - and they stepped on the
moving band that carried them there.
"Wow," he heard Peter mumble and this showed him better than
anything else how far gone the kid was. He could scream... despite
everything... he didn't. For a moment a strange feeling stirred in Simon's
heart - something almost close to pity as he saw how Peter was losing his
chance - his very last chance, Simon would take care of that - and even not
People flipping passports at a guard post to the doors of the elevator;
there was not much attention paid to that - and he showed his own recently
acquired paper with the same absent expression as others. It passed.
Ten minutes later and a dizzying trip in the elevator that hummed and
rumbled as if it was going to break any moment - they were in the City.
The place looked much like the dead crazy's pictures. The City really was a
much like any one of the Union metropolises could be - most buildings jetted
into the false sky. He saw Peter look up, too, and dragged him again - to the
building that had a flickering sign saying 'Rent' on it. He hoped he had enough
money to pay for an accommodation there.
And that was when they saw the first portrait. Occupying the whole wall of
one of the buildings, perfectly drawn and colored - a smiling grey-haired man
in a small black beret. "Commander Duvall. Thirty years of perfect order
for perfect people."
"Are you sure we are perfect enough?" suddenly he heard Peter's
voice and turned back abruptly but saw only unfocused, glazed stare.
"Don't give me shit! Don't give me any shit now!" he felt he was
about to lose his temper and stopped himself.
He rented a flat on the top of the building, for a few days at first -
without any problem, the owner didn't even demand the passport for it.
Raymond's money was more than enough... but surely it was not the last money
Simon would have here. He would get more soon... very soon.
The first floor of the building consisted of some slimy looking place, a
kind of bar or something, with few people at the stand and a couple of
creatures that could be male or female, apparently waiting for customers. They
used another elevator to get to the top - had two rooms, small and with some
furniture, a bathroom and a balcony there - partly the reason why Simon had
chosen the upper floor. He thought that he'd later come out and look at the sky
- at the surface above him - getting a bit closer to it. It fascinated him, he
didn't even know why.
Another reason was that he knew he would feel safer with Peter locked on the
upper floor - without giving him any chance to get out.
He dragged the somnambular-like swaying man to the smaller room and threw
him face up on the bed, taking out the ropes again. He tightened the ropes so
savagely that Peter's face distorted with the pain that reached him even though
the haze of the drug.
"You can rest now," he said not sure Peter understood him, looking
down at his eyes that closed and opened as if he no longer had the strength to
coordinate their movement. Simon was, too - felt the weariness that the stuff
usually left after itself. But he couldn't afford rest. Not now.
"I think I'd better gag you," he mused aloud, tore a strip from
the sheet and covered Peter's mouth tightly.
It had to be enough. At least till he was back.
He left the flat, locked the door - and descended back in the street. He knew
where he was going to go. He didn't ask the road but choose it by his wits -
riding the band past the apartment buildings, shops, restaurants and state
institutions - more portraits of the Commander - and some posters with the mugs
of men and women with the announcements of the award for captured 'rats'.
He saw something that was vaguely familiar to him, too - a huge construction
in the middle of the square. The Block. Just like on Raymond's painting.
When he reached the Commander's house, he knew it at once - he would know it
was the place even if there was no white banner on it with the portrait of the
man over the door.
It was not easy to get in but Simon managed - he learned a bit from the way
the families - Peter - handled their business, after all. He was searched a few
times - his knife was taken away but not the stuff - and made to wait for hours
in the spacious empty hall.
At last the door opened and a man called for him tightly:
"Mr. Kewlene, Commander Duvall is ready to see you."
He risked and he won.
Two hours later Simon returned to his flat having a crispy new passport on
his own name, the paper confirming his rights on the slave - and having left
two boxes of the stuff in exchange for enough money to make his pockets bulge.
He could've tried to push his stuff himself, illegally, bit by bit, building
his clientele. But he guessed the beauty of the Sphere was that legal and
illegal depended on one man's will here. And he knew the Commander would
appreciate the chance Simon was giving him.
Simon brought a short square-jawed man with a big suitcase, too.
Hey, bitch, don't I take a good care of you? Bringing you a doctor?
He felt a special interest as he looked at Peter. He'd had to try the stuff
again, for the Commander, and that time he had to swallow the dose, no way to
spit it. He was amazed again with the powerful effect it had on him, just one
jelly. And he didn't even remember how many jellies he'd given Peter. And now
the young man looked at him with widened eyes but the pupils were no longer
tiny - but huge, dark and pulsating.
Too bad for you if you came round.
"I want you to check him first," he ordered the doctor. "He
was bleeding from both ends and I don't want him to kick the bucket now."
He was pleasantly surprised that the doc seemed to be smart enough not to
ask to untie him or remove the gag... well, taking into account the sum Simon
paid him, he should've been smart.
He half expected Peter make a show again - but the doctor carefully avoided
to meet his stare - except the moment he check the movement of the eyes - and
even then it looked like he didn't see anything but what he was looking for -
the signs of concussion, inner bleeding of the brain or whatever. Then Simon
saw how Peter's body tensed when his pants were pulled down and the doctor
pushed on his belly hard enough to make him flinch.
"I always say whipping is less damaging than beating," he heard
the doctor mutter and filed the information. He could see Peter freeze as the
doctor undressed him more, touching the scabs around his anus.
He suddenly knew what was going on in Peter's mind. Wasn't the doctor the
first man who really knew what happened? So far it had been between him and
Simon - no matter how obvious everything was. But now it was public.
Now you won't be ever able to deny it - that I fucked you up the ass, little
white slut of the family.
"It doesn't look so bad," the doctor shrugged. "I think I
won't even have to sew him up. Call me if it tears worse."
It might, doc, you know it might.
"What now? Branding?"
The instruments were shiny. Simon watched with fascination the doctor
setting the tiny letters for Peter's name and Simon's own into the square form
of the brand. "Peter Solana, property of Simon Kewlene." One
had to admit it sounded good. Irresistibly good.
He saw the doctor light a small burner, holding the brand in the pincers
above it - and that was when Peter came round, raising his head, staring at the
doctor, his eyes filled with absolute, total panic.
He screamed - a muffled, low cry he made when the doc tried to bring the
heated metal to his forearm - and Simon congratulated himself with tying him
down properly because he started thrashing - desperately enough to make the
doctor's face acquire peevish, annoyed expression.
"It doesn't hurt yet, right?"
It was not pain - it was fear - and Simon knew it. Pain wouldn't make him so
frantic. He pressed Peter's right arm to the bed, using his knee - and put his
hand on Peter's face, making him look away.
It made the things better. At least a little bit. He felt the moistness of
the kid's skin against his palm, the eyelashes fluttering frenziedly, as the
doctor heated the cooled brand again.
"He is a defiant one, isn't he?" the doc talked louder than the
small gasping sounds Peter made. "Slaves like this usually finish on the
"I can punish him myself," Simon shrugged and saw the brand press
to the skin.
Peter didn't cry out with it. He got still, his eyes open against Simon's
Simon winced at the smell of burning flesh, saw the thin whiffs of smoke
rise from the blackened contours. He realized Peter didn't fight any more and
let him go as the doctor held the brand pressed for a few more seconds. Then he
took it away and Simon read the clear letters printed indelibly into Peter's
He looked down at Peter who lay motionlessly now, staring into the ceiling,
and wondered if the kid knew what had just happened. What had been done to him
It should be a moment of his, Simon's, triumph, he thought and realized that
he didn't feel this triumph for some reason. Maybe, because he was too tired,
spent too much effort on getting here. But all he felt was a strange relief
that at least *this* was over... and, totally unreasonably, some sadness. He
looked at his own palm, recalling the light, quick brushing of Peter's
eyelashes against it as Simon had spared him from looking at the heated brand.
He reached to Peter again, not completely understanding why he was doing it
- to touch his blank, dazed face, run his fingers over the bruises and torn mouth
- or to stroke his forehead slightly, in a half-comforting gesture, trying to
get him out of his withdrawal, maybe, saying something... But the doc was here,
watching - and it helped Simon discard this unnecessary, strange wish almost
immediately. He pulled away the cloth covering Peter's mouth.
"Scream all you want now, bitch. You belong to me," and to the
doctor, "do something with his wrist, I think it is broken."
The End of Part 3
Go to Part 4