By Eliza Leahy
"I think itís time you told Roen the facts of life."
Roen Morris, senior, put down the breeding charts and looked at his wife with surprise.
"But he is only nine years old!"
Umbria Morris, the mother of Ďfore said Roen Junior, put down her 6 knitting needles and looked at her husband sternly. "My Grandfather," she said, in that tone of voice which always added the silent "who started this very prosperous Gen farm which you only inherited through marrying me." "My Grandfather changed over at nine you know. I donít think we should take any chances."
Roen Morris, senior, knew when to give in gracefully. "All right, Iíll tell him. How do you think I should do it?"
"Iíve been thinking about that. I think that if you give him a Gen of his own, as a pet, to look after, I think that would be a good idea. One close to his age, that he could play with, and they could grow up together."
Roen Morris (senior) looked doubtful. "Do you think thatís a good idea Darling? I mean, he might become attached to it, and that could cause all kinds of trouble Ė later."
Umbria Morris picked up her knitting again and settled the wool around her tentacles. "Oh Roen, you always were such a sentimental idiot. Really not the right temperament for a Gen Farm owner at all! Thank goodness that Roen Junior has Harknier blood in him!"
"Can I have that one, Father?"
Roen Junior looked at all the pre Gens in the pen in front of him. He was pointing at a small female with a halo of blond, curly hair.
Roen Senior, aware that this choice was an exercise in what would become a lifetime of selecting Gens, both as pen stock, and as personal choice, thought to use the experience as a learning one.
"Never choose a Gen by appearance alone, Son. No matter how "pretty" a Gen, or how special itís colouring, what you should take into consideration isÖ."
Loud screaming interrupted him. "I want that one! Mother said I could have any one I wanted! I want THAT one! THAT ONE! Iíll tell mother!!! Give me THAT ONE!"
Roen Senior quickly indicated for the Gen handler to bring out the small fair one. All the young pre Gens had stopped whatever it was they were doing to stare in surprise at the small person making so much noise. If any of them had raised their voice to that level they would have been beaten, or hosed with cold water. But of course, they knew the difference between Sime and Gen.
The chosen young pre Gen was dutifully collared and a lead rope handed to Roen Junior. Roen Junior, still red faced and very ugly from his tantrum, looked dumbly at his new pet, and then a huge smile broke over his face.
"Your mine. You have to do whatever I tell you. Understand? Father, does it understand? How stupid is it? Can it do tricks? Can it do maths?" He turned back to the bemused Gen. "I can do maths, and Iím your owner. See?" He gave a sharp tug on the leading rope, causing the Gen to stumble.
"Now Roen, you have to treat your pet with kindness or it wonít like you." explained his father. "They arenít stupid, just a little bit dull witted. They have feelings of a sort, although of course not like we do. No, it canít do maths, but it can probably understand most of what you say, and will be able to answer questions, if you keep them simple, and even tell you when itís hungry and so on."
"Can I take it out to play now, Father?" Roen gave another, but much lighter tug, to show his pet that he was still in charge.
"No Roen, first you must come with me to see the Gen Vet, Dr Crabtree, and learn how to take proper care of your pet."
Roenís voice started to rise once again "But I donít want to! I wanna go play with it!Ö."
Roen senior took a deep breath and metaphorically put his foot down.
"No, Roen, this time you have to do as I say. Or elseÖ"
Sometimes you just had to be the man of the family.
Umbria sat with her son on a footstool at her feet, having one of the Mother Ė Son chats that she felt were so important to the emotional growth of a child. She always felt good about these chats, it was a duty that she knew she did well, imparting the wisdom of the Harknier bloodline onto the next generation. So important these days to know the worth of ones own family, when one could see the decay of society around oneself.
"So what did you call your little pet my sweet?" She smiled lovingly down at her cherub, sitting there with sugar coating his little pouting red mouth.
"I been calling her Molly, although she doesnít know itís her name yet and doesnít come when I call her." The fact that he had been dragging poor "Molly" around by the neck all day showing all the Sime workers his new pet and whacking her with a stick when she didnít respond to him fast enough he neglected to tell his mother, considering that fact unimportant. His mother actually knew all about it already, in the way mothers know these things, and she also considered it unimportant.
"Give her time my precious, she will learn. Gens can learn almost anything if you have patience to teach them."
Roen gave deep concentration to the buckle on his shoe for a moment. "Mother, why does Molly have to sleep out in the backyard pen? Why canít she sleep in my room?"
Umbria Morrisí beautiful well breed face screwed itself up in disgust. "I will not have one of those dirty Gens in my house." She realised what her face was doing and schooled her features into a more becoming portrait. "Gens are really only for one thing, and you know what that is, donít you my little pumpkin?"
Roen nodded his little round head. "For killing. But what does that mean? I mean, I know that the Sime workers get paid each month partly in Gens for their kill, and Iíve seen it, but why do Gens die? Wouldnít it be better if they didnít? Then you could use them again!"
Umbria Morris stood up so rapidly that she dumped her poor son unceremoniously onto the floor. "Roen, I wonít have that sort of perverted talk in my house. Do you understand? Now get to your room this instant and I donít want to see your face again until tomorrow!"
Roen had thought he had just hit upon the most brilliant idea ever, and was very upset at his mothers reaction. He spent a very quiet night in his room, thinking about what his mother had said, what the vet had said, and about Molly, his new pet Gen.
"Now we are going to play Simes and Gens, and Iím going to be the Sime and kill you. Understand?" Roen growled and looked crazed and before Molly could move had grabbed her tight and pressed his lips to hers. He let her go and jumped back. Molly looked at him in shock.
"No, no no! You stupid Gen! You are DEAD. Fall down now!".
Obediently Molly fell down.
"Good!" Roen chuckled merrily. "Now get up again and we will do it again, but this time you have to fall down quicker. No wait! This time we will have a hunt and Iíll chase you first! But donít run too fast so I can catch you ok?"
Molly nodded, and obediently ran off making sure that she went slow enough so that the much fatter, shorter Roen could catch her. Roen jumped on her from behind, throwing her thin body to the ground. "Iíve got you now Iím going to kill you!" he cried, grabbing her arm and turning her over to face him.
"Ow! You hurt me!" Molly started crying, struggling to get out from under the much heavier boy.
Roen enjoyed the struggling, and finally got her into the kill position. Molly, however, wouldnít stop crying.
"No!" Roen said in frustration. "You have to stop crying and die!" He struggled to his feet, managing to put his knee into Mollysí abdomen on the way, causing her to gasp for breath and cough. "You donít do it right. You donít do anything right!" Disappointed, angry and frustrated, Roen threw a well placed kick at her midsection, cutting off a cough in the middle. Watching Molly gasping for breath and turning a very unbecoming shade of blue Roen felt good for a moment. After that moment, when matters didnít appear to be improving much, Roen started to worry. He didnít want his pet to die for real, after all. He enjoyed their games together too much to want to lose her yet.
"Come on, get up! Donít do that! What are you doing that for?" He asked her, half in honest worry and half in pity for himself that he should have to be worried about a Gen at a time like this. Molly responded by throwing up, narrowly missing her masters shoes.
"Oh yuck! Look what you did!" Roen held his nose and turned away. "Iím going to go get Dr Crabtree! Stay. Stay there. Donít move ok?"
"Roen, Iíve put Molly in the Gen hospital just for overnight so I can keep an eye on her." Dr Crabtree didnít believe the youngsters story about Molly just falling down while playing. He has seen the bruise on her arm and midsection.
Roen looked up at the vet with big eyes. "My Gen will be all right wonít she doctor? ĎCause Iím really fond of her and donít want anything to happen to her."
"Hmmmm. Iím sure she will be fine now. You run on home and you can come back and get her tomorrow. Oh, and can you tell your father that Iíd like to see him about some work please?"
As the head Gen doctor in a very large and prosperous Gen Farm, Dr Crabtree enjoyed a certainly privilege not afforded to many of the other workers. Several times a week, for example, the head male of the Morris household would stop around for a drink, although he always told his wife that it was on Farm business. This was not a lie, little was spoken about on these occasions that was not in some way farm business.
On this particular night, however, the breeding females were not the first thing on Dr Crabtreeís mind.
"Roen", he said, having been on a first name basis with his employer for many years. "Iím not sure of the wisdom of giving young Roen a pet Gen. Particularly not a female. Maybe if it were a more robust male." He swirled his portsan around his glass and studied it thoughtfully. "You know how hard he is on his pets. We had to replaced that gerbil so many times I thought I was going to run out of gerbils!"
Roen senior nodded in agreement. "What can I do Rus? His mother thought it would be a good idea. She had one apparently at his age, and it lasted to be her first kill. She still thinks back on it fondly. I think that is what she has in mind for the boy."
The vet shook his head. "I donít know if the little pre Gen will last that long. He has had her for three weeks and she has been in her eight times already. She is more black and blue then pink. Did you know he almost drowned her because he wanted to see if Gens can breath water? Talk to him Roen."
Roen senior looked surprised. "I thought that the problem might be that he would become too fond of her and have troubles with the kill! I hadnít realised that he was mistreating her so badly. Iíll definitely talk to him. Thanks for bringing it to my notice Rus. Iíd better be getting home. Umbria has plans for visitors tonight and she will want me to dress."
Roen senior sighed. He would so have liked to have been a Gen Farmer of the old kind. To get his hands dirty, to supervise the stock himself. But it was really his wifeís farm, and she would not, as she put it, have her husband "slumming". So he played country squire, but in truth it was a suit that fit him badly.
"I hate these doís" He said as he pulled the door of the warm and cosy room closed and headed off into the cold light of his overstuffed drawing room.
"Molly! Get me a drink! Iím HOT!" Roen shouted from his position in the comfortable chair under a shady tree.
Molly quickly ran over to him and poured him out a drink from the frosted jug that stood on the small table by his elbow.
"Iíve had you long enough, why canít you just do these things for me without my asking?" Roen glared at her. Much to his disgust Molly was growing into an exceptionally pretty girl, and it made him feel awkward because often he felt like doing things for her, and he knew that wasnít the right order of things. He tended, therefore, to overcompensate by being more of a bully then ever.
"Iím sorry, Roen." Molly looked properly contrite. "Is there anything else you would like that I could get for you? Your book?" Molly looked wistfully at the book on the ground at Roens feet. She would have dearly loved to be able to read, but knew that if she asked Roen would just tell her that Gens were too stupid to be able to read. Molly doubted that. She knew that she was stupid, Roen told her so often enough, but she was sure that not all Gens were as stupid as she was.
"No, itís too hot to read. If you were smarter you could read to me." Roen broke out in laughter at the thought of a Gen reading to a Sime. He held out his glass to be refilled. Molly, thinking about reading and still half looking at the book, poured him another drink. Not concentrating fully on what she was doing she failed to stop at the top of the glass.
"You stupid bitch! You did that on purpose!" Roen jumped up, and brushed the few drops that had fallen on him off. "Look at me, Iím drenched!" He picked up the lead rope that he refused to be parted from and started hitting Molly. Molly dropped the jug and put her arms up to protect her head. "Iím sorry! Oh Roen, donít be so mad! I didnít mean it!" she sobbed.
Roenís uncertain tempers could flare up at any time. Sometimes he stopped with a few slaps, sometimes she had to go visit Dr Crabtree. She could always tell when it was going to be bad, and this time looked dreadful. Roenís face was screwed up and he was as red as a beet. He was yelling and not listening. Molly decided it would be good not to be around. She took off as fast as she could.
Roen, despite his shorter stature, was deceptively fast over a short distance. Before Molly had gotten very far at all he had her by the waist and had balled his hand into a fist. Molly sobbed and tried to protect her self with her arms and hands. Roen froze above her, staring down at her. Then he threw himself off her and ran. Surprised and unbelieving, Mollyís sobs slowed as she watched him run away.
"Roen, what is the matter with you these days?" Umbria Morris watched her son stalk around the room. Lately he had grown too much, both physically and emotionally, to want to sit at her feet for a Mother Ė Son chat, and Umbria, to give her credit, was happy to start thinking of her son as a young man and loosen the so called "apron strings".
Roen paced the room like a nervous cat. "Itís that stupid Gen, pre Gen of mine. Iíve had her for years now, and she is still stupid and she hasnít even established yet so I canít even sell her."
"Actually, dear" Umbria neatly folded her embroidery and put it on her lap, "We didnít intend for you to sell her. The idea was that she would be your first kill. Of course, if she hasn't established before that you can have your choice of the Pens."
Roen looked at his Mother horrified. "Kill Molly? But Ö"
"Of course Kill Molly! Thatís what Gens are FOR you silly lad! I thought you understood that. I use to watch you play the Kill with her often enough!" Her voice turned petulant "Oh donítí tell me that you have so much of your Father in you that you wouldnít Kill a Gen you Ďknewí. Really Roen."
"I, I donít know Mother. Itís just thatÖ"
"Thatís what being a Gen farmer is all about Roen and that is all there is too it. We breed them, we know their bloodlines. We have some of the best Gens in the County. Your Molly is a product of that breeding, and if it wasnít you it would be someone else. Besides, believe me when I say that when the time actually comes you really wonít care at all! You wonít even notice if itís Molly or some other Gen! All you will be interested in is their selyn. So you really have nothing to worry about."
Umbria picked up her sewing again, and Roen, like a dutiful son, kissed his Mother on her beautiful smooth and cool forehead and went to bed. He had a lot of thinking to do.
Dr Crabtree was surprised to see Roen bringing Molly in. It had been a long time since he had last had to treat the little creature and he had thought that Roen had finally learned some responsibility towards his property. He was even more surprised to see that Molly was again on a lead rope, something that hadnít been necessary for years.
"Good morning Roen. What seems to be the problem?"
"Itís her arm," Roen said shortly, holding out the lead rope to the Vet. "I think she has broken it again."
Dr Crabtree took the lead rope and zlinned Molly in surprise. The pre Gen, for she was still a pre Gen he noticed, did indeed seem to have something wrong with her left arm. She also seemed to be almost scared to death.
"I donít think itís broken" he said, zlinning her childs nager more deeply as he touched her. "It does seem to be badly sprained though. We will wrap it for her and then she will be more comfortable. Care to tell me what happened?"
Roen looked miserable. "I told her what my Mother said about how she was going to be my first kill when I changed over, and she took off. When I caught her she fell. I had to put the lead back on her again to stop her running, even with her arm like that."
The Vet finished wrapping the arm and patted Molly on the head. Really such a sweet Gen, he thought. Itís a pity she was the one young Roen chose. He would have liked to see her as a breeder, when she was old enough. Of course, that wasnít possible now. It was obvious that she was to be Roens first Kill. If only he took better care of her until then!
"Well, young Roen, if you donít want your little pre Gen here running away from you before you change over, Iíd stop trying to terrify her to death. Be kind, feed her more, she is too thin, and wash her, she is filthy. Iíll give you some vitamin tablets, you make sure she takes one every day, and go down to the Pens and make sure she has some meat regularly."
"Yes, Doctor, I will." Roen didnít like being told what to do by an employee of his Fathers, but he knew that there was nothing he could do about it now.
For the next couple of months Roen tried to take better care of his pet. He made sure she was washed once a week, fed her at least once a day, and took her down to the Pens for some meat every second week. He only beat her when he had to, and made sure that no one was around to see it when he did. He knew that his Mother, at least, would approve, and that made him feel a little better.
In truth, having Molly made him feel better. It was silly, he knew, after all one day all of this would be his, but he often felt as if he were very unimportant. His Mother would sometimes make him feel big and important, but then she would do something, like saying something about how low his Fathers family had been, and how it was a pity that he took after his father, that would make him feel bad again. The it was good that he had Molly, someone even lower then he was, someone he could boss around and who didnít dare say "no" to him.
As to the fact that she would be his Kill when it came around he didnít like to think about that. It wasnít that he was attached to her really, but afterwards she would be gone. Who would he have to push around then?
Dr Crabtree was down at the Feeding Pens one afternoon going over some nutritional supplements with the Head Stockman when Roen bought Molly down for some of the special Gen food, high in protein that they called Ďmeatí. The Vet was shocked at the appearance of the young girl.
"I know," said that Head Stockman, zlining the Vets reaction. "It gets you like that. No pre Gen should have to live like that."
Molly lacked luster, she dragged her feet, her face was swollen on one side and any part of her body not covered by clothing was bruised.
"Roen Morris you come over here now!" cried Crabtree in anger.
Roen started, he had been avoiding the Vet for months, and felt stupid to be caught now. "Er. Hello Dr Crabtree. We are just here getting meat for Molly as you instructed. Iíve been following your instructions to the letter!"
The Vet ignored him and began to examine the girl. "This poor creature" he said in disgust, "This poor poor creature is never going to make a prime kill now Roen. You have totally broken her spirit, as well as her flesh." Molly stood quietly, no longer caring what anyone did to her. "Iím going to take her back to the hospital with me. Iím confiscating this pet of yours Roen, and you can tell your parents for me that I will not be giving her back, under any circumstances!"
Roen turned red in the face. "Molly is mine, mine to do with as I like and you canít take her off me!"
"Oh, yes, I can Roen. She needs medical treatment and as far as Iím aware itís I, and not you, who is the Doctor here!"
The Head Stockman took a step forward. "Why donít you run home and cry to mummy lad?"
Roen looked from one to the other. "You might think you have me beat. You donít you know. You think because you are adult you can push me around. Well you canít push my family around! Wait until my Father hears about this! You will both be out of a job!" With his back ram rod straight and his head held high Roen Junior headed home.
Roen senior entered the drawing room and took off his coat. "Iíve spoken to Dr Crabtree, Roen,, as you requested. Under the circumstances he saw quite clearly that you do indeed have the right to be with Molly at this time. She is yours, Roen. You may go to her right away." He sat down wearily and put his head in his hands.
Jubilant at having beaten that oh so high and mighty Vet Roen didnít notice how tired and worn his father looked. With a triumphant "Yes!" Roen fetched his coat and walked quickly towards the Gen Hospital.
Dr Crabtree was waiting for him. "I donít think you should take Molly just now, Roen. She really isnít up to leaving just yet."
"Iím sorry, Dr Crabtree" Roen said in a voice that he thought would have made his Mother proud. "But I believe that my Father instructed you that I should have my pet back, and I have come to claim her."
Dr Crabtree looked at the young man before him. "Well, of course, Roen, if you feel that way. She is in here." He opened a door off his office and ushered Roen inside.
Roen looked surprised to see Molly writhing in agony on a bed. "But, she wasnít like this before! What is wrong with her?" He turned to the Vet standing in front of the door.
"Nothing bad, Roen, nothing unnatural. She is just going through changeover, thatís all."
Roen looked at the Vet in horror. "But she is my pet! She is going to be Gen! She canít change over. You canít have a Sime as a pet for goodness sake!"
The Vet nodded his head. "Thatís right, Roen. She will be a free person and have control of her own life now. You canít hurt her any more. This is what your Father wanted you to see."
Roen realised he was beaten. He had lost the one thing that made him feel important. Well, it didnít matter, he would still be the owner of this Farm one day, and then all the people working there, yes, and all the Gens, would be his. He felt much better realising this, and wondered why he hadnít grasped that fact before. It made him feel powerful again.
"Well then. If thatís going to be the case there is nothing I can do about it. Donít just stand there man, shouldnít you be going to get her a Gen for her first kill?"
"Oh no," Dr Crabtree looked over his shoulder at the new Sime on the bed. "I donít think that will be necessary at all."
Return to The Secret Pens