note on pronunciation the words `Bythe' and `Bythian' rhyme with `python', more or less th

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note on pronunciation: the words `Bythe' and `Bythian' rhyme with `python', more or less; the `TH' sound is similar to that in the word `the'. Up Against The Wall Gaeren was seated at his terminal, idly considering his next move in the current round of Sudden-Death InitGame, when a priority mailmessage from genesis made a complete mess of his screen. `Damn! This had *better* be good, gen...' as he read the mail (the only way to clear his screen of the annoyance), he found that while it didn't quite rate a Priority status, it was interesting enough for him to forget the rest of the Initgame and call genesis, in realtime. `That's her profile, there. You can see on the Manderson Index, the Persecution Complex is completely out of proportion to the rest of the psyche. It's so far off the scale that i think there's only one thing i can do...' `Push it the rest of the way off and then re-establish it?' genesis nodded glumly. `i *hate* doing that, it makes me feel as if i'm playing god... so, i was wondering... if you're not too busy, could you possibly...' Gaeren smiled. `Of course. Can you give me a few details? What is she most afraid of?' genesis touched a contact on his desk, and a holographic image appeared next to him. It was bipedal, humanoid for the most part; lanky, thin and tall. The head was shaped like an axe, flat with blank, insectoid eyes mounted on the sides. The front-blade of the head was broken by four vents, through which the creature breathed. Gaeren nodded slowly. A Bythian. The military police-force of the NoSan'No'Os' Bureaucracy; the Bythians were feared throughout the NoSan'No'Os Dominion as merciless, mechanical, implacable killers. Their unusual mode of reproduction earned them an added cachet. Gaeren looked up from the hologram. `This is going to take place in Simulation, isn't it?' genesis nodded. `Impersonating a Bythian is illegal - in reality. The NoSan'No'Os don't give a toss what happens in Simulation, generally. i have thorough documentation on Bythian responses, movements and the like; i'll mail you a copy. Be careful with it, because the NoSan'No'Os consider it to be a subversive document.' Gaeren nodded slowly as his terminal beeped, signalling that the data transfer was complete. `I'll need a few days to work with these parameters, and get a credible emulation overlay ready...' `Hey, take your time... we aren't in any hurry, and i'd much rather see that it was done properly. which is why i called you.' Gaeren smiled, kissed his fingertip and pressed it to the screen; Genesis batted his eyelids, grinned and closed the connection. Gaeren took the specifications over to his private system, entered them. The display generated an image of the Bythian, which Gaeren manipulated, examining the way its joints moved. It was, for the most part, similar to a human, if you overlooked the strangely-shaped head and the lack of a mouth. Reading the notes appended to the specs, he learned that Bythians assimilated nutrients by scraping gashes in living creatures - using the sharp edges of the mouth-vents - and by sucking in quantities of the creatures' blood. `Yuck.' Gaeren was a vegetarian. When he came to the notes on Bythian reproduction, he felt worse. It seemed like some sort of perverted macho fantasy; the holo display generated a closeup of the Bythian's penis, a sideways-flattened, cylinder like a swollen knife-blade, in some ways reminiscent of a rifle's stock; the end, pointed with sensory pits on either side (apparently it could see with its penis). The male Bythian - the only kind - implanted its cloned offspring into a host, in which it grew, over a period of two years, into a metre-tall duplicate of the parent before starting on the growth-curve towards adulthood. There were some notes relating to Bythian psychology, which seemed to orient around reproduction and a fascination with their own penises. The only form of amusement that the Bythians allowed themselves was in sticking their dicks into anything they could; this was hard-coded into their psyches, which the NoSan'No'Os had created. Bythians were an artificial species, whose sole purpose was military; their attitude towards other species was flavoured (some said contaminated) by a need to dominate, to force submission, presumably as a preliminary to reproduction. Gaeren was reminded of some notes he had read at the end of a book by Spinrad, which had related phallic worship, fascism and the tribal `gang' mentality. `This is not to say that Bythians will fuck anything that they can.' the documentation said. `The drives and desires mentioned here are ordinarily suppressed in the course of their duty, and only emerge in full when the Bythian is angered or stressed.' Anger was another emotion which had been built in. Later that evening, Gaeren discussed the project with his flat- mate, Anya. `I hadn't realised that they... gods below... they *implant* their young into other species?' she said. Gaeren nodded. `Sentients?' `I don't know... the documentation isn't that explicit. Surely, that would be against the NoSan'No'Os Code.' Anya raised her finger. `All things that are forbidden, are forbidden except to the Forbidders.' He glanced up at her sourly. `Very "Eric Arthur Blair".' He lay down on the couch with a Simulation interface band across his forehead, linked to the terminal. `Are you going to go through with this?' she asked. He closed his eyes as the software loaded. `Yes. I don't know why genesis asked me to do this... I don't know why he thinks that I'd make a good Bythian.' The familiar surroundings of their apartment faded to be replaced by the blank grey void which everyone saw before entering Simulation. From his preference menu, he selected the custom body-form which he had compiled from the documentation, and entered Simulation, selecting a secluded spot behind the Suteriik for his entry. The body felt strange at first; the face was rigid, inflexible, and having eyes mounted on either side of a flat head gave him almost 360 degrees of peripheral vision. When he tried to open his mouth, all that happened was that the four vents which ridged the front of his head flexed in a convulsive, swallowing motion. He held one hand up; it was thin, bony, with two opposable thumbs; he didn't think that he'd have any trouble if he treated the second thumb as a particularly flexible pinkie. His vision seemed unusually sharp; he was acutely aware of not needing to move his eyeballs in order to change the focus of attention; the Bythian's eyes were rigidly fixed onto the head. After a few moments, the annoying desire to blink faded. He stepped out into the street behind the Suteriik, some submerged sense automatically scanning the way ahead for what he considered as other pedestrians, but which the Bythian part of his psyche saw as possible enemies. He almost flinched as a pair of tall Kendr passed close by, his hand moving instinctively to his pistol. Gaeren decided to get off the street, and ducked into the first doorway he saw. As soon as he did so, he knew that he had made a mistake; it was Lylesburg's place. A brothel. As he walked through the foyer, he could sense dozens of pairs of eyes and similar senses trained on him; the feeling made him want to draw his weapon. He approached the desk and made a hand-signal to Marnie, the resident counter-attendant. She recognised the signal, and realising who he was, ushered him past the front desk and into the manager's office. What are you doing? she signed to him. For a moment, Gaeren struggled as he tried to speak through a mouth without a tongue or lips, and settled for signing (awkwardly, with his new fingers), Using an (experimental) body. Can I (hide) here for a while? She agreed, leading him towards a rear stairwell, into a corridor and a series of private rooms. She closed the door behind her and he lay down on the cell-mattress, flexing muscles and trying to speak. He remembered the vocoder at his belt, switched it on; he felt a tickle at the back of his throat, and as he subvocalised, the device spoke, in the harsh tones generated by NoSan'No'Os translators. `Strange. Stranger. Strangest.' He discovered that it had some predictable gaps in its vocabulary. He leaned back on the mattress, his sense of visual perception dimming (he'd wondered how Bythians could rest without closing their eyes), and inhaled through the vents, noting how more sensitive the Bythian sense of smell was. He wasn't sure if it was his own curiosity or the Bythian's inbuilt fixation which caused him to undo the front of his pants and push them down past his narrow hips; by turning his head slightly to one side, he could sight down the front of the body to where the penis lay at the juncture of the thickly muscled thighs, a single testicle hanging below. He grasped the penis idly. The Bythian's skin was light-grey, almost white, and had the same resilience as soft plastic as he pressed his fingers into the base. Abruptly, he was aware of a disjointed feeling, as if he were in two places at once; he consciously dimmed his eyesight, and the feeling became stronger. There it was; hazy at first, but gaining in visual resolution as he concentrated - he was seeing through the senses built into his penis. He released it, and it stood up, erect. I shouldn't be surprised at how quickly that happened, judging from what I've read about Bythians, he thought. What did surprise him was the size it attained when he concentrated on the erection, squeezing the Bythian equivalent of perineal muscles, pumping it to its full extent. No wonder they had a culture built around phallic worship! Suddenly, Marnie entered. His penis shifted involuntarily, the head tracking her movements, and he received a completely different view of her from down there; less detailed, but the outline was well-defined, and certain areas seemed to be emphasised, in particular her crotch and mouth. He saw the expression of shock on her face with his main visual sense. `Don't... be concerned.' he said, pausing as he found that the translator didn't have an equivalent for the word `worry'. She quickly closed the door behind her and sat in the corner, her wary gaze never leaving the head of the snaky appendage which tracked her movements. She sat staring at him as he willed the erection down; after about fifteen seconds, it drooped to lie nestled between his thighs. `What's going on, Gaeren?' she asked quietly. `I never thought that you'd be one of those deviates who enjoyed rape.' If he could have, he would have blushed then; there was no Bythian physiological equivalent. He threaded his way through the limitations of the language, struggling to get his simple message across. `I'm not doing this from a, a want to, reproduce. Not from a want to engage in reproductive activity. genesis wants me to, coerce one of his patients into - to help her -' he paused. `This translator is not able to say what I want it to say. Perhaps I should write it down.' She shook her head. `No, that's okay... I'm sure your reasons are worthwhile. Is there anything I can get you?' She cast a bemused glance over his penis, which was standing to attention again. `I'll see if Alannah is available.' * * * * * Her name was Synda. Like everyone else, she worked in Simulation (her job was maintaining the links to Simulation's mirroring-system which would take over in the unlikely event of a hardware failure in the main); unlike most others, she spent almost all of her time in the electronic fantasy-world, emerging every few days to take care of her bodily needs. She had almost forgotten what she really looked like, but she was sure that it wasn't pretty. That afternoon, she had briefly considered calling to arrange another meeting with her counsellor, genesis, but decided instead to go shopping in the data market at Nimyf-a-Tel. The splendors of the market-place had long since faded with familiarity; she could no longer appreciate the outré fashions, the strangeness of buying and exchanging exotic data-constructs with the dozen-or-so alien species which held stalls there. She didn't have much time for aliens any more; when she first started using Simulation, she'd been fascinated by them, but over the months, they had come to take on a subtle air of... she wasn't sure what the label was, but she knew that they were laughing at her behind her back. And whenever a Bythian approached, she stopped doing whatever she had been doing, froze, and waited for it to pass. As her dislike gradually deepened into outright fear, she forced herself to keep moving, to do anything, in case the Bythians suspected her of shop-lifting. She had never stolen anything in her life - she had never needed to - but she was sure, that's what they would think. She had looked over the floating racks of three-dimensional, animated icons which represented the latest musical releases and finding nothing that suited her tastes, she placed an order with the smirking Parkry at the counter to retrieve an old recording from the archives. COULD YOU PLEASE SPELL THAT TITLE AGAIN? The insect's holographic translator wrote in the air. She set her mouth in a grim line and repeated, `SPK; "Zahmia Lehmanni, Songs of Byzantine Flowers". It's in the catalogue.' The alien bobbed obsequiously and entered the order on an ancient VT100 terminal. She whirled around to leave with as much dignity as she could muster and bumped straight into a tall figure. Her breath stopped in her throat. A Bythian. He regarded her for what seemed like an eternity; she could read nothing in his blank expression, his motionless head. The vents at the front of his head flexed slightly and his vocoder spoke, with no tone or trace of emotion whatsoever, `Can I assist you. Are you in a hurry to reach a destination.' She froze, her back pressed against the counter. Why was he standing so close to her? She had to say something... `No. I'm fine. Go away.' As soon as she said it, she knew it was the wrong thing to say. He turned his head slightly to one side, his blank insectoid eye hidden by a mirrored eye-shade. She could see her signs of panic, her wide eyes, irises surrounded by rings of white reflected in it. Suddenly, he had her wrist in an unbreakable grip, and was dragging her away. She was too stunned to protest until they had reached the outer edge of the market, where she finally found her voice and stammered, `What are you doing? You don't have any right to-' He turned sharply, her image swelling in the reflective eye-cover as he pushed close to her face, and said, `Reasonable Suspicion of Intention to Commit a Felony. You will be searched.' The paranoid fantasy which she'd held deep inside for so long was suddenly dragged, kicking and screaming, into broad daylight, and she found the strength to struggle. She never thought to log out of Simulation; she'd forgotten that she was not in the real world. The Bythian dragged her to a parked military AV, pushed her into the rear compartment and closed the door. She was too stunned to try and force the doors open; she sat huddled in one corner, eyes closed, as the AV swayed into the air. The journey was short; on reaching their destination, the Bythian dragged her out, across the flat concrete top of a building and down a stairwell, into a series of corridors lined with blank metal doors. She could hear muffled sounds coming from behind some of them; an occasional scream. Her fear mounted slowly. As they turned a corner, she briefly saw two other Bythians pushing a girl into one of the cells. She was bound in a broad tube of tight black plastic which reached from just above her elbows down to her knees, holding her arms to her sides. There was another, smaller strip around her head acting as a gag, forcing its way between her teeth. Surprised at the amount of detail that she had managed to assimilate in such a short glimpse, she wondered at the narrow-eyed expression of sensual lust she had displayed. Synda could almost imagine that the girl would have been smiling if she hadn't been gagged. Her captor pushed her towards a cell door, which opened automatically. Inside was bare, lit by four powerfully-charged bioluminant strips set into the ceiling. Each wall had a series of black panels set at about shoulder height; the Bythian shoved her at a wall, pressing her hands palm-down against two of the panels. Her hands stuck to them as if they had been nailed there. He kicked her feet about a metre apart and then proceeded to slice her clothing off with deft strokes of a wire-bladed knife. As the tattered remains of her underwear dropped to the floor, she protested, half- turning around, `I want to know what's going on here!' The Bythian shoved her shoulder back towards the wall and replied, `I am not concerned with what you want. I am not here to answer your questions.' He ran thin, tough fingers down her side, pressing them into her ribs, clutching her hip and stroking her belly. She bore this stoically, but couldn't help jumping when he ran his exaggerated knuckles down her spine and between the cheeks of her behind. `Do not move.' he warned her. Without warning, he gripped her hips and dragged them back towards him, pushing down on the small of her back so that her behind was presented to him. She jumped again when she felt the tip of his penis pushing between her thighs; she looked down between her breasts and saw the pointed head, coated with its lubricant, writhing sinuously; the end curved up and she would have sworn that it was looking up at her. She gave a squeak as he picked her up by the hips and pressed the head against her. She tried clenching against its entry, but he slowly forced it in, dripping with lubricant. He didn't thrust it in and out, but slowly pushed until the head was pressing against the roof of her vagina, the pointed tip poking into her cervix. She held her breath and squirmed as it wiggled about in her; exhaling as he withdrew with a wet sound. His translator made a `fffft' noise, and her hands were freed. He turned her around to face him and pushed her down on her knees, his erection waving in her face. Gaeren regarded her through the senses in the Bythian's penis. Despite their being primarily mass-sensitive, he could perceive the texture of her lips, sense the faint breath that emerged in time with the motions of her shoulders under his firm grasp. He pushed the end of his penis between her lips, and she, unprotesting, accepted it. The inside of her mouth was warm and wet; Gaeren felt slightly dizzy as the view-point seemed to slip over her tongue, the broad knife- blade shape turning sideways as it pressed against the back of her throat, the pointed head angling down. Muscles in his perineum tensed, suffusing his erection with blood, swelling it and pushing her jaws apart. She was choking as it blocked her breathing-passage; she struggled against his grip (one hand on her shoulder, the other behind her head) as it swelled again to fill her mouth to the point where she couldn't withdraw. He pushed against her with an unusual air of reservation, as if he were holding himself in check against the full force of his lust, when suddenly she felt the shaft between her lips hitch upwards, and then thrust five centimetres further into her mouth, the pointed end pushing down her throat. The warm resilience pulsed; she felt a surge move past her lips, over her tongue and down her throat, followed by two more swellings. As the latter pulse squeezed through the tight constriction at the back of her throat, she realised with a terrible shock what was happening - he was impregnating her with his offspring! She tried to scream - unsuccessfully. His erection still plugging her mouth, she struggled backwards against his grip, falling onto her back. He fell forward, kneeling over her, maintaining his position relative to her, and a fourth pulse moved slowly down the column. She tried to clamp her lips to bar its way, but it was like trying to hold the end of a high-pressure water-pipe closed; the pressure built until she had to let go; the offspring shot down her throat to join its brothers in her stomach. As it did so, the Bythian hissed, its vents fanning out wide; she scented the strong, cinnamon-like spice of its breath. It shuddered and released her to fall back, coughing and choking; she pushed her way over the floor awkwardly, desperate to get as far away as possible from him, fetching up against the cold metal door. She could almost feel them moving around inside her; a wave of nausea jolted her, and she embraced the feeling, trying to induce vomiting, but something caused her throat to tighten, blocking her breathing for a moment. Eyes wide, she waited for the spasm to pass; just when she thought that she might black out, her breathing resumed, with a choking sob. The nausea returned as well, but she had learned her lesson. The Bythian put its pants back on and grabbed her arm, lifting her to her feet. The door behind her opened silently, and he pushed her outside and down the corridor, further into the depths of the building. Not paying attention to where she was being taken, she tried to focus her attention inward, to sense what was inside her. It was like having eaten something heavy which had not gone down properly; they sat inside her, palpable, swaying slightly as she moved. She was pushed towards a door, which opened before her. The lighting was low, but there was sufficient illumination inside to display dozens of rows of bunks, each occupied by a naked human, most female, but some males; all lying face-up, heads thrown back, eyes staring, mouths working silently. They all had unsightly swellings at the front which bulged under their rib-cages, quivering domes of flesh. A girl with stringy, short red, hair, lying on the bunk nearest to Synda stared up at her, small pointed breasts pushed to either side by a swollen stomach almost half as large again as she was. She made a wretched, spasmodic movement, and Synda felt the Bythian's hand on her back, pushing her into the room. Terror swiftly overtook her then; she felt a horrified tension grip her neck and shoulders as she hopelessly resisted him. She turned around, and he pushed his face close to hers, the spicy smell growing stronger; what pushed her over the edge and into hysteria was the way that the vents seemed to curl up at the edges, making four rows of sinister smiles. She screamed - genesis and Gaeren stood over her, supervising her transition from Simulation to normal, real-world sleep. genesis took the interface band from her forehead, noting the red marks where it had lain against her skin for an extended period. `i should be able to restrict her access to Simulation for a while. Not that she'll want to re-enter in the immediate future.' She had turned on her side and curled into a foetal position, her toes peeking out from underneath the coverlet. Idly, Gaeren tickled them, noting the healthy way her toes curled over as he stroked the sole of her feet. She sighed, a faint smile on her face. Gaeren looked up at genesis, who nodded sagely. `she'll be fine.' In her deep, untroubled sleep, Synda hiccoughed.

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