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were concern for Joseph and anger at Nikanj.
Joseph had not moved. She stood between the two of them.
"It's all right," she told him. "It wanted you to see. This is all the
contact it would need."
Joseph stared at the coil of sensory arm, looked from the arm to
Nikanj and back to the arm again where it rested against Lilith's flesh.
After a moment, he raised his hand toward it. He stopped. His hand
twitched, drew back, then slowly reached out again. With only a
moment's hesitation, he touched the cool, hard flesh of the sensory
arm. His fingers rested on its hornlike tip and that tip twisted to grasp
his wrist.
Now Lilith was no longer their intermediary. Joseph stood rigid and
silent, sweating, but not trembling, his hand upright, fingers clawlike,
a noose of sensory tentacle settled in a painless, unbreakable grip
around the wrist.
With a sound that could have been the beginning of a scream, Joseph
collapsed.
Lilith stepped to him quickly, but Nikanj caught him. He was
unconscious. She said nothing until she had helped Nikanj put him on
the bed. Then she caught it by the shoulders and turned it to face her.
"Why couldn't you let him alone!" she demanded. "I'm supposed to be
in charge of them. Why didn't you just leave him to me?"
"Do you know," it said, "that no undrugged human has ever done that
before? Some have touched us by accident this soon after meeting us,
but no one has done it deliberately. I told you he was unusual."
"Why couldn't you let him alone!"
It unfastened Joseph's jacket and began to remove it. "Because there
are already two human males speaking against him, trying to turn
others against him. One has decided he's something called a faggot
and the other dislikes the shape of his eyes. Actually, both are angry
about the way he's allied himself with you. They would prefer to have
you without allies. Your mate needs any extra protection I can give
him now."
She listened, appalled. Joseph had talked about the danger to her.
Had he known how immediate his own danger was?
Nikanj threw the jacket aside and lay down beside Joseph. It wrapped
one sensory tentacle around Joseph's neck and the other around his
waist, drawing Joseph's body close against its own.
"Did you drug him, or did he faint?" she asked-then wondered why
she cared.
"I drugged him as soon as I grasped his arm. He had reached his
breaking point, though. He might have fainted on his own. This way,
he can be angry with me for drugging him, not for making him look
weak in front of you."
She nodded. "Thank you."
"What is a faggot?" it asked.
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She told it.
"But they know he's not that. They know he's mated with you."
"Yes. Well, there's been some doubt about me, too, I hear."
"None of them really believe it."
"Yet."
"Serve them by leading them, Lilith. Help us send as many of them
borne as we can."
She stared at it for a long time, feeling frightened and empty. It
sounded so sincere-not that that mattered. How could she become the
leader of people who saw her as their jailer? On some level, a leader
had to be trusted. Yet every act she performed that proved the truth of
what she said also made her loyalties, and even her humanity suspect.
She sat down on the floor, cross-legged and at first stared at nothing.
Eventually, her eyes were drawn to Nikanj holding Joseph on the bed.
The pair did not move, though once she heard Joseph sigh. Was he no
longer completely unconscious, then? Was he already learning the
lesson all adult ooloi eventually taught? So much in only one day.
''Lilith?''
She jumped. Both Joseph and Nikanj had spoken her name, though
clearly, only Nikanj was enough awake to know what it was saying.
Joseph, drugged and under the influence of multiple neural links,
would shadow everything Nikanj said or did unless Nikanj split its
attention enough to stop him. Nikanj did not bother.
"I have adjusted him, even strengthened him a little, though he'll have
to exercise to be able to use that to his best advantage. He will be more
difficult to injure, faster to heal, and able to survive and recover from
injuries that would have killed him before." Joseph unknowing, spoke
every word exactly in unison with Nikanj.
"Stop that!" Lilith said sharply.
Nikanj altered its connection without missing a beat. "Lie here with
us," it said, speaking alone. "Why should you be down there by
yourself?"
She thought there could be nothing more seductive than an ooloi
speaking in that particular tone, making that particular suggestion.
She realized she had stood up without meaning to and taken a step
toward the bed. She stopped, stared at the two of them. Joseph's
breathing now became a gentle snore and he seemed to sleep
comfortably against Nikanj as she had awakened to find him sleeping
comfortably against her many times. She did not pretend outwardly
or to herself that she would resist Nikanj's invitation-or that she
wanted to resist it. Nikanj could give her an intimacy with Joseph that
was beyond ordinary human experience. And what it gave, it also [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]