Shatter a Diamond Knife

Chapter 2: Memory Prime

He was no more than a baby then
Well he seemed brokenhearted
Something within him
But the moment
That I first laid
Eyes on him, all alone
On the edge of
--Stevie Nicks, Edge of Seventeen

Jennifer Moranis had been hungry. Born in grinding poverty, she had dragged herself out of it and into college through a combination of brains, beauty, and a hunger that made her willing to do whatever it took. Whatever it took. She had a very select clientele by the time she was almost out of college. Galactor found her there. They recruited the hungry, the young who wanted too much too soon and whose eyes burned with the need to get it. The day she got her first paycheck from Galactor, Jennifer called all the men and women in her select clientele and told them to go fuck themselves; she wouldn't be doing it for them any longer.

Her immediate superior, Dr. Vail Djannis, was a short, abrasive man with features so strong as to look subtly deformed. To his face, they called him "crusty" or a "curmudgeon." Behind his back they called him worse things. He dominated everyone in the science department with no trouble-- but Jennifer knew he had a weakness for being dominated by particular people in a particular situation. She herself was not a hugely fat woman, the kind of person in particular, but she knew that he liked them-- and she knew, as did he, what his credibility in the science department would be like if she released certain photos in her possession. Djannis gave her a position as psych liaison for the Chosen One, the Gemini Linkage who would be Sosai X's figurehead and rule Galactor in his name. First her patient was Taisen Nakamoto, the rebellious teen whose father had so badly deformed her psyche, and then she was given Berg Katse.

"Why is Sosai bringing in a new one?" Jennifer had asked. "Having two geniuses about who both think they're going to rule the world is asking for trouble."

"No one asked you," Djannis said sharply. "Sosai's made the decision. Tai's too rebellious for his tastes, he's decided, and he thinks this Katse will be more docile."

"Too rebellious?" Jennifer was incredulous. "She's a damn teenager, of course she's rebellious! What's he expect?"

"Between you and me, Moranis, what Sosai X doesn't know about human beings would fill the Britannica. But ours not to reason why, or second-guess him. He wants this Katse in and trained. I've met the kid-- in some respects, messed-up worse than Nakamoto. Not difficult to imagine why, either-- the two phases have opposite sexes."

"Opposite sexes?"

"Sosai fucked up. You didn't hear me say that, by the way."


"We set up code-word control, same as with Nakamoto-- Katse's word is absiviquel. Even more paranoid than Nakamoto, so for god's sakes be careful with it. Here's the folder-- don't let Katse see it." He handed her a fat folder of psychological tests and observations made over the young mutant's life.

Jennifer had read through the folder, and learned everything Galactor knew about Berg Katse at that time. He had been programmed with paranoia and a mistrust of humanity, to counterbalance his powerful drive for fame and love. As with Tai, Sosai had waited until Katse had despaired of solving his own problems before stepping in, and had pulled Katse from the brink of suicide. In the two months since then, Katse had become fanatically loyal to Sosai, arrogant beyond belief, and generally nasty to the people in the organization. He seemed to think that he was going to rule anyway, so why make friends? Jennifer was going to have to cure him of that, and fast.

When Jennifer finally met him, he wasn't what she expected. She didn't know what she had expected-- a freak, perhaps? He was pale and skinny and very young, dressed in clothing so expensively worthless it was obvious he had just now come into money. And he looked at least as human as Tai-- which was to say, he had that light in his eyes from brilliance and insanity, and as a result he did not look normal. But he didn't look like a mutant, a member of a brand-new species, or a hermaphrodite. He was slightly effeminate, but that was mostly due to the long blond hair-- with short hair, he would look masculine enough that no one would question him.

"Hello, Berg," she said. "I'm Jennifer Moranis, your psych liaison."

There had been hostility in his eyes since the moment he saw her, and it did not change as he spoke. "I don't need a psychiatrist. There's nothing wrong with me!"

"Who said you needed a psychiatrist?"

"You did. If I don't need a psychiatrist, what're you doing here?" He sounded confused-- still hostile and defensive, but less so now. Good.

"I'm your psych liaison, Berg. Not your psychiatrist. I'm here to pull strings for you and make sure you stay so there's nothing wrong with you."

"I can take care of myself!"

"I'm sure you can." She gestured him to a chair, and sat in one facing it herself. He didn't, glaring down at her from his considerable height. "But why should you have to? You're a special kind of person, Berg, and Galactor's invested a lot in you. Now, your profile says you're a hard and dedicated worker, used to doing things by yourself. It also says that what you don't know about managing human beings would fill the Bible. I'm here to help you deal with other people-- idiot co-workers, superiors who try to work you to a nervous breakdown out of jealousy, people you need who for whatever reason don't like you. You're not very good at making people like you, are you?"

His scowl deepened. "What do I need to be liked for? I'm going to be running this organization someday. As long as they're afraid of me, they don't need to like me."

"How exactly do you think you're going to end up running things if nobody likes you?" Jennifer asked. "If you alienate someone who outranks you, he might just send you out on a suicide mission, or something. It's happened. You'll rise a lot farther, a lot faster, if you learn how to manipulate people."

"No one would dare send me on a suicide mission."

"Why not? Because Sosai's backing you? Dear heart, do you think Sosai wants everyone to know that? Most of this organization doesn't even know Sosai exists. And he certainly doesn't want you running to him with your problems every few minutes. That's what I'm here for."

Katse's eyes narrowed, calculating. "What did Dr. Djannis tell you about me?..."

"Everything he knows," Jennifer said in an offhand tone of voice. "Why?"

"You-- if you knew, then you'd know why."

"Because you want to know if I know you're a mutant, and you change sex? Yes, I do. But it doesn't matter, to me. I take it into account, because it colors your entire existence. To me, however, what's important is how you handle people. If you were good at handling people, you could parade around with a sign on your head saying I'M A HERMAPHRODITE and you could still get crowds to throw flowers at your feet. On the other hand, as scarred as you are now, it won't matter how impressive you look, you'll still alienate everyone you meet. What I'm here to do is teach you how to handle people, and run interference for you while you're learning."

"How can you teach me anything?"

Jennifer leaned back. "Just because most of the normal humans you've met in your life happened to be idiots, don't write off the whole species," she said dryly. "You Geminis aren't any more intelligent than humans-- what you are is concentrated at the end of the genius range, so you're more intelligent on the average than human beings. I, however, am a genius myself. My IQ is well within your range, Berg, I'm five years older, I have a doctorate in psychology, and something else. I'm a woman. I was recruited into Galactor two years ago. My rank is equivalent to a second-level captain, and I'm not being backed by Sosai. You figure it out."

"All right. So I'm impressed," he said sarcastically. "So tell me something I don't know, supergenius."

"Better than that-- I'll tell you something you do know, but you don't know you know. You're being hostile and vicious to me because you're scared of scientists. You're afraid I'm going to pull you apart and see what makes you tick, because I have a Ph. D. after my name. And because I'm young and female, I'm less obviously high-status than Dr. Djannis, so you feel safe attacking me."

"I'm being hostile because I don't need any help."

"Wrong. You're terrified of asking for help or accepting it, or especially of admitting you need it, because you feel it's a sign of weakness. You're Berg Katse, therefore you should know everything, right?"

"If you're so goddamn brilliant," he exploded, "why am I Sosai X's Chosen One and not you?"

"Because," Jennifer explained gently, "your kind do learn faster than mine. It took me a lifetime to learn what I know. If you tried, you could learn it in four years."

"Four years?" He blinked at her.

"You already know how to mimic people, but you don't understand them at all, do you? You could, you know. You could learn to tell who's lying and who isn't. Who likes you and who's sucking up. You could learn to make people like you, love you, throw themselves at your feet-- or into your bed. You could learn to wield power in such a fashion that nobody knew it was you running things-- or so that everybody knows you're the boss." She leaned forward. "The boys always beat you up and the girls always laughed behind your back, didn't they? I'll teach you to be the center of every group-- never on the outside again. And you could learn it in four or five years, if you tried."

As she spoke, she saw naked hunger in his eyes. He veiled it, or tried to, shrugging. "I guess I might have a use for you, then. That does sound interesting," he said with a studied casualness. But she knew it was more than "interesting" to him. She had him hooked-- he'd kill to learn what she could teach.

The first thing she taught him was how to control the Change. His own transformations had become associated with pain, fear and loss so deeply that she feared he might never learn to trigger them on his own-- and, as with everything else she had started to teach that he didn't want to learn, he gave her a hard time about it.

"Why do I need to control the Change?" he asked belligerently. "Dr. Djannis says I can never extend it beyond a year; why would I want to Change more often than once a year?"

Jennifer sighed. "You're not thinking," she told him. She maintained a friendly but dominating persona when she was with him; she had to be the teacher all the time, because if he ever got the upper hand he'd never let it go. "In the first place, being able to trigger the Change means you can make it happen when it's convenient for you, instead of passively waiting for your timer to run out each time. You'd never be caught by surprise again. In the second place, you could effectively use control of the Change to keep yourself the same sex 90% of the time. Wait until your clock runs out-- then, a week or two after the Change, Change again, and return to the sex you were."

"I've lived without that before," he said. Jennifer knew what the real problem was-- he was afraid of the Change, and to take control of it he'd have to face it. Telling him it would make life easier for him wasn't enough, apparently. She tried a different tack.

"What do you think you were created a hermaphrodite for, Berg?"


"I said--"

"I heard what you said. I-- that's where my intellect comes from."

"Wrong. That comes from being a Gemini at all. A Gemini made of two male twins or two female would be every bit as bright as you. Why a hermaphrodite?" The actual reason was that Sosai had screwed up, but it wouldn't do to let Katse know that-- and Jennifer had thought of a way to turn his disability into a disadvantage.

"Why, then?"

"Because of the advantages it gives you as a spy. You can go anywhere, do anything, with no restrictions due to your sex. You can seduce men and women of every orientation, infiltrate any club or military organization, and disappear when you're done by changing your sex. When they're looking for a man, all women are invisible, and vice versa. You're the perfect spy, Berg-- why do you think you've been assigned to Intelligence? But you can't make use of your talents unless you learn to control them. Sosai built you with the specific ability to control what sex you are-- it's not your fault you haven't figured it out on your own, but if you refuse to learn it, you're throwing Sosai's gift back in his face. You wouldn't want to do that, would you?"

"No..." Katse looked distant for a moment, weighing his options, then turned back to Jennifer. "But I don't even know where to begin."

"I'll teach you," Jennifer said.

Katse had been a member of Galactor for three months by the time he finally learned to master the Change. Jennifer couldn't directly teach him how to do it, of course; she didn't have the ability herself. What she did was to teach him the principles of meditation and biofeedback. He was far too tense to learn how to meditate without intervention, and he still didn't trust her completely. However, he, like four other of the seven Gemini Linkages X and Djannis had created, had been conditioned since babyhood to go into a hypnotic trance at the use of a code word. Jennifer used the code word to condition him to relax, teaching his subconscious how to enter a trance at will, so when she taught him consciously it came more easily. He discovered he could use biofeedback to alter his ambient hormone levels, producing effects such as the drastic masculinization or femininization of his appearance, the control of hunger, thirst, the need for sleep and pain, and the increase of desire. As she trained him, his trust in her gradually grew, until he finally triggered the Change to female, and found that the experience was totally different when it was under his control, with people he could trust seeing to his comfort.

Now female, Katse enrolled in a local but fairly prestigious university, majoring in engineering with a minor in psychology. Jennifer thought the psych was probably an attempt to hold her own against Jennifer herself. But most of the hostility and suspicion had fled; Katse listened avidly to Jennifer now, and spent every moment she could spare from school and her duties talking with her. Perhaps it was to be expected. Jennifer knew herself to be a beautiful, desirable woman, and to have such a woman paying so much attention to her, teaching her, listening to her problems, must have been overwhelmingly new and wonderful to Katse. Now that she trusted Jennifer, she was safe to become infatuated with her.

The next phase of Katse's training was to get her comfortable with her female sexuality. Katse's experiences with sex as a female included only rape and prostitution, invariably at the hands of men; as a male, he had experienced the same things, but because he had been victimized by men then too, he had been able to imagine himself as potentially the dominant one. Females, on the other hand, were always the victims in Katse's experience. She continued to wear male clothing, behave in a masculinized fashion, and avoid showing any signs of herself as a sexual being. Since in Katse's profession she might be called on to use sex as a weapon, Jennifer had to cure her of that.

Djannis, when he learned of her methods, had a fit. Jennifer decided to teach Katse the positive aspects of female sexuality by seducing her. Djannis complained that that was taking advantage of Katse, a lack of professionalism, etc. And Jennifer herself wondered about it. Was she truly helping Katse, or was she taking advantage of a victimized child to satisfy her own desires?

In Katse's opinion, the question was ridiculous. "I was an adult the last time I checked," she said acerbically. The two of them were lying next to each other in bed, and the doubts had become too much for Jennifer to bear alone. "And you certainly didn't hurt me by taking me to bed. If I recall correctly, the whole point to this endeavor was to show me that women can have fun too...?"

"Well... I suppose so." Jennifer looked up at the ceiling, away from the younger woman. "You have to understand-- I'm older than you. I'm your teacher, your psychologist, your... well, you know what I am. There's just too much potential for me to coerce you."

"I've been coerced. This isn't it. Jennifer, kindly do me the favor of treating me like an intelligent being and not a pathetic child-- I hate being pitied. I assure you, you aren't ever going to dominate me any more than I allow you to."

Jennifer turned her head and faced Katse. "Is that a challenge I hear?"

"It's a threat." Katse smiled broadly.

"A threat? My, aren't we the fierce one today." Jennifer smiled back, reassured. Katse was right, of course-- the power inequity between them was only a temporary thing. Already Jennifer had to work to stay in control; she could foresee a day when she and Katse would be equals in everything but rank, and there Katse would have the advantage. Perhaps she should worry about dominating Berg more, instead of fretting that she was doing it too much.

"Not fierce," Katse said, still smiling. "Just-- dominant." And proceeded to try to prove it by doing to Jennifer what Jennifer had just a short while ago done to her. Jennifer didn't mind.

Under Jennifer's tutelage, Katse learned to behave like a woman. Having grown up as one who fell in between, Katse had never been fully socialized as a member of either sex, but she had perhaps absorbed more of the masculine, perceiving it as a strength. Now she learned to express the other side of her dual heritage. She had previously worn makeup only as a child whore. Jennifer, who'd been a high-class call girl, was considerably more sophisticated, and taught Katse what she knew. Katse became quite taken with the power of cosmetics and feminine clothing, the power they gave her to make others desire her, and to control whether or not their desire would be fulfilled. She had always seen herself as ugly; Jennifer taught her to make herself beautiful, magnetic, alluring.

And like Pygmalion, Jennifer found herself falling for what she had molded Katse into. Not love-- it could never be called love. But attraction, yes. She was magnetized to what she had wrought, spellbound by her own creation.

For her part, Katse showed all the traditional signs of being in love. She spent so much time on the phone, talking to Jennifer, that her schoolwork suffered. Never her duties to Galactor-- that much, she would allow nothing to interfere with-- but she would skip class to see Jennifer, ignore homework and studying to talk with her. To prevent Katse's grades from dropping unacceptably low, Jennifer had to move in with her.

Katse walked around in a happy delirium, compound parts of her new status, new wealth, a chance at education, and a lover. But Jennifer suspected that having a lover was the most important component. Katse was far too insecure to be free with compliments, yet she told Jennifer repeatedly that Jennifer was beautiful, the most beautiful person that Katse knew, that days without seeing her dragged on pointlessly like rainy Sundays in her soul (to which Jennifer had responded, dryly, "How poetic," and sent Katse into a giggling fit), and that Jennifer was her only friend.

She never said the word "love", of course. Galactors didn't love. Both of them knew that.

Jennifer had half-expected their relationship to end when Katse turned male again; though she was bisexual, she had a strong preference for women, and Katse as a male was not the kind of man she went for, anyway. But it turned out not to matter. He was still her Galatea, still the beautiful thing she had made, and he was still infatuated with her. Not to the point where he became a nuisance-- he was naturally cold and aloof enough that he didn't get sappy with her, and after she moved in Katse seemed to have less of a need to be talking to her every minute. And Katse had never been so infatuated that the power games fell entirely out of their relationship. Now that he was gaining rank and experience, it was getting more and more difficult to control him. Jennifer had to switch from outright domination to subtler forms of manipulation-- not that it bothered her; she enjoyed playing such games, and saw Katse as the greatest challenge of her career.

And he was. But the real challenges he presented her with were yet to come...

In her cell, Jennifer stirred. She didn't want to remember how things had gone wrong. She wanted to remember the happy parts. Most especially she didn't want to think about the recent-- very recent-- past, or the very near future. Or the present, for that matter.

But that was no way to stay alive. She moved slowly, checking to see if anything was broken. Nothing seemed to be. Going easy on me, then, she thought, and shuddered. If that had been going easy, she did not want to know what them being hard on her would be like...

No. Don't avoid thinking about it. Don't retreat, Jennifer, not if you want to live.

She sat up, setting off a chorus of agony all over her body, and looked around. Her cell was apparently actually a bathroom-- well, there was no bath, but at least a toilet room. The floor was tiled, and there was a sink and a toilet in the room with her. The only light came from a high window with a wire grating over it-- the light fixture was empty, bereft of a bulb. There was a blank space over the sink where a mirror had been removed.

So her captors assumed she would not kill herself. Well, they were right on that score-- Jennifer wanted to live far too badly to commit suicide. Better suffer a thousand torments and survive them, to get revenge... or perhaps they didn't care if she killed herself or not.

"So you're Berg Katse's woman? He's got taste, I'll give him that. Let's see what you've got..."

The thug's oily words returned in her mind, and the rest of the flashback began to play. She remembered what he had done to her then, and pressed her hands to her head, trying to blot the memory. After a few moments, she managed to force it away. She was hyperventilating, close to crying-- quickly she struggled to her feet, turned on the cold water, and cupped her hands under the flow, to drink and splash water on her bruised face until she felt in control again.

Think. Use what she knew. They hadn't said who they were, but they'd said enough that she knew Berg hadn't sent them. And if he hadn't sent them, they were his enemies. To kidnap and rape someone they themselves thought of as "Berg Katse's woman" without his permission indicated they meant to use her against him.

Good luck! she thought, fighting an urge toward hysterical laughter, or perhaps sobs. Berg would never let anyone use another human being against him. She could be tortured, raped, murdered, and he wouldn't lift a finger to save her...

...except that if he didn't, ISO was going to learn everything about him. He didn't know. He didn't know about the folder she'd set aside. If he knew...

Jennifer began banging on the door to her prison. They had to let her talk to him. He would save her, if he only knew his own life was at stake.

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