Die Umkehr

Disclaimers & Discussion:

This story was written for a “sampler” chapbook that Don Sakers did for a Gaylaxicon convention in 2006. I took the opportunity that the sampler represented to look at a critical event in the relationship between Andrej Koscuisko and Security Chief Stildyne, which was fun; but I have some reservations.

For one, between then and now I wrote the novella Quid Pro Quo, posted elsewhere on this website. In that novella, Stildyne and the Bonds have begun to develop a strategy for interfacing with Infirmary on the subject of psychoactive and other medication required to maintain an officer in quarters while they wait his drunk out, before the time period in which this short story is set. For another, I’ve just never been happy with the job the editor did (and I was the editor).

I’ve really tried not to mess with this story (grin) because it is what it is, and I’m not backing off the basic concept. Read it and enjoy it (I hope) but keep in mind that some of the details have been “overtaken by events” in the years since I first wrote it, and that in places where there’s a conflict between this story and (for instance) Quid Pro Quo it’s the latter that prevails in terms of continuity.

Die Umkehr

Things were quiet in administrative offices. It was Stildyne’s personal time, but he was in no hurry to leave the office; he had nothing in particular to do, and there were his duty rosters to be adjusted.

It was all Andrej Koscuisko’s fault.

Koscuisko had been the Jurisdiction Fleet Ship Ragnarok’s chief medical officer for less than five months, but in that time the Captain had contrived to find seven clients for Koscuisko’s personal attention in his dual role of Ship’s Inquisitor. Helpful man, Captain Lowden, always willing to take an accused from Bench custody and see what could be done with them; for the good of the Judicial order, needless to say. Bad luck for those accused that Lowden managed to obtain, but Lowden was curious to know what Koscuisko was made of.

The signal sounded at the door. Keying the admit, Stildyne pushed himself away from his desk, mildly disgusted. He knew what Koscuisko was made of; three parts money, four parts education, seven parts native talent, and an approach-avoidance conflict with respect to his Judicial duties that ran as deep and wide as the rivers of alcohol that it apparently took him to get back across to Chief Medical Officer once he’d closed Secured Medical behind another pitiful and mutilated corpse.

Stildyne hoped that Lowden would ease up on Koscuisko. Lowden was corrupt, but not stupid; he’d scale back as soon as he’d convinced himself of the quality of Koscuisko’s work. There was no profit in ruining Koscuisko — as Lowden had ruined Koscuisko’s predecessors — when with good management Koscuisko could be productive for years to come. “Step through.”

Robert St. Clare, one of the ship’s Security slaves. Robert had come with Koscuisko as a bond-involuntary; there’d been other Bonds on Scylla who’d wanted to follow Koscuisko and been denied permission. It was unusual for Bonds to follow an officer. Koscuisko was a bit peculiar about his Bonds, and they in turn were a bit peculiar about him, but that wasn’t Stildyne’s problem.

“Good-greeting, Chief, and it’s your help that’s needed. With the officer. We’ve a situation.”

Stildyne’s problem was that he’d found Andrej Koscuisko to be a physically attractive man from the moment of their first meeting. And there’d been a misunderstanding between them. I don’t mind telling you I am glad to be away from Chief Samons, Koscuisko had said, and It has been difficult at times to have to face her day by day.

But he hadn’t meant away from a female Chief of Security because I prefer men but away from a woman who is so attractive that it can be difficult to focus on business in her presence. Very small mistake, really, but Koscuisko had resented it with sufficient emphasis that Stildyne knew he had no hope of making a follow-up approach any time soon, if ever.

“Report,” Stildyne suggested. He had no particular issue with Robert; Robert St. Clare was a Nurail, very young, tall and broad-shouldered and with features clear and regular. Under other circumstances Stildyne wouldn’t have minded a taste of Robert; but it was out of the question, because Koscuisko loved the man — and yet had no sexual interest in him that Stildyne had been able to detect. It made no sense. That a man might rebuff him Stildyne could understand, because he knew that he was ugly. But for Koscuisko to love a beautiful man and not want him at all — where was the logic in that?

“He can get a little difficult when he’s drunk,” Robert said, meditatively. “When the terrors are on him he fears himself entering Secured Medical through the other door.”

There were two doors to Secured Medical, one through which Koscuisko entered when there was a prisoner and Protocols to implement. Robert clearly meant the other door, the one to the last cell Koscuisko’s prisoners would ever know.

Stildyne thought about it. That would be uniquely unpleasant, surely, for a man with Koscuisko’s in-depth knowledge of what went on in there. “What’s it to do with me?”

Koscuisko’s Bonds had been keeping him company in quarters during interrogation exercises since Koscuisko’s arrival. They were dedicated by law to the Ship’s Inquisitor; they’d been invented to give an Inquisitor helpers in the torture room who had no choice but to do what they were told, no matter how distasteful or abhorrent. Koscuisko didn’t take bond-involuntaries into Secured Medical, or he didn’t keep them there long when he did. It was one of Koscuisko’s peculiarities. So Koscuisko wasn’t over-working the troops, and who cared if he kept them up late at night in quarters?

“We didn’t have so much of a problem before.” Robert was speaking slowly and carefully, as though he was testing each word before he used it. Stildyne was accustomed to Bonds taking their time; if the wrong word was adjudged to be impertinent, insufficiently respectful, or to hint at insubordination the governor in a bond-involuntary’s brain would punish the infraction. “He could hear Joslire, no matter how bad it got.”

And, yes, Koscuisko’s man Joslire Curran had been killed in an ambush that hadn’t even been meant for Koscuisko. “The point, Robert.”

“He thinks we’re going to hurt him, or — worse — that he’s hurt us. We can’t get him to settle, when that happens.”

There was an “and” there. Stildyne knew there was. Raising an eyebrow — it was the only eyebrow he had that would raise, but he quite liked the effect, and practiced it in the mirror — Stildyne waited.

Closing his eyes as if concentrating Robert swallowed. “And there are words being spoken about protective psychiatric confinement, Chief. Which this troop and others like him would regret exceedingly the necessity of.”

Your grammar stinks, Stildyne thought. But Robert was deeply serious, and Stildyne could see why. Koscuisko was a proud man. To be shut up for his own protection in his own Infirmary, under care of his subordinates — Koscuisko would be humiliated. And nobody needed to hear what he might say, if he thought he was a prisoner faced with Protocols.

“H’mm.” There was room there to claim that confining Koscuisko’s terrors to the privacy of his own quarters was the best solution for supporting the respect due to rank and military discipline generally. If Koscuisko was afraid of his Bonds, though . . . wouldn’t that mean they’d have to leave Stildyne alone with him?

And Koscuisko would be out of his mind with drink. Stildyne had seen the inventories. Koscuisko wouldn’t remember a thing. If he did, he’d convince himself that he’d imagined it. “Where do I fit in to all of this, Robert?”

“You’re his Chief of Security.” There was a small touch of an as if it isn’t obvious in Robert’s tone of voice, but Stildyne didn’t take offense. Robert was tired and not paying attention, and hadn’t noticed. Unless Stildyne brought it to Robert’s attention there need be no unpleasant repercussions. “He knows you’re not there, during. And he won’t see us. It’s worth a try, surely, isn’t it?”

Yes, indeed. It was well worth a try. He’d just see whether he couldn’t take what he wanted, while Koscuisko wasn’t entirely there to be personally bothered by it.

He was responsible for Koscuisko’s physical conditioning and combat training. Koscuisko seemed to have few personal privacy taboos about being seen naked. It was as if he’d forgotten all about Stildyne’s rejected advance, because there was no teasing in it, no flaunting, Koscuisko just didn’t care that he was naked in front of other men.

Stildyne had expected that being able to see, watch, study Koscuisko’s body would eventually dull his appetite, but it hadn’t happened. He wanted Koscuisko. He wanted to pleasure Koscuisko with his body, he wanted to hold Koscuisko and see the abandonment of ecstasy on Koscuisko’s face and know that he was responsible. He wasn’t going to hurt Koscuisko. He only wanted to touch him.

Who was to say whether sexual release might not be good for Koscuisko, in his apparently disturbed state of mind? And none of the Bonds would do it. None of them would dare, not without direction, in which case they wouldn’t dare not.

“Let’s go.” He’d finish up his duty roster later. This was an opportunity not to be missed, a perhaps never-to-be-repeated chance to get his hands on Koscuisko’s naked body. He had to keep his face blank and his body relaxed, to make sure nobody suspected his intent; still, what could they do about it, even if they did?

He’d never been to Koscuisko’s quarters. Koscuisko had never called to see him outside duty hours; when Koscuisko wanted to speak to him Koscuisko called from his office. He was formal, that way. As one of the Ragnarok’s senior officers Koscuisko had three rooms; the front room, the inside room where Koscuisko’s bed was, a private washroom with toilet and wash-basin and shower. It was clear from the looks of things and the subtle stink of fresh vomit in the air that there’d been washing up to do.

Garrity was standing at the doorway as Stildyne came in. When he saw Stildyne he straightened up so smoothly that it would have been easy for someone who didn’t know him to miss how weary he was. Stildyne had just been working his roster, however; he knew it was the end of Garrity’s sleep-shift. Garrity would be on duty within hours. Had he traded duty with someone, off the roster? Stildyne was technically supposed to disapprove of people taking that sort of personal initiative.

“That’s all right,” Stildyne said, with a shake of his head. “Stand easy. What happened to your face?” Garrity grew even paler, and Stildyne decided he didn’t need to know.

“This troop regrets to report the occurrence of inadvertent damage to Fleet property without — “

Stildyne knew the formula, and cut it off. “Garrity, I observe you standing at your post performing duties assigned as officer’s orderly.” Not really, but it didn’t matter. The point was simply to assure Garrity’s governor that there was no punishment owed, because once Garrity’s governor concluded that an infraction had occurred Garrity would suffer, and Stildyne was going to need the man on duty. “I therefore conclude that dilapidations to Fleet property are incidental to your appropriate performance of your regularly scheduled duty. Mind if I go in?”

He caught the subtle relaxation in Garrity’s body language, and didn’t particularly care to. He wasn’t Garrity’s friend. He wasn’t doing Garrity any favors. The last thing Garrity should do was trust him, because he meant to have his way with Garrity’s precious officer, whether or not Garrity had any inkling of his intent.

“Straight through,” Robert said, from behind him. “Not too fast. Clear the doorway, makes him nervous, slow and calm.”

Stildyne didn’t know what he’d imagined a drunken Dolgorukij to look like, but the half-naked man crouched trembling in the corner of Koscuisko’s bedroom was hard to recognize as the self-assured autocrat that Koscuisko was in his office, in surgery, even on the exercise floor. His shirt was torn and his buttocks were bare, and he cowered with his arms folded protectively over his head as far from Hirsel — standing watch by the bathroom door — as he could get. Stildyne could only stare.

“Meds?” Robert asked Hirsel, who shook his head. Stildyne looked around; what kind of medications? Something to quiet him, almost certainly. Something for alcohol poisoning, tranquilizers, soporifics, better and better. And the Bonds hadn’t gotten Koscuisko to take his medicine, clearly enough. If Koscuisko was confused about where he was he might well think that the doses were something else entirely.

“Where did you get these?” Stildyne asked, curious. Yes, Bonds did fifth-week duty in Infirmary, but still . . .

“Prescribed,” Hirsel said. “They’re due back. Trade-off, Chief. We tend him in quarters and Infirmary lets it go, but we’ve got to show the dose delivered.”

And there were genetic markers collected by a dose-stylus when its contents went through. With the kind of drugs and the dosages a hominid from one of the Dolgorukij lineages — class six hominid — probably needed, Infirmary would be irresponsible not to check. Stildyne nodded. “Let me try.”

Kneeling down slowly where he stood in the middle of Koscuisko’s bedroom, Stildyne put one hand to the floor to ease himself forward. There was a picture in a corner of the room, with a little lamp; the shadows cast by its soft light fell across Koscuisko’s back and shoulders like yellow silk. Stildyne spoke. “Your Excellency?”

Koscuisko lifted his head with a start. His normally pale eyes were dark, his pupils dilated in the dim light “Chief.” His voice was hoarse and strained, his diction slurred; his words staggered like a man concussed. “To drink. Something. Head.”

Hirsel passed Stildyne a flask of cool water, carefully staying out of Koscuisko’s line of sight; Koscuisko took it and drank, though he spilt one part out of four. Sweat had dampened his blond hair brown and plastered it down across his forehead, and his shirt clung to his shoulders. It was no wonder that he was thirsty.

Stildyne took advantage of Koscuisko’s distraction to ease a little closer. “You need to take your doses,” Stildyne said calmly, soothingly. “Your people are concerned about you. Here.” He kept his gestures artificially slow, making sure that Koscuisko could see his hand well in advance as he held out his flattened palm with the four dose-styli. Koscuisko’s closeness was distracting; their bodies almost touched. “Shall I help you put them through?”

“Oh, very well,” Koscuisko said, but took the doses from Stildyne. Although his thighs were quite bare Koscuisko rolled up the cuff of his shirt-sleeve with solemn care to set the doses at the bend of his elbow and put the medication through into his bloodstream. Koscuisko had compact feet, short toes.

Stildyne knew almost every bit of Koscuisko’s body by heart, but by sight only; the knowledge that he was about to get touch to match each memorized image of skin and muscle shook him suddenly, with an agony of anticipation that had an awkward physical effect. The room was dark. He’d stay here on the floor with Koscuisko, with his back to the Security in the room. =Just a little while longer,= Stildyne told his hungry cock. =Soon. Just wait. You’ll have him, I promise, soon.=

“It’s cold.” Koscuisko cast the spent doses aside and re-wrapped his arms around himself, shivering or trembling, Stildyne couldn’t say. “Cold. Cold.”

Koscuisko was in shock, perhaps. Collecting the spent doses Stildyne passed them back over his shoulder, carefully keeping his body in shadow to avoid discovery. “Take these back to Infirmary,” Stildyne said to Hirsel. “I’ll put him to bed. You go get some rest, all of you. I’ll take care of things.”

Hirsel passed him a blanket, and Stildyne unfolded it as he spoke, laying it carefully around Koscuisko’s shoulders. Nobody spoke, but nobody was leaving, either. While Stildyne was deciding whether or not he was going to have to give a more direct order Koscuisko sighed, and leaned into Stildyne where he knelt. “Better,” Koscuisko said. “Tired. Going to bed now.”

They weren’t happy. But Koscuisko’s evident surrender seemed to have left them without an argument. They had no choice, after all, but to trust Stildyne to take care of things; which was exactly what Stildyne and his impatiently waiting cock meant to do. So what if Koscuisko was worn out, wretched, at the end of his strength? Koscuisko need never know. If the drugs relaxed him enough, there needn’t even be any muscular strain to wonder about, in the morning.

“Thanks, Chief,” Robert said. “Very much appreciate. Going away now. If you’re sure.”

Stildyne nodded. Yes, he was sure. He was absolutely sure. He heard the door between Koscuisko’s outer room and the corridor open, and then close. He heard the secure code: locked in. Safe. He and Koscuisko were alone, and Koscuisko was more or less asleep already, sagging heavily against Stildyne’s body as Stildyne helped him gently to his feet.

“This way, your Excellency.” Once he was in bed he’d nod off for sure, and sleep like a dead man. “No, wait, you need to get out of your shirt, it’s soiled.”

And there he was. Lying on his back on his bed absolutely naked, and as beautiful in a totally masculine sense as Stildyne had ever imagined. Smooth white skin. Hard round muscle gently contoured, Koscuisko’s arms, Koscuisko’s thighs, Koscuisko’s stomach. Koscuisko’s cock, his “fish” as Koscuisko called it, limp and quiescent and just waiting for a tender touch to wake it up and get its attention. Koscuisko’s stones, softly furred with the straw-gold beard Koscuisko wore but not on his chin.

Stildyne wanted him so badly that he ached with it. He’d never wanted anything so badly in his life. With an intake of breath he put out his hand and touched the supine body he desired, stroking the sharp edge of Koscuisko’s shin, the top of Koscuisko’s thigh, feeling the dip and swell of Koscuisko’s ribs as he breathed, touching Koscuisko’s face.

One moment. Just one moment to admire Koscuisko, to savor this. His, all his, Koscuisko clearly out of it, and no one here to tell him that he couldn’t or he oughtn’t or he shouldn’t — the Bonds would never have left without putting up a fuss, not if they’d known what Stildyne meant to him. They’d left Koscuisko alone with him. Trusted him.

Stildyne sat down on the edge of the bed. Suddenly opening his eyes Koscuisko stared up into Stildyne’s face wide-eyed, with such a look of terror that Stildyne froze. Could Koscuisko possibly be awake? How could he be?

Raising a hand with fingers trembling Koscuisko touched his hand to Stildyne’s blouse; then — as soon as Stildyne felt the pressure of Koscuisko’s uncertain touch — Koscuisko’s face changed. All of the fear seemed to go out of him, and his hand dropped down and away, heavily. “The Bonds.” Koscuisko sounded altogether too lucid, unnaturally sane. “My gentles, tell me that I have not hurt them, Chief. I haven’t hurt them, have I?”

The mad terror had gone out of Koscuisko but the fear was still there, after all. This can work to your advantage, Stildyne’s cock seemed to say. Tell him he’s hurt Hirsel. No, tell him he’s hurt Robert. Tell him he’s been bad and has to pay the price. Go on.

“I’ve sent them all to bed, your Excellency.” And he couldn’t do as his body urged him, not even though he wanted to give in. Not now. “They’re tired and they’re worried about you, but there’s no harm been done to them, sir.”

He’d been wrong to imagine that he was going to take Koscuisko as he slept under the influence of drugs. Koscuisko’s nakedness was of his heart and soul, as well as of the body that Stildyne had thought to use for his own pleasure; and Stildyne was powerless against it. What had Koscuisko done to him?

Closing his eyes Koscuisko took a deep, deep breath, and nodded his head the merest fraction. “Thanks be to all Saints,” Koscuisko said. “Leave the light on, please, Chief. Better that way.” And now, finally, the drugs took hold, or weariness and drink caught up with Koscuisko, or both at once; because Koscuisko relaxed into the padding of his bed and was asleep.

Stildyne took up the bedding that lay folded at the foot of the bed and settled it around Koscuisko where he lay, listening for breathing that was deep and regular and even. His body ached with arousal denied its target, but Stildyne knew now that he would never have Koscuisko, not the way his body wanted Koscuisko.

Koscuisko trusted him. Koscuisko had been in his right mind, lucid and aware, drugs or no drugs; and it hadn’t seemed to occur to Koscuisko to be afraid. It wasn’t drink or drugs. It was simple, honest trust, and what it aroused in Stildyne’s heart was a feeling more fierce than any lust he had ever felt in his life: compassion.

It was the man he wanted, and not the physical body of the man. It was Koscuisko being in that body that made Stildyne want it. Koscuisko at his most defenseless trusted Stildyne; that was too precious to risk at any price.

The room was dark and quiet. Koscuisko was asleep. Stildyne carried a chair from Koscuisko’s work-station into the bedroom to set it just inside the doorway and sit himself down in it, in turn. When Pyotr came Stildyne spoke a few words of explanation and left Koscuisko’s quarters to go to his own room, shaken more deeply than he had ever been in his life.