Tankborn Deleted Scenes - Joining

The Joining Scene accomplished a number of tasks. First, it revealed a little bit about GEN culture. I touched on the GEN religion via mention of their deity, the Infinite, and his Intercessor. I described their marriage practices (joinings), and revealed how joined partners could easily be separated if they were Assigned far apart from each other. I introduced Skal, a GEN enforcer (part of Loka's police force), and showed how GENs in the enforcer Brigade are generally despised by other GENs. I also hinted that Skal had a secret agenda the day of the joining when he offered to help Kayla tote crates.

Since this scene was deleted, I had to sprinkle the above information elsewhere in the book. One aspect of the Joining Scene only tangentially made it into the final draft—the issue of the stratification of GENs. In the Joining Scene, Kayla is teased and humiliated by a group of young GENs who look very similar to high-status trueborns. The girls in that clique call themselves the Jewels and the boys call themselves the Warriors. They look down on Kayla since she's entirely the wrong color. Also, her extraordinary strength seems to the Jewels to be something a boy should do, not a girl. The concept of the Jewels and Warriors sadly went by the wayside as the book was edited.

The Joining Scene starts at a time when Kayla is obsessing over the "pending disaster" of her upcoming Assignment.

The Deleted Scene

Ten days before that pending disaster, Tonk and Alia's joining ceremony provided an Infinite-blessed distraction. Kayla had to borrow a second-hand skirt and blouse, but the embroidery on the skirt was beautifully done and the ribbons crisscrossing the front of the blouse were barely faded. Beela and Miva would be at the ceremony, there would likely be more to eat than just kel-grain, and she would have a few hours to forget about Assignment day.

Beela walked with Kayla from the thirty-third warren to the devotion house in the twenty-sixth. Not much of a devotion house, just a first floor flat where the Intercessor of the Infinite lived and some adjoining empty space for services. The Infinite probably strained just to see them there, if He looked at all.

Iyenku had risen three hours ago in advance of Kas, the lesser sun just offering a sliver of light above the horizon. Kayla basked in the warmth on her face, enjoyed the weight of her embroidered skirt swinging around her hips.

She linked her arm with Beela's, her friend tall, slender and lovely in her new, richly dyed dress. Beela's nurture father's partner was a tech, responsible for maintaining the electrical network in half of Chadi's warrens. As a tech, she earned more dhans in a day than Tala did in a week.

"You look tired," Beela said, tipping her dark head down toward Kayla.

"Just haven't been sleeping well. Nightmares again."

She'd told Beela about them before. After Mishalla had left and Kayla's heart was aching, she'd confided to Beela what only Mishalla had known. About the secret of Kayla's past, about the bad dreams. Strange images, swirled in blackness—herself as a baby looking up a woman's face that wasn't Tala's. Brigade enforcers coming for her, carrying her off as she screamed and cried. Trying to reach for her mother, but she had no arms.

"I thought you didn't have those anymore," Beela said, pulling her back to the present.

"Haven't been until just this week." Kayla shrugged. "Should have forgotten that other nurture mother by now."

"Maybe because you're worried about..."

Assignment day, Kayla finished silently. "It's not as if I didn't know an Assignment specialist would be coming for me. Coming for all of us sooner or later."

"Still, aren't you scared?" Beela asked. "I am and I'm still months away."

Kayla was scared spitless, but she wouldn't tell Beela that.

"What about that trueborn boy?" Beela smiled. "Do you dream of him?"

"No!" Kayla said. "Why would I?"

She didn't have to dream of him at night. During every waking hour, whenever she let her mind wander, Devak's face intruded. When she was earning a few quarter-dhans toting the neighbors' rubbish to the community incinerator or shifting sacks of plassfiber from storage to building sites. He was always smiling, sometimes kindly as he had that day, sometimes with a sneer like Livot and his skinny friend. She would delete Devak from her brain one moment and the next he would pop up again, with his smug, trueborn grin.

She wasn't telling Beela anything about that, either. Luckily, their arrival at the devotion house cut short her friend's probing. She spotted Jal near the back of the meeting space with his best friend Tanti and the rest of their tenth-year pack. Skal, Mishalla's older nurture brother, sat one seat away from Jal, his black and red GEN enforcer uniform menacing despite Skal's affable grin. Kayla wasn't the only one in the crowd who didn't appreciate the enforcer's presence, GEN or no. The seats on either side of Skal were empty and would stay that way for the ceremony.

Miva was sitting near the fourteenth-year boys and had two spaces saved. But as Beela and Kayla started in that direction, Tala turned and waved to her from a row near the front. She pointed to the place next to her. Guilt and resentment knotting inside her in equal measure, Kayla whispered an apology to her friends and made her way toward her nurture mother.

As she squeezed past the already seated guests, Kayla stumbled on her hem and nearly toppled into dour Sath's lap. Of course the Jewels, two rows in front of Beela, were watching and saw Kayla's clumsiness. Palacia, Malla and the other Jewels snickered from their prime seats right next to the "high-status" GEN boys who comprised the Warriors. Kayla's face heated as she steadied herself, but she refused to look Palacia's way.

She settled beside Tala, trying not to notice the frayed embroidery in her nurture mother's ancient dress. Tala had worn the same shabby clothes at every joining and welcoming ceremony as long as Kayla could remember. She could guess what the Jewels would think of Tala's dress. She squirmed with an embarrassment that shamed her.

She listened with only half an ear to the familiar ritual. "We give thanks to the Infinite," the Intercessor droned, "for bringing these two together to be joined."

Kayla nudged Tala. "Why didn't you ever join again after Xan died?" Kayla had only vague memories of Tala's partner, dead nearly nine years now.

"Never found anyone," Tala murmured.

The Intercessor, a short, round GEN man with a shiny bald head, sprinkled water on Tonk and Alia's linked hands. "Hope that's not from the Chadi," Kayla whispered.

Tala shushed her and Kayla tuned in again to the Intercessor's recitation of the vows. "May the Infinite bless your lives, may your joining remain unbroken through trial and tribulation..."

Kayla snorted. Trial and tribulation was nothing to trueborn meddling. Alia taught twelfth and thirteenth-year GENs their Doctrine classes in east Chadi. Tonk managed inventory in a half-dozen local food-stores warehouses. The trueborns could send Alia to teach GENs in Plakit sector or Tonk to manage inventory in far off Mendin and their joining would be broken pretty denking quick.

A last sprinkle of water, the Intercessor's intonation of "May you be joined in the Infinite" repeated by the audience, and the joining ceremony ended. Kayla sprang to her feet as quick as she could, edging past Tala, her gaze fixed on Beela and Miva.

But before she could escape, Tala put a hand on her shoulder to stop her. "Tonk and Alia need some help carrying food crates. Since we couldn't give a joining gift, I volunteered you."

"You didn't ask me!" Kayla protested.

"Because I assumed you'd want to do something nice for your former teacher."

Of course she did. Alia had been her favorite, always letting her and Mishalla borrow the sekai readers as long as they wanted, making sure the electronic devices were filled with the kind of fantastical stories Mishalla and Kayla loved. It was Alia who had comforted Kayla when Mishalla left for her Assignment in distant Sky Loft sector.

But toting heavy crates of kel-grain and dried fruit...the kind of work a GEN boy would do, not a girl. She glanced over at Palacia and the other Jewels, clustered with the Warrior boys. Maybe they were too busy talking to notice.

As she turned to go, she nearly collided with Skal. "I'm glad to help," he said.

She sidestepped him. "We don't need you."

But as she went outside, he dropped in beside her. His fingers fidgeted with something she couldn't make out—a datapod?—flipping the thing end over end in pace with his steps.

He dogged her as she headed up Liku Street past the open space where they'd set up a plasscine tent. The crates were stacked in front of a warehouse three warrens down from the devotion house.

Two years ago, Kayla had been head over heels for Skal, although Mishalla couldn't see what Kayla did. Kayla saw her friend's nurture brother as tall and slim, his eyes as dark as any high-status trueborn. To Mishalla, Skal was all elbows and knees and his gaze more closely resembled the muddy Chadi than high-status deep brown.

Still, they laughed over it and Mishalla never chided Kayla for loving Skal. Until Skal's Assignment day, when he proudly marched down Liku Street in his Brigade uniform with the other GEN enforcers. Kayla's affection burned out in an instant.

She walked a little faster. "I can shift these crates just fine without you getting in the way."

His long legs kept pace with her. When they reached the first towering stack, he edged in close to her. His bulk blocked her view of the joining ceremony guests. Then he raised his hand as if to touch her cheek.

She jumped back. "What are you doing?"

His hand floated in the air, fingers tight around whatever he'd been fiddling with. His mouth, compressed with impatience, softened into a smile. "You liked me, once."

"Not anymore," Kayla spat out, turning her back toward him.

Kayla took four crates, locking two together side by side, then locking another two on top. An easy hundred kilograms. Skal took half as many and they turned back toward the devotion house.

"I know you miss Mishalla," he said. "I do too."

She didn't want to ask, but her loneliness pushed her. "Have you heard from her? Contacted the crèche in Sky Loft where she was Assigned?"

"Even if I wanted to, my wristlink is monitored. I couldn't send a message without my Brigade captain knowing."

"You don't want to?"

"It's against regulations."

"Monitored wristlink and a puny little disrupter that couldn't blast a kel-grain kernel. Not much of an enforcer, are you?"

She expected him to scowl at her, but he just flashed her another smile. "Enough of one."

"It sounds as if you like being in the Brigade."

"Did you expect me to refuse service when they delivered my Assignment? When they would have reset and realigned me in a heartbeat?"

"I don't know. But you don't have to be so happy about it."

They'd reached the tent again. The Jewels and Warriors had gathered in the far corner, commandeering chairs that had been set up for the oldsters. They were too busy admiring each other to notice Kayla setting crates beside the plasscine trestles in the opposite corner.

The next few trips went just as smoothly, the work going even quicker when Alia's nurture father, Bol, organized a few of the fourteenth-year boys to help. The boys could each only carry one crate, but soon enough, they were down to the last six.

Kayla had just hefted her four crates and Skal was bending to lift his two when his wristlink beeped. He glanced at the message, irritation setting his jaw. "Have to report. Sorry."

"Just lock the other two on top. I can manage."

She couldn't see past the top crate, but after four trips she could feel her way. The weight wasn't quite at her limit, but her arms and shoulders and legs were tired from the repeated loads.

That must have been why she caught her toe in her hem again just as she reached the tent. She struggled to keep the crates balanced, breathing a huff of relief when they didn't topple.

But then as she turned toward the trestles, something—someone—bumped against her. As she tried to recover, her ankles tangled and she leaned precariously forward. She caught a glimpse of a second-year toddling past her knees. She had only one way to keep a hundred-fifty kilos off the top of that baby's head.

She fell on her backside with a painful thud, her arms aching with the strain of keeping her hold on the crates. The second-year toddled on, unaware of his near miss. Sprawled too awkwardly to help herself, Kayla had to wait for Bol's gang of boys to free her from the crates.

She could hear the guffaws, recognized Palacia's high, musical laughter. She'd just as soon stay hidden behind the crates forever. Or somehow work her way out from under them and sneak away.

But as the boys hustled to remove the crates, there were Palacia and Malla and the Warrior boys, Pech and Fosi, standing over her. All of them high-status trueborn look-alikes—as look-alike as a GEN could be with a tattoo imprinted on their right cheeks. Their eyes dark, their skin almost that same luscious shade of roasted kel-grain as Devak. Their dark hair almost as straight and glossy.

And almost was enough for the Jewels and the Warriors. Especially compared to a pale-skinned, frizzy-haired blonde like Kayla.

Palacia sniffed at her. "How'd a clumsy jick like you live so long?"

The last crate gone, Kayla surged to her feet. "You're just as much a jick as me, Palacia."

The Jewel tossed her long dark hair. "GAMA didn't build me with cast-off DNA like you."

Kayla's hands tightened into fists. "My DNA is as good as yours."

Except it wasn't. Anyone could see the mark of superior trueborn genes in Palacia and Pech's faces. The Genetic Augmentation and Manipulation Agency hadn't wasted any of that DNA on Kayla.

Palacia looked down her nose. "If you're so special, why did your first nurture mother throw you out?"

Nausea punched her in the stomach. "Who told you that?"

"Let's just say some people are better at keeping their mouths shut than others."

Now she saw Beela standing behind Palacia, the sorry look on her face. The one friend she'd turned to after Mishalla had left. As lost to her now as Mishalla was.

Kayla turned away, forcing herself to walk back to Tala's flat in the thirty-third warren. When she passed her nurture mother outside the devotion house, she told Tala that her monthly courses had started and she wasn't feeling well.

She managed to walk all the way down Liku Street until she reached the warren, sweat dripping under Iyenku and Kas's full assault. Then she ran up the stairs, barely slowing when she reached Tala's flat. Grief chased her into her sleeproom where she stripped off her borrowed clothes.

She threw herself on her bed, fighting, fighting, fighting the tears. Even if Palacia never saw, she wouldn't give the Jewel the satisfaction. Kayla dug her fingers into the bedclothes, felt them rip.

She never should have been genned. The Infinite should have never let her be created. He should have taken one look at her DNA and known it would never be right. Should have pinched it right out of the tank.

But she wouldn't cry. Palacia and all her friends could go jump in the Chadi in those beautiful rich clothes. Kayla denking well wouldn't honor them with so much as one single tear.

Joining Scene

Flood Scene

Coffee House Scene

Zul's Journal