An Evening at the Guest House

Janush was finishing supper at the Capital Central Sime Center cafeteria when Yilli appeared next to him.

"Hajene, you're back in Capital!"

"Better news yet, Sosu, Skyepar's in town. I found a telegram from him at the guest house when I got back, went to find him at the Tecton visitors' quarters, but they said he'd gone out for a few hours. I left a message to meet me at the guest house, and came over here to get you if you're free. Can you come with me, or are you on duty tonight?"

"No, they're switching shifts around and I'm off until afternoon, day after tomorrow. Let me just get my cloak and I'll be ready to go."

"If you like, bring along a few necessities and we'll all stay at the guest house. Skyepar is very eager to meet you, and we can feed you a lot better than the cafeteria does."

"Okay. Shall I meet you here?"

"I'll be across the street in the little park."

*   *   *

"Where is it we're going, Hajene?"

"The Church of Unity has a guest house in one of those beautiful old mansions off the old main road into town. It's about a fifteen minute walk. I've done a lot of work with the Church training their out-T missionaries as Donors, and when they found out that I usually stay at the Capital Budget Hotel, they invited me to stay at the guest house whenever I like instead."

"I don't know much about religions."

"I'm an atheist myself, but I get along with them very well. They are quite diverse in their individual beliefs. They all want to stop the Kill out-T, and so do I, so we can work together towards that goal."

"Did Hajene Skyepar come all the way out here just to see me?"

"He may claim he didn't, and it's true that he tries to get to Capital a few times a year if he can, but yes, I think he must have headed out here as soon as he could."

"Hajene, I hope I'm not causing too much trouble."

"He'll enjoy meeting you. The fact that he came out here so fast probably means that he has some good ideas about how to help you. Don't be nervous. You'll like him and he'll like you. And if it's trouble being caused, it's me causing it not you."

"Is there anything I should do?"

"Just be yourself. You didn't do anything in particular to impress me so you might as well stick with a tactic known to work. Skyepar is a higher rated channel than I am. He has better discernment and a lot more experience with TN-1s. He's older than me and has more diverse experience overall. He also had the best First Year training available at Rialite. With your permission he'll examine you much the way I did, although he'll also have his own favorite methods. The main difference will be that instead of just me going 'hmmm' and 'do this', there will probably be a steady stream of channel jargon between us that you are not expected to understand. For me it was both a privilege and a pleasure to explore your potential and it will be for him too. I didn't hurt you, did I?"

"No, but you overwhelmed me. It was amazing."

"It'll be less of a surprise this time, but I think you'll still enjoy it."

"Hajene, I don't really understand what happened. You did some things with your field or my field and I could feel them. I never could before. You asked me to do things and I just did what I thought you wanted, and it worked."

"I don't really understand it either, Janush, but I've never met a high order Natural Donor before, if that's what you are, unless you count my sister, and she zlins completely different. Remember back in the Sime Center, when you wanted me to rest and I sat in your lap -- I adjusted the fields to make us both more comfortable and I could zlin that you felt it happen and were surprised."

"Yes, but I thought then that I was imagining it. It felt good to put my arms around you. I really wanted to work to you."

"When I started testing you, working on you, I was just trying to see what would happen when I tried things or asked you to try them. It's usually like when you want to examine someone who is paralyzed, see how bad it is, what they can still do. So you say 'try to lift your arm', and you zlin which nerves and muscles try to work and whether they can achieve any motion. You don't expect the patient to be able to actually do it. When I test someone's potential as a Donor, I do the same thing. By zlinning how their system responds, I can guess how easy or difficult or possible it might be to train them to do it. With you, I asked you to try, and you just did it. I asked you to try more difficult things, and you did them. I pushed your field around with my own and you could feel me do it. It was one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen as a channel. It's as if I went to evaluate a paralyzed patient and asked him to dance, and he got up and danced gracefully."

"You were angry too. At the people who'd trained me and worked with me and not noticed."

"I certainly was. I'm sorry I blasted you with that diatribe. It should have been a time for you to enjoy the discovery and adjust to it. Instead I let out all that anger and bitterness."

"I know it was because you cared about me."

"I do care about you. I feel responsible for you. It's important to me that things work out well for you."

"Hajene, you said that there was a fundamental disagreement between your House and the Tecton, that your grandfather had it before Unity, and you have it much worse now. Can you tell me what that disagreement is?"

"Janush, it's like this. Before Unity, it's as if you presented the Tecton with a problem: 'Here are a thousand people. Either they all die, or you pick two to save, and nine hundred ninety eight to die.' The Tecton said 'Such a decision is morally repugnant. We refuse to have anything to do with it.' So they turn their backs, and a thousand die. My grandfather would have picked two, any two, believing that while it's better to save all than a few, it's better to save a few than none. After Unity, the question changed dramatically, and what I believe to be the right answer became vastly more clear. The question was, shall a thousand people die, or shall we save nine hundred ninety eight and pick two to die. The Tecton's answer was: It's better to kill a thousand in concealment than to save nine hundred ninety eight and kill two in the full light of day."

"The secret Pens."

"The secret Pens, and direct Gen transfer to save semijuncts without killing. If we work together in the future, or you wish to pledge to my House, we will have to talk about this in more detail. Teiu has never been a Distect House. There has never been an incident of direct Gen transfer in my House that was not authorized by me with the fully documented consent of the Tecton. I have gone to tremendous effort to make sure that nothing that takes place in my House is in any way illegal or in contravention of Tecton regulations, yet I am still under suspicion and scrutiny. I'm sure that if you've asked around about Teiu and Sectuib Yilli in the week since you met me, you'll have heard a lot."

"Hajene. I trust you."

"Thank you, Sosu. May your trust not be misplaced. We're almost there, it's that house with the two lanterns at the door ... and that's Skyepar and Lita the housekeeper."

Yilli and Skyepar touch fingertips, then carefully embrace in the manner of two high order channels.

"Yilli, I'm not made of glass."

"I'm never sure that you aren't about to manifest your heritage and burst out in Farris traits."

"Don't worry, the Farris nose always shows up before the Farris sensitivity."

"Skyepar, Lita, this is Janush."

"I've been looking forward to meeting you."

"Thank you, Hajene."

"Let's go inside. Lita, thanks for looking after Skyepar for me."

"You're welcome, Sectuib. It was a pleasure."

"They've given me this nice room back past the kitchen, with a door into the garden."

"I'm sorry it's not as elegant as the rest of the house, but it is the best insulated."

"Lita, hasn't she given you the 'we used to sleep under rocks' line yet?"

"It's an honor for us to have the Sectuib in Teiu here in our guest house."

"It's an excellent room, much nicer than the Budget Hotel. Oh, Lita, thanks. A fire going, everything we require to make trin, a bowl of apples and pears ..."

"If Sosu Janush gets hungry later, help yourselves to whatever you find in the kitchen. There's some cornbread I made this evening."

"Don't be embarrassed, Janush. You're still growing."

"If you require anything, I'll be in the office for a little while yet."

"Thank you, Lita. I appreciate all you've done."

"Good evening, Sectuib, Hajene, Sosu."

"Sit down, Skyepar, Janush. I'll put some water on for trin. There."

"Janush, when was your last transfer, fifteen, sixteen days ago?"

"Thirteen, Hajene."

"The channel didn't overmatch you? Did you get him post?"

"Yes, Hajene."

"Yilli, you've bumped his production up already, or something has. With your permission, Janush, I'd like her to deep zlin you and see if she can quantify the difference in your production rate."

"Of course, Hajene."

"You two stay there on the sofa, I'll take a shoulder contact ... I can't discern it, but he's higher field than I would expect. But I never saw his chart, so I don't know what his normal replenishment curve looks like."

"It's an interesting effect, especially since you didn't draw from him."

"Every dynopter he has belongs to the Tecton."

"This afternoon I went to the Regional Offices and mentioned that another channel had told me she had met a TN-2 in one of the Sime Centers here who she thought might have aptitude for hospice work. I told them that since I was in town anyway, I'd like to check him out, and if he was suitable and willing, take him back with me, assuming the Regional Office didn't have any objections to releasing him to another Region. I got the impression that they were wondering why I bothered to ask, Seconds are cheap and plentiful, take two if you want. So it doesn't look like there's any problem, if that's the way we decide to go. There may be some other options, that I'll get to later.

"What I'd like to do, Janush, is work with you a little tonight, test you much the way Yilli did. Then we can discuss what to do. If we decide to work together, tomorrow I can study your chart, which will help me determine how best to start developing your potential, and get the paperwork sorted out to transfer you to the facility where I'm Controller. Once you've been officially transferred to me, we can do things we can't do now under Tecton regulations. I want you to know that you are under no obligation to take me up on any invitation I make to you to work with me. We'll talk more about what the work consists of later. So far so good?"

"Yes, Hajene."

"I'll be pushing your field around and you may notice some strange effects. I won't cause you any pain, but you may want me to pause occasionally so you can think about what's happened, or you may want me to stop altogether. You can use the standard hand signals, speak, or signal me nagerically. Don't just put up with anything if you don't want to or you're uncomfortable with it. Remember, I have no authority over you. I'd much prefer to do this at your pace, not mine, and we have plenty of time for it. Yilli, the water's boiling, make some trin.

"Okay, Janush, we may have to hold a standard transfer contact for a while, so let's adjust these cushions to make that more comfortable, good. If you're ready we can start now."

*   *   *

"I don't know about you, Janush, but Yilli and I are ready for a break."

"I could use some trin, Hajene."

"So could I. Here you go, Skyepar, Janush. Skyepar, you zlin a lot more amazed than Janush does, and we could zlin he was pretty impressed."

"How could so many channels have missed this?"

"The best I can figure is that it never occurred to them to look, even though he asked them to. Janush, do you have any ideas?"

"No, I think it's like you said last time. They just wanted me to do a very clearly specified job, and I did it. I gave the standard support I was taught for different conditions, and I got my assignments and served transfer and helped the channel with postreaction with the standard methods. They were all content that I was steady and reliable and didn't cause any problems, but nobody took any real interest in me. The other Donors said it wasn't as impersonal at the smaller Sime Centers where people knew each other."

"Skyepar, they sent him to Capital Central because he told them he wanted to work doing healing, but it was nothing but dispensary and collectorium for five months, and they never even tried to increase his capacity for transfer. They eroded his confidence until he assumed they didn't think he was worth training for healing work."

"What a waste. I wonder how many other talented people are being ground down and wasted like that."

"I guess we'll just have to find them and save them one at a time, unless you can get someone in power to consider the notion and issue a directive that every Donor be evaluated for further development at standard intervals."

"Yilli, you know that won't work. The usual lot will apply it by the letter without the spirit, and it will just turn into another exercise in futility. For every Donor they find they can upgrade a bit, there'll be dozens who come out of the evaluation convinced they can't even do their current jobs adequately."

"Janush, apply some of that ease-the-dying to Skyepar."

"Oh, Janush, I have a whole facility full of dying channels who desperately need that. Will you come work with me for a while? I don't think the place will still be open a year from now. If we have another flu epidemic like the one winter before last, we'll be closed by late spring. Can you give a few months of your youth and strength to help people who won't be alive to be grateful to you for it? These people made Unity possible and suffered terribly for it, and now they're dying with almost no one to care. I'm sorry, don't answer that yet, I'm getting too emotional. I must still be fairly post."

"Go ahead, Janush, I can zlin that you want to help him. Just do what your instincts tell you to do."

"That's splendid, Janush. I can see why Yilli is worried about you -- any channel who experiences this is going to be scheming to get you for himself."

"They're cutting your resources again, aren't they?"

"Last time I was at the District Offices, I had a meeting with some people from Regional. In the most polite, detached, circuitous and euphemistic way they told me 'They're dying anyway, Controller, can't you speed things up a little? We've got another use for the facility'."

"How many are left now?"

"Eighty-seven. We haven't had any intake in ten months. These are the last of them in Northeast. Can't the Tecton let them die in what peace and dignity we can give them? They'll all be gone in a year if not sooner. I proposed we reorganize the layout so we can continue the hospice care in just part of the facility, but they don't want the new kids exposed to the concept of a semijunct channel, much less one who worked for years."

"There must have been ten thousand of them, and now we're down to a few hundred. What do they want to do with the place?"

"Disjunction camp for out-T Thirds. They're edging in a new policy of not training disjunct channels. This is the first phase. They'll continue training Seconds and Firsts for a while yet."

"How can they waste them like that? Certainly they can use them for collectorium and transfers to other disjuncts, not to mention healing. Skyepar, Simes are living a lot longer than they ever did outside the Householdings. There's going to be an increasing requirement for geriatric care. Have these bureaucrats bothered to talk to the demographers at the ZMI to get a picture of what they're in for, or are they just going to wait until the crisis hits and then nobly struggle with it, as if it weren't something they could see coming years in advance?"

"Yilli, they aren't going to listen to me, and they aren't going to listen to you. Who are they going to listen to? Muryin? So who's Muryin going to listen to?"

"This is taking too much out of you. You've spent all these years doing a dirty job nobody else would touch, and doing it well. Now they won't even let you alone to finish it. You should let them know how you feel."

"The way they see it, they're doing me and my career and my Sectuib a big favor getting me out of there and into a nice prestigious job running the Sime Center in Cago. They can't imagine that I'd actually want to continue to work with the dying until they're all dead. What difference if I'm there when they die or not? They'll be dead, and no longer there to embarrass us with their existence. If you know how to get through to them, please tell me."

"You know I'm the wrong one to ask about that! But it's draining you, Skyepar, I can zlin it."

"If I turn down the Cago Controller job I can't even imagine how Sectuib will make me pay for it for the rest of my life. It really will be the last straw this time, Yilli. Besides, Roza is looking after me really well. I can take quite a lot of stress with her to support me."

"I bet Roza would have something to say to them."

"Yes, but she has more sense than to do it. It is quite an image, though. Most of them are scared of her."

"Let's go walk in the garden for a few minutes, stretch our legs and clear our heads. It's still fairly warm."

"Put the kettle back on the hearth. We'll have some fresh trin when we come back in."

*   *   *

"Can you see well enough, Janush? Just stay between us, the path is pretty smooth."

"I'm okay, Hajene. It's not all that dark now that my eyes are adjusting."

"Yilli, what's that nice scent?"

"It's these lemon marigolds here. Aren't they great? They'll bloom through quite a lot of frost. I'm taking seed with me to the seed farm when I go. These are some of the best I've run into."

"Are you going to name them something that gets you into trouble again?"

"Skyepar, can you believe it? That board told me that selling a pepper cultivar called 'Red Hot Tentacles' promotes a favorable image of the junct lifestyle. We got those seeds from that tree nursery manager in Heartland. If the out-T Gens can call it that, why can't we?"

"Considering the origins of the guest house, I think you could come up with some real winner names here. How about 'Klyd's Nemesis', or 'Nivet Council'?"

"Janush, this house used to belong to one of the Nivet Council members. You know the painting, 'Klyd Farris Confronts the Nivet Council in Capital'? I think he was the one on the left twirling his hair around his fingers as he listens with an expression of amused contempt. Anyhow, his daughter had the good fortune not to establish until a month after Klyd's coup, and with some difficulty she later got title to the house and donated it to the Church. She's running their Newcomers House in Konawa, Lita thinks."

"What are they calling them now?"

"Nothing really, just 'the lemon marigolds'. Maybe we should have a contest. I'd hate to call them something boring like 'Capital Garden' or 'Guest House'."

"How about 'Amused Contempt', Hajene?"

"Now there's a great idea. I think it would really sell, as long as we don't explain it."

"Let's go back in, the water's probably boiling. I'll pick a few flowers and we can toss them in the trin."

*   *   *

"Wow, it's colder out there than I thought, judging by how much warmer it feels in here now. Are you all right, Janush? Here, sit between us, and we'll warm you up."

"I'm okay, Hajene, zlin me. I didn't really get chilled."

"Janush, you're going to get a lot of offers like that. Channels are all going to want to find some excuse to get close to you. Might as well learn to accept it gracefully, or reject it tactfully. Do you want to sit between us? I can zlin you do. Okay, let's all enjoy it."

"Thanks, Hajene. It feels really good to be close to you, but it's not at all the feeling I get when I'm near a Sime in need. Sitting between the two of you here is just great."

"I can assure you that it feels really good to us too. You've got a beautiful nageric texture when you just let it flow like that. You've effortlessly engaged our fields and smoothly blended them. That's probably what you're feeling."

"Let me pour the trin. We can all lean back and enjoy this. Janush, you aren't a Householder. Do you know anything about your family background?"

"My mother died when I was born, but I don't know if it was from my prenatal draw or something else. I used to hope it meant I was going to be a channel so I could be a healer. My father took care of me, but he died in the Siege of Shen. Then my stepmother looked after me until she died when I was about nine or so. She went to a kill camp and didn't come back. After that, some neighbors took me in, and the government gave them money to help out. So I really don't know anything about my ancestors. I think both my parents were born in-T, though."

"I wonder if you might be a Tigue, but I've never zlinned one, so I have no idea. Ditto for whatever Hugh Valleroy was -- he had only one child, and who knows whether that child inherited whatever he had, if it was genetic at all. I suppose I could take you to Sat'htine some time and let the big noses examine you, but it's not really important. The only Gen type we have any real information on is Farrises, and you certainly aren't a Farris, for which you should probably be grateful."

"Sometimes I'd see a Farris around the Sime Center, but I never spoke with one. I've heard all kinds of stories, but I never knew whether to believe them or if someone was just pulling my leg."

"It's likely you could be Farris-trained, but you should find out more about working with Farrises before you decide to specialize in them. They can be very demanding, and mnay of them are very closed people, which can be frustrating if you're the sort who wants to be personally close to your channel. Also, they tend to be leaners. Not every Companion can stand a relentless leaner. Do you know leaners? You won't find many Seconds who have the nerve to claim to require it. Farrises often do require it. Yilli can't stand leaners; she thinks they're self-indulgent."

"That's not fair, Skyepar, I know some Farrises require it, and other channels when they're doing delicate work. But what drives me up the walls are the ones who use their assigned Donor as a nageric body servant just for their own pleasure and convenience. It's exploitation and they should be ashamed of themselves."

"Now Yilli is a very tough channel, and the opposite of a leaner. When you work with her, you're going to have to learn to occasionally knock her ankles out from under her to get her to lean on you when she requires it but won't admit it."

"I'll certainly make an exception for your great-aunt Mora, Skyepar."

"Janush, my great-aunt Mora Farris ambrov Sat'htine is one of the options I considered for you. I doubt I can politic you past her determination to have nothing but Farris Companions, and I personally would hate to have to work with her, but you won't see more skilled and remarkable medical work than the things she does. She worked on Yilli's heart at Rialite, and what she did, nobody believed was possible. Yilli was born with a hole in her heart, and Mora managed to close it. To do work like that Mora has to essentially relinquish control of her entire body to her Companion, who has to supervise her breathing and support her physiologically without interfering with the delicate nageric operations she is performing with her secondary system. This is a pretty hard job for a Companion, but on top of it Mora is not at all a pleasant old lady. In fact, she can be a real jerk."

"He's probably right, Janush, not that I got much chance to talk to her. I was in menar sleep most of the time. But she didn't seem to be very interested in talking to me when I was conscious, either. I got the feeling that to her, I was 'that challenging thoracic case', and anything above the collarbone was irrelevant."

"Now here's what I propose. One option is that I go in to the Central Sime Center and tell them that in my opinion as a First and son of the Sectuib in Sat'htine, they have missed a Donor of extraordinary potential, and they should pull you off the rota and give you the training you deserve to make First, and they should also find some work for you that involves healing instead of routine Sime Center operations. Since I don't have any real influence in this Region, this may make them do good things for you or not, but I won't be able to affect them beyond starting them in motion.

"The second option is that I get you transferred to the Channels Residential Facility in Northeast Region. I will personally guarantee to do whatever I can to help you achieve First as soon as possible, to develop your abilities as best I can, and to give you as much experience as is available in healing, both by use of your own field and by working closely with channels. The patients at the facility are mostly physically ill. Some are going to die of transfer-related problems, but a lot are going to die of kidney failure, heart failure, liver failure, neurological problems and just about anything you can imagine that can happen to someone whose body is just giving out entirely. Because they are so sick overall, there's a lot of flu and pneumonia. If you want an opportunity to work with the physically ill, I can certainly give it to you. The difficult part of the job is that these people are not going to get well. You may be able to prolong their lives, but basically you will be easing their deaths. Many of them are going to want just that. Yilli can tell you from her own experience with semijuncts that many of them are ashamed of the idea of dying from transfer dysfunctions -- they'll be happier to die quietly of uremia or pneumonia while relatively high field 'like a normal person' than die trying to take a killmode transfer."

"I'd like to try it, Hajene, if you think I'm suited to it."

"There's no question of that, if you can be accepting of these people and their pasts. Even if you do nothing but deathbed vigils you'll ease more suffering than most Donors get a chance to in a lifetime.

"Yilli will be at the CRF for over two months starting about six weeks from now. I can zlin that you're strongly attracted to working with her. This will make it even easier for you to learn. So she would be doing some of your training.

"You will not be required to serve transfer to any of the patients. Having served semijuncts is becoming a stigma, and many channels are averse to taking transfer from a Donor who has done much of it. I won't put that on your record. Besides, almost all the surviving patients are Thirds, and I have enough well-trained Donors to serve them.

"Now, as I said before, the CRF is not going to be open much longer, and the Tecton wants me to make a complete change in my career and take over and expand the new Sime Center at Cago. I hope to take with me the best people I can who want to go. That will include Yilli's sister, my partner Roza. Yilli will be coming up to Cago at least a few times to work with the Church's technical school on some proposed projects. She may be officially working for the Sime Center at the same time, and I will certainly require a Donor of the level I think you can easily achieve to serve both of us in alternation with Roza and others I'll bring in for short term work. It could be a very interesting experience for you, living and working out-T, but most of the work won't be medical. I can zlin that this all interests you ..."

"I've never been out-T ... but I am curious."

"And I zlinned a ripple of eagerness in your field when I mentioned serving Yilli and myself in transfer."

"Hajene ... yes ... but not just transfer ..."

"You certainly don't have to decide about Cago just yet. Alternatively, I will do my best to find you some other work to which you're suited, medical or otherwise. Working with these dying channels will give you a start in what is going to be a very high demand field in a decade or so, geriatrics. Between now and next summer I'll be able to look for some opportunities for you.

"As Yilli has probably told you, I have no way of getting you into Sat'htine, although when my mother lifts the moratorium in about eight years, if all goes well and it's something you want, I can propose you. I may be able to get you in for some specialized training without pledging the House, but I can't promise anything. If you and Yilli think it would be to your mutual advantage for you to pledge Teiu, go ahead. Unlike most Houses, Teiu has a variety of different oaths for different circumstances, including time-limited oaths. If you want to be protected from abuse by the Tecton once you leave my authority, pledging a House is probably the best move. If you want to be able to stay with Yilli at least part of the time, pledge Teiu.

"Now, you don't have to decide right off, but I'll only be in town for a few days, and it will take at least a day and probably two to get the papers sorted out to transfer you to the CRF. So I'm asking you to decide by tomorrow noon whether you want to go with me on a fairly open-ended basis, or just have me put in a good word for you with the Sime Center Controller.

"I don't have to wait for noon, Hajene. I know I want to go with you."

"Okay, tomorrow morning we'll start getting the paperwork done. For now, would you like to pretend that's happened and you're under my jurisdiction so we can talk about how I propose to start your training? Some of it is going to be provisional until I can see your chart, but considering how much else they missed, I don't think your chart is going to show anything startling."

"I'd like that very much, Hajene."

"You can call me Skyepar in private, but it's probably best to do the Hajene act in front of the bureaucrats until you're officially a First. I want to try one more thing, see how you two work together. Are you up to a bit more testing?"

"Yes, no problem."

"Yilli, sit here and let Janush take up a strong support position behind you. I want you to go into functional mode and lean on him as hard as you can. Here, zlin the cellular structure of this pear or something, as if lives depended on it. Can you feel her resting against your field, Janush?"

"Yes, Hajene."

"Okay, Yilli, relinquish more to him, lean harder ... more ... go ahead, Yilli, he's not wavering a bit ... harder ... he's nowhere near his limit ... I'm right here to pick it up if he folds, besides, we all know how tough you are, go hyperconscious and drop everything you can on him ... okay, Janush, that's all she's going to give you ... I'll relevel her, relinquish to me, good."

"He's got great solidity, Skyepar."

"How did that feel to you, Janush?"

"It felt good. It didn't feel like a strain at all."

"See, Yilli, you could have pushed him a lot harder. Okay, one more thing. Janush, sit on the sofa. Yilli, on his lap. Put your arms around her. Yilli lean back against him and relax. Janush, imagine that she's just had turnover, she's exhausted, she's having cramps, she's got the flu, and she requires you to comfort her and help her relax ... excellent, the smooth way you fade that in is remarkable ... she's resisting you, try to gently overcontrol her on that ..."

"This feels too good, Skyepar, I don't deserve it."

"Shut up, Yilli. If I had a Second he could overcontrol, I'd use her for a test dummy ... you're going to have to fake letting him overcontrol you ... come on, give in ... use a little more power, Janush, that's it ... Yilli, let him do it ... let him relax you ... Janush, see if you can get her to doze a little ... Yilli, cooperate ... good ... just keep on like that Janush, she's fading out ... would you like to stroke her head and back? go ahead ... that's very good ... she's asleep now ... now let your personal feelings for her suffuse your field, close your eyes if you like ... go ahead ... beautiful ... incredibly smooth transition ... I'm going to come around and take a shoulder contact on you ... concentrate on your feelings for her ... how you want to help her ... she desperately needs this, do you want to do more of this for her?"

"Yes, Hajene, I want to do whatever I can for her. Look, there are tears on her cheek."

"There are tears on yours, too. The first thing she said when you started working on her just now was 'I don't deserve this'. She's a hard person to help, but I think you can do it. From her letter, I could tell that you're the rare person she can accept help from. I'm going to mesh my field with yours, and together we are going to get her to sleep more deeply. See if you can follow what I'm doing ... good. I'll come around here and sit next to you again."

"What should I do?"

"I'm going to talk her into taking you with her on her travels east. She'll argue that it's not fair to you and we'll go around a few times while I convince her that I'm doing it to give you a channel to practice on, not giving her a Donor to exploit. She really will train you well, and it'll give you an argument when she won't take what you offer -- that you require the practice. You'll enjoy travelling with her. She goes to interesting places and talks to interesting people."

"I really want to be with her."

"I know you do, I can zlin it. You have a strong attraction to each other, and it's very hard for her to accept it."

"When she realized it, last week, her first reaction was to push me away. She told me that she knew other channels would want to take advantage of me because she wanted to herself, that she'd do her best for me even if she never saw me again in her life."

"She hates the thought of exploitation. She has trouble taking, even a freely offered gift. You have the gift she needs to accept, and you'll have to help her learn to accept it. I'll tell you more about her later, but I think you have the intuition to figure out what to do. The way you have her field blended with yours is something that's very good for her. It's also very good for you -- it will really ramp you up to match her. Do it as much as you can, get her to sleep in your arms. I think she'll be able to qualify you on her next transfer. You're ahead of her so she'll have plenty of time to build you up. If she will take you without a shunt first, you may be able to serve me the next month. There's nothing like a really intense and deep drain to develop a Companion's speed and capacity."

"I don't care if she burns me. I really want to serve her. Hajene, I want more than that. I love working to her, I can't describe how it makes me feel."

"I know, I can zlin that too. Do you want to make love to her? That's another thing she needs."

"Yes, but I don't have much experience at it. Do you think she'll accept me?"

"She doesn't have much experience herself. She'll never be able to live with the Tecton's idea that sex is just another body function necessary for optimal performance in channels. What a travesty that is. They want to turn the channels into machines, too, Janush. She doesn't require skilled technique in lovemaking, she needs tenderness and intimacy and comfort. Anything you do that springs from those emotions will be the right thing for her, and for you too."

"I was amazed the way she did that shift in the collectorium. She was moving the donors through so fast, and she never required rest, and through it all she always had a few friendly words for them to make them feel good, and she was upgrading them right and left. I was doing all the record keeping and she was getting a lot more from them than any of the previous channels, and they didn't realize it until they saw how much more money they were going to make. I haven't worked with Firsts, but she seemed just incredibly skilled, and she was so kind and pleasant to the donors at the same time."

"She's a very good channel. You know, the Tecton rating system is based on draw speed and capacity -- it's really just to match Donors and channels for transfer when you don't have them right there in front of you to zlin. Her discernment is very good, and her stamina is outstanding. She's got a fineness of control that would not be unusual in a Farris. She'd still be a low First if I hadn't made her let me monitor a therapeutic transfer with her sister. I told Roza to push the selyn as hard and as fast as she could, and Yilli had no trouble keeping up with it. See, another thing she won't accept easily is a really good transfer. She's always screwing around with partials and splices and channel's transfer even when she doesn't have to. She's very tough, so it doesn't harm her as it would a more delicate channel, but it still isn't good for her. She doesn't do any better with a Tecton-supplied stranger for transfer than with a Tecton-supplied sex partner to serve her postreaction. She'd rather do a shunt and take a partial from Mavis or one of her other members, or channel's transfer from me. She needs intimacy, she needs people she knows and trusts, and if she can't get that she'll go without."

"I want to be one of those people."

"I'm sure you can be. You'll have to convince her of that, but I don't think you'll have too much trouble. Your field will speak for you. The way you interact with her nagerically is really exceptional. Just sitting here talking to you, I'm enjoying the effortless way you're maintaining that perfect blended effect. Here you are awake, but you're managing her sleep, and I don't think you're putting any conscious effort into it either."

"No, it's just happening. I love doing it, feeling it happen. It's so magical, and I never knew I could until the two of you somehow showed me. Thank you so much, Skyepar. I feel like the two of you have rescued me and taken me to a whole new world."

"Let's wake her up now. I'll shoo you out and talk to her privately. Janush, I love Yilli, and I'm so glad she's found you. I'm glad I've found you too. It will be a pleasure working with someone of your talent. I think we can do a lot for each other. Now just gradually withdraw some of the relaxation you're imposing on her, and she should begin to float up toward wakefulness ... I'm amazed at how smooth you are ... that's it ... now focus your support a little deeper into her ... that's it ... now touch her, stroke her back or hold her closer ... here she comes."

"Ah, Skyepar, you tricked me again. Janush, that was really nice."

"I enjoyed it too. I really like working to you."

"I'd like to take a break and talk to Yilli privately. I can zlin that you're getting tired and hungry, so why don't you go see if you can find that cornbread Lita made and whatever else you can scrounge up in the kitchen, and we'll come out and get you shortly."

"Can I make any food for you two?"

"I think I'll have one of these pears, and I'll try to get Yilli to eat a piece of fruit too. I'd like to taste the cornbread, so leave a little for Yilli and me."

*   *   *

"Yilli, let me zlin you."

"I'm okay, Skyepar."

"Am I or am I not your personal physician?"

"Oh, all right, go ahead."

"You're not sleeping well at all. Still the nightmares?"

"Always the nightmares. Also, that thing's getting more frequent, where I wake up suddenly with a terrible conviction that time has run out and I'm not going to be able to get everything done."

"How often now?"

"Oh, maybe once a week, more after turnover."

"Do you still get that pain at the back of your head when it happens?"

"Yes, like always, a pain like a heavy blow, I wake up with that feeling and my heart pounding, and then when I'm fully awake I can calm down again, and sometimes even get back to sleep."

"I still want to take you to Sat'htine sometime, or get one of the Farris neurologists out to zlin you."

"It's not getting worse, just a little more frequent. I think it's the same thing as the nightmares, not physical at all."

"Still, I worry about you. So does Roza. We love you, Yilli."

"At least I'm doing pretty good at eating right."

"You are."

"That whole hearing flap two weeks ago bothered me more than it should have. I should have gone out of my way to make it look like as much of a farce as it was, but instead I used the meek and reasonable act."

"How they managed to get Payel Farris ambrov Im'cholee onto a board like that is beyond me."

"I was glad he was there. He was the only one who was willing to talk sense to the others."

"How's the House, and the work?"

"The House is doing very well financially, and people seem content. A new program may be forming itself up. Remember last year when Matti was down in Heartland training people to use the equipment they bought from us and served two berserkers in one day? The kids are at the House, and a couple of months ago, their parents came up to visit them. They brought six kids with them, relatives of changeover age. Three had already established, but they wanted us to keep the others until they established or changed over. A bunch of out-T Gens want us to take in their children until they're safe! They wanted to pay us or do anything we wanted. So I said I'd take the kids as exchange students, and send three of ours back with them. Of course ours are all Companions over sixteen natal years, but I think it will really help understanding, and be a great adventure for our Gens. The out-T kids were a little nervous at first, but they were relatives of the Simes Matti saved, so they knew them, and they were old enough to understand why their parents wanted them to spend some time in-T. With three of ours out there, I don't have to worry about whether they might be overtaxed if they start serving changeovers, but they aren't trained to take on a channel who overmatches them. I had a long talk with them, and think they understand the risk, but I still worry.

"Skyepar, I desperately require more QN-1s I can trust to help me train missionaries, and where am I going to find them? Most of the Church members in-T are too young to have kids of changeover age. Some from out-T have started bringing their younger siblings and other relatives in-T, but no changeovers as channels yet, except for Thirds. I really require experienced skilled Firsts, I can't let a young channel take this on. I can't even shuffle the straightforward stuff onto the inexperienced and just do the hard part myself, because it's taking too much out of me as is. Do you remember I told you there was something strange and wrong about the intimacy that develops when I'm doing the final training and teaching them to take a burn? I think I've figured it out. I found some stuff in the seminary library about how with Gens an intimacy develops between torturer and victim when the torture goes on for days, and I think that's what's happening. So not only am I causing them pain, not only am I experiencing the pain I cause myself, but I'm making them love me for torturing them. The thought makes me absolutely sick, and I don't see how I can ask another channel to do it too. I can hardly manage it myself."

"Oh, Yilli, how awful for you."

"But they request it, they consent to it, and when they use the skill, they're so good at it, and so proud of it. Can I refuse to give them that before I send them out? We still haven't had a single kill of child or Donor.

"I'm going to talk to some of the ethicists when I get back to Konawa. Maybe we can come up with some compromises, or they can tell me something that will make it more tolerable for me. I can't step up the training, but now I'm getting letters from communities out-T begging me to help them stop murdering their own children before they're killed themselves. The Church doesn't have anyone to send. And now you tell me the shedoni-doomed Tecton is going to stop training disjunct Thirds. Why can't they use them in-T and send the nonjuncts out-T to set up Sime Centers? Why can't they send a swarm of TN-3s out-T themselves?"

"Yilli, you can't save the world."

"If one channel can do as much as I have by training people and sending them out to save whom they can, why can't a few more channels do the same? Gen volunteers are no problem. I have to turn down more than half the excellent candidates the Church offers me. I get letters from all over Genland from people who have heard that I am training Gen changeover attendants and want to come in-T to be trained."

"Maybe this new idea with the teaching and nursing students in Cago will work out."

"I hope so. It will be interesting to go out-T again after all these years. Oh, when I'm at the CRF later this year, I'd like to bring a group of my students in. They can stay in town, I'll go to them. Can you arrange for them to work in the changeover wards at the Sime Centers in town? They'll all be qualified by the time they come up, or ready to qualify."

"I should be able to arrange it. Yilli, one more thing. What do you suppose I thought when I heard you were in phase with the most renowned sensualist in northwest Nivet, and were going back to his Householding with him for a week to take transfer?"

"You thought that Yilli was finally going to do something constructive about the CDs."

"So what happened?"

"Well, I went out there, and had the most fun I've ever had after turnover with him showing me silly channeling tricks and telling me stories and the two of us giggling over the idea of the guys on the board of inquiry doing silly channeling tricks, etc. We worked out some agreements -- he's interested in the success of the mail order seed business, wonders if he could sell premium trin blends that way, so he's going to send a few people to the seed farm later this winter, and we're going to get seed of some of his gourmet vegetable cultivars to trial next summer, and either we'll grow and market the seed under license, or Naros will produce the seed and we'll sell it for them. Some similar cooperative arrangements. Also he does a lot of disjunctions for the Tecton at Naros, so I suggested he talk to the Church about sending him some people who can work with the disjunction candidates who have theist backgrounds and are really suffering over it. The Church of Unity has helped a lot of kids from Church of the Purity families, and the sooner they can get to them the better."

"So what happened, Yilli?"

"Well, I went into hard need, and he served me really well, although we're a pretty close match. I may outrate him, but not by much. It was really excellent channel's transfer -- the guy is an artist with his secondary. So I went off for a walk, augmented some for pleasure, and was feeling really good when I came back a few hours later, a bit after his personal transfer. But when I went up to his bedroom, there was this ... incredible ... crowd scene. They invited me, but I just couldn't, despite an erotic ambient of a density I just can't describe. Not with all those strangers."

"How long has it been now?"

"Since with you, last spring. I'll be all right until I'm back there with you and Roza again."

"Yilli, that brings me around to the topic of Janush."

"Isn't he incredible? I'm so glad you can save him from the worst of the Tecton."

"He is amazing. He's still so shy with us, but once he opens up he'll do very well. I'm going to assign him to you, so you can train him to look after sick channels on your way east."

"You can't, Skyepar, it isn't fair to him."

"I'll give him the choice of coming back with me, but really, Yilli, think about it. He can stay close to you, sleep in your bed, keep his field engaged with yours. It will really pump up his production. He's ten days ahead of you -- he can probably serve your next transfer if you work on him. You know they won't have anybody better for you at NNU. By the time you get to the CRF, he may be ready to serve me, and I can qualify him as a high First. Isn't that what we promised him?"

"This is a trick to get me to have a First supporting me all the time."

"No, Yilli, it's a trick to get him to have a First to learn to support all the time. You're good with your showfield, you can teach him to identify all kinds of channel-in-trouble situations and how to deal with them. Come on, you'll be on the road, you'll have plenty of time to work with him. Plus, he doesn't have a very wide experience of the world, and you're always going interesting places and talking to interesting people. It will broaden his experience in ways no formal education can to travel with you."

"I don't require that kind of support. I'd be taking advantage of him"

"What would be a better use of his time? Look, he's got incredible natural talent, but no real training to use it. Do you think I should just take him back and let him do what comes naturally with a bunch of very fragile people? He could cause a heart to fail just by laying kindness on too thick. He requires someone like you to practice on. You've got a lot of experience training people, working with them, encouraging and developing them. You're perfect for him"

"He's already getting infatuated with me. It isn't fair to put him in such close contact with me, with no recourse if he doesn't like it."

"Is this the same Yilli, Sectuib in Teiu, whose diatribes against the way the Tecton treats Gens like children are famous throughout the Konawa District? He's a full adult, Yilli. Let him make up his mind about what he wants to do. I'm not going to order him to make love to you, I'm sure he's got the idea himself, but if you reject him because you think he isn't competent to make decisions like that, you're a hypocrite. When you were his age, you'd been working in kill camps for more than a year. Plus, if you zlin him objectively, and not through your standard 'I don't deserve anything good' filter, you'll see that what he feels is pretty well mixed, but it's not infatuation. He feels genuine sexual attraction to you, and the attraction of a high-rated Gen to a high-rated channel for transfer, as well as gratitude for what you've done to open his gift and help him find a way to use it. He thinks you're a good and kind and very interesting person and wants to be your friend and help you. He respects you as an exceptionally good channel and wants to work with you and learn from you. He intensely wants to interact with you nagerically for your benefit and his, independent of desire for transfer, which he showed us so beautifully this evening. You feel that too, it even came through in the letter you sent us. There's potential for something spectacular here for both of you, Yilli. Is it fair to him to refuse to consider it?"

"Skyepar, you're one of the few people who really understands how to manipulate me. You didn't get into the obvious about how he will help with the nightmares, and help with the confusion and guilt over the missionary training so I'll be better at it, and help with the CDs and the whole list of other things that will be good for me in the situation."

"I know well that appealing to your own self-interest is the sure way to get you to go the opposite direction."

"Okay, I'll try it. I can always send him on to you at the CRF if it isn't working out."

"Yes, and I'll be very clear to him that if he doesn't like the way you're treating him and he feels exploited, he is entirely welcome to come on ahead with no hard feelings on my part, okay?"

"Okay, I'll do it."

"Good. You need what he has to offer you, Yilli, and he needs to give it. Please, accept his gift."

"It's hard for me, Skyepar."

"I know, Yilli. I'll chat with him a bit on the way out, and see you two in the morning. No nightmares tonight."

"Thank you Skyepar, you're good to me."

"You deserve it, Yilli. This and more. Good night."

*   *   *

"It's all set, Janush. She'll take you with her, and train you. She'll try to let you help her. I feel that way too ... let's hold each other. What a wonderful nageric texture you have. I've never zlinned the like, even in Farris Gens. I think it'll work out well. Even one night with you will make a difference. She's always short of sleep. She has nightmares all the time."

"Hajene ... Skyepar ... that room she's in, it would have been the killroom in the old days. Do you think it distresses her to stay there?"

"Lita asked me the same question. No, I don't think it bothers her at all. What's brought her through all the terrible times is that she can learn from the past, turn her back on it and not let it destroy the future. She can accept it as just a nice well-insulated room, with a walkout to the garden. She knows it was a killroom, but she also knows it will never be one again, and that's enough for her."

"I worried about that when you said she had nightmares. Here, take a piece of cornbread with you. I'll try to get Yilli to eat some. It's quite good."

"Okay. Good night, Janush. I'll see you in the morning."

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