Terrible Times, Part I



"You're Sosu Janush, aren't you?"

"Yes, I am."

"I thought so, by your nager. I never zlinned a high field First before."

"Well, I'm not a First yet, but I hope to be soon."

"Is Hajene Yilli going to qualify you?"

"No, another channel will next month, I hope."

"She qualified my sister GN-1 on her first donation at the border."

"That's great. Which one was your sister?"

"She looks mostly like me, but taller and with darker skin. She'd never seen a Sime before except me."

"I remember her. Was she wearing a blue shirt like yours?"

"Yes. She brought me this shirt from out-T. She's really good at making clothes. She's going to come back to Shen with me and we're going to start a tailor shop after she finishes her orientation at the Newcomers House. I'm so glad she didn't have any trouble donating, and that Hajene Yilli could qualify her so high. It'll really help us get our business started."

"I grew up in Shen."

"Did you? I'd never been in a city before I came in-T. At first it was pretty scary, but now that I'm used to it I really like it. My sister is looking forward to seeing it."

"Are your parents here at the reunion?"

"No, we're orphans. They wouldn't let my sister come here until she turned sixteen, but we've been writing, and she said she'd come in-T to join me when she could. She doesn't care that I'm Sime. She took me to the missionary when we figured I was in changeover. The people we were boarding with would have shot me. We had to walk almost all night but we got there in time because we started as soon as we could. She told me that it was better to get there and find out I had stomach flu than to take a chance. That was last winter."

"She was right. That's something no one should ever take a chance with."

"The reason we're orphans is that our brother killed our father in First Need. The sheriff shot him afterwards. They could have sent him in-T -- he wouldn't have killed anybody else -- but they shot him anyway."

"Your sister had a lot of courage to help you like that after what happened."

"Yes, she did. I told her I'd go to Sosu Lenar by myself, but she said she'd stay with me. I said I'd try to warn her in time so she could run away, but I really didn't think I'd know. I was starting to zlin her a little by the time we got to town. I was glad she was there, but really afraid I might kill her. Sometimes I was too sick and weak to walk but she made me keep going. It was a real cold night. We woke Sosu Lenar up and he let her stay with me for a while, so maybe it wasn't too close. But then again, he knew what he was doing and I could zlin how much he wanted to help me. My sister was afraid when we were walking. She tried not to show it, but I could zlin it."

"Are a lot of kids going to Sosu Lenar now, or are most of them still being shot?"

"My sister says a lot more are. I was one of the first. Sosu had only been there a few months, but the Church of Unity was telling everybody that he could save kids from killing, and my sister had a piece of paper that she got from her friend that explained how to tell if someone was in changeover and what Sosu could do, and she showed it to me, so we planned what to do just in case. The people who were boarding us didn't believe in it, so we didn't tell them. They weren't real pleased with my sister and wouldn't let her visit me while I was waiting to come in-T. She turned sixteen last month so now we're together again."

"Did she get a craftsman's bonus for bringing her tailor skills in-T?"

"I don't know. She got the first installment on a settler's bonus."

"You should find out. I didn't know about it either, until we were at the border. If she didn't get it, maybe one of the Church people can go back to the border with you two and help get the paperwork sorted out."

"Thank you for telling me about it. Umm, I don't want to bother Hajene Yilli like everybody else does, but could you tell her thanks for me? She saved my life and maybe my sister's life by training Sosu Lenar, and there's no way I can thank her enough for that. Some of the Church people say that God is working through her, but I don't believe in that. I think she should get all the credit herself for doing what she does. And thank her for being so good to my sister, and helping her make GN-1 on her first donation. I know lots of Gens who were born in-T still aren't GN-1 years after establishment."

"I'll tell her what you said. I'm sure she'll be happy to hear it."

"Thank you. I hope you won't be offended, but you have a really beautiful nager."

"Hajene Yilli likes it too."

"That's good. Thanks for talking with me."

"It was nice meeting you. I hadn't talked to many out-T people until I came here."

"When I came in-T, everything seemed so different, but I was getting used to being Sime. Now it seems like people aren't really much different on either side of the border, except for larity stuff, of course. My landlady reminds me of the grumpy old bat who runs the general store back home and the bookkeeper at work is a lot like my teacher was, nice but you always have to do things her way. Well, I told my sister I was coming right back, but then I zlinned you, so I guess I'd better get going."

"Goodbye. I'll give Hajene your message."


"Are you feeling better, Yilli?"

"Yes, not as groggy. Did you have a good breakfast?"

"I did indeed. Just zlin how full I am."

"You are. Come sit next to me."

"Of course. I brought you a handful of sugar pears. Would you like me to cut them up for you?"

"No, I'll eat them as they are. Your field management is getting very good, to project such convincing hunger with a full stomach like that."

"I'll put my arm around you... Just lean against me, Yilli, I want to help you feel better. That's it... I wish you would rest on my field like that more often. Just zlin how much I like it."

"I don't want to get dependent on that kind of support, but I'm not feeling well and I think I'll just indulge myself a little."

"Any time you like. Is there anything else I can do?"

"No, you're doing very well. I can hardly believe how appetizing you're making these shendi-fleckin pears seem. Before you came back I was feeling a bit nauseated."

"Do you think you're getting ill?"

"No, it's just the hangover from that medicine I took last night."

"I wish I could hold off the nightmares so you wouldn't have to take it."

"You've done almost as well as Roza that way. I suspect you'll do even better once you've qualified."

"I'm really looking forward to our transfer."

"I know. Janush... I've been dishonest. I really should have told you more about me earlier on, before you got so fixed on me."

"It's all right, Yilli. I know it's hard for you."

"But you have to know. So you can back out. I want you to know that you can decline to serve me. I have quite a few of my Thirds here. Just with the ones who will be staying at the seed farm I can manage an adequate shunt. And they could probably find me a Tecton Donor in the city, adequate for a reasonable partial, if I ask soon enough."

"Yilli, you don't have to do anything like that. I'm here for you."

"It won't harm me. I've done it many times. Besides, I'll have Roza next month. She can fix me up no matter what shape I'm in when she finds me."

"Yilli, please, I want to serve you. Zlin how much."

"I can zlin it. Please, don't project it so strongly... it's too hard for me. It'll make it harder for me to talk to you."

"If you want. I met a young Sime on my way back who wanted me to give you her thanks for training Sosu Lenar to serve her First Need and save her from killing her sister. She didn't want to bother you. You qualified her sister GN-1 at the border. She wanted to thank you for that, too."

"That would have been that nice young woman in the blue shirt, right? She's come in-T to live with her Sime sister. They're going to start a tailor business."

"Yes, you remember her."

"She's very strong. She'll do well."

"Did you know, their brother killed their father, and the Gens shot the brother, but the woman still took her sister to the missionary. They walked all night, and the Sime must have been in stage five before they got there, but she stayed with her."

"These people can have tremendous courage. That's what they call it, to do what terrifies you, despite the fear, because you believe it's right."

"I guess I have more larity prejudice than I thought. I didn't realize it until I talked to out-T Gens. These people here aren't unique. There really are a lot of good people out-T. They only seem like lorshes to people who don't think about what it's really like there."

"Often all they can do is murder their own children, and they'll try to do it as humanely as possible. Shooting really can be a much easier death than attrition, and there's no death worse than the Kill. My Aunt Mrina had a special medicine for changeovers. The child would fall asleep and die easily. No one even had to tell the child what was happening. Just 'take this medicine and you'll feel better'."

"Oh, Yilli, that's so sad."

"It was the kindest thing she could do, once she was sure. She'd learned to diagnose early changeover from her mother, my grandmother Roza, a child of in-T healers. It was knowledge she brought over the border with her. The parents really appreciated it. My father was horrified, even though he understood that that was all she could do. He wished he could train her as a Companion, so she could serve those children and save them."

"Was it her patients he served out-T?"

"Yes, mostly. People really respected Aunt Mrina, and she let a few of them know what her brother-in-law could do, but not until after Unity, when people could believe even faintly that if they let a Sime live, he wouldn't kill again and again. When the soldiers came home, they spread word of what they'd seen, and people could believe it if they really wanted to. It was too hard for most of them to believe, until their own child's life was at stake. So he served a few of them, and made them swear in front of their families that they'd die before they'd kill, and sent them south. He gave them each some of Aunt Mrina's easy poison, and they swore they'd take it if they couldn't reach the border and a channel in time."

"Did you meet any of them again when you came in-T?"

"No. There were only a half dozen or so. I wonder if any even made it to the border. It was a long way. I suppose most of them were murdered, but perhaps some used the poison Da gave them. Roza served two of them. It terrifies me even now when I think of it, even knowing Roza and her incredible self-confidence in transfer. Da supported her decision. I wish I could have zlinned him. I bet he would have had the same nageric characteristics Roza has. I hope someday I'll meet a channel who knew my family, and can show me what they zlinned like, but it's unlikely now."

"Here, sit closer, let me hold you."

"No, not now. I think I'll make trin, would you like some?"

"Yes, please. Yilli, how did your father die?"

"He went to serve a changeover. The parents had locked the child in a shed and came to Aunt Mrina for help. Da said he'd serve the child, and Roza went with him. I would have gone too, but I was sick with bronchitis again. Da was like Granda that way -- they wanted us to learn everything we could, even when we were still children. It was like they knew that time would run out if they waited. It was too late for that child. He didn't have enough selyn left to survive breakout and died despite all Roza and Da could do. That happened more than once, if they didn't start working with the child early on. Roza stayed with the body and Da went out to give the parents the bad news. But some neighbors heard what was happening and came over with their Sime dog. Do you know what a Sime dog is?"

"No."

"The out-T Gens breed and train dogs for all kinds of work, hunting different kinds of wild animals, and herding and protecting farm animals like we do. A Sime dog is a dog trained to attack Simes -- to go for the arms. These neighbors meant to help. Da had told the parents to go back into the house because the shed just had board walls and he didn't want the child to zlin them through it. The house was made of logs and cement. All the neighbors knew was that a Sime was locked in the shed. So when they came into the yard, and saw the shed door opening, they panicked and told the dog to attack the man who was coming out."

"And he died then?"

"Not right away. The neighbors saw it was an adult Gen and called the dog off, but it had already bitten Da badly, broken one forearm and tore it up. Roza told me she heard the bones snap when the dog attacked. I saw the wounds when they came back home. They were carrying Da. An animal bite like that is the worst possible wound, full of infection, and the damaged muscle dies and feeds the infection further. Da lived for three days, but he was delirious from fever or in a coma for most of it. He gave the House to Roza, to hold for me. So she was Sosectu in Teiu for a while, like he was. Here's your trin."

"Thank you. If only Gens could heal Gens."

"Well, they can. My Aunt Mrina was very good at it. But not nagerically, although I've sometimes wondered about Roza. I'd like to zlin the two of you together. With Skyepar. Maybe we can figure out if what she does is real, or really nageric, or what. But I don't think a Farris channel in hard need could have saved that arm, or his life. Maybe a Gen Army surgeon could have cut it off and healed the stump if it were done before the infection got started. Don't worry, Janush, in-T we just let people like that die."

"What happened to your Aunt Mrina?"

"Well, the autumn after Da died, our cousin changed over. Mrina wouldn't let Roza serve changeovers, but she let her serve our cousin. I was there. He was a channel, probably Second Order, like our mother probably was. Of course, there was no one there to zlin, but by the speed of the changeover, and by what Roza felt serving him that's what we think. Aunt Mrina gave him her horse and a lot of supplies, but he didn't make it in-T either. She would have gone with him, but she had a lot of sick people she was taking care of, and women about to have babies. I changed over that winter, early spring really, though you'd never know it up there, and Aunt Mrina died of the sleeping sickness two summers later. That's what they call it -- it's a kind of encephalitis. They have outbreaks of it almost every summer. And that was the end of our family out-T."

"I'm sorry."

"It's all right. My aunt and grandmother did a lot of good while they lived, and that's the most anyone can say about anybody. Janush, I keep getting sidetracked from what I have to tell you, and it's because it's so hard. I thought if I waited until well after turnover, with my emotions more flattened, it would be easier for me. But as I drift toward need it gets harder to tell you things that may and perhaps should drive you away. So I'm going to try to tell you at least part of it now, and then I'm going to go out and run a little, and then we'll go work infirmary. Okay?"

"Yes. Will you let me hold you while we talk? Maybe I can help you."

"No. In fact, I'm going to stand up and walk away from you. I may have to ask you not to engage my field. If you start swamping me with compassion, I'm not going to be able to do this."

"Yilli, you don't have to do it. There isn't anything you can say that will make me stop wanting to be your Companion."

"It may take me several days to choke all this out, one ragged bloody chunk at a time. Just reserve judgment."

"Yilli...."

"And rein back that compassion... please... I... let me start..."

"All right."

"When Roza and I came in-T, it was over a year since Unity, but things were still pretty disorganized in some ways. We were very naive and idealistic and stupid. Cocky, too. We thought we were going to walk into a kind of paradise, all of Nivet like one big Householding, and here we were, a high rated channel and her Companion, Sectuib and First Companion in Teiu. We were going to do marvels and rebuild the House and everyone was going to live happily ever after. We were as stupid and idealistic and cocky as Granda and his brother had been, and although we compared ourselves to them, it was the good things and not the stupid ones we considered. We'd done something pretty amazing in getting me through changeover and getting the two of us through hundreds of kilometers of hostile Gen territory alive. I was also feeling healthier than I had in longer than I could remember. I was running on selyn, not food. I didn't require as much oxygen, so for once my heart was doing a fairly adequate job. Also, I didn't have any Sime-adapted pathogens to rot my lungs, and all the Gen and child adapted ones had been killed off by my 'Sime fever'. I really should have stayed north and never touched an in-T Sime, but of course that wasn't possible.

"So we walked over the border, a good ways east of here, and I introduced myself as the Sectuib in Teiu, standing there as scrawny and filthy as my First Companion, but both of us with big nagers, First Order nagers, the nagers of giants. Big Tuib and her Wer-Gen, stupid and bold and cocky. So they sent us down the road to the Pen. Most Sime Centers were old Pens in those days. They fed us and we washed up and the poor junct Third and his Donor, a Householding Gen whom he alternately treated like furniture and was intimidated by, who were running the place, sent us to the District Offices, about fifty kilometers away, with the Tecton wagon that came by the next day carrying the mail and picking up any former berserkers who had come over the border in the past week to get them to a disjunction camp.

"I can't give you the details of what happened next, because I know they can't have been the way I remembered them. It's easy to fool stupid, cocky young people, even if they have big nagers, and they told us that we were desperately required and they were so glad to have us help the Tecton bring about the glorious future, but even though it was a miracle to have a First Order pair, nonjunct, mind you, come floating in from Genland, we required training, and for that they'd have to split us up. This Sectuib in Teiu 'claim' as they called it would have to be further investigated, which would happen while we were in training. We might still have our First Years in Rialite, it just had to be sorted out. These things take time. So I went off for my minimal channel's education, and Roza was shipped off for her on-the-job training in Reloc District out west. I didn't find out about that until later -- she was supposed to go to Northeast Regional, but they switched it after I left.

"So I learned the basics, and took transfer as a shunt and a partial because they didn't have anybody to match me, and I had to learn how to do that too, and went back and Roza wasn't there. The Teiu 'claim' was disallowed since Teiu had been declared extinct in solemn tones before the Tecton Council by Tecton Controller Klyd Farris himself. With Teiu extinct, any claims it might have on Rialite were annulled, and Roza and I were just another couple of gutter rats, high order gutter rats, nonjunct gutter rats, but two Tecton selyn workers with no one to defend them. When I protested vehemently, they suggested I lodge an appeal. They sweet-talked me, exploited my idealism and ignorance and pride, and got me onto the boards while the appeal was in progress. They were willing to do all kinds of minor useless things for me, find out if any of the children of the old Teiu had survived its destruction, although I really knew that none had. The shedoni-doomed lorshes who destroyed the House murdered all the kids not close to adulthood on the spot and I doubt the few others survived long in the Pens. They also promised to try to track down our cousin and the Simes Da and Roza had served in the north.

"What they required me for was this. There were a lot of junct channels working for the Tecton, and most of the higher order ones couldn't be trusted. The Thirds were fairly easily managed, once they had a good pool of Householding Gens trained as their Donors. They just made sure that the Donor overmatched the channel by a good margin, and they had the first few transfers monitored by a Householding channel. They didn't lose many Gens that way, surprisingly few, and the Gens who could manage those transfers, more like killmode attacks really, were tough indeed. But Second and First Order Donors are rare and valuable, and not easily replaced. The Householding channels who were running everything at that point also had a real strong personal vested interest in the welfare of these Donors, even if the Donors were idealistic enough to volunteer to serve the juncts. So the higher order junct channels were mostly getting channel's transfer, with the occasional transfer from a Donor, and enough kills to keep them content and out of disjunction crisis. Now, you can only give satisfactory channel's transfer to a channel you outrate, and I outrated almost everybody, so I was a real find.

"But first I required more training. I had to learn how to give a junct-satisfying transfer, and the only way to do that is to zlin kills. So they set up a schedule for me. Some time at a kill camp, zlin some kills, serve the kill camp channels, the worst junct channels of the lot, or they wouldn't be working there, then off on a circuit to serve the junct channels in all the little Sime Centers, all the former Pens in the District, then off to a kill camp in another District, a similar circuit and repeat. In those days every District had a kill camp, and they were all real busy too."

"Yilli... please let me support you."

"No, Janush. I have to get more of this out. I'll stop soon."

"Didn't you have a good Donor to help you?"

"No. I had a few Householding Seconds, one at a time. Each one of them was under protection of her Sectuib who demanded that the member never enter a kill camp, never observe a kill. So I had their help on the circuit, but not when I required it most. None of them was anything like a match, so it was shunts and very careful partials, a very carefully controlled draw, because there was no way they could match my speed, no one had taught them how to shen a Sime, so they couldn't protect themselves from me if they had to. Not that they could overcontrol me, but I'd have shenned myself if I felt them trying to shen me. I know I would have. I certainly didn't want to burn them, whether I was punished for it or not, and I hadn't reached the point yet where I knew I could live, if you could call it living, on shunts alone.

"It took months to get Roza back to Northeast, and sometime I'll tell you what happened to her, or perhaps she will. What I... have to tell you now is about the nightmare I had the other night, the one that scared you so badly. Janush, I'm not going to even try to tell you the details. I'm not going to even be able to tell you enough that you can imagine them for yourself..."

"Yilli, please let me support you. You're gasping for breath, please..."

"No, Janush, just... please don't keep trying to engage my field, if I let you I won't be able to go on... please..."

"Yilli..."

"Janush, I'm your channel, I'm your teacher, I have authority over you... stop it!"

"All right."

"Do you remember what I told you about the higher order junct channels in the old days, the Big Tuibs who ran things? Well, after Unity the Tecton had to decide what to do about them. They had to leave some of them running things, at least for a while, but if those juncts ever slipped up, if they were ever caught trying to circumvent the Tecton in ways that couldn't be ignored... well, the Tecton was merciless. But there were a lot of channels who were willing to go along with the Tecton, at least to some extent. They got real good channel's transfer, the kind my Granda had sold, from channels like me. They got Donor's transfer occasionally, if they were well-behaved. They really were better off than they had been before Unity, at least as far as transfer went. And in some cases they had a lot more power than they should have been trusted with, even more power than they had before Unity. The Sime who has the power to sign the kill authorizations has a literal death grip on the laterals of every semijunct in his jurisdiction, and in those first years not only was that almost every Sime, those channels knew they had that power and were delighted to use it for entirely selfish purposes. It was natural to them -- it was exactly how things had always worked.

"Those junct channels were very much into what we would call corruption -- although it wasn't, to them. There was a fair bit of siphoning off of Pen Gens for blackmarket sale, in addition to the obvious corruption potential of deciding who got a legitimate kill, when and how often. But the channels running the kill camps were also able to set things up for their own pleasure and convenience. They were supposed to only take kills on schedule, but sometimes the schedule wasn't adhered to very closely. They were only supposed to take Pen Gens in the standard way, but the standard way got to be fairly flexible, especially since we were just starting to get the very first true semijuncts, usually out-T Simes who had missed their chance at disjunction, who never learned to kill easily, and these semijuncts required a little help, and sometimes they didn't manage to kill at all. I'm... I can't... I'll tell you more about the semijuncts at the kill camps later, because that was my true downfall, that and my pride in my skill as a channel that made me into a monster... but for now, let me say that a Gen who has survived an abort is a Gen who knows the agony of the Kill, who is an absolutely delectable treat for a junct, because that Gen knows what is going to happen when he sees a Sime reach for him. So these kill camp channels would keep such Gens for their own kills. I suspect they even made such treats, burned Gens with their secondaries, then killed them later, or reserved them for their cronies. Also, a breeder Gen, a mature adult, has a more developed nager even if she's been on drugs all her life, so is also a bit of a treat, or at any rate a stronger stimulus than a newly established Gen, practically a child, just... just like you were last winter... so they were shipping a few of them to the kill camps for these new semijuncts, and the channels were keeping a lot of them for themselves.

"I went to a big kill camp, the one outside Iburan. It's been closed for some time now, but it's a heavily populated area, and they had a lot of juncts to serve. The channels running that camp had set up what can only be described as a Gen parlor for themselves, and for the other junct channels in the District, and it wasn't... it wasn't the relatively tame kind of Gen parlor our Granda had told us about that he knew in Konawa, horrible as such a place seems to us now... I... I'll tell you about a few of the things they did just so you'll have an idea how much worse what I ... zlinned... was... and because some of those things became standard practice later, Tecton policy, to 'facilitate' kills, to help the semijuncts take their allotted kills by 'stimulating' the Gens. The way a Gen parlor operated, was Simes would bring their Pen Gens and pay at the door. There'd often be shiltpron playing. There was a cage to keep the audience out, and in the cage they'd put the 'lead Gen' and the high field Simes who were going to 'work the Gen'. They'd torture the Gen, which would get the rest of the Simes high intil, and they'd start killing their Pen Gens, and the whole thing would cascade until everybody had a much more intense experience than they would otherwise. Your field control is very good, Janush, I appreciate it...

"Now since the Gen parlor wanted to reuse their 'lead Gens', who were often fairly valuable, Gens from finishing shops, or even Domestics or Wild Gens in the more expensive parlors, they were pretty cautious about real damage, so it was mostly mild sorts of things, slapping and pinching, twisting joints enough to cause pain without real injury, although they had to do a few things to cause a spike of agony, like a burn or a whip cut, or the customers wouldn't feel they'd gotten their money's worth. Of course, you can threaten a Gen with pain like that and get a lot of terror with minimal physical damage, almost hit him with the whip and let him try to escape it, or have one Sime hold him and another poke at him with a stick with a burning coal at the end, almost but not quite close enough to burn him, especially poking at eyes and some other parts. You get a lot of terror and the bit of agony when you finally burn his cheek or chest is enough to please the customers without much damage to the Gen. Often that would trigger the cascade anyway. The best method, though, was suffocation. Just restrain the Gen, pinch closed his nose and cover his mouth, the increasing desperation and terror are delicious to juncts, the Gen takes no physical damage, you can get him back into action with a bucket of cold water, and he can never get inured to it because breathing is a hindbrain function.

"At that kill camp near Iburan... the channels invited me to zlin some of their kills, intense kills, so I'd be able to recreate those experiences for other Simes, so they could stay out of the kill camps longer. I outrated them all, but I was easily manipulated by arguments like that. I think they were trying to get me into a situation of complicity, so I wouldn't try to get them stopped. They must have been worried when a nonjunct channel was sent in, who couldn't be seduced into their system by the lure of a good kill. I don't know whether they hoped to junct me. Maybe it was a chance at a revenge on the Tecton through me, or maybe they figured they didn't have much to lose. I was more than a week past turnover. I should have had more sense. Roza would have. But she wasn't there. I didn't even have a Second to help me. So I got carried along to their little soiree. There were three channels scheduled for kills, and five others to 'observe' and 'assist', and also, it turned out, to restrain me if I tried to stop them or get out. They had all their best stock there, Gens they'd been saving for months, Gens they'd been 'developing' like in a finishing shop, transfer burn survivors, breeders who were physically mature so they could do some of the most revolting tortures... they didn't have to worry about permanent damage to ones they didn't intend to reuse... and they were all Tecton property anyway, no loss to them... just... just let me catch my breath... Janush, I was there for three hours... they kept it up that long before all three killed. They overpowered me, I couldn't escape. I couldn't stay hypoconscious that long. Even hypoconscious, with my eyes closed, I knew what was happening. They were enjoying my reactions too. I'm just lucky they didn't manage to arrange a little accident for me... maybe they did, but I escaped it. I left my horse and ran into Iburan. The District Controller wouldn't see me. He sent a message that I should get back to my work assignment. I went into town, sat down in a trin shop, and wrote a report. A detailed report. I went back to the Tecton offices, left the report with the receptionist, requisitioned a horse and headed west. I changed horses every time I could. I used my Tecton ring and my big nager to get the horses at Tecton facilities and I got to Reloc in four days. I was a wreck, I was descending into hard need and I had to find Roza. When I found her and saw what had happened to her I was ready to murder. She was low field, but she could calm me down. I had plenty of selyn in my secondary, and she helped me do a shunt. I took her six days' production in a partial that gave me the first decent draw speed I'd had in six months.

"So there we were, a couple of rogues. That nightmare, the other night, that was at least partly from that incident near Iburan, mixed with other things, but... in the dream I can't stop them, either, but then later I don't want to... I... zlinned how they were enjoying it, and in the dream I do too... and when it's really bad... they succeed in juncting me... I experience their sadism as pleasure... I participate in it... and at last I kill..."

"Yilli, let me help you now."

"I can't get through to you, can I? I participated in these things. I zlinned those kills. Kills of people just like you. Later it was me who 'prescribed' the 'stimulation'. I even did it myself, Janush. I slapped the faces of Gens who had been children a few weeks before, so that a semijunct could have a few more months of life by giving those almost children the most agonizing death known. I overpowered those screaming, weeping, struggling little Gens, and shoved them into the arms of those desperate semijuncts, over and over, until they could complete a kill. I was the consultant, asked to help with the difficult cases. I'm a First, I can overpower any renSime, raise his intil, coerce him into a kill. Those Gens were people like you, Janush. They had decades of life ahead of them. The Tecton told me to throw away decades of Gen life to preserve months of Sime life and I did it. Over and over again. How can you stand to touch me?"

"Yilli, I saw you in that nightmare. There were tears on your cheeks. You were trying to scream. Your arms were folded, I couldn't move them. You were rejecting your dream with everything in you. You were augmenting, trembling with it."

"No. I know what I felt."

"Yilli, you wouldn't let me take a transfer contact. Your tentacles were all tightly withdrawn. A Sime who's dreaming a kill wouldn't be like that. Tell me your arms weren't sore afterwards from having your tentacles drawn up so tightly."

"No, you don't understand."

"I was holding you from behind, I had my arms around you, I had my arms over yours. You weren't responding, Yilli. I know I wasn't controlling my fear very well. I was really worried about you, desperate to help you, but you didn't respond to that either."

"I... don't remember."

"You were still asleep. It was only when I stroked your lateral sheaths that you woke up, and then you were hyperconscious for a long time. It seemed like a long time. But you didn't touch me. I couldn't engage your field. You couldn't even help me relevel you."

"I remember waking up... I could zlin you... you were afraid. I thought I'd hurt you... in the dream I thought I'd tried to kill you... when I really woke up, came duoconscious, I zlinned your arms in case I'd bruised you."

"You hadn't touched me, Yilli. I wish you had. I tried to get you to, to break you out of your nightmare, but you wouldn't, no matter what I did."

"I'm sorry I scared you. I wish you'd sleep in another room."

"You know I won't. We can work something out if the medicine is too hard on you. I can stay awake and keep my field engaged with yours. Even if I don't have the sensitivity to feel a subtle change in your field yet, I can watch you, listen to your breathing. If I think you're heading into a nightmare I can wake you up, or try to influence you nagerically. You only require a few hours of sleep a night, in the week before transfer. I'll be okay. I can just sleep later."

"Well, we can try it after the reunion. For now I'll take the medicine."

"I'd like to do something. Something from the handbook Skyepar gave me. I want to try it on you."

"What? Show me."

"It's something like what you did to me the other morning, but the Companion does it to the channel. I'm not sure I understand the nageric notation, or how to implement it, so I have to have help from you to learn it. Here, it's on this page. It's sort of a massage but mostly nageric."

"Hmm. Let me guess. Skyepar told you that you could get me to let you do things for me by saying that you had to learn how."

"Well, you're supposed to be teaching me. Do you think I have the precision control yet to do this right? I won't hurt you if I mess up, will I?"

"No. I think the worst you could do would be to annoy me a bit. I'll be sure to let you know."

"Here, I'll put more wood in the stove first so you'll be warm enough. Good. Now just sit here on the bed, and relax like in the instructions. No, just relax, I'll take your shirt off. Now lie down... let me position you like it says... how's that?"

"Good."

"I don't think I'm ready to take over the full field control from you, so I'll just do as much as I can. You relinquish as much as you feel safe with... good, that's beautiful, thank you."

"You do your best. Just warn me if you can't sustain it."

"It's no strain at all. It feels really good."

"You're very strong, Janush, very solid."

"I'm here for you, Yilli, just lean on me as much as you like. I'm working with the instructions in the book, and it says that you should relinquish to me. I'll let you know if I'm about to falter, but I'm nowhere near that. Now, I'll start with your shoulders, okay? Let me know if it gets annoying or I do something wrong."

"Mmm. Feels good."

"Now I'll work on your shoulder blades a little... now to your upper arms... I'm trying to be gentle, am I focusing right?"

"Yes, you can use more power... more than that... ah, very nice, I can feel it in the transport nerves..."

"So I'm doing it right? I wasn't sure I could. Now I want to move down your forearms, I'll be very gentle, Yilli, please tell me if I'm hurting you."

"No, it feels good, you can use more power than that... a little more, yes, that's good. Mmmm... I'd like to relinquish a little more to you... is that all right?"

"Yes, no problem. You're sure you're okay? I want to try to initiate the pulsation."

"Just take it slow and try to keep it symmetrical... that's probably the hardest part... use a light touch until you've got the pattern.... good, very well balanced... now increase the power very slowly... good..."

"Now I'll start at your hands, and draw the sensation back up to your shoulders....along your collarbones....are you okay?"

"Mhmm."

"Now I'll bring the two streams together at your throat... now down to the vriamic node.... I felt that, Yilli!"

"Good. You're doing very well... the pulse is still very steady and symmetrical... you'll have to do this for Skyepar some time. He'll enjoy it...I certainly am."

"I'm so glad I can do things like this for you... now I'll run my hands down your arms again... palm to palm... now I'll bring your arms into the second position... just stay relaxed... put my arms around yours, so you don't have to tense a muscle....ah... I hope you're enjoying this as much as I am... it's a like a current of light running up our arms to the centers of our chests... mirror images of each other... you go ahead and make lateral contact when you're ready..."

"Well, just briefly... make the lip contact on the nuchal node... try to detect the trigger point for inductive flow... I don't think you'll be able to manage it yet, but try... No, I can feel you searching for it, but you don't have the sensitivity to find it yet. We'll try it again another time. That was nice, you did very well."

"Let's just rest here together for a little while. Stay relaxed... I'll pull the blanket over us... good... just rest on my field... It feels so good to touch you, physically or nagerically. You've done so much for me, developing my talent. I wish I could do more for you."

"I wish I were your age again, Janush, so we could enjoy this new world together, without the past."

"The past is gone, Yilli. We're here together now. We have many years ahead of us, together."

"I hope so... I shouldn't say it, but I hope so... You can still back out, Janush. You don't have to give me transfer... I'm really only technically nonjunct... so many kills..."

"You've never killed, Yilli. You never will. You'll never harm me in transfer. It's just need depression making you think this way."

"I'm all stained and damaged by the past, Janush. You should have someone like yourself, clean, unspoiled."

"We have the same past. I grew up with the semijuncts you saw at the kill camps. They were my neighbors, my stepmother, almost all the adults I knew. Serri told me how you helped people like them have a last few good years at Teiu. You did more than anyone for them. They could live without killing and die a clean death."

"So few. So late."

"You couldn't save everyone, Yilli. You did what you could."

"I look back and see all the times I could have done things differently, the stupid mistakes I made out of pride and ignorance. I didn't understand how to compromise, to work the system from within. I was raised in a little mountain valley. I never saw anybody I didn't know until we were on the run. I had no idea how the world worked. Granda told us all those stories about Konawa. I think he wanted us to get some sophistication, some concept of a bigger world. But it doesn't work that way. It was only when I understood a bigger world that I could understand the stories. But I thought I understood them at the time. Roza too. What fools we were, and such terrible consequences for our folly, paid in so many lives."

"You can't take the whole burden. There were hundreds, thousands of people who were more responsible than you."

"And if all those people blame it on everyone but themselves?"

"Yilli..."

"Let's get up and do our infirmary shift."

"All right."


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