Terrible Times, Part II



"I've made some trin, Yilli, are you awake enough to drink it?"

"Uh, yes. I should have been up already. Shen, my head is spinning."

"It's all right. We don't have anything scheduled for a while. Here, I'll help you sit up, just lean against me."

"Thanks. I am getting a little dehydrated. It's the dry air from keeping the stove going at night."

"You don't have to do it for me, you know. I don't mind the cold air. We have plenty of blankets and I've got a nice warm Sime to hold."

"Well... Thanks for making the trin. You're taking good care of me."

"Serri brought you some rice gruel. She calls it 'jook'."

"That was kind of her. She must have brought the rice from Konawa. She knows it's one of the things I can eat when I don't feel like eating."

"I'll find out from her how to make it, so I can make it for you too."

"It's just thin porridge. Maize gruel is almost as good. With plenty of salt, when I'm not eating much. She puts other stuff in, too, but it isn't necessary."

"Do you want to eat it now?"

"Not just yet. Too nauseated. Can you pour me some more trin?"

"Of course. Here you go."

"Thanks. Your field is really beautiful. I've never zlinned a First developing before. Well, except Mavis, and that took over a year."

"What do you zlin?"

"Well, a while back when you reached your former capacity, I could zlin the characteristics of repletion. But your production is continuing, so superimposed on that is mark of a rising field. And your system is expanding to accommodate the increase, and I can perceive that too. It's just incredibly beautiful in combination. When I was waking up and you were coming toward me with the trin it was like the sun coming up through mist. It's good you've got such excellent control when you apply it. It could be hard on the renSimes otherwise. Well, ones in need, and there aren't any here."

"Here, I'll take the cup. Do you want more?"

"No. I hate that drug. It takes me until noon to wake up completely."

"Do you want to lie down again? Maybe you can doze a little more."

"No. I feel better sitting up. Your field is so beautiful. You're determined to give me transfer, aren't you?"

"Yes. You can't talk me out of it, you know."

"You're going to match me, no problem. Your production is starting to level off, but it will still be a good match. That was a beautiful little frisson of joy, Janush."

"I'm so happy it's going to work out. I've wanted to serve you in transfer ever since you told me it might be possible."

"I can't resist you. That shenned drug... I should keep my mouth shut."

"It's all right. Don't worry."

"It's not fair... I'm a First... you can't resist me... I drew you right in... my field did... you didn't have a choice but to follow me."

"That's not true, Yilli. I could have stayed in Capital, but I would have been crazy to. You and Skyepar are giving me what I want, so maybe I'm taking advantage of you, too, right?"

"I was going to... I was planning that when we got back to the seed farm, I'd tell you to go into town for the day... just look around, drink trin in a cafe... and every time you saw a young Gen, or a child of establishment age... think about how many like them I helped kill."

"Oh, Yilli."

"I can't resist you, Janush... all that compassion... I don't deserve it and when I'm like this I can't resist it... I hate being weak like this."

"It's all right. You'll feel better when the drug wears off."

"I should experiment with the formula more. More poppy and less henbane. More euphoria and less babbling. Less dry mouth and dilated pupils, too. But the poppy syrup suppresses coughing, and I could gum up my lungs."

"Here, let me work on your lungs a little, like you showed me."

"Mmmm. That does feel good... you have a beautiful touch."

"Just ask me any time. I like working on you."

"You must have excellent visualization... I've never understood how a Gen can do it... working blind... Roza always laughs at me when I ask."

"I guess I kind of imagine feeling it the way I imagine seeing it. It's hard to describe. It's a lot easier than it used to be. Maybe I'm more sensitive, or maybe I've got more experience working on you."

"Here... may I make a shoulder contact? Good... Your repletion is so comforting... oh, Janush, it's a little early for that need-to-give, but it's really beautiful..."

"Just relax, Yilli. I'm here for you. I'm your Donor, just enjoy what I can do for you. I'll pull the blanket up, keep you warm."

"It isn't fair... I've trapped you... you're fixed on me... like a Sime on a kill..."

"It's not like that at all. I chose you -- you and Skyepar. I'm young, but I'm an adult. I can make choices like that, can't I? Even if I'm Gen?"

"A low blow... you're going to be dangerous... a mind like that, a heart like that, and a nager like that..."

"Do you think you can sleep a little more? I can try to help you."

"No. I'm waking up more now. The trin is kicking in."

"Here, I'll fill up your mug. It'll help with the nausea too."

"Janush, after you met me in Capital, you must have asked people about me."

"Yes. There were some strange stories, but nothing that made sense."

"The wer-Sime who could live without transfer? The walking dead channel?"

"It was all stuff like us kids used to tell each other to scare ourselves at night. Even the people who told me the stories didn't believe them."

"I suppose the stories could be exaggerated by now, but a lot of it was true."

"How could you go months and months without transfer? You can't live on shunts."

"Yes, I can. Even Rimon Farris did when his Companion was pregnant."

"Yilli, that's folklore. Especially a Farris couldn't."

"A few times, I went two months, then had transfer with Roza. Then when they wouldn't let me have Roza I went six months once. I could have gone longer, but Roza came and rescued me. I took channel's transfer from Skyepar."

"Oh, Yilli, how could you bear it? Why wouldn't they send you Donors?"

"They did, but I couldn't take transfer from them. I used them to do shunts. The last year before I got out of there... Janush, I wasn't sane any more... the Donors were afraid of me... I couldn't take transfer from someone who was afraid."

"You don't have to tell me about this, Yilli. I'm not afraid of you. I know you'll never harm me. I'm sorry for what I said when we first got together, that I didn't mind if you burned me when you qualified me. I didn't understand that that would hurt you."

"I have to tell you about this. I'll let you support me. You have to know the worst. Especially if you want to pledge to Teiu and be my Companion."

"Go ahead."

"After what I told you before... I got Roza out of Reloc and back to Northeast. I said I was her Sectuib, and our appeal was pending, and I had authority over where she worked. So they let us travel together most of the time, even if they'd only let me take transfer from her every third month. I got some Firsts as Donors, never a good match, but better than those Seconds who took such chances serving me. I had some say over who else Roza served, and they let me monitor if it was a junct. So we could protect each other at least somewhat. And I used up the rest of my First Year that way, on the kind of circuit I told you about, but I never went back to Iburan, and later I heard that they cleaned that particular mess up. So things were bad, but I was still pretty idealistic and stupid, and young, and with Roza there I could tolerate a lot.

"Then I met some people from Gulf and found out that it didn't have to be the way it was. That if you can find a reasonable match for a semijunct, he can go without killing a long time, years even, maybe the rest of his life, and a reasonably long life, too. And a lot of Gens can be trained to serve transfer to renSimes, even Pen Gens. Pen Gens are even easier to train because they don't know they're supposed to be afraid, so you don't have to overcome that to train them. So it's not hard to find matches for the semijuncts. They aren't Farrises. A fairly rough match is adequate because the Gen, a young Gen, will adapt to make a better match over the next few months. So all the horror, and death, and suffering and waste of lives was all pointless, unnecessary. I'd gone along with it up to then, because I knew that if we denied kills to the juncts, they'd overthrow the Tecton and there'd be Zelerod's Doom within the year, so it was the lesser of the two evils.

"I knew it would take time to phase something like that in, the kills would have to go on for a while, but there would be an end in sight. I didn't understand why the Tecton didn't see it. Klyd and Hugh were recently dead, and I thought it was mostly that unresolvable conflict between them, Klyd's total antipathy to the Distect, that had gotten engraved into Tecton policy, and now maybe that could change. So I started campaigning for that kind of change. Do you see what a total idiot I was politically?"

"Yilli..."

"It was bad enough when I was just talking. All I got was the same arguments. If you let renSimes take direct transfer, they might kill some Gen on the street. But those renSimes were already killing Gens in the kill camps, and a few Gens were still being killed on the streets. They said that if you gave some semijuncts direct Gen transfer, the others would riot if they couldn't get it too. But most true juncts didn't want transfers, they wanted kills, and the Tecton was giving them kills, though not as many as the juncts would have liked. A mixed system of channel's transfer, Pen Gen kills and direct Gen transfer was working in Gulf, although it had the momentum of a generation of change, unlike Nivet. But even then, the momentum of a nonjunct society had started to build in Nivet, as the juncts died off and more and more Simes were nonjunct, more and more Gens were living independent lives, more and more juncts were undergoing psychological disjunction and believing in the rightness of Unity, becoming true semijuncts and hating the Kill. The economy was starting to really pick up without the intolerable burden of a Pen system, with all these healthy young nonjuncts who expected to live long lives. These people didn't want the old ways to come back, and they would soon be the majority and the people who were running things.

"Of course, it was another one of the Tecton's all-or-nothing policies -- if you can't give everyone direct Gen transfer, no one may have it. If you can't save all, you may not save a few. Just as before Unity the big Householdings, the backbone of the Tecton, would never let a junct inside the gates, would never consider offering channel's transfer to the juncts. They would rather let those juncts kill again and again and again, or die in attrition if they couldn't pay their taxes or buy an extra kill to support a pregnancy, than compromise their ideals. The little Householdings, in the poor areas, were a lot more flexible, but they didn't make Tecton policy. They got along with their junct neighbors better than the big Houses in rich areas which were used by the junct politicians as scapegoats and targets whenever anything went wrong. The ambrov Mountain Bells had bailed out Ardo Pass more than once before the time they took Klyd and his party there, and that's why they were always welcome when they brought their horses to market. But Nivet didn't have a Risa Tigue to take a poor House like Keon and transform it as she did Gulf.

"There were some other arguments, but what was really behind it was that Nivet had all these semijuncts and all these Pen Gens, both groups the ugly and embarrassing legacy of junct times, and if we just arrange a little controlled Zelerod's Doom for them, they'll all be dead within a decade and we'll have the wonderful world of equality and Unity of Sime and Gen that we see around us now. You can never trust a semijunct, and if you have these former Pen Gens out there where people can see what defective human beings they are after being bred and raised as they were, nobody will ever believe that Gens are really people. So I went from being a mere nuisance, easily controlled, this Houseless gutter rat First calling herself the Sectuib in Teiu, to someone who could become a real danger to the system. I was still stupid enough to believe that all I had to do was convince people of the validity of my arguments, with Gulf as a proof of concept, and they'd go along with it, now that Klyd wasn't at the top vetoing anything that gave any renSime anything but channel's transfer, and we'll all just pretend that we aren't secretly killing a million or two Pen Gens every year out somewhere where nobody who matters has to zlin it.

"Skyepar has this image of a line around Nivet -- imagine a loop of rope encircling the whole population. At Unity, the Householders were outside it, and any other nonjuncts or disjuncts could join them, as well as any Gens establishing from the general population. Inside were the entire Pen population, breeder and child, and every Sime who was too old to disjunct. Inside were the doomed, the temporary people, and outside were the real people, the people for the future. That loop has steadily shrunk, and now there are only a handful of people inside it, some of them patients at the CRF. Most people can ignore this remnant now. Through bad luck and the disorder of the times Roza and I got put inside the loop when we first came in-T, and through our own ignorance and political naivete and stupid idealism we made sure we were kept inside.

"So they tried to get me into line. I should have been sitting in some comfy urban Sime Center by then, signing kill authorizations and never seeing a Pen Gen, but they kept me out on the road. They could see my health was deteriorating already -- I was always getting bronchitis, pneumonia sometimes, but Roza was bringing me through it, with her field and with what she'd learned from Aunt Mrina. They stopped sending me the almost-adequate Donors as often. One time they scheduled me for channel's transfer from a junct who barely matched me, and I flat-out refused. I couldn't take Roza, so I did that month on a shunt. It wasn't all that bad. I'm tough. And like I said, if Rimon Farris could do it, why not Yilli, Sectuib in Teiu, with the support of Roza her First Companion?

"Well, the next incredibly stupid thing I did was try to show them that it could work. I was still foolish enough to believe that the problem was that they didn't think it was possible. Roza was dubious, but she was willing to go along with it. I started trying to train a few Pen Gens at a kill camp. And you know what? It was easy. I'd work with them to get them used to being handled intimately by a Sime, I'd manipulate them nagerically, I'd be kind to them, and give them nice things to eat, and cuddle them, and I'd take a simulated transfer from them and they'd enjoy it. They couldn't talk, but they could laugh and hug me afterwards, and of course I could zlin that they liked it. I figured I was doing my Granda one better -- he never did manage to train a Choice Kill to serve its junct owner, but these Pen Gens were a snap for a channel of my great prowess. I even had a few I was ready to match up with semijuncts, and some more I was working with, but I wasn't there to protect them all the time. I was mostly out on the circuit. I had the cooperation of the channels running that kill camp, decent people, true semijuncts who hated the Kill but were too old to disjunct at Unity. They wanted to see this succeed too. We figured we'd get this going on a small scale with the cooperation of the channel running a nearby Sime Center, who was also a true semijunct and had some semijunct renSimes she wanted to help. It would be a fait accompli, a pilot project.

"Do you see what's about to happen, Janush? I should have. Roza did, but she was willing to back me. She thought we could fight it, because we were right. What a couple of fools. If we had put our efforts into being nice cooperative Tecton employees, we could have come outside that loop, joined those meant to survive. I could have gotten some status, maybe been a District Controller in some little backwater myself by then, with some authority to do things. We might have politicked the right way, gotten some Householders to back us in getting Teiu recognized, and then we'd have the status of a Householding ourselves, with some independence from the Tecton, and some say in its policies. We could argue from a position of strength. We could take some semijuncts and some Gens into Teiu and as Sectuib I could do whatever I wanted with them in selyn management matters. I could do my proof of concept, my demonstration, out in the open, where they couldn't... kill me for it."

"Here, Yilli, sit up. It will help you breathe easier... that's it... just rest on my field, come on... let me help you... I'll work on your lungs some more later, that cough can't be good for you..."

"I... thank you... I... have to finish telling you what happened... I have to."

"It's all right, Yilli. Zlin how I feel about you. I'm not afraid of you. I'm not disgusted by anything you've told me about yourself. You tried to do the right thing, the way you understood it. I'm sorry it didn't work out."

"I never saw those Gens I'd trained again. I never saw those channels who put what was left of their lives on the line to back me. I had the experience of hearing a Householding channel tell me that I'd spoiled those Gens for the Kill... can you believe it? Like those melodramas with the junct politicians confronting the heroic Sectuib before the attack on the Householding... They took Roza away from me. They moved me to the other end of the Region. They gave me a schedule I could barely have managed if my lungs weren't already starting to rot out... and I went along with it. What else could I do? Run away to Gulf and let them take it out on Roza? I didn't know then that they had sent her to the CRF, just at the time they were giving it to Skyepar. That was the one incredibly good thing that came out of it all.

"Now this is the part where all the wer-Sime stories come from. After they took Roza away, after they took away all those poor mindless Pen Gens who'd trusted me... I could zlin the trust... I... just let me catch my breath... thanks... that helps... after I'd been working that schedule for a while, I just... started falling apart... I wasn't eating. I wasn't looking after myself. I started to get the lung abscesses that almost finished me off. I had a fever all the time. They wouldn't give me a Donor to help me. Roza believes they wanted me to die, that that would just solve the whole problem I presented. She may be right. They ordered Skyepar to keep her under control. They thought he was weak, that he'd comply with whatever they said. But he's not weak. He has great strength, great integrity. But she didn't trust him at first, and he didn't know her either. So at some point, I think I can remember it happening, I went crazy. Something just snapped. Some linkage in my mind. I didn't feel anything any more. Nothing bothered me. I wasn't a human being any more, I was just a channel. A channeling machine, really. I wasn't even a Sime. I couldn't raise intil on the verge of attrition. They sent me Donors, and I used them to take shunts. I don't think I told you where I was getting the selyn to serve all those junct channels. It was from the dead Pen Gens. Final donations, they call it now. The kill camp channels would collect it for me, and I'd collect some myself.

"So there I was. I could serve a junct-satisfying transfer to a renSime or a channel. I could facilitate kills for the semijuncts, the difficult cases, the ones they asked me to help with. I could live without transfer. I could scare the shen out of a First Order Donor, just by the way I looked and smelled. Lung abscesses make your breath stink like a rotting corpse, because it's your lungs rotting in the heat of your own body. I was feverish and crazed and emaciated. I was living without transfer, on the selyn of the dead. I was dead myself, in most ways. I didn't really know I was dying, or care. I didn't even think about Roza, or Teiu, or anything but what was in front of me -- another channel in hard need who needed me to serve him, a desperate semijunct who couldn't take his kill.

"They lied to Roza, told her I was doing well, that they'd found a good Donor for me, a good match. If she cooperated a bit longer, they'd let us get together again, at least occasionally. They lied to Skyepar too, so he wouldn't give it away. But after a while the rumors got to the CRF, Roza found out what was really happening and came to rescue me. She took me back to the CRF. Skyepar was appalled at what they'd let happen to me. He's a healer to the core. He wanted to give up Roza so she could serve me, but they were both afraid that if that came out they'd split us up and it would be all over. At that point I didn't care. I don't think I was really conscious. I was just a little bag of bones, stinking like a corpse, almost dead anyway. You have to have a lot of respect for even a healer who could bear to touch something like that. He tried to serve me himself, but he couldn't get me to raise intil. So he worked out that bridge, had Roza work on me, took transfer from her and carried it to me, an amazing feat, not just technically, but personally. We've done it again since, but that first time, in hard need, to let his Donor raise intil in another Sime like that, a Sime she loves, a Sime she prefers, who at the same time is no one he knows, a physically and nagerically repugnant..."

"Yilli, that transfer is a better legend than the scare stories... and it's a true one."

"You can see why we both love Skyepar. He's an amazing man. He seems weak because he won't fight, he's not ambitious, but his integrity is rock-solid, his honor, his decency as a human being, his dedication as a healer, his technical brilliance as a channel..."

"So he and Roza saved you."

"Yes. After they got the transfer into me, they got me rehydrated and fed and put me into menar sleep. The two of them really came together then, over my almost-dead body. There had been something developing between them but neither of them could acknowledge it. Roza told him that there was something we knew, that we'd sworn not to reveal, but if we told Muryin, she might make the Tecton Council reinstate Teiu, and there'd be some hope for us. She said she'd do anything, promise to work for him indefinitely, whatever he wanted, if he'd use his connections to get us an audience with Muryin. So he did, and it worked. He also arranged for his great-aunt Mora to work on me at Rialite. So I survived, and Teiu was reborn, and I managed to help a few semijuncts for a few years, and we both owe Skyepar far more than he'll ever accept from us."

"What was it you told Muryin?"

"I can't tell you. Even Skyepar doesn't know. Roza and I swore unto Teiu not to reveal it, and she had to talk me into breaking that oath. She said that Teiu was going to die with me, soon if we didn't do anything, and then what would an oath to the dead be worth? She said the Virtue of our House is Pragmatism, that we'd sworn unto Teiu, and we should break the oath to save Teiu. Muryin called us on it, and Roza used that argument. So I'm an oath-breaker, too, although it was somewhat a coerced oath. I'm pretty sensitive about oaths after that, nonetheless."

"So that's why you take a one-year oath from your members at first."

"Yes, and the several other forms I have for the missionaries. I've heard some contemptuous talk from members of other Houses about it, but it doesn't bother me. If they'd had the same policy they wouldn't have had the problems most of them have had with the meretricious types they foolishly pledged in after Unity. Skyepar's mother wouldn't have had to impose her famous ten year moratorium. It's not as if things were so perfect before Unity either -- someone could pledge their life and all to some House, Virtue and Sectuib, and six months later find themselves at the gates of another Householding, expected to swear another unbreakable oath to a different House, Virtue and Sectuib, because the two honorable Sectuibs wanted to exchange some skills and breeding stock."

"Yilli, I want to pledge to Teiu."

"I know you do. We'll talk about it after our transfer. You still want to serve a wer-Sime, do you?"

"You know I do. Nothing you've told me has made me feel bad about you, just sorry for how you've suffered."

"I feel better for having told you, but I still feel dishonest, because of the way I influence you nagerically. Your body can't resist me, and it will drag your mind along with it."

"That's okay. I'll be Sergi to your Risa. No problem."

"Just don't be Hugh to my Klyd! It's a good thing we're not matchmates. I don't want to make history or legend. Do you?"

"No. I just want to be your Companion, serve you in transfer as often as you want, work with you, be with you, make love with you..."

"You're besotted. I hope you can tolerate the way I am, descending towards need. I've been getting depressed and maudlin, but I get irritable too and may start snapping at you. I wonder if I could have stood to be a Companion myself. Roza snaps back at me."

"It's okay, Yilli. Even your members have told me how polite you are in need. Go ahead and snap if you have to. Right now I'm going to overpower you, well, try to, and do that first thing you taught me, in that restaurant in Capital."

"Well..."

"Don't try to argue with me. I have to practice these things, so I get good enough at it to impress Skyepar when I see him. I'm going to hold you and wrap us in this blanket, and you're going to soak it all up...."

"All right. I'm feeling kind of bruised after telling that tale."

"Good. No arguments... now I'm going to just gradually increase the intensity, see if I can really get you to melt..."

"You don't know your own strength... wow..."

"That's it... and don't tell me you don't deserve it, you're getting it anyway. Your student has to get his practice time in."

"Janush... I'm really glad you're here with me."

"Good."

"I'm sorry we'll have to wait to make love... I know it's hard on you, at your age."

"Stop apologizing. I can wait. Besides, if all that romantic fiction is true we'll get so attuned to each other that I won't have any libido after your turnover anyway."

"I think that works better for older people."

"We'll just have to get old together and find out then."

"Where's all this assertiveness coming from? It's a good thing I can zlin the emotions behind it."

"I've decided to become a wer-Gen instead of just a Tecton Donor."

"A wer-Gen!"

"If Sergi could do it, so can I. Roza's a wer-Gen and you like it. She told me she'll help me become one too. So I'm doing some practicing in advance."

"It's a good thing Skyepar will overmatch you for some time yet. I don't know if a Distect quadruple with two wer-Gens is quite what two channels should have."

"It's good for you, Yilli. I love you. I want the best for you. I want to do whatever I can for you... just relax and zlin that..."

"Mmmhmmm..."

"I know it's harder for a Sime to enjoy things after turnover, so I just have to work a little harder.... exert a little more nageric influence... to get you to melt...

"Wow..."

"Now that I've got you in my wer-Gen powers.... I'm going to just flood you with this...."

"Wow, Janush... you're getting dangerous..."

"You're safe, Yilli. Just zlin what a replete Gen is holding you... Just zlin all that selyn that's there for you... Just zlin how much that Gen wants to give you that selyn..."

"I think we're edging into the therapeutic parts of that handbook."

"Once I'm your Companion, it won't matter. Here, I'll take off my ring. I'm yours now, not the Tecton's."

"You're right, you can make me melt..."

"Have I got you in my power, like a proper wer-Gen?"

"Well, I could leap out of your arms and run out of here in high augmentation, but I don't want to, so I guess you do."

"I love you so much, Yilli. This is the best thing that's ever happened to me. My stepmother would have been so happy to know things would work out like this. You and Skyepar have been so good to me. I..."

"Now don't you get into an 'I don't deserve it' act!"

"Oh, Yilli..."

"Here, let's get back to business... I want to work with you a bit. Let's do that exercise where I focus my attention on the major nodes of your selyn system, and you tell me which one I'm concentrating on. I bet you can do it now even though you couldn't last week."

"I should get you to eat first. I hope that gruel isn't dried up."

"The way you can project hunger I'll eat it anyway, wer-Gen."

"Here, I'll get it for you, and make more trin... and build up the fire."

"Don't bother with the fire. We'll go do infirmary soon anyway. There will probably be a few more men with bad backs, now that word has spread."

"Why do all these Gens have bad backs?"

"It's just what wears out first. Simes get bad backs too, if they live long enough. At a younger age than Gens do, too. Augmentation isn't good for joints."

"Here's your gruel. Maybe I should stir in some hot water."

"No. It's the most delicious dried-up gruel I've ever eaten in my life. You can tell Serri I said so, but leave out the dried-up part."

"Serri has a sense of humor."

"She does. No Farrises in Teiu!"

"I'm glad you're feeling better."

"So am I. Thank you."

"My pleasure, Hajene."

"Mine, Sosu."


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