An Encounter at the Regional Offices



"Skyepar! Skyep, my boy!"

"Oh, no, it's my Uncle Zeth. Janush, stay quiet but help me stay calm."

"Okay, Hajene."

"Skyepar! Fancy meeting you here. What are you doing in Capital?"

"Oh, just some miscellaneous things, Uncle Zeth. How have you been?"

"I've been just fine. And I got to meet the little gutter rat Sectuib of your girlfriend last week. Feisty as a gutter rat -- a well-named House. Is your little chickie like her?"

"Well, Roza's a Gen, Uncle."

"Come see my new office. I'll have my Donor bring us some trin. Don't tell me this is the best the Tecton can do for you. You complain to your Ma. There's no reason you should have to put up with a low First. You're the Sectuib's son, even if you aren't a Farris."

"No, Uncle, he's not my Donor. I'm just getting some paperwork sorted out for him."

"You shouldn't have to do that either. What are we paying all these clerks for, hey? Here we are. Nice office, don't you think? Sosu, bring us some trin, the good stuff for my naztehr here."

"Thank you, Uncle Zeth."

"Yup, I was on the board, but the even funnier bit was the day before. The little gutter rat brought her Gen in to the Sime Center downstairs, and wanted a very sensitive Farris with transfer burn experience to examine him. She sure picked the wrong guy to play Mighty Sectuib to. The shift manager was one of those anti-Householder types, and sent her up to Perrin. You know how excitable Perrin has been about transfer burns since what happened with her anti-kill conditioning."

"Uh huh."

"Well, it's always been almost impossible to get a straight story out of Perrin on anything, but the best I can figure from what she said, she zlinned the burn on the Gen and literally went ballistic. While her Donor was wrestling her down, the Gen picked up his Sectuib and ran."

"Oh."

"The Controller was very clever to find that Im'cholee Farris to look after Perrin. He's built like a concrete killroom and has a nager like a sodden fire blanket when he wants to. It must have been something to zlin."

"So how's Aunt Slina doing?"

"She's back at the Householding these days. So, really, Skyepar, tell me about this Gen of yours. After zlinning the Sectuib in Teiu I'm real curious about what a high-rated Gen of the same bloodline is like. Not that I'd want to take transfer from someone who's specialized in serving juncts, but I'm curious. Can you zlin the junctness when she serves you? If she's like her sister, I bet she's got real fire, both in transfer and after."

"We get along very well, Uncle Zeth."

"I suppose you've served enough juncts yourself that anything that Gen could do to you wouldn't make much difference anyway. Your Ma is real glad that you're going to get out of that dump you're running in Northeast and be Controller of the Sime Center in Cago. It's about time you did something to promote your career instead of sink it. It'll be good for you to manage changeovers that can survive for a change, and you'll get some use out of all that changeover pathology you studied up on back when."

"Yes, Uncle. Ummm, I want to get the rest of this paperwork settled before it gets too late..."

"Here's the trin. Just go ahead and pour it for us, have some yourself and give the other Gen some if he wants it ... good. I don't require your support right now, you can go sit over there."

"Thanks, Uncle. It's very good trin."

"My special supply. No way I'd drink the standard crap the Tecton provides. So, have you been out to Cago yet? I wonder what it's like out-T these days."

"No, I'll be going up there late winter or early spring to have a look around and start planning the expansion."

"It's a good move, Skyep my boy, a good move. Someone who can impress the out-T Gens could rise high in the next years. Trade with them is getting more important, and we've even got Gens coming in from out-T -- to live off their donation payments, no doubt -- but we do require the selyn. We've got to keep them thinking we're keeping up our end of the First Contract by running the Sime Centers, but it's just not feasible to bring much of their selyn in-T. Serving their Sime kids in changeover is good public relations. Say, that Gen of yours isn't into that religion thing her sister is doing, is she?"

"I don't think either of them are into it. Teiu just works with the Church training Donors for them."

"That's some idea she's got -- sending Donors out to serve changeovers out-T. I'm surprised they don't all get shot on sight. Don't they have some kind of superstition out there that anyone who can touch a Sime is a demon?"

"The Church of Unity only sends missionaries to places that want them. They avoid the worst superstitious areas. Or so I hear."

"It's still a crazy notion. How can a Gen tell if he can serve a Sime without a channel to let him know how much selyn's involved? It really does seem kind of Distect -- no wonder they called her before the board. But I deep zlinned that Gen she brought with her, and read the records, and it was quite a fluke that he didn't get killed and junct that poor little channel he served. I never zlinned a burn like that, not even when Perrin did her number on her Aunt Mila, and Mila's a Farris."

"Uh huh."

"I thought it was pretty strange that she could train TN-3s like that. She admits she burns them. The Gen said it was okay with him. She would only let Payel deep zlin her, and he said she was just fine, no sign of junctness or sadism or anything, but it still gives me the creeps. I mean, Klyd himself scorched the shen out of Hugh Valleroy the first time he touched him, and who has better control than a Farris?"

"Klyd said Hugh was struggling with him for control, and Yilli's Gens cooperate."

"Still seems strange. How can a Gen cooperate with a transfer burn? She's not even a Farris, just a mongrel gutter rat, genes from all over ... Oh, that channel her Gen served, she was a Pen baby. I guess you'd be glad to hear that."

"I've really got to get going, Uncle Zeth. It was nice chatting with you. Thanks for the trin and regards to Aunt Slina."

"Well, nice seeing you too, Skyep. Drop by again when you're in Capital. Sosu, get the door for him."

*   *   *

"Janush, thank you, you did very well. There's a roof garden up here, I'd like to rest a bit. Would you work with me a little?"

"Of course, Hajene."

"I think we can go up these stairs ... good, there's the door ..."

"Here's a bench out of the wind, Skyepar. Sit next to me, I'll wrap my cloak around us both."

"Ah. Thanks, Janush, you're helping me a lot. Shen, sometimes I just can't imagine why Roza and Yilli want my genes for Teiu."

"Is he really your uncle?"

"Actually, I think he's my third cousin on one side and second cousin once removed on the other, but it's easiest just to call him Uncle. He's probably related to me in other ways too. In an old Householding like Sat'htine, most of the channels and Companions have a lot fewer ancestors than most people."

"I think I see what Yilli meant when she said being a TN-1 can be worse than being a TN-2. Are most Farris channels like that?"

"Oh, no, Uncle Zeth is a special case. Even my mother is embarrassed about him. He's just a lout, there's no cure for it. He's not even a very good channel, I outrate him in everything but capacity, draw speed and sheer power. Yilli pretty much would too."

"Even I could tell that he was hurting you, but he didn't seem to notice."

"He's like that. Most of us just try to avoid him. Had I known his office had been moved over here I would have made a detour. This is really good of you, Janush. Let me know if you want to let up. I'll have a hard time asking you to stop if you go on like this."

"I don't mind, I like supporting you. You've done a lot for me, let me pay some back."

"Good line, that might work on Yilli. No, I can zlin you're sincere, but it is a good thing to tell her."

"Okay, I'll remember that. Skyepar, do you want to talk to me about some of the things he said that really got to you?"

"I suppose I should. You'll be working closely with me, so you'll have to know about my past just as you'll have to know Yilli's. It's no easier for me to talk about than it is for her, but if you can stand it, it's probably good for both her and me."

"You had to live it, I can stand to hear about it. Here, come closer, we can keep each other warm. Would you like me to rub your back?"

"Just having your arm around me like that is really soothing."

"Here, take my hand. Good. You know, I really like the feel of tentacles. They feel different since I established."

"Janush, have you ever met a Sime who was born in the Pens?"

"One of the kids on our street was adopted from the Pens just after Unity and changed over. But I've never met an older Sime who was, now that I think of it. I guess they might not want to tell anybody."

"Before Unity, there were a million and a half junct Simes in Nivet, consuming a million and a half Gens every month, eighteen million a year. If there's one Sime for every two Gens in the offspring of a pair of Gens, how many Simes should have been coming out of the Pens every year?"

"Nine million, but there couldn't have been...."

"Right."

"Hajene! What happened to them!"

"They all died in changeover or before, and their bodies went into the pits with their Gen brothers and sisters. Ah, Janush, now you require support. Let me ... "

"Nobody ever talked about it."

"Not even in junct times. Even the juncts couldn't face it. They all believed that the Pen Simes were given a stipend or maybe a job working in the Pens, because they had to believe something like that. They had to refuse to do the arithmetic too."

"They died in attrition, before breakout? Or wouldn't the Pen keepers give them a Gen to kill?"

"The Pen keepers usually broke their necks for them when they went into changeover. It took me a long time to learn that that was the kindest thing. I tried and tried to save those children, and every one died. Finally, the people running the Pens told their District Controllers not to let me come there any more. My mother made me come back to Sat'htine for a year. I wrote to every Householding, to Rialite, to the Tecton Libraries at Capital and Konawa, everywhere, trying to find out if anyone knew how to save those Simes, if there were any anecdotes, any old stories about children purchased from the Pens who survived changeover."

"What did you find out?"

"Once the kids were old enough to toddle around, they went on the drugs to make them docile. After a while on the drugs, they could never survive changeover. There were a few records of pre-Simes rescued at three years old who survived, but very few. None older. No one tracked down which drug did it, but we know that Pen Gens established on average a year younger than Householding Gens, so it might be the same effect, irrevocably damaging the pre-Sime. The best information I got was from a document by Relu, Sectuib in Teiu, Yilli and Roza's grandfather, preserved at the Library in Capital. The librarians copied it for me and I still have the copy. He had tried everything I had and more. He was working with children at finishing shops who had been off drugs for a year or more, but they were already ruined. He kept trying until he left Konawa, and wrote up what he could from what he remembered -- all his records were destroyed the night he founded Teiu. There was a Gen shortage riot. His mother, a junct channel, was killed by the desperate Simes she was trying to help, and her house burned, all their records with it. Do you know what a finishing shop was?"

"No."

"The idea was to get something like a Domestic Gen, but cheaper and more docile. They'd buy older pre-Gens from the Pens, cut back the drugs and treat them well until they established. They'd teach them to speak and maybe do some servant work, and sell them to juncts who would sometimes keep them for quite a while before killing them. They sold them to Gen parlors too, where their more developed nagers could be used to stimulate juncts who then killed an ordinary Pen Gen. The finishers kept a few around to work with the pre-Gens, and used them as breeders too. Relu used to collect selyn from breeders -- it was easier on the keepers for the Gens to be lower field -- and he used to do healing for them too.

"He found out about the Pen Simes pretty much the same way I did. I'd been working at District Offices, doing healing and public health work, and was sent to a Pen that had an outbreak of fever. They were bringing in semijuncts to kill the dying adults, but we were trying to save the children for a later death as kills. I was outdoors, it was cold and snowing, and one of the Pen workers came along leading a barefoot child in a yawal. I could zlin the child was in changeover and asked him what he was doing. He said he was taking the child to the 'changeover ward'. I didn't understand what he meant, and he was getting exasperated, so I just followed him. He went towards one of the pits they were dumping the dead children and Gens in. The child just followed him, shivering and docile. I suppose he was trying to be kind, letting the child think she was going to be cared for. When we got near, he put one hand on the child's shoulder, one on top of her head, and snap, broke her neck. He took off the yawal and threw the body in the pit. I was horrified, but he said they could never survive changeover. All the children were doomed, the pre-Simes and the pre-Gens.

"There's not much more to my story, Janush. After I'd been at Sat'htine for a while, and my mother realized that I was obsessed with those children, she gave me an ultimatum and a month to decide. I could give back my oath, walk out the gates and live my life as I chose, I could confine myself to the Householding and the Sime Centers we were running in the surrounding area, or I could pick an area of specialization that as she put it, would do some visible good and still have a subject matter in ten years' time. She said she'd always been easy on me because I wasn't a Farris, but this was ridiculous. She hadn't made sure that her members stayed out of the kill camps for me to throw my career away like this. She'd found out that I'd observed kills even though she'd forbidden it, and she didn't care that it was because I wanted to be able to serve junct-satisfying transfers that would keep the Simes away from the kill camps a little longer. They'd all be dead in a decade anyway. So I thought about it for a few weeks, and told her that I'd decided to specialize in the medical problems of channels, especially 'delicates' as we were still calling the Thirds in those days. This was a very respectable leading edge field at the time, and she arranged for me to work in some good places. After a couple of years, the Tecton gave me the CRF, and I've been working with a vanishing subject matter ever since. All those pre-Simes are dead, whether I'd tried to save them or not. At least there will never be more like them."

"How could your uncle... joke about changeovers to you like that?"

"He's always been that way. While people like Yilli and Roza were on the front line at the kill camps, Uncle Zeth was District Controller in Iburan. He'll let you know he was heroically compromising his moral integrity for the sake of Unity by countersigning thousands and thousands of kill authorizations, so Simes he'd never see could kill Gens he'd never see. That's just what Sectuib my mother wanted the House to do. Let the juncts and Houseless gutter rats contaminate each other, while we kept ourselves clean for the glorious future."

"Skyepar, I don't think I want to pledge Sat'htine."

"I've regretted being born there myself, but it gives me leverage to accomplish things I might not otherwise be able to. It's not just Sat'htine. All the old Householdings had the same policy. You can see the result already, the antipathy between Householder and non-Householder in the Tecton. The gutter rats outnumber the Householders in the Tecton already, though not at the upper levels, but someday even Farrises will be reporting to them."

"I'm glad you told me about all this. I wish I could do more to comfort you."

"You're doing very well for me. No Gen but Roza could do better. I know you younger people must wonder about what the rest of us were doing during those bad years. So now you know about me, and about my Uncle Zeth."

"Yes. You're shivering, Skyepar, are you cold?"

"I'm feeling a bit shaky. It could be entran. Will you help me do an outfunction?"

"Of course. Here, let me pull my cloak around us both."

"Thank you ... I don't want to relinquish contact ... do you mind holding for a bit?"

"As long as you like. I like your touch."

"You're so solid, so steady. You'll be so good for Yilli. She says she never gets entran, but don't believe her. Get her to work, work is good for her, ordinary functionals, donations and transfers. The things she does when she's training take more out of her than she'll admit. Thank you. I feel better now ... but you're getting chilled."

"Let me hold you close and we'll both warm up. Good. I never imagined how different it would be working with Firsts. What am I doing with my field now? It feels different."

"You're enclosing my field in yours ... feels great. Here, let me make a lateral contact on your throat ... there, now hold the fields steady ... now we'll both be warmer."

"I am warmer. What did you do?"

"It's just a little channel's trick, twiddling the interlock on one of your regulatory mechanisms... I couldn't do it if our fields weren't so smoothly engaged. Things like this, it's one advantage of living in a House with a lot of channels and Companions. We would all just play around, experiment and try things on each other, teach each other things. It's one of the the real pleasures in life, especially if you're a First. Roza and Yilli haven't had it, so I've tried to give it to them. Roza has a very strange talent. She can do things I didn't know were possible. Perhaps she can teach them to you. I think you'll enjoy them."

"I'd like to learn. Skyepar, teach me things to help Yilli, to make her happy."

"I'll be glad to, while I'm here and after we're all at the CRF. In the meantime, you can write to me, and I'll help you as much as I can in words. But trust your intuition, and ask Yilli to help you learn. She's a born teacher and you can probably get her to let you do things for her she won't admit she wants by getting her to teach you how, and getting her to let you practice on her. I've got some books for you two as well. I'll bring them over to the guest house tonight. I better put in a few hours work at a Sime Center this evening. I don't want to have to tell Roza I let myself get entran. We should get going, get the rest of the papers sorted out before the offices close. We can cross over to the other wing and go down the stairs there and avoid running into my uncle again."

"Thank you so much for everything."

"Ah, Janush, if Yilli hadn't found you, you would have rescued yourself. Your talent is too great to stay hidden forever."

"But to find my talent, and you and Yilli too, it's overwhelming."

"So much love ... your nager is just breathtaking ... save some of this for Yilli. If she can accept it, it will do her a lot of good."


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