"Janush, do you know how to drive a team?"
"No. I've never tried it."
"I'll teach you then. The horses are well-trained, and after the long haul from Konawa, they aren't going to be in the mood for any excitement. There's really not much to it, once we're on the road. They'll just follow the wagon in front."
"We'll take a supply wagon, so we can be alone and work together a bit while we're travelling. It's going to be a beautiful day. The rain last night settled the dust, but it's clear now. Be sure to have a good breakfast."
"You sound so happy, Yilli."
"I am. I really like these reunions. I like working with first time donors, and all of these people will be determined to learn to be comfortable with Simes. It will be hard for many of them, but we can make it easier."
"Serri said that I'd see how the world had changed out-T too since Unity."
"Well, I don't think that much of it has changed yet, but what we'll see is the vanguard, the first out-T people who have taken the first big step toward Unity for Genland, too. We have to disjunct the Gens, Janush. Word is spreading out there that they don't have to murder their children, but unless we can provide them with trained Gens or channels, they have to continue to do it. They're going to be suffering like the semijuncts, forced to continue to 'kill', because no one is there to help them."
"Do you really think they're like that, Yilli? We mostly hear how they shoot the children in changeover, or cut them with knives or beat them to death. I guess if they have to murder them to save their own lives, shooting is fast at least, but the rest? It sounds so cruel."
"Their whole culture is warped and twisted by fear of their own children and hatred of Simes, just as our junct culture had so much of the humanity wrung out of it by the Kill. It's hard for them to see it that way, though, because the terrible events, the kills and murders, happen so seldom in an individual person's life. The rest of the time, it all seems normal, not like junct times here, where every town had a Pen, and every Sime faced the Kill every month."
"I'm dressed, Yilli, let's get some food and trin and warm up. Are you really all right? Now that you're past turnover, I want to be extra careful with you."
"I'm fine, Janush, you said so yourself. I'm a very tough channel. If I coddle myself after turnover, I'll never get anything done. Get some food and trin and wake up the rest of the way and you'll see."
"You eat too."
"Don't worry. The naztehrhai will go out of their way to make sure I have something I'll like for breakfast, and they'll fuss over me trying to look like they aren't for the next two weeks. I always try to go along with it, because they love taking care of me. They'll work on you, too, to get you to do their fussing for them."
"Let's get moving, we want to be on the road soon. The first guests may show up this afternoon, and I want to be ready for them."
"Yilli, tell me about the out-T Gens. Is it true that they believe Simes are demons?"
"Some of them do. They have all kinds of beliefs, and some of them seem really bizarre to us. But they have to have them to be able to live with the terrible things they have to do, fearing their own children and murdering them. It mirrors how the juncts had to believe that Gens were just animals, even their own friends and relatives who established. Imagine being a child in the junct times. You feel like a person. You have to believe that you'll change over. If your parents care about you, they'll assure you that you'll change over, and talk about what you'll do when you grow up. They won't tell you that you might establish, any more than they'll tell you you might die of the choking fever, but you know that either fate could happen. You may know of another child like yourself who establishes, and suddenly that child is no longer human but just kill fodder. But you don't see the kill. You don't see the child who established -- he just disappears, dies, like other children you know who died of some sickness.
"Then you change over yourself, and everyone rejoices. You start killing Pen Gens. It's not too difficult, everybody does it, it's part of being adult, like sex and having to work to pay your taxes. You're a Sime, you experience need, you desperately need to kill, and the Kill is a joy and a relief. It's easy to believe that the Pen Gens are just animals that look a little like people. Eventually you zlin a Domestic Gen, a child like you were, maybe even someone you know. Most juncts could never afford a Choice Kill, but they saw them in the marketplace, or sometimes at the Pen. This Gen can talk, this Gen acts like a person, this Gen begs you for his life. It's just too horrible, like a hideous deformity, but you're junct, addicted to the Kill. This Gen has a full adult nager, not a dim, stupefied one like a drugged Pen Gen. This Gen's fear draws you, entices you, but he looks like a person, talks like a person. You want this Gen for a kill, but it feels like murder. The combination of horror and attraction is too much to bear. At that point, something changes in you. You either see yourself as utterly self-deluded, a murderer, all those Pen kills were murders, or you really come to believe that all Gens exist only for the Kill: Pen Gens, the Domestics you grew up with, the Wild Gens who only seem to be able to talk, but have the most delicious, enticing nagers of all. Then you're all right. You're a full adult, a full junct. You can kill with a clear conscience for the rest of your life. The pain and fear of a Gen are just natural, like the aroma from good food, there to entice you to do what's natural, what's good for you, not like the pain and fear of a real person, a Sime."
"What happened to the Simes who saw themselves as murderers?"
"A very few found out about the Householdings in time to disjunct. Most overcame the feelings and convinced themselves in various ways that it was all right to kill, at least that it was all right to kill Pen Gens. After all, they could never afford a Choice Kill anyway. Some couldn't deal with it and died. There were suicides, there were slow suicides from despair and self-neglect, mostly among out-T refugees, and there were Simes who died as true semijuncts, aborting from kills, dying from the aborts or from attrition."
"We don't hear about those Simes from before Unity, except for the ones who went to the Householdings."
"That's true. But my grandfather told us about them. He helped a lot of them as much as he could. The younger ones he sent to the Householdings to disjunct, if he could persuade them to go to the perverts. You can see how the juncts had to think of people who could avoid the Kill, who kept talking Gens around them, treated them like people, who took transfer from other Simes, as perverts. Granda was quite the pervert himself. From our point of view, he was a sort of rogue channel, who did a lot of good, but to the juncts he was a pervert of the worst kind, an irresistible pervert, a pervert who made good money selling his perversions."
"What did he do?"
"After he left Konawa, with his brother who was his Companion, he took the House of Teiu, the two of them, on the road. He told us lots of stories of those times. He was like a prostitute -- despised, but providing a very valuable, even an essential service. On the one hand, he served transfer to pregnant women who couldn't afford extra kills, he served children in changeover when the parents couldn't pay the bribes to get a kill for them during a Gen shortage, Simes who couldn't pay their taxes and would have died in attrition. He was a talented healer too, and didn't charge for healing. On the other, he made good money from serving special transfers. Like I said, most Simes could never afford a Choice Kill, but Granda could take their Pen Gen, drain it, and use the selyn to give them a junct-mode transfer like nothing they'd ever had before. He'd sell the drained Gen back to the Pen keeper. Technically, it was corruption I suppose, but most Pen keepers weren't very honest, and they both made good money that way."
"How did he get away with it?"
"Unfortunately, he mostly didn't. He and his brother were still very young. They had street smarts from their life in Konawa, but they didn't understand how things worked politically on a higher level, and Granda didn't know enough about channeling. He had great talent, but he didn't have experience, and never got the education a Householding channel would have gotten. He taught himself, he learned the little his mother could teach him, he learned from every Householding channel who would teach him, and later he tried to learn from every book he could find. But he made some serious mistakes at first, and paid for them. He could make the stories sound funny when he told them, but at the time, they must have been terrible. He went west because he had a reputation as an outlaw and a monster with the juncts and the Householders alike."
"How did that happen?"
"Well, the truly unforgivable thing was that in his ignorance, he made semijuncts, and the juncts retaliated by attacking Householdings, Imil and maybe Zeor, stationary targets. It's hard for us to imagine the horror of becoming a semijunct, a Sime who can't kill, in a junct society. But that came a good bit later. He started out in Iburan. See, Granda wanted to get enough money together to buy a good big piece of land to found a proper Householding, with a wall and good buildings, and everything we think of when we think of a real, established Householding like Zeor. But he was young and in a hurry, and much too cocky for his own good, and his brother was no different. If anything, he was more cocky, a high order Companion, a big wer-Gen, out there walking proud and confident among the juncts, despite the Pen tags on the chain around his neck. Really, it's a wonder nobody knifed the two of them just for the way they zlinned. Granda spent money he shouldn't have on Householding rings for the two of them, the last the House ever had. Granda died with his ring on his hand, and Da sold the other to buy a pack horse and supplies for us out-T, when we were trying to reach my mother's sister in the north. We were so desperate. He would have sold the book if he could have found a buyer. That's why that's all that's left of the old House."
"Iburan was where the most famous Choice Auctions in the east were."
"Oh, yes. The best, the choicest stock. Prime Kills, people who could have been gifted Companions, Wild Gens. And the real Prime Domestics too. I've often thought they were the Gen children of junct channels, with the genes to serve channels, all wasted in the Kill. The Householders would try to buy there, when they could afford it, which was very seldom."
"So what was your Granda's idea?"
"Well, think about this. What was the life of a junct channel like before Unity? Channels have big nagers, they can really influence other Simes. In junct society that was real power, something to use, not something to be careful not to abuse. Their ethics were entirely different. So the channels were important: they ran things, they had people working for them, they were the big Tuibs. If they weren't wealthy to start with they soon became so. Many of them came from wealthy families, families founded by other channels with the same channel genes to pass on. But they had one terrible weakness, and it was the same one as their strength."
"They could never get a good kill."
"Right. No kill could fully satisfy them. They were always shorted, and even if they could afford to kill more often, it could never make up for it. They spent their money on Choice Kills and Prime Kills whenever they could, but even if the Gen could have matched them in transfer, the Kill is so wasteful of selyn that it was never enough, even if they were overmatched in both speed and capacity. The Gen couldn't help but resist, and they drew against the resistance, and didn't get the draw speed or anything like enough of the selyn, and they destroyed the Gen without the satisfaction despite the irresistible promise of the nager they could zlin when they bought the Gen."
"So he thought he could make money selling channel's transfer to junct channels?"
"Well, he had several things in mind. One was that there was lots of money being thrown around in Iburan, just to get some selyn and some satisfaction, and he knew he could provide both. He figured he could build up a clientele of wealthy junct channels, and make real money serving them the kind of transfers they could never wring out of a kill. He also had a crazy notion that he could train some of those Choice Kills to serve their owners in transfer, saving their lives, the lives of the other Gens the owner wouldn't have to kill, and giving the owners a better life too. He knew the Householders did it, and here he was, Tecton-recognized Sectuib in Teiu, so he could too. I told you he was cocky, and naive about politics, too."
"Didn't he figure that the big Tuibs who were running the Choice Auctions and selling there would object?"
"He'd done well in Konawa with the finishing shops and small breeders and other operators, doing healing and taking down the Gens' fields and such, so he figured it would work out in Iburan. But things in Iburan were on a whole different scale. Wealthy juncts in Konawa would go to Iburan to buy. Granda had never dealt with people like that, but he was young, he had a bigger nager than they did, he was cocky, and his mother, who was always very careful to keep a low profile, was dead and no longer a restraining influence. To give him credit, he started small. He set up in a cheap inn, and started doing healing, started building his reputation with the free services, and made a deal with one of the government Pen keepers to sell back the drained Pen Gens for reuse, giving the Simes the junct-mode transfer with the selyn. He even started giving what we would regard as a normal nonjunct transfer as a special service, a special treat, a real exciting perversion -- none of the pain of the Kill, but so much more pleasure, so much more intense. You'd be surprised how many real juncts liked that, at least some of the time. And he could drive the transfer too, something they'd never get from a kill, just flood the Sime, as fast as he could take it, push the selyn into him. Now that was depraved! For an extra fee his brother would work on them nagerically, and physically too, to get them ready for the transfer. He would raise their intil to an almost intolerable level, but hold them back, and then Granda would serve them. He would blast them with a simulation of the slilbliss his brother gave him, and the Simes would just melt with the ecstasy. Real perverts, those two! They had incredible adventures, did incredible things, got into incredible trouble. I wish you could have heard Granda tell these stories. Roza tells them better than I do. You should hear them from her."
"Is that why we still hear about rogue channels out there? They do all these things people can't get from the Tecton?"
"Some of that. Some of them are real rogues, unrepentant juncts. Some of them couldn't handle the only life the Tecton would give them, and ran as an alternative to suicide. Almost all of them are Thirds -- they can find and train up Donors for themselves, and they don't have to work as channels because they can manage entran with outfunctions even if they worked full time for a while. A lot of those end up with the Distect. But it's a bad life, always in hiding or on the run. A Second would have a hard time doing it for long, living on shunts, taking donations illegally for extra pay, with the donors risking the Tecton wondering why they didn't show up at the Sime Center, serving Simes who don't dare let the Tecton or the law find them, never getting a decent transfer. Once you're an outlaw, anything can be done to you, nobody will protect you. There's little humanity in the criminal underclass."
"Channels really are slaves in the Tecton, aren't they?"
"Most of them don't see it that way, but if having to work for one employer, which can treat you how it likes, move you anywhere, break up your family, control and manipulate the most intimate aspects of your life, and kill you if you try to escape is slavery, I guess it's slavery. Well paid slavery, slavery with a lot of respect from people, but slavery if that isn't enough for you, or the bad aspects outweigh the good. Most channels love channeling. They wouldn't stop if they could."
"Donors have it easier."
"In a way they do, but Janush, you're almost a First. How badly would they have to treat you for you decide to live your life without ever serving transfer or interacting nagerically with a channel again? I think after you qualify as a First, it would be even harder for you. You'd have to live out-T, to stay away from Simes, or you couldn't bear it. That, or find a higher order rogue channel, and that won't happen. The Distect wouldn't want you. It wouldn't kill you to do it, though. Not like a channel of your rating."
"I guess so. If I could join a Householding, I could work there, though."
"Yes, if they had channels to match you. But you wouldn't learn as much as you could with a good Tecton career. There can be a balance. I know what you aren't asking me, Janush. You've met some of the ambrov Teiu, but the other problems I've told you about still exist. See how you feel in another month or so. You haven't seen me after turnover, you haven't worked with Skyepar. He will be a better match for you, the way your field is still rising. It's twenty-five days since your last transfer. Your field is higher than it's ever been, and shows no sign of leveling off. I'm almost sure you'll match me, and if we can do that for you in a few weeks, you probably have a lot more potential. I'll do my best to stimulate your production with a deep intense draw, and I think you'll match Skyepar if you stay close to him, sleep with him, expose yourself to his field as you are with me. You might have potential to overmatch him, even more than Roza does. Every channel loves to take transfer from a Donor who overmatches him. Not to have to be cautious, to be free to just draw, to know it's safe to do so, is an exquisite pleasure. But it's not the best transfer for the Donor. A Donor has to have a good match to get the most slilbliss. You could find a channel, or channels, who are better matches for you. It's a very hard life being a very high First Order channel. They seldom get good transfers. They are often desperate for them. You could save them from that desperation. A Gen has more than just a First Year. You could continue to develop for some time."
"It's not just the transfers, Yilli. It's every day, the time between the transfers. That's what life is, not just the few seconds of slilbliss. If I could work with you most of the time, I wouldn't mind serving other channels in transfer."
"The higher order channels require more support than I do all the time. Even most channels of my rating require more support -- you'd never find them running around Capital and Shen after turnover without a Donor, or with the token support I get from my Thirds when they're with me. Like I've told you, I'm easy to support. I'm abnormally tough. If you want to really support a channel all the time, you should get Farris-trained. Farrises can be helpless without constant support."
"I met Skyepar's Uncle Zeth. I saw how he treated his Donor -- like a servant or a Gen he'd bought, not like a colleague or someone he appreciated for what she was giving him."
"Not all Farrises are like Hajene Zeth. And there are other high-order channels. If the CRF stays open long enough, Skyepar will have to find other channels for you and send you out to serve them. If you can match a Farris, it would be good for you to serve one, just for the experience, even if you don't go in for the full training."
"Yilli, I don't want my production pumped up like a prize milk cow. There's more to me than just my selyn production. I don't want to pledge Zeor. I don't have to strive for excellence in everything. I don't want to be shipped around to serve bottomless channels who have had their own capacities pushed beyond reason, so they can't find matches either. I want to be a Companion. I want to live my life with a channel I can love and care for and be a full human being with, not just a nager and an impressive ability to turn food into selyn and deliver it at high speed. I want to be a Companion to a channel who can love me for who I am, not just how I can serve her need. I want the kind of life I read about in those books about the Householdings. I know it was probably idealized in those stories, but that's what I want."
"Skyepar promised that he'd help you qualify TN-1 as soon as possible, but he also promised that he'd help you develop your abilities the best he can. The TN-1 promise is rapidly coming true. If you were to serve transfer in a few days, you would match a low First, but you were already a high Second. You're committed to work with him, even if I pledged you to Teiu. You'll learn more working with him, especially about healing, than I can teach you. I'm very poorly educated, Janush. My Granda paid for years so Roza and I could spend our First Years at Rialite, but when we came in-T, Teiu had been declared extinct and they wouldn't honor the commitment. I had a month's training, and Roza had less. I was out in the field, out at the kill camps, zlinning kills so I could learn to serve semijuncts. I learned on my own, from the semijunct channels I mostly worked with, who didn't have much more knowledge than I. I learned from what I could figure out from Granda's stories. I never learned to be a good healer, not like Skyepar. I spent my First Year learning things that are almost no use now. Skyepar has taught me a lot. He's a very good teacher. He developed Roza's skill wonderfully, even though she was five years past establishment when they first worked together. He'll do great things for you -- you're still so young and flexible. You have such great potential. It would be wrong for me to try to keep you to myself, as much as I love being with you. I told you the first night we met that I'd do my best for you even if I never saw you again. Skyepar will too -- he's very unselfish, very honorable. We both saw how much he wants to take transfer from you. That's the Sime in him. But there's the man of integrity, the true teacher in him too. If he can't teach you all you can learn, he'll find you someone who can."
"You don't understand, Yilli. I don't have to be all I can be. I don't want to be all I can be, if it's not what I want to be. I'm still young, but I'm not so naive. I saw how things are in the Tecton. I saw how they were wasting me, using me, just another Gen. You and Skyepar rescued me from that, but you don't have to do for them what they should have done on their own. I do want to work with him, learn from him, support him and serve him in transfer. But it's more important to me to be with people like you and him, people I can trust, than to develop myself into some kind of super-Gen if I have to be the kind of machine the Tecton wants -- serve this channel, cross Nivet, serve that channel, manage a postreaction and get the channel back on the boards, forget her problems and take on the next one, and yet another the next month. Keep my emotions to myself, my self to myself, and serve the channels in and out of transfer as a job, a skilled profession. They're not people any more than I am: they're what I work with, what I work on. I'm what they use to do their work, I'm not a person to them either. I don't want to live that way, and I won't if I don't have to. If being a top First will give me that life, I'll fight to avoid being upgraded that high."
"I do understand, Janush. But right now you belong to the Tecton. You're Skyepar's employee. He's seconded you to me to train you and develop your production, and I'm doing what I can to do that. In that I'm a Tecton employee too."
"You're doing more than that, Yilli. I can't zlin, but I can use the intuition I have as a Gen, as a human being, that you believe in too. You do care about me. You're not going to just pump up my production, teach me a few tricks and pass me on. I'm a real person to you, not just an employee, not just a Gen to serve your need, to use my field to stave off nightmares. You won't just pass me on to Skyepar and forget me. You can't fool me with words when you tell me the truth with everything else."
"I'm sorry, Yilli. I've hurt you with my anger, haven't I. I'm so sorry."
"It's all right, Janush, don't worry. I do understand you, please believe me. You're in love with me. I shouldn't have let this happen, but I saw it happening and didn't know what to do about it."
"Skyepar told me it would probably happen. He said it would be very hard for you to accept it, but it would be very good for you if you could. He said it was the great gift I could offer you. He said he had asked you to try to accept it from me."
"Janush, we all require time. I know a few weeks like this is a long time for you, not just because you're young, but because so much is happening. It's put you off balance. From the first time I worked with your field, in that restaurant in Capital, I've been strongly attracted to you. I told you so at the time, and that other high order channels would find you irresistible too. Skyepar felt that way when he met you. I have to fight that -- it's selfishness, it's taking advantage of you."
"Well, if all these channels are going to want me, it should be up to me to decide which channels I want. I want you and Skyepar, but especially you."
"Janush, Skyepar is right, it is a great gift. It's not a gift I deserve, for all that I appreciate you offering it. You have to learn more about me before I can take such a gift from you. You may not want to offer it when you really understand who you are offering it to. I can't talk about it now, but I'll try in a few days, certainly well before the end of the month for me."
"I know you've been through terrible times, Yilli. You told me so yourself. But that's the past, and you're who you are now. I have a bad past too, even if I was too young to remember it. I wrote about it to Skyepar yesterday. I decided to wait and show you the letter, because I don't think I can tell you with my voice. Here, it's this part at the bottom of the page."
"Now I see why you're such a good man, Janush. It's because your stepmother loved you so much, and let you know how much your father loved you."
"My life came from all that death and suffering. Not many children survived the Siege of Shen. Most of the kids I grew up with moved into town after Unity."
"Your life came from all that love."
"It came from death. My father probably murdered another Sime to get that Gen for my stepmother. Then he went out and most likely the Gens shot him. That Gen suffered terribly from starvation before she killed it. I survived because my stepmother ate it to make milk for me, and fed me its body too, when she couldn't make enough milk."
"All our lives came from death. My mother was disjunct. Her mother was a Gen, a refugee from junct parents in-T. My mother and grandmother conspired so my mother could kill her father in First Need. That was murder, not just the Kill. He was a bad man, a very bad man, but it was still a life taken to give a life. My father was a Gen, but we think he killed some Simes with his field, some Raiders when we were escaping Nivet. Roza and I were hiding, but they could zlin him. They caught him, but he came back a little later, and wouldn't tell us what happened. A killer Gen, a Companion who killed, Janush. My grandfather, my father's father, was nonjunct, but his mother was junct. She was from out-T. She killed her mother in First Need, and her mother let her, told her to. She was sick and knew she wouldn't live much longer. She wanted my great-grandmother to survive, to preserve her healer's knowledge. Another life given to save a life, like your father's. Everyone who knows their family's story has murder and the Kill in them, except lucky ones like Skyepar who grew up in a Householding, from a long line of Householders. Out-T they have stories of murdering their children and siblings, and parents and siblings who died in the Kill. Lives taken to preserve lives. Your story is a beautiful one, a story of love and sacrifice and terrible choices taken. So many people don't have that -- all they know of their stories is venality and cruelty and selfishness and hatred."
"I loved my stepmother. She didn't tell me the whole story until she knew she wasn't going to live much longer. She wanted to wait until I grew up. Before that she just told me that my father was a good man, who had died to save her life and mine. I could see she was afraid of how I would react to the story, but she felt she had to tell me, it was my right to know. I still loved her afterwards, maybe even more. Even though I was a child, I hope she could zlin it. But when I think of it, think about eating the body of another human being, another Gen, a kill... and that my father, that good man, had murdered another Sime... Maybe that Sime was trying to save a child too. I can't understand it, Yilli. I can't understand where the right was. Who really deserves to live and who to die, if not all can live?"
"Not every question has a right answer."
"Yilli, I wish we could just be alone together in a quiet insulated place for a little while, so I could hold you and wrap you in my field and let you zlin how I feel about you."
"You've done that for me, and you'll do it again. It's wonderful. The way you helped me with turnover was splendid. Your intuition was so good. I felt very safe with you, trusting you to care for me and help me."
"It felt like the right way to help you. And the way you trusted me to help you, without having to direct me... it's all so natural, it's what I was born for, it's what all that death and suffering gave rise to -- my talent as a Companion. It's my gift, the purpose of my life."
"We should be up at the barracks soon. They'll have prepared a room for us in what would have been the old Pens. Travelling with me is a tour of Nivet's former killrooms. I want to rest a little before we go the last few kilometers up to the border. We'll have a meal, and we can lie down together. I'm starting to get cramps, and I can use it to teach you to use your field to work on a Sime's body directly, not through the emotions. I taught you a little of that in Capital, when you helped that Sime with the scarred tentacle sheath take transfer without pain. Your sensitivity and control have developed a lot, between your higher selyn production and the work we've been doing with them. I want to see what you can do with your intuition first, and then I'll teach you some standard techniques."
"What can I do for you now?"
"I'll take the reins. You can put your arm around me, and I'll let you give me more support than I'll usually take. In fact, I'll make an exercise out of it -- how to support a grumpy Sime. You just gradually increase your support and see how far you can get before I get twitchy about it."
"You know that's a treat for me. I love to support you. We should do exercises like this more often. I have to learn how to support sick channels, so you should pretend to be sick so I can really lay it on."
"You're greedy, Janush. And you're learning how to manage me."
"You promised to teach me, so you can enjoy it with a clear conscience. You aren't being self-indulgent, you're putting up with it in order to fulfill your obligation to train me."
"Okay, okay, you win. Go for it. Support me."
"How's this, I'll try to work on you a little... am I directing my focus right?"
"Not bad. You remember your anatomy. It will be easier when we aren't moving. Just give general support for now, but don't relax me too much. I'll have to be alert when we take the turnoff. I think that might be it at the top of the next hill. There's supposed to be a big oak tree like that one. We've made good time."
"Any time I spend with you is good time."
"You know, I was going to talk to you about life out-T, and how I'm going to work with these Gens, so you can understand what I'm doing better, but we ended up talking about all kinds of other things. Well, we've got time. After we eat and rest, we'll go up to the border crossing station, and see if anybody shows up before dark. Probably very few will. It's tomorrow that will be really hectic, and much less so the next day. They close the border station at dark, just guard the road, and by dawn when they open again, there'll be a lineup of wagons waiting to cross, if it's anything like the other reunions I've been to in the south.
"Hmm, I guess it wasn't that oak tree or that hill top, the first wagon isn't turning. Oh, well, more time to talk."
"If I slide back on the bench, onto this crate, you can sit on my lap, or between my knees. Then you can lean back a little. I think your back is hurting you, isn't it? Maybe that will help, and I can surround you with my field better."
"You're right about the back. It's partly the long ride and partly the cramps. Well, we can try it."
"That feels good. You're so warm. I love that Sime heat. Are you comfortable?"
"Yes, but you aren't."
"I'll get used to it. I'll try to keep it out of my field."
"Don't be silly. Here, take off my cloak and use it as a cushion. You can use yours to keep us both warm."
"Okay. How's that?"
"Better. There's something really comforting about the way you like to wrap me in your cloak with you."
"I think Skyepar likes it too. I did it with him when we were in the roof garden in Capital. It was pretty windy up there. But I'm going to have to get a bigger cloak soon. My intuition tells me to place my hand right here to help focus my field. Is that good?"
"Yes, it feels good. You know, some of the Ancients believed in something called a healing touch. For them, it was a kind of magic, but for us it's real. I want to help you develop it, you have a real talent for it, but Skyepar will teach you a fineness of focus and intensity of effect that I can't teach a Gen. The way he can form Roza's field is a marvel, and he's taught her how to do so much just with her own field, even though her talent isn't especially a healer's talent."
"Tell me about out-T."
"Well, a long time ago I started to tell you about how out-T is a kind of mirror image of how in-T was before Unity. A child out-T never wants to believe he could change over. There are no adult Simes out-T. The only Simes anyone sees or knows about are berserkers, children who suddenly turn into monsters and kill the people who love them, unless they are murdered first. So for the Gens, it's easiest to think of changeover as a kind of horrible disease, or demonic possession, something that turns a beloved child into the personification of evil. They have no way of providing for a child's First Need, so they have to find some way to make it possible to murder the child without suffering from terrible guilt and grief. In-T, the juncts could often help an established child to the border, but out-T they can't -- the child has to kill or die."
"And even if a Gen could help a new Sime to the border, it wouldn't be like a junct saving a new Gen's life. They'd know that before Unity the Sime would kill and kill again and again. It would be wrong to save the life of a killer like that."
"There are a few things that make it easier for them. One is that the children know that they can't survive without killing, and that the adults will try to murder them before they can kill. So they are terrified, and will often go some distance away to hide. Between the fear, and the lack of changeover training and assistance, and the distance from a selyn source, many children die in changeover, of attrition, often well before breakout. So the adults can feel a little better about the murder, because the child might have died anyhow, and in a painful way. If they believe that changeover is demonic possession, or that the child turns into something that isn't really human, not only is it easier for them to do the murder, but the children themselves believe that's what is happening, so they feel more terror and despair, and are more likely to die well before breakout. What's more, a hyperconscious berserker, with unfocused eyes and the facial expression of a Sime in attrition zlinning a last chance at life in the nager of a terrified Gen is a horrible sight, and the most loving parent can believe their child is better off dead, that the murder is a mercy, rather than become like that, and worse, go on to kill.
"All these things, rational or superstitious, ease the guilt of the Gens, and make it possible for them to do the terrible thing they have to do, murder children. If that were all there was, it would be possible for them to take the alternative, once it becomes available, to bring their child to a channel or a Donor, who can help the child through changeover and safely serve First Transfer. Then they can see that their child is still human, still rational, still able to think, and talk and have a good life, even if it's in-T. They will still suffer from guilt and regret that they couldn't have saved other children, but now that the alternative is available, that a child can change over without killing, and live a long life never killing, they can overcome the past and believe in the possibility of Unity. Still, it's thousands of years of terrible experience they have to overcome, and it isn't easy. The people you will meet are that vanguard. They've done something very remarkable, and one reason I find it easy to work with them, and they find it easier to touch me and give me their selyn is because I honor them for it with my whole heart.
"Now in some parts of Genland, people see murdering children in changeover as just one of the terrible things that happen in life, like death in childbirth, or death from an injury. But it's human nature to try to make sense of these things, to find meaning and purpose and reason and plan in them, and unfortunately the most common way to do this is to invent a big Tuib, a god, who is doing it for a reason, and every bad thing or good thing is somehow deserved, even if people can't understand why. Sometimes it has a benign side, like those Church people who talked to me when we were sitting at the fire, and believe that their God is inspiring me and helping me to train the missionaries, that God blessed them by sending the missionary to be there to save them in changeover. Some of the missionaries believe that God is helping them learn, that he wants them to do the work. That's fine with me, as long as I know they can do the work without any supernatural assistance. You'll have seen that I don't try to argue or reason with those out-T Simes. I don't point out that if this was God's plan, and he's so powerful, why didn't he start doing it a thousand years ago? Why doesn't he inspire the Tecton to train missionaries? They could have most of Genland covered in a few years -- no more berserkers. Why did he decide to have a missionary there to save this child, and not the child fifty kilometers away, or five years ago? Why is one child more deserving than another? Why is the whole world set up so berserkers are so terrifying, and terror so enticing, and slil so frightening to the untrained Gen that the Kill happens at all? Wouldn't it be better if a Sime in need were as irresistibly attractive to any high field Gen as the reverse, and if any Gen would feel slilbliss automatically, and never want to resist, or if resistance couldn't happen or didn't cause the Kill? Well, some theologians have theories about this, but none of them appeal to me -- they are all magical big Tuib theories, and I'll tell you about them some time if you are interested."
"Listening to those Simes did influence my thinking. Too much I think."
"It's natural, it's human nature, such beliefs are tremendously attractive, they can help people deal with the unbearable. If you haven't been exposed to such ideas before, and they are much less common in-T, for reasons that are always being debated, you will have been more susceptible to them."
"You said that was the benign side. What's the other side?"
"The other side is that some people like to take on the big Tuib's power over people's minds by interpreting what they say is his will. You would have read a little history in Donor training, about Rimon Farris and Fort Freedom and how religion was all mixed up in it, religion that Simes brought over the border with them, and tried to make work here?"
"Church of the Purity."
"Right. The Church of the Purity, or its successors, or what claim to be the same church, although it's all splintered up and each group thinks it's the only true one, have one powerful hook into the minds of many out-T Gens -- guilt. They have this idea that God curses your child with changeover because you deserve to suffer. If you think about it, such a God would have to be so unjust, so sadistic, that any decent human being would have to hate and despise him. But they don't feel that way, and unfortunately almost everybody has done something wrong in their life, and so the suffering and death of these children, to show the community the corruption of the parents, can be justified. It doesn't matter that changeover is so common, it just proves how bad almost everybody is, how they must cling to the church and follow its rules and beg its God to have mercy and not destroy their children in retaliation. They still lose a third of their kids, just like every Gen group, no matter what they do, no matter how much they pray, but they can tolerate it somehow because they believe they deserve it."
"So what does it mean to them that Simes in-T mostly don't kill, and in a few years none will kill?"
"Well, there's no way they can believe it, it would knock the props out of their whole lives, make all the suffering meaningless. If changeover means that the kid has to go live hundreds of kilometers away, well, that's too bad, but lots of kids have to move away to find work when they grow up. If Simes are just people like anybody else, except that they don't eat quite the same food or as much of it, and have these weird tentacles and do this strange ritual for a few minutes once a month and you can usually tell when they're going to be grumpy and hard to get along with, but otherwise they work to pay taxes, and have families and worry about big things and small, and they're as different from each other as any bunch of Gens are, where's the curse? Why has big Tuib been making them do this terrible thing, making them murder their helpless children to punish themselves for their own sins? People like that will close their minds to any other ideas, and if someone tries to bring them the news, they will murder the messenger. That's why the Church of Unity never sends a missionary to an area where the Church of the Purity has a real following, and never sends a missionary unless a lot of people in that area get together and request it. The people who request it are on record to protect the missionary. So far it has all worked out well. The candidates the Church presents to me to select for training have been chosen by the people at the seminary for a lot of character traits and one thing they are aware of is that these young Gens may have to face people who want to murder them because they are saving lives. So far, there have been no murders, not even close. There have been a lot of frightened and angry people, but these Gens I've trained have been people who can manage these situations. I didn't train them to do it, but it's something they can do, and they are well aware that when they go out-T, they are at far more risk from other Gens than from the children they will serve in changeover. I can't tell you how much I admire them for it. It's why I always refuse to take credit for the lives they save, because they take the risks -- I don't."
"I met some of them. They seem like good people, but I guess they really are heroes, aren't they?"
"The danger is why it helps some of them to believe that they are doing what God wants them to do. They don't all think that way -- many of them are more pragmatic like me. They want the training because they want to do something important and meaningful with their lives, and this is something they have the talent to do. It's a better choice for them than to be a Third in the Tecton, and most likely the Tecton wouldn't have wanted to train them. Thirds are easy to find, and the Tecton is looking for different character traits than the Church is. When they go out-T, the Gens there will be amazed that they are so fearless with the children in changeover. It will be a while before they understand that it's not the Simes who endanger the missionaries but the Gens around them. I'll be doing some training sessions when we get back from the border, real training, not just the work I did yesterday to get to know them better, get to understand their minds and bodies better, give them a chance to get used to having my tentacles and nager all over them. I'd like you to attend, to observe. I want you to see how I train them by simulated transfer, and how well it works, how easy it makes it for them. Some of the more advanced training is hard on me, and I want to see if your support will help me, but I won't be doing the really intense work with advanced students until we get to the CRF."
"I'd like to see it, and to help you."
"I'll warn you now, that what I do is terrible. I purposely cause pain to Gens who trust me deeply. I burn them with my secondary system, and make them want it. If it weren't for the ultimate result, it would be perversion of the worst imaginable sort. I'm a monster, Janush. I do things that would violate my Tecton oath if I still honored it. The Tecton broke its oath to me long ago, and that voided my oath to the Tecton. I still have power as Sectuib to do terrible things to my pledged members, and I do it to them and make them love me for it. I went before a Tecton board of inquiry last month, including Skyepar's Uncle Zeth Farris, and told them what I was doing, and had a Gen there I'd done it to, who had used what he learned from it to save many lives, and to do something incredible, and was glad of the training and proud of the result. They all deep zlinned him and I let Payel Farris ambrov Im'cholee deep zlin me. He's one of the most technically adept and discerning channels in the Tecton, and he said there's no sadism or junctness in me and made the rest of them believe it. But that only means that I don't enjoy the pain I cause. I still do it. I can zlin that I'm not scaring you away -- you just feel compassion for me, more than I deserve."
"Yilli, you're tired, you're past turnover, things look dark to you. Look, the first wagon is turning. We'll eat and rest, and I'll help you feel better. You can't scare me away. I'm your Companion in my own mind, even if I'm not that in yours. If you have to do unbearable things, I'm here to help you bear them. I talked to the ambrov Teiu, I'm beginning to understand the Virtue of the House, and how it's expressed through you. That's what the missionary program is, it's truly an expression of the House and you're implementing it with your own body. You may not believe you deserve what I do for you, but I do, and I'll keep doing it."
"I am tired, Janush, and a cup of trin would be good right now."