by
Jocelyn Stewart


“Almost there Alicen. How are you holding up?”

"I want Tearni here! He ought to at least..." Another contraction cut her off. Joyanne could guess the rest. He ought to at least have been allowed to be here to see his daughter born and give his wife transfer afterwards. But then Thirds don't matter much to the powers that be. Joyanne seethed but it never even glimmered in her nager.

Joyanne brushed Alicen’s hair back from her sweat slick forehead and looked up at Keva the Third Order channel attending. Keva smiled at the two of them and waved a tentacle to indicate a cup of shaved ice on the bed side stand. Joyanne put some into Alicen’s mouth just ahead of the next contraction.

“Hey no biting!” she laughed. Alicen wasn’t in a mood to laugh. Six hours of hard labor and the baby was finally crowning.

Alicen bore down hard and the head was out. When she went rigid Joyanne knew that the baby was making its final selyn draw. Keva zlinned the draw carefully. “Looks like a good strong draw. One more big push should do it Alicen.”

“I hope soooo,” the next contraction hit. Alicen gave another huge push and there she was little Tiera Owon. Keva laid her on Alicen while she cut the cord and checked her over thoroughly.

Joyanne hugged Alicen and said, “I’m ready when you are.” She held out her arms to Alicen who seated her tentacles slowly. Joyanne made fifth contact pressing her lips against Alicen’s gently. Alicen’s transport nerves were nearly raw but this would be the last transfer for three weeks plenty of time to heal.

The transfer was over rather quickly and Alicen retracted her tentacles. As they parted Alicen smiled at Joyanne, “Thank you, Joy.” Joyanne just smiled and hugged her again.

Keva brought Tiera to Alicen and placed her gently in her mother’s arms. “Hello little girl,” she smiled at her daughter who looked at her sleepily.

Joyanne was loathed to leave them. This is what she liked most about her job. But she did have other duties to attend to. “Keva do you require anything else?”

“No Joyanne. But you should get some rest you’ve been spending every spare moment with Alicen. She’s fine now but you look exhausted.”

“Yes Hajene.” Joyanne grinned at her.

“Oh, just go.” Keva tried to look exasperated.

Joyanne smiled and went to get ready for her next shift.


***
The summons had reached him while he was still unpacking. This assignment promised to be a bit longer than the last one four months instead of two. Ah, well the life of a Tecton channel was never stable, especially a QN-1.

Andred Reynard made a quick check of his appearance in the full length mirror on the back of the door to his small room. He smoothed his Tecton standard issue coveralls and ran his fingers and tentacles through his softly curling dark brown hair. There was nothing unusual about his face the same medium brown as the rest of his family the same dark brown eyes, high cheekbones, full lips and slightly crooked nose that had greeted him all his life in the mirror were proportioned to fit together well enough in his face. Average. Which was more than he could say about his six foot five inch height. All though in the Reynard family he was about average there too. He shrugged and left for the Controller’s office.

“I’m glad you stopped by Hajene Reynard.” Controller Mayborne Archer, of the Keepsake Hill Sime Center, rose from her chair to greet her guest. She was tall and pale with auburn hair, gray-green eyes and an almost permanent scowl which was a terrible waste of such a potentially pretty face.

“My Controller orders and I come.” Andred took the seat in front of the Controller’s desk without being invited to sit.

“I didn’t order I requested,” she sat back down and scowled at Andred openly zlinning him. “Don’t worry, by the way, when I give you an order you’ll know it.”

“Aren’t we too old to be playing these types of games? By the way Mom says hello.” Andred grinned at his cousin.

“Not until they throw the dirt on us,” Mayborne grinned back.

“So cousin, what’s up?”

Mayborne sighed and resigned herself to it, “I couldn’t shake loose a Donor for you.” She waited for that to sink in a bit.

Andred was not happy about this but zlinning his cousin he knew she had something in mind. “Okay, what?”

“I have a Donor who could very easily serve you in transfer but she is currently a TN-3.”

“You want me to qualify her?” it was more a statement than a question.

“I want you to talk her into it.” Mayborne looked sideways at him.

“Cousin, there are a lot of things I will joke with you about, this is not one of them,” he was becoming a bit agitated. His last transfer had been bad enough to put him off kilter for three days and this one was already sounding worse. After all a bad transfer was better than no transfer.

“I am not joking. I am hoping that your predicament will force her to help you.”

“You’re trying to manipulate a Donor?”

“Yes.”

“Why?!?”

“Because we bloody shen need her! And she won't qualify!”

“Yeee, calm down May,” he would have backed up if he hadn’t been sitting down. His laterals were trying to crawl backward up his arms.

“Sorry Andy. I’ve just been going round and round with her for the last three months and I’m so frustrated I could jump out the window.”

“Well please don’t do that,” he chuckled then became deadly serious. “May, what am I going to do if I can’t convince her? I’m scheduled for transfer in three weeks and I don’t intend to be living with this headache for another month. Get me a TN-1!”

Mayborne Archer looked deep into her cousin’s brown eyes, “First to First and Cousin to Cousin I promise you that if you can’t convince her I’ll give you my Donor. Deal?”

He zlinned her carefully. Even when they were children they had never lied to each other. “All right. I hope I don’t have to take you up on the offer. It looks like your last transfer was nothing to write home about either,” he could feel the headache she was nursing.

Mayborne relaxed slightly. Andred asked, “What’s her name, by the way?”

***
Joyanne Hallenbek was fuming. She was pacing the collection room like a caged cat and was in no mood to assist anyone. I am so tired of the machinations of Mayborne Archer I could strangle her with my bare hands. Why did she have to assign this wretched channel to me? She knows I don’t like working with Firsts. To try and calm herself she gathered her waist length jet black hair and began to plat it into a single braid clipping the end with a barrette she kept in her coverall pocket. It wasn’t working. She closed her eyes counted to one hundred. Suppressing a snarl of frustration which had flattened her otherwise full lips against her very straight white teeth she sat on the lounge. She thought about lying down for a bit to try and calm herself but there wasn’t enough time for that.

Andred opened the door to the collection room and walked into a firestorm. She turned to look at him. Joyanne was tall with rich dark cinnamon brown skin, and the most incredible large green slightly slanted eyes. Suddenly there was no storm but there wasn’t any support either. This is going to be a long three weeks.

“Hello,” he said tentatively. “Are you Joyanne?”

She looked him up and down before she answered, “Yes.”

“Oh good then I’m in the right place,” he smiled. She said nothing. Help. “By the way my name is Andred but my friends call me Andy.”

Joyanne took a deep breath and relaxed completely. Slowly she turned her attention on Andred.

Wow! Suddenly he knew why Mayborne wanted to qualify this Donor so badly. His headache was gone and the nausea he had been fighting without even realizing it had faded completely away. “Thank you, Sosu!”

Three simple words. They startled Joyanne so badly that she dropped her control for an instant. She looked at him sideways from her slanted green eyes expecting him to start berating her for dropping the fields. He just smiled and said nothing. There was no accusation in his dark brown eyes either.

Three simple words that had never come out of the mouth of any First she had ever worked with. Three simple words that expressed gratitude and respect.

“You are welcomed, Hajene,” she said with the faintest promise of a smile in her eyes and a very definite smile in her nager.

“Are you ready for our first donation?”

“Yes,” she said. “I’ll go get them.”

They worked steadily through the afternoon first collecting then dispensing the collected selyn. Andred couldn’t believe the talent of this Donor Third. He had been a First since changeover and had spent his entire adult life doing pretty much what he had been doing all afternoon working with Donor after Donor. He had worked with good Firsts, great Seconds but rarely a Third and none of them had been exceptional. This one was beyond exceptional.

Joyanne worked quietly. She didn’t have much to say normally and stuck working collection and then dispensary with a First made her nearly nonverbal. Although this one was different from any she had ever worked with before. If the rumors were true he was the Controller’s cousin. Well, they were as different as day and night. Every time she got within zlinning distance of the Controller she could feel the greedy way Mayborne’s field would latch onto her. It was sickening. No, it wasn’t sickening it was maddening. Joyanne wanted to flatten the woman whenever she was anywhere near her. Now wouldn’t that cause a scandal.

Andred looked sideways at Joyanne as a sudden burst of humor flashed through her nager on the heels of what had felt like an intense almost murderous rage. He never let on that he had caught those flashes. Andred would wait and see what he could find out about this Donor.

At the end of a long afternoon’s work Andred turned to Joyanne and said, “That was fun!”

Joyanne looked at Andred as if he had lost his mind. “You have a warped sense of what fun is. Do you require anything else, Hajene?”

“Yes, dinner.”

“The cafeteria would be serving dinner about now. I could show you where it is.”

“I was hoping you would show me a good restaurant instead.” Andred waited for her watching the almost painful contortions of her field as she resigned herself to what she felt was an unpleasant inevitability.

“I know of at least two good ones, that is what the Firsts consider good. I don’t eat at either.”

“Well, you’ve been here longer than I have. Where do you go to eat?” He was still smiling as he asked his question but her wording had set off alarm bells.

“I eat at the Two Thirds.” There was an open challenge in her eyes that never touched her field.

She is so good at this. Why won’t she qualify? “Sounds good to me.” So saying he bowed her out the open door smiling at the shock that flashed through her nager.

***
The Two Thirds restaurant was full of people most of whom, Andred noted, were Thirds both Donors and channels. The dinning room buzzed with conversation peppered with laughter. The ambient was raucous, lively and quite painful. Then with a sigh of resignation Joyanne cocooned him in her field and the pain subsided.

A huge Donor came up to Joyanne and literally picked her up and swung her around saying “Little girl where you been? I been missin’ you somthin’ fierce!”

Andred’s first reaction had been to protect his Donor until he zlinned the absolute glee in her nager. There she was dangling from a bear hug and she never lost her contact with him. He said nothing.

“Peter put me down,” she punched him on the arm. He ignored the blow and her request until he noticed Andred standing there. Then his eyes narrowed at the channel. He put Joyanne down immediately and said, “Sorry, Hajene!” giving Joyanne a disappointed look he added, “Tell me you did not bring a First in here. Don’t you know they can’t deal with the ambient?”

Joyanne shrugged, “I’ll see to his comfort.”

“Meaning you don’t get to relax all through dinner. And Jorden has made your favorite, stew in hopes that the smell would lure you here. I hate to disappoint her by telling her you have to work through dinner. No offense, Hajene.”

Andred touched Joyanne’s shoulder, “If this is going to cause a problem I’ll just go to the cafeteria.”

“What difference would it make either way I would have to work through dinner. Besides the food is much better here and I refuse to miss Jorden’s stew.”

Peter seated them in a secluded area as far away from the other diners as he could get them. Something Joyanne had said bothered him. He zlinned the dining room carefully. There was a mix of channels and Donors even renSimes and Gens who were just being seated. No one was working the fields! How can they stand it? Then he noticed that every Sime in the room was hypoconscious. He was the only one using his Sime senses. Taking the hint he dropped out of duoconsciousness and found that he could manage well enough with only his eyes and ears even in the very low light. He looked at Joyanne to find her staring at him in disbelief. He shrugged, “You should be able to eat in peace without having to worry about me.”

A slow smile lit her eyes and then transformed the rest of her face. It made Andred want to zlin it in her field but he restrained himself.

The stew arrived. Joyanne stood up and hugged the Sime woman who had brought it, “Oh, Jorden, it smells as wonderful as always thank you, thank you!”

“My pleasure sweety,” she said returning the hug with equal enthusiasm. “Who’s your friend?”

Joyanne introduced Andred but left off his QN classification. Jorden eyed him speculatively. “He’s too skinny. Bring him back as often as you can and I’ll take care of the rest. Enjoy the stew.” She threaded her way back through the dining room into the kitchen.

“Is she a channel?” it felt odd having to ask the question.

Joyanne smiled her approval at him and said, “Yes, Third Order. And she’s the best cook in town. When she and Peter got married they opened this place.” She opened the tureen of stew and dished out a bowl for him and one for herself. “She’s right you are too skinny, eat.”

He hadn’t really wanted anything to eat just an excuse to spend more time with Joyanne. But to his surprise the stew did smell delicious and without the disturbance of the ambient beating at him he found the stew was heaven. He ate it with as much fervent appreciation as he noticed Joyanne did. What surprised him even more was the fact that he ate two more bowls of the wonderful stuff soaking up the last of it with the fresh baked bread that had been placed on the table by a waiter.

Dinner, to Andred’s great surprise, also came with a show. Actually, the show was the gift of several of the patrons who miraculously produced two guitars, a flute and a set of bongos. It was obvious from the tuning up that they often played together. When they started the first song, a soft ballad that Andred couldn’t remember the title of, the tables were being bused hurriedly and with uncanny quiet. Not one dish was clanked against another in the usual manner of clearing. Some of the other patrons were moving the tables and chairs into a configuration which cleared a huge space in the middle of the floor. The central chandelier created a pool of light as someone turned it on ramping up the brightness slightly. No furniture was scraped across the floor the furniture moving too was done in silence. The ballad ended just as the furniture moving was finished.

There was an anticipatory quiet in the room. Then suddenly the sound of hard wooden heels tapping out a cadence like a slow steady heartbeat. It came closer and closer until a Gen in a red satin body suit with a black and red nearly floor length skirt tied about her waist was standing in the center of the cleared space still tapping out the heartbeat with her heels faster and faster until it was nearly impossible to hear the individual taps then suddenly silence.

One of the guitarist struck up a three note rhythm that wandered up and down the musical scale creating a vibrant repeating melodic pattern. The dancer began to move slowly to the rhythmic guitar music describing patterns on the floor as she went creating counter point rhythms to the music with her heels. The tempo increased and suddenly there was another dancer on the floor with her. He was dressed in a red shirt with long loose sleeves that tied at the wrist and black pants. She had literally pulled him from a shadowed corner. She danced around him just out of reach until he move with lightning speed and caught her hand and twirled her around and around faster and faster as if he would never stop. But suddenly he did, leaning her backward across his outstretched left arm still holding her right hand in his. He never released her hand after that and they wove complex patterns on the dance floor coming together and moving apart spinning and whirling their heels making complex interweaving rhythms that increased in speed until their heels appeared not to be tapping at all but the sound proved that they were. Then with a sudden crescendo of sound the dance and the music ended.

The applause was deafening. Andred found himself on his feet applauding as loudly as anyone. He had never seen anything like it in his life. He applauded even louder still feeling the sheer precision and power of the dancers and the overwhelming grip that the music had held on the audience. He would never have believed anything other than a shiltpron could produce such an effect. Yet he knew there had been no nageric manipulation of any kind.

He turned to see Joyanne applauding with equal enthusiasm and watching him with the most beautiful smile of approval. The applause died away as the dancers took their final bow and left the dance floor. The musician struck up a dance tune and the floor filled with former audience members. Things got noisy again. Joyanne touched his elbow and motioned that they should go as she left money on the table. She led the way through the press of bodies back to the counter.

Peter was standing in front of the counter drying a glass. “Little girl you can’t be leavin’ already.”

“I have to get the Hajene here back in time for his next shift.” She hugged Peter and asked him to kiss Jorden for her.

As they stepped out of the Two Thirds the setting sun was painting the sky in shades of red and gold over the western horizon. It had been relatively dark inside the restaurant and the fading light of the setting sun was dazzling by comparison. They retraced their steps back to the Sime Center. Andred went duoconscious as soon as they had stepped outside. Joyanne sigh and offered her support.

They walked in silence until Andred had to ask, “Do they always have that kind of entertainment at the Two Thirds?”

“No. We got a real treat today. Anisia and Devon are visiting their parents. They dance professionally with a troupe that moves around a lot. The musicians must have been a part of that same troupe. They probably don’t get home cooking in a lot of the places they perform.”

“I’ve never seen Gens move with such precision.”

“There was only one Gen on the floor Devon is renSime.”

Andred’s heart skipped a beat. “A renSime. He was too massive to be a renSime.” That was not what was really bothering him of course. A Gen dancing around a renSime like that is an open invitation to disaster.

“Peter and Jorden are the parents of Anisia and Devon. Devon is built just like Peter only less massive as he is Sime.” Joyanne knew that Devon’s build was not what was really bothering Andred.

“I wasn’t zlinning but I assume that Devon was also hypoconscious.”

“Yes, he was.” It always amazed Andred that Donors could tell so much without the ability to zlin.

“Is it normal, I mean do all the Simes who eats at the Two Third always remain hypo?”

“Yes, they do.”

“Why?”

“Peter is a Second order Donor. He says he has no intention of working the fields twenty-four hours a day. If the Simes around him are hypo he doesn’t have to.”

“But that’s not normal. Simes zlin it’s like me asking you to put on a blind fold and walk around.”

She didn’t answer him for nearly a block then, “If I walked into your quarters and you were nude I would close my eyes that is normal courtesy. So far no one has come up with anything that a Gen can put on to keep a Sime from zlinning them. So we are as we are. You, Simes I mean, find our “nudity” either offensive or arousing. But if you were courteous you would close your eyes. That is all that Peter requires of his patrons.”

“How can I spot trouble if I don’t zlin?”

“Most of the trouble Simes get into is because they do zlin constantly.”

“If you’re going to talk about courtesy what about the way Gens just flagrantly do things that will hurt the Simes around them.”

She looked sideways at him. He could feel the slow boil of her anger rising through their nageric contact. Then suddenly it was gone, not the anger just his awareness of it. “I have never met a Gen who would intentionally hurt a Sime just for the sake of causing pain. You require us to be more than human. And for the most part we manage to be. But if you would close your eyes we could be merely human.”

They walked on in silence and Joyanne wondered how much longer she would have to deal with Andred. Of all the Firsts she had met or had to deal with in her life he had shown the greatest potential to learn. But there were too many years of mindset working against him.

“I would feel blinded if I weren’t able to zlin,” and he shivered once convulsively.

“No one asked you to keep your eyes closed. No one would ask you to tear your eyes out but could you at least blink.” Joyanne looked up to see the entrance to the Sime Center less than half a block away. She sighed her relief inwardly.

They parted company at the entrance Andred headed straight up to the Controller’s office.
“Where have you been!? I’ve been paging you for the last fifteen minutes!” Mayborne Archer was fuming and pacing back and forth in front of her desk.

“I went out for dinner. What’s the problem?” His laterals were trying to crawl backward up his arms again. Then he blinked.

Mayborne stopped mid pace and rounded on him. “What did you just do? Why did you go hypo?”

“You were hurting me.”

“So you go hypo?! Who in the world would think of such a thing?”

“Joyanne.”

Andred was glad he was hypoconscious because Mayborne turned as red as blood and yelled out the door of her office, “Get Joyanne Hallenbek up here! Now!!”

She turned on Andred, “Why are you letting a Third who is too lazy to qualify up to her potential talk you into doing something as dangerous as that.”

“If a Gen had been as sloppy with their nageric control as you just were we would be demanding they get control of themselves or get out. You hurt me, I blinked.”

“You what?!?”

“I went hypo. It is like blinking when a light is too bright. It works too.”

This caused Mayborne’s tirade to shift into high gear. Andred just sat watching and considering the wisdom of a certain Donor Third.

Before too long Joyanne was standing at the office door. “You sent for me Controller Archer?”

“Come in and close the door!”

Joyanne did as she was bid. She noticed as she entered the room that Andred was hypoconscious. He winked when he caught her eye. She nearly smiled. He can be taught. But Mayborne Archer is another story.

“Hajene Reynard here tells me that you have been giving him lessons in nageric control.”

“We merely had a conversation about levels of consciousness so to speak.” Mayborne’s field had latched on to Joyanne in that greedy disgusting manner that Joyanne hated so much.

“I see. And what right does a Third have to give a First pointers of any kind?”

Joyanne was in no mood to take any more of this, “Controller Archer would you please disengage your field from mine?”

“What!?! How dare you refuse to give support?! You lazy – ” Joyanne checked to see if Andred was still hypo. He was. She let Mayborne have it. She didn’t attack the Sime she just removed her own nager from the link and wrapped it about herself as tightly a second skin.

Mayborne stumbled backward off balance. Joyanne reached out to steady her so that she wouldn’t fall but Andred was there first. He sat Mayborne in her chair and zlinned her. She was not physically damaged but her nager was in a state of disarray. Joyanne was still in the room physically but not nagerically. He had heard of Gens who could do that.

“How is she?” Joyanne was becoming more concerned with each passing moment. She hadn’t meant to do anything more than get out of the woman’s clutches. Now Mayborne seem to be in real trouble.

“She took a pretty good nageric shock. What did you do to her?”

“I disengaged my field from hers. That’s all.”

Suddenly Joyanne was supporting him with the steady nager. He also zlinned her split her attention and pull Mayborne back into nageric contact. It worked faster than anything he could have done. Mayborne was suddenly completely conscious and in mid fume.

“I could take your license for that little trick!”

“Which one May, disengaging your field or bringing you back around?”

“She did that?”

“Zlin for yourself.”

When the Controller zlinned her Joyanne became nauseous. I refuse to lose Jorden’s wonderful stew! She let the nausea leak into her link with Mayborne just the tiniest bit. Mayborne stopped zlinning immediately.

“Why do you dislike me so much?!” Mayborne asked through clenched teeth.

“You think of Gens as nothing more than property. Donor or donor it doesn’t matter to you. We exist only to serve your need and have no other intrinsic value. Channels like you are the reason I will never qualify First. And yes, I know that I’m a First but not on paper and that means I will never have to serve the likes of you.”

“Get out!! Get out of my office!! Now!!”

Joyanne left gladly.

“How dare she, how dare she!” Mayborne slumped in her chair.

“Let me get your Donor.” Andred rose to do just that and Mayborne said, “Please don’t. Dillan has been up all night with me for two nights in a row I sent him to bed.”

Andred was use to his cousin’s wild tempers she had been that way as long as he had known her. She sat there in her chair looking thoroughly cowed. “Do I treat Donors the way she said?”

“You can be a bit high handed cousin. But that’s the way you are with everyone,” he smiled to take some of the sting out of his words. Mayborne could explode like heat lightning from time to time but he knew that at the core of her being was an innate care for people. That care was what drove her temper when she perceived a threat. Right now Joyanne was a threat in her view.

“I’ve never met a Donor who didn’t want to qualify TN-1. You know she serves two Third Order transfers a month. The Thirds adore her. There is no shortage of TN-3 Donors. They don’t need her we do! And because of me she won’t qualify.”

“It’s not just you. It’s all of us QN-1s as a group. She thinks we’re all a waste of selyn. You’re not the only high handed First around here you know.”

“So what’s so great about Thirds?!?” Mayborne was coming back to herself.

***
Joyanne went straight to her quarters and started packing. “Oh shen, shen, shen!!!” Why did I let my temper get the better of my judgment. This was so very unlike her. However, being anywhere near Mayborne Archer turned off her higher brain functions. Joyanne’s reactions to the channel were so visceral that it defied her ability to comprehend them. She knew that as soon as the Controller recovered she would be filling out the paper work necessary to pull her license. How many lives have I lost for a fit of pique?

Joyanne suddenly became aware of a presence at her door as she realized she had forgotten to close it. She turned to see Mayborne standing there. “What are you doing?” she asked as Joyanne crammed two sweaters into her duffle bag.

“I’m packing!” she snarled. Then she realized that Mayborne’s field was staying completely away from her.

“Why are you packing?”

“You’ll require the room for the Donor who will be taking my place.” Why was the Controller going on with this farce? Does she have so much contempt for me that she wants to rub my face in my failure?

“Who said there was going to be a Donor taking your place?”

Joyanne stopped and turned to face Mayborne. “You aren’t going to pull my license?”

“No. I want to talk to you though.”

“What about?” Joyanne motioned the Controller to a chair noting that she had not entered the room until invited and was still keeping her field to herself.

“What you said to me. Do you really feel that I treat Donors like property?”

Joyanne sat on the bed staring at Mayborne. “Yes.”

“How so? Give me specific examples.”

“One that comes to mind is the way you sent Tearni away just before his daughter was born. He and Alicen had been trying to have a child for two years and he wanted desperately to give Alicen transfer after the baby’s birth. Did you even try to find someone else to send to Broken Promise?”

“The only other Third available was you. I didn’t want Controller Makepeace getting her tentacles on you. I knew I would never get you back.”

“So you tear a family apart instead.”

“Keeping you was more important,” even as she said it she realized how horrible it sounded.

“That is how so.”

“When we pledge our lives to the Tecton everything else becomes secondary!” Mayborne snapped.

“The pledge I made was to Sime-Gen Unity. You had a shining example of that Unity in Tearni and Alicen and you shattered it without a thought.”

“Tearni never complained to me about it,” Mayborne pointed out smugly.

“Would you have changed your mind if he had?”

Mayborne knew she would have refused and entered the request into Terni’s record as insubordination. “No.”

Joyanne looked at her for a bit before she said, “As a QN-1 you find their desire to settle down to be incomprehensible. QN-1s very rarely form family units. QN-1s tend to be career oriented with little care for anything out side of their jobs and a decent transfer. QN-2s usually want to qualify QN-1 if it is at all possible and are even less likely to form family units.

“QN-1s are entirely too engrossed in political maneuvering to be happy with something as simple as a spouse and children. And yes, the Tecton is shorthanded at that level of proficiency but the vast bulk of the work of channeling is done by the Thirds.

“The Tecton keeps you moving around so much that you can’t form lasting relationships. The closest any of you comes to staying put is if a Controllership opens up somewhere. A First Order Donor has no chance to stay put at all.”

“Thirds have lives and loves and children. Have you never thought that if Firsts and Seconds don’t start having more children your numbers are going to dwindle even more?”

“What has all this to do with the fact that you won’t qualify TN-1?” Mayborne had to get this conversation back on track.

“I like having friends to talk with and play with to sing and dance and just be with. I’ve never met a First who would even sit and hold a normal conversation that didn’t revolve around work, political maneuvering or transfer. Thirds don’t usually get sent all over the planet to Death only knows where because the Tecton requires a selyn calculation to eight decimal places instead of four.”

“We, QN-1s, care for the sick and injured and give transfers too. We make better physicians because of our higher sensitivity!”

“It isn’t any fun to have your talents unappreciated is it? One of the best physicians I have ever worked with is a Third Order channel but no one will ever know or recognize her talents because she isn’t a First.

“I served Alicen’s after birth transfer. I suspected I was the reason that Tearni had been sent to Broken Promise. I attended the birth as midwife. There aren’t many First Order Donors who get the privilege.

“So you’re telling me that the only reason you won’t qualify is because you don’t want to travel? I can have you on the next thing smoking for the back of beyond with a phone call,” Mayborne was looking smug again.

“And I will hand you my resignation and become a donor. With my capacity I would be assured of a very good living unfettered by the vagaries of the Tecton,” Joyanne was deadly serious and Mayborne could zlin it.

“Is that what you were planning to do when I came in?”

“Truthfully, Controller, I am not sure what I was planning.”

“Why won’t you call me by my name?”

“You are not my friend,” Joyanne let her conviction on that score show in her nager.

“Because I’m a First?!”

“Because you hold me and mine in contempt.”

Mayborne Archer got up from her chair and headed for the door.

“Should I continue to pack?”

Turning in the doorway she said, “Yes. You’ll be replacing Tearni at Broken Promise.”

Startled, Joyanne said, “Thank you,” to the back of Mayborne Archer. Mayborne never said another word to her.

~*~*~*~*~*~

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