Klim is out far past the hour any obedient nine year old boy ought to be snug in bed. He snuck out after his parents were asleep, in pursuit of Fame, Glory, and basically Not Looking Like a Fool In Front Of the Other Kids.
Deena can't believe Klim talked her into going along with this.
Klim was injudicious enough to taunt a rival with being "scared silly of Simes" in front of witnesses, during lunch that day.
Klim did think it was pretty silly that Radd goes three blocks out of his way to avoid walking past the Sime Center, but is now wishing he'd kept his mouth shut.
Klim is now required to provide unequivocal proof that he has been in the Sime Center at tomorrow's lunch.
Deena couldn't believe what Klim and Radd shouted at each other.
Klim: What do you think I should get, Deena? As proof for Radd?
Deena: I don't know. I don't believe any of it.
Klim: Do you think I'm a coward?
Klim is a bit ~~offended ~~
Deena: It's not about being brave. It's about having faith. If we have faith, nothing can happen to either of us
Deena wonders if her faith is strong enough, because she is scared silly.
Klim: I don't think faith alone is gonna keep Radd and his pals from beating me up good, if I can't offer proof I'm not scared to go into the Sime Center.
Klim is a practical sort, and the danger of changeover is years away, while Radd is here and now.
Deena: I don't believe anyone would make a book like Corr said.
Klim: You think Corr's lying?
Deena: Pictures of tentacles? Who would put that in a book? It would be ...
Klim: You think a book like that would convince Radd?
Deena: If it exists. I think it's all lies.
Klim leads the way around the last corner, then ducks under a bush to survey his target carefully.
Klim: It looks quiet enough.
Deena peers through the bushes. She thinks the house looks like an ordinary enough house... not an abode of demons.
Deena: What if it's just plain folks living there and we can't find anything like Corr said?
Klim: Don't you see the sign on the gate? It says "Hannard's Ford Sime Center". Or it would if there were enough light to read it properly. I did some scouting after school.
Klim is a bit ~~ smug ~~ about it.
Deena looks at the sign dubiously.
Deena: Well if it's really demons, we just have to keep thinking pure thoughts.
Klim: Pure as the spring rain.
Deena: To take something from a real person would be a sin but I don't think demons count. They might get mad though.
Klim: They won't get mad, 'cause they're not gonna catch us. I already told you that.
Klim tries hard to sound more confident than he is.
Deena rubs the gooseflesh that is rising on her bare arms.
Klim: I think we can get through the bushes in front, so we won't have to go through the gate. They won't be watching the shrubbery. Come on.
Klim skitters a yard closer, ducking behind a tree, this time.
Deena: Okay, no point waiting.
Klim looks carefully at the Sime Center, which looks a bit less innocently inviting than it did in full daylight, for some reason.
Klim: Yeah. Follow me.
Deena squares her shoulders and follows after Klim.
Klim ducks into the cover of the hedge surrounding the Center's grounds, and starts feeling for a hole in the shrubbery.
Deena runs into Klim's backside and gives a little jump.
Klim: Do you think they have weapons there? Fancy whips, like in the Major Greatheart stories?
Klim thinks a gen-u-ine Sime whip would be a great trophy to present Radd.
Deena refuses to believe in Sime magic... but whips are a definite possibility.
Klim: Yes! Here's a hole big enough for us.
Klim drops to his belly and starts squirming through a hole in the hedge, with difficulty.
Deena scrunches up and follows Klim under the hedge. She is so tiny it isn't hard to play mouse.
Klim: There, see? They'll be watching the gate, and so they'll miss us.
Klim lifts his head just clear of the grass to survey his objective.
Deena: Just looks like a house. Do demons sleep at night?
Deena doesn't see many lights on.
Klim: I dunno. They never sleep in the Major Greatheart books.
Klim's grown-up older brother has strictly forbidden Mere Children to read such Adult Novels, so of course Klim has swiped them all and devoured them with relish.
Klim thinks the parts where Greatheart is fighting evil Simes are great, although he usually skips most of the scenes with Lilla Lovelace as being too dull.
Deena: So we need to be careful.
Klim: Yeah. The front door will be locked, but maybe we can find a window open.
Deena starts humming a hymn under her breath to calm and steady her.
Klim snakes his way across the lawn in true Greatheart style. He does a satisfying amount of damage to his clothing, although he's likely to be less satisfied when his mother gets done scolding him over the grass stains and occasional tears.
Deena simply follows him, humming a bit louder to try to drown her fears.
Klim: Shall we try the back first? They might have been careless and left a window open for air.
Deena: Sounds good
Marvin has been standing Sime-quiet on the front porch, enjoying the night air and watching the two child nagers slither across the grass.
Marvin considers yelling, "We have you surrounded! Come out with your hands up!", but not for very long -- he doesn't want to panic them.
Klim stands up as he reaches the cover of the building, and cautiously tries the nearest window, which happens to be that of the small donation room.
Klim: Locked tight. ~~ disappointed ~~
Deena wonders if she is relieved or disappointed.
Klim thinks that if Greatheart had been raiding a Sime building, the window he tried would be open. He's right, but that's the difference between fiction and reality.
Deena: Well Radd won't believe that.
Klim: So we'll find another way in.
Klim leads the way along the side of the building, trying each window carefully as he comes to it.
Deena finds humming to herself very calming. She decides that if Providence decrees Klim gets beat up by Radd, that is okay also.
Marvin slips back through the door, which has finally been rehung by him and Cristal together, and makes his way to the rear door. He knows that all the windows are locked.
Klim turns the corner, and sees a long veranda on the back of the building.
Klim: The windows are all shut. Do you think they remembered to lock their back door?
Deena: Only one way to find out.
Klim was afraid Deena would say that.
Klim: Come on, then. Give me a boost over the rail.
Klim thinks that just walking up the steps would be far too tame and un-Greatheart-like.
Deena squats down to be able to give Klim a hearty push.
Klim grabs the railing as high as he can, and jumps.
Marvin has silently opened the door and is standing in the doorway. He speaks while Klim is in the air.
Marvin: Hello, and welcome to the Sime Center! What can I do for you?
Klim yells, flailing, and comes to rest, belly down across the railing.
Deena freezes in shock. She didn't hear anyone there.
Klim's yell breaks off in an anguished whine as the breath is knocked out of him.
Deena rushes forward ready to catch Klim if he drops back. She peers through the shadows but can't see Marvin clearly.
Gerrhonot is sleeping in the back bedroom he usually shares with Seruffin and wakes at the yell.
Klim kicks out wildly, and his foot connects with something.
Deena steps back to avoid another shoe to the head.
Deena: Leave him alone!
Klim's arms flail as well.
Marvin steps back to avoid a punch in the arm. He attempts to calm the ambient nagerically, but it doesn't work well on children.
Deena wonders if she needs to rescue Klim, but that boot hurt.
Marvin: [in his native accent] I'm not gonna touch him. Relax and stop wiggling, cantcha?
Klim asks himself the crucial question: What would Greatheart do?
Gerrhonot wonders what's going on, but he can't see anything over the porch roof. He figures he should go down and see if he can help Marvin.
Deena is reassured by the familiar accent. This doesn't sound too demonic.
Klim figures, after some hasty almost-cogitation, that Greatheart would manage not to be caught lying stomach-down on the back porch railing of a Sime Center.
Klim doesn't find this terribly helpful, alas, under the current circumstances.
Marvin: Why don't you drop back and walk up the stairs? It's a lot easier.
Deena: We are pure and holy. So if you mean evil, be warned!
Marvin has a giggling fit which he barely gets under control.
Marvin: I'll keep that in mind.
Deena is pleased that the stranger is so reasonable.
Klim gives another wiggle, and finally manages to make it over the railing, landing in a heap on the veranda.
Gerrhonot puts on the nice dark brown wool robe his mom made for him and heads for the stairs.
Marvin: Suit yourself.
Deena sees Klim vanish up onto the veranda and wonders if she should stay back or follow.
Marvin: Can't you walk up the stairs at least? It's not nearly as silly as falling in a heap.
Klim pushes himself to a sitting position, still a bit dizzy from the pounding his diaphragm has taken.
Klim: Not silly.
Deena decides it would be dishonorable to leave Klim in this predicament. She decides that the stranger has a point about stairs. Klim's preference for jumping and climbing has always somewhat baffled her. She hums again as she advances up the stairs.
Marvin begins to whistle the hymn, which he recognizes from his childhood.
Klim's ribs ache with each pant, and he is glad that his reinforcements are arriving.
Klim: What are you doing here? [to Marvin}
Klim has made a quite natural mistake, hearing Marvin whistle that particular song.
Marvin has no trouble preventing the sore muscles carried on a child's nager from affecting him.
Klim: Are they holding you prisoner here?
Klim thinks that bringing a rescued prisoner would be proof Radd couldn't possibly ignore.
Deena tries to make out details of the stranger who looms in the dim veranda.
Marvin laughs outright this time.
Marvin: No, no. I'm a traveling channel and this is one of my regular stops.
Klim: You're a Sime?
Klim's voice squeaks.
Marvin: [firmly] Yes. But I'm a safe Sime. Count on it, kiddo.
Gerrhonot moves carefully down the stairs in the dark and feels his way around the furniture in the common room. His ~~ calm ~~ supportive ~~ nager reaches out towards Marvin.
Klim doesn't doubt that Marvin is safe; it's the safety of himself (and Deena, of course) that ~~ worries ~~ him.
Marvin is sorry Gerrhonot was awakened, but glad he's here now that he is up.
Deena stares at Marvin with curiosity.
Gerrhonot reaches up to feel for the door, causing the wide Sime-style sleeves of his dark robe to droop like bat wings.
Deena: I've never seen a demon before. You don't scare me.
Marvin: [to Deena] Good.
Klim is ~~ plenty scared enough for both of them ~~.
Marvin: Yes, Gerrhonot. We have two guests, it seems. [Simelan] Kids -- on a dare, I think. No threat.
Gerrhonot: Oh. Hi, guys.
Klim: What were you saying? Was that Simetalk?
Marvin: Yes. I was saying that you were probably here on a ... mission.
Klim knows that the evil Simes Greatheart battles speak in a secret language.
Klim: Don't think about it, Deena! He'll read it in your mind!
Deena ~~ hopes ~~ her faith is strong enough to keep her safe after all.
Gerrhonot opens the door and comes out onto the veranda. ~~ about 10% asleep ~~
Klim tries very hard not to think about what brought him to this pickle, and even harder not to think about what might happen if he can't get out again.
Deena sings her hymn louder and concentrates on it; that should block mind-reading
Marvin: No, I can't read minds, no Sime can do that. We can tell what you're feeling, though. Hey, you wanna see a magic trick?
Gerrhonot can hardly see a thing. It's a moonless night, and overcast.
Klim: Rastvan Raider can do magic, too.
Klim names Greatheart's primary adversary, who specializes in kidnapping the fair Lilla Lovelace, of course.
Marvin: [surprised] Hey, yeah, I remember that.
Deena: We don't need your magic... only truth.
Marvin: Oh, I have a good supply of that, too. What do you want to know the truth about?
Klim: You've met Rastvan Raider? Were you one of his men?
Klim's ability to distinguish between fact and fiction is a bit weak, as has been mentioned.
Marvin: Not exactly. But I read those books too.
Klim: Rastvan can't ever hurt Major Greatheart. ~~ hope ~~
Marvin: Nope. Never gonna happen.
Gerrhonot wonders what they're talking about. Marvin seems to be doing okay with the kids, so he can probably go back to bed.
Klim tries not to remember the number of auxiliary casualties Rastvan and his cronies managed to accomplish.
Klim: He's special. Nobody can hurt him. My dad doesn't believe that. He says there aren't any Gens that can't get killed.
Marvin: If Major Greatheart got killed, there wouldn't be any more books, would there? [sings] And what would the writer do then, poor thing?
Klim: Are you saying that my dad's right? All Gens can be killed, even if they're brave and daring like Major Greatheart?
Klim finds the notion ~~ appalling ~~, especially under the current awkward circumstances.
Deena shakes her head. She thinks that Klim has failed to grasp that Man proposes but God disposes... and no daring leap will save the two of them.
Marvin: No. Some Gens, like my friend Gerrhonot here, can't be, not by any Sime. That's partly born into him, partly a matter of training.
Deena: Is that more magic?
Marvin: No. Just a matter of getting used to things, mostly. Actually, any Gen who knows what she's doing is safe around almost all Simes. But not the berserkers you see around here.
Klim: What's different about the other Simes?
Marvin: A Sime's First Need is the worst they'll ever know. After that, we channels make sure that Simes don't get deeply enough into need to lose control around Gens, ever. Of course Gens need to learn how to be polite around Simes, too.
Deena: Can you magic Gens into Simes?
Marvin: Nope. Nobody can do that.
Gerrhonot's feet are getting cold. He yawns, politely covering his mouth.
Deena: That's what I heard. But you agree you can't do that.
Marvin: You betcha.
Deena: Preacher says no true Gen can turn Sime.
Gerrhonot sits on the porch swing and tucks up his feet.
Deena: But Corr said you magicked Mik and turned him.
Klim: And that Gens who live with Simes aren't true Gens at all.
Marvin: Corr, whoever he or she is, doesn't have a clue.
Klim: Are you a fake Gen, then? [to Gerrhonot]
Gerrhonot wonders what a fake Gen is.
Gerrhonot: Um, no. I'm a real Gen. ~~ confused but cooperative ~~
Deena: If he can't be killed by Simes, then he has to be a true Gen.
Marvin: There are no fake Gens. Only kids, real Gens, and real Simes.
Klim: He may be real, but if he lives with them, he's got to be a traitor. Like Jezzy Blackeyes.
Klim names the harlot who hates Lilla Lovelace with a passion.
Marvin: A traitor to what?
Klim: To Gens, of course.
Marvin: In the bad old days, maybe. Although I never believed all those stories about Genrunning -- it always seemed like way too much trouble.
Gerrhonot wonders if he could figure out what was going on if he were fully awake. He's used to conversations going over his head, but not usually ones with nine-year-old kids.
Deena peers at Gerrhonot with interest. He does not look much like Major Greatheart.
Klim: Why would it be too much trouble?
Marvin: Anyhow, Gerrhonot's job is to help channels to stay healthy, and it's channel's job to keep everyone else healthy. Speaking of which, are your ribs still hurting?
Marvin zlins that they are, of course.
Klim: Umm... yeah, they are.
Marvin: If you're brave enough to come a bit closer, I can fix that for you. I promise I won't touch you.
Klim: You can fix it? By magic?
Klim's ~~ curiosity ~~ is roused.
Deena: Be careful, Klim. Remember what Corr said.
Deena is not certain Klim can match her own degree of holiness.
Marvin: Not magic, just a talent, like being able to whistle.
Marvin demonstrates by whistling the theme to Ralph Vaughan Williams's "The Lark Ascending".
Klim draws a bit closer.
Marvin: Corr also said I could turn Gens into Simes. That'd be like turning boys into girls. Nobody can do that either.
Deena: Maybe that's what he is going to try to do to you Klim.
Marvin laughs again.
Klim: He can't. I'm too young.
Marvin: Not hardly. Gerrhonot, would you come over here, please? I may be doing a functional.
Klim: A functu-what? Is that more Simetalk?
Gerrhonot gets up and goes to Marvin. ~~ standard support for healing functional ~~
Gerrhonot yawns again.
Deena is surprised at Klim's willingness to surrender himself to Sime magic.
Klim wouldn't be here at all, if he were capable of resisting a dare.
Marvin: Sort of. It means I'm going to do one of the things only I can do.
Deena watches avidly for proof of the supernatural.
Gerrhonot: [Simelan] Um, Marvin, are you sure you should be doing stuff like this with out-T kids?
Deena feels a sneaking guilt for helping Klim get into this situation, but really the boy was eager for it.
Marvin: [Simelan] It's just healing a few pulled muscles. I won't even have to touch him, so there won't be any contamination even if he does grow up to be a Donor, and how likely is that?
Marvin: Gerrhonot thinks I shouldn't help you without your parents' permission.
Klim: You're going to tell them?? ~~ horror ~~
Marvin: Not unless you make me.
Gerrhonot: [Simelan] Marvin, it's not that, it's what people will think about the Sime Center when it gets out. Kids can't keep secrets like that.
Marvin: [Simelan] What will they think? That we're competing for the local doctor's business? Healing is about as benign a use of "magic" as you can get.
Gerrhonot is waking up more now that he realizes Marvin is about to do something.. um ... inadvisable.
Gerrhonot: [Simelan] They'd get upset that you're doing anything to their kids. You know that.
Deena: Corr said you turned Gens into Simes. He said you had a book with pictures that showed it.
Marvin scratches his head in puzzlement.
Marvin: Either me or Corr doesn't know what he's talking about. Somehow, I don't think it's me.
Gerrhonot: [Simelan] Didn't you get in enough trouble taking Sanda's donation?
Klim: You mean there aren't any books with pictures of tentacles? ~~ disappointed ~~
Klim was looking forward to waving one under Radd's nose.
Marvin: Well, sure. But the people in them were never Gens. They're just kids who changed over and had a channel nearby so they didn't have to ....
Marvin chokes off the final word, remembering who he's talking to.
Gerrhonot: There's some booklets about changeover. You can have some of those. They have pictures of tentacles.
Gerrhonot yawns again.
Klim: We can really have one? ~~ eager ~~
Marvin: Well, sure.
Gerrhonot: Marvin, do you want to get some? I'd probably break my neck trying to find them in the dark.
Marvin: Sure thing.
Marvin: [to the children] Simes can see in the dark if there are Gens around.
Gerrhonot gets up and goes to the door to illuminate the length of the hallway nagerically.
Klim: Yeah, I know. That's how Rastvan spotted Lilla's sister Troody, remember?
Marvin goes into the common room and rummages through the various pamphlets for one with pictures of Simes. He finally finds a few copies of "Simeland Manners for Genlanders", which he recalls as having the right sort of pictures.
Marvin: [calls back] Right!
Marvin comes out on the porch again, carrying the pamphlets in his hand.
Klim isn't bothered by the nageric improbability of any Sime overzlinning Greatheart's "stealthy" approach, as described in the books.
Gerrhonot: You kids can come back in the daytime some time and talk to people more about Simes and changeover. Hajene Bibi is here all the time and she's really nice.
Marvin: I couldn't find any changeover flyers. These are meant for grownups who want to visit their relatives in Simeland, but the pictures are good.
Klim: Cool! Wait until Radd sees these!
Klim is already concocting a story about his daring raid on the Sime Center, with suitable modifications and omissions. He isn't about to admit that his stealthy entrance was discovered, for instance.
Marvin: Who's Radd?
Deena examines the booklets, hoping that they aren't the abomination Corr described. They should satisfy Radd though and keep Klim from getting his arse kicked.
Klim: He's this kid in school we don't like. He called me a coward.
Klim ignores the minor fact that he called Radd a coward, first.
Marvin: Well, obviously you're not, or you wouldn't be here talking to me. You might ask him how many Simes he's had a conversation with, eh?
Klim wonders how he can fit such a conversation into his tale, without admitting that he got caught. He wonders whether he can convince Deena to say that she was the one who got caught, forcing him to rescue her.
Marvin: [dryly] Try to keep the story something close to what actually could happen. If you can. I don't want your parents marching over here, after all.
Klim: You can read minds!
Marvin: No, but I was your age once. I remember how it works. I sure never sneaked into the Sime Center, though.
Marvin doesn't mention that there was no Sime Center in his town to sneak into.
Klim: You probably didn't have someone like Radd who was gonna beat you to a pulp if you didn't.
Gerrhonot sits on the swing again.
Deena doesn't think it matters whether they were caught or not. She believes the fact that the Sime hasn't hurt her proves that they are doing the right thing.
Marvin: I did once have to steal a horse, though.
Klim: Is that why you turned Sime?
Klim wonders if sneaking into a Sime Center without permission, and talking to a real live Sime is a greater or lesser sin than horse theft, and if so, how it will affect his chances of growing up wrong.
Marvin: So, you think you're gonna turn Sime for this bit of burglary? Attempted burglary?
Klim: Well... not if we repent.
Klim has long since mastered the art of being sorry for his adventures.
Deena: Repent? Why should we repent daring to confront evil?
Marvin: [puzzled] Evil, what evil? This whole Center is here so changeovers in this town won't have to kill.
Deena: But Corr said there was evil magic here. And we came to find out. If it is not so, still we acted in good faith.
Marvin: Of course you did. But you also were planning to snitch something so you could prove to your non-friend that you were actually here. No?
Klim: Well... yeah.
Marvin: So do you repent of that part of the plan, then?
Deena gazes at Marvin regally.
Deena: I repent of nothing.
Marvin: Ooooookay. Klim?
Klim: We didn't succeed in snitching anything, and that's what counts.
Marvin: Ah, but you know better than that. You had the intention of sinning.
Klim: My father says if intent was all it took to sin, every man in the congregation would be damned every time Miz Girgle walks down the aisle to play the organ.
Klim is too young to understand quite why, and is quoting by rote.
Marvin severely represses laughter.
Marvin: [sternly] That's inclination, not intent. You had actually made up your mind that you were going to be a snitcher, and the fact that I caught you and gave you the stuff doesn't save you one bit.
Deena thinks that since it is as yet too dark to look at the books, Marvin and his buddy Simes have not yet been exonerated
Klim: It means I didn't have to do that part of it.
Marvin: But you meant to do it. You had decided to do it. As such, you have already incurred the guilt of doing it, even though you were prevented by me and Gerrhonot here.
Gerrhonot ~~ starts ~~ awake at the sound of his name.
Marvin: Sorry, Gerrhonot. Didn't mean to startle you.
Gerrhonot: It's okay.
Gerrhonot slips back into a doze.
Marvin: But enough theology. I suggest that you take your loot and scram. If you need more stuff to fend off bullies, come back in the morning.
Marvin extends his handful of pamphlets to Klim.
Deena: Let's go, Klim. That's pretty funny, a Sime preaching.
Klim is not about to linger; sneaking into a Sime Center is fun, but being lectured to is something he gets all too much of, at home.
Marvin: Hey, I thought I might be a preacher when I grew up. Didn't happen.
Deena: But if you try any bad magic, you'll have me to deal with.
Klim takes the pamphlets.
Klim: Come on, Deena. Let's get back before we're missed.
Marvin: Understood, Miz. What's your name, anyhow? Mine's Marvin, in case you didn't catch it before.
Deena: I'm Deena.
Marvin: Pleased to meetcha, Deena. And I hope to see you again some day.
Klim: And I'm Klim.
Klim decides to take the easy route down the stairs.
Deena follows, head held high. No Sime is going to guilt-trip her!
Klim pauses, looking back over his shoulder.
Marvin: Don't let any bully get to you. You're tougher and braver than he is. All bullies are cowards at heart.
Klim recognizes a recurrent quotation from the Greatheart books. He returns it with another.
Klim: Courage gets you your Sime!
Gerrhonot smiles and his nager drifts out to engage Marvin's.
Klim trots off around the house, blundering into an occasional bush in the darkness.
Marvin: [to himself] It sure does, doesn't it.
Gerrhonot: You okay, Marvin?
Marvin: Sure. [teasing] Can you make it back to bed on your own, or shall I use a second-level augmentation and carry you?
Gerrhonot: Let's go together. You can keep me from tripping on the furniture.
Marvin puts his arm around Gerrhonot's waist and gently guides him through the labyrinth of booby traps to his bedroom. He snatches a little harmless enjoyment of Gerrhonot's TN-1 field while he's at it. Why not?
Deena trudges home, some of the pamphlets under her arm. She will examine them closely for evidence of the unnatural.
Marvin drops Gerrhonot off at his room door and returns to the front porch to think.