D'zoll is on the cross-border train, making his way to Hannard's Ford. The train has just passed the border, but the so-called "Sime car" is full of baggage.
D'zoll and Shorsh, consequently, are sitting in a regular passenger car. It's more comfortable physically than the usual benches, bags, or crates in the baggage car, but nagerically much more difficult.
D'zoll is ~~ glad ~~ that there's no one sitting in the front end of the car except themselves. Empty space isn't much of a nageric insulator, but anything's better than sitting just across from a hostile pair of Gens.
Shorsh figures the car will empty out as the passengers from in-T leave, and incoming out-T Gens realize who they're expected to share it with.
Shorsh: Retainers okay, D'zoll?
Shorsh was rather pleased that D'zoll didn't make a fuss when he had to put them on, but he wouldn't dare, would he?
D'zoll: [ironically] Oh yes. They fit perfectly and are absolutely the latest thing in cold metal against bare laterals.
Shorsh: At least it isn't the dead of winter. ~~ Gen optimism with a twist of wry ~~
D'zoll: True, true. Then the train would be overheated and I'd be scorched in here.
D'zoll really is doing his best not to whine.
Shorsh appreciates D'zoll's efforts. ~~ support ~~ kindness ~~
D'zoll relaxes a bit on Shorsh's support, and the distorted sense-of-the-world fades somewhat.
Shorsh: Look, I know they're a misery, so let me know if you want help.
Shorsh isn't impressed by Iron Farris acts. He's a Farris himself.
D'zoll raises his eyebrows.
D'zoll: I thought you were helping.
Shorsh: I am, but you can have more when you require it.
Shorsh is careful to specify "when" not "if".
D'zoll: ~~ comforted ~~ I'll let you know.
Shorsh: Good. ~~ content ~~
D'zoll: But I could use some intellectual, rather than nageric, distraction.
D'zoll is afraid he'll get sick if he tries to read.
D'zoll: [dryly] Anything so I don't have to think about that yutz seven rows back on the other side, who can't think about anything but the meat he's having for dinner.
Shorsh: Intellectual, hm? When I was dozing a while back I remembered a book I once read about Jord the Genbreaker: "Sectuib of the Pirate Isles". Most people would regard that book as the antithesis of intellectual.
D'zoll laughs hollowly.
Shorsh: It was published a few years after Unity, and created quite a flap. I think the government wanted to ban it but couldn't figure out for what. It had something in there to offend everybody, no matter what side of anything they were on - pro-Tecton, anti-Tecton, pro-Distect, anti-Distect, junct, nonjunct, disjunct, semijunct or of course, Gen.
D'zoll: I've heard of it, but I've never read it. There's a song about it:
I'll be tumpty-tumpty-tumI can't remember the rest.
And live a Pirate Sectuib!
Shorsh: Well, it wouldn't have sold such a lot of copies if it hadn't had something in there to titillate every reader in one way or another, of course. Transfer, kills, attrition, cruelty, heroism, sex coercive and consensual, drugs manipulative and hedonic, Simes enslaving Gens, Gens enslaving Simes, Sime-kills, Killer Gens, defiance of authority, submission to sec... you name it.
D'zoll elevates his eyebrows to unbelievable heights, splits his face in half with a grin, and rocks from side to side.
D'zoll: [chants] Tell. Tell. Tell.
Shorsh: Most of the book was considerably enhanced from the historical Sime, of course, and a lot of it didn't make a whole lot of sense if you actually put some thought into it. I can't remember most of the details, but I was shocked and fascinated when I read it as a child. Surreptitiously, of course, and with several of my agemates.
Shorsh smiles reminiscently.
Shorsh: We all had nightmares for weeks. And we couldn't understand half of what we read, either.
Shorsh settles back as comfortably as possible on a train seat, sets his nager to ~~ protect ~~ D'zoll from generic bad ambient, and sighs. ~~ nostalgia ~~
D'zoll: Sounds like just the thing.
D'zoll has calmed down a bit listening to this reminiscence.
Shorsh: Much later I read a nice dry treatise written by an historian describing the career of the real Pirate Sectuib. He was a junct channel who lived about a hundred years before Unity down in those archipelagoes south of Gulf.
Shorsh: He called himself a merchant, but most called him a raider. It wasn't all that easy to distinguish the two trades, since most people with suitable ships were engaged in both. Somehow he taught himself to channel, more or less, but he still regarded Gens as livestock, like any junct.
Shorsh: Now, being a channel was a big advantage for him, because not only could he stay out longer than the other ships, but he could make a bigger profit from raids since he and his crew didn't have to use up as much of the merchandise.
Bertha enters through the connecting door to the next car. She is pushing a small snack trolley.
Shorsh comes ~~ alert ~~ and ~~ reinforces his protection ~~.
Bertha enjoys her job. Reading prices and counting change provides lots of intellectual challenge, and you meet the most interesting people. She stops the trolley in front of D'zoll and Shorsh.
Shorsh has taken the precaution of occupying the aisle seat, so he can stay between his channel and the public as much as possible.
Bertha: You gennlemen want anything? Potato chips, beef jerky? Coffee or trin?
Shorsh looks to D'zoll.
D'zoll is grateful that beef jerky doesn't seem to have much smell, whatever it is.
D'zoll: Dried fruit?
Bertha: Got some nice strawberry pastries.
D'zoll winces very visibly.
D'zoll: N-no. Anything else?
Bertha: Chocolate bars? Fruit juice?
Shorsh perks up at the mention of chocolate. ~~ appetite ~~
D'zoll: Trin, please. And fruit juice. As long as it isn't strawberry juice.
D'zoll makes the "Over to you" gesture, though it's hard to interpret through retainers.
Bertha: Got orange, apple, or tropical punch.
D'zoll: Apple, please.
Shorsh: I'd like a chocolate bar, please. Dark chocolate.
Bertha: Dark chocolate. With or without nuts?
Shorsh: No nuts.
Bertha assembles the order.
Bertha: That'll be, um...
Bertha has never been quick with arithmetic.
Shorsh takes out the wallet to which he has already transferred his out-T cash supply.
Bertha: Um, two twenty-five. No, two thirty-five.
Shorsh hands over two thirty-five.
Bertha holds up the two items. The correct total of the two price stickers is two-fifty. She hesitates.
Shorsh can't read the bad handwriting on the minuscule stickers so reaches for the snacks.
Bertha: Oops, I forgot the trin. Okay, then, the total comes to two fifteen.
Bertha pours the trin.
Shorsh: Three fifteen?
Shorsh assumes Bertha misspoke rather than made such a stupid arithmetic error.
Bertha often lets the customers add up the bill for her.
Bertha: Right. Three fifteen.
Shorsh takes back the two thirty-five and offers three fifteen.
Bertha: Thank you, gennlemen.
Bertha looks more closely at her customers.
Shorsh passes the trin cup to D'zoll and reaches for the bottle of juice and the chocolate bar.
Bertha: Hey, those is Tecton uniforms, isn't they?
D'zoll: Yes, they are.
Bertha: You a channel?
D'zoll nods while taking a sip of trin, quickly followed by a sip of apple juice.
D'zoll: And this is my Companion.
Shorsh nods civilly, maintaining ~~ strong steady support ~~ for D'zoll.
Bertha: Well, it's my lucky day. I'm two days overdue to donate. Maybe you can take care of it for me, Hajene.
D'zoll looks comically at his retainers.
D'zoll: I don't think I can do much about it here in Gen territory, umm, ...
Bertha: We're not in Gen territory yet. Can't be. I'm off duty at the border.
Shorsh isn't sure how to tell her that she missed her stop.
D'zoll: [sympathetically] I'm afraid not. I assure you, I wouldn't be wearing these things otherwise.
Bertha: I can't have missed the border. I can't... Oh. I know what happened. I was in the can again then.
Bertha looks embarrassed.
Bertha: Uh, Hajene... There's a reason I missed that whole long stop at the border.
D'zoll becomes professional at once.
D'zoll: Bowel problems, or female trouble?
Bertha: I, um, I was hoping while you took my donation you could, uh, check out my, um, digestion?
Bertha: (whispers) It's the runs.
D'zoll: Hmm. Well, we are over the border, and I'm not exactly the Sectuib in Sat'htine, you know.
D'zoll stands up and reaches for the overhead luggage rack, bringing down a little black bag.
D'zoll opens it and takes out a blue pill.
D'zoll: Here, take this. That ought to hold you till you can get back home and make your transfer appointment.
Bertha: Thank you, Hajene. Uh...
D'zoll: [obtusely] D'zoll. And this is Shorsh.
Bertha looks apologetic for bothering the channel further.
Bertha: Hajene D'zoll, I've never been this side of the border. You wouldn't happen to know what the penalties are for running around high-field here?
Shorsh suppresses a smile.
D'zoll: [lightly] Most of the Wild Gens are high-field all the time. Nothing to worry about.
Bertha: All the time? Really? How do the Simes here cope?
D'zoll feels the urge to say "By being shot just after changeover" but represses it.
D'zoll: There are no Simes here.
Bertha looks offended.
D'zoll: Or only a very few, mostly channels with Donors.
Bertha: I'm just a hometown girl, Hajene. You wouldn't spoof me with a story like that, would you?
D'zoll: Channels never tell taradiddles.
Bertha: Well, I'll be dipped in porridge. What do they do with their Simes here, then?
D'zoll: Send them to us, mostly.
D'zoll realizes that Bertha isn't going to be able to handle the whole truth.
Bertha: Oh. I guess that makes sense. You learn the strangest things, traveling, don't you?
Shorsh wonders whether Bertha was raised in a barrel.
Bertha: I never learned much before, you know. They took me outta school after fourth grade. Said I was wastin' my time.
D'zoll: That doesn't mean you can't learn new things all the time, though.
Bertha: Well, I sure learned something today.
D'zoll smiles charmingly.
D'zoll: Well, anyhow, go back to the can and take that pill. It'll help, and the sooner the better.
Bertha: Yes, Hajene. Thank you, Hajene.
Bertha pushes the snack cart on down the car, clutching her pill tightly in one fist and humming to herself.
Shorsh opens the chocolate bar. Judging by the whitish film encrusting it, it's seen many cycles of heating and cooling in the years since it left the factory.
D'zoll holds his nose, now that Bertha isn't around, and gulps a good bit of the trin. He then mixes what's left with the apple juice.
Shorsh samples the confection nonetheless. He loves chocolate. Unfortunately, the waxy taste confirms that the bar wasn't very good even in its youth. He rewraps it and puts it in his bag. It may be useful in some extreme emergency.
D'zoll: I suspect this trin was grown in Nunavut Territory. But doctoring it with apple juice makes it, well, tolerable.
Shorsh: I suspect this chocolate bar is old enough to change over, and one of its parents was a bar of soap.
D'zoll: And then they rubbed it with camphorated oil.
Shorsh: Oh, well, real out-T Gen cooking has to be better, right? Gens are all so obsessed with food, right?
D'zoll: Right. That's why they kill animals and eat them only half past raw.
Shorsh: Nutritious stuff, meat. Contains all you need to build muscle... put some meat on your bones... ~~ mock philosophical ~~
D'zoll: Builds strong bodies twelve ways, eh?
Shorsh: Works for cats, doesn't it? Muscular little animals, nourished on mouse meat.
D'zoll glowers at Shorsh.
D'zoll: The last I zlinned, you were not a cat. But don't let me stop you. Just make sure to wash out your mouth so your breath doesn't smell of blood.
Shorsh: Don't worry. I'm not planning to go native on you. ~~ affection ~~
D'zoll snaps his fingers and winces at the unexpected pressure on his forearms.
D'zoll signals for more support.
Shorsh ups the ~~ support ~~ and adds ~~ soothing ~~ and ~~ comfort ~~
Shorsh: It will take some time for those retainers to train you not to do that.
Shorsh places a hand over the offending retainer and projects ~~ healing ~~ to fool the nerves into stopping hurting.
D'zoll: Ahhhhhhhh. Thanks, Shorsh. That's really helping.
Shorsh: You're welcome. You were about to say when you foolishly snapped your fingers?
D'zoll: Actually, I was just expressing my disappointment that you aren't planning to fully engage with Wild Gen culture.
Shorsh: Hm. What would you suggest? Slaughtering animals? Shooting Simes? Wild Gen orgies? ~~ ludicrously overdone lust and hunger ~~
D'zoll makes a massively overdone grimace.
Shorsh lets go of the retainer and smoothes his nager back to ~~ steady reliable support ~~ amusement ~~ affection ~~
D'zoll: Speaking of shooting and orgies, what about the Pirate Sectuib?
Shorsh: Ah, right. Where was I?
D'zoll: He could stay out longer than other ships and didn't have to kill so much of the merchandise.
Shorsh: Right. And with a channel's nager, he had no trouble dominating his crew.
D'zoll: So he was an unlicensed Genraider as well?
Shorsh: Well, he mostly raided other raiders, but they were raiding a lot of little Gen settlements all over the islands that didn't really have a government. Just a purely wild crop of Gens with no ability to retaliate.
Shorsh: The really interesting part, though, was that he got the idea of having a fleet, which meant that he needed loyal sub-captains, and some way of providing them with the value of reusable Gens, without having any other channels available.
Shorsh: He went about this two ways. He made a point of capturing older children, and served any who changed over, so they'd be loyal to him for saving their lives. A big advantage of those nonjuncts was that they'd never need to kill, so a fleet of them would waste even less merchandise. And he trained Gens to serve transfer.
D'zoll: Ho, no wonder the book was condemned as pro-Distect!
Shorsh: In some ways the most remarkable thing about the man was that he wasn't at all embarrassed by being a channel and practicing blatant perversion. It was his enemies who called him the Sectuib, as an insult. He was an intelligent and creative thinker and came up with quite a number of innovative uses for his talents and resources.
Shorsh: One of his objectives, once he got his fleet going, was to control the entire Gen trade in the archipelago, mainly to prevent over-harvesting. He wanted to manage the Gen crop sustainably.
D'zoll: Sounds sensible... for a junct.
Shorsh: He did it by putting nonjunct managers ashore, with a supply of trained Gens, eventually creating what can only be called Distect-style mixed larity settlements.
D'zoll: I'm a little surprised that he felt able to do so much long-range planning, though.
Rita enters the car, pushing a double baby stroller and herding four other kids, all under the age of eight.
Rita: See, there's room in this car. We'll all be able to sit together.
Shorsh: Once he started getting good junct-satisfying transfers from some of his trainees, he didn't need to kill any more and his health improved markedly. He figured he'd live as long as a Householding channel and he did.
D'zoll: Wow. He must have had a real matchmate, eh?
Shorsh: It's hard to tell at this distance, but somehow he managed it.
D'zoll makes the "Naturally" gesture.
Shorsh: He certainly had a lot of Gens to choose from -- the entire trade passed through his tentacles. And he apparently never felt any remorse for his kills -- he never developed the self-destructive psychology of a true semi-junct.
Rita glances down the car and spots the two Tecton uniforms. Her nager spikes with ~~ terror ~~ and ~~ disgust ~~.
Shorsh is unaware of Rita, since she's entered from the back of the car, but he hasn't stopped the constant reliable support he's been providing to D'zoll.
D'zoll shrinks physically toward the window and leans nagerically on Shorsh for all he's worth, signaling for maximum support.
Shorsh smoothly increases his support to cocoon D'zoll in an envelope of ~~ safety ~~.
Rita: It's all right, kids. It's a channel. They're all right.
Rita's nager and body language convey just the opposite of her words. The older children stare at D'zoll and Shorsh curiously.
Shorsh turns and smiles at the children.
D'zoll: [mutters to Shorsh] She doesn't believe a word of it.
Rita is determined to show her children how cosmopolitan and open-minded she is. She herds her kids down the car and seats herself directly across from the channel, radiating constant ~~ terror ~~.
Shorsh: Hi, kiddies! Fun riding the train, eh?
Rita shushes the kids as they stare at Shorsh and D'zoll.
Rita: (sternly) Settle yourselves, kids. (pleasantly) Hello, Hajene, Sosu. ~~ quivering terror ~~
Shorsh smiles while maintaining ~~ maximum support ~~ for his channel.
Rita: See, kids, they're just like any other people.
Rita's body language and nager disagree vehemently.
D'zoll reminds himself that he's a Farris, Shorsh is a Farris, and Farrises are supposed to be able to rise above things.
Shorsh can keep the support up indefinitely, but the situation still isn't pleasant for D'zoll. He thinks about what he can do to get the woman to move farther away without making her feel like she's a coward.
Shorsh rummages in his bag and takes out the awful for-emergency-use-only chocolate.
Shorsh: Would you kids like some chocolate?
Rita's kids clamor yesses.
Rita: Don't be rude, kids.
Shorsh puts a piece in each grubby outstretched hand.
Rita's nager says she'd love to pull her kids a hundred miles away from the man with the chocolate. She sits tight.
Shorsh hopes the kids will get chocolate all over themselves and their mother and she'll leave to clean them up and avoid future gifts from him.
Rita: Thank you, Sosu. Say "thank you," kids.
Rita's children chorus thanks.
D'zoll observes this comedy with as much detachment as he can manage, which really isn't much.
D'zoll chants inwardly: "I will not fear. Fear is the mind-killer...."
Shorsh waits patiently for his chemical warfare plan to bear fruit. He moves closer to D'zoll and puts an arm around him.
Danny: Mommy, this isn't good chocolate. It's not sweet.
Danny has bittersweet chocolate already smeared all over his four-year-old face.
Shorsh: ~~ support ~~ cleverness ~~ patience ~~
Rita wonders if the Sosu is trying to poison her children, but struggles to give him the benefit of the doubt. ~~ suspicion ~~
Rita: It's just that it's dark chocolate, dear. It has less sugar. ~~ fear ~~ suspicion ~~
Shorsh: I suppose they'd prefer milk chocolate. I like the bittersweet kind myself.
Rita gives an ingratiatingly sweet smile.
Rita: You know kids. They always want more sugar in anything.
Shorsh: Yes, they do.
Shorsh: [Simelan] Hang in there, D'zoll. If the chemical warfare doesn't do it, there's psychological warfare next on the agenda.
Rita looks past Shorsh to D'zoll.
Rita: Hey, is your friend all right? He looks kinda green.
Shorsh decides to let D'zoll answer this one. It will be good practice for the next few weeks.
Rita feels another wash of ~~ terror ~~ , as she wonders whether the Sime's problem is that he's hungry -- and not for chocolate.
D'zoll: [bravely] Oh, I'll be all right soon enough. I think the tea from the cart didn't agree with me.
D'zoll is sinking deeper into mendacity with every klick into Gen Territory.
Rita: I've got some antacid in my bag here.
Rita is determined to be polite and openminded in front of her kids.
Shorsh: Thank you, but Gen remedies often don't work for Simes, and can even be harmful.
Rita: Can I have one of the kids fetch you a glass of water? Or anything?
Shorsh: No, we have everything we need right here.
Shorsh puts a faint emphasis on "need".
Rita: Oh, okay. ~~ struggling against terror ~~ Good weather we've been having lately, isn't it?
Shorsh: [Simelan] You aren't about to vomit or anything, are you? Think about it, it might be helpful.
Rita: Think it'll rain soon?
D'zoll: [Simelan] Unfortunately no; my stomach's fine. It's my vriamic oscillations that worry me. But you give me an idea.
D'zoll gets up and pushes gently past Shorsh into the aisle so that he is close -- menacingly close -- to Rita and her kids.
Rita holds very still and smiles. ~~ terror ~~
Shorsh is a bit disappointed that he may not have a chance to implement his own strategy.
D'zoll: [softly] Don't be afraid, Miz. There's nothing at all to fear.
Rita bites back a whimper and smiles weakly.
Rita: I know.
D'zoll: [still softly] But perhaps you would feel just a bit better if you were a little further away from me? I won't be offended.
Rita doesn't manage to meet D'zoll's eyes, instead focusing on Danny's face.
Rita: Good heavens, Danny. What a mess you've made of yourself!
Rita takes out a handkerchief and attempts to clean Danny up, but the smear just gets bigger. She gives up.
Rita: Time to take a little trip, children, now that you've all finished your sweeties.
Rita heads back toward the rear of the car, pushing the stroller and with her other kids in tow.
D'zoll practically falls over Shorsh getting back to his seat.
D'zoll: Whoof. I'm sorry I spoiled your plan, whatever it was, but I just had to do something right then.
Shorsh: Hm. Looks like my next tactic wouldn't have had to be faked after all.
D'zoll: [archly] Do I want to know?
Shorsh opens D'zoll's shirt and puts his hand over the channel's vriamic node. ~~ steady ~~
D'zoll grits his teeth and forces himself to relax.
D'zoll: That's it. Yes. Right there.
Shorsh studies the effect of that, then puts the other hand on the nape of D'zoll's neck, over the nuchal node, and works to ~~ calm ~~ and ~~ smooth ~~ both selyn systems.
Shorsh's voice becomes deep, smooth and therapeutic.
Shorsh: Next I was going to fold your arms over your chest, hold you against me with one hand on your nuchal node, so my body and field would insulate you from her, and make a lip contact since a lateral contact was impossible.
Shorsh can discern D'zoll's state to some extent by its effect on his own. He doesn't think the full process will be necessary, now that the stimulus has removed herself.
D'zoll almost forgets how much he's suffering in the clear light of a sudden discovery.
D'zoll: Thereby scaring her off efficiently by playing on the sexual phobias of Wild Gens.
Shorsh: You got it.
Shorsh smiles widely.
D'zoll: Clever. Unfortunately, not quite fast enough for my fraying nerves. Which you are so efficiently repairing.
D'zoll smiles too.
Shorsh: The chocolate tactic wasn't able to overcome her relentless, terrified courage until you intensified the stimulus.
D'zoll kicks himself mentally for once again underestimating Shorsh.
Shorsh isn't going to point out that this was a mild foretaste of what he's going to experience with Gegg, since he wants to get D'zoll functional again.
Shorsh: Here, let me...
D'zoll surrenders himself completely to Shorsh's ministrations, realizing how little time he may have before Rita and her brood return.
Shorsh slides his arm around D'zoll's back and holds him against his chest, the channel's head resting on his shoulder. He radiates ~~ safety ~~ strength ~~ reliability ~~ affection ~~ unlimited selyn joyfully delivered at need ~~
Shorsh: You could do with an outfunction, but this will have to do for now.