Ammenia walks down the aisle of the train car, holding two cups of lukewarm trin, moving with the steady caution of a Gen who spends much of her time among the most sensitive, overprotective channels. She reaches her destination and sits down, offering one of the cups.
Ammenia: It's only lukewarm, Marvin, but at least it's trin. I think.
Marvin looks up from his book and smiles.
Marvin: I appreciate your getting it for me anyhow. Thanks.
Marvin clears off the stuff that has slid down onto Ammenia's seat.
Ammenia scoots more fully onto the seat. She resumes the low-level ~~ support ~~ she's been providing, to keep the moving train from bothering her charge too much.
Marvin: I got burned out on all those technical manuals and decided to read this for a bit.
Marvin holds up a copy of "The Royal Family of Norwest".
Marvin: A little hard to swallow, but a fun read just the same.
Ammenia: What's it about? The rebellion they had out there?
Marvin flips the pages.
Marvin: I haven't got to that part yet. So far I'm still in the pre-Unity period. I met a singer once who had spent years wandering around collecting songs from different Territories, and he sang me a couple from that part of Norwest. Great tunes, horrible lyrics.
Ammenia chuckles, both audibly and nagerically.
Ammenia: I suppose that's better than the reverse: at least you can hum the tunes. I guess Norwest was changed more by Unity than anyplace else on this continent.
Marvin: So far, yes. It's the changes in Gen Territory that will be the biggest, though I fear we won't live to see them.
Ammenia: Why do you say that? I'd think the changes in Nivet from junct to Tecton society would be as great.
Marvin: For individuals, yes. The abolition of the Kill has made a huge difference to everyone's lives. But the social organization hasn't changed all that much: Sime Territory is still run by and for Simes, and it's still very hierarchical. There's a lot more equality in Gen Territory -- they even call those rifles "equalizers".
Ammenia: I've never seen them, except in films.
Marvin: I know, I know, the whole idea is distressing. But in the long run some solution will be found that allows Simes to live by Gen law and custom to the safety of everyone. And most of the continent is Gen Territory.
Ammenia: But Gen law and custom have no place for Simes, or at least that's what I was taught. That's why they insist on retainers, right?
Marvin: So far, yes. But if we could get really reliable training for everyone, or some alternative to retainers that didn't drive Simes slowly mad, that would be a social revolution that would dwarf what happened at so-called Unity.
Ammenia: What did happen at Unity, as far as they're concerned? Oh, I know about the Battle of Shen, but how do they look at it in Gen Territory?
Marvin: It's all about how we, the Gens, defeated the Simes and forced them to stop raiding us any more in exchange for allowing travel in retainers and letting them put in a few Sime Centers here and there.
Ammenia: But, it was an alliance! Or don't they view it as such?
Marvin: Well, I'm mostly talking about the way ordinary people living in small towns and villages -- which is still most of the population -- view the matter. Of course the sophisticates see things differently.
Ammenia: More like us?
Marvin: N-no, not exactly. They see donation as a lower-class activity, or something done by rebellious youth.
Ammenia: Not respectable, you mean?
Marvin: For sure. And of course they don't really believe we mean what we say, because they themselves routinely make use of deception at every level. And really, beyond the reduction in kills, what has Unity really done for the average out-Territory citizen? Very little.
Ammenia: There's all the trade that opened up, and they no longer have to field such a large military. Although it's true that only towns with Sime Centers can take advantage of all the Tecton offers.
Marvin: Quite so. However, the trickle-down effects of improved trade are just beginning to reach beyond the cities. Gen Territory's sheer size means that economic deproda, so to speak, is much weaker than in-T.
Ammenia: Still, the entire Gen Army donated before the Battle of Shen, right? Surely they took the story of what happened home to their towns?
Marvin: But remember that those soldiers donated under compulsion. And in any case, it was war, and a desperate war at that. When peace came, everything "went back to normal" out-T.
Ammenia was raised in Sime Territory, where the history books gloss over certain aspects of the Unity War, and where all Gens expect to donate.
Ammenia: Not entirely back to normal. Weren't channels considered a myth in Gen Territory, before then? But afterwards, everyone would have known better.
Marvin: Not so much a myth, I think, as just totally unheard-of. There are still some people, thanks to that shidoni-doomed Oliver Tigue, who think that all Simes still kill.
Ammenia: Did the Gen soldiers at the Battle of Shen really resent donating that much?
Marvin: I suppose there was lots of individual variation. No matter how idealistic you are, you're going to resent being told "Donate or be shot." I don't know if anyone was actually shot, but certainly those soldiers were told it would be considered [English] mutiny.
Ammenia: They didn't say that the Gens donated under threat of death in my history classes. Were they really that worried about it? I mean, they'd had plenty of chances by then to see that it was harmless.
Marvin: It's not so easy to go against your early training that Simes are the most dangerous predator you'll ever meet.
Ammenia: I guess not. Marvin, you grew up in Gen Territory, but I've never been there. What sort of people are they, anyway? Besides being just Gens and children, I mean.
Marvin: Well, as individuals they're not so different from individuals in Sime Territory. By our standards they're an ornery and independent lot; they can afford to be. They have strong ties of reciprocity between blood relatives, though, that to some extent counteract that. Likewise, supernaturalism is very important in inducing some degree of cohesion, though they disagree on so many points that it also serves as a source of conflict.
Ammenia: I've read that they get together in groups to worship.
Marvin: That's true. There are typically spiritual leaders who are hired -- "called" is the term they use -- by individual groups, although their exact role is very variable.
Ammenia: It sounds very chaotic.
Marvin: You'd think so. And yet there aren't any more public disturbances than in Sime Territory, once you allow for occasional berserkers. They tend to think in terms of rights rather than responsibilities, but many of them have just as much of a sense of public duty as any Tecton channel.
Ammenia: What do they do with that responsibility? At least, if they want the respect of their neighbors?
Marvin: Work hard. Make sure their family members are fed and taken care of. Pay their taxes. And, of course, "take care of" their children who change over.
Ammenia: You mean, murder them.
Marvin: Well, the number of parents who take their kids to Sime Centers is increasing every year, and it's only in the very backward parts that that alternative is actually stigmatized any more.
Marvin: Fundamentally, Sime society is still very simple. Now that we don't have the crushing burden of the Pens, renSimes and Gens are getting more choices than they used to have, but we just don't have the complex traditions and interacting groups that Gen Territory is made up of. There are the Householdings, and the Tecton, and some family businesses, and not too much more.
Ammenia: So Gen Territory is really a bunch of little Gen Territories, with a common language and larity?
Marvin: More complex than that even: there are organizations like the Hawks and the Redcaps that are Territory-wide but have just a small number of members in each place. For that matter, ex-soldiers are scattered about too, but try to stay in touch with each other. Think of it as like a crazy quilt.
Ammenia: A bit of this, and a bit of that, decorated up in hopes of making some understandable whole of it?
Marvin: Yes. And the fact that they believe they're all one society goes a long way to make them all one society despite their differences.
Ammenia: Marvin, what sort of differences are going to jump out and hit me over the head, when we go out there? I mean, besides the fact that you'll be in retainers?
Marvin: The biggest one is that nobody is going to think you are anything special. Tecton ranks don't mean anything to these people, and they resent anyone who acts openly superior. Instead of "respected Donor", your role will be "weird and unpredictable stranger".
Ammenia: And they don't care much for strangers?
Marvin: I think that's too strong. Real enmity tends to be reserved for neighbors. Let's say that it's up to you to prove yourself, much as you would on assignment to a new Sime Center -- but you won't know what the rules are, and nobody will be able to explain them to you, any more than a fish could teach you how to swim.
Marvin is rather proud of this analogy.
Ammenia: What do they want in the way of proof?
Ammenia is paying close attention to Marvin: part of the reason for her current assignment to a mule Second (besides a rephasing of the transfer schedule) was that her Controller thought he had a lot to teach her. She's aware that her next assignment out-Territory is likely to be considerably more high-stakes than just as Escort to a mule on a routine circuit.
Marvin sighs deeply.
Marvin: The best I can tell you is that you have to find your way past their unconscious expectations, and once those are satisfied, they'll be able to see what a nice person you actually are.
Ammenia: What do they expect, of a Donor?
Marvin: Nothing, since "Donor" isn't a role their culture has.
Ammenia: Of a person who travels with Simes, then?
Marvin: They'll expect things from you based on being a woman and being of a certain age. For example, they'll expect you not to discuss sexual matters in groups containing men. Unfortunately, they are a less conscious culture than we are, so they don't have any booklets like the "Simeland Manners for Gens" that the Tecton distributes. A lot of things that we handle by formal rules, they handle by informal ones that aren't discussed or explained. Trial and error, and asking me questions, are about all you have.
Ammenia: No handy guide to keep me from being shot with those guns they carry around? ~~ humor ~~
Marvin: That's easy. Just don't come down with fever and red streaks on your arms.
Ammenia: I shall endeavor not to. Will they be curious about us? Or are they used to you, since you've been on this route for a while?
Marvin: Most will be, but few will openly ask questions. They'll be quite willing to answer ones that you ask, though, as long as they're fairly impersonal. The rules are quite different for men and for women. One useful trick is to exchange accounts with other women of minor problems that you've had in your past. That will tend to bond them to you and vice versa.
Ammenia: Minor problems? I assume you mean things like the tastelessness of travel food, rather than the difficulty of getting a channel to eat it?
Marvin: Who, me? I always eat!
Ammenia: It's a refreshing change, believe me!
Marvin: Another side effect of growing up out-T.
Ammenia: The last channel I worked with had to be practically spoon-fed every mouthful.
Marvin: I'm not surprised, though I have met the occasional gourmet. But yes, in general. Trouble talk about your relationships with other people is particularly effective
Ammenia: And the one before, I had to confiscate every bit of reading matter in the area that might provide a distraction.
Marvin: I might be more like that one on occasion, I admit.
Ammenia: Well, I suppose I can cope with curious children and their elders who aren't sure what to make of me.
Marvin: Sure. As they say out here, people won't bite you.
Ammenia: I expect they'll be more interested in you, anyway, if they haven't changed much since Unity?
Marvin: In principle. But I'm personally familiar to many people on the route now.
Ammenia: Or will they be too concerned that you might actually bite?
Marvin: Like I said, it's just an expression
Ammenia: Well, then, I guess I won't have to bring along a muzzle.
Ammenia: You will let me know when I'm doing something terribly undiplomatic, won't you?
Marvin: Of course. We're a team.
Ammenia: Gen Territory, beware! We've got them outnumbered, two to... how many thousands? They haven't got a chance.
Marvin laughs for quite a while.
Marvin: That's the spirit, Ammenia.
Marvin fumbles in his bright orange channel's bag, and brings out a small object.
Marvin: [English] Hey, you wanna see a trick?
Marvin proceeds to demonstrate.