Marvin is glad to be back in Hannard's Ford once again. It's the highlight of his loops into Gen Territory in more than one way. In particular, today is so very fine and seasonable that he doesn't mind walking with retainers, and he has even felt free to leave his Donor behind, sleeping off a debauch of Gitl's dumplings. He judges the risk of meeting up with anything undesirable to be small here in town.
Marvin: [to himself] And who knows? It seems like a good sort of day to meet a new friend: I do find 'em in unlikely places.
Craig walks briskly down the street. After his poor showing in Gumgeeville, he gave some serious thought and prayer to what he'd done wrong. Now he's ready to try again in a new town. He studies the people passing, looking for someone who's not too busy to listen to him.
Marvin approaches Craig and zlins him as a black splotch in the otherwise fairly cheerful, if reserved, selyn field.
Craig spots one person approaching who isn't hurrying like the rest. To his surprise, it's a Sime. In a Tecton uniform. In retainers.
Craig: Brother! I'm amazed to see you here.
Marvin looks surprised.
Marvin: Um, are you a donor? I can't say I remember you.
Craig: No, brother. Well, I have donated once, but not here. I'm just surprised to see any Sime in a place like this.
Marvin: Oh yes. There's a flourishing Sime Center here, with many donors, and someone has to collect the selyn and bring it into Simeland. That would be me.
Craig: Ah. So you come to Hannard's Ford fairly often, then?
Marvin: A few times a month, depending on circumstances, yes. By the way, my name's Marvin. And you would be?
Craig: I'm Brother Andrew. This is my first visit to this lovely town.
Marvin picks up a slight odor of deception about the first statement, but figures a man can call himself anything he wants.
Marvin: Glad to meet you, Brother Andrew.
Marvin extends his hand to shake, Gen-style, just to see what happens.
Craig shakes the hand briskly, ignoring his own ~~ fear ~~.
Craig: Likewise, Brother Marvin.
Craig knows the Sime will zlin exactly how he feels. But he also knows it's the effort that counts.
Marvin: Well, would you care to go for a walk, Brother? It's a bit chilly to stand around and talk, I'd say.
Craig: I'd be delighted, Brother.
Craig gestures for Marvin to lead the way.
Marvin sets off toward the edge of town, to assure a reasonable privacy.
Marvin: Tell me, Brother Andrew, to what branch of the Faith have you found yourself called?
Craig: God has given me a new message. It's called the Church of Truth.
Marvin raises one eyebrow in curiosity.
Marvin: Tell me the new message, then. As a traveler, I try to always be open to new messages
Craig: I was a sinner, Brother. God showed me His grace -- and a glimpse of His plan.
Marvin nods "Go on"
Craig can tell that this Sime is better educated than his first audience. He considers for a minute, trying to think how to pitch his message to this particular listener.
Craig: As a Sime, Brother, have you ever wondered what your place is in God's plan?
Marvin: I have. But why don't you tell me what you think, before I tell you what I think?
Craig: I wondered, for years. The Sime mutation has caused so much misery to humankind. How could an omnipotent and loving God allow such misery to exist -- not just for a moment, but continuing through so many generations?
Marvin looks forward to a good rousing debate on the Problem of Evil.
Marvin: [playing dummy] How, indeed?
Craig: And I read some of the great theologians, with their talk of free will, but it didn't make a lot of sense to me.
Marvin: [sententiously] Free will is indeed a very difficult question -- a very difficult question.
Marvin is inhibited by his retainers from making an appropriate tentacle gesture signifying third-degree irony.
Craig: I puzzled over it as a young man, and then I did what most young men do... I ignored it, and got on with my daily life. I simply assumed what I guess most people did, that Simes were the work of the Devil, and God would rid us of them in due course. Forgive me, Brother, but that was what I thought then.
Marvin: Of course, Brother, of course. So I thought myself at one time.
Craig is surprised and gratified that this Sime is so slow to take offense. God must surely be working through him today.
Craig: I became a businessman, and mostly ignored things of the spirit. I thought about money and power instead.
Marvin nods again.
Craig: Then one day my company, which had always been so... conservative before, began doing business with Simes. I argued against it, but was outvoted.
Marvin: [sympathetically] That must have been painful.
Craig: It made me realize that I still cared about righteousness after all. And remember, I still saw Simes as demons. I was determined to keep those demons at a distance from my family, and our business. So I went on a one-man campaign.
Craig is really warming to his story now.
Marvin engages in a little covert enjoyment of Gen enthusiasm.
Craig: With no one else I could trust to help me, I went into Sime Territory looking for the evidence I needed to discredit my more liberal colleagues and kinsmen.
Marvin: I see that your experiences there were quite a shock to you. Do tell me about it?
Craig is ~~ eager ~~ to.
Craig: That, since you asked earlier, was when I donated, so I could cross the border.
Craig shivers with remembered ~~ terror ~~.
Marvin shrugs off the GN-3 terror without much problem.
Craig: It seemed like a great sacrifice at the time, but when I got through it, I thought in my pride that God was with me. ~~ shame ~~
Marvin: [comfortingly] God is with you, you know -- if not necessarily in the way you think at the time.
Craig: ~~ eagerness ~~ Yes, you understand! Without what happened to me, I never would have been open to God's new message.
Marvin is caught up in Brother Andrew's eagerness, his irony forgotten.
Craig: So I went on into Sime Territory, thinking I understood all about Simes.
Craig looks back on his own delusion with ~~ pity ~~.
Marvin , due to the retainer-induced blurring, thinks the pity is directed at him, and wonders what it's about.
Craig: But I didn't have a clue about zlinning. Oh, I knew in theory that Simes had all kinds of demonic powers, but I didn't really understand how they worked.
Marvin: Few do.
Craig remembers the ~~ horror ~~ of his moment of truth.
Marvin: [soothingly] Try to relax, Brother Andrew. It's all over now.
Craig: I know, I know. Thank you, Brother Marvin, for your sympathy.
Craig tries to ~~ calm ~~ himself.
Craig: Do you know anything at all about the Gen Territory way of doing business, brother?
Marvin feels a bit like he does when comforting a new Sime, but without the ability to do nageric influence
Marvin: Not much. I grew up in a small town and I've spent most of my life in other small towns like this one.
Craig: Well, Brother, I'm sure it's different in Sime Territory anyway.
Marvin gestures "Maybe, maybe not".
Craig: But among Gens, so much of business is based on deception, from the little white lies that make your client feel better, to the concealing of information. It's all about manipulating people and power.
Craig can afford to feel ~~ superior ~~ to this attitude now.
Marvin: Simes and Simeland Gens can conceal information too, just not their feelings.
Craig: ~~ puzzled ~~ How can you conceal information, when everyone can zlin whether you're confident, whether you're lying, whether you're trying to hide something?
Marvin: It's normal for people not to say everything they know, and that's expected. I think the best English word for it is "tact", though that's not quite right.
Marvin: Just because emotions are exposed, it's even ruder in Sime Territory to ask prying questions. At least, this is the best that I understand it -- I didn't grow up there, after all.
Craig feels a stab of ~~ fear ~~, wondering whether this has a bearing on God's message and his understanding of it. Then he does a doubletake, as he registers the last part of what this Sime said.
Craig: You didn't?
Marvin: Oh no. Can't you tell from my accent? I grew up in a small town right here in New Washington Territory, and was lucky enough to escape across the Border -- though not quite fast enough, unfortunately.
Craig: Not fast enough? ~~ puzzled ~~
Marvin: I reached breakout while still in Gen Territory -- and as you know, a new Sime in Gen Territory has only two choices.
Craig still doesn't get it. He's lived in New Washington all his life, where there's always been a Sime Center within reach.
Marvin: Kill or die, Brother, kill or die. I had no choice but to kill -- and then scour the kill from my soul in disjunction, which separates the Sime from the kill forever.
Craig: [in a small voice] Oh.
Craig feels ~~ horror ~~, then ~~ pity ~~ and an upwelling of God's ~~ love ~~. Now he understands why God sent this poor tortured soul to him today.
Craig: God's love is with you, brother. God's love is with you.
Craig reaches out, a bit ~~ fearfully ~~ but knowing it's what God wants him to do, and puts his arm around Marvin in a gesture of comfort and trust.
Marvin is extremely touched by this gesture, and he has to remind himself not to relax into it as he would into a Donor's embrace.
Marvin: Yes, of course it is. And the love of my brothers and my sisters, all over this land -- and Simeland, too.
Craig: I'm glad you know that, Brother Marvin. God has blessed you.
Marvin: [smiling] You have no idea how much. But tell me the rest of your story, Brother Andrew.
Craig is a bit ~~ puzzled ~~ about how to proceed now. If this Sime is already aware of God's love despite what he's been through, maybe he already knows the message Andrew brings.
Craig: If you already know God's love and blessing, Brother Marvin, perhaps you already know the message I took so long to understand.
Marvin: [gently] That all human beings, Sime and Gen, are the children of God?
Craig: Indeed. And that Simes are God's gift of Truth to humankind. ~~ love ~~
Marvin: Tell me more about that gift, Brother.
Craig: But you already know, my friend. You can zlin. You can root out falsehood and lies. Simes are God's way of teaching Gens to live lives of Truth.
Marvin: So you think we're the agents of a special providence? We're very human, Brother Andrew -- and by no means immune to self-deception.
Craig: God is never finished with us, Brother. But I wonder...? ~~ puzzlement ~~
Marvin: It was I who nearly created an interterritorial incident trying to save an injured new Sime in difficult conditions -- and was forced to recognize that saving one young girl isn't worth risking the entire fragile basis of Sime-Gen cooperation.
Craig's train of thought derails.
Craig: You what?
Marvin: Normally it's not my job, for various technical reasons, to give First Transfer, only to transport the new Simes. In this case I tried to go beyond my duty, and though I succeeded, the risk was fearful. And in hindsight, too great.
Craig: All life is risk, my brother. But you saved a girl's life! This is wonderful. Tell me more.
Marvin: Well, you understand that I can't name names.
Craig is ~~ eager ~~ to hear the story.
Craig: I understand, brother. Tell me what you can.
Marvin: The girl was thought to be too old to change over, and the first symptoms hit her not at home but very near here. A... friend put her -- or threw her, actually -- on the train when I happened to be on it.
Marvin: I hoped to get her safely here to the Sime Center, but the motion of a train is very hard on changeovers, especially if they have been injured first.
Craig nods, listening.
Marvin: Yes, her arms had been bound with rope. Foolish, really -- no rope would hold a new Sime in hunting mode -- but well-intended. So I brought her to Gumgeeville -- you know it? -- and hoped to give her First Transfer.
Craig: I've been to Gumgeeville.
Craig doesn't suspect anything yet.
Marvin: But I needed a donor to supply selyn for her, again for technical reasons, and the only one I could find was, well, a minor. A Gen, but a minor under New Washington law.
Craig: The laws are so different, between our two Territories.
Marvin: Everything went fine after that, technically, but it put the cat among the pigeons with a vengeance. I wound up being yelled at by the child's father, a Sime Territory politician, a Gen Territory politician... And all because I thought that I, Marvin Gardener, could interpose my private judgment.
Marvin: So while we must all act according to the dictates of conscience, our conscience alone is not enough.
Craig: But your judgment was right. God guided you to save a life.
Marvin: No, Brother, you must understand this! It was my own pride and desire to serve beyond my proper station.
Craig is quite willing to let Brother Marvin confess to ease his guilt, but he sees no cause for guilt here, and a truth this Sime has missed.
Marvin: God's said to note the death of every sparrow, and doubtless it was His will that kept the girl alive against all odds. But nothing, nothing could be worse than the destruction of the First Contract, which could lead to the deaths of billions once again.
Craig: My dear brother, I spent most of my previous life working with law, and politics, and politicians, and I can tell you from my own sure knowledge, the law can be rigid beyond all sanity. I'm sure it was God's guidance that led you to ignore politics, and do what was right. You saved a life.
Marvin sighs at this invincible ignorance.
Craig: No, my friend, it's not that I don't hear what you're saying. I used to be the sort of man who would have jumped on such an incident and used it for whatever it was worth.
Marvin: Tell me, Brother. If you were driving a train, and you saw a woman on the tracks, and you had the choice of driving on and hitting her for certain, or stopping your train and having the train behind you collide with yours, so that dozens or hundreds would be injured or killed, which would you choose?
Craig: I've gotten out of the train-driving business, brother.
Marvin: So you believe now. But we all must live together, like it or not. Politics is nothing but people trying to live together -- don't scorn it just because it, like anything else we human beings do, is subject to sin and error.
Craig: But you did make the right choice. No trains crashed. If you'd stopped to think of politics, you would have done the safe thing, the legal thing. And a girl would be dead.
Marvin: Yes. So many still die because of prejudice and ignorance.
Craig: ~~ urgent ~~ Now maybe in this case, if she was from just some poor farm family, one death wouldn't have mattered much except to her family. But suppose she had been from a rich family. A powerful family. A family whose opinion of Simes mattered.
Marvin raises an eyebrow.
Marvin: Go on.
Craig: Don't you think, if that had been the case, the fact that you'd saved her might have turned her family around? People don't understand about Simes until they've been around some. If one powerful family had had a Sime daughter saved, and had had to learn to think of a Sime as family, don't you think that might have made a difference... for the better? And wouldn't you have missed that chance, if you hadn't gone with God's inspiration and saved her?
Marvin: Not necessarily so, either way. Plenty of Gen families remain unregenerate and unrepentant even though their children have gone to lead good lives as Simes. And sometimes the loss of a child despite all that can be done can be as life-changing as the saving of a child.
Marvin: "Only the very wise can see all ends." Simes are no more "very wise" than Gens, so we can only do what is right according to our best understanding of right at the time.
Craig: Which is what you did. And God worked through you.
Marvin: But in hindsight it was overweening pride, even if God turned that sin to a good end.
Marvin decides it's time to change the subject.
Marvin: Tell me, Brother, when you were in Gumgeeville, did you talk to a Sister Virla?
Craig: Uh, no, I don't believe I did. Unless perhaps she was in the crowd the day I preached there.
Marvin: Well, she belongs to a cross-border organization called the Church of Unity. I think it would be for the benefit of both your souls if you could work together with her. I haven't met her myself, but I heard about her from the controller of the Sime Center here.
Craig: I'll be sure to look her up, then, brother. It seems I have some unfinished business in Gumgeeville after all.
Craig is thinking that he does indeed have unfinished business in Gumgeeville. He wants to learn the details of this Sime's story, since it's such a good example of divine grace.
Marvin: Go with God, Brother Andrew. Go with God.
Craig: You too, Brother Marvin. God's peace be with you.
Marvin realizes his Donor will be awake by the time he gets back to the Sime Center, and braces himself for yet another yelling-at.
Craig hopes that God's peace will indeed be with this Sime, who so doubts his own power to do good.