Marvin is sitting on a sack of oats in the so-called Sime car of the train that's returning him and Ammenia and Bart to Hannard's Ford. He's demonstrating some of his sleight of hand, unfortunately only the physical type, since his audience is all-Gen.
Ammenia chuckles and applauds a particularly dramatic stunt.
Bart is ~~ impressed and appreciative ~~ since he's a good deal less familiar with the things Simes can do with their tentacles.
Marvin smiles inwardly at Bart's emotional reaction.
Marvin: And for my neeeext trick, I will pull a whole chocolate cake right out of my cloak!
Marvin opens the left side of his cloak: nothing. In dumb show he goes through the "Shen and shid, I knew I put the thing somewhere" routine, and closes the left side. Then his eyebrows pop up, and he gets a look of exaggerated light-bulb-goes-on.
Marvin opens the right side of his cloak. Nothing there either, of course. He hangs his head.
Ammenia ~~ enjoys ~~ the showmanship.
Bart is smiling ~~ happily ~~.
Marvin sighs theatrically, looks up at the roof of the car, and shrugs. What can you do? He holds the pose for a while, then gives his patented thousand-Genpower smile.
Marvin: And that's all for one day, I think.
Ammenia: Just for that, we ought to make you go up to the dining car and treat us to chocolate cake.
Marvin: Hey, great idea. Unfortunately ---
Marvin suddenly becomes intensely alert and goes temporarily ~~ hyperconscious ~~.
Ammenia realizes after a moment that this is not acting, and belatedly adjusts her nager to allow better zlinning.
Bart becomes ~~ alert ~~ and ~~ serious ~~ and waits for further information.
Marvin returns to ~~ duoconsciousness ~~.
Marvin: We've got trouble, folks. Two cars that way --
Marvin: -- there's a pre-Sime going into changeover.
Marvin sighs, not at all theatrically.
Marvin: Here we go again.
Bart is about to offer Marvin his selyn, then realizes that Marvin is full up now, on his way back to Nivet.
Ammenia: What is it, Marvin?
Marvin: Well, at least you've got plenty of capacity. You're going to have to serve First Transfer, presumably to a renSime, Ammenia.
Ammenia: How far along?
Marvin: I can't be sure: I'm a Second and I don't have much experience with this. Usually by the time I get them, changeover is all over.
Ammenia: Are the surrounding Gens alarmed?
Marvin: No. Nobody seems to have noticed. I am getting indications of nausea and fever, though. Still, lots of people get sick on trains. What we're going to have to do is this: one of you is going to have to go there and persuade the poor kid to come down here.
Bart looks at Ammenia and Marvin.
Ammenia: You'd be less conspicuous than me, Bart.
Bart is dressed in his best, basically his least worn farm clothes.
Marvin: I think you're a better candidate overall, Bart. You'll look to him like another kid, whom he'll be more inclined to trust.
Ammenia: It's got to be done discreetly, or those fellow passengers will become a lynch mob.
Bart doesn't feel very adult and authoritative. Why should the kid's parent believe him, much less the kid?
Bart: But there must be some adult he's traveling with, right?
Ammenia: We don't know.
Marvin: Probably but not necessarily. If so, pay your respects to the adult.
Ammenia: But if you have to -- under the circumstances, it wouldn't be unethical to lure the kid back here under some other pretense.
Bart nods. ~~ determination ~~
Marvin: There's no immediate danger, though, so you can afford to take your time in the approach.
Marvin doesn't bring up that the changeover might just be a channel; he doubts it anyway.
Bart: Okay. Not the next car forward, but the one ahead of it, right?
Marvin: Yes. Look for the one who looks sick. He may be trying to hide it, out-Territory males being what they are.
Bart gets up, brushes the dust and bits of chaff off himself, straightens his clothes, runs a hand over his hair, and walks carefully toward the door.
Ammenia looks at Marvin when the door closes.
Marvin begins to feel ~~ worry ~~ and signals Ammenia for increased support.
Ammenia ~~ obliges ~~ with the support.
Ammenia: This is a bit more serious a situation than Bart was supposed to handle.
Marvin: True. But if it becomes a flat-out emergency, I'll augment and carry the two of them back in here. Hopefully not knocking down anyone in the process.
Ammenia: This is hardly a changeover ward, but I suppose we can improvise a bed, of sorts.
Bart crosses into the next car and carefully walks the length of it. He's getting used to moving on a lurching train. He tries to look like he's not too worried.
Ammenia: And, hmm, a slops bucket might be advisable, as well.
Marvin: Don't see one.
Marvin rearranges another sack of oats in a generally bed-like configuration.
Ammenia: Well, maybe we can use that bit of canvas over there.
Marvin: You'll need to post the car as Sime Territory. Nobody should be coming in here for the next four hours and seventeen minutes, if not longer.
Marvin requested, and got, a Sime Territory sign to carry about after the Great Fridda Debacle.
Ammenia: All right, I'll get it out of your suitcase.
Clint is huddled in his seat, wrapped in a blanket, utterly miserable.
Flint is hovering over his twin, with growing ~~ worry ~~.
Clint: It can't really be that, can it, Flint?
Flint: Of course not, Clint. It's probably that sausage you ate. Just as well you were greedy and "forgot" to share, as it's turned out.
Clint tries to believe that it's just food poisoning, but his arms are sore too.
Flint: Harv was lots older than us, so we've got plenty of time. This trip is just a precaution. You know that.
Clint: We'll be at the border by tomorrow night... uh, if it is that.
Flint: Plenty of time.
Clint shivers. He doesn't want to die, but he also doesn't want to kill.
Clint: Besides, I'm an hour younger than you, so it would hit you first, right?
Flint: Right. I'm not even a little queasy, so it can't be that.
Clint has no idea whether identical twins turn out to be the same larity, much less that they change over concurrently, but the thought that Flint does everything first is comforting.
Flint has too much invested in being the "older" twin, and too little invested in biological studies, to realize that identical twins are conceived at the same time, and thus he and his brother are equally old.
Clint wraps the blanket around himself even tighter. He feels so cold.
Flint: Just stay calm and act normal. We wouldn't want people to get the wrong idea.
Clint: Flint, if it is... you're going to have to get somebody to... take care of me.
Flint: It isn't. It can't be. ~~ stubborn ~~
Clint: But if it is... Flint, I could kill you. I'd rather die. I'll die anyway, if that's what it is.
Flint: Nobody's gonna die.
Clint lowers his voice as far as he can.
Clint: Simes have to die, Flint. They have to, or they kill.
Flint: You're not a Sime. We're just going to work the harvest for a year or so near the Border, and then we'll go home and show the girls what they've been missing.
Clint: Yeah. I guess. I sure feel lousy though. I think I'm going to swear off sausages.
Flint: That's the spirit.
Flint cuffs his brother on the shoulder in encouragement.
Clint: I just can't seem to get warm enough.
Flint: Maybe you should walk around a bit?
Clint retches at the thought. The way the train is shaking is bad enough sitting down. Fortunately he hasn't had anything to eat yet today, so his stomach is empty.
Flint fights the urge to gag in sympathy.
Flint: Come on, Clint, get ahold of yourself.
Clint: I can't help it!
Flint mutters under his breath, something scatological with reference to the sausage vendor.
Bart enters the train car and moves slowly forward. He doesn't see anyone of changeover age as he walks carefully up the aisle, but it's hard to see over the seat backs, and he doesn't want to look too weird, checking everybody out by looking back at them.
Flint turns his head and tries to smile reassuringly at the old lady across the aisle, who is looking their way suspiciously.
Clint suppresses a moan of misery.
Bart is almost to the front of the car when he sees two boys about his own age, one wrapped in a blanket looking miserable. This must be the pre-Sime, as Marvin puts it.
Bart: Uh. Hi, guys.
Flint looks at Bart with ~~ hostility ~~ covering ~~ alarm ~~. He grunts in non-response, and leans forward to block Bart's view of his brother.
Clint sits up and tries to look as normal as he can.
Bart is a bit startled that the two boys look so much alike. He's never seen identical twins before.
Flint: What's up with you?
Bart: I guess your brother isn't feeling so good.
Flint has seen that this stranger is off balance from the "twinning" thing, and hopes to keep the momentum going.
Bart really doesn't know what to say or do that will get the boys to trust him.
Flint: I told him not to eat that damned sausage.
Bart: Uh huh. The guys I'm traveling with can probably help him with that. One of them is sort of a doctor.
Flint looks a little ~~ alarmed ~~.
Flint: Don't need no doctor.
Clint wonders whether he should hope or fear. A doctor could tell him if it's really food poisoning, but if he's turning Sime...
Flint is pretty sure that a doctor would diagnose changeover just in case, and then have Clint murdered before the diagnosis could be confirmed.
Bart wonders if he should suggest they all go to the back of the train to get some fresh air, i.e. through the baggage car, which is normally locked to deter thieves when there isn't a Sime in it.
Clint turns away and tries to suppress another bout of retching.
Flint sees his twin's distress.
Flint: You need to visit the loo, Clint?
Bart decides to take the bull by the horns.
Bart: Uh. My friend is a sort of doctor from Simeland. A channel.
Clint is shocked and now really doesn't know whether to hope or fear. He looks to his brother.
Flint: A snake???
Bart: Uh. Yeah. He knows how to help kids in your brother's kind of trouble.
Flint: What do you mean by that crack?
Bart lowers his voice and bends closer.
Bart: Turning Sime.
Flint: I told you, it was the sausage.
Flint is both ~~ defensive ~~ and ~~ very afraid ~~.
Bart looks Clint in the eyes.
Bart: You don't have to kill or die. My friend can help you. You can live without killing.
Clint shivers. He's on the edge of tears.
Flint: Clint? You don't believe him, do you? [to Bart] Leave us alone!
Clint rubs his forearms, under the blanket. They feel much more sore, and a little swollen, even through his sweater and shirt.
Bart: It's okay, Clint. He can tell if it's the sausage you ate, or... the other thing, and help you either way.
Clint: We gotta do something, Flint. In case.
Flint: Well... do you really want to go to a Sime, though? Like, well, Harv was becoming?
Bart is full of ~~ compassion ~~ for these kids, who are not much younger than he is. He wishes he could use his nager somehow to help them.
Clint: I don't want to. But I don't want to kill you or anybody either. Even if... even if I have to...
Clint grits his teeth to keep from crying. He doesn't want to die, but he knows his duty.
Flint isn't happy at the idea of having his remaining brother go the way of the first one, or worse, the way Harv almost went.
Flint: Well, if you want... I'll go with you.
Clint almost says one of their usual lines about sticking together, but realizes that it could now result in his brother's death at his... hands.
Flint scoots over and stands up, reaching to help his brother.
Clint grips the blanket with one hand and stands with his brother's help.
Clint: Uh. Let's take our stuff. And fold up the blanket so I don't look stupid.
Bart is immensely relieved that this is working out.
Flint: All right.
Flint grabs the luggage, shooting the little old lady in the opposite seat a "mind your own business" glare.
Bart: Here, I'll carry some of that.
Bart can see that Clint is using his arms reluctantly.
Bart: Just head that way. We're the second car back.
Flint ponders for a brief moment the advisability of handing their gear to a stranger, then decides that leaving it unattended would be more dangerous.
Marvin has just finished removing his retainers.
Ammenia: Is Bart succeeding, Marvin?
Marvin: The pre-Sime is on his way, presumably with Bart.
Ammenia is ~~ relieved ~~.
Ammenia: I don't suppose they'd stop the train for us?
Marvin: Not likely. This is an express. We're just going to have to cope, and he'll have to cope with the spatial disorientation. Fortunately, it's milder for renSimes than for channels. Oh, you could pull the cord over there, but we'd be kicked off the train, back in Gen Territory.
Marvin: Have you ever served First Transfer before?
Ammenia: No. My sister was older than me, and in-Territory, there aren't too many opportunities.
Marvin: Well, although it would be better for him to start out on channel's transfer, we don't have much choice. I'm not going to take chances with my... status.
Ammenia: I've had the basic course, but I'm no changeover expert. Especially with a high-risk, completely untrained kid.
Ammenia says this matter-of-factly, as a warning to Marvin of her level of expertise.
Marvin: I have less training than you do, remember.
Ammenia: Well, we'd better muddle through, because we're all the poor kid has.
Marvin: Too right. [reassuringly] You'll do fine.
Ammenia: How's it going to affect you, to have me give the kid transfer?
Ammenia is offering ~~ sympathy and support ~~.
Marvin: Well, I'm no Iron Farris, but in general I do tend to be fairly robust about such things. You're not exactly my type either, nagerically speaking.
Ammenia: Well, if you have to, go hypoconscious when I give transfer, and I'll support you as soon as the kid's calmed.
Marvin quietly determines not to do that until he absolutely has to. It isn't likely that the kid will be able to injure Ammenia, but there's always that one in a hundred thousand chance, or whatever it is.
Marvin: Thanks. If he is a renSime, as I presume, you'll have plenty of selyn for me anyway.
Ammenia: I should.
Marvin nods and smiles.
Marvin: They're here.
Marvin speaks loudly but with no vocal stress.
Marvin: Come in, son, come in! Everything will be fine.
Bart opens the door.
Bart: It's okay, come on in.
Ammenia nods, and steps close to Marvin's side, both to support him, and to demonstrate that she considers Marvin to be harmless.
Clint is too ~~ miserable ~~ to do more than stumble in and stand there swaying, waiting for his fate to happen.
Ammenia takes a step towards her patient.
Ammenia: Hello. I'm Ammenia, and this is Hajene Marvin.
Flint moves closer to his brother, radiating ~~ defensiveness ~~.
Marvin croggles at the conflict between eyes and Sime senses.
Clint clutches his arms to his belly.
Marvin: [to Flint] Relax, son, your brother's going to be all right.
Marvin extends his showfield to protect Ammenia and Clint from Flint's emotions.
Bart: Uh. This is Clint and this is Flint.
Marvin: Identical twins. Hmm.
Marvin zlins Flint as carefully as he can given the lack of lateral contact. No sign of changeover, fortunately.
Clint: Bart said you can tell if I'm turning Sime. And keep me from killing anybody. Without me having to die.
Clint staggers as the train lurches and regains his balance with difficulty.
Marvin: [gently] You are indeed turning Sime, Clint, and you aren't going to kill anybody or die. So stop worrying, lie down on the bed there -- well, the sacks of oats there -- and let us take care of everything.
Bart: Here, I'll help you.
Ammenia turns to Marvin, and speaks softly.
Ammenia: How far along?
Clint staggers to the sacks with Bart's help and half sits, half falls on them.
Marvin: Stage two transition any second.
Ammenia nods and moves closer.
Ammenia: Here, Clint. Let me see if I can help you feel better.
Flint looks at Marvin, trying to be ~~ tough ~~, but too ~~ scared ~~ to do it well.
Marvin: Ammenia will give your brother transfer when the time comes.
Clint isn't sure whether it's a relief to know the truth of what's happening or not.
Clint: I don't want to kill you. ~~ afraid ~~
Marvin chuckles -- forced, but a chuckle.
Ammenia: You can't kill me. I'm a Donor.
Clint doesn't know what a Donor is, but he doesn't want to kill anybody. He was raised right.
Marvin: That's right, Clint. You're safe here, even though your instincts are shrieking "Run, hide!" There isn't a Sime on Earth that could kill Ammenia. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about.
Marvin smiles crookedly.
Ammenia is well aware that some of the insanely high Farris-type Firsts could injure her badly in transfer, but doesn't dispute Marvin's statement.
Bart: Are you still cold, Clint? Do you want the blanket back?
Clint nods numbly and shivers. He's feeling increasingly dopey and confused as transition approaches.
Bart looks to Flint, who's got the blanket.
Marvin: Clint, you may pass out soon. It's only for a moment, it's normal, and you'll wake up right away. Don't fret about it.
Flint hands Bart the blanket.
Bart hands it to Ammenia, deferring to her as the one managing the changeover.
Ammenia: Just breathe evenly. Here, I'll do it with you.
Ammenia takes the blanket with a nod of thanks, and covers Clint.
Clint shivers harder, stiffens and cries out, then slumps in a faint.
Marvin: Stage two transition, as expected.
Marvin times the transition with his Sime senses, and when Clint reawakens on schedule, smiles with gratification that this changeover is such a textbook case.
Flint: Clint? Are you all right? Clint?
Marvin: He's fine. See, he's awake already. Changeover takes hours, Flint. Luckily, we've got hours.
Clint: I still feel lousy, Flint, but not as much like barfing.
Flint: Good, bro.
Clint looks at Marvin's arms.
Clint: I never saw tentacles before. Not all the way out ones.
Marvin: Soon you'll have your own to look at. They're fun. Wanna see a trick?
Marvin doesn't wait for a reply, but does the one that Ammenia liked so much earlier.
Clint thinks it's bizarre and kind of disgusting. He remembers his brother Harv's arms, all swollen up, when Pa shot him in the heart. He made the twins watch, so they'd learn how to be men.
Marvin turns serious again.
Clint turns his face away and starts crying silently.
Ammenia puts a ~~ sympathetic ~~ hand on Clint's thin shoulder.
Clint: Like Harv.
Flint hovers ~~ helplessly ~~, torn between wanting to help his brother, and wanting to stay away from a dangerous proto-Sime.
Marvin: Flint, you can't help him now. The only thing you can do is trust us and be strong for him.
Clint: Don't let me kill him.
Marvin: [firmly] We won't. Count on it.
Ammenia: Nobody's going to get hurt, much less killed.
Clint nods. ~~ fatalistic ~~ exhausted ~~
Bart moves back and offers support to Marvin.