Marvin sits on his sack of oats and watches Clint's changeover progress from one stage to the next, everything going exactly as it should, and Ammenia handling everything with consummate professionalism. Fortunately for Clint, the train is stopped at a siding among endless hectares of swamp and rocky sheep pasture.
Ammenia's consummate professionalism doesn't preclude more than a few muttered bits of Simelan that are inappropriate for sharing with a genteel readership.
Ammenia has seldom had cause to thank any of the more conservative Gen Senators, but the usurpation of the express train's right of passage by a fact finding committee investigating excesses in the chicken industry is proving convenient.
Bart is trying to take Ammenia's place in supporting Marvin. It seems to be okay so far. At least he isn't complaining. But things haven't gotten... intense, yet.
Flint huddles on a mail sack, as far away from the others as he can get, almost ~~ nauseated ~~ from stress as he watches his brother with ~~ pity, horror and disgust ~~.
Clint's general ~~ misery ~~ is aggravated by his brother's reactions. He's never felt rejected by his twin before.
Flint: Yeah, Clint?
Flint can't bear to abandon his twin by leaving, and can't bear to get any closer to those swollen, distorted arms.
Clint: When you get home, tell Ma I lived and didn't kill anybody, but don't tell anybody else. Let them think I'm dead. Pa would never forgive us, but I think Ma wants us to live irregardless. I mean, Pa was probably really pissed off when he found out she'd sent us away with all the money.
Flint: Sure, Clint. Can I have your rabbit gun? You won't be needing it.
Clint: You can have everything. I might as well be dead.
Marvin decides it's time to intervene, though he had hoped to hold this till the end of Clint's changeover.
Clint: Somebody's gotta take over the farm, and I guess it will be you.
Ammenia is managing the fields for Clint, which hasn't been an easy task even for a First on a moving train.
Marvin: First of all, Clint, you are not going to be dead, or anything like it. Second, I'm afraid both of you boys will be coming with us.
Clint: If I can never go home again, it'll be like I'm dead to everybody there. But Flint can still go home.
Flint stands up, poised to run.
Marvin: [gently] No point in running, Flint.
Flint: You can't make me come with you!
Marvin: No, it's the laws of your own Territory -- and the laws of nature -- that ensure that.
Clint manages a little ~~ anger ~~ on top of his ~~ misery ~~ and ~~ despair ~~.
Clint: You leave my brother alone!
Clint tries to get up, clumsily.
Ammenia tries to restrain Clint, while ~~ calming ~~ him.
Ammenia: Lie down, Clint. You can't afford to waste your strength.
Marvin steps over to Clint.
Marvin: Lie down.
Clint: I'll do what you say, but let my brother go. He's not cursed like me.
Marvin: The two of you are identical twins, you know. That means that both of you will be Sime or both of you will be Gen. We already know you aren't both going to be Gen.
Flint: ~~ horror ~~ No!!!
Marvin: It's true.
Clint: God wouldn't curse all three of us! You're lying!
Ammenia tries to enforce some order on the ambient, but she's only one Gen.
Marvin spreads his showfield over the car to try to ease Clint's proto-Sime reactions.
Marvin: [sounding puzzled] Three of you?
Clint: Our older brother. Last year.
Marvin: [sincerely] I'm very sorry for your loss.
Clint: It doesn't make sense for all three of us to be cursed. We're a good family. So my brother will be okay, right, Flint?
Marvin shakes his head.
Marvin: I came from a "good family" too, as it happens.
Clint: Well, me and Harv were both good, pretty good, but it happened to us. Maybe because of Pa. But God wouldn't punish our mother by cursing all three of us. She doesn't deserve it.
Marvin: Some people become Simes and some Gens, and we don't know why. But it's a test, not a curse. How we respond to it is what matters.
Ammenia: If my family could adjust to having a Gen, surely yours can cope with a pair of Simes?
Ammenia reaches for Clint's hands, the better to monitor his condition.
Ammenia: Admittedly, they'd have preferred a renSime who could take over the business, but they got over it.
Clint ignores her words. Of course they'd want a Gen.
Clint: I can never go home. It's better if they just forget that Flint had a twin.
Marvin: [firmly] Flint will be going into changeover -- within weeks at most, days more likely. And that has nothing to do with his morals.
Flint is starting to ~~ panic ~~.
Flint: No! I don't feel sick at all.
Marvin: Of course not. Clint didn't feel sick a week ago either.
Flint: No one can tell for sure before the sickness starts.
Clint doesn't know what to think. He wants his brother to be Gen, even if he himself is cursed. But if he's going to be Sime too, they can at least still stick together, even in Demon Land.
Marvin: Gens can't, but Simes can. And channels can tell up to two days in advance.
Flint: Two days? I've got less than two days to be human?
Marvin: I don't know yet.
Marvin: [challenging] If you're brave enough to let me touch you, I can tell for sure.
Bart has been concentrating on maintaining steady ~~ support ~~ for Marvin through all this excitement. He hopes he can manage things properly for a lateral contact exam. He doesn't expect Flint to be an easy subject for Marvin.
Marvin: It's simple. You hold still, I put my tentacles on you, and I tell you if you're going to change over in the next two days or not.
Flint: Pa used to say that the Tecton was all one big plot for Simes to get their tentacles on us.
Marvin: Huh. Are there more or fewer raids nowadays than in your grandpa's day? Ask your father that. By mail. In any case, it's up to you. Do you want to know when, or not? I don't have all day.
Marvin in fact has one hour and fifty-two minutes until the train stops at Hannard's Ford.
Flint ~~ wavers ~~, then is struck by a thought.
Flint: I can't go into changeover! I'm older than Clint. If I were going to be Sime, it would already have happened! ~~~~ relief ~~~~
Flint doesn't know much genetics or obstetrics.
Clint doesn't either. ~~ relieved ~~
Flint feels a rush of the old ~~ unity ~~ with his twin.
Clint perceives it somehow and smiles at Flint.
Marvin: That's a pretty good point, guys. Unfortunately, both of you were conceived at the same moment. Flint's older because somebody had to be born first, and he just happened to be it. It's just random chance which one changes over first.
Flint's defenses are starting to ~~ crumble ~~.
Clint's smile fades.
Flint: You really mean that, don't you? You think I'm going to be a Sime. Soon.
Marvin: [gently again] Yes, I do, son.
Marvin turns his attention to Clint, but is careful not to interfere with the developing nageric bond between Clint and Ammenia.
Flint gives out a muffled sob, being as yet too young to hold a Manly Facade in such a stressful situation.
Ammenia looks up at Marvin.
Ammenia: Can you time it for me, Marvin?
Marvin zlins Clint carefully.
Marvin: I'd estimate the breakout contractions will begin in about twenty to thirty minutes.
Ammenia nods with professional briskness.
Ammenia: It's going to be tricky, if the train starts moving again.
Clint: So we're both cursed?
Marvin: No, Clint. You're both growing up now -- sooner than you expected, but that's often the way of it.
Marvin: By the way, why were you two on the train by yourselves, anyhow? Maybe to be closer to Sime Territory, just in case?
Clint looks to his brother.
Clint: Yeah. That's what we were planning. Our mother wanted us to. Until we were sixteen. She gave us some money.
Flint: We were gonna hire out for harvest -- tell the boss we were sixteen.
Flint takes a few steps closer to his brother, now that Marvin's back is turned and the Sime isn't offering to put tentacles all over him.
Flint winces at the sight of Clint's red, swollen arms.
Flint: Does it hurt, Clint?
Clint: Some. Mostly it just feels weird. Especially this zlinning stuff. And I'm just awful tired, too.
Clint tries to zlin his twin, but perceives almost nothing. Not like the other two real Gens.
Ammenia: You'll feel much better when it's over, and you've had a chance to rest a bit.
Clint turns to Ammenia, who feels really warm and attractive to him. Or zlins like that. She feels good to be near, anyway.
Clint: I hope so.
Clint reaches for Ammenia's hand, without thinking.
Ammenia notes Clint starting to fix on her with approval, although she's careful not to let him fix so deeply that a long-term dependency might result.
Flint takes one more step towards Clint, this time ending up right next to Marvin.
Bart becomes more ~~ vigilant ~~ and ~~ protective ~~.
Flint stares at his brother's arms.
Marvin: No closer to your brother than that, please. You don't want to, err, disrupt the transfer.
Flint: If I'm gonna be Sime, too, he wouldn't go after me, right?
Flint is feeling a little ~~ bitter ~~, and very ~~ scared ~~.
Clint: You don't feel like her. Or like Bart either.
Marvin: Almost impossible. But a Sime's first experience of transfer sets the pattern for all the rest. You don't want him worrying about you -- and he would worry, if you were any closer than that.
Clint is becoming mesmerized by Ammenia's field. She's becoming the center of the world. She has what he needs, and he knows it in a depth of himself he never knew he had. ~~ beginnings of intil ~~
Ammenia: Relax, Clint. It's not quite time for that, yet.
Ammenia ~~ muffles ~~ the need.
Bart watches in fascination as Clint becomes truly Sime before his eyes.
Flint is watching, too, but his reaction is a bit more than "fascinated". He turns to Marvin.
Flint: You really think that's going to happen to me, too? And soon?
Marvin: Absolutely, positively. Very soon.
Flint: Maybe even in the next day or two?
Marvin: Maybe. Or possibly as long as three weeks.
Clint can feel his tentacles beginning to move in their sheaths.
Marvin: Breakout in five minutes, Sosu.
Ammenia nods acknowledgment, not letting her attention stray from Clint for a moment.
Flint tries to be optimistic about having up to three more weeks to be human.
Clint: It's really happening. I can feel it. ~~ wonder ~~
Marvin: Yes. It's a little like being born, except that you know it's happening.
Flint's denial is ~~ crumbling ~~ with Marvin's matter-of-fact approach to the subject.
Flint: You can tell if it'll be in the next two days, you said?
Clint is unaware of anything but Ammenia now, and of her mainly as a source of selyn, which he has to take. Which he needs to take.
Ammenia: Relax, Clint. Save your strength.
Clint isn't listening to the Gen, he's zlinning her. He reaches for her other hand.
Ammenia allows her second hand to be taken, but deepens her control of Clint to keep him calm as his reserves of selyn dwindle.
Marvin: Yes, Flint. I'll be glad to let you know as soon as Clint's transfer is over.
Clint instinctively slides his hands into position, and his tentacles try to grasp the Gen's arms. He gasps as the first breakout contraction hits, and grips Ammenia's arms with heedless strength while straining to free his tentacles.
Marvin: [calmly] It's happening, Flint. Your brother's tentacles will break out in a minute or two.
Bart tries to keep his ~~ support ~~ of Marvin steady, and not let the amazing spectacle distract him. Clint looks insanely single minded, and he's certainly hurting Ammenia with his grip.
Ammenia couldn't care less about that; she's long since made her peace with Sime strength, and it's not as if she'll have to live with the bruises any longer than it will take Marvin to heal them. She's far more worried that Clint will run out of selyn in breakout, and so she keeps up a steady ~~ reassurance ~~.
Clint strains again with the next breakout contraction. His eyes are blank and his grimace shows his gritted teeth. ~~ intil ~~ kill lust ~~ desperation ~~
Ammenia doesn't bother to talk to Clint: he can't hear her, anyway.
Flint watches Clint with huge eyes, trying to see his brother in this Sime.
Marvin observes Flint's expression and interprets it.
Marvin: Don't worry. When it's all over, he'll look like your brother again. Just with tentacles like mine.
Flint: That's kind of a big difference!
Clint's handling tentacles break free with the next contraction and automatically wrap tightly around his Kill's arms. ~~ demand ~~ obsession ~~ kill lust ~~
Ammenia links deeply with Clint, and leans forward to offer ~~ boundless selyn ~~
Clint's next contraction frees his laterals which immediately find their positions. He jerks his Kill forward to make a fifth contact. ~~ desperation ~~ kill lust ~~ power ~~ triumph ~~
Ammenia lets the selyn flow as fast as Clint wants, tempering his desperation with ~~ joy ~~.
Marvin grins widely and zlins the emotions of First Transfer to the full.
Flint watches his brother attack the woman who's been helping him with the sort of savagery that Simes are famous for, in the more remote and benighted areas of Genland.
Marvin: Not so much as you think. You'll see. And he'll never feel a need as intense as this again.
Clint draws with totally egocentric demand, unaware of Ammenia as anything but a source of selyn for himself. ~~ joy ~~ fulfillment ~~ ecstatic power ~~
Clint suddenly realizes what he's doing -- he's killing this poor woman who tried to help him. ~~ horror ~~ He tries to stop his draw.
Marvin: Push, Ammenia: he's heading for an abort.
Ammenia overrides Clint's attempt to abort with the skill of a decade of coaxing transfers, food, rest, and other necessities on channels.
Clint struggles with his Donor, but she overpowers him.
Ammenia shows Clint how much she is ~~ enjoying ~~ giving him what he needs. She's careful to completely set aside how much less pleasurable a renSime's shallow draw is, compared to a channel's. She's using a bit of imagination to amplify her reaction into something that will satisfy Clint.
Clint realizes that he's zlinning her pleasure as well as his own and gives in to the rush of selyn. He forgets his reservations and draws eagerly, pulling the selyn as fast as he can. He feels something fill, stretch, then burst in a peak of ~~ ecstasy ~~ and continues drawing at a slower rate.
Ammenia blinks at the shift in Clint's draw, but adjusts rapidly, providing selyn at the slower rate.
Marvin is ~~ startled ~~ and just barely manages to keep it out of his showfield. He can't prevent his jaw from dropping, however.
Clint slows his draw, gradually tapering off to nothing. He releases Ammenia and collapses onto the oat sacks.
Bart wonders what Marvin perceived, but is still amazed and moved by witnessing the changeover and First Transfer. ~~ compassion ~~ joy ~~
Marvin: Say, Flint. Do you have any idea what you'd like to do with the rest of your life?
Flint: What I'd like to do? Go home and take over the farm. But if you're right, that's not gonna happen.
Marvin: There are farms in Simeland too. But your brother and you are definitely not headed for one.
Ammenia covers Clint with his blanket, smiling ~~ smugly ~~ and ignoring the bruises on her arms.
Marvin: Congratulations, Clint. You're all grown up, now. And congratulations to you too, Ammenia. You've just given First Transfer to a Third -- and it couldn't have gone better.
Clint opens his eyes. ~~ exhausted ~~ confused ~~ echoing with joy ~~.
Marvin: Clint, you and your brother are channels. Or rather, your brother will be as soon as he changes over.
Clint: I hurt her.
Ammenia: Just a bruise or two. They'll be gone in no time.
Marvin: Indeed they will.
Marvin winks at Ammenia.
Clint: I tried to kill you!
Marvin: All Simes try that in First Transfer. But when you're taking transfer from a Donor -- your Donor -- it comes out quite differently, doesn't it?
Clint tries not to cry, but tears overflow his eyes. It was horrible but it was also glorious.
Marvin: [gently] One of the things channels have to learn, if they're male and come from Gen Territory, is to cry when they need to.
Clint: I'm sorry.
Ammenia: Don't be. You know I enjoyed it.
Clint: You did. But I can't zlin you now.
Clint reaches for Ammenia's hand.
Ammenia lets Clint take her hand.
Ammenia: A lot of Simes have trouble zlinning just after transfer. Just focus on me for a moment.
Ammenia reaches out with her nager to help Clint go duoconscious.
Clint tries to focus on the Gen, and suddenly her glorious Gen nager reappears. He smiles at her.
Ammenia: See? I'm still here.
Clint: You're beautiful.
Marvin turns his back, nagerically speaking, to give Ammenia and Clint some privacy.
Marvin: Flint, are you ready for that examination now?
Flint looks at Marvin, thoroughly ~~ unsettled ~~ by the thought of becoming the raving monster he saw in Clint, if only for a few moments.
Flint: I... I guess.
Bart: [Simelan] Would you rather have Ammenia for this, Hajene?
Marvin: [also in Simelan] No, she has to stay with her channel until we can make other arrangements. I have a lot more practice at being a Sime than Clint does.
Flint is starting to get ~~ wary ~~ with this exchange that he can't understand.
Bart gestures to remind Marvin to signal what he wants.
Marvin: Sorry, Flint. I was just telling Bart here that Clint needs Ammenia and that he'll be helping me. In any case, this is called a lateral contact exam, and it'll show me whether changeover is imminent or not, as well as your general health and any specific problems you might have. Except for my tentacles being a bit wet -- not slimy -- you won't feel a thing.
Flint is ~~ apprehensive ~~ nonetheless.
Bart: ~~ calm steady default support ~~
Marvin takes Flint's hands in his.
Marvin: This is step one.
Marvin extends his handling tentacles.
Marvin: In step two, I wrap these around your arms. That keeps you from hurting me when I extend my shorter tentacles, which are pretty delicate. Ready?
Flint braces himself against the onslaught of Marvin's tentacles, and gives a short nod.
Marvin wraps his tentacles about Flint's arms.
Marvin: And now for step three.
Bart is watching attentively for signals, and unconsciously increasing the intensity of his support.
Marvin doesn't give Flint a chance to find out how immobilized he actually is, but makes full lateral contact, zlins deeply, and dismantles.
Marvin: All done. --Nice work, Bart.
Bart is ~~ pleased ~~.
Flint is fighting stress-induced ~~ nausea ~~, what with one thing and another.
Marvin tries to get a grip on Flint's fluctuating field to calm his vagus nerve.
Clint has fallen asleep, still lightly holding Ammenia's hand.
Flint looks at Marvin, afraid to ask for the bad news.
Marvin abandons the attempt, which isn't working well anyhow, and walks to the other end of the car. The train conveniently resumes moving.
Marvin looks at Flint.
Marvin: You'll be going into changeover in thirty-six hours, maybe a few more, maybe a few less.
Flint: ~~ shock ~~ You're sure?
Marvin nods soberly.
Marvin: I'm sure.
Flint's face contorts for a moment, then he tries to hold back a sob, with indifferent success.
Marvin: It's a shock, I know. Even though you half believed it before.
Flint: I'll never see Ma and Pa again, will I? Or the farm, or my dog, or....
Marvin: Probably not. Even people who don't leave home eventually lose their parents. And even their dog. Life brought it to you before you thought you were ready, but it's not something we're ever really ready for.
Marvin feels poignant ~~ homesickness ~~ for his town, his family, his childhood.
Flint: They'll probably end up selling the farm, once they get too old to work it. Our family's lived there for five generations.
Flint: And we didn't even get a chance to tell Pa good-bye.
Marvin: That is sad.
Flint sits down on a mail sack.
Flint: Thirty-six hours, you said?
Marvin: Yes. We'll be at the Sime Center in Hannard's Ford well before that, though. There's another channel there who can serve your changeover.
Flint: Thirty-six hours.
Flint buries his face in his hands, feeling ~~ defeated ~~.
Marvin: Hey, Flint. Look at your brother. I bet it's been a long time since you've seen him sleeping so happily.
Flint looks at his brother.
Flint: He's just too tired to care about anything. That was... awful.
Marvin: It wasn't to Clint. It was the best thing that's ever happened to him. Or ever will. It'll be the same for you.
Flint can't even dismiss the ordeal as over with, since he'll be going through it himself shortly.
Marvin: You remember when he told Ammenia she was beautiful? It wasn't her looks he was talking about.
Marvin winks at Ammenia again so Flint can't see it.
Ammenia answers with ~~ carefully moderated amusement ~~.
Flint can't imagine being glad of turning into a slavering monster, albeit temporarily, but with nothing else to look forward to, he allows himself to feel a bit of ~~ hope ~~.
Marvin administers an imaginary slap on the back: he's concerned about the possible consequences of doing it physically.
Marvin: That's the spirit, Flint.