Flint huddles under the covers, finding them scant comfort in a world that's been changing far too fast, and in the wrong direction. His arms are top on the list of things-changing-that-shouldn't: they ache all the way to his shoulders, and he can't bear to look at the red streaks on his forearms.
Flint spent the last two days hoping against hope that the Simes and their allies were wrong, and that he could live a normal life, albeit without his brother. His hopes were dashed a few hours before, when he started to throw up and develop sore arms.
Flint remembers the blood and nastier fluids spurting from Clint's arms, and whimpers.
Driver is sitting with Flint because everyone else is busy; he wishes he were busy too. He zlins Flint.
Driver: Sssh. You're not in pain.
Driver is growing very tired of Flint's endless silent bellyaching.
Flint: What do you know about it? ~~ indignant ~~
Driver: I'm a Sime, so I can feel your emotions. And they are very annoying, even when you keep quiet. Right now, you are indignant, despairing, frightened, and disgusted, for instance.
Flint: Stop reading my mind!
Driver is ~~ indignant ~~ too.
Driver: I can't read your mind, just your feelings!
Flint's ~~ disgust and indignation ~~ increase.
Driver becomes even more ~~ annoyed ~~, though he supposes the kid can't really help it. Why the shen can't out-Territory families prepare their kids properly? He takes a deep breath and does the relaxation exercises he was trained to do in changeover. It ~~ calms ~~ him a bit, although his need is strong enough to be annoying all by itself.
Flint: Just... don't. Leave me alone.
Driver was about to apologize, but that takes the cake.
Driver: Fine, fine. I'll shut up now.
Flint hasn't the faintest idea what's wrong, but he does have a vague perception that Driver's presence is more irritating than comforting.
Bibi hears the raised voices as she comes down the cellar stairs with Robur. The changeover room is too well insulated to zlin into.
Bibi: Flint? It's Hajene Bibi.
Bibi opens the door and comes in with Robur. She zlins Driver's irritability, and Flint's mixed emotions.
Driver: Hajene, I'm ~~ glad ~~ to see you.
Bibi: Go take a break now, Driver. I'll let you know if I want you here later.
Driver: Thanks, Hajene.
Flint huddles even more ~~ determinedly ~~ under the shield of the blankets.
Bibi: Hi, Flint. How are you feeling?
Bibi sounds ~~ reassuring ~~ and ~~ motherly ~~.
Flint looks at Bibi in ~~ apprehension ~~, fearing bad news. He considers "bad news" to be anything that tends to confirm that he is, indeed, about to sprout tentacles.
Flint: I'm sick to my stomach, and my arms hurt.
Bibi nods ~~ sympathetically ~~.
Bibi: A few more hours to go, still.
Robur extends ~~ sympathy ~~, though he knows Flint can't really zlin it yet.
Bibi evaluates the character of Robur's spontaneous sympathy and thinks it zlins pretty good.
Flint: Great. Only a few more hours of being fully human.
Bibi: This is Sosu Robur. He's helped a lot of out-T kids through changeover.
Robur: Hey, Flint. I'm here to give you whatever help I can.
Robur doesn't mention transfer yet, since Bibi hasn't actually given him an assignment.
Flint: Can you make me turn out human? Otherwise, what's the point?
Robur: Of course you're going to be human. Just not a Gen. And the point is that I can help you quite a lot when the process is further along.
Flint shudders, remembering the spray of gross stuff that decorated the luggage car when Clint's tentacles broke through.
Robur sits on the edge of the bed.
Flint: It's disgusting. Why would anyone stay if they didn't have to?
Robur: Because you need our help to get through this and come out the other side.
Flint: I'm not sure I want to. Not if I end up like Clint. I can't even talk to him, anymore, he's so changed.
Robur: That's a problem that will take care of itself: you'll be changed a lot too. That's why it's called "changeover", you know.
Bibi makes herself comfortable and watches the interaction between Donor and future channel.
Flint: I saw Clint. He was all over blood and goo, and his eyes... they weren't human. They were... hungry. As if nothing existed but hunger, nothing of my brother.
Flint sounds ~~ scared ~~.
Robur: I've seen Gens -- people, to you -- who were starving to death because their fields had been burned by Raiders. They looked pretty desperate too. But when they were properly fed back up, why they were fine. Your brother is too.
Flint: Most people don't ever get that hungry. But from what I've heard, how Clint looked -- when it happened -- was normal.
Robur: Yes, that's true. But it's a once in a lifetime experience. Childbirth's a pretty painful and messy experience too, by all reports.
Robur knows better than to admit to out-T males that he's seen it and assisted.
Robur: But women get through it not just once but repeatedly.
Flint: Yeah, but they're girls. They're made for it.
Flint considers female to be a separate species.
Robur: And you're a pre-Sime and you were made for this, whether you knew about it or not.
Robur: Anyhow, what's a little mess? We'll get you cleaned up afterward.
Flint looks around the cellar, which is furnished in very utilitarian, easily cleaned surfaces.
Flint: I guess.
Robur: So much for that problem. ~~ Gen optimism ~~
Robur: This will be the worst experience of your life, except for being born which you don't remember. Then it will be the best experience of your life, not only your life up till now, but after now as well. I know that's hard to believe right now, but it's true -- ask any Sime.
Robur signals Bibi "Assistance?"
Bibi: When it's over, Flint, you'll mostly remember the best part of it -- breakout and transfer.
Flint's lips twitch upwards in ~~ unwilling gallows humor ~~.
Flint: "The best of times, and the worst of times"? Isn't there some Ancient novel that starts like that?
Robur: "It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair." That's exactly it.
Bibi wonders where a farm kid picked up Ancient literature. With Fridda, it wouldn't have been surprising.
Robur thinks it's more the age of foolishness than the age of wisdom, but you can only stretch an analogy so far.
Flint: What's wrong with a life that's just average? ~~ plaintive ~~
Robur: Nothing. But it isn't going to be your life, that's all. All Simes experience ups and downs more than Gens do, but channels more than most.
Robur: Because they have more joys and more sorrows than other people. Partly, that's just the way God made them; partly, it's got to do with the nature of the job channels do.
Flint looks up at Bibi for confirmation.
Bibi: I'm very glad I'm a channel. Some people say it's God's blessing on me, and I wouldn't deny it.
Flint is starting to cope a little better with the idea of being Sime, although he isn't resigned to the process of becoming one.
Flint: But I'm a farm boy. All I know is how to sow, hoe, and mow.
Flint finds the idea of being some sort of Sime doctor ~~ intimidating ~~.
Robur: Well, that's the point of channel school. You aren't born knowing how to draw, dispense, and heal. But your body knows more than you think it knows.
Flint: It seems to be pretty confused, just now.
Robur is encouraged by Flint's growing objectivity.
Flint's eyes widen in alarm as his stomach rebels, and he reaches for the bucket that's waiting by the side of the bed. He tries to empty an already empty stomach into the bucket.
Bibi waits for the retching to subside.
Bibi: Here, Flint, let me zlin you again.
Bibi offers her hands.
Flint takes a deep breath or two, to make sure that his stomach has given up its attempt to turn inside out for now, then lets Bibi take his hands.
Bibi gently examines his arms visually, then makes a lateral contact exam.
Flint makes a face at the feel of the laterals, although he's getting used to it. He thinks it's a measure of the changes in his life that he has had a chance to get used to the feel of tentacles.
Bibi: You're doing well, Flint. Your tentacles are forming well. See?
Flint looks down at the lumps on his aching arms, and gags again.
Flint: They look awful.
Bibi: They do during changeover, but once they're finished, and you get used to them, you'll enjoy them very much.
Bibi strokes Flint's hair back from his forehead, keeping hold of one hand.
Bibi: Now stage two transition is coming up soon. You'll feel weak and fall asleep for a few minutes, but then you'll wake up and feel better, less nauseated. Okay?
Flint gives a weak chuckle.
Flint: Well, I guess I can't complain about not throwing up.
Bibi squeezes his hand and smiles.
Flint's mouth feels like somebody's lunch pail that was left out in the field for a week.
Bibi: Here, have a sip of tea.
Bibi offers a mug.
Flint's thanks might be perfunctory, due to his preoccupation with other matters, but his ma did teach him to be polite.
Bibi is pleased by how naturally Flint is now acting with her, despite her being a Sime.
Flint takes a sip, and swishes it around to wash out his mouth. He spits into the stinking bucket, then sets it aside.
Bibi covers the bucket and sets it outside the door.
Flint is no longer worried about fraternizing with Simes. What harm can it do? He's already turning Sime, so being good won't help him.
Flint: I'm tired.
Flint is trying not to whine, with indifferent success.
Bibi makes an 'over to you' gesture to Robur.
Robur scootches up on the bed and takes over the head-stroking job.
Robur: Relax and rest, relax and rest. Soon it'll be all over.
Flint isn't as upset at being touched by Simes as he was at first, but he doesn't find it nearly as soothing as a more familiar Gen touch. He drops into a restless doze.
Bibi zlins attentively.
Robur runs his hands gently over Flint's forearms, not exerting any pressure, but just letting his ~~ field do its natural job ~~.
Bibi notes with approval the character of Robur's work.
Robur: (whispers) Transition, Hajene?
Bibi: Yes, here it is... over. He'll sleep for a bit now. He's very tired.
Flint's field, now that he isn't awake to fight its natural, Sime inclinations, gropes towards the comfort of Robur's.
Bibi: I can zlin his field reaching for yours.
Robur: Oh, good.
Robur is ~~ concerned ~~ but keeping it out of his field.
Robur: Does he have enough reserves?
Bibi: I think he'll have plenty as long as we keep him calm. Both he and his brother have gone into this with a substantial initial supply.
Bibi reaches out to stroke Robur's forearm.
Bibi: He seems to be willing to listen to you. Perhaps because you're male.
Flint whimpers in his sleep as Bibi's field impinges on Robur's.
Robur: ~~ teasing ~~ Or perhaps because I'm Gen.
Bibi: And more familiar with his culture than Ammenia.
Robur passes his hand across Flint's face again.
Bibi can zlin his genuine concern for the boy, and his sincere desire to help him.
Bibi: Do you feel up to serving this transfer, Sosu?
Robur draws a deep breath. ~~ determination ~~
Robur: I do, Hajene.
Bibi: Good. I'll assign you to him, then, with the proviso that if something goes wrong, I may have to intervene, okay?
Robur raises an eyebrow.
Robur: Of course it's okay.
Bibi blushes, then smiles, with dimples.
Bibi: I'm not accustomed to assigning Donors to serve transfer.
Robur: Yes, you are a Controller with nothing much to control.
Bibi: Pretty much. We've got quite a few more selyn workers here than usual, today.
Robur: You don't know -- actually you do, just a manner of speaking -- how ~~ glad ~~ I am to be among that number again, if only for a while.
Bibi: I'm very glad you're here. You've got good nageric texture, and a Donor experienced in serving First Transfer is quite rare. I'm sure you'll do well for Flint.
Robur: Thank you, Hajene.
Bibi smiles warmly. She still has some reservations, but it looks like it will be best to let Robur carry through. There's time yet.