Bibi zlins Flint, who is sleeping after a rough stage five transition.
Bibi: He'll be all right. He still has a good supply of selyn, despite that last transition.
Robur watches Flint tenderly, his eyes tearing up a bit at the thought of serving First Transfer once more.
Bibi is ~~ moved ~~ by Robur's emotion.
Bibi: You've done very well for him. He would have used up a lot more selyn without your skill.
Robur: Thank you, Sect-- Hajene.
Bibi smiles and touches the Donor's arm.
Robur quirks a little smile and wipes his eyes, reconcentrating on Flint.
Robur: I'm not actually used to having a channel around, at least not since my training days.
Bibi: I'd like to hear about your experiences. I'm sure I can learn from you.
Bibi thinks it's a shame that a Donor with Robur's natural sympathy for children in changeover can no longer practice his skill regularly.
Robur: Well, the technique is technically House-private, but of course Tecton law doesn't apply out-T, and anyhow it's pretty much academic these days. We just didn't want any further interference from the Tecton bureaucrats after our rocky start in the Unity Spring.
Bibi: I'd appreciate whatever you can tell me.
Robur thinks a bit while watching Flint closely. He decides to tell the whole story. What can it matter now anyway?
Flint moves on his bed, murmuring fretfully, then subsides again.
Bibi ~~ soothes ~~ Flint nagerically, and maintains some protective ~~ support ~~ in case Robur falters while telling what may be an emotional personal history.
Robur: We -- all the Teiu Gens who could, which is most of them -- were trained to give donations as simulated transfers. Sectuib gave us the profile of a renSime in need, so when we met real changeovers out-Territory, it was utterly familiar.
Robur has difficulty telling the story after years and years of silence about it.
Bibi: Tell me what you feel you can, Sosu. I respect your oath.
Robur: I Qualified Third about five months after establishment, about average for a Teiu Gen. Teiu believes that essentially every Gen who hasn't been traumatized can qualify Third, and most of us do. It's not particularly genetic, you understand. We're gleaned [teteiu in Simelan] from a lot of different family lines.
Robur flashes a grin.
Robur: I was very drawn to the Church of Unity, and became a communicant in my second year, so Sectuib asked me if I wanted to go out-T with the missionary corps. Most Teius aren't church members, but at that time we were closely cooperating with them.
Bibi nods, ~~ interested ~~. It's unusual for people raised in-T to be drawn to religion, but the missionary program would be very attractive to an idealistic young Householder.
Robur: So I started learning how to flatten my barriers completely so I could take a zero-resistance burn, which spreads uniformly over my whole selyn system.
Bibi is ~~ shocked ~~, but tries not to show it.
Robur: And if I did run into a channel I couldn't match -- very unlikely, but possible -- I knew how to [English] take care of him.
Flint is in a twilight state, hearing Robur speak but not able to react.
Robur: Fortunately I never had to do that.
Robur puts his hand on Bibi's arm this time, though without withdrawing his nageric attention from Flint.
Bibi doesn't respond with her tentacles, still ~~ appalled ~~ at the idea of a channel deliberately burning a Gen.
Robur: I know, it's a disturbing idea for a channel. But I could get a half dozen renSimes through changeover every month. I couldn't risk the loss of that capability to save just one.
Bibi: Your Sectuib must have been a very unusual channel. ~~ shiver ~~
Robur: Yes, she was. Short, feisty, tough as nails, and imaginative as shen. Not that our present Sectuib isn't a very worthy successor. But everything was rather improvised in those days, and we had to do the best we could.
Robur: So even if we did fail to judge a new Sime correctly, we would be very unlikely to be hurt, short of being drained completely -- and we didn't let that happen, as I said.
Bibi is still ~~ disturbed ~~ but tries to think positive.
Bibi: Well, Flint will certainly not put you in that position.
Bibi gently clasps Robur's arm with her handling tentacles.
Robur: Excellent. Of course, I don't suppose I'll be able to open his secondary system, will I?
Bibi: It's unlikely. I think it will take a First to manage that, although a high Second sometimes can. Still, he'll be getting a good First Transfer from a very sympathetic TN-3. The channel school can manage the rest -- that's usually the case, for Thirds.
Robur: [English] Yes, I'm sure they can do what's necessary.
Robur speaks English to help reassure Flint.
Bibi: [English] He's waking up now. Flint?
Flint makes a huge effort, and gets his eyes open. He feels ~~ weak as a kitten ~~, which is an idiom obviously invented by somebody who wasn't trying to dislodge an infant feline scaling his or her leg.
Flint looks from one hovering face to the other. He's ~~ scared ~~ partly by his weakness, partly by the gaping emptiness that is growing within him, and partly by the ominous sound that somebody or other is going to "do what's necessary" to him. He's heard that euphemism used for executing changeover victims.
Bibi: It's all right, Flint, you're doing well. It's almost over now.
Flint: I'm dying, aren't I? I can't move. And I'm so cold.
Flint isn't cold, but that's the closest he can come to describing the emptiness.
Bibi: No, you're not dying. You're beginning to feel need -- that's the empty feeling. But your Donor is right here, ready to serve you when the time comes. ~~ comfort ~~ confidence ~~ safety ~~
Flint tries to reach towards the comfort, and yelps as the movement twists his tender, mostly-developed tentacles.
Bibi defers to Robur. It's time for the Donor to start to induce the Sime to fix on him, and she doesn't want to interfere with the building of rapport.
Robur begins to slowly run his hands lightly over Flint's arms without actually touching him. He simultaneously begins to ramp up his ~~ need to give ~~.
Bibi fades her showfield toward ~~ neutral ~~ to encourage Flint to fix on his Donor.
Robur signals "thanks".
Flint follows Robur's movements visually, and his eyes open in ~~ shock and disgust ~~ at the sight of his almost-developed tentacles.
Robur follows Flint's glance.
Robur: Relax, Flint, it's almost over.
Flint looks at Robur.
Flint: I look like I have some awful disease. How can you bear to look at it?
Flint himself has looked away.
Robur: Oh, you'll be a very handsome fellow when you get to Simeland, I assure you!
Flint looks back, ~~ fascinated ~~ as well as ~~ disgusted ~~.
Robur: Women tend to be extremely interested in channels, Simes and Gens both.
Flint: They look like our horse's hoof, when the smith nailed the shoe wrong and it festered.
Robur chuckles softly.
Robur: Just you wait, Flint my boy, just you wait.
Flint: Pa had to cut the hoof down, and it spurted green pus all over...
Robur: You may be a little gooey after breakout, but no green pus, I assure you. No germs could live in your new Sime system anyhow.
Robur: No more colds for you, young-fella-my-lad.
Flint is starting to see an upside to this being Sime thing.
Robur can't zlin, but he knows the beginning of relaxation when he sees it.
Bibi smiles. Robur's tactics seem to be working very well on Flint.
Flint: Not getting sick, and strong and fast -- that's quite a lot.
Robur switches to touching Flint's arms with just the bare tips of his fingers, backing off temporarily on his ~~ need to give ~~ just a bit.
Robur: You betcha, kiddo. This should help with the achy emptiness you're feeling about now.
Flint does feel a bit better.
Flint: What are you doing?
Robur: Sort of like unkinking a hose. It helps the developing flows in your arms, er, flow more easily.
Robur: How long to breakout, Bibi?
Bibi: Not long until the first contractions.
Robur: Ten minutes, more or less?
Bibi: Less rather than more.
Flint finds this ~~ sobering ~~.
Flint: Ten minutes. And then....
Flint looks at Bibi and Robur in ~~ appeal ~~.
Robur: And then breakout, which is an amazing experience, and then First Transfer, which is so amazing, it beats breakout easy.
Flint: Clint was like a starving dog. A slavering monster, the way he attacked that poor woman.
Robur chuckles again.
Robur: That "poor woman", as you call her, was loving every minute of it. And Clint knew just how much.
Flint: That... seems crazy, to me.
Robur: Oh? What do you think I'm feeling right now? Take your best shot, kid.
Robur projects ~~ Gen desire ~~ and ~~ need to give ~~ and ~~ eagerness ~~.
Flint peers at Robur's face.
Flint: You look like my uncle, when he's playing a trick on a kid.
Robur: No, not by looking at me. What does your gut tell you?
Flint: My gut?
Flint: It says it doesn't want any food, but I seem to be hungry anyway?
Flint is rather vague on the subject of zlinning, and has no real conception that a lot of what he's feeling is being artificially imposed from outside.
Robur: That's need, like Hajene Bibi told you. It'll get strong in a bit, but just go with it. It's like swinging off a birch tree into the water. Ever do that?
Flint: Yeah. So did Clint, but he broke his leg when he landed wrong one time.
Robur: Well, never mind that. The tension goes up-up-up, and then down-down-down-down and then you hit the water and it's so cold and good on a hot summer's day. This is like that, only a lot more so.
Flint thinks this over for a bit, then hisses as a cramp hits his right arm.
Robur uses his whole hand to very gently stroke the cramp out.
Flint: That hurt!
Robur: Sorry, lad.
Robur returns to the fingertip-only massage.
Flint relaxes as the pain subsides.
Bibi finds Robur's technique interesting. She would be more actively engaging the child's nager and inducing rapport at this stage, but things seem to be going well so far.
Flint's arms start to itch, and he flexes his hands in an attempt to ease the sensation.
Robur: Not yet, Flint. Wait for it... wait!
Flint: It itches!
Flint squirms with discomfort.
Robur: I know, I know. You dasn't scratch now, though, you could damage yourself.
Robur exerts his field in an attempt to override the itch, but he doesn't have enough nageric strength.
Robur: [Simelan] Hajene, can you suppress the itch for him?
Bibi takes Flint's arms and firmly draws her handling tentacles down them, carefully not engaging his nager, but projecting ~~ calm ~~ and ~~ encouragement ~~ into the ambient.
Robur smoothly keeps out of Bibi's way and as smoothly returns to his nageric massage.
Bibi: How's that, Flint?
Flint feels the maddening urge to scratch easing.
Flint: Better, ma'am.
Robur: [mutters in Simelan] It's remarkable he can still talk, this close to breakout. And stay polite, too!
Bibi smiles, and signals Robur to proceed. She doesn't want to interfere with his methods, but isn't used to watching a Donor manage a changeover. Her only experience was with Mik and Cristal, when she was far from being able to observe objectively.
Robur reflects that he's actually never shared First Transfer with a channel, either. Maybe that accounts for Flint's self-control.
Flint gets distracted as a ripple of cramping runs down both his arms, this time, and gasps, clenching his hands.
Robur redoubles his effort to suppress the cramp nagerically, but fails again.
Flint gargles, ~~ resisting ~~ Robur's nageric control.
Bibi: [Simelan] That was the first breakout contraction, Sosu.
Bibi is ~~ surprised ~~ and a little ~~ alarmed ~~ that Robur didn't recognize it.
Robur's jaw drops.
Robur: Really? So atypical.... Well, learn something new every time.
Bibi: [Simelan] It's moving fast now, engage more strongly, get him fixed on you.
Robur lets his ~~ need to give ~~ roar to the maximum he thinks he's capable of.
Robur: Clench your fists, Flint! Fight now!
Flint feels the need sensation flare up, and screams, sitting up and clenching his fists.
Flint falls back momentarily as the cramp eases, wondering why he can still feel after fainting. At least he assumes he's fainted, because he can't see and hear the people standing next to him, and there are strange hallucinatory not-quite-lights floating where they ought to be.
Robur: Ah, he's hyper, isn't he.
Bibi: Yes. Take his hands. Force him to engage with you.
Bibi wonders if she's going to have to take over herself, after all.
Flint feels a new wave of cramping hit, as the emptiness inside him threatens to engulf him.
Robur takes Flint's hands in full transfer position. He projects ~~ enticement ~~ and ~~ challenge to the hunt ~~.
Flint clutches at the only thing that seems to offer a hope of not falling into the void: the closest hallucination.
Robur hopes either Flint will break out soon or Bibi will break him out with her tentacles.
Flint grunts again, as his tentacles strain against the confining membranes. He feels something give. He yells as the void takes over, consuming him from within.
Robur's field rings with ~~ relief ~~ and his ~~ need to give ~~ goes up till he's as desperate as Flint for consummation.
Flint clutches at the hallucination with all ten hands, not bothering to wonder why in his hallucination he suddenly has eight extra. He feels the emptiness gaining, and pulls himself towards the hallucination, trying to get close enough to hide within it.
Robur feels Flint's tentacles wrap around his arms, handling and lateral both, and presses his lips to Flint's to make the fifth contact.
Bibi zlins carefully.
Flint strains towards the hallucination, and suddenly it starts to come into him, chasing away the emptiness. He gets a brilliant inspiration: if he can take enough of the hallucination into himself, the darkness will have to go away. He sets to the task of darkness-banishing with singleminded intensity.
Robur feels Flint's demand, stronger than any he has ever felt before, and automatically flattens all his barriers, pushing his selyn at Flint as fast as he can possibly do so.
Bibi is startled at Robur's action -- she's never zlinned a Gen lower barriers deeper than the level he's rated for.
Flint notes vaguely that the hallucination doesn't seem to mind being consumed, and why should it? It is his own hallucination, right? He finds, as his fear of the emptiness fades, that hallucination-consumption brings an ~~ ecstasy ~~ all its own, quite apart from the safety it brings. He reaches ~~ savagely ~~ for more, wallowing in the excess available.
Robur furiously pushes more and more selyn as he finds himself feeling, just for an instant, what Flint feels. Then the feeling vanishes ...
Flint feels his appetite for hallucination slowly fading, and besides, most of the easily available part seems to be gone. He's too ~~ content ~~ to go scrambling around for the remnants.
Robur realizes that Flint is slowing down, and attempts to push more in hopes of opening Flint's secondary system.
Bibi has no way of signaling him not to attempt it, and hopes he won't be shenned. Flint shouldn't have to zlin that in his First Transfer!
Flint feels the remains of the hallucination try to crawl into him.
Robur decides it's futile to try, and gently terminates the transfer.
Bibi is ~~ relieved ~~ at that.
Robur removes his lips from Flint's and wipes his face clean of all the tears he has shed.
Bibi: Well done, Sosu.
Flint gasps as the room swims back into focus.
Robur's field is filled with ~~ pride ~~ and ~~ satisfaction ~~ and ~~ hyperalertness ~~.
Flint is, of course, hypoconscious and unable to zlin that.
Robur: Easy, Flint. It's all over. It's all over, young fella.
Flint tries to reorient himself, which is easier than he'd feared it would be, since he's not dealing with other senses, or trying to move his new appendages at the moment.
Flint: You... you were the hallucination?
Robur: You were zlinning, Flint. What you saw, or rather zlinned, was quite real.
Robur is grinning.
Flint is ~~ very confused ~~.
Robur: How do you feel?
Flint: I'm not hungry any more, but my stomach's calmed down.
Robur draws in and lets out a tidal breath.
Flint has enough of a nageric linkage still that he imitates Robur without consciously intending to.
Robur: Well done. And congratulations. You're a grownup now.
Flint thinks that over for a moment.
Flint: I don't feel any more grown up. Mostly, I feel tired out.
Robur: Sure. It'll take time to get used to. Rest now. Do you want to see your brother?
Flint: Yeah. Where is he?
Robur looks at Bibi.
Bibi: He's with Bart and Ammenia. I'll ask him to come down here.
Bibi goes upstairs, asks Ghan to fetch Clint, and returns with a basin of warm water.
Bibi: He's out in the garden. He'll be here soon.
Flint looks at his arms, where the tentacles are now neatly retracted.
Flint: There's goo all over me.
Bibi wets a cloth in the basin and offers it.
Bibi: Here you go, Hajene Flint.
Flint takes the cloth and wipes at his arms tentatively, not sure where they're going to be sensitive.
Clint comes down the stairs and approaches the changeover room.
Robur: Come in, come in, my boy!
Clint opens the door and zlins his brother.
Clint: Flint! You're okay! ~~ intense relief ~~
Bibi: Yes, he's a channel now, like you.
Flint: I guess we're stuck in this together, now.
Clint: It's pretty good, really, once you get used to it. You'll see. ~~ brave but somewhat unsure ~~
Clint edges in and sits on the bed.
Flint looks down at his forearms, which don't appear quite as gross, now that the worst of the blood and fluids are cleaned up.
Flint: This is just so... strange.
Flint concentrates, and one handling tentacle slithers out, waving erratically.
Clint: Yeah, but it gets better. Look, you can do this.
Clint does a rather complex and graceful little riff of motion with his tentacles, that Marvin taught him.
Flint tries to imitate it, and succeeds in getting three tentacles out, although he has no real control of where they're going.
Clint is a little ~~ smug ~~ that he can do something his brother can't. It's a bit of a switch.
Flint: I guess it takes practice, huh?
Clint: Yeah, it does. It's kind of fun, really. And learning to zlin and stuff.
Clint is beginning to feel the effects of First Year, when learning is an obsession and a joy.
Flint: I guess we have to do something, since we can't go home.
Flint is suddenly ~~ homesick ~~.
Clint is affected by it, and carefully applies what he's learning about separating his own emotions from what he zlins.
Clint: Hey, we're better off than most Simes. We're channels. We can come back and work out here.
Flint: Do you want to go back home, Clint? Well, to Freebury, anyway?
Flint names the nearest town with a Sime Center, which really isn't all that close to the family farm.
Clint: I'd like to see Ma again. Pa probably won't want to have anything to do with us.
Robur starts to come down off his transfer-induced high at this remark, though nothing can really disturb his unquenchable Gen optimism at this point.
Flint: D'ya think Ma would come to see us?
Clint: Well, if we were close enough that she could do it without Pa knowing.
Flint: There's always the spring revival meeting in Freebury -- Pa would go to that, and Ma could say she wanted to do some shopping in the big city.
Clint: Yeah. That's a thought.
Clint laughs suddenly.
Clint: Imagine -- they go to the revival and she sneaks out to visit a couple of channels at the Sime Center!
Flint grins, taken by the thought.
Flint: She always was one to get her way, while seeming to be so quiet and all.
Clint: She saved our lives. Pa would have shot us. One after the other. You'd've had to watch him shoot me, like he made us watch him shoot Harv.
Clint's good humor vanishes. ~~ sadness ~~ bitterness ~~
Flint ~~ sobers ~~.
Clint: It's wrong. Simes don't have to die, if they don't have to kill.
Robur spreads some ~~ calm ~~ and ~~ perspective ~~ through the ambient. Luckily for him, the two brothers can't actually work together yet.
Bibi projects ~~ compassion ~~ and ~~ comfort ~~ to both boys.
Robur: It is wrong, Clint. But it's a wrong we can only right a little bit at a time.
Clint: I'm a channel now. I can save kids' lives.
Clint: God made me a channel. He blessed me, like Hajene Bibi said.
Robur: And you'll do God's work in this world, Clint.
Flint: I wish Pa could see us. See how wrong he was, to shoot Harv.
Flint associates "God" with his father, with whom he didn't part on the best of terms.
Clint: He had to shoot Harv, because there wasn't anybody there to give him transfer. I bet he didn't really want to.
Flint: And whose fault was that? He didn't exactly try to make any alternative arrangements, did he? And don't say there weren't any -- Ma came up with one, quick enough.
Clint: Just barely quick enough. If not for Hajene Marvin and Sosu Ammenia, I'd have killed somebody, and who knows what would have happened to you?
Flint: I'd probably have headed home, to tell Ma and Pa what happened. And I'd be dead, now.
Clint: Yeah. Look, we should write to Ma, tell her what happened. And that God answered her prayers, but not the way she thought. He didn't just save our lives, He made us channels so we can save other kids. And Gens, too, from being killed.
Flint isn't sure he cares about the channel thing, but at least he's alive. He's suddenly ~~ exhausted ~~ by all that's happened over the past few days.
Robur picks up on Flint's shift of physical condition.
Flint: Life would've been much simpler if we'd just turned Gen, like we were supposed to.
Clint: Yeah, but God didn't put us here to have an easy life, you know that.
Robur: Time to rest now, Flint. Worry about the philosophy of it all tomorrow.
Robur exercises the authority of an assigned Donor and -- more importantly -- an elder.
Flint: I never was no good at philosophy.
Clint: I can zlin you're tired, Flint. We'll figure it out more later. I'm real glad you're okay. ~~ relief ~~ love ~~
Flint: Yeah. In spite of it all, we made it.
Flint isn't sure exactly where they made it to, but that's an issue for another day.
Clint takes his brother's hand and wraps his tentacles around it.
Clint: We're still together.
Robur thickly slathers the ambient with love, peace, tranquillity, and the desire to rest from a long day.
Bibi is ~~ amused ~~ by Robur, and ~~ touched ~~ by the brothers.
Bibi: Would you like to go upstairs and rest, Flint? You'll be sharing a room with your brother now.
Flint settles back on the bed and lets his eyes drift closed.
Robur: I don't think there's much point at this point, Hajene.
Bibi: I guess not.
Clint: Can I stay here with him?
Robur defers to Bibi.
Bibi: I think we better just let him sleep, with Sosu Robur to watch over him. Remember, he can zlin you now.
Robur: He'll be in good hands, Hajene Clint.
Clint: Uh. Yes, Sosu. Uh, [Simelan] thank you for be him Donor.
Robur: You're welcome, Hajene.
Bibi: Come, Clint. Let's make some tea for us all.