Flint and his brother are on their way to Simeland at last, sharing the baggage car with Marvin and Ammenia.
Flint has considered his situation carefully over the past few days, and has come to some ~~ optimistic ~~ conclusions. He waits until Ammenia leaves the baggage car to get lunch in the dining car, then sits back against a convenient crate.
Flint: You know, this being Sime business isn't so bad.
Clint is ~~ glad ~~ his brother is adjusting to his fate.
Clint: Uh huh.
Flint: We can already do all sorts of things we couldn't do before, and we've hardly had time to figure things out yet.
Clint nods, wondering what ideas his brother has come up with now.
Flint: Makes you wonder what we'll be like a year from now, don't it?
Clint: Well, we'll be real trained channels, then. Out working making good money.
Clint has learned not to add comments about doing God's will when talking to his brother.
Flint: Yup. Better money than Pa ever made, that's for sure.
Clint nods again. He's planning to send some to his mother, whether Flint does or not.
Flint: Even if we weren't channels, we'd still be able to do more work for longer than Pa could. And that would mean we could earn more, or work a larger farm.
Flint looks at Clint to see if his brother agrees with his logic so far.
Marvin listens to this discussion with half an ear; he's heard variants of it before, though not from members of the same family.
Clint: Yeah, but we'd need to, to pay selyn taxes.
Flint waves aside the selyn tax issue, as he hasn't yet encountered it in person.
Flint: The Gens have to be supported somehow, right? And Simes are better at doing just about anything but make selyn. I've been thinking, maybe that's the reason why Gens like Pa hate Simes so much. They're jealous.
Flint dismisses centuries of warfare and heartbreak in two words.
Clint: He thinks it's demons getting into kids, turning them into monsters, because God is punishing somebody.
Flint: Yes. And what's a monster, but something stronger and faster than you are, that's doing something you don't like?
Marvin chuckles at that one.
Clint: You know Simes kill people, if there aren't any channels or Donors around to give them transfer.
Clint starts to cross his arms, but stops when the one-size-fits-nobody temporary retainers pinch his tentacles.
Clint: You remember what it was like. You would have killed Sosu Robur if he was just a regular Gen.
Flint: Well, from what I understand, he practically is a regular Gen.
Clint closes his eyes and ~~ shivers ~~ with ~~ awe ~~ as he remembers his transfer with Ammenia.
Clint: A regular Gen can't give transfer unless he's trained. And most can't serve channels.
Flint: The only difference is that he didn't deny reality.
Clint is ~~ puzzled ~~ .
Clint: Deny reality?
Flint: Sosu Robur figured out what Gens are good for, and did that. He isn't trying to compete by doing something a Sime could do twice as well with half the effort.
Clint: What? Collecting vegetables for seed out-T here? A Sime couldn't do that either.
Clint is more assertive with his brother than he was a few days ago.
Marvin laughs outright.
Flint: Only because some idiot would shoot him. Simes could get that seed twice as fast, and carry four times as much.
Clint: Don't be stupid, Flint. He gets the vegetables by talking to the farmers and buying stuff from them. And he ships it all back home by train.
Clint is finding standing up to his brother a uniquely enjoyable experience after a lifetime of deferring to him as eldest (and most assertive).
Flint: And are you telling me that, other things being equal, a person who can zlin can't do a better job talking to people, and figuring out if they're telling the truth?
Flint has rejected the idea that Simes are inferior, which is progress, but has replaced that with the opposite conclusion, which is not necessarily superior.
Clint: Zlinning would help a lot, but people out here aren't going to talk to a Sime the way they would with a Gen. So it wouldn't help to zlin, since they wouldn't talk to you anyway.
Flint: People out here are like Pa: murdering their own kids rather than accepting the idea that maybe they're not the top of creation, after all.
Clint: Well, God's given us both a chance to do something about that.
Marvin lifts an eyebrow at this theological language, but continues to not interfere.
Flint: Sosu Robur and Sosu Ammenia don't waste time doing things Simes can do better; they concentrate on being Gens, and you -- zlinned -- how happy they were to be doing it.
Flint has been speaking English, mostly, as his Simelan vocabulary is still pitifully small, but he uses the Simelan word "zlin" with ~~ relish ~~.
Clint: Not everybody likes to do the same thing. Sosu Robur is mostly sort of a farmer.
Flint: He's not a regular farmer. He's a Gen first, and anything else is secondary. And he knows it, and it makes him happy.
Marvin clears his throat assertively.
Marvin: Are you sure about that, Flint?
Flint: I'm sure that farming was the last thing on his mind, when he was serving me. And he was sure enough happy about it. But think about Pa. He's trying to live his life pretending Simes don't exist. And if Simes don't exist, for him, what's the point of his being Gen?
Marvin: Being Gen isn't the only thing Gens do with their lives, even in-Territory. There's no shame in living off donation payments, but there's not that much respect either.
Flint: But all Gens in Simeland donate, right? They're being useful that way, doing something Simes can't.
Marvin: Yes, they all donate. But they also do other things that Gens do out-Territory.
Flint: Not the really tough, heavy work, right?
Flint thinks of such jobs as "manly".
Clint is ~~ interested ~~ to hear more about life in-T.
Marvin: Not usually, no.
Flint: See, Clint? That's the way it ought to be. Gens make selyn, and do the light work. Simes do the rest.
Clint thinks the Gens get the better deal of it, then, and they don't have to pay selyn taxes. Quite the contrary.
Clint: Light work is usually the smart work, Flint. Any idiot can dig ditches. The lawyer and the banker never do heavy work. They're smart and they're rich -- they pay other people to do it.
Flint is thinking in terms of limiting Gens to light, unimportant tasks, while the Simes run things.
Clint: Do Simes have to only do heavy work, or do they get to do other things too?
Marvin: Sure. Simes can do whatever they want, provided they get paid enough to cover their taxes.
Flint: Hey, you don't think not having to sleep so many hours each night wouldn't be an advantage for a "smart work" job?
Clint: Marvin, do Gens get to be teachers and lawyers and politicians and stuff too?
Clint wants to believe that Nivet is the ideal society with liberty and justice for all.
Marvin: In those jobs, larity -- whether you're Sime or Gen -- isn't so important. Simes have some advantages there, but not many.
Flint is ~~ unhappy ~~ at the idea that his new home might not be as Sime-centric as he'd like.
Clint zlins, with difficulty, through the retainers, that Flint is unhappy. But it is pretty obvious even without zlinning, isn't it?
Flint: In others, though... I'd just like to see Pa acting like a Gen, for once. A real Gen, not a Gen pretending that Simes don't exist.
Clint: Like Miz Gitl? Or Ghan? Or Professor Nattin?
Clint enumerates all the Sime-accepting Gens he's met so far who aren't Donors.
Flint: Yeah. Think how much better off our whole family would have been if there had been a law that made him act like a Gen. Donating's the place to start, I guess.
Flint contemplates a future where all Gens are required to donate.
Marvin: It certainly is. But you don't change cultural patterns by wishing them, or (usually) by forcing them. It takes time.
Clint: I dunno, Flint. I wouldn't want to zlin Pa up close, once he saw my tentacles. I wouldn't want to let him near my laterals.
Flint: Why not? What's he gonna do? He's never bothered to learn about laterals.
Clint shrugs again. He's developed the Sime's instinctive protectiveness about the major organs of survival.
Clint: Look, we've got a lot to learn. Like I had this stupid idea, too, but Sosu Ammenia straightened me out.
Flint frowns at his idea being called "stupid", but gestures for Clint to elaborate.
Clint: I figured since we were both channels, we didn't need the Tecton. We could go off and buy selyn from ordinary Gens and give each other transfer. But it doesn't work that way.
Marvin winces at the thought, but doesn't let it spill over onto the ambient.
Clint was lucky that Ammenia didn't say anything as tactless as "that's so far out in left field it isn't even wrong".
Flint: No, you'd have a hard time getting people to sell to you, if they won't sell to a regular Tecton channel.
Clint: That's not the real problem with it. It's that we can't give each other good transfers, because we're both Thirds, and besides channel's transfer isn't good for channels.
Marvin: Not as a regular diet, anyhow.
Clint nods. He really does know more about things than his brother now. How strange.
Clint: Look, maybe you'll feel better when you're a real channel, with an opened secondary, like me. You'll understand better.
Clint isn't really ~~ condescending ~~, is he?
Marvin ~~ glares ~~ at Clint.
Clint: ~~ sincerely helpful ~~ He will, won't he?
Marvin: Possibly. But it's hardly helpful to tell him "You'll understand it much better when you're older, dear."
Marvin does a falsetto.
Flint: So what am I now? A fake channel?
Clint doesn't know, and looks to Marvin for an answer.
Flint sounds a little ~~ bitter ~~, as well he might: being looked down upon by his "younger" brother is unendurable after so many other shocks.
Marvin: No, of course not. You simply aren't ready to function as a channel yet. Your next transfer will clear that right up.
Clint isn't going to ask Marvin, in front of Flint, if that means that his channel training will be a month ahead of his twin's.
Marvin: I've never trained Thirds (or anyone else), so I can't say how that'll affect your First Year, but I know the people who do the training are very good at it.
Clint tries to say something encouraging.
Clint: Don't worry, you'll catch up.
Flint: I'm as much of a channel as you are. When was the last time you took a donation?
Clint starts to gesture, but stops before he pinches his tentacles again. He pauses a moment to calm himself, then sighs.
Clint: We're both in this now, we should do it together, right? Not fight?
Flint accepts the flag of truce.
Flint: Yeah. This is gonna be hard enough, as it is.
Clint remembers how good it felt to entwine tentacles with his twin, the way Driver showed them close friends do in Simeland. Too bad they can't do it now.
Clint: It'll work out. We'll be okay.
Clint refrains from dragging God into it again, although he finds it very comforting that God chose him and his brother to be channels and save lives.
Flint: Yeah. And we can still go back home. Or at least to the nearest Sime Center to home.
Clint: Yeah. I hope Ma writes back to us. I hope she doesn't get in trouble if Pa finds out.
Marvin: I expect your mother is tougher than you think she is.
Flint is struck by a concern raised -- and flippantly rejected -- earlier.
Flint: Hajene Marvin, how do channels protect their laterals, when they're working with Gens who... aren't used to Simes?
Marvin: If you mean, how do we protect them physically, that's what the handling tentacles are for -- to immobilize the Gen's arms. If you mean, how do we protect our selyn systems, that's what our Donors are for.
Marvin uses the inclusive "we", meaning "I and you and other people."
Flint: I thought channels could take anything a general-class donor could do with his nager?
Flint uses the Simelan term for "general-class donor", which he learned from Driver.
Marvin: Normally. But especially working out-T, you meet all sorts of odd Gen variants, and some of them have unexpected abilities.
Flint: Like what?
Flint never noticed anything strange in his hometown.
Marvin: They provide selyn much too fast, but not enough for a Donor, or vice versa. Or they go into slilbliss at the slightest touch. Or all their muscles turn to rubber while you take an ordinary GN-3 donation.
Clint thinks this sounds pretty scary and horrible.
Marvin: Not the one I know about, anyhow. She went right back to normal when the donation was over.
Clint is ~~ relieved ~~. Imagine a channel messing up a poor donor like that. He's developing the Sime instinct to protect Gens, too.
Flint: So they only get strange when they donate?
Marvin: Channels usually only see Gens professionally when they donate -- or are sick.
Clint tries to imagine his father faced with a channel, not necessarily himself. He's only beginning to learn how to simulate emotions with his secondary system and does a weak and nauseating emulation of ~~ hatred ~~ disgust ~~ and ~~ fear ~~. He adds some ~~ contempt ~~ too.
Marvin damps Clint's simulation quickly.
Clint drops it before it collapses by itself.
Marvin: Careful, you don't want to upset your brother's digestion, do you?
Clint: Sorry. I was trying to imagine what Pa would be like.
Clint then realizes that his twin probably regards this as showing off, since his secondary system is what he does it with. Or rubbing salt in a wound. ~~ embarrassed ~~ contrite ~~
Flint: I wouldn't mind getting a crack at Pa. Eventually. Maybe I could show him some things about Simes and Gens.
Flint can't match his brother in practice, but he's way ahead of him in theory. Or something.
Clint figures this is another revenge fantasy of Flint's, the kind he works on for days after he's gotten another beating. He always cools off, though. Until the next time.
Flint smiles, not completely nicely.
Flint: Like to see him try to whup me now!
Clint: He'd never catch you. Never get close. ~~ encouraging ~~
Flint: Unless I wanted him to. Hmm, now there's an idea.
Ammenia returns with assorted fruit for the Simes, and a sandwich in addition for herself.
Clint hurries to hold the door for her, take the packages, and escort her to a seat.
Marvin exercises the privilege of seniority to snarf the nicest pear.
Ammenia: I'm sorry I was so long -- they had a new person at the register, and he wasn't sure how to make change.
Clint is expressing his ~~ attraction ~~ to her wonderful nager in the only way he knows how: the way he was taught a gentleman should treat a lady.
Ammenia allows herself to be seated, carefully controlling her ~ amusement ~ at his solicitousness.
Clint sits next to her, refrains from trying to take her hand, and engages her nager as deeply as she'll let him (not very).
Clint: It's okay. I'm glad you're back. ~~ attracted ~~
Marvin: Clint. You're drooling.
Clint touches his dry lips, uncomfortably torquing his tentacles in the retainer. ~~ puzzled ~~
Marvin projects slightly dumbed-down selyn imagery, and hopes Clint gets it.
Ammenia: Put it to use, and have a pear. They're very good.
Clint gets it, and ~~ blushes ~~.
Clint: I'm sorry, Sosu, Hajene.
Marvin: You're doing fine for a Sime only a week old.
Clint: Sosu's nager is so wonderful...
Marvin: Yes. But don't get too used to it. You'll really do much better in the long run with a properly matched TN-3.
Clint shrugs. He'll never forget Ammenia, and his First Transfer, but somebody like Sosu Robur would be okay too.
Ammenia: Marvin, I think you've forgotten the first rule of being Sime: the Gen who zlins best is the one who's available.
Clint realizes the effect this must be having on Flint. He takes a pear and sits next to him, cutting the fruit in halves and offering him one.
Flint takes the fruit that Clint offers and bites into it, glad that at least something is back to normal.