Healing the World: Episode 17

Skyepar, Sectuib in Teiu, is sitting in his office drinking trin, watching the falling sleet obscure the mural of the rehabilitation of the Ruined Lands painted on the refectory wall across the way.

Robur, TN-3 in Teiu, ~~ signals ~~ for admission. He could probably just walk in -- Sectuib isn't long on ceremony -- but he feels ~~ easier ~~ about it.

Skyepar: Come in, Robur.

Skyepar doesn't usually close his door, but with the wind from the east there's a really unpleasant cold draft when it's open.

Robur walks in and sits down across from Skyepar, which unfortunately means that his view is mostly bookshelves.

Skyepar swivels around and fetches a clean mug from the bookcase behind him, fills it from the pot and sets it in front of Robur.

Robur collects his nager and begins.

Robur: First of all, I've had another report from our contacts at that channel school where Clint and Flint were sent. Although they're doing very well technically, and adapting to life in Simeland as well as can be expected, I'm afraid I have to reverse my former recommendation that we attempt to recruit them.

Skyepar raises an eyebrow.

Skyepar: Oh?

Skyepar knows how much the TN-3's would like to have more QN-3's in the House.

Robur: Granted that we favor independence of mind, as Houses go, it now seems to me that Flint at least just wouldn't be happy here. He needs defined responsibilities. He needs to know, you might say, what his territory is, and he wouldn't be comfortable sharing it with us, or any other Householding. At least, that's what Stanger reports, and we both know that his judgment is usually highly reliable.

Skyepar: That's too bad. From what you've told me, Clint would probably be happy here. The Tecton will separate them after training anyway, but he might not see it as more or less permanent.

Robur raises his own eyebrow.

Robur: You think so? I think they'd be foolish to do so.

Skyepar snorts.

Skyepar: They don't even try very hard to keep couples together, although it's a different matter with Thirds.

Skyepar waves a hand.

Skyepar: How often is a small rural Sime Center, and most Sime Centers are, going to need two inexperienced QN-3's at he same time?

Robur: They have left Treet and Duva and Adeen alone here for years, and they're all perfectly good QN-3s.

Skyepar smiles.

Skyepar: Ah, well. That's a big advantage of belonging to a Householding. especially one with the Sime Center for the area.

Robur: Well, I suppose we can think further about the prospects of recruiting just Clint -- he, as you say, would be happy here, if he could get over missing his brother.

Skyepar: If one of us is up in that area, we could stop in and chat with him, just to give him the idea to keep in mind. He won't be out of training until next fall.

Robur nods.

Robur: I could do that.

Robur takes a small piece of paper out of his pocket and looks at it.

Robur: Now for another point, more important.

Skyepar is ~~ attentive ~~.

Robur: There's a small village of supernaturalists that I heard about, two days' journey from Hannard's Ford. They call themselves the "Submissionists". Have you heard of the group?

Skyepar thinks.

Skyepar: Yes, I have heard of them. There are a few colonies in-T too. They tend to prefer remote areas where they can keep isolated more easily.

Robur: Well, this one has reached out to Hajene Bibi -- I have a precis of her letter here -- for some kind of Tecton help.

Skyepar: Really? Out-T? Remarkable.

Robur: They've had to [English] take care of [Simelan] their Sime children in the usual way, because the distances are just too far, but they want to make some changes now that they know that channels really exist. Organizationally, though, they just can't have a resident channel, even though there might well be enough work for a Third.

Skyepar nods.

Skyepar: Let me guess. You want to start up the missionary program again, this time without the Church of Unity to hide behind.

Robur: Well, no, actually, or actually yes, but I don't think it's practical.

Skyepar: Times have changed.

Robur: They have a bootstrapping problem. If they could just get two selyn workers from their own people... a channel and a Companion, I mean. I thought of putting them in touch with their coreligionists on this side of the border, but it seems there are theological barriers between them.

Skyepar: Hm. So do you want to recruit some Submissionist Donor candidates, pledge them to our House so we can train them, then send them back home?

Robur: Yes, exactly! There would be some cultural contamination, but less than under any other option that I can see for them. Eventually, a Third would change over and the bootstrap would be complete. What do you think?

Skyepar: But even if they accept the culture contamination, their Sime children can't stay with them, and this hypothetical QN-3 would spend his First Year assimilating into a totally alien culture. The Tecton wouldn't send him home, and the Gen government wouldn't allow him in without the Tecton's approval.

Robur raises an eyebrow.

Robur: Who says he -- or she -- has to be sent in-T?

Skyepar: How will this channel be trained? It's not like there are other channels there to do it.

Robur: I'm hoping they might be able to tolerate that much interference. How fast can a Third be trained?

Skyepar shrugs.

Skyepar: It depends on the individual, how intelligent, how motivated, how talented -- and how much training you think is adequate.

Skyepar laughs.

Skyepar: It also depends on how good the teachers are, of course.

Robur: How much I think... oh.

Robur laughs too.

Skyepar: That was the generic you, naztehr!

Skyepar sobers.

Skyepar: In the early days, newly trained channels were all too often sent to work alone in small Sime Centers, and there was an appalling rate of disasters.

Robur sobers too.

Skyepar: Of course, the people they were serving were comparing them to a Gen shortage and attrition, so by that measure it didn't seem so bad.

Robur: True. From what I understand, they already train their kids in relaxation and meditation techniques. That should help quite a bit.

Skyepar: I suppose that would make the changeovers easier to handle, but so much can go wrong, and the channel wouldn't have had the opportunity to learn how to manage the problems.

Robur nods sadly.

Robur: But compared to the current death rate of one hundred percent....

Skyepar sighs.

Skyepar: I'm envisioning a marginally trained very young channel, with an even more marginally trained very young Donor, with no one else to learn from or ask for advice, isolated in hostile territory, making one mistake after another, at the cost of lives of people they've known their whole lives.

Robur: It certainly would require courage. The village is already so isolated, though, that I don't think the "hostile territory" business applies. In effect, the surrounding territory consists only of the village. And they'll be supportive, or they won't do it.

Skyepar: It would be terribly cruel to these young people. And channels coming out of the general population are rare enough that to expect to get one with the right character out of a small community... it's unlikely. And you have to have at least one Donor of that character too.

Robur: Granted, there are risks. But if we don't try, there are only... certainties.

Skyepar sighs.

Skyepar: If we send one of our Gens to them, if they'd accept that... we'd have to keep it up forever. I suppose we could consider training a few of their own people to serve transfer, like Yilli did in her time...

Skyepar runs some tentacles through his hair.

Skyepar: The Tecton wouldn't be pleased, but although it takes place out-T, they could complain to the Gen government and create a lot of hassle for everybody. These isolationist people wouldn't thank us for calling the Gen authorities down on them.

Robur: Why does the Tecton have to know? Gens can cross the border freely, and if they're pledged, we can send them wherever we like. If they disappear back into the wilds of Gen T, who's to know?

Skyepar: Robur, it will come out eventually. And being secretive about it will make us look far worse when it does come out.

Skyepar is a less feisty, more conventional Sectuib than Yilli was.

Robur nods soberly.

Skyepar: It could cause a lot of trouble for the House.

Robur: I'm not suggesting outright secrecy. File some kind of low-level report that nobody will pay attention to but that will cover our butts later on.

Skyepar: Well, right now we know nothing about what these Submissionists would accept. Everything we know is third hand at best.

Robur: Oh, absolutely. I'm not trying to say I have a complete plan here. I just can't stand the idea of standing by and doing nothing. But of course I don't want to risk the House either.

Robur has ~~ confidence ~~ that Skyepar will figure out ways to overcome his own objections, if he can catch the Sectuib in the right emotional place.

Skyepar: Let's think about how we can find out more about these people and what they would want us to do for them. The best thing might be for them to sell up and move in-T. Too bad the government isn't still offering settler's bonuses and cheap chunks of the Ruined Lands to immigrants.

Robur: Certainly that'd be the pragmatic solution.

Robur alludes to the House Virtue.

Skyepar smiles.

Robur: I doubt, however, that there's anyone to sell to, out in the wilderness there. And since there's no longer homesteading in-T... These people don't even use money, so they have no way to buy land here that I can see, even if they saved up payments from the donations they aren't in a position to make.

Skyepar steeples his hands and entwines his tentacles with his fingers.

Skyepar: We might consider loaning them a down payment on land. They'd be hard workers, self-sufficient and frugal, and have no selyn taxes to pay, so their donation payments would go far.

Skyepar smiles.

Skyepar: Yilli always believed that even if what you can do isn't enough, it's better to do that much than nothing. So look into what we can do without making us pariahs with the Tecton again, naztehr, and let me know what you find out.

Robur: Will do, Sectuib. Finally, I want to propose a candidate for membership, someone that in my opinion embodies the Virtue of the House in everything he does.

Skyepar: ~~ inquiry ~~

Robur: He's spent his entire life in the service of Unity, brightening the corner where he is, but he's a terribly lonely man. I think if he could find a place that he could think of as his, it would make a huge difference to him.

Skyepar: ~~ concern ~~

Robur: He'd also be valuable genetically, though not so much so that there would be any chance of risking a hijack of the Sectuib! ~~ teasing ~~

Skyepar: So who is this poor tormented paragon?

Robur: I'm referring, of course, to Marvin Gardener, the mule QN-2 who escorted Clint and Flint in-T. Tormented he may be, but he's also extremely... funny.

Skyepar smiles.

Robur: Aren't all the best comics that way?

Skyepar: And has he expressed any interest in joining a Householding?

Robur: Shen, no. That's what makes him the perfect candidate.

Robur chuckles.

Robur: We'll spring it on him when he least expects it. Which could be pretty much any time.

Skyepar: Well, he'd have to come down here and meet us and decide if he's interested, too.

Robur: No kidding.

Skyepar: And not all the naztehrhai regard a candidate's ability to amuse as his most important trait.

Robur: Shall I sound him out, then? I can arrange to be where he is at some point, no problem.

Skyepar: Yes, but don't give him the impression that it's an invitation to pledge.

Robur rolls his eyes.

Robur: I won't.

Skyepar smiles again.

Skyepar: It's not like the old days, when we'd take anybody off the street, like you and me.

Robur can't help laughing at this one.

Robur: The stone that the builders rejected, y'know.

Skyepar catches the allusion to an Ancient sacred text.

Skyepar: That's us. Salvaged.

Robur: Indeed.

Skyepar looks out the window. The sleet storm has weakened and he can clearly see the tree seedlings the brown-cloaked figures in the mural are planting.

Skyepar stands and stretches.

Robur gets up too.

Robur: Well, I can see I've got my work cut out for me, eh?

Skyepar: You do.

Skyepar stretches again.

Robur: Well, I'll set the wheels in motion. Thanks for your time, Sectuib.

Skyepar: I should go down and eat something. I've got to go in to Konawa tonight for a few shifts at the Sime Center. Come with me and donate some appetite?

Robur: Happy to, Skyep.

Robur uses the familiar form now that the Official Meeting is over.

Skyepar: Good man.

Skyepar leads the way, as the Sectuib must do.

Return to Table of Contents