Ammenia looks out through the "window" in the baggage car, which bears a strong resemblance to a gouge in the door that leaves a large crack. She's ~~ bored ~~ already, and it's going to be hours yet before they reach their destination.
Ammenia turns her attention to something more ~~ interesting ~~ for a Donor than corn fields: her channel.
Ammenia: Tell me, Marvin. Do you think that two hundred years from now, people like us will still be riding in the luggage car, trucking selyn from here to there?
Marvin: Well, I certainly hope not. It's awfully inefficient using whole people to carry selyn. It would be much more sensible to invent some kind of carrier bag for the stuff, and then it could just be shipped like all the other freight.
Ammenia: It would certainly save the posteriors of poor Tecton employees. I expect the folks out here would appreciate not having so many Simes traveling back and forth, too.
Marvin: Oh, by that time I'm sure the retainer problem will be solved too -- they'll have to come up with something that Simes can wear for more than a few hours at a time without going nuts.
Ammenia: Why not say they'll be able to predict whether a child will be Sime or Gen, as well?
Marvin: Excellent idea, Ammenia! I see you're getting into the spirit of the thing. Umm, does that mean that out-T they'll abort all the Sime fetuses? That would be ugly ugly.
Ammenia: Some would, I'm sure. Maybe not all, though. I'd like to think that the out-Territory Gens of the future wouldn't meet visiting Simes with pitchforks and shotguns.
Marvin: I think we can assume that, once the safety devices, whatever they are, are working really well. Out-T Gens will have had time to grow out of most of their fears.
Ammenia: If they don't have berserkers attacking all the time, I suppose they might, at that.
Marvin: Sure. Maybe it'll be something you wear, like an earring or a bracelet.
Ammenia gives an unladylike snort.
Ammenia: All it should require is the ring you're already wearing. Retainers never protected anybody.
Marvin polishes his plain Teiu ring and smiles.
Marvin: Okay, why not? And let's suppose, just for the fun of it, that all the Ancient technology has been rediscovered. Televideos and computators and weather moons and all that.
Ammenia: Why not, indeed? I always liked those stories about "the days of the Ancients". Well, the fun ones. Frihill's journals aren't my thing.
Marvin: No. Bo-ring, especially with all that jargon.
Ammenia: Yeah. I did like that picture of the really tall building, though.
Marvin: Me too. Of course, people will still be people, Simes Simes, and Gens Gens, even in the remote future. So even though it'll be a lot like the final years of the Ancients, it wouldn't be like it like it. If you know what I mean.
Ammenia: True. And I can't see the whole continent uniting in one culture, either. The Territories have been going their own ways for too long.
Marvin: Right. And yet, with the safety rings in place, you'll start to see Simes moving out-T on a permanent basis. At least in the cities, where there will be plenty of Sime Centers by then.
Ammenia: Huh. Wonder what the neighbors would think of that?
Marvin: Indeed, that would be the question. Or one of many questions. So sit right back and I'll tell you the tale of, hmm, a mixed-larity couple from in-T moving into a suburb of Cago about two centuries from now....
Alafry is busy unpacking his home office. He was initially unsure about this move to Cago, but things have gone relatively smoothly, and so far he hasn't seen a single Wild Gen toting a rifle. He supposes that it still happens in the less civilized rural areas, but this is a real city.
Alafry stacks books in a bookshelf, in an order no librarian would recognize, but which allows him to instantly reach whatever reference he's after. He's aware of the ~~ cowardice ~~ that makes him glad his job as an illustrator of children's books can be done from home. He ~~ worries ~~ that his wife will have more problems as she settles in to run quality control at the Widget Works factory.
Alafry has been told that the custom of shooting Simes out of hand is a thing of the distant past, but suspects that there will be less immediately fatal problems caused by her larity. He supposes that as a Gen who married a Sime, he'll get some of that at one remove, but at least he won't have to zlin it, as well.
Syrus, Alafry's son, gets off the bus that brings him back from school. He's thinking as long as the weather holds he might just as well walk home. He can't wait till he changes over and can split this lame-o burg and get back where Simes belong. Not that his mother can't handle anything the Wild Gens can throw at her, but still.
Syrus uses his keys to open the door. Carrying keys isn't something he's used to doing, and he supposes he ought to be glad his dad entrusted him with them. But they really are just so primitive compared to selyn-pattern locks like he has at home -- wave your arms at the door and it clicks open.
Alafry is keeping one ear cocked for the sound of the door opening.
Syrus pushes the door open, enters, and makes sure it's locked behind him. No sense getting into a stupid fight on the first day of school.
Syrus: Hey ho, Daddy-o, I'm home!
Alafry: Syrus! I'm in my study.
Syrus: Yeah, yeah, okay. Phones working yet?
Alafry: No. They assured me that we'd be able to use them tomorrow, though.
Alafry is a little ~~ skeptical ~~, but is trying to maintain his sense of humor.
Syrus emits a sound of disgust.
Alafry: Come, now. If that's the worst inconvenience we encounter in this move, we've done very well -- for either side of the border.
Syrus: Typical Wild Gen incompetence..... (long pause) Well, you want to talk?
Syrus doesn't sound too eager.
Alafry: Sure. How was the school?
Syrus: Umm, fine, I guess. For students who are [English, poorly pronounced] retards.
Alafry: Ah. You already know all about their history and literature? Their customs and geography?
Syrus: Well, no. But who cares about stuff Wild Gens made up? As for customs, I got a fine introduction to those today. One of the Gens told me to give him my lunch. Without offering to trade, see.
Syrus fixes his father with a gimlet eye.
Syrus: Then when I said [English]No, why should I?[Simelan], he beat me up. And took my lunch. And then started to eat it, said "Yuk" and threw it in the trash.
Alafry: Ah. He was testing you. How did the other students respond?
Syrus: All very quiet, polite, and respectful. To him. While he took out this huge sandwich with tomato sauce in it, and big blobs of meat. Probably the testicles of other boys. And ate it from one end to the other without stopping once.
Alafry: Well, if he wants meat for lunch, he'll soon learn that he won't get it from you.
Syrus: Well, I guess not.
Syrus looks a little more hopeful, if no less disgusted.
Syrus: He also called me a "98 pound weakling", whatever that is.
Alafry: You're still a child. You'll be a lot stronger when you change over. Were any of the other students friendly?
Syrus: I doubt it. Not unless calling people snakes is a sign of affection out-Territory.
Alafry: How did you respond to that?
Syrus: I ignored it, like you and Mom told me. But I don't see how that's going to help with people who steal and hurt people. And without any Simes around to stop them, they can do whatever the shen they want.
Alafry: Oh, I doubt there are any more thieves among them then there were at your last school -- remember that business about the missing plastic sheeting?
Syrus: Da-ad. That was a joke. Nobody actually got hurt. Nobody had to go home practically starving, either. Speaking of which, is there anything in the kitchen yet?
Alafry: There's some bread and fruit, at least, although I've still got to lay in some real groceries.
Alafry gets up and leads the way to the kitchen.
Alafry: How were the teachers?
Alafry settles down on a stool to continue the conversation.
Syrus follows him into the kitchen and pounces on the bread and the fruit. He doesn't recognize the fruit, but a few bites convince him it's obviously meant to be peeled before eating, so he works his way through the bread instead.
Syrus mumbles: Goob breab.
Alafry: Yes. There's an excellent bakery on the corner. I think we're going to be buying quite a lot from them.
Syrus clears his mouth and tries to find a knife to peel the mystery fruit. No luck.
Syrus: Teachers. Oh yes. Teachers. Who listens to teachers? Especially when all they are doing is giving you some kind of ridiculous lecture, like:
Syrus tries to produce a resounding boom, but his not-yet-lowered voice can't manage it yet.
Syrus: I want you all to understand that I'm a very strict and severe guy, so you aren't going to get away with anything, and what's more, I know ten times more than you do, so don't even think about asking any serious questions here. And of course it's all [English] bullshit. [Simelan] That's my Genlan word for the day, by the way. Taught me by that big Gen with the fists.
Alafry: Really? What was he saying that was so... odorous?
Syrus: No, it was what I was saying about the... you know, need for reciprocity. I don't think he liked the way I pronounced the word "reciprocity."
Alafry: I believe it's actually pronounced "reciprocity", with the emphasis on the third syllable.
Syrus makes another sound of disgust, more emphatic this time.
Syrus: Fine. Whatever. With the emphasis on the second syllable.
Alafry: So besides correcting your English -- with reason -- what objection do you have to this teacher, that you have such a dislike for him?
Syrus slaps his head, with impunity since his Sime mother isn't around to feel the nageric shock.
Syrus: No no no. It was the big Gen. With the fists. Who beat me up.
Alafry: Ah. I was asking about the teacher. The one who was so full of bovine manure.
Syrus: The guy who beat me up said I was full of bovine manure. Because I wanted him to give me his lunch if I was going to give him mine. Dad, you are so thick sometimes.
Alafry: Me? You're the one who keeps telling me about this bully, when I asked you about the teachers. I take it the bully is not a teacher?
Syrus: Nope, he's still a student even though they call him a Gen. You know, they keep 'em here until they're 16 no matter what. Unless they change over, I guess...
Syrus trails off.
Alafry: In which case most of them lose their families entirely.
Syrus: Yeah. Well. There is that. Of course, there's nothing to stop me from visiting you. Or vice versa. And you aren't staying in this place forever, are you?
Syrus actually sounds hopeful for the first time.
Alafry: I wouldn't be surprised if part of the problem was that the other students were envious of you.
Syrus's eyes pop out of his head.
Syrus: Envious? Of a pre-Sime? Don't they have a single clue?
Alafry: They only know that you have a much better chance of having a good life than their other Sime classmates. You won't lose your family, you won't have to start your life over again in a land where you don't speak the language and don't know the customs.
Syrus thinks that's just what he's doing, except for losing his family. Certain members of which he could do without.
Alafry: I mean, how would you be feeling if you'd been sent here and you knew you had to live the rest of your life on this side of the border?
Syrus: Terrible. But it's not like they're going to be shot, either. The changeover detectors at the school entrance tell 'em when to go to the Sime Center, and that's that.
Alafry: Yes. They go to school every morning wondering if they're going to be hauled off without notice, and forced to live at least a year in a strange land.
Syrus: More than that, probably.
Syrus instantly switches to the other tack with a teen's disregard for foolish consistency.
Syrus: What a drag. Camps for the clueless. Probably after that their families send them telegrams saying DON'T COME HOME NOTHING IS FORGIVEN.
Syrus is getting quite gleeful about it.
Alafry: You see? It would hardly be surprising if they were envious.
Syrus: That would assume they have the subtlety of mind to manage it.
Alafry: If you can understand the concept, I'm sure they can.
Alafry's tone is a little ~~ dry ~~, as he doesn't have unlimited patience with sulking adolescents.
Syrus: Well, look. The kids in my class are the same age I am. On the bus, I checked out the books. Except for, as you say, out-T history and literature, it's all about two years behind us. Ask Hrathna, I'm sure she'll tell you the same.
Alafry: Well, then, you should be able to get through your math homework quickly, which will leave you more time to focus on the literature.
Syrus nods and sighs again.
Syrus: Fine, fine, fine.
Syrus wishes the phones were installed so he could chatter with some of his friends back in-T.
Alafry: What other classes did they sign you up for?
Syrus: History, English, Math, Biology, Physical Education -- what a joke, weight-lifting for pre-Simes! -- and Art. I haven't had Art yet.
Alafry: Well, that looks like, what, only two courses where you won't be getting new material?
Syrus: Only three where I will, you mean. Y'know, new Simes have been known to die of under-stimulation...
Alafry: If you get bored, we can certainly find additional areas for you to study.
Syrus switches gears again and begins to crack up. Again, his mother isn't around to be over-influenced.
Syrus: Ya got me there, Daddy-o.
Alafry grins, and slaps Syrus on the shoulder.
Alafry: Come on, let's practice our English. Help me get a grocery list together, with an English version so we can ask about the things we can't find.
Syrus is actually glad he has his dad for a dad.