Naoyu is leaning against Pollovic's shoulder, semi-conscious.
Pollovic braces himself against the jouncing of the carriage as it rushes along the rutted road.
Pametta is young enough to have a somewhat easier time balancing.
Naoyu makes a small, muffled groaning noise, and wakes up with a twitch, a few seconds later. He moans and starts trying to scratch at his wrists furiously.
Pametta: Are we going to make it in time? His arms seem lumpier.
Naoyu: Make it stop! Please make it stop!
Pollovic: Don't do that, Naoyu. You'll hurt yourself.
Naoyu: It already hurts me!
Pollovic grabs at the boy's hands, trying to stop him.
Pametta: Calm down. We'll be at the Sime Center soon. Just try to rest until then.
Naoyu hasn't actually tried to look at his arms, truth be told, as little as can be seen in the dark carriage. It feels like there are big blisters all over his wrists, though.
Pollovic: You could injure yourself. Not just pain, but real harm.
Pametta: Besides, it's not time for that yet.
Naoyu has already thrown "too old to cry" and his dignity out the window, some time back, ever since he realized this was really happening and not some nightmare or hallucination. He wipes his face off on his shoulder.
Naoyu: What happens if I do?
Pollovic: If you damage your tentacles before they're fully formed, how are you supposed to take transfer?
Pollovic is trying to sound calm, reasonable, and matter-of-fact.
Naoyu: You said... I would get it from the channel, right?
Naoyu is still somewhat confused about the fact that channels can't circumvent basic anatomical reality.
Pametta: We've got to get to the channel, first. So don't rush things. We need time.
Pollovic looks out the window, trying to figure out, in the darkness, how far they've come. No landmarks are visible.
Pollovic: Try taking a few slow, deep breaths.
Pollovic vaguely remembers an exercise Kat and Nick taught him.
Naoyu does so, trying to keep it from turning into hyperventilation.
Naoyu: You're really sure I won't kill anyone, right? Right?
Pollovic: Absolutely. ~~ total confidence ~~
Naoyu glances up at the coachman, and then moves his leg slightly, testing to his satisfaction that he's still chained to Pollovic. He gently touches one of the blisters on his wrist, wincing at the pain.
Naoyu: S-some guy at school told me that he watched his cousin turn into a Sime...
Pollovic grunts to indicate that he's listening.
Naoyu is now a little bit more relaxed, and is able to slip a little bit back into 12-year-old boy mode.
Naoyu: He said it was like something on this girl's arms exploded, and blood and stuff went flying all over the place.
Naoyu has the average 12-year-old's appreciation for gross stuff, but thinks that's not quite what he wants to happen to him.
Pollovic tries to remember the details from the pamphlet he once read.
Naoyu: And then she...
Pametta: Your arms won't explode, Naoyu.
Naoyu: They'll... still be all there afterwards?
Pametta: With a few additions, I think.
Pollovic: When your tentacles are ready to come out, the blisters will break. That's all.
Naoyu: Well, this guy at school, he said that after the blood and everything came shooting out, she just... turned into this monster.
Naoyu sits back, looking disturbed and a little sobered through the pain.
Pollovic: ~~ reassuring ~~ That's not going to happen to you. You'll be with a channel, who'll care for you so that doesn't happen.
Pametta: Shouldn't we be getting there soon?
Pametta is starting to get ~~ worried ~~.
Pollovic glances out the window again. He still can't see anything.
Pollovic: Soon. ~~ doubt ~~
Naoyu: He said she looked like a mad dog. And the tentacles on her were all gooey and slimy and wiggling around, trying to grab someone...
Pollovic: Even if your tentacles come out before we get there, it'll be okay. Pametta and I are both low-field, so you won't want to grab either of us. And we're the only people you'll be able to reach.
Naoyu nods, somehow not quite feeling as comfortable as he did before he started thinking about that again.
Pollovic: You'll be hungry for selyn until we get you to a channel, but you won't hurt anyone.
Pollovic is ~~ confident ~~ in this reassurance.
Naoyu: I don't want to be like that girl. I'll try really hard to not be like that. He told me that... she grabbed her sister with her tentacles, and sucked her breath out. And then her sister just fell right down on the ground, dead.
Pollovic: You won't be able to help needing what you need. But we've set it up so you won't hurt anyone. You won't hurt either of us, and you can't hurt a channel.
Naoyu is still, mostly, accepting Pollovic as an authority on the subject.
Pollovic is still not troubled by what he doesn't know about the difference between an ordinary Sime in need and a berserker, or the difference between low-field and no field.
Naoyu: Do... do you think I can go back to my parents' house, when they find out I didn't kill anybody?
Pollovic considers what he knows of Naoyu's parents.
Pollovic: I don't think you'll be able to see your parents again. But you'll go to Simeland, and have a new home there.
Naoyu is ~~ shocked ~~ by this revelation.
Pametta: My brother Saag lives in Simeland now. He works at the New Washington Embassy in Capital.
Naoyu: I want to go home! I want to go back and see them again and my friends!
Naoyu begins to ~~ panic ~~ a bit.
Pametta: If you go home now, you will kill somebody. Unless they shoot you first.
Naoyu: Not even after I see the channel?
Pollovic: Think about it, Naoyu. What would your parents do, if they saw you with tentacles?
Naoyu considers this.
Naoyu: Well... they don't like Simes. But I don't think they know any who don't kill...
Naoyu settles again, wincing at the pain, and tries to relax for a while.
Pollovic: Once things settle down, you can write to them. Maybe you can visit them some day. ~~ doubt ~~
Naoyu starts to drift off into a light half-sleep, then squirms again, like something is keeping him from being comfortable.
Naoyu: Are we at the Sime Center yet? It's getting brighter.
Pollovic looks around. It's still pitch dark.
Naoyu rubs his eyes and experiments by putting his hands over them.
Pollovic doesn't remember anything in the pamphlet about hallucinations being part of the changeover process.
Naoyu: You're brighter than me. There's something glowy around you...
Naoyu doesn't mention that he can somehow still see it with his eyes closed, because that makes no sense. He also feels like he's darker than the darkness, somehow. It's like the time his older cousins shut him down in the apple cellar as a prank, but even worse, because the darkest dark is inside him, not outside.
Naoyu: And so is she. Brighter, I mean.
Pollovic suddenly gets a ~~ frightening ~~ idea.
Pollovic: Pametta, how many days ago did you donate?
Pametta: It's been three weeks. I kept meaning to go this past week, to be ready for our honeymoon, but there was always something to do for the wedding... I'll have to go tomorrow, before we leave.
Pollovic tamps down the stab of ~~ panic ~~ .
Naoyu is lying with his head against the back of the seat, looking at Pametta like he's kind of mesmerized.
Pollovic: I thought you said you'd donated this week.
Naoyu re-adjusts himself to get closer to her, trying to make the darkness feel less horrible.
Pametta: I was going to, but my mother... well, she kept me going from dawn to dusk.
Pollovic takes a deep breath.
Pollovic: Pametta, I want you to go sit up front with Rogers.
Naoyu sits up again, reaching his arms out to Pametta. The pain in his arms is beginning to fade. He grasps at her confusedly, still not entirely sure of how to get what he wants.
Pollovic: Do I need to stop the carriage, or can you get up there while we keep moving?
Pametta's eyes widen with realization.
Pametta: I think... I think we'd better keep moving. Quickly.
Pollovic: Then go up front. Oh, and before you go, I'll need the key.
Pametta: The... Oh, no! They didn't give me one.
Pollovic struggles to stay calm. After all, he donated six days ago and is safely low-field.
Naoyu seems to be making fumbling attempts at taking Pametta's arms into transfer position, although he isn't close to breakout quite yet.
Pollovic: Then just go up front. We'll be all right back here. Go now.
Pametta dodges the fumbles and slips out the door, climbing up the side of the carriage to the driver's seat.
Naoyu gives an agonized moan and flails around, grabbing after her, then looks around quickly for something else to make the darkness go away. Not seeing anything brighter, he crawls swiftly over to the other side of the seat, towards Pollovic.
Pollovic: It's all right, Naoyu. You're sensing selyn fields, that's all. But we'll get you there in time.
Pollovic is not going to ~~ panic ~~ . He is absolutely not going to ~~ panic ~~ . He is irretrievably shackled to an incipient berserker, but there is no reason to ~~ panic!!! ~~
Naoyu reaches for Pollovic's hands, grabbing them much harder than he realizes he is.
Pollovic: Take it easy, Naoyu. Take it easy.
Naoyu can't help noticing that Pollovic did something to make himself light up much brighter.
Naoyu: I'm scared. I'm scared. No... you're scared.
Pollovic sees no point in denying it, under the circumstances.
Naoyu realizes that Pollovic is the one who's scared, which somehow feels right and satisfying in a way even Pametta didn't.
Pollovic: I am. But it'll be okay. We'll be there in just a few minutes. Plenty of time.
Naoyu is starting to calm down slightly, only because he knows even if they don't get there, it will still be all right; he can get what he needs from Pollovic if all else fails.
Naoyu is using roughly the same panic-logic as someone who fell out of a boat and tries to grab onto someone still in the boat to save themselves, even if it would pull them under in the process.
Pollovic: Easy. Take it easy.
Pollovic's ~~ panic ~~ is beginning to recede a little. After all, he's chained to Naoyu, so there's nothing he can do. What will happen, will happen. There's still a chance they can get there in time.
Rogers has been urging the horses to every possible bit of speed, despite the darkness. He understands how urgent it is.
Pametta is now perched on the seat beside him, urging him on.
Rogers winces as the carriage jounces over a particularly fierce set of ruts. He flicks the whip at the horses, urging yet more haste.
Naoyu grabs onto Pollovic again, with a bruising grip, as the two of them are bumped around inside the carriage.
Pollovic struggles unsuccessfully to calm himself. He knows this wild ride is giving them the best possible chance of getting to the Sime Center in time.
Rogers bites off an oath as the carriage hits a deep pothole and crashes to a halt, almost pitching him forward onto the horses' rumps.
Pametta screams and throws an arm around the brake, and the other around the coachman.
Pollovic crashes against the front wall of the compartment, with Naoyu on top of him.
Naoyu is still grasping onto Pollovic, tossed around helplessly by the wild ambient emotions as much as by the accident.
Rogers: Sorry, Ma'am.
Rogers normally keeps a more civil tongue around a lady.
Pametta blushes as she catches her balance and lets Rogers go.
Pametta: I'm all right. What happened?
Rogers jumps down to check on the condition of the carriage.
Rogers: Can you check on the passengers, ma'am?
Rogers wouldn't admit, if pressed, to being a coward. Just to being more concerned with the state of the vehicle.
Naoyu is being led by an instinct he doesn't entirely understand, and with Pollovic so close to him, starts grasping around for his arms again.
Pametta jumps down and opens the coach door.
Pametta: Are you all right?
Pollovic: Ouch. Um, I think there'll be a few bruises. Nothing broken.
Pollovic wouldn't have thought a skinny twelve-year-old could be so heavy. Or grab so hard.
Pollovic: Naoyu? Naoyu, it's okay. You can let go now.
Pametta: I don't think the coach is going to go... something's broken underneath.
Naoyu tries to get his head clear again. He realizes he's grasping Pollovic's arms somewhere around the wrist, trying to grab at them with tentacles that aren't there yet.
Pametta: Yes, dear?
Naoyu sits up, breathing heavily, and notices the richer, brighter light from earlier is where he can get to it again.
Pollovic: Ask Rogers if he knows how close we are to the Sime Center.
Pametta: All right.
Pametta ducks back out the door, closing it firmly in Naoyu's face.
Pametta: Where are we, Rogers?
Rogers: Not too far from the place, Ma'am. Quarter mile, maybe less. But the axle's broken.
Rogers scratches his head.
Pametta demonstrates that a sheltered upbringing and strict training in etiquette are not enough to prevent one from acquiring an interesting vocabulary.
Pametta heaves the door open again.
Pametta: We're about a quarter mile away, Brenn. And we're running out of time.
Pollovic briefly considers taking one of the horses, then thinks of the logistics of getting the two of them, shackled together, onto a horse and riding bareback.
Pollovic: Tell Rogers to run for the Sime Center. Get them to send help.
Naoyu is breathing heavily, trying to count his breaths, grasping vaguely at the shreds of his resolve to "not be like that girl." It seemed easy, even unthinkable, an hour ago; now he seems to be losing the battle.
Pametta: All right.
Pametta figures it will at least get one more Gen out of range.
Pollovic: Naoyu, do you suppose you could get up off my rib cage? We need to get back up.
Naoyu: Uh. Ohh... sorry...
Pametta sends Rogers on his way, then ~~ dithers ~~
Naoyu crawls off of Pollovic, letting Pametta's field distract him again.
Pametta starts looking around for a solution.
Naoyu is starting to think that not only will he end up just like that girl, he'll end up shot dead like her, too.
Pollovic gets back up and onto the seat.
Pollovic: Naoyu, do you think we could manage a three-legged race for a quarter mile or so?
Pametta sees an approaching horseman, and runs out in the road to flag him down.
Pametta: Stop! We need help, here!
Ressell reins his horse to a stop. He wonders what a lady is doing on the road in the middle of the night like this.
Pametta: Please, we've got to get to the Sime Center. Quickly.
Ressell immediately draws back, looking skeptical.
Ressell: What do you want to go there for?
Pametta: Please, there's no time to explain. We've got to borrow your horse.
Pametta pulls open the door.
Ressell: You seem to be a nice-looking, well-bred lady. You have no business getting mixed up with snakes.
Pametta: Brenn, come quickly.
Ressell: Tell me first what's going on.
Pametta: There's no time!
Ressell: The doctor is down the road about half a mile from here. Go see him if you're sick or hurt.
Pollovic turns to Naoyu, but finds the youngster has passed out again.
Pametta: The doctor can't help this.
Ressell looks even more skeptical. He tries to peer into the dark interior of the coach, but can't see very well by the dim lights.
Ressell: Is that a...
Pollovic: We have to get him to a channel. Quickly, so nobody gets hurt.
Ressell: Stay back. I can take care of it.
Ressell touches his hand to the gun holstered in his belt.
Pollovic: No. If we were going to do that, we could have done it at home. We just need to get to the Sime Center.
Ressell stares at Pollovic as though he's mad.
Ressell: Why didn't you?
Pametta: He didn't, because it wasn't necessary. And it won't be necessary, unless you keep delaying us.
Ressell: Look, give it to me. If it's unconscious, I know just how to do it. One bullet.
Pollovic: I want this boy to live. But we're running out of time. We have to get there now. That's no solution.
Pollovic feels Naoyu stirring alongside him.
Pollovic: Come on, man. We don't have a lot of time!
Pametta takes matters into her own hand and grasps the horse's reins, startling it into half-rearing and dumping Ressell unceremoniously on the ground.
Naoyu wakes up again, confused by the mass of whirling emotions surrounding him, then grunts as sharp pain wracks his body.
Ressell: The hell you doing, woman?! I'm going to ride my horse back into town and tell the asylum there's a madwoman on the loose!
Ressell staggers to his feet, in definite pain from the abrupt landing, and frowns at the noise from inside the coach.
Pollovic tenses as Naoyu sits up and struggles to rise.
Ressell: Get back! It's starting to wake up!
Pollovic: Easy. Take it easy.
Pollovic is a fraction of a second away from pure ~~ panic ~~ .
Ressell grabs his gun out of his belt holster, cocking it and raising it slowly.
Ressell: Move back. I'm going to shoot it.
Pollovic feels time slow. It's as if his entire life has led up to this one moment, and he has all the time in the world to choose.
Ressell is also ~~ scared ~~ right now, as any sane man would be, but won't let that get in the way of his doing his duty.
Pollovic slowly moves so that he is between Naoyu and the gun. Behind him, he feels hands scrabbling for his wrists.
Ressell: You're a fool. If you don't stand back, it'll kill you anyway. You can at least prevent your own death.
Pametta sees that Ressell isn't backing down, and decides to take matters into her own hands.
Naoyu cries out in pain again. He feels briefly, momentarily, like he did earlier when he couldn't stop throwing up, but this time it feels like his entire body is tensing and convulsing trying to force something out.
Pametta's hands are occupied with the horse, so she takes a firm grip on the reins and gooses the horse in the flank, making it jump sideways and slam into Ressell.
Ressell falls to the ground, groaning in pain.
Pametta: Here, Brenn. Get on the horse, now.
Naoyu feels the contraction subside, and falls back against the seat again, breathing heavily.
Pametta: I'll take care of our benefactor here. Go. Now.
Pollovic: Come on, Naoyu. We have to move together.
Pametta holds the horse for her husband to mount.
Pollovic sets the chained foot in the stirrup and pulls himself up, then reaches down to give the boy a hand up.
Pametta boosts from the rear.
Naoyu holds onto Pollovic's hand and heaves himself up. The entire world seems to be made of shifting masses of lights now: Pametta's brilliance, Pollovic's dimmer glow, a strange but neutral light from the horse that sets it apart from the ground around it.
Pollovic gives Naoyu a split second to seat himself, then kicks the horse to a gallop.
Pollovic: Hang on, Naoyu.
Pametta looks after her husband.
Pametta: Be safe, Brenn. I don't want to be a widow before I've had a chance to become a proper wife.