On the Run: Episode 20

Nick is relaxing in the suite he shares with Kat.

Nick's channel is taking some time off in the main Sime Center's library to catch up on the latest in pediatrics. He had to accept Kat's insistence that the librarian posed no danger to her, and he was overdue to run some errands. He's finished them, however, and returned to their suite to do the crossword in the morning paper before Kat returns.

Jaklin signals at the door of Nick and Kat's suite, and when there's no response, taps with the knocker.

Nick sets down the paper and answers the door, ~~ concerned ~~ that it's a messenger from Kat.

Nick: Yes?

Jaklin: Nick? It's Jaklin ambrov Imil.

Nick blinks.

Nick's nager doesn't become uncomfortable, but he's definitely a bit ~~ off balance ~~.

Nick: Come in, please. Hajene Katsura isn't in just now, but she should be back in a bit.

Nick is not only off balance, he's out of uniform, and looking charmingly rumpled.

Jaklin enters. She isn't concerned that Nick is out of uniform -- not only is he not on duty, but she's in need, and notices his beautiful nager more than his disheveled appearance.

Jaklin: Sorry to disturb you, but I wanted to ask you a few questions about your recent experience with that kidnapper.

Nick: Ah. Please sit down. Would you like some tea?

Jaklin: Tea would be nice. Thank you.

Nick grabs a clean mug off the counter and fills it from the pot of Violet Voluptuousness he had steeping in preparation for Kat's return.

Nick: Here you are.

Jaklin: Thanks.

Jaklin sniffs the brew and tastes it. A new Naros blend, perhaps. She doesn't recognize it, and isn't eager to find out what they've named it.

Nick sits down in a chair across from her and picks up his own mug.

Nick: So, what do you want to know about that bounty hunter?

Nick is somewhat less reserved than at their previous meeting, and a little of the nageric ~~ warmth ~~ he usually saves for his assigned channel is leaking through.

Jaklin: Something disturbing came up at the trial. Perhaps Hajene Kat told you. The man let slip that he'd served transfer, presumably to a renSime.

Jaklin is enjoying the warmth of the tea, despite the warm day, as well as Nick's nageric warmth.

Jaklin: Judge Drred is quite concerned that there may be a Distect connection to the matter, although the man denies any Distect involvement. She says he zlins sincere, but he's so ignorant about such matters that he may not understand what he's involved with.

Nick: A Distect connection?

Jaklin: An untrained Gen gives transfer to a renSime and doesn't seem to regard it as anything remarkable -- one wonders what could be going on out there, and whether it could have undesirable consequences.

Nick considers.

Nick: Well, you have to understand that it's been a long, long time since I was out there. Things could have changed a lot.

Jaklin nods.

Nick: There are a lot of really isolated areas where people live more or less by their own rules. There are also no official rules at all governing transfer. With the sheer numbers of berserkers going through changeover, some of whom actually manage to survive a couple of months before being hunted down... there's a lot more untrained Gens being attacked than on our side of the border.

Jaklin: Yes, of course.

Jaklin doesn't look very happy about it.

Nick: By sheer chance, occasionally a Gen survives, even without training.

Jaklin: A potential Donor, then.

Nick: By their standards, just an ordinary person who got lucky.

Jaklin: Or a good prospect for the Distect.

Nick: Possibly. Gen Territory makes a good hiding place for an... unauthorized pair.

Jaklin: How would other Gens react to this? Would they be sympathetic?

Nick: It's not illegal to give an unauthorized transfer, there. And if the Sime is out of sight, or under control... that's not illegal, either. Dangerous, yes, if there's a misunderstanding, but not illegal.

Jaklin: Can you see a group of such pairs persisting, without anyone outside knowing about it? Would other Gens be willing to protect their privacy?

Nick: In isolated areas, all one would have to do is get the cooperation of the local authorities -- the big landowner, the local sheriff, or whoever has the power.

Jaklin sighs.

Nick: If the other Gens see the Sime as a person... say, a local child... it wouldn't necessarily occur to anybody to tell a higher authority. A group would be more of a problem, but not insurmountable.

Jaklin: We've seen efforts to make the Distect lifestyle work. With a channel to train the Gens, and match pairs... it can work, under good conditions, and with the risk of renSimes losing control with untrained Gens.

Nick: I know.

Jaklin runs some tentacles through her hair.

Jaklin: Without the training, the matching, and a good supply of spare trained Gens, or the willingness to use channel's transfer when necessary... there will be kills. There may be many kills.

Nick: There already are many kills. Especially in the places where the Tecton might as well not exist, for all the help it can offer.

Jaklin: But would a Gen community tolerate that? On an ongoing basis? Would they tolerate juncts?

Nick: They wouldn't distinguish between a semi-junct and a disjunct, although kills probably wouldn't be tolerated. On the other hand, it might be hard to distinguish such kills from the background rate.

Jaklin: Do you think this mining town might harbor a Distect faction, formal or otherwise? Perhaps you should tell me about the place, and what happened when you worked there.

Nick: It was an isolated place. A couple hundred miners and their families, all land and buildings owned by the mine. Wages were low, and the prices in the company store were high. A nice way to get the workers to run up debt, which would prevent them from leaving without the owner's permission. A rather effective, if unofficial, form of slavery.

Jaklin nods. She knows something of out-T socioeconomics.

Nick: I worked there for several months. Conditions were harsh, and then the epidemic hit. A lot of children were affected. Their parents went farther into debt for better food and blankets.

Nick: Finally, things got so bad that the miners decided to go on strike. The owner retaliated by closing the company store. The nearest other source of supplies was over 20 miles away. Something had to be done.

Jaklin: I should hope so.

Jaklin is appalled at the callous disregard for the wellbeing of Gens and children.

Nick: So, I engaged the mine owner's scapegrace younger brother in a game of what he thought was chance.

Nick zlins slightly ~~ smug ~~.

Nick: It took me about an hour to win his wagon and team. Then we took up a collection and I went and fetched a load of the most essential supplies from the nearest town. I was able to make three trips before the company enforcers caught up with me.

Nick shrugs.

Nick: Looking back, I was lucky. I got warned in time to run. And I didn't stop running until I'd crossed the border at Bender Cove.

Jaklin: So you hadn't committed a crime. It's a private vendetta.

Nick: Well, I did cheat at cards.

Jaklin smiles.

Jaklin: You should reconsider that tactic. It got you in trouble in Cottonwood City, too, although I understand that there you were playing to lose.

Nick: The rest of the charges had some validity as well -- the miners did stay on strike for another week before the supplies I brought were used up.

Jaklin: I suppose appearing in the out-T newspapers was what got the mine owner after you again.

Nick: Actually, I think it was the song.

Jaklin: A song?

Nick looks ~~ charmingly embarrassed ~~.

Nick: Yes. Apparently, someone wrote a poem about the incident. A very bad poem. And then they set it to a rather unforgettable tune. It's become rather a favorite with the union organizers, I'm afraid.

Jaklin: And you're featured in it?

Nick: Oh, yes.

Nick hums a moment, then begins in Genlan:

Listen, my brothers, and you will see
How the bravery of Nick Debree
Confounded the bosses and set us free.
He showed us the path to victory.

Nick: It goes downhill from there.

Jaklin: Oh, my. I suppose you're safe now, though. I don't think there are any Genlan words that rhyme with "ambrov Sat'htine".

Nick chuckles.

Nick: I don't think your average out-Territory miner could even pronounce it.

Jaklin smiles.

Jaklin: There is that. When you were there, did it seem to you that there might be renSimes in the area, living a Distect lifestyle? I realize you weren't a Donor then, much less a Companion, but with your innate sympathy for Simes... might you have picked up on anything someone said, or... well, I suppose you wouldn't have been close enough to a Sime in need to feel anything.

Nick considers for a long moment.

Nick: I can't say, for sure. I never suspected such a thing, but I was a lot younger then. I wasn't looking for it, either. Nor would I have cared, particularly.

Jaklin nods.

Jaklin: Well, I suppose if this bounty hunter was involved with direct transfers, or was approached by the Distect, he wouldn't be eager to tell us about it. And it needn't have occurred near the mining town at all.

Nick: I'm sorry I can't be of more help. I can tell you that it is possible for a Sime and Gen pair to travel and even live out-Territory.

Nick is speaking from personal experience.

Jaklin laughs.

Jaklin: As you've proved with the Heir to Sat'htine.

Nick: Among others, yes. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Distect has discovered the same thing. I never ran across them, but it's a big Territory with plenty of places to hide.

Jaklin: I suppose we'll have to look into this matter, to set Judge Drred's mind at ease, at least.

Nick looks slightly ~~ alarmed ~~.

Jaklin: Yes?

Nick: I don't think it would be wise for me to go back and poke around. Not there, at any rate.

Jaklin: I wasn't thinking about sending you -- I'd never get your Sectuib to agree, for one thing.

Jaklin laughs.

Jaklin: I'm not sure which of us owes the other a favor now for sending you to him!

Nick smiles.

Nick: It was fortunate. I have to admit, if I hadn't landed at Sat'htine, I'd have resigned long since.

Jaklin: I'm glad. I'd hate for your talents to go to waste, especially if you'd decided to go out-T again and they'd arrested you. A nager like yours might still shine in prison, but there'd be no channels to benefit from it.

Nick: Ah, channels. They only value us for one thing.

Nick gives a melodramatic sigh, then winks, letting his nager ~~ sparkle ~~ with mirth.

Jaklin: Surely not only one thing.

Jaklin enjoys the sparkle, so unusual but so delightful to zlin. Kat is one lucky channel.

Jaklin: Thank you, Nick. I'd better get going -- I've a lot to do.

Jaklin finishes her tea and stands. She would like to admonish Nick to stay out of the kind of trouble he seems to have such a talent for getting into, but not only is it no longer her place to do so, she doesn't expect it would do any good.

Nick: Good luck.

Jaklin: And to you, too, naztehr.

Nick shows the World Controller to the door.

Jaklin departs, surprised at how her mood sinks as she moves farther from Nick's nager. She didn't think he was supporting her, but perhaps that's just what the nager of a very high rated Natural Donor is like. She isn't paranoid enough to think he was consciously manipulating her.

Nick picks up his crossword again, wondering if the seven-letter word for "criminal organization" with an "s" in the third spot should be "Distect".

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