Gritta and Del slog their way through the bush toward the campsite where they plan to spend the night.
Gritta: Not much farther now. Tired?
Del: Not really.
Del has been uncharacteristically silent on the walk back, given that there are no strangers now to be shy with.
Spartacus zlins his mother and brother on their way down the trail, and picks up on the gloomy mood. Presumably things haven't gone so well. He decides, given the absence of any other nagers, to walk towards them.
Gritta pats Del's shoulder.
Gritta: Things will work out. It'll be exciting, and maybe hard, moving to Simeland, but in the end it's all for the best.
Del: I just don't want to be split up from the two of you. You're all I've got. I'd rather be shot than that.
Del can't really picture his mother shooting him, any more than he can imagine his brother attacking him.
Gritta: If we move to Simeland, we can all stay together. Otherwise, it's sending Spart there forever, or sending you to board somewhere until you're Sime or Gen. And if you're Sime, they won't let you come home.
Gritta: Either way, I lose one of you. Better to give up the farm and all stay together.
Del dodges a bush to move a little closer to his mother.
Del: I can't really imagine what that'll be like, living somewhere else.
Gritta: It'll be different, but we'll be together.
Spartacus meets up with the rest of the family.
Spartacus: Hey, Maw. Hey there, Del. You're gettin' tired, want me to tote ya?
Gritta: Spart, what are you doing here?
Spartacus: Relax, nobody around for a mile.
Spartacus is exaggerating ridiculously, of course, but there really isn't any way anyone could sneak up on him.
Gritta: Well, let's get over to the campsite. We've got some talking to do.
Gritta leads the way and then sits on a rock near the ring of stones for the fire.
Del plops down on the ground, uncharacteristically closer to his mother than his brother.
Gritta: Spart, we're all going to move to Simeland. It's the only way we can stay together, and not risk something terrible happening.
Spartacus: What? Wait. Why? What did that channel tell you?
Gritta: That there's no way of telling if Del will turn Sime until a day or two before it happens.
Del fidgets ~~ uncomfortably ~~, then blurts his question.
Del: Spart, you wouldn't really hurt me if I needed Mum to feed me, would you?
Spartacus: It's not something I'd like much to think about, frankly. For sure I'd try not to. But... Did he figure out if it's even possible?
Gritta: Maybe, if the timing is perfect, I could feed the both of you. But more likely, Del would turn Sime too soon after I'd fed you or too close to when I'd feed you again. Somebody would die, most likely me or Del.
Spartacus: Yeah, that's rotten. But -- give up the farm? Just like that? Walk away?
Gritta: Maybe we can sell it someday. But we won't be poor in Simeland. The channel says I can get good work there, enough to look after the two of you.
Gritta wants to avoid the issue of transfer, and where Spart will be getting it, having heeded Seruffin's warning about dependencies.
Spartacus facepalms, thinking, Oh great, my mother's going to take care of me for the rest of my life.
Gritta: The channel said he could find a place for Del to board until he turns Sime or Gen, near where there's a channel. But he'd have to stay there for years, and if he turned Sime, he couldn't come home.
Del: Maybe it won't happen. Maybe I'll be Gen, and Spart will have two people to feed him. ~~ desperation ~~
Spartacus waves that idea down.
Spartacus: I'm sure that's not a problem over there. But if we give up the farm, we'd have nothing except your money.
Gritta: We can find another bit of land in Simeland, and the two of you could get some paid work, too.
Spartacus: I reckon.
Gritta: Two out of three, we're fine as long as I live. One of three, disaster unless we go to Simeland.
Del: As long as I live, Mum. I'd feed Spart if you couldn't any more.
Del is ~~ hoping ~~ for a reciprocal declaration from his brother, that he'd let Mum feed Del if he needed it.
Spartacus: Unless you turn Sime, Del. And then we'd both be on the run for the border, or... outlaws. And maybe leaving something ugly behind us. Real ugly. No, we should go before things get bad.
Gritta: But look, the both of you. Someday you might want to live with a woman. No chance of that here. And we can't keep it secret forever that you're Sime, Spart. If the wrong people find out, they might murder us all.
Del is too young to imagine why he might want to live with some strange woman instead of with his family.
Del: We've hidden it this long.
Gritta: We've been careful, and lucky. But luck doesn't last.
Spartacus: Yeah, I agree, Maw. We gotta get out while the gettin's good.
Gritta: This channel has promised to help us move to Nivet. He'll be around for another month or so. I think we should leave when he does. Sort out what we'll take with us, what we'll try to sell.
Spartacus: I think we ought to get out now, in the next two days. What happens if....
Gritta: The channel said I could feed another grown Sime in a few more days, so if Del turns, we'll be all right. He could feed you the next time, and by the time Del needs to be fed again, we'd be in Simeland, where the government makes sure that all the Simes are fed. Besides, Del won't be of the dangerous age for another three months, nearly.
Spartacus: I betcha some kids turn Sime before that, anyhow. But the first part, hmmmmm.
Spartacus tries to work out the logistics.
Spartacus: Yeah, I guess so. We can wait a bit.
Gritta: Anyhow, the channel would like to meet you. I told him maybe next week when we bring in some more produce. He can come out to where we meet Juniper.
Spartacus: What if Juniper sees him?
Gritta: We'll wait until Juniper is gone. Then I'll go into town and get the channel.
Spartacus: Okay, fair 'nuff.
Spartacus: Are you sure it wouldn't be better to set it up sooner, like maybe tomorrow or the next day? This not knowing makes me nervous, no matter what the guy told you.
Gritta: Not knowing what, Spart? It'll take a while for the channel to set things up for us anyway. And somebody's got to get home to look after the animals.
Gritta: Well, let me rest a bit, and then we can get back to town before dawn, get the channel out to meet you.
Spartacus: Oh, sure, Maw.
Spartacus tends to forget that Gens need their rest when he's fired up about something
Gritta: C'mon, Del. Let's get a bite to eat and roll up in our blankets. Spart will get us up in time.
Del: Okay, Mum.
Del stands and reaches for his pack.
Spartacus pulls a battered old book of poetry from his hip pocket and resumes memorizing it. Not that he loves poetry so much, but that he's got to have something to do with all the extra night hours. Right after he changed over, he thought he'd go nuts with nothing to keep his mind occupied.
Spartacus's Sime time sense watches the hours tick... tick... tick... by. Finally he stuffs the book back in the pocket.
Spartacus: Maw, Del, it's time.
Del opens one bleary eye. Morning, chickens... um, no. Not today.
Gritta: Okay, I'm up.
Gritta soon has the three of them trudging back the miles to where they usually meet Juniper.
Gritta: I'll go fetch the man. You two wait here. Take a nap, Del.
Del: 'M awake now.
Del nevertheless unrolls his blanket and drifts off for a while.
Spartacus returns to his book and waits the 37 minutes it will take his mother to go and return -- plus whatever time it takes to persuade the channel, of course.
Gerrhonot follows Seruffin and the Gen woman into the bush, doing his best to stay alert and protect his channel from nageric surprises. ~~ not entirely awake ~~
Seruffin is, meanwhile, keeping a zlin out for wildlife and other potential dangers to the Gens. His nager, of course, is easily zlinnable by a renSime for quite a distance.
Gritta has explained to Seruffin that Spart seems willing, even eager, to move to Nivet, somewhat to her surprise.
Seruffin wonders just how much detail Gritta has passed on to the young Sime. He lets Gritta lead the way, although he can already zlin the Sime ahead.
Spartacus picks up, not so much on the channel's nager, but the unfamiliar pattern in which his Donor is for the first time entwined. He drops the book on the ground and moves to ~~ full alert ~~, though he remains duoconscious.
Del snaps awake at his brother's movement. He gets up and starts to fold his blanket, then thinks better of it and spreads the threadbare cloth out on the ground for the guests to sit on.
Gritta: Almost there.
Gritta remembers Seruffin has Sime senses, too.
Gritta: But I suppose you know where they are.
Seruffin: Yes, I can zlin them.
Gritta emerges into the clearing.
Gritta: This is my son Spartacus. Spart, the channel's name is Hajene Seruffin. And this is his helper Sosu Gerrhonot.
Seruffin: I'm pleased to meet you, Spartacus.
Spartacus blinks his eyes and grits his teeth, trying to not zlin what he zlins.
Spartacus: Umm, pleased to meet you, sir. But...
Spartacus finds himself ~~ angry ~~ and ~~ frightened ~~.
Seruffin has, out of habit, taken control of the ambient.
Spartacus: Could you not do that, whatever the hell that is?!!
Spartacus waves his arms about ~~ agitatedly ~~.
Gritta is ~~ concerned ~~ at her son's reaction.
Spartacus droops with ~~ guilt ~~ at the outbreak.
Spartacus: Sorry, Maw.
Seruffin: Do what?
Seruffin ~~ calms ~~ the ambient.
Spartacus begins to ~~ calm ~~ under Seruffin's direct influence, but is still ~~ confused ~~.
Spartacus: Whatever you're doing to -- to -- I don't know what to call it. The way things are, not the way they look.
Seruffin lets up on influencing Spartacus directly, settling for shielding his Donor.
Seruffin: Is that better?
Spartacus: Umm, yeah, thanks. Sir.
Gerrhonot thinks about it. Spartacus has never met another Sime, much less a channel, so all this manipulation of the ambient must be very strange for him. And he's well out of First Year.
Spartacus: I mean, my Maw there, it felt like you made her into something else. Somebody else.
Del has faded into the background at this exchange, trying to be seen and not heard.
Gritta looks at Seruffin. ~~ puzzled ~~
Spartacus: Just standing there, you made me feel like I was standing on my head, or something. Everything was all wrong.
Spartacus is nonetheless ~~ impressed ~~ with Seruffin's sec, of course.
Seruffin: I'm a channel. I can control how I zlin, to a greater extent than you can.
Seruffin: Zlin. Sense the fields created by moving selyn.
Spartacus scratches his head with his tentacles without thinking about it.
Spartacus: I can see I got plenty to learn here. But whatever, it wasn't just you, it was everybody. I mean, Maw's usually shinin' like a light, but this time she might as well a-been a candle at high noon.
Gritta wonders how much effect the book of poetry is having on Spart.
Seruffin: I can... put my selyn field in between you and the others. It can be useful, if there is a Gen around whose nager is irritating or dangerous to you.
Spartacus: Huh. Maybe so. All's I know is, having Maw around and bright is a mighty big comfort to me, most of the time.
Seruffin: A Gen field is usually comforting to be around. It lets us stop wondering where our monthly selyn is coming from.
Spartacus: Yeah, that's sense. But she's a lot better -- brighter? -- than that Juniper, for sure.
Seruffin: A Gen's field gets stronger when he or she donates selyn regularly. That effect is stronger if the Gen gives transfer to a channel. Gerrhonot, for instance, has a much stronger nager than your mother.
Spartacus: Yeah, I guess he does, though you're -- shadowing it now, right?
Seruffin stops obscuring Gerrhonot's field.
Spartacus: Wow. ~~ awe ~~
Gerrhonot smiles, but is careful not to let Spart engage his field.
Spartacus: He's a Gen and a half, and no foolin'.
Spartacus picks up on what Seruffin said earlier and does a ~~ double take ~~.
Spartacus: Does that mean I'm a channel? I mean, you said, gives transfer to a channel, and that's why Maw's brighter'n Juniper?
Seruffin zlins Spartacus closely.
Seruffin: No, Spartacus, you're not a channel. And your mother's field will get stronger if she goes in-Territory and learns to serve channels instead of you.
Spartacus's upsurge of ~~ outrage ~~ overcomes, at least momentarily, Seruffin's imposed calm.
Spartacus: What? My Maw feeds me, not no Simelanders!
Gritta presses her lips together, ~~ worried ~~ about her son's reaction.
Seruffin: If you go in-Territory, you will get your selyn from a channel like me.
Spartacus shakes his head rapidly.
Spartacus: No. No. ~~ determination ~~ fear ~~
Gritta's ~~ distress ~~ increases.
Spartacus zlins his mother's feelings, which only make his own worse.
Spartacus: Maw!! Don't let them!
Gritta: We've got to, Spart. You said so yourself.
Gritta can now see how Spart might attack his brother rather than let him take transfer from her.
Spartacus sits down on Del's blanket abruptly, and to his own ~~ horror ~~, begins to cry.
Seruffin lets his nager drift to zlin like a Gen.
Spartacus: I -- I -- I didn't know -- it would mean -- this.
Seruffin flavors it like Gritta.
Del: Maybe we shouldn't go, Mum. Maybe we should just hope I'm Gen.
Seruffin: You can adapt to taking selyn from somebody else. It will take effort, but you can do it.
Gritta wants to hold and comfort her Sime son, but the channel told her not to interfere. It seems cruel, though.
Del has never before been this ~~ scared ~~ of the alternative.
Spartacus looks up at Seruffin ~~ hopefully ~~, but then realizes it's just another trick.
Gritta realizes that she should have taken her sons to Simeland as soon as possible after Spart changed over. ~~ guilt ~~
Seruffin: It's not healthy to get too dependent on one Donor, Spartacus. There will be some day when your mother is sick, or injured, or has to give selyn to somebody else. You have to be able to take transfer from somebody else.
Spartacus: Well, maybe I could give Maw up now and again. But always? Never no more? ~~ despair ~~
Gritta's ~~ guilt ~~ increases, as well as her ~~ compassion ~~ for her son's misery.
Seruffin: You don't have to give her up in all ways. She'll still be your mother, part of your family.
Spartacus sighs deeply.
Del: Two chances out of three, Mum. Two chances out of three.
Del realizes no one is listening to him.
Gritta: One out of three one of us dies, Del. If we stay together and don't go to Simeland.
Del: ~~ despair ~~
Spartacus: I ain't too sure life will be -- well, worth it. Like this.
Spartacus ~~ echoes the despair and adds his own ~~.
Del: Just have them take me, then. ~~ false bravado ~~
Gritta ~~ steels her will ~~ and projects ~~ calm ~~ and ~~ hope ~~, without having the words to describe what she's doing.
Gritta: I'm not giving you up, Del. You're staying with me and your brother.
Spartacus feels the iron enter into his soul, as his book calls it.
Gritta: We may be in for some hard times, but we'll prevail.
Seruffin ~~ assists ~~ Gritta's hopeful projection.
Spartacus: Awright. We do it. No matter what we hafta lose, we keep each other. ~~ determination ~~ courage ~~
Gritta: We can do it. We'll help each other. ~~ determination ~~ ~~ solidarity ~~ ~~ assurance ~~
Del has never before felt ~~ guilty ~~ just for existing.
Spartacus notices and runs his hand through his brother's hair.
Spartacus: Hey, don't take it so hard. Good times don't last forever, you know that.
Seruffin: If that's your choice, I can write some letters and send them off on tomorrow's train.
Del: No. No.
Spartacus: Wuddayamean, "no no", little brother? That's my line.
Spartacus chuckles hoarsely.
Gritta: It'll be an adventure, Del. Like in a book. And we'll all be safe. We won't have to worry about whether you'll be Sime or Gen. ~~ encouraging ~~
Spartacus: Yeah. And in the end, I couldn't spend my whole life with just you, now could I? Over there, we don't have to live in hiding.
Del: I don't want to be the reason... never mind.
Del shrugs. The grownups will decide things, as they usually do.
Spartacus: You aren't. Really. Not in the long run.
Gritta: You're not the whole reason. Spart is, because he's a Sime. I am, because I'm not a channel.
Del: And I am. Just for existing.
Gritta: We couldn't go on as we have even if not for you. Somebody would find out about Spart and we'd all be in danger. And it's not much of a life for Spart, having to hide all the time.
Del: Guess we'll do what we have to, then.
Spartacus: Anyhow, we've got plenty of time to talk about it. Let's go back home. Even Simes need to sleep sometime.
Spartacus looks at Seruffin, who appears to be wide awake even at this hour.
Gritta: It's been a long day for all of us. Thank the channel and his helper, boys, and we'll go.
Spartacus: Thank you both, very much.
Del: Thank you, sir. Sirs.
Spartacus finds this hard to say, but he manages.
Gerrhonot smiles and nods politely.
Seruffin: You're very welcome. Come, Gerrhonot. We'd better be getting back.