by Marjorie Robbins & Kerry Lindeman-Schaefer

"House of Zeor offers respect to the House of Chanel, Sectuib Aran"

"Chanel returns Zeor's respect and welcomes you to Cedarcity." Aran smiled warmly as he extended his hands to the Gen. "I didn't expect to see you this soon, Chaynek. Our transfer is still two weeks away." As the Donor touched his fingers and tentacles, Aran zlinned a slight uneasiness, quickly squelched, in his nager. "Something wrong?"

"No, no," replied Chaynek lightly as he glanced around the small overcrowded room. "Surely a Controller rates a bigger office?"

Aran chuckled. "Chaynek, Chaynek, will you never change? I like my office as it is."

It truly was a small room, boasting only one window which was dressed with blue gingham curtains, lopsidedly tied back to reveal the midsized farm town of Cedarcity, the largest town in the Iway District, Upper Midwest Territory. The walls were covered with needlepoint pictures, mostly farm scenes, giving the room a warm homey air. A massive wooden bookcase graced one wall.

"Now, answer my question," the channel insisted gently.

Chaynek grinned. "You might tell me what you're doing out here on the edge of nowhere first, Sectuib -- er -- Controller."

Aran nodded understandingly. "It does take some getting used to. Controller isn't a job I would have volunteered for." His dark blue eyes grew even darker, as he ran a restless hand through his reddish-brown hair. "But when Chanel donated the hospital complex to the Tecton, District Controller Sunlan asked me to stay here and take over as Controller for the Cedarcity area." He shrugged. "It more or less made official the work Chanel's been doing in this area for years."

"But why here? There's nothing but cows, corn and a lot of wide open spaces. Besides, it's hot," complained the Gen as he wiped his sweaty brow.

Aran grinned. "A grateful patient donated the land. As to the weather, don't fuss. It could be worse."

"There's nothing worse than this heat."

"You'd better hope it stays warm. A sudden cool spell could mean trouble. This is thunderstorm and tornado country."

Chaynek groaned. "Then why in shen didn't you pick a civilized spot for your Center?"

Aran chuckled. "I can see I'm going to have to work on your attitude, my friend. Country life is kind of nice once you get used to it. Now," his voice deliberately grew stern, "tell me why you're here this early. Is Muryin up to something?"

Chaynek's eyes widened in simulated innocence. "Why, Sectuib Aran, are you accusing Zeor of chicanery?"

"Zeor, no. You and the Sectuib, possibly. What nasty do you have for me this time?"

Chaynek sighed. "Truly, if I didn't know better, I'd swear you were reading my mind. I'm a few days early because Muryin wanted me to bring Frevven Alymeer to you." Pulling a sheaf of papers from his jacket pocket, he tossed it across the desk. "I left him in your reception area. He's a disjunct channel who's insisting on being trained."

Aran's brows went up. "But the Tecton doesn't go for that much anymore. After all, it's been almost 12 years since Unity. We're just not that desperate for channels. Hasn't anyone explained it to him?"

"Of course we have. But he won't listen to anyone, not even Muryin. He's obsessed with the idea of being a working channel."

"Um." Aran was lost in reading the report from Zeor. "Raised out-Territory. Killed his sister in changeover. Managed to reach a Center and then killed an inexperienced Third Order Donor who tried to help him." Aran raised a skeptical brow. "Sent to Zeor for disjunction and just barely succeeded, after initially displaying a hostile and uncooperative attitude." Aran shook his head, raising puzzled eyes to the Gen.

"Surely he must realize how impossible this is. With this record the Tecton will never train him. They make fewer and fewer exceptions every year, and then only for disjuncts with a good record and a much better attitude." He tapped the report with one tentacle. "But not for someone like this."

Settling back in his seat, he met Chaynek's eyes. "Why did you bring him here? There are orientation centers closer to Zeor."

"Yeah," grunted the Gen, "but Sectuib Farris feels it's going to take a lot of counseling to convince him to give up his obsessive ideas. She wanted you to work with him."

Aran shook his head. "I'm not the only psychologist in the Tecton."

"Perhaps not, but Chanel's specialty is psychology and you are Sectuib in Chanel."

The Sime rose, chuckling, as he carelessly tossed the papers into his immediate problem basket, which was already full to overflowing. "That sounds like a Zeor con job, and I'm just egotistical enough to accept the challenge. All right, I'll do what I can. But Muryin owes me one. Come on. I'm anxious to meet this `problem' of yours." He paused a moment, then smiled warmly as Kareen ambrov Chanel, First Companion in Chanel and specialist in Adolescent Psychology, entered the room. She was a short stocky woman, with close-cropped black hair, speckled with the gray of middle-age. Founder and onetime leader of Chanel as Sosectu, she was now content to serve her House and the Tecton as Companion and psychologist.

"Hi, Mother," Aran said softly.

"Aran, I just met the most interesting young man. Frevven Alymeer is -- Oh, hi, Chaynek. Welcome to Cedarcity."

"Thank you, Kareen. It's good to see you again." Chaynek half rose as Kareen perched on the arm of her son's overstuffed office chair. "We were just discussing Frevven."

Kareen's eyes darkened as she regarded the Companion from Zeor. "I'm sure. He had a few things to say about you, too. Aran, you're going to get permission to train him, aren't you?"

Aran shook his head. "I can't, Mother. The Tecton has pretty strict rules on that."

"Policies, not rules," Kareen snapped. She gave her son a stern look. "Aran, you know what Chanel's policy is towards people who are being treated unfairly."

"To redress the wrong, if we can. But nobody is wronging Frevven."

"Ha! Denying him the chance to train as a channel? Denying him the opportunity to be what he is?"

The Sectuib took a deep breath, trying to still his slowly rising temper. As the Tecton rules gradually grew stricter, this type of argument with House members was becoming all too common. "I honor my pledge to Chanel to the best of my ability."

"If you did, you would try to get permission to train Frevven," urged Kareen.

"Mother, it isn't quite that simple, and you know it."

"You've already made up your mind and you haven't even met the young man." Taking a deep breath, Kareen added softly, "Look, Aran, I know as well as you do why the Tecton has that stupid policy."

"It's not a stupid policy, Mother." Aran gave her a stern look. "As a general rule, training disjuncts is a very dangerous practice."

"So suppose Frevven is the exception to the rule? Do you want to ruin his whole life out of blind loyalty to the Tecton?"

Chaynek had kept silent throughout the discussion, but his nager reflected his increasing impatience. "Have you considered that training Frevven might also ruin his whole life?" he finally asked. "Zeor has done a lot of studies on disjunct channels. They can't handle the pressure, Kareen. And that's not all. Even when they serve transfer, they--"

"Oh shen, Chaynek, not long ago a large number of the Tecton's channels were disjunct," Kareen interrupted, throwing the other Gen an annoyed glance.

"Exactly, but Zeor has always felt--"

"All right, all right, enough you two. The ambient is giving me a headache," Aran said, hoping to put a stop to the argument. "Mother, I know all about your famous intuition--"

"Then why not listen to me?" Kareen's eyes flashed.

"Because Frevven's record doesn't inspire me with confidence." He raised a silencing tentacle as she started to protest. "There is no point in discussing this further. We're not considering Frevven for training, and that is that. But I'm not ignoring my pledge to Chanel. Our virtue is service. We're going to serve Frevven by teaching him how to make a new life for himself."

"Right," said Chaynek. "Truly, Kareen, training Frevven would not be in his best interests."

She shrugged her shoulders in defeat. "I still think you're both wrong."

Aran rose, gently dislodging his mother from her perch. "I haven't even met the young man. Let's go see him." He grinned at her. "Maybe the record is wrong, or misleading. Perhaps, I'll change my mind."

Chaynek shook his head. "No, it isn't. But zlin for yourself."

Threading the maze of channels' offices known as the Executive Suite, they proceeded towards the small lounge at the end of the corridor. The Executive Suite, changeover evaluation and juvenile psych wards comprised the second floor of the converted hotel that served as both Sime Center and hospital.

Almost immediately Aran sensed something wrong. He went duoconscious to zlin. Gen terror and a Sime in killmode assaulted the channel's senses.

Aran ran off down the corridor under augmentation, bursting into the lounge in time to see two young Simes struggling. One was in killmode, obviously straining to reach the terrified Gen woman cowering in the corner. That must be Frevven, judging by how easily he was provoked into attacking. Before Aran could intervene, Frevven shoved the other youngster violently against the wall and sprang at the Gen.

So much for Mom's intuition that this disjunct might be different, Aran thought bitterly, as he swiftly intercepted and served transfer.

As the transfer ended, Jorn Frigg, a channel who worked on the changeover ward, entered the room on the run. "Controller, what--why did you serve Trazee?"

Confused, Aran glanced from Jorn to the young man before him and back again. "What are you talking about? This is--"

"I'm Trazee Seward," the youngster said proudly. "I'm a channel now." And in a fairly typical post changeover reaction, he sat down to play with his tentacles.

Oh, shen! thought Aran. Now we have a real mess. Aloud he said, "Then where is Frevven Alymeer?"

"Over here, Aran." Chaynek had just arrived and was kneeling by the other Sime, while Kareen had gone to comfort the frightened Gen woman.

Aran immediately joined Chaynek and was surprised to notice that the youngster was wearing a pair of wire-framed glasses, now slightly askew. He gently pushed them back into place before making lateral contact. A moment later he raised his head to look at Chaynek, who had enveloped him in a supportive field.

"He has a concussion," said Aran softly as he projected Genness to arouse the youngster. "And some swelling of the brain, but he should . . ." He paused to study his patient.

Frevven moaned as he opened greenish-gold eyes to focus weakly on the channel's face. He raised one hand and re-adjusted his glasses on his nose with a tentacle, then squinted at Aran. "Who -- who are you?"

Aran smiled reassuringly. "Hajene Aran, Sectuib in Chanel and local Controller. Lie still a moment. You've suffered a concussion."

"Yes, Sectuib Aran," whispered the youngster.

"You're going to be just fine, though you will require some further treatment. You may have some pain and dizziness for a few days, but we can control that with medication."

Frevven nodded, apparently not much interested in his condition. "The Gen, is she all right?" he asked.

Aran nodded, "Yes, she was just frightened. You lie still for a few minutes. Chaynek, watch him."

Rising, Aran crossed the room to where Trazee was sitting on the floor complacently studying his tentacles.

Kneeling beside him, Aran said, "I'm Hajene Aran, Controller here. Congratulations on becoming a channel."

The youngster grinned. "Do I get to start my training now?"

Aran shook his head. "Not for a while. Taking transfer from me instead of a Donor could cause you problems."

Trazee pouted. "But I want . . ."

Aran held up a hand. "This isn't an issue for argument, Trazee. I'm sorry for what happened, but it can't be helped now. You'll undergo evaluation and if everything checks out okay, then I'll admit you to the First Year channel's school. How did this happen anyway?" He glanced over at Jorn.

The other channel squirmed uneasily. "I'm sorry, Hajene. We were admitting Trazee when he just ran. He was fixed on his mother, but I thought he . . ."

Rising, Aran said sternly, "So you let her stay here?"

"I told her to go downstairs."

"Please don't be mad," interjected the Gen woman softly. "I disobeyed him. I wanted to be near Trazee."

"I understand, Mrs. Seward," Aran said. He fixed Jorn with a stern look, biting back the rebuke that was on the tip of his tongue. "Hajene Frigg, I want to see you in my office in fifteen minutes. You've got some explaining to do."

"Yes, Hajene," replied the other channel. "Shall I take Trazee to his room first?"

Aran shook his head. "No, leave him here. I'm moving him to the evaluation ward."

"Yes, Hajene." Jorn left the room, taking Mrs. Seward with him.

Aran knelt by Frevven's side. "How are you feeling now, young man?"

"Much better, Hajene. I mean, Controller." Frevven wriggled restlessly. "Can I get up now? Chaynek keeps stopping me." He glared resentfully at the Gen, who had a restraining hand on his shoulder.

Aran frowned in puzzlement as he zlinned Frevven's definite hostility towards Chaynek. "He's just doing his job. But, yes, I think you're recovered enough to get up. And, please, call me Hajene or Aran. I'm not too fond of Controller."

"Yes, Hajene." Pushing away Aran's helping hands, Frevven stood up.

"Now," Aran said softly, "tell me what you thought you were doing. Intercepting any Sime in killmode can be dangerous."

Frevven sighed, absently smoothing back his somewhat unruly light brown hair. "I'm sorry, Hajene. I just grabbed Trazee and tried to hold him until help arrived, but I couldn't keep him away from the Gen."

"I wouldn't have --! I mean, I couldn't help --" Trazee's voice trailed off. He glared at the other boy, fierce anger and shame burning in his nager.

Frevven flinched. "Hajene, I just wanted to defend the Gen. That's what a channel's supposed to do, isn't it?"

Aran bit his lip as he studied the two youngsters a moment, searching for just the right words. Finally, he said softly, "Frevven, that was a brave thing you just did. But if Trazee had turned on you and attacked, you could have gotten killed."

Frevven shrugged, "I'm not sure that matters."

Aran frowned. "Would you care to explain that remark?"

Frevven shook his head. "That would be pointless, Hajene. Someone like you wouldn't understand."

Defiant words, but Aran read a desperate plea for understanding in the younger channel's nager, a plea that Frevven was trying unsuccessfully to hide.

Suddenly doubting everything in Frevven's record, Aran found himself momentarily looking at the world through Frevven's eyes. "I might surprise you. But this isn't the time or place to discuss it." He gestured towards his mother. "Sosu Kareen will take you to your room in the Orientation Center, and I'll be by after I finish rounds. Then we'll talk."

"I don't want orientation," muttered Frevven rebelliously. "I want training."

Aran sighed. "Nevertheless, you will go with her, and do as she says. We'll talk later."

Frevven's nager flared brief defiance, but then he lowered his eyes. "Yes, Hajene," he replied stiffly.

"Come, boys." Kareen herded the youngsters from the room while Aran sank wearily into a seat.

Chaynek sat down beside him, focusing a relaxing field.

Aran smiled, "I hope you're ready for some serious work."

"Of course. That's what the Tecton pays me for."

"Good. We have rounds to make. But first I have a question for you."

"What?" asked the Gen warily.

"Why does Frevven have so much hostility towards you? I've never known you to be a bad guy."

"You're not a rebellious youngster, either." Chaynek's characteristic smile faded and Aran caught a quick flicker of what might have been unease in the Gen's nager. "Let's just say that his disjunction was a bit of a struggle. I had to teach him a few lessons the hard way. Sure, he resents me, but he'll get over it."

Aran was silent for a moment. "He may very well resent me too, by the time this is over. Changing his mind isn't going to be easy."

"Truly, Aran, if anyone can do it, it's you." Chaynek's nager was filled with encouragement.

"I hope you're right. Well, let's get started. I still have to see Jorn, then rounds could very well take all afternoon."

Chaynek frowned. "That bad?"

Aran regarded him somberly. "It gets worse every year. Sometimes I wonder if the Tecton knows where it's going. Or what it's doing." And with that cryptic remark, Aran led the way from the room before the Gen could reply.

It was late in the day by the time rounds were completed. Sending Chaynek off to unpack, Aran went across the street to the large red brick building on the campus of the Center's First Year School that served the entire Iway District as Orientation and Counseling Center for new Simes from out-Territory.

He paused to exchange a few words with the renSimes on duty at the main desk in the spacious lobby before proceeding to the third floor. When he got to Frevven's room, he found the young channel sitting by the window, a very melancholy expression on his face.

"Hi, Frevven. May I come in?"

The youngster regarded him with a decided lack of enthusiasm. "If you wish, Hajene."

"How are you feeling?" Aran asked carefully as he sat down on the bed.

"Just fine," Frevven said sarcastically, staring at the floor. "How should I feel? I'm a channel, but I can't get the training I require."

"I meant physically." Aran extended his laterals to zlin. "You did get hurt this afternoon."

"It was worth it," Frevven muttered. "I prevented a kill. If I get the chance, I'll do it again."

"You were lucky that time, my friend," Aran said grimly. "Now, please come on over here and lie down. You may think that you're feeling fine, but you do require more therapy."

Silently, Frevven obeyed him, holding out his arms for Aran to make lateral contact.

Aran zlinned him carefully, finding that while there was still some trauma, the damage from the blow to the head was reversing itself nicely. He also noted that it was Frevven's turnover day, the midpoint in his need cycle. Releasing the youngster, Aran began projecting as a Gen, to encourage Frevven's healing processes.

Immediately, Frevven frowned. "How do you do that?" he demanded, and began fumblingly to copy Aran's shift.

"You've read some manuals, I guess?"

"I found them lying around," Frevven answered, but his defenses were melting under Aran's field therapy, and his eyes drooped shut.

"Hardly, but we'll overlook that for the moment. Now stop trying to copy me. You're upsetting the field balances."

Frevven opened his eyes, grinning sheepishly. "Sorry, Hajene. I was just curious."

More than curious! "I'll make you a deal. Relax so I can finish this job and I'll explain the theory later."

For a moment Aran thought Frevven was going to refuse, then the boy sighed. "All right. But you promise you'll explain it later?"

"You have my word."

Closing his eyes, Frevven yielded.

There was silence for a few minutes, then, retracting his tentacles, Aran smiled. "Take it easy for a few days and there'll be no permanent damage."

Frevven sat up. "Then can we talk about the possibility of training me?" he asked hopefully.

Aran sighed. "How many times do we have to say no before you hear us, Frevven? What you want is impossible."

Stubbornly Frevven shook his head. "It's not impossible. I'm a channel. I should be trained to function as one."

Folding his hands in his lap, Aran stared thoughtfully at the young man. "I can understand and sympathize with your desire to serve as a channel. It's a beautiful thing. But I don't think you've considered carefully. You just can't do it."

Frevven's eyes grew hard. "I know what you're going to say, Controller. I've heard it before."

"Oh? What's that?"

"You're going to remind me that I'm disjunct. That disjuncts can't be anti-kill conditioned." Frevven met Aran's eyes, challenge bright in his eager. "You think I'd kill somebody someday."

"Well, statistics show --"

"Shen the statistics! I'm never going to kill again. I'll die first."

"I'm sure you believe that." Aran decided to take another tack. "Look, you're six months into First Year."

"So what? Where in the manual does it say that a channel can't learn after First Year?" The youngster fidgeted. He pushed his glasses more tightly against the bridge of his nose with the tip of a dorsal tentacle.

Aran shook his head. "You're not thinking clearly. Six months is not enough time for the training, nor the learning. Your secondary system will lose its flexibility."

"I can do it." Frevven was doggedly determined. "If I work real hard, I know I can do it. Maybe I won't be the best channel in the world. Maybe I'll never be more than Third Order. But I know I can do it, regardless of what Sectuib Farris says."

For the first time Aran zlinned a flicker of uncertainty in Frevven's field. "And what did she have to say?"

"Well --" Frevven looked away. "She says disjunct channels shouldn't serve nonjunct renSimes. Disjuncts do something not quite right when they serve transfer and that's not good for the nonjuncts."

Aran almost laughed. "Zeor's been saying that for years, but they haven't been able to prove it convincingly."

"You don't believe it?"

"Well, I wouldn't go that far. She could be right. But I don't think it matters at this point in history. Someday, maybe when there are no disjuncts or semi-juncts and the world is more civilized than it is now, it might be worth worrying about. But not now."

The relief suffusing Frevven's nager was almost palpable. "Hajene Aran, I know I could be a good channel. I could learn to do it right." He looked at Aran hopefully.

Maybe he could, thought the older channel. Maybe Frevven was the exception to the rule. Maybe it was wrong not to train him.

Aran cut off that train of thought abruptly. The Tecton didn't run on "maybes". "Frevven, I'm sorry but what you want is impossible."

The young Sime turned away, leaving the bed to go stand by the window, his nager tightly closed against the Controller.

Aran rose. Going around the foot of the bed, he put his hand gently on Frevven's shoulder, attempting to link nagerically with the other channel.

Frevven stiffened. "You're not going to change my mind, Hajene. I'm going to train as a channel. I have to."

"Why? Why is it so important to you?" Aran let understanding and compassion flavor his field.

"You wouldn't understand." Frevven pulled away, his nager radiating total rejection of the support Aran was offering. "I see no point in discussing it. All I want you to do is get me into a training program."

"Believe me, I wish I could. But it's not allowed."

Frevven made no reply, but his nager flared a poignant despair that Aran found hard to ignore.

Taking a deep breath, Aran said firmly, "Look, what you want and even what I want has little or no meaning to the Tecton. What I can offer you is a chance to make a new life for yourself."

"Doing what?"

"Whatever you want and are suited for. We have some excellent job training and placement programs. We'll test you to see what you're capable of, then --"

"I'm capable of being a channel."

Aran shook his head, "Give up on that idea. It's just not an option."

"I don't want job counseling," Frevven snapped. "I want to be a working channel."

"Very well. Obviously you're in no mood to listen to reason." Aran's field slowly returned to neutrality. "We'll discuss this again another time." Receiving no reply from the youngster, he left the room, pausing at the front desk to write some medical orders for Frevven's care.

Aran then went to the library and picked up a book on the history of Zeor which he had been trying to read for several months. Settling himself on the window seat of the big bay window overlooking the Center's lavish gardens, Aran wearily leaned his head against the windowframe and closed his eyes. The book lay unopened on his lap. Unbidden, his thoughts returned to the unhappy young channel in the Orientation Center.

How am I going to reach that kid? Shen, but he's stubborn.

Aran shook his head. "Frevven, Frevven," he murmured aloud. "It's madness to consider training you as a channel, but how do I get you to see that, and make you understand what a mistake it would be?" With a deep sigh, Aran opened the book and tried unsuccessfully to lose himself in the history of Householding Zeor.

During the next week Aran worked hard to change Frevven's mind. He gave him books to read on the history of the Tecton, arranged for him to talk to instructors from the First Year School who had had first hand experiences working with disjuncts, and spent many hours himself counseling him, but to no avail.

The kid was proving to be very uncooperative. And while he did grudgingly submit to the standard vocational and psychological tests, he refused to participate in any group activities or listen to any counseling from the Orientation Center staff.

One night Aran was again in the library, still trying to read his history of Zeor. Sensing the approach of a familiar field, he put down the book and smiled as the library door opened. "Mother, what are you doing up this late?"

Kareen smiled wanly, as she quickly crossed the room to settle down on the floor at her son's feet. "I could ask you the same question."

"I'm never in bed this early."

"Especially a week from transfer," murmured Kareen, focusing her field warmly. "Are you all right? Where's Chaynek?"

"I'm fine and I sent him to bed. I don't require constant attendance." He frowned at her serene knowing smile. "You're awfully smug for a Gen. Have you completed your evaluation of Trazee yet?"

"Of course," she replied loftily. "Trazee checks out just fine, Sectuib No sychological problems that I can detect. Except --"

"A rather arrogant attitude?" guessed the Sime.

Kareen frowned. "Most unbecoming for a channel. And it could get him in a lot of trouble."

"Do you recommend we admit him to the First Year School?"

"Yes," Kareen replied hesitantly, her brow furrowed in thought. "Except for his attitude, there's no reason to deny him the training. I've put a recommendation in his chart that he be given psychological counseling while in training." She looked up and met his eyes. "But his attitude is causing problems. Especially with Frevven Alymeer."

Aran sighed. "Frevven has enough problems. What's Trazee been doing?"

"He taunts Frevven about being disjunct and thus no good."

"That statement isn't even true. Can't you separate them?"

Kareen sighed. "I've tried. But Trazee has made a lot of friends at the Orientation Center, so I have no reason to keep him away. And Frevven makes things difficult. He refuses to attend his counseling sessions. He mopes around the Center, or wanders the campus of the First Year School watching the students. Some of the instructors have complained."

"How's he taking Trazee's harassment?"

"He's pretending it doesn't affect him, but I can tell he's deeply hurt."

"And refusing your help," finished Aran softly. "Want me to talk to him?"

Kareen shook her head. "No, right now it won't do much good. The only thing Frevven wants to hear you won't tell him."

"I can't tell him," amended Aran.

"You could if you wanted to."

"Don't you think I want to?" Aran said softly. "It would not be wise. And you know it."

Kareen was silent a moment. "What about your oath to Chanel? You're not serving Frevven by being stubborn like this."

"And you're not being logical. If Frevven were trained, there's an excellent chance he'd lose control and kill somebody again."

Kareen frowned. "Are you sure that's your real reason for being so stubborn? Not just that District Controller Sunlan is a stickler for the rules and would most likely lower the boom on you?"

"Both reasons are valid, Mom. As Controller, I can do a lot of good for a lot of people."

"True. But in the long run, which is more important? Your position as Controller or your oath to Chanel?"

Aran was silent a moment. Technically, his mother was correct. Chanel always put the rights of individuals above all other considerations. But in this case -- "My oath, of course. I'm just not convinced that letting Frevven train as a channel is in his best interests. As I said, I don't think he can handle it."

"Well, I think he can." Kareen's nager was doing a slow burn. "At least consider it. Controller Sunlan will be here in a couple of weeks for his annual inspection tour. You could ask for a hearing on Frevven's case."

Aran was silent a moment. He knew there was only one way to get Kareen to drop the matter. "Very well, Mother. I'll write to him in the morning and ask for permission to convene a board. We'll let the other controllers rule on this. But don't expect Sunlan to agree. You know how he feels about the rules."

"Then you'll find another way. We will train Frevven," she replied confidently.

The next morning, Aran sent for Trazee.

Breezing into the Controller's office, Trazee took a seat without waiting for permission. "What do you want, Aran?"

"You will address me as Hajene," Aran said sharply.

"Aw, Hajene, don't be so fussy. It's a beautiful day, and all's right with the world." He stretched luxuriously.

"I didn't send for you to get a weather report." Aran carefully kept his tone neutral. "When you are with me, or any other channel for that matter, you will behave appropriately. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, Hajene," Trazee muttered unwillingly.

"Good. Now, I sent for you to tell you that I've decided to admit you to the First Year School. However, I want to warn you that your training will not be easy. You're going to work as you've never worked before."

Trazee shrugged. "It'll be no problem for me. I know I can do it."

Aran took a deep breath, trying not to react to the youth's smug arrogance. "Trazee, in these few minutes you've given every indication that you may not make it through at all."

Aran zlinned a sudden surge of uncertain fear and almost subliminal agreement with his assessment. Immediately, the youth suppressed this, putting on his facade of boastful self-assurance.

He doesn't believe in himself. It's nothing but a show. Aran quickly made a note on Trazee's chart.

"That's an unfair statement, Hajene." Trazee met Aran's eyes defiantly. "I'll be a very good channel. Now take Frevven, for instance. Someone like that will never make a decent channel."

"We're talking about you, not Frevven." Aran paused a moment. "I might point out that the only difference between you and Frevven is opportunity and circumstance. Had your mother not brought you here, you most likely would have killed. Frevven had no such good fortune. As far as that goes, you were lucky he was here. Frevven kept you from killing."

"Oh, sure. I wouldn't have killed my own mother. You're making a big deal out of nothing."

Three weeks, four at most, and he'll have learned just how big a deal it really was. Aran made another note on the boy's chart and handed over his enrollment papers. "Pack your things and get over to the school. It's right across the street. Dean Johnstone is waiting for you."

"Yes, Hajene." Trazee's eyes flashed rebelliously, but he grudgingly obeyed Aran.

It was with a sense of relief that Aran turned to the mountain of paperwork before him. Somehow, today it didn't seem such an onerous chore.

A week later, it was time for Frevven's transfer. Aran met him in the transfer room reserved for their use.

He found the younger channel sitting on the transfer couch staring at the floor, his nager filled with deep depression. Frevven didn't look up as Aran entered the room.

"What's wrong?" Taking a seat beside the younger channel, Aran attempted to put a friendly arm around him, but Frevven pulled away.

"You know the answer to that, Hajene."

"I suppose I do." Aran considered for a moment. In the mood Frevven was in, any attempt at transfer was probably doomed to failure. Then he hit upon an idea that might raise the youngster's intil. "Tell you what. It's about time I kept

the promise I made to you the day you arrived. Would you like me to demonstrate the functional mode?"

Frevven's eyes widened as he looked at Aran for the first time. "You remembered!"

"I may be slow at times, but yes, I remembered. Should have gotten to it sooner, actually. Do you still want the demonstration?"

Frevven nodded eagerly. "Yes, Hajene."

"All right." Rising, Aran pulled down a wall chart. "This is a diagram of a channel's systems, primary in red, and secondary in blue." He smiled to himself as Frevven rose and came to stand beside him.

"This is the vriamic node, right?" The youngster pointed to a purple spot in the center of the chest that seemed to overlay both systems.

"Right. It connects the primary and secondary systems, and controls selyn flow."

Frevven's eyes were bright with excited interest. "How do you control it?"

"It's partly by reflex, and partly under the control of the conscious mind. I'll demonstrate in a minute. Now, you'll notice that though both systems circulate throughout the body, they are separate and distinct."

Frevven nodded. "But I've read that you can move selyn from one to the other. How?"

Aran suppressed a chuckle. The youngster wanted more than just a simple demonstration. "By what's called an internal shunt. Through the vriamic node. But that's a subject for another lesson." He pulled down a second chart. "But before we proceed I want you to take a look at this. It's a diagram of a junct's system."

Frevven frowned. "It's got more pathways."

"Right. And with more places for the selyn to go, it moves faster during transfer. Most kills are made on speed alone."

"Yeah. Sectuib Farris told me." He looked away from the chart, uneasily adjusting his glasses on his nose. "My junct pathways were sealed during disjunction."

"Right. Any questions?"

Frevven had several that Aran answered indulgently. Finally he said, "You're probably the most inquisitive youngster I've ever taught. But I truly don't have a lot of time. Go and sit down and I'll show you how to do a functional."

"Yes, Hajene." Obediently, Frevven sat beside Aran on the transfer couch and watched the older channel.

"All right. Zlin me." Aran extended his laterals as he slid into functional mode. "Secondary system active, projecting as a Gen --" He grinned as the other channel attempted to mimic him. "Frevven, you can't --"

Without warning, Frevven sprang at him, laterals outstretched and reaching eagerly for his own. Reacting smoothly to the unexpected attack, Aran let the younger channel find his transfer grip, prepared to serve his need.

Frevven drew savagely. Caught off balance, Aran juggled the fields, taking firm control of the flow, but by that time, Frevven had caught the feel of vriamic control by going with Aran.

By the time Aran realized what Frevven was up to, selyn was flowing through the youth's vriamic node from his primary to his secondary system. In his state of need, he shouldn't have been able to do that -- but he was doing it.

Knowing an abort could be dangerous, even fatal, for the other channel, Aran let Frevven draw for a few moments before he attempted to end the transfer.

But Frevven resisted, desperately trying to prolong it. Then suddenly he lost vriamic control and selyn pulsed chaotically between his primary and secondary systems. Surprised at the unexpected pain, Frevven aborted and went into convulsions.

Overriding his own reaction to the abort, Aran linked with Frevven nagerically. At last he captured Frevven's wildly flailing arms and reestablished lateral contact, fighting the systemic chaos. A few minutes later and Frevven was still, staring up at Aran, eyes wide with fright, but nager defiant.

"You'll be all right now," Aran said reassuringly. Taking a blanket from the storage compartment at the end of the couch, he covered the youngster, then went to a cabinet in the corner and poured a hefty dose of fosebine. Sitting down by Frevven, he said, "Here, drink this. It'll make you feel better."

As Frevven reluctantly complied, Aran zlinned unobtrusively. The youngster would require a proper transfer in a couple of days, but wasn't in hard need. Aran decided to wait, give the youngster's system a chance to stabilize.

"Don't you realize you could have gotten hurt?"

"I -- I just had to. It seemed the only way." Frevven turned his head.

Suddenly Aran understood. "You think this'll force me into training you, don't you?"

Frevven just nodded.

"Well, it isn't true."

"But --" Frevven's face went even paler than it was. "But I figured you'd have to train me."


"Well, there's entran and all sorts of other nasty things that happen to a channel who doesn't use his secondary system, once he's begun."

"Very true. But the Tecton is under no obligation to protect you from the consequences of an ill-advised action."

Frevven's eyes went wide. "But -- but I could die."

"Um-hum." Actually, Aran was fairly sure that he could get Frevven back into secondary dormancy, though it would be difficult for both him and the other channel. But he wanted to gauge Frevven's response to having possibly risked his life. Did it really mean that much to him?

"Well, maybe I don't care," the youngster retorted. "Maybe Trazee's right and I'm nothing but a worthless disjunct."

"Leave Trazee out of this," snapped Aran with more vehemence than he intended. "Half the time that young man doesn't know what he's talking about. Being a disjunct doesn't make you worthless."

Frevven plucked at the hem of the blanket with two tentacles. Then he pushed his eyeglasses up against the bridge of his nose and glanced up at the older channel. "It's keeping me from being a working channel. That's pretty worthless."

"Tell me something. What's so important about working as a channel that you should be willing to risk your life to do it?"

Frevven hesitated, staring at the Controller suspiciously. "Does it matter?"

"It obviously does to you. Explain it to me. I really want to know."

"I want to do something important with my life. If I can stop other Simes from killing, stand between them and the kill --" Frevven met Aran's eyes. "It's what I was born to do."

Aran shook his head. "That's not all of it, is it?"

The youngster turned away.

Overwhelmed with compassion, Aran began to gently rub Frevven's back and shoulders. "Talk to me, Frevven. Maybe I can help."

The youngster shook his head. "Nothing you can say will change things, Hajene. There's only one way . . ."

Aran waited. In a few minutes Frevven whispered, "I've killed two people; my sister, and a Companion who only wanted to help. I'm a murderer. Don't you understand?"

Aran bit his lip. Never having killed anyone himself, he had never fully understood the depths of despair and anguish suffered by those Simes who had killed, though he had dealt with many of them over the years. He knew that the only salvageable ones were the ones who suffered that remorse most deeply. Apparently he'd misjudged Frevven's intensity of suffering.

He hesitated a moment, not wanting to express this to Frevven. "Is that why you're so determined to be a working channel?"

"It's the only way I can atone --" Turning to face the older Sime, Frevven raised anguished eyes to Aran's. "If you're never going to let me be what I am, I may as well have died in disjunction. What do you think kept me going all that time, Hajene? The chance to be a waiter in a shiltpron parlor?"

"I understand." Aran's nager filled unbidden with aching sympathy. "You feel there is nothing else in life for you. Shen." He fell silent as he attempted to regain control of his feelings. Upcoming transfer or no, Frevven's plight was causing him deep pain.

Frevven was watching him closely. "Please, Hajene, find a way to let me train."

Aran reluctantly shook his head. "Frevven, that's not an option for either one of us. There are a lot of things I can do to help you. Counseling, job placement and so on. All the resources of this Center are available to you. But until you decide you're ready to start making a new life for yourself . . ."

"You're not listening, Controller! I said I don't want to live unless I can be a working channel." Frevven turned away, ignoring the understanding and compassion in Aran's field.

"Very well. If that's the way you want it," Aran said regretfully. He rose to his feet. "I've got to go, but I'll send Kareen to sit with you for a while."

Going to the door, he signaled the attendant and told him what he wanted. He was about to leave the room when Frevven turned to face him, a desperate plea in his nager if not his face.

"Hajene Aran, what's going to happen to me now?"

"I don't know, Frevven. But I do know that you didn't improve your chances by what you did today. The Tecton doesn't like people who break the rules."

Sitting back down, he put his hand on the youngster's shoulder. "Please believe me when I say I wish I could give you what you want."

"Then why don't you?" asked Frevven defiantly.

"Because the Tecton won't allow it. Besides, it wouldn't be in your best interests. You've got to accept that what you want just isn't possible."

Frevven turned away.

"All right, we'll drop it for now. I've got to go for my transfer." Aran rose as his mother entered the room. "Kareen will sit with you. And we can talk more later, if you wish."

Receiving no answer, he gave Kareen brief instructions, then left, heading for the room just down the hall where Chaynek was waiting.

"Aran, what's wrong?" Immediately Chaynek enveloped the channel in a comforting field as he led him to the transfer couch.

"I'm beginning to think that I should train him no matter what," Aran muttered softly as he allowed himself to be settled, his Donor by his side.

"What in shen are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about Frevven." Succinctly the channel explained what had just happened. "Damnit, Chaynek, the kid is willing to die for what he wants."

"That doesn't mean that training him is in his best interests." Chaynek's nager became guarded.

"Who are you to say?" the channel challenged.

"Sectuib Aran, please. You're overdue for your transfer. Let me --" Chaynek reached for Aran's hands, but the channel pulled away.

"Don't patronize me. You weren't there. You don't know how much he's hurting."

When the Gen didn't answer, Aran began to zlin. "All right, something's on your mind. What?"

"I'm worried about Frevven, just as you are. But this isn't the time to discuss it. Let me serve you first." Again reaching for Aran's arms, Chaynek gently massaged the lateral sheaths, encouraging the tentacles to emerge.

"Very well then, get on with it. But afterwards you're talking." Knowing that Chaynek could be very determined in the pursuit of his duty, Aran surrendered, letting his tentacles lightly caress the Gen's wrists.

A faint smile crossed Chaynek's lips. "Truly, Aran, you're so tense you wouldn't get any real satisfaction from our transfer. Let me work a little. Just a little."

Suddenly extending his handling tentacles, Aran immobilized the Gen's fingers. "I said don't be patronizing. It's your evasiveness that's making me tense. What are you hiding anyway? Don't you agree with me?"

Chaynek relaxed completely, though the channel could see he was making a tremendous effort, giving Aran an amused smile. "I said I'd explain after our transfer. This isn't the best time to argue. Now, are you going to be stubborn and deny me a perfect Chanel transfer?"

Aran was silent a moment, exploring the emotion in the Gen's nager, reading only friendship and an intense desire to serve. Whatever Chaynek was hiding, he was doing a very good job of it. Releasing the Gen, Aran made a conscious effort to relax. "Better than at Zeor?" He attempted a teasing tone.

"Well, different anyway. Chanel has a certain style, a flair. I can't explain what it is, but it's there."

"Um." Aran closed his eyes as the Gen went to work, giving himself up to the comfort of Chaynek's ministrations.

After a few minutes Aran said softly, "Now, Chaynek. This is as relaxed as I'm going to get."

Obediently Chaynek held out his arms for Aran to find his transfer grip. The channel knew his Donor wasn't completely satisfied with his condition, but he didn't care. The Chanel transfer would have to wait until their next encounter. He was too concerned about Frevven to worry much about the quality of his own transfer.

As Chaynek made lip contact, Aran began his draw, swift, controlled, totally Tecton in nature. The transfer left him full of selyn, satisfied, and yet not satisfied.

Chaynek frowned as the channel retracted his tentacles. "Was that necessary Sectuib Aran?"

Aran shrugged, "If you're going to play games --" His eyes widened as the Gen dropped the tight control he'd been maintaining on his nager. Chaynek was as worried and concerned as he was.

"I guess I owe you an apology," the channel said softly.

"No, I was holding out on you. I didn't want to spoil your transfer completely." Chaynek took a deep breath. "We received a letter from Controller Sunlan this morning."

"He turned down my request for a hearing, didn't he?" As the Gen nodded, Aran slammed his fist against the side of the couch. "Shidoni! What do I do now? Chaynek, not training Frevven is pure shen. Do you know why he wants to be a channel so badly?"

"I have a pretty good idea. So does Muryin. But you can't do it."

"Oh Chaynek, don't tell me what to do." Against his will, Aran began to cry, for Frevven, and for his own helplessness to do anything to ease the younger channel's pain.

"I'm sorry," replied the Gen softly as he handed Aran a clean handkerchief. "I wasn't trying to give you advice. But Aran, you are reacting emotionally now. Not a good way to make such an important decision."

"And you're being logical, I suppose?" Aran blew his nose.

Chaynek squirmed. "I admit I'm having trouble."

"You really care for Frevven, don't you?"

The Gen nodded. "Yes, I do. That's what makes it so hard. I'd like to agree with you. But the studies Zeor has done--" He forced a grin. "That argument isn't going to impress you, is it?"

The channel ignored the question. "He should be trained." Aran's voice held a conviction that made the Gen tense.

"No, he shouldn't. He --" Chaynek stared at the channel a minute. "You're not seriously considering --"

"Why not?" snapped Aran. "Maybe Kareen's right. Maybe not training him is unnecessarily cruel."

"Sectuib Aran, I hate to argue with you when you're post . . ." He hesitated a moment as the channel laughed mirthlessly.

"Post, shen. That's the worst transfer we've ever had."

"Nevertheless, you won't be doing Frevven any favors if you train him."

Rising, Aran stared at the Gen a moment. "That's a matter of opinion. If I thought he could handle the pressure I'd honor my oath to Chanel, train him, and to hell with the Tecton. But -- oh, never mind. I'm not thinking clearly. You're probably right. Frevven couldn't handle it." He left the room before Chaynek could reply and returned to his office.

Taking his seat behind his desk, Aran glumly contemplated the stack of casefiles before him, all requiring a Controller's decision.

Oh, Frevven, I wish I could give you what you want. I hope you never know how much it hurts, to deny you what should be yours by right. Aloud he said, "But I have no choice. The Tecton stands against the kill. I can't do anything to jeopardize that." He sighed deeply as he chose a file from the big pile. "If only I could be as sure as you are that you'll never kill again."

Shaking his head, he attempted, not entirely successfully, to banish Frevven from his thoughts in order to better concentrate on his many other problems.

The next few days passed uncomfortably for everyone. Though Frevven stabilized physically, he was very miserable and still refused to cooperate with Aran or the Orientation Center staff. Aran himself began to slide into depression in response to Frevven's misery. Being naturally empathic, he found himself more and more involved emotionally with the young channel in his care, and more and more inclined to do what his heart dictated. But that would not be a wise move and he knew it. So he hung on grimly, continuing to try to change Frevven's mind, though he knew that too was likely to be a losing battle.

One day he was outside the Center's garden area when the wind began to pick up. Uh-oh! Feels like a tornado coming.

Running back to the center under augmentation, Aran shouted crisp orders to the gardeners to get inside. As he did so, the sky turned a very violent shade of sickly green. Turbulent clouds scooted overhead, twisting and turning in savage fury. In the distance he could see several funnel clouds, grey twisted tentacles of destruction reaching down from the sky to devastate the ground below.

He was met in the hall by his secretary. "Hajene, the emergency bell's ringing! Funnel clouds have been sighted!"

"I know. I saw them. Is everyone safely inside?"

Before she could reply, there was a tremendous crash. The old building began to vibrate alarmingly, as the glass broke in several windows, sending shards in every direction.

"Get down!" yelled Aran, taking a dive for the floor himself.

The roaring and shaking seemed to go on forever, then suddenly everything was quiet.

Aran rose and zlinned the people in the area. Miraculously, there were no injuries. "All right, everybody. Let's get to work."

Aran issued orders for his channels to make a quick check on all the patients and visitors currently in the Center, then assemble in the reception area with emergency gear.

Running across the street with his channels, Aran paused a moment to assess the situation.

Though he had seen the aftermath of tornadoes before, he was shocked at the extent of the destruction. Every building on the First Year School Campus had suffered some damage, with some completely blown away. Only the Orientation Center and the Sime Center had survived unscathed. Debris was everywhere. The street was torn up in places, as if an avenging angel had passed by, destroying everything in its wake. The pain and fear in the ambient was overwhelming.

For the next several hours Aran was busy directing rescue operations and healing the injured. Fortunately, there were only a few deaths.

As things were winding down, Chaynek reported that Frevven wasn't in his room.

"Then where in shen is he?" snapped a suddenly worried channel.

"Probably he's out helping the rescue teams, but I'm not sure where."

Aran considered a moment. "He shouldn't be exposed to all this, in his condition. But I doubt if he'd come back for anyone else. I'll look for him myself."

But it was longer than he expected before Aran could turn control of the rescue effort over to another channel and search for Frevven.

After questioning several people, he discovered that Frevven had last been seen heading off in the direction of faculty row at the far end of the campus.

Going in that direction himself, Aran zlinned something abnormal. Breaking into an augmented run, he rounded a corner.

Almost a block away, an injured Gen woman lay half covered with the remains of a collapsed porch, projecting pain from a shattered leg mixed with stark terror. A channel -- no, two channels -- stood facing each other, both in killmode and fixed on the Gen. With a sinking heart, Aran recognized them as Frevven and Trazee.

Letting his showfield rise to pure Genness, Aran ran still faster, hoping against hope he could entice them away from their intended victim. But he was too far away to have much effect.

Even if he could reach them in time, if he intercepted one of the youngsters, the other would go for the woman before he could stop him. The only hope was that Trazee would pull out of it and somehow manage to stop Frevven. After all, Trazee had started his training, and though Aran knew he hadn't had his anti-kill conditioning yet, he should have some self-control. Frevven certainly couldn't be expected to do it.

Time seemed to stand still for Aran as he zlinned the delicate balance of terror between the two boys and the Gen. He wouldn't get there in time. One of them would attack the woman any second now.

Come on, Trazee! You can do it!

Then Frevven moved towards the Gen, tentacles reaching for her arms. Aran groaned. A little longer and he could have been there --.

Dancing lightly on his feet, Trazee cut Frevven off, moving between him and the Gen.

Frevven feinted to the left, trying to get past Trazee, but Trazee moved to block him. The two young channels squared off again.

Suddenly, Frevven's field went quickly, even violently, from Sime killmode to the Gen simulation and enticement of a working channel.

Aran's breath caught in his throat. What he was seeing was impossible, and yet --

Trazee hesitated. He had a clear shot at the injured Gen, but he turned towards Frevven, wavering between two potential victims.

But Frevven hadn't enough selyn in his secondary system to serve another channel. Surely he must realize that. Trazee would kill him.

If Frevven knew that, it didn't seem to make much difference. He stood his ground, still projecting Gen. And the simulated Gen terror in Frevven's field was enough to overwhelm the flesh and blood Gen woman's nager entirely.

Trazee leaped on Frevven, his face set in an expression of feral greed.

Aran was almost upon them now, but Frevven didn't seem to be aware of his presence. He was set to try to serve Trazee and never mind that he'd die trying.

Aran pulled the two channels apart, shoving Frevven roughly backwards and taking Trazee in transfer position. He poured selyn into the boy before he'd even begun to react to being shenned out of the transfer with Frevven.

"Hajene, wha-what happened?" Trazee came out of transfer confused at finding himself in the Controller's arms.

Releasing him, Aran said softly, "Frevven kept you from killing again, then I shenned you out of a transfer with him to serve you myself."

Trazee groaned as he put a hand to his head. "No wonder I feel terrible."

"You'll live," replied Aran wryly. "Now go get some help. We require another channel and a stretcher. Fast!"

"Yes, Hajene."

As Trazee ran away, Aran went to the injured woman, who was now unconscious. He examined her, then carefully freed her from the wreckage.

Then he returned to sit by Frevven, who was sprawled semi-conscious on the ground. Gingerly he made nageric contact as he worked to assist Frevven in recovery.

Now that the immediate crisis was over, it hit him just what an incredible thing Frevven had done. With no training or conditioning, he had acted in a manner worthy of Aran's finest channels. I have to train him now, or I'm not worthy of the title of Sectuib in Chanel.

Gently, he helped Frevven to sit up.

Trazee. Did he --?" Frevven adjusted his glasses as he met Aran's eyes. "The Gen --?"

Aran smiled reassuringly. "The Gen's fine, and so is Trazee. I got here in time to shen him out of his attack on you and serve him transfer. Do you realize you could have gotten killed?"

"I really didn't care. I just couldn't let him kill that Gen. He didn't want to Hajene, not really." Frevven wearily rested his aching head on Aran's shoulder. "I suppose I'm in trouble again?"

"No. I would be a fool to chastise you for what you just did. But I have decided - -"

"What?" Frevven interrupted warily, raising his head to stare at the older channel.

Aran took a deep breath. "If you still want to be a working channel, I'm going to do what I can to bring that about. Bear in mind that I can't promise you I'll succeed. The Tecton could overrule me. But I'm prepared to offer you a choice. Either I can serve you here and now, and you can forget about training, or I can arrange a qualifying transfer with Kareen. That could be dangerous if I'm later overruled. It's your decision."

Frevven was stunned. "Why, Aran, why? You've been telling me it's impossible."

"I would have done this all along, Frevven, if I had thought you could handle it. Now I'm sure."

"But won't you get into trouble?"

"Don't worry about me. Do you want to take the risks?"

"But the Tecton --"

"I am ambrov Chanel. Tecton rules and regulations just don't mean as much to me as doing what I know in my heart is right."

Frevven absorbed the significance of that quiet statement. "I'll do it, no matter what," he replied.

Aran nodded. He had expected no other answer. "Help is coming," he said softly. "Let's go back to the Center and arrange that transfer."

It wasn't quite that simple. A million and one details clamored for Aran's attention when he and Frevven finally made it back to the Center. But he refused to get involved, insisting that his senior channels continue to direct the rescue operations while he accompanied Frevven to the transfer room and sent for Kareen.

Ignoring his mother's smug "told you so" look as she quietly entered the room, Aran took a seat by Frevven's side and reached for his hands. "Since this is going to be your qualifying transfer, I'm going to take readings before and after to determine your rating."

Frevven nodded and silently extended his laterals. Aran made lip contact then released him.

Relinquishing his position to Kareen, Aran retreated to a corner of the room and watched as Kareen took Frevven in transfer position.

"Now, Frevven," she said with a smile. "I want you to know that I'm a First Order Donor. Nothing you can do will hurt me."

"I know," whispered the boy just before he made lip contact.

The transfer went surprisingly well, though at first Aran thought Frevven's tight control would prevent him from getting much pleasure from it. Then, half way through, Aran zlinned Frevven's delighted response to the extra dimension of concerned, loving, personal compassion Kareen was feeding him along with the selyn; the extra dimension of a Chanel transfer. The young channel relaxed and, while he didn't relinquish complete control, he moved with his Donor into the spiraling peaks of shared pleasure that culminated the transfer.

Aran chuckled as he moved in to sit by Frevven. "That wasn't what I ordered, Mother."

"I know," replied the Gen complacently. "But I may never get another chance." She smiled at Frevven who was staring at her in wonder. "How are you feeling now?"

"That was -- is it always like that?"

Ruffling his hair in a motherly gesture, Kareen said regretfully, "I'm afraid not, honey. What we shared was unique. Call it a Chanel specialty."

Aran held out his hands. "You're a working channel now, Frevven. See if you can link fields with me." As the younger channel put his hands in Aran's, their fields merged in the unparalleled timeless communion of the working channels.

Frevven's eyes widened. "Hajene," he whispered in sheer delight.

"I know. Welcome to the club." Aran, pleased to be the first to welcome Frevven to the fraternity of channels, made brief lip contact then smiled warmly at the younger channel, now his colleague.

"Congratulations. You're now officially a Third Order channel. Roughly midrange. You might even be able to make Second Order someday."

Tears filled Frevven's eyes. "Thank you, Aran. I -- I --"

Blinking back his own tears of happiness, Aran took Frevven in his arms, enveloping him in a field of friendly compassion. "Don't thank me. You did this yourself." He held the boy a few minutes longer, then said softly, "I have to go back to work now. But Kareen will stay with you as long as you want her. Come to my office later and we'll see about getting your training started."

"Yes, Hajene," Frevven whispered as Aran relinquished him to the waiting Gen. Reluctantly, Aran returned to dealing with the effects of the tornado.

The next day Aran personally enrolled Frevven in the First Year School. Though most of the buildings were damaged in some way, the instructors found new locations and resumed classes immediately, though not without some grumbling about having to work around reconstruction projects.

A few days later Controller Sunlan arrived for a routine inspection, and put an end to Aran's good mood. For a while the District Controller was kept busy with the aftermath of the disaster, but Aran knew the calm couldn't last forever.

Late the next afternoon, Sunlan burst into Aran's office, Frevven's file in his hand.

He threw it violently onto Aran's desk. "What's the meaning of this?"

Aran smiled placatingly. "We're training a new channel. What's wrong with that?"

"A disjunct channel. You know that's against the rules." Aran shook his head. "No, Controller. Against policy, perhaps, but not against the rules."

Sunlan's lips tightened. "It's against the rules to train a disjunct channel without the District Controller's permission. You don't have mine." He took the chair by Aran's desk. "I want you to stop his training immediately and put him back into secondary dormancy."

"Why?" asked Aran. "Why should it matter to you? I mean, so we train one more disjunct channel. Is that such a catastrophe?"

Sunlan sighed. "I know you don't care much for politics, but you might at least pay attention to current events. I'm up for re-election in a few months. If the newspapers find out we're training a disjunct, in defiance of policy, they'll have a field day. It could cost me the election. So he's not going to be trained."

"Yes, he is," replied Aran firmly. "I'm not going to sacrifice his future for your career."

"Then it'll be your career for his future. I'll relieve you of duty here and now, and re-assign you somewhere out-Territory. Then I'll take care of Alymeer myself."

"Oh no, you won't," replied Aran calmly. "I can't let that happen. Perhaps we should discuss this with the Territory Controller. If I were to ask him to convene the board you refused permission for --" He let his voice trail off meaningfully.

"You wouldn't dare!"

"Zlin me and tell me I wouldn't." Aran put as much firmness into his nager as he could.

Sunlan was silent for a long moment. Finally, he spoke. "All right, all right. Publicity is the last thing I want right now. I'll sign the necessary permission, on two conditions. One, you voluntarily resign your position as Controller and accept a disciplinary assignment out-Territory. And secondly, you send Alymeer to Desmaines for his training, out of my district."

It was Aran's turn to hesitate. As Cedarcity Controller, he was in a position to help a lot of people. Was it really such a good idea to throw all that away for one person, no matter how deserving that person?

A line from an ancient book of wisdom, now part of Chanel's Book of Philosophy came into his mind. The needs of the many must never be allowed to outweigh the needs of the few or the one, else we lose our basic humanity.

Resolutely, he met Sunlan's eyes. "You have a deal, Controller. My resignation will be on your desk in the morning."

Sunlan rose, smugly satisfied. "You're a fool, Sectuib Chanel. A real fool." He left the office without another word.

Aran rested his head on folded arms and gave in to the tears. Leaving Cedarcity would be one of the hardest things he'd ever had to do.

He raised his head as he zlinned a familiar nager. Chaynek was quietly entering the room.

"Aran, I just saw Sunlan in the hall. He was looking awfully pleased with himself and rather snottily suggested you might require the services of a Donor."

"Well, I could use a friend," Aran said softly as he wiped the tears from his eyes. Waving the Gen to a seat, he summarized his conversation with the District Controller.

"You knew this might happen. Is it worth it?"

"Yes. If Frevven succeeds as a channel, it'll be worth it. Even if he doesn't -- I did honor my oath to Chanel. Tell me something, Chaynek. Does your oath to Zeor ever get in the way of your pledge to the Tecton?"

"Not so far. But then a Donor doesn't have to make the decisions a channel does. That might be a question for Muryin."

"Um. I just might take it up with her someday. In the meantime, I have an idea."

"What?" asked the Gen warily.

"Do you think you can wangle an assignment at the Desmaines training facility? I know they're looking for First Order Donors for their faculty. You can tip the scales in Frevven's favor. It's going to be very hard for him to succeed." He paused a moment. "Sunlan's seen to it that I can't help him anymore," he finished bitterly.

"Truly, Aran, Frevven isn't going to like this," Chaynek replied. "He'd be quite content never to see me again."

"Yes, I know. But with you pushing him to accomplish all he can --"

Chaynek shook his head ruefully. "I've got to keep playing the bad guy, don't I? The stern taskmaker that he can't stand. I don't dare tell him how much I --"

Aran nodded as Chaynek's voice trailed off, acutely aware of the pain in the Gen's nager. "He'll have a better chance if he's challenged to prove himself. I've seen it work before. He'll succeed, my friend; if for no other reason than to prove you wrong."

Chaynek forced a smile. "I'll speak to Muryin. I'm sure she'll agree and arrange my assignment."

Aran nodded, satisfied. He'd done the best he could. Now it was up to Frevven.

The next day Frevven came to Aran's office to say goodbye before boarding the stage for Desmaines.

The youngster's nager was filled with guilty regret. "I never meant for it to turn out this way," he said softly. "Costing you your post and all. It's not worth it, just for me."

Deeply moved, Aran went around his desk to take Frevven's hands and merge fields one last time. "Don't ever say that, Frevven. I'm Sectuib in Chanel. My House is dedicated to helping the one, for only in this way can the many be strong. I did what I had to do."

"I understand, Sectuib Aran," Frevven replied, subdued. "But it still seems unfair."

Aran forced a grin. "Don't worry about me. I'll manage. And one way or another. I'll get my Center back. You'd better go now. The stage is waiting."

"I suppose." Reluctantly, Frevven headed for the door. Then he turned back and ran over to Aran. Throwing his arms around the other channel, he declared fervently, "I'll make you proud of me someday, Aran. I swear it."

Aran hugged him tightly. "I know you will, Frevven. I know you will."

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