ICE & RAIN
It was a bitterly cold day toward the end of winter. Lenatta, riding the bus through Simetown on her way home from the Center, thought that the driver should turn down the small selyn-powered heater near the door. She unfastened her heavy coat, knowing that she'd have to button back up again in a few blocks when they stopped at the Wharf Gate.
She'd fallen into the habit of taking this shortcut through Simetown after work. It didn't really save any travel time, but she enjoyed watching the crowds along Circle Drive, which somehow seemed more interesting than Unity Boulevard. In warmer weather, she liked to watch all the different ways the Simes used their tentacles as they conducted their business. But today, everyone on the street was walking purposefully toward their destinations, mostly wrapped in the heavy cloaks that were fashionable in-Territory.
She was still too warm. And she had a feeling that someone was watching her. She glanced up at the man who sat across the aisle from her. He wasn't looking in her direction, but before she could glance away, he caught her eyes and smiled.
Wishing she had brought something to read, she looked out the window for awhile, then glanced around the bus without catching anyone staring. When her eyes passed over the man on the other side of the aisle, he was staring off into space, but then he met her gaze again. Off balance, she looked down at her hands. Some instinct told her that he was the one looking at her, and yet he was the one who seemed to keep catching her staring at him. How had he made her look? That was the kind of trick Gens were supposed to be able to play on Simes, not the other way around. He was a Sime, more than a few years older than herself by the fine lines around his eyes, and very innocuous in appearance. She decided not to look up again until the bus came to her stop.
But then he got up and moved across the bus to sit beside her in a single, graceful movement, untroubled by the uneven movement of the bus over the bumpy street. Now she felt as if she had to look at him in order to keep from seeming rude or reclusive. He was giving her a very boyish and harmless-looking smile. "Hi, I'm Dav."
"Just Dav?" She smiled back at him, though she hadn't intended to. It didn't sound like a name.
"It's short for Davanovich, which was my mother's maiden name. Listen, do you have a few minutes? There's something I want to talk to you about. I know a place near here where we could have a cup of tea." His manner was pleasant but businesslike, with no hint of seduction.
"Talk to me? About what?" It didn't seem like a pickup line, at least not in the usual sense.
"Nothing we can discuss here."
She didn't reply, but when the door of the bus opened at the next stop and he stood up, so did she. He led the way to a small storefront on the seedier end of Simetown, not far from the Wharf Gate. It was a tea shop, filled with little round tables and rich aromas. A chalkboard above the counter was divided into three columns marked Simes, Gens and safe for all.
Dav got them two cups of a strange, aromatic blend and a table in a back corner of the big, open room. Lenatta sniffed at the tea, hoping he'd had the sense to get something safe for her to drink. He'd ordered in Simelan. She knew nothing about him, and what was she even doing here?
When they were sitting down, he leaned close to her and said in a low voice, "I wanted to ask you if you'd consider doing a transfer with me." Just like that. It was more or less what she'd been expecting. She knew that there was a certain amount of what the newspapers called Shadow Distect activity in the Wharf area. It seemed to come in waves, culminating with a flurry of arrests every few years, then quietly building up again after a period of quiescence. As a teenager, she'd gone looking for an encounter like this one, but had collected only a handful of rather blunt sexual propositions.
Unable to think of what to say, she just kept breathing in the unidentifiable smell of the steaming tea. But some reply seemed to be required. "Um, right now?"
He laughed, and caressed her arm with a handling tentacle. When she didn't pull away, he said, "I'm not even asking for a definite answer, tonight. I just want you to think about it. I take it this would be the first time for you…?"
"Well, I never had anybody buy me a cup of tea and ask politely, before. I was attacked by a kid in changeover last summer."
"That was you? I should have guessed. After that, I would say you're prepared to handle me, or just about any other renSime for that matter. Not that I plan on attacking anyone in killmode. I have never done that in my life, not even in first need. I was lucky enough to be raised in an environment where certain disciplines are taught to all children from an early age. After changeover or establishment, of course, the training is differentiated on the basis of larity. All Simes receive some of the training that the Tecton reserves for channels, to the extent that it's possible for us, and we have some techniques of our own as well. I can tell you more about that later, if it interests you."
He sat back and regarded her for a long moment before continuing. "If you agree to this… these are my ground rules. I'm married, and not looking for any kind of sexual involvement. But I would be very open to the possibility of a more permanent transfer arrangement with the right partner. What I'd like to do is try this once, if you're agreeable, and then see if we want to discuss the matter further. I can understand if you want to think about this before you decide. Why don't we meet here a week from tomorrow, and you can let me know then."
He got out an appointment calendar. "My preferred date for transfer would be the fifth of next month. If you want to do this, but that's not convenient, I could move it forward to the day before. I'd rather not push it back the other way, because you're new at this and I wouldn't want to do anything that might alarm you." He stroked her arm again, and she almost choked on her tea, which she'd been sipping idly in order to have something to do. She took a deep breath to calm herself, and held it for three heartbeats before exhaling slowly.
He closed his eyes briefly, his expression suggesting he was savoring a taste of something sweet. "If you think this over and decide it's not a good idea for you, you can meet me next week anyway and tell me, or if you don't show up I'll know your answer. That will give me plenty of time to make other arrangements. But I certainly hope you'll be willing to give this a try. I just absolutely love the way you zlin."
Their main business concluded, they dropped the subject and conversed on other topics. She ended up telling him quite a bit about her work, particularly on the disjunction ward, which was more interesting than the accounts division. He was a good listener, asking the occasional question but never interrupting.
When they had finished their tea, he walked her to the Wharf Gate, where she was admitted back into Gen Territory. The Shaygo Wharf was a bad area, but she'd be safe enough as long as she stayed near the gatehouse with its Sime guards, and the bus stop was just outside the gate. She caught another bus that took her to a stop near her house, then walked the rest of the way. After greeting various family members in an abstracted fashion, she went up to her room where she sat on the floor with her knees hugged tight to her chest, rocking gently back and forth, heart pounding.
Was she seriously considering this? Why had she even gotten off the bus with him in the first place? Curiosity, she supposed. Despite the rumors and the occasional newspaper article, it was hard to believe people actually did such things.
She needed to think, and the best place to do that would have been outdoors, by the lake. The connection with nature always made it easier to focus her thoughts. But it was night, and cold. She took a low, flat box from its place beneath a table and began taking things out of it and arranging them on a small rug near her bed. A couple of sea-shells, a bit of glass worn smooth by the action of water and sand, a pine cone, and a smooth stone Garrett had picked up and given to her while they were walking in the woods. It had caught his attention because he'd zlinned some odd, unidentifiable inclusion at its center. It wasn't as good as being outside, but these things would have to represent nature. Last she took out a candle and striker. Lighting the candle and placing it on a low table so that it would be at eye level, she held the stone in one hand and sat cross-legged on the rug.
She was not finding it easy to sink into a meditative state. The candle flame danced before her eyes, hinting that it was about to reveal some secret to her, but she could not take the next step inward. Remembering her difficulties after the incident with Sephin, she wondered if perhaps there were something about transfer—or even the emotions raised by thinking about it too much—that did interfere with Zheng K'ai practice. Perhaps Bren and the others saw part of the truth when they refrained from donating. It was a feeling she often had about the Lodge, that a lot of the things taught there contained part of the truth, mixed with misinformation.
But she didn't really need a deep trance state to make this decision, did she? Or a piece of paper. She could think of no rational reason to follow through with such a thing. The only thing she could have written on the left margin was that it would feel good. Curiosity? There was no need for that, after Sephin. She knew what was involved. And as for the right-hand side of the paper, she didn't even want to think about that. People like Dav had to lurk in dark corners, hoping the authorities would not notice them and crush them underfoot like cockroaches. All the reasons that had convinced her not to apply for Donor's training applied to this, as well, and many others besides.
She would have to leave the Center through the Gen side entrance from now on, and Davanovich—whether or not that was anything even close to his actual given name—would have to make his alternate arrangements when she didn't show up to meet him.
Her eye was drawn back to the candle, which still seemed to be telling her that it knew secrets that it did not care to reveal. She blew it out with a sharp breath, and remained on the floor for the meditation in preparation for sleep.
The winter sun, as high overhead as it was going to get , streamed through the two south-facing windows to Lenatta's right. She had positioned herself so that neither she nor the three students who stood facing her had the sun in their eyes. Tables and chairs had been pushed to the side to make room for her little group of Zheng K'ai practitioners.
She finished the introductory breathing and moved on to the balance poses. The two young Simes, Tomys and Jena, held the Crane position without any of the shifting and swaying she usually saw in the Lodge. Standing apart from the others and less certain of his balance was Keeshore, a Gen employed by the center as a janitor, at least in theory. Keeshore had made it about halfway through Donor's training before dropping out for reasons he hadn't confided to Lenatta, and Garrett had put him to work on the disjunction ward, supervising the patients in cleaning their own area. He also acted, very unofficially, as a counselor of sorts. Creative use of personnel was one of Garrett's strengths as an administrator.
She was pleased with what she saw as she continued with the y'oa. Particularly Tomys, who looked like any healthy young Sime as he moved through the exercises. He didn't have the haggard look worn by most disjunction candidates by the time they reached their fifth month. Garrett had taken him aside and warned him that because of his slow progress, he would probably only get one chance at disjunction. And it was possible that the Zheng K'ai was responsible, at least in part. Garrett had left it up to Tomys to decide whether to continue the training anyway.
Jena was another matter. She moved well through the exercises, but seemed to find it very distracting to be in a room with two Gens who were deliberately manipulating their nagers. Any Gen had a similar effect on her, actually, regardless of what they were doing. Assuming Jena succeeded in disjuncting, Lenatta thought that she would probably not adjust as easily to a regimen of channel's transfer as Garrett had. Since she was renSime, the Tecton would not be as flexible about it as they would have been if Garrett had problems along that line. She was still in her second month, so the fact that she still looked relatively normal was not unusual.
Lenatta had lost two students recently, but these two had stuck with her, along with Keeshore. Joden, the second of her pupils to reach disjunction crisis, had failed. It had been his second attempt and time had run out for him. He had been moved to a last year facility in-Territory. Garrett had comforted her, explaining that second disjunction attempts had a poor success rate, statistically. And that even if one of her pupils failed on a first try, it didn't mean that she wasn't improving their chances, just that she could offer no guarantee. But Michi, another young junct who had been attending the sessions regularly, had stopped showing up after Joden's failure.
She moved on to the push-pull. She had no doubt the two Simes were putting effort into it, but Keeshore's performance was more dramatic. A heavily muscled man, he trembled with the strain of lifting the imaginary burdens, sweating and letting out a low growl of effort. Keeshore and Tomys had both been working with her since shortly after Della's disjunction. The two of them shared a bond much like the one that had formed between Lenatta and Della, and at first Keeshore had just gone along to be companionable. But he'd recently told Lenatta that he thought Zheng K'ai was something he had been missing all his life without realizing it.
She'd suggested he attend some of the regular Lodge sessions, but he'd explained that he seldom spent much time in Shaygo proper. Born in-Territory, he was more comfortable with Simetown customs. He'd asked Lenatta if his renSime wife would be welcome at the practice session. She had tried to imagine the reactions of the other Lodge members if she showed up with a pair of Sime Territory signs for the front and back doors. The woman could not very well be expected to practice wearing retainers, after all. She hadn't brought the matter up again after that.
Lenatta sank to the floor for closing meditation. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that Garrett was leaning against the doorway watching the class. She found it difficult to achieve a true trance with an audience and ended the meditation early, after only a few minutes.
He waited until the students had left. "That is just fascinating to zlin. I really think you've got something going, here."
"You could join us sometime."
He smiled and shook his head. It was not the first time she'd made the suggestion. She had some ideas for Sime-Gen partner exercises, but she was not about to start experimenting on disjunction candidates until she was able to gauge the effects with other Simes. Maybe one of the Center's renSime employees would take an interest in her class.
"Lise says I can go ahead and borrow you until we get those records straightened out. I really do appreciate your help with that. Did you want to get some lunch first?"
"No, I'll go later." She seldom felt much appetite immediately after a session. Then, in an hour or so, she would suddenly have trouble thinking of anything but food.
"Good, lets get started." He laid a proprietary hand on her back as they walked to the records room, where he began explaining what he wanted her to do by way of updating the patient records. The woman who'd been responsible for maintaining them had quit suddenly, and had left quite a mess behind her. Garrett wanted her to put them into proper order before he turned the job over to the woman's replacement.
Lenatta was having a hard time following what he was saying. Perhaps she should have gone for some lunch after all, though she really wasn't hungry. She sometimes had trouble focusing her mind on ordinary things after a really intense Zheng K'ai experience, but the class she'd just led had not been one of those.
"Is something on your mind? Please don't take this the wrong way, but your nager is zlinning a little chaotic."
She remembered that there was something she'd been meaning to ask him about. "That patient upstairs, Garrett—what's the story with her?"
"Drusilla... I don't really think she belongs here, actually. She's not junct in any sense of the word. But the Tecton has no record of her existence at all, at least not under any name she was willing to give us. She had some fake papers on her that would have been convincing enough to get her past a real border, and she was caught painting typical Distect slogans on the Simetown wall—on the Gen side. Without retainers. It would have been perfectly legal for the Gen police to have murdered her."
Lenatta nodded. She'd heard the story. Three teenagers, two of them probably Gen—or not Sime, at any rate—had been defacing the cheerful unity-theme murals with sentiments such as Death by Attrition to the Tecton and Tear Down the Wall! A pair of patrolmen had given chase, but the Sime girl had bought time for her compatriots by repeatedly shoving and tripping the policemen. One of them had hit her on the head with a wooden baton, knocking her unconscious. It was not until he went to handcuff her that he'd realized she was Sime and had called for the Simetown police to come and take her into custody.
"I don't know what they expect me to do with her, Lenatta. She's not a disjunction case, and she has no interest in cooperating with the program here. These Shadow Distect types aren't usually very political, and they mostly get along by keeping their heads down. If she would express a little contrition and accept channel's transfer a few times without putting up a big struggle about it, they'd probably ship her in-Territory and let her go. But as things are, I've got her locked up in one of the cells that are supposed to be for completely unrepentant disjunction cases. Which is actually how the law regards her. I don't see it as medically valid."
"Let me talk to her."
"I don't think she wants to learn any breathing exercises, Len'ta. You won't be able to help with this one. But all right, let's take a break and go up there. I certainly can't see how it could do any harm."
"I'd prefer to talk to her alone, Garrett."
"That part of the ward is really off-limits to unescorted Gens, and for good reason."
"Because of the type of patients that are normally up there. But you don't have anyone else in that section, do you?"
"Fortunately, no. But what is it you want to say to her that you don't want me to hear?" He was smiling, and she had the sense that his decision could go either way at this point.
Stilling her nager so that he would have no difficulty distinguishing truth from falsehood, she said, "Actually, I was planning to offer her transfer through the bars of her cell."
He just shook his head and handed her the keys. "I trust that at some point, you'll see fit to tell me what this is all about. And speaking of the bars of her cell, keep well out of arm's reach, or you may end up doing just exactly what you said, whether you want to or not. You will be careful, won't you? And make sure you give me these keys back as soon as you're done with your little chat, because you are really not supposed to have them at all."
After using Garrett's key, she walked slowly up the narrow, brightly-lit stairs. She was not sure, herself, what she meant to ask the prisoner.
On the second story of the disjunction ward were four cells, comfortably furnished and roomy, but still just rectangles of space defined by walls and iron bars. Sitting on the bed in one of these was an emaciated young woman, long hair in matted tangles and a wild expression in her eyes as she looked at Lenatta.
Lenatta knew from the grapevine that the young Sime had refused to eat anything in the weeks that she had spent on the ward, and also that she had been close to need when she was captured, and had resisted her assigned channel's attempts to entice her into transfer. She had eventually lost control and attacked him, but not until after the onset of clinical attrition. The Simes on staff, in particular, seemed to find her self-control extraordinary. It was widely believed that next month, or the month after, she might summon the will to refuse altogether, and die.
And after the trouble she had gone to in order to be permitted this interview, Lenatta could think of nothing to say. The Sime girl just sat there looking at her, and it was Lenatta who dropped her eyes and turned away.
Lenatta sat in her office, scribbling figures on a scrap of paper. Not tomorrow, but the next day, would be the day when Dav had asked her to meet him again at the tea shop.
In the past, she had used her Zheng K'ai disciplines to push physical pain away from her awareness, often a necessary skill during some of the more extreme y'oa. She had used a similar technique to clear herself of anger, jealousy, and other feelings she did not believe were worthy or productive. Now, she used it as a barrier against her doubts, to silence the part of her mind that kept insisting that her current line of thought was absolutely crazy.
During the past week, she had slept little, and had reached a firm decision to stand Dav up at least a hundred times. But her mind kept coming back to ways she might be able to get away with it, as if it were nothing more than an abstract problem in strategy. And returning, also, to the memory of Dav's tentacle brushing the back of her forearm.
But she couldn't keep thinking about that, not here. Lise often opened her door after nothing more than a perfunctory signal. What if the channel did that now, and zlinned her before she had a chance to redirect her thoughts? She pushed the memory into a sturdy mental safe modeled after the one in the financial accounting office two doors down, and closed the door and spun the dial. This should have kept it safely locked away until she chose to open the door. But it kept coming open on its own.
Yesterday, she'd called the Center to cancel her donation appointment, which had been for later that same afternoon. Ava no longer relied on her cousin to go with her to her own appointments, because she was in a special program wherein a half-dozen recovering Simephobes gave their donations in a group environment. Perhaps it helped if they felt like they outnumbered the Sime. The channel assigned to that program kept them just out of phase with her own cycle, so that she could face the experience while still slightly post.
So the appointment Lenatta had cancelled had fallen on a workday. She'd asked the woman who answered the phone at the front desk to let Lise know she wouldn't be in to work that day due to illness. Then, despite the subfreezing temperature, she had gone out to the lake and spent most of the day in meditation. It had been a bright, sunny day, but bitter. She had picked her way through a jumble of cast-up ice on the beach to get to her favorite tree, where there was at least a little shelter from the wind.
Near the shore, dirty gray ice floes bumped gently against each other in the waves. As she looked farther out, the mix of ice and water appeared cleaner in the distance, sparkling like diamonds in the sunlight. After watching for a long while until she fell gradually and naturally into a half-trance, she closed her eyes and found herself dwelling on the image of a jumbled jigsaw puzzle. There were other images, but this was the only one powerful enough to stay with her. It was accompanied by the message there is a piece still missing.
That was the net result of those hours, which had also left her with a sore throat and mild nasal congestion. Not a serious cold, the kind accompanied by sneezing and fever and a running nose. But there was a slightly hoarse quality to her voice. Before leaving for work that morning, she had begun a routine of rose hips, plenty of water, and gargling with a mixture of hot water and imported sea salt. And the Zheng K'ai healing technique, of course, which consisted of concentrating energy in her hands and rubbing them gently over the afflicted part of her body. She could not go back to the Lodge until all her symptoms were gone. Members of the Inner Circle did not suffer from colds, however mild, and she was sure Bren would blame her interaction with Simes.
Which was true, in a way. She would not have been out there if not for her confusion about Dav. Maybe she had even done this to herself on purpose, on some level. It certainly added veracity to her story. She kept half-expecting Lise to show up demanding to know why she hadn't made a new appointment yet, but that wasn't a realistic fear. It might be some time before anyone wondered why she were walking around full-field. Many Gen fields peaked earlier than four weeks after a donation, but appointments were usually scheduled twenty-eight days apart for the sake of convenience.
Of course, donor habits were tracked. Next door, in the Scheduling Department, Maurie normally red-flagged the folders of regular donors who missed or cancelled an appointment, so that someone on her staff could follow up with a phone call or a note to encourage them to reschedule. Gen employees of the Sime Center, of course, were expected to donate regularly. It would surely attract attention if she delayed it much longer.
Lenatta looked over at the window, where she'd hung a leaded glass sun-catcher. It reminded her of the way the ice had caught the light and thrown it in all directions, out near the horizon. She picked up a pencil and a sheet of scrap paper, and sketched the shape of a puzzle piece. With one convex knob uppermost and the other three concave, it resembled a human figure. She fished around in her desk drawer until she found a small, blunt-ended scissors. It was not the best tool for the job, but when she had cut out the shape, she held up and decided it had the power to recall the vision she had been given while gazing out over the ice. She fastened it to the window.
Her accounting had been less than honest, she decided, when she had concluded there was no good reason to consider meeting Dav again. When she'd listed it would feel good as the only entry on the left-hand side of the page, she was trivializing an experience that had a powerful spiritual component. Perhaps that was her missing puzzle piece. Having posed the question, she listened for an answer from within, but none came.
She picked up the paper with the figures, where she had calculated precisely how many dynopters she should donate in order to be full field again on Dav's requested transfer date. She could put herself on a channel's schedule for later today or sometime tomorrow, whenever there was an opening. Of course, the channel might consider her request a little odd. And any Sime who zlinned her regularly, and was used to watching the selyn fields of donor Gens rise and fall with the regularity of the tide, might be curious about why her field had been taken down by only about half the usual amount. But she'd thought of an answer to that. She could state with perfect truthfulness that that most practitioners of her religion believed that being low-field diminished a Gen's spiritual power. It was not possible to lie directly to a Sime, face to face, but Gens found ways around that—as did other Simes, for that matter. They might still find it odd, but donation was considered a personal matter, and she'd seen strange requests honored before. For example, there was a small group of people who would donate only if they were guaranteed that their personal selyn would go to Simes in need and not to the municipal power plant.
She walked next door. Maurie glanced up long enough to recognize her, and then went back to her own work while Lenatta pencilled herself onto the calendar of one of the channels. She normally made her donation to Lise, a habit she had fallen into because of the personal and political ties between the channel and Lenatta's family. But Lise was sharp enough that Lenatta did not look forward to trying to slip something past her. She decided to schedule with Yoren Durst, a recently certified channel who was working his way through a training rotation. He didn't look much older than some of the disjunction candidates, although he carried himself with considerably more confidence. Still, Lenatta did not think he would be disposed to ask her a lot of nosy questions.
When she walked into the tea shop, Lenatta did not see Dav. Now that would be an unexpected twist—if he stood her up. Almost a relief, really. Maybe he'd been arrested.
She sat at a table near the back of the room, hoping she wouldn't be thrown out for not buying anything. But everyone near the counter seemed to be talking in Simelan, and she knew only a few phrases in the language. She decided to wait half an hour for Dav, and glanced at her watch. Perhaps a little longer, since she was early. Nobody was paying any attention to her, and she didn't feel as if sitting there for awhile would be an uncomfortable experience. There was something vibrant and free in the atmosphere of the place. She found herself thinking that Drusilla would feel right at home here, and her good mood was momentarily dampened by the memory of the young Sime in her solitary cell, not free, possibly dying, locked up for wanting the mirror image of what Lenatta herself wanted.
Not for the first time, she found herself wondering if Dav and Drusilla knew each other. There couldn't be many of the Shadow Distect in Shaygo. Her chance meeting with Dav, at a time when someone he might well know was a prisoner in the place where she worked, might be coincidence. But he had seemed awfully interested in hearing about her job. She would just have to wait and see if he steered the conversation in that direction today, assuming he showed up.
She looked up and saw him, walking toward her and holding two cups of tea, one of which he handed to her. She realized he must have been in the shop already when she walked in. Not too surprising that she hadn't seen him. There were a lot of people milling around in here, filling the room with a babble of conversation and bright flashes of color from eclectic clothing styles.
He sat down, glancing around the room at first rather than looking at her, fingers and tentacles drumming rapidly on the tabletop. Then he smiled at her. "It's nice to see you again."
She wasn't sure quite how to behave toward him. The model that seemed the most appropriate was the way the Donors behaved toward their assigned transfer partners. Since he seemed a little agitated, she reached over and laid her hand on his arm. He didn't stop tapping on the table, but he noticeably slowed down. "Today's your turnover, isn't it?"
"Earlier today. Listen, you don't have to keep a chart on me. I would rather if you didn't." The drumming sped up again.
She projected a blue calmness at him, envisioning a protective sphere that surrounded them and closed off the noise of the surrounding crowd. All of a sudden, it seemed to her as if heads were turning in her direction , and glances cast circumspectly her way. She tried to tell herself it was her imagination.
"Um, you do zlin awfully Tecton when you do that." His tone of voice was gentle and apologetic, but she found herself flushing with embarrassment. She had called attention to them, and given the reason they were there, that was the last thing she should have done.
"Come on, let's go for a little walk. I want to show you something."
They left the tea sitting untasted on the table, and walked outside. Lenatta was wearing only a light jacket. The air felt like spring, although there were still a few pockets of snow in shaded places. They walked away from the Wharf Gate, deeper into Simetown. Lenatta was glad they had the street to themselves, so that she could speak freely. "So, tell me about the Distect," she challenged, still thinking of Drusilla.
"If you knew more about the subject, I would find it insulting that you thought I would have any information about that. But I suppose that's the only term you've ever heard for this kind of thing. I'm not affiliated with any of those organizations. I am part of a kind of informal network called the Free Exchange, but we're not in the habit of blowing things up, or kidnapping people." He touched her hand briefly, finding it unerringly even though his eyes were on the street in front of them. "And another thing. If we do this… regardless of what you've heard, I do all my transfers Tecton style, do you understand what I mean?"
She didn't answer, but he evidently picked up her uncertainty, because he added, "Don't try to control. Let me do that."
Thinking back to her experience with Sephin, she was not sure who had been in control of that. Neither one of them, she suspected. She could recall making a conscious effort to entice him away from Ava, and then reminding herself not to resist. Hopefully that was all Dav would expect from her, as well. She wouldn't have any idea how to control the process, if that was what he wanted from her, so it was just as well that he didn't.
Dav left the street when they reached a small park, just a stretch of grass interrupted by a few benches and dwarf trees. The ground was visible again, where it would have been hidden by snow a few days before, and squelched beneath their feet as they walked across it. Dav put a hand on her shoulder, and something about the way he did this was deeply intimate without being sexual in any way. She let her field mesh with his, not something she did out of conscious volition, but she could feel it happen and didn't try to prevent it.
"Don't do that, not in public!" He removed his hand. "You can't just announce to anyone in zlinning range…" He gave her a conciliatory look. "That was very good, though. This could work out really well. Here, this is what I wanted to show you. Do you see that building there, across the street?"
She looked where he was pointing. "With the green roof?"
"That's the one. It's a hotel, and that's where I want to meet you in two weeks. Here's the arrangement. I'll get a room, and then come back here to the park. I'll write the room number on a piece of paper and sit down over here." He kept walking, leading her over to a wooden bench. There was a Simelan newspaper on it, with a picture of a Sime woman who looked like a politician on the front page. Lenatta thought that her father would probably know who she was. Dav moved the paper and sat down, and Lenatta sat beside him. She wanted very much to touch his arm again, but was afraid he would think it was indiscreet of her.
"I'll sit here, or on one of the other benches if this one is occupied. When I see you walking toward me, I'll get up, and leave the slip of paper with the room number behind. Sit for awhile, and then go over to the hotel. It's not the kind of place where they'll ask you any questions when you walk in, and the door to the room will be unlocked. Don't look around to see if you're being followed. I'll be watching out the window for that."
It sounded like something out of a bad spy drama. An amused smile crept over her face, and he looked annoyed. "Do you think this is some kind of a joke? You haven't even said whether you're willing to go through with this, you know. I don't want to assume, just because you showed up…"
He put his hand back on her shoulder, and caressed the back of her neck with a pair of handling tentacles. That made it easy to find the courage to answer. "Of course I will." She was not even close to a trance state, which would normally have been required to hear sounds from the nonphysical realm. But she heard one now, a clash of metal, like a heavy-duty lock clanging shut.
That night, she had a dream. She was back in the park, but she was alone. The sun was shining brightly in a sky that was brilliant blue, rather than gray as it had been in reality, and other colors around her were almost unnaturally bright as well. The bench was green, the color of the hotel roof, although it had actually been plain wood. And the newspaper she had seen had her own picture on it, and the headline was in English: Renegade Gen Arranges Illegal Transfer in Simetown Park. She woke up laughing at the absurdity of the image, and the giddiness that she felt thinking about her appointment with Dav. She was committed now. But her heart was racing, not just from excitement but also because of the fear that someone would find out.
Read Chapter Four
Comment to the Author
Companion in Zeor is Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 by Sime~Gen Inc.
Vocation is copyright © 2001 by Sime~Gen Inc.
The Sime~Gen universe was created by Jacqueline Lichtenberg and is owned by Sime~Gen Inc. This story and its setting may not be reused without explicit permission of the Corporation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This Page Was Last Updated by KXR 06/21/01
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