A Shift of Means


Mary Lou Mendum

copyright © 1996 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

All Rights Reserved


Sime~Gen (tm) is the trademark of a fictional universe © copyright by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, 1969, 1974, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1986

For permission to use any of this (or any other) copyrighted material posted here, email AmbrovZeor@aol.com.

Chapter 13

The next day, Den overheard Sumulo informing Gati that he had been assigned to handle all in-Territory donors. For some reason, the young channel didn't bother to tell her about the requirement that the donors specifically request him. It was obvious that Sumulo intended to get around the Donor's restrictions if he could. After a long discussion, Den and Rital decided to formalize them in the form of an official Controller's injunction. The penalties for violating such injunctions were severe enough to make even Sumulo think twice before ignoring one. He would appeal, of course. With his uncle's support, he could cause a great deal of trouble for Den and his cousin, particularly if he won. However, the cousins agreed that an injunction was the only sure way to prevent the young channel from getting his tentacles on the wrong Gen.

Den served the papers at breakfast the next morning, much to the delight of Sumulo's colleagues in Interterritorial Affairs. By lunchtime, the Clear Springs Center's permanent staff had managed to worm the details out of them. The Tecton frowned on employees who took delight in the misfortunes of others, but both the Donor and his cousin found themselves receiving admiring glances and murmured offers of support.

Two days later, Sumulo began complaining that he was suffering from such severe entran that he couldn't eat or sleep. Kamrin, who like most Second Order Donors didn't often have to cope with entran, seemed unable to do much for the young channel's symptoms.

"That's because there aren't any real symptoms for him to treat," Den remarked to Rital, as Sumulo whined his way through breakfast. "Even the best entran outfunction can't cure hypochondria."

"I don't know," Rital said thoughtfully, zlinning the young channel. "He does seem to be hurting a bit more than I expected, but that could simply be because he doesn't have the self-discipline to use Kamrin properly."

After three days of continuous complaints, Rital agreed to conduct a lateral examination to determine the severity of Sumulo's entran. The results satisfied no one.

"You do have stronger entran symptoms than I would expect in a Second Order channel," Rital told the young channel. "You seem to have the physical potential to be a low First, although you may never be able to Qualify. However--" he continued sternly "--your health is in no immediate danger, and so I see no reason to set aside my injunction. If you don't care for your current discomfort, I suggest that you put some effort into learning how to manage a proper entran outfunction."

It took a week of enforced inactivity for the reluctant Sumulo to break down and ask Rital for permission to refill the batteries. Since this was without question the most unpleasant channels' duty assignment, there was little competition for the job, despite the overabundance of channels in Clear Springs. However, the young channel's attempts to master the basic entran outfunction were much less successful, as were his attempts to woo the Gen staff. His desperation grew with every Gen who donated to someone else, and Den was human enough to enjoy the brat's dilemma--at least when he wasn't close enough to feel the constant discomfort of Sumulo's improperly managed entran.

Even Ref, who could forgive a youngster almost anything, was content to let Sumulo suffer. The young channel's unflattering comments on the selected out-Territory dishes which the chef had introduced to the Center's menus might have been responsible. Ref was justly proud of his skill, and the sourdough bread recipe he had obtained from Jain Buchan had been well received by everyone else.

Sumulo wasn't about to admit defeat, however, so he was careful to be polite to Arth. Although Den kept a sharp eye on the situation, he began to hope that the channel was learning to get along with at least one out-Territory Gen in spite of himself. Still, the Donor made it clear that Sumulo was not to fetch the donation records personally. The records room could only be reached through the Collectorium, and there was no reason to risk having a nervous Gen mistake bad manners for an attack.

Fortunately, the negotiations were going well, giving hope that Sumulo ambrov Fijord would soon be some other Sime Center's problem. The Berrysville paper quoted the town's mayor, Jon Mills, as being hopeful that some sort of Sime Center would be in place by full summer. Reverend Sinth was not pleased, and the preacher immediately took steps to correct the situation--and fatten his bank account. By now, he had spoken to most of the nearby sympathetic clubs and congregations, or at least those which were willing to offer a suitable honorarium. This meant he was mostly limited to income from his direct mail fundraising letters, and dues from Save Our Kids members. The preacher's financial situation became desperate when Judge Banklin ruled that he must repay all of the money which he had embezzled from Bethany's trust fund to use for anti-Sime political activities.

"The record is quite clear that Sosu Lissabee ambrov Shaeldor set up the trust fund to provide for the welfare and education of her daughter, Bethany Sindle, also known as Bethany Sinth," the justice said. "The Reverend's defense that his anti-Tecton political activities promoted his niece's welfare by making life difficult for the Sime Center is certainly unique. However, I somehow doubt that Sosu Lissabee would have agreed with this definition."

Shaeldor's excellent legal team had taken the precaution of making a thorough survey of the preacher's financial assets before the trial, even managing to locate the secret account which contained the "consulting fees" he paid himself out of his followers' gifts to Save Our Kids. Sinth's accounts were stripped clean long before it occurred to him to protect the money by giving it back.

Needless, to say, the preacher was rather upset by the loss.

"It's time to take action against the Simelovers who are destroying our community!" he thundered during a guest sermon at the Berrysville Church of the Purity. Announcing a date the following week, he continued, "On that day, I will ask every God-fearing citizen who is concerned about the Sime presence to gather in the Clear Springs Conservative Congregation Church at dawn for a prayer rally. Afterwards, we will form a Caravan of Decency and pay a personal call on some of the worst offenders!"

He went on to name a long list of possible targets, including the Sime Center, all Rational Deist Meeting Halls, the City Halls of Clear Springs and those outlying towns which had allowed the mobile Sime Centers to operate within their boundaries, Principal Buchan's Southside Upper School, and of course, the homes and businesses of all donors. "I'm not going to announce what the actual targets will be until we get there," he continued. "That way, the Simelovers' defenses will be spread so thin that they won't be able to stop us. Besides, it won't hurt to let all of them sweat a little, as they consider the consequences of their selfish treachery!"

Reverend Sinth didn't neglect to mention that those who were unable to participate in person could support the effort by sending cash.

Over two hundred people pledged to join the "Caravan of Decency." Since most of them weren't from the Clear Springs area, the local anti-Sime activists were hard put to find accommodations for them, particularly since Sinth was reluctant to waste any of the donated money on hotel rooms when he could spend it on more worthy causes, like mortgage payments and melic weed. Finally, several churches, including the preacher's former pulpit, the Conservative Congregation Church of Clear Springs, agreed to let the activists camp in their buildings.

Den wasn't happy about the prospect of a major anti-Sime incident being staged while the Interterritorial Affairs dignitaries were in town. The memory of their previous investigation into his and Rital's handling of the Clear Springs Center was all too vivid. After much discussion with OLD SOKS and the Rational Deists, a defense plan of sorts was cobbled together. However, because the exact targets of Sinth's caravan were unknown, it was difficult to find a way to get the defenders in place in time to offer any real protection.

"It wouldn't do any good to just follow the Caravan, even if we had enough members with dependable cars," Silva explained. "With that many anti-Sime demonstrators, we'd never be able to push our way through the crowd. Our only hope is for our people to get there first, so that we can keep them away from their target."

In the end, the best that could be done was to have the pro-Sime activists gather at the most vulnerable sites in each town. It was hoped that a small group of determined people would be able to hold off the caravan long enough for reinforcements, or the police, to arrive.

The critical elements of the plan were communication and coordination. To ensure that the reinforcements reached Sinth's destination as quickly as possible, each group of defenders selected one person who would remain by the closest telephone to announce an attack or relay messages of an attack elsewhere. As further insurance, Den decided that he and Tohm would join the caravan themselves, so that they could be on hand personally to direct the defense, wherever the final target turned out to be.

The two days before the caravan were cold but clear. Den had hoped for an early spring rain, but at dawn on the appointed morning there was only a light mist, which would probably clear away by midmorning. Still, the moist chill was uncomfortable as he sat next to Tohm in an unmarked car borrowed from the Interterritorial Affairs staff. The OLD SOKS members assigned to protect the Sime Center were already in place, and they had driven by the Southside Upper School and confirmed that the contingent who had volunteered to shield it were also prepared. Judging by the grim look on Principal Buchan's face, Reverend Sinth's people would not easily cause trouble at his school again. Although the Clear Springs City Hall was on Sinth's list of possible targets, OLD SOKS had decided that splitting their force in half had already weakened them too much, especially since the Rational Deists would be guarding their Meeting Hall. If City Hall were attacked, the police would have to defend it themselves.

Now Den tried not to squirm with impatience as he sat in the power plant's parking lot, listening to the faint strains of a hymn wafting from the Conservative Congregation Church across the street. The Church's larger parking lot was filled to overflowing with vehicles of all shapes and sizes, and there wasn't an empty patch of curb for a quarter mile in either direction. Many sported Sinth's latest bumper sticker, a sinister black affair with THOU SHALT NOT SUFFER A SIME TO LIVE printed in blood-red letters, with the scriptural citation beneath.

The Donor wished that he could have attended the pre-caravan rally, so that he could have a better idea what he was up against. However, he and Tohm were far too well known. If Sinth caught them on church property, he would happily arrange for them to be arrested for trespassing--if his followers didn't lynch them first. Instead, Tohm had talked Arth Tinkum into attending the rally in their place. Since the sociology student had conducted sympathetic, in-depth interviews of several prominent Save Our Kids members as part of his research, he wouldn't automatically be identified as an OLD SOKS spy.

Unfortunately, that left Den sitting in the car, watching the mist condense on the windshield and waiting for something to happen. The singing and chants gradually grew more impassioned, until suddenly they were replaced with the hungry, undisciplined roar of an angry mob ready to pounce.

"Get ready," Tohm muttered. "It won't be long, now."

The Donor nodded, and started the car's engine. A few minutes later, one of the church's side doors cracked open and Arth slipped out. He immediately sprinted for the power plant, casting a fearful look over his shoulder as he ran. When he reached their car, he hastily jumped into the back seat, locking the door behind him.

"I've never seen anything so scary in my life," he panted. "Reverend Sinth has those people whipped into a frenzy. He's made himself a lynch mob, and they don't care who or what they destroy. Look at them!"

People were boiling out of the church like angry hornets from a disturbed hive. They shouted as they piled into their vehicles, and soon the hum of selyn-powered motors was added to the uproar.

"Did Reverend Sinth let anything slip about his target?" Tohm asked tensely.

Arth shook his head. "All he said was, follow the lead car. I think this is it, coming around from the loading dock."

The somber black car to which he pointed would not have looked out of place leading a funeral procession. However, Reverend Sinth's gaunt, unmistakable features were visible over the steering wheel. His eyes were glazed with excitement and his latest dose of melic weed. The preacher leaned on the horn and waved, and cars, trucks, and vans began to jostle for space as they moved into position behind him.

Although selyn-powered vehicles were now fairly common even this far out-Territory, they had only recently ceased to stigmatize their drivers as Simelovers. Den had learned to drive soon after he established, and he was accustomed to the more congested traffic of in-Territory cities. He used his superior skill to advantage, inserting his vehicle deftly into line directly behind Sinth's black limousine. The other cars gave way, falling in behind as the Caravan of Decency headed towards the outskirts of town.

As soon as the danger of another car cutting him off was past, Den dropped back a bit. The mist was clearing rapidly, and it wouldn't do for Sinth to discover who was following him. They were looping around the outer edges of the university campus now, with the rest of the caravan strung out for almost a mile behind them. The Donor wasn't surprised when Sinth turned onto one of the narrow country roads which connected Clear Springs with the closer small towns and the individual farmsteads which dotted the area. Even if the Caravan's intended target was in Clear Springs, to take advantage of the Clarion's greater circulation, the preacher was having far too much fun to end the game quickly.

The farmers had obviously been preparing their fields for spring planting in the intervals between rains. Scattered globs of dried mud adorned the pavement, along with random deposits of noxious natural fertilizers, no doubt contributed by the local dairy herds. Den slowed down to avoid skidding, but Sinth, high on melic and self-righteous hatred, and convinced of his invulnerability, did not. The distance between the two cars continued to widen, but Den was able to track the preacher's vehicle well enough by the dust cloud which hung in the air behind it.

All was going as planned, until the Donor rounded a bend and discovered a tractor trying to turn around in the middle of the road. Den slammed on the brakes and steered the car onto the shoulder, deftly threading the narrow gap between the tractor and the freshly worked, treacherously loose soil of the field it had been plowing. Horns blared and brakes squealed behind him as less skilled drives sought to avoid running into their fellows. Thanks to Den's cautious pace, a major pileup was avoided, but there were several new fender dents adorning the vehicles in the Caravan.

The farmer gaped for a moment at the sudden traffic jam on his usually peaceful road, then prudently moved his tractor off the pavement. Den took advantage of the open road ahead of him and sped off in pursuit of Sinth's car, which was long since out of sight. The caravan quickly sorted itself out and followed.

The road split, but there was a recent dust cloud hanging over the dirt branch. Shen, what kind of shock absorbers does Sinth have on that limousine of his? the Donor wondered as he slowed once more. Fortunately, the dirt road soon rejoined a paved one, and he was able to speed up once more, slowly closing the distance to the vehicle in front of him. A few miles later, the winding road straightened, and he and his passengers were finally able to catch a glimpse of it.

"I hate to tell you this--" Arth remarked "--but we're following a manure truck."

"I thought the smell had improved," Tohm commented gratuitously. "Sinth probably didn't take the dirt road turnoff. If we loop around, maybe we can find him."

"Why bother?" Den asked. When the other two turned to stare at him, he shrugged and pointed out the rear window. "Everyone's following us."

The two out-Territory Gens froze for a moment, then broke into hysterical laughter. "Sosu Milnan, you're almost as devious as my Silva!" Tohm applauded, gasping for breath between fits of giggles. "It's a beautiful day for a nice, long drive in the country, isn't it?"

For several hours, Den drove up and down the country roads, making turns at random. He followed a creek for a while, then crossed it and headed out between the fields and orchards. The caravan followed blindly, like the obedient sheep its members aspired to be.

Finally, the selyn batteries on a few of the older cars began to give out, forcing their drivers to pull over. Den's more modern vehicle still had an adequate charge, but he decided that the game had gone on long enough. "How do we get home from here, anyway?" he asked lightly.

His question was met with blank silence.

"Come on, now," the Donor urged with growing alarm. "You've both lived here for years. Surely you know your way around?"

"I'm a graduate student. I can't afford a car," Arth said quietly.

"And Silva's breaks down so often, we don't drive it any further out of town than we're willing to walk back." Tohm sighed. "Don't you have a map?"

"Several," the Donor groaned. "Unfortunately, they're back in Clear Springs, in the Sime Center car I usually drive. I forgot to retrieve them when I borrowed this car."

"Maybe there's something useful in here," Tohm suggested, opening the glove compartment. "Aha!" He pulled out a stack of maps. "All of these seem to be labeled in Simelan," he complained a few minutes later, after he had sorted through them. "And I don't recognize the geography, either."

Den waited until there was a straight stretch of road, then glanced at a few of the map titles. "Those are all districts around Valzor," he confirmed.

"Would this be more useful?" Arth asked from the back seat, holding up a road atlas.

"Would it ever!" OLD SOKS' leader snatched the book from the sociology student's grasp and began paging through it. "Well, the good news is that there's a map which covers this area," he announced. "The bad news is, it's pretty large scale, and only shows the major highways. Where are we, anyway?"

"At the intersection of County Road 78 and an unnamed dirt track," the Donor said.

"If we keep going, we're bound to run into a town eventually," Arth said, with more hope than conviction.

"You never know," Tohm said darkly. "It would be just like a farmer to build a road which doesn't run into anything but a tomato field. I mean, what can you expect of people who decorate their orchards with confetti and ribbons, out here in the middle of nowhere?" He nodded to the right.

Indeed, the row of trees on that side of the road had ribbons tied around their trunks, in a variety of brilliant colors. Several hunks of unspun cotton drifted on the ground below. About halfway down the row, the ribbons were replaced by large bags, which completely encased the ends of the branches.

"Wait a minute," Arth said, pushing his nose against the window to look more closely. "Are those walnut trees?"

Den tried to remember what the trees planted in front of Buchan's school had looked like.

"How should I know if they're walnuts?" Tohm asked impatiently, as they left the orchard behind and headed past a greening pasture full of cows. "I'm a law student, not a botanist. What does it matter, anyway?"

"It matters because if they are, I think I know where we are," Arth retorted. "My officemate picked up some cash last spring helping the professor who does walnut breeding with the cross-pollinations. They used bags a lot like those to contain the pollen...and the experimental orchard was just south of Clearston."

"Then if we head north, we'll hit civilization," Tohm whooped. "Although considering the attitude of Clearston's City Council, 'civilization' might be stretching it a bit."

"All we require is a map," Den pointed out. "However deplorable Clearston's new ordinance against mobile Sime Centers, I'm sure they'll be happy to sell us one, if only to ensure that we can get out of their town as quickly as possible." Up ahead, Road 78 intersected with a similar paved thoroughfare. "Does anyone know which way is north?"

Two hands pointed to the right.


Clearston wasn't exactly a booming community, Den observed with the condescending eyes of the city-bred. There were a few streets of faded, tumbledown houses, many with thin, raggedly dressed children playing listlessly in the bare dirt yards. They passed five large churches from the more conservative out-Territory denominations, though, on the way into the center of town. It was obvious that their congregations didn't share the Rational Deists' opinion of the relative importance of church and family. All five churches were freshly painted and well maintained, in sharp contrast to the squalor of the homes around them.

Den wondered how the parents in those faded houses could live with themselves, as they put the money that should have paid for their children's food and clothing into the collection plate each week. But then, these denominations teach parents to hate and fear their children, who might reveal their secret sins by turning Sime. I wonder if there's a connection?

Main Street had a few blocks of shops, most of which seemed to carry farm equipment, general hardware, or groceries. The shopping district didn't have a stoplight, but it did have plenty of stop signs and one way streets. At one intersection, Den lost the Caravan of Decency when a group of schoolchildren in well-patched clothes crossed the street behind him, following their teacher like a newly hatched clutch of ducklings.

In the middle of the shopping district was the Clearston City Hall. It was a three-story brick edifice which looked imposing next to the cheap wood construction of the privately owned buildings. According to the sign in front, it housed not only the city offices, but the Chamber of Commerce, the Clearston Historical Society, and the Post Office as well.

"Let's see if the Chamber of Commerce will sell us a map," Den suggested as they passed. He steered the car over to the curb and parked.

"There it is!" someone yelled.

Before the Donor could get the door open, the Caravan of Decency squealed to a halt behind him. The first wave of cars filled every parking space on the block. The rest of the Caravan double parked in the street. Doors were flung open, and Sinth's followers jumped out, waving signs attached to sturdy wooden posts.

The Caravan's participants had not forgotten that Reverend Sinth had included city halls among his list of possible targets. Many of them had traveled long distances to strike a blow against the Simelovers, and knew neither the identity of the town, nor the history of its relationship with the Clear Springs Sime Center. Even the locals had spent the morning listening to Reverend Sinth's impassioned rhetoric, which accused all city governments, without exception, of selling out to the Tecton.

They gathered on the front lawn and hesitated for a moment, waiting for directions from their leader.

Then the man with the turmeric-colored hair screamed, "Let's teach the Simeloving traitors a lesson they won't forget!"

With a predatory roar, the mob surged into the Clearston City Hall. They were in a foul mood from being packed into their vehicles for so many hours, and they took it out on the building and its innocent occupants. Windows shattered, and screams echoed down the hallways. Some city employees were quick enough to escape the riot by climbing down the fire ladders; others were dragged outside and shoved around. When a filing cabinet was thrown through a third floor window and broke open on the ground, scattering papers over the lawn, Den decided that it was time to make a quick escape.

"It looks like the Chamber of Commerce is temporarily closed," he said, starting the engine and putting the car in gear. "There's a bookstore down the street. Shall we see if it carries maps?"


"What I don't understand--" Den mused the next morning as he set the next stack of donation records on Arth's desk in the Center's library "--is why Save Our Kids has been getting so violent lately. They used to be content with just calling people bad names, and maybe calling for a boycott, but in Clearston, they put three city clerks and the postmaster in the hospital. With the way public opinion has been going against them lately, you'd think they'd behave themselves."

"Actually, it works just the opposite way," Arth commented absently, sorting through the papers in his backpack until he found the partially-completed data sheet he wanted. He fished a well-gnawed pencil out of his shirt pocket, copied the number on the top file onto his data sheet, then handed the folder to Sumulo, who had appropriated the library's most comfortable chair and pulled it over next to the desk.

Den noticed that the student was no longer watching the channel as closely as before, and he wasn't alarmed enough to stop speaking even when Sumulo slipped up and used a handling tentacle to flip through the file. Good. It's about time Arth got used to tentacles. Maybe he won't cause quite so much trouble the next time he donates. The graduate student had spent the past few months doing his best to disprove his own hypothesis about how quickly Gens became accustomed to donating.

"Social theory predicts that as norms change, groups which reject the changes will become radicalized, in proportion to the strength of their rejection," Arth explained. "At the same time, previously radicalized groups on the opposite end of the spectrum will become integrated into the mainstream."

He's been talking to Professor Ildun again, Den thought. "What?"

Arth blinked at the Donor's confusion, then turned the data sheet over and drew a horizontal line. "It works like this. Suppose you want to know what the public thinks about something--any issue, as long as it's controversial enough that people bother to argue about it. Let's take the Sime Center as an example. You go out and ask a thousand randomly selected people whether they think there should be a Sime Center in Clear Springs, and you'll get a wide range of answers. Some people will think it's a great idea, some will want to run you out of town. Most will fall somewhere in between." He wrote "anti-Sime" at one end of the line and "pro-Sime" at the other, then drew a vertical line which crossed the horizontal one at one end, and labeled it "number of people."

"If you graph where each person in Clear Springs falls on this scale, you'd come up with something like this." He drew a curved line, close to the horizontal line at either end, and humping in the middle.

"How do you know it would look like that?" Den asked skeptically.

Arth shrugged. "The statistics books call it a 'normal distribution' for a reason. You get this kind of curve when you measure any trait that varies over a population--that includes political opinions, test scores, or even physical traits like height and weight. All it means is that most people are pretty average. Oh, sometimes the curve spreads out more, and there's always a bit of noise when you use real data, but if you get more than one distinct hump, chances are pretty good you have more than one distinct population."

"But as far as their attitudes about the Sime Center are concerned, I'd say Sinth's group and, say, the Rational Deists are distinct groups," the Donor objected.

"Not really. They're on opposite sides of the curve, but they live in the same town, send their kids to the same schools, and shop in the same stores. More importantly, they have the same neighbors, most of whom have opinions somewhere in between. As long as both extremes have to get along with the middle, there's pressure to conform."

Behind Arth's back, Sumulo yawned in an elaborate display of boredom, but Den was too interested to drop the subject. "So how do you know if you have two populations, or just, what did you call it, 'noise in the data?'"

"There are statistical tests you can do to calculate the probability that you have two populations, but I won't go into them now."

"Thank you," Den said with undisguised gratitude.

Arth grinned, and poked his pencil at the middle of the hump. "Like I said, on any controversial issue, most people's opinions are pretty close to the average--that's the mean, if you're a statistician." He drew a dotted line which neatly cut the hump in half. "If they take action for or against the issue, they're polite about it. After all, they know that most people pretty much agree with them. They're standing up for the community's values, against the radicals who want to destroy them. On the other hand, the people out on the fringes--" he poked his pencil at the two tails on either side of the hump "--have a hard time getting the average person's attention, much less their agreement. They have nothing to lose by making trouble; in fact, that may be the only way they can get their ideas out in front of the community."

Den looked at the diagram, then shook his head in bewilderment. "But Reverend Sinth and the other members of Save Our Kids have exactly the same opinions now that they did when the Sime Center opened nearly two years ago. They haven't gotten more radical. So how come they've suddenly started acting like terrorists?"

have gotten more radical," Arth explained. "When the Sime Center opened, they were more anti-Sime than average; most people weren't concerned enough to stake out your front sidewalk. However, they were still comfortably close to the mean, since most of their neighbors didn't want you around, either. When they demonstrated against the Center, they knew they were representing the community, and that made them behave themselves. But since then, a lot of people have decided that they don't mind having a Sime Center in town after all. The mean has shifted, like this."

"The student sketched another curve overlapping the first. It was the same size and shape, but further towards the "pro-Sime" end of the scale. "Since Sinth and his followers didn't shift with the mean, their same old opinion, which used to be pretty mainstream, is now radical. Since it doesn't look like the mean is going to shift back in their direction any time soon, they're left with trying to punish the traitors who left them behind, any way they can. These days, their 'enemies' are just about everyone."

Den studied the paper for a moment, then nodded slowly. "I think I understand what you're saying. It would certainly explain some of the things that have been going on. It's nice to think that we've managed to convince most people around here that we're not a danger to them, but if you're right, Save Our Kids is going to be giving us more trouble in the future, not less."

Arth shrugged. "Give it time. Sinth's current group grew up with community support for their beliefs. Their children's friends will take your changeover classes, and have parents who donate. If Save Our Kids members want to keep living here, they'll have to moderate their position until it's at least tolerable to their neighbors. Who knows, some day they may decide that it's a religious duty for their members to donate. Speaking of which--" his prominent Adam's apple convulsed as he swallowed nervously "--I've got to donate tomorrow and I was wondering..." His voice trailed off uncertainly.

Den raised an interrogative eyebrow.

Thus prompted, the student found the courage to continue. "With all the talks in Berrysville, there are so many new channels around. I'm sure they're perfectly competent, but I'd really feel more comfortable donating to someone who isn't a stranger."

I hope you're paying attention, Sumulo, Den thought as he nodded encouragement. If I have anything to say about it, you won't take another donation until you've learned to inspire the same kind of confidence in a donor that Rital does.

Arth shuffled his feet a bit more, then blurted out, "So could I donate to Hajene Sumulo?"

Proceed to Chapter 14