Sime Surgeon Copyright ©1979 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg -
Copyright 1999 Sime~Gen(tm) Inc. All rights reserved.



Jacqueline Lichtenberg


Since I'm reading this as I post it, I have some observations on fandom, fanzines, fanfiction and economics to lay on the poor unsuspecting writing students I've assigned to study this story in its various incarnations.

One of those incarnations is the novella titled Lortuen Unto Zeor, Forever, was the second novel I sold, and my first Award Winner. But it was a story that had been with me for more than ten years by the time I went to create it for the Doubleday market (which included mostly high school libraries who bought the year's worth of Doubleday hardcovers on subscription, sight unseen.)

Lortuen was not the first attempt to write that story, but it was the first attempt to aim that story at a professional marketplace. At that time, there were a number of magazines publishing science fiction and an even greater number of anthology markets which would accept novella length pieces. The Sime~Gen background is so complex that it's very hard to create a complete story in under ten thousand words, and the material I wanted to cover in Lortuen was more subtle than I had ever attempted before. I messed it up. One anthology editor told me, "There's a novel in there screaming to get out." And I studied the possibility of that and came up with Sime Surgeon.

This took several years to accomplish. And in fact, I've been mining the novella Lortuen ever since for bits and pieces. The main flaw in Lortuen is that it's too short - there is just too much material crammed into too short a work.

And when you come right down to it, that's the major underlying structural flaw in Sime Surgeon, too.

That's because, as a science fiction fan I had always been more interested in the science than the fiction. I loved doctor novels and had never read a Romance novel in my life. I hated Nancy Drew. I grew up on Rick Brant instead - who was the adolescent male equivalent of Nancy Drew. Rick Brant was the son of a rich, eccentric millionaire inventor (something like Batman), a kid who flew around in his own private plane rescuing people and solving mysteries using beyond-state-of-the-art technology. I didn't care for the guy at all - but I lusted after the gadgets. Now I have even better in my house - off-the-shelf technology too.

To me, the science behind a story is inherently interesting and can be presented in exhaustive detail without apology. That's true in what has become known as "nuts-n-bolts sf" today - but at the time I was writing and marketing these first Sime~Gen novels, there was no such distinction because there was nothing but nuts-n-bolts sf. At that time, there wasn't even a fully recognized division known as Adult Fantasy. Now, the Science Fiction Writers of America has become officially the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If I were, today, starting with Lortuen, I would bring the Occult, ESP, Telepathy, Telekinesis, and prophetic aspects of the channel's mutation into the foreground and sink the selyn-transport functions into the background, redesign the whole society and culture of the Tecton behind these stories, rewrite the entire three thousand years of history, and market this as Adult Fantasy - possibly an alternate history of Earth, or another dimension or a Through the Looking Glass universe. And then the story-structure behind this material would fit a commercial mold.

It would probably sell better - but it wouldn't be a story that I want to tell. I want to tell stories about science and adventure - but what I have to say about those two elements is that they aren't very important in the overall scheme of things. And that is what Digen Farris is perceiving here - though he (as I at that time) can't articulate it. He looks at his world, and he sees it as "wrong" - but he doesn't see that it's a world built by adverturers and scientists which is just fine, except that it's missing whole, entire dimensions of reality that have to be there in proportion for anything to work right.

And now to the observations on fandom, and fanzines. The editions of Ambrov Zeor that I have here - that Ronnie Bob Whitaker scanned and ocr'd - are in better shape than the professionally published novels of the same dates.

The reason is that for the fanzines, we used a more acid free paper. We charged an unconscionable amount of money for these 'zines - and the price covered only paper, printing and postage. That price for AZ #9 was $3.00 which almost priced us out of the market. And it contained a lot of other material besides this installment of Sime Surgeon.

Today, with vast improvements in technology that have cut production costs (have you any idea how much per side of paper they charged for photo-reduction in those days? And few typewriters had "fonts" and couldn't type smaller the way computers can.) we still would have to charge about $10 for a 'zine of similar size and that price is going up almost monthly.

You're getting this free - and you can make the print whatever size you please and print it on any kind of paper you please - or have a Kurtzweil program read it to you aloud! In addition, this time I've removed Ronnie Bob's proofing marks - and rearranged the pages that were printed in the 'zine in the wrong order so now the text-flow makes sense.

The only thing you MAY NOT do with this text is transfer it to another website or make copies to distribute. If there's someone you want to give it to who can't download it from the Web - contact me and we'll arrange it.

And if you need a copy of the Doubleday or paperback Unto Zeor, Forever,email me at . Of course, today, postage and handling costs almost as much as the book itself!  New books from Meisha Merlin - click here




 Copyright 1979 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg.  Copyright  1999 Sime~Gen(tm) Inc. All rights reserved.


When Branoff had left with his escort, Digen dropped into Mickland's chair to think. For just a few hours he had felt the weight of his commitment to surgery lifted. Until then he hadn't realized just how much of a burden it was.

Now, picking up that obligation again, he knew that he had to do something to get Imrahan back. He could not let Branoff down, could not get the hospital chief fired just because Tecton bureaucracy moved so ponderously.

He rummaged through Mickland's drawers until he found a suitable form, and he began filling in the numbers. Digen himself was a First Order Channel with a Proficiency Rating of 3.98 on a logarithmic scale of 4.0. But he hadn't done the grueling proficiency tests since before his accident. He knew his actual rating was closer to 4.25, way off the top of the scale. There were only a handful of channels in the world, mostly Farrises, who had gone off the top, and officially Digen wasn't one of them.

He couldn't take four months off from the hospital to go in-test himself, and he doubted if he'd be allowed to if he had the time. The testing was standardized, and his injury made him a very nonstandard subject. Also, since the testing procedure drove a channel as close to death by attrition as possible in order to establish his Psychological breaking point, it was much too dangerous for someone with an injury like Digen's. The tests were designed not only to establish limits of endurance, but also to teach the channel to recognize his personal limit and thus to leave a safety margin when he was working.

The PR test for a Donor was simply to serve the need of a channel in attrition with a satisfactory performance that assigned the Donor the same PR number as the channel he had served, and then, theoretically, all a Controller had to do was match up his channels and Donors by the numbers.

Unfortunately, people had a habit of growing and changing, so their official numbers never quite matched their actual performance Imrahan had held a 3.58, a very respectable rating, but it was almost two years out of date, and when he had served Digen, Imrahan had qualified as a 4+.

The problem was to make that qualification official. Then Imrahan's time would never be taken up with channels below the 4.0 line. However, Digen was officially below that line himself. So his own PR number had to be changed somehow, without putting him through the testing procedure.

There was no routine, official form to cover such a thing, so Digen began drafting several letters to various therapists who had worked with him over the years, explaining what had happened during his transfer with Imrahan, and detailing his own chronic condition.

He had been putting off this move for years. He knew it would bring the spotlight to bear on him again, as it had after his accident. But the time had come. It had to be done now, at the same time he put through a special request to send Imrahan into test. With any luck at all, they should both be re-rated at about the same time, and probability favored them being matched at that time. Give it six months, thought Digen, plenty of time before I'll be assigned to surgery.

Even if Imrahan's re-rating didn't come through in time, Digen was sure his own would, and then they couldn't assign him anyone under a 3.90, which would be a relief. Corlene Kataev, his new Donor was a 3.23 officially, but was unofficially estimated as a 3.50 like Imrahan. But, by Digen's requirements, she was hardly a Donor at all. When he'd first met Imrahan, he had recognized the Donor was functioning close to the 3.90 level. On a logarithmic scale, four tenths of a point was a lot.

Very thoughtfully, Digen dropped the whole pile of letters into the mail bag. He had the feeling he had reached a turning point in his life.

By the time Digen was called to Mickland's office a week later, the feeling had faded. Things were going well at the hospital. He liked Emhardt, and the work. Though he didn't feel he was making a lot of progress toward learning surgery, still it was a pleasant rest which he was enjoying. All of his energies now were going into the problem of breaking a trautholo dependency with nothing more to work with than Corlene Kataev.

Mickland still hadn't assigned him a new Second to replace Madhur Sharma, and Digen supposed that

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was what Mickland wanted to see him about. He found the Controller in the back workroom, behind the formal office.

The moment Mickland caught sight of Digen, he shoved aside the chart he was working on and picked up a fat envelope with a red card attached at one corner. He shoved the envelope across the desk with a pen, saying, "Sign. You're being officially served with this."

Digen sat down in the guest chair, looking at the envelope. It had the official logo of the World Controller on one corner, and it was addressed to him. He signed the card and tore it off, handing it to Mickland. "What is it?"

"Open it."

Digen tore the envelope open. Official procedure required him to read such a document in the Controller's presence. He scanned all five stiff pages of it, catching the key phrases. It was an injunction against performing surgical procedures an Simes, whether in or out-Territory. He met Mickland's eyes.

"You're in trouble, Sectuib Farris."

Digen grimaced, his eyes falling again on the document. He knew it was the result of Mickland's report on the shooting incident in the hospital. If he should do it again, now that he'd been served with the injunction, he would lose his out-Territory visa and his right to demand a match donor. He hadn't used that right in years, and he didn't intend to. It was the use of that right simultaneously by too many channels that had caused Elkar's suicide. But even so, it was a right all the higher order channels treasured too much to jeopardize. It was a sort of psychological security, a way out should the going get too rough.

"I have no intention of performing surgery on any Sime, and I never have had. That Distect commando was unharmed by what Dr. Durr did, and at the time it seemed necessary to enable the man to tell us where he had planted the remaining bomb. They still haven't found it, and that makes work at the Frihill dig very risky."

"Nothing that man could have done could possibly justify what you did to him."

Digen shook his head. "No, but I won't argue. Apparently you've persuaded somebody in the World Controller's office to agree with you. I've been properly notified. May I go now, Controller?"

"There is one other matter," said Mickland, picking up a folder. "Ilyana Dumas."

Abruptly, Mickland smiled. "Digen, look. Why should we fight, you and I? I got you slapped with an injunction, you got me hit with a reprimand over Madhur Sharma. Draw. Nobody wins. As long as you're fighting me, this District, this Center, even your life is going to be solid shen. There's no point to it when together, we could accomplish so much."

"I'm all for accomplishing."

"Of course you are," said Mickland, opening the file. "Now look at this," he said, handing over a letter on World Controller's stationery. "The World Controller is very excited about the possibilities in this Ilyana Dumas affair. If we can stabilize her in the Tecton mode of living, it will demonstrate graphically, as nothing else could, that the Tecton way is the most natural, healthful and basically superior way of living for Simes and Gens alike."

"I can see that. I don't think it would necessarily prove anything, but people would think it did. The core of the Distect myth has grown up around their total fanaticism in rejecting the Tecton as immoral. If just one Distect adherent could be converted, it would be impressive."

"I knew you were a man of great perceptivity. Now, I have here Rindaleo Hayashi's report on the woman. It seems that he was making no progress with her whatsoever until the day you taught her some manners."

Digen remembered that day very well, but he hadn't been aware that he'd taught her anything at all. Instead, he had reawakened the Rizdel nightmare in himself, and Hayashi had not let him near her again.

"Now," said Mickland, "Hayashi reports he had reached another plateau. He has requested that you be assigned to train Ilyana Dumas."

"He what!" said Digen, grabbing the paper Mickland was holding. It was indeed Hayashi's formal request for Digen's assistance, starting with the job of monitoring Hayashi's personal transfer with Ilyana.

"No, I can't do this. It will be my turnover day, and there's still the matter of that trautholo."

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"That trautholo came under the Householding dispensation. I'm not required to take any official notice of it unless it impairs your functioning. And if it impairs your functioning, the dispensation won't cover it, and it becomes the result of illegal activity."

Digen eyed Mickland, beginning to see the shapes within the Controller's mind. Mickland had engineered the whole thing, starting the very day Digen had first walked into his office. Digen could see it now. Mickland had timed Digen's transfer with Imrahan, so that Imrahan's phase would be shifted putting him at the top of the roll to serve the fellow who had been sent to Drumlin. Knowing that the loss of Imrahan would be a blow -- though Digen couldn't credit him with foreseeing how much of a blow -- Mickland had then timed Ilyana and Hayashi to transfer on Digen's turnover day.

A Controller had the power to make life pure shen for his channels. Conversely, he could make things very pleasant, if he chose. A Controller who would use his office like this, though, was beyond Digen's ability to contemplate.

He knew his rising disgust was perfectly visible to Mickland. He snatched the blue assignment sheet out of the folder, spun, and tore out the door without another word.

He didn't wait for the elevator, but took the stairs five flights up to Hayashi's floor, hoping the sustained third level augmentation would soak up same of his fury. But he was still angry when he slammed his way into Hayashi's office and shoved the blue page at Hayashi's face, demanding, "What is this!"

At the moment, Hayashi was conducting a class. The office was full of Simes and Gens observing one of Hayashi's more spectacular demonstrations, a Gen hooked up to one of his flashing light machines and controlling the lights with his nager.

When Digen entered, the lights on the machine went wild, and everyone turned to stare at Digen. Hayashi took the paper Digen was shaking under his nose and glanced at it. He said, "That will be all for today. Same time next week."

There was a rising babble as they all reluctantly gathered their things and left. The Simes could see Digen's state, and even the Gens could tell that something interesting was about to happen. But however curious, they didn't linger any longer than it took Hayashi to disconnect the student from the machinery and turn the thing off.

Digen was seething by the time they were finally alone. He said, "That -- that man -- that so-called Controller is -- is "

"Digen," said Hayashi, dropping into the desk chair heavily, "calm down." Propping his elbows on the desk, Hayashi rubbed his eyes with ventral tentacles and his forehead with his fingers. "I can't."

". . . is -- don't you realize what he . . ." And then Digen recognized Hayashi was in need. "Oh, Rin," he said, suddenly drained of all outrage. "I'm sorry." You don't kick a man when he's down.

Digen put his own nager in order and reached out to offer Hayashi a steadying hand. "I had no right to do that to you. I'm sorry."

Hayashi recovered rapidly. He was still four days from hard need, and though he didn't have anything like Digen's control, he likewise didn't have Digen's sensitivity. He clasped Digen's hands for a moment, working against the now steady field Digen offered, and with two deep breaths, he recovered his own stability.

Hayashi picked up the blue sheet of paper and looked it over. "This is just routine. I sent it down a couple of days ago."

"Rin, it's my turnover day, and with this trautholo Imrahan hung on me, and not a half-way decent donor in sight. . ."

"Turnover day? Shen! So it would be. How could I have forgotten? Oh, that crazy cycle of hers!"


"I know what I was thinking. You monitored her first transfer here, and that wasn't on your turnover day, so why should this one be? Sometimes I'm such an idiot! I mean, I'd been working with Imrahan's rephasing; why didn't I think?"

"It's the Controller's job to think of those things, not yours," said Digen, finally catching up with Hayashi's thought processes. Digen had monitored Ilyana's first transfer at the Center the day he arrived, and that had been only three days after his own transfer. but Digen's cycle had been rephased to meet Imrahan, and apparently Ilyana's phasing was not a steady four week cycle.

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"Yeah," said Hayashi, "but when he thinks of them, he uses them as a weapon, and I should have known what would happen if he tried any of his tactics on you. My head's exploding!"

"You mean he's done this before?"

Hayashi was rubbing his eyes again. He just nodded vaguely. Digen said, "Let me get you some tea with peptaynin." He was already on his feet by the time Hayashi demurred, and Digen said, "It's done already."

At the side bar, Digen put tea in two glasses and added peptaynin, a heroin derivative, to one. "Drink this; you'll feel better."

Hayashi took time out from nursing his head to drink the tea, and Digen sat and waited, drinking his own tea. With a Controller like that, what are we going to do? But Digen knew Hayashi was in no condition to solve the problems of the world.

Eventually, Hayashi picked up the blue paper, folded it, and yanked it in half and in half again, tossing the shreds in the waste basket. "I'll have to get someone else, obviously. Let's see, Ilyana's last transfer was with Mora Dyen," said Hayashi, ticking off days on his desk calendar, "and that puts my transfer two days after her turnover. Shen! Digen, do you think she can handle Ilyana two days into her own need?"

"Mora? I've never looked up her chart, but I'd estimate she's about a 3.4, isn't she?"

"Recently in test, shows 3.45."

Digen squinted at Hayashi. The man was over fifty years old, and his growth rate had probably slowed recently. "I'd guess maybe 3.54, but let's call it 55 to be on the safe side . . ." Digen put the numbers through the formulas muttering, "And forty-eight hours post for her, let's call it a round sixty to be safe. Now, give me the specs on Ilyana."

Hayashi shoved an open folder across the littered desk and drained his tea glass while Digen plucked figures automatically off the standard chart form and plugged them into the formula. He doodled a moment, and then looked at what he was doing in some bewilderment. "But it comes out negative! What did I do wrong?"

Digen stared at the page of symbols. It was a simple calculation he'd learned to do flawlessly even before changeover. He looked at Ilyana's chart, really looked at it for the first time. "Shen-shid!"

Hayashi took the scratch pad and looked over Digen's notations. "No mistake. It's negative. When you put Ilyana into any formula, it goes negative, or infinite. That happens with all you four-pluses. The formulas just don't work, and we're reduced to guessing, just like your great-great-grandfather had to. So give me your best guess; can Mora do it?"

Digen wasn't listening. He was looking at the chart. "Sixteen days! Rin, she's doing First Order transfers every sixteen days?"

"It's the best I've been able to do for her. I know it's no . . ."

"She can't survive this. No Gen can survive this. She's losing weight, eating four meals a day. She's burning herself up."

"There's nothing like it in the literature. Her chemical governors are totally gone, and though I was making some progress she hasn't been able to learn any real conscious control. It's almost cruel to make her go sixteen days at a stretch."

Digen had never seen a chart like this before. It was almost as if a child had filled in any numbers that came to mind. "No," said Digen blankly, "Mora can't handle this, even before turnover. Do we have any Firsts on staff who hold a three-nine or better?"

"Cloris Agar was the only one, and she left last week and hasn't been replaced. I think Mora and I are Senior now, next to you, but I'm not sure. That's . . ."

"The Controller's job," Digen finished with him.

Digen could not, under any circumstances, ask Mora to expose herself to this. And the Center couldn't requisition an unattached First to monitor for Hayashi as long as Digen was on staff and available. The one thing Mickland could do would be to move Hayashi's transfer up a few hours to be clear of Digen's turnover. But Digen knew there was no use asking that favor. Mickland would claim the disruption in Hayashi's phase was unwarranted, and he'd find a way to substantiate the claim.

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"All right," said Digen, grimly, "let's see what you and I can do to minimize this trautholo before I hit my cusp, and I'll do my best for you."

Hayashi pulled the four volumes of notes on Ilyana Dumas, and soon they were both completely absorbed in the technical problem of putting together a monitored transfer in which the receiving channel was aberrant, while the Donor was uncontrolled. On paper, it looked impossible, which is what gave it such an intense fascination for both of them that Digen was almost late getting back to the hospital Pathology Lab.

For the first time in sixteen years, Digen found himself enjoying the channel's work. In fact, since his medical career was bogged down in pathology, he was enjoying Hayashi's challenge more than he was his hospital work.

The next two days, Digen mapped out the form of the transfer Hayashi would attempt with Ilyana, while Hayashi worked up a program for Digen's trautholo. Occasionally, Digen would draw back and wonder how he'd gotten into this. He remembered with full emotional clarity how he'd felt when he'd stormed into Hayashi's office. He still felt that way about Mickland, but he was now caught up in the last-ditch battle Hayashi was fighting for Ilyana's life. He had no time to worry about Mickland.

On the third day, they met in one of Hayashi's highly insulated instrument rooms for a rehearsal. Digen, having arrived first, was toying with one of Hayashi's machines enjoying the way he could make the colored lights go on and off, or even flicker so fast a Gen couldn't tell they were flickering, when Hayashi entered. "Hey, stop that," said Hayashi, "you'll blow a circuit or something."

Digen stopped, flicking off the power. "Sorry. But that's quite a gadget."

"Cost me almost a year's budget."

Need. Digen could feel it, dominating the room, turning the usually easygoing Hayashi into another person. "I didn't realize," said Digen. "I'm sorry."

Hayashi didn't answer, just threw the thick folder he'd been carrying down on the desk beside the twin contour lounges. Digen said, "Look, if you're feeling, that bad, maybe we ought to cancel this."

"I'm all right!" It was a snarl of suppressed aggression.

Digen knew he didn't dare offer kindness at this point. It would only provoke Hayashi. "Well then, let's get on with it," said Digen, in almost the same tone. "Lie down there and let me get my readings first."

Hayashi turned to snap something at Digen, but drew back, tossing his hands in the air, tentacles spread in a helpless apology. They both knew that Digen had the harder job in this transfer. Digen said, "Never mind, we've all been there, Rin."

Hayashi took to the lounge, stretching out full and striving to relax. A Sime in need relaxing was a contradiction in terms, but it was just another of those little things the Tecton required of its channels.

Digen took his readings on Hayashi's selyn flows, glad to get the numbers pinned dawn before Ilyana arrived with her impossible field. He was just finishing when she walked in, saying, "Sorry I'm late."

"You're not," said Digen, noting down the last number.

She went right to Hayashi, seeming to pay no attention to Digen at all. But, Digen noted, she deliberately positioned herself to Digen's left, when it would have been easier to move in on his right. I never told her that, thought Digen, and he knew she had never seen Imrahan working; with him.

Hayashi sat up, warding her off a ways. "Not today, Ilyana. Try not to make it harder on me than it has to be."

She checked her hand in mid-reach, pulled it back. Her eyes closed, and Digen felt the throb in the room as if there had actually been an abort. He swung between the two, moving Ilyana back a few paces, until he could use his own field to protect Hayashi. "The Tecton does many things, Ilyana," said Digen, "but we don't permit torture."

She flinched as if slapped. Digen pressed his advantage. "If you want to work with us today, you have to behave civilized."

Behind Digen, Hayashi swung his feet to the floor and said, "He means, you have to behave uncivilized. You have to do your best to ignore the need it will be yours to fill. If you can't do that, Ilyana, you'll never qualify as a Tecton Donor."

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Digen felt something grim and cold take over inside her as she riveted her eyes on him. "I'm trying," she said, "but I don't know how!"

She caught her breath, and said to Digen, "How can you care without caring! How can you live without breathing?"

On impulse, Digen suddenly took her into transfer position, with full lateral and lip contact, fields balanced for zero flux. He stood bathed in the deep emotional pain she felt, exposing himself to it without any defenses. He felt what she was feeling, as if he were in fact her, but he didn't know why she felt this way.

Desperation. That was obviously from the selyn already backed up beyond reasonable limits within her tissues. She was as attracted to the deep whorling vortex of darkness that was Hayashi as a moth would be to a torch in the night. That was normal enough for any higher order Donor, though most of them never recognized it on a conscious level.

The rest of the fragmented maelstrom of emotions underlying her desperate drive to reach Hayashi resolved in Digen's mind as a peculiar nightmare image rising from his medical training -- nerve endings ripped from their seats in the brain and pulped to bloody shreds. His channel's intuition added a meaning. She had been conditioned to cultivate the deep attachment of dependency between Sime and Gen, as the old Companions used to be. But here, first with Mickland, then Mora Dyen, and now Hayashi, she was being asked to break such a dependency three times in less than five weeks. It was more than flesh and blood could endure, and she'd been given to understand that she failed only because she wasn't brave enough, or because she didn't try hard enough, or that the Tecton-trained Donors were somehow superior to her in willpower. They weren't; they simply avoided facing anything like what she was facing.

"Ilyana!" said Digen, pulling back to break the contact.

But somehow, she anticipated his move and deftly blocked it. And suddenly he realized that she was reading him almost as perfectly as he was reading her. She was looking for something in him. And somehow, she was finding it. The image of pulped nerve endings hazed over and faded, not healed so much as put aside for something more important.

How do we endure it? thought Digen. We don't. We avoid it. How? I'll show you how.

He hadn't held such total nonverbal communication with a Gen since his sister had drifted out of his life. Even with Imrahan, it was always half explanation and half demonstration. Now, he was simply demonstrating. He manipulated her internal selyn flows and showed her how to avoid falling into the resonance it was so painful to break.

It was not like working on any other Gen he'd even met. She seemed to be right there, totally aware of everything he did, ready and able to duplicate it as soon as he'd finished. And the feeling was, oh, yes, I see! There was an undertone of excitement in the discovery of something new, and a profound relief from frustration.

And when he had done, Digen made again to withdraw, but she forestalled the move. She became perfectly still. Where she had been fragmented, she became a quicksilver mirror in which Digen could virtually see himself, caught up in the same web of tortured nerve endings, and half-broken dependency that she was. The trautholo dependency.

A moment later, it was Ilyana who terminated the contact, expertly allowing Digen just the right amount of time to dismantle the lateral contacts, but still herself determining the moment of the break. She withdrew from him, and said, "So, that's what you meant, Rin."

Digen looked at her again with new eyes. She was still thin, almost emaciated, and with a feverish glow to her skin, but somehow she was stronger now, healthier. He turned to Hayashi, "Why did you let her walk around like that?"

She came even with him, on his left putting out a hand to his arm. "Digen, he tried. I didn't -- I couldn't -- he really tried. I mean, Hajene Farris . . ."

"Digen . . ." he corrected.

"It wasn't your fault, Ilyana," said Hayashi. "He just didn't have anybody who could tolerate your field long enough to show you how to do it."

She took two steps toward Hayashi, checked herself, looking back at Digen.

"No," said Hayashi, getting to his feet and moving Ilyana back to Digen, "he's your job today. Tomorrow, we'll deal with my problems, and yours. Right now, Digen, you lie down and let me get set."

"Wha . . . ? But . . ." Digen looked to Ilyana, duoconscious image giving way to hyperconscious perception, and he saw again the quicksilver pool reflecting his own image back to him. "Rin, look, can't

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you see?" The words Digen used were the Simelan verbs for hyperconscious perception. Hayashi stopped in the midst of adjusting one of his instruments. In need, he had, of course, been avoiding the hyperconscious mode as much as possible, es

Transfer interrupted!

He had seen her nager quiet and become reflective, but he hadn't noticed it. He had deliberately avoided noticing.

He looked now, and said, "Digen?" Then he looked again directly at Digen's nager.

Ilyana said, "Have I done wrong again?"

Hayashi said, "It's gone, no, going. Digen?"

Digen rubbed sweating, palms together. He was aware of the gradual loosening of the grip of the trautholo, the inward sense that he couldn't tolerate transfer with anyone but Imrahan. He knew that Ilyana had caused this to happen, but he wasn't sure exactly when or how she had done it. Perhaps he had done it to himself. Perhaps Hayashi was right and she was indeed his matchmate.

In abrupt panic, he tried to stop the dissolution, suddenly realizing that it was happening because he preferred Ilyana. She's Hayashi's Donor!

Hayashi, misunderstanding completely Digen's reason for fighting the spontaneous lifting of the trautholo, impelled Ilyana toward Digen. "No, you're doing it just right, Ilyana, keep it up."

"No," said Ilyana. She knew better than to try to resist Hayashi physically. She let his hand carry her into Digen's arms, but simultaneously, she stopped doing whatever it was she had been doing. "He doesn't want to lose the other one's touch."

"Nonsense!" said Hayashi.

Digen caught Ilyana up and swung her aside, turning to Hayashi. "She's right."

"But Digen, you have to. Or . . ."

Digen took Hayashi's hands, not offering a full contact because he didn't dare drop to Hayashi's field level with Ilyana in the room. "Rin! Feel it! It's not dissolving, it's shifting --to her!"

Hayashi was not functioning at his keenest. It took him several seconds to discern that Digen was not now so much clinging to Imrahan as he was groping toward Ilyana. It frightened them both. Hayashi said, "Ilyana, go." And when she hesitated, he added. "Now!"

She hesitated another moment, and then, seeing that her presence was the source of disruption, she left.

"Rin, I can't monitor this transfer."

"What are we going to do? I can't think!"

Hayashi, in the grip of need, less than a day from his own transfer, could feel as Digen could not just how easily that monitored transfer could end in a death struggle between him and Digen over Ilyana. Digen himself, in chronic need, and facing turnover into the need half of his own cycle, would be ripe for just such a disaster.

Digen pulled away from Hayashi. "Give me some time. I have to have some time. I'll think of something, Rin, I promise."

Digen wanted to stay and help Hayashi adjust and calm himself, but he felt he had to get away, alone. He picked the intercom handset off the wall and put in a page for Corlene Kataev, to Hayashi's lab immediately. "Rin, she's low field, she's not assigned to you, but within her limits, she's a good worker. Give her a chance."

Digen was half out the door when Hayashi said, "But Digen, what about you?"

"She's Imil, I'm Zeor; I'm better off without her." He left before Hayashi could say, but Imrahan was Imil.

He barricaded himself into his office in the Collectorium and flung himself onto the cot. For a long time, he let the selyn flows course where they may. Slowly, the remaining residue of the trautholo dissolved, and as it did, Digen used every Zeor discipline he knew to keep Ilyana out of his thoughts.

But it wasn't enough, merely not to think of her. She had touched him, marked him deep inside himself. He could almost feel her gentle hand cupping his vriamic node, the nerve plexus where all the storage nerves came together.

When the last bit of the trautholo feeling had left him, and Digen no longer needed Imrahan, but

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was free to accept whatever Donor was assigned, he could still feel Ilyana's touch. He'd managed to avoid locking himself into her, but the danger was still there.

I can't monitor that transfer!

Then what are we going to do?

To let Hayashi try it unmonitored was out of the question. Ilyana wielded too much power with too little control. To shift Hayashi to another Donor was also out of the question. Even if Mickland could or would arrange it at such short notice, it would be bad for Hayashi. He'd been working too closely with her. He wanted her. He needed her. And he was at the top of the list for a high-transfer, a transfer with a Donor of higher PR number than himself. There weren't many of those around, and it was a privilege one often had to deny oneself. Digen knew it would improve Hayashi's ability to work with her.

He got onto his feet. As always, when deeply troubled, Digen went down to the Memorial to the One Billion, deep in the first sub-basement of the oldest part of the building.

The original Memorial had been built by Rimon Farris at the heart of the very first of the Householdings. The concepts and disciplines that had grown to surround the Memorials, which became the heart of every Householding and eventually of the Tecton itself, had become known as the Sime religion out-Territory. And thus it had never really been understood as a thing apart from any theology.

The One Billion, an arbitrary figure, were the Gens who had died victims of the kill before the channels had arisen. The Memorial was not one of guilt, nor was it of pride. It was a sobering reminder. Out of death was I born. Those were the words inscribed in gold on black marble at one corner of the dimly lit hall.

As Digen rode the rickety, antique elevator down to the cement-floored underground corridor, in his mind he was already walking across the open floor, dwarfed by the vaulted ceiling, stepping carefully over the small name-plates inlaid in the floor; the names of Gens upon whose death modern civilization was built. Each Householding had its own list of honored dead. In the Tecton Centers, the top ten from each Householding were immortalized, and school children still wrote papers on the reasons behind the choices.

The only light in the Memorial came from a small ever-burning flame rising like a pistol from a gold pond lily, reflected off the polished black slab and from the deep, silent water that surrounded the slab.

The flame was not fire. It was a zone of incandescence produced by one of the very first selyn-consuming devices invented. At the time it had been invented, it had no practical use. It became the symbol of a new era, an era of selyn-based technology, a channel-based society.

Out of Death Was I Born.

That meant something to a channel it could never mean to any other. It was all too easy to consider oneself somehow superior to those who could not avoid the kill. But even the channels had killed, before Rimon Farris discovered he didn't have to. Nobody knew how long the secondary mutation of the channels had lived juncted, unaware of their abilities.

And every channel knew, learned intimately by experience during testing, that he, too, had a limit beyond which he would kill with the same mindless joy as any juncted renSime. Out of death was I born.

Only the channels, exposed constantly to need, satisfying it directly from the Gens, knew just how close to the surface that juncted mentality was; knew the strange satisfactions that could come at unguarded moments: A Gen's panic suddenly feeding need, the release of anger during augmentation; and for Digen, the most frightening of all: the oddly pleasant pain that had once come with the destruction of Gen cells. He'd sworn, Unto Zeor, that if it ever happened again, he'd quit surgery.

Only the channels knew, by direct experience, just how easily they could be driven to acts they had pledged to die rather than commit. Only the channels knew just how small a thing willpower really was in the face of nature. The renSimes, living protected from need, protected from the direct touch of a Donor, could never really know that all the pledges and oaths in the world meant nothing in the face of a Gen's field powerful enough to control the inner selyn flows.

And Digen knew that's what Ilyana had done to him, subtly, softly - he had not even felt it at the time - but she had controlled him. That in itself, wasn't surprising. Maybe half a dozen Donors in the world could do that, Imrahan now included. But Ilyana had done it against Digen's will. And nobody, even those few who could, would do such a thing to a channel. True, she had stopped when she realized he objected. But she hadn't been lifting the trautholo, she had been shifting it to herself, and in the presence of her assigned channel, too.

Ilyana was Distect. She would always be Distect. She could never be trusted. The Tecton attitudes had to be trained into the child from the cradle. Digen didn't dare enter the same room with her again,

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until he was completely rid of what she had done to him. He was sorry now that he hadn't had her dismissed as the petitioners had wanted. Mickland and Mora Dyen had been exposed to her. He had monitored Mickland, and nothing had gone wrong. Hayashi had monitored Mora. But who would monitor Hayashi?

Digen pushed through the outer doors into the vestibule before the Memorial doors. He didn't break stride to look for the privacy light over the inner door. If it had been on, signalling that someone was using the Memorial, it would have stopped him automatically. His mind was absorbed in the problem, and was not really watching where he was going as he swung his weight against the inner doors, and a few steps later flung open the innermost door to the Memorial.

One hand to the privacy switch, Digen stopped dead in the brightness of the selyn field filling the entire Memorial. It was like walking into a glowing brick wall. There was nothing else like it in the Center. Ilyana Dumas.

She had been standing before the black marble slab, looking up at the golden words illuminated to her eyes only by the hissing; flame beneath. To Digen's eyes, her face, lighted from beneath, turned upwards, pale, lost, frightened, reminded him of his sister's face on the day she had established selyn production.

And all at once, reading the nager that had so paralyzed him, he realized she was suicidal again.

At the same instant, she turned, squinting into the darkness. "Who's there?" Digen knew she couldn't see him all the way across the huge room. She said, "Digen?" Is that you?" She can read fields!

Digen let the door close behind him and started across the floor, skirting the central dais. "Yes, Ilyana, it's me."

When he was less than half-way across the floor, he simultaneously saw the flash of the knife and felt the surge of determination. He broke into an augmented dash across the intervening space and hurled himself the last few feet to snatch the knife from her hand, but not before he felt it bite into her skin. The knife went clattering into the pool of water as he realized she had indeed known how to slash a wrist. Blood was pumping out in spurts.

He got one tentacle around the pressure point and stopped the bleeding, then his other hand went around her wrist on the other side of the slash and he was ready to position his laterals. He looked up at her face, still not yet registering what had happened. Reducing his augmentation, Digen waited patiently the fraction of a second it took her to catch up, and he warned, "Don't fight me, Ilyana."

Realizing now that her suicide attempt had been thwarted, Ilyana tugged away from him, "No!" Then, almost before the tug was more than an intention, she relaxed in his hold, knowing no Gen could break it by force.

"No," she said, "I won't let you. I want to die. Now. Here. It's right."

"Ilyana," said Digen, reinforcing his tone with his nager, "if you resist me, then I die too, here, now, with you."

He didn't give her a moment to think about it, to decide if he were bluffing. He said, sliding his laterals into contact, "I'm a doctor, and I'm also a channel, and I'm Sectuib in Zeor." And before he finished speaking, he had secured lateral contact with his two inner laterals lying beside his thumbs on either side of the wound.

Working firmly but delicately, Digen joined the severed blood vessel together again. With a feather-light selyn flow, he restored the still-viable cells, and only moments later the vessel wall was strong enough to hold on its own. When Digen removed his hands, all that was left was an angry red welt, oozing like a scratch.

She looked at him, lips compressed. "Why did you do that?"

"Why did you?"

"I'm dying anyway. I should never have come here. I shouldn't have let them talk me into it."

"Ilyana, you're on the schedule for Hayashi. I can't change it. Besides, what do you think Hayashi would do if you died?"

"One of your interchangeable Donors would come along, I suppose. Don't they always?"

"Yes," said Digen, "but it could take days, and it would be awfully hard on Rin."

Ilyana looked up at the inscribed words. "When you've made a mistake," she said, "it's better to admit it and make a clean break. The sooner you do, the less it costs in the long run."

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"In general, I agree, but . . ."

"There are no buts."

"The world is full of buts, ands, ifs."

"Not my world. You wouldn't understand. It's a matter of principle."

"Oh," said Digen. How often had he thought that in just such a tone about certain people. "Well, here's a principle for you. A Donor doesn't desert a channel in need. When you've got a channel committed to you, you don't have a right to die. You've got a job to do, regardless of how you may feel about it personally."

"I'm sorry, but I can't work that way. I just can't. It isn't in me. I care too much -- for Mickland, and then Mora, and now Hayashi, and -- and -- then they won't let me touch them again. They say it's wrong to care. You have to make yourself not-care so you can do the job and walk away untouched. You even showed me how to keep from caring, and I can do it now. I can. But I don't want to! It's wrong not to care. But you wouldn't understand that!"

"Ilyana, when you accepted that assignment card with Hayashi's name on it, you committed yourself; you gave your word. You may have changed your mind now, but you still have to go through with it -- as a matter of principle. What you do afterwards is your business, but tomorrow you're going in there and serve Hayashi to the very best of your ability."

"And who's going to monitor, to prevent me from ruining a good channel? You? After what I did to you? Don't lecture me about principle, then."

"Look, can't you see it's too late for that? When I walked into this room, it was too late for that. When I sealed your cut, the damage was done. It's too late to worry about me. Hayashi is our only concern, and when that's over . . ."

"What! You -- you . . ."

Until that moment, for all her sensitivity, she hadn't realized that in saving her, Digen had cast himself right into the very thing he feared most, dependency on her.

"Why!" she demanded. "I don't understand. Why did you do it?" She backed away, shaking her head in denial, as if Digen were threatening her with dissolution of all she held most dear.

Digen pointed to the words inscribed above them. "Out of death was I born, Unto Zeor, Forever!" That's why. I won't desert Hayashi. Maybe you can, but I can't."

Her eyes followed his finger to the words. "You don't even know what those words mean! You can't possibly have any conception of what they mean!"

Digen took her by the shoulders and shook her once, hard. "Now you listen to me. Maybe I don't know what those words mean to you, but I know what they mean to me -- an obligation I undertook, by oath, to use the strength I was born with to protect those who are more helpless than I am. I can't allow myself to be less than perfectly reliable, or all of humanity will be plunged into Zelerod's Doom, every renSime hunting and killing Gens until there are no more Gens -- and no more Simes, either.

"I -- and Hayashi, and all of us -- are all that stands between those Gens out there and the bloody-be-shen final war. And you are all that stands between me and default on that obligation. You have a job to do, Naztehr Rior. Are you going to do it or not?"

She made no move to shake his hands off, but she looked up at him coldly. "Don't you dare call me that. You may be Sectuib in Zeor, but I'm -- but you don't even know the true history of your own House! You don't even know that you're living a lie! It's all a mistake, don't you see? And the sooner it's admitted. the fewer will die for it."

It was the old, old dichotomy between Rior and Zeor. Is it better to let the Gens who can't face the kill-mode attack unscathed die off by natural selection; or is it better to try to teach them to live with Simes? Does the channel system teach them? When is it immoral to preserve human life? For Rior only the Gen is responsible for whether he lives or dies. For Zeor, the Sime who kills in transfer commits the ultimate immorality.

Digen said, "Ilyana, oh, Ilyana. Maybe you're right. But I couldn't live with that much blood on my hands. And I'm sworn to the Tecton. And I need you, or . . ." He shrugged helplessly, letting her go.

"I didn't come here to destroy the Tecton, Digen," she said quietly. "I only came here to find some way to live, to exist, maybe even to find life worth living again. Sometimes I think I have. But then -- well," she gestured toward the words. "Out of Death Was I Born. Unto Rior Forever."

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To Digen, the words sounded peculiar coming from a Gen. The Distect had strange customs. He said, "In Perpetuity, Unto Rior, Forever." And then he told her about the trouble he'd gotten into for saying that out-Territory. "Ironic, isn't it? You're offended, but that man was honored."

She shrugged. "I don't know."

"I didn't mean to ask you to betray Rior."

"I won't discuss it." She knew she couldn't lie to a Sime, and she wasn't about even to express an opinion.

"Ilyana, I'm not asking you to betray Rior, not in any way. I couldn't. Maybe Mickland could. Certainly the Tecton expects it of you. But that's because they -- the channels who don't have a Householding background -- don't really understand what we mean to one another. Zeor is parent to Rior. However we may differ, any member of Rior always has a home among us. Always. You can't betray Rior by pledging Zeor because they are one and the same life-stream."

She shook her head, dully. "We are opposites."

"Is that not always the way between parent and adolescent child? And don't they usually become rejoined sometime later, in maturity for both?"

She shook her head again, and Digen thought she was about to cry. He said, "Ilyana, if you're going to survive at all, it has to be here, under the Tecton rules." He bent to fish the knife out of the shallow water. Shaking the drops off, he said, "You can't live here, among us, while observing the customs of Rior. You try it, and you'll end up with this at your own throat, every time. You've got that much Zeor blood in you. Now, maybe you don't want to change your name to ambrov Zeor, but you don't have to go that far. As a guest, under my roof, my personal protection, you pledge to me, personally. Under my roof, you behave according to the rules of my House, and that in no way violates your pledge to Rior. Or have you people lost even such a basic custom?"

She thought about that. Digen had offered her a way out of her primary dilemma. Maybe it wasn't an ideal way out, but it gave her a way of satisfying both her commitment of honor to Hayashi, and making up for the inadvertent dirty trick she'd done to Digen. The Tecton lifestyle still seemed immoral and intolerable, but if she were technically a guest under the roof of her parent House, at least it wouldn't be unethical as well.

Digen could see her nager shift, and it was clear that her hostility was abating. He said, "Ilyana, please. I'll help you all I can."

She was silent for a long time, staring at the flame, and the words reflected backwards in the pond as the water stilled again. She was silent so long that Digen tacitly gave up. He stood and thrust the knife at her, hilt first. "All right, then. You may as well use this now."

Automatically, her hand rose to the hand grip, and Digen released it to her. He turned and walked toward the door, not slowed by reluctance, but not so fast as to be fleeing, either.

He was beside the central dais when she said, "Sectuib ambrov Zeor."

He turned. She threw the knife down with a clatter and came to meet him. Knelt. Put her hands in his. Then, to Digen's amazement, she gave him the full, formal pledge of head of Householding to head of Householding.

She came to her feet, saying, "I am second in the succession at Rior. And now I require of you your oath -- Unto Zeor -- that you will never reveal that identity to anyone. I cannot permit myself to be taken hostage."

Digen was stunned. In the Distect, apparently, even the Gens could succeed to the head of Householding. But it fit. It had always been primary in Zeor, and most Householdings, never to separate responsibility and authority, and if the Gen was considered the only responsible party in a transfer situation, naturally the Gen would be head of Household. What else?

He gave his most solemn oath, in full.

There was no question in his mind but that it was right and proper to do so.

She accepted his oath with grace, and afterward Digen said, "Let's go tell Rin he's going to be all right."

Hayashi had retired to his apartment in the old residence tower, on the side of the Center from the hospital, and overlooking the slideroad yards. When Digen and Ilyana arrived, a vigil party was in full swing, the room filled with channels, but no Gens. The objective of the vigil party was to bridge the time of depression just prior to transfer without aggravating need. Ilyana's field was definitely out of place there.

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Hayashi took them into the bedroom, where they wouldn't have to shout to be heard, and said, "Digen, why didn't you call?"

"Because you wouldn't believe me over the phone. It's all set. I'm going to monitor for you."

Hayashi squinted at Digen, shaking his head. The insulation in the old tower was bad, and the party in the other room, though the channels were showing low-fields, still spilled over into the bedroom enough to make interference patterns with Ilyana's very responsive field.

Digen took Ilyana's hand and drew her close to him, trying to steady the nager in the room for Hayashi. "Can you see what's happened?"

And then Hayashi saw. He recoiled. "Digen! You can't! You try to monitor that and . . ."

Digen put out a hand, tentacles twined in a wait-a-minute gesture. "It's all right. It's all right, Rin. We can do it now. It was done in the Householdings all the time. It's as if I were giving my own Companion to another channel for the good of the Householding -- in this case, the Tecton, but it's the same, you see."

Hayashi shook his head.

Patiently, Digen said, "She's pledged to me. She's under the protection of Zeor now, and will work for you Zeor-style, under my direction. It will be a walk-through of a transfer."

Hayashi limped back and forth before Digen. "No! Mickland is going to flay you alive! You know what he's going to do? He's going to assign you to her for her next transfer, and then he's going to nail you for a flagrant dependency. You'll never dig yourself out of this!"

Digen looked at Ilyana, and shook his head. "No. I don't think Ilyana would let him get away with it. Not now."

Hayashi stopped pacing and looked at her. She said, "I won't let Digen get in trouble because of me."

Hayashi threw his hands in the air. He knew she meant it. "Householders! Digen, Rior and Zeor like this? What if the papers get hold of it?"

Digen explained the rationale, saying, "So you see, she'll behave better now, at least as best she can. And -- really there's no reason to advertise it. But even if the papers do get it, well, everybody knows Household hospitality."

Hayashi limped around in a circle again, eyeing first Ilyana and then Digen. He was considering, but he was much too agitated by need to think straight. He said, at last, "You're sure you can do it, Digen?"

"No problem. You go back to your party and relax. Ilyana and I will be waiting in the transfer suite whenever you're ready to join us."


It was a textbook-perfect, Zeor-style transfer.

Digen and Ilyana had several hours to prepare before Hayashi came to them. And then they took their time getting him into just the right frame of mind. Ilyana had no trouble following Digen's instructions.

Considered individually, her skills were spectacular. She simply was accustomed to applying them according to a wholly different set of standards. Digen told himself that her apparent lack of discipline was only a different type of discipline, and that she would learn readily now.

Deep down inside, he knew this was mostly wishful thinking. He was deeply under her spell, and he had to throw it off if he ever expected to help her, or himself either. So when Mora Dyen came to take Hayashi into post-transfer, Digen excused himself, saying, "I've only got three hours to clean up two day's neglect of my Department, and you know how Mickland is about paperwork."

Ilyana was deep into a post-transfer reaction such as Digen had rarely seen in a Gen, but though she was disappointed, she said only, "Yes, Sectuib Farris."

In his office. Digen went through the backlog of forms to sign, wrote up the paperwork Mora Dyen

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had left him, and left it on her desk in the Dispensary for initialing. Then he made a tour of his department, looking over each patient in the changeover ward, talking to each channel, Donor and Attendant assigned to him, and poked his nose into every corner of the Collectorium to make sure things were running smoothly. When he got back up to his office, he figured he had twenty minutes of good quiet time to make the three or four heavy decisions pending.

But when he got there, he found Cyril ambrov Ohmand sitting in his desk chair.

Digen let the door shut behind him, tossed the stack of folders he'd collected along the way onto the in pile, and moved around the desk. "Hajene. What can I do for you?"

"Not a great deal, Hajene. It seems I've been appointed your new Second to replace Madhur Sharma." Cyril did not get to his feet. "I'm supposed to handle the two shifts you're away from the Center."

"Ah," said Digen, "and since I was about to leave, you figured you'd take over my desk?"

Cyril got to his feet, not very crisply, and said, "Hajene." It was more an invitation than an apology.

Digen sat down. "Your office is at the end of the out-Territory ward, Cyril. I think you'll find it more convenient to work from there. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've just finished monitoring a high-transfer, and I'm virtually post myself." It was a bit of an exaggeration, but Digen actually did have little patience for this man at the moment.

"I thought that since I'd be covering two out of three shifts, it would be better for me to work from here."

Digen picked up Cyril's assignment folder and opened it. "I've been handling all three shifts myself for the past three weeks. My crew works best with a minimum of supervision." He paused, scanning, the channel's qualifications. "Which is just as well, since you don't have much experience in changeover. Your job will consist of covering the second-order functionals and signing the paperwork. If you have any problems when I'm not here, take them to Mora Dyen."

Cyril stepped forward stiffly. "You're talking to the Sectuib in Ohmand . . . !"

"I'm talking to a second order channel who knows nothing of running a changeover ward. You are not to make any decisions, or override the judgements of my trained crew. Is that clear?"

"You are talking to an expert administrator . . . !"

"If you want to run things, Cyril, take yourself back to the packing plant or Accounting. Here you're only an apprentice."

"Apprentice? Don't be too hasty about that judgment, Hajene." Cyril's hand was already on the door when Digen stopped him, saying, "One more thing."


"I've got a full month's statistics on the books here. I know what this ward can do. If the death rate goes up one full point, you're out. Especially if it goes up in the out-Territory ward. Understood?"

Cyril looked at Digen over his shoulder. Then, without comment, he made to leave. Digen went around the desk and stopped him, half out the door. "Cyril." He made a helpless gesture, letting the man read his nager. "I told you, I'm half post myself. I don't mean to be unfriendly. Come, talk to me tomorrow; we'll work it out."

"According to what I hear, I'm not too sure you'll be here tomorrow," said Cyril as he left.

Digen sat down, and for a moment laid his head on the desk. For a while, he thought furiously through all the implications. Why would Mickland assign Cyril ambrov Ohmand to replace Madhur Sharma? It had to be another of Mickland's schemes, but at the moment, the purpose of it escaped Digen.

He wrote a note to Mora Dyen, explaining what had happened and asking her to keep an eye on things for another day or two. He didn't want the patients to suffer because of this.

He took the note over to her office in the Dispensary and left it an her desk in the urgent pile. On the way back, he was detained by her second and asked for a diagnostic judgment of a pregnant woman. It was not only within his specialty, but he owed Mora several times over, so he took the time to perform the function as indicated.

When he got back, he knew he was already late at the hospital, and he meant only to walk through his office and go down the back stairs and out the Collectorium. But the phone an his desk rang. He picked it up. "Hajene Farris."

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"Controller Mickland for you, Hajene. One moment, please."

Digen waited, and Mickland came on, jovial as he could ever be. "Digen! Am I glad I caught you. I just wanted to let you know how pleased I am that you've decided to co-operate after all. Taking Ilyana under the protection of Zeor was an absolutely brilliant move. Rest assured, I'll keep my end of the deal. I'll have Ohmand out of your way the very soonest I can."

Co-operate? Digen was completely confused, but he didn't have time to probe the issue. He said, "Thank you, Controller, I had intended to speak to you about that."

"Consider it done. Come see me when you get a chance."

"Very first opportunity," agreed Digen.

When the Controller let him go, Digen made for the hospital as fast as he could without running inside the buildings, which was, of course, against the rules. For the first time, he was seriously late reporting for duty.

When he reached the Pathology Lab, a clean, bright, modern installation set in a dark corner of the hospital's basement, reached only by dank cement halls where two out of three lightbulbs were out and moss grew from cracks in the foundation, Digen was breathing hard, but he felt refreshed from the slight augmentation he'd used.

Using the employees' entrance, he stopped in the locker room to throw on a lab coat over his Center uniform and change his shoes. Alone for a moment in the toilet, he took time to adjust the retainers he'd donned so hastily, caught his breath, and then went out into the gleaming laboratory to take his place at his own work bench.

He had spent the last couple of weeks doing routine blood studies and preparing stained sections for microscopic diagnosis, when he was not attending the numerous seminars Dr. Emhardt required of his staff or sitting in on the long, often stimulating, diagnostic conference each morning. There was still half an hour until he was due at such a conference, and he thought he could make up the time he'd lost by being late.

But when he got to his bench, he found Joel Hogan sitting on his stool. "Joel! What are you doing here!"

"Rotation; what do you think? Am I ever glad to get off that ambulance! Where were you this morning?"

Digen sat dawn on an adjacent stool, watching Joel attempting to stain a sliver of tissue. "Well, what do you think would be an acceptable excuse? I can't think of one. No," he said, stopping Joel's hand and taking the micropipette. "You've got the wrong stain. Here." Digen reached down another small bottle from the rack at the back of the bench.

Digen spent a few minutes showing Hogan how to do it, and in the end said, "Well, it takes a little practice."

"Digen, is there anything connected with medicine that you can't do?"

"Yeah. Surgery. Why do you think I'm so interested in it?"

"I've often wondered about that. Say, tell me, what's this Emhardt like?"

"Don't know. Haven't met him, personally. But I like the way he runs this place. This is where Westfield's reputation is made, right here. I've only been here a matter of days, but I've already seen them catch some really wild ones. It's exciting."

The secretary from the front office came by the ends of the benches, passing out paycheck envelopes. To Digen's surprise, she came toward him, and Digen rose to meet her half-way down the bench. He knew it couldn't be a check for Hogan because the interns were paid by the month. She put the sealed envelope on the bench, "For you, Doctor." And then she was gone.

Sitting down beside Hogan again, he tore it open and read. He handed it to Joel with a shrug. Joel looked and said, "So now you'll meet Emhardt. Let me know what he's like."

Digen took the appointment sheet back. "I better get going. I wonder what I've done wrong now."

He was almost to the end of the bench when Hogan called, "Happy turnover day, Digen."

Digen grinned. "So far, it's been outstanding."

Emhardt worked out of a small laboratory/office raised five steps above the floor of the main lab, surrounded by curtained windows. He rarely put in an appearance on the floor, but you never knew when he would be watching from above. Only those who made trouble were called to that office.

(page break)


Digen climbed the steps, fishing a spatula out of his lab coat pocket to rap on the door with. Emhardt himself opened the door, before Digen could use the spatula. "Come in, come in."

Digen entered. The Chief Pathologist was taller than Digen; a hefty Gen with coarse blond hair blue eyes, and a purple birthmark blotch on one cheek. His office was stacked with case files, shelves of specimens, and racks of books, old and new, all well worn. And, as legend had it, from his desk chair, he commanded a view of the entire lab below. Digen said, "You wished to see me, Sir?"

"I did," said Emhardt, sitting down again.

Emhardt left Digen standing in the middle of the floor through a long silence. Digen sensed no undertone of hostility in the man. Rather, it seemed that, unlike so many of the administrative doctors Digen had met, Emhardt simply didn't feel on trial before Digen; he didn't feel threatened. Digen stood quietly and returned Emhardt's gaze in a manner he hoped wouldn't be taken as insolent.

After a long time, Emhardt gestured to the guest chair. "Coffee? I don't have any trin tea."

Digen took the chair and relaxed guardedly. "The coffee smells marvelous, thank you."

Emhardt reached to the shelf behind him, where a small hot pot and several cups lay waiting. He poured. "I took care not to let it boil."

"You are very courteous." Most Gens knew that the aroma of boiled coffee was nauseating to Simes but few would bother to avoid the offense. Digen accepted the cup that was handed to him black, without question.

Emhardt pushed a little beaker of sugar across the desk. "Help yourself, if you like."

"Thank you," said Digen, taking two heaping spoonsful. He hadn't eaten in a long time. And as he thought about it, he wondered when it was he'd last taken his vitamins.

Emhardt sipped his coffee, watching Digen. "Doctor," he said after a while, "I noticed you were late this morning."

"Yes, Sir."

"I'd like to know why."

"Uh," said Digen, "I have no excuse, Sir. I was hung up with a pregnant woman and just couldn't get away."

"I had you paged. You weren't in the building. I don't tolerate lies, doctor."

"Not at the hospital, Sir! At the Center. In the Dispensary. A Sime woman, fallopian tube pregnancy. We caught it early enough; no harm done."

"We don't accept excuses for lateness, Doctor. Our interns are not permitted to hold an outside job. There's no place you should be but in this building."

"Yes, Sir."

"However, in your case, I can understand the rule may be nonsense. It's designed to prevent fatigue errors."

"Yes, Sir."

"I note, however, in watching you come in this morning, a definite lack of crispness. You've just had forty-eight hours off. You should be at your best. If you can't get enough rest, you can't be permitted to work in this department."

"Sir," said Digen, thinking fast. "I think you will find that I'm not in any way hampered in the performance of my duties here at the hospital."

Emhardt's eyes narrowed, pulling the purple birthmark tightly across his face. "Hajene Farris, are you in need?"

"No, Sir. Not quite."

At Emhardt's raised eyebrow, Digen elaborated, "I'm at the halfway point in my need cycle. I'll be on my next leave before I begin to feel any distress."

"That's fortunate," said Emhardt. "I don't like to have any of my staff feeling unwell. It breeds errors."

(page break)


"Yes, Sir."

"Up there," said Emhardt, "they work interns until they drop, and then scorn them for dropping. Down here, it's our job to catch the results of that foolishness before it kills the patient -- sometimes we're too late. I want you to promise me something, Doctor Farris."


"If ever you're having an off day, whatever the reason; don't stagger around this laboratory trying to keep the pace. Come tell me about it. I'll do something."

"Yes, Sir. I can promise that, Sir."

"You may have noticed I'm a GN-2."

"I did, yes."

"I don't know a lot about the way they run the Center, but I'd like to know what you do over there."

"Pretty much the same as a doctor does over here. The work isn't all that different."

"That's not what I meant. I have a fair idea of what a channel does. I'd like to know what your particular duties are."

"Oh, I work in the changeover ward and the in-Territory Collectorium."

"In what capacity?"

"Sub-Controller in charge of both." That hadn't been mentioned at the hearing in Mickland's office, and Digen would have preferred to keep it out of the discussion.

Emhardt ticked off an item on a list in front of him, nodding, and Digen realized he'd already known the answer. He had been testing Digen. Emhardt said, "I've seen some of the slides you've prepared for us. I have your pre-diagnostic sheets here on all the slides you've done since you got here." He lifted a stack of papers, and Digen recognized his own handwriting.

"Doctor Farris, I have to tell you that my first impression was that you had somehow contrived to cheat."

Digen froze. "No, Sir!"

"I've done some investigating, and I realize that now. But I've never had an intern come on this service and do one hundred perfect stains and one hundred perfect readings in a row. Even my Chief Resident isn't quite that good. Don't you even make a mistake?"

"Yes, Sir. All the time. I was just lucky."

"Not just luck. I gave you some of the hardest material we have. I'm satisfied that you know this routine, and I think it's time to move you on to something else. Are you as good at growing cultures as you are at staining slides?"

"I don't know. I didn't get to do much of that in school, outside of the undergraduate course."

"Then we'll put you to work in that section next. But that work consists mainly of waiting around all day. Do you think you can keep busy with teaching rounds and our seminars and conferences here?"

"I'm very good at keeping busy. But if there's something else you'd like me to do . . . ?"

"I notice you're here on a surgical internship. Have you ever done an autopsy?"

"Yes, Sir."

Emhardt ticked off another item on his list, saying, "I don't mean anatomy class dissections, Doctor."

"No, Sir. In school, I worked between sessions for the local Medical Examiner's Office. It was very instructive."

Emhardt circled the tick, saying, "That's not on your record anywhere."

"Uh," said Digen, "I -- well -- it was when I was in college. I knew I'd have to do that anatomy class dissection perfectly. Anybody else can make mistakes and still pass, but not me, so I practice a little on the side."

(page break)


Emhardt nodded. "I understand. Tell me, did you ever have any trouble with these autopsies you did -- as a Sime?"

"Only with the most recently deceased."

"And you still want to be a surgeon?"

"Yes, Sir."

"You realize that a surgeon has to be able to operate on his up days and his down days?"

"Of course."

"I'd like to observe your technique, Doctor."

"Whenever you like."

"Come along, then," said Emhardt, getting to his feet. At the back of the office, a short flight of steps led to a door onto an upper corridor where there were three autopsy rooms and the morgue.

Gowned and gloved, they entered the middle theatre, where a fresh corpse had been laid out on the table. The room was all gleaming white porcelain and sluice trenches with running water. The light was a modern, heavy duty operating room fixture that illuminated the field perfectly. To one side, a cart was ready with trays and jars to receive the organs. A nurse stood by, ready to label everything. It was a far cry from the dingy room where Digen had learned.

To the assistants, Emhardt said, "Doctor Farris is operating today."

Digen stepped up to the table and folded the sheet down to get a look at the body. One nurse stood by to hand him instruments, and the other held a notebook. He had always had to do it all himself. He almost felt like a surgeon. He began to dictate his observations. "Caucasian Gen male, age possibly sixty-five. Do you have the height and weight, nurse?"

"Yes," she answered, reeling off the figures as Digen peeled the eyeballs, looked at the teeth, and then went down the body point by point, dictating his findings. Emhardt wasn't going to give him the slightest clue as to what had killed the man. This was a test.

He looked at the chart the nurse held, checking the clinical history, doublechecking the name on the chart against the tag on the man's wrist. He caught Emhardt's eye on him. The expression of the Pathologist's face was cold, but the nager betrayed a guarded approval. Digen still wasn't sure the chart belonged to this particular corpse, or that the clinical history written there had anything to do with what had killed the man. He'd learned this basic skepticism from the Medical Examiner.

So Digen took his time, counting the needle punctures in the arms, detailing every distinguishing scar and mark, and dictating lists of possibilities as he ruled them out. He even turned the corpse to look at the back, noting the mark where a spinal tap had been done recently. Emhardt stood on the other side of the table, arms folded across his chest, observing. Digen's preliminary observations had taken no more than six minutes.

Replacing the drapes over the face and lower body, so that only the operating field was exposed, Digen picked up a scalpel, dictating, "Let the record show that this man has been examined by Hajene Digen Farris and found to be in fact dead. Let the record further show that death is judged to have occurred no more than one hour and no less than half an hour ago. Have you got that, nurse?"

"Yes, Doctor."

"Note, the time is now nine-fifty-three, date, and so forth."

As she wrote, Digen's eyes met Emhardt's. All this time, Digen had been delaying, taking as long as reasonable to go through the preliminaries, and they both knew it. Digen had never worked on such a recent corpse, and he remembered full well what it had taken out of him just to stitch a wound under Hogan's tutelage.

Digen schooled himself inwardly, bracing for the inevitable shock.

Then, in one swift stroke, he laid the body open from neck-line to pubis, going through skin, facia, peritoneum, all in one motion. Emhardt's eyebrows rose.

Eyes fixed on the opening he'd made, Digen took the space of three deep breaths to recover. Then he looked at Emhardt. "I know that's not the way a surgical intern would go about it."

Emhardt's eyebrows rose again. "No, it's not. However, proceed, Doctor."

(page break)


Digen nodded and resumed dictating. He made a workmanlike job of removing and examining each organ, pleased at how little actual distress he felt. He had passed the cusp of his need cycle now, and was again feeling stable. He felt it each time he sliced through the selyn-rich inner tissues, but he was fully able to pick up the organs, run his fingers through the major arteries to judge the amount of calcification, comment steadily on whether this or that could have killed the man, and even make fair guesses about how long he might have lived with this or that condition. In general, not long.

"In summary," Digen finished, "this seems to be one of those bizarre cases where the obvious turns out to be true. This man died of carcinoma of the lower bowel, which had spread throughout his body. I doubt that anything further can be learned by removing the brain for examination."

Emhardt was still standing opposite Digen with his arms folded. Now he said to the nurses, "That will be all, thank you." They left with the organ cart and the notes to be prepared. Emhardt said, as the door closed, "Well, Doctor, I find myself wondering why they assigned you to me. There isn't a great deal that I can teach you -- unless you'd like to switch and apply for a residency in pathology?"

"My goal is still surgery," said Digen. He had to hold himself at pitch to stave off the reaction he knew was going to follow. He was surprised how little effort it took, though. He hadn't felt such a sense of achievement in a long time.

Emhardt said, "You'd make a good pathologist. I think I could more or less guarantee you'd be my Chief Resident within four years. I can see you enjoy detective work. Why not? Why fight your way in where you're not wanted?"

Digen moved the drape to cover the empty wound. He said, "That's very tempting, and very flattering, Dr. Emhardt. I do believe that pathology is the most exacting and demanding branch of medicine. However, I, myself, am not basically a pathologist. I find I'm happiest when working directly with a living patient."

"We work with living patients. We save a lot of lives -- before they end up here."

"That's just it, Doctor. We all end up here, eventually. It all boils down to what is the true role of the physician. I suffer too much when I go at it as if I were in a pitched battle against death. We can't win that battle; not ever. I don't even consider myself in the business of prolonging life. For me, medicine consists of improving the quality of the life we have. The biggest contribution I have to give is in the patient-contact fields."

"You won't get a lot of that in surgery, you know."

"That's true. But internal medicine -- well, as a channel, I already do a lot of that. I do it fairly well, and I enjoy it. But I see a lot of patients whose lives deteriorate to short, ghastly torment because I -- we -- don't have surgical technique. I once thought I could prevent a lot of death by becoming a surgeon. But I don't think that any more. If a person's going to die, they'll die, regardless of anything I can do. But if they're going to live, why should they have to live in -- hell?"

As he said it Digen realized that Emhardt had somehow unlocked an innermost chamber of his mind. He'd never been able to say it before, but it was true. That was what he wanted out of surgery.

Emhardt nodded thoughtfully. "My battle is not your battle, I guess. Well, I know what they think about you for it here, but what do the Simes think of it all?"

"Not too enthusiastic," said Digen wryly.

"Well, you've proved you can do it on a Gen. Can you do the same with a Sime? Wouldn't it be different? The nerve systems and all?"

"I won't ever get the chance. We don't do autopsies, you know. But frankly, I don't know which would be hardest. I haven't actually proved anything with this," he said, gesturing to the draped remains. "This man was dead. The sensation is entirely different with selyn-producing cells in a living Gen."

"In what way?"

"I've only had experience with suturing superficial cuts, inserting IV needles and such, but even that -- it is very different. You see, not only is there the sudden, traumatic release of selyn, there is also the patient's reaction. Even under anesthetic, local or general, the patient registers the shock and it appears in the nager -- You know what that is?"

"Vaguely. Go on."

"Well, with a corpse, the nager, what's left of it, has no power behind it -- you know what electrical inductance is?"

(page break)



"In the living Gen, there is an inductance -- at least, the mathematics is the same, though there are no actual electrons involved -- between the emotions and the nager. It's like electric and magnetic fields that propagate at right angles to one another . . . ?"

Emhardt nodded, and Digen could see he was following.

"Even when the patient's conscious mind doesn't register a disturbance, the selyn production system does register it. And the Sime nervous system is like an electrical circuit built around a solenoid . . ." Digen held up his hands, fingers curled and dovetailed to represent two coiled wires interpenetrating. "The Sime and Gen nagers interlink like two halves of a transformer, and energy is actually being transferred constantly, though entropically, it's mostly wasted.")

Digen chopped his hand in the air, indicating four distinct points in sequence. "Gen emotion induces activity in the Gen selyn field, which links with the Sime field, to induce a similar response in e Sime body. That's the mechanism of Sime empathy, and no Sime, not even a channel, can turn it completely off. When I hurt a Gen, I hurt myself, and if I get to liking to hurt myself -- well, isn't that depravity?"

Digen's explanation was ultra-simplified to the point of being virtually untrue, but there was no way to say more to a general class donor. Emhardt said, "I see. There's no way to know what surgery will do to you, until you've tried it. But even if you do learn to do surgery on a Gen, what you really want is to do surgery on a Sime, and there's nobody to teach you that."

"One doesn't strike out to do pioneering research until one has completed a thorough state-of-the-art survey. I'm not even thinking about surgery on a Sime. I just know that very often unsolvable problems melt away when techniques from one field are applied in another. I'm out to learn as many techniques as possible in as many fields as possible in order to solve problems. If I can just make a start, it will be enough for one lifetime."

"I have to confess," said Emhardt, "I find the idea of surgery on a Sime irresistibly fascinating. I'd settle for a few bodies to dissect and study, just for starters. You can't do surgery until you have an anatomical map to go by. And the old books -- from the Wars -- are mostly superstitious rubbish mixed with shoddy observation."

Emhardt moved to the bin by the door, stripping off gown and gloves. Digen, too, stripped, tossing all in on top of Emhardt's. As they went out the door, Emhardt said, "I understand there are a dozen or more substantially different Sime sub-mutations. A lot of anatomical research would have to be done before you could even make a start -- locating the nerves and glands in each sub-mutation, developing ways to distinguish one type from another before surgery . . ."

"For myself," said Digen, "such work would be unnecessary. I can discern all that at a glance, when working without retainers. But you see, doing surgery on a live Gen with retainers will prove absolutely nothing about my ability to do surgery on a live Sime without retainers. The two procedures would be totally unrelated. You can do surgery on a Gen using nothing but your eyes and your sense of touch in your fingers. You wouldn't dare try that with a Sime -- even within genetic strains, there is little uniformity of nerve placement. You'd have to sense position, selyn content, flux levels, currents and so forth directly and make instant judgements at the table. You see? Doing an autopsy on a Gen who has been dead an hour is in no way related to surgery. There's no time element, no split-second judgements, virtually nothing at stake. All I've proved is that I have the manual dexterity when not under pressure, and that I have a certain rudimentary grasp of general medicine. It wasn't even a particularly difficult autopsy."

"You're not even going to ask whether you got the cause of death correct?"

"Why should I? I know I did. I knew it the moment I walked into the room.

"Well," said Emhardt, pausing with Digen beside the door what would take Digen back into the laboratory, "I'll admit one thing. You've certainly got the ego of a surgeon." Then Emhardt put one hand to the door, and said, "Do you know why they assigned me to you?"

"You can tick off another point on your list. I'm not going to lie about it. Dr. Branoff told me in straight language. And I told him, in straight language. The question is whether I know when to take orders and when to give them."

"Well, do you?"

Digen met his eyes, very steadily, and said, "I honestly don't know."

"Well," said Emhardt, "let's not find out at the expense of a patient. Tell me, what branch of medicine do you know least about?"

(page break)


"The surgical operating theatre."

"And next least?"

"I really don't know."

"Oh, come now, you can't possibly know everything there is to know in medicine!"

"Of course not. But I've wanted to be a surgeon since -- do you know anything about changeover?"

"How to recognize it in autopsy, and that's about it."

"Well, you know that during the first year or so after changeover, the adaptivity quotient soars out of sight?"

"Well, certainly. It's an enormous adjustment. All Simes would be insane if it weren't for that."

"I've wanted to be a surgeon since the very day I started into changeover. Oh, at the time, it was a silly, childish escape fantasy. I resented being trapped by accident of birth into any profession, and I suppose since almost all my relatives are channels, I was just being normally rebellious, asserting my individuality. Whatever the reason, all during my year in training, my major interest was not the channel's skills I was supposed to be soaking up. That all came naturally to me -- even more so than to most Farrises, which made me resent the time spent on it even more. The only outlet for that resentment was a study I made of Gen medicine -- history, evolution, techniques, theory, everything that had ever been written, even, toward the end of the year, the current medical journals. I've been reading the journals without missing an article since I was twelve, and actually understanding most of it; everything but actual clinical experience."

Emhardt's bushy blond eyebrows rose again, pulling the birthmark tight across his cheek. Digen said, "It's no great intellectual accomplishment, believe me. My learning rate was a little more than ten times normal for a year, so it's just as if I were your age, but actually had sixteen years more experience than you do simply because I started work at the age of twelve."

"I think," said Emhardt, actually a little pale, "I understand why people like Booker are scared so shitless of you. A couple dozen like you would put us all out of work, or reduce us to carrying bedpans."

"But there aren't going to be a couple dozen like me. I'm unique." Digen pointed back toward the autopsy room. "What I did in there couldn't be duplicated by any other living Sime. Would you like to calculate the odds against another Farris channel like me surviving an injury like this?" he said, baring his left retainer. "And if someone did, what are the odds that he'd have the particular traits that make me a surgeon? No, if anybody comes after me, it won't be into Dr. Booker's field, or Dr. Thornton's, or yours. It will be something totally new."

"The injury blocks the empathic response?"

Digen explained, roughly, how his injury had forced him to develop conscious control of internal mechanisms other Simes couldn't reach. He said, "But even so, I don't walk out of there unscathed. I know, the moment I let go, it's going to be a little piece of -- well, there's no other word, just plain shen."

Emhardt let go of the door, leaning back against the wall. He wiped the back of his neck with his hand. "I don't understand, then, how you expect to do surgery."

Digen found that he wanted this man to understand. He said, carefully, very much aware of how his words might seem like criticism, or complaint, "Theoretically, there doesn't have to be any difficulty at all for me doing surgery. In fact, theoretically, there's no reason why I couldn't set it up so that almost any good channel could learn anything I can do. But there's a vast gulf between theory and practice."

"But you just said that no other Sime could do what you just did, and clearly, that autopsy was not a real challenge."

"If I could set up an operating theatre in-Territory, with the full support of the Tecton, I could make it work. I know I could! You see, it should be possible to put together an operating team; scrub nurse, anesthetist, assistants, everybody in the room, in such a way that collectively they mask out the patient's nager. Oh, it would be tricky . . ."

Digen became momentarily carried away with the vision. ". . . but it could be done. You'd have to have really talented, skilled Donors who were also a trained surgical team, and they'd have to be directed by a channel who not only knew medicine -- say, perhaps the anesthetist -- but also was a specialist in managing Gens."

(page break)


Digen glanced at Emhardt, his eyes still shining. "That's a fairly rare specialty, you know, Dr. Emhardt. Very few channels have the patience for it. And even fewer would have the inclination toward medicine, and even fewer of those would also have the ability to manage the ambient nager so that the surgeon could see what he was doing, and still not be blinded by the pain he was causing the patient. But if such a team could be put together, all Tecton objections to the concept of surgery would simply vanish because the Sime surgeon would not be exposed to the punishment, you see?"

Digen was astonished at himself. He'd never opened up to anyone like this. Not even his father had been able to pry this vision out of him. And oddly enough, Digen found he didn't feel embarrassed at all. The idea itself somehow didn't seem foolish, naive, or obscene before Emhardt.

"Before anything like that can even be conceptualized, though," said Emhardt, "somebody -- some Sime -- has to go up there and learn surgery. I see. Somebody has to expose themselves to it without the protection of such a unique operating team. And you feel that history has elected you?"

"Well, I guess you could put it that way. It's something I can do that nobody else could do."

"It sounds like a worthwhile goal. But I must say that I'm glad I'm not you." Emhardt sighed and pushed away from the wall. "What it boils down to, then, is that the only place we're going to learn whether you know when to take orders is in surgery. Branoff wants you tucked away and safely invisible for a few more weeks. Very well, then, you can grow cultures, do autopsies, and go through the motions of learning around here. As far as anybody else is concerned, you're just an intern. As far as I'm concerned, you'll be expected to perform at the level of a third year resident. Let's see how it works out."

Emhardt pushed the door open and started through. Then he came back, letting the door fall to behind him. "Why don't you take your lunch hour now and go have your fit or whatever in private. From now on, I won't give you any warm corpses in the middle of the day." And he was gone.

From that day on, Digen found the work in Pathology getting more and more challenging. He was assigned to coax the cultures the bacteriologists couldn't manage and to identify them when the technicians failed. More and more often, he was spotlighted in the diagnostic conferences or sent out on consultations to one or another department.

Once or twice a day, he would be assigned to an autopsy, and often he would be the only doctor present. Occasionally, he would assist Emhardt on a particularly mystifying case, and from time to time even contributed the key observation that solved it. And once, he won a bet with Emhardt.

"I'll bet you dinner at Geeve's," Digen had said on impulse, the moment he entered the roan, "that this woman died of transfer shock."

Emhardt had glanced askance, looked the corpse over narrowly, and said, "You're on. There isn't a mark on her. Sure you can afford to lose?"

Digen had nodded once, saying, "I don't live on an intern's salary, you know. Sure you can afford it?"

"I won't have to," said Emhardt. "This time, I've got you."

Emhardt had opened, and after nearly three hours of minute examination, had concluded that Digen was right. The woman had died during the miscarriage of an embryo which would have been a channel, and consequently which had drawn selyn during the miscarriage at such a rate that she was literally burned to death from within.

"Digen, how did you know? I hadn't even told you she was pregnant.

Digen said, "The color of the blood, un-coagulated. No appreciable rigor mortis. Virtually zero selyn field. Recent death, no selyn. Only two possibilities. Either she died from transfer shock, or she was stripped after death. If she was stripped after death -- well, I didn't really think about it, just intuitively concluded it was a transfer shock death."

Emhardt had laughed gleefully. "I might have won!"

Digen had shrugged. In all his life, his Sime intuition had never failed him once.

Emhardt had paid off the bet so graciously that Digen had invited Ilyana and Emhardt's wife to accompany them to the famous in-Territory night club and had picked up their tabs. It had been a night to remember.

Several days after that, Digen got a specimen to culture that was all hung with URGENT and VIRULENT tags, to be done in an isolation box under strictest conditions. It was a mystery bug, unidentifiable by the symptoms, according to the forms that came with the specimen. He ran it in every stock medium

(page break)


he had, specific for everything he could think of, and sent the remainder to virology for a complete workup.

When he came in the next morning and compiled the data, he found that everybody working on the specimen had drawn a complete blank. For some while, he sat and stared at the data at the not-quite-positive but also not-quite-negative culture dishes in his oven, and at his own reflection in the polished onyx lab bench.

He had not been given the patient's chart. He had nothing to go on at all. But suddenly, he was overcome with an intuitive suspicion that shook him deeply.

Of course, he could be wrong. Some of the cultures might grow out in a day or two, or more. He might have made an error in technique. But he'd already done over a hundred cultures in this lab, and he was fairly secure in his technique. Again, the patient's problem might not be due to a micro-organism at all, and so his suspicion could be based on irrelevant data. But he had to report it to Emhardt. He felt compelled to report it.

He had to wait until late in the afternoon to see the Chief Pathologist, but when he finally was called to the office, Emhardt motioned him to a seat, saying, "What have you got?"

"A problem," said Digen, placing the lab records before Emhardt and sitting down on the edge of the guest chair, so he could reach across the desk and turn the pages as he presented the results succinctly.

Emhardt nodded, soaking it all up as fast as Digen could set it before him. "All right. I can see that we have to have help on this one. I'll send a specimen to Eastfield for . . ."

"I wouldn't recommend that, Doctor, unless you want to start a panic."


Digen met his gaze, lips compressed.

Emhardt said, "Panic?"

"Shaking plague."

"Wrong," said Emhardt. He riffled through the lab reports, handing over one at a time the significant ones. "Negative. Negative. Negative." He fished a chart from the stack on one corner of his desk. "Clinical history, atypical for shaking plague, shows definite indications that it is not, in fact, shaking plague."

Digen snatched the chart and flipped it open. He read with greedy absorption, looking for something, anything, to support his theory. Line after line, though, demolished his ideas, until he came to the end and held the thing at arm's length to look at the total picture in one glance. "Oh -- my -- God!" he said in Simelan, and his hand was shaking.

He met Emhardt's eyes. The bushy blond brows were a straight line across the middle of the pale forehead. Digen said, "Shaking plague in a changeover victim. Stage three, from this chart, I'd guess."

Emhardt shook his head, taking the chart. Digen held his hands in his lap, schooling himself over the shock.

Digen was the only channel currently working the changeover ward who had any real experience with shaking plague. He knew he would have to treat this boy, in lateral contact, exposing himself to the disease, just as his mother and father had. The Farris immunity to the disease was uncommonly high, but the mortality among Farrises who caught it was almost ninety percent.

Emhardt shook his head again. "I don't see it. No glandular development. No tenderness in the arms. No psychological withdrawal. No constriction or dilation of the pupils. Absolutely nothing here to support your theory."

"I wish I were wrong. Just this once. You don't know how I wish I were wrong.

"How do you know you're not?"

"Intuition," said Digen, shrugging. "Experience. I don't know. I just know what I'm looking at here."

Emhardt considered. "I lost to your intuition once. I'm not going to make it twice. Good medicine is sometimes fifty percent intuition. But I can't turn in a report based on intuition. I've got to have cold evidence."

(page break)


"Okay," said Digen in mock cheerfulness, "wait a few hours. You'll have a berserker loose in the hospital. Maybe he'll kill, escape, start a wildfire plague out-Territory. Proof enough? Let's go take a look at the patient."

"You're not supposed to examine patients. Branoff's orders."

Digen shrugged. "Call a consult from the Center. They'll only tell you to use me, since I'm already here."

Emhardt slapped the chart on the edge of the desk twice and got to his feet. "Come on."

Digen followed him silently out to the elevator and all the way around the building to the far end of the north wing, fourth floor isolation ward. Together they dressed in sterile gowns, masks, gloves, caps and shoe covers. At the door, Emhardt turned and said, "Digen, when you give orders to a nominal superior, you should bend over backwards to be subtle about it. You should never, ever, be sarcastic or flip, understand?"

"Was I sarcastic? I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be."

"Maybe it's just that you're so accustomed to being thwarted by ignoramuses. I can see you're not cut out to endure in humility. But you can't just run over those little ignoramuses as if their opinions didn't count. In general, the greater the ignorance, the greater the ego -- or at least that's what I've found. I know, it's hard when you grow up too fast. But you have to at least try to be diplomatic."

"Dr. -- Emhardt. I try, please believe me, I do. But there is nobody in the world less diplomatic than a Sime in need, especially when hit by something like this." Catching Emhardt's nager shift, Digen added, "Oh, I've got a full four days before I'm due for transfer. I'm not uncomfortable about it yet but no matter how I try, the strain can't help but be visible."

"Are you sure you're up to this, then?"

"I am quite certain that I am not up to it. But I was born into the class of people who are not asked whether they're up to a task or not. Doctor, I am responsible for changeover and shaking plague for the entire city of Westfield. If this one had slipped by me, it would be my neck on the chopping block. And my neck is already on enough chopping blocks."

"Well," said Emhardt, pushing the door open, "now it's my neck, too."

Together, they went through both sets of doors and squeaked and clicked across the polished floor to the nurse's station. Emhardt got the number, and they went on down to the room where the boy was reported to be asleep. Two nurses trailed along.

Emhardt pushed open the door to the boy's room, standing aside to let Digen enter. Digen took two steps into the room and stopped in his tracks. Behind them, one of the nurses let out a short, piercing shriek of dismay, and then there was utter silence.

Dripping off the side of the white bedclothes were long dark red streams of blood, forming pools on the polished floor. On the floor at Digen's feet lay a bloody scalpel.

Moments later, Dr. Carry came up behind the nurses, feigning surprise. Only feigning. Digen knew, but he couldn't say. Sime testimony of that sort was not legal in out-Territory courts, and in any event, mere lack of true surprise didn't mean Carry had done it.

Emhardt moved into the room, looking about but not touching anything. He looked in the lavatory and said, "Nobody here now. We'd better call the police."

Digen said, "Doctor. Before that, perhaps we'd best establish the validity of my theory?"

Emhardt look confused for a moment, and then realized he was still in an isolation ward for a very good reason. "Yes, Doctor, do examine the remains."

Digen took disposable gown and gloves from a bin at the door and put them on over his isolation clothes. Then he peeled back the sopping blankets. He didn't have to probe very deeply. "Look, Doctor Emhardt." The embryonic tentacles had been neatly dissected out of the arms, the rest of the body slashed to unidentifiable ribbons.

"I'm afraid," said Emhardt, "there's no way to establish the nature of the disease now unless we can get it to culture."

"It's worth a try," said Digen. "I don't think it will work, but even to fail would make an interesting paper." He was tightly in control, but he could feel a reaction beginning deep in his gut.

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Emhardt issued orders to the nurses to seal the room and then said, "Come on, Doctor, let's go call the homicide squad."

Digen followed Emhardt back to the dressing room, stripping off the contaminated disposables at the room door, and then mechanically peeling off the rest as he went. But as he waited for Emhardt to fiddle with a knot in the lace on one of his shoe bags, Digen began to cry.

It came all at once, up out of the depths of him. For all the children beaten, raped, slashed, mauled and murdered during the helplessness of changeover. For the One Billion Gens who died at Sime hands. For Dr. Pete Carry, intern, so ill-used somehow that his fear turned him to this. For Ilyana Dumas. For Imrahan. For Joel Hogan. He cried out in relief that he didn't have to treat the boy after all. And he cried out in shame at that relief. He cried out in grief for his mother and father who had died treating shaking plague. He cried in relief that he didn't follow them. And he cried in shame at that relief. But most of all, Digen knew, for himself. From the depths of need he cried out to all the Gens ever born. It was all there, all at once, in one overpowering wave.

Emhardt came across the dressing room, trailing the knotted shoe bag, and reached out to Digen.

Digen said, "I'm all right. It's nothing." But, turning his face to the wall, he cried.

Emhardt hesitated. He was an out-Territory Gen, only a general class donor. He had no business ever touching any Sime without invitation. He put out a hand to Digen's shoulder, and when Digen didn't flinch away, he gripped him hard and said, "It's worth crying about, Digen. Nothing could be more worth crying about."

Catching his breath, Digen said, "It's over now. I'm all right. Hit one of my limits, that's all. Told you I wasn't up to anything like this would have been." He put one hand over Emhardt's fingers and squeezed gently. "Forget it, okay?"

Digen went to one knee, saying, "Here, I think we better just break this tie."

Emhardt said, "I was trying to. They're tough. Have to get a scissor."

The tie parted like tissue under Digen's hands. As Digen got up and went to the sink to wash his face, Emhardt picked up the now free shoe bag and looked at the lace, nodding. He said, "Let's go call the police."


For a few days, the hospital was as infested with reporters as the Center had been during the furor aver Elkar's suicide. Gradually, however, it died down and the police investigation went painstakingly forward.

Meanwhile, Hayashi worked with Corlene Kataev and Ilyana Dumas to set up Digen's transfer. As Digen remembered it later, it was an ordeal to rival his first transfer after his injury. As with Madhur Sharma, Digen's body was utterly convinced he could not receive transfer from any but Ilyana. Despite everything Hayashi could do, he aborted five times in succession, and in the end had to take transfer from Hayashi.

Afterwards, a team of four of the Center's best therapists had to stand watch aver him for seventy-two hours before he normalized. He had to call Emhardt and ask for sick leave, and Emhardt, just from the sound of Digen's voice, granted it without question.

A few hours after that, Digen was removed from the critical list, and allowed to sit up and receive visitors. Mickland came to offer his concern and a measure of good cheer. "Digen," he said, pulling a chair to the bedside, "I have something here that's going to make you feel a lot better."

"Imrahan's coming back?"

"No, no," said Mickland, "better than that. The World Controller has accepted our invitation to attend the Westfield Center's annual Union Day open house in order to see you accept Ilyana Dumas' oath to the Tecton."


"That's right. It's all set. We only have a few weeks to make the arrangements for the formal reception and everything, but it's all going smoothly. I pulled Cyril off your changeover ward and gave him the job. He's very experienced in this sort of thing, knows all the best caterers and contrac-

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tors -- you don't seem happy. If you want him back, I can arrange it, after all this is over. It will only be a few weeks."

Digen shook his head. "Wait. Forgive me if I'm a bit slow . . ."

"Think nothing of it, Digen. After what you've just been through, you deserve a week's leave. I'm just sorry I can't spare you right now, but rest assured, since you've decided to be so generously, so heroically cooperative about Ilyana, I will definitely see that you get a week -- a month, if you like. After what you've done with Ilyana with this transfer, nothing is beyond reach. Nothing."

"Have you discussed this with Ilyana?"

"I thought I'd leave that to you. I want you to understand that I'm not the kind of person to take credit for someone else's work. You'll get all the glory, Digen. It will be you up there taking her oath, publically. You'll go down in history."

"But . . ."

"No, no, you're tired now. They allowed me only a few minutes," said Mickland, getting up. "Of course, I know what's bothering you, now! I forgot to mention, I've invited Westfield's entire Zeor House to hold their Union Day celebration here at the Center. They'll use the meeting room in the new residence tower, so you can easily attend both the Tecton and Zeor ceremonies. They'll be our honored guests."

Mickland left, all wrapped up in his plans, and Digen slid down in the bed. He was still groggy and sore and too sick to think straight, but he was certain he was being used, or at least that Mickland was trying some high-handed way of using the prestige of Zeor to further some private scheme -- probably to do with securing the World Controllership.

He spent the night under the watchful eyes of the staff therapists, and by morning he was able to get around all right by virtue of large doses of fosebine and will power.

He reported for duty at the hospital and squashed the rumors that he'd caught the shaking plague from his culture dishes. It turned out that, given Digen's reputation in the lab, several of the microbiologists had accepted his shaking plague theory, and with much determination, had managed to grow and identify the illusive intermediate stage of the micro-organism. It was a landmark discovery in the study of the life cycle and vectoring of the disease, and they wanted Digen to write the paper.

Digen declined, saying, "I'd rather make my reputation in the field of surgery. Besides, you did the work." He then spent the rest of the day in the library helping them research the subject. At least it was work he could do sitting down.

When he got back to the Center that evening he felt a lot better, and was ready to address himself to the problem of Mickland and his schemes.

Union Day was the annual celebration of the First Contract between a Gen town and the Householdings whereby the out-Territory Gens would donate selyn to the Householding channels. The First Contract had been negotiated by Klyd Farris, and within just a few years, the Tecton, the organization of Householdings, had taken over the government of the Sime Territories.

Union Day was about the only major holiday celebrated both in- and out-Territory, and it always brought reporters dawn on Digen in waves. "What's it like to be the direct descendent of Klyd Farris an Union Day?" "What do you think is the future of the Tecton?" "How do you explain the persistence of the Householdings even after their primary function has became obsolete?"

This year, the in-Territory reporters were early. Digen found seven of them waiting for him in the changeover ward office. He tried four of his slickest brushoffs, and then gave up and said, "Very well, one question from each of you, and then I must get this work done." He sat down at his desk and slid the stack of charts in front of him. "You first," he said, pointing to a lady an the end to his right.

"According to informed sources, you have officially requested a PR reassigment without going through the testing procedures, Hajene Farris. Don't you think this would set a dangerous precedent?"

"No," said Digen. He pointed to the next in line. "You."

"Wait a moment!" said the woman, and a murmur of distress filled the room.

Digen said, "Obviously, I don't think it would set a dangerous precedent, or I wouldn't have done it. Think. How many Farris channels are there walking around with an injury like mine? An accurate PR number -- even if only an estimate -- is much more useful than a dead channel. Next."

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"Speaking of dangerous precedents, I understand you intend to sponsor Ilyana Dumas' oath to the Tecton. ever since Elkar's suicide, there has, of course, been enormous pressure on the Tecton to recruit more Donors. In fact, a lot of people are very indignant about the large numbers of applicants who are turned away, about the vast numbers of TN-3's who aren't even working -- but despite this large pool of volunteers unquestionably loyal to the Tecton, we now see a large, even spectacular, ceremony being made out of this Distect Gen. My readers would like to know how you justify this and why you are lending the name of Zeor to such a thing at this point in history."

Digen nodded. He, himself, would have liked to know the answer to that question. But he could not simply say to the press, I'm not. I won't. or Mickland is acting without consulting me.

On the other hand, if he didn't deny it now, they would assume he had authorized and endorsed all these annoucements. Later, should he withdraw from the supposed commitment, millions of people would be left with the impression that he, and Zeor, had gone back on a word of honor.

He had to congratulate Mickland on a smooth piece of maneuvering. He said, weighing each word, "As you can see, I am far behind in my work here. It has been a difficult weekend. As soon as I can catch up here, I will prepare a complete position statement for simultaneous release to all of you. Next."

"According to my informant, your weekend was difficult because of an incipient dependency on Ilyana Dumas. We have been running a series of articles on your injury and the subsequent advances that have been made in the field of lateral impairment. Could you explain to our readers in just what way the Distect habits of your Donor interact with your injury, and how that differs from the treatment it gets in the Tecton mode?"

Digen had to replay that in his mind before he could grasp what the young Gen was driving at, and seeing Digen's hesitation, the Gen said, "Don't worry about the technical language. I'll translate it for our readers."

The Gen had a pen poised over a pad which carried the logo of a popular semi-technical magazine. At any other time, Digen would have been glad to give them anything they wanted. Their technical writers were good. But now, he said, "I think you have been somehow misinformed. I have never received transfer from Ilyana Dumas, and if I had, it would not have been in the Distect mode."

"Can you tell us exactly what did happen then?"

"I'm sorry. I don't remember much of it very clearly, and I haven't had a chance to read the reports yet."

Several of them spoke up at once, and Digen had to point again and call for silence. "Next."

"I'm afraid I'm not lucky enough to have any inside sources of information, Sectuib Farris, but I do see many pieces of a puzzle emerging into a picture. You have made an extraordinary request for a PR number re-assignment, claiming it's a life-or-death matter. At the same time, you've made a special request to send Imrahan ambrov Imil through test several years early -- and it's a matter of record that he was your last assigned Donor. In addition, you report your current transfer so bad you don't even recall the details. And you've consented to take a Distect Donor into the Tecton ranks, already providing her the protection of Zeor's hospitality. Dumas is known to be some sort of unusual case of underdraw, indicating she must be a first order, four plus, perhaps even with Farris blood. None of these things alone seems particularly remarkable. Together, however, they add up to desperation. Has the Tecton been shorting you so badly and so consistently that you are driven to the wall, as Elkar was? Are the controllers using this method to persuade you to give up surgery? Or are you being punished because this surgical career has already begun to affect your stability?"

The woman asking the questions was a Gen, and the several Simes in the room turned on her, gasping. One said, "Maggie, that's insufferably rude!" And somebody else said, "Don't comment, Sectuib Farris."

But the woman reporter said, "Even if I don't print anything on it, these are the thoughts that will be in the minds of my readers. They don't have your sources on information, gentlemen."

Digen held up his hands. "The Simes in this room have already noted a great deal about my state of health, and I don't believe it right to deny the same information to the Gens. It is obvious that my recent transfer has done me little good, and that the condition has existed for some time. It will, no doubt, continue to exist for some time to come. It is caused by a combination of factors. My PR rating is a good ten years out of date; the fastest-growing ten years of any channel. Thus donors at the bottom of my officially acceptable range are wholly unacceptable. That, basically, was the primary source of difficulty with this transfer. Ilyana Dumas was a minor complication acquired during the routine performance of my other duties.

"In addition, the shortage of Donors in my functional range is even more acute than it is in Elkar's range. There are always a couple of channels shorted in this range, where talent is more important than training. There is no official Tecton policy which is causing me to be shorted. Nor has my performance deteriorated either from transfer denial or from my work at the hospital. The routine test results are a matter of public record on file at the front office. Westfield Center is one of the best in the country. Next."

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"Speaking of the hospital, there was a particularly grisly murder there last week, and a bad shaking plague scare. Have the police questioned you about it yet? And if so, can you give us some details on the investigation?"

"On that unfortunate incident, I have only one comment. The child's family and all recent contacts have been thoroughly screened and tested. All danger of epidemic is past. Westfield's out-Territory public health authorities are very efficient."

"Hajene Farris," said the next reporter in line, "I doubt if anyone here would deny the importance of winning over a Distect Gen to the Tecton. But I think we'd all like some of the details of how you went about it. It's a well-known fact that any Sime once exposed to the Distect immediately defects to them. How did you avoid this?"

"Isn't that a question better put to Rindaleo Hayashi?"

"He told us to ask you."

"Hmmm. Well, in that case, I guess Rin and I will have to get together on it sometime and write up our observations." Digen shifted his gaze to the next in line.

At that point, Rindaleo Hayashi swung into the room, striding to Digen's desk. The few reporters who had found seats spring to their feet, muttering, "Hajene Hayashi!" He favored them all with a broad smile. "Sorry, people, I'll have to ask you to cut this short."

They took it good-naturedly. The reporters who covered the Sime Center knew they were allowed in the building only on condition they didn't get in the way. In moments, they had pocketed their notes and filed quietly out.

When the door had closed, Hayashi said, "Digen, she won't do it."

"Who? What? Ilyana?" Hayashi nodded, and Digen said, "Rin, I think somebody better fill me in on what's been happening while I was out of my head."

"There's no time for that now. Mickland has a film crew coming to get you and Ilyana making the announcement official, and she won't do it. You've got to go talk to her."

"Wai -- wait just a minute. I think it's very fine that she won't do it, because I won't either. I have no intention of . . ."

"Digen! There's no way out. You've . . ."

"I'll think of something. How much time do I have?"

"None . . ."

"What I'd like to know is how Mickland got the impression that I'd go along with all this."

"It was that stunt you pulled, taking Ilyana under Zeor's protection in order to psych yourself out of the dependency. Somehow the press got hold of it almost immediately -- I think I've got a leak in my department -- and, well, you haven't seen the papers for days." He went to a toppling stack on the corner of the bookshelf and riffled through them, tossing selected ones toward Digen. "Look at this, and that, and this one. You see?"

Digen scanned the headlines, not even focusing on the small print. Obviously Mickland hadn't originated the idea. Some newspaperman had jumped to the wildest conclusion he could imagine, carefully not saying anything, just asking provocative questions; rhetorically provocative questions. Digen could imagine Mickland cornered by reporters shooting those questions at him; barbed and loaded questions.

Hayashi slapped that morning's paper down on top of the stack under Digen's nose. "Just look; and this one is syndicated on three continents. Digen, the whole world thinks you've already consented to this. You can't get out of it without appearing to violate your word."

Digen put his head in his hands. "Rin, why do we have to live like this? My private life isn't public property!"

"Oh, yes it is. That nervous system you're walking around in is public property, and everything that affects its functioning is of public concern."

"What if the public concern impairs my functioning?"

"I refer you to Grant Kendikot vs. the Tecton . . ."

"Oh, shut up. I know the law. We're slaves."

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"Look, Digen, you're in no condition to face this. Why don't you let me put you to bed in the critical ward again for a few days. Maybe . . ."

"No," said Digen, picking his head up. "No, that's how I got into this mess. Let's go talk to Ilyana. Maybe we can work something out."

Hayashi made him swallow three medications before he'd let Digen get up on his feet, but then they took the back stairs, a freight elevator and a service corridor up to the carefully isolated penthouse room Ilyana had been assigned. She had to eat, sleep and live under the constant surveillance of Hayashi's instruments and the physicians and scientists working on her case.

When they got there, Hayashi led the way into the long, narrow living room where the bare cement floor has been covered with thick pile carpet and furnished with deep chairs, good paintings, and plush gold and red draperies that hid the cinder block walls and shelves of instrumentation.

Ilyana was curled up, barefoot, almost lost in a huge chair. She had a tall, sparkling drink in one hand, and there was a Gen researcher pointing a long boom pickup at her. She looked at them as they came in and said, "It's no use. I won't."

Hayashi reached into a control box beside the door and snapped and clicked switches in a pattern. He motioned to the researcher to leave while Ilyana was saying, "It's all lies. I won't do it. They can't make me." She didn't sound threatened, or even defensive, Digen noticed. And she was one day post-transfer, again.

Digen sat down on the thick rug across from her chair and combed his fingers through the pile, twining his tentacles in it luxuriously. He didn't say anything, or look at her. Hayashi stayed by the door.

After a while, she said, "Well, aren't you going to say anything?"

"No," said Digen. "You've said it all perfectly. I agree. But I can't take it quite as calmly as you are."

"Calmly? Ha! Do you know how much I've cried today? After a while, you reach a point where --where -- wh . ."

". . . dispassionate determination," supplied Digen. "You've made up your mind and made your peace with your decision."

". . . yes . . ."

"But I haven't. I'm still passionately determined to win without losing. It's a very vulnerable state of mind."

"Yes, " said Ilyana.

"You know, you and I have to agree on how we're going to handle this."

"It would make things easier. I had no idea, though, that you would even dream of agreeing with me."

"You didn't think that I actually . . ."

"Oh, of course not. It all got out of hand while you weren't available to deny it. Actually, it was mostly my fault for trying to help that day . . ."

Digen shook his head. She had tried to lift the Imrahan dependency from him by replacing Imrahan with herself, and that had led directly to the disastrous transfer just past, but he couldn't blame anyone but himself. "Look, we don't have much time. We've got to go down there and make some sort of a statement to those cameramen. And we can't just say no, we won't do it. We have to say why in just the right way."

"My reason is very simple. I don't make promises I can't keep."

"But, Ilyana, if you say that -- no, there's no way you can say that. You came here intending to qualify as a Tecton Donor, and you've got to go through with it."

Digen looked at her. She had lost more weight during the last week. Her eyes were hollow, dark rimmed, bloodshot. Her face looked pinched, her skin dry, lifeless. She knew it. She felt even worse than she looked.

Digen said, "Ilyana, you need the Tecton as much as I do. If you were on the rotation roles, it wouldn't be a matter of piecing you out with whatever channels Mickland has here. You'd have the whole world to draw on. And you'd have a PR number that would guarantee you compatibility. Somewhere, there

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has to be a channel who can bring your production rate down to something tolerable, but if you refuse to take oath now -- because you won't make promises you can't keep -- who will accept your word later?"

"I thought of that. Digen, I'm going to die anyway. I don't need the Tecton as much as I need my integrity."

Digen plucked threads from the carpet, saying, "What we have to say is not that we won't do it, but that we won't do it now. We can't just draw a line and stubbornly say no. We have to fight a delaying action. But how?"

"Tecton politics are beyond me. I only know what I won't do."

"Well, how long did you expect to be here without taking the oath? You certainly don't require the usual five or six years of training -- you couldn't survive it. How much more time do you think you have to have before you can take the oath?"

"I don't know. Maybe forever. I've tried, Digen, really I have. I thought I could do it. But you saw -- what I did to you -- I almost killed you trying to be a helpful Donor!"

"No, that was entirely my own fault."

She flashed indignant, saying, "You see? That's Tecton thinking, and I can't -- I just can't . . ."

"Ilyana, do you think you could do anything to me I didn't let you do?"

"Well naturally I can. I'm a Gen. You're only a Sime."

Digen had to smile. He'd never heard such words from a Gen, though he'd said them many times to Donor trainees. It was always a great fight to get a Donor to believe it, if only momentarily, when you knew yourself it wasn't true in the strictest sense. Simes had their vulnerabilities but any Sime who knew Gen vulnerabilities would always prevail in any contest. Ilyana, however, clearly meant that any Gen couldn't help but prevail over any Sime, just in the natural course of events. And her conviction was not momentary.

Digen got to his feet. From the door, Hayashi said, "Digen, no! She's your matchmate. There's no way you can overcontrol her."

Digen turned to Hayashi, and with a preemptory flick of a tentacle, commanded, out.

Hayashi took two steps toward Digen and hesitated, reading the nager, considering. Digen said, "Isn't this what you've been maneuvering toward ever since Imrahan left?"

"Digen!" said Hayashi reproachfully.

Digen nodded. "Rin, we're going to have to prove something here, once and for all. So go tell Mickland we'll be down when we're ready, and if the cameramen don't want to wait, that's fine with us."

Hayashi ran tentacles through his thinning hair. His nager was saying to Digen, just what I deserve! In a mixture of resignation and apprehension, Hayashi left.

The stakes. Ilyana's life. Her yielding to the Tecton concept that the Sime always controls, even when abdicating control, would not only save her life, it would demonstrate graphically to millions that the Distect was nothing to fear, that its adherents could choose a Tecton lifestyle.

For himself, Digen realized, he was trying to prove something. You don't set out to prove things of which you have no doubt.

"All right, Ilyana, you're about to learn that the Sime is always responsible, even when the Gen is superior. We're evenly matched, recently post-transfer. I claim you can't do anything to me I won't permit you to do. What do you think would be a fair test?"

"I've never been overcontrolled by a Sime! But even if I were, how would that absolve me of responsibility for putting myself in that position to begin with? A Gen should have enough sense to know when he's outclassed and to avoid a confrontation. That's only good manners."

"There's no way you can avoid a confrontation of my choosing."

"That's nonsense," she said with a gentle, deprecating wave of one hand.

"Is it?"said Digen, trembling a little at the thought of what he was about to commit himself to. Peripherally, he wondered why he was so desperately eager to humble this woman, and at the same time why he hoped she wouldn't yield. He paced away the length of the room, turning back and shaking one finger at her in emphasis. "If I can prove to you that there's one instance where you are not in fact respon-

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sible for your own actions, won't that demolish the theory that the Gen always controls? It becomes 'Gens sometimes control under certain circumstances.' And what would that imply about the Distect theory?"

She paused, lips compressed, a long time before answering. He was making her think. "The issue," she said slowly, "is not control. That's only power, brute force. The issue is responsibility."

"You can't separate authority and responsibility," retorted Digen instantly. "He who holds power is responsible for how it's used -- or how it uses him."

"Muryin Farris used to say it just that way."

He nodded. She had been studying the Tecton, obviously. "You said it yourself. You've never been overcontrolled by a Sime. You don't know what it feels like . . ."

"But a lot of Distect Gens have felt it, and they never waver."

"They couldn't read fields. Ilyana, how can you, of all people, sit there and tell me you are prepared to rely on another's judgement in a matter of morality?"

He had her there. It was totally out of character for her. She got to her feet. "I don't care if you're Sectuib in Zeor, the World Controller, or God Himself, you cannot put me in a position where I am not responsible for my own actions."

"And if I can?"

She took a deep breath and flung her defiance at him. "If you can, Sectuib Ze-or, then you shall have my oath whenever you're ready to receive it! I swear it, Unto Rior."

Though he basked gloriously in the sheer beauty of her pride, at the same time he knew a thrill of conquest such as he'd never felt before. "You may take as long as you like to brace yourself."

She shook her head, still smiling gently, disbelieving. "I'm ready."

He came at her then, across the width of the room, in tenth level augmentation and at the same instant contact was made, he employed an old, old Zeor technique, invented, it was said, by Ray Farris, Klyd's father, for deconditioning. By inducing the ultimate, primal Gen fear in a House candidate, and forcing the Gen to stand up to it in full lateral contact, all psychologically conditioned fear could be wiped away in one traumatic event. It was a kill-or-cure technique reserved to the last-ditch battle and used only on repeated and sincere request of the Gen.

Digen's use of it now was highly questionable. She withstood him for nearly ten seconds before the stark terrors of her lower mind were unleashed into her consciousness. And it was fully another five seconds before she succumbed to nightmare.

For Digen, it was worse than the Rizdel ordeal. She was easily his match or better. He was much weaker than he'd been a month ago. His need was more imperative now, and she was one of those few mortals who could serve him. He stayed only long enough to be sure she had tasted unmistakably of what her own body was capable of. And then he flung himself across the room, breaking contact without any of the niceties, knowing that bare fractional seconds separated him from a full kill mode attack.

It was the finest judgement he had dared since before his injury, and it was executed with nothing to spare. He landed on the rug before a bare fireplace, knocking his head on the stone hearth, already unconscious in mid-air.

He came to moments later, slightly disoriented, but aware primarily that his internal selyn circulation was in severe turbulence. Ilyana was still where he had left her. In physical agony, Digen was clutched with the sudden fear, have I ruined her as a Donor?

It would, of course, be only natural. The Donor's prime asset was a certain fearlessness, and Digen had just done his best to destroy Ilyana's complacent certainty, the very certainty every Trainer worked desperately to instill in Donor candidates.

He couldn't dwell on this idea, though. He had to work as never before to master the currents within his own body. A long time he fought, the pain at the vriamic node in the center of his chest becoming brighter and brighter. Gradually, he realized that he was losing this battle.

Struggling to one elbow, he tried to call out to Ilyana. Get help. But he couldn't speak, so great was the pain. He fell back, and as many times before, faced death with the knowledge that it had all been worth it.

And then suddenly, she was there, to his left. Her solidity had been shaken, but it was still a palpable force around her. She was crying, but ignoring it. "Okay, Sectuib, you win. Now yield to me, dammit!"

(page break)


Unable to respond, he simply yielded. She knew what to do.

A long time later, he rolled her in his arms and they lay together in solace and comfort, apologizing and apologizing -- I shouldn't have done that to you without warning, without your permission -- nonsense, I asked for it; I should never have goaded you into it -- oh, no, I endangered your ability to Donate, that was unforgivable, I didn't think -- I was sure you couldn't do it, that was silly, I see now; but I shouldn't have left you to suffer like that, I was angry, and that's unforgivable.

And they forgave each other, close enfolded in each other's arms. After a while, Ilyana drew back frowning. Digen knew immediately what it was she was missing. They were both recently post-transfer, and as they healed each other's trauma, surely it would prove mutually arousing. However, only Ilyana was feeling stimulated.

That signalled the end, as far as Digen was concerned. He drew her back down against him so she could tell for herself that he was not reacting. He said, into her ear, "I'm sorry, Ilyana. It's been a long, long time since I've had a satisfactory transfer."

She was horrified. He kissed her tenderly on the mouth, a true kiss, not a transfer contact, and said, releasing her, "It's by my own choosing, Ilyana. I could have ended it, any time, by demanding a match donor. But that would mean shorting someone else, someone whose endurance is less than mine. I don't want to do that. Do you understand?"

They were sitting side by side, and Ilyana said, straightening her hair, "Is that why you want to qualify me? The Donor shortage?"

Digen shook his head. Of course that was part of everyone's motivation these days. He said, "We're not such heartless beasts -- at least not all of us. I was thinking of you. Don't you remember what it was like, when every day you woke up wanting to live?"

"Not really. It was so long ago. I don't even dream about it any more."

"That's sad," said Digen, getting up. He offered her his hands and tilted her to her feet. "I want to make it happen again."

"Then demand your match donor, Digen, demand me. I've had everyone else in this Center."

"I have to think it through very carefully first, Ilyana. Just because we're so close, I don't know how much I can dare with you." He remembered a pair of surgical scissors coming at him, a nurse mad with the mere hint that he, a Channel of the Tecton, might pledge to a Distect House. And he wasn't just a channel, he was the Sectuib in Zeor, a Farris, the strength behind the Tecton for generations. If he went Distect, so the reasoning would go, the other channels couldn't be far behind. And, indeed, most would follow his lead if he called them to. Power. Responsibility. He said, "I just don't know right now how much I can dare."

"I gave you my pledge, Unto Rior. You won it, fair out. And I'll live by it, to the death, you know that. I belong to the Tecton now."

"You said before you didn't want to give a promise you couldn't keep."

"I stand by that. I gave my promise. I'll stand by it or die trying. You don't think Zeor has a monopoly, do you?"

He smiled. "I hope not."

"So let's go tell those people we'll stage their Union Day spectacular. There's no point in delay any more. And then -- if I live that long -- maybe they'll assign me to you."

"And if they don't?"

"Then I'll go where I'm told. If I live that long."

"I told you, when you have a channel assigned to you, you don't have the right to die."

"I'll worry about that, if I live that long. One thing I've learned is to take things a day at a time."

Digen knew that lesson well, himself. He had fought daily against a death sentence; four long years he had fought and won by millimeters. He said, "All right, if you're ready, I'm ready. Let's go tell them,, for whatever good it may do them."

(page break)



The next two weeks were spent in the feverish preparations for the biggest Union Day celebration Westfield had ever seen. Householding delegations were being sent from every major city, and a special committee was formed to co-ordinate in- and out-Territory events. Reporters started to pour into the city on both sides of the border, and a special radio network was set up to record and rebroadcast the upcoming events.

Digen spent a portion of his time with Ditana Amanso each day, detailing the latest plans of the committees. It took her mind off the question of whether she'd ever walk again, and off the series of operations she yet faced. She was in physical therapy now, and they were testing her constantly, in hopes that some nerve function might be restored to her legs spontaneously. Digen talked the doctors into postponing her surgery and letting her attend the Union Day festivities as his personal guest. They could hardly refuse.

Many of the hospital staff doctors and some fifty percent of the attending physicians with outside practices took a dim view of an intern who was an international celebrity. Digen found that almost any word he said to anybody except Emhardt was interpreted as insubordination or worse. Among the interns, Joel Hogan remained his only friend, especially after it got around how Digen had made Pete Carry confess to the bloody slaying of the boy in changeover.

One morning, when Digen had reported for work, he had found the police waiting for him in Emhardt's office. Carry was with them, pointing his finger as Digen entered, and saying, "He did it!"

Of course, any Sime could have seen he was lying, but the Gen police had to have more than that. After some questioning of Emhardt, they had established that Digen had the motive -- not wanting to treat a changeover victim for shaking plague, perhaps because his parents had died of it -- and an opportunity. He had been alone in the Bacteriology Lab at the time of the killing.

Digen had rummaged through the folders on Emhardt's desk, found the reports on the boy's cultures and the now complete paper that had been written on their findings, and showed them to the police. "Since it did turn out to be shaking plague, and since it was a crime of passion, it seems to me that the murderer probably contaminated himself. All you have to do is wait for Dr. Carry to come down with the symptoms. Meanwhile, I suggest that everyone who worked in the isolation ward be cultured, not only here, but at the Center as well, and that immune globulin be administered throughout the danger period -- though I doubt if anyone but Dr. Carry will be contaminated at all. Our procedures are actually very good."

Emhardt had backed Digen up, saying that Carry should be watched, but not immunized. The police investigator, who had not himself been entirely impressed with Carry's word, had gone along with them, and then Carry had broken down and attacked Digen, hysterically begging for the vaccine and screaming epithets. He had been booked on suspicion of murder. He had been arraigned a few days later, and his lawyer had entered a plea of temporary insanity.

But everybody knew he would get off lightly, and end up practicing medicine in some backwater country where it was still considered sane to murder changeover victims wherever found. Not all countries of the world were yet signatories to the World Contract.

It was only four days before Union Day that Digen was sent to the surgical wards. The powers against him had shifted strategy. They were no longer trying to keep him from learning. They had now decided to put him where he would have to learn, for a change, and likely even fail. For the next ten weeks, he would work in all of the surgical wards, learning how to manage pre-op and post-op patients, and how to decide when to perform which procedure. He found himself, for the first time, with real work to do in the hospital. He was no longer standing aside with perspective enough to find other people's mistakes. He was in there making the mistakes; pulling drains out too far, taking out stitches too soon, letting a patient over-exert, or worse, not exert enough, but he was learning at last.

He survived the first four days of it, telling himself constantly that it would be much better after the whole Union Day pageant was over with. He knew how much of his mind was taken up with the unresolved doubts about Ilyana's oath. They were committed, true, and he was sure she wouldn't let him down, but there were so many things that could go wrong.

There were times when he was certain he'd made the right decision to push it through now, and there were times he wondered. True, by doing it this way, he committed the World Controller to accept her oath the same way he'd been committed to receive it -- by public announcement. But at the same time, he was endorsing Mickland's high-handed tactics, and nothing he could say to the man seemed to disabuse him of the idea that Digen had accepted his bribe. Most of the time Digen didn't care what Mickland thought but he disliked having any misunderstanding propagated. He planned to make a speech, after receiving Ilyana's oath, detailing how the situation had been precipitated, but he didn't know if he should yield to the temptation to expose Mickland before the world.

These matters weighed heavily an him, even during the hours at the hospital, though he had always found before that the affairs of the Center disappeared from his mind when he was thinking medicine.

(page break)

(RBW Note. 40.)




Thornton had offered Digen a few days off to prepare for Union Day. Digen had politely but emphatically declined to take any more time off than any other intern was getting, saying that people were watching him now, here at the hospital. This was a kind of test, to see if medicine really meant anything to him -- to see if he could take the stresses involved. Especially since he'd just started on a new Service, and his home Service, too, he couldn't take any more time off.

Thornton had let him have his way, and there were moments, during those last days, when Digen mildly regretted it. It was especially acute the day the World Controller's auditing crew were at Digen's department books. If they made some sort of mistake, on purpose or by accident, Digen wouldn't have time to correct it before the press got hold of the tidbit of news.

But the auditors were honest, and it became quickly clear that Digen was well on his way to making good on his boast to Mickland.

And then it was Union Day. Dawn came bright and clear, with the first crisp harbinger of fall in the air. It wouldn't be long until the leaves were turning and the harvests dominating the news. The whole city was scrubbed and decorated with bright banners, Householding, Gen, and Tecton side by side. People were camping overnight in front of the grandstand that had been built out over the Center's front steps where Digen and Ilyana would exchange oaths, after reviewing the parade. But most of the city slept late. It was a holiday.

Deep under the Sime Center, in the Memorial to the One Billion, the Center's First and Second Order channels assembled silently, with as many of the Thirds as could come. Among them, a delegation of Donors was given an honored place. They waited in silence for Digen and Ilyana.

These were the ones who would receive Ilyana's oath to the Tecton. This private ceremony was the one that mattered. This could not be done in public.

Digen led Ilyana to the center dais, putting off his Householding robe. He wore under it a plain Center uniform with a First Order blazon neatly stitched to the pocket. Ilyana wore exactly the same uniform, as did everyone else in the room, with appropriate insignia.

Ilyana took the highest position, above the crowd, so that every Sime in the room could easily see her nager and her sincerity. Digen put the questions, alternately to Ilyana and the gathered channels, and through him, they swore to each other an eternal truce in the face of need. From that moment on, should any channel anywhere call upon her in need and demand service, she would not refuse nor hesitate. And they, likewise, would place her above all personal considerations.

It was more than a marriage, much, much more. It was a compact of mutual trust beyond all doubt, between all channels and all Donors. It was not merely between Ilyana and those assembled. Everyone in the room renewed their vows to all the others who had ever taken the vows, as well as to each other. This sharing set them apart from all the rest of humanity.

"In the name of the One Billion nameless who died that we might live," finished Digen. And then each of the Householdings present recited the names from their own Memorial who had been immortalized by the Tecton. And Digen ended it. "Out of Death Was I Born."

He handed Ilyana down, and for her ears alone, added, "Unto Zeor, Forever."

The entire ceremony had taken close to two hours, and they were all late for something. Ilyana and Digen stayed to receive congratulations as they all left, and then they snatched up cloaks and rushed to the opening ceremonies of the Zeor House meeting at which Digen was to preside, with Ilyana an honored guest.

The House of Zeor had been allotted the largest of the meeting rooms in the new Residence Tower, and it was, in fact, much too large for the three hundred or so who had gathered from the surrounding countryside, with a few guests from more than two thousand miles away. They were milling about in tight knots on the main floor of the hall, near the front, when Digen came it, blue cloak flying. He was wearing the cloak Ohmand had given him. It was really the finest he'd ever seen, and he liked it. Ilyana wore a plain visitor's cloak with a Rior blazon that had been hastily embroidered by one of the wardrobers Cyril ambrov Ohmand had hired for the occasion.

In the first twenty minutes, Digen met about a hundred and fifty people he'd never met before except as names on a roster. Most of them he knew by ancestry, at least, but occasionally somebody's daughter-in-law had escaped his direct notice. There were almost five thousand registered members in Zeor, though the number fluctuated daily.

Digen opened the meeting in joint session, thus dispensing with the business reports of interest only to one or another local assembly, and after presenting the visiting dignitaries and making the usual Union Day speech, he adjourned the meeting to the reviewing stand for the parade. The real Zeor festivities would not get under way until midnight.


As Zeor and the rest of the Householdings took their places on the stands surrounding the World Controller, Mickland, Digen, Ilyana, and assorted dignitaries from in- and out-Territory, the late morning sun displaced the cool shade.

They all sat, squinting into the glare and sweating, while one hundred parade units passed in review. Out of respect for the hospital, the bands softened their music just a little, playing the traditional tunes with muted fervor.

Since Westfield was an acknowledged capital of the arts, most of the displays were masterpieces of costuming, flower craft, or exquisite use of color or sound. There were dramatic tableaus of great impact, hilarious parodies, and incisive commentaries. And for the children, there were dancers and clowns, puppeteers, candy tossed through the air, free rides on the parade horses, all making the day larger than life and twice as beautiful.

As soon as the last unit -- a remarkable reproduction of the famous painting of Klyd Farris signing the First Contract -- had passed the reviewing stand, the street filled in with bystanders, and the speeches began, with Mickland introducing each of the guests in turn, and then a long, elaborate introduction to the World Controller, obviously written by a professional speech writer, whose research, Digen noted, had been extremely hasty.

Akim Karriem was serving his second term as World Controller, having been elected the first time twenty-odd years ago, when he was only in his thirties. Nobody had the strength to serve two consecutive terms, and few ever came back for a second round voluntarily. The Householdings had mounted an irresistible draft to elect Karriem when no other suitable candidate emerged.

Though he had Householding support, Karriem himself was not affiliated with any House, and so drew together the anti-Householding factions as well. He was a First Order channel, somewhere in the three-point-five range, and his lack of Farris blood had been a great political asset when there had not been a non-Farris-related Controller for five terms running.

Digen considered Karriem a model of what a Controller should be. For that reason, Digen listened with great attention to Karriem's speech. Digen had still not decided what, if anything, he was going to say about Mickland.

The World Controller spoke in English, with Simelan translation going in-Territory. He held the microphones for a brief twenty minutes, captivating the audience with his casual style and pithy historical summations. Digen, watching, was sure he was not using a prepared speech, but was simply saying whatever came to mind. That was something the Farrises were famous for, but Karriem was not copying what had become known as the Farris style. He was simply himself. The crowd loved it.

Digen wondered how they'd react if he got up there and copied Karriem's style -- not in mockery, but in all sincerity. He decided the out-Territory Gens wouldn't appreciate it, and in-Territory, the people would feel cheated of a Farris speech. But the idea intrigued him so much, he missed his introduction cue.

He recovered, however, glossing it over so that nobody but Karriem noticed. And then he was at the microphones, with Ilyana being escorted to a second set of microphones which had been placed for the occasion.

Notes had been placed on the lectern for the abbreviated version of the oath Digen had administered from memory in the dawn ceremony. He kept his place with one tentacle, glancing down out of the corner of his eye for the first word of the next question to make sure he didn't make a mistake. The whole thing was a performance. It had none of the impact or content of the private ceremony. But the crowd didn't know that. For them, it was the high point of the day's festivities. The rest would be only a wind-down.

Digen finished the list of superficial promises in fifteen minutes, turned over the sheet of notes, and added extemporaneously, "Ilyana Dumas, I will exact from you one more pledge, perhaps the most meaningful of all."

She waited, knowing he had departed from the script, but not rattled by it.

Digen bent away from the microphones to consult briefly with the translator, who in response transposed two of the microphone jacks in his board. When Digen came back to the lectern, he spoke in Simelan, with English translation booming out in front of him to the Gen crowd.

"I know it is your intention now to act in complete loyalty to the Tecton. But in view of how you came to us, and since I have not asked you to renounce your former allegiance -- because, as Muryin Farris used to say, once foresworn, never trusted -- I wish now to exact a very specific pledge before all assembled here.

"Ilyana Dumas, will you pledge now never to commit an act which would in any small way weaken the Tecton, impair its ability to serve the renSimes, or undermine the convictions of those who live by Tecton Principles?"

(page break) p 43

She paused, head bowed over clasped hands. Digen knew the pledge was wholly redundant, but the crowd didn't know that. She didn't want any of then to think her hasty. But neither did she want to seem reluctant. At just the right moment, she threw back her head and said clearly, "I give my pledge never to commit an act which would in any way weaken the Tecton, impair its ability to serve the renSimes, or undermine the convictions of those who live by Tecton Principles, into the hands of the Sectuib in Zeor."

Cyril Ohmand, who, note pad in hand, had been orchestrating events from the sidelines, chose the moment when Ilyana paused to cut in with an exit march, boomed out over all the loudspeakers at once. Then Cyril came up on the grandstand to hustle everyone on to the next event, a formal reception and dinner which would take up the remainder of the afternoon.

Mickland pitched in, issuing instructions to the escorts and trying to get people moving by leading the way himself. Akim Karriem, however, was not so easily sidetracked. He made his way to Ilyana, beckoning Digen to him.

"I had the distinct impression," said Karriem to Ilyana, as Digen moved up, "that you were going to say something else."

"Yes, Sir, but apparently the Sectuib Ohmand considers that we are running behind schedule."

"I'd like to hear what you had to say."

"I was going to pledge Unto Zeor as a member of a daughter Householding. Perhaps it would have been inappropriate here."

"Perhaps it would, but I would have appreciated it." He turned to Digen, tentacles extended in greeting. "It's been a long time. How has it been, Digen? Not well, I see."

"At the moment, I confess I'm a bit upset that Ohmand didn't leave me time for closing remarks. I wonder if he had any idea what I intended to say."

"He and Mickland are awfully impressed with the importance of ceremonial formality, aren't they?"

Digen nodded. "They are convinced you will judge them on how well they make speeches and plan itineraries. But I shouldn't judge them. I confess, I don't get along well with either of them."

Karriem nodded. "I did some research before this trip. Found out sane interesting things that have been going on here between you and Mickland. I'd like to discuss it, but not out here in the heat."

Karriem's eye fell on the hospital building next door, and he asked if that was the famous Westfield Memorial. Digen said it was, and Karriem asked, "Do you get along with the doctors any better than with Mickland?"

Digen laughed. "Ooooo, now there's a question!" Then Digen saw the contingent from the hospital getting up to leave. They had been given a front row section just outside the Householding area. He said, "Wait a moment, I'll get you an objective answer to that."

He jumped down from the stand and waded into the crowd, hailing Dr. Emhardt and Dr. Thornton, and dragging them back toward the reviewing stand. "Come on up here and meet an old friend of mine," said Digen.

Digen presented them to the World Controller, saying, "Fair warning, Akim, I stacked the deck in my favor."

Emhardt was grinning, but Thornton was radiating a kind of awe for the World Controller. Karriem stuck out his hand in the Gen fashion, first to Emhardt and then to Thornton, saying, "Well, I must say I am glad to meet you two. Dr. Emhardt, I don't think you would know this, but it was your work in epidemiology, about ten years ago, that gave me a vital clue to the worst public health problem I'd ever had on my hands. There's no way to estimate how many lives it saved."

Karriem turned to Thornton. "Chief Surgeon? I'd like to talk to you, too. I've been following Digen's career since -- well, since before he was born! His father and I worked together for many years. In fact, it was I who nursed the poor man over the shock of a son who wanted to become a surgeon. Digen, where is that man, Cyril? Tell him to set two extra places beside us at the head table." And to the Gens, "You will join us, won't you? I'll be leaving in the morning, and if I don't seize the opportunity, it will slip away. I'm an old man; I can't afford that any more."

The doctors nodded, a little shocked, and Digen said, "I'll arrange it. Let's see, Ilyana, you escort Dr. Emhardt. Didn't I see Inez Tregaskio around here a minute ago? Yesterday, she was complaining that everyone but her had been assigned to escort duty. There she is!"

(page break)


Digen went off across the almost deserted podium, pausing only to tap Cyril on the shoulder and beckon him after. He sent Inez Tregaskio, a fairly competent TN-2, after Dr. Thornton, who was already moving with the World Controller's group toward the building entrance behind them.

Cyril caught up with Digen and said, "I want you off this platform immediately! The Gen police have just caught a man with a rifle on the rooftops across the street. They think he was after you. It's a good thing you didn't draw out the closing remarks!"

"Me? The World Controller, maybe, but me?"

"Just get inside, will you?"

Digen shrugged and started to go, but turned back to deliver his message about the head table. Cyril objected, "But it's far too late for that!"

Digen shrugged. "You don't know Akim Karriem very well then. Cyril, if you don't do it, he will -- or he'll just walk out of the banquet and order sandwiches sent to some quiet office where he can work in peace."

Cyril was a little shocked at Digen's tone, but he'd heard enough of the World Controller to know he just might do that. He said, "I'll see to it."

On the way to the banquet hall Digen stopped by to make sure all was well in the changeover ward. His holiday staff had a banquet table set up in a spare room where they could enjoy the same food as at the main banquet downstairs, provided there was ever a lull in the patient influx. Digen found everything under control. He took another ten minutes to check the Dispensary for Mora Dyen, and then made his way to the main hall where the formal banquet was already in progress.

They had the head table up on the stage, with the dignitaries who were to speak lined up on one side of the table, facing the audience, all of whom sat at large, round tables. Akim Karriem, true to his reputation, had moved himself from the center of the head table to one end and placed those he wanted to talk to around him on either side."

When Digen arrived, Karriem was standing behind his place, consulting with one of his traveling secretaries over some piece of paperwork that required an immediate decision. He came back as Digen sat down, and said, "You disapprove?" gesturing to the table arrangement.

Digen gave a who-me? shrug, and sat in the place indicated, facing the audience, beside Ilyana.

Karriem leaned toward Thornton, the most ill at ease of the guests, and said behind his hand, "Frankly, they should be thankful I didn't commandeer one of those nice round tables and shoo all the occupants up here to be stared at."

Thornton laughed out loud, having a hard time turning a pure guffaw into a polite chuckle. "Truth be told, that's been one of my racier fantasies at every Medical Association banquet I've ever attended. I just wish I had the nerve."

"Well," said Karriem, "if the food isn't any better than the usual banquet, we'll just go up to Digen's office and order sandwiches and tea."

Thornton, who had suffered through more than his share of awards banquets, was from that moment on completely at ease with the World Controller. While the first appetizers, fruits and salads were served and cleared, Karriem talked with the two Gen doctors, artfully eliciting candid opinions from them by relating anecdotes from his own experience as a physician. Digen watched and marveled as Karriem acquired, painlessly to his victims, every bit of background he was remotely interested in. It took Digen back to the days he had watched his father do the same.

As the main courses were served, differentiated Sime from Gen, and chosen with the exquisite attention to fine detail that was the hallmark of Ohmand's hospitality -- nothing on the Gen plates that required cutting with a sharp knife, beverages chosen to be inoffensive to all present, portion sizes metered carefully to the differences in Sime and Gen metabolism -- Karriem smoothly turned his attention to Digen, Ilyana and Rindaleo Hayashi. He spoke politely in English, which Ilyana could scarcely follow and was looking now for background on how Digen's work at the hospital affected his efficiency at the Center.

It was interesting to Digen how Karriem kept the conversation relevant to the out-Territory guests unobtrusively stressing how very much Digen had accomplished in the Center here, as if he were actually discussing how Digen's work at the Center may have affected his efficiency at the hospital.

Three times before the speeches began, Karriem had to excuse himself to attend to some urgent matter or another. And once, Digen was called away on an emergency in the changeover ward.

(page break)


When Digen got back from that, he found that somehow Karriem had rearranged everybody so that Digen's place was now between Karriem and Ilyana, while Hayashi sat at Karriem's other side, entertaining the doctors with details of the physiological changes that occur in the Gen as he is trained to be a Donor.

Karriem turned to Digen and spoke privately. "All right. Now. I trust you realize that your behavior has been somewhat less than exemplary?"

Digen nodded.

"Much of this nonsense should never be heard of at the World Controller's office."

"That's true."

"A subcontroller ought to be wholly loyal to his Controller."


"You don't seriously believe that Mickland runs this District, do you?"

Digen shook his head silently.

"He just does the coolie labor. It's you the people come to when something has to be done."

Digen nodded.

"Digen, you're twenty-what-nine almost? And you're still chasing that silly childhood dream that you can somehow get out of being a channel. Digen, I've never been against your learning surgery. At first, it was only a silly dream I knew you'd outgrow -- we all have the same dream. Then, when you were injured, the ambition seemed to be the only thing that kept you going, and I was all for indulging it as far as it would take you. But you're twenty-nine and I'm over sixty now. It's time to put away childhood, Digen. Past time."

Digen stared at his untouched desert, a sculpted mound of airy foam, barely weighing half a gram, but contrived to look like as much as the cake served to the Gens. Very softly, he said, "Not yet, Akim. I'm so close. I can't quit now."

"What the Tecton, the World needs now," said Karriem, "more than anything else is a strong, active Sectuib in Zeor. You can't do that job while spending twelve to sixteen hours a day out-Territory. In your father's name, Digen, come home!"

Digen met Karriem's eyes. He couldn't force a word through his tightened throat. He just shook his head slightly.

Karriem seized Digen's hand under the table, shaking him hard. "If you don't stand up to succeed me, who do you think is going to be World Controller next term?"

Digen's eyes strayed to where Mickland was giving his carefully prepared introductory speech. Karriem nodded. "We both know it. You don't have to tell me how he got you into this thing with Ilyana Dumas. He's honestly convinced that you are on his bribe roll. And you can't do a thing about it without being the subcontroller who is insolently disloyal to his Controller. You have only one possible counter-move, Digen, and now is the only chance you'll have to make it count. After I speak, he's going to stand up there and announce his own candidacy for World Controller, and then he's going to introduce you. The only thing you can do -- you can't tell them what he did to you and Ilyana -- you can only stand up there after me and announce your own candidacy. I've researched it, Digen. Three quarters of my constituency will rally to you without question, and I can put together a coalition among the neutrals who will support you. You're old enough to take your first term in the world seat. Do it, Digen."

And then, suddenly, Karriem was standing to take a bow, striding to the speaker's lectern, adjusting the microphones, and beginning another long, relaxed series of anecdotes that seemed to roll off his tongue without conscious thought, and yet which added up very subtly to just what he had been saying -- Digen Farris for World Controller.

Apparently the subtlety was more than Mickland could handle under the circumstances. Convinced that Digen would not declare himself a candidate, Mickland kept the World Controller at the microphones after his speech, while he made his announcement of his own candidacy, apparently expecting Karriem to offer his endorsement on the spot.

Karriem, however, offered only a brief, formal congratulations, and then spoke for another ten minutes on what was required of a World Controller, outlining some of the major world problems his office was currently dealing with, not the least of which being the Donor shortage -- on which topic, none is more expert than Digen Farris.

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It was the smoothest introduction Digen had ever received, made even smoother by the way Karriem eased Mickland away from the microphones as Digen strode across the platform, gathering all eyes to his brilliant, Zeor blue cloak flying out behind him.

As he came up on the microphones, a scattering of blue-cloaked figures throughout the hall rose, saying in unison, "Unto Zeor, Forever!"

Digen returned the pledge. "Unto Zeor, Forever."

And then he had to think of something to say. The room fell into total silence as all motion ceased, all whisperers came to attention, and all eyes focused on Digen. They thought he was the most powerful public speaker on the program, for commanding such intense silence without saying a word.

At one point, in desperation, he just started talking. He picked up where Karriem had left off, talking about the Donor shortage. All the Simes in the room who hadn't worked beside Digen could see clearly that he, himself, had been severely shorted for some time already, and Digen talked about that at sane length, touching on the various steps he had taken which had been reported on and discussed in the press, both in in- and out-Territory.

He talked about the Elkar tragedy as typical of what just about all Firsts above about a three-point-six are facing these days. And from there, he somehow got onto the topic of Hayashi's experiments, now funded by programs instituted in the name of the Elkar Memorial Trust, which was still receiving generous donations almost daily.

He talked about the potential for solving the problem in Hayashi's work, touching on what he had learned while working with Imrahan and Ilyana both under Hayashi's guidance. He gave them glimpses of the tremendous theoretical insights already gleaned from Hayashi's work on Ilyana's problems. Historically, such theoretical breakthroughs were the cornerstones upon which true solutions to problems could be erected.

He found himself speaking more and more enthusiastically about the various programs, grants, graduate student researches, and training programs carried out on the top floor of this very building, signifying a new day dawning across the world.

And in the end, before he knew what words were coming out of his mouth, he said, "In my considered professional opinion -- or maybe it's my considered personal opinion, as it seems I am deeply affected by this -- the most critical and difficult problem facing the world today is in fact the Donor shortage, and the one person in the world who really has any grip on that problem is Rindaleo Hayashi."

An absolute hush fell across the audience. And suddenly Digen knew what they knew he would say next.

He moved close to the microphone and said in a very low voice, "Distinguished leaders and honored guests, though I know that many of you would like to see a Sectuib in Zeor as World Controller next term, I cannot accept that obligation at this time. And if I could, I doubt if I would, because there is one better qualified than I. Remember that I speak now as one most desperately affected by whether we solve this problem or not. Have you ever known a Farris who would let somebody do something they could do better themselves?"

A ripple of appreciative amusement passed across the room. Digen said, "The one who can do it better than I; the one into whose hands I willingly place my life and sanity; the one man whom I beg my supporters and all those personally loyal to me to rally round and raise to the World Controllership is . . ."

And then Digen found he had no voice left, and it came out in an unintentionally dramatic whisper, ". . . Rindaleo Hayashi."

Every Sime and Gen in the room rose to his feet, and they were all yelling. Householding cries rose above the din, and before long they were all chanting in unison for Hayashi to take the microphone and speak.

The moment he had finished, Digen broke away from the microphones and strode toward Hayashi, raising him to his feet and escorting him back to the podium. Hayashi went, protesting, "Digen, how could you do this to me?"

"I didn't realize it until just now, but Rin, you're the right one for the job. Listen to them!"

"Nonsense. You've bewitched them. You even had me believing it there for a few minutes. With a microphone in front of you, you can convince anybody of anything!"

"Rin! They want you. I want you. Akim will come around to see it my way in a few minutes. Get up there and tell them you'll do it."

"I can't; I don't have a speech. I can't just . . ."

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"Just say whatever comes into your head. You know almost everybody here. They're all your friends."

"Digen, I can't be World Controller and get my research done, too!"

"And how many times have you told me, the limiting factor on what you're accomplishing isn't time, money, or volunteer talent: it's just plain bureaucratic red tape? They're going to empower you to do away with all that red tape. You'll spend a term in the hot seat, and when you're done, your work will go at ten times the current rate of progress haven't you said it yourself? Go on, just tell them what you've told me a dozen times about what you'd like to do if you could!"

Hayashi looked out upon the throng standing and chanting his name. Digen could feel the trepidation in him. He said, "I'll quiet them down for you; then just talk."

Standing to the microphones again, Digen held up his hands, tentacles twined in a be-quiet sign. The silence was almost instantaneous as they all sat down again, and Digen said, "I'm going to ask Rin, here, to answer just one question -- the question I know is on all your minds. Rin, tell us, what should we do about this whole set of interlinked crises, starting with the one dearest to my heart, the Donor shortage?"

When Hayashi took the podium, the silence was almost as intense as during Digen's speech. Digen waited for Hayashi to start saying words, and then he faded back to his place at the end of the table.

As he sat down, Karriem leaned over and said, still somewhat in a state of shock himself, "A Farris is the tool that turns in the hand in the most unexpected ways."

Digen frowned at him. Karriem added, "No, Muryin never said that. I did. I never could manipulate your father, either. It would always turn out like this. I should know better by now."

Hayashi began speaking, hesitantly at first, and then as audience rapport built, he opened up with all his visions of what could and should be the future of the Tecton. Digen became more and more sure that he'd done the right thing, though Cyril, on the sidelines with his notebook, glared at Digen periodically. Hayashi hadn't been on the program, and Digen himself had run way over the allotted time, but there was no graceful way to shut them up when the audience was so obviously enthralled.

Mickland just sat, staring into his untouched dessert. At this distance across a crowded room, Digen couldn't make out any details, but it was obvious Mickland was facing an unpleasant reality. It remained to be seen what he would do about it.

At length, the closing ceremonies of the banquet were rushed through so that everyone could attend the special performance of Last of the Freeband Raiders, a play set at the time of the First Contract. This performance was a landmark only possible in Westfield, where the Union Theatre Players -- a mixed Sime/Gen theatrical company -- had a theatre actually set precisely on the Territory border and under special dispensation so that Simes could perform retainerless on stage for an audience that was out-Territory Gen. The play itself was an odd mixture of ballet, opera, and serious theatre -- serious enough regarding the portrayal of the juncted Simes to make the Gen audience's hair stand on end.

It was well after midnight before Digen convened the joint session of Zeor for Union Night Vigil on the highest hilltop overlooking the town of Westfield. He had done this in many cities at various times in his life. In medical school, he had missed it for the first time since his injury, and so this year's was especially meaningful to him.

After the brief ceremony they all sat on the grass to wait for the sunrise that would conclude Union Day for the House of Zeor. Ilyana, sitting beside Digen, said, "I don't care what Mickland does next, I know you did the right thing, Digen. Akim won't let him hurt you."

Digen looked at her by the moonlight, and said, "You don't know Akim. And I doubt if you really know Mickland, either."

To be continued

Go on to part 4