"No matter what happens," said Zeth Farris, trembling with an emotion he could not name, "when I grow up, I'm never going to kill."
"You can't say that for sure," challenged Jana Lodge Erick, tossing her braids back over her shoulders.
Her older brother Owen said, "Zeth's going to be a channel, like his father. And channels don't have to kill."
The three children were walking along behind their dogs, herding sheep into a sheltered pasture. Zeth, the youngest of the three, had to stretch to keep up. As he caught them, he saw a stern glare pass from Jana to Owen, the same kind of glare grownups used to swerve conversations away from topics not for children.
"No matter what your father says, there's no way to know if you'll be Sime or Gen," said Jana.
"It doesn't matter," replied Zeth, with the belligerence Jana always seemed to wake in him. "Even if I'm only a Sime, not a channel, I still won't kill. It's too hard to stop once you start."
"That's why I want to be a channel," said Owen. "To heal people. I want to be a healer."
Zeth had heard this argument many times, and knew there was nothing Jana could say to deter Owen. But Jana snorted at her brother's ambition. "I'd rather be Gen. A Sime is either a channel or he isn't. But a Gen can learn—"
"Hey, listen!" Zeth interrupted. "Is that the bell?"
"Can't be," said Owen. "Can't hear it from here!"
But the wind was carrying faint echoes. "Let's go see," said Jana. Instructing the dogs to mind the sheep, the children scrambled back along the trail toward the stockade of Old Fort Freedom. As they emerged onto a rise of ground overlooking the neat community, the pealing of the bell became clearer and clearer—until the alarm pattern sounded danger across the landscape.
As far as the children could see, the land was part of the township of Fort Freedom. The original religious community still stood on one side of the creek, but on the other was a growing secular community, loosely incorporated with them and sharing their ideals.
In the far distance, the hilly land on which Owen and Jana's father raised the finest horses in the Territory sloped down to join the New Farris Homestead. There, at his own home, Zeth spotted a column of black smoke. "It's a fire!" he shouted. "Come on!"
The three children ran pell-mell down the trail and across the newly sprouted fields just in time to catch the last riders from the Old Fort. Dan Whelan, the blacksmith, slowed his horse to catch Zeth up in front of him. "Hang on!"
"I'm all right," Zeth panted. "What's going on?"
"Raid. You kids get out of the way. I'll drop you, and you run on up to Mr. Erick's."
"But Dad and Mama—" started Zeth.
"They'll want you safe!"
Zeth was safe enough for the moment. Mr. Whelan holding one arm about the boy's waist, the other hand on the reins, handling tentacles out to steady them. His laterals lay quietly sheathed amid the rippling musculature of the smith's forearms.
After one glance at those calm laterals, Zeth let his fear well up. His child's nager could not irritate Mr. Whelan.
"Dan!" called one of the other men. "Are they Freeband Raiders?" Such outlaw bands descended like locusts, stealing, looting, killing Gens, murdering Simes—but Fort Freedom had not seen a band of them in years.
Zeth had one clear memory of a group of Gens—his mother, Hank and Anni Steers, some others—advancing on the astonished Raiders, sending the scarecrow forms scurrying to their horses. Had he seen it, or been told about it? He recalled the nightmare image of a tattered, skeletal Raider grasping his mother, trying to kill her the way Simes used to kill Gens, by draining her life energy.
But Kadi Farris could not be killed. Her red hair was a halo of flame, her body surrounded by a glowing nimbus that drew her attacker helplessly, hands and tentacles grasping her smooth, untentacled arms, lips pressed to hers—
And then a blinding flash, deafening thunder, and the Sime attacker lay dead at his mother's feet.
Zeth could not have seen it like that. He was a child; he couldn't zlin fields. He wasn't sure he had seen it at all, or if it was his father's vivid account engraved on his mind. The raid when he was four was the last Fort Freedom had seen of Freeband Raiders, because they'd developed a superstitious fear of Gens who could kill.
As they drew near, Zeth saw one of the barns burning. Mr. Whelan and the riders who had picked up Owen and Jana swerved off toward the hills, where Del Erick's land lay.
"You kids get on up to your father's place—Zeth, you stay with them till someone comes for you," Mr. Whelan instructed. "Head around to the east!" he called to the other riders. "Shen! Who'd have thought they'd attack Farris?"
"I'm going home!" Zeth said to the older children.
"But Mr. Whelan said—" Owen began.
"Zeth," interrupted Jana, "you come on home with us now."
"I don't have to listen to you! That's my house down there! Your pa's down there," added Zeth. "You know he would've gone to help."
"That's right!" Jana said. "We'll all go!"
The children scuttled down the hillside, through a stand of evergreens, to the edge of the fields. The attackers were not Freeband Raiders, but in-Territory Simes, farmers, sheep ranchers, tradespeople—a posse, not militia.
Nor did Zeth see any badge of authority. Vigilantes, then—
but why attack the Farris Homestead? All they'd ever done was good!
Zeth couldn't see his father or mother. They'd be in the house, according to the attack plan. That plan had come out of the raid when Zeth was four, when Liz Carson, a Gen Companion, died not in the kill, but from a Raider's dagger. The loss of a Companion was grave indeed, but the precarious balance of their lifestyle could be overturned by the loss of a channel. They had only three: three precious lives between Fort Freedom and the kill.
A cordon of Simes protected the main house. The channels would be inside, and all Fort Freedom's Gens. No—not all. Zeth saw Hank Steers gallop up, steady as any Sime, bursting through the line of attackers as their horses reared and plunged. Zeth wished he could zlin. Mr. Steers must have hit the attacking Simes with a nageric shock. Steers, meanwhile, rode straight to the house, stood up on his saddle, and vaulted onto the porch roof. A window opened, and eager hands pulled him inside.
The torches thrown at the house could not catch in the slate roof or stone walls. People from the Old Fort and the town outnumbered the attackers, so the gang left their assault on the main house, throwing their torches at outbuildings. The three children crouched behind a wagon—until one of the attackers threw his torch onto the wooden bed. When Zeth thought the man had turned away, he jumped up to snatch the burning brand.
The man must have zlinned him, for he wheeled his horse and lunged at Zeth. Zeth tried to parry with the torch, but a ten-year-old boy was no match for a Sime. Zeth was caught up and held dangling as his captor shouted, "Shendi! Kora—hey, look what I caught!"
A woman clutching one whip in her tentacles and another in her fingers came to see. Her face was twisted with fear and hatred as she said, "Slaughter the brat! He'll grow up into one o' them perverts. Gut him, Trev!"
Zeth squirmed and kicked, but was firmly held as the man pulled his knife—not a Raider's dagger, but a farmer's sharp utility blade. Helplessly, he watched his death approach— "No!" Owen and Jana appeared from under the wagon Jana grabbing the horse's reins, Owen lunging for the man's knife hand. Owen's weight dragged the man off his horse and Zeth was flung aside, the breath knocked out of him.
For a moment he blacked out. When his vision cleared he saw the woman holding the squirming, kicking Jana before her on her horse. On the ground, the man hit Owen, knocking the boy down. Zeth scrabbled to his knees. His midsection hurt violently, every tiny breath torture.
"Shen!" screamed the Sime woman, and flung Jana away, nursing a hand that bled where Jana had bitten her. Jana jumped at the man beating her brother, but was thrown back against the wagon. She gave a sharp yelp of pain, and her face went white as she fell, her arm bent at an impossible angle. She tried to rise, gasped, "My arm!" and wilted, unconscious.
A child's pain might not have the penetrating effect of an adult's, but Zeth knew pain pervaded the whole atmosphere, impinging from all sides on the two Simes. Like a harpy, the woman screamed, "Their arms! Cut off their arms, Trev! They'll die in changeover!"
Jana was unconscious, Owen helpless before the man now wielding his knife, licking his lips, eyes flaming with unholy zeal as the woman goaded him on. Zeth tried to force his rubbery legs to work, trapped in a nightmare in which his body would not obey his will.
When the Sime bent to slash at Owen, the boy tried to roll away, and the blade glanced off his shoulder, sending more pain into the atmosphere. The Sime grasped Owen's left wrist with his left hand and tentacles, and with augmented strength brought the knife slashing viciously through Owen's upper arm. Zeth clearly heard the crack of bone as, too late, he heaved himself at the man's legs.
He was kicked away, stunned, and then the attacker was looming over him, bloody knife in hand, reaching for his arm.
Behind the man the thunder of hoofbeats rose. A shower of mud cascaded over Zeth. White hair flying, Abel Veritt loomed astride his horse, wielding his whip with the skill of a Freeband Raider. The whip wrapped around the waist of Zeth's attacker, and he was caught up and flung toward another rider.
It was Del Erick, Owen and Jana's father. There was a crunch louder than the hoofbeats as Erick broke the man's neck and dropped him, not even looking back as he leaped from his horse and ran to where his children lay.
Veritt was there already, kneeling beside Owen. "Jana's arm is broken," he said. "It's not serious. But Owen—"
"Dear God!" Erick whispered—and Zeth knew it was hopeless, for Mr. Erick, like his father, would not pray unless there were nothing else a man could do.
Mr. Veritt, though, was saying, "Here—stop the bleeding. Somebody get Rimon!"
Relieved of having to try to move, Zeth watched Del Erick wrap handling tentacles to stop the bright blood spurting with every beat of Owen's heart.
Veritt took off his jacket and put it carefully over Jana. Then he turned to Zeth. "Are you all right, son?"
"I'm not hurt," Zeth lied.
"Just knocked breathless, eh?" Veritt's eyes unfocused as he zlinned the boy. Then he nodded. "You'll be all right."
"But Owen—Jana—" Tears choked Zeth's words. "Mr. Veritt, they said to cut off our arms so we'd die in changeover!"
Pure pain enveloped the old man's face. "They don't understand, Zeth. Killing is so much their way of life that it frightens them that some people have learned to live without it." He sighed. "Fear is our real enemy, not the people whom it possesses."
"But—what will happen to Owen?"
"I don't know, Zeth. It is in God's hands."
"Will he die in changeover?" Zeth insisted. "That man cut his arm off. I saw. I couldn't st-stop him!" Zeth fought down a dizzy nausea.
Veritt hugged him close, letting him cry, saying, "You tried. All God asks of us is to try our best, Zeth."
"But Owen's gonna die!"
Perhaps. Perhaps not. Pray for him, Zeth. That's all we can do—pray and await God's will."
But Rimon Farris did more than that when he arrived on the scene, his wife at his side. Veritt had gone back to kneel beside Del Erick and Owen, while Zeth sat watching.
Farris began directing the people with him. "Take Jana to the house—brace that arm. It's a clean fracture. Jord can set it. If she wakes up, give her fosebine. Zeth, have Uel or Jord check you over. What were you kids doing here?"
"I only meant to help," said Zeth.
"Never mind," Farris replied. He was already kneeling beside Owen. "Shen and shid!" he swore as he zlinned the boy, then looked into Del Erick's anguished eyes. "Del, he's alive. You kept him from bleeding to death, but—"
Grimly, Erick said, "If you save his life, he'll die in changeover."
Abel Veritt gently urged Del to release his grip on his son, remaining with one arm about Erick's shoulders as Zeth's father took over. The support Veritt gave was more than physical—often Zeth sensed something the older man gave to those who were troubled, whether Sime, Gen, or child.
Zeth's mother took her place beside his father. When Mr. Veritt spoke of angels, Zeth envisioned his mother as she was now, her flaming hair a halo, her hands steady on his father's shoulders as both concentrated on healing.
Blood spurted again from Owen's wound, but Farris quickly clasped the boy's arm with his own tentacles, holding and slowly releasing, in a kind of trance, until finally he let go, and the bleeding did not start again.
When he sat back on his heels and opened his eyes, Del Erick asked, "Will he live?"
"I don't know," Farris replied. "I'm almost certain I could save a Gen with that wound—or a Sime if it were not an arm injury. But it's so hard to influence a child's fields, Del."
Zeth's father said, "Del, I'll do all I can for Owen, but I can't save his arm. If he lives, it could be for only a few weeks or months. If he goes into changeover—"
"Then he's got to be Gen!" said Erick.
"Del," Abel Veritt said, "we will all pray for that, but with both parents Sime—"
"He has to be Gen," Erick insisted. "Rimon, save him!"
Zeth's father gripped Erick's shoulder, years of intense friendship in the gesture. Then his mother said, "It's damp and chilly out here. Let's get Owen into the house."
By this time, Zeth could walk. He hung back, feeling terrible guilt. It was his fault Owen was hurt—he had taunted him into coming to the New Homestead, and then Owen had gotten into the fight to save Zeth. I'm the one they meant to hurt.
But he couldn't say it to anyone—his father and mother had to concentrate on healing Owen, and the other three people Zeth could confide in were Owen, Del Erick, and Abel Veritt.
He arrived home deeply troubled. Patches came running to him, whimpering. Zeth saw that someone had wrapped a bandage around the dog's ribs. "What happened to Patches?" he cried.
"He's all right." It was Anni Steers, the Gen who was Hank Steers's wife. "Patches and Biggie helped drive off the attackers. Patches got some whip cuts, but poor Biggie has a broken leg."
Zeth's dog and Hank's were littermates, and Hank had helped Zeth train Patches. Now Biggie hobbled after Anni, one leg splinted. Anni bore bruises on her face and arms, but she was carefully controlled.
Upstairs, Uel Whelan and Hank Steers, who always worked with the youngest channel, were just coming out of Zeth's room. Uel said to Del Erick, "I've just checked on Jana. It's not serious, Del. She'll heal as good as new."
"Thanks, Uel," said Del. "I'll stop in to see her."
"She'll sleep till morning. You can see her then." He paused to zlin Owen as he was carried into the big bedroom Zeth's parents shared. "Rimon, can I help? Spell you?"
"Maybe later," Farris replied. "I'm in need. That may give me the sensitivity to heal Owen. How's everyone here?"
"Fine. No one was hurt as badly as the kids, except… they killed Teri Layton."
"I must comfort her parents," Abel Veritt said at once. But he paused, looking around. "Where is Jord?" Veritt's son was the third channel in Fort Freedom, although he wasn't as capable as either Uel Whelan or Rimon Farris. Zeth didn't understand Jord's problems, but knew they had increased after his wife died. He couldn't seem to find another Companion.
"Jord took the Laytons home," said Hank Steers. "Let him pray with them. It will help him, too—and you should rest, Abel."
Something unspoken hung in the air between the old Sime and the young Gen. Zeth knew there were things he could not comprehend because he was still a child. Today, however, he glanced at Uel Whelan and saw a peculiar mixture of compassion and revulsion on the young channel's face. He knew it was difficult for a channel to give up transfer from his Companion, even for one month. Hank gave transfer to Mr. Veritt every few months; Zeth had heard his father say it was good that Hank and Uel didn't have so strong a dependency. Still, there was something more in Uel's expression he could not fathom. If only I could zlin!
His parents were installing Owen in their bed. Trying to be inconspicuous, Zeth hovered just inside the door until his mother came over to him and said, "Zeth, go downstairs and eat supper."
"He's alive, Zeth," said his father. He studied Zeth, his black eyes, deep-set with strain, almost unreadable. His mouth set in lines of grim determination as he added, "You're old enough to understand. Owen isn't going to bleed to death, but his body could just give up and die of shock. I can try to save him—but I mustn't be disturbed. Kadi, go with Zeth."
"But, Rimon—you're in need."
"That's all that let me stop the bleeding. Kadi, I had to have you for that, but now… let me try something. With no Gen in the room, I think I can get Owen's fields to respond."
"Let me try, Kadi!"
At the ragged edge in his voice, she backed off. She tucked the blanket around Owen's still form, then took Zeth's hand and left the room, closing the door behind them.
He let his mother lead him down to the kitchen, where Trina Morgan was making a huge pot of vegetable stew while Abel Veritt's wife poured trin tea. Mrs. Veritt came over to Kadi at once. "What's wrong? Why aren't you with Rimon?"
"He's trying to bring Owen out of shock. Where's Uel?"
"Making one more round. Hank will make him stop soon." Mrs. Veritt poured tea for all of them, and sat down across from Kadi, her hands wrapped about her tea glass. Zeth, seeing her tentacles move restlessly within their sheaths, knew she was gaining strength from his mother's field. Zeth could not interrupt their rapport to talk about his own guilt.
He stared at Mrs. Veritt's arms, wondering what it would be like to have tentacles. He rubbed his forearms, raising gooseflesh as he thought, It could have been my arm cut off, not Owen's. A Sime died horribly if even one lateral tentacle were badly injured. The loss of an arm meant complete loss of two laterals—and death by attrition.
Zeth had learned about the Sime/Gen symbiosis in school. Simes and Gens were both human, born of the Ancients who had ruled the world before they split into Simes and Gens. Now, though, everyone was either Sime or Gen—and no child knew for certain which he would be, for all that Zeth's father insisted Zeth would be Sime.
At adolescence, a Gen began to produce selyn, the biologic energy of life. Mr. Veritt and others from Gen Territory said Gens never even knew it, although Kadi Farris, Hank Steers, and other Gens said there was a definite feeling of change.
A Gen's establishment, however, was nothing to the dramatic changeover of a Sime. As the new Sime's metabolism shifted from the caloric base of a Gen or child to the selyn base, the external change that captured the imagination of Gens and children was the development of tentacles sheathed along the forearm to emerge at the wrists. The four handling tentacles, called dorsals and ventrals, served as extra fingers or hands. The smaller laterals, however, seldom emerged except to perform their primary function: the drawing of selyn.
But the major change from child to Sime was not tentacles; it was the need for selyn, with the attendant ability to locate it, absorb it, and use it. Rimon Farris said the incredible developments in the nervous system were the true drama—and trauma—of changeover. A Sime could not produce selyn at all—yet had to have it to live. A Gen produced a huge amount beyond any imperceptible quantity he might consume. Clearly, Simes were meant to obtain selyn from Gens.
Life ought to be that simple. Zeth had grown up in a community where Simes and Gens lived together in cooperation and harmony, yet his home was legally classed as a Genfarm—a breeding farm for Gens destined to be killed by Simes stripping them of selyn. To the Simes who had attacked today, they were doing evil by avoiding the kill.
Fear is our real enemy, not the people whom it possesses.
Zeth was the first child born of one Sime and one Gen parent. Only ten years old, all his life he had heard the story of how his father, only a year before he was born, had become the first Sime to take selyn from a Gen without killing. That Gen had become Rimon's wife, Zeth's mother.
It wasn't simple. Teri Layton had been killed today—not died, been killed. Teri had established selyn production only two months ago, and had not yet given transfer. Zeth knew what had happened: the one flaw in the Sime/Gen mutation.
Once each month a Sime had to receive selyn, or die of attrition. To locate selyn, he had the ability to sense—zlin—a Gen's field. The dirty trick nature had played on the human race was to make Gen pain and fear devastatingly attractive to a Sime in need.
Thus when a Sime grasped a Gen and began to draw selyn the feeling of selyn movement startled the Gen. Resisting the flow caused pain, feeding the Sime's need. The Sime reveled in the Gen's pain and fear, drawing against the resistance until he burned out the Gen's nervous system, killing the Gen and giving the Sime an emotional high known as killbliss.
When Zeth had begun changeover training, he had been told all this—but until today he had not been able to imagine taking pleasure in pain. Those people—Trev and Kora—would he ever forget their eyes as they attacked helpless children? That must be killbliss, he thought with a shudder.
It was addictive. Once a Sime killed, he sought the same sensation every time he took selyn. When Abel Veritt told the changeover class last winter, Zeth had found it impossible to believe that Mr. Veritt could have been addicted to the kill. Yet he would never lie about it.
And every new Sime was vulnerable.
Zeth remembered the lessons, drilled over and over. Never to be alone until either changeover or establishment. Never to remain alone with a friend in changeover, but to go for a channel as soon as the victim could be left. "And especially if you are Gen," Rimon Farris reiterated, "no heroics! You may have no fear for yourself—but your fear for your friend in changeover may kill you, and at the same time addict your friend to the kill. Come for me, Uel Whelan, or Jord Veritt."
If Zeth inherited his father's capacity for selyn storage, he would also inherit his voracious need—beyond the capacity of any Companion except Kadi Farris. "That means you could kill even a Companion, Zeth," his father had warned him grimly. "Not burning out his system drawing against fear, but draining him totally. I will give you your first transfer, and you'll have transfer with Gens only after you've learned control."
That was the role of the channel: to stand between the Sime and the kill. The channels, like Rimon Farris, had a dual selyn system—one like any other Sime's and a secondary storage system which they could control. Rimon Farris was the first channel to learn that control, to draw selyn slowly from even a frightened Gen, without hurting him, and then transfer that selyn to another Sime, so he could live without killing.
Zeth was willing to do anything to learn to channel. To be like his father—the best channel—no, Owen won't die, not with Dad there!
He looked up as his mother's voice penetrated. "Yes, Mama?"
She put her hand to his forehead. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah. It's just—Mama, Owen won't really die, will he?"
She hugged him tightly and Zeth realized she knew full well that he could have been the one lying upstairs, mutilated. "Not if your father has anything to say about it! Now go find Uel Whelan, all right? Ask him to zlin you to be sure you don't have some hidden injury, and then ask him… to check on your father. He can do that without disturbing him."
Glad to do anything that might contribute to Owen's recovery, Zeth went out into the yard. The setting sun cast a golden glow. A sour smell came from the smoking ruin of the hay barn. No one had yet begun to work on the trampled kitchen garden, but the fires in the other outbuildings had been doused, and the corral fence repaired.
In the long rays of the setting sun, the raiders' path sliced across the newly sprouted fields. People were shooing the dairy cows out of the field. Among them were Hank and Uel—along with Slina, who ran the pen in town. Slina wasn't "Mrs." like the women of Fort Freedom. She was Slina to everybody, and her little girl was simply Mona.
Slina was another adult mystery to Zeth. A killer with no intention of trying to stop, she always came to help when there was trouble. Even Rimon Farris and Mr. Veritt respected her. She sent Mona to school in Fort Freedom, too.
"Hi, Slina!" he called.
"Well, hi there, Zeth. Come help us move this stubborn cow."
Slina had, as usual, been in the thick of the fight. Her hair was coming loose, her boots were muddy, her shirt torn—no, slashed by a whip. He could see the cuts on her shoulder and neck. Her dagger, stuck through her belt to be cleaned before being sheathed, showed by the stains on its blade that she'd given as good as she got.
"Come on, Slina," Uel was saying, "let the others chase the cows while I treat your injuries."
She laughed. "What—these coupla cuts? I've had worse from the bite of a stubborn Gen."
"You want to contend with this stubborn Gen?" Hank threatened cheerfully.
"All right, all right—but there's nothing wrong with me that soap and water and a little sleep won't cure."
They walked back to the house, where Slina let Mrs. Veritt clean her wounds as Uel turned to Zeth. "How about you? Feeling achy?"
"Yeah. Mama wants you to zlin me."
"All right—let's do a thorough job. Hank—" Zeth watched as Uel's Companion moved to the precise spot where his field would cancel the Sime fields around them, allowing Uel to read Zeth's childish nager.
Slina shook her head and asked Hank, "How do you do that?"
He chuckled, "Gen secret."
Uel laid his hands gently on Zeth's forearms, wrapping his handling tentacles about the boy's arms. When his grip was secure, but not tight, the hot, moist laterals emerged to touch Zeth—a tinglingly pleasant feeling. Dismantling his grip, Uel said, "Nasty muscular strain, Zeth. Take a hot bath and get ready for bed. I'll give you some fosebine and help you heal in your sleep."
Zeth's lip curled at the thought of fosebine, but he couldn't argue with a channel. "All right—but… Mama wants you to check on Dad."
"I intend to," Uel assured him.
"And Owen. Uel, I don't want to be asleep if he—if he—" Tears threatened to break through.
Uel said, "I'll wake you, Zeth. I promise—whatever happens. And, Zeth—Owen is alive if your father is still in there. The longer he stays alive, the more likely his recovery."
Zeth managed a watery smile. "Thanks," he said. When he returned, though, clean and wrapped in a borrowed robe, he explained, "I don't know where I'm sleeping. Jana's in my room."
There were pallets already prepared in the upstairs hall, they found. Del Erick was sitting on a bench beside Kadi Farris, just staring at the door behind which Rimon Farris fought for his son's life.
Kadi gave Uel a welcoming smile, but no one spoke. Zeth accepted the fosebine Uel gave him, trying to drink the vile stuff down so fast his taste buds wouldn't notice it.
He didn't expect to fall asleep right away, but the next thing he knew he was in the strange state of knowing he was dreaming. Bright afternoon sun poured down as Trev and Kora tossed him aside, then grasped Owen and began to hack him to pieces. Zeth could rescue him, but his legs were a dead weight. Endlessly, Zeth tried to move, while the attackers cut off Owen's arms, his legs, his head—
The dream shifted. Rimon Farris bent over Owen, miraculously putting his body back together. The parts all joined neatly, even his clothes—but Owen was still… dead.
Del Erick was suddenly there, saying, "Save him, Rimon."
Farris looked up. "He can't live as a Sime."
"Then he has to be Gen!" said Erick desperately. "He's got to be Gen, Rimon!"
Zeth chimed in the growing chorus, "He's got to be Gen!"
"—to be Gen."
Zeth woke, disoriented to find himself on the hall floor. Dawn was breaking—but what had wakened him was the sound of a door opening. His father stood in the doorway to the master bedroom, looking unutterably weary. Del Erick sprang to his feet, his whole bearing one fearful unasked question.
"It's all right!" Farris said at once. "Owen's alive, Del, and out of shock. He's sleeping."
As Erick started forward, Farris gripped him hard by both shoulders. "Del, I almost lost him. But then, a couple of hours ago, his field shifted and suddenly I could get a grip on him. He's started selyn production—he's established, Del. He's going to live. He's going to be all right."
As his father kept talking while Del Erick slowly assimilated the news, Zeth felt a warm glow of security. My dad can do anything, even bring a person to be Gen if he has to.
It was only hours later that he recalled the conversation of the afternoon, and realized that Owen probably wouldn't remember anything from the time he was grabbed by the attacker until he woke up in bed, one arm missing—to be told he was Gen.
He wanted so much to be a channel. Now what?
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