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Chapter Sixteen


As it turned out, the next Gen to come to live with Rimon and Kadi didn't come from Slina's Pens. He was Jon Forester, whose parents brought him from Fort Freedom at his insistence. They were horrified when Rimon immediately took him to Slina's to have him tagged as a runaway he had "caught," but he left Kadi to explain the law to them. Once they understood that Rimon would have to pay to keep their son, they gave her the tax money for Jon for the quarter.

Alternating Jon and Willa, Rimon was able to get back to an almost normal cycle, although he still took all his transfers in healing mode, and afterward had to balance, his fields. Kadi could help him less and less, for she tired easily, and that made her irritable and often snappish.

Rimon bore it all stoically, even when her lack of emotional stability set his teeth on edge. But he couldn't blame her for what her body, chemistry did to her. He wondered, though, if her depression was the source of his own. He felt as if he were in chronic need from insufficient kills: restless, fretful, depressed and without much appetite. Yet be was getting enough selyn now.

In the late winter, too early for plowing or planting, there was no way Rimon could earn extra money. One time Del asked him to take a consignment of horses over to Birmington, and he did it even though they all knew Del could just as easily have taken them himself. What Del paid him made it possible to pay the first-quarter tax on Kadi.

With the spring, they learned another reason they had been laughed at for homesteading just here. Hoping to get work in the fields around Fort Freedom, Rimon plowed his own fields early, as soon as the ground could be worked. Thus he would be ready to plant as soon as the threat of frost was overand if he were too busy, Jon and Willa could even do the planting.

Out-of-doors, working off his tensions, his temper improved, and that made Kadi happier. But in the end, all his hard work went for naught: when the mountain snows melted, their little brook swelled to a raging torrent, overflowed its banks, and turned their fields into a lake. The place where they had built their first house was completely under water, the charred timbers scattered over the lake. At one point, the lower tunnel entrance was under water, and they had to move everything from the lowest storeroom where they'd huddled as the cabin burned.

During those days, Rimon spent a lot of his time on the top of their hill, surveying his fields, wondering if nature were trying to tell him something.

But when Abel Veritt arrived to survey the situation, he said, "It's mud now, but it's enriched soil that should give you the best crops in this whole area. Next year you'll know better than to plow too soon."

Veritt went down on one knee and ran his fingers through the soil, smelling it, patting it smooth again. "If I were you, I'd grow trin in this soil. The tea you've been serving me is better than anything we raise, and ours is better than any the townspeople can import. They already buy every bit we can spareand there's more market than Fort Freedom can supply."

"I didn't grow the trin crop. That came from Kadi's kitchen garden all her own handiwork!"

Abel laughed. "Will you never stop surprising me with your talents, Kadi? I've never known such an accomplished woman!"

Kadi could do very little of the physical work of extending her garden patch of trin into a whole field, but Rimon carefully followed her instructions, and by early summer the field was lushly green. But Rimon also put in grain and corn, beans, and peas against another hard winter.

By that time, Kadi was no longer able to travel back and forth to Fort Freedom. Rimon went seldom now, too, refusing to leave Kadi for more than an hour or two at a time.

They had many visitors from Fort Freedom; either Abel or Jord almost every day, Jon's parents at least once a week. Jon moved among Simes now as easily as Kadi or Willa, and when he was low-field he would often go home to his family for a day.

Dan Whelan, Sara Fenell, and the others who had broken with Veritt's teachings, moved out of Fort Freedom. Just across the creek from the seedy little border town they built a row of neat white-painted houses, their own small chapel at the end of the row. They began to work the land which stretched along the creek.

That much Abel told them. Rimon found out for himself that during the spring three more families had become disillusioned and joined the dissenters. Privately, Veritt was worried about what would happen when next a new Sime came to them from across the border. Would the dissenters fight to gain a newcomerand, if so, how would they fight?

"The whole schism is my fault," Jord told them. "It all came to a head when I spent all night trying to bring Karl Risaki through changeover. He'd had your training, but it didn't do any good. He died."

"That happens sometimes," said Rimon. "Kadi's mother was the best changeover attendant I've ever seen. But sometimes she lost even a kid who'd been taught everything."

"Well, after that, I was exhausted," said Jord. "Rimon, I can't keep it up the way you do, and after all night with Karl, I was in no condition to help Suzi Hamilton. She was the one who developed pneumonia. Her familyand some othersblamed me for trying to help an accursed Sime while Suzi deteriorated so that by the time I got there, there was nothing I could do. Or maybe I could have, if I'd been fresh!"

"You didn't have a Gen to help you," Kadi pointed out.

Jord shook his head. "Rimon and I brought Evva Blant through without Gen help, remember?"

"True, but we didn't start out exhausted," said Rimon.

"When I have Kadi or Willa with me, I work much better."

"Jord, why can't I help you?" Willa asked suddenly. She had just joined them, with tea for everyone. Now she settled next to Jord, who relaxed perceptibly as Willa's field began to work on him.

He stared at her. "Youmight get hurt, Willa."

"No. I help Rimon heal people. They hurt. I don't."

Jon Forester suddenly spoke up. "Jord, she doesn't really understand the danger, but I do. Why don't you teach me what to do?"

Willa pouted. "I did it before you came here!" Jord winced, and Willa was immediately contrite. "I won't hurt you," she said, putting her hand over his.

"I know you won't," he replied, "but I can't protect you or you either, Jonthe way Rimon does. Pain raises intil. I could turn on either one of you."

"For transfer?" asked Willa. "Why not?"

Jord looked from Rimon to Kadi and back. "When are you going to tell her?"

Willa stared at himand the question finally came. "Why don't you have your own Gens? Or Mr. Veritt or the others? Rimon has Kadi and Jon and me. Why don't you have Gens to live with you and make you feel good?"

Jord stared at her helplessly.

"Tell her, Jord," Kadi said.

He looked at her protestingly, and then at Rimon. He nodded and pulled his chair up before Jord and Willa, in range to interfere should Willa become frightened. "Willa is a grown-up girl now. She has to learn to live in the grown-up world."

Willa straightened proudly, aware of something important about to happen to her. Jord acknowledged Rimon's precaution with an embarrassed smile. Then Willa said, "Tell me, Jord, why don't you have Gens living with you? Why did Jon leave Fort Freedom instead of living with you?"

"Jord licked his lips. "Because, Willa, we kill Gens. No other Sime in all the worldcan take transfer the way Rimon does, without killing."

Willa frowned. "Killing? You say that all the time. What does it mean?"

"The Gensdie," said Jord.

Death Willa knew. She understood that Carlana's baby had died, as had a baby bird she had found fallen out of the nest. "Butwhy? Die from transfer? I don't understand."

"Neither do I, child," Jord said sadly. "It should be possible for any Sime to do what Rimon doesand yet we can't, no matter how we try. The Gen becomes frightened and"

Willa turned to Rimon. "When Carlana lost her baby, I got scared. And you"

"Lost control," he said tightly.

"Butyou went to Kadi, not me. I rememberI didn't understand except that Kadi was scared."

"And you saved her life, Willa, and probably mine."

"I hurt you."

"Willa, you couldn't hurt a Sime," said Jord.

"No, I hurt Rimon," she said. "I'll show youbut I won't hurt you." She quickly slid her hands into transfer position on Jord's arms. Rimon started to protest, but was caught in the sympathetic backwash as Jord gave a yelp of pure pain. Willa let go, putting her hands on Jord's shoulders, soothing him. Kadi reached out to Rimon as well.

"I'm sorry," said Willa, "I didn't know you'd pull away. Rimon says nevereverdo that to him. I didn't mean to hurt!"

But Jord's eyes were filled with tearsof pain, and something else. "Childwhat have you discovered in all your innocence? God be praised, Rimon, why didn't you tell us this?"

"Becauseit doesn't seem much of an improvement to trade the death of a Sime for the death of a Gen. Suppose Drust Fenell had known thisor found it by accident as Willa did? He must have panicked when Vee tried to take transferand if he'd known how to injure her lateral nerves, she'd have been lucky to die immediately of the shock. Otherwise she'd die a slow, agonizing death because she couldn't take another kill. I saw an injury like that once. I hope I never have to see it again!"

"But Rimon, if a Gen knew he was safe, that he could stop the Sime if he felt painthen he wouldn't feel fear!"

"That fear is not rational. Jon, you remember your first transfer?"

"I was scared silly," Jon admitted. "And I knew Rimon doesn't kill. But that didn't help. Rimon didn't hurt me but Jord, if I'd tried it with Mom or Dad, and they did hurt me? If IIf I" He couldn't even say it, staring down at his hands. "Oh, God, now that I know what I can do, I couldn't touch another Simeespecially not somebody I love."

"I will do it," said Willa.

"Do what?" asked Kadi.

"I will teach Jord."

"Willa, you don't understand," said Jord.

"I do, I do!" she insisted. "After Kadi has her baby, Rimon won't need me anymore. Then I will give you transfer, Jord. I've never been scared of transfer."

"Child, you don't understand what we've been talking about. Rimon, tell her you won't allow it!"

Kadi interposed. "Willa, you like Jord, don't you?"

"Yes," the girl replied.

"Do you understand that every time he has ever taken transfer, the Gen has died?"

Jord tensed, but Willa said, "Yes, because they were scared. But," she said, looking at Jord, "you don't want them to die."

Intense with desire, not denial, Jord said, "Rimon, tell her it's too dangerous!"

"I think Willa understands what she's offering, Jord. If she's willing, I have no right to stop her."

"I shall consult with my father," said Jord. "We'll pray together for guidance. Willa, child, you can't possibly know how much I want to accept your offerbut I'm afraid."

When Jord had gone, Kadi told Rimon, "Willa suddenly grew up today."

"She did indeed. I wish I knew the right thing to do. I was zlinning her, Kadi. I think she really does understand that she could die. I think it's truly a considered, adult decision, in which you and I have no right to interfere, But"

"But if something goes wrong, we're going to feel responsible," Kadi said. "We'll think she was still the child Jord calls her, and that we should have forbid her to try it."

"Yet if we never let her try, we're thwarting one possible way for other Simes to learn not to kill."

As the heat of summer set in, Kadi was more and more tired. Finally it seemed that she did nothing but eat and sleep as the days passed, until she woke up one dawn in pain. Fear stabbed through her. bringing Rimon running to her side.

She didn't have to control her fear, though, for it disappeared when Rimon said, "It's only a contraction, Kadi! It's time!"

She gave a weak laugh, relief sweeping through her. Rimon said, "I'll send Jon for the Veritts. Mrs. Veritt's helped with most of the births at Fort Freedom, Jord can help me support your field, and Abelwell, you know Abel would never forgive us if the baby were born without him here."

As Rimon moved, she said, "Don't let Jon go through town alone. There's time. That was only the first contraction strong enough to wake me up."

"Rest now," he said, kissing her forehead. "You'll require your strength later."

Chapter Fifteen HORNETS NEST | First Channel | Chapter Seventeen MIRACLE