As Kadi slept, Rimon worried. Her field was as low now as it had ever been after transfer, and the worst drain was yet to come. He knew what could happen; he had seen it on the Genfarm. Occasionally a female Gen had symptoms like Kadi's, entered labor with a low-field, and was totally drained before she could expel the child. Usually they lost both mother and child.
Once in a while, after the mother was dead, they had cut a living child from her body. Syrus Farris had always taken special care of such infants, saying they were likely to be Sime, but Rimon could remember only one that lived more than a few days in the nursery—and she had been only two years old when Rimon and Kadi left. But his father's beliefs came not from a single instance, but from generations of experience passed from father to son.
To me, thought Rimon. And what good is all the Farris wisdom now? He sat beside Kadi, trying to encourage her body to produce more selyn, and wondering where her strength came from when her field responded—again.
It was more than half an hour before a second contraction brought Kadi awake again. She smiled at Rimon when it ended, and took his hands. "It won't be long now," she said, and he realized she didn't know how much time had passed.
He forced a reassuring smile. "We'll soon get to meet our son," he agreed. "Do you feel strong enough to let us get you ready?"
Jon soon returned with the Veritts. Mrs. Veritt inspected Rimon's preparations and said, "Good job. I've never met a man before who knew anything about midwifery."
In Rimon's world, no man would leave his wife alone in labor—yet it was obvious Mrs. Veritt expected to take over now, shooing the men outside.
"I must stay beside Kadi to support her field," he explained. "Zlin her, Mrs. Veritt. She's very weak."
The older woman did so, just as another contraction hit Kadi. Mrs. Veritt gasped, almost doubling over, gripping the bedframe to support herself. When it was over, her eyes focused on Rimon. "I have—helped a Gen give birth before, Rimon. I was the oldest girl in our family, so I had to help the midwife when my brothers and sisters were born. But that was before—"
"Before you could sense fields," said Rimon. "You'll find Gen pain affects you much more than Sime pain, even low as Kadi's field is. Willa, you help me. Jon—" He looked around, and had to zlin past the fields around him to find the boy. "Why didn't he come in?" He went to the open door. "Jon, come in and help Mrs. Veritt."
"Help deliver a baby?" he asked in shock.
Jord said, "You know how to shield a Sime against pain. Mother can't do this alone."
Jon entered the house, but still hung back from the bed.
"Come on," said Willa. "You stand over here."
Jon remained where he was. The battle between Willa and Jon for pecking order had amused Rimon up to now; today it only annoyed him.
"Please, Jon," Kadi said softly, "help Mrs. Veritt. I can't."
Still the boy hesitated, a mass of conflicting emotions, his age and upbringing making him vulnerable to embarrassment.
Jord said, "You think Rimon and Kadi are going to feed and clothe you so you can refuse to help when they ask you? You weren't raised to be a freeloader, Jon."
At that, Jon squared his shoulders and pulled his emotions under control. He looked over at Abel. "You think it's right, Mr. Veritt?"
"Yes, Jon, it's right. You're the only one who can do it."
Jon went over to stand beside Mrs. Veritt. "I'll do my best."
The day dragged on. Kadi drifted in and out of consciousness, only coming really awake when the contractions hit. By midafternoon they were still fifteen minutes apart, and Kadi's field was faltering. Her selyn production had lagged behind the baby's consumption for months; now, for the first time, production itself was slowing from its mad rate.
Willa shielded Rimon well, at the same time gently wiping Kadi's face after each contraction, making her as comfortable as possible. But as Kadi's complexion turned ashen, concern grew in Willa, echoing Rimon's.
They had carefully prepared Willa, explaining that yes, it hurt to have a baby, but the pain was not beyond endurance and well worth the joy of having a child. Nonetheless, even Willa could see there was something wrong.
Trying to zlin Kadi's dilation, Rimon found himself constantly caught up in her pain—and now came the sharpest yet as she clutched the sheet, gritting her teeth, and then Rimon felt the momentary relief as her water broke.
"That's a good sign!" said Mrs. Veritt. "Won't be long now."
Gasping for breath, Kadi said wryly, "I'll be glad of that."
Willa cleaned up the mess, and Rimon was astonished to see Mrs. Veritt feel for the baby with her hands. Fearing infection, he started to tell her to check by zlinning when she said, "Good. He's in position. Now really work with the contractions, Kadi."
Kadi was wide awake as the contractions came more quickly, but each time she fell back afterward, gasping for breath. Rimon could see her field fading, and knew that their child would not be born in time. In healing mode, he conjured the specter of need in himself to encourage Kadi's cells to produce more, and ever more selyn.
But their son—his son—drew selyn inexorably through her nerves, outlining her vitality in a sparkling glow. The periphery faded; all was drawn to the center, the connections lost, as if parts of Kadi were dying, dying of attrition—
"No!" cried Rimon, not realizing he'd shouted aloud, but sensing Jord there, zlinning helplessly.
Rimon let go of all awareness beyond himself and Kadi and the small life struggling to glean enough selyn to live.
He'll kill her. No! No, my son will not begin his life by killing!
Frantic, Rimon seized Kadi's limp arms, falling directly into transfer position, searching for any spark of life in her. Peripherally, he felt Jord wrench himself out of intil as Willa's support suddenly shifted to Jord for a moment, then returned, steady, worried but unexcited. Jon was low-field, thank goodness, for his shivering anxiety was a growing irritant to the other Simes. But all of Rimon's attention was on a hard, bright core at the center of Kadi's otherwise black, field.
Suddenly, Rimon was elsewhere—careering trees blurred by, the musty smell of old leaves somehow penetrating him as Zeth died under his tentacles, his system forced to give up selyn. For a moment, Rimon became Zeth, feeling selyn drawn from him.
He jolted to present reality, dizzy, whirling downward toward bottomless dark, pouring forth his life in willing catharsis. The flow was so good that Rimon began to force selyn outwards from his system, faster and faster as within him a chronic, nagging ache dissolved, and for the first time in months he felt free of need. The more selyn he forced away from himself, the better he felt. He kept going even when resistance rose against it—kept forcing and forcing selyn outwards—
He was dashed down to hypoconsciousness, hearing Mrs. Veritt saying, "Once more—push once more, Kadi!"
While at the same time, Jord yelled, "Stop it, Ri—"
As Kadi's pain relented, Rimon was aware of the searing ache along his arms where Kadi's fingers had bitten into his flesh just above the sensitive nodes. He was also aware of a distinct change in the ambient nager, but couldn't place it.
Kadi looked up at him with huge blue eyes, gasping, but conscious.
"You're alive!" he said.
Before she could speak, another contraction overtook her. "Push, Kadi!" said Mrs. Veritt. "Here comes the head."
Now, the child was not drawing—it was settling already into a normal child's pattern, unaffected and unaffecting. The nageric link between mother and child had severed– the baby had to be born quickly now, allowed to breathe air before its blood supply failed.
But as the last contraction gathered, her pain flared through him until it was impossible to endure, and all faded to blackness.
Rimon became conscious of Kadi beside him, alive, pulsing again with selyn production. He wanted to take her in his arms, but she was sleeping, weak and in mild pain– but alive.
Trying to sit up, Rimon felt as if an axe descended to split his skull in two—but that was nothing to the searing, torn feeling in his chest. Jord was immediately there, pushing him back down on the bed. "Lie still. Everything's fine. I don't know how you did it, but you saved both of them."
As Rimon's eyes focused, he trembled inside with a peculiar, sick feeling. Everything hurt, but from somewhere came the memory of not being able to locate Jon. "Did– did anyone get hurt?"
"No," Jord reassured him. "You put us through hell, but it doesn't matter."
"It was worth it," said Mrs. Veritt, bringing a small bundle to show Rimon. She lifted the blanket away to reveal a red wrinkled face. "Your son—strong and healthy, thanks to you, Rimon."
He had seen newborn children before, but nonetheless that mite of humanity seemed small payment for all Kadi had gone through. You almost killed her, he thought resentfully. Then he remembered. What did my father think when he first saw me?
All the pent-up love for his son suddenly flowed out, released by the end to his worry. He reached for the child, even though the movement made his head whirl. Jord supported him, Willa put pillows behind him, and Mrs. Veritt gently placed his son in his arms.
The baby stirred, and opened his eyes for a moment– black eyes, like Rimon's startlingly dark for a newborn. The dark fuzz on the tiny head made him already seem like a Farris. His tiny mouth worked, and he squirmed and began to cry fitfully.
"He's hungry," Mrs. Veritt said. "I think Kadi can feed him once she's rested—but don't worry, Rimon. I asked Mrs. Ennis not to wean her baby yet, in case you require a wet nurse."
And you were prepared in case she died, Rimon thought, but he only said, "Thank you. And thank you for being here today. All of you."
"You did everything that saved your wife and your son," said Abel. "I've never seen anything like it—a Sime– giving selyn to a Gen? That's how it appeared to me. Both Kadi and your son were dying, Rimon. I was praying for a miracle—and you performed one!"
Rimon didn't feel much like a miracle worker. The headache was beginning to pound and spread from the back of his head down through his arms to his laterals, then back up into his already burning chest, where the waves of pain met and clashed under his breast-bone. The tenuous balance he'd been holding over his fields dissolved into vibrating chaos. He wanted to turn to Kadi, as always, but be dared not disturb her rest.
"Here, Rimon," said Mrs. Veritt, gathering the baby away from his arms. "You'll crush him. What's the matter?"
"Willa!" called Abel, urgently. "Help Rimon."
Instantly, Willa appeared and, sitting on the edge of the bed, pried Rimon's arms from clutching across his chest. She slid her hands down his arms into transfer position, her field steady, self-assured; he could rest against it, damp the oscillations until the whanging pain let up. This was worse than he'd ever had before. But eventually, the pain subsided to a sick ache. "Thank you, Willa," he murmured, falling back on the pillows.
"Tea now?" Willa asked.
"Tea won't help this," he said, and frowned. "Fosebine might. And it would certainly help Kadi."
"Fosebine?" asked Jord.
Fort Freedom. At the oddest moments, the gulf yawned between these people and everything Rimon had ever known. "It's a medicine—a mild pain reliever most people don't use because it tastes so bad it's easier to endure the pain. They used to force it on me—after a kill—and when I didn't vomit it up, it helped sometimes when I felt like this."
"Where would we get this—medicine?"
"Oh—nowadays, lots of Pens use it. Slina probably keeps some around."
"I'll go ask Slina," said Jord, and left quickly.
Rimon thought—I've hurt Kadi. What if she learns to fear the pain? Oh, God, what have I done?
As Jord's nager faded, Rimon realized that something had been bothering him. Jon should have been with Jord. Rimon zlinned the house and grounds outside, finding no sign of Jon. "Abel, where's Jon? Why isn't he helping Jord?"
"He's probably across the border by now," said Abel.
"I'm not blaming Jord," said Abel. "He had to leave himself vulnerable to assist you. But he was depending on Jon, and—"
"What happened," demanded Rimon.
Willa answered, "Jon got scared and that made Jord want him, and that scared Jon more and poor Jord—"
Abel said, "He attacked Jon, but Willa intervened and Jon ran. I don't know where he went—we were too busy to—"
Rimon sat up, swinging his feet to the floor, trying to balance his head carefully on his shoulders. "We've got to search for Jon. God alone knows what he's going through!" But the pain was so great, Rimon couldn't zlin his hand in front of his face, let alone run around searching for a Gen.
"Rimon, get back on that bed," said Mrs. Veritt. "You're—"
"I'm responsible for him!" said Rimon. "Suppose the border patrol catches him—he doesn't have his tags—"
"He knows the way across," said Abel.
Before Rimon could answer, Mrs. Veritt said, "Willa, help Rimon sleep now. He feels very bad, and Jord has gone to bring medicine. Help Rimon now, all right?"
Rimon let them put him to. sleep, admitting that he simply couldn't move. It was Kadi's pain that woke him,—a searing flame in every nerve. Desperately, he shut out her pain.
–his own was bad enough. He had to stay hypoconscious to avoid hers, and that just made his worse—but he resolved to endure it in silence. Kadi had endured far more.
Mrs. Veritt lifted Kadi and held a cup to her lips. "This will make you feel better."
She took a breath and gulped the vile-tasting stuff down. It did ease her pain. Then Mrs. Veritt asked, "Rimon, can you drink this down now?"
Rimon thought of the taste and his unsteady stomach and wanted to say no, but he had to try something. Abel was standing just outside the front door with Jord, scanning the night. They hadn't sent anyone after Jon. "I'll try," said Rimon, taking the cup from her hands.
Taking a deep breath, he gulped it down, and the fosebine immediately spread a soothing warmth through his aching nerves. "I guess it's going to stay down," he said, handing the cup back.
Kadi turned to him. "Rimon. Our baby!"
Rimon said, "He's fine, and beautiful, too."
"He's sleeping," said Mrs. Veritt. "Let him rest until you're strong enough to feed him, Kadi."
"Yes," she whispered. "I remember, I saw him. But– Rimon—what did you do to me?"
"He saved your life," answered Abel quickly, coming in from the night.
Kadi was assembling the fragmented memories of the past day, and arrived at the pain. "Shidoni, Rimon—you hurt me!"
"I didn't know it would hurt, Kadi—I felt you dying, and I just took a desperate chance. I'm so sorry I hurt you—"
She met his eyes, and rubbing her arms absently, she said, "Well—we lived through it, and now we have our son, and everything is all right."
It was full dark outside, with no moon. Willa was clearing the table after a meal, but water was boiling for fresh tea. "Kadi," she said, "I have your soup. Rimon, will you eat some, too?"
He was surprised at how good the idea sounded, how Kadi's sudden appetite was getting to him. "Yes, Willa– thank you."
He looked at the cradle. He couldn't see his son, but he could zlin the completely normal childish nager. It's real.
"Where's Jon?" Kadi asked.
From where he was sitting in Kadi's rocking chair, staring into the fire, Abel told her what had happened. Jord stood by the window, staring out into the night, defeated.
"Rimon tried to go after him," said Mrs. Veritt. "But he simply could not. I'm sure God will take care of Jon. He's a good boy."
"No," said Willa unexpectedly. "It was all Jon's fault. Jon is a bad boy." She went over to Jord and put a hand on his wrist. "Jord is good. Jon is bad. Jon was afraid."
Mrs. Veritt took the abandoned soup bowls from the table and brought them to Kadi and Rimon. Rimon watched Willa, amazed. She had never asserted herself like this before.
Jord said, "Jon was afraid of exactly what happened– that the pain in this room would cause one of us to turn on him. It makes sense to be afraid of what's bound to hurt you."
"I don't know a lot yet," said Willa, "but I know it wasn't Kadi's pain that made you turn on Jon. Jon made you do it. It was his own fault."
Abel Veritt came up behind Jord and put his arm around his shoulders. "Son, if it were the pain and lack of control on your part, Willa couldn't have brought you out of it."
"What exactly did she do?" asked Rimon.
"What she's doing right now," said Jord. "I could let her do that forever. It's addictive, you know."
"I know," said Rimon, reaching over to squeeze Kadi's hand. As he did, he saw the burn marks his tentacles had left on her arms—and the pattern of her ringers etched in purplish bruises on his.
"Rimon, somebody has to go after Jon," said Kadi.
"Maybe Del will show up by morning, and I'll send him."
At that moment, Kadi noticed the marks on their arms. She put down her spoon and stared. Then she traced the marks on Rimon's arm with a delicate finger. "Did I do that?"
"And they say Gens aren't as strong as Simes," said Rimon, basking in the soothing delight of her touch.
"Oh, Rimon, I'm sorry!"
"Don't be," he said with a wry chuckle. "It was a,cooperative effort." He looked back to Abel and Jord. "If Kadi and Willa can learn to control themselves around Simes, why couldn't Jon?"
"I'm going to learn."
The door to the hillside tunnels opened, and Jon Forester entered. His trousers were grimy, and his face was streaked with dried tears, but he pulled himself erect as he entered the room. "I'm sorry," he said to Jord. "If I'd made you kill me, it would have been my own fault."
"We thought you'd run for the border," said Abel.
After his initial relief that the boy was safe, Rimon said, "Jon, we'll gladly give you a proper Fort Freedom sendoff —anytime you want. But don't ever try to run for it alone!"
Jon shook his head. "I have no place to go over there. Everybody I care about is here. I want to stay if you'll let me. I promise I'll earn my keep."
"You always have," said Rimon, although he felt uneasy. Well, they'd make sure not to place the boy in such a situation again until he could handle himself.
"Jord," said Jon, "can you forgive me?"
"I forgive you," said Jord. "I've a lot to learn, too– especially how not to react to a Gen's fear. Like Rimon. He didn't react to your fear today."
Rimon chuckled despite the way it made his chest hurt. "To tell the truth, I never felt it. All I knew was Kadi. Now, let's put that behind us. Jon, you're starved. Go eat."
Mrs. Veritt made a place for Jon at the table and supplied him with soup and bread. The baby began to cry. Jon jumped up, wide-eyed. "He's alive!" ,
"Of course," Willa said, plucking the baby out of the cradle as if Jon would contaminate it. "We knew what to do."
"A lot you had to do with it!" Jon snapped. "You're just too dumb to be scared!"
"Jon!" said Abel. "That's enough! Willa saved your life today."
"She stopped me," said Jord. "Your life—my soul. We owe a great deal to Willa."
Shamefaced, Jon sat back down at the table as the baby began to scream in earnest.
"Oh, please, give him to me," said Kadi.
With Mrs. Veritt's help, Kadi was soon nursing her child, looking down at him in delight. "We have to give him a name."
"It should be an appropriate name, Kadi," suggested Abel. "We witnessed a miracle here today, when Rimon gave of his own life-force to his wife and his son. God showed Rimon the way;»the child should have a name that indicates God's inspiration."
Rimon thought back to the moment when he'd lost Kadi to death. The flashing picture in his mind of a green forest– his First Need. "The inspiration—came from my first kill," said Rimon. "Abel, you remember? I told you about my cousin. He was Sime—and I killed him when I drew selyn from him, forced his system to work backwards. Today, I remembered that—and I made my own system work backwards—and Kadi's, to accept selyn."
"That must be what caused that incredible pain," said Veritt. "But how did you do it?"
"I don't know. But I know our son's name—for the person whose death made me aware of what I could do today. Because he died—my wife and my son live."
"Zeth," said Kadi. "He didn't die in vain, Rimon. I've always told you that."
"Zeth Farris," said Abel. "A truly appropriate name. May God bless the child who bears it, and guide all of us privileged to see this miracle to do His will." He bowed his head. "God, You have given us a miracle this day. We pray for Your guidance to speed the day when we shall all be as this young couple you have sent to be an inspiration to us. May it be Thy will to bring that day soon, Lord—oh, please, let it be soon!"