A change of tactics, p.1
A Change of Tactics, page 1
THE SIME~GEN SERIES
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Copyright © 2017 by Sime~Gen, Inc.
Published by Wildside Press LLC.
Cover Art by Diana L. Parker
THE SIME~GEN SERIES
1. House of Zeor, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
2. Unto Zeor, Forever, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
3. First Channel, by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg
4. Mahogany Trinrose, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
5. Channel’s Destiny, by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg
6. RenSime, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
7. Ambrov Keon, by Jean Lorrah
8. Zelerod’s Doom, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah
9. Personal Recognizance, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
10. The Story Untold and Other Stories, by Jean Lorrah
11. To Kiss or to Kill, by Jean Lorrah
12. The Farris Channel, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
13. Fear And Courage: Fourteen Writers Explore Sime~Gen, edited by Zoe Farris and Karen L. MacLeod
14. A Change of Tactics, by Mary Lou Mendum, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, and Jean Lorrah
OTHER BOOKS BY JACQUELINE LICHTENBERG
City of a Million Legends
Science Is Magic Spelled Backwards and Other Stories: Jacqueline Lichtenberg Collected Book One
Through The Moon Gate and Other Stories of Vampirism: Jacqueline Lichtenberg Collected Book Two
OTHER BOOKS BY JEAN LORRAH
Jean Lorrah Collected
Dragon Lord of the Savage Empire
Captives of the Savage Empire
BOOKS BY JEAN LORRAH & LOIS WICKSTROM
Nessie and the Living Stone
Nessie and the Viking Gold
Nessie and the Celtic Maze
Order of the Virgin Mothers and Other Plays
MARY LOU MENDUM
To Jacqueline Lichtenberg, for letting me travel through her universe for so many decades, and to the crew at Borderlands for sharing the journey with me.
As always, my work in the Sime~Gen Universe is dedicated first to Jacqueline Lichtenberg, for welcoming me into her universe.
My work on this particular book is also dedicated to Mary Lou Mendum, whose approach in A Change of Tactics is the mirror image of mine in To Kiss or to Kill. Both books concern ordinary citizens facing huge changes to the world they live in and the beliefs they have grown up with, brought about by leaders whose stories become the text of history books. The main characters in both our books are not the Famous Names, but the ordinary people who actually have to do what their leaders have agreed to in their treaties.
A Change of Tactics shows how people cope in Gen Territory, while To Kiss or to Kill shows the same sort of everyday people in Sime Territory, struggling to understand the promise of an amazing new world while wondering if they can survive to live in it.
To all the fans who have written Sime~Gen fanfic for the half-dozen or so magazines, on paper and on line, and especially those who have encouraged Mary Lou Mendum to present her fanfic stories of Den and Rital’s adventures opening an Out-Territory Sime Center during the first explosive growth of technology in the Sime~Gen world. Mary Lou’s stories of convincing out-Territory Gens to donate selyn lay the foundation for the space program that will blossom, and for the eventual space wars with the various Aliens that Earth will encounter.
It was all the fault of Den’s cousin Rital, of course. It usually was. Who else knew Den spoke English, the language of the out-Territory Gens? And who else could have talked Den into agreeing to help with the Gens touring the Old Sime Center?
“Oh, come on, Den. I’m only asking you to fill in for a week, so Ersov can help me make arrangements for the new Sime Center in Clear Springs. The Mayor and her delegation will be here to sign the final agreement in three days. You’d think I was asking you to move out-Territory and join the Church of the Purity. Please?” Hajene Rital Madz’s warm brown eyes sent a pleading look across the cafeteria table from under a mop of unruly brown curls very like Den’s own.
Den had never found it easy to resist his cousin’s signature kicked-puppy look, even when they were children. “Pick on somebody else,” he suggested weakly. “I don’t like tourists.”
“There is nobody else.” The channel’s fists clenched and four handling tentacles emerged from the orifices just above each wrist, lashing restlessly. The smaller lateral tentacles remained sheathed, so it was just a display of frustration, not an attempt to sneak a closer read of Den’s emotional state.
Seeing that a show of temper was unlikely to win him the Donor’s cooperation, Rital sheathed his tentacles and took a hasty sip of soup. “It’s almost Faith Day, Den. Everybody who can speak even broken English is already handling out-Territory visitors.”
Den nodded stiffly. The holiday was still three weeks off, but the seasonal increase in tourism plus the opening of a new Sime Center had strained the English-language capacity of the Valzor District employees. Each year at this time, mobs of general-class selyn donors descended upon Sime Centers located either out-Territory, or conveniently close to the territorial borders. It put a huge extra workload on the channels and highly trained, technical-class Donors like Den.
Den much preferred spending his days serving channels’ personal Need, helping them heal their patients, or even performing as the channels’ own physician. Unfortunately, not only was he fluent in English but, unlike District Controller Monruss, Rital knew it. It was his cousin, after all, who had decided when they were eight that English would make a fine “secret language” for the two of them.
“It’s only for a week,” Rital wheedled. “Just while the delegation from Clear Springs is here.”
“I don’t understand your obsession with Clear Springs,” Den complained. “You’re a First Order channel. You’re as good as most specialists at healing. You’ve been Sub-Controller under Monruss for almost a year. Isn’t that enough of a challenge?”
“There’s never before been a Sime Center so far away from the border,” Rital enthused. “It’s an historic moment and I want to be a part of it.”
“Don’t they have diplomats for that?”
“Most of them have been sent to the Southern Continent to handle that mess between Cordona and the local Gen Territories. I like playing host to our out-Territory guests. Now, about the tours: there’s a script for most of it, although you’ll want to be prepare
In the end, of course, Den gave in.
* * * *
About a dozen and a half “guests,” as he was supposed to think of them, waited in the small auditorium. They were a mixture of children and adult Gens like Den, talking to each other or curbing the excesses of their offspring. They stole surreptitious glances at his bare forearms as he entered, relaxing slightly when they found no tentacles. Most of this group, Den understood, had come all the way from Clear Springs, eight hours away by train. They were spouses and children of the Gen Territory delegation negotiating the last details for their new Sime Center. Why otherwise sane people would voluntarily spend eight hours on a noisy, cramped train if they didn’t have to was beyond his understanding, but now Den was responsible for keeping them occupied. He adjusted his crisply ironed Tecton uniform like the armor it was and began his hastily memorized script.
“Good morning. Welcome to Sime Territory and the city of Valzor’s Old Sime Center. I am Sosu Den Milnan. The ‘Sosu’ means I’m a technical-class selyn Donor and I work with the channels across the street at the New Sime Center. Before I show you around, I’d like to take a moment to explain how the Sime Centers got started.”
None of the audience seemed inclined to lob souvenirs at him in protest so Den continued, concentrating on maintaining a cheerful, friendly attitude. With his perpetually disorganized mop of hair he couldn’t manage dignified, but friendly should work well enough for this audience.
“Long ago, the Ancients built a civilization that has never been equaled in modern times. They built huge cities run by machines that could think. They built other machines that could fly, even as far as the moon…”
Some of the tourists looked skeptical and Den couldn’t blame them. There was abundant evidence that the Ancients had used flying machines as a common means of transportation. But all the way to the moon? There was no air up there for them to fly on! Den and his friends built models of those Ancient designs, some of which could be persuaded to fly for short distances when powered by tightly wound elastic belts. He knew wings, or even air-screws, had to have air to support them.
Still, he supposed the experts who had written the script had some good reason for entertaining visitors with the more outlandish speculations of Householding Frihill’s historians.
“The Ancients all looked like Gens, with no tentacles on their arms, although nobody knows whether they produced the selyn—life energy—that Simes must have every month to live. What we do know is that when the first Simes appeared, there were Gens available. Unfortunately, when a Sime took selyn from one of them, the Gen usually didn’t survive. Simes had to view Gens as food animals to live with their sanity intact, so it’s hardly surprising Gens viewed Simes as inhuman, murdering monsters.
“To make matters worse, both Gens and Simes soon learned that segregating themselves from each other was no solution. You all know it: at adolescence, one third of the children of two Simes establish selyn production and become Gen adults, while one third of the children of two Gens go through changeover and become Simes.”
Den saw frowns on some of the faces in his audience and even a few heads shaking in denial of this most tragic and inescapable fact of human life pre-Unity. It fell within the anticipated range of reactions, so he continued, “Ancient civilization collapsed, starting a thousand years of war between Territories claimed by groups of Simes or Gens.”
A carrot-headed, eight- or nine-year-old boy in the first row bounced in his seat at the idea of armed conflict, but the adults were all sober. In many parts of Gen Territory, Clear Springs included, their own newly Sime children still posed a frequent, mortal threat to the adults around them.
The modern Sime Territories had found a better way.
“About five hundred years ago, some Simes, the channels, discovered how to take selyn from Gens without harming them and give it to other Simes, who could then live without Killing Gens. The channels formed Householdings: communities of Simes and Gens who lived together without the Kill. However, most Simes were not Householders. They were junct—addicted to Killing Gens—and every citizen had a right to claim a farm-raised Gen from the government Pens each month.”
The orange-haired boy’s eyes shone with morbid delight and he grinned broadly, bringing his freckles into high relief. The adults shifted nervously in their seats as the script deliberately touched on deeply ingrained fears. This tour had been specifically designed by psychologists specializing in public relations to help them overcome those fears.
Den wished the experts luck with that.
“One hundred and twenty-five years ago, a severe drought turned the western reaches of our continent into dust. Crops failed and the Pen system in Norwest Sime Territory collapsed. Simes who had depended on it swarmed out across New Washington Gen Territory on their way to plunder Nivet Sime Territory’s Pens, Killing as they went. Faced with the impending destruction of both Territories, the Gen soldiers of New Washington and the Sime army here in Nivet formed an alliance of desperation.”
Den gratefully signaled for the projectionist to start the movie. Safely obscured by the darkness, he closed his eyes and cursed his cousin once more.
The movie told the story of Faith Day, the only holiday observed officially on both sides of the border. After a hard-fought campaign drove the marauders from Norwest back into the mountains, winter storms had prevented supplies from reaching the combined armies, stranding them without food … or Pen Gens. To survive, the Householders had brokered an astonishing exchange between the starving Gen Army of New Washington and the Kill-addicted Sime soldiers of Nivet: the Nivet Army would turn over its remaining rations to feed its Gen allies and in return, the Gens would donate the selyn their Sime allies must have through the channels.
Only on the battlefield, where Simes and Gens fought shoulder to shoulder against a common enemy, could such a thing have happened: Simes and Gens had come to regard one another as people, as colleagues, and sometimes even as friends. By the time they defeated the invaders and won the war, neither Sime nor Gen veterans could imagine going back to fighting one another and the modern world was born.
The legend had been retold many times on both sides of the border, with wildly varying degrees of historical accuracy. The acting in this version was dismal compared to the famous, out-Territory-produced epic starring Faffard Ebert as the heroic Gen commander, General Dermott. On the plus side, the actors playing Simes in this film actually were Sime, eliminating the unintentional comedy of fake rubber tentacles. The Gen audience gasped as the “Norwest invaders” attacked the combined armies with the augmented strength and speed only Simes could muster.
The final portion of this account, however, had a very different emphasis than the out-Territory visitors expected. The Gen film they knew cut directly from General Dermott’s famous speech urging his troops to stand by their allies to a dramatic final battle and ended with the leaders of both sides agreeing to turn their temporary alliance into a permanent peace. The Gen production had won a well-deserved award for the artistry of that final scene, which featured the principals silhouetted against a beautiful sunrise in a rustic mountain pass while orchestral music swelled.
Trust Gen Territory producers to omit what had actually made Unity possible. Or perhaps those producers had realized that Gen actors wearing prop tentacles would have made a farce out of what was arguably the most important event since the discovery of channeling.
The Gen audience watching this in-Territory version squirmed restlessly as the actor playing General Dermott outlined the famous Faith Day exchange for his troops. When he finally finished, they leaned forward in anticipation of the battle scene.
Instead, they were shown what really happened after that famous speech, the thing for which Dermott was still honored in Sime Territory, but which most out-Territory Gens would rather forget: not how the General had destroyed his enemies
The Gen actor playing General Dermott might not have Faffard Ebert’s famous rugged features, but he gave a convincing performance of a man pushing down fear to do what the moment required as he rolled up his sleeves to expose his forearms. The Sime actor playing channel Klyd Farris reached gently for the general’s hands.
This, the visitors had not expected. Eyes widened in shock all over the auditorium, spines stiffened, and the morbidly inclined boy cheered in unfettered glee. Out-Territory culture preferred to think of selyn donation as something distasteful occurring far away and to somebody else. Since the entire Old Sime Center tour was designed to convince visiting Gens to celebrate Faith Day in a less abstract fashion, the film concluded by showing them what their heroic ancestors had actually done.
A collective gasp greeted the emergence of the Sime’s handling tentacles, which embraced the Gen’s bared forearms. The tentacles that were so fearsome to out-Territory Gens were photographed here as something beautiful, the act of selyn donation as life-enhancing. Den looked from the screen to the faces of the audience, knowing that most people out-Territory still chose to live in fear of being Killed by their own Sime children. Something inside him wanted to scream, You fools! The Tecton exists to prevent your child from turning into a helpless Killer, or you into your child’s murderer! Why do you still reject what your honored ancestors won for you, more than a century after Unity?
Den returned his attention to the screen, hoping against hope that this audience would appreciate what was being shown to them—for it was an actual donation that had been filmed, the only acting the Gen’s pretense of fear. When the Sime’s grip was secure, the vulnerable nerve-rich laterals extended to touch the Gen’s arms. The two actors leaned toward each other and touched lips to complete the circuit. Two adolescent schoolgirls hid their faces with little shrieks, although Den saw the pretty, dark-haired one in the red skirt peeking avidly through her fingers.
Instead of supplying adolescents with cheap thrills, Den fumed to himself, I could be spending my free mornings flying models of Ancient airplanes with Jannun and Eddina. Their latest effort, the largest yet, was suffering because Den wasn’t there to work on it—and for what? Another failed attempt to reach a group of ignorant Gen tourists determined to reject a better life. Rital, you owe me.
by Jacqueline Lichtenberg have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes