Sunday, April 18, 2010


(Map of the Animal Kingdom by unknown female folk artist, 1835. Watercolor, ink, and pencil on paper)

To begin reading this sci-fi novel or for background information, go to my Chapter One post here. To read about the background of the first novel, read my post here, which will also direct you to appendices.

For more detailed information, posted elsewhere on this blog are:

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Map of Saya Island, Teppe and Pea Pods Environs After Development
Skene Character Lineage at Midway Through Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)


They had a late, quick lunch the next day following Market. Prl had promised to go to Talaba with Nioma, to visit her family and stay through dinner. Thleen was excited about accompanying them. Before they departed, however, Thleen was sent to the orchard to pick fresh fruit and nuts as a gift, and Prl said to those remaining "We have to figure out how to limit who comes here on Shmona for the usual gathering. I need what I talk about to be reserved for family only."

Pyosz was briefly distracted by comparing this announcement with Prl's intention to spend part of her "family visit" time with Nioma's kin in Talaba. Before she could find a non-confrontational way of pointing out the discrepancy, Lawa said "Pava may be technically grown but she still needs emmas and she has them in Vants and Lehen. She's part of that Manage now. Uli is partnering in soon, and Dekkan -- "

Maar cut in "Dekkan is one of us. I place my life in her hands several times a week." Pyosz wished Dekkan was there to hear this.

"Well then, what about the Heaps? You mostly exchange childcare with them" said Prl.

"Ziri and Thleen's bond is no less because they are children and have no sexual relationship" said Pyosz. "And I've come to feel like a sibemma of sorts to all those children. Baby Ura will be in sui to my baby, you know. Besides, I want to hear the thinking of the Heaps women."

Prl looked iritated but nodded in acquiescence. She said "Any children, however, definitely should be elsewhere."

"Agreed" said Maar. Qala added "Rather than hearing a long presentation from you, I think the best approach would be for you to give a brief explanation and hand out the directories, give everyone time to look up their own name and...associations. Discussion will flow naturally from that."

Prl's eyes went clear ice as she looked at Pyosz. "You gave Qala the directory already?"

"I did" said Maar, squaring her shoulders. "Based on the reaction I had to it, I wanted my abbas-in-law to have advance notice." Pyosz thought the use of that term, abbas-in-law, was very deft. Establishing Maar's place squarely in this family.

Prl flicked her gaze over Maar before settling on Qala. "So?"

"I won't argue the necessity of this step, although others will as they seek reprisal against you" said Qala with a directness that made Nioma breathe in sharply. "I do question the timing. Specifically, why in oceans did you wait this long? The lives which will be ruined by this revelation are surely more numerous than if you had made it a clear warning at the time you released the ability of egg-combining into community knowledge."

Prl's voice was defensive. "I have advised a Genist or curandera consultation for every pregnancy, and I've repeated it each year in my annual Genist Address."

Lawa interrupted with "You don't talk like regular folk in those speeches, Prl. even I tended to zone out. Why not get right to the point when you're talking about sibs making babies with sibs?"

Prl's jaw was tight. "My wording is dictated by legal limits and the dignity of my office." Pyosz saw Nioma slide her hand into Prl's.

Qala said "But when you became aware that some folks weren't listening to you, why didn't you come up with definitive action then? I mean, doesn't the dignity of your office devolve from your responsibility to Skene?"

There was a scalded silence. Prl finally said "Definitive action, as you put it, would expose me to reprisal, to use another of your phrases. At the time I realized the enormity of what I had unleashed, Pyosz was five years old. And I am her only emma." Prl's voice seemed calm to the end of this sentence, but abruptly, startlingly, she burst into tears and said "I had to wait until she wouldn't be harmed by what I did. Which meant, yes, other children were harmed. They'll never forgive me for my choice and I won't blame them for hating me!" She allowed Nioma to pull her face onto her shoulder.

Qala looked abashed and Lawa downright stricken. Lawa said "Aw, Prlie, I didn't know...Of course you put Pyosz first, any of us would've." Nioma was murmuring to Prl, who was trying heroically to squelch her own sobs. Pyosz wanted all her elders to be happy again but couldn't think of what to say.

Maar looked unmoved. She said "Pyosz is in the clear now, but Thleen is going to be singled out as a one of those without a clear lineage."

"No" said Prl, having to clear her throat. She accepted Nioma's handkerchief and blew her nose before repeating "No. I've taken some steps this week." She stopped to sip at her tea as Pyosz's heart sank.

"What steps, emma?"

"I wrote to Ried and asked her for the source of her Contributions, if she was using them instead of doing the egg-combining she accepted fees for. I told her if she could document her cients and their lineages, I'd pay all her fines" said Prl.

Pyosz gasped. "Emma, that will take your life savings!"

"Income I earned as Genist" said Prl, looking defiantly at Qala. "Part of my responsibility. But Ried refused to even acknowledge having been consulted by Dru and Adnes. She's still denying everything. Which emma said was typical for her." This last was a tantalizing mystery to Pyosz -- Yoj? What did Yoj know about Ried? Prl had gone on: "So I took some of the cord blood frozen at Thleen's birth, which at least the comadrona was wise enough to send us as required by law, and I ran a genetic sequence on it. I can do that on my own but I can't release the results without consent from Thleen's emmas. Or, in her case, her guardian."

Prl looked at Maar expectantly. Pyosz could tell Maar was struggling with multiple emotions, but what came out of her mouth was a cool "I so give my consent."

"She is, in fact, a blend of Adnes and Dru" said Prl.

Maar gave a disbelieving laugh and leaned back in her chair. Pyosz heard Lawa whisper "Thunder me down."

"So, if you are in agreement, we can alter the directory to reflect Thleen's actual half-sibs, which will only be you, Adon, and Su" Prl said, her eyes on Maar. "I thought after our discussion tomorrow, we can enlist the family to write in the numbers by hand, at least for the volumes here in Pya. It doesn't make sense to reprint hundreds of pages for three numerals. I'm sure Thleen's clan will be happy to help out."

"What about the volumes to be distributed in Skene?" asked Maar.

"I'll do those myself" said Prl.

"After all the levvin' sewage they put us through, Dru really is an equal aggie to Thleen" said Maar, almost to herself. "I'm not going to tell her ahead of time, I'll let her find out from reading it the same as everyone else. Serves her right for ever being disappointed in Thleen -- being disappointed in any of us." Pyosz could tell Maar was on the verge of wild grief.

"But talking to Thleen, we should do that before Shmona, yes?" she said to Maar.

"Tonight after dinner" said Maar firmly. At that moment Thleen returned with her gleanings and Qala stood to pack a second basket of cheese, jams, and pastries for Nioma's family. The visitors were seen off, Maar began vigoroysly sweeping upstairs, and Lawa went out to the escarpment to harvest capers from the bushes they'd planted last spring.

"What are you doing this afternoon?" Qala asked Pyosz.

"Vants is meeting me in the pasture, it's time for worming and vaccination. We'll do hers after" said Pyosz. "You?"

"I planned a chowder for dinner, won't take long to make. I think I'll sit on the porch and cut rags for quilts" said Qala. She needs to think something over, she always occupies her hands with fabric when she has to think, never cooking or gardening remembered Pyosz.

After dinner, the Talaba visitors returned with an array of freshly dried noodles and choice mutton. They settled on the porch. Maar pulled Thleen onto her lap and said "Tomorrow the adults in our family are going to have a big talk about Skene's future, stuff having to do with the Genist. It's not the kind of conversation where children will be included, but I want to tell you part of it now because it has to do with you." Maar's solemnity immediately produced a furrow in Thleen.s forehead.

Pyosz, beside them, pulled off one of Thleen's otos and began gently rubbing her foot as Maar continued. "You know when emmas decide to have a baby, they can either go to the Genist for a Contribution or they can have a curandera help harvest eggs from one of them to join with the egg of another. I was born from the first way, and Pyosz came from the second way. But there is a third way that is against the law, when emmas use eggs or contributions without the help of the Genist or a curandera. The reason why it is against the law is because there's no way to trace a lineage or make sure the baby will be okay ahead of time. It's a dangerous, reckless way to start new life. Only a few emmas on Skene have done it. Thing is, sibu, our emmas used that reckless way to get pregnant with you."

Maar's voice was utterly kind and regretful. Thleen froze in shock. Maar quickly added "They were lucky, we all were lucky, because you turned out just fine. More than fine, actually. But we can't have people go on taking chances that could hurt a baby not yet born. So very soon, the Genist is going to publish a document which will make it clear if our emmas were stupid enough to not get the right help before getting pregnant. She has to do it to stop further mistakes from being made. That's a good thing, but the bad thing is, folks who were born using the third way will be publicly known. That includes you."

Thleen pulled her lip. her face frightened. "Will I get in trouble?"

"No. Not in any way. Everyone knows how you get born is not your choosing" said Maar.

"But our emmas -- will they be in trouble?"

"No" repeated Maar. "I've taken care of that. I won't let them be hurt." Thleen's relief was hard for Pyosz to bear. It was also interesting that Maar was taking all the credit for her emmas' freedom from prosecution.

Maar let Thleen think it over. Pyosz returned one sokken to Thleen's foot and removed the other to begin massaging there. Finally Thleen "Which one was I?"

Maar followed the question without difficulty. "Egg combining from both our emmas. In fact, you are the only one of us sibs who are from both their eggs."

Thleen looked seriously upset for the first time. "You mean, I'm different from you?"

"We all have the same aggie, and each of us has different Contributions, that's what has been normal for sibs on Skene" reassured Maar. Thleen swiveled to look at Qala, who nodded. After another long minute, Thleen said "I look like you, and abba, not Dru."

Pyosz saw Maar squeeze Thleen lightly. "Yep. We got that lucky red hair."

"Qala said you had to fight mean and dirty to get me to come live with you. Was that because our emmas had done something illegal?" Pyosz heard Nioma's sharp intake of breath from behind her, and knew Lawa would be grinning. Never underestimate this child's intelligence she reminded herself.

"It's connected, yes" said Maar, her voice sounding surprised.

"Why did they do me different from the rest of you?" continued Thleen, clearly thinking out loud. She looked at Prl. "You were the Genist then, right? Were you the Genist for my sibs?"

"Yes" said Prl.

"You gave the Contributions for Maar, and Adon and Su? But not me? Did you tell them no for me?" The question nobody dared ask a Genist. Of course, Thleen is asking her abba.

And against all protocol, Prl answered, her blue eyes soft: "I didn't know it was you, then. But yes, I told your emmas I didn't think they were a good choice to have a fourth child. They weren't taking good enough care of the three they already had."

Pyosz felt the tremor pass through Maar's body, and saw Thleen squeeze her lightly though she remained looking at Prl. "Was you mad, then, when I got born?"

"No. not mad. Worried. But then I heard your abba Gusu had retired and was home all day, and at the next Vote Day I saw Maar carrying you around, and I knew you were going to be okay" said Prl. Pyosz now felt as jolted as Maar. Maar said softly to Thleen "Me, too. I was okay because you got born."

"Is that why they broke the law to have me, my emmas?" Thleen was gazing back into Maar's eyes.

"I don't know" evaded Maar. Thleen grinned suddenly and said "Dru wanted me to be hers, like every katt we got, she wanted them to like her best. But katts hate yelling, you know. And I liked you best, not her."

Maar laughed delightedly and said "I think you have it all wrapped up." She began tickling Thleen, who squealed and wriggled.

A few minutes later, Qala said earnestly "So Thleen, some folks are going to be very upset about the Genist publishing this book explaining which of us are sibs on Skene." Funny how Qala's description cut to the essence of Prl's attempt to circumvent the law thought Pyosz with a chill.

"Are they going to be mad at abba?" asked Thleen, her grin fading.

"Yes" said Pyosz. "And one or two might make a crack about children born in a way different than usual."

"Like you were" said Thleen. Her eyes flashed as she said "If they say bad stuff about you, or abba, I'll get mad and tell them to shut up." Not at all feeling concerned for herself marveled Pyosz.

"Whatever you hear, no matter what it is, you come tell one of us" said Qala, leaning forward. "We'll sort out what's right together."

"Okay" said Thleen easily. She slid from Maar's lap into Prl's, shoving under Nioma's arm, and asked "So once you're done with this book, are you going to retire, abba, and come live at Owl Manage with us? You're plenty old enough to retire." Nioma burst into laughter, and Prl said "I think that's a great plan, but I have to see how it goes. So no telling anyone about it yet. right?"

Thleen began playing with the elaborate clasp holding back Nioma's hair. Nioma said "Would you like to let that loose?"

Thleen nodded happily and delicately released the clasp. As cascades flowed over Nioma's and Prl's shoulders, Prl said "If you go get a brush from my dresser, you could brush it out, it's lovely to do." Thleen bolted for the front door and upstairs.

Later as they changed into schmattas for bed, Pyosz made sure Maar got a long look at her before she covered her expanse of glossy skin with pale rose fabric. Rose was especially flattering to her coloring. Well, most colors look good on me she thought.

She faced Maar under the covers and sighed luxuriously. Maar rolled onto her back and closed her eyes, saying "I'm exhausted just thinking about tomorrow."

Pyosz cupped Maar's belly with her palm and said "You were wonderful with Thleen tonight. And that news about her being from Dru as well as Adnes, how are you coping with it all?"

Maar's eyes stayed closed. "Mmm...coping." Her breathing was slowing down.

Pyosz didn't want Maar to go to sleep. She was feeling unsettled by all the glimpses she was getting of her elders' foibles and difficulties. She wanted a long, slow bout of lovemaking. But Maar really had been through the ringer today. She said softly "I'm scared about you changing."

Maar opened one eye. "What d'ya mean?"

"You know, the way folks seem always the same and then suddenly one day you realize they've really changed."

Maar's eye drifted shut again. "I will change" she said groggily, "and so will you. Can't help it."

'What will we do, then?" asked Pyosz, running one cupped sole along the side of Maar's leg.

There was a long pause before Maar said "We'll keep up with each other. Sweetie, s'all right...Are you going to read, or can you turn off that light?"

Pyosz stifled a sigh and clicked off her lamp, returning to lay her head on Maar's shoulder. Maar was already over the edge but her body automatically received Pyosz. "I'm sorry I wasn't there for you when we were children" whispered Pyosz. "I'm sorry it took me so long to love you."

Maar's leg muscles jerked in the way they did every night when she was completely asleep. Pyosz thought You're missing out tonight. And see, it obviously has nothing to do with my emma being at the other end of the house. Ember left the velvet chair and came to fit herself into the small of Pyosz's back as Pyosz dropped off, too.

The next afternoon, once dessert was being digested, Prl pulled a canvas scroll from her pack and motioned the children to gather round. "I have heard the theory put forward that if we were to fly east and south of Pya the same distance as Skene is in the opposite direction, we might find another archipelago of islands where people do not yet live. Islands waiting to be discovered by a new generation of explorers." Prl's pronouncement left Ziri and Thleen bugeyed with possibility. Pyosz saw Koben trying to repeat "archipelago" to herself.

Prl continued. "I have copied an ancient map which may or may not be of this fabled land, which some call Lupanalom." Pyosz grinned at Maar -- lupanalom was Skenish for "land of dreams", a phrase that occurred in an old lullaby. Prl was fabricating myth on the spot.

"Certainly the map doesn't show any known islands I've heard about. The route there by sea would be treacherous. not only because of leviathans but also from enormous whirlpools and underwater volcanoes along the way. Even more intriguing, the people who surveyed Skene before our original colonists landed must have decided to set loose on Lupanalom all the animals which people might find too frightening to live with elsewhere: Giant katts, mountain-sized beasts with long arms instead of noses, dragons and fanged beetles the size of goats. Helpfully, they marked which monsters live on each island." Prl had unrolled her brightly-illustrated scroll, and small heads bent over it.

Ziri said instantly "I claim navigator!", her fingers already possessively on the map. Before Thleen could bellow her outrage, Prl said "Ah, but each crew member will have extraordinary duties on this voyage into the unknown. For instance, the lookout will have to watch for shore birds with beaks large enough to hold a child. She'll be the first to see the new land." Meamea lunged for the cupboard where toys were kept and emerged with the telescope, screaming "I see it first!"

Thleen's face was desperate. Prl held up a finger and said "The pilot will have to steer through sucking eddies bigger around than all Pya, which drop down to the bottom of the oc -- "

"Me!" screamed Koben. "I'm on tiller, I claimed it!"

Prl grinned at Thleen and said "I guess that leaves you as rigger." Her conspiratorial tone made Thleen suddenly relax: Prl would come through for her. Prl said "In ancient, ancient times, on the original planet, sailors who climbed rigging often had a special pet, a small creature which looked nearly human but was covered with hair all over and could climb faster than anything else in the world. They could even use their tails to hold into things, and they were called opichas. To help the rigger on this arduous journey, the botaniste has recreated an opicha of your very own,"

Prl produced a small knitted animal with long, triple jointed limbs and a child-like face. Meamea reached for it but Thleen already had it. The brown prehensile tail and each digit had pipe-cleaners at their core, enabling them to be wrapped around Thleen's arm. Everyone in the room exclaimed. Pyosz breathed to Nioma "Wherever did that come from?"

"Someone on Chwet made a couple, based on Yoj's bestiary" said Nioma, very pleased with the reaction. "There's a few other fabulous animals there as well, you might want to go look tomorrow. I bought an opicha for Avik's birthday, and when I mentioned it to Prl, she asked me to go back for the second one. We collaborated on the map."

"They'll be sailing the Saya until pitch dark" predicted Pyosz. Indeed, the children were already heading for the front door, Clicker swatting at an opicha leg dangling from Thleen's side.

Prl turned to face the room and said "I have something to share with you." The cgange in her tone got everyone's attention, even baby Ura playing on a quilt. Nioma handed Prl one of the green volumes from a crate carried down by Maar and left by the sideboard, but Prl didn't open it yet.

"I am going to retire next month as Genist of All Skene. I intend to move here, living in Owl Manage, and find a new way to express my purpose." She paused to allow time for the cheering which broke out. "Before I leave office, I will be taking one more action which will permanently alter life on Skene."

The silence was profound. After a few beats, Ura said "Emma?" Nezi bent to pick her up, and Meko took her, unbuttoning her shati so Ura could nurse.

Prl succinctly explained the issue and her constraints. By the time she was done, all eyes were on the volume she was holding. She handed her copy to Api and Maar began passing out the rest to frowning adults. Qala stood to make tea, while Lawa scooted to sit between Tu and Moasi.

There was ten minutes of page turning and occasional muttering before Api licked her lips and said to Prl "There will be calls for your arrest."

"I have thought about that. And my question to you is two-fold: Who, specifically, will ask to bring charges, and will you act on it?" Prl sounded remarkably calm, interested in an academic way. Tu stood abruptly and slammed out the back door. Half a minute later, Lawa followed her.

"Wait" said Dodd, holding her hand up. "Before we start political or legal talk -- is there no other way to do this, sibu?" She was gentle and earnest, but the gaze she leveled on Prl was penetrating.

"I haven't come up with one in 15 years" said Prl. "If any of you has a workable alternative, I'm gasping to hear it."

"I think you should leave well enough alone" said Abbo. "You'll get everyone riled up over mistakes that can't be undone. If somebody's making mistakes, that's their call. not yours."

Oby looked at Abbo in exasperation. Prl said patiently "It is, in fact, my call, the health of our childbearing stock on Skene. That's the entire scope of my job, really. And unaddressed mistakes tend to multiply. No pun intended" she added apologetically.

"People need to know this" said Uli softly. "It's ugly but sometimes truth is." She glanced at Maar, and Pyosz was convinced Uli had read Maar's numbers, made the connection about Thax. Which was something to think about, why Uli would look at Maar's lineage.

Tu and Lawa had come back into the house, Tu's face dark with emotion. She said now "Yes, the ugly truth about my emma being the Contribution used for her own grandchildren will be on everyone's lips! I can't believe you intend to dishonor her in this way." She jerked her elbow away from Pank's reaching hand and stood with her arms crossed, glaring at Prl.

Prl said "I see no dishonor in her being revealed as my Contribution. Not with what she passed on to all five of us sibs, and our entire line from here on out. What Halling said is that abba Ng would be justifiably angry at having been deceived, at not having had the chance to know all of her role in our family, but she would support my taking steps to ensure such deceit and games cannot recur."

Pyosz saw shock on the faces of the Heaps, Dekkan and Pava. But again, Uli looked like this revelation was not news. And the invocation of Halling temporarily silenced Tu, though did not quell her outrage.

Api had been forming her reply to Pyosz. "I think if the current Ethicist of Skene doesn't file charges against you, she'll fear losing re-election. Sherr of Yanja has considerable influence and backing, and she'll jump at this opportunity to run against the Ethicist."

"Yes, except...Yoj went through this directory compiling a list of those who have borne children together with a half-sib, since those are the people who will be most grievously affected" said Prl. "As it happens, Sherr and her partner are on that list." She stopped.

Abbo said "Whew, she'll be leaping for you like a levi, then."

"Yoj felt it possible that the current Ethicist will decline to seek action against me. She'll find insufficient basis for prosecution, but the real motive will be to quell a polotical rival" said Prl, looking distasteful at the idea. "And if someone as powerful as Sherr is unable to push forward prosecution, it's unlikely another will try. In Skene" she said pointedly, looking at Api.

Pyosz's mind was racing. Likely Yoj had been diligent about going through the directory, but Prl mentioning her was smokescreen: Prl would have known all along who were going to be exposed by her disclosure, what their positions and connections were. She had anticipated ways to clear herself from retribution. Pyosz felt simultaneously relieved and disturbed.

Api said "Of course I'm not going to bring charges against you, Prl. Though I'd rather have had deniability about knowing this in advance."

"You all had to know in advance" said Prl. "And it's only a week. I'm releasing the list Moja after next."

Api said "I won't be able to run for re-election, however. I think my tenure here has run its course." Pyosz waited for Api to explain why Prl's action would make this necessary. Instead there was a long silence, broken by Koben's shriek from the yard "It's a typhoon! Rigger, we haffa go thataway!"

Pava and Dekkan both winced. Pyosz was studying Oby's face, to see if she was buying the implication that Api's long overdue retirement should be now blamed on Prl. She decided Oby didn't look upset at all.

Mill, however, turned on Prl belligerently: "Do you have any concept of the effect this will have on contract negotiatons and our need to not be at one another's throats?" For an instant, Pyosz got a glimpse of them as children.

Prl replied imperiously "What doesn't have an effect on negotiations?" Which Pyosz thought was a tad disingenuous, but so was Mill's original comment: They were both offspring of a heavily political family, so accusations of naivete were essentially theater.

In that instant, Pyosz stopped wishing Yoj and Halling -- and Bux -- were here. Yoj had deliberately sent Prl to deal with her family alone. Emma has to make her own place here in Pya, like I already did thought Pyosz with a flush of mixed feelings.

Briel spoke up. "I this measure is desperately needed, and in fact overdue. Speaking as someone with a hand in cleaning up messes." She glanced at Prl as she added "I only wish you weren't retiring, because as you know, there's more to be done."

Pyosz immediately began trying to figure out what Briel meant, and she could tell Maar was doing the same. Prl said "My ability to advise on further change will be the same whether in or out of office. There will be those who accord me grudging points because they think I exposed my own lineage to scrutiny, as well as everyone else's -- which is not how I see it, I don't think shame is appropriate for anyone. There will be those who have always simmered about the Genist's influence and will seize this opportunity to diminish it. And some will, justifiably I think, condemn me for not acting sooner."

"I don't condemn you" began Briel, and Prl said "I know. I know our front-line concern is shared, sib-in-law."

"But it will be up to your successor to help direct the next steps" said Dodd. "And I don't think she has the wisdom to accept what will likely mean a profound reshaping of the Genist's role."

Pyosz saw comprehension on Maar's face, and was frustrated at what she was still missing.

Dodd said to Prl quietly, with a wide grin, "Raisa would hate you." Pyosz thought most of those her age or younger wouldn't recognize Raisa's name as the Genist her emma had replaced.

Prl grinned back. "She'd pluck out my Yerushy-blue eyes. But Qen would be dancing a jig." She and Dodd began laughing together, joined by Qala, Lawa, and amazingly, Mill.

"What reshaping?" Pyosz blurted.

Prl raised her eyebrows, still grinning, to answer. "This directory will be in use for at least a generation or two, for those feeling a first flush of romance to consult and deduce relationships. And for those needing to use a Contribution, consulting with the Genist will still be an adjunct. But anyone else can trace lineages for themselves, and will prefer that, I think, as a growing mark of prestige."

"Plus fertile Ys can be named by back-tracing in this directory" said Briel, her hand sliding onto Dodd's knee. "People will wonder if their Y offspring might not also be fertile."

"And I predict those of us who are fertile Ys will immediately demand a revision to the law making our eggs equal to those of X's -- that we must give consent before our Contributions are used for a pregnancy" said Dodd. "To insure a wider selection for our own offspring when they decide to emma."

Pyosz felt flooded by implications, and by Dodd's openness. "Eventually only a very few will use Contributions at all" she thought out loud. "Those who cannot egg combine in some fashion."

"And I suspect they'll want a say in choosing their Contribution" added Prl. "Which may be ultimately quite damaging to Skene's health, but I first pushed this boat into the current a long time ago and it will come to shore long after I'm dead. I have to leave it in the hands of others now."

They heard a scream from out front, followed by crying and Ziri saying urgently "I didn't mean to, the cameleopard was attacking you, Meamea, I was just trying to beat it off you!" Two of the Heaps rose to go deal with the crisis.

One of the Kacang abbas remaining, Ko, cleared her throat and said "I'd like to ask who in this room has family who will be -- exposed -- by this list. Aside from you all who -- was it Ng?"

"Yes, my emma Ng" bit out Tu, and Maar added "Whose name is now appearing in some form in the fourth generation." Which made several people look at Pyosz's belly, but Maar had already said firmly, No derivatives of Ng or Halling for this first child. Nor of her own emmas.

Nioma, who had been uncharacteristically silent, said "One of my sibiyas is dating someone who is a half-sib. It's not very serious, but it will still hit those young women hard."

"I have a distant cousin who already has a child" said Pank. Pyosz now understood part of Tu's undiminished fury.

"I don't know about us" said Dekkan, looking at Uli, who replied "Not that I can tell."

Ko said "Well I too have a cousin with grandchildren whose emmas are half-sibs, according to this. It doesn't seem fair. It's hard enough to be an emma, with all we have to think about, the endless worry and uncertainty. This is going to stain our era."

Prl's smile had disappeared. "I know."

Ramea came in the door with a weeping Meamea in her arms. "Briel, I don't think her arm is broken, but if you could look at it -- "

Briel swiftly went to them. Aleri came in the door with Ziri and pointed to the corner, saying sternly "Ten minutes. Facing the wall." The green volumes were tucked away, and Pyosz went out front to check on Thleen.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.

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