Chapter 3

The Naturalist

It’s alive. It’s alive!”

He’s alive. Have some respect.”

We ate out in the forest, in a little clearing with grass and such. One of the orderly orderlies fried bacon and mushrooms on a gas stove, and cooked toast on a pyramidal rack over the other element. We lay on the bank and watched the sun rise. After a week indoors, it was good to feel the light of Mother Fusion-ball on our skin, and we didn’t talk much, apart from a few comments on how nice it was outside. I spent most of my time breathing, the scent of pine needles and crushed grass almost as fascinating as smelling Alex in the flush of victory, and a lot less embarrassing to pay attention to. In truth, I was really beginning to get on top of my senses. They were powerful, of course, but they were part of me, and so I could control them. Or so I told myself, though of course as an adult male I was well aware that there are some parts of the body that have a mind of their own. But after the first few days – barring a few memorable instances – I was aware of what my senses were telling me, but didn’t have to wrestle with myself to control my response to them. Alex told me, long afterwards, that it took her about that long to truly get used to them as well. So far as I know, James never bothered, but it was so hard to tell whether his behaviour sprang from an overactive sense for pheromones or from those parts of him that had been overactive since puberty that it never really caused much trouble either way, when measured against the amount of trouble he got into before the Change.

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