Stranded in Gumgeeville: Episode 3

Henree polishes the gleaming marble bar with a white linen cloth, and glances contentedly at the rare vintages displayed behind it, in cobwebbed bottles from the cellar. He delivers a delicate glass of bubbly to the richest man in town, and collects a tip worth almost as much as the bottle.

Henree returns to his post, and is rudely jarred out of his daydream as three of the patrons burst into raucous laughter. He sighs, and daubs half-heartedly at a puddle of stale homebrew that's puddling on the splintery, stained and dented bar. He puts his rag back into his apron pocket, and looks around to see if any of his clients are ready for another round.

Henree is wondering, as he sometimes does, if he was smart to accept Betrice's father's business, along with his daughter.

Jed opens the door, bringing in a blast of cold air and Gerrhonot.

Henree looks at the new arrival, and groans. He appreciates a customer as well as any bartender, but only if they have the wherewithal to sample his wares.

Jed: G'day, Henree. A brew for each of us.

Jed notes the bartender's expression.

Jed: I got some cash for you right here.

Henree: Not 'til I see your money, Jed.

Jed takes some bills out and displays them.

Henree picks them up and counts them, slowly.

Henree: That's a quarter of what you owe me.

Henree: ~~ grudging ~~ I suppose I can give you a couple of brews.

Jed: There'll be more later. Just a couple more beers for now, eh? I'm showing my friend around town, hitting all the high spots.

Gerrhonot looks around curiously. This is the first "high spot" they've hit.

Henree moves to the tap, and fills two rough steins with his cheapest beer.

Gerrhonot was quite reluctant to leave Seruffin with the still-hostile Ma Mullins, but the channel wanted his Donor to get a little exercise and Jed offered to show him around town.

Henree sets the beers in front of Jed and Gerrhonot.

Henree: Who's your friend?

Jed: This is Gerrhonot. He's one of the guys renting a room with us until the train can go on. This is Henree, Gerrhonot.

Gerrhonot nods in a friendly manner.

Gerrhonot: Hello.

Henree looks over Gerrhonot's odd clothing curiously.

Henree: That thing doesn't look very warm. Don't you have a proper coat?

Gerrhonot: I'm okay. I've got this warm sweater my sister made for me. Besides, it gets a lot colder where I grew up.

Henree reminds himself that Jed's guest, unlike his host, hasn't yet run up a tab.

Jed: He grew up on a sheep ranch way out in the western mountains, Henree.

Henree: Huh.

Gerrhonot smiles and nods.

Gerrhonot: It gets real cold there, but cold winters make good wool, my dad says.

Henree remembers what he's heard about Jed's tenants, and he tenses with ~ alarm ~

Henree: Wait a minute. Jed, you didn't bring the Sime into my place, did you?

Jed sucks back a good swallow of beer.

Henree peers at Gerrhonot's arms, trying to make out their shape under the baggy sweater.

Jed: What, you think I'm crazy? Out of work since the pulp mill burned down, but crazy, no.

Henree: Glad you have that much sense, at least.

Gerrhonot pushes up his sleeves and displays his tentacle-free arms.

Henree nods, satisfied.

Gerrhonot: Don't worry, Mr. Henree.

Henree: Sorry, Mister, but I got my customers to think about.

Jed: Not that bringing the Sime in here wouldn't give the place a bit more tone, though. He's quite a high class fellow, that Sime.

Henree: You're kidding me.

Jed smirks a little.

Henree knows that Jed isn't drunk, yet.

Henree: Who ever heard of a high-class snake? What does he do, smile politely as he sucks the life out of you?

Jed smirks more openly.

Jed: Well, dunno, it's hard to see somebody's lips when they're in contact with your own.

Henree: ...Huh?

Jed: He is real polite, though. Speaks very refined, even better than the schoolteacher.

Gerrhonot: He's a channel, Mr. Henree, sort of like a doctor.

Jed drinks some more beer, continuing to smirk, and chuckles.

Henree looks closer at Gerrhonot.

Henree: You know this Sime?

Gerrhonot: Yes.

Henree: Personally?

Gerrhonot: I'm his Donor. We've been working together since last spring.

Henree: Donor...wait a minute, do you mean you're the Sime's....lunchbox?

Gerrhonot sighs. What's with these out-T Gens? First Yanoff, then Ma Mullins, now this guy. What's this obsession with lunch?

Gerrhonot: Well, we do share transfer, but I'm more like his assistant.

Henree: His assistant? What do you assist him with?

Gerrhonot: Well, like if he's healing somebody who's sick or injured, I help him.

Gerrhonot figures he'll get more sympathy for this than mentioning donations and transfers.

Henree: My daddy says Simes do magic.

Gerrhonot: Really? What kind of magic?

Henree: Black magic. He says that's why the famous channels wear black...they're sorcerers.

Henree's father never saw an in-Territory Sime in his life, but did object vociferously to a certain mural that was prominently displayed on a park wall in New Washington.

Gerrhonot thinks that's really interesting, but suspects it's just rumours and out-T ignorance.

Gerrhonot: Well, channels can do some healing that works better than what the doctors here do, so maybe it seems like magic if you didn't know that.

Henree: Yeah, but what's the price for it?

Gerrhonot doesn't think he can explain the in-T economy, even given ample time.

Gerrhonot: Um, well, medical care is mostly free in-T. Well, it's paid for from taxes, so it's not really free, but... you don't have to pay for help if you're sick or anything.

Henree: Do they make know.

Jed snickers into his beer.

Gerrhonot looks at Henree questioningly.

Henree: Make you let them....well, you know.

Gerrhonot: Donate?

Henree: Yeah.

Gerrhonot: All the Gens in-T donate, Mr. Henree. Nobody makes them. They get paid for it and they like to help their friends and family.

Henree: All of them? Just tamely let a Sime...they must be crazy. Who'd do that?

Gerrhonot: Well, it's good money. There's no danger in donating to a channel. And it doesn't hurt or anything. Right, Mr. Mullins?

Henree turns to look at Jed.

Jed: Yup, the boy's right.

Henree's eyes widen.

Jed smirks and finishes his beer.

Henree: You mean you....? I knew you were crazier than a kitten in a patch of catnip, but surely your wife has more sense?

Jed: Oh, well, she'll come around. She said she would if I did, and I did.

Henree: But why?

Jed: Paid better than a month's wages at the pulp mill, only took a minute, didn't have to do nothing but sit there. My daddy did it in the war, and it was just like he said. I didn't feel a thing.

Henree: Is that so? Are you sure he really did it?

Jed: He did a few other tricks too. Want to hear more, you can give me a beer on the house.

Henree: You still got a tab you ain't paid off yet.

Jed: Don't have to hear all the details and the rest of the story if you don't want to.

Gegg pushes up to the bar, and drops a bill on it.

Gegg: I'll buy the beer, if Henree's too cheap, Jed. What did the Sime do?

Jed: Thanks, Gegg, you're a real gentleman. Meet my friend Gerrhonot.

Henree picks up the bill, then goes to draw Jed a second beer.

Gerrhonot: Hi, Mr. Gegg.

Gegg: Gerr...what was the rest of that?

Gerrhonot: Gerrhonot. Two r's and an h.

Gegg: What kind of a name is that?

Gerrhonot: It was my grandpa's name.

Gegg: And he let them give it to you? What a thing to do, to an innocent kid.

Gegg looks at Gerrhonot with ~~ sympathy ~~

Gerrhonot: Well, actually he was dead. That's why I got named after him.

Gegg: I suppose people have done crazier things, when they're grief-stricken.

Gegg: So Jed, you took in that Sime, and he turned out to be one of them channels?

Jed: Yup. Even my wife said he's a high class sort, and you know she's a hard woman to get a compliment out of.

Gegg: Do they really look just like a regular Sime?

Jed: To me he does, but I'm no expert.

Gegg nods, acknowledging the caveat.

Jed: He's an older guy, older than me. How old is he, Gerrhonot?

Gerrhonot: I don't know exactly, but I think he changed over a few years after Unity.

Gegg: So how'd you know he wouldn't kill you, Jed, if he looks like any other Sime?

Jed: Well, I guess I decided to take my chances, to earn some money for my poor family, like a real brave man's gotta do.

Gerrhonot doesn't really know what to say to this.

Gegg: You always did have more balls than a pool table, Jed. No sense, but balls in plenty.

Gegg: So what did the Sime do to you, anyway?

Jed puts a wide eyed spooky look on his face.

Jed: He sucked out my life force, Gegg!

Jed bursts into loud laughter.

Henree leans closer to hear the details, since he can do it for free.

Jed: Well, he got me into the boys' bedroom.....

Jed: And he got me sitting down on the bed.....

Gegg: Yeah?

Jed: And he wanted to close the door, with just me and him and Gerrhonot in there.....

Gegg's eyes widen.

Gegg: Why'd he want to do that?

Gegg looks at Gerrhonot.

Jed: Well, you just think about that.

Jed: I told him to leave the door open, I want my boys and the old lady as witnesses.

Henree nods grudgingly.

Henree: Sensible. At least, for you.

Jed: Was she ever scared!

Jed laughs again.

Jed: I don't think I ever saw her so scared before. And she was pissed off too, that I was gonna do it. You should've seen her face.

Gegg: She's got more sense than you, Jed. Always did.

Jed has another good slug of beer.

Gegg: Where would you be, if she wasn't there telling you when you're about to make an idiot of yourself again?

Jed: Well, she was wrong this time, wasn't she?

Gegg has been buddies with Jed since they were boys, and has an old friend's tactlessness.

Gegg: Well, we can't tell that until you finish the story. Get on with it.

Jed: So there I am, sitting on the bed, looking at this big Sime coming at me.

Jed: Like I said, he's real polite, he keeps his tentacles in right then.

Jed: He's coming toward me, sort of casual, like he doesn't want to make me nervous.

Gegg: Does it work?

Jed: Well, you know how much nerve I've got, Gegg. I'm just sitting there cool as anything.

Jed: Just waiting, as he comes closer, step by step.

Jed: The old lady's watching, the kids are watching, and this Sime is coming at me.

Jed sips his beer.

Henree's eyes are wide, enjoying the vicarious thrill, since it's safely second-hand, and costs him no beer.

Jed: And I'm just sitting there. I even rolled up my sleeves, ready for it.

Gegg: You didn't!

Jed: Sure I did. You think a Sime can suck it out through a flannel shirt?

Henree: He's right, Gegg. They usually rip up the sleeves, when they kill someone. Shred them into rags.

Jed: The missus would be real pissed off if I got my shirt ripped up. She bought it for me for Year's Turning couple years ago. That brown plaid one, you know?

Gegg: Yeah. It's nice.

Jed: So I went and rolled up the sleeves, bared my arms.

Gegg is hanging on every word.

Jed: And just sat there, waiting for him.

Gerrhonot is caught up in the story despite having been present at not only this, but probably thousands of other routine donations.

Gegg: And he was sashaying up to you, very casual. What happened then?

Jed: Well, he sat down next to me on the bed.

Henree: Right next to you?

Jed: I could feel that Sime heat just radiating off him, right through my clothes.

Jed: You know they're a lot hotter than we are. It's not just a fever when they change over. They're like that all the time.

Jed: Hot. Hot blooded.

Henree: Huh. You seem to know a lot about them, Jed. When did you become an expert?

Jed: I heard a lot from my dad from when he was in the army in the war. And now I know that every bit of it was true.

Gegg: Every bit?

Jed: E-ver-y bit....

Jed has another slug of beer.

Jed: So I'm sitting next to him, thigh to thigh, feeling that heat, and he's talking to me, just talking....

Jed: In a different kind of voice....

Gegg: Talking?

Gegg hadn't thought Simes were much for talking, when going after Gens.

Jed: Yeah, like you talk different to a horse, when you want to calm him down.

Gegg: What was he saying?

Jed: He was telling me I wouldn't feel a thing.... that I should just sit there without moving, just real calm.... and let him do it to me.

Henree: You believed him?

Jed: Well, Gerrhonot here told me not to worry, because he's a real good channel.

Jed: Right, Gerrhonot?

Gerrhonot: Yes, he is a real good channel.

Jed: So I just sat there real calm, and the kids were real impressed, and the old lady was just freaking out.

Jed: And he kept talking to me.....

Jed: Sort of soothing voice.... and he put out his hands.

Gegg eyes the almost empty beer stein in front of Jed, and sighs. He pulls out another bill and hands it to Henree.

Gegg: Go on, Jed.

Jed finishes off the beer.

Jed: So he told me to put my hands on his when I was ready.....

Henree fills another glass, and places it ceremoniously before Jed.

Jed: And I did, just like that.

Jed: Thank you, Gegg.

Gegg: Just like that? You crazy skunk.

Jed: Sure. My dad did it, and I can do it.

Jed: His hands were real hot, too.

Jed: So he took my hands, and sort of slid his hands up onto my wrists, getting into position, y'know?

Jed pauses for some more beer.

Henree: He didn't just grab you?

Jed: No, like I said, he's a real high class Sime, very polite.

Jed: All the time he keeps talking....

Jed: He tells me he's gonna run his tentacles out and hold my arms.....

Jed: So I won't be surprised, y'know?

Jed: I just sat there, still and calm, and waited for him to do it.

Gegg shakes his head in disbelief.

Jed: You ask the old woman, she was there.

Gegg: Were they slimy?

Jed: Nope, like my dad said, hot and dry, real smooth. Strong too.

Jed: He run them out onto my arms, wrapped them around.

Jed: First just sort of loose, so I could get used to the feel.

Jed: Hot, they were. Real hot.

Henree: And then he grabbed you proper?

Henree is convinced that Simes grab, when they attack a Gen.

Jed: He tightened up all right. Sort of gradually, not like grabbing, but no way I could have escaped, if he didn't want me to.

Jed: He was still talking to me, like you'd talk to a nervous horse, to keep it from spooking.

Gegg: Sounds like he already had you hogtied for branding, though.

Jed: Then he told me he was gonna touch me with the sucking tentacles.

Jed: You know they got two kinds, don't you?

Gegg: I heard something like that. Didn't pay attention to the details. Tentacles is tentacles.

Jed: The regular ones are strong and dry. The other ones are what they use to take the stuff.

Jed: To suck out the life essence.

Jed: They're smaller, and different.

Gegg: So the Sime was getting ready to use them? On you?

Jed: Sure. That's what he was gonna pay me for, wasn't he?

Gegg: Well...I guess so.

Jed: So he warned me first, so I wouldn't spook.

Jed: These other ones, they have this stuff on them. Sort of tingles when it touches your skin. And real hot, even hotter than the other ones.

Gegg: Huh. Don't sound very comfortable.

Jed: He told me to ask Gerrhonot about it, and Gerrhonot here told me he likes that touch, right Gerrhonot?

Gerrhonot: Right, Mr Mullins.

Henree: Did you like it, Jed?

Henree places a third glass in front of Jed, without prompting. Or payment.

Jed: So I let that Sime slide out those tentacles......

Jed: Thanks, Henree, much appreciated.

Jed drinks some beer.

Gegg: Could you have stopped him?

Jed: No way I could have stopped him. Them other tentacles are like steel cable.

Jed: But like I said, he's real polite. If I'd asked him, I think he'd have stopped.

Henree: Is that so?

Henree looks at Gerrhonot.

Gerrhonot: He's a channel, Mr. Henree, he'd never hurt a Gen. He'd stop if Mr. Mullins told him to.

Gegg: Only Jed here'd be crazy enough not to tell him to stop.

Gegg shakes his head in scandalized admiration.

Jed: Hey, you know I'm a brave man, and I keep my word. I said I'd do it, and I wasn't gonna back down then.

Jed: So he slides those hot wet tentacles out and slides them onto my arms.

Jed: And that stuff does feel real strange on the skin.

Jed has some more beer.

Henree shudders, but doesn't let that stop him from listening. Or the customer waving from across the room, either.

Jed: So we're just sitting there on the bed, the two of us, looking in each other's eyes...

Jed: He's got me in his grip, in his power....

Gegg: Yeah?

Jed: And I'm just sitting there calm, and waiting.

Jed has a bit more beer.

Jed: So then he's ready to do it.

Jed: And he tells me.....

Jed has another sip of beer.

Jed: That when I'm ready, I should touch my lips to his....

Gegg takes possession of the half empty beer mug.

Jed: And stay real still and let him do alllll the work.

Gegg: And you do that?

Jed notices that Gerrhonot hasn't touched his beer.

Jed: Don't like the beer Gerrhonot? I don't blame you.

Gegg follows Jed's gaze, and moves the beer out of Jed's reach.

Gegg: The story, Jed. Not a drop more, until you finish it.

Gerrhonot: Um, I don't usually drink beer, Mr. Mullins. You can have it.

Jed: Gegg, you are an impatient man.

Jed: Oh, well.....

Gegg looks at Jed sternly.

Jed: So I leaned forward...... just looking him in the eye.....

Jed: Closer and closer....

Jed: Until I couldn't see nothing but a blur.....

Jed: And I pressed my lips to his!

Jed: Hot they were, Gegg, real hot. And hard, and dry.

Jed: Nothing like kissing, I can tell you that.

Jed: And then I waited...

Jed: Just sitting there, in the Sime's clutches, waiting for him to suck out my essence...

Gegg rolls his eyes, then surrenders Jed's half-finished beer.

Jed: He'd told me it would only take a minute, and I was just waiting for him to start.....

Jed: Thank you.

Jed takes another drink of beer.

Gegg: And what was it like when he did start?

Jed: And time was passing and I didn't feel anything.

Jed: And then.....

Jed has another sip of beer, appears to ponder, sips again....

Henree waits for a revelation worthy of the buildup.

Gegg: Then what?

Jed: And then he backed off, and drew in his sucking tentacles, and let go of me.

Jed: It was just like my dad said.... I didn't feel a thing.

Gegg is almost ~~ offended ~~

Jed: And then he gave me all this money. Not bad, eh?

Jed smiles broadly.

Gegg: That's it?

Jed: That was it. That's a brave man's reward.

Jed: Maybe I'll go up the line next month to the Ford and do it again. Sure beats working.

Gegg's wondering why he bought Jed two beers for a story that didn't live up to its billing.

Jed notes Gegg's disappointment.

Jed: Well, he did another thing for us.

Gegg: What was that?

Jed: He checked out my boys. Turns out Bart's a Gen already. You got kids, Gegg. You know what a relief that is.

Gegg: Yeah.

Gegg thinks that over for a moment.

Gegg: How'd the Sime go about it...checking your boys?

Jed: Well, you know I try to raise my boys right, good manners and all. So when I introduced them to the Sime, they shook hands with him, and he told us after that.

Gegg: He knew, just from shaking hands? Even though they're not sixteen yet?

Jed: But I think he could tell without that, or how could Simes hunt Gens in the woods ?

Gegg: Is that so, Mr. Gerrho....Mister?

Jed: Right, Gerrhonot? They can tell from a distance, without touching, if a kid's a Gen yet.

Gerrhonot: Yes. They can tell.

Gerrhonot wonders if Jed is going to drum up business for Seruffin, and whether they have enough money to pay all the donors.

Gegg: How do they do that?

Gerrhonot: They can zlin. It's another sense, sort of like seeing or feeling. They can zlin whether a person's a Sime or a Gen or a child.

Gegg: Sounds spooky to me.

Gegg takes a sip of his own beer, rationing it carefully.

Gegg has already bought three beers tonight, and can't afford a fourth.

Gegg can't afford quite a lot of things, since the pulp mill burned, although his wife's job pays enough to get by, almost.

Gegg: You live in Sime Territory, don't you, Mister?

Gerrhonot: Yes, Mr. Gegg.

Gegg: I suppose you've donated yourself, then?

Gerrhonot: Well, it's a little different for me. I'm a Donor, so I give transfer to channels like channels give transfer to other Simes. But I did donate when I first established.

Gegg: Is what Jed here said true, or is he pulling all our legs?

Gerrhonot: It's true. I've seen channels take donations thousands of times, and they never let the Gen feel anything.

Gegg: Huh.

Gegg thinks that over.

Gegg: Just how much did you get for doing that, Jed?

Jed: Like I said, more than I made in a month at that friggin pulp mill.

Gegg: And your missus said she'd do it, too?

Jed: Well, she said she'd do it. Now I'm waiting for her to put her arms where her mouth is.

Jed: Bart wants to do it, too, just like his dad and grandad.

Gegg: You mean where the Sime's mouth is.

Jed chuckles.

Jed: Well, she'll have to admit I kiss better than he does.

Jed sucks down more of Gerrhonot's beer.

Gegg: That would be a whole quarter's pay.

Henree: You could pay your whole tab, and the stationmaster, as well.

Jed: Yup. That bastard did me a big favour, even if he didn't know it.

Gegg: That kind of money ain't easy to come by, these days.

Jed: It sure ain't.

Gegg is staring into his beer ~~ thoughtfully ~~

Gegg: You'd do anything on a dare, Jed, but your missus has sense. If she does it, and lets your boy do it, too...

Jed: Takes a brave man to be the first.....

Gegg: Takes a man with the sense to come in out of the rain to be brave.

Jed: Maybe not so brave to be the second.

Gegg: You calling me a coward?

Jed: Well, you won't do it until a woman and a boy do it first.

Jed has had a fair bit of beer and is sort of running his mouth on reflex by now.

Gegg's fist clenches in anticipation.

Gegg: You watch your mouth, Jed. You're crazy, but I'm not.

Jed: Well, I got a pocketful of cash, and my wife's got the rest. If that's crazy, fine with me.

Gegg looks at Gerrhonot again.

Gegg: You said you work with the Sime? Why do you do that? There's got to be easier ways to make a living.

Gerrhonot is a little worried. He's seen fights in porstan parlours before, and hopes this won't turn into one.

Gerrhonot: I like working with channels, helping people, and it pays good. Otherwise I'd be a shepherd at my parents' ranch. This way I can send home money.

Gegg: You said you give transfer to the Sime? Directly?

Gerrhonot: Yes.

Gegg: And that it's different from what Jed here was crazy enough to do?

Gerrhonot: Yes. It's a lot different. Most people can't learn to do it, especially with a high rated channel like Hajene Seruffin.

Gegg: How's it different?

Gerrhonot: Well, when he takes a donation he uses his special channel system, and he draws really slowly, and just takes selyn from the surface levels, so the Gen doesn't feel anything.

Gegg: The way Jed didn't feel him actually do it?

Gerrhonot: Yeah. That's how they always take donations.

Gegg: And when he takes from you?

Gegg: What's that like?

Gerrhonot: Well, he's taking the selyn with his primary system then, the selyn he uses for himself for the month. He takes a lot more, from deeper and much faster. So not everybody can give transfer to a channel.

Gerrhonot: You have to make more selyn and be able to give it faster. It feels really great, just wonderful.

Gegg thinks Gerrhonot is crazier than Jed, and that's saying a lot.

Gerrhonot: And it feels good to be able to help the channel, so he can help all those other people.

Gegg: Quite the helpful kind of guy, you seem to be.

Gegg distrusts altruists.

Gegg: What's in it for you?

Gerrhonot: It's a real good job. I'd rather look after people than sheep. It pays real good, and transfer is wonderful.

Gerrhonot starts to smile a bit dreamily, remembering some of the really good transfers he's had.

Gegg looks ~~ skeptical ~~

Gerrhonot: In-T, Donors get a lot of respect, too.

Gegg: From Simes, as well as Gens?

Gerrhonot: Oh, yes. Simes are really impressed by Donors. If a Donor ever yelled for help, every Sime within zlinning distance would come running.

Gegg: I suppose you don't have to worry about one of 'em attacking you, do you? If that happens every month anyway, and all.

Gerrhonot: Well, if one did it would be no problem for me. I could serve him, or I could calm him down and take him to a channel. But that sort of thing hardly ever happens.

Gegg tries to imagine what it must be like, not to feel threatened even by a Sime that was attacking.

Gegg can't.

Gerrhonot: Gens are much safer in-T than out-T, because we have no berserkers.

Henree: Seems like a contradiction, to me: more Simes, less danger.

Gerrhonot: I guess so. But it's true.

Gerrhonot: People in-T are pretty much like people out-T. They work. They have families. They worry about pretty much the same things, except they don't have to worry about how their kids will turn out.

Henree guffaws.

Henree: Every parent worries about how their kids will turn out. Even after they're all grown up.

Gerrhonot smiles.

Gerrhonot: Yeah, my parents were kind of worried about me because when I was a little kid I had a bad case of the coughing sickness and afterwards I wasn't too smart. So they were real glad I had the talent for Donor work.

Henree has to admit that Gerrhonot doesn't seem very smart, to him.

Gegg: What sort of talent does it take, anyway?

Gerrhonot: It's hard to describe. You have to be able to produce more selyn, and be able to give transfer, and control your field the way the channel asks you to to help him work.

Gegg: Control your what?

Gerrhonot: It's sort of like if you were deaf and you asked me what kind of talent it takes to be a musician.

Gegg: Huh.

Gerrhonot: Well, everybody has a field, it's what Simes sense when they zlin. It changes with your emotions. And everybody's field interacts with everybody else's. So if you can control it right, you can influence other people's fields.

Gegg: My dad used to say that Simes could read minds, almost. You can't lie to them.

Gerrhonot: Well, they can zlin emotions. So they can often tell if someone is lying. A channel is even better at that than ordinary Simes.

Gegg: Imagine that, Jed. I bet that Sime knew that you were just a lot of bluster, and not really brave at all. I bet he knew you were scared shitless, underneath.

Gegg grins widely.

Jed is a bit ~~ chagrined ~~~

Jed: Well, whatever he zlinned, I did put up a good front. Just ask my wife or boys.

Gegg hoots with laughter at Jed's reaction.

Jed: It takes a real man to look good, no matter how he feels!

Gegg: No wonder he was trying to gentle you like a horse spooking at a flapping tarp! You didn't fool him for a moment.

Jed smiles.

Jed: Oh, well. I sat there, still like he said, and I did it and I got the money. And that's what counts, right?

Gegg: Well, I suppose when you put it that way...

Gerrhonot is really glad Jed is being a good sport about it. He really doesn't like fights and arguments.

Henree doesn't either: they tend to mess up his bar, and his profit margin. He has to admit, though, that Jed's adventure has been profitable, between the quarter tab and the beers Gegg bought.

Jed: So, you want to come by and bring the wife and kids? Maybe I should be charging admission, eh?

Gegg: After I bought you two beers?

Jed: Oh, well, you're a good friend, Gegg. For you, free.

Gegg: I'll talk it over with my missus. She's got her own ideas, though. She might not want to take the risk.

Jed gets serious.

Jed: Whatever you do, having your kids checked out is worth it. It's a real load off our minds, about Bart.

Gegg: There's still your youngest.

Jed: Yeah, Gegg. There's still Vrian.

Jed wonders if meeting and talking with Seruffin will make it even harder if he has to shoot his son in changeover. He doesn't want to think about it.

Gegg: And Mik, and Sanda.

Gegg names his own two children.

Gerrhonot feels sadness and pity for these people in the horrible bind of having to murder their own children to save their own lives.

Gegg drains the last of his beer, and sets the empty glass on the counter.

Gegg: I'll talk to the missus. And then...maybe we'll be over, later on.

Jed: Yeah. Is that okay, Gerrhonot? Your channel won't mind checking out Gegg's kids, will he?

Gerrhonot: It's probably okay, Mr. Mullins. It's kind of boring just sitting in the room all the time.

Gegg: Good night, Henree.

Gegg heads for the door, so lost in thought that he doesn't remember to button his coat until he's already through it.

Henree's children are grown, but his grandchildren are a certain age, some of them.

Gerrhonot: Um, Mr. Mullins? Do you mind if I go back now? I want to make sure Hajene Seruffin is okay.

Jed: Hmmm? Okay, let's both go back. Ma will be pissed off if I have more beer.

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