Stranded in Gumgeeville: Episode 7

Seruffin boldly sets out for where no Tecton Sime has gone before: the Gumgeeville saloon. He isn't quite sure where it is, but assumes that it's probably closer to the center of the town than the Mullins's house. He's assuming that he will be able to find someone who can direct him, when he gets to a more populated section of town.

Seruffin's English instructor at his First Year training camp didn't teach him the adage about "assume" making an ass of u and me.

Littlekid sees a stranger walking down the street. Must be one of the people stuck here from the train.

Seruffin has his cloak wrapped tightly around himself, of course, with his arms inside to keep the retainers as warm as possible. He probably should have put on one of Gerrhonot's wool sweaters over his retainers, but like most Simes, he can't bear the thought of anything restricting his tentacles.

Littlekid thinks there's something strange about the way the stranger is walking. Unlike most people, he's not slipping, sliding, stumbling or showing any awkwardness in moving through the snow.

Seruffin spots two children ahead, and steps up his pace to close the distance.

Seruffin: Excuse me! Could you direct me to the saloon?

Bigbro decides to see how the squirt will handle it.

Littlekid looks at Big Brother.

Bigbro nods, makes "go on" gestures with his hands.

Littlekid: [whispers] I think it's the Sime!

Seruffin frequently finds that a Sime sense of direction isn't as useful as a good set of directions, when dealing with convoluted city streets.

Bigbro: [whispers] Hoarding, you're right. Whatever you do, don't panic!

Seruffin can't zlin much of the childrens' emotions through the retainers, and at a distance.

Littlekid is petrified with fear and tries to get behind Big Brother, so the Sime will kill him first.

Bigbro: It's down the hill right by the crossroads, Sir, er, Tweeb.

Seruffin can understand diving for cover when he sees it, though, despite the Sime tendency to ignore what is seen in favor of what can be zlinned.

Bigbro takes Littlekid's hand.

Seruffin: Thank you. Actually, it's "Hajene", technically. Hajene Seruffin. I'm a channel. Do you know what a channel does?

Bigbro: Not really, Hajene.

Seruffin: I make it safe for Simes and Gens to be together, without hurting each other.

Bigbro whispers to Littlekid, "Stand still, you lorsh!" Curse words cross the borders faster than anything else, even if their exact meanings are lost.

Littlekid: [whispers] But he's a Siiiiiiime!

Bigbro: Um. Hurting. Um, you mean k--. Umm.

Seruffin: Right now, I'm going to help a neighbor of yours. And you've been very helpful to me, which means you're helping your neighbor, too.

Bigbro whispers fiercely "Stand still and shuddup!"

Bigbro: We should all help our neighbors like our own families, Hajene.

Seruffin is starting to get an inkling that he's not quite making the desired impression.

Bigbro: It's my brother here, Hajene. He's not used to Simes.

Bigbro is not used to Simes either, of course, but wishes to come off as a man of the world.

Littlekid bursts into tears.

Littlekid: Let go! He's gonna kill us!

Bigbro: No he isn't. You don't know nothing about it!

Seruffin resists the urge to hug the crying child, as that would be unlikely to stop the tears.

Littlekid: He will! He will!

Bigbro is afraid to let go for fear Littlekid will be hunted and killed, after all.

Seruffin: No. I've never killed anyone, and I never will. I keep other Simes from killing, too.

Littlekid is not listening. He's screaming too loudly.

Bigbro: He's not a Sime! He's a Hajene, so there. You don't know anything about it.

Littlekid: He's the Sime at Vrian's house. His father let the Sime kill him!

Bigbro: [sotto voce, in the ear] If you don't shuddup I'll give you a noogie you'll feel for a week.

Bigbro: [exasperated] And is Mister Jed dead? Is he? Is he dead? Is he? Is he?

Littlekid: He killed him but not dead!

Seruffin: I didn't hurt him at all. You can ask him if you like, and he'll tell you the same thing.

Littlekid: He sucked his life out!

Bigbro: Yeah, maybe I ought to suck your life out, you miser!

Seruffin: I only took some selyn, which I can give to another Sime so that Sime doesn't have to kill anyone.

Bigbro doesn't really follow this, but is beginning to respond to the calm adult tone.

Seruffin: That way, nobody gets hurt. And in a month, Mister Jed will have made more selyn to replace what I took.

Seruffin: It's like cutting hair. When your hair gets cut, it doesn't hurt you at all, and it grows back in a few weeks. That's why you have to get it cut again.

Bigbro says to Littlekid, "You see? It's like cutting hair."

Littlekid sticks his thumb in his mouth but pulls it out again when he realizes it's inside a thick dirty mitten.

Seruffin just hopes the kid doesn't happen to have a hair-cutting phobia to go with his Simephobia.

Littlekid doesn't much like having his hair cut either, but he calms down a bit.

Seruffin is glad to zlin that much. He didn't want to leave an hysterical child behind to pass a garbled message of a Sime roaming the streets on to the town's well-armed adults.

Bigbro: See? See? He's a Hajene, not a demon!

Littlekid wonders how he can make the most of this unique opportunity.

Littlekid: Mr. Hajene, can I see your tentacles?

Bigbro: [sotto voce] Remember the noogie!

Littlekid yanks at his hand, trying to get it out of Big Brother's clutches.

Seruffin addresses the child's request with the same appearance of dignity that he used when explaining to the Gen Senator that the Tecton couldn't make an exception of the donation laws for him.

Seruffin: I can't show them to you just now.

Littlekid: Why not?

Seruffin: Here in Gumgeeville, I have to keep them locked up when I'm outside. See?

Seruffin allows his cape to open, just far enough to show the retainer clamped around his arm.

Bigbro: That looks like metal. Isn't that cold, Hajene?

Seruffin: Yes, it is. Very cold.

Bigbro: ~~ child-level sympathy ~~

Seruffin figures he's made his point, and pulls his arm back inside his cape.

Littlekid: Why do you have to do that? ~~ child level tactlessness ~~

Seruffin: It's the law. It's to help people tell the difference between channels like me, and new Simes that might be dangerous.

Bigbro: "New Simes"? You mean, like, demons?

Bigbro isn't from a CoP family, it's just that he's learned what he knows about Simes on the street.

Seruffin: No, I mean children who grow up and become Simes, but who don't know anything about being a Sime, because they've always lived out here, where there aren't any. Simes like your neighbor, that I'm going to help.

Bigbro: n...n....

Seruffin: Would you like to come along and see?

Bigbro looks at Littlekid to see if he's going to bolt.

Littlekid isn't sure whether he'd be safer sticking with his brother or running like hell.

Bigbro gives Littlekid the hairy eyeball.

Bigbro: [whispers] If I let you go, you cross your arms you won't run?

Littlekid: Yeah.

Bigbro: [whispers] Cross your arms!

Littlekid tries to cross his arms with one hand immobilized in his brother's grip.

Bigbro lets go.

Littlekid complies.

Seruffin observes the ritual with interest.

Seruffin: I've got to go. Come along, if you want.

Seruffin starts off in the direction of the saloon, avoiding the worst of the ice patches and tripping lightly over the ones he can't avoid.

Littlekid looks to his big brother, hoping he won't make him go see the Hajene meet a demon.

Seruffin hasn't spent much time deep out-Territory, and isn't used to having to consider how threatening a Sime's normal walk appears in an all-Gen society.

Bigbro: C'mon. If you run he can run faster. He'll getcha if you don't stick with me.

Bigbro: [fascinated, to himself] Hey, he walks like he's dancing!

Seruffin might not alter his behavior, even if he did know: falling on his arse would be undignified, but falling and hitting the retainers solidly on the ground could be fatal.

Littlekid follows his brother, whimpering and dripping from the eyes and nose.

Bigbro drags a rag out of his pocket.

Bigbro: Here.

Littlekid blows his nose into the rag.

Bigbro: Keep it.

Littlekid: Don't want it.

Bigbro: Keep it and shuddup!

Littlekid slips on the ice, lands on his bum and begins crying loudly.

Littlekid: I wanna go home!

Bigbro: Awright awright. Piggyback? [This is a rare treat.]

Littlekid: Yeah!

Bigbro picks up Littlekid, slings him over his back, face downwards.

Littlekid: WAAAAHHHHHHH! Let me down!

Bigbro sighs. He puts Littlekid down on the ice and kneels beside him.

Bigbro: Boy, are you a lorsh. Climb on.

Littlekid: Okay.

Littlekid does so.

Bigbro rises with Littlekid clinging to his back. He picks his way carefully across the snow and ice.

Seruffin pauses to let the children catch up.

Seruffin: If you want to come, you can, but you have to be very quiet, and not interfere.

Bigbro: Okay, Hajene.

Bigbro: [whispers] Tell him!

Littlekid: Okay.

Seruffin smiles.

Seruffin: Good.

Seruffin continues on his way, taking a bit more care to pick a clear path, when such is available.

Bigbro tromps on, following Seruffin as best he can and keeping his mouth shut.

Churchlady peers out through her lace curtains to see a couple of the neighbour's kids following a strange man down the street.

Seruffin didn't want to let two panicking kids spread rumors around town, but has failed to consider what the sight of them following him would do.

Churchlady doesn't like the unnaturally smooth way the man is moving over the uneven and slippery surfaces. She grabs her coat and boots and prepares to go out to tell her sister (and anyone else she meets) about it as soon as the Sime is out of sight.

Seruffin slows to give Bigbro a chance to pick his way across an icy patch that's hidden under the snow, then picks up the pace again when they are past.

Gerrhonot squints into the bright light as he exits the shadowy saloon with Magit and Jed.

Seruffin zlins Gerrhonot's nager ahead, even through the retainers, and forgets all about the kids and their fears as he hurries towards his Donor.

Magit huddles between them, wanting nothing more than to go back and hide in the cellar.

Jed: We'll just walk over to my house now, Magit, okay?

Gerrhonot: If you get too tired, just tell us, and we'll carry you.

Magit nods shortly, as her stomach does a queasy roll.

Magit: Okay.

Gerrhonot takes the steps slowly. ~~ comfort ~~ safety ~~ encouragement ~~~

Magit is, fortunately, well used to obeying the adults around her without question, an advantage of the Gen system of child-rearing.

Bystander: Hey, Jed, where you going with that Sime?

Jed: What Sime? This is Magit, Virla's kid.

Jed keeps walking, slowly, at Magit's pace.

Bystander: It was Virla's kid, you mean!

Magit is, alas, rapidly becoming a Sime.

Seruffin doesn't like the zlin of the people standing around outside the building from which Gerrhonot has emerged.

Gerrhonot begins to feel like he's getting into the exciting part of one of those magazine stories. He really hopes nobody will do anything violent.

Ralf: Easy now. Jed knows his duty.

Seruffin steps smoothly around the bystanders.

Gerrhonot: ~~~ calm ~~ safe ~~~

Gerrhonot: Hajene!

Seruffin: Hello, Gerrhonot. Is this young Magit? Hello, Jed.

Gerrhonot is really glad to see Seruffin, who can cope with anything, but is also worried that his channel out here in this increasingly hostile environment.

Ralf: If he wants to take the girl home, that's his right, isn't it?

Gerrhonot: Magit, this is Hajene Seruffin, my channel.

Bystander: Girl? What you been smokin', Ralf?

Seruffin tries to look his most urbane, rather difficult when he's walking on ice and his arms are slowly freezing.

Magit looks at Seruffin with frightened eyes.

Bystander: A Sime is a Sime, is all I mean? Ain't that right?

Magit was able to accept Gerrhonot, sort of, but the mere fact that she's becoming a Sime herself doesn't make other Simes less frightening.

Ralf: I may be smokin', but I ain't jokin'.

Gerrhonot: Hajene, I think we should get to Mr. Mullins's house as fast as we can.

Seruffin: Yes.

Seruffin raises his voice so that he can be overheard.

Gerrhonot: Magit, Simes are really strong. Hajene Seruffin can carry you.

Ralf: What I say is, Jed's a good ol' boy. Jed knows what's right. Jed'll do what's right.

Seruffin: Come, Magit. There's still plenty of time before anything exciting happens, and you'll be much more comfortable inside, where it's warm.

Jed: Hey, Ralf. How you doing?

Bystander: Jed's a Simelo.... [cuts off abruptly]

Seruffin draws closer, trying to zlin Magit's weak nager in the cluttered ambient.

Magit leans hard against Gerrhonot, shrinking away from Seruffin.

Ralf: Hey, Jed. I know you'll do what's right, and I'm here to see that what's right gets done.

Seruffin decides that this is not the time or the place to press the issue.

Ralf: Good ol' boy Jed.

Gerrhonot: It's okay, Magit.

Ralf: Hey, neighbors, whaddaya say? Is Jed a good ol' boy?

Seruffin checks out the bystanders again, and doesn't like what he's zlinning, at all.

Jed: How's the wife? She over the flu yet?

Seruffin: Gerrhonot, can you carry her? [not quite whispered, but too quiet to overhear]

Jed is trying to distract these guys while the others get away.

Ralf: Getting better, she's getting betting better better, getting betting.

Gerrhonot: Sure, Hajene. Here, Magit, I'll pick you up, okay?

Magit has turned even paler than before, under the assault.

Bystander: What I say is, what I say is a Sime is a Sime is a Sime, is a Sime, you know what I mean? That's all I mean.

Magit: Okay.

Ralf: Yeah, and what I say is, Jed is Jed is Jed.

Magit is already Sime enough that being close to a Donor-grade nager is comforting, in a way that nothing else is, at present.

Ralf: 'N Magit is Magit. Is Magit.

Gerrhonot picks up the girl and heads carefully down the street, as fast as he can, considering that he can't see his feet.

Seruffin walks at Gerrhonot's elbow, ready to steady him if he slips. He hopes that Jed will be all right, when there aren't any Simes around as provocation.

Jed: You hear anything from your son lately? How's he doing in New Washington?

Ralf: [sings] Poor Jed is dead, poor Jed is dead, is dead ...

Jed: You silly bugger, do I look dead to you?

Bystander: He ain't dead, you silly miser! He's a-walkin' down the street! With the Sime! And the other Sime! And the dummy!

Henree steps out of his saloon.

Henree: What's going on out here?

Ralf: Jed is dead is Jed is a Sime, a Sime, is Magit a Sime?

Bystander: A Sime is a Sime!

Jed: Hi, Henree. I can tell these guys haven't been drinking your brew.

Ralf: [sings] Poor Magit is dead, poor poor Magit is dead

Henree: Hello, Jed, Ralf. I'll be opening in another few minutes, now that my cellar's clear.

Bystander: Yeah, the dummy! A Sime! A Sime! The Sime and the dummy!

Henree: I must say, it was real nice of that crazy feller to get rid of the girl. Even if he isn't too bright.

Ralf: [sings] Poor Ralf is dead, poor boiled Ralf is dead

Bystander: What I say is what I say, is what I say I say. Is a Sime.

Henree: You can't die yet, Ralf! You still owe plenty on your tab.

Jed can see through Henree's act, even if the rest of the little crowd can't.

Ralf: Oh. Me. Owe. Me. You owe me? You owe me, you Henree? Henree owe me?

Bystander: No, he don't owe you, you owe he! Him. You owe the Sime! You owe the dummy!

Henree is careful not to glance down the street, where Seruffin and Gerrhonot are making their way.

Jed: See what happens when the saloon opens late? These guys go hitting the paint thinner again.

Ralf: I don't owe no dummy no nothing no Sime no Sime!

Jed: Henree, your saloon is the saviour of this community.

Bystander: Dummee owe me, dummee owe meeeeee

Ralf: Sime is a Sime is a Gen is a Gen is a Sime....

Bystander: What you talkin' 'bout, Ralf?

Henree: Ralf, you're not making any more sense than your chickens.

Ralf: [belligerent] You call me a chicken? You call me a chicken? I'll see thee damned ere I call thee chicken!

Henree: No, I said you weren't making sense.

Bystander: Ralf's a chicken, Ralf's a chicken, Ralf's a chicken, Ralf's a chicken chicken

Bystander: Tuck tuck tuck tuck tuck CAWK CAWK CAWK

Henree: But you never did, much.

Ralf: Chicken!

Bystander: Tuck tuck tuck tuck tuck tuck tuck CAWK CAWK CAWK CAWK

Henree: Come on in, boys. A man shouldn't have to drink alone, when his granddaughter....

Bystander: Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Ralf?

Henree breaks off, and shrugs.

Jed: Better get inside before you freeze what brains you got left.

Henree: First drinks today are on the house. Let's hold a proper wake for poor Magit.

Ralf: On the house the house, on the house, on the roof, the roof, the roof.

Ralf goes into the saloon

Bystander: [sings] It's me it's me it's me oh Lord, standin' in the need of drink...

Bystander follows Ralf, leaning to the right about 5 degrees.

Jed debates whether he should take advantage of the free drink, or try to catch up to his boarders and run interference for them.

Jed ducks into the saloon.

Jed: Hey, Henree, take that free beer off my tab. I'll be back later.

Jed goes back out and tries to catch up with Seruffin and Gerrhonot.

Seruffin has been hurrying Gerrhonot along as much as practical.

Gerrhonot's arms are starting to tremble from muscle fatigue, and the rest of him is shivering because his cloak is open while he holds Magit in his arms. ~~ calm ~~~ safe ~~~ hopeful ~~~

Magit is doing a pretty good boneless-cat routine.

Seruffin: It's not much further. ~~ encouraging ~~

Gerrhonot: Hajene, I don't think I can carry her much longer.

Gerrhonot is very good at keeping the ~~ freezing ~~ and ~~ muscle pain ~~~ out of his field.

Seruffin reaches for Magit.

Seruffin: Here, let me take her.

Magit is barely conscious, and too cold and miserable to make much objection.

Gerrhonot carefully transfers the child to Seruffin's arms. He hopes Seruffin can do this in retainers without hurting himself.

Seruffin takes her equally carefully, and steps up his pace as soon as he's sure she's secure.

Gerrhonot feels like he's floating, after handing over the burden. He can walk a lot faster now that he can see his footing. ~~ support ~~ safety ~~~ optimism ~~

Gerrhonot: [in Simelan] How is she, Hajene? I tried to keep her calm so she wouldn't use too much selyn. I got her to sleep a little.

Seruffin: She'll make it, thanks to you.

Seruffin is pretty sure of that, anyway.

Gerrhonot: ~~ relief ~~ happiness ~~~

Gerrhonot: Hajene, I was worried that if I had to serve her, we might get out of phase and they'd split us up... I know I overmatch you... but I don't know if there's enough extra for a renSime... But I figured I had to save her life...

Seruffin: You did exactly as you ought to have, Gerrhonot. And it's worked out rather well. I'll be able to serve her, and we'll stay in phase.

Bigbro has trailed behind throughout, though he avoided the crowd at the inn. He put down Littlekid some time ago.

Gerrhonot: Um, there's some kids following us.

Seruffin turns his head to look, being unable to zlin a child's nager through the retainers and Gerrhonot's nager.

Gerrhonot: And Mr. Mullins is catching up.

Seruffin nods to Bigbro in a friendly fashion.

Seruffin: Good.

Seruffin doesn't stop, though.

Bigbro: Yeah, Mister, we're going with Hajene Surfing to see him make a demon into a New Sime.

Seruffin didn't like the scene in front of the saloon, and would prefer to get to Jed's place without further incidents.

Jed catches up to the children.

Jed: What are you kids doing?

Bigbro: Hey, Mister Jed. Hajene asked us to come and we promised to be quiet.

Jed wonders how they came up with that.

Jed: Well, that's Magit, and she'd going to be a Sime, and Hajene Seruffin is going to help her so she doesn't have to kill. But I don't believe he needs your help for that.

Bigbro: Magit is the de...New Sime?

Jed: Yes. You know Magit, don't you?

Bigbro: But Hajene said!

Jed: I don't think your parents would be very happy to know that you had anything to do with this.

Seruffin turns his head.

Seruffin: Perhaps it would be better if you went home, and came to see Magit tomorrow, if your parents permit it.

Bigbro recognizes adult force majeure when he sees it. He doesn't think in those terms, of course.

Bigbro: Okay, Mister Jed. See ya later, Hajene.

Bigbro heads off for home, Littlekid following closely. ~~ regret resignation ~~

Jed: How is she?

Seruffin: She'll be all right, if we can get her inside soon.

Jed: Almost there.

Gerrhonot: Mr. Mullins, can you get us a pot of warm water when we get back? I'm afraid Hajene Seruffin's tentacles are freezing in those retainers.

Jed: Shit, I never thought of that. Sure, I'll do that.

Gerrhonot: Thanks.

Vrian is in the barn, shoveling out the plow horse's stall.

Vrian has given up protesting his brother's insistence that his own task of grooming the horse is a fair equivalent, chore-wise. He thinks that if it was, Bart would be willing to switch off occasionally.

Bart is gathering eggs, having already tended the goats.

Vrian has another big-brother-related issue to tackle, however.

Vrian: Hey, Bart!

Bart: Yeah?

Vrian: What was it like, with the Sime? Really, not Dad's version.

Vrian knows well his father's talent for telling stories.

Bart comes out of the coop with the basket of eggs.

Bart: It was good.

Vrian: ...Huh?

Bart: It felt good.

Vrian hadn't expected that response.

Vrian: But Dad said he didn't feel anything at all.

Bart: I didn't feel him taking the selyn, but I kind of liked doing it.

Bart takes the bucket of water back into the coop to fill the water trough.

Vrian: Why? From what Ma said, there's not much to like.

Vrian was the unfortunate recipient of a more complete account of his mother's attempt to donate than the rest of the family got.

Bart: I dunno. He's a good guy. I wasn't afraid at all. I liked the way the tentacles felt.

Vrian isn't exempt from ~~ prurient curiosity ~~

Vrian: What did they feel like?

Vrian pauses in his shoveling, the better not to miss any details.

Bart: Well, the handling tentacles felt warm and strong. First he just held my arms loosely with them, then he tightened them up, but not so it hurt, just sort of snug.

Vrian: They'd have to be strong, or Ma wouldn't have been bruised like that. Why didn't he bruise you?

Bart: I didn't try to pull away or struggle or anything. I stayed still like he said. He didn't bruise Dad either.

Vrian: Well, no, he didn't.

Bart: We both just stayed calm and did what the guy told us to, and it worked out fine.

Vrian thinks about that, for a moment.

Vrian: It sounds like it'd be hard, to stay still when a Sime was doing that to you.

Vrian's voice has just a tinge of admiration for his father and brother.

Bart: Well, if you're afraid it would be, but I wasn't afraid.

Vrian: Why weren't you afraid? Dad was. I could tell. And Ma was terrified.

Bart: Well, Dad had never seen anybody donate. He just had stories about it. But I saw him do it, and our Sime didn't hurt him at all.

Vrian: He hurt Ma, so he's not perfectly safe.

Bart: You remember what my foot looked like after the horse stepped on it?

Vrian: Yeah. Purple as a ripe plum, it was.

Bart: Ma got bruised, but it wasn't even that bad. A Sime could kill somebody in a couple seconds. It's not the same thing at all.

Bart: Like Dad said about Ma's cousin and spiders. If a spider landed on me, I'd just brush it off. She'd start screaming and just go hysterical. Ma's like that about Simes.

Bart: Ma sure was brave to hide all that and rent the room, and then to try to keep her word to Dad about donating. She hid from all of us how scared she was.

Vrian: And you're the opposite, and that's why you weren't afraid? Not even when he had you, and was taking your stuff?

Bart: I dunno. I figured even if it was bad, I could put up with it for a couple minutes, to make some money for the family, like Dad did. But it wasn't bad at all. It felt good, to have the Sime touch me like that. I didn't expect it.

Vrian: I'm kind of glad that I'm not a Gen yet.

Vrian is ~~ ashamed ~~

Vrian: I don't know if I'd be like you, or like Ma, but I don't really want to find out, just now. Does that make me a coward?

Bart: No, I don't think so. It's not like there's something you have to do but you're afraid to do it. You've got time to get used to the idea.

Bart: You weren't afraid to shake hands with our Sime, were you?

Vrian shuffles his feet.

Vrian: Well, a little. I'd never met a Sime before. You just walked up and shook his hand, though.

Bart: I was pretty nervous, too. But when you look at his face, and don't think about him being a Sime, you can see that he's a good man.

Vrian: And he wasn't even wearing them safety things that Simes are supposed to wear.

Bart: Well, I didn't want to look like I was afraid of him. And I wanted him to know that I'd been raised right, had good manners.

Bart: And I knew Dad wouldn't have brought us there if he thought we were in danger. And Ma wouldn't have brought somebody into our house that would hurt her sons.

Bart: So even though I was nervous, I knew in my mind that I was safe, so I could put up a good front.

Vrian: Do you think the Sime knew that it was an act?

Bart: Probably, now that I know they can read emotions. But he has good manners too. He didn't want to embarrass us, so he acted like he believed I wasn't nervous.

Vrian: So when did you stop being afraid of him?

Bart: I guess after I saw Dad donate. He was so brave to do that, just on his dad's stories, to bring in some money for us.

Vrian: I thought that was scary. Against a Sime, he couldn't have done a thing, if it had gone wrong. Even if it was an accident.

Bart: It was kind of scary, but you saw how well Dad did. Just like our grandad must have done, all that time ago. Just imagine all those soldiers, ordered to donate. Some of them must have been terrified, but they all did it. And none of them were killed.

Vrian: They didn't have any choice, Dad says. It was that or be shot for mutiny. I guess they thought even a Sime was a better risk than that.

Bart: Yeah. It must have been awful for any of them that were scared like Ma was. But they all did it and none of them were killed, and then when they went into battle, they were a lot safer.

Vrian: Bart, I'm afraid that I'll find out I'm like Ma.

Bart: C'mere and sit down with me.

Vrian abandons his shovel, and follows Bart over to a hay bale.

Bart sits with his brother and puts his arm around him.

Vrian: What if I am afraid of Simes, Bart? Like Ma is? And what if I don't find it out until it's too late?

Bart: I don't think you are. But I think we should talk to Hajene Seruffin about it.

Vrian: No!

Vrian: I mean, we shouldn't bother him about a little thing like this. It'd be rude.

Bart: Look, Vrian. I'm gonna tell you something it should probably be Dad's to tell.

Vrian never could resist that kind of lead-in, and listens ~~ attentively ~~

Bart: Do you know what the most important thing was that our Sime did for us? Not the rent and not the money for donations?

Vrian: No, what?

Bart: You think. What else did he do?

Vrian thinks those are the only two things Ma seems to think are positive aspects.

Vrian: He said you were a Gen. And that I....wasn't.

Bart: How do you think our parents felt about that?

Vrian: They were real glad, about you.

Vrian is a bit ~~ jealous ~~

Bart hugs his brother.

Bart: There's something I want us both to talk to our Sime about, together. I want us to learn how to tell early if somebody is becoming a Sime. If that happens to you, I want to take you to the Ford in time, so the channel can help you not kill and not die.

Vrian's eyes widen.

Vrian: I'm not gonna be a Sime!

Bart: Well, probably not, but it could happen. I want you to remember that you're still my brother no matter what happens.

Vrian: Even if I turn Sime, and we can't get to Ford in time, and I kill you? That could happen, you know, if you try to help me. Maybe our Sime's friend can't be killed, but you can.

Bart: Well, if I'm dead it won't matter what I think. But if we can find out how to tell early, and you come to me even if you aren't sure, we'll have plenty of time to get to the Ford.

Bart: I suppose I could tie you up or something, just in case, okay?

Vrian thinks that over.

Vrian: All right. But I'm still gonna be a Gen.

Bart: Probably. But we'll talk to our Sime together, and find out about turning Sime, and he can talk to us about turning Gen, too.

Vrian frowns.

Vrian: And when I am, I'm gonna have to try to donate, aren't I? Ma can't, and we really need the money. We could lose the farm.

Vrian, like most farm-raised kids, views the loss of a few acres of marginal farmland as a disaster.

Bart: Dad feels really bad because he thought he was just teasing Ma into donating, and it was so hard for her but he didn't know it. I don't think he'd ever try to get you to do it if you didn't want to.

Bart: With me and Dad both donating, we should be okay. And you've probably got a lot of time until you turn Gen anyway.

Vrian is ~~ glad ~~, and heartily ~~ ashamed ~~ of it.

Vrian: I just...don't know if I could just sit there and let a Sime do that to me.

Bart: I think if you get to know our Sime a little better, maybe let him touch you with his tentacles, you won't be so nervous about it, but we'll ask him.

Bart: You know he can't possibly hurt you, because you don't have any selyn for him to take, right?

Vrian: Well, he couldn't hurt me that way, anyway.

Bart: Right. I liked the way it felt. Maybe you would too.

Vrian: It doesn't seem like the sort of thing that ought to feel good, somehow.

Bart: Or maybe you'll just feel the way Dad feels - it's no big deal for him.

Bart tries to decide whether he should tell Vrian his secret.

Bart: I talked to Gerrhonot a little. Where he grew up, most people belong to the Church of Unity. They believe that God wants Simes and Gens to get along and help each other. Or else they wouldn't be made so they can.

Vrian: I've heard they're strange, hardly like a proper church at all. Well, not like the churches here, anyway.

Vrian: Is that why Gerrhonot went to work for a Sime?

Bart: I think he did because he has a talent for it, and he likes the work. Channels are like doctors in-T, and Gerrhonot helps them take care of sick people. He says he likes it better than being a shepherd. And he gets to travel around a lot too.

Vrian: I don't know if I'd like having to travel all the time. Hard to keep a farm up, that way.

Bart: Well, you don't have to be a Donor like Gerrhonot either.

Vrian nods.

Bart: So how about us talking to our Sime about turning Gen or Sime? You okay with that?

Vrian thinks about it.

Vrian: Well, maybe. If you do the talking.

Bart: Okay. I'll do the talking, but you can talk too if you want.

Bart is looking forward to an opportunity to be close to Seruffin again.

Vrian thinks this is an interesting change from Bart's usual command to "shut up, squirt". He wonders what the catch is.

Bart feels really grown up, advising his kid brother like this.

Vrian is, like most little brothers, disinclined to look at such aberrations too closely, however.

Vrian: Sure, Bart.

Bart thinks that whatever happens, the two boarders have made a turning point in his life.

Bart: Good. You about done here? Let's spread some fresh straw and go in and warm up.

Vrian too, is contemplating how normal his life was, before his mother took in the two boarders nobody else in town would take.

Vrian is, however, still young enough to be easily distracted, and it is chilly in the barn, despite the heat generated by the animals.

Vrian: Sure, Bart.

Vrian thinks that it's been a very strange day, all told, and that it may just be strange enough for Bart to help with the horse's stall.

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