Stranded in Gumgeeville: Episode 8

Bart and Vrian come in from the barn and find the house strangely empty. They don't expect Jed to be home, but their mother usually is this time of day.

Seruffin has finally gotten Magit to sleep, or at least doze, now that she is warm and reasonably safe. He's anxiously monitoring her tentacle development, but so far, things are going pretty well. He amends his assessment: pretty well for an untrained out-T kid who's not at all happy about becoming Sime.

Gerrhonot got thoroughly chilled carrying the girl but is trying not to let it into his field more than he can help.

Gerrhonot: Hajene, can I make us some tea?

Seruffin looks up at Gerrhonot.

Gerrhonot: ~~ shiver ~~~

Seruffin: Yes, please. You're still chilled. I should have sent you out to get warm before, but the girl seemed to find you reassuring.

Seruffin is ~~ contrite ~~.

Gerrhonot: It's okay. It's more important that she's feeling better.

Seruffin: You are a treasure, Gerrhonot.

Gerrhonot smiles. He rummages around in the luggage for Seruffin's black canister of trin.

Seruffin wishes that he, too, could leave the room to get warm around the stove, but heat really isn't nearly as critical for a Sime. He's mostly mighty sick of staring at the walls.

Gerrhonot: I like being your Donor. I'll make a whole pot. ~~ happiness ~~ affection ~~~

Seruffin: Thank you.

Gerrhonot is glad that his nager can speak for him so he doesn't have to express himself in words.

Seruffin has had enough excitement for one day, with the mob in front of the saloon, and there is still a changeover to go.

Gerrhonot leaves the bedroom, closing the door behind him.

Gerrhonot: Oh, hi guys.

Bart: Hi, Gerrhonot. Where's my mother?

Vrian: Is she all right?

Gerrhonot: Um. She's at Virla's house, visiting. She's fine.

Gerrhonot: Can I make a pot of tea? I just need water, I've got the tea here.

Gerrhonot displays the canister.

Vrian looks at it curiously, but he has been brought up to be polite to guests.

Vrian: Sure. There's a teapot in the cabinet.

Vrian goes to fetch it.

Gerrhonot: Thank you.

Gerrhonot goes over to the stove and lifts the kettle, confirming that it's full. He puts it over the firebox and mends the fire. He leans against the stove and shivers.

Bart: Are you all right?

Vrian sets the teapot on the table, within convenient reach of Gerrhonot at the stove.

Vrian: You look cold.

Gerrhonot: I got chilled outside.

Gerrhonot tries to figure out how to explain the whole thing without alarming the kids.

Gerrhonot: Um, do you know Virla's daughter Magit?

Vrian: Sure.

Gerrhonot: Well, she's very lucky.

Vrian: Huh?

Gerrhonot: Because me and Hajene Seruffin are here.

Gerrhonot hopes he's doing this right.

Vrian can't think, for a moment, of any particular connection between Magit and Seruffin. He gets it, then, and his eyes widen.

Gerrhonot: Um, well, I went down to the saloon again with your dad...

Vrian: Magit's a Sime?

Gerrhonot: Well, no, not yet.

Vrian: ...not yet?

Gerrhonot: But um, when we got there, Mr Henree said the saloon was closed.

Bart: Let him tell the story, Vrian.

Gerrhonot: She'll be okay. She's very lucky.

Vrian subsides.

Gerrhonot: Mr. Henree locked Magit in the cellar where she ran when he tried to shoot her. He was going to let her die of attrition! That's the most horrible way for a Sime to die.

Gerrhonot doesn't try to suppress his horror, and it comes out in his voice and expression.

Vrian: Well, he couldn't go into the cellar after her, could he? She'd have killed him.

Gerrhonot: I got him to let me go down there to help her. And your dad came back here to tell Hajene Seruffin what was happening.

Vrian: You went into the cellar after a changeover?

Gerrhonot: Sure.

Vrian can't decide if Gerrhonot is very brave, or stark raving mad.

Gerrhonot: I didn't want her to die! And Mr. Henree said he wouldn't let a Sime into his saloon. So I figured it was up to me.

Bart is disturbed, but at the same time admiring.

Vrian: But what if she'd attacked you? I mean, she's not safe like Hajene Seruffin.

Vrian isn't completely convinced that Seruffin is safe, but he's obviously much safer than a berserker.

Gerrhonot: Well, I could serve her, but it's a lot better for Simes to start off with channel's transfer. And Hajene can zlin her and tell how the changeover is progressing and help her better than I can alone.

Gerrhonot checks the kettle to see if it's about to boil. Not yet.

Vrian: So he went into the cellar also?

Gerrhonot: Well, no, Mr. Henree said he wouldn't let any Simes in. And I didn't know how far along she was, so I went down there, and asked your Dad to tell Hajene what was happening.

Gerrhonot: I went down and talked to her, and helped her, and waited to hear back. But it was cold down there, and we were lying on the floor together and I got kind of chilled.

Bart: So what did Dad do?

Gerrhonot: Well, he came back here and told Hajene, and got the bag of medicines for me in case I needed anything.

Gerrhonot isn't quite sure what happened next.

Gerrhonot: And your Dad asked your Ma if we could bring Magit here for her changeover and your Ma said yes, and went to see Magit's Ma to tell her what's happening.

Vrian gets to the point.

Vrian: So why are you back here?

Vrian looks towards the door of his bedroom fearfully.

Gerrhonot: Well, your dad came back to the saloon and said that Hajene said that if it was still okay to move Magit, we should bring her back here. So we came upstairs, and went out in the street.

Vrian: There's a berserker in there?

Gerrhonot: She won't be a berserker. Hajene will take good care of her.

Bart: What happened next?

Gerrhonot: Well, when we got outside, Hajene was coming up the street all by himself and there were some guys outside the saloon making a lot of noise, and I was really worried, but it was okay. Your dad is a real smart man, brave too.

Vrian: Is Dad all right?

Vrian knows how ugly the town adults can get where berserkers are concerned.

Gerrhonot: Yeah. He kept the guys at the saloon occupied talking to him, and me and Hajene brought Magit here, and your dad caught up to us.

Gerrhonot: We had to carry her and I got really cold with my cloak open like that, and Hajene was really suffering in his metal retainers when he was carrying her. But everything's okay now.

Vrian: So where's Dad?

Gerrhonot checks the kettle, which is now boiling, and picks it up.

Vrian doesn't feel very safe, with both parents gone and two Simes in his bedroom.

Gerrhonot: He went back to the saloon to keep people calmed down about all this commotion. I guess this sort of thing never happened like this here, and some people would be upset.

Vrian: "Upset" is hardly the word for it.

Gerrhonot sets the kettle back on the stove, measures some trin into the teapot, and adds boiling water.

Vrian: Did he say when he'd be back?

Vrian is ~~ anxious ~~ to have a trustworthy adult in the house--and he doesn't count Big Brother as one, despite their recent chat.

Gerrhonot: No. But I guess he'll be home for supper as usual, unless something comes up.

Gerrhonot: Do you guys want to try some of this trin? Everybody drinks it in-T.

Vrian: That won't be for hours!

Vrian's voice betrays some of his nervousness.

Bart: I'd like to try it.

Vrian shoots a glance at Bart, but doesn't want to be a coward.

Vrian: Me, too, then.

Bart: Gerrhonot, uh, how come my mother let you bring Magit here, when she's so nervous about Simes?

Gerrhonot: I wasn't here. You'll have to ask her or your dad or Hajene.

Gerrhonot looks around for cups or mugs.

Vrian automatically moves to fetch them from the cupboard, since setting the table is his chore.

Bart is a bit suspicious that he isn't being told the whole story.

Bart: Can I go in there and talk to him now?

Vrian is now sure Big Brother has gone crazy.

Vrian: Bart, you know Ma wouldn't like that.

Gerrhonot: I can ask, but probably it's better that you don't go in, in case you upset Magit, even if you are low field.

Vrian: Low field? What does that mean?

Gerrhonot: She's sleeping right now, so maybe Hajene can come out.

Vrian: Come out? You mean, here? In the kitchen?

Vrian shifts from foot to foot, unable to control his ~~ unease ~~

Gerrhonot finds it difficult when he has to answer several questions at once.

Gerrhonot: Um, low field means that Bart doesn't have a lot of selyn because he just donated and he hasn't made much more yet. So his nager has less effect on Simes.

Vrian: Oh.

Gerrhonot knows that Seruffin is a bit stir-crazy in the bedroom, despite his earlier outing, but really doesn't want him to have to put retainers on again.

Bart finds the idea of sitting with Seruffin at the table appealing.

Bart: It's okay with me if he comes out here and has tea with us.

Vrian shoots Bart a ~~ surprised ~~ look.

Bart: Why not?

Vrian: In Ma's kitchen?

Bart: Well, we can talk to him about some of the things we talked about in the barn, right?

Vrian: Umm....well, I guess so.

Vrian thinks that at least in the kitchen, he can keep more room between himself and Seruffin than would be possible in the cramped confines of the bedroom.

Gerrhonot: Guys, I don't want him to have to put on his retainers again... they really hurt him. Today in the cold his tentacles got real bad. Your dad gave him a bucket of warm water to soak his arms, but they're still uncomfortable.

Vrian is aware that he's being less than hospitable.

Vrian: Does he need more water?

Gerrhonot: No, he's okay. The water helped him warm his arms up. If I put the sign on that door, he can come out here without the retainers....

Gerrhonot gestures to the outside door and looks at the boys hopefully.

Vrian freezes a moment, as he considers the implications of that.

Bart: It's okay with me. [determinedly]

Vrian shoots a glance at Big Brother.

Bart looks calm and determined.

Vrian learned early, and painfully, that it doesn't pay to cross Big Brother, even when he's in a good mood. He knows that he's outvoted this time, one to one.

Bart: Don't worry, Vrian. You're not a Gen so he can't do anything to you with his tentacles. And you saw how he keeps them in most of the time even in the bedroom.

Vrian really didn't need his brother practically calling him a coward in front of the company. He's aware, alas, that there is only way to prove that he's not.

Vrian: All right, then.

Gerrhonot: Okay, I'll tell Hajene.

Gerrhonot goes to the bedroom door, signals softly nagerically, and enters.

Seruffin looks up.

Gerrhonot: Um, Hajene, I made a pot of tea.

Seruffin: Did you get warmed up? ~~ kindly ~~

Gerrhonot: Yes, I leaned against the stove for a while.

Seruffin: Magit's still sleeping.

Gerrhonot: Um, Bart and Vrian said it's okay if you come out and have tea with us at the table.

Gerrhonot: I can move the sign to the other door.

Seruffin raises an eyebrow.

Seruffin: They agreed to declare the whole house as Sime Territory?

Gerrhonot: Well, for now I guess. I told them that I didn't want you to have to put the retainers on again.

Seruffin: They're very considerate boys.

Gerrhonot: If you want I can just bring you the tea here.

Seruffin: I'm not all that surprised that Bart would agree, but his brother is less sure about me. Are you sure that he's all right with the idea?

Gerrhonot: He seems kind of nervous, but he's still a child. So I don't know why he would be afraid of you.

Gerrhonot knows that a Sime can kill a child, but the concept of Seruffin acting like a junct in attrition is just unimaginable.

Seruffin: He's grown up only knowing Simes as berserkers, and knowing that he might become one. It's more surprising that young Bart is not afraid.

Gerrhonot smiles.

Gerrhonot: Well, I know how he feels, I guess.

Seruffin: Perhaps I should wait until Jed gets back, but I admit, it would do both Magit and myself good if I were to step outside for a bit.

Gerrhonot: Maybe you can explain to them what happened here when Mr Mullins came back to tell you what was happening. They don't understand why their mother would let us bring Magit here when she's so nervous about Simes.

Seruffin stands, stretching, then retracts his tentacles.

Seruffin: I admit, I'm not sure of the details, myself. I gather she feels a special obligation to the girl, or perhaps to her mother. Miz Mullins isn't one to let her fears stand in the way of her obligations, as we both know.

Gerrhonot: ~~ sympathy ~~ chagrin ~~~ support ~~~

Gerrhonot: Should I move the sign, then?

Seruffin: Yes, you should.

Gerrhonot: Okay.

Gerrhonot opens the door, peels the tape off, carries the sign to the outer door and applies it. Then he hurries back to protect his channel.

Bart watches this with ~~ anticipation ~~

Vrian watches Gerrhonot placing the sign with more ~~ nervousness ~~ than he cares to admit.

Seruffin sheathes his tentacles, which are still a bit red and swollen from the cold, and follows Gerrhonot out into the kitchen.

Gerrhonot watches Seruffin carefully for cues.

Seruffin: Hello, Bart, Vrian. It's very kind of you to allow me to come out and join you.

Bart: You're welcome, Hajene. Here, you and Gerrhonot sit on the bench on the stove side, it's warmer.

Gerrhonot slides onto the bench and makes room for his channel.

Bart sits opposite them, next to his brother.

Seruffin sits next to Gerrhonot, glad that the bench is small enough that he can sit close to his Donor without being obvious about it.

Gerrhonot pours tea into four cups. ~~ support ~~

Gerrhonot: See if you like it. [to the boys]

Gerrhonot gratefully wraps his hands around his mug. He's still feeling chilled.

Vrian takes a cup, sniffing at it curiously. He thinks it smells strange, but at least it's hot, and it gives him something to do with his hands.

Bart takes a cautious sip. It's a strange taste, but not unpleasant.

Vrian takes heart, and sips as well.

Bart: So this is what people drink in-T?

Seruffin: Well, a lot of them. It's like coffee, out here. Most people drink it, at least socially.

Bart: It tastes kind of strange but I think I like it.

Vrian: It's okay.

Vrian has a second sip to be polite. He shoots a glance at Seruffin's sheathed tentacles.

Bart doesn't think it would be polite to just start talking about life and death issues like changeover, but he isn't sure how to do small talk with a channel.

Vrian is finding himself the victim of culture shock, sitting at his own kitchen table across from a Sime.

Seruffin notes Bart's dilemma.

Seruffin: Is something bothering you, Bart?

Bart: Uh. Me and Vrian.... well.... uh... we don't really know much about changeover....

Seruffin: I see.

Seruffin thinks he does.

Bart: We were talking out in the barn today... while we were doing the chores....

Seruffin: I expect they don't teach you very much about it, in school?

Bart: No. People don't talk about it much, except that it's our duty to tell our parents if it's happening so they can.....

Seruffin waits patiently for Bart to get around to asking whatever he wants to ask.

Vrian: Shoot us.

Bart: Yeah.

Vrian, being still a child, can't afford to use the euphemisms the adults use for that process.

Bart: Uh... Vrian will probably be a Gen like me.... but I told him that if we can find out how to tell early, I'll take him to the Ford...

Bart: He's afraid he might kill me but we figure if I tie him up....

Seruffin: You might damage his tentacles, that way.

Bart: I don't have a rifle yet, but I don't... I don't think I want one anymore....

Bart: So if you can tell us how to tell early... And what we can do so he doesn't have to be afraid that he'll... kill me....

Seruffin wonders how much he should tell the boys, and by extension, all the children of Gumgeeville.

Bart stares into his cup.

Seruffin doesn't approve of the current slaughter of changeover victims, but he also doesn't want to be responsible for kids getting themselves killed while taking insane chances out of ignorance.

Gerrhonot waits for his channel to come up with the perfect answer. ~~ trust ~~ admiration ~~~ support ~~

Seruffin is, alas, aware that with no Sime Center in Gumgeeville, there is no "perfect" answer.

Seruffin: Well, the earliest symptom of changeover can only be detected by another Sime: a drop in field strength as selyn begins to be consumed.

Seruffin: At that point, the new Sime is usually aware of nothing but feeling a bit "off". You know: the way you do when you didn't get enough sleep, or eat something that disagrees with you. That's followed by nausea, fever, and a bit later, sore arms.

Vrian thinks that the whole thing sounds awful, just like you'd expect of turning Sime.

Seruffin: It takes a couple of hours to ride to Ford, doesn't it?

Bart: Well, we couldn't get there at all, now, except maybe with snowshoes. But after a few sleighs break trail, it wouldn't be too bad. Maybe three or four hours at worst.

Seruffin: If you started out when the fever and nausea begin, you should be able to reach Ford in plenty of time, then.

Bart puts his arm around his brother.

Seruffin: Of course, there are a lot of illnesses that result in fever and nausea, so you might have a false alarm.

Bart: Promise you'll tell me, Vrian? I don't care if it's stomach flu or anything.

Seruffin: The channel at Ford won't care, either. Most people in Sime Territory would go to a channel for stomach flu, anyway.

Vrian leans a little closer to his brother for comfort.

Vrian: All right, I'll tell you. But I'm gonna be Gen. ~~ desperation ~~

Bart: Sure you are. But it will be an adventure to go to the Ford, even with the stomach flu, won't it?

Vrian: It'd be a lot more fun if I was well. [logically]

Vrian knows Bart likes to think of himself as a hero, but Vrian would prefer not to be a victim in need of rescue.

Bart: Dad and I will be going in every month. You can probably go in with us some time. Then you can find out as soon as you turn Gen and won't have to worry about it.

Seruffin: Bart, you are very brave to want to help your brother if he goes through changeover instead, but there's something I want you to promise me.

Seruffin is ~~ very serious ~~

Bart looks up.

Bart: Yes, Hajene?

Seruffin: You're an adult, now. At least for now, until Gerrhonot puts our sign back and this becomes Gen Territory again. I want you to promise me that you will exercise good adult judgment.

Seruffin knows a bit about how to get cooperation from a teenager.

Bart is ~~ puzzled ~~ about just what Seruffin is specifically asking him to do.

Seruffin: Before you try to help your brother, or any other changeover, I want you to consider very carefully whether you really can get to Ford in time.

Bart hadn't thought about helping other children as well.

Seruffin: If you have serious doubts, don't try. It isn't worth getting killed, when the person you're trying to help will be hunted down and murdered, anyway.

Bart feels sick at the idea of promising to help a child, then turning him over to adults with guns to be murdered. He feels a lot less glad to be an 'adult' even in-Territory.

Seruffin: If the tentacles are visible as distinct lumps, then it's too late to get to Ford. And Bart...a bullet really is kinder than dying of attrition.

Bart: I... I felt so... free... when you told me I was a Gen.... I didn't have to worry about turning SIme any more.... But now I'm an adult.... it's a lot worse, isn't it.... To have to be afraid of kids... to murder them....

Seruffin: That's true in Gumgeeville, yes. It's better in Sime Territory, these days.

Bart finds himself about to cry, to his utter horror and disgust.

Bart: If I went in-T, and learned how to... do what Gerrhonot does.... I could come back here and help kids....

Seruffin: No, Bart. Gerrhonot is a Donor; he works with channels. If you decide to apply for Donor's training, you'll be working out of a Sime Center. And it probably won't be in Gumgeeville.

Bart: But he said he could have... done it for Magit, in the cellar....

Seruffin: He could have, certainly. But that would have been an emergency measure, and not one that was good for either of them. As a Donor, he gives transfer to channels, and we take care of the renSimes.

Seruffin doesn't want to squelch Bart's budding ambitions, but he doesn't want to deceive him about the job description, either.

Bart doesn't see how the Simes could make him stay a Donor if he wants to quit, and they certainly don't have any authority over him out-T, but figures it must be more complicated than it looks.

Seruffin could explain how rarely a Gen with true Donor potential can stand the thought of quitting, and never having transfer with a compatible channel again, but Bart didn't ask, now, did he?

Bart thinks about the whole situation and it continues to ramify. If his brother turns Gen, he could be a victim of a berserker, or have to murder someone he grew up with.....

Seruffin: Until Gumgeeville decides to request a Sime Center, if it ever does, it's not going to be possible to save every child who goes into changeover.

Bart thinks about himself, as a Gen out-T, how he might have to murder his own child... He suddenly realizes what his parents have been silently going through for all these years.

Seruffin: That doesn't mean it's not worth saving those who can be saved, however.

Bart: I... have a lot to think about.... Thank you.... I promise.... what you said... ~~ horror ~~ disgust ~~~ sincerity ~~

Vrian doesn't understand all the implications of what Bart is talking about, since he's still focused on his own larity-to-be.

Vrian: You won't have to, Bart. I'm gonna be Gen.

Bart pulls himself together and figures he can think about it more when he's alone. Maybe talk to his father about it.

Vrian isn't finding the prospect as appealing as he did before the men of his house started donating, but it sure beats the alternative.

Bart: Sure you are, Vrian, but remember, you promised me if you start feeling sick at all, you come to me right away, right?

Vrian: I will, but I won't have to.

Bart: Okay.

Bart hugs Vrian with one arm.

Bart: Thank you, Hajene.

Seruffin: You're welcome. I hope I haven't disappointed you, but the dangers of what you plan are real, along with the benefits. With good judgment and common sense, you should be able to avoid the former while reaping the latter, however.

Bart looks into Seruffin's eyes. ~~~ gratitude ~~~

Bart: I'll do what you said.

Vrian isn't sure he likes the way Bart is hero-worshiping the channel, but he isn't sure it'd be polite to object, either.

Seruffin: Then you should be fine, and your brother, as well.

Bart: There's another thing we wanted to ask you about....

Seruffin raises an inquiring eyebrow.

Seruffin: What would that be?

Bart: Uh, Vrian... uh, well, he's concerned that when he turns Gen, if he tries to donate..... I told him dad would never expect him to donate if he didn't want to....

Seruffin zlins Vrian, as well as he can with the two Gens so close.

Bart: But he's worried... that instead of it being easy like with me and dad it will be hard for him like with Ma.

Vrian blushes scarlet, ~~ humiliated ~~ by coming across as a coward.

Gerrhonot picks up on what Seruffin is trying to do and manages the fields to make it easier for his channel to zlin the child.

Seruffin zlins Vrian's humiliation, and his nervousness, thoughtfully.

Seruffin: You're nervous about me, but I don't think you're as frightened as your mother was. At least not now.

Vrian is not used to having his feelings open for inspection. He appeals to his brother with a look.

Bart: Uh, Vrian told me that he's worried that if he tries to donate it might go okay then go bad in the middle like it did with Ma.

Seruffin: There's always that possibility, if you try to pretend that you aren't afraid, and then get caught by surprise when you panic.

Bart doesn't quite understand how that would work, but he's only fifteen. And his brother is only twelve so likely doesn't get it either.

Seruffin: You'll do much better if you don't try to force yourself to put up a brave front. That way, if you become frightened, you won't catch yourself or the channel by surprise.

Bart is ~~ surprised ~~ since a good front is one thing his father seems to think is very important.

Vrian is mostly ~~ confused ~~, as well as ~~ embarrassed ~~

Seruffin zlins that he's not communicating.

Bart watches Seruffin attentively, hoping for elucidation.

Seruffin: Being nervous or afraid doesn't mean that you can't donate. It just takes a bit longer, since fear increases resistance to selyn flow.

Vrian doesn't find this terribly reassuring, somehow.

Seruffin: It's only if you actually panic that it becomes a problem. And trying to pretend that everything's all right until suddenly you can't, any more, is a good way to panic. Furthermore, there's always the chance that you'll catch the channel by surprise.

Gerrhonot increases his support. He still feels really bad that he wasn't there to protect his channel in the Ma Mullins fiasco.

Bart: So the channel can see through the front, to see if the Gen is scared, but not if the Gen doesn't believe he's scared, but he really is?

Seruffin: It's a bit more complicated than that, but I think you've got the general idea.

Bart: Did you understand that, Vrian?

Vrian: Yeah. I still don't know if I can do it, though.

Bart: Hajene.... I thought maybe.... so Vrian would know better what it's like... so he won't be as nervous if he tries it... I mean, he knows he's still a kid, so nothing can happen.... I wondered... uh.... if it's okay with him.... If you think it would be a good idea....

Seruffin waits ~~ patiently ~~ for Bart to wade through the qualifications and get to the point.

Bart is getting a bit ~~ embarrassed ~~ in case his idea is stupid.

Vrian, on the other hand, has an inkling that he won't really like the point, and so is in even less of a hurry.

Bart: Uh... I thought maybe if you sort of took his hands, like you were going to take a donation... so he could see it wasn't scary... even if nothing happens. I mean... I told him I kind of liked it... and he doesn't believe me...

Seruffin looks at Vrian.

Seruffin: Would you like to try that?

Vrian is ~~ hugely unsure ~~, but a dare is a dare.

Gerrhonot is glad that Seruffin is a very experienced channel and no doubt knows what he's doing.

Seruffin is wondering whether there is some ingredient in Ma Mullins's cabbage soup that causes frequent lapses in judgment, or maybe even sanity.

Vrian: Well, all right. I guess.

Vrian sounds a bit uncertain, and zlins a great deal more so.

Seruffin: Here, then.

Seruffin holds out his hands across the table, trying to look brave, loyal, trustworthy, pure, and generally pre-institutionalized-discrimination boy scout-ish.

Gerrhonot puts his hand on Seruffin's shoulder and intensifies his support. He can't zlin, but he can read Vrian's emotions pretty well. He smiles at Vrian encouragingly.

Vrian looks at Seruffin's hands, but the tentacles seem to be remaining in their sheaths, and the big, solid table is between them. He swallows nervously, then reaches out ~~ tentatively ~~

Seruffin holds very still, so as not to appear to be grabbing at Vrian. He's eventually rewarded when Vrian's hands come to rest lightly on his own.

Vrian thinks that Seruffin's hot, dry hands don't feel at all like a Gen's. He looks at his brother for reassurance.

Bart smiles.

Bart: No problem so far, eh?

Bart finds himself wishing that Seruffin was taking his hands instead.

Vrian wouldn't exactly describe it as "no problem", but it is bearable. Sort of.

Seruffin: You're doing very well, Vrian.

Seruffin cups his hands, subtly making it a little more difficult for Vrian to withdraw his own hands, at least by accident.

Seruffin: Now, do you want to see what a handling tentacle feels like?

Vrian is looking distinctly pale. He nods, though.

Seruffin signals for Gerrhonot to lighten his support, so that he can zlin the child's nager more clearly.

Gerrhonot complies.

Seruffin wants to get Vrian to confront his fear, not be overstressed by it. He extends one handling tentacle, and rests it lightly on the back of Vrian's hand.

Vrian gasps, and his hand twitches, but it remains in Seruffin's, and not because of the channel's efforts, either.

Vrian does have a good measure of Ma's courage, to match his father's bravado, after all.

Bart is watching attentively, really hoping that Vrian will understand that there's nothing to be afraid of.

Vrian does, but that doesn't keep him from being afraid, anyway.

Bart is confused by his own feelings of attraction to the channel, but hasn't figured out yet how it biases his thoughts.

Vrian is finding it possible to tolerate Seruffin's tentacle-touch, though, and he wasn't sure that he could, before.

Seruffin can zlin Vrian more deeply, with the increased contact, and frowns at a niggling little anomaly.

Seruffin: Gerrhonot, Bart, could you move away a bit? Vrian, I want to zlin you more clearly, without their fields interfering.

Seruffin's tone is crisply professional.

Bart: What's wrong? ~~ alarmed ~~

Gerrhonot gets up and backs off ~~ neutral ~~~

Gerrhonot: Don't worry, Bart.

Seruffin: Nothing, I hope.

Gerrhonot: Just move away about a meter or so, so Hajene can zlin more clearly.

Bart gets up and moves away a bit. ~~ uncertain ~~ concerned ~~~

Vrian: Is it changeover? Am I turning Sime? ~~ dread ~~

Bart is filled with a mass of confused emotions. He doesn't want his brother to turn Sime, but if he has to, now is the perfect time.

Seruffin focuses for a moment, just to be sure, then shakes his head.

Seruffin: No, Vrian. You're establishing. You're becoming a Gen, like your brother.

Bart feels faint, and sits down abruptly. ~~ intense relief ~~

Vrian forgets for a moment that a Sime is holding his hands, and a tentacle actually touching him.

Vrian: I'm Gen? Really?

Seruffin: Definitely. You're producing selyn, although it will take a while before you've accumulated an adult nager.

Vrian's feelings are ~~ conflicted ~~ at this reminder of the choice that will accompany having an adult nager. He pulls his hands free of Seruffin's light grip.

Vrian has been repeating "I'm gonna be a Gen" at frequent intervals for the past few years, but the actual event is still coming as a shock.

Bart has been through too many intense emotions in too short a time. He finds himself about to cry from happiness, or is it confusion? Maybe relief?

Bart: Oh, Vrian, Ma and Dad will be so happy.

Vrian: Yeah, I guess they will.

Bart tries to control his emotions. Men don't cry, out-T.

Gerrhonot: Congratulations, Vrian.

Seruffin: Congratulations, indeed.

Vrian is still in shock.

Vrian: I'm Gen.

Return to Table of Contents