Narrator: The door to Sime Territory, otherwise known as Jed and Ma's house, opens slowly.
Seruffin has persuaded Gerrhonot that he could use some fresh air, even if it is rather on the cold side. Channel and Donor emerge slowly into the unseasonable cold.
Seruffin actually was finding close confinement in a closet-sized, windowless bedroom with a new Sime a bit much. He knows that First Year is necessary for any Sime to adjust, but it's a bit rough on the one who constantly gets peppered with questions, the answers to which can't be given in English.
Gerrhonot is glad to be outdoors again, but is a bit worried about what might happen to them in the Sime-hostile out-T town.
Seruffin couldn't bring himself to try staying in the kitchen, as Ma is still not happy about having him around, especially when her family isn't around. He knows that he can't spend long in the chill air, or he'll get frostbitten tentacles, but even a brief respite is welcome.
Seruffin: Come, Gerrhonot. There doesn't seem to be much traffic in that direction.
Gerrhonot: Okay, Hajene.
Gegg is also braving the chill, but he has two kids in tow, instead of a Donor.
Gerrhonot wonders if he should have tried to persuade his channel to wear one of his thick wool sweaters, to keep his arms warmer under the retainers.
Gegg made the mistake of bringing up the possibility of having the kids zlinned again, and has been forced to retreat from his wife's outrage, after promising to stay out of Jed's house until the Simes are gone. He could tell that their argument upset the kids, and so he invited them to come along to the hardware store, in search of two bolts and some sandpaper with which to repair their sleds.
Gerrhonot sees a man with two kids further down the street and recognizes Gegg.
Gerrhonot: Hajene, that's Jed's friend Gegg up ahead. I guess those are his two kids he told us about.
Seruffin zlins the group curiously.
Gerrhonot: Jed was trying to get him to bring his kids by so you could tell him if they'd established.
Seruffin obligingly zlins the group.
Seruffin makes a face at the blurring and distortions caused by his retainers.
Seruffin: I'm almost sure one of them has, but I can't tell at this distance. Shen these retainers, anyway.
Seruffin wouldn't say such a thing where anyone but his Donor or another channel could hear him, of course. He is a diplomat, and has some idea of the reasons for the retainer laws, however inconvenient they are for Simes.
Gerrhonot: I guess we could go closer, or maybe if they don't want to, I could ask them to spread out a little? I think Gegg wants to know, but his wife is against it, and he's a little spooked by you.
Seruffin: He is?
Gerrhonot: Yesterday he was talking about you using some kind of magic power to get Gens to donate.
Gerrhonot: Jed told him he was being silly.
Seruffin: That sort of misunderstanding could cause real trouble, if it were to spread. Many Gens still believe in magic...and they don't like it.
Gerrhonot: I'm pretty sure we talked him out of it. He was asking about how to get a Sime Center for the town by the time we left.
Gerrhonot: Even Henree the saloon keeper, Magit's grandpa, was interested in that.
Seruffin: Well, I don't want to cause trouble for Jed's friend. Perhaps if we approached them, and you struck up a conversation with him, I could get close enough to zlin the youngsters clearly, even through the retainers.
Gerrhonot: Okay. That sounds like a good idea.
Seruffin: Gegg shouldn't get into too much trouble if I tell him what I zlin, as long as he doesn't have to ask.
Seruffin hopes not, anyway.
Gerrhonot smiles at Seruffin's cleverness.
Gerrhonot: Let's catch up with them.
Seruffin obligingly lengthens his stride, so as to close the distance, albeit slowly.
Gerrhonot waits until they're at a reasonable distance and calls.
Gerrhonot: Hi, Mr. Gegg!
Mik: I did not!
Sanda: Did too!
Sanda looks back at the call. She's a twelve year old girl.
Gegg: Now, Sanda, I'm sure Mik didn't mean....
Mik: Anyway, if I did, I had a good reason, Squirt.
Sanda: Who's that, Dad?
Gegg pauses, looking over his shoulder.
Gerrhonot smiles welcomingly.
Gegg doesn't smile, all too aware of what his wife will think, when she gets the story out of the kids.
Gegg: It's Gerrhonot, Sanda. He's staying with the Mullins's until the trains are running again.
Gegg looks very ~~ stressed out ~~
Seruffin follows Gerrhonot, hanging back as they approach the others.
Gerrhonot: Are these your kids, Mr. Gegg?
Gegg: ...Yes, they are. Mik, Sanda, say hello to Mr. Gerrhonot.
Mik: Umm, hello, Mister Gerragot.
Gerrhonot: Hi, Mik. Hi, Sanda.
Gegg had good manners pounded into him early, and he can't quite forsake them.
Gerrhonot: Cold today, isn't it? But at least it's not windy.
Gerrhonot knows the weather is always a safe topic.
Gegg looks beyond Gerrhonot, thinking to say hello to Jed, and his eyes widen as he realizes that it isn't Jed, after all.
Gerrhonot: This is Hajene Seruffin, my channel.
Seruffin nods courteously, stepping just a bit to the side, so that Gerrhonot no longer blocks line-of-sight. Or more to the point, line-of-zlin.
Seruffin: How do you do?
Sanda's eyes get big and round. It's the SIME! ~~ alarm ~~
Mik isn't used to adult forms of address, and is ~~ embarrassed ~~ by it.
Sanda looks to her father to see how he's going to handle it.
Gegg's eyes drop to the metal cuffs encasing Seruffin's arms, and he can't help wondering about what's beneath them. He worries that this might be the first step towards being seduced, and braces himself to resist it.
Mik watches his father closely.
Seruffin moves a little closer to Gerrhonot, now that he's learned what he wanted. He sees no point in enduring unpleasant ambients when there's a perfectly good Donor to stand beside.
Gerrhonot allows his field to ~~ support ~~ his channel again.
Seruffin: Gerrhonot has told me of the hospitality you have offered him, on his excursions with Jed Mullins.
Gegg grins weakly, and makes a noncommittal noise. He really hopes that the kids don't repeat that particular comment to their mother.
Sanda wonders why her dad isn't being polite, like she's been taught.
Sanda: Hello, Mr. Ruffin.
Seruffin zlins Gegg's uneasiness, even through the retainers and Gerrhonot's field, and turns gladly to Sanda.
Sanda is ~~ curious ~~ now that she's gotten over her alarm. She thinks Seruffin is kind of handsome in an elderly distinguished sort of way.
Sanda is twelve, and anybody older than her parents is really old.
Seruffin: Hello, Sanda. Or I should say, Miz. Now that you're an adult Gen, and all.
Sanda: I am? ~~ amazement ~~ You can tell?
Sanda looks to her father to see how he reacts.
Seruffin smiles in his best fatherly style.
Seruffin: Yes, I can tell.
Sanda: Dad, he says I'm a Gen!
Mik is outraged at this.
Mik: What about me?
Gegg is watching Seruffin closely.
Seruffin: You are still a child, Mik. There's no way to tell what you'll be, at the moment. I'm sorry.
Gerrhonot smiles at Sanda in his usual friendly manner.
Gerrhonot: Congratulations, Sanda.
Sanda: Uh, thank you, Mr. Gernot. Thank you too, Mr. Ruffin.
Sanda's emotions are all over the map, but there's quite a lot of ~~ joy ~~ in them.
Mik: So my sister is a grownup at twelve and I [chokes on his own outrage]
Sanda is getting a bit ~~ worried ~~ by her father's silence.
Sanda: [whispers] Are you all right, Dad?
Seruffin: People mature on different schedules, Mik. You'll grow up in your own time.
Gegg recalls himself.
Gegg: Yes, Sanda, I'm fine. That's marvelous news, too.
Gegg is wondering if it is good enough to get him out of hot water at home.
Gegg: Mik, you should be happy for your sister.
Mik: For The Brat. Really, Dad. Sometimes you are such a, a lorsh.
Gerrhonot startles a bit at the epithet. ~~ puzzled ~~
Gegg is starting to get alarmed, now.
Gegg: Where did you learn that kind of language?
Mik: Um. I don't really know what it means. All the kids say that. Sir.
Gerrhonot moves closer to Seruffin, to protect him in case there gets to be some yelling and bad emotions.
Gegg: Since when?
Gegg isn't familiar with exactly what the word means, but he does know which language it comes from.
Mik: Since, since, I don't know.
Gegg: Let me guess. Since the last snowstorm?
Sanda enjoys seeing her brother on the carpet, especially since he was such a... a... lorsh about being jealous that she's a Gen.
Seruffin makes an apologetic sound.
Seruffin: It is interesting which words cross the language barrier, isn't it?
Seruffin: Mik, a "lorsh" is a person who abandons a changeover victim to die, rather than providing assistance.
Gerrhonot thinks about adding that it's one of the worst insults in-T, but doesn't think it would be very tactful, since Gumgeeville must be full of lorshes, judging by Henree.
Seruffin is trying to de-escalate the situation, and he is well aware that most insults lose their sting and become silly, once the meaning is examined without the emotional load.
Mik: "Assistance"? If I'm gonna be Sime, I don't want the kind of assistance Simes get around here, do I.
Seruffin: Mik, there's no way to tell what you'll be, just now. Since both your parents are Gen, the odds are in favor that you will be a Gen, too.
Seruffin thinks that Mik's size is also in his favor, although there are tall Simes.
Mik: Everybody knows that.
Gegg frowns reprovingly at Mik, for being disrespectful to an adult.
Mik: Hajene [pronouncing it more or less correctly, for a wonder]
Seruffin nods graciously at the belated addition.
Seruffin: You must wait a bit longer, to find out what you'll be, but there's no reason to assume you'll be Sime. If you do go through changeover, though, the Sime Center in Ford can help you.
Mik: Yeah. I mean, Thank you, Hajene.
Seruffin: You're welcome, Mik.
Bart comes out of the hardware store and sees the group up the street.
Gegg finds himself admiring the way Seruffin got Mik out of his sulks, and that worries him. He shoots another glance at Seruffin's retainers.
Bart comes up to them.
Bart: Hi, Hajene, Gerrhonot, Mr. Gegg. Hi, Mik, Sanda.
Seruffin: Hello, Bart.
Bart: Out for a walk?
Mik: Hey there, Bart. Can you believe this? The B -- Sanda is a Gen, and I'm not!
Seruffin: Yes. Our quarters are a bit confining, for three.
Seruffin offers this observation a bit ~~ apologetically ~~, as it is Bart's room, after all.
Bart doesn't know what to say. Gegg looks unhappy, Mik is mad, Sanda is alternately smiling and looking worried... Seruffin is looking urbane and dignified as usual, and Gerrhonot is working.
Gegg looks at Bart, remembering that the kid's not only not a kid any more, but has actually let the Sime take his selyn.
Mik: [mutters] Life is shen and then you die....
Bart: Congrats, Sanda. Uh, Mik, you'll probably turn Gen soon, you're almost as old as I am.
Gegg worries again that Seruffin has some undefined way to influence Gens to fall into his clutches.
Gegg is, alas, more familiar with Simes who take a direct approach to Gen-clutching. He almost wishes Seruffin would act like a normal Sime. He'd know how to deal with that.
Sanda: Thanks, Bart.
Sanda thinks Bart is handsome.
Mik: Yeah, probably, I guess. But, y'know, it's just not, just not...
Seruffin: It's not easy to wait, I know.
Bart: ~~ sympathy ~~~
Seruffin is very ~~ sympathetic ~~, and none of it's faked.
Mik: Hajene, can I talk to you for a minute? Privately, I mean.
Mik glances at his father hopefully.
Gegg: Oh, go ahead.
Gegg figures if he's going to be divorced anyway, he might as well actually be guilty of what he's being accused of.
Seruffin obligingly moves a few steps away.
Mik walks off to one side, far enough away for privacy, not so far that his father couldn't cover him if necessary.
Gerrhonot follows his channel.
Mik: Hajene, I wanted to ask you, if you think you are going to be Gen, or, or Sime, does that mean anything? I mean, if you have this feeling about it?
Seruffin: Do you have such a feeling, Mik?
Mik: [evasively] Well, I just wondered.
Bart: How are things, Mr. Gegg?
Sanda: Bart, is it true that you let the Sime....
Sanda blushes and looks at her father. She's heard a lot more about the doings at the Mullins' house than she would have had her parents not argued so loudly about protecting her and her brother from hearing about it.
Gegg is watching Seruffin and Mik anxiously, wondering if the young are more susceptible to the whatever-it-is that the Sime uses to attract Gens.
Bart: Yes, I donated.
Sanda is amazed at Bart's courage and modesty about it.
Seruffin: Sometimes, channels will know when their changeover will begin, before it's detectable.
Mik: You mean I could be a channel?
Seruffin: Channels are very rare. It's more likely that your feeling is brought on by worry about what changeover would mean, for yourself and your family. If you are worried, however, it wouldn't hurt to educate yourself a bit about how to recognize changeover early, and get help. Even if you aren't sure whether it's changeover or the flu, no channel will mind being asked to help you.
Gegg looks at Bart, and shakes his head.
Gegg: Your father's been crazy all his life. I wasn't all that surprised that he'd do something like that. But why did you do it, Bart?
Bart: To make some money for the family, Mr. Gegg.
Gegg: Did you ever think about making money that way, before your house guest moved in?
Bart: I guess not. But I didn't know I was a Gen before either.
Gegg: You like Hajene Seruffin, don't you?
Bart: Yeah, I guess so.
Gegg: And more than that, you trust him.
Bart: Uh, yeah.
Bart wonders what his father has been telling Gegg.
Gegg: When did you start trusting him so much?
Bart: Uh, Dad says he's trustworthy, and he seems like a good guy...
Mik: I, I understand. Thanks, Hajene ~~ spirits lift ~~
Seruffin: Whatever you become, Mik, you won't have to give up the chance to live a normal life.
Mik: Y'know, Hajene? I think what a normal life is, is not what people think it is.
Mik: At least people around here.
Seruffin: You know, I think I agree with you.
Mik: Maybe we ought to go back to my Dad. He's grilling Bart there, it looks like, and I think he could use some ... what is it called?
Gegg: Yes, he does seem like a nice, ordinary guy. That's what worries me so much.
Bart: Uh. Why does it worry you?
Gegg wonders how much of Jed's decision to donate was simply the strain of waiting for the Sime to do something Simelike, like attack him. He can imagine getting so tired of waiting that he'd prefer to get it over with, and let the Sime take him.
Gegg's imagination has gotten him into trouble, before.
Mik: Moral support, that's it.
Mik returns to the main group.
Seruffin follows, although he hangs back just a bit so as not to crowd the Gens.
Gegg: It worries me because of where it leads, logically, and what that might mean.
Gerrhonot looks around the group, trying to interpret the ambient, without being able to zlin.
Bart: I don't understand, Mr. Gegg.
Gegg is no religious fanatic, but thirty years of more or less good behavior isn't enough, in his mind, to erase hundreds of years of broken treaties.
Gegg: I can see that, Bart. And perhaps that's the more sensible approach, after all.
Mik decides to distract his father.
Mik: Dad, Hajene says that it's possible I could be a channel like him. Not likely, just possible, he says.
Gegg grunts, but his eyes betray his ~~ worry ~~.
Mik: It's really important that I get to Ford if I feel anything coming on. Even if it's just the flu.
Gegg: Huh. Better not tell your mother, then. And let's hope nothing happens until the snow's melted.
Gerrhonot feels ~~ relieved ~~ and ~~ happy ~~ that Gegg is less likely to shoot his son. He really hopes he'll have the courage to get him to the Ford if necessary.
Seruffin: There is no reason to believe anything is going to happen immediately. And, as I told your son, it is far from certain that he will become a channel.
Mik's self-esteem is somewhat restored after the shock it took earlier.
Gegg nods tiredly, accepting the caveat.
Bart thinks he should talk to Mik about it some time, and tell him what Seruffin told him about timing and getting to Ford. Too bad he doesn't know that changeover is faster for channels.
Gegg: Come on, Mik, Sanda. We've got an errand to run.
Mik: Sure, Dad.
Sanda: Okay. G'bye, Bart. G'bye Mr. Ruffin, Mr. Gernut.
Seruffin: Goodbye, Sanda.
Mik: Goodbye, all