A Sec Pair At The Ford: Episode 3

Seruffin has left his Donor peacefully sleeping in the first decent-sized bed the Gen has enjoyed since embarking on their abortive journey to New Washington.

Seruffin has spent the last two hours on the not-so-enjoyable task of writing a comprehensive report on the events in Gumgeeville. He has also started files for Magit and the four Gumgeeville Donors, with notes on Vrian and a few other Gens whom Seruffin feels might be of interest to the Tecton. He hasn't forgotten to fill in a request for reimbursement for the personal funds he spent on donation payments.

Seruffin has to admit, however, that overall he prefers a real Sime Center, complete with paperwork, to the improvised one in the Mullins's closet-sized bedroom.

Bibi is sitting in her office at the front of the Sime Center. She took this office and the front bedroom so she could zlin anyone approaching. A large fraction of the changeovers she's managed have sneaked into the grounds alone.

Bibi doesn't expect anyone tonight, but she's had adequate sleep, and since it's market day some donors may show up very early.

Seruffin puts the finishing touches on the report, then glances through the other paperwork to make sure it's in order.

Bibi is not reading the journal in front of her. She's looking out the window and wondering if there's going to be any more snow.

Seruffin gives a brisk nod of satisfaction, collects everything into a neat stack, and decides that it's time for a break. He's a conscientious bureaucrat, however, and so he stops by Bibi's office to drop off the paperwork first.

Bibi zlins Seruffin approaching and tries to look more alert.

Seruffin pauses in the open doorway, letting his nager announce his presence.

Seruffin: Good evening, Hajene.

Bibi: Hello, Hajene! You're up late, or is it early?

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: It does seem to make more of a difference out-Territory, doesn't it?

Bibi: Yes.

Bibi smiles her charming dimpled smile. She can't help it. It's the way her face works.

Seruffin enters the office, and holds out the stack of paperwork.

Bibi takes it.

Seruffin: That should cover the important parts of recent events, at least from the Tecton's perspective.

Bibi: Can I offer you some trin and cookies? I've got a fresh pot here.

Seruffin: Some tea would be very welcome, thank you. My travel supply ran out two days ago.

Bibi: Please, have a seat.

Bibi gestures to the comfy chair that Nattin favors.

Seruffin sits with ~~ gratitude ~~

Bibi puts the papers on her desk, and fetches a clean mug and box of home made oatmeal cookies from the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet. She pours a mug for Seruffin, and places it on the desk in front of him. She opens the box of cookies, and puts the honey dispenser and a spoon within reach.

Bibi: You can take some of our tea with you, then.

Seruffin adds some honey to his mug and stirs it slowly.

Seruffin: Thank you. Trin makes travel bearable, somehow.

Bibi leafs through the stack of paper, and pulls out the reimbursement request.

Bibi: I'll give this to Nattin to sort out. He does the bookkeeping. We can certainly reimburse you, but I may not be able to take the selyn. As you can zlin, I'm getting full, and with all the disruption the mule who hauls the selyn in-T is several days late. I don't like to turn donors down on principle, and many of them really depend on the money too.

Seruffin: I can manage the selyn; there should be several mules in New Washington. I could probably manage to take at least some of what you're carrying, as well, if your mule hasn't arrived by the time I leave.

Bibi: Thank you. That would be much appreciated.

Bibi thinks things are going well. She's trying not to let Seruffin's big nager, dignified manners and important position intimidate her, with some success.

Seruffin: Will your regular mule be able to handle the selyn from an additional half dozen or so donors?

Bibi: It's hard to say. We're his last stop, and even under normal conditions he can't always take as much as I could give him.

Seruffin: Would you like me to mention that this route requires more frequent runs, when I return to Capital?

Seruffin is aware that sometimes the same mule schedulers who discount such requests from Seconds will actually take care of the problem if a First gets after them.

Bibi is ~~ surprised ~~ and ~~ grateful ~~

Bibi: If you would. I could recruit more donors if I could be sure to always be able to take their donations each month.

Bibi pulls out Magit's folder and reads through the account of her rescue with ~~ happiness ~~.

Bibi: I'm so glad you managed to rescue Magit.

Seruffin: That was Gerrhonot's doing, mostly. He's the one who managed to persuade the girl's grandfather to allow him to go into the saloon's cellar after her.

Bibi continues reading the account of the changeover. Things seem to be remarkably smooth for an untrained child, rescued from a fatal situation.

Bibi: He's very quiet, but he has a beautiful nager.

Seruffin: Yes, he does.

Bibi: He must have been very convincing.

Seruffin: Gerrhonot has the virtue of simplicity. He's virtually incapable of deceit, and it shows. It didn't hurt that Henree wanted the situation resolved quickly, one way or the other.

Bibi decides to chance a somewhat personal comment.

Bibi: He seems very happy to be your Donor.

Seruffin: He's a good Donor, for most purposes, but he's a bit slow, mentally. Some of the channels he's worked with haven't been able to adapt to that.

Bibi: I'm glad he's found someone he can work well with.

Bibi then wonders if she phrased that quite right. Perhaps Seruffin feels he got stuck with him.

Bibi keeps reading the account of the changeover and as she reads about the transfer she gets quite ~~ concerned ~~ and then ~~ alarmed ~~

Bibi: Hajene, Magit's transfer.... I don't understand what her reaction implies...

Seruffin: Neither do I, entirely.

Bibi: ~~ surprised ~~~

Seruffin: I believe her sensitivity is higher than the average renSime's, but I'm not an expert in transfer pathology. I wrote a recommendation that her next transfer be with a First who does have such a specialty.

Bibi: She seems fairly normal now. In fact, she seems to have adjusted well after all that trauma. But it's certainly important that the problem be diagnosed and managed properly.

Seruffin: If you would mention that to her Escort, he might be able to shield her better on the train.

Bibi: Yes, I'll be sure to. I hope having such a rough First Transfer won't be a problem for her in the future.

Seruffin: So do I.

Bibi is thinking about imprinting, and then realizes that what she said could be taken as an insult to Seruffin's skills. ~~ embarrassed ~~ apologetic ~~

Seruffin doesn't take offense, however.

Bibi can't zlin through Seruffin's showfield any better than she could through a stone wall.

Seruffin offers ~~ reassurance ~~

Bibi: I'm glad you were there for her. I don't know whether I could have managed her at all -- that bit in the recovery phase where she stopped breathing and her field went flat....

Seruffin: That was a near thing, indeed.

Bibi: I appreciate your detailed report. It will no doubt help the next channel to work with her.

Bibi knows that she wouldn't have been able to zlin as much as Seruffin did about what happened, much less report it to all those decimal places.

Seruffin: I hope it at least convinces the staff at whatever First Year camp she attends to get her the expertise she requires.

Bibi: Marvin, our mule, gets along well with the people he turns the kids over to in-T. He's quite the advocate for these kids. He'll make sure she's sent somewhere with good facilities for her.

Seruffin: Good. She'll require such an advocate.

Bibi picks up Jed's folder and reads the report.

Bibi: Jed Mullins seems like a remarkably open minded Gen. I'll enjoy meeting him.

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: He's certainly an unusual individual.

Bibi: He just decided to do it, and did it. Remarkable. Perhaps I can upgrade him over the next few months. I'm sure he'll be pleased to get more money "for sitting there doing nothing".

Bibi smiles.

Seruffin: You probably could, once he has a chance to get used to you.

Bibi picks up Virla's folder and leafs through it, stopping to read the account of the donation in detail.

Bibi: The description of Virla's nager... uh, do you think I'd be able to zlin this sparkly effect? ~~ humble ~~

Seruffin zlins Bibi carefully.

Bibi offers her arms, in case Seruffin wants to deep zlin her.

Seruffin accepts the contact, since Bibi offered, and zlins deeply enough to get a good idea of just what sort of channel Bibi is. He inadvertently, and unavoidably, provides Bibi with a less precise but still pretty good idea of what sort of channel he is.

Seruffin: I believe you'll be able to zlin it, and you'll definitely be able to zlin its result. At least, if Virla decides to donate again, and if the effect recurs.

Bibi feels even more ~~ humbled ~~ by Seruffin's exceptionally high proficiency rating. She hasn't had much contact with Firsts, and he's probably the highest she's ever zlinned.

Seruffin: She may be more at ease donating, next time.

Bibi: I hope so, if she does come here. The effect at the end... it sounds something like cataplexy?

Seruffin: Yes.

Bibi: Do you know if she's had this kind of thing happen before, in other contexts?

Seruffin: No, I don't. Before I could ask her about it, Magit came out, and she lost all interest in talking to an old man like me.

Bibi reaches out and pats Seruffin's hand before she realizes what she's doing. ~~ consolation ~~ oops ~~~ embarrassment ~~ She looks down and blushes.

Seruffin thinks Bibi's blush is charming.

Bibi: Do you think I should send a copy of your report on Virla's donation in with Magit's file, in case it's something hereditary, and it helps them diagnose it?

Seruffin: That's an excellent idea.

Seruffin ~~ approves ~~

Bibi unconsciously leans a little closer, letting her nager impinge on Seruffin's, offering engagement.

Seruffin allows a light engagement, of the kind friends might enjoy.

Bibi realizes what she just did and blushes again. ~~ apologetic ~~~

Bibi: I'm sorry, Hajene. I'm not accustomed to being with high Firsts... ~~ attracted and embarrassed ~~~

Seruffin: We're a mixed lot, just like Seconds.

Bibi picks up Bart's folder, and reads the report.

Bibi: This is beautiful. Just like that... the talent, the attempt at selyur nager... without even knowing what it is, that it's possible.

Seruffin: Bart has potential, but he's a long way from deciding whether or not he wants to use it. He doesn't even really know what a Donor is, at this point.

Bibi: It's hard to know whether to encourage him or not, which would be better for him. I guess the only thing we can do is provide him with all the information, and hope he makes the best decision for himself.

Seruffin: The Mullinses are a very close family. It would be very difficult for Bart to leave home, I believe.

Bibi: I can understand that.

Seruffin: On the other hand, I doubt that the family farm could support two families, when he and his brother are old enough to marry.

Bibi: Is he committed to a farmer's life, do you think? He could accumulate a down payment on another farm from his donation income.

Seruffin: I don't believe that Bart has given much thought to his future, as yet. His younger brother, Vrian, seems more interested in the farm, from what I could tell.

Bibi: I see. It's like that with so many young people out-T. Until they turn sixteen, they don't know if they'll have a future.

Seruffin: Indeed. At least the Mullins boys are no longer in that position.

Bibi: Yes. I wish we could do that for more of them. I've had quite a few young people sneak in here, just to find out if they're "safe". They make me promise not to tell anyone they came here.

Seruffin: That doesn't help them reassure their parents if they suddenly get sick, does it?

Bibi: Well, sometimes the parents believe them and are delighted. There've also been some cases where the parents carefully broach the topic of getting checked out to a kid who's been coming in here every few weeks for a year.

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: Well, the older generation is often slow to accept new innovations.

Bibi: I have hopes for all the children of this area. I've been subtly encouraging a sort of grapevine among them, and perhaps half the changeovers I've served have been kids coming in here on their own. I've also treated a fair bit of food poisoning and flu, too.

Seruffin: They do appear similar to early changeover, to inexperienced Gen eyes.

Bibi laughs.

Bibi: One night last summer.. there'd been a school picnic... We had eight kids, five of them Gens, out on the back porch, drinking tea, and running for the privy. It must have been the egg salad.

Bibi: Two of those kids are regular donors now. One is saving up to go to engineering school, and the other wants to buy a house when he gets married.

Seruffin: I see that you have the touch, with out-Territory Gens.

Bibi: Well, I was born out here myself, near a town much like this one, in another dairy farming area the other side of New Washington.

Seruffin: Even so, it's a rare skill.

Bibi: I was so lucky... I wish I could save all the kids who change over out here.

Seruffin: Hajene, no one can save them all.

Bibi: I know, but I try to save all I can. So far, so good. Most of them are coming to me now, if they can. When I found out I was a channel, this is what I wanted to do.

Bibi smiles.

Bibi: Not too many channels in the Tecton get what they want, do they?

Seruffin: No, we don't, unless we're very lucky. It helps if you want something that few other people want, of course.

Seruffin winks.

Bibi: I guess so! A lot of people would regard an assignment like this as a punishment, marooned among barbarians. Like Cristal.

Seruffin frowns.

Bibi realizes she's let herself relax too much in Seruffin's mesmerizing field.

Seruffin: Has he been causing real problems, or just an occasional annoyance?

Bibi: He's very good technically, one of the best Donors I've been assigned, in that way. I'm not sure whether he was sent out here as a disciplinary measure or just had bad luck.

Seruffin: He resents working with you? Or is it just being out-Territory that he dislikes?

Bibi: He regards himself as superior to every Gen out here. I suspect he thinks I'm too sentimental or some such, the way I sympathize with them. And there's a bit of personal incompatibility.

Seruffin: I noticed.

Bibi: I don't want to sound like... well... I don't expect deference from my staff here, but I can't help resenting condescension from my Donor.

Seruffin: Would you like me to have a talk with Cristal before I leave?

Bibi: I'm not sure it would do much good. Nattin has tried several times to explain out-T culture to him. His file looks good, so perhaps it's just his discomfort at living out-T that's coming out this way.

Seruffin: If so, it must not be allowed to interfere with the Tecton's mission here.

Bibi: He'll be returning in-T in a few weeks. I doubt he'll be back. And he is very professional, though rather aloof from the clients, when he's working.

Seruffin: Well, that's something, at least.

Bibi refrains from mentioning one of the big sources of friction: for the two weeks before turnover, Cristal constantly tries to persuade Bibi to let him help her avoid the CDs. She realizes that she would be willing help Seruffin with the CDs and really blushes.... She then realizes how transparent she must be to him and blushes again.

Bibi: I... I really must apologize. I'm used to being the only channel around... almost the only Sime.... ~~ intense embarrassment ~~

Seruffin: I'm complimented, but...

Seruffin shrugs, knowing that his past-turnover condition is easily zlinnable.

Bibi: Yes... Uh, what brought it to mind.... uh.... Cristal seems determined to convince me that I require his services in that capacity. It's very annoying, that he won't take no for an answer. Well, not for a permanent answer, that is.

Seruffin makes a mental note to have a firm talk with Cristal regarding basic professional etiquette.

Seruffin: I take it that your health is not at immediate risk?

Bibi: Oh, no, as you can zlin, I've got no problems along those lines.

Bibi is getting really tired of blushing, but she can't help it.

Seruffin: Then it really is none of his business, isn't it?

Bibi: As they say out here, "Damn straight!"

Seruffin chuckles.

Bibi: I usually find my ... appearance ... to be a real asset in disarming the fears of the Gens out here, and in-T among Simes, nager is more important anyway.

Seruffin: Well, I know two young out-Territory men who might benefit from that. Young Bart Mullins, with his Donor potential, is one. At least, if he's to realize that potential. And the other is his younger brother, Vrian. Vrian has just established, about a week ago.

Bibi: It might take Vrian a while to be influenced that way, then. If he finds you intimidating...

Bibi finds that she's putting her foot in it again.

Seruffin: That might have been it. On the other hand, he may have absorbed some of his mother's Simephobia.

Bibi: I suspect so, at that age.

Seruffin: Unfortunately, the young man also has a strong sense of duty, and he knows how desperate the family is for ready cash.

Bibi: I wonder if a motherly approach might help alleviate his fear.

Seruffin: Perhaps. He was willing to talk to me a bit, when his brother or father were present.

Bibi: I hope his family isn't pressuring him.

Seruffin: They're not. He's proud, though, and he might not be willing to wait until he's ready before he tries to donate.

Bibi: I'd be willing to try having his brother or father present when I talk to him, or even when I take his donation. From what you've written about them, I think I could manage it.

Seruffin: If they were lowfield, you wouldn't have any trouble on their account.

Bibi: Yes, and it sounds like they would be willing to avoid interfering unnecessarily.

Seruffin: On the other hand, it might put extra pressure on Vrian to go through with a donation. That wouldn't be a bad thing, if he really wanted to donate and just required some encouragement.

Bibi: He witnessed his father's donation. Do you think it might help him to do that again?

Seruffin: It might. And it might give you a chance to estimate his readiness, too. He's proud, as I said. And he's young enough to care whether he's seen as a coward.

Bibi: If I can count on his father to stay calm and not require my full concentration... I can't... uh, if Vrian really panics.... Perhaps the best tactic would be to try to get him to feel comfortable with me outside the whole donation situation.

Seruffin: He was able to accept me on a social basis, albeit with some caution.

Bibi: Hajene, it's really remarkable what you accomplished, in just a few days, in a place like Gumgeeville. Under such informal conditions, with no advance planning, with no backup, or knowledge of the situation in the area. ~~ admiration ~~~

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: Well, the situation in the immediate area was clear enough, when Jed Mullins started talking about the way his father donated during the first Faith Day. And it doesn't do to offend one's host, now, does it?

Bibi is ~~ charmed ~~ by the self-deprecation, but when you're a high First, you can do that.

Bibi: Still, it was a risk... in more ways than one.

Seruffin: Yes, it was. If Jed hadn't been able to hold together long enough, and he'd started actively fighting me, his family would probably have tried to intervene.

Seruffin is very, very glad that it didn't come to that.

Bibi: ~~ shudder ~~

Seruffin: I admit, I was really missing having a nice, private donation room, for a few moments there. But when I tried to close the door, Jed insisted that his family be allowed to watch. And if I'd explained to him why privacy was less risky, he might not have had the nerve to let me touch him at all.

Bibi: It must have been very difficult, even with Gerrhonot to support you, all those untrained nagers, the chaotic ambient. Their intense emotions. ~~ admiration ~~~

Seruffin: It was a bit tricky, but Gerrhonot's field was high enough to block a lot of it. And fortunately, Jed likes to show off.

Bibi decides not to say anything about the conditions the next day, when Seruffin took Ma's donation in his Donor's absence. She's pretty sure she zlinned some guilt when he described it briefly in the lounge earlier.

Bibi: I'm looking forward to meeting him.

Bibi: The conditions must have been as bad or worse for Virla's donation, too, and she had that unusual nager and the idiosyncratic reaction to draw.

Seruffin: We had a bit more privacy for that one, since the Mullins family was eating supper at the time.

Bibi refrains from laritist slurs about Gens and food.

Seruffin: The only possible difficulty you might encounter with the two elder Mullins men is if they have trouble adjusting to the idea of working with a strange channel. But that's easily fixed, if you have time to get acquainted first.

Bibi: Yes. I'm not at all busy here, except some times on market day, or of course if I have a changeover in progress. I'll want to work with Bart a bit anyway before I take his donation, so he understands not to try to push selyn at me.

Seruffin: He learned how not to focus his attention on me pretty quickly, once Gerrhonot and I explained that it was interfering with my field. I think he rather enjoyed having some "secret" knowledge.

Bibi: Fifteen natal years, and just finding out that he was not going to be shot in changeover.... very vulnerable to new ideas and new ideals... to find that he has a special talent...

Seruffin: I'm not sure how much he does realize that he has a special talent. So much was happening, in such a short time, that I doubt he had much time to consider it.

Bibi: By the time he gets here then, he'll likely be full of questions.

Seruffin: Yes, he will.

Bibi: In your general report, Bart's friend Mik... his potential to change over as a channel...

Seruffin: It's potential only. His conviction that he'll be a Sime could just be plain, old-fashioned pessimism.

Bibi: I wonder if I should try to arrange for him to board here in town, or try to get the Tecton to have a spare Donor here for the first half of the month, when my Donor will be too lowfield to serve a changeover?

Seruffin: It's worth trying, if his parents are amenable.

Bibi: Maybe Bart and Jed will have suggestions on how to approach them.

Seruffin: His father would be the one to approach. His mother is rather vehemently anti-Sime, I understand.

Bibi: I see.

Seruffin: Try, Hajene--but don't castigate yourself if they refuse.

Bibi: As you say, I can't save them all. It would be a shame to lose a channel though. Maybe I can get him to come in and talk about what we can arrange here.

Bibi: Hajene, do you require work to prevent entran? I'll likely have a half dozen or so experienced donors in here shortly after dawn.

Seruffin grimaces.

Seruffin: I admit, four donations and a changeover in the past week hasn't been quite enough. However, I can do an outfunction, if you think your local donors would be upset by having to work with a strange channel.

Bibi: Well, we can let them choose. Would that be all right? Uh, we're very informal here, I know everyone personally....

Seruffin: Of course. I'll take the ones who are willing to work with me, then, and you can take the rest.

Bibi: If Gerrhonot requires more rest, I can try to support you, or I can loan you Cristal.

Seruffin isn't sure that Cristal could offer him a useful degree of support, but on the other hand, it would give him a chance to observe the Donor in action.

Seruffin: We'll see whether Gerrhonot is still sleeping when they arrive. Thank you for your hospitality, Hajene.

Seruffin stands.

Bibi: The housekeeper will be in soon and there'll be a good breakfast ready in an hour.

Seruffin: Thank you.

Bibi: It's a real privilege having a channel of your stature here. Please let me know if there's anything else I can do for you.

Bibi tries her best to sound like a diplomat.

Seruffin: You are very hospitable.

Seruffin takes his leave.

Bibi breathes a sigh of relief as the ambient returns to normal.

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