A Sec Pair At The Ford: Episode 4

Bibi comes to the reception area and checks that everything is ready. There's a plate of cookies, and tea on the stand over the oil lamp.

Nattin is checking the stacks of informational pamphlets on a display table along one wall.

Bibi is feeling a bit unsettled after her talk with Seruffin.

Bibi: Uh, Nattin? Do you think this Seruffin has the Sectuib's gift?

Nattin looks at Bibi in ~~ surprise ~~

Nattin: The Sectuib's gift? What makes you ask that?

Bibi: Uh. Well, I was just talking to him.... Nattin, I hope I didn't make a complete fool out of myself. I'm really not used to being around high Firsts. Or any channels any more, really. He can read me like a Gen.

Nattin: It isn't a bad thing, necessarily, for you to be reminded of how your Gen clients can feel, when you zlin them.

Bibi: Yeah, I know, but this guy is so sec.... it's kind of mesmerizing. I guess I can see how junct social structures would have been built around that. I mean, he wasn't taking advantage of it or anything, or trying to influence me, but it was so strange, I sort of had this instinctive attraction...

Nattin: Are you sure it was his nager you found attractive? Or was it something else?

Nattin looks at Bibi with the shrewd expression of someone who has seen a lot of developing relationships. He hasn't been blind to Cristal's advances towards Bibi, or that they were refused.

Bibi: Well, he seems like a good person, not like what I think of as the usual Tecton bureaucrat. He's been very polite to us, hasn't he?

Nattin: Well, he is a diplomat, isn't he? And pretty high powered, at that.

Bibi: Yes. It's that high power... The sec... sort of draws me in?

Bibi realizes that she probably can't explain the sec thing to Nattin.

Bibi: Oh well.

Nattin: As far as the Sectuib's gift goes, I don't know.

Bibi: Anyhow, he'll be working with Cristal this morning, if his Donor is still sleeping, and if any of our clients are willing to have him take their donations.

Nattin: Do you think that will be a problem? Who's due to come in today?

Bibi: Uncle Tony will probably be in. Like he says, "full moon, expect Uncle Tony."

Bibi likes Uncle Tony a lot.

Bibi: I think he'll go for it. And Flip will probably be in.

Nattin nods.

Cristal is walking down the corridor just behind Seruffin, field forcibly held ~~ neutral ~~

Seruffin isn't blind to the force being used.

Cristal: As you say, Hajene.

Seruffin: Crystal, if Bibi won't accept you, there are other ways for her to avoid the CDs. As long as she agrees to find an alternative, you should allow her to make her own choice.

Cristal: But with the greatest respect, I am very concerned for her well-being.

Seruffin: Are you sure that you haven't been making it more difficult for her to find an acceptable partner, by staking your own claim to her so openly?

Cristal: Oh, Hajene, I assure you that I make no claim whatsoever. Hajene Bibi is of course free to act however she wishes. But with respect, I am far from sure that she is ... adequately seeing to her own needs.

Seruffin: I have zlinned her. Her health is in no danger. So there is no reason for you to press her on the issue.

Cristal: Of course I am compelled to acknowledge your superior discernment of this issue. I shall at all times attempt to consort myself as befits a Companion of my Order.

Seruffin: Good. Then you will let the matter drop?

Seruffin openly zlins Cristal's answer.

Cristal: As you say, Hajene. I only wished to make clear that I did indeed have Hajene's best interests at heart. ~~ reluctantly sincere ~~

Seruffin nods, then continues down the hall.

Seruffin: I don't usually require more than general support for donations.

Cristal follows in silence.

Seruffin enters the reception area, and gives Bibi a warm but professional ~~ greeting ~~

Bibi: Good morning. Cristal, could you show Hajene Seruffin the donation room?

Cristal: ~~ very correct ~~ Of course, Hajene.

Bibi is ~~ amused ~~ by Cristal's nager, figuring that he's trying to impress Seruffin.

Seruffin turns to follow Cristal.

Cristal crosses to the other side of the room and opens a door.

Cristal: This way, Hajene.

Seruffin enters the room.

Seruffin raises an eyebrow at the cheerful calico curtains that adorn the window, a feature not usually found in donation rooms.

Seruffin: Quite...homey.

Cristal: I hope you find the arrangements satisfactory? This building wasn't constructed as a proper Sime Center, of course.

Seruffin: You've done quite well making use of the available space.

Cristal: Thank you, Hajene ~~ still very correct ~~

Seruffin checks the desk drawer for adequate supplies of the required forms, and the cabinets for the proper medications.

Cristal: I think that you will find everything to be in order; nevertheless, I quite understand if you wish to confirm matters for yourself.

Seruffin: It never hurts to know where things are. After all, it doesn't exactly raise the clients' confidence if a channel is fumbling around trying to find a pen. Shall we go back out?

Seruffin gestures towards the door.

Cristal: Very well, Hajene, but why ...

Cristal shuts up quickly.

Seruffin pauses.

Seruffin: Why what?

Cristal: Why don't we wait here for the first donor to arrive?

Seruffin: We can't be sure that the first donor won't prefer to donate to a familiar channel.

Bibi notes that dawn's rosy fingers are reaching over the horizon.

Cristal: But since your Donor is sleeping, Hajene Bibi is not scheduled to work collectorium at present.

Seruffin: I won't pressure anybody to donate to me if they're not comfortable working with a stranger. Gerrhonot can manage an entran outfunction for me, if necessary. Since there's only the one donation room, it'll be simple enough for you to help whichever one of us the donors choose.

Cristal: Very well, Hajene. You wish to return to Hajene Bibi, then?

Seruffin nods, and returns to the main reception area.

Bibi: Oh, look, Nattin, here comes Uncle Tony's buggy.

Bibi watches as Tony climbs down, ties the horse to the rail, fetches a package from the buggy and heads for the front door.

Nattin: Right on time.

Nattin isn't all that excited about Uncle Tony, because his students have already extracted all relevant data out of the man.

Bibi: Hajene, here comes our first client. I've got his file here. I'd appreciate it if you could check his heart in particular.

Seruffin: His heart? Is it giving him difficulties?

Bibi: He's getting old, and I don't like the way it zlins.

Seruffin: I'll check it out, then, if he agrees to go with me.

Cristal: ~~ Standard Tecton Light Support for Collectorium ~~

Seruffin zlins Cristal's efforts, and decides that they are adequate for his purposes. He hopes Gerrhonot wakes up before any truly difficult donors show up.

Tony is a portly Gen, with a farmer's weatherbeaten skin, a bit too ruddy for his own good. He opens the door and enters the Sime Center.

Tony: Bibi, sweetheart! How's my favorite little Sime?

Bibi: Uncle Tony! How are you?

Bibi hugs the donor, who hugs back. She enjoys his dairy farmer scent, compounded of the leathery smell of cattle, the sweet scent of hay, and the acrid smell of iodine based disinfectant. For Bibi, it's the smell of home.

Seruffin zlins discreetly, to see if the ruddy complexion is due to over indulgence.

Tony: I'm just fine, Bibi. Arora sent you this piece of blueberry cheesecake, and she wants you to eat it. You're still too thin.

Bibi: Thanks. Her cheesecake is wonderful. Uncle Tony, I'd like you to meet Hajene Seruffin, who's visiting us. Hajene Seruffin, this is Tony Grelbix.

Seruffin wonders if force-feeding Simes is genetically embedded into Genness.

Tony: Pleased to meet you, Hajene.

Seruffin: I'm very pleased to meet you, Mr. Grelbix.

Tony offers his hand.

Seruffin politely retracts his tentacles, then shakes Tony's hand, zlinning as he does so.

Bibi: Uncle Tony, would it be okay if Hajene Seruffin takes your donation this time?

Tony: Is something wrong, dear?

Bibi has more sense than to say that Seruffin needs work.

Bibi: No, I just thought you might like a change.

Seruffin views Tony's concern with approval, as it speaks well of Bibi.

Seruffin: If you prefer Hajene Bibi, of course, there's no more to be said.

Tony wonders whether Seruffin is some kind of inspector, sent out to make sure she's doing a good job, and eyes Seruffin thoughtfully. He figures he'll take the opportunity to let Seruffin know what a great job Bibi has been doing.

Tony: Sure, Bibi. Although if I'm gonna be a Sime-kisser, I'd rather be kissing you.

Tony winks.

Bibi smiles her charming dimpled smile.

Bibi: Oh, Uncle Tony!

Tony: Lead on, Hajene Ruffin.

Cristal: That's Seruffin, Mister Grelbix.

Seruffin decides not to make an issue of his name getting mangled.

Seruffin smiles in a dignified but friendly fashion.

Seruffin: No one's called me "Ruffin" in years.

Nattin holds out Tony's folder.

Nattin: You'll want this, Hajene.

Seruffin takes the folder, and glances through it quickly.

Seruffin: Thank you.

Seruffin invites Tony to enter the donation room with an "after you" gesture.

Tony marches in, takes off his coat, hangs it on the hook on the back of the door and rolls up his sleeves. He seats himself on the transfer lounge.

Tony: I want to tell you that Hajene Bibi is doing a wonderful job here in this community.

Seruffin: You approve of her, then?

Tony: Oh, yes. She's almost like one of our own, Sime or no.

Seruffin: She is one of your own. She grew up on this side of the border, after all.

Tony: Well, she's from way over the other side of New Washington. She's not related to anybody around here.

Tony considers anybody whose grandparents didn't live and die here as somewhat of a foreigner.

Seruffin: Still, I expect she understands the people here far better than I ever will, since I grew up in Sime Territory.

Tony: She grew up on a dairy farm just like around here, and she knows what people like us are like.

Cristal thinks she certainly does.

Seruffin perches casually on the corner of the desk, and opens the folder to scan the information inside.

Tony: She really got the respect of all the farmers after she delivered them calves for my nephew.

Seruffin: How long have you been donating, Mr. Grelbix.

Tony: Me? Uh, since about six months after this place opened. I brought my niece here for changeover, and Bibi did a real good job on her. After that I figured she was someone to trust so I started donating.

Seruffin: How has your niece found life in Sime Territory?

Tony: She's doing good. Working in a cheese factory now. Not married, yet, though.

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: Give her time. She's got a lot of learning and growing up to do, before she thinks about getting married.

Tony: Well, she's eighteen now, time to settle down with a good man, and give me some grandnephews and grandnieces. I raised her and my nephew after their parents died. All my kids are dead, and my nephew's gonna take the farm over.

Seruffin: It's good when a farm can remain in the family.

Tony: Yeah. And my nephew isn't gonna have to shoot any of his kids like I had to either.

Cristal: I should think not, Mister Grelbix.

Tony: See, after I started donating, I told my nephew, you say you want to build this farm up, you go donate too and make some money to do it.

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: Trust a farmer to know a good deal.

Seruffin sets the folder on the desk and moves to sit down beside Tony.

Tony: So he come here, started making money, spent it on two bred heifers and a bull calf from one of them famous dairy breeders. Then one night one of them heifers started trying to calve, and we was working on her until dawn and couldn't get that calf out.

Seruffin: Did you lose her?

Tony: He tried and I tried and we had the two forefeet and the nose, and ropes on the forefeet, but that calf wouldn't budge and that poor heifer was getting real tired.

Tony plows on into his story without letting Seruffin interrupt it.

Tony: No, we didn't lose her. What happened was, we had a couple experienced dairymen there, and we couldn't figure it out, none of us.

Seruffin offers his hands, tentacles extended.

Tony: So I said to my nephew, I never seen anything like this, and this poor heifer is just exhausted, and the only thing I can think of is get Hajene Bibi out here and she can maybe zlin what's holding things up.

Cristal steps to just the right point in the ambient.

Seruffin wonders how many channels have been called in for veterinary duty.

Seruffin: Was she able to help?

Tony: So I hitched up my buggy and come here and she had that traveling channel here so she could come with us and I brung her and her Donor back.

Tony gives Cristal a critical look.

Tony: She had a good Donor with her then.

Cristal manages to keep his outrage out of his field ... barely.

Tony: So she got that Donor to move around the other side of the heifer and zlinned and zlinned and then she said we had twins in there and had the left forefoot of one and the right forefoot of the other!

Seruffin is a bit concerned that Cristal's inability to get along with Bibi has apparently become common knowledge.

Seruffin: Well, that explains why you were having difficulty. Were you able to save both calves?

Tony: So we got them legs sorted out, and she said, Uncle Tony, I don't want you pulling that calf, I'll do it. So she worked with the heifer, pulling when the heifer pushed, and got that calf and the other out, and they was two fine heifer calves both of 'em. Good cows now too. So we could see she knew about cows and all, and that means a lot to us.

Seruffin smiles.

Seruffin: I'm sure it does.

Tony figures that should prove to Seruffin what the community thinks about Bibi. He puts his hands in Seruffin's and leans forward.

Tony: Ready to go?

Seruffin: Of course.

Cristal makes those "well-schooled motions" that non-Donors can't ever quite follow.

Seruffin casually lets his hands slide down to grip Tony's wrists, and lets his handling tentacles emerge.

Tony shows not the least sign of nerves.

Seruffin lets his laterals slide into place, and leans forward to touch lips.

Tony waits patiently for the channel to do his thing, although he's just the least bit disappointed it isn't Bibi. "Kissing" Bibi is a high point of his month.

Seruffin zlins Tony carefully, with particular attention to the health of his cardiovascular system. He notes that Tony's heart is a bit time-worn, although still functional enough for most purposes.

Seruffin then turns his attention to his primary task, easily stripping the GN-3 and GN-2 levels. He approaches the barrier to the GN-1 level cautiously, testing to see whether it will give way.

Tony is completely calm, maybe a bit bored.

Seruffin coaxes the barrier down, and works at draining the selyn behind it, keeping alert for any sign of discomfort.

Tony wonders what's taking this guy so long.

Seruffin finishes draining the GN-1 level and relinquishes the transfer contact neatly.

Seruffin: Congratulations, Mr. Grelbix. You've just Qualified as a GN-1.

Tony pulls out a checkered handkerchief, wipes off his arms, and rolls down his sleeves.

Tony: Yeah? Well, that's just fine. Thank you, Hajene.

Tony offers his hand to shake.

Seruffin does pretty well with the out-T gesture.

Tony: I was wondering what was taking you so long.

Tony: Well, you just tell anybody who asks that we like having Bibi here, and she's doing a real good job.

Tony gets up, takes his coat off the hook and puts it on.

Seruffin: I will certainly do that. There's one more thing. I couldn't help noticing that your heart isn't working as efficiently as it should.

Tony: I'm an old man.

Seruffin: I know, and you're pretty healthy, considering. But maybe you could let your nephew take on more of the burden?

Tony: Bibi's always telling me to take it easy, let my nephew do the heavy work.

Seruffin: He'll require the practice, anyway, if he's going to carry on the farm when you retire.

Tony: Well, yeah, but... I been working hard all my life... Don't like to let on I can't do it.

Cristal: You should listen to Hajene Seruffin's advice. He's a very skillful channel, as I'm sure you realize.

Tony gives Cristal a disgusted look.

Tony: Boy, when you're his age, you can tell me what to do. Maybe.

Cristal feels well-concealed resentment (he thinks)

Seruffin chuckles.

Cristal: I assure you, Mister Grelbix, I wasn't telling you what to do.

Tony ignores Cristal.

Seruffin: Believe me, I understand how difficult it is to leave things undone when you know they should be tended to. But after all, your nephew ought to know how much work the farm entails before he's in charge of it himself, shouldn't he?

Tony: Yeah, yeah, I guess so. Well, I'll see what happens if I slack off a bit.

Cristal makes up his mind to say nothing further.

Seruffin: You can always supervise your nephew's efforts.

Seruffin winks.

Tony grins and winks back.

Seruffin: That's one of the privileges of age.

Seruffin hands Tony a donation voucher.

Tony: I gotcha. Good morning to you then.

Tony leaves, closing the door behind him.

Seruffin wrote a higher figure on it than Tony is used to seeing.

Cristal thinks "If I had more support from my channel, I could be much more helpful. But if he doesn't want it, he doesn't. I'll be glad when I rotate out of this benighted place." He intends to keep up professional standards until then, of course.

Seruffin sits down to update Tony's file.

Bibi: Hi, Tony. How'd it go?

Tony: Just fine, Bibi. I told him to tell them other guys back where he comes from that you're doing a fine job and we're glad you're here.

Bibi is a bit puzzled.

Bibi: Do you want some tea?

Bibi shows her Gen upbringing by offering food when not sure what else to do in an interpersonal situation.

Tony: No time, now, my dear. Gotta get my cash and get going.

Tony heads over to Nattin's desk with his voucher.

Nattin takes the voucher, and raises an eyebrow.

Nattin: A good donation, Uncle Tony?

Tony: Guy upgraded me. Not bad, eh? Not that Bibi couldn't have, of course. ~~loyal ~~

Nattin: I'm sure that the extra income will be put to good use, eh?

Nattin counts out the appropriate amount of Gen currency, and hands it to Tony.

Tony thinks Nattin is awfully nosy, and is rather tired of playing unpaid anthropological informant.

Tony: Thanks, Nattin. See you around town, I'm sure.

Tony waves to Bibi and heads out the door.

Seruffin emerges from the donation room with Tony's updated folder.

Bibi turns to him ~~ inquiringly ~~

Seruffin: Your Uncle Tony is quite a gentleman, isn't he?

Bibi: Isn't he great? ~~ happiness ~~~

Seruffin: I talked to him a little about letting his nephew take on more of the work. He seemed to enjoy the idea of supervising, so perhaps he'll take it a bit easier.

Bibi: I hope so, but I wouldn't count on it.

Seruffin: He's quite protective of you, you know.

Bibi: Protective?

Seruffin: Yes. I got the impression that he thought I'd been sent out to investigate you, or something.

Bibi: Oh! That's what he must have meant when he came out!

Seruffin: He didn't seem to mind working with me, though. I even got his GN-1 level.

Bibi: Good. I hope he'll use the money on himself instead of the farm. I've been reluctant to push him. He's old, and he didn't start donating until an awfully advanced age.

Seruffin zlins Bibi to see if she's upset that he didn't leave the upgrading for her.

Bibi: I'm glad you were able to do it for him. ~~ sincere ~~

Seruffin: He'll never have the capacity of a Gen who started donating at a younger age, but I don't think you'll have any trouble getting the GN-1 level again, next month.

Bibi: What do you think about his heart?

Seruffin: Some of the arteries are partially blocked. I take it that you haven't been able to persuade him to go easy on eating the fruits of his labor?

Bibi: Is that what that is? I could zlin something wrong, but not what. No, I don't think I can change his eating habits. His nephew's wife is a fantastic cook. She's always telling me I'm too thin and giving me goodies, like the cheesecake today.

Seruffin looks thoughtful.

Seruffin: Does she like to experiment in the kitchen? Or does she stick to a few favorite recipes?

Bibi: Well, when she has time, perhaps. She has given me some things she said she just invented. But mostly she feeds them plain food and plenty of it. Of course, everything is swimming in butter.

Seruffin frowns.

Seruffin: It might be worth a try getting her to experiment with vegetable-based oils. Increasing the amount of nuts and grains he eats would help to reduce the blockage, as well.

Bibi: It's a reasonable thought, but dairy farmers believe that oil is for lamps.

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: I'm sure they do.

Bibi: Nuts, they'd have to buy. They do eat a lot of grain already, most likely. The younger people burn it all off working, especially in the cold weather, but I guess Tony may have slowed down more than he likes to admit, without cutting back on the food.

Seruffin: I was thinking that if you could get the chef in the family to introduce a few in-Territory recipes, as a cultural experiment, you might get farther than if you explain the medical reasons.

Bibi: That's a good idea. I'll think about how to approach her. She'll be in here in two weeks.

Seruffin: He seems more interested in taking care of others, than of himself.

Bibi: Poor man. He's had a sad life in some ways. He's really devoted to his niece and nephew. She was one of the first changeovers whose family stuck by her, here.

Seruffin: She's a fortunate girl.

Bibi: She is. He brought her in here, and he had his arm around her. And he stayed through the whole changeover. Not in the same room, of course, for the last stages.

Bibi: He's told me that he plans to attend her wedding!

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: I'm given to understand that she's been slacking: in the years since, she hasn't been able to catch a husband and produce grandnieces and grandnephews.

Bibi: That sort of thing is very important to people out here, the continuity.

Seruffin: Yes.

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