Bibi is sitting in the reception area of the Sime Center, drinking trin and nibbling on an oatmeal cookie. The church ladies provide the Sime Center with cookies for the donors on a rotating basis. She's waiting for customers, but since it's just past noon, and everybody in Ford and environs has lunch at noon sharp, she doesn't expect anyone. She's sent Nattin, Seruffin and Cristal to the back to have lunch too.
Lia Kolnor comes down the farmhouse's...er, the Sime Center's...front walk, looking around at the haphazard but cheerful landscaping with frank ~~ curiosity ~~.
Lia has spent her life on the family farm, with only rare visits to such civilization as a village can provide. She has never been to a big city like Ford before, in all her 22 years, and has found it a bit overwhelming. She hadn't known, for instance, that a Sime Center would look like an ordinary, somewhat run down, but large house. She finds the familiarity reassuring, if a little mundane.
Lia is not accustomed to talking much with strangers, however much she longs for adventure. She squares her stocky shoulders, well muscled by hard work, and opens the door.
Lia: Hello. This is the Sime Center, isn't it?
Bibi: Yes, it is. Please come in. Would you like some tea and cookies?
Bibi had zlinned the unfamiliar Gen nager approaching, and was glad it showed mainly curiosity rather than apprehension.
Lia's eyes adjust to the reduction in lighting, and she is able to see Bibi clearly.
Lia: I guess I didn't really need to ask that, did I?
Bibi smiles in friendly manner.
Lia has never met a Sime before, in person at least, and wishes she hadn't made a fool of herself at the first opportunity.
Bibi: That's okay. I'm Hajene Bibi.
Lia: Lia Kolnor. My family has a farm just this side of Bolney Road.
Lia's ~~ curiosity ~~ is getting the better of her embarrassment.
Bibi: That must be near the Maggintash family's farm, right?
Lia: Well, it's about a half mile away.
Bibi: Right. Here, take off your coat and have a seat. Shall I pour you some tea?
Lia looks around, noting just enough "odd" things to pique her interest.
Lia: Thank you. It is cold out, today.
Lia takes off her coat, revealing clean but practical and somewhat worn clothing.
Bibi gets up and fills a mug with tea and offers it to Lia.
Lia sits on the couch, taking the tea and using it to warm her chilled fingers.
Bibi is prepared to spend as much time as necessary in small talk and generic polite social interaction to make her potential donor comfortable.
Lia: That smells good. What is it?
Bibi: it's trinrose tea. It's very popular in-T, and many people here at the Ford like it too.
Lia: I've heard about it, but I've never had any.
Lia takes a sip, with due caution for the heat.
Lia: It's interesting.
Lia is finding Bibi interesting, too.
Bibi: Would you like a cookie, too?
Bibi offers the plate.
Lia hasn't seen a live Sime, before.
Lia takes a familiar oatmeal cookie, and nibbles it thoughtfully.
Bibi zlins Lia's interest, and is pleased that she doesn't seem to be at all nervous at what is likely her first encounter with a Sime.
Lia thinks it's kind of strange, that she, Lia Kolnor, is sitting there having tea and cookies with a Sime.
Bibi lets her tentacles relax into their natural rest position, partly extended, carefully zlinning to make sure she doesn't alarm Lia. She sips her own tea.
Lia watches closely, but without undue alarm.
Bibi: I don't think we've had any Kolnors in here before.
Lia: We keep to ourselves, mostly. This is actually the first time I've ever been to Ford. I've never met a Sime before, either.
Lia sounds a touch apologetic.
Bibi smiles the only smile she has, charming and dimpled.
Lia does know it's unmannerly to stare, even if she isn't completely able to resist the temptation.
Bibi: Most people who come in here for the first time haven't either.
Lia: Well, I haven't met one in person. And that's why I've come.
Bibi: Are you curious about my tentacles? Would you like a closer look?
Lia: Uhh... Sure, I suppose.
Bibi offers her hand, palm up, handling tentacles extended.
Lia takes full advantage of the implied permission to stare.
Lia: They don't look the way I thought they would.
Bibi: You can touch them if you like.
Lia hesitates, then reaches out to brush one handling tentacles.
Lia: I'd always thought that they were sort of tacked onto a normal arm, like an afterthought, but they're not, are they?
Bibi: No, I can draw them into the sheaths that lie along the muscles of my arm, like this.
Lia finds this quite ~~ interesting ~~ indeed. She thinks this is turning out to be a nice adventure, after all.
Bibi shifts her tea mug into the tentacles of her other hand.
Bibi: See? I can use them like extra fingers.
Lia: There have been times when I could have used another finger or eight.
Bibi: Like tying a package up with string, eh?
Lia recalls that she has business here.
Lia: I'm wasting your time. I'm here because my cousin invited me to visit her.
Bibi: Does she live in-T?
Lia: Yes. She said that I should go to the nearest Sime Center to take care of some formalities?
Bibi: That should be straightforward. You don't have any objection to donating do you?
Bibi knows that she also has to certify that the Gen appears not to be Simephobic, which looks like an easy decision to make.
Lia's relative spent most of the letter space describing the delights to be enjoyed during the proposed visit, and very little on travel logistics.
Lia: Well, not as such, I guess. I don't know very much about it.
Bibi: It's really very simple, especially with a person like you who isn't nervous around Simes.
Lia prefers simplicity.
Bibi: First we have to do the awful part .... filling out some forms.
Lia: You mean travel permits and such?
Bibi: I have to record things like your name, your address, your birth date, and some other information, like if you've had any medical problems. That's for your file, for the donation.
Bibi: Then I'll take your donation. We go into the room over there, for privacy.
Bibi gestures with a tentacle and notes that Lia doesn't show any alarm at the gesture.
Bibi: We'll sit down together on the sofa, and I'll offer you my hands. You'll consent to the donation by taking my hands, and I'll hold your arms with my tentacles.
Lia's eyes return to Bibi's arms for a moment, until she recalls her manners and returns them to the channel's face.
Lia nods, blushing.
Lia: Then what?
Bibi: Then I'll extend my lateral tentacles and touch your arms with them.
Bibi demonstrates by extending one lateral tentacle.
Bibi: They have a selyn conducting fluid on them that may tingle a little on your skin.
Lia duly notes that the lateral glistens moistly.
Bibi: Then we'll touch lips, and I'll take your donation. You won't feel anything when I do, and it will take about a minute. Then I'll release your arms, and write you a voucher for the amount you've earned, which you can cash here when Nattin gets back from lunch.
Bibi: We'll go as slowly as you feel comfortable with, and you can ask to stop at any time. Does that sound all right?
Lia: Well, yes, but... Why is it necessary, just to go visit my cousin?
Bibi: There are several reasons. I'll give you some booklets to read too, that will explain life in-T in more detail. Is your cousin Sime?
Lia: Yeah. She's the daughter of my mother's younger brother. He decided to leave her his share of the farm, and go try his luck along the border. When Nilli started to turn Sime, she didn't have far to go.
Bibi: She was very lucky, wasn't she?
Lia: Well, I don't know if I'd call growing up with Uncle Greenberry "lucky". He's a bit strange.
Bibi: Oh, dear! I guess there's one in every family.
Bibi: One reason you have to donate is because Simes can detect Gens' emotions.
Lia: Nilli wrote that you can't lie to a Sime. Is that why?
Bibi: Pretty much. You have to be pretty good at controlling your emotions to get away with a lie. Most Gens in-T learn to control there emotions, but not always that well.
Lia smiles ruefully.
Lia: I can't even fool my little sister, most times.
Bibi: It's easier just to be straightforward, isn't it? You have to have a real good memory to be a good liar!
Lia: Well, yes.
Bibi: When you're high field, full of selyn, your emotions can be very loud to the Simes around you if you haven't learned to avoid that. So one reason for donating is to lower your field, so you can't accidentally alarm people or hurt them.
Lia: That makes sense, I suppose.
Bibi: The other reason is so that I can certify that you aren't Simephobic. Some people are naturally terrified of Simes the way they can be of snakes or spiders or of heights or crowds or whatever. I can see that you aren't one of those people, because you haven't had any trouble just sitting here talking with me, and you were even willing to touch a tentacle without any fuss.
Lia: That's bad?
Bibi: No, it's good. If you were Simephobic you would have been terrified to come in here, and afraid of me and my tentacles. But you aren't. You're about as comfortable with me as with a Gen you'd met for the first time, right?
Lia feels compelled to be honest.
Lia: Well, almost.
Bibi smiles again.
Bibi: Almost is close enough.
Lia smiles back, a little weakly.
Bibi: Would you like to get started on the paperwork? You can bring your tea along.
Lia: I guess so.
Bibi: Come with me then.
Bibi leads the way to the donation room, enters, and sits at the desk. She takes out a new folder with blank forms.
Lia is used to having a lot of time to think things over, out on the farm, but she understands that Bibi might have other things to do today. She follows Bibi into the donation room, looking around.
Lia: What's that?
Lia nods towards the piece of furniture at the far end of the room, which looks like the bastard offspring of a dentist's chair and a sofa.
Bibi: That's the transfer lounge. You sit on that end, and I sit on this one.
Bibi starts filling out the form with Lia's name, location of the farm, postal address (General Delivery, Potterville).
Bibi: How old are you, Lia?
Lia sits in the chair in front of the desk.
Lia: I'm twenty-two.
Bibi: And how old were you when you first menstruated?
Bibi knows that out-T Gens don't know their establishment date.
Lia wonders why Bibi wants to know that.
Bibi: In-T Gens know when they established - turned Gen - because Simes tell them they have. Out here, we can only guess, because women start menstruating within a half year of establishing or changing over.
Lia: Oh. Why is it important when I established?
Bibi: Mostly because there's a space on the form for it, I suppose.
Bibi smiles wryly.
Lia: It doesn't make a difference with the donation?
Bibi: No, it won't.
Lia has a thought.
Lia: Are there things that do affect a donation?
Lia hadn't thought about it that way, in the whole five minutes or so since Bibi brought the subject up. She had previously thought that channels weren't picky about which Gens donated, on the rare occasions when she thought about the subject at all.
Bibi: Well, there aren't many things in a young healthy person like you. When people are sick, they often don't have as much selyn, and pregnant women use some for their babies.
Lia: So you have to leave some behind?
Bibi: I always leave some behind. You see, your selyn is at different levels. The surface level is easy to draw from, and for each deeper level, it's more difficult. The more you can relax, the deeper I can draw from and the more money you'll make.
Lia: So how many levels to you take from?
Bibi: Up to three.
Lia: So there's three layers?
Lia thinks this donation business is a lot more complicated than she'd ever dreamed.
Bibi: There's three layers for general class donors. i usually only draw from the top level for a first donation.
Lia: To keep things simple?
Bibi: Pretty much. It also gives you something to look forward to.
Bibi doesn't mention that she'd rather not take a chance on alarming a novice donor.
Lia: Oh. I suppose that makes sense.
Bibi continues to fill out the form. Lia has had a pretty normal healthy life so far, just the usual childhood diseases and injuries. Her family medical history seems not have anything unusual in it either, as far as Lia can describe it.
Bibi: Thanks, Lia. You've been very patient with all these personal questions.
Lia: You're right. It's just like the doctor's, except they always want to know if my family's insurance is paid up, too.
Bibi: Well, here at the Sime Center, we pay you, not the reverse!
Lia: Now, why can't the doctor manage that?
Bibi: Shall we continue?
Bibi gets up and gestures to the transfer lounge.
Lia: Sure, I guess.
Lia is a little nervous, now that the time has come to actually donate.
Bibi sits at the channel's position and smiles invitingly at Lia.
Lia moves obediently enough to the indicated spot.
Bibi: Lia, I bet there's some place around the farm, maybe a place with a nice view, or a cozy spot in the woods or in a building, where you like to go when you have time to yourself.
Lia: My garden.
Bibi: Good. I'd like you to imagine that it's a nice day in summer, and your garden is doing well, and you have the whole afternoon to yourself to do whatever you like, and you've gone to your garden.
Lia looks doubtfully at Bibi.
Bibi: You're there and just looking at the garden and enjoying it and feeling happy, and there's nothing you have to do but what you want to.
Bibi looks back questioningly.
Lia: What's my garden got to do with this?
Bibi: If you can imagine a place like that, where you're relaxed and happy, you'll feel relaxed while I take your donation, and everything will go very smoothly.
Lia: Oh. All right, I guess.
Lia makes an effort to imagine her summer garden.
Bibi zlins Lia, and she seems to be doing well.
Bibi offers her hands.
Bibi: Take my hands when you're ready, Lia.
Lia hesitates a moment, then reaches out to take Bibi's hands.
Lia tries to think hard about her garden.
Bibi: Now I'll hold your arms with my tentacles.
Bibi does so, and Lia is not alarmed.
Bibi: You're doing very well, Lia. Now I'll extend my laterals - they'll feel a bit moist and tingly.
Bibi does so.
Lia looks down at her arms, where Bibi's hands disappear underneath Lia's baggy sweater.
Lia: That feels...weird.
Bibi: Yeah, it does, doesn't it?
Bibi: Everybody says that, or at least I think they think it!
Lia: It's not uncomfortable, exactly, but...
Bibi waits for Lia to complete her thought.
Lia: Well, it's a bit unsettling.
Bibi: Yes, especially when it's a new experience.
Lia: I suppose people get used to it, in time?
Bibi: Oh, yes. Many people have been coming here every month for several years now.
Bibi: Now this will only take a minute, once I start, so try to be patient and stay still. You won't feel me drawing the selyn, so I hope you won't get too bored.
Lia: All right.
Lia tries to smile, with middling success.
Bibi: When you're ready, just lean forward and touch your lips to mine. It's not at all like kissing.
Bibi leans forward herself, and waits.
Lia takes a moment to try to get a handle on her nervousness, then leans forward to make lip contact.
Bibi is glad the nervousness is no more than one might expect from an inexperienced young person doing almost anything for the first time in front of someone else.
Lia thinks that she wanted an adventure, and even if this isn't exactly what she had in mind, at least she's not back on the farm hoeing the corn.
Bibi zlins Lia carefully, finding her to be very healthy and in good shape - fit and well nourished. She begins to draw from the GN-3 level with no difficulty.
Lia is sure that it will seem a lot more exciting when she's remembering it later.
Bibi drains the GN-3 level, and figures she or the next channel will have no difficulty with the GN-2 on the next donation.
Bibi breaks the lip contact, retracts her laterals and releases Lia's arms.
Lia is even surer that her little sister will be willing to do quite a bit to hear the story told.
Lia is ~~ relieved ~~
Bibi: You did very well, Lia. I think the next time, we can do the second level too.
Lia: Is that it?
Bibi: That's it, except for getting paid.
Bibi smiles pleasantly and reaches for the voucher pad.
Lia: Well, that's not so bad, then.
Bibi: You know, you donated about the amount that your cousin needs to live for a month.
Bibi fills out the voucher and hands it to Lia.
Lia takes the voucher.
Lia: I did?
Bibi: Yes, you've given almost a month of life to a Sime.
Lia: Just like that?
Bibi: Just like that. A few minutes of your time every month keeps a Sime somewhere alive.
Lia: Well, imagine that.
Bibi: It's kind of wonderful, isn't it, that a Gen can save someone's life so easily.
Lia is feeling much more comfortable now that the strange part seems to be over.
Bibi: Thank you, Lia, for saving someone's life.
Lia is too young to accept the thanks gracefully.
Lia: I didn't set out to save anyone's life. I just want to visit my cousin.
Lia absently looks down at the piece of paper Bibi handed her. Her eyes widen.
Lia: Is that right?
Lia: But that's enough to hire a hand for three weeks! A good one.
Lia: That's a lot of money. Do you really have to pay people that much, to get them to donate?
Lia, being a farm girl, is well acquainted with the vagaries of market forces.
Bibi: The Tecton sets the rates. The idea is to be fair to both Simes and Gens in-T. Simes can work more hours per day, but they don't have to buy as much food as Gens.
Bibi: So this sort of evens things out for both larities.
Bibi is simplifying greatly, but this is one aspect of the rate setting that she is particularly fond of.
Lia: Well, I suppose that makes sense.
Bibi: At universities in-T, the Gen students often live on their donation payments, and the university hires the Simes part time to do things like work in the cafeteria and the grounds, so both larities get money and have about the same amount of time to study.
Lia: I admit, I don't know much about Simes. Only what my cousin has told me. And she didn't go to college.
Bibi: What kind of work does she do?
Lia: She sells hats and clothes and things in a shop.
Lia hasn't seen very many shops, and has a little trouble visualizing this.
Bibi: That's a good job for someone who likes to meet people.
Lia: She seems to like it. She's threatening to get me what she calls a "real wardrobe".
Bibi: Oh, my! Well, don't let her talk you into wearing anything that you really don't like! I think it will be a wonderful adventure for you to visit your cousin.
Lia: It'll sure beat staying on the farm! Not that I don't love my home, but a girl should get to see the big city at least once before she settles down, shouldn't she?
Bibi: Most definitely. Hardly anyone around here has been in-T, so everyone will want to hear about your adventures.
Lia: Yeah. Even those snooty town girls like Firla have never been to a big city, much less visited an entirely different Territory. They can hardly call me a country mouse after that!
Bibi: For sure. Now you can write to your cousin and tell her you've donated to a channel and it all went very smoothly.
Lia: Yes, I can. Although I guess to a Sime, it's no big deal, if all the Gens they know do it.
Bibi: It's a big deal for many people out-T, and you did extremely well. Many people are very nervous when they come here for the first time, and many other people would never even come here.
Lia: Really? I'd think that the people who come in at all wouldn't be too upset. I mean, if they were, why would they come here at all? They can't all want to visit family on the other side of the border.
Bibi: They have a lot of different reasons. Some just want the money, some want to overcome their fear, some feel it's the right thing to do for moral or religious reasons, some of them want to help Simes because one of their family members changed over.
Bibi: Donating is good for your health too. Gens who donate regularly don't get colds or the flu as often.
Lia: Why is that?
Bibi: That's a good question. Some people say that Gens wouldn't make selyn if it wasn't meant to be drawn off for the use of Simes, so it's a healthy thing for that to happen. It's how Gen bodies are supposed to function. But whatever the reason, that's how it works.
Bibi: Nattin should be back soon. Would you like more tea and cookies while you wait for him?
Bibi stands up and opens the door.
Lia follows Bibi back to the main room.
Lia: You said you had some pamphlets or something about traveling in Sime Territory?
Bibi: Yes, there's a lot of different booklets over on the table there. Help yourself to whichever ones interest you, as well as to tea and cookies.
Bibi: I'll just put your file in my office and be back in a few minutes.
Lia wanders in the general direction of the literature table.
Bibi goes to her office and sits down to finish filling out the form.
Seruffin notes her nager as he passes by, and pauses to poke his head in.
Seruffin: Did you have some business?
Bibi: Yes, a new donor. She wants to visit a cousin in-T, so I started a file on her and took her donation. Remarkably easy, too.
Seruffin: Not much resistance?
Bibi: None at all. I could have taken her GN-2, I think. Maybe even her GN-1.
Seruffin: I'm glad it worked out so well, but still, you should probably have asked one of the Donors to stand by. If something had gone wrong, no one would have known about it.
Seruffin smiles ~~ wryly ~~
Bibi: Oh, you'd probably have heard the donor screaming.
Bibi smiles back.
Seruffin: I made that mistake myself, in Gumgeeville, and it wasn't pleasant. For me, or my client.
Bibi: ~~ sympathy ~~~
Seruffin: And there wasn't any indication that she would panic, before it happened. She was nervous, but that's all. You can't afford to trust an inexperienced donor.
Bibi wonders what to say. She is, after all, an experienced channel, who's been Controller here for several years. She used her best judgment in proceeding as she did.
Bibi gets up and offers Seruffin her hand.
Seruffin takes it.
Bibi: I'm sorry you had such a bad experience. ~~ sympathy ~~
Bibi realizes that she may have made a mistake getting right into Seruffin's field again. That sec is so subliminally attractive. ~~ comfort ~~~ ~~ confidence ~~
Bibi finds herself moving closer.
Seruffin: It did teach me an important lesson that I'd almost forgotten: a Gen who doesn't have the experience to be confident is a potential danger, even if he or she zlins cooperative.
Bibi wonders what to say. She doesn't want to argue, but it wouldn't be entirely honest to agree. She probably has a lot more experience with out-T Gens than Seruffin does, despite the discrepancy in age.
Seruffin: Furthermore, just because a Gen isn't afraid, doesn't mean he or she won't be very upset if something goes wrong.
Seruffin's ~~ concern ~~ is apparent.
Seruffin has grown to like Bibi, and doesn't want to see her take foolish chances.
Bibi is starting to get overwhelmed by Seruffin's high order nager.
Bibi: I'll try to be more careful in future, Hajene. ~~ woozy with exposure to sec ~~~
Seruffin: Thank you. It doesn't take much time to get a Donor, after all.
Bibi finds herself about to lean against Seruffin's chest. He's still holding her hand.
Seruffin zlins Bibi's wooziness, and lightens his influence on the ambient to allow her to think clearly again. He is a gentleman, after all.
Bibi: Hajene, I apologize.... I...
Bibi can't bring herself to back off just yet.
Seruffin: I am the one who should apologize. I keep forgetting that you've been the only channel out here for years.
Bibi: I... may I....
Bibi leans against Seruffin after all. ~~~ mindless adoration ~~~
Bibi is aware at some level that she won't be able to blush intensely enough to express her feelings about what she's doing once she recovers, but still can't stop.
Seruffin brushes one handling tentacle down Bibi's cheek, then reluctantly lets go of her hand and steps back.
Seruffin doesn't believe in taking advantage. Much.
Bibi staggers slightly but catches her balance.
Seruffin offers a bit of ~~ steadiness ~~
Bibi's eyes are closed, and she's mostly hyperconscious.
Seruffin: There will be other clients coming in soon, I expect.
Seruffin gently relevels Bibi, bringing her duo.
Bibi staggers to her chair, sits down, leans her elbows on the desk and puts her face in her hands.
Seruffin: Perhaps you would have dinner with me tonight, if you aren't busy?
Bibi's emotions are pulling in all directions, and she doesn't bother to try to hide them behind her showfield, which she knows is transparent to Seruffin.
Seruffin: I won't be offended if you can't come. I know a Controller always has conflicting responsibilities.
Bibi is intensely ~~relieved ~~that Seruffin isn't offended, still quite ~~ embarrassed ~~ at what she's done and ~~ intensely attracted ~~to Seruffin.
Bibi: Hajene, I'd like to very much. Thank you for not taking offense....
Seruffin: How could I? You've done nothing offensive.
Bibi: I've never... experienced anything like this before...
Bibi shivers at the thought of spending time wrapped in Seruffin's incredible field.
Seruffin: You're attracted to me, and truth to tell, I'm finding you charming. That doesn't mean we have to have anything more than an enjoyable acquaintance, however. Not unless you're comfortable with more.
Bibi shivers again. There's no point in trying to hide her ~~ eagerness ~~~
Seruffin: Bibi, I'm flattered. An old man like me doesn't attract many pretty young women, First Order nager notwithstanding.
Bibi blushes again.
Seruffin: If you still want more, after you've had time to consider it outside of my nager, then I would be most honored to accept your invitation.
Bibi: I find you... very attractive... nagerically and .. otherwise...
Bibi really doesn't know what to say. She knows she should pull herself together and start talking business.
Seruffin is old enough to have long since left behind the desperate eagerness of youth, but mature middle-aged attraction has its own power.
Seruffin: And I, you.
Bibi takes a deep breath and forces herself hypoconscious, hoping her head will clear.
Seruffin's nager is at least not influencing her, although he has been known to attract Gens as well.
Bibi takes another deep breath, finds that even hypoconscious, Seruffin is very attractive to her, and smiles.
Seruffin smiles in return, a very nice smile.
Seruffin: Perhaps I should return to the Collectorium, and see whether any new clients have arrived.
Bibi: I'll go with you.