Gerrhonot follows Nattin and Cristal into Hannard's Ford's main restaurant and pub. He joins the other two in a booth in the middle of the crowded pub and looks around curiously. It smells like good cooking is going on, and people seem to be enjoying themselves.
Nattin is, as usual, finding the smell of cooking meat distasteful. He would endure a great deal worse, after all, in his relentless pursuit of scientific knowledge. He does draw the line at actually eating cooked animal flesh, however.
Daisy sees the Sime Center contingent arrive, and notices that there's a new face in the group. She approaches the booth.
Daisy: Hi, Prof, Cristal. Who's the new guy?
Gerrhonot smiles in a friendly manner at the buxom waitress.
Nattin: This is Sosu Gerrhonot. He and his channel are passing through.
Daisy smiles back.
Daisy: Hi, Gary! Welcome to the Ford.
Daisy: Prof, we've got one of your favorites tonight, Grotten Potatoes. We've also got cheese prokies.
Nattin: Ah, excellent. Potatoes and prokies it is, then. And some fruit, if you have it?
Daisy: Stewed prunes?
Nattin: If you don't have apples, prunes will do.
Daisy: Okay. How about you, Gary?
Nattin is looking forward to summer, when he can get a decent salad again.
Gerrhonot: Um, same as him, please.
Daisy: So, Cristal, how about you? Gonna eat some red meat, put hair on your chest and lead in your pencil?
Cristal: [politely] No thank you, Daisy.
Cristal isn't going to be baited this time.
Nattin has had his own troubles with Cristal, and feels disinclined to interfere in Daisy's fun. For scientific reasons, of course.
Daisy: Hmm, what else have we got.... west rabbit? pigs in a blanket? I know! Toad in the hole!
Cristal: I'll take the west rabbit, please.
Nattin's jaw drops.
Nattin: ....rabbit, Sosu Cristal?
Gerrhonot listens quietly. He's eaten rabbit, as well as snowshoe hare, porcupine, beaver, and other rodents and lagomorphs, before he came in-T.
Cristal: Toasted bread with melted cheese, Professor Nattin, that's all.
Daisy: And to drink? Beer all around? Light or dark?
Cristal: Dark, please.
Gerrhonot: Tea for me, please.
Daisy: Okay, guys, coming right up.
Nattin wishes that this place served a proper porstan, but that will have to wait until he gets back to civilization.
Daisy heads back towards the kitchen.
Nattin is inured to the hardships of field work: he only complains to himself.
Nattin: Sosu Gerrhonot, I am given to understand that you come from Gen Territory, originally?
Nattin: Then you feel comfortable in places like this?
Gerrhonot: Um, I guess so.
Nattin: Not a Sime around, meat cooking, English being spoken, and so on?
Gerrhonot: Um, yes.
Gerrhonot wonders what Nattin is trying to get at.
Nattin: Tell me, what did you find hardest about moving to Sime Territory?
Gerrhonot: Um. Well, learning Simelan, I guess. I didn't know much before I came in-T.
Nattin: Having to use a new language can be a formidable challenge, even if you know a little.
Cristal: It certainly is.
Nattin: Were you homesick?
Gerrhonot: Some. But my aunt and uncle were really good to me, and I knew that my parents had sent me in-T for my own good.
Cristal: Safer there, eh?
Gerrhonot: Yes. In case I changed over.
Cristal: Sensible of them, I must say.
Nattin's parents were sensible enough to be Householders, and so it didn't matter what he turned out to be.
Gerrhonot: Well, we're Church of Unity, so everybody sends their kids in-T or to someplace with a Sime Center.
Nattin: What were you most homesick for? After being able to speak your native language, of course.
Gerrhonot: Well, I missed my parents and my sisters. And, you know, like my own bed and the farm and stuff. My uncle grew up out-T so we could speak English sometimes.
Gerrhonot: But a sheep ranch is a sheep ranch, things were pretty much the same on both sides of the border.
Nattin: Were there things about your uncle's home that seemed "odd" or out of place to you?
Gerrhonot thinks hard.
Gerrhonot: Um, like what?
Nattin: Things that your parents and all your neighbors out-Territory had or did, that your uncle and his neighbors didn't have or do? And the reverse, of course.
Gerrhonot: Well, out-T, we ate meat and in-T hardly anybody does.
Nattin's stomach gives an uncomfortable lurch at the thought.
Nattin: Well, of course not.
Cristal: Did you, er, miss it?
Gerrhonot: We still slaughtered some of the old sheep to feed the dogs, of course. My aunt said I could cook some if I wanted, but I didn't. My aunt's a pretty good cook, so i didn't mind not eating meat.
Nattin: Did you turn down the sheep flesh because you didn't want it, or because you felt that people would think it was strange?
Gerrhonot: Um. Old sheep like that aren't very good to eat, and it would have been a lot of trouble to cook it.
Cristal wonders why it's taking so long to melt some cheese.
Nattin finds it vaguely unsettling to hear a Donor discussing the flavor of different kinds of sheep flesh, as if from first hand experience. He finds it less upsetting coming from out-Territory Gens, who don't know any better, somehow.
Daisy zips by, drops off the beer, and continues on to other customers.
Nattin: What else was different?
Nattin takes a cautious sip of his beer as he waits for a reply.
Gerrhonot: Of course my aunt and uncle had big loose sleeves on their clothes, or else short sleeves. It's pretty cold up in the mountains.
Nattin: Did their clothes look funny to you?
Gerrhonot: No, they looked normal, except for the sleeves, but the sleeves made sense because of their tentacles.
Nattin: Was there anything else about living with Simes that was hard to adapt to?
Gerrhonot: Well, I didn't know any Simes before I came in-T, except my aunt and uncle, so some things were different, like they slept less than my parents. And of course they have need cycles and had to go into town for transfer every month.
Nattin: Did that worry you?
Gerrhonot: No. I mean, I knew they were Simes, and that's how Simes are.
Nattin: Were you worried that you would become Sime yourself, and not be able to return home? Or did you already want to leave your parents' sheep farm forever?
Gerrhonot: I wasn't worried, because I knew I'd get channel's transfer in First Need. My uncle gave me a pony so I could get back down the mountain if I thought I was in changeover while I was out at the summer pastures. My family would visit me if I couldn't go out-T any more.
Nattin: Still, that's not the same as living with them.
Gerrhonot: Well, a lot of people leave home when they grow up. After all, I did, even though I established.
Nattin: Yes, and you chose to become a Donor. An interesting choice of profession, for a Gen raised out-Territory.
Gerrhonot: I guess so.
Nattin: What did your family think of your choice?
Gerrhonot: They're real happy.
Nattin: Did they understand what makes you want to be with channels?
Nattin is only a GN-1, but as a Householder, he knows a great deal more about such matters than most non-Donors.
Gerrhonot: Well, the Church of Unity believes that Simes and Gens should get along and help each other, or they wouldn't have been made so they could, so being a Donor is a real good thing.
Nattin: You've certainly done well for yourself, on the Sime side of the border. How long did it take you to make First?
Gerrhonot: Um. My first transfer.
Nattin: That's unusual. Particularly in a Gen who didn't grow up with Simes.
Gerrhonot: But I had to stay longer at the training camp because I'm no good at paperwork.
Nattin is starting to wonder, a bit unkindly, perhaps, whether Gerrhonot was just not smart enough to absorb the out-T attitude towards Simes.
Daisy brings the food.
Daisy: Here you go. Hot bunnies for you, Cristal, and here's yours, Prof, and some for you too, Gary.
Gerrhonot inspects the heaped plate. Grotten Potatoes appears to be potatoes baked in cream in a buttered casserole dish with a lot of cheese melted on top. Prokies are dumplings filled with potatoes and cheese, boiled, fried in butter with onions and served with a large dollop of sour cream on top.
Nattin is just glad that he and his students have finally managed to convince the management to offer some non-meat-based alternatives on the menu. He has long since given up expecting those offerings to be nutritionally balanced.
Gerrhonot is impressed, especially after Ma Mullins' cooking, and wonders if he can eat it all. He starts with the side salad, shredded carrot and rutabaga with raisins in a sour cream and mayonnaise dressing.
Daisy zips past, dropping off a basket of rolls and a crock of butter.
Cristal daintily picks up a hunk of bread dripping with melted cheese and breaks it into bite-sized pieces; he picks up one and eats it. He would never consider biting his bread.
Nattin picks up a fork and starts making his way through the potatoes.
Gerrhonot cuts a prokie in half and eats one piece after shaking off some of the sour cream.
Cristal: Tell me, Sosu Gerrhonot, how do you find working with Hajene Seruffin?
Gerrhonot: I like it a lot. He's really good to me.
Cristal: I understand that you overmatch him. Don't you think it would be better if he overmatched you a little so that you could grow a bit?
Gerrhonot: Um. He's a long time past changeover. He's not going to develop any further.
Nattin tries a prokie, despite the odd name.
Cristal: No, no, no. I just meant: wouldn't you rather work with a channel who was a little better than you were, so that you could learn to be better too?
Gerrhonot: Um. There aren't that many, except for Farrises and Tigues.
Nattin: Most Farrises and Tigues are Householders. Is that what bothers you?
Gerrhonot: At training camp they told me I had the nager to be Farris-trained, but no Farris would put up with me because I'm too stupid. And there aren't very many Tigues.
Nattin has met with a lot of Houseless people in-Territory who still half think Householders are perverts.
Gerrhonot: Um, in Capital I was switching between Hajene Seruffin and Hajene Jaklin ambrov Imil. She's really nice.
Gerrhonot likes Jaklin, who is kind to him, and it doesn't occur to him to mention that she's the World Controller whom Seruffin is the Special Envoy of.
Cristal: Gerrhonot, you really shouldn't call yourself stupid. If people outside the Tecton hear you say that, they might think the Tecton was stupid too.
Gerrhonot thinks that's kind of a strange idea.
Gerrhonot: Well, I am stupid. But the Tecton isn't a person, so how can it be stupid?
Cristal: I mean the high up people in the Tecton, really.
Gerrhonot: I don't think they're stupid. Not the ones I've met at least.
Nattin: Have you met a lot of other First Order Donors?
Gerrhonot: Yes. Mostly in Capital.
Cristal realizes he's not going to get his point across.
Nattin: And were they all intelligent and dignified, a credit to their position?
Nattin shoots a sly glance at Cristal.
Gerrhonot: Some were kind of stiff all the time, but most were ordinary guys except when they had to be formal for some ceremony or meeting or something I guess.
Cristal glares at Nattin.
Gerrhonot: Um, Sosu Nick was never formal, and he serves Farrises. Or Sosu Pylor, either.
Cristal: Being formal can be really important sometimes.
Nattin: Were they effective in carrying out their duties, nonetheless?
Gerrhonot: Um. Well, Hajene Arat wouldn't take transfer from anybody but Sosu Nick. Nick's a really good Donor, a Natural.
Gerrhonot thinks Arat was stiff and formal enough for both of them and then some.
Nattin: And outside of serving his channel, was this Sosu Nick able to carry out the duties of a First properly, even though he didn't stand on ceremony?
Gerrhonot: I guess so. He was Head Donor for the whole site.
Cristal: Gerrhonot, if these questions make you uncomfortable, you certainly don't have to answer them.
Gerrhonot: No, it's okay. I don't mind. I like Nick. He's a good guy, even if he did start off as a rogue.
Nattin: A rogue?
Nattin is not a channel, and so he doesn't necessarily follow the Tecton gossip on the latest Donors.
Gerrhonot: Yes. Him and Hajene Wise Snake Farris? It was in all the papers a few years back. Sort of like a channel and Companion starting a Householding back in the old days, but you can't do it like that any more.
Nattin: I seem to remember something about a Zeor channel who went bad. Was that this Wise Snake Farris?
Cristal: Wow. I must have missed that one.
Gerrhonot: I guess so. She is kind of scary. Most people say she's crazy.
Nattin is slightly ~~ smug ~~ that it wasn't a channel from his House that went rogue.
Nattin: A lot of people will say that about any Farris channel. Or Donor, for that matter.
Cristal: People will say anything about their betters.
Gerrhonot: Hajene Arat was kind of strange too, but different from his daughter. But they aren't Zeor Farrises, they're Audneses.
Cristal: What's an audnes?
Nattin isn't in the habit of viewing non-Householders as his betters.
Gerrhonot: Um, they're a family in Northwest that turned out to be Farrises, but nobody knew until after Arat changed over.
Gerrhonot suddenly realizes that if he stays on this line he may get cornered into talking about the state of things at the Dam when he left.
Gerrhonot: Do you like working with Hajene Bibi, Cristal?
Cristal: [guardedly] I try to do my best with her; the working conditions here are very difficult.
Gerrhonot thinks that's strange - there's not a lot of work even for a Second and today was a busy day.
Nattin: Difficult? There's hardly anything to do, compared with the workload of a Second in-Territory.
Cristal: Exactly. That makes my job doubly difficult, to keep Hajene Bibi's secondary system safely exercised.
Nattin hasn't been given the impression that Cristal is one of those hyper-ambitious types.
Nattin: She hardly has any entran at all, and you know it.
Nattin knows a lot of things that a channel like Bibi would normally be discussing only with her Donor, since Cristal's arrival.
Cristal: [even more cautiously] That appears to be quite true. However, that does not in any way justify the neglect of basic Tecton precautions.
Nattin: Oh? I wasn't aware that Bibi was in violation of common sense Tecton guidelines.
Cristal: Common sense, as they told me in Donor training, is a matter of common experience. You will admit, I suppose, that Hajene Bibi's experiences here have been extremely uncommon -- for a Second.
Nattin: Most Sime Centers don't have a mad quilting bee of old ladies delivering cookies every other day, to be sure. Still, I don't think Bibi's channeling experiences here are as different as all that.
Cristal: Circumstances here demand that she carry exceptionally large loads in her selyn system ... while at the same time underworking herself extraordinarily.
Nattin: She's adapted well, with no serious consequences to her health or morale.
Cristal: Thus far.
Nattin: Personally, I see no reason to believe that there will be a significant change in her condition. And if there is, eventually, that there won't be ample warning before her health is in danger.
Cristal: Professor Nattin, you are hardly a specialist in the problems of channels with chronic hypo-entran.
Gerrhonot wonders what hypo-entran is, and decides to ask Seruffin. He doesn't remember it from his training, but maybe only Seconds get it.
Gerrhonot: Cristal, if you're worried about her health, you should talk to Hajene Seruffin. He has a lot of experience.
Gerrhonot doesn't know about the little tete-a-tete Cristal and Seruffin have already had.
Cristal: Thank you, Gerrhonot. I may just do that.
Gerrhonot figures that talking about Bibi just gets these two upset.
Gerrhonot: Did you like working with Hajene Seruffin, Cristal?
Cristal: He's an excellent channel. He seems to be quite exceptional at out-T collectorium work.
Nattin notes that Cristal hasn't answered Gerrhonot's question.
Nattin: Well, one would expect that of a diplomat, wouldn't one?
Cristal: [somewhat strained] Yes, I enjoyed myself for the most part.
Nattin: Tell me that again, without wincing. Did you disapprove of something he did?
Cristal: Disapprove, no. Hajene Seruffin reminded me of some things that I had perhaps allowed myself to forget.
Nattin: Really? What sort of things?
Nattin thinks this is getting interesting.
Cristal: [stiffly] I think it would be inappropriate for me to continue in this vein.
Nattin: He dressed you down, did he? What for?
Nattin finds the situation ~~ amusing ~~
Cristal remains silent.
Gerrhonot wonders if he should have one more try at changing the topic, considering that each of the past two have resulted in a snapping match between these two.
Nattin finishes his beer, then stands.
Nattin: Excuse me, gentlemen.
Nattin wends his way towards the men's room.
Cristal: That's a relief.
Gerrhonot: Um. Hajene Bibi seems really nice. And she's really beautiful, too, isn't she?
Cristal: She certainly is, Sosu Gerrhonot.
Gerrhonot: She seems to like Hajene Seruffin a lot.
Cristal: That's certainly not surprising. His nager is ... bewitching.
Gerrhonot: He's a good man. He reminds me of my grandpa a little.
Cristal: I can't say he's much like any of my relatives. But I have no trouble understanding what Hajene Bibi sees in him.
Cristal: [thoughtfully] Unfortunately for me, I must say.
Gerrhonot: I think it's wonderful how all these kids are coming to her in changeover. It's awful in Gumgeeville. Magit's grandfather tried to shoot her and she hid in the cellar and he locked her in to die of attrition. When there's no channel people have to do things like that.
Cristal: Yes, I guess they do. I'm certainly glad that I didn't have to grow up in a place like that.
Nattin: Up until Unity, Sime Territory wasn't much different. Only they slaughtered their Gen children, instead.
Cristal: How fortunate we are to live in the Tecton Era. Well, mostly.
Nattin sits back down again. He looks at Cristal with some skepticism.
Gerrhonot: If I weren't a First, I think I'd like to work in a place like this, and help save all these kids.
Nattin: Yes. There are opportunities today that my generation never dreamed of, when we were your age. If you don't like life under the Tecton today, Cristal, you should give some thought to the alternatives.
Cristal: You entirely misunderstand me, Professor Nattin. I was quite serious. Some people don't yet have the privilege of living under the Tecton, unfortunately.
Nattin: They at least know about it, and have some chance of taking advantage of what it offers.
Nattin: Now, when I was growing up in Frihill, long before Unity, things were different.
Gerrhonot listens attentively. He really likes Householdings-before-Unity stories, and this one is real.
Nattin settles down, with the privilege of the elderly, to bore...er, "instruct"...the youngsters with his standard lecture on the Facts of Life Before Unity.
Nattin is a professor, and enjoys a captive audience.