A Sec Pair At The Ford: Episode 9

Bibi sips her tea and thinks about her conversation with Seruffin. She's disappointed that discussing their pasts hasn't made Seruffin less restrained and aloof. He's kept his showfield up and doesn't appear to want to engage her field even lightly. ~~ pensive ~~

Seruffin takes one more small slice of raw carrot, and nibbles it in a desultory fashion.

Bibi decides to back off a bit.

Seruffin has realized that his nager seems to overwhelm Bibi, and is trying to avoid imposing. He does like Bibi very much, and doesn't want to scare her off.

Bibi: Thank you for talking to Cristal. I think I understand his attitudes better now.

Seruffin: You're quite welcome. I'm glad I could help. I don't think he'd have listened to the same thing, coming from another Second.

Bibi: It's... more discouraging than I realized.

Seruffin: Bibi, Cristal's shortcomings aren't your fault.

Bibi: Oh, I know.

Seruffin: Fortunately, he seems willing to change his outward behavior towards your clients, if not his attitude. That should help, at least a little. I would hate to see what you've done here compromised by such a misunderstanding.

Seruffin is busy admiring Bibi, and lets his ~~ admiration ~~ for her efforts show for a moment.

Bibi gets a thrill of pleasure from the First Order admiration, fleeting though it was.

Bibi: Well, the townspeople may be Gens who can't zlin, but they know a jerk when they get insulted by one, and they don't assume at all that he's got a point there!

Seruffin: Has he managed to actually run off any of your donors?

Bibi: Oh, no. But he does go into town and shop and eat at the restaurant and so forth, and his condescension is awfully blatant sometimes, according to Nattin.

Bibi: Did any of the donors show you what they feel about him?

Seruffin: Uncle Tony certainly made his feelings known, to Cristal as well as me.

Bibi smiles.

Seruffin: I expect he does that often? ~~ amusement ~~

Bibi: He certainly doesn't see why he should defer to Sosu Cristal!

Seruffin chuckles.

Bibi feels ~~ warm ~~ and ~~ happy ~~ whenever she thinks about Uncle Tony.

Seruffin: And so he shouldn't, except in matters that directly involve transfer mechanics.

Seruffin enjoys Bibi's warmth, even carried on a Second Order nager.

Bibi: Did he tell you about my feat of bovine obstetrics?

Seruffin: Yes, he did. I'm glad you were able to improvise a cure.

Bibi: Well, I had to be pretty careful where I put my lateral sheaths, but Uncle Tony and his nephew and several of the neighbors were there to do the parts that would be dangerous for me. It was mostly zlinning that they had the wrong feet that impressed them.

Seruffin: Have you had other veterinary calls since?

Bibi: I could probably make a living just doing pregnancy tests on cows by zlinning them, but I never go far from the Sime Center if there isn't another channel here. That time, the mule channel was staying overnight, so it was safe.

Seruffin: And I suppose not even the locals are quite fanatical enough about their cattle to bring them to you here?

Seruffin smiles broadly.

Bibi: If it's that much of an emergency, the cow isn't in shape to be driven here, and if it's just a pregnancy test, well, all they have to do is wait 21 days.

Bibi: Uh, a cow will return in heat after 21 days if she didn't settle.

Bibi figures Seruffin has had less bovine gynecology experience than she has.

Seruffin: You're a very unusual young woman, Bibi. Most channels wouldn't have thought to help out at a calving. Much less had the knowledge to do so.

Bibi: Well, I did grow up doing it, and Uncle Tony was so convinced I could save that valuable heifer...

Bibi: It really impressed the farmers. After that, they could see me as someone like their own neighbors, not this exotic and dangerous Sime demon. Maybe it helped them think that there would be a future for their own children if they changed over and I served them.

Bibi: It was interesting technically, too. I'd never tried to zlin through a cow before!

Seruffin forgets himself and gives out something perilously free to a guffaw.

Bibi laughs too, and smiles at Seruffin happily.

Seruffin: It's not part of the curriculum at any channel's training school I've ever heard of, that's for sure. Not even Rialite, and they get into some pretty obscure techniques.

Bibi: Oh, my, all those snooty Householders taking exams in cow-zlinning!

Seruffin: Oh, I'm sure they used to do that sort of thing all the time, when they lived locked behind the gates of their compounds. After all, they could hardly send for the town animal-healer.

Bibi: I suppose so.

Seruffin: But as far as I can tell, they left that sort of thing behind gladly when they had a chance. I admit, I would have, too. I don't get along well with large animals.

Bibi: I suppose the small rural Householdings still depend a lot on their farms. If I'd established I probably would have spent the past fifteen years on dairy farms. But I much prefer channeling.

Seruffin: So do I. My mother made an honest living, but it was a precarious one, at times.

Bibi: All the wealth of Nivet, all the labor of every Sime, went down the rat hole of the Pens.

Seruffin: Yes. Even with the donation payments, Simes are now a lot freer to follow their dreams.

Bibi: Would you like some hot tea? I'll clear away the dishes and come right back with some.

Seruffin: Yes, I think I would. Thank you.

Bibi stacks the dishes and moves everything onto the tray. She gracefully carries the tray out to the kitchen.

Seruffin is able to enjoy the rear view, even past turnover as he is. He cogitates for a moment on the delights of having an admiring young woman around, even if she is probably more interested in his nager than himself.

Bibi returns after a short while with a fresh pot of trin, clean cups, a plate with two Sime-sized pieces of blueberry cheesecake, and two liqueur glasses, each with about 50ml of a dark liquid.

Seruffin's eyes widen in ~~ appreciation ~~

Seruffin: Ah, Bibi, you know how to make an old man happy.

Bibi puts the tray on the table and resumes her seat, a bit closer to Seruffin this time.

Bibi: Not so old, out-T.

Seruffin is not inclined to protest, even though he probably should.

Bibi: Or even in-T, in the future. Klyd's sainted grandfather lived more than a hundred years past changeover. You've got a long way to go.

Seruffin: Well, perhaps. Although I suspect that my junct-raised generation won't last as long as the Householders. Tell me, are the out-Territory Gens living longer, too, these days?

Bibi: I don't know. Of course, the ones near the border aren't being killed by Raiders, so that pushes up the average. People expect to live to seventy or more, if something doesn't do them in first, once they reach adulthood. Uncle Tony is 72 natal years, and he can still work hard.

Seruffin shakes his head in ~~ wonder ~~

Seruffin: When I was growing up, even a Sime who didn't die from misadventure would die from old age by fifteen years or so past changeover. And I'm twice that.

Bibi: And still in good health, working hard. You don't look any older than an out-T Gen your age, you know.

Seruffin: Really?

Seruffin is unaccountably ~~ pleased ~~ by the revelation.

Bibi: Really. ~~ sincere ~~ encouraging ~~

Bibi: So you may well have another thirty years or more, especially if you continue to eat right and look after yourself.

Seruffin: Perhaps. No one knows what the life expectancy of my generation is likely to be.

Bibi: So far, so good, right?

Seruffin: Well, there weren't all that many of us, really, especially who were channels. The ones who didn't get enough to eat as children are already developing aging diseases.

Bibi: You ate well on the farm as a child, so why shouldn't you be as healthy as a Householding child?

Seruffin: There's no real reason, I suppose.

Bibi: And unlike the ones who kept eating like juncts even though they weren't, you've had Donors to make sure you look after yourself.

Seruffin: That I have, although not all of them have been quite so diligent in that regard as Gerrhonot.

Bibi: He's really devoted to you.

Seruffin: I know. I admit, I'm not sure why he should choose me to lavish his devotion on. I've done little enough to earn it. But then, I've never really understood what attracts Gens to a particular Sime. They can't zlin us.

Seruffin, as a channel, uses his laterals as the primary assessment organ for attractiveness.

Bibi thinks that she can zlin Seruffin, and really likes what she zlins.

Bibi: As you said, other channels were probably less kind and patient with him. It seems to make him very happy when you thank him or compliment him on his work.

Seruffin: I can hardly be the only channel who was taught common courtesy, can I?

Seruffin finds the thought ~~ disconcerting ~~

Bibi: I think Gerrhonot may need more obvious feedback than most, and you're willing to give it to him.

Seruffin: Perhaps. Still, he shouldn't have been left without praise for years.

Bibi: Here, would you like to try some of Miz Brown's elderberry cordial?

Bibi gestures to the small glasses of dark liquid.

Seruffin: Elderberry cordial? I've never heard of such a thing. What's it like?

Bibi: Very strong, and sweet enough to hide it. Miz Brown regards it as medicinal, good for all that ails you.

Seruffin raises an eyebrow, and extends a handling tentacle to snag one of the glasses. He holds it up to offer a toast.

Bibi takes the other glass and does the same.

Seruffin: To a most charming hostess.

Bibi blushes.

Bibi: To a most distinguished and welcome guest.

Seruffin smiles, and his complexion reddens ever so slightly.

Seruffin: And a most enjoyable evening.

Bibi takes a tiny sip from her glass, and smiles back.

Seruffin takes a small sip, and raises an eyebrow in ~~ appreciation ~~

Seruffin: This is excellent.

Bibi: I'm so glad you like it. ~~ affection ~~

Seruffin: It's locally made, you said?

Bibi: Yes, Miz Brown, the matriarch I mentioned, who was so important in getting the Sime Center here... it's her recipe. She makes some every year, and gives me a bottle.

Bibi decides to try getting a bit bolder.

Bibi: I don't often have someone here I'd like to share the pleasure with.

Bibi then blows it by blushing again.

Seruffin chuckles.

Bibi blushes harder.

Seruffin: Yes, I can see that Cristal would misunderstand such an invitation.

Bibi winces.

Seruffin: Tell me, have you found anyone interesting to share wine with, here at Hannard's Ford?

Bibi: Not really, except for Nattin, I suppose.

Seruffin is wondering if Bibi has a thing for older men.

Bibi: Some of the Donors they've sent me... have been more congenial than others.

Seruffin has occasionally met such women, although he's more often approached by women who see his age as a novelty.

Seruffin: That's a rather limited social circle. Have you been able to mix socially with the local people?

Bibi: Not much. They pretty well have to come here. I'm very reluctant to go far from the Sime Center. I've had kids come in here in stage six - I served First Transfer out on the front lawn one time.

Seruffin: It sounds very lonely.

Seruffin is ~~ sympathetic ~~

Bibi: It can be. It's not like living in-T. If there were another channel here, I could get out more, but there's certainly not enough work for two.

Seruffin: Have you been given short reassignments in-Territory, so that you can live free for a while?

Bibi: No. I've been offered them... well, things are more settled now than they were at first. Perhaps I should.

Seruffin: How much more work would be required before the area could support another channel--a Third, say?

Bibi: It's hard to say. I could be doing a lot more work myself, but I have nowhere to put the selyn!

Seruffin: Assume that another mule could be put on the route, for the moment.

Seruffin thinks he should be able to manage that much: Jaklin owes him a favor or two.

Bibi: Well, I could probably recruit some more donors, and ... well, you've seen that I haven't pushed the ones I have. More of them could be upgraded. Uh... there could be political problems.... if other channels on the route can't keep up...

Seruffin: You'd just be giving them something to strive for.

Bibi: I don't think they'd all perceive it that way.

Seruffin: You can't keep holding back from what's right, just because your colleagues are less motivated.

Bibi: It's up to my Controller, I suppose. He knows that I often have more selyn than Hajene Marvin can take.

Bibi hopes that Seruffin's efforts to help her don't get her superiors pissed off at her for his fiddling with their domains. She also hopes that she can keep Marvin as the mule on her route.

Bibi really likes Marvin, and he's very good with the new Simes. The two of them also have an understanding about the CDs. Not that they can manage to get together very often, since he seldom stays over and they aren't in sync.

Seruffin happened to be zlinning Bibi when she mentioned Marvin the Mule, and caught something that he thinks he understands.

Seruffin: Ah, I see.

Seruffin thinks he does, anyway.

Seruffin: You know, it's quite possible that you're not the only channel on this route who's been holding back with the donors for fear of overloading the transportation system.

Bibi wonders what Seruffin sees, or zlins. She hopes he understands her concern about meddling in things not in his bailiwick.

Seruffin: That is harmful for everyone concerned: the channels, the donors, and the Tecton. If you have no place to put the selyn, you're not going to put the same effort into winning over more donors, after all.

Bibi: Uh... it could be a problem for me if my Controller found that out from you, after staying here. It would make him look bad. I suppose he might be having trouble getting another mule assigned to his group. There aren't that many of them.

Seruffin: If that's the problem, it can be remedied. If the problem is that he hasn't been paying attention to the situation, that can also be remedied.

Bibi is starting to get a bit ~~ worried ~~. If her Controller gets hassled from above because of something she told Seruffin, it isn't going to be Seruffin who suffers for it.

Seruffin has a different perspective on the situation: he sees local Controllers as underlings who can be helped or disciplined, as necessary, rather than as Authorities.

Seruffin zlins Bibi's concern. He's been working for the Tecton for a long time, and has some idea what's likely to be causing it.

Bibi again realizes how transparent she is to Seruffin. ~~ apologetic ~~

Seruffin: You don't have to be concerned, Bibi. The donor upgrades I have already done, and the additional donors who are likely to come in from Gumgeeville, will be a sufficient argument that the selyn transportation system must be upgraded. Especially if it's barely adequate to take care of the selyn you've been harvesting, lately.

Bibi: Uh... if the other routes were examined at the same time...

Seruffin: Then it's possible that some other arrangement must be reached. If there are no more Mules available, for instance, the channels who are working the out-Territory Centers might take turns to travel in-Territory with a load of selyn. That would make you less of a prisoner here.

Bibi: I appreciate your concern. I don't really feel like a prisoner. I feel that what I'm doing is so important... not gathering selyn but serving the kids in changeover... that it's worth it if I have to give up some things.

Seruffin: I didn't mean to imply that what you've done here is unimportant, Bibi. On the contrary, I admire your accomplishments, and your dedication. I expect that rather few channels would have been able to win over the local residents as you so obviously have.

Seruffin: But Bibi, that doesn't mean that you should have to give up everything else in your life. Not if the only reason is the convenience of your superior.

Seruffin reaches out a handling tentacle to stroke Bibi's cheek. He has just consumed a glass of a deceptively strong liquor, after all.

Bibi leans into the touch, ~~ yearning ~~ to engage her field with his.

Seruffin temporarily forgets his manners, and allows a light ~~ merge ~~

Bibi sighs and moves a little closer. She strokes Seruffin's hand with her tentacles, and tentatively strokes his wrist as well. ~~ attraction ~~ affection ~~ desire to interact nagerically ~~

Seruffin lets his tentacles intertwine with Bibi's. He lets his nager intertwine as well, with the delicacy of a First who's been perfecting his skills for over 30 years.

Bibi: ~~ pleasure ~~ gratitude ~~

Bibi moves closer and rests her head on Seruffin's shoulder, her eyes closed, drifting hyperconscious. ~~~ not quite bliss (yet) ~~~

Bibi sighs again.

Seruffin is likely to get Bibi there, before too much longer.

Seruffin doesn't get a chance to impress a pretty young woman as often as he would like, after all. He plans to ~~ enjoy ~~ the current opportunity to the hilt.

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