The Next Month At The Ford: Episode 1

Layna steps off the train at Hannard's Ford, ~~ eager ~~ to start her true fieldwork at last.

Layna has visited Gen Territory before, of course, but that was field trips and short trips to towns immediately across the border. She hasn't yet had a chance to examine a Gen community that's relatively untouched by the Tecton.

Layna understands that there are several within a short distance of Hannard's Ford, and that the Ford itself has only a small Sime Center with a single channel. She has trouble imagining how a single channel could possibly look after even a hamlet, much less what appears to be a reasonable-sized town.

Layna sort of wishes that she could do her research in a place completely uncontaminated by Tecton influence, but that wouldn't really be practical, logistically speaking. Her area of interest would be best served if she could stay at a newly opened Sime Center, but she hopes that she can still get meaningful data, despite the Sime Center's having been open a while.

Layna is well prepared for the work: like most Householders, she has been studying English since early childhood. She therefore speaks more or less fluent English, with an accent and vocabulary that's a curious mixture of upper crust New Washington City and casual laborer from Heartland Territory. Her teachers were, of course, purchased at Choice Auctions not too long before Unity by her Sectuib.

Anyal is sweeping the platform with a stable broom.

Layna notes a Genuine Out-Territory Wild Gen cleaning the platform, and decides to test her linguistic skills. She gathers her travel bag and approaches Anyal.

Layna: Excuse me. Couldja tell me where th' Sime Center's at, if you please?

Anyal examines Layna closely, and decides she's not built like a Sime.

Layna is, in fact, quite Gen, although she's on the slender side, being young and active.

Anyal: Well. You go around through the station and then you're on Division Street, right? So you go on ahead to Main, and then you turn by the apple tree, the big one, right? And then you'll see Miz Briggle's house, you can't miss it, big one, so you turn towards the river, right? And then you keep on for a block and turn left, right? And then you'll be by the gravel pit, so you just continue on past the abattoir and you'll see the cedar hedge, right?

Layna: A cedar hedge, past what?

Anyal: You're sort of circling back towards the rail line. Well, the Sime Center is behind the cedar hedge.

Anyal: The abattoir, you mean?

Layna: Yes. What's that?

Layna's in-T teachers didn't spend much time on the vocabulary of carnivory.

Anyal: The slaughterhouse.

Layna: Slaughter.... Oh.

Layna's face pales a bit. She knew in a theoretical fashion that Wild Gens eat meat, but that's different from an entire building devoted to chopping up animals.

Layna: You said it's right by the Sime Center?

Anyal: Next lot over.

Layna: Oh.

Layna sees that living out-Territory is likely to be a bit different than she'd imagined it. She wonders if this Gen eats the meat from that slaughterhouse, and reluctantly concludes that he probably does. She decides that she'd rather not know, for some odd reason.

Layna smiles weakly.

Layna: Well, thanks fer the pointers; you've really been a tremendous help.

Anyal: You're welcome, Miz, any time.

Anyal goes back to sweeping.

Layna makes her way out of the station and sets off on what she hopes is Division Street. She recovers pretty quickly from the meat-production incident, being young and an optimist at heart.

Nalya is crouching in the middle of her lawn with a knife.

Layna spots a woman squatting in her yard, holding a knife.

Nalya sees a young female stranger with a traveling bag and pauses to watch.

Layna blinks, for a moment wondering if the woman is not content with the offerings of the abattoir, but is hunting for mice or something like a cat.

Layna: Excuse me. Couldya tell me if this is Division Street?

Nalya: Yes.

Nalya stands up to stretch her back. It feels so good she raises both arms and really stretches, with the knife high in the air.

Layna feels a sudden ~~ relief ~~ at the sight of an innocent knife drill.

Layna: What's the distance remaining to Central Street? I'm tryin' to find the Sime Center.

Nalya: Central Street? Ain't no Central Street in the Ford. Sime Center's over by the abattoir, cross from the gravel pit. Big cedar hedge, can't miss it.

Nalya notices that Layna still looks confused.

Layna: I must have misremembered the directions I got. What street am I lookin' fer?

Nalya: You go along here to Main, go up Main past the post office, then you'll see the livery stable, you go past the Maple Leaf Cafe, then turn at the bank. Don't let them louts that hang around the post office playing checkers give you a hard time.

Layna can quite figure out the idiom.

Layna: What means,"give you a hard time"?

Nalya crouches down again and begins to creep along the ground, eyes alert to the surface, knife poised.

Nalya: Whistle at ya, make rude comments, like that.

Layna: They are....thugs? Criminals?

Nalya: Naw, just ordinary guys with big mouths. Nice lookin' girl like you gets their balls bouncing, ya know?

Layna: Oh! They like to demonstrate their athletic skills. I see.

Nalya snickers.

Layna wonders which of the several popular games these men play. She understands flyball isn't popular, out-T.

Nalya: Well, you'll see. Just ignore 'em and keep walking.

Layna: I will, then. Thanks.

Nalya continues to creep over her lawn.

Layna watches with professional interest.

Layna: That's an interesting exercise you're doing. It looks like it would really build leg strength.

Layna can think of several better ways, but one can't be too critical of different ways.

Nalya: Ruin my friggin' back is what it does. But I can't get anybody else to do it.

Nalya continues nearsightedly examining her lawn from a few dozen centimeters up.

Nalya: They'll all eat 'em, but get 'em to gather 'em and clean 'em, no way. They like the way I fry 'em in bacon grease and dress 'em with cider vinegar.

Layna: Oh! You're gathering tubers of some sort.

Nalya: Naw, dandelion greens. There's one.

Layna chuckles to herself: not everyone is a martial artist.

Nalya expertly gouges the weed out of the lawn with the knife and tosses it in a basket.

Layna: Well, I hope you find a good mess.

Layna is quite pleased with herself for remembering that a group of greens is a "mess".

Nalya: Gotta keep the lawn looking good too. Best one on the block.

Layna: It's very nice.

Nalya: Looks like shit this time of year.

Layna: Well, spring will come.

Nalya: About friggin time too.

Layna wonders what "friggin" is: perhaps some local early-season delicacy? She wonders if there is a Friggin Festival in the area.

Layna: I hope your family enjoys their greens.

Layna sets off down the street, looking for Main Street. She finds a street that look promising, and turns downhill, that being the most probable direction of the river. She's relieved to see the post office ahead.

Yanal is leaning against the front wall of the post office, picking his teeth with a splinter of wood, and enjoying the spring sunshine.

Layna finds herself unable to follow Nalya's advice about not looking, however, as she's curious as to just which sport the local men play.

Yanal runs his tongue around his teeth and spits into the street.

Layna can't see a ball, offhand, which argues for a game with a smaller than average ball: ping pong, perhaps. She shrugs: perhaps they've finished practicing for the day, or something.

Yanal's eyes follow Layna as she goes along the street.

Layna is worth watching: she's perky and cute (if not beautiful), and walks with the grace of someone who's been training in the martial arts all her young life. She doesn't look particularly dangerous, however, to the average eye.

Layna smiles at the two men in a friendly fashion, and takes a few steps towards them.

Yalan walks up beside his brother, elbows him and points at the new arrival.

Yanal emits a wolf whistle without any apparent facial movement.

Layna: Excuse me, but couldja tell me if I'm headin' towards the Sime Center? I was told it's this direction?

Yalan doesn't exactly leer but the tiny little wheels of his brain are turning in an unsavory direction.

Yanal: Whadja want with the snake pit?

Layna isn't used to being harassed by random passersby, as in-Territory, such people don't tend to bother people wearing Dar colors.

Yalan: Yeah, nuthin' down there for a cute little thing like you.

Layna hasn't quite figured out yet that Dar colors, or even the Dar name, mean little to most out-T Gens.

Layna: I'm stayin' there, as part of my education.

Yanal snorts.

Yalan: Education? I can give you all the education you need, little girl.

Yalan does leer this time.

Yanal: You can stay with us. Can you cook?

Yalan isn't all that interested in the cooking but hey, could be a nice bonus.

Layna: Er....sort of. But I've made all the arrangements to stay at the Sime Center, so I'll be near my colleagues.

Yanal and his brother live in what was once a tidy little cottage, but now resembles a pig sty.

Yanal: Colleagues, eh? Hey, bro she wants to be with her colleagues.

Yalan moves closer to the young girl.

Layna: Yes, there are several others, I understand, and the Professor, of course.

Yanal: Professor, eh? I know that guy. Nosy bastard.

Yalan: Tell you what, I'll be your colleague and you can stay with us instead.

Layna isn't at all intimidated: she's already assessed these two as "can be taken".

Yanal: Hey, I wanna be her colleague too.

Layna would be mortified if she realized she was thinking about possible study subjects that way, of course.

Yanal: And we got no tentacles. Well, we do got the ones that count. And it ain't your life force we wanna suck.

Layna's English, fortunately, isn't quite up to following this last statement.

Layna: That's very friendly of you, but I've got to clear my thesis work with the Professor first, or I don't get credit for it.

Yanal pushes himself away from the wall and comes closer.

Yalan is quite secure in his masculine strength and never met a girl he couldn't take, er persuade to his way of thinking.

Layna continues to smile at Yanal in a friendly fashion.

Yalan moves in a little closer. He intends to get there ahead of his brother this time.

Yanal smiles back and casually puts his arm around Layna, resting his hand on her buttock.

Yanal: How's about a little kiss, sweetie?

Yalan didn't make it.

Layna moves deftly out from under Yanal's arm.

Layna: I don't think that would be very professional, under the circumstances.

Yalan: Woo hoo!! We got us a professional!

Yalan moves in on the other side and places a hand where his brother's had been.

Layna: Yes, so you see, I do have standards to maintain.

Layna looks at Yalan, no longer smiling.

Yanal: C'mon, you'll like us better than than old Professor guy. Dried up old stick, only thing works is his mouth.

Layna: Please leggo of me.

Yanal: Leggo of her, bro.

Layna's voice is polite, firm...and not nervous or frightened at all.

Yalan: Aw, come on. You said you was a pro.

Layna: Exactly. It would be unethical fer me to fraternize.

Yalan squeezes the part he has his hand on.

Layna reaches down to place her hand on Yalan's wrist, and squeezes just so, grinding the nerve against bone in a basically harmless but painful fashion.

Yalan: Hey!!

Layna: Leggo of me.

Yanal: She told you to leggo, bro, so leggo.

Yalan lets go and shakes his numbing hand. He gives his brother a dirty look and Layna a questioning one.

Yanal: She wants to go to the snake pit, bro. Maybe she's after that Sime dame.

Yalan wonders about that.

Yalan: Hey, you one of them Sime kissers?

Yanal: You know, that hot snake flesh, them tentacles....

Layna: Well, I have dated a Sime or two.

Yanal: Yeah? What are they like in bed?

Yalan has seen the Sime in question but even he isn't that horny. He isn't even sure female Simes are built like female Gens. Could have as much strange stuff goin' on down below as they got on their arms.

Layna: Well, if you're that curious, date one yourself.

Yanal bursts out laughing (or guffawing) at the absurd idea.

Yalan ain't laughin'.

Yanal: Spunky little gal, ain't ya. Well, look, here's how you get there.

Yanal goes into a rapid-fire description of a route that isn't even possible let alone effective.

Yanal: Got that?

Layna notes the absence of any mention of gravel pits or abattoirs, and correctly deduces that her leg is being pulled.

Layna: I'm not sure. Couldja repeat it, please?

Yanal looks at his brother and starts laughing again.

Yanal: Well, okay, just once more.

Layna's eyes twinkle.

Yanal launches into more or less the same rapid-fire monologue, finishing with

Yanal: And it's got a big cedar hedge around it. Can't miss it.

Layna's Dar training has, alas for Yanal, included extensive memory work.

Yalan decides there's nothing to be gained and goes back to sit on the chair he left earlier.

Layna: Now lemme see if I have this straight: I turn right, or maybe left, at the next corner, go six blocks, or maybe only half a block, and turn both downhill and uphill...

Layna: That Sime Center certainly seems to move around a great deal, don't it?

Yanal: Yeah, but you can't miss the cedar hedge!

Layna: I think I'll just keep on my way, and ask someone who really knows his way around, if ya know what I mean.

Layna winks, then sashays on down the street.

Yanal watches the rear view with appreciation.

Estragen makes her way uphill toward the post office. Nattin usually gets the mail but today she's doing it. Having to deal with that bunch of good-for-nothings that hang around with the Postmaster isn't her idea of a fun date.

Estragen looks up to see a strange girl coming in her direction.

Layna's in-T clothing is apparent to discerning eyes, even though it was purchased with intent to blend in.

Lyana bustles out of the Maple Leaf Cafe.

Lyana: Estragen, how are you?

Estragen smiles at Lyana.

Estragen: I'm doin' as well as I can these days.

Lyana: Won't you come in and have some tea? I've got some new magazines to show you.

Lyana's magazines come from the Pure Body Pure Mind Press, which publishes religious literature of interest to members of many Church of the Purity sects.

Estragen leans around to look up the street at the stranger. She moves funny, almost like a Sime.

Estragen: Maybe some other time, Ly.

Layna sees two women talking ahead, and hopes that they will prove better informants than the pinch-happy men at the Post Office.

Lyana longs to convert a truly lost soul to the Truth. She figures that anyone given a (pure) Gen body should develop a purely anti-Sime mind. It's only natural.

Lyana: Here, I'll just get a few for you to take with you.

Lyana bustles back into the cafe.

Layna: Excuse me. Couldja tell me how to get to the Sime Center?

Estragen smiles.

Estragen: Why, yes I can. In fact I'll be going back there just as soon as I pick up the mail.

Layna: Oh, good. Can I come along with you?

Estragen: Oh please do! I hate that bunch of do-nothings at the post office. Maybe they won't bother me if I have company.

Layna: They bother you? They seemed harmless enough, to me.

Estragen heads in the direction of the post office.

Layna: Clumsy, uncoordinated...I don't think they could defend themselves properly, if they were put to the test. I felt a bit sorry for them, if truth be told.

Estragen looks at her wide eyed.

Layna follows along with Estragen.

Estragen almost trips over a loose board in the side walk.

Estragen: By the way, what's your name? Mine is Estragen.

Layna: Lookout, there....I'm sorry, I didn't get your name?

Estragen laughs as their questions overlap.

Layna: I'm Layna ambrov Dar. I'll be studying under Professor Nattin.

Estragen: Oh. Well please to meet you Miz Dar.

Estragen thinks Ambrov must be a pretty popular middle name.

Layna: It's Layna. Dar's my House, like Frihill is Professor Nattin's.

Estragen: Oh, I see. [doesn't really]

Layna notes her new acquaintance's confusion.

Layna: They're Householdings. You've heard of Householdings, haven't you? Zeor, and so on?

Layna is pretty sure that even Gen history books have to mention Zeor, if only because of Klyd Farris's role in founding the First Contract.

Estragen: Yeah, everybody's heard of Zeor.

Layna: Well, Dar and Frihill are two of the other Houses. Not as famous, perhaps, but we get by.

Estragen: Oh. How many Houses are there?

Estragen hopes there are enough for everybody to have a place to live. But maybe there aren't and that's why the Simes came to Ford.

Layna: Oh, several hundred, I believe.

Estragen: Is that all?

Layna: Dar was founded about three hundred and fifty years ago; there are almost six hundred of us, these days.

Estragen: Where do you all sleep?

Estragen figures there have to be more than six hundred Simes and Gens over there.

Layna: Sleep? Well, the ambrov Dar who aren't out escorting caravans or doing guard duty live in the residence buildings, or in their own cottages on the Dar lands.

Estragen doesn't feel comfortable asking questions of the Professor. But she likes Layna.

Layna: There are even some who've moved into the city of Sommerin proper, since Unity.

Estragen: Oh, so you all take turns living in the houses.

Estragen feels this is a sad state of affairs but maybe Simes don't mind not having a place to stay. They sure seem to move around a lot.

Layna: Living in the....Oh. No. I'm sorry; in Simelan the word "House", as in a Householding, is different from "house", meaning a building that you live in. I forgot that they were the same word in English.

Layna: A Householding is a community of mixed Simes and Gens committed to promoting the concept of Sime/Gen cooperation, and pledged to follow the House's virtue.

Estragen blinks. What the heck is a mixed Sime? She now has to figure out if there is something else that might show up one day.

Estragen smiles and nods. She thinks she might know what a mixed Gen is. She's convinced that she's talking to one.

Layna smiles back, convinced that she has managed to communicate in a meaningful fashion with an out-T Gen.

Layna has a great deal to learn about conducting field work.

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