The Next Month At The Ford: Episode 8

Bibi is sitting in her office, drinking trin. She's feeling good after her transfer, and with her primary full, she was able to accommodate the selyn from today's market day donors without extreme effort.

Bibi doesn't expect any more clients, so she's told Cristal he might as well take off early. The Sime Center will be closed shortly anyway. She's still puzzled about Cristal's behavior on the day of Magit's turnover. She wasn't really sure what was going on with him, and the way he kept grinning while he was manipulating her nagerically was kind of creepy. She enjoyed it, but was careful to stay duoconscious throughout.

Gegg has spent a busy day selling off the extra chicks from his wife's flock, plus eggs, butter, onions, and other early-season farm produce. He didn't have quite as much to sell as he will later on, and used that as an excuse to leave the rest of his family at home.

Gegg had a point: it was important to finish planting the spring crops, but he had another reason, as well.

Gegg's wife is a bit more volatile than Ma Mullins, and he figures what she never learns about won't give her an excuse to question his basic sanity. He doesn't want to have to defend his intentions, when he's more than half convinced that his wife would be in the right in the matter. He does, however, have the integrity to want to get his information from the proverbial horse's mouth.

Gegg is well aware of his friend Jed's ability to embroider a story, and thus considers information from that source to be from the other end of said proverbial equine.

Gegg finds the building he's looking for without too much difficulty, and is a bit surprised at its appearance. He somehow thought a Sime Center would look threatening, or at least exotic. He feels that an elderly but well-maintained farmhouse in the less prestigious part of town fits neither description.

Bibi zlins an unfamiliar Gen nager approaching and goes to her window.

Gegg takes a quick look around to make sure that there aren't any witnesses who might blab to his wife, then strides briskly down the walk.

Bibi sees a man striding determinedly toward the Sime Center door. She goes to the reception area and sits down, to look small and harmless.

Gegg isn't as reckless as Jed, but he doesn't believe in doing anything in a half-hearted fashion, once he's decided that it has to be done.

Gegg also had an adventuresome youth, and learned early that nothing attracts the attention of curious passers-by faster than the sight of a person skulking along like they're doing something they shouldn't. He therefore opens the door as if he worked at the Sime Center, and steps inside.

Gegg stops abruptly as his eyes adjust to the reduced light, and he spots Bibi.

Bibi smiles at the Gen in a friendly and nonthreatening manner. Cute, too.

Gegg: ~~ wariness ~~ ~~ suspicion ~~ ~~ determination ~~

Bibi: Hello. I'm Hajene Bibi.

Bibi doesn't offer her hand to shake, and really hopes she's not going to have to try to take a first donation from this Gen without a Donor to back her up. From the way he zlins, it could be a challenge.

Gegg blinks.

Gegg: Are all you Simes named Hajene?

Bibi: No. Hajene is a title, like Doctor, that channels use.

Gegg: Oh. So you're like that Seruffin fellow that was staying at Jed's?

Bibi: Yes. Are you from Gumgeeville, then?

Gegg braces himself against any possible irresistible urge to throw himself into Bibi's clutches.

Gegg: Yeah. My name's Gegg. I'm a friend of Jed Mullins's.

Bibi: Ah. Hajene Seruffin told me about your son Mik.

Gegg studies Bibi, noting that she lacks Seruffin's presence, although she has attractions of her own.

Bibi: Would you like some tea and cake, Mr. Gegg? Please help yourself.

Bibi gestures, tentacles in, towards the refreshment table.

Gegg was raised to be polite, and after a long day hawking produce, and then buying some supplies he couldn't get in Gumgeeville, he's hungry.

Gegg: Thank you kindly, ma'am.

Gegg sidles over to the refreshment table, careful not to turn so that he can't watch Bibi. He helps himself to one of the more substantial offerings: a cheese scone.

Bibi remains seated, tentacles in, looking feminine and harmless.

Gegg: It's about my boy Mik I've come here.

Bibi: Please, have a seat.

Gegg selects a seat at a wary distance from Bibi.

Gegg: Jed's Sime said he wasn't Gen yet, even though his younger sister is. That doesn't make sense.

Gegg found the whole discussion ~~ confusing ~~

Bibi: Your daughter is much younger than your son?

Gegg: Yeah. Several years younger.

Bibi: This sort of thing happens quite often. Kids grow up on their own schedule. Usually they change over or establish when they're twelve to fifteen. Sometimes it can happen at sixteen. Any older than that is very rare.

Bibi doesn't add that changeover at that age is seldom survivable, but of course changeover is almost never survivable in Gumgeeville.

Gegg: Huh.

Gegg takes a bite of scone and chews it carefully as he thinks that over.

Gegg: There's no way to tell ahead of time?

Gegg hasn't heard of any, but it's become clear to him that he and his fellow Gumgeevillians don't know much about Simes.

Bibi: No way to tell for sure, but sometimes a child who's going to establish will start to develop a more robust build in advance, while a child who'd going to change over may be more lanky. But that sort of thing is very unreliable. I'm sure you can think of many exceptions.

Gegg snorts.

Gegg: Yeah. How long does a changeover take, once it starts?

Gegg is thinking hard.

Bibi: A Sime, especially a channel, can detect changeover much earlier than the visible symptoms start, but from the first clear symptoms, the nausea, the fever, the sore arms... maybe six to eight hours. Sometimes it takes longer, and in the case of a channel... it can be much faster.

Gegg: Huh. That's not much time.

Gegg is thinking of how long it takes to reach the Ford using available transportation.

Bibi: Mr. Gegg, are you thinking about bringing your son here if he goes into changeover?

Gegg: Maybe.

Bibi: I see.

Gegg notes the studied neutrality of that response, and glares at Bibi with a flash of ~~ anger ~~

Gegg: If I commit suicide trying to save my son, who'll take care of my wife and daughter?

Bibi: Mr. Gegg, I'm really glad you've come here, because I've been thinking about your son since Hajene Seruffin told me about him.

Gegg isn't sure he likes the idea of Simes discussing his family.

Gegg: He did, did he?

Bibi: He said that your son might change over as a channel. I wanted to talk to you about what we might be able to arrange here for him, if you're interested in finding a solution. Often channels have a strong belief that they'll change over, and sometimes they have a feeling of when it will happen. That happened to me.

Gegg looks at Bibi for a moment, then lets his eyes drop to look squarely at her tentacles for the first time.

Bibi: Your son may just be worried, and anticipating the worst. Or he may be having those feelings for that reason.

Gegg feels slightly ~~ nauseated ~~ at the sight, but is also ~~ relieved ~~ that so far, he isn't finding them attractive.

Gegg: That's what worries me.

Bibi: I understand. I grew up out here myself.

Gegg: I was hoping...well, it takes time to come here from Gumgeeville. Maybe too much time, especially if the boy tries to hide.

Bibi: Yes. Or he might try to get here on his own, or with a friend. We can probably arrange for him to board here in town, or perhaps get him a job on one of the farms nearby, with sympathetic adults.

Gegg shakes his head.

Gegg: His mother would never stand for that. And when she puts her foot down, there's no moving her.

Bibi: Perhaps if he came into town here, with you, and a farmer or tradesman offered him a job?

Gegg considers himself a brave man, but he isn't about to defy his wife unless the only alternative is murdering his son.

Gegg: He's not of age. And we need him on the farm.

Gegg is not in the habit of reserving the word "need" to mean selyn-hunger. In fact, he avoids thinking about the selyn-hunger bit as much as humanly possible; not easy when he's sitting across from a Sime.

Bibi thinks that if Gegg could donate, he could use the money to hire help for the farm. She has more sense than to suggest it now, though.

Gegg: Is there a way to tell, if he turns Gen instead?

Bibi: Oh, yes. Any Sime can tell if a child has established. Many kids in town here come by every so often so I can tell them if it's happened.

Gegg: I mean for a Gen. Like I said, the boy's mother don't hold with her kids getting friendly with a Sime.

Bibi smiles (charming, dimpled).

Bibi: I suppose he could stand out at the road and I could come halfway and tell him from there?

Bibi: Well, out here, people figure any child who hasn't changed over by the time they're sixteen is a Gen, and they're almost always right.

Gegg: There isn't anything like the fever and sore arms of changeover?

Bibi: For girls, it's fairly easy -- they'll start having their periods within six months of establishing.

Gegg blushes at this unladylike mention of the unmentionable-in-polite-society. He gratefully left the obligatory education of his daughter on that subject to the girl's mother.

Bibi: For boys... well, it's not quite as easy. Simes don't grow beards, so if he starts to develop one, he's likely established. Or if his voice changes... although it can start to change before changeover, too.

Gegg: Huh.

Gegg unconsciously raises a hand to rub his chin, which didn't start sprouting a respectable crop of whiskers until he was 18.

Bibi: Changeover or establishment is part of maturing into an adult. That's a fairly long process, biologically.

Gegg: The boy's growing like a weed. Something's going to happen, and I expect it won't be too long.

Bibi: Mr. Gegg, I'll do whatever I can to help you and your son. Can you think of anything I can do?

Gegg supposes Bibi probably can't make his boy establish, and that's what he really needs. He considers Bibi's question carefully.

Gegg: Have you got any handouts on changeover? Something that lists the earliest symptoms and so on?

Gegg isn't about to just hand such a thing to his boy, but there are ways to make sure that the kid "discovers" it, that don't implicate him in the discovery.

Bibi: Yes. I'll get them for you.

Bibi goes over to the literature table and picks out a few booklets. She approaches Gegg, and puts them on an adjacent chair, within his reach, then resumes her seat.

Bibi: There are a few extras there, in case you want some to give away.

Gegg's ~~ wariness ~~ increases as Bibi approaches, then fades somewhat as she keeps her distance. He reaches out cautiously to pick up the booklets, as if half expecting them to bite, and wonders for a moment if the booklets will seduce anyone who reads them into the Sime's clutches, then decides probably not. He thinks that Jed didn't mention any booklets, so whatever seduced his friend is apparently not communicable by paper.

Gegg glances at the cover, then stuffs them in the inside pocket of his shirt.

Bibi sits there looking demure, clutch-free and unseductive.

Gegg: Thank you kindly.

Bibi: You're welcome. Feel free to look through the others, and take any you want.

Gegg looks at Bibi more closely, this time making the effort to look past the immediate hazard of the tentacles to the possible dangers beyond.

Gegg: You're not at all what I expected.

Bibi smiles, charming and dimpled.

Bibi: I guess I'm not much like Hajene Seruffin.

Gegg finds himself responding to the harmlessness of the dimples, then recovers himself with a frisson of real ~~ alarm ~~

Gegg: Not exactly like him, no. He had a sort of presence about him. Spooky.

Bibi: Kind of intimidating, isn't it? He's a very distinguished man. I'm just a kid from a dairy farm.

Gegg hadn't thought in terms of Seruffin's Gen-seducing powers being usable on Simes, as well.

Gegg: He affects you that way, too?

Bibi blushes.

Bibi: Yes. Maybe more than a Gen would be. But I wouldn't call it spooky, just impressive.

Gegg: Huh. Well, I suppose it's just a matter of perspective. All I know is, every adult who spent any time with him, ended up in his clutches. If that isn't uncanny, I don't know what is. ~~ apprehension ~~

Bibi thinks about how she found herself throwing herself into Seruffin's "clutches", and doesn't know whether to blush or laugh.

Bibi: Well, he is a diplomat, and a good diplomat must be a good persuader, I suppose, Sime or Gen.

Gegg: It's not natural.

Bibi: How so?

Gegg: Oh, I suppose he didn't have to work hard to convince Jed. He's always been crazy, from the time he...well, never mind.

Gegg blushes himself at the memory of an episode that didn't show him in the best of lights.

Gegg: But the rest...I wouldn't have thought any of them would ever get within grabbing distance of a Sime. Not voluntarily.

Bibi: I've met Virla. She loves her daughter very much, so I can understand why she'd want to be low field so she could be with her right after her changeover.

Gegg: I've known Virla since she was a little girl. I even dated her for a while.. I'd never have thought she'd have done anything like that, no matter how much she loves Magit. She's too traditional, just like old Henree.

Bibi: A mother's love can be very powerful. I'm sure Virla would rather that Magit were Gen, but she's happy that Magit is alive and well and still loves her, maybe even more now than before. It was wonderful for Magit that her mother could still love her after she changed over.

Gegg: For Magit, yes. But for Virla?

Bibi: It was beautiful, seeing the two of them together. You know how teenagers can be at odds with their parents.

Gegg: I've got two. Yeah, I know. That's not the Virla I grew up with. Your friend Seruffin....did something to her.

Bibi: Mr. Gegg -- would you rather have Mik alive, and not a killer, but Sime, or have to shoot him?

Gegg: If that was all I was choosing? The former.

Bibi: Virla has the same preference about her child.

Gegg: But from what I've seen, the choice isn't that simple.

Bibi: How so?

Gegg: Everyone who asked your friend for help with their kids ended up in his clutches. And the kids too, sometimes. That's for the best, i suppose, if they're turning Sime, but Bart Mullins sure wasn't.

Gegg has now heard Jed's donation story at least a half dozen times, and its artistic merits have improved greatly with the telling.

Bibi shrugs.

Bibi: Bart had his parents' permission to donate, and he earned some much-needed money for his family. How was he harmed?

Gegg: If it was really his decision to do it--well, maybe not much.

Bibi thinks that "everyone" was exactly two people, not a good basis for generalization. Actually, it was only one person, really, Jed Mullins. Virla didn't meet Seruffin until well after Magit was firmly and safely in his clutches.

Gegg: But when so many people make a decision that's completely out of character, I have to start wondering if they really were choosing freely. Or if your friend did something to them.

Gegg's ~~ suspicions ~~ have been brewing for a week or more.

Bibi spreads her hands, tentacles in of course.

Bibi: Well, you know the people involved and I don't. Perhaps if they come here to donate it will show that Hajene Seruffin didn't use any strange influences on them.

Gegg thinks that over for a moment.

Gegg: Maybe so. Unless you've got it, too?

Bibi laughs.

Bibi: Do you feel some strange urge to donate, Mr. Gegg?

Gegg's eyes widen with real ~~ alarm ~~, and he clutches his arms tightly to his chest.

Gegg: No!

Bibi: Well, I guess I don't have it then.

Bibi smiles, with dimples, and her eyes sparkle.

Gegg is sure he doesn't want to let Bibi or any other Sime grab him, not even Seruffin. He can't help wondering what it would be like, though, to be taken into a Sime's clutches...and live.

Gegg looks at Bibi again.

Gegg: Maybe you don't have what your pal has, but you've got...something.

Gegg pales as he realizes what he's said.

Bibi tips her head in a way that makes her look inquisitive as well as charming.

Gegg tries to figure out how long he's been here, in an attempt to determine whether he's exceeding the safety limit for remaining free of attraction to tentacles.

Gegg looks at Bibi again, this time focusing on the tentacles, or rather the long lumps along her arms. He wonders what they look like, when they're extended. ~~ increasing agitation ~~

Gegg finds himself on his feet, pacing.

Bibi: What's the matter, Mr. Gegg?

Bibi thinks this would be a good time to tactfully withdraw, and let Gegg calm down and leave, in either order.

Gegg: Nothing. I don't know.

Gegg's nager reflects only the truth that he's babbling due to nervousness. He can't zlin, but he's not completely unaware that his behavior is more than little odd. He stops pacing, with an effort.

Bibi: Well, help yourself to any of the booklets on the table, and take some goodies with you for the drive home.

Bibi starts to rise.

Gegg backs up hastily, to put more space between himself and Bibi.

Bibi backs toward the hallway.

Gegg: Er....thank you for the information but I've got to go my wife will be worried...

Bibi: Thank you so much for coming by. Please think about Mik working here at the Ford for a while, and let me know if there's anything else I can do to help you.

Gegg: Er, yes, I'll certainly do that...

Gegg manages not to bolt for the door--quite--but his exit is far too brisk for proper dignity

Bibi: Good day, then, Mr. Gegg.

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