Bibi has asked Cristal to find Ghan while Sal talks to her two friends, and when Ghan arrives, she sends Sal with her to get settled. Ghan isn't a Donor, but she's from in-T, very level-headed, and with a fair bit of experience by now in dealing with out-T children in changeover.
Jess looks after them as they leave the reception area.
Jess: Sal sure doesn't look like she's in changeover. Doesn't act like it, either.
Callie: Are you sure she's really turning Sime?
Callie is quite ~~ upset ~~ about this unanticipated ending to their expedition.
Bibi: Yes. She's very fortunate that we've found out so early. She'll have time to get used to the idea, and learn about changeover. That will make it easier for her than if she didn't come in until the changeover was well advanced.
Callie: We thought we'd find out we were Gens.
Callie starts crying. She isn't quite convinced that Sal really is in changeover, or that Bibi didn't have something to do with it happening.
Bibi: Well, most likely you will turn Gen, Callie, but there is a chance you won't. Jess may have saved Sal's life by bringing her here today.
Bibi gives Jess an approving look.
Jess starts feeling a lot better about the whole thing when Bibi describes it this way. She likes being the mover and shaker of her group of friends.
Callie: Sal didn't even guess that she might be turning Sime, did she?
Callie finds this ~~ unsettling ~~
Callie: She still wouldn't know, if you hadn't told her.
Bibi: No, most children don't know until a channel or another Sime tells them, or when the first symptoms start.
Callie: To know I could be turning Sime and not even guess it...that's awful.
Bibi would like to comfort Callie by touching her, but expects it would frighten her instead.
Callie has been taught that disobedient girls have a high probability of turning Sime, and visiting a Sime Center is about the biggest no-no she can think of.
Bibi: Sal would know within a day or so... or at any rate, she'd have to try and decide whether that was what was happening to her.
Callie: I won't be able to sleep tonight, wondering.
Bibi reaches out tentatively to touch Callie's shoulder.
Callie shies away. ~~ fear ~~
Jess rolls her eyes with the superiority of a teenager who can do something her friend can't.
Jess: Callie, Miz Bibi isn't going to eat you, you know.
Callie is properly stung by this accusation of cowardice, and doesn't quite fly out of the comfy armchair where she was sitting. She's still watching Bibi ~~ anxiously ~~, however, now that the channel seems to be showing an interest in her.
Bibi sits on a chair across from Callie and beckons Jess to join her.
Jess shrugs ostentatiously and does so.
Bibi: You've done well, Jess. You've saved your friend Sal a lot of fear and worry and suffering, and may well have saved her life. Thank you.
Jess: You're welcome. But...I really didn't think you'd find anything like that.
Bibi: I didn't expect it either. But it's good that you encourage your friends to come here. If they are Gens already, they can stop worrying. If they aren't, they'll know that they can come here again if they are ever concerned that they might be starting to change over.
Jess planned the whole visit as a lark, and a chance to show off.
Bibi: They'll be less nervous, having been here once already.
Callie's Sime Center visit doesn't appear to have made her less nervous about the Sime Center.
Bibi is hoping that this calm and friendly conversation will help Callie calm down.
Jess: Maybe. At least Tsotska knows she's Gen, even if she can't tell her parents for a while. And Peet and I don't have to worry for a day or two. Of course, our parents are all gonna throw fits when they find out..
Callie winces at this reminder.
Bibi: I think your parents will be happy that Sal will be okay, and that you helped her.
Callie: You don't know my parents. They think the only good Sime is a dead one.
Bibi knows that Jess's father is one of Miz Brown's grandsons.
Jess: Even my parents won't be happy that I encouraged my friends to disobey their parents.
Bibi: I suppose so. Well, I won't tell them if you don't want me to, Jess. Callie, I'm sorry this has been so distressing for you.
Callie: They're gonna find out, when they find out where Sal is. And they will; news like that travels fast. I won't be able to sit down for a week.
Bibi: Callie, do you agree with your parents? Do you think Sal would be better off dead?
Callie closes her eyes for a moment.
Callie: I don't know. That's what I've always believed, but if it were me...I just don't know. It's hard to die, even when it's necessary.
Callie has been obsessing on whether she'd have the courage to do the right thing for over a year now, without reaching any firm conclusions.
Bibi: Until the Sime Center opened, a child who changed over had the choice of dying before or after she killed someone. But there's another choice now. She can live without killing, live a good life, a life very similar to the one she'd live if she turned Gen
Bibi: Your parents were right, before this new choice became available. It takes time for people to get used to something new, something that changes the way things have been for hundreds of years.
Callie: It wouldn't be a life in the True Church. And salvation is supposed to be more important than living. Right is right, and wrong is wrong, regardless of circumstances. Or that's how it's supposed to be.
Callie is finding, as she grows older, that there are disturbing shades of ethical grey in Real Life. She's not comfortable with the concept, but she's too honest to ignore it
Bibi: Some churches have decided that a Sime who never kills doesn't deserve death. Miz Brown's church believes that God gave us channels, and wants us to use them to save lives, so no Simes have to kill.
Callie: My parents say Miz Brown's church has lost the way, and is teaching dangerous heresy.
Callie isn't sure if that's true, herself, but she is sure that stating otherwise will bring parental wrath down on her head.
Callie: All I know is that I want to be safe. To know I'm not going to turn Sime.
Callie's ~~ longing ~~ for such security is intense. She's the kind of kid who responds best to a very calm, orderly environment and has not found the year and a half since she reached "danger age" at all comfortable.
Bibi: You have two chances out of three that you'll be Gen. You can come here any time and ask me if you've turned Gen. If you start to menstruate, the blessing, you'll know you've turned Gen.
Callie: I don't even have breasts yet! Well, not really.
Callie has noted some chest development lately, but has been too uncomfortable with the idea to admit it to anyone.
Callie: Don't they come before the blessing?
Bibi: Well, it takes a while to finish growing there too, but yes, most girls have some development before the blessing.
Bibi grew up with that euphemism, so isn't awkward using it.
Callie: So one way or the other, it's gonna be soon?
Bibi: It's hard to tell, Callie. If you're starting to develop, perhaps within a year or so.
Callie gives a choked little half sob, comprised of equal parts ~~ apprehension ~~ and ~~ hope ~~
Bibi is full of ~~ compassion ~~ for a child at a stage of life out-T that she remembers all too well.
Bibi: Callie, will you think about coming here, if you think you might be turning Sime? I want you to live a good life, a long happy life. You don't have to die. You have a right to live without killing.
Callie doesn't have any concept of what life is like for Simes, and so for her it's another form of death.
Jess would much prefer to establish, but she's known Bibi long enough to at least view the Sime Center as offering life.
Callie: I just want to know, for sure, that I can go to sleep without worrying if I'll wake up Sime. It's been so long.
Callie does have dark circles under her eyes, evidence of chronic sleep deprivation.
Bibi: Would you like me to do a lateral contact exam, like I did for your friends?
Bibi doesn't expect Callie to agree.
Bibi: But, remember, you won't just wake up Sime, you'll have plenty of warning, plenty of time to come here.
Bibi knows that there's plenty of time if the child admits to herself what's happening.
Callie flares ~~ alarm ~~ at Bibi's suggestion.
Jess, however, has a different perspective on the issue.
Jess: Hajene Bibi can at least tell you whether you're going to turn Sime tomorrow. That's something, isn't it?
Callie looks at Jess, than at Bibi.
Callie: You could really do that? For sure?
Bibi: Yes. I can do that. Would you like me to?
Callie: My parents wouldn't like it. Not at all.
Jess gives a snort.
Jess: We're all in trouble, anyway. And they can only ground you once, right?
Bibi has to walk a careful line to encourage children to save their own lives, without getting the more conservative elements in the community up in arms against the SIme Center.
Callie has to admit that Jess's logic is compelling.
Bibi doesn't want the Sime Center to cause any more divisiveness than necessary to fulfill its, and her, mission.
Callie looks at Jess.
Callie shifts her glance to Bibi's face, lets it drop to Bibi's arms, and shudders.
Callie: Go ahead, then.
Callie's manners make a belated appearance.
Bibi: Would you like to go into the other room? Do you want Jess to be with you? We can do it here if you like. It's your choice.
Callie considers for a moment, then decides that Jess wouldn't understand her feelings.
Callie does have a surprisingly strong sense of self-preservation, considering her background, and like most of her peers, she views being branded a coward as a Fate Worse Than Turning Sime. Almost.
Callie stands, vaguely surprised that her legs will hold her.
Callie: Let's go to the other room.
Callie's heart rate is notably accelerated.
Bibi gets up and begins walking to the donation room, giving Callie a wide berth as she passes her.
Callie follows on wobbly legs.
Bibi doesn't expect to require Cristal's services -- how likely is it that two kids on the brink of starting changeover would come in at once?
Jess looks after her friend, surprised at Callie's choice.
Bibi opens the door and stands back so Callie can go in ahead of her.
Callie edges cautiously past Bibi.
Bibi gestures, tentacles retracted, toward the client's end of the transfer lounge.
Callie looks at it.
Callie: You want me to sit there?
Bibi: Yes, please.
Callie: You didn't ask Jess to sit.
Callie is more stating an observation than an objection.
Bibi: We can do it either way, but it's more comfortable sitting.
Callie goes over to the transfer lounge, and sits, turning to keep a close eye on Bibi.
Bibi approaches slowly, smiling and trying to look harmless, and sits in the channel's position.
Callie doesn't--quite--bolt, but she does lean back, away from Bibi.
Bibi: I'm sorry you're so nervous about being so close to me.
Callie: I've never been this close to a Sime before. When that Sime killed my uncle, I ran away.
Bibi: Oh, Callie. I'm so sorry. That must have been terrifying.
Callie starts trembling at the memory.
Callie: It happened so fast.
Bibi: Was the Sime your relative too?
Callie: No. He lived down the road, but he hid in the church's tool shed. I was going to help my uncle plant a new flower bed, but when he opened the door... He jumped out and killed him. Like an animal. Uncle Glym never had a chance.
Callie scrubs a tear off her cheek.
Bibi wishes she could comfort Callie, but knows that this isn't a time to touch her.
Callie: I ran as fast as I could, but when they came to take care of the Sime, Uncle Glym was long dead.
Bibi: I've lost relatives that way, but I never witnessed it. I can see it's taking a lot of courage for you to be here with me.
Callie: My parents said that's why every child in changeover has to die. And they're right: no one should have to die like Uncle Glym.
Bibi: Yes, they are right. No one should die that way.
Callie: It hurt him. I could see that, and he couldn't even scream. I dream about it, at night. Sometimes I'm Uncle Glym. And sometimes, I'm that boy. I don't know which way is worse.
Callie is basically finding early adolescence a bitch.
Bibi: Callie... may I touch you?
Callie is abruptly reminded why she's sitting next to a Sime.
Callie: ...Like you touched Jess?
Bibi: I thought you might like a hug.
Bibi is in maternal mode, effective with children and young Gens. Young Simes, too.
Callie finds this a bit less scary.
Callie: I guess so.
Bibi offers the hug.
Callie braces herself, then leans forward cautiously.
Bibi carefully puts her arm around Callie, giving her plenty of opportunity to change her mind.
Callie is more tense than a kid being hugged ought to be. She tolerates Bibi's touch with no real sign of physical resistance, however.
Bibi: I'm so sorry that terrible thing happened to your uncle, Callie, and that you were there when it happened.
Callie: That's why I've got to do this. I've got to know that I won't become that kid, even if it's only for a day.
Bibi: I understand. You can come here as often as you like, so you'll always be safe.
Callie doesn't feel particularly safe, at the moment.
Bibi reaches for Callie's hand, but stops before taking it.
Bibi: Do you think you can take my hand?
Callie's heart gives an uncomfortable jolt, and accelerates. She looks at Bibi's hand, noting the tentacle sheaths above it.
Callie suddenly reaches out both hands.
Callie: Go ahead and do it. Just...do it. ~~ intense anxiety and general stress ~~
Bibi: Okay, Callie, if that's what you want.
Bibi gently takes both of Callie's hands, and slides hers up onto the girl's wrists.
Callie closes her eyes.
Bibi: I'm going to touch you with my tentacles, now. You can keep your eyes closed if you want.
Bibi wraps her handling tentacles lightly around Callie's arms.
Callie gives a little scream, and her eyes fly open again.
Bibi is ready to let go instantly if Callie tries to pull back.
Bibi: Do you want me to let go? I will if you want me to.
Callie stares at Bibi's tentacles in ~~ horrified fascination ~~
Callie: They move like they're something separate from you.
Bibi hears that often. It usually means that the speaker can accept her as a person, but not quite as a Sime.
Bibi: No, they're part of me, as much under my control as my fingers or my voice.
Callie is certainly a long way from accepting Simes in any form. She pulls her eyes away from the tentacles to meet Bibi's.
Callie: They're not...normal.
Callie has been taught a rather rigid definition of "normal" from earliest childhood.
Bibi: I felt the same way, until I got them. Even then it took me a while to feel comfortable with them.
Callie: They're uncomfortable? ~~ confusion ~~
Bibi: No, no more uncomfortable than my fingers, but I was raised to believe that they aren't normal, too.
Bibi: Now I'm glad I have them, glad that I'm a channel, because I can use them to save lives.
Callie recalls the reason for her current self-torture.
Callie: Am I still a child?
Bibi: I can't detect anything different yet. May I touch you with my laterals?
Callie: The wet ones?
Callie: The ones that can kill?
Bibi hopes that Callie will overcome some of her fear by confronting it.
Callie holds herself rigid, that being the only way she can overrule the instinct to depart precipitously.
Callie: Go on.
Bibi: Okay. I have to tighten up my handling tentacles first.
Bibi does so, ready to let go if Callie panics.
Callie starts to shake.
Bibi: I'll stop if you want, Callie. You don't have to do this.
Callie: I do. I've got to know.
Callie's voice is a wail of distress.
Bibi: Okay, now my laterals. Remember you can hurt me, so please try to stay still.
Bibi reluctantly extends her laterals onto the child's arms.
Callie gives a choked cry at the feel of the ronaplin.
Bibi wonders if she's detecting a minute level of selyn production, or just freaking out a bit herself.
Bibi: May I make a lip contact now?
Callie squawks, twice, then gives up and nods instead. She closes her eyes again, holding fast to her determination.
Bibi presses her lips to Callie's and zlins as hard as she can. Yes! Callie's nager shows the character of a rising field, and she can just barely detect a very faint pulse of selyn production.
Bibi breaks the lip contact, retracts her laterals and releases Callie's arms.
Bibi: You're starting to establish, Callie. You're a Gen. You're safe.
Callie's eyes widen, absorbing the news.
Callie: Really? I'm a Gen?
Bibi: Yes, you are. Congratulations.
Callie: I don't have to worry any more. ~~ wonder ~~
Bibi is feeling a bit weak herself, after all that.
Bibi: Callie, I'm very impressed by your courage in letting me touch you like that. I don't think I've ever seen that much courage in a young person here before.
Callie: I wasn't brave. I was scared.
Callie shares the common out-T definition of "brave" as "fearless".
Bibi: You were very scared, but you went ahead and did it. That's true courage. If you weren't scared, it wouldn't have taken any courage at all.
Callie: You mean, Jess isn't brave, after all? Because she wasn't scared?
Bibi: Well, she was pretty nervous the first time too. But I've checked her quite a few times now, so she's used to it, and it doesn't scare her any more.
Callie: You can get used to that?
Bibi: Oh, yes. Many children come in here regularly to be checked out. And of course, I take donations from many Gen adults.
Callie: You take their selyn. The way that Sime took Uncle Glym's.
Bibi: No, they give me their selyn, so it can be given to other Simes, so they can live without killing.
Callie finds it ~~ incomprehensible ~~
Callie: Why? There aren't any Simes here. Not for long, anyway.
Bibi: Well, Sal will need some selyn tomorrow. The rest goes in-T to help other Simes. Some of those Simes grew up here at the Ford, and their families still love and care about them, and want to help them and other Simes like them.
Callie: If I'd been Sime, my parents would have wanted me dead.
Callie: Even if I'd managed to live. Even if I'd come here, and survived without killing anyone.
Bibi: Some parents change their minds when they know their child hasn't killed, and will live without killing. But some don't, for a long time.
Bibi: Sometimes later on, they want to make contact with their child again after all.
Callie: But sometimes not?
Bibi: Sometimes not.
Bibi futilely maintains a ~~ calm ~~ showfield, but her face shows that she's thinking of her own parents.
Callie: Did your family change their minds about you?
Bibi: Not yet, Callie.
Callie: Oh.. That's hard.
Bibi: Yes, it is. I hope... by the time my nieces and nephew are of the dangerous age...
Callie: What could you do about it? Your family isn't from around here. Right?
Bibi: Maybe they could come stay with me for a while, or maybe there will be a channel there they can go to.
Jess: Oh. Is there a Sime Center where they live?
Bibi: Not yet.
Callie: Are they going to build one there?
Bibi: I don't know. I haven't heard anything. But there are so few Sime Centers, and so many desperate children...
Callie: I'm not desperate. Not any more.
Callie isn't, either.
Bibi: Yes. Not any more.
Callie has not only had a huge source of stress removed, but Bibi is not touching her any more.
Callie: Although...I can still be killed like Uncle Glym. Right?
Bibi: You could be. But few people are. I hope every child in changeover will come to me so none of them will have to kill.
Bibi: You could also donate your selyn. Then a berserker won't be attracted to you as much. In-T, where every child in changeover goes to the Sime Center, and every Gen donates, kills are almost unknown.
Callie: I wouldn't be killed? All the Gens donate?
Bibi: In-T, yes, all Gens donate.
Callie is ~~ skeptical ~~
Callie: There's no way to get everybody to do something, unless...do they have to?
Bibi: They want to. And it's in their interests to do so. You don't have to make people do things when they can see the benefit in it.
Callie: What happens if they won't?
Bibi: Well, some of them move out-T, but the ones who stay aren't thought of very highly by their family and neighbors.
Callie: Just because they don't want to let a Sime...do that to them?
Bibi: It's like people around here don't think very highly of hoarders. Or freeloaders, like people who cheat on their taxes, so everybody else has to pay more.
Bibi: Callie, donation isn't much different from what I did in checking you, from the Gen's point of view. The Gen doesn't feel any more than you did. I just maintain the contact for a little longer.
Callie thinks that what Bibi did to her was quite bad enough, thank you.
Bibi: Well, I suppose Jess is wondering what we're up to in here.
Callie: Yes. Oh, no, I'm going to be in such trouble when I get home. But it's worth it, to know I'm not going to be a Sime.