Seruffin is once again taking the train through Gen Territory, enduring the sickening blur of retainer-distorted fields from the Gen-filled cars ahead of him.
Seruffin has, of course, been seated in the "Sime Car", the back half of which is the baggage car. He's not completely displeased by this blatant discrimination, since sitting among Gens who fear him would be an even worse ordeal. He is, however, looking forward to a few days of rest in Hannard's Ford, and not entirely because he'll be able to get out of the shenned retainers.
Seruffin zlins the head of the train swing to the right around a curve, and he scoots closer to Gerrhonot.
Seruffin: Just a few more stops, and we'll be at Hannard's Ford at last.
Gerrhonot: Oh, good.
Gerrhonot steps up his projection of ~~ comfort ~~. He can tell that the retainers are really bothering Seruffin.
Seruffin leans on Gerrhonot's nager with ~~ grim endurance ~~
Gerrhonot: Hajene Bibi is going to be glad to see you again. ~~ happiness ~~
Seruffin: I hope so.
Seruffin deliberately accepted a longer travel leg than he usually would just so he could see her again.
Gerrhonot: I think she likes you. A lot.
Seruffin: What she sees in an old man like me, I don't know.
Seruffin looks out the window.
Seruffin: There's another town ahead. I think that's our next stop.
Gerrhonot puts his arm around Seruffin, to protect him from the additional stress of a bunch of Wild Gen nagers zlinned through retainers.
Seruffin: Do you want to get out and stretch your legs? Perhaps get something to eat?
Seruffin believes in keeping his Donor as comfortable as possible, even if it means spending time alone at the train station.
Gerrhonot: I don't like to leave you here. I've got some food in my bag in case I get hungry.
Seruffin: Are you sure? It's not as if any of them are likely to bother me here. Not with that sign on the door.
Seruffin knows that young legs cramp up from lack of exercise sooner than old ones.
Gerrhonot: I'll stay here. Maybe do some stretches when the train stops.
Gerrhonot: Hajene Bibi is really beautiful, isn't she?
Gerrhonot's nager shows no hint of lust, just happiness for his channel's good fortune.
Seruffin: Yes, she is. And what she's managed to accomplish in Hannard's Ford is enough to humble any mere diplomat.
Seruffin braces himself as the train brakes start screeching.
Gerrhonot: ~~ comfort ~~ safety ~~~ calm ~~
Seruffin isn't too proud to lean on the offered comfort.
Seruffin notes the ambient getting even more chaotic as Gens swarm on and off the train, onto the platform.
Gerrhonot gets up and does some bends and stretches, staying close to Seruffin and maintaining his support. He gets out an apple and a sandwich, cuts the apple in eighths and offers one to Seruffin. ~~ delicious ~~
Seruffin doesn't want food of any sort, just now, but obediently takes a bite.
Eugen stands with his back to the gathering of Gens on the platform ~~ shielding ~~ Marvin with both his huge frame and formidable nager.
Eugen has come to terms with life as a Mule but he really hates the toll it takes on his channels. RETAINERS!!! ~~ support and a buffer of sorts~~ Of course having a channel as outgoing as Marvin does make keeping him safe a bit difficult.
Eugen: Ready to get on, Marvin?
Eugen tries to watch all the Gens at once. A nice confined train car would be easier.
Marvin, leaning invisibly -- to the Gens -- on Eugen's field, walks jauntily but not Sime-quickly onto the train.
Eugen has found that following Marvin gives him a better chance at protecting the channel from the locals or whatever.
Marvin is very used to moving around out-T Gens and automatically adjusts his walk and stance to an unobtrusive style. He beckons for Eugen to stop guarding and get on the train too.
Eugen tends to lumber and jaunty isn't something he can do but he does keep up with Marvin. He would like to be less paranoid but the life of a Mule tends to more excitement than most folks would find acceptable.
Seruffin notes the approaching nagers with ~~ interest ~~
Seruffin: We're going to have company, Gerrhonot.
Gerrhonot sits down and moves close to Seruffin. ~~ protection ~~
Gerrhonot: ~~ inquiry ~~
Seruffin: Not the conductor, Gerrhonot. Some colleagues of ours, unless I miss my guess.
Marvin observes the obvious channel-Donor pair and adjusts his showfield to ~~ polite neutrality ~~.
Seruffin's own showfield, of course, is as essentially impenetrable as any First's, to lesser channels and renSimes.
Gerrhonot is ~~ interested ~~ but keeps up the assurance of ~~ protection ~~. He's had too much experience with colleagues like Bollit, Arat and Neptude.
Seruffin does maintain a friendly showfield, however. He waits until the door opens, then speaks.
Seruffin: Welcome, Hajene. It's not much of an accommodation, but at least the ambient's comparatively calm.
Seruffin's expression and showfield echo the collegial welcome.
Gerrhonot gives the pair a friendly and open smile.
Marvin cocks his head at Gerrhonot and directs his ~~ attention ~~ at him in a non-threatening, non-invasive manner. He knows perfectly well that he can't really attract -- or threaten -- a First.
Seruffin has, of course, already noted that the two are Mules, and Marvin's disjunct status, but that doesn't stop him from waving them to the opposing (and only other) bench.
Eugen sees the pair and tries to go to a neutral field. However given the general attitude of most working channels and Donors toward Mules he is ~~cautious~~.
Marvin: [quietly] Oh, do relax. Can't you see we're among friends here?
Seruffin: I'm Seruffin, attached to the Diplomatic Corps at the moment. This is Sosu Gerrhonot.
Seruffin typically awards Gerrhonot his Tecton title, while forgetting to use his own.
Marvin: My name's Marvin, and I'm assigned to the New Washington Territory Selyn Transport Service, as is my colleague Eugen here.
Marvin doesn't believe in titles, if he can help it. He grabs the part of the bench farther from Seruffin, closer to Gerrhonot.
Eugen nods and tries for a more neutral field and he sits on the other side of Marvin furthest from Seruffin.
Gerrhonot: Um, are you the channel who took Magit in-T from the Ford?
Marvin grins, raises his eyebrows, and grins widely.
Marvin: And you're the hero who took her out of the Gumgeeville Tavern basement, I'll bet.
Gerrhonot looks down.
Gerrhonot: Um, I was the only one there...
Marvin: Magit gave me quite an earful about the two of you.
Gerrhonot: Is she okay?
Seruffin: Gerrhonot handled a nasty situation as well as anyone could hope to have.
Marvin: She's fine, and yes he did.
Gerrhonot is ~~ embarrassed~~ and ~~ pleased ~~ at the praise.
Seruffin: Where did she end up for First Year?
Seruffin's ~~ concern ~~ for Magit is genuine.
Marvin: I've got her placed at a training camp that just happens to be managed by a specialist in screwball cases -- on Tecton rotation.
Eugen eyes the other Gen with something of a smile growing on his face and ~~respect~~ in his nager.
Marvin becomes ~~ serious ~~
Marvin: As for being the only one there, son, that's what a hero is: someone who does what has to be done when nobody else can. Or will.
Seruffin nods agreement, hoping to reinforce Marvin's statement. He thinks his Donor could use some more self-confidence.
Gerrhonot is a little ~~ confused ~~. He hadn't thought of himself as a hero. But he's ~~ happy ~~ that both channels think he did well.
Seruffin: I just hope your specialist can get her over the way I bungled her First Transfer.
Marvin: With respect, Hajene, I've seen bungled First Transfers. Magit was nothing of the sort. She's just some oddball new kind of Sime that nobody's run into before.
Seruffin: I can't help thinking that someone with more experience in serving changeover could have done better for her.
Marvin: As you can see, Hajene, I've never served changeover. But when anyone gets into a situation that they have no experience with, the outcome is up ... well, up in the air.
Seruffin: Yes, I know. All in all, things could have gone much worse.
Seruffin studies Marvin more closely.
Seruffin: So, you're Bibi's Marvin. She thinks quite highly of you, you know.
Marvin chuckles ~~ recollection happiness pride ~~
Seruffin doesn't appear to share the common in-T prejudice against disjuncts.
Marvin: Bibi and I understand each other, I think, or as much as ... Well, the common cultural background counts for a lot.
Seruffin: I'm sure it does. She's a remarkable young woman.
Seruffin discreetly zlins Marvin, as well as he can through the retainers, in hopes of discovering how seriously Marvin and Bibi are involved.
Marvin: I wonder, sometimes, just how much Tecton culture has changed under the influx of Gen Territory channels and Donors over the last few generations. Superficially, not that much. But under the covers?
Seruffin: It's changed a lot, although there aren't many outside the Householdings who remember much about the days just after Unity. Much of the change is for the better, in my opinion.
Seruffin resists the temptation to elaborate beyond his listeners' interest; he is a diplomat, after all, as well as an old man who likes to talk too much.
Marvin: Certainly not me. Eugen here, however, must have a unique viewpoint, being a cross-border baby, so to speak.
Seruffin looks at Eugen with ~~ interest ~~
Eugen gives Marvin that "don't drag me into this" look and thinks about the discussion.
Gerrhonot loves to hear people's stories, and happily awaits Eugen's tale.
Eugen: To be honest my family is unique in a lot of ways. I guess the biggest thing I've noticed is that people are more alike than different. My great-uncle was born in... Well, it's kind of hard to tell. The border kept moving. The family stayed put.
Seruffin: How did they get away with it?
Eugen: Half the time we didn't know where we were. But the Simes tended to make sure they were in zlinning distance of a Pen. There was just this unspoken agreement that they didn't go after family. After Unity things got easier. The border settled down and we just kept doing what we always had. Everybody in my family speaks Simelan and English.
Marvin: I wondered about that. Your accent is native, but your gestures are English-style.
Eugen: It didn't help, that's for sure. The Simes weren't quite sure how to take me and the Gens born in-T felt there was something a little off too.
Eugen: It's funny how something like that can discomfit people.
Marvin looks directly at Seruffin for the first time.
Marvin: I guess you'd be trained to notice something like that, Hajene. And not put your foot in your mouth about it, either. ~~ embarrassment ~~
Eugen: ~~support, a bit heavy~~
Seruffin: I wish life were that easy!
Marvin: ~~ curiosity ~~
Seruffin: I was something of a misfit myself, in my youth.
Marvin indicates ~~ Go on ~~
Seruffin: My mother was junct, and when I changed over, just after Unity, she essentially sold me to the Tecton for kill rights.
Marvin: ~~ shock horror laced with resignation acceptance ~~
Gerrhonot hasn't heard this before and tries, with imperfect success, to suppress his reaction of ~~ alarm ~~ and ~~ horror ~~ closely followed by ~~ compassion ~~
Seruffin: The Tecton was still mostly Householders back then, who'd lived in isolation from Sime society.
Seruffin expertly ~~ calms ~~ the ambient.
Marvin: ~~ apology ~~
Seruffin: They weren't quite sure what to do with me and my junct ideas, but they couldn't afford to throw me away, either. It worked out for the best, in the end, of course.
Marvin: Well, of course. The life of a junct channel -- As the Ancients said, "nasty, cruel, brutish, and short." ~~ compassion ~~
Seruffin: Indeed. I consider myself very fortunate, however. I never had to disjunct.
Marvin: ~~ flinch ~~ You are, indeed, more fortunate than you know. Hajene.
Seruffin offers ~~ sympathy ~~ and ~~ deep respect ~~
Marvin is caught a bit off guard by this, and then recovers. He ~~ mirrors ~~ the sympathy and respect in phase with Seruffin's, causing a ~~ swelling ~~ in the ambient like a deep organ tone.
Seruffin lets the ambient build long enough to savor it, then interjects a note of ~~good humor and optimism ~~
Marvin catches the nageric ball and ~~ tosses it back ~~
Seruffin smiles in ~~ appreciation ~~
Marvin returns his patented high-voltage grin.
Marvin: I like the way you think, Seruffin.
Seruffin: Old men like me have plenty of time for thinking--we can't do as much as you youngsters.
Seruffin is already twice as old as any Sime in his family has ever been.
Eugen has been watching the interchange. While missing a large part of the nageric interplay he is content that his channel isn't in any "danger" from either Seruffin or Gerrhonot.
Marvin: Anyhow, I wasn't sure I could do that wearing these things ~~ nagerically indicates the retainers ~~
Seruffin: You have very good control, for someone whom I expect wasn't given a great deal of training?
Eugen was pretty much written off after he learned general control.
Marvin: Kind of a wild talent, I suppose. Also, dealing day after day with Wild Gen nagers ... it builds something into you. In addition, I have ... non-Tecton sources of assistance. ~~ serenity ~~
Seruffin: Indeed? ~~ curious ~~
Marvin reaches out and takes Eugen's hand, squeezes it briefly, and lets go.
Eugen: ~~calm~~ ~~appreciation~~
Marvin: I'm what we call a friend of Bill the Berserker. ~~ calm vulnerable ~~
Marvin: [storytelling cadence] Bill the Berserker came from out-Territory not long after Unity, and was sent to an early Tecton disjunction camp. This was when the Tecton was just beginning to provide these facilities for itself, without relying on its constituent Householdings for everything.
Marvin: Although Bill made it successfully through his disjunction crisis, he continued to find himself troubled by thoughts of his First Kill. Every time he went into need, he found himself wondering whether this transfer would be better than the one that had come before. And when he got to that transfer, he was always fully satisfied, technically -- but something was still missing.
Seruffin nods, having read about such things, if not experienced them personally.
Marvin: Then he met Hajene Bob, a disjunct channel, who had the same problems. They began to meet daily to, well, talk; tell each other their stories. Other disjuncts heard about the meetings and began to attend, too.
Marvin: Eventually, we evolved a tradition involving meetings, personal stories, sponsorship -- that's a personal relationship between younger and older disjuncts -- and public anonymity. Of course, that doesn't prevent us from telling our own stories to outsiders in private when it seems appropriate.
Seruffin: And does it help you to live with the lack of complete satisfaction?
Marvin looks Seruffin straight and steadily in the eyes.
Marvin: It helps me to find my source of satisfaction elsewhere than in the exigencies of the body. ~~ serenity calm ~~
Gerrhonot has been listening closely, picking up on emotions, although he doesn't understand everything he's hearing. He can't help but project some ~~ comfort ~~ to Marvin, who looks like he could use it.
Marvin picks up on Gerrhonot's comforting nager and smiles directly at him ~~ appreciation ~~
Gerrhonot smiles back.
Eugen: I think the biggest difference for channels is that they get transfer from Gens.
Eugen still isn't quite comfortable with the idea of expressing an opinion around people he doesn't know well.
Marvin: [gently] Go ahead, tell us what you think, Eugen. These good people won't bite.
Eugen: Well, when it come right down to it any Sime would prefer to get his selyn directly from the source. The biggest difference between a junct and a nonjunct renSime is that his First transfer comes directly from a Gen. Other than the kill, I mean.
Gerrhonot finds this a strange idea. When the Church of Unity had missionaries out-T they served First Transfer to lots of renSimes, but the renSimes weren't like juncts because of it.
Eugen: Disjunct channels still get transfer with Donors.
Marvin: Well, in-T at least. Out-T can be a different story.
Marvin makes the Simelan gesture -- as best he can in retainers -- toward Seruffin that means "With your permission?"
Eugen is very aware of Marvin's disjunct status. ~~support~~
Seruffin makes the "Permission granted" gesture.
Marvin: As far as I can tell, if I hadn't been a channel, the man I killed would not have died. I never found out exactly why, but the in-T screening channel told me that I had drained him, not technically killed him at all. He was apparently just traveling through, and happened to be in the wrong place with the wrong Sime at the wrong time.
Gerrhonot finds this first hand talk of kills to be a bit scary, but maintains ~~ calm ~~ and ~~ support ~~. The past year or so has exposed him to far more scary situations.
Marvin: Drained or burned out, though, the effect on my soul was very much the same. I gloried in my absolute power over a fellow human being and my ability to destroy him at my will. A moment of spiritual pride with which I live every day.
Eugen: I don't know Marvin. It reminds me of something my Granna told me once. She was joking at the time but she said the only difference between a hungry infant and a berserker is that the Gen lives.
Marvin: Thanks, Eugen. The trouble with being such a serious fellow as me is that sometimes I descend into solemnity. If I didn't have you around, I'd probably have defected to Gen Territory and set up as a preacher by now. But it's true, new Simes are infants in need, without being infants in responsibility.
Eugen: I didn't want to make light of what you live with. ~~ concern ~~ You can't hold an infant responsible for what it does. And I don't care what anybody says, a new Sime is the same as a newborn. And I think deep down everybody believes it too. After all we do ask a person how many years past changeover not how many natal.
Marvin: Good point, Eugen. I never thought about that before.
Gerrhonot glances at Seruffin to make sure he's okay, then reaches out and strokes Marvin's hand, just once. ~~ kindness ~~ comfort ~~
Marvin puts his hand on top of Gerrhonot's hand ~~ warmth gratitude ~~
Marvin: And what do you think, Sosu? -- Unfortunately I'm terrible at remembering names.
Marvin doesn't know about Gerrhonot's disability, except for what Magit has told him, which he thinks is probably exaggerated.
Gerrhonot: I'm Gerrhonot. You couldn't help it, Hajene. You were in First Need with nobody to help you.
Eugen: I guess it's that we try so hard to keep a Sime from killing again we ingrain the guilt of an act that no one should be held responsible for...
Marvin looks at Eugen sharply and ~~ wonders ~~ just what that means.
Marvin: Perhaps I was a bit hasty, after all, in urging you to talk freely.
Marvin softens this remark with a ~~ smile ~~, though.
Gerrhonot knows that something is going over his head, but he's used to that.
Marvin picks up on Gerrhonot's confusion.
Marvin: My friend here sounds a bit Distect, saying Simes aren't responsible for what they do.
Eugen: Beg pardon? I never said an adult Sime isn't responsible.
Marvin: No offense, Eugen. I'm not accusing you of anything.
Eugen mutters "Sounded a lot like it to me."
Marvin: The Distect is an idea. The value -- or lack of it -- of that idea has nothing to do with the virtues or vices of the people who currently claim to embody it.
Eugen is mollified by Marvin's explanation. ~~apology~~ ~sympathy~~ and the beginnings of ~~understanding~~
Gerrhonot: It's awful around here, not like where I grew up. They murder their kids all the time. They would have let Magit die even though Hajene Seruffin was in town.
Eugen: We see a lot of that Sosu. I hate it but it's been necessary for so long out here people have a hard time changing their way of thinking.
Gerrhonot: Back home everybody sends their kids in-T to stay with relatives in case they changeover.
Marvin: And very sensible too. But most people out-T don't know anyone in-T to do that with.
Gerrhonot: Well. if they don't have relatives, the Church of Unity finds somebody for them to stay with. But after a while, everybody has relatives in-T that way.
Eugen: Church of Unity? I heard something about them... Can't remember. Wasn't there a Householding associated with them at one time?
Marvin: They are a religious group that exists both in-T and out-T, and supports Unity not just as a practical necessity but as required for the spiritual regeneration of the human species. As well as I understand it.
Gerrhonot: Um, we believe God wants Simes and Gens to get along and help each other. Else they wouldn't have been made so they could.
Marvin bows from the waist.
Marvin: You put it much better than I do, Gerrhonot.
Gerrhonot: They used to send Third Order Donors to live out-T and give transfer to kids in changeover. That's how come my uncle is nonjunct. I stayed with him for a while and now my sister is there.
Marvin raises his eyebrows.
Marvin: I never knew about that part. I'm surprised the Tecton would allow it.
Gerrhonot: Well, it was all out-T, so the Tecton couldn't do anything. And the Donors were trained at that Householding and they were Householding members, not Tecton employees.
Eugen: Now that sound down right useful. Do they still do it anywhere?
Gerrhonot: No, not any more. Back in the old days the Householdings could do more stuff than they can now.
Gerrhonot looks to Seruffin for a political explanation, but he has turned to stone. He wonders if vanishing in a puff of smoke would be a better explanation.
Gerrhonot figures he's gone to the latrine and is worried about him out there. He really should have gone with him.
Eugen: Too bad the Tecton isn't willing to do something like that for all those places that don't have or couldn't support a Sime Center.
Gerrhonot: Yeah, like Gumgeeville. ~~ sadness ~~
Eugen has seen too many small towns that live with the murder of children as a given.
Eugen: Yes, like Gumgeeville. ~~ also sad ~~ Maybe someday.
Marvin nods with a rueful expression on his face.