Seruffin approaches the Gumgeeville jail with ~~ apprehension ~~ that is well concealed from his showfield and expression. He is a professional diplomat, after all.
Gerrhonot stays close. He knows when Seruffin is in "diplomat mode", and may need more support than appears to the Gen eye.
Seruffin has seldom been called upon to handle matters quite so potentially disastrous to S/G relations, however, and with an incomplete briefing, no backup, and no time to devise a strategy, either. He just hopes his skills are up to the task.
Obie, inside his office, shuffles papers from IN to OUT.
Obie: Where's that dratted Dalkik when I need him?
Seruffin: Gerrhonot, this could be tricky. The most important thing is not to make matters with the local Gens worse than they already are. If I appear to be losing my temper, remind me of that, will you?
Gerrhonot: Okay, Hajene. I'll do ~~ nageric twitch ~~ okay?
Seruffin: Thank you.
Gerrhonot: ~~ loyalty ~~ support ~~ confidence in his channel ~~
Seruffin is ~~ very glad ~~ for the support, as he steps into the jail. He looks around to locate the person in charge.
Seruffin somehow doesn't look like the sort of person who makes a habit of being in jails.
Obie: Can I help you gentlemen?
Seruffin: I'm Hajene Seruffin, and this is Sosu Gerrhonot.
Seruffin always introduces his Donor when dealing with out-T Gens; it seems to reassure them.
Gerrhonot nods and smiles, looking friendly, harmless and reassuring.
Obie: Ah. I see. This'll be about that Sime in the back and the kid he has with him?
Seruffin: Yes. I'm afraid that the message we got at Hannard's Ford was a bit garbled. Perhaps you'd be kind enough to explain just what happened?
Obie: Damned if I know and that's a fact. First the Sime and his ... Gen come in, and the Sime's carrying a kid. He wants to be locked up. Of course I can't do that: he hasn't done anything!
Seruffin thinks this doesn't sound very reassuring, although at least Obie doesn't seem overtly hostile.
Obie: So the Gen steals my deputy's pencil, and like a dope he locks them up anyhow. Larceny, if you please.
Seruffin: He's in jail for stealing a pencil? What did he want it for?
Obie: Damned if I know.
Seruffin admits to ~~ bafflement ~~
Obie: I wasn't actually there myself. Later on, the Gen bails himself out with a watch! A watch! I swear, if Dalkik weren't my third cousin twice removed, I'd lock him up for mopery.
Seruffin: So what did Hajene Marvin do with this stolen pencil?
Obie: I hope Dalkik repossessed it, but I don't actually know. For all I know, he's writing on the cell walls. That's vandalism.
Seruffin: I hope not, for all our sakes.
Obie: Anyhow, ever since I came on duty it's been real quiet in there.
Seruffin: Where is Sosu Eugen now?
Obie: Haven't seen him. The watch is in my desk, at least.
Seruffin frowns, ~~ concerned ~~
Seruffin: What is the current status of the two remaining prisoners, if you don't mind my asking?
Obie: As far as I'm concerned, you can have 'em, but you'll have to take your chances escorting that girl out of here if she's changed over. I can't suspend the retainer laws for you.
Seruffin: Of course not.
Obie: They're tying up my only cell.
Seruffin: I realize that must be inconvenient for you, and I apologize.
Seruffin's apology is ~~ utterly sincere ~~, without losing out on his usual dignity. He finds that a great deal of the reflexive resistance of petty officials can be disarmed with a bit of respect.
Eugen walks into the jail, sees Seruffin and Gerrhonot, and ~~ double takes ~~.
Seruffin turns to Eugen.
Eugen: Hajene, I can explain everything.
Seruffin: Sosu. I'm very glad of that. However, perhaps first we ought to see just what your channel has been up to, in your absence?
Seruffin's tone is firm, allowing for no argument. He doesn't want any discussion of possibly sensitive issues to take place in front of out-T witnesses.
Seruffin: If you would oblige us, Sheriff?
Seruffin's voice is once more perfectly courteous.
Obie: I take it you want into my cell as well?
Seruffin: If you don't mind. Once I've had a chance to assess the situation, I'll see what I can do towards getting us all back where we belong.
Obie walks back to the cell and unlocks the door. He waits for Seruffin and the two Gens to enter and then locks them in.
Obie: Just a sensible precaution.
Seruffin smiles in a suitably diplomatic, urbane fashion.
Seruffin: No offense taken.
Obie returns to his desk and continues to shuffle papers from IN to OUT.
Obie: Pencils. Watches. Simes. Where is that Dalkik?
Fridda looks up as she zlins something amazing, a QN-1 and a TN-1. She's been dozing on and off, still ~~ exhausted ~~ from her ordeal the previous day.
Marvin: Boy howdy, am I glad to see you, Hajene Seruffin. Don't worry, I can explain everything!
Eugen: I tried that already.
Fridda: ~~ confused ~~ amazed ~~ still in pain ~~
Seruffin zlins all three of the--pencil thieves--as deeply as he can, through the retainers.
Gerrhonot looks around. The jail seems to be clean and well kept, even if the bars in the window look like they've been bent and then straightened by an apprentice blacksmith with no talent for the trade.
Seruffin: Sosu Eugen, your client is still in pain. Perhaps you should look after her while Hajene Marvin tells me what the shen is going on.
Seruffin figures that Marvin will know more than Eugen, who has apparently been wandering around all night.
Marvin: Ahem. Well. Yes, Hajene.
Seruffin turns his full, somewhat grim attention on Marvin.
Marvin: I was on my way in-bound by train, and there was an unscheduled stop, and Fridda here was tossed onto the train, bound by ropes.
Seruffin: I zlin the damage.
Marvin: It was a stage four arrest, and I suspect she'd been in that state for hours, locked up in a shed near the line.
Marvin: The man who tossed her -- literally -- into the car was just hoping there'd be a channel in the car, I suppose. Well, there was -- technically.
Marvin uses his showfield to ~~ report the story ~~ at the nageric level all the while he goes on narrating it at the verbal level.
Marvin: As you can see, I was sent out high-field but with almost nothing in my secondaries, and Eugen here of course very low.
Seruffin: And how did you handle it?
Marvin: I broke the ropes and attempted to heal her with my primary system. It hurt like shen, and I mean exactly that.
Seruffin: You would not have been trained in healing, or other channeling skills, am I right?
Marvin nods slowly.
Marvin: Hajene, it seemed to me that her life was at stake. I arranged with the conductor to get Bibi to the station with the pickup wagon and a Sime Territory sign. I figured she'd need immediate transfer by then.
Fridda relaxes a bit as Eugen's field subdues her pain somewhat. She can't understand Simelan, can't interpret what she zlins, and doesn't realize that she could never zlin through Seruffin's showfield anyway. But she's a fairly astute observer, and tries to pick up what she can from body language and tone of voice.
Seruffin: A sound decision. What went wrong?
Marvin: But there's a stretch of rough track before the Gumgeeville station, and she was exhibiting severe nausea and changeover movement syndrome. I stopped the train with the emergency brake -- I'll gladly pay the fine for that, Hajene.
Marvin: I decided to carry her to the Ford, but the timing was wrong. This was the nearest insulated building I was sure I could reach and still have time to round up a local donor on an emergency basis.
Seruffin: A local donor?
Seruffin's voice has lost its usual congeniality.
Marvin: Bibi's told me the names of several of the people you worked with before. That's what I sent Eugen out to find, but the donor ended up coming to me. I don't know why, exactly.
Seruffin: A donor came to you. And what donor might that be?
Marvin: Hajene, it's not my policy that sends me out empty on these trips.
Eugen: A young female named Sanda.
Seruffin isn't interested in hearing excuses or rationalizations.
Marvin: I did attempt a reverse shunt first using Eugen, but I failed. ~~ shame ~~
Seruffin: Sanda. That wouldn't be Sanda Gegg, would it? The very young daughter of a fairly prominent citizen?
Marvin: I don't recall discussing her parents, Hajene.
Seruffin: There can hardly be two twelve-year-old Gens of that name in a town this small.
Marvin inclines his head.
Seruffin: If you've never mastered a reverse shunt, I don't expect you were ever given any instruction on taking donations, either?
Seruffin's voice and showfield are getting ~~ grimmer ~~ by the moment.
Marvin: No, Hajene.
Gerrhonot is finding this very interesting, but keeps his field ~~ calm and steady ~~. He feels sorry for Marvin, but doesn't let it show. He trusts Seruffin's opinions and actions.
Marvin: I gleaned sufficient selyn to serve Fridda's transfer.
Seruffin: And you thought it reasonable to start learning on an underage out-Territory Gen, one who has never donated before, or even seen so much as a tentacle?
Gerrhonot has met Sanda and thinks she's a nice kid. He's glad she was willing to volunteer to save this poor new Sime, and really hopes Marvin didn't scare her or hurt her.
Marvin: No, Hajene. I thought it necessary to do so. ~~ proud humility ~~
Seruffin would probably have done much the same, if he had been in Marvin's retainers, but he can't overlook the difference between a highly skilled First and an untrained Mule Second.
Fridda can tell when someone is being called on the carpet, without zlinning. Some of the things she's zlinning are pretty complicated and incomprehensible anyway. She hopes Marvin isn't going to be punished for saving her and wonders if she can say anything in his defense.
Seruffin is inclined to approve of Marvin's initiative, but he can't overlook the risks taken.
Seruffin: Necessary to save one young Sime's life?
Marvin: Yes, Hajene.
Seruffin: I see. And just how many other lives, Sime and Gen, were you prepared to risk losing in the pursuit of that laudable goal?
Marvin: Hajene, Fridda would have died had not everything gone exactly right. But I would not have allowed any other lives to be lost. ~~ absolute sincerity ~~. If necessary, I would have taken a suicide abort rather than allow Sanda to feel anything.
Marvin: Had I been unable to give Fridda transfer for whatever reason, I was entirely prepared to break her neck rather than allow her to die in attrition.
Seruffin: I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, and accept your good intentions. Whether you could have carried them out, under the circumstances...
Seruffin without warning projects a very good imitation of the ~~ Gen panic ~~ that Ma Mullins threw at him.
Fridda gasps in ~~confusion ~~and ~~terror ~~ and stares at Seruffin.
Marvin turns his focus inward and chants to himself "not my will, but thy will, not my will, but thy will". His showfield holds ~~ neutral ~~. He moves to the neutral point to protect Fridda, as much as he is able, from Seruffin's enticement.
Gerrhonot has held ~~ calm and steady ~~ despite the frightening tone of the conversation, and looks to Seruffin, wondering if it would be okay to help Fridda a little.
Marvin generates his own ~~ Gen panic ~~ and matches it to Seruffin's, out of phase. He isn't able to cancel the entire nager, but Seruffin's effect on the ambient is reduced somewhat. ~~ a bit surprised ~~
Seruffin smoothly curbs his projection, allowing for the effect of Marvin's.
Marvin: I see my Killers Anonymous training is helpful even in these, umm, extreme circumstances.
Marvin eases off his protection as the ambient returns to mostly neutral with an overlay of Fridda-pain.
Seruffin: Would it have been sufficient, if young Sanda had thrown something like that at you, while you were in lateral contact with her? Can you be completely sure of that?
Marvin: I have learned how to murder, Hajene. And I have learned how to die. ~~ stubbornness humility ~~
Seruffin rolls his eyes in ~~ exasperation ~~
Marvin remains silent.
Seruffin: And what use would that platitude have been, if your control failed you?
Marvin closes his eyes and breathes deeply, in out in out.
Marvin: There is and can be no complete surety in this life.
Seruffin: I am old enough to have known a lot of disjunct channels who were allowed, by necessity, to work in dispensary and collectorium. Their disjunctions were no less genuine then yours, their intentions no more honorable. And yet a number of them broke under the strain of situations less severe than what you faced.
Seruffin: Even with the advantage of knowing what they were doing, many weren't able to prevent their clients from being injured.
Marvin winces ~~ sympathy for Seruffin ~~
Seruffin: The truism that there can be no complete surety is no excuse for risking the life of an out-Territory Gen who has volunteered to donate. You do realize, don't you, that out-Territory doctors have no idea how to treat transfer shock?
Marvin: Yes, Hajene. I was born out-Territory. I would point out, however, that even if I had broken, I was balancing a risk of death against a certainty of death.
Seruffin: So even if you'd managed to abort if things went wrong, young Sanda might well have died anyway, from whatever residual backlash you weren't able to absorb.
Marvin: There was no one to whom I could surrender my judgment. Eugen could have made a Companion's Demand if he had been here, but he was not.
Seruffin: Because you sent him away.
Marvin: For which I am responsible as well.
Seruffin: If a certain death is what you want, how about Sanda's brother. Do you realize that your actions have probably doomed him to exactly the death which Fridda faced? Very much so. I don't suppose that figured in your calculations?
Marvin: Sanda mentioned that her brother was probably pre-Sime, yes, but I don't understand what you mean. ~~ honest bewilderment ~~
Seruffin: The boy is quite likely a channel. Bibi and I had almost convinced his father to arrange matters so that he could reach the Ford Sime Center in time. How likely is that, now? Mr. Gegg was already very suspicious of our motivations. Seducing his daughter into an unauthorized donation is hardly going to win his confidence.
Marvin: ~~ stunned ~~ I had no notion of it, Hajene.
Seruffin: No, I didn't think you'd considered that small detail.
Marvin: ~~ dignity ~~ Hajene, you know that is unfair. I couldn't consider what I had no way to know.
Seruffin: You had no way to know the specifics of the situation with Sanda's brother, it's true. But you did grow up out-Territory. What would have happened in your home town if a channel had seduced a young girl into a donation, against her parents' wishes?
Marvin: Quite so. It would have been ... bad. ~~ creeping horror ~~ Nevertheless, my duty to my patient -- mine only by default, perhaps, but mine nevertheless -- demanded that I do whatever I could. Whatever collateral harm I did could, perhaps, be put right. Fridda's death could not.
Marvin: Death, Hajene, is the abominable thing. It cannot be undone, or healed, or survived. ~~ memories of his First Kill ~~
Marvin will never be able to believe "all's well that ends well".
Seruffin shakes his head.
Seruffin: There is one thing that is far worse than death, even the death of an innocent who might have been saved by an action of yours.
Marvin: I know it. The collapse of Unity.
Seruffin: It may not go quite that far...I hope.
Marvin: So I hope as well.
Seruffin: But at the very best, your actions will delay the practical benefits of Unity from reaching Gumgeeville for months or years.
Marvin: I see that now.
Seruffin: How many other young Simes will die in changeover in the meantime? Aren't their lives as worthy as young Fridda's?
Seruffin wants to be completely sure that Marvin really does understand, and will not make the same mistake again.
Marvin: They are, Hajene. I see now that I should have waited for Eugen's return with a qualified donor, and -- since he did not return in time -- I should have murdered Fridda before breakout. ~~ despair ~~
Seruffin's tone and nager become softer with Marvin's understanding.
Seruffin: It's a terrible thing to lose a patient, especially when in a better world it would not be necessary.
Marvin: [sharply] It's a far more terrible thing to kill a patient for political reasons. Hajene.
Marvin uses the word "kill" deliberately.
Seruffin: If there were only politics involved, Unity would be progressing much faster than it is. We are trying to change an entire culture, one with good reason for being what it is--and with no practical authority whatsoever.
Marvin thinks, "Not my will, but thy will; not my will, but thy will...." His despair ~~ eases off ~~ and he smiles slightly.
Marvin: The world will go as it will, and not as you or I would have it, eh?
Seruffin is no longer able to maintain his Stern Administrator facade, and the skin around his eyes begins to crinkle.
Marvin: Well, Fridda is alive, and that's something.
Gerrhonot is ~~ much relieved ~~ that that part is over.
Fridda can feel the reduced tension in the ambient without zlinning.
Seruffin: Yes, it is. We might even be able to escape some of the worst of the consequences, with luck and hard work.
Marvin: [English] Count me in, Hajene. I'll do whatever I can.
Marvin sings in English in his sweet though untrained baritone:
Let us live, then, and be glad.
While our life's be-fore us.
Let us live, then, and be glad,
While our life's be-fore us.
After youth-ful pastime ha-ad,
After old age hard and sa-ad
Earth will slumber o-ver us,
Earth will slum-um-be-er o-ver us!
[Tune: "Gaudeamus Igitur"]
Seruffin: Very nice sentiments.
Seruffin drops back into Simelan.
Seruffin: I'm going to use the experience of my hard, sad, old age to try to find a way to get us all to the train station without being lynched.
Gerrhonot ~~ resolved to protect his channel with his life ~~
Seruffin: In the mean time, why don't you apply your youthful exuberance to figuring out just how you're going to explain your actions to Sanda's father?
Marvin: ~~ "I know what you're up to; you don't fool me." ~~
Marvin: Yes, Hajene.