Gegg storms into the Gumgeeville drunk tank...er, "jail", a place rather familiar to him from his misspent youth. He's consumed with ~~ righteous anger ~~, overlying a bone-chilling ~~ fear ~~ for his daughter, none the less powerful for being much, much too late. He goes directly to Sheriff Obie's desk.
Obie: Hey, Gegg. What can I do you for?
Gegg: Obie, what in the world were you thinking of, letting that Sime get his tentacles on my daughter?
Obie looks at Gegg quizzically.
Obie: She never went past me. Or my deputy either.
Gegg: Are you telling me that your jail is so insecure that a twelve-year-old girl can break in, and you don't even know about it?
Obie gives Gegg the hairy eyeball.
Obie: You know damned well that this jail wasn't made to hold Simes.
Obie thinks that although he would have been much happier if Dalkik hadn't let Marvin and company in, he's not going to admit that to a civilian.
Gegg: Don't matter what it was built for, he couldn't have done anything if you'd been keeping an eye on things, like we pay you to. Sanda says that Sime you've got locked up took her selyn, and I know my own daughter well enough to know she wasn't lying. Now, it don't take a genius to figure out that means she had to get in, or the Sime had to get out.
Obie: Obviously. First of all, he's only locked up because he asked to be.
Obie thinks "Mentioning the pencil isn't going to help at all."
Obie: Anyone else who wanted to was free to go in there with him, and he could have left at any time. Now your daughter's a child, and I'd have kept her out if she came and asked. She didn't.
Obie: [accusingly] And what was she doing around the back of my jail anyhow, instead of at home like a proper girl?
Gegg doesn't see fit to dignify that with a response.
Obie: Simeproofing's damned expensive, and nobody's proposed raising the taxes to pay for it.
Gegg: If you'd been keeping an eye on your jail, that snake wouldn't have had time to sweet-talk my daughter, bend the bars to let her in, and get his slimy tentacles all over her, without your knowing a thing about it.
Obie: That probably took him all of ten seconds. You know how fast and strong Simes are, and how high they can jump, don't you?
Gegg: It would have taken him a lot longer to sweet-talk Sanda into going along with him. If you can't be bothered to check your prisoners on a regular schedule, at least you could leave the door open, so you can hear what's going on back there.
Gegg is in the sort of ~~ full indignation ~~ that only a taxpaying citizen confronted with governmental ineptitude can feel. He's certainly yelling loudly enough to be heard back in the cell block, even with the door firmly closed.
Obie looks at Gegg ~~ pityingly ~~.
Obie: Leave the door open, indeed. With a changeover victim in there?
Gegg: What, do you think having the door shut would have made any difference? To a new Sime looking for a kill?
Gegg is ~~ incredulous ~~
Obie: Gegg, use your head. If she'd been by herself, we'd a shot her. We didn't. What does that tell you?
Gegg: That you didn't think there was danger. That means there was even less reason not to keep an eye on things.
Obie tries to think through this tangled syntax.
Gegg can see the effort involved.
Obie: That meant that it was the channel's job to do what he needed to do to get his job done.
Obie: Gegg, I'm sorry as I can be that it was your daughter that got involved. But you know very well that she wouldn't a been if she hadn't wanted to be. That channel didn't exactly go hunting for her. And as a family man myself, I can't be sorry there's a live kid in there and not a dead one.
Gegg: Sanda's a twelve-year-old kid. She's not old enough to consent to anything, much less something like that. And "as a family man", I expect you wouldn't want your own kids to be taken advantage of, like that.
Obie: You're right. And that means it's your responsibility, and your missus, to keep her out of dangerous situations. It's not like she broke any laws.
Gegg sees that Obie isn't about to admit to anything, particularly not that he was derelict in his duties.
Gegg: Oh, go ahead and make excuses if you want. We'll see if the voters buy them, come election day, when they find out what a prisoner in your custody was able to do. Right now, I've got some things to discuss with your prisoner. He is still there, isn't he? Hasn't run off to Henree's for a beer?
Obie: Yeah, he's there. But given your attitude, Gegg, I'm not sure I should let you in with him. I don't wanna cause one a them inter-territorial incidents. You wanna talk to him through the bars, knock yourself out.
Obie rather hopes Gegg will do just that.
Gegg: What, you think the Sime's gonna break me into his cell so I can strangle him?
Obie: I can't think any Sime is in much danger from the likes of you, Gegg. Being a pain in his ass, that's another thing.
Gegg: Huh. You can't say he hasn't earned it. Or do you want the Simes to know they can waltz into Gumgeeville and seduce any child they want?
Obie has just about had it with this line of offense (in both senses).
Gegg: That will certainly go over well, come election day.
Obie: Knowing your Sanda like we both do, Gegg, the betting is that she threw herself at the channel. God knows he's young and male and unrelated.
Gegg: And he took advantage of her...youth, because you weren't paying any attention. I think that as Sanda's father, I have to right to explain to him exactly how I feel about that.
Obie: Look, Gegg. Do us both a favor and keep your kid locked up, eh? Like I said, tell him anything you want. But stay outside the bars.
Gegg: I'm not a lovesick teenager, to throw myself into a Sime's clutches.
Gegg's ~~ impatience ~~ with this obstructionism is very clear.
Obie: Gegg, that poor kid in there is probably cowering under the bed as it is. If I let you in there, she'll probably die of heart failure. I know you, you can't keep your temper for beans. The kid may be a Sime, but she's in my custody.
Gegg: I never said I wanted to go into the cell with two Simes. What kind of idiot do you take me for? No, what I have to say can be said through the bars.
Gegg plays the trump card.
Gegg: Do you want to wait until the missus hears about this, and decides to take action herself, because I haven't yet?
Gegg's wife is widely known as a Person Who Shouldn't Be Crossed.
Obie breaks out into laughter.
Obie: Gegg, Gegg, Gegg.
Obie figures the only person who thinks Gegg's wife is any kind of overbearing harridan is ... Gegg. He makes a "Go ahead" gesture.
Obie: Give it your best shot.
Gegg doesn't wait for a second invitation, but storms for the door back to the cells.
Fridda is lying on the cot in Marvin's arms. He's working on her tentacles, trying to ease the pain and compensate for the aborted nerve development. She looks frail and ill. It doesn't occur to her what the position of the two of them would look like to an outside observer.
Fridda is glad to have some relief from the unrelenting pain, and the ~~comfort ~~ Marvin is providing is helping with the ~~ deep depression ~~ she's feeling.
Fridda has always been a strong, confident, assertive person, but the helplessness, insecurity and on-again, off-again hope and despair of her experience plus the physical pain have shaken her personality to its roots. She really needs a few days back in a familiar environment to recover, but she's not going to get it. Her own body and senses are strange to her now as well.
Marvin has heard every word and zlinned every emotion of Gegg's tirade, and is trying to brace himself for what's coming. He's doing his best, considering the again depleted state of his secondary system, to keep Fridda calm, but his best isn't all that good in the circumstances.
Gegg's momentum carries him almost up to the bars of Marvin's cell, before his natural caution brings him to a halt, just out of arm's reach. He's not used to dealing with Simes, and therefore has neglected to account for the extra reach provided by tentacles.
Marvin: I guess you must be Mister Gegg.
Gegg's eyes widen at the sight of Marvin "embracing" what must be the new Sime.
Gegg: Yes, I'm Gegg, all right, and you're the Sime with the thing for little girls.
Marvin does his best not to laugh.
Gegg's attitude towards pedophilia is about what one would expect, from the father of a young teenaged girl.
Marvin: Mister Gegg, nobody who knows the first thing about channels would believe that, and I don't think you do either. I took a donation from your daughter. To save a life, I might add.
Fridda struggles to sit up.
Gegg: You knowingly seduced a twelve-year-old girl into doing something she'd never had done if she'd stopped to think about it, taking advantage of her...innocence. That's not right.
Marvin: No, it wasn't, Mister Gegg. I see that now.
Gegg: I doubt seducing children is the sort of thing that people approve of on your side of the border, either.
Marvin: You're absolutely right, Mister Gegg. They definitely don't. I've already heard about it.
Marvin winces at the memory.
Gegg: Why didn't you get an adult, if you had to...do that...to someone?
Fridda is ~~ confused ~~. She didn't know the donor was a child, and Marvin's summary of what Seruffin had to say to him was rather lacking in detail.
Marvin: I sent out my Donor to find one, and then your daughter showed up. It seemed to me ... an act of Providence.
Marvin knows what's coming, and intensifies his ~~ support ~~ of Fridda.
Gegg's blind fury is somewhat disarmed by Marvin's admission of guilt, which unfortunately leaves more mental space for other things--like imagining his little girl in this Sime's clutches. His imagination, alas, paints a much more dramatic scene than the reality.
Marvin picks up on Gegg's fevered imagination, if not its exact content.
Marvin: I swear to you, Mister Gegg, by anything you like, that I would have done everything I could do to keep your daughter safe.
Gegg: So you set out to seduce her?
Marvin: No, never. I only told her that Fridda here would die if she didn't help us.
Gegg is already convinced that Simes have an unearthly talent for seducing Gens into their clutches. He is, alas, fairly certain that it didn't take much effort to do so, with Sanda.
Gegg: You told her she'd be a hero, and made it into a grand adventure, I expect. Just the thing to appeal to a child. Did you even ask her if it was all right with her parents?
Marvin: No, no. I told it to her straight -- or so I thought.
Gegg: You thought?
Marvin: My, well, not my boss, but my superior in any event, set me straight this morning. The right thing to do, Mister Gegg, by the rules I live by, was to wait until my Donor showed up with an adult from the town. Or if he didn't show up, to break Fridda's neck before her tentacles could break out. Which is what would have happened, as we later found out.
Fridda cringes. She hadn't known that Marvin was prepared to do that.
Marvin radiates a higher level of ~~ support ~~
Marvin: Death by attrition is ... cruel. Much crueler than a quick and painless death at my hands.
Marvin looks down at them.
Gegg looks at Fridda for a moment, finding it harder than he expected to dismiss her plight, despite the imposition on Sanda and his parental authority.
Fridda looks pale and ill, and harmless and pitiful. She looks up at Gegg.
Fridda: I'm.. sorry... it was your daughter, Mr. Gegg.
Marvin: So am I.
Gegg: Why didn't you ask the sheriff, or his deputy, if you were that desperate?
Marvin: I zlinned the deputy would never consent. Sorry, I mean I used my Sime senses to see what his feelings were.
Gegg: He might have been able to find you someone who would. Did you even ask him?
Marvin: I have to admit, no. He didn't strike me as, well, over-bright. And not good at quick decisions, either. If the sheriff had been on duty then ... he's a reasonable man.
Gegg doesn't share Marvin's pessimism about the deputy, given Seruffin's donor-recruitment record.
Marvin: I see you don't really believe me. But some people just aren't, well, flexible.
Gegg: So instead, you subjected a child to....to....
Gegg's mind flashes back to the evening he heard Jed's account of his donation to Seruffin.
Marvin nods somberly.
Gegg imagines this Sime, moving in on his daughter, and Sanda trying very hard to be brave, but being as scared as he himself would be, in like circumstances.
Marvin: Mister Gegg, you're in a position to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again. All you have to do is go down to the Ford and make a stink, and I'll probably be ... retired.
Gegg snorts in ~~ contempt ~~
Marvin: [dryly] After that, I'd have about a year. Channels who can't work, don't live long.
Gegg: There's lots more where you come from. Don't worry, by the time I and her mother are through with her, Sanda won't try another stunt like that again.
Marvin: In fact there aren't. Probably the Sime Centers at the Ford and [names several other towns further away] would be closed. All the kids in those towns who change over now would have to be shot. All of them.
Gegg doesn't particularly want the Sime Centers closed; if nothing else, Jed would gripe nonstop about the loss of income. He does, however, want to be very, very sure that the Simes involved keep their tentacles off of him, and his family.
Fridda comes from a very wealthy and influential family, at least on her mother's side, for all that her dad is an unworldly academic. She think it should be possible to come to some sort of accommodation with a ... peasant.
Gegg: Is that it? Blackmail? You get off free, or the Tecton closes down?
Marvin: [still dryly] No, I don't get off free. I take my lumps from my bosses. And you can't close the Tecton down. Just around here. If you want to enough. It's up to you.
Fridda decides to intervene.
Fridda: Mr. Gegg... I'm sorry about how it happened, but I'm glad I'm alive, and ... didn't kill anybody. Is there some way I might make it up to you?
Marvin: ~~ Attagirl ~~
Fridda is a bit ~~ startled ~~ by the nageric pat on the back, but has enough experience at negotiation not to let it show on her face.
Gegg looks at Fridda, ~~ frankly skeptical ~~
Gegg: I don't see how you can undo what your friend there did to my little girl. Or the risk he took with her. Or are you going to pretend that there wasn't any risk?
Gegg glares at Marvin.
Fridda: I understand. You have a right to be outraged. But perhaps my family might... compensate you, for the wrong that was done to your family?
Gegg stares at Fridda in ~~ disbelief ~~
Fridda is hoping Gegg will suggest that his lawyers discuss it with her family's lawyers.
Gegg: What could possibly "compensate" for something like that? Or worse, what might have happened, if something had gone wrong?
Gegg's attention returns to Marvin.
Gegg: Or are you going to try to tell me that nothing could have gone wrong?
Gegg has no real conception how rare Ma Mullins's botched donation is, which is too bad, or how inexperienced Marvin is at taking donations, which is probably just as well.
Marvin: [humble] No, Mister Gegg. Something could have gone wrong. That's why I was wrong to involve your daughter in this.
Gegg: It's one thing for an adult to take such a risk voluntarily. But, to draw a child into it...
Gegg is overwhelmed for a moment with a visual image of his daughter, all alone, being drawn helplessly into Marvin's clutches. He's found the whole concept of donating frightening, repulsive, and strangely fascinating, since Jed told him about it. His fascination, alas, is the sort that draws people who are afraid of heights towards the edge of the bridge.
Marvin: Mister Gegg, I can assure you -- I know! -- that your daughter does not share your feelings about donation. For her it was exciting, and the responsibility of helping to save Fridda made her feel nothing but good about herself.
Gegg already knows his daughter doesn't have any sense.
Gegg: You couldn't have known that it would be that way for her, when you asked her to do it.
Marvin: That's true. She might have panicked when it came right down to it. But I was talking about her attitude beforehand -- and afterwards, as it turned out.
Gegg notices a critical omission.
Marvin: And during. She didn't feel a thing, and it was over really, really fast.
Gegg can't see how it could have been anything but unpleasant, traumatic, and generally not the sort of thing any father would wish for his daughter.
Gegg: Jed said it took a while, when Seruffin did it to him.
Marvin smiles just slightly.
Gegg wants to believe Marvin's version, and so he doesn't--quite--call Marvin a liar.
Marvin: It often seems that way. But we're talking about ten or twenty heartbeats, if the donor is cooperating. Which Sanda was.
Fridda is rethinking her attitudes on donation. Growing up, she always saw it as something the poor, with no self-respect, would do for money, or maybe students, on a dare. Now that she's dependent on Gens donating, it has a whole different meaning.
Fridda: Mr. Gegg, Sanda's donation saved my life. There's no way I can thank her, and you, enough for it.
Gegg looks at Fridda for a long moment.
Fridda looks back, and to her chagrin, tears come to her eyes.
Gegg's fear-fueled aggravation softens, just a bit.
Gegg: You're welcome. I'm glad you're alive, and that it worked out well. But I hope you understand that my daughter will always come first, with me.
Fridda: Yes. I understand.
Fridda's emotional state is still pretty fragile, and she does her best not to cry, but tears slip down her cheeks. She looks down, then covers her face with her hands, inadvertently displaying the rope burns and bruises on her arms.
Gegg's ~~ sympathy ~~ towards Fridda's plight increases at the sight, then wanes again as he takes in the tentacles. His stomach starts to churn as he imagines tentacles reaching towards him, as his daughter must have seen them.
Marvin: Fridda doesn't really have control over her body's responses yet, Mister Gegg.
Gegg: ~~ alarm ~~
Gegg finds the thought of any break in Sime self-control frankly terrifying.
Fridda zlins all this confusedly and tries to protect herself by curling up around her arms. She begins to shiver.
Marvin: [soothingly] Try to relax; you're perfectly safe.
Marvin moves to wrap himself more tightly around Fridda.
Gegg looks at the bars separating him from the Simes, and tries to tell himself that they are enough to protect him.
Marvin: In fact, both of you are perfectly safe. Not because of the bars, but because of the First Contract.
Fridda tries to get a grip, with some success.
Marvin turns his head to look directly at Gegg.
Marvin: [sincerely] I will give my life, if necessary, to keep you safe, Mister Gegg. Other channels have.
Gegg's eyes stray towards the window through which Sanda entered the cell.
Gegg: Well, it looks like you're right about the bars, anyway.
Gegg backs away, farther out of reach.
Gegg: Just...stay away from my family.