Sanda is lying on her bed, reading an old issue of True Romance magazine. This battered text has done the rounds of the village several times in the years since it arrived.
Sanda has been told to stay in her room except when at school or doing her chores, and she's glad she has something to read while imprisoned. She thinks her father is being totally unreasonable. She wasn't hurt and she saved a life. How virtuous can you get? She is also annoyed at how fast word got back to him. Some friends she's got. Hmph.
Mik, standing in the alleyway below, chinks a pebble at Sanda's window.
Sanda goes to the window and looks out.
Sanda: Yeah, Mik?
Mik: Shh. Open the window.
Sanda pulls the sash further up.
Mik scrambles up a handy drainpipe and pulls himself over to Sanda's window and then wriggles in.
Mik: Boy, this is stupid. But we've gotta talk.
Sanda eyes her brother with some suspicion.
Mik: I need to know what really happened in that jail. The straight story, Sanda.
Sanda: Well, what did you hear?
Mik: That you donated, or gave transfer, or were, well, seduced, by some channel down in the jail. I know the last one has to be a lie.
Sanda gives her brother a dirty look.
Sanda: I donated to him, to save another girl's life. She was dying in changeover because he didn't have any selyn for her. So dad is all pissed off at me now. I guess he thinks it would have been better if she died.
Mik: Yeah, that figures. How come he wasn't carrying any selyn for her?
Sanda: I don't know. He was in a hurry, because she was going to die, so we didn't get a chance to talk much.
Sanda gets further incensed as she considers the injustice of her fate.
Mik: That seems pretty sloppy to me. I mean, I'd think the Tecton would know better than that. But anyway, is the girl okay?
Sanda: I don't know. He wouldn't let me stay to watch. And it was my selyn, too! She's probably okay. I mean, he's a channel, he must know what he's doing, right?
Mik: Well, I don't know. All channels aren't alike, I don't guess.
Sanda: Well, he did a good job taking my selyn. I didn't feel a thing.
Sanda feels a subconscious need to stick up for Marvin's competence. If he wasn't competent, letting him do it was awfully stupid.
Mik: Donation is the easy part, for both channel and Gen.
Mik speaks as one who knows what he's talking about, whether he does or not.
Mik: Well, that's what it says in these booklets. All you have to do is hold still.
Sanda: Well, he said I did it right, and I bet not many other people in Gumgeeville could.
Mik: You have a point there.
Sanda: Even to save somebody's life. That's something only a Gen can do, you know.
Mik: At least you didn't panic.
Sanda: Why should I panic? I'm not some silly goose getting all excited about evil demon snakes!
Mik looks down his nose.
Sanda: Well, I proved it, didn't I? I just went into his arms...
Mik: Oho. So it was Hajene you got all excited about, hmmmmmm?
Sanda starts into a romantic fantasy, then remembers that she's decided to discard that interpretation in favor of the heroic noble martyr one.
Sanda: Well, you have to trust a channel, when you're a Gen. You're putting your life in his tentacles, after all.
Mik is a bit sobered by this thought.
Mik: I just keep wondering if I'm going to be a channel after all, like Hajene Seruffin said.
Sanda: Do you still feel like it's going to happen?
Mik: I don't know whether it's really a feeling, or just a thought I can't shake, y'know?
Sanda doesn't know.
Sanda: Uh huh.
Mik: The book says channels are supposed to have a sense of when they're going to change over, too. But I don't. Anyhow, I'm not sure I'd be up to the job.
Sanda: Well, if you become a channel, you can take my donation any time. You're my brother, so I can trust you, right?
Mik: [absently] Sure, kiddo.
Mik is reflecting on the unholy responsibility channels seem to have.
Sanda stamps her foot.
Sanda: Don't call me kiddo! I'm grown up now, a Gen! I proved it!
Mik: [indulgently] Okay, okay. You proved it. And yes, you can trust me.
Sanda really wishes she could do something to make her brother feel better.
Sanda: Here, pretend you're already a channel, okay? But not the lip part.
Sanda offers her hands.
Mik: Umm, okay.
Mik takes Sanda's hands.
Mik: Now what? I don't have any tentacles ... yet.
Sanda: Well, just sort of hold my wrists like this. That's how Hajene Marvin did it.
Mik does so.
Sanda: Now imagine you have tentacles, and you can zlin me.
Mik tries to imagine tentacles extending from his forearms.
Mik: Hmmm. You are very low field but otherwise completely healthy ... too healthy.
Sanda: I can feel your tentacles wrapped around my arms!
Mik imagines rolling his eyes, but doesn't actually do it.
Mik: [trying to get into the spirit of the thing]. Okay, hold very still while I extend my laterals. Otherwise I might bruise your arms.
Mik: Okay, my laterals are now on your skin. You may feel a slight buzzing sensation.
Mik is cribbing heavily from the booklets on donation.
Mik: Is that what you felt with what's-his-name at the jail?
Sanda: Well, it wasn't really buzzing, but it's hard to describe. It was okay, though. It didn't hurt or anything.
Mik: No, it wouldn't. It only hurts if you struggle.
Sanda: Mik... now that I know I can donate...
Mik: [dropping the pretense] Yeah?
Sanda: Look, I can make a lot of money that way, right?
Mik gives Sanda the Older Brother Look.
Sanda: I mean, I forgot to ask him for the money this time, but I'm sure he'll give it to me later.
Mik: At your age? Someone might be making the money, but it wouldn't be you! And if you think Dad's having a cow now, just try him on "renting out his daughter"!
Sanda: Well, I've been thinking what to do with it.
Mik: [skeptically] I'm listening.
Sanda: First I thought.. I'll give it to Mik. He's almost sixteen, he can go to the city and use a fake name and pretend he's sixteen and get by until he changes over. They have a Sime Center in New Washington, so there's channels there and he'll be safe.
Mik is very touched by this plan, but does his brotherly best not to show it.
Sanda: But then I figured, what if the money runs out before you change over? I could try to get to the Ford and make some more and send it to you but I don't think they'd let me do it at the Ford.
Mik: I should think not. Hajene Bibi would probably prefer to keep her Sime Center standing instead of burned to the ground.
Sanda: So then I figured, in-T, I'm a grownup, I can do what I want, and they'll buy my selyn like any other Gen. And they'll be really eager to make sure you'll be okay because channels are so valuable. So, I figure once I get the money, we can take the train in-T. All we have to do is make up names, and you say you're sixteen, right?
Mik doesn't know where to begin with this one.
Mik: You remind me of a cartoon I saw once in a magazine. Two Gens are in shackles in one of those old-timey holding cells they used to have in-T. And one is saying to the other....
Mik pauses for effect.
Mik: "Now here's my plan..."
Mik: In case you don't remember, you are on restriction here.
Sanda: Right. You can climb in the window but I can't climb out. Sheesh, Mik. Sometimes you just have no sense! What are you going to do, just wait until it starts and then go tell dad to shoot you?
Mik: Well, no. But I've gotta find a way that doesn't involve leaving Mom and Dad, err, browned off.
Sanda: You'll be dead and dad will be a murderer and all my life I'll remember what a turkey you were!
Mik does roll his eyes this time.
Sanda: If you're in-T, it won't matter. When you change over, you can write them a letter.
Mik: Look. I came to talk to you because now that you're a Gen and you've donated and all, I thought you might have some good ideas.
Sanda: Well, here I'm offering you all that money when I get it and you roll your eyes at me. Tell me what's wrong with my plan!
Mik: When being the operative word. Yeah, technically the Tecton owes you. Just try to collect. I know we're both technically kids out-T, but there's a biiig difference between twelve and sixteen. And you know it.
Sanda: Well, you're not grounded. You go down there and get it for me.
Mik: Fair enough. With money, we can do a lot.
Mik doesn't notice that he's saying "we" all of a sudden.
Sanda: Vrian's my age and he donated and they paid him and he gave the money to his dad. But it was him they paid.
Mik: That's a good point too. But you're leaving out that Vrian's dad was in favor of donating. Our dad, on the other hand.... You get my drift?
Sanda: Look, if he doesn't pay me, it's theft, right? You think dad's going to take money from him?
Gegg opens the door, frowning.
Gegg: Who do you think I'm going to take money from?
Sanda clams up, and puts on the Heroic Noble Martyr look.
Gegg: And Mik, what are you doing in Sanda's room?
Gegg gives his son The Look, which usually works pretty well, although his wife does it better.
Mik: Dad, we had to talk.
Sanda looks out the window.
Gegg: Talk about what? And what's this about money?
Mik: I heard all these rumors, and, well, if there's a channel in town, I need to know about it. Well, uh, the channel, you know, he took Sanda's ... stuff, so he, well, owes us. The family.
Sanda rolls her eyes and simmers. Her dork brother is going to give away the money she earned to save his life.
Gegg has been so upset over the idea of his little girl being tentacle-slimed that he hasn't gotten that far.
Gegg: He owes us plenty, that's for sure. He had no right endangering Sanda's life like that, and I told him so.
Gegg's expression is grim.
Sanda: He didn't endanger my life, Dad. He's a Tecton channel. They know what they're doing.
Mik: Well, okay, Dad. But wouldn't it be good to get some actual cash, too?
Mik gives Sanda the hairy eyeball.
Mik: I mean, I know it feels good to tell people off, but to collect ... that's, well,
Mik decides to shut up before he overdoes it.
Gegg: Sanda, I had an enlightening little chat with your Tecton channel. He admitted to me that he was, in fact, risking your life when he took your stuff.
Mik goggles, but manages to say nothing.
Sanda figures he just said that to placate her dad, so he wouldn't have to sit there, locked up and helpless and listen to him rant.
Gegg: If you had lost your nerve in the middle--something which he admits he couldn't have predicted--you'd have been hurt.
Mik: All the more [squelches himself forcibly]
Gegg: He was willing for that to happen. He deliberately decided that hurting you was a chance he'd take, to get the stuff he wanted.
Sanda: Well, I didn't lose my nerve. Even Vrian the worry wart didn't lose his nerve. And even if I had gotten hurt a little, that girl would have been dead otherwise.
Gegg: He used you, Sanda. Just as cynically and unfeelingly as any cad in your stories. He took advantage of your youth, rather than going to the trouble to find and convince an adult to go along with him.
Gegg looks at his children to see if his revelation is making the intended impression.
Sanda: You weren't there. That girl was dying. He wasn't cynical. He was desperate to save a life. He wasn't unfeeling at all.
Gegg: Oh, I'm not denying that he cared about his fellow Sime. He cared so much that he was willing to hurt you.
Sanda: Well, he didn't hurt me. And if I had said no, the other girl would have died. That's a lot worse.
Gegg: You were lucky, Sanda. Very, very lucky that he didn't make a mistake, after all.
Sanda: They take donations all the time. I wasn't particularly lucky. I just stayed still like you're supposed to and it worked out all right. Did you talk to the girl too? She wasn't just lying on the floor rotting like she'd have been if I hadn't done it, was she?
Mik thinks this line is a bit over the top.
Sanda: She's alive because of me.
Mik: [whispers] Sanda! Be cool!
Gegg: That's true, but she'd be just as alive if that Sime had asked an adult to give him stuff. It didn't have to be you. Any Gen would have done.
Mik: [calmingly, he hopes] Well, Dad, maybe he couldn't get a hold of anybody. It's not like he knows us.
Gegg: He was in the jail. All he had to do was call, and talk to whoever was on duty. He didn't even try.
Mik: C'mon, Dad, you know it was Mister Dalkik on duty. Do you really think he would have gone along with it?
Sanda: There wasn't anybody there. Bart walked right in from the front and nobody stopped him. Bart wanted to give his selyn instead but he didn't have any.
Gegg: And Bart couldn't have rounded up someone? One of Virla's friends, maybe, who thinks it's her duty to support the Simes? That so-called channel sweet-talked your naive little sister into going along with him, because she was convenient. Even he admits that there was no excuse for the risk he took with her life.
Mik decides to try a different strategy.
Mik: Yeah, Dad, you're right. He just used Sanda.
Sanda: He had his Donor out looking and he didn't come back with anybody, and time was running out for that girl!
Sanda glares at Mik.
Mik: So what?
Sanda: What do you mean, so what? If it was you lying there dying, would you say "so what"!
Mik: He should have known better than to use a little girl like you.
Sanda is getting furious, and strategy is farthest from her mind.
Sanda: How about you, Dad? If it was Mik he'd saved, would you still think I shouldn't have done it? Should I just have said, oh, let my brother die, because I might get hurt a little if I'm too stupid to stand still?
Gegg looks at his daughter sternly.
Gegg: If it had been Mik who needed the stuff--if it ever is Mik who needs it--it'd be my job to take care of it, not yours, young lady.
Mik's jaw drops at this remark, which -- to him -- can only have one meaning.
Gegg turns about three shades paler as he says this, but his sincerity is apparent even to his children.
Sanda: I don't believe you! If you really cared about Mik you wouldn't make him stay here, waiting to be shot, when he could be at the Ford where he'd be safe.
Mik: Sanda, will you just shuddup so I can get a word in edgewise!
Mik turns to his father.
Sanda: Yeah, some word, agreeing that I'm stupid and Hajene took advantage of me, right!
Mik: Look, Dad. Don't you think I oughta go down to the jail, and, well, take care of things?
Mik decides to ignore Sanda's squawkings.
Gegg: I already did.
Gegg didn't bring up the issue of payment for Sanda's donation, but he doesn't consider that critical. He doesn't see any reason why Sanda should be rewarded for doing something stupid.
Mik: Yeah, I mean, I'm sure you told him off good. But is that really enough? For what he did, I mean?
Sanda: See, Mik? He won't even let you go down there so the channel can check if you're going to change over soon. He doesn't really care!
Sanda is getting hysterical. This isn't just a clever ploy to get her cash.
Gegg looks at his daughter with exaggerated patience.
Gegg: Sanda, you've had an upsetting day, so I will overlook that last remark. However...
Toria walks in on the scene.
Toria: What's the meaning of this? Gegg, what do you think you're doing? Mik, you have no business here. Young lady, stop that yelling at once.
Gegg's voice trails off at his wife's appearance.
Sanda glares at her mother, but shuts up.
Gegg is also silenced by the onslaught.
Toria: Now, one at a time. Gegg, what do you think you're doing?
Gegg shuffles his feet a bit, but tries gamely to justify himself.
Gegg: I heard Mik in here...and I wanted to make sure Sanda understood the risk she took with that Sime.
Sanda: [mutters] It wasn't a risk.
Gegg: Even the Sime said it was a risk.
Sanda: He just said that to make you stop yelling at him. Poor guy was stuck in a cell.
Toria raises her hand threateningly.
Toria: Okay. She understands. Don't you, Sanda.
Sanda: Yeah, sure.
Mik: Mom, I was just saying ...
Toria: [sighs] What is it, Mik?
Mik: I was saying, we ought to make him pay. I mean in real money.
Sanda glowers at her brother.
Toria: What makes you think we can get money from him?
Mik is intimidated by her tone, and looks to his father with faint hope.
Gegg declines to provide it. He thinks that if Sanda took the insane risk of jumping into a Sime's clutches for solely altruistic reasons, she shouldn't expect to be paid afterwards.
Mik takes a deep breath.
Mik: Simeland law says, if a Sime takes a Gen's ... stuff, he has to pay for it.
Gegg: Well, from what I'm given to understand, quite a bit of what went on in that jail wasn't exactly according to Simeland law.
Mik: Yeah, but Dad, the bottom line is, he got her selyn, so he has to pay.
Gegg: Why else would they send that diplomat guy who was staying with Jed to a place like Gumgeeville to smooth things over?
Sanda: Hajene Seruffin is back?
Mik is just as surprised.
Gegg: Yes, and this time, I gather it's on purpose. That would imply the Tecton knows its channel messed up badly, don't you think?
Sanda: He must have been at the Ford, to get here so quick. Not all the way in New Washington, or in Nivet.
Gegg: They still decided to have him come here, instead of going on to do whatever Sime diplomats do.
Sanda: Did you talk to him?
Gegg: If that's not evidence that Sime in the jail was operating outside Sime law, what is? For all we know, he could have killed someone.
Sanda rolls her eyes.
Sanda: Dad, they don't kill people, they're channels.
Mik: But it doesn't matter, Dad. The Tecton got the selyn, the Tecton has to pay. If this guy is a renegade, maybe we can't collect from him. But we can collect from the Ford.
Gegg: Fine. We'll send them a bill.
Sanda: Or from Hajene Seruffin.
Mik raises his eyebrows.
Mik: Yeah, Dad, how about that?
Gegg shoots his wife a surreptitious glance, hoping for instruction.
Sanda: You should let Hajene Seruffin check Mik, too. Bart says he's a really high rated channel.
Gegg doesn't dare to admit in front of his wife that he's already let Bibi zlin Mik once. He justified this at the time on the grounds that his wife hasn't expressly forbidden it, and thus would gladly gag Sanda at this point.
Toria: Hmmm. Gegg, I think having the kids checked would be a good idea, yes. And if he's here to smooth things over, as you say, he certainly ought to be able to settle any debt.
Mik: And maybe some more for pain and suffering? Ours, if not hers.
Gegg considers that for a moment. He always makes a show of being the Man Of The House, even if everybody knows his wife runs the show.
Gegg: You've got a point, Mik. And given what that Sime in the jail said, I'd be just as glad if a competent channel checked to make sure no harm was done. You know a doctor can't do anything for that kind of injury.
Toria: Then that's what we'll do.
Gegg turns to his wife.
Gegg: Will you take them, dear? I've got to get back to the road work.
Toria: Where is this channel staying? Not at the Mullinses again, I hope.
Gegg: Dunno where he's staying, but he was there last I heard. And it's not as if he could check into Henree's inn, is it?
Toria sighs heavily.
Toria: Well, if it's got to be done, it's got to. Come along with me, Sanda. You too, Mik. We might as well kill two birds with one stone.
Gegg really, really wishes his wife hadn't used that particular word, in conjunction with a Sime.
Sanda gets up, glad to be getting out of prison.
Seruffin is a bit surprised, some fifteen minutes later, to hear a knock on the door of the Mullins house.
Gerrhonot moves closer to his channel and anticipates trouble.
Seruffin: Gerrhonot, perhaps you'd better get that, in case one of the Mullins's friends isn't aware of the situation.
Gerrhonot: Okay, Hajene.
Gerrhonot wishes Bart hadn't had to go off on some errands. He opens the door, blocking access with his body.
Gerrhonot: Oh, hi, Mik, Sanda. Um. Is this your mother? Um. Everybody's out but me and Hajene Seruffin.
Toria: It was Seruffin I came to talk to. My name's Toria Gegg.
Gerrhonot: Hi, Miz Gegg. Um. The sign means that it's okay for Hajene not to have his retainers on?
Seruffin looks at Toria with unfeigned ~~ interest ~~, zlinning her discreetly.
Toria makes a "Very well" gesture.
Gerrhonot looks over his shoulder at his channel, continuing to block the door.
Seruffin retracts his handling tentacles, and makes a gesture of his own to signify agreement.
Toria: ~~ determination concern anxiety ~~
Gerrhonot returns to his channel and provides a ~~ strong protective ~~ field.
Seruffin remains seated, but gives a gracious half-bow of greeting.
Seruffin: I'm very pleased to meet you, Miz Gegg.
Toria: [perfunctorily] Pleased to meet you.
Toria: I'm here for two reasons. One, to find out about my son Mik here, and the other to make sure everything is all right with my daughter Sanda.
Sanda smiles widely. She's a real grown up now, and she's proved it, too.
Sanda: Do you want to zlin me, Hajene? I'm okay but they don't believe me.
Toria nods her consent.
Seruffin wonders exactly what the elder Geggs have been told, or guessed, about what Marvin did to their daughter.
Seruffin: Certainly. Come here, child.
Sanda rolls her eyes. She's obviously not a child. But she goes to Seruffin without hesitation and offers her hands.
Gerrhonot adjusts his field to protect Seruffin from Miz Gegg's reaction. He knows Sanda is low field, and she seems to be completely unafraid.
Toria: ~~ grits her teeth ~~
Seruffin: I don't zlin anything obviously wrong, but it will take a full transfer contact to be sure.
Seruffin says this to Miz Gegg, as she is the most likely to be upset by this. He figures that given the situation, it's important to make clear to the senior Geggs that they have the right to make decisions regarding their children, free from Tecton interference.
Toria: Do what you have to do.
Sanda grins at Seruffin and offers her hands again.
Seruffin takes Sanda's hands, wrapping his handling tentacles around her arms in a matter-of-fact fashion.
Sanda: ~~ happy ~~ excited ~~ smug ~~
Seruffin isn't nearly as handsome, young, and generally romantic as Marvin, nor is there any Maiden In Distress to be rescued.
Seruffin: Hold still while I make a lateral contact, Sanda.
Sanda: Sure, Hajene.
Toria hopes there will be none of that mouth stuff.
Seruffin makes a businesslike lateral contact, and zlins deeply.
Sanda kind of likes the feel of the tentacles, and being close to a channel like this.
Seruffin is glad to observe that her nerves are undamaged, although he can spot a few dynopters that Marvin evidently missed, in his inexperience. He retracts his laterals and releases Sanda.
Sanda: I'm okay, right?
Seruffin: She's fine. There's no damage.
Toria: ~~ relief ~~
Sanda: I told you so.
Toria: Thank you. And my son? You can do the same with him if you need to.
Toria gives Sanda The Look.
Sanda moves back.
Sanda: Thank you, Hajene Seruffin.
Seruffin: You're welcome, Sanda.
Gerrhonot is glad that Sanda is okay, both for her sake and for Marvin's. Well, and Seruffin's too, of course.
Seruffin: Mik, I don't zlin anything obvious, but if you'd come here a moment, I can check for any prechangeover indications.
Seruffin holds out his hands, tentacles retracted again for Miz Gegg's sake.
Mik confidently puts his hands into Seruffin's.
Seruffin has, of course, heard of Mik's previous encounter with Bibi. He wraps his handling tentacles around Mik's arms.
Gerrhonot carefully adjusts the fields to exclude Miz Gegg's influence as much as possible. This exam involves a much finer level of discernment.
Seruffin: Thank you, Gerrhonot. Hold still and stay as calm and quiet as possible, Mik.
Mik: ~~ determination ~~
Seruffin lets his laterals extend, and this time goes for the lip contact for maximum discernment.
Toria ~~ winces ~~ but says nothing.
Sanda watches, ~~ glad ~~ that her brother is being looked after.
Seruffin zlins Mik very thoroughly, noting signs of prolonged emotional stress, but none of changeover or establishment. He relinquishes the contact, in his usual businesslike fashion.
Seruffin: There is no sign of change, Mik. You're still a child, for now.
Seruffin checks Mik's mother's reaction to the news.
Toria feels another degree of ~~ relief ~~, but still with underlying ~~ tension ~~
Seruffin: Do you still have that conviction that you will change over?
Mik: Yes, Hajene. I just know I will. ~~ despair ~~
Mik: I don't know when, but it's coming as sure as sunrise.
Mik: I've been thinking about it on the way here, you know? Trying to make up my mind if it's a real feeling, or just a kind of, what's the word, obsession with the idea of turning Sime. And, well,
Seruffin: Mik, both are real feelings. That's why it's so hard to tell them apart.
Mik: I guess. ~~ sheepish ~~
Gerrhonot is careful not to let the ~~ sorrow ~~ and ~~ compassion ~~ he feels for Mik perturb the ~~ steady support ~~ he's providing to Seruffin.
Seruffin: Channels usually, but not always, develop first the conviction that they're going to be Sime, then a sense of when it will happen.
Toria: So this means my son is probably going to be a Sime? ~~ suppressed outrage ~~
Seruffin turns his steady, calm gaze in her direction.
Seruffin: It isn't sure yet, but it's a very real possibility. More so, I would say, than in a child who doesn't develop the conviction.
Toria: So. What do you suggest in that case? ~~ not very open-minded ~~
Seruffin: Mik won't go into changeover within the next two days; I would have found some definite indications if that were the case.
Seruffin believes in giving the good news first; it helps make the audience receptive.
Seruffin: Changeover can't be detected any further in advance than that, however. Ideally, Mik should be checked by a channel every other day, so that there is as much time as possible to get him help, if he needs it. I realize that might present some difficulties, however.
Seruffin zlins to see if Mik's mom is at all open to the idea of regular check-ups.
Toria: "Some" difficulties, indeed. The idea is ridiculous.
Seruffin: It would require him to live in Hannard's Ford until the matter is resolved, one way or the other, at the least.
Seruffin doesn't try to pretend that this isn't significant.
Toria: Live at the Ford! At whose expense? ~~ indignant ~~ I don't suppose your precious Tecton would pay for such a thing, now would they. After all, there are thousands of children in Genland who must have some silly notion of being Sime. ~~ sarcasm ~~
Mik: But Mom, it's my life we're talking about!
Sanda begins to simmer . Her dad hasn't told her mother about Bibi's offer. Mik hasn't told his mother. Her whole family is just a bunch of .... lorshes!
Seruffin: If that is what you wish to do, Hajene Bibi would be happy to assist you in finding a suitable family to take Mik in.
Toria: ~~ maximum dudgeon ~~ Us, accept charity such as that? Never!
Seruffin: I don't recall offering charity.
Mik: I've gotta be where I'm safe. It's not just me, y'know. Changeover for a channel goes really fast. Dad might not be able to get his rifle in time.
Gerrhonot is very careful not to let his reaction to that perturb his field.
Mik: You want to see me a berserker, killing you or Dad or Sanda, or even more than one? Mom, we've gotta find a way, we've just gotta!
Mik is openly wailing now, regardless of his teenage dignity.
Sanda begins to cry with ~~ anger ~~ and ~~ frustration ~~
Seruffin: Mik is correct in this much: a channel does go through changeover rapidly, and could potentially kill more than one Gen.
Toria: I see. Well, the fact is, we need Mik here to do his work. But if a way can be found around that .... ~~ still skeptical, but maybe a few cracks in the facade ~~
Seruffin notes the cracks, and prepares to insert a wedge or two in strategic places.
Gerrhonot puts his hands on Seruffin's shoulders in an effort to ~~ protect ~~ him from the intensifying nageric chaos. Seruffin is nearing need, and he wants to save him from as much stress as he can.
Seruffin: I believe Bart Mullins might be persuaded to help out, at a reasonable wage. If Mik can find employment in Hannard's Ford at a wage sufficient to cover that cost, then everyone benefits.
Seruffin is quite sure that the "wage" Mik is offered by whomever Bibi has in mind will be sufficient to hire Bart.
Toria: Which reminds me. I understand that by Simeland law, you people owe us for Sanda's [to Mik] what's the word they use?
Mik: Selyn, Mom.
Toria: Selyn, yes.
Seruffin: Of course.
Toria takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly.
Gerrhonot doesn't remember Seruffin getting the stats on the functionals from Marvin in that tense session in the cell.
Toria: If you got selyn from us every month, would that be enough to cover the cost of Bart, or whomever?
Sanda swells with ~~ pride ~~. She can do it.
Seruffin: I expect it would be more than enough.
Seruffin zlins Miz Gegg to determine just how prepared she might be to follow through.
Toria: Well. I'd appreciate it, then, if you'd tell that channel at the Ford to expect Mik there within two days. And we'll expect to see the money within the same time. I'll have Gegg talk to Jed about his boys.
Mik: Mom! ~~ gratitude relief hope ~~
Toria: Hush, child. Let me finish.
Seruffin: I will see that the appropriate arrangements are made.
Toria: And if we need to go on for another month, then we'll let the Ford know what arrangements to make. We Geggs pay our own way. ~~ pride determination ~~
Sanda: ~~ happy ~~ relieved ~~ Oh, Mik!
Sanda hugs her brother.
Seruffin nods his head in acknowledgment of the elder Gegg's pronouncement.
Toria glares at them ~~ but she doesn't mean it ~~ She mutters something about "All this fuss about nothing..."
Toria: Hajene Seruffin, I'm glad to see you're a reasonable man after all.
Seruffin: Thank you. It's been a pleasure.
Gerrhonot colors his ~~ support ~~ with ~~ happiness ~~ and ~~ admiration ~~
Toria nods sharply and ~~ tentatively ~~ extends her hand.
Seruffin remains seated, and extends his own hand cautiously, tentacles retracted. He doesn't want to upset the deal at the last moment, by spooking a nervous Gen.
Toria takes Seruffin's hand firmly despite inner ~~ qualms ~~
Toria: It's a deal.
Seruffin is careful to provide just enough pressure to indicate sincerity, but not enough to be misconstrued as a demonstration of superior Sime strength.
Toria presses back, then slacks off.
Seruffin releases her hand immediately.
Gerrhonot knows that the magic words "it's a deal" are irrevocable, so feels safe in offering his own hand.
Toria has no qualms whatever about shaking Gerrhonot's hand.
Gerrhonot: Thank you, Miz Gegg. You're doing the right thing for your son.
Toria nods again.
Gerrhonot smiles one of his open, friendly, reassuring smiles.
Toria smiles in return.
Toria: Come on, children. Let's go home ~~ motherly warm ~~