Seruffin is in Vrian's and Bart's bedroom of the Mullins's house, to which Marvin, Eugen, and Fridda have been brought until transportation can be arranged. He's taking advantage of the diplomatic sign, and the retainer-free environment it allows, to assess Fridda's condition. His expression is grave as he relinquishes lateral contact with Fridda.
Fridda has docilely followed Seruffin and Gerrhonot to the bedroom, and is sitting on the bed, passively waiting for whatever happens next. She has discovered the very hard way that there is nothing more demoralizing than unremitting pain. ~~ exhaustion despair pain ~~
Fridda looks up, trying to read Seruffin's expression.
Gerrhonot projects a little ~~ encouragement ~~ over Seruffin's shoulder, and smiles at the girl.
Seruffin: Well, it could have been much, much worse. There's no damage to your laterals that I can zlin, and much of the damage to your handling tentacles will mend, given time.
Fridda: It was the only thing I could think of, to get Sirtoss to take me to the train.
Seruffin: You did exactly what you should have: sought out help, while making sure that you didn't harm anyone.
Seruffin lets his ~~ approval and admiration ~~ show.
Fridda: Except myself.
Fridda's depression is too deep for even Seruffin's projection to lift.
Seruffin: Yes. But one person injured is much better than two dead.
Fridda: Yes. I wanted to live, but I wanted to be sure I didn't kill anybody.
Fridda: Hajene ... in Nivet...
Seruffin thinks an inquiry about life in-T is a good sign.
Fridda: Well, out here, people are uncomfortable around anybody who has anything wrong with them... I can do without tentacles, but are people going to react like I'm missing fingers, or walking with a limp?
Fridda looks at her tentacles, which are still flaccid and paralyzed for most of their length.
Seruffin: You won't have to do without your handling tentacles, although they may never be as strong and coordinated as they should have been. People are people, even in-Territory, and some will be curious about what happened to you. However, if you accept yourself, they will accept you.
Fridda: I can hardly move them, or feel anything with them... but it just hurts so much.. like boiling water...
Fridda starts crying again, and covers her face, retracting her tentacles slowly and with difficulty.
Gerrhonot: Hajene, can I help her?
Seruffin: Yes, Gerrhonot.
Seruffin briefly outlines, in Simelan, the nerve damage and how best to start it healing. He then switches back to English.
Seruffin: Fridda, your tentacles hurt because the nerves didn't develop properly. Gerrhonot is going to see what he can do to help.
Gerrhonot sits next to Fridda, gently moves her to lean against him and puts his hands over her forearms, adjusting his field as instructed.
Fridda: Thank you. I'm not usually... I wasn't like this before. Now it seems like I just can't stop crying over everything.
Fridda is ~~ humiliated ~~
Seruffin: That's perfectly normal. You've been through a lot, in the past few days.
Fridda: The worst part.. was that just when I'd get used to the idea that I was going to die, something would happen so I thought I'd live... and then I had to ... give up all over again.
Seruffin offers ~~ comfort ~~
Fridda tries to zlin what's happening.
Seruffin: That must have been very difficult.
Fridda: Hoping, after I'd given up, was almost harder than giving up, and then it looked hopeless again. When Marvin didn't have any selyn for me, after I'd managed to find a channel after all... He told Mr.Gegg he would have broken my neck, before I could kill anybody, if he couldn't find a donor.
Seruffin: He wouldn't have done that unless the only other alternative was letting you die of attrition.
Fridda tries not to cry again. She would have rather died than killed, but the image was so graphic when she heard Marvin say it.
Fridda: Yes. I know he was trying to do his best for me. I guess he got in trouble for it, with you.
Seruffin: Marvin isn't trained in taking donations from Gens, and taking selyn from a new donor can be difficult even when one knows what one's doing.
Fridda: I'd like to do something, to make it up to Mr.Gegg, for his daughter. I told him that, but he didn't seem to understand. I know he might be too proud to take anything for himself, but maybe for the village?
Seruffin considers this for a moment.
Fridda: Uh, my family has a lot of money, my mother's side. The Tsibolas? General Metals and Machinery?
Fridda names one of the largest industrial corporations in Genland, owned by the Tsibola family.
Fridda: My uncle is Senator Tsibola, the Peace and Prosperity Party?
Seruffin raises an eyebrow in surprise, as another diplomatic wrinkle lands on his lap.
Seruffin: Well, then, if he's so inclined, he might be able to help Gumgeeville.
Fridda: I want to send him a telegram to tell him what's happened.
Seruffin thinks a long letter might be more appropriate.
Seruffin: How do you think he will respond to the news?
Fridda smiles faintly.
Fridda: He can probably figure out a way to get some political advantage out of it. He always does.
Fridda: Mr. Gerrhonot, you're helping me a lot. It hurts less now. Thank you.
Fridda isn't entirely aware that her more positive mood is a result of Gerrhonot's ministrations, too.
Gerrhonot: That's good, Fridda.
Seruffin is glad that Fridda has manners; a lot of new Simes aren't at all sure how to address a Gen, much less a Donor.
Fridda: The P and P Party is in favor of trade with Simeland these days. General Metals is making a lot of money selling them industrial machinery.
Seruffin: What sort of a man is your uncle, Fridda?
Fridda: Well, he's very, uh, pragmatic.
Seruffin: I see.
Fridda manages a bigger smile.
Seruffin: How much contact has he had with Simes? Does he donate?
Fridda: Oh, he'd never donate! Uh, well, for people like us.... like my family, I mean...
Seruffin: It's considered socially unacceptable?
Fridda: Uh, donating is sort of well, the sort of thing poor people would do... people with no self-respect... selling their stuff like that. Although a lot of the students at the University do. It's good money for them.
Seruffin: I see.
Fridda: And kind of daring. Their parents would probably be upset if they knew. I thought... uh, that I might try it, once I was at University... I guess that's out now.
Fridda smiles again. Gerrhonot is having a lot of effect on her.
Gerrhonot is happy that Fridda is responding so well. He knows that he can only do a limited amount to heal her, but suppressing the pain and lightening her mood, even temporarily, is worthwhile.
Seruffin: Well, if you think your uncle will be serious about wanting to repay Sanda and her family for saving your life...?
Seruffin makes it a question.
Fridda: I think we can work something out. I don't know what they'd take, though. And I'd like to do something for Marvin as well.
Fridda is starting to get her daughter-of-wealth unquestioning self-assurance back.
Seruffin: If you would like to pass on some suggestions from an old man who's spent some time here?
Fridda: Yes, I'd appreciate your advice.
Gerrhonot wonders whether he's laying on the feel-good a bit too thick, and signals Seruffin, also requesting advice.
Seruffin nods to Gerrhonot to continue, since Fridda's former deep depression was rendering her nonfunctional.
Seruffin: The worst thing your uncle could do, is to assume that he can repay his obligation with money and then walk away.
Seruffin: Sanda risked her life to save yours, even if she didn't understand at the time that that was what she was doing. That's not something that can be bought, and it deserves to be repaid with respect.
Seruffin zlins to see if Fridda understands what he's getting at.
Fridda: I know people around here tend to be proud and independent. Farmers are like that. Do you think buying some books for the school, or making some scholarship money available to send someone to teacher's college would do it? Sanda, if she's interested.
Fridda: I mean, the PPP isn't going to get any votes out of a place like this. It's more Populist or Farmer-Labor country. Or even Purity.
Seruffin: I think the first thing your uncle ought to do is pay a personal visit to Sanda and her parents, to thank them. Preferably without the usual entourage of staff and reporters.
Fridda: I doubt he can do that. He'd be poaching on another senator's turf. He could invite the whole family to visit New Washington, though.
Fridda doesn't think about how hard it is for a farmer to get away from the farm for even a few days.
Fridda: But I have money of my own. I could do something, not necessarily through my uncle.
Seruffin: If your uncle visits as a private citizen, not a Senator, he won't be poaching, and the Geggs will believe that he's trying to thank them, not use them for his own benefit.
Fridda: Perhaps my aunt then. Although she may find the surroundings....
Fridda's aunt is very fastidious, and would find even a rich, well-kept farm distasteful, let alone an economically depressed village like Gumgeeville.
Fridda: Hajene... the PPP.... they aren't big on the common touch.
Seruffin: I know, I've dealt with some of them over the years.
Fridda could just come out and say that the PPP is supported by robber barons, laissez faire capitalists and their running dog lackeys, but she assumes Seruffin knows this.
Seruffin: Although I haven't had the pleasure of meeting your uncle.
Fridda: If my uncle, or worse, my aunt, were to come out to a place like this... well, the locals wouldn't have to be able to zlin to know what they thought of them. I don't think it would be an effective move.
Seruffin: Certainly, Mr. Gegg would be offended if your uncle came out and tried to use him for political gain, or showed nothing but contempt for the people who saved your life. On the other hand, it would mean a great deal to the Geggs if your uncle could manage to unbend enough to offer a sincere, and personal, thanks. Not as Senator, but as the uncle of the girl whose life their girl saved.
Seruffin: You will have to judge whether your uncle is capable of such a gesture, however. As for your own efforts...perhaps there is something you offer the Geggs.
Fridda is ~~ sincerely interested ~~
Seruffin zlins ~~ thoughtful ~~
Gerrhonot waits for Seruffin to pull the rabbit out of the hat, cut the Gordian knot or bend steel with his bare hands with perfect ~~confidence ~~
Seruffin: Sanda's older brother is a high risk for changeover, and his parents have agreed to let him stay at the Hannard's Ford Sime Center until his future is resolved, one way or the other.
Seruffin: You will be staying at the Ford until arrangements can be made to place you in a First Year Camp that can treat your injuries properly. That will take at least a week. That's time for you to help him settle in, and to show him that there is life after changeover.
Seruffin, having met Mik, suspects that the showing will go the other way around, but figures it would benefit both youngsters.
Fridda is ~~ willing ~~ but ~~ unsure ~~. She can't show him a set of functional tentacles, or tell him anything encouraging about the experience of changeover, and she herself doesn't know what life will be like in-T, except that enough money can smooth the road anywhere. She suspects that she might actually intimidate a farm boy with her urban, well-educated sophistication.
Seruffin: As for the rest of the family, including Sanda...they will have to work much harder, to do Mik's chores as well as their own. They won't accept help from the Tecton, because it would be "charity". However, they might accept such assistance from you, if you make it clear that you feel an obligation towards their family for Sanda's timely donation.
Seruffin thinks that this would be a better solution all around than leaving Bibi to take semi-voluntary donations from the elder Geggs.
Fridda: Mr.Gegg didn't seem willing to negotiate with me in that jail cell. Can you suggest an approach? I suppose I could have a lawyer contact him, to arrange something.
Seruffin: No, Fridda. This isn't something you can fob off on your lawyer. After all, Sanda didn't save your lawyer's life, did she?
Fridda: Yes, but if he won't talk to me, or I can't communicate with him, I'll have to find an intermediary who can.
Seruffin: Perhaps what's required is a modicum of tact, instead?
Fridda thinks back.
Fridda: I wasn't in very good shape when I was talking to him, and he was focused on berating poor Marvin. He might not have even realized that I was offering him more than just thanks.
Fridda looks at her clothing, which is filthy and much the worse for the extreme wear of the past two days.
Fridda: I don't suppose he even thought I might have anything else to offer if I wanted to.
Seruffin: That's quite possible. Mr. Gegg is afraid of Simes, even more than most out-Territory Gens.
Fridda: I guess I wasn't thinking of myself as a Sime... ~~ sinking feeling ~~
Seruffin: It took a great deal of courage for him to confront Hajene Marvin, even from the other side of the bars. He only did it out of love for his daughter. His wife is more typical, and you may have better luck with her.
Fridda: Do you suppose she'll come to the Ford with her son? I could speak to her then. Or would now be a better time?
Fridda catches herself.
Fridda: I guess I'd risk being shot if I went to her, wouldn't I?
Seruffin: I think it would be more than a "risk", myself.
Fridda: And calling her over here wouldn't create the right impression.
Seruffin: No, it certainly wouldn't. However, there is a very good chance that at least one of the elder Geggs will accompany Mik to Hannard's Ford.
Fridda: Can you advise me... as an experienced Sime... how to avoid making him nervous?
Seruffin: Keep your tentacles sheathed, move slowly, and keep enough distance between you that he doesn't feel crowded. Although you mustn't be surprised if he's nervous anyway. Wouldn't you have been, if you'd found yourself in the same room as a Sime even a week ago?
Fridda: I met a few Simes at University functions, visiting scholars, with my father. Most people certainly kept their distance. The Simes didn't look very comfortable about it either. I wouldn't expect people out here to be like a University community, of course!
Fridda: I'll do my best. Keeping the tentacles in will be no trouble. Would a Gen chaperone help, do you think?
Seruffin: Possibly. Although Sosu Cristal is not as tactful as I would prefer.
Fridda: Sosu Gerrhonot, would you care to chaperone me?
Fridda doesn't have a clue how all this works.
Gerrhonot is ~~ surprised ~~, even ~~ nonplussed ~~ He doesn't stop what he's doing, though. It's what's letting Fridda act like her pre-changeover self.
Seruffin is not one of those channels who treats his Donor like property, and so he lets Gerrhonot answer for himself.
Gerrhonot: I'm usually busy working with Hajene Seruffin, Fridda.
Fridda isn't so gauche as to offer him money to moonlight for her, of course.
Fridda: Well, perhaps if he can spare you, then.
Gerrhonot: Let's see what happens, Fridda.
Gerrhonot figures that should be a safe answer, open-ended in case Seruffin wants him to do it, but no problem if he doesn't. He looks to Seruffin for feedback.
Seruffin smiles ~~ warmly ~~ at Gerrhonot.
Gerrhonot is ~~ glad ~~ that Seruffin thinks he said the right thing and smiles back with equal ~~ warmth ~~.
Seruffin: Fridda, your goal should be to thank the Geggs, and make clear that you feel you have acquired a debt towards their family that can't ever be repaid.
Seruffin zlins Fridda, hoping that she does, indeed, feel such an obligation.
Fridda: Yes, I understand. I tried to tell Mr. Gegg that, in the cell, but ... perhaps in a less tense situation... ~~ sincere, businesslike ~~
Fridda feels so much less weak and despairing than she has since the changeover started that she can hardly remember what it was like. Gerrhonot is very effective. She feels so much like her former self that she doesn't realize that when he stops she's going to feel like she's fallen off a cliff into dark icy water with a stone tied to her feet.
Seruffin: When they understand your personal sense of obligation--and you'll be able to tell when they have by zlinning them--you can bring up the matter of partial compensation.
Fridda: I'll think about how to express it, so they'll believe me.
Seruffin: Farmers like the Geggs would rather starve than accept charity, but they understand repaying debts, and helping neighbors.
Fridda: Thank you for your advice. You've given me a lot to think about.
Seruffin: You're welcome.
Fridda: Now, as for Hajene Marvin... I understand that he's in some trouble too, because of helping me?
Seruffin: No. He's in trouble for risking the life of an under age, out-Territory Gen.
Fridda: What will happen to him?
Seruffin: He will be disciplined by his Controller.
Fridda: How severe... he said something to Mr.Gegg, that if he stops working, he'll be dead in a year.
Seruffin: Yes, channels seldom survive retirement for long. However, I think there is a reasonable chance that Marvin will be able to avoid such an extreme penalty. Particularly if the Geggs choose not to make an issue of what he did to their daughter.
Fridda wonders whether she should try to intercede for Marvin. Seruffin seemed to be giving him a real dressing down, but the long Simelan discussion resulted in renewed amity between the two men.
Fridda: If I, or my uncle, were to put in a word for him...?
Seruffin: A short note of appreciation might not do any harm. If, as I said, the Geggs don't demand that he be severely punished.
Fridda has some vague notion that if worse comes to worst, there must be some way her family can find some appropriate work for Marvin, if he's forcibly retired.
Fridda: I'd like to do what I can for him. He was so desperate to help me, and to have risked his own life... He didn't even know who I was.
Fridda understands the concept of altruism, Ancient literature is full of it, and it's widely admired in her own culture, but she's seldom if ever run into such a clear real life case of it.
Seruffin: Yes he did. He knew you were a kid in changeover stuck in the middle of Gen Territory, just as he had been.
Fridda looks at Seruffin, and the memory of her ~~ fear ~~ and ~~desperation~~ comes back to her despite Gerrhonot's efforts. She'd almost forgotten the whole horrific ordeal, for a while there. She shudders.
Seruffin: The trouble is, he didn't risk only his own life.
Fridda: The girl... wasn't harmed, was she?
Gerrhonot adds a little more ~~ comfort ~~ and ~~ security ~~ to the therapeutic blend.
Seruffin: No. Fortunately, she didn't get upset while Marvin was taking her selyn. I don't think he could have managed to adjust quickly enough, if she'd panicked. As many out-Territory Gens do, the first time they're touched by a Sime.
Fridda: He might have killed her? ~~ horror ~~
Seruffin considers just how honest to be.
Seruffin: He could probably have stopped in time to avoid that. But he'd quite likely have singed her in the process. Not to mention that he'd have been dead or badly injured himself. He probably wouldn't have been able to serve your need, or even make sure Sanda got out of the cell where you couldn't attack her.
Fridda is starting to understand why Marvin is in trouble, what the tradeoffs were and what risks should probably not have been taken.
Fridda: He should have... broken my neck instead, right?
Seruffin: That would have been the safest thing to do, for the preservation of the Unity Accord. The Tecton can only preserve the peace between Sime and Gen Territories as long as it can supply enough selyn to meet the need of its renSimes. If the Gens start to doubt that donating is safe, that selyn supply is endangered.
Fridda: He kept telling me everything would be all right... I didn't realize that so much was at stake at the time. Why didn't he have a supply with him for emergencies like this?
Seruffin: He's a Mule...a channel whose job is to bring selyn collected at out-Territory Sime Centers back to Sime Territory. He was never trained to take donations from Gens, or to give transfer to renSimes, for that matter.
Fridda: So he'd be expected, if he came across someone in changeover, to let them die. Isn't that terribly cruel to him? As well as the children he could save?
Seruffin: Perhaps. But there are reasons for the restrictions on him.
Fridda: ~~ inquiry ~~
Seruffin: It's not my place to explain. Ask Hajene Marvin, if you wish, although you shouldn't be too disappointed if he declines to explain.
Fridda: ~~ mystified ~~ All right.
Gerrhonot: How do your tentacles feel now, Fridda?
Fridda: They still hurt a lot, but nothing like they were before. Is the pain going to come back when you stop? ~~ dread ~~
Gerrhonot looks to Seruffin to answer that.
Seruffin: Some of it will, yes. It should feel better than it did before Gerrhonot started working on you, however.
Seruffin reaches with his showfield to buffer the shock when Gerrhonot withdraws his support.
Fridda: Good. I really appreciate all you're doing for me. I guess you can send the bill to my uncle, for now. My father will probably be too upset and disorganized to deal with it.
Seruffin: There's no charge for Tecton medical care. It's supported out of taxes--the selyn taxes you'll owe.
Fridda: But.. how...
Fridda is as confused by the concept of socialized medical care as a 20th century American confronted with the similar systems of all the other contemporary developed countries.
Fridda: I guess I have a lot to learn about how the system works in Simeland.
Seruffin: You do. You'll being able to learn quite a bit, if you talk to the people who work at the Hannard's Ford Sime Center.